How many military branches make you surrender your passport, catalog everything you brought to the recruitment center and give you a new identity, all before you sign your enlistment contract?
That’s the French Foreign Legion and that’s exactly how it works… at least according to a Reddit user with the handle FFLGuy, who did an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2011. On other responses on Reddit he mentions serving as “a former légionnaire in the Légion étrangère,” as the French saying goes.
For anyone unaware, the French Foreign Legion is a highly-trained, highly capable fighting force fighting for France – but is open to anyone from any nation. What makes serving in the unit unique is that after three years, members can apply for French citizenship. They are also immediately eligible for citizenship if wounded in combat, a provision known as “Français par le sang versé” – or “French by spilled blood.”
Also unique to the Legion is being able to serve under an assumed identity and then retain that identity after serving. While the Legion used to force everyone to use a pseudonym, these days, enlistees have a choice of identities, real or assumed.
For the first week of your enlistment, you sign contracts and wait to find out if Interpol has any outstanding warrants for you. Once selected, you go right to training in Aubagne, in the Cote-d’Azur region of Southern France. You are stripped of everything, as the Legion now provides you with everything you need.
You are now wearing a blue Legion track suit and are working all day long. Cleaning, painting and cooking are the primary preoccupations, but members are taken away for physical and psychological testing. Also, the hazing begins. While that may not fly in America, this is the Legion, and there’s a 80 percent attrition rate. When would-be Legionnaires give up, it’s called “going civil.”
After two weeks of this “rouge” (red) period, you’re whisked away by train to Castelnaudary, where trainees spend the bulk of their basic training time. In total, the training is four months. Three of it will be spent here. It is from here you transition from engagé volontaire (voluntary enlistee), to actual légionnaire. The groups are split up into four groups of 25-45 would-be légionnaires.
Castelnaudary is where the foreign légionnaires learn French, work out, train, ruck, learn to use weapons and basically all the rudimentary things infantrymen do while in the infantry.Once at Castelnaudary, getting out of the Legion is very difficult. They will find a way to make you stay, the author writes: “Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t a wise choice.”
“Hazing at this point is constant,” the author wrote. “There will be many nights without sleep, and many meals missed. You are never alone and are constantly watched for even the tiniest mistakes. The consequences for mistakes are severe and painful; physically, psychologically or both. The environment is initially set up to ensure failure. You are broken down individually – both mentally and physically – slowly being built back up with larger and larger successes as a group.”
Hazing includes food and sleep deprivation, physical abuse and the like. As the author writes, “If you made it through Castelnaudary without being hit at least once, you weren’t there. “
Ten percent of the group who make it to Castelnaudary will go civil before they earn the coveted Kepi Blanc. It’s when your ceremony for earning the Kepi Blanc is when you officially are a Légionnaire. But the training is not complete. For three more months, you go through basic infantry training.
Those that quit or are not chosen to continue their training are given back their possessions, passports, a small amount of money for every day spent working, and a train ticket to the city in which they entered the Legion. They also have to resume their old identity.
With their old identity in hand, they must return to their country of origin.
In 1979, there wasn’t a single woman working a fire season as a smokejumper in the United States.
Since their beginnings in 1939, the smokejumpers were exclusively an all-male unit, famously known as the wildland firefighters who parachuted from airplanes to fight forest fires. Throughout the years they encompassed unorthodox programs such as the Triple Nickles, an all-Black US Army Airborne unit, which protected the Pacific Northwest against Japanese balloon bombs during World War II. A detachment of smokejumpers was even contracted by the CIA to work as “kickers” to kick out supplies in remote areas all over the world, including in Tibet and during the secret war in Laos.
For some 40 years the smokejumpers were a boys’ club, unaffected by the evolving wildland firefighting culture of the 1970s and 1980s — one in which women were proving they belonged. In other highly trained units, such as the hotshots and helitack crews, the women excelled. Then Deanne Shulman came along to show why the smokejumpers should be open to women, too.
Shulman, a Californian, had begun her career working in the fire community with an engine crew only five years prior. She cut her teeth on a helitack crew rappelling from helicopters to suppress forest fires for the 1975 and 1976 fire seasons. In the two years that followed, she was a valued member of the hot-hots, a hotshot crew where she used chain saws to fell trees and Pulaski tools to dig fire lines. Digging fire lines is a common strategy wildland firefighters employ to set a break between the moving fire and oxygen-enriched vegetation.
When Shulman completed her physical and mental tests to become a smokejumper in 1979, she was kicked out of the program because she was underweight, just 5 pounds below the 130-pound requirement. She filed an Equal Opportunity Commission complaint and was allowed to volunteer again in 1981.
Her rookie training class was at the McCall Smokejumper Base in Idaho. Among the grueling physical tests required for each candidate to pass was carrying a 115-pound pack 3 1/2 miles to mimic the backcountry conditions smokejumpers often find themselves in. She also had to complete eight jumps to be certified, and when she passed she became the first female smokejumper in the country.
“When I showed up at McCall, some [smokejumpers] were openly supportive and receptive,” she said, reported the East Oregonian in 2015. “Others withheld judgment until they could see how I did. Some would not talk to me the whole five years I was there.”
The smokejumping community has a certain allure, and those outside it often romanticize the profession. Shulman made sure to not attach any elitism to the blue-collar profession.
“I’ve worked on a lot of different crews and stuff and the main difference is just the transportation to the fire,” she recalled in a 1984 interview. “That’s the main difference. And […] you know, that transportation does require some finesse to it, but we’re all firefighters. I worked real hard on the hotshot crew I was on; I’ve worked real hard on all the crews I’ve been on.”
Shulman is a trailblazer who paved the way for women in the wildland fire community. “It probably will encourage other women just to know other women are smokejumpers,” Shulman said in 1981 after being accepted into the unit. “It would have helped me. It would have been nice to have someone.”
For the women who make up approximately 15% of the smokejumping community in the United States, Shulman became that someone.
Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.
CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview
“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”
During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.
“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”
Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)
The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.
Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.
“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.
Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.
He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.
“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)
During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.
He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.
“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”
With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.
Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)
“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”
In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.
He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.
He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.
“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”
After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.
Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.
In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)
Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.
“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”
Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.
“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”
With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.
Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)
That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.
As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”
In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator
The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:
A Taliban MiG fighter
Forcing a Russian plane to land
Russian government negotiating
A U.S. Senator helping Russia
It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.
It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.
Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.
The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.
Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.
For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.
But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.
They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.
By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.
The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.
They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.
“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.
Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.
When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.
Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.
After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.
The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.
But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.
The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.
Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.
According to the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the average U.S. resident’s IQ falls between 80 to 119. Those men and women who make up the “gifted” demographic average the IQ between 130 to 145. The Intelligence Quotient is measured by taking someone’s mental age (the age at which they operate) and divide it by their chronological age (the age that they actually are).
Then, multiply that number by 100. So, let’s do some math as an example. If your mental age is 14, but your chronological age is 10, divide 10/14. This equals 1.4. Now, multiply 1.4 by 100. You should get 140. If not, then you need to go back to fourth grade.
So, what the hell does that have to do with this article? Well, since not many of us call ourselves “gifted,” we can boost our brain functions by increasing this type of exercise we do in our daily lifestyles.
We can boost our brain’s function by including aerobic exercises in our workout.
New York University Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends implementing aerobic exercise at least three or four times a week to boost brain function.
With this newfound information, gaining this important increase depends on your starting point. If you’re a couch potato, you need to up your activity to at least three or four times a week to achieve positive effects. If you’re quite active already, you might have to increase your activity more to maximize the brain function boost.
Dr. Suzuki also recommends exercise in the early morning hours because all the brain’s neurotransmitters are firing. This comes at a perfect time as most American start work or school later in the morning — so their performance will be increased in time for their day.
In contrast, many Americans work out in the evening to relieve stress after a long day’s work. By switching a few of their work-outs to morning aerobic sessions, they can start to make an immediate change in their brainpower.
Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.
Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.
In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.
“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”
Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.
“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.
The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.
“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”
Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.
Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.
During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.
He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.
“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”
Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.
Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.
“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.
Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.
“We’re indebted,” he said.
Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.
“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.
Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.
Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.
“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.
Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.
“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”
Leland Diamond joined the Marines in 1917 at the age of 27 to fight World War I. Diamond made a name for himself during that war as a Marine’s Marine. He was known for walking around without his cover, wearing his dungarees most places he went, and for having a loud and dirty mouth.
His uniform violations and occasional lack of courtesy were overlooked because of his conduct on the battlefield. He shipped to France as a corporal and fought at famous World War I battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He earned his sergeant stripes and took part in the occupation of Germany before returning to the states and getting out.
He spent just over two years as a civilian, but the lifestyle didn’t suit him, so he returned to the Corps in 1921.
A few years later, he was sent to Shanghai, China to help guard U.S. vessels from attacks by Chinese criminals. He returned from China in 1933 but was sent back with the 4th Marines from 1934 to 1937.
When World War II kicked off, he was Master Gunnery Sgt. Diamond and the senior noncommissioned officer was an expert in firing mortars. He was especially well-known for his accuracy with small and medium mortar tubes.
Diamond and his unit were sent to Guadalcanal to help in the fight against the Japanese and the then-52-year-old proved his reputation. When a Japanese cruiser was spotted in the waters around the island, Diamond decided to engage it.
While a lot of legends surround the event, including the possibility that Diamond attacked it on a bet or that he landed at least one round straight down the enemy smokestack, historians agree that Diamond engaged the ship.
Japanese cruisers in World War II displaced between 7,000 and 9,000 tons and packed dozens of guns. Diamond was armed with a mortar tube and decades of combat experience.
Guess who won?
Diamond engaged the ship with harassing fire from his mortar. The ferocity and accuracy of his assault spooked the Japanese who withdrew despite the fact that it sported armor, cannons, and a large crew to counterattack with.
The old master gunnery sergeant was lauded for his actions but was still withdrawn from the fight a short time later. “Physical disabilities” resulted in the Marine being evacuated. After a short recovery in New Zealand, Diamond attempted to get back to his unit by getting orders on a supply ship to Guadalcanal.
By the time he arrived, the unit had left and he had to hitchhike his way to Australia. The Corps transferred him home soon after and assigned him to the training of new Marines, first at Parris Island and later at Camp Lejeune.
China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.
In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians’ feet with water mist.
The pilot system works by using a laser sensor that identifies movement off the curb when the pedestrian light is still red. The bollard then emits its water spray, set to 26 degrees Celsius, and announces, “Please do not cross the street, crossing is dangerous.”
Unsurprisingly, the bollards are also equipped with facial recognition technology and photographs of jaywalkers are displayed on a giant LED screen next to the crossing.
While many Chinese cities are displaying jaywalkers’ photos, names, and identification numbers on giant public screens, and even government websites, some cities are becoming more creative.
Shenzen has begun immediately texting jaywalkers after they commit their traffic infringement, while other cities only allow pedestrians to have their photos removed from public screens after helping a traffic officer for 20 minutes.
But why, of all crimes, does China focus so heavily on stopping jaywalkers?
Crossing roads in China can be very dangerous, and local governments are likely trying to minimize traffic jams and change pedestrians’ behaviors for their own safety.
According to the World Health Organization, China had more than 260,000 road traffic deaths in 2013.
An anecdotal contributor to this number appears to be the country’s compensation system. In China, drivers who injure someone customarily pay expenses, but paying up to $50,000 for a funeral or burial is far cheaper than what may be life-long medical bills. So for some drivers its more frugal to ensure a victim is deceased.
(Photo by Leo Fung)
There could also be less altruistic reasons for the clamp-down.
When one city built pedestrian gates at a busy intersection it was linked to attempts to strengthen “public morals.” In a country where the government attempts to — and largely succeeds in —censoring its citizens behaviour in accordance with morality and socialist values, the constant flood of jaywalkers flaunting the law and creating havoc is hardly an ideal scenario.
And while the new water spray system seems like a light-hearted solution to these problems, the consequences could be severe.
In the Korean War, the rat problem emerged in the later stages of the conflict when lines stabilized. After a year’s worth of fighting up and down the peninsula, the U.S.-led United Nations Command fought North Korea and its Chinese allies over territory near the 38th parallel. In the fateful summer of 1951, the war transformed from one of movement into a war to take strategic positions among hills protected by bunkers and trench lines.
Rats proved dangerous to servicemen’s health. As U.S. and Allied Forces came into greater contact with the rodents, many contracted a mysterious disease that caused a viral hemorrhagic fever, kidney problems, and a host of other maladies. Approximately 10% of the 3,000 who caught the disease died from it. The outbreak initially puzzled researchers. Some thought it could be a disease carried into Korea by Chinese soldiers. Others thought it might be carried by mites on rats. The mystery of how the disease spread wasn’t solved until years after the armistice was signed. In 1976, South Korean researcher Dr. Ho Wang Lee and his team discovered the virus was spread from rat saliva, feces and urine. They named the disease the Hantaan virus, after a river near the demilitarized zone in Korea, the area of much fighting over hills and bunkers during the later stages of the Korean War.
Hantaan and its family of related viruses has never gone away. In the last 30 years there have been sporadic small outbreaks of the disease. The most recent iteration was in March 2020. In the midst of the current viral crisis, authorities reassured the public that the disease is not likely to spread due to person-to-person contact.
The COVID-19 outbreak, suspected by many to have originated from zoonotic (animal-to-person) transmission, reminds many of the ways that animals have always shaped the lives of humans. Animal–human relationships are especially important in wartime. And fewer reminders are as vivid as the history of rats and the Korean War.
Throughout the year, the team at We Are The Mighty has the privilege of learning about and meeting people doing extraordinary things in the military-veteran community. This is the inspiration behind our annual Mighty 25: Influencers Supporting the Military Community in 2018 — a list of individuals who are making a difference for military service members, veterans, and their families.
This year, we expanded our list to include not just veterans, prior service members, and reservists, but also civilians who are doing exemplary work in this community.
The Mighty 25 Committee utilized a set of specific criteria to select 25 members of the military-veteran community currently making a significant impact. The committee was comprised of the diverse WATM team of veteran editors, writers, and creators who engage with this community daily. The task force conducted extensive research to identify over 100 initial potential candidates. The top 25 were chosen according to impact and the representation of a diverse variety of social causes, fields of work, and communities affected.
This individuals on this year’s Mighty 25 have dedicated their lives to missions that vary greatly: from developing transitioning service members and their spouses into successful entrepreneurs, to helping veterans heal through stand-up comedy training. Yet these exceptional individuals all share one goal: to improve the lives of those who have sacrificed for their country.
We are excited to share these influencers’ stories, highlight their accomplishments to the world, and cheer them on as they continue to make a difference in the lives of many. The 2018 Mighty 25 list is presented here in alphabetical order.
Dr. Jill Biden
Combining a lifetime passion for teaching with her high-profile role as former second lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden is able to reach millions as a premier advocate for military service members and their families.
Not long after their husbands took office, Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up to form “Joining Forces,” a non-profit that partners with the private and public sectors to provide military families with tools to succeed throughout their lives. Their initiative, “Operation Educate the Educator,” was designed to help teachers understand what military families go through, and was introduced at 100 teaching colleges across America.
Biden believes that in addition to military members, families also serve – including children. Her book Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is the story of a little girl coping with her father’s deployment, and is based on the Biden family’s own experiences when their son and father, the late Beau Biden, was deployed to Iraq.
The Biden Foundation, launched Feb. 2017, by Dr. Jill Biden and former Vice President Joe Biden, is a nonprofit organization that looks to “identify policies that advance the middle class, decrease economic inequality, and increase opportunity for all people,” according to its website. One of the organization’s primary focuses is supporting military families.
In April 2017, Biden was appointed to the JP Morgan Chase Military and Veterans’ Affairs External Advisory Council. The council advises the firm on a comprehensive strategy to design programs and products aimed at serving the unique needs of members of the military, veterans and their families.
U.S. Naval Academy graduate and retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Cooper spent an impressive career in the Marine Corps as an EA-6B Prowler aircrew, serving five tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan, one in Europe, and one in the Western Pacific. Cooper now serves as the Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights, especially in encouraging America to be a leader and champion of human rights at home and abroad. In his role, Cooper works to build broad coalitions among military agencies, the national security community, veteran service organizations, and think tanks.
In 2015, Cooper’s passion for advocating for Afghan and Iraqi wartime allies and Syrian refugees led him to found Veterans for American Ideals, a nonpartisan, grassroots, community-based group of veterans aiming to leverage military veteran voices to bridge divides and regain a shared sense of national community. He believes that within this increasingly divisive political climate, veterans can be an important civilizing, unifying force. Their work amplifies veterans’ experiences, leadership abilities, and credibility to combat the erosion of our democratic norms and to challenge the rise of xenophobic, fear-based rhetoric and policies that run counter to our ideals.
In the face of the refugee ban promulgated by the current White House administration, Cooper has dedicated himself to championing the rights of refugees on Capitol Hill, working to educate government officials on the current refugee vetting process, even leading a delegation of refugees to meet with the offices of numerous senators, including John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Tammy Duckworth, Chuck Grassley, Joe Manchin, and Ed Markey.
Cooper also lends a prominent voice to this public issue as a published author, with his pieces on human rights issues and American values appearing in numerous publications, including the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, War on the Rocks, Task and Purpose, The American Interest, and Policy Review.
The crown in Elizabeth Dole’s long and varied public career may not lie in her capacity as Federal Trade Commissioner under President Richard Nixon, Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan, or Secretary of Labor under George H.W. Bush — and possibly not even as United States Senator from her home state of North Carolina.
Rather, it is her foundation that may hold more significance for the ordinary Americans it serves every single day. Through the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Dole has chosen to use her high-profile platform to advocate for those 5.5 million spouses, friends, and family members who care for America’s ill, injured, and wounded veterans.
While visiting her husband at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dole first became aware of the needs and challenges facing military caregivers. A veteran of World War II, Bob Dole is the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and has long suffered from the effects of his injuries. As she visited other veterans suffering catastrophic wounds, Dole was drawn to the families, constantly at the side of their loved ones, receiving little or no support.
Under Dole’s leadership, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has brought national attention to military caregiver issues through its Hidden Heroes Campaign, launched grassroot support initiatives in more than 110 cities across the nation via Hidden Heroes Cities, encouraged innovation and the creation of direct service programming supporting caregivers through Hidden Heroes Fund, empowered and equipped military caregivers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico with tools to advocate on behalf of their caregiver peers though the Dole Caregiver Fellows program, and advocated for national caregiver support with Congressional and VA leaders. The Foundation also launched HiddenHeroes.org, a first-of-its-kind online tool where military caregivers can connect to a peer support community and directory of 200+ carefully vetted resources.
Dole’s impact doesn’t stop there. In October 2017, she was appointed chair of the Veteran Administration’s new family and caregiver advisory committee, which was formed in response to problems with support programs, and is charged with advocating for improvements to VA care and benefits services.
Marjorie K. Eastman
Her 2017 National Independent Publisher Award-winning book The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11 not only reframes how many thought about those who served in the conflicts following 9/11, it is the first book to define the timeless legacy of anyone who steps up to serve, declaring the most significant call to action for our time. What started as a memoir project that this former enlisted, direct commission Army Reserve officer took on to cope with her infant son’s battle with cancer, it became an informational and inspiring collection of reflections on those with whom she served, and the aftershocks of service, character, and leadership.
She sought to write a book that would help shape the man she hoped her son will become — yet she succeeded in shaping the narrative of post 9/11 veterans as being far more, and better than, the prevailing themes of hero or broken. And the U.S. Army took notice and placed her book on the recommended reading list for the Military Intelligence Center of Excellence library and museum. A 2018 updated version of her book is now available (audio book set to release in late May), with an additional appendix that empowers readers to find a mission — inciting confidence that every one of us can live with purpose, live for each other, and lead.
Named by PBS’s Veterans Coming Home Initiative as a veteran thought leader, Eastman, who was awarded the Bronze Star as a combat commander, as well as the Combat Action Badge, continues to pioneer new ground by positively reinforcing the value of veterans and service as an unmatched currency. She is a frequent public speaker and her articles on topical issues such as the #MeToo movement, veteran entrepreneurs as a force multiplier in our economy, how veterans can bridge the partisan divide, and the potential impact of U.S. State Department cuts have appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, Task Purpose, and USA Today. Make sure to check out her 2018 Deck of 52 Most Wanted post 9/11 Frontline Leaders, a weekly column that is a spin-off and salute to the original deck (2003 Iraqi Playing Cards), highlighting veterans and military families who have launched exceptional businesses and charities.
On Aug. 21, 2009, while enroute from Camp Victory to the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad, Iraq, then-Army Col. Carol Eggert’s vehicle was struck by an EFP — an explosively formed projectile. She calls it her Gratitude Day. She and all ten service members riding with her that day were wounded. Eggert was in Iraq on a 15-month combat tour as Chief of the Women’s Initiatives Division and Senior Liaison to the U.S. Embassy, Baghdad. In this role, she conducted an analysis of women’s initiatives and engineered a strategic plan to empower Iraqi women economically and politically.
Now as a retired brigadier general in the private sector, Eggert continues to lead through empowerment. She currently serves as the Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, executing Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to deliver meaningful career opportunities to veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses. Eggert recently announced that the company exceeded its goal of hiring 10,000 members of the military community between 2015 and 2017.
Eggert’s selection for this role comes as no surprise. Eggert herself served across several components, including the Regular Army, the Army Reserve, and the National Guard. She also earned several degrees — two master’s and a doctorate in organizational leadership. In addition to the Purple Heart, Eggert is also the recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Meritorious Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters.
U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Navy Seal Nick Etten believes that veterans’ quality of life could be improved — and lives could be saved — through access to cannabis for medical treatment. Through his organization, the Veterans Cannabis Project, Etten champions cannabis as a life-saving treatment option. With the prevalence of chronic pain among military veterans leading to a deadly opioid addiction problem within the community, Etten views Cannabidiol (CBD) products as a viable way to help veterans get off opioids.
Access to medical marijuana for veterans, however, is limited. The laws regulating marijuana are currently murky, since it is illegal under federal law, but legal under the law in some states. And because of the current classification of cannabis as a schedule one drug, research on its potential benefits for veterans is limited, and the Department of Veteran affairs does not allow its providers to prescribe or even recommend it to patients.
The Veterans Cannabis Project has been active on Capitol Hill, working to educate lawmakers, and requesting they take action to help clarify the health benefits of cannabis. Etten’s work to educate, advocate, support research, and partner with like-minded organizations is paving the path for future access to alternative treatment options for veterans.
When Justine Evirs joined the Navy, her plan was to make a career out of it. Her early medical discharge, however, forced her back to square one. She ended up in college to study business then spent numerous years in higher education and veteran services. Evirs is now a mother of three, military spouse, and prominent leader and disrupter in the entrepreneurial and veteran military spouse communities, whose ideas are fast-tracking opportunities for veterans entering the civilian workforce or starting their own businesses.
In her previous role as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Bunker Labs Bay Area Evirs helps provide resources and networking opportunities to military veterans and their spouses who are starting and growing their own businesses. Now in her new role as the National Director of Policy at Bunker Labs she is focused on policy solutions for veteran entrepreneurs across the nation.
The Paradigm Switch, a nonprofit founded by Evirs in 2017, originally provided veterans and military spouses access to prestigious certifications and vocational skills-based programs. Fast forward to today, The Paradigm Switch has recently relaunched and is putting military spouses first. Evirs is building a global digital community for military spouses by military spouses, offering a full spectrum of resources that enable spouses to unleash their unlimited potential both personally and professionally. They discover and provide access to resources and communities that empower military spouses to take control of their careers.
Delphine Metcalf-Foster made history in 2017, when she became the first woman ever elected as the National Commander of the Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV) organization.
Metcalf-Foster, whose father was a Buffalo Soldier, joined the military later in life, when her daughter was in high school. Her daughter was convinced people would laugh at her mom because of her age, but Metcalf-Foster went for it, and ended up retiring from the Army Reserve 21 years later. During her service, she deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, where she was injured.
Metcalf-Foster’s passion for serving fellow veterans has fueled her work with DAV. With over 1 million members, this nonprofit organization helps injured veterans access benefits and advocates on their behalf. In her role as the DAV National Commander, Metcalf-Foster aims to spotlight the need to close the health care gap that exists for women veterans, as well as the need to expand government support for caregivers of pre 9/11 veterans.
It all started with this former Army captain’s raw, brutally honest and irreverent blog titled Kaboom: a Soldier’s War Journal, which chronicled his 15-month Iraq deployment leading a scout platoon with the 25th Infantry Division. The controversial and popular blog was eventually shut down by Gallagher’s chain-of-command, but was later published as a critically-acclaimed memoir after he left the Army.
Armed with an MFA in fiction from Columbia, Gallagher went on to write for numerous major publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Wired. Tackling such dicey issues as whether or not the Iraq War was worth it, the social estrangement of returning veterans, and refugee and immigration rights of Muslims coming to America, Gallagher challenges intellectual and moral complacency. As a veteran directly affected by these issues, Gallagher’s skepticism of the establishment, honest self-reflection, and calls for accountability bring an enormously refreshing and credible perspective to the conversation.
In 2015, Vanity Fair called Matt Gallagher one of the most important voices of a new generation of American war literature. His debut novel Youngblood (2016) portrays a young soldier in his search for meaning during the end of the Iraq War.
As a former intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, the mayor of Los Angeles has made improving the lives of veterans a priority throughout his tenure. His establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs aimed to ensure veterans in Los Angeles can access the services they’ve earned. One of Garcetti’s most impressive contributions to the veteran community during his time as mayor has been through the office’s massive hiring campaign called the 10,000 Strong Initiative.
Garcetti’s groundbreaking initiative formed a coalition between the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and companies and community organizations in Los Angeles over the last three years to reach the goal of hiring 10,000 local veterans. The program utilized the services of local nonprofits and government agencies to match qualified veteran candidates with open positions. The initiative also offered job training to veterans to assist them in transitioning into the civilian workforce, as well as training to companies on how to use tax incentives when hiring veterans.
Through the use of these resources and training programs, Garcetti’s 10,000 Strong Initiative ended up beating its own goal, placing 10,500 veterans with more than 200 companies in the Los Angeles region. In Garcetti’s own words from his Aug 29, 2017 Fleet Week speech, “The men and women who served our country in uniform should come home to opportunity, not obstacles. Veterans are some of the hardest-working, most qualified, and prepared people in Los Angeles — and they should have every chance to succeed in the workplace, and make a living for themselves and their families.”
Jason Hall started his career in Hollywood as an actor. Some might recognize him from his recurring role as the lead singer of a band in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. According to Hall, however, the role that truly made a difference in his life was for a University of Southern California student film in which he portrayed a Marine coming to grips with the loss of a troop. This role would serve as his entry into the fascinating and strange world of American military veterans.
Hall’s Oscar nomination for his adaptation of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s American Sniper novel for the 2014 film version served as his breakout moment as a major creative force. His success in the powerful telling of that story led him to his next project, Thank You for Your Service, a 2017 film he wrote and directed based on Washington Post reporter David Finkel’s nonfiction book by the same name, which follows the real-life plight of four soldiers returning home from the Iraq War.
Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had followed these soldiers in the war for 10 months, then continued following them for another 13 months after they came home. What resulted was a gripping account of the challenges faced by veterans following war.
Hall’s film expanded the book’s audience to moviegoers across America, giving a prominent spotlight to the issues faced by returning veterans. It’s his dedication to the careful and accurate depiction of these true-life accounts that demonstrates his commitment to serving veterans through filmmaking. He looks to bring that same accuracy to the story of another well-known veteran: George Washington. He has spent the last year researching and writing the story of Washington’s road to becoming a leader through the French Indian war.
Zach Iscol is a combat decorated Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq and fought in the second Battle of Fallujah, where he led a combined unit of 30 American and 250 Iraqi National Guard troops, and later helped build US Marine Corps, Special Operations Command.
Through Hirepurpose, Iscol has helped over 50,000 veterans with employment through personalized career guidance, resources, and job matching. Iscol’s Headstrong Project, an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical Center, has provided cost-free world-class mental healthcare to over 600 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in 14 cities and growing around the Country. Task Purpose is a leading news, culture and lifestyle website with content aimed at military and veteran audiences, and reaching over 50 million people a month.
In 2007, Iscol’s testimony, while on active duty, before the United States Senate, helped establish the Special Immigrant Visa to safeguard and protect our Iraqi and Afghanistan translators.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne Johnson comes from a proud military family, and his goal is to give back to the military community. An actor, producer, philanthropist, and former WWE professional wrestler, Johnson uses his super-celebrity status to advocate for the importance of American freedom and to honor its protectors.
At the end of 2016, Johnson was the executive producer and host of the inaugural “Rock the Troops” event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for 50,000 military personnel in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For this event, which aired on Spike TV, Johnson assembled an epic cast of fellow celebrities — Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Keegan Michael-Key, Rob Riggle, Nick Jona, Flo Rider, and more all made special appearances to honor the troops.
Johnson continues his support for military members and their families through his partnership with Under Armour’s Freedom initiative, which supports the military and first responder communities by enhancing their physical and mental wellness.
After serving 25 years in the U.S. Air Force as both a public affairs NCO and officer, Mike Kelly continues serving the military community as a passionate advocate for veterans and military spouses. In his role as an executive at USAA, he leads strategic collaborations with key military, government, nonprofit, and for-profit advocacy groups.
Mike is building collaborative relationships that focus on a national dialogue surrounding important veteran and spouse issues such as financial readiness, navigating successful transitions into the civilian workforce, entrepreneurship, and supportive and impactful military spouse communities.
In 2016, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation selected Mike as the recipient of the annual Hiring Our Heroes Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment. He currently serves on the HOH Veteran and Military Spouse Employment Councils, which focus on actions addressing the unique employment challenges veterans and military spouses face.
Mike is dedicated to connecting, equipping, and inspiring opportunities that benefit the military community at large.
Sam Meek served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense (NBCD) Specialist, completing two tours in Iraq. After leaving the military, Meek would eventually end up using his passion for technology to help connect members of the military community. His unique mobile app, Sandboxx, helps give new recruits in basic training — as well as deployed service members without access to their social media apps — a way to stay connected to the outside world.
Sandboxx customers, most of whom are already active users of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat, are easily able to transition to Sandboxx to communicate with out-of-reach military members. They use the app to upload photos, which get converted into a piece of physical mail, which is sent anywhere in the world it needs to go, even remote locations. Most letters are sent overnight and are delivered the next business day.
Meek launched Sandboxx Travel in 2017, which enables service members to book hotels and flights, often with military discounts, through the Sandboxx app and site. The app also helps provide a way for active and inactive members of the military to connect with any unit they have ever served. As the grandson and great grandson of military service members, Meek was intent on maintaining his connection to the Marines. He now helps people around the world do exactly that.
On April 10, 2012, while serving on his third tour with the 82nd Airborne, Staff Sergeant Travis Mills was critically injured by an IED. He lost both arms and both legs in the blast, and is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive those injuries.
Mills spent much of his time during recovery at Walter Reed encouraging and hanging out with fellow injured veterans and their families, earning the nickname the “Mayor.” So it’s not much of a surprise that he ended up deciding that he wanted to do something big — not only for veterans, but their families as well. In 2013, embodying the warrior ethos of “Never give up, never quit,” Travis and his wife started the Travis Mills Foundation.
The Foundation supports veterans and their families through programs that help these heroic men and women overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. Mills’ latest effort to support these veterans and their families is through his Foundation’s national retreat center, located in his home state of Maine.
Since June of 2017, the retreat has served injured veterans and their families, who receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid, barrier-free vacation where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy the 17-acre grounds of the estate.
You might know Bob Parsons as the larger-than-life billionaire entrepreneur who founded GoDaddy, but his legacy extends far beyond the massively successful internet domain registrar and web hosting company. Parsons served in the United States Marine Corps and, at 18 years old, deployed to Vietnam as a rifleman with Delta Company, earning a Purple Heart, a Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross.
Parsons is passionate about creating a positive homecoming experience for veterans returning from war. This was also the inspiration behind those who started the Semper Fi Fund, a charity that provides immediate and long-term resources to post-9/11 military members who have been combat wounded, catastrophically injured, or are critically ill.
Semper Fi Fund also provides services aimed at helping vets throughout their lives, including family and caregiver support, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury care and education, adaptive housing and transportation, education and career transition assistance, mentoring and apprenticeships, and unit reunions.
As one of the highest-rated charities in the country the Semper Fi Fund’s impact is impressive. According to their website, Semper Fi Fund’s 2017 monetary assistance to service members totaled million dollars. Bob Parsons and his wife Renee are also the founders of the nonprofit organization The Bob Renee Parsons Foundation. For the sixth year in a row, the Foundation recently completed its Double Down for Veterans match campaign with the Semper Fi Fund by matching contributions dollar-for-dollar, exceeding their 2017 goal of million. The Foundation has donated more than million in total to the Semper Fi Fund since its creation. This husband-and-wife philanthropic powerhouse have given an astounding 0 million dollars to charity since 2012.
Coming from three generations of military service, Elizabeth Halperin-Perez spent nine years as an Aviation Logistic Specialist in the U.S. Navy. During a deployments to the Middle East, her friend died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. This event, along with the deep respect for Mother Earth instilled in her from her Mono Indian Native American heritage, sparked her passion for energy policies that advance national security.
Committed to reducing conflict and future wars by furthering sustainable energy practices, Halperin-Perez went on to become the founder and president of the green-build general contracting and consulting firm GCG. Using her experience and network, she also works to help other veterans find clean energy job opportunities, and is passionate about helping them onto an entrepreneurial path. In 2017, Halperin-Perez was chosen by Governor Brown to serve on the California Veterans Board, and most recently was appointed Deputy Secretary of Minority Veterans with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, serving underrepresented veterans in a much larger capacity across California. She was also recognized at the White House in 2013 as a “Champion of Change for Advancing Clean Energy Technologies Climate Security”.
Sam Pressler began his involvement with the veteran community during his time as a student at the College of William Mary, where he majored in government and first learned about the mental health challenges faced by veterans returning from war. Pressler himself had turned to comedy to cope after a suicide in his family, and in response to the challenges affecting veterans and service members he started Comedy Bootcamp, a stand-up comedy class for veterans and their families as a way to help build community and improve well-being through comedy.
This bootcamp eventually grew into the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), a non-profit founded and led by Pressler that helps veterans, service members, and military family members reintegrate into their communities through the arts. The organization promotes expression, skill-development, and camaraderie through classes, workshops, and performances across a variety of artistic disciplines. ASAP’s focus on consistent programs and community partnerships ensures that members of our community have continuous opportunities for artistic and personal growth.
ASAP has served more than 600 students, and put on over 800 performances for 50,000+ audience members, including a 2016 comedy show at The White House and a performance for President Jimmy Carter. Through these programs and performances, Pressler has helped to create connections and understanding between veterans and members of their local communities. Pressler was honored on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017, as one of HillVets 100 most influential people in the veterans space in 2016, and as a recipient of the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship.
His work with ASAP has been featured by numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, ABC News, NBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, Military Times, Task Purpose, and Stars Stripes.
Jennifer Pritzker (born James Pritzker) enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions while on active duty, then at various units in the Army National Guard until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2001. She was later promoted to the honorary rank of Colonel.
Pritzker has been a massive force multiplier through her philanthropic work as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Tawani Enterprises, Inc., President of the Tawani Foundation, and Founder and Chair of the Pritzker Military Museum Library. In these roles, Pritzker makes significant long-term differences for programs and organizations that advocate the role of military in society.
Among her notable contributions is a id=”listicle-2565932886″.3 million donation to the University of California, Santa Barbara to fund studies on how the U.S. military could openly integrate transgender members into its ranks. In 2017, the Pritzker Military Foundation donated id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to fund key initiatives for Elizabeth Dole’s Hidden Heroes campaign, which supports the caregivers of injured and ill veterans and service members. In 2018, the Foundation gave id=”listicle-2565932886″ million to the Army Historical Foundation to help with the construction of the National Museum of the United States Army in Virginia. In 2013, Pritzker came out as transgender and started living as a woman. She is the only known transgender billionaire in the world.
(Photo by Terrilyn Bayne)
Diana & Daniel Rau
Daniel Rau was inspired to serve his country when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. He joined the Marine Corps and served as a Marine Security Guard protecting embassies around the world. After his service, based on his and his friends’ experiences, he saw an opportunity to radically change the process of how Veterans enter the civilian workforce.
Diana Rau, who was honored as one of Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, is a Georgetown graduate passionate about solving major social problems. When she met Daniel, the idea for Veterati sparked: build a technology platform to help America’s 1.5 million service members currently transitioning into the civilian workforce as well as 5.5 million underemployed military spouses navigate and break into civilian careers. (A romantic relationship that later led to their marriage also sparked — Veterati’s story is both a startup story a love story!)
Because 80% of job opportunities are never listed, but rather, are advertised and filled through personal networks, the Raus built a digital platform that empower service members and spouses to connect with multiple mentors and build social networks vital to their career search. At Veterati.com, Veterans spouses are matched with successful business people in their area of interest using smart algorithms. Mentors volunteer their time through free, one-hour phone calls facilitated by the platform. Since its 2015 launch, Veterati, which has been called the “Uber-of-mentoring,” has provided thousands of free mentoring conversations for 10k+ members and is partnered with the nation’s leading Veteran Service Organizations and Military Employers to deliver free, on-demand mentoring to our entire military community.
In 2017, Denise Rohan became the first female national commander of the 2 million-member American Legion in its 99-year history. Rohan, who served in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps for two years at the end of the Vietnam War, joined the Legion 33 years ago, working her way up from post-level membership to National Commander.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran service organization and was founded on four pillars: veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, Americanism, and children and youth. As their new national commander, Rohan is expanding on those four pillars through her “Family First” platform, which broadens the American Legion’s focus on service members and veterans to include family members as well. As the spouse of a veteran herself, Rohan believes that families serve too; and ensuring those family members are being taken care of at home allows for their loved ones in the fight to focus more on their mission, ultimately strengthening national security.
Rohan’s current special fundraising project is the Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program, which awards cash grants to children of veterans in need to help the cost of shelter, food, utilities, and health expenses.
Major Dan Rooney
Major Dan Rooney is a U.S. Air Force Reserve F-16 fighter pilot with the Oklahoma National Guard. It was during his second tour of duty in Iraq that he felt a calling to do something in response to the devastating sacrifices he saw others make fighting for their country. This calling was solidified on a commercial flight Rooney took after returning to the U.S. The plane had just landed and the pilot announced that the remains of Corporal Brock Bucklin were on board. Maj Rooney watched as the flag-draped casket slowly made its way to the awaiting family, which included the fallen hero’s son. Rooney was overwhelmed thinking about the hardship those family members would face due to their loss.
This moment irrecoverably altered Rooney’s trajectory, and he made the decision at that moment to dedicate the rest of his life to helping the family members of those who gave their lives, or were disabled in service to their nation. He recently formed a partnership with Budweiser’s Patriot Beer and in 2007 created the Folds of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps the more than one million dependents adversely impacted by war through educational scholarships.
Rooney, who is also a PGA golf pro, realized that he could use his platform to help achieve the goals he had for his foundation. The first Folds of Honor golf tournament raised ,000. Since, then Folds of Honor has raised over 0 million and given away over 13,000 educational scholarships. Rooney continues to his work to uphold the mission of his foundation: “Honor their sacrifice. Educate their legacy.”
Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise has been a strong advocate of American service members for nearly 40 years, starting with his Veterans Night program, which offers free dinners and performances to veterans at the Steppenwolf Theatre, which he co-founded in Chicago. Later, his portrayal of Lt Dan in the film Forrest Gump would create a lasting connection with the disabled military community. Following 9/11 he took part in many USO tours, which led him to form The Lt. Dan Band, which entertains troops at home and abroad and raises awareness at benefit concerts across the country.
Sinise established the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, through which he continues to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, and first responders as well as their families and those in need. Whether they’re sending WWII veterans to New Orleans to tour the National WWII Museum through its Soaring Valor program or building specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans through its R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, Sinise continually demonstrates just how much one person’s commitment can do for an entire community. His Foundation recently added the annual Snowball Express event to its roster of programs. The annual event brings together the children and spouses of fallen military heroes each December for a fun-filled four-day event at Disney World.
Sinise’s forthcoming book Grateful American, which features the author’s life story and passionate advocacy for military service members, is slated for release in 2019.
Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of The Daily Show, is nothing less than passionate about his support for the troops. He continually uses his public platform to stress that the country does not do enough to support service members and veterans. His persistent message to America and its institutions is that supporting the troops shouldn’t be an empty saying, but rather a call to action. Stewart backs up his words with his own remarkable commitment, proving himself a truly dedicated advocate for this community.
During his long tenure as the host of the massively popular satirical news show, Stewart established an internship program for veterans trying to break into the television industry, which continues on to this day. He has also toured with USO three times, entertaining service members all over the world, bringing them laughs and a touch of home. Stewart regularly participates in benefits and campaigns aimed at raising money and awareness for issues impacting veterans.
In 2016, Stewart attended the Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition in which injured and ill service members and veterans participate. He later pitched the idea of broadcasting the games on television to ESPN — and in 2017, they did exactly that, with Stewart serving as the emcee.
Czech Foreign Legionnaire and airman Vachlav Bozdech and his French wingman, Pierre Duval, were shot down over no man’s land between France and the invading German Army in 1940. After the crash, Bozdech dragged the wounded Duval into a nearby house. Its tenants were nowhere to be found, having evacuated the house of all they could carry — which did not include their German Shepherd puppy.
Despite having just walked away from a plane crash and running from oncoming enemy troops, the Czech and French airmen stopped to feed the puppy a bit of candy from their coats and melt some snow to give it a drink. As the night wore on, the two men decided they would make a break for the French lines, but without the dog.
Almost as soon as they left, the puppy began to howl. Duval and Bozdech decided they would have to kill the dog before he gave away their positions to the Nazis. Cue Sarah McLachlan.
No, Bozdech did not kill the pup. The other method of getting the dog to be quiet was as simple as the Czech putting the puppy in his coat and bringing him along — which he did.
As the downed airmen made their way to the French lines, German flares lit up the night sky, turning their darkness cover into the light of day. The three booked it to the nearest tree line, running into some fresh troops. Luckily they were French, a search party sent to look for the downed airmen. When they all arrived back at their home airbase, Duval went to the infirmary while Bozdech took the dog back to the barracks of the exiled Czech airmen. The Czech named him Antis after their favorite Czech aircraft.
Or just “Ant” for short.
Stiff upper lip, pup.
Antis slept in the barracks with Bozdech and the Czechs as World War II got into full swing. The Nazis rolled on France at max blitzkrieg, destroying most of the planes at Saint-Dizier, their home base. But Bozdech still went up to meet the Luftwaffe in air combat, only this time, Ant went with him. He was the perfect back-seater. He didn’t even flinch as the Czech fired dual .50-caliber machine guns at the oncoming Me-100.
Eventually, the airmen were forced to flee from France and make their way through neutral Spain to Gibraltar, where they could fight the Nazis from Britain. But their evacuation ship wouldn’t allow dogs. No problem – Ant remained on shore as the Czech boarded the ship. After it departed, the dog swam 100 yards or more to the ship. The Czechs hoisted him up and made a space for him to sleep below decks.
Antis’ Dickin Medal.
The pair made it to the UK after a few close calls. Bozdech flew with the RAF’s Czech Squadron near Liverpool for much of the war – with Antis flying some 30 missions with his best friend. The loyal pup even helped look for survivors of an air raid, despite his own injuries. After the war, Vachlav Bozdech returned to his home country, but he didn’t get to stay long. In 1948, the Czech government began cracking down on anyone who fought with the Western Allies during the war. Bozdech found himself escaping across another border with Ant, this time into West Germany.
Antis was later awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest award for gallantry bestowed upon an animal in service. Vaclav and Antis eventually became British subjects and Ant lived to the ripe old age of 14.
About one in five Navy sailors are obese, making it the US military’s fattest service branch, a new Pentagon report found.
The obesity rate for the Navy was 22% — higher than the average for the four main service branches — the “Medical Surveillance Monthly Report” said, adding that obesity is a “growing health concern among Sailors.”
The report stressed that obesity affected Navy readiness — but this branch of the military wasn’t the only one facing higher obesity rates. The Army came in at 17.4%, the Department of Defense average, while the Air Force had a slightly higher rate, at 18.1%. The Marines were by far the leanest, with an obesity rate of only 8.3%.
These calculations were based on body mass index, “calculated utilizing the latest height and weight record in a given year,” the report said. “BMI measurements less than 12 and greater than 45 were considered erroneous and excluded.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Nelson Doromal)
The report did explain some limits to using BMI: that “Service members with higher lean body mass may be misclassified as obese based on their BMI,” that “not all Service members had a height or weight measurement available in the Vitals data each year,” and that “BMI measures should be interpreted with caution, as some of them can be based on self-reported height and weight.”
Among the services, the report found, obesity rates were higher among men than women, as well as among people 35 and over as opposed to those in their 20s.
“The overall prevalence of obesity has increased steadily since 2014,” it said.
Obesity is on the rise across the services, The New York Times reported. It said the Navy’s obesity rate had increased sixfold since 2011, while the rates for the other services had more than doubled.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee)
Roughly 30% of Americans between the 17 and 24 are ineligible for Army recruitment, and about a third of prospective recruits are disqualified based on their weight, Army Times reported in October 2019.
“Out of all the reasons that we have future soldiers disqualify, the largest — 31 percent — is obesity,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the head of the Army Recruiting Command, told Army Times.
The Army’s 2018 “Health of the Force” report said that “the high prevalence of obesity in the U.S. poses a serious challenge to recruiting and retaining healthy Soldiers.”
The new Pentagon report further explained that “obesity negatively impacts physical performance and military readiness and is associated with long-term health problems such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and risk for all-cause mortality.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.