4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe and follow us all into the holidays, everyone is struggling. December is filled with moments traditionally celebrated with big family gatherings – something that just isn’t safe right now, for anyone. Hard as it may be to swallow, it’s something military families have been dealing with for a lot longer than just the year 2020. 

I come from a large Italian family, one that had “family night” every Wednesday like clockwork growing up. Leaving them behind for the first move with my husband was hard. I remember the deep pit of loss, especially during the holidays I missed. The second move taking me from my home state of Florida to Alaska just about broke me. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the adventure is or how incredible the opportunities are, your heart still aches. It was 2008, long before Facebook Lives or Zoom were a thing. Instead, we bought expensive web cameras and celebrated Christmas Eve through a shaky internet connection. Although I would never stop missing them, we learned to adapt because we had to. I also learned how expensive long-distance phone calls were, oops.

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Christmas Eve 1985 with my family, a yearly tradition I began to miss with regularity beginning in 2008

Watching Americans on social media complain about the restrictions and “cancel culture,” I can’t help but laugh and shake my head. As military families, we live in a world where anything can happen and you control none of it. My husband has worked numerous special days, been underway for Christmas and missed so many important moments. If I sat and dwelled in the despair of those times, I would never get out of bed. Seriously. This is the reality of the majority of military families throughout the world, we don’t have the luxury of complaining about it – we just do it. So, here are my lessons learned and words of advice for celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.

  1. Stop complaining

Did you know that when you complain, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone? Yep, truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enough stress to everyone’s lives, don’t add any more to yours. Instead of focusing on the negative, look towards the positive things. Traveling during the holidays sucks, for one – so now you don’t have to. Win!

2. Add new traditions 

Maybe your Aunt Karen makes the best Christmas dinner and you are really mad about missing it. Make it. Yeah, you heard me. This is your chance to not only really embrace your own traditions that are familiar in a different way, but you can also add new ones. Bake the dish that no one else would usually eat, make the crafts because you have time and decorate more. Embrace the good, not the bad. 

3. Adopt a family or shelter

I am not trying to make you feel like scrooge but for many the holidays are never good, even without a pandemic wreaking havoc. Rates of negative mental health symptoms during the holidays skyrocket and so do suicides. By finding a way to give back to those less fortunate than you it will not only take your mind off missing your family or “normal”  but it will bring a boost of feel-good hormones to your brain, known as the “helper’s high”. There are angel trees, Toys for Tots and endless shelters in your community that need you. Find one.

4. Embrace small moments of joy

Sometimes it’s really not about the big elaborate get together’s and parties. Take this time to focus on your own home or community and breathe in small moments of joy. Watching old holiday movies together, having more time to decorate outside or watching your kids smile while doing crafts. Video chat with your family, take the time to make phone calls to people you haven’t seen in a while and write letters. These are small things that can create not only good memories but also feed happiness and not negativity.

The FDA just approved the second vaccine for emergency distribution. This means there really is hope on the horizon, even though all of this isn’t over yet. I know that we are all feeling fatigued from COVID and quarantine, but we can get through this. Remember that even when there isn’t a pandemic, military families are almost always far from their loved ones. It’s a sacrifice that is made because freedom is worth it. It is my hope that you’ll all take the same approach with staying home for the holidays. The lives you will save are worth it too. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Awesome nonprofit helps wounded service members surf

Service members often encounter physical, psychological, and emotional adversity when protecting the freedoms this country was founded on. The injuries sustained both on and off duty require recovery in many forms – including physical competitions, religious programs, community outreach opportunities, behavioral health, and more. Some may only need a surfboard and a wave to ride.

Veterans, recovering service members and their loved ones attended the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 17-19, 2018. Operation Amped is a non-profit organization that promotes surf therapy to aid in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured veterans, and active-duty service members.


According to Joseph Gabunilas, Operation Amped co-founder, this program exists to provide a positive change in a participant’s future. Operation Amped accomplishes this by providing surf training once a year to wounded warriors, family members and veterans.

“It’s a good way to keep that negative stuff out of your mind while catching a wave,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Simons, participant at Operation Amped. “Surfing has given me a goal, something to work towards and keep my focus straight.”

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)

The organization, which began in September 2006, had helped nearly 300 recovering service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Along with the support and attendance of family members and friends, that number has now reached the thousands, said Gabunilas, who served in the U.S. Army. Having both the recovering service members and their loved ones in attendance, can provide the therapy needed to overcome the trials and tribulations they may be experiencing.

“Ocean therapy is good for the mindset,” said Simons. “It’s good for those that have difficult issues they’re dealing with.”

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones prepare to surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)

Some of the adversity these warriors face include the loss of fellow service members in and out of combat, overcoming pain and physical injury. For three days each year, with the support of organizations such as this one, participants move closer to recovery one wave at a time.

Provisions come from volunteers and supporters who donate surfboards, wetsuits, food, tents, and tables. Most importantly, they donate their time.

“This is my way of giving back,” said Gabunilas. “I served 21 years and this is another way I can give back to the brave men and women fighting for our country.”

This annual event drives a passion for surfing for some and provides a recreational outlet for warriors and their family members to enjoy while physically and mentally challenging themselves in the water. The next clinic is scheduled for summer 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coach Wooden’s Advice for 2021

When Coach John Wooden arrived at UCLA in 1948, the athletic department promised him they would eventually get him a nice gym. But until then, he had to share a poorly lit, unventilated facility with the wrestling team, the cheerleaders, and the gymnastics team, often with everyone practicing at the same exact time. This existence was Wooden’s reality for 16 years.  

I’m sure during those first years at UCLA, the administration continued to promise that construction on the new facility was right around the corner. Wooden could have been tempted to hold off on pushing his basketball program until the perfect gym was completed. Yet, it was in that ragged facility he shared with the other teams that he built the winning team for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1964 and 1965. Reflecting on his team’s success he wrote, “You could have written a long list of excuses why UCLA shouldn’t have been able to develop a good basketball team….you must take what is available and make the very most of it.”

Coach Wooden’s lesson is the one we need for 2021. How many of us put life on hold in 2020 when the Coronavirus changed our reality to wait for that time when things were back to “normal?” We put off activities like getting in shape or connecting with friends and family because we were waiting for the return of the familiar. Those of us who fell into this hopeful state wasted the time and resources we had available to just maintain the status quo. It’s almost been a year since the world changed. What do you have to show for your new normal?

In 2021, let’s heed the coach’s wisdom and make the most of the resources at our fingertips. Start that project you’ve been putting off. Begin that hobby you bought all the parts and pieces for back in March but never started. Do body weight exercises while you wait for your gym to re-open. Call that family member you weren’t able to visit over the holidays or focus on that relationship that took a hit while you were both stuck at home all the time. Whatever it is, don’t make any more excuses. Focus on action. Remove from your vocabulary the phrase, “When things return to normal, I’m going to…” 

Finally, I would like to leave you with a passage that was written down 2000 years before Coach Wooden set foot in that run-down gym at UCLA. It was written by the Roman philosopher Seneca in a treatise titled, On the Shortness of Life. He said, “Life is divided into three periods, past, present, and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, and the past is certain.” In other words, the only thing we can affect is the present so don’t let another year go by without taking action on whatever it is in your life that you’re putting off for a post-COVID world.

In 12 months we are going to do what we inevitably do before a new year. We’re going to reflect. Let’s look back on 2021 and know that we made the most of it; that we didn’t wait for a new gym. Instead, we found opportunities within our individual realities and we seized them. Let this be our new normal. 

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4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Far from just marching around and being yelled at by sadistic drill sergeants, basic training can be the source of hilarious stories.


Case in point comes from an awesome AskReddit thread. The thread, which originated with Reddit user mctugmutton, asked the military community for “the funniest thing they witnessed while in boot camp.” The answers run from LOL to LMFAO and glimpse at basic training differences between service branches.

Reddit user sneego: The time half my squad decided to clean their training gear naked.

Our last week of basic training, we basically spent days cleaning all of our TA-50 (pretty much all your issued gear- rucksacks, ponchos, etc).

The drill sergeants decided it would be more efficient for us to pile up some of the major items as a platoon and organize cleaning teams. Well, the cleaning team in charge of doing ponchos decided to use the showers to make things go faster and to free up the faucets in the laundry room for others to use. So they begin cleaning and then decide to go one step further: Why be careful about getting wet when you can just get naked and get things done even quicker?

Next thing you know, half of first squad is butt naked chatting like nothing unusual is going on when our drill sergeant walks in. The DS just looks in, makes a David Silvermanesque WTF look, says in his thick Puerto Rican accent, “Jesus LORD privates, what the F–K!” and walks out.

Reddit user allhailzorp: The time my friend got an imaginary bathroom siren.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
Photo: Sgt Reece Lodder/USMC

Not me, but my best friend who recently went through USMC boot camp.

It’s about Week 2. All the recruits are still scared s–tless. Literally, some of their a–holes are clenched so tight they haven’t gone number two since they got there. And by this point, with Marine chow being what it is, there’s quite a backlog building up. My buddy desperately needs to go. He wanted to wait until his individual time that night, but it was too late, he was touching cloth.

So, braving his fear of the DIs, he speaks out. “Sir, this recruit requests a head call, SIR”. Then, he blurts out, “Sir, it’s an emergency, Sir!”

The DI, with his infinite sense of humor:

“Oh really? An emergency huh? Well, you better put on your SIREN.”

My buddy has to wave his hands above his head, and scream “Bee-Boo Bee-Boo” as he ran to the restroom. This continued for the entirety of boot camp, every time he needed the bathroom.

One Reddit user witnessed E.T. phone home during Air Force basic training.

We had a really pasty kid with huge coke bottle glasses with a really high pitched almost robotic voice in our flight that seemed to be a lightning rod for TI abuse.

One morning our TI told the kid that he was on to him and he wasn’t going to allow him to complete his mission. Suffice to say the kid was extremely confused and asked the TI what he was talking about to which he replied “You’re an alien and I know you’re here to gather intelligence about our military.”

At this point, I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer and went to the other side of the barracks as quick as possible before I got dragged into it. Well, I just got to the other side when the kid comes barreling around the corner and stops right in front of his locker and starts screaming into it that the TI was on to him and that the mission was unsuccessful.

I guess the TI told him that he had to report to the mothership through the communicator in his locker that the mission was unsuccessful and he’d been found out.

From Dan Caddy, author of Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said: The time the DS found a Chinese boy in a wall locker. (Not in the book)

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
Screen capture from Amazon.com

My Basic Training Battery had twin brothers in it, Chang L , and Chang K . Chang L was in fourth platoon and his brother was in third. One evening, there were combatives happening in the fourth platoon barracks. Chang K had sneaked into our bay to be a part of this unsanctioned event, specifically so that he could wrestle his brother. Everyone was wearing PT uniforms, except for some reason our Chang, who was wearing nothing but his issued brown briefs, and had removed his glasses for the fight. Suddenly, a wild Drill Sergeant appeared! Chang L, in his underwear, was grabbed by someone and stuffed into their wall locker.

His twin brother, Chang K, ran up to the front of the bay to take his brothers place for mail call. It was a disaster waiting to happen. After mail was handed out, the Drill Sergeant decided to hang around for a bit and have a serious heart to heart talk with us about something that had happened recently (an attempted suicide). The Drill Sergeant had gathered us close and was quietly talking about loyalty and brotherhood when all of the sudden, he was interrupted by the metallic squeal of a wall locker opening.

There was a hushed silence as the skinny little Chinese man, blind without his glasses, peeked out around the door and stepped out, in plain view of the Drill Sergeant. Apparently, we had been so quiet, that he thought we had all left.

DS: “WHY IN THE F–K IS THERE A NAKED CHINESE BOY IN YOUR WALL LOCKER?!”
Pvt 1:”Drill Sergeant, I put him there, Drill Sergeant!”
DS: What the f–k?
Pvt 2: “We were wrasslin’, Drill Sergeant.” It was silent for a few seconds as the DS’s face contorted as though he were about to have an epileptic seizure. His eyes were cartoonishly huge.

The DS pointed at the practically nude Chang L and screamed at him to get his f–king ass over to the third platoon barracks. Chang L started to interject, presumably to inform the DS that he had confused him for his brother, but was unable to finish because at this point the DS was knocking things over and screaming his lungs out. Chang ran away, blind and naked, stumbling into furniture as he fled, leaving his terrified twin brother in his place. I don’t believe that we actually got our Chang back until PT the next morning, when they were able to switch back.

Get Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said via Amazon or Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peter W. Singer and August Cole’s latest book Burn-In has everything you need to pass the pandemic time a little quicker

Their last book, Ghost Fleet, had parts that rang truer than others, but I really enjoyed it. Ghost Fleet’s portrayal of US Marines liberating a US state from foreign occupation added up. As a former grunt, I could absolutely see a senior leader eating an Osprey ramp under full combat load on insert, breaking his nose and getting stuck fighting that way for days.

On the other hand, the war widow turned murder-hooker or the grizzled Navy Chief’s love story seemed harder to buy (everybody knows Chiefs don’t have hearts). Basically, you read Ghost Fleet for the rail guns not the feels. So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Burn-In and found the storyline of the Marine war-bot wrangler turned FBI agent’s disaster of a homelife just as compelling as the high stakes domestic terrorist hunt she was leading. It might be the pandemic talking, but the upside-down outside world following the characters home and wreaking havoc on their relationships will be equal parts release and escape for anybody who’s spent a little too much time at home over the past several months.


Big tech offers a utopian view of our connected future but Burn-In plays trends forward and explores the dystopian outcomes lurking around the corner. Ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over your biometric data without reading the terms and conditions or connect your new toaster to the cloud? Burn-In will make you painfully aware of what all that data can do in the wrong hands.

The book is extensively researched and footnoted so the reader can link the real world to the future storyline. Did I mention there’s a ninja robot, plagues visited on DC, and elite hostage rescue FBI agents fighting in exoskeletons?

Burn-In hits the e-shelves today and We Are The Mighty recently caught up with Peter Singer to talk about the coming technological revolution, the future of terrorism, and tactical robots.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

WATM: The characters in Burn-In are living through a technological revolution not that dissimilar from the pandemic-induced disruption we’re all living through. The economic upheaval follows the characters home, straining their relationships, upending their careers and even changing their identities. How did you paint this picture so accurately?

Singer: A lot of the trends that the book explores in this future that’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction are at play in the pandemic—from the move toward AI and automation, to the challenges of greater amounts of distrust in our politics and our society, to critical infrastructure and public services that are more brittle than we ever wanted to admit—and coronavirus has drastically accelerated them. Much of the population has been rapidly thrown into distance learning, remote work or unemployment.

Telemedicine is now used at a level that no one anticipated would happen for at least a decade. Robots are policing curfews and cleaning subways and hospitals. AI and data tracking implementations are rolling out that go beyond even the most wild science fiction. It’s guaranteed that we’re not going to go back to the way it was before, so all of the tough social, political, legal, moral, security issues that our character wrestles with in this future are going to come faster for us in the real world.

WATM: The term sabotage was coined when workers fought back against technology in the Industrial Revolution. What will be the first flashpoints between workers and robots?

Singer: Science fiction is starting to come true but the reality is very different from the familiar story lines. The word ‘robot’ was coined a hundred years ago and there’s an early 1920s sci-fi play that’s informed our fears of robot overlords since. In the play mechanical servants wised up and rose up—it’s always been a story of robot rebellion. Instead, what’s happening is that we’re going through an Industrial Revolution. Revolutions have a good and a bad side. The Industrial Revolution gave us mass consumer goods and modern concepts of rights but it also gave birth to climate change and new political ideologies like fascism and communism that we spend the next 100 years working our way through.

We’re entering a technological revolution with three key trends. The first is job replacement and displacement and it won’t be just a matter of changing the tool in someone’s hand in an early factory. This is a tool that takes on the job of the people, whether they’re lawyers or soldiers. A McKinsey study argues that AI and automation will replace over 40% of current occupations in the next 20 years.

Second are the new ethical, legal, moral questions that always accompany new technology but go further this time because they’re now about machine permissibility and machine accountability. What do you allow the machine to do on its own and who’s in control? These questions impact everything from combat to your kids getting to soccer practice and there are already real world examples such as the fatal Tesla wreck. Who was responsible? The human driver that wasn’t driving? The municipality that allowed it to be deployed before there were good laws? The software programmer?

The third set of issues involve new kinds of security vulnerabilities. We’ve mostly thought about cyber security as information theft: stealing a jet fighter design or stealing credit card information. Instead as we move into this new world cyber means will be used to cause kinetic damage like any other kind of weapon. There will be new kinds of attacks and crimes such as a murder conducted via a smartphone hack or the ability to hold all of Washingtion DC hostage through critical infrastructure control (DC has flooded before). A country that’s divided politically, socially, economically is less able to weather that kind of change.

The Industrial Revolution was rife with outbreaks of extremism and worker protests that morphed into what we’d now call insurgency and terrorism. In 1814 more British soldiers were fighting Luddites at home than were deployed in the War of 1812. Luddites were craftsmen who were put out of work by the early factories and in turn, they assassinated factory owners and orchestrated street violence to try and check technological progress. What does it look like when a modern Luddite doesn’t have a hammer and a musket but a drone, an AR-15 and malware?

WATM: The book takes place decades from now but the social media landscape is recognizable. Users provide their data freely and live in a completely connected world. Events trend in real time and the characters have to navigate the consequences of the culture of influence during a terror attack. Is social media as we’ve come to know it inevitable?

Singer: There’s a lot of action in the book but the scariest scene to me is when Lara Keegan, the protagonist, takes her little girl to the Starbucks of the future and the staff greets them by name. Lara has an internal dialogue asking herself if they know her by name because she’s been coming there for years or because of face recognition technology and a record of her visits in the past. Is there a human connection or not? We’re always going to be trading back and forth between privacy, security and convenience and that balancing act is something that will touch every aspect of our lives: how we interact with government and businesses, who we are politically, and what happens at home.

Who is going to own the information and who is going to be able to access it? The individual, the private sector, or the government? We talk about this with Twitter and FaceBook now but there will soon be other dimensions including the camera on the street and the delivery robot. An observer will not only be able to know what you’re doing right now, but could access all of your life’s history, and shape the decisions you make in the future. You will not always be conscious of this shaping. What can we do? We have to understand the ecosystem—if you’re ignorant of it you’re just a target.

The next step is implementing things that support the better and limit the bad. How do we protect privacy and limit malicious influence? Deepfakes are in the book and they’re also being used to misinform during the pandemic. The Belgian premier was just targeted with a deepfake. The book explores virtual watermarks and that type of verification is possibly the policy path out of deepfakes and malicious disinformation.

If you’re stuck at home, it might as well be with a great book. Pick up Burn-In and you’ll find that your quarantine just got a whole lot more interesting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What you need to know about self-referral

The intent of a self-referral is to provide you with a means of intervening in the progression of alcohol abuse early enough for you to get help before a problem becomes more advanced and more difficult to resolve without the risk of disciplinary action.

Have you ever wondered what the self-referral process is like? This recently released video testimonial from the Keep What You’ve Earned Campaign (KWYE) shows the real-life story of one chief’s experience with seeking help. You can view the testimonial video, and more information is available on the NAAP website.


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Do you still have questions about the self-referral process? The following list answers some frequently asked questions about self-referral.

1. What exactly constitutes a self-referral? 

A self-referral is an event that is personally initiated by the member. A member may initiate the process by disclosing the nature and extent of their problem to one of the following personnel who is actively employed in their capacity as a qualified self-referral agent:
  1. Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisor (DAPA)
  2. Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Officer- in-Charge, or Command Master Chief (CMDCM)/Chief of the Boat (COB)
  3. Navy Drug and Alcohol Counselor (or intern)
  4. Department of Defense medical personnel, including Licensed Independent Practitioner (LIP)
  5. Chaplain
  6. Fleet and Family Support Center Counselor

2. When should someone consider self-referring? 

A member should consider self-referring if they desire counseling and treatment to address potential, suspected, or actual alcohol abuse or misuse.

3. Is there anything that could make a self-referral invalid, in which case the member would not be shielded from disciplinary action?

To be valid, the self-referral must be made only to one of the qualified self-referral agents listed above; it must be made with the intent of acquiring treatment, should treatment be recommended as a result of the screening process; and there can be no credible evidence of the member’s involvement in an alcohol-related incident (ARI).

4. What do we mean by “non-disciplinary”?

This means that a member may not be disciplined merely for self-referring and participating in the resulting process of screening and treatment, if recommended. It does not mean that a member is necessarily shielded from the possible administrative consequences of treatment failure or the administrative or disciplinary consequences of refusing to participate in treatment recommended by the post-referral screening process.

5. Does making a self-referral count as an alcohol-related incident (ARI)? 

No. Self-referral provides the means of early intervention in the progression of alcohol abuse by which members can obtain help before a problem becomes more advanced and more difficult to resolve without risk of disciplinary action.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

A Sailor wave goodbye to loved ones on the pier while manning the rails as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

6. What happens after someone makes a self-referral?

  • Command will complete DAPA screening package and OPNAV 5350/7 Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report (DAR).
  • Self-referrals shall be directed to the appropriate Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP) for screening. Following screening, a medical officer or LIP will provide the member’s command with a written screening summary and treatment recommendation.
  • If treatment is recommend, the command will coordinate with the appropriate SARP facility based on availability, locality, and type of treatment needed.

7. Will other people know if I self-refer? 

Yes. The member’s chain of command, and others on a need-to-know basis, will be informed.

8. Will a self-referral mean that the Navy looks at other parts of my life/job performance? 

Alcohol use issues are complex, and evaluation and treatment require a holistic view. Relevant information on the member’s work and personal life may be required as part of the screening and treatment processes.

9. Can I re-enlist if I’ve self-referred? 

Yes.

10. What are the levels of alcohol treatment? 

  • Level 0.5 Early Intervention/Education Program
  • Level I Outpatient Treatment
  • Level II Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization (lOP)
  • Level III Inpatient Treatment

11. Will I lose my security clearance for self-referring? 

No. Your security clearance may be jeopardized if your post-referral screening recommends treatment and you subsequently refuse that treatment.

12. Where can I get further information on the self-referral policy? 

Refer to OPNAVINST 5350.4D for details and official policies. Questions may directed to the 21st Century Sailor Office, NAAP staff. Contact information is available at the NAAP website here.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army seeks to hire 10,000 soldiers in virtual campaign

For the first time in their history, the Army will be completely reliant on the internet and social media to complete their summer recruitment of soldiers. With COVID-19 impacting their ability to do face to face recruitment events, they’ve become innovative. Their goal: 10,000 new soldiers.

The Army paused briefly in processing new applicants and significantly reduced the number of recruits at basic training to ensure they could reduce risks of infection and keep potential soldiers and staff safe. Once all measures were in place, the Army hit the ground running for recruitment.


The Army typically sends between 10,000 to 15,000 future soldiers to basic training every summer. The challenge, however, will be making that happen through a computer. In the months leading up to the summer push, most recruiters are inside high schools and continually interacting with youth. Although the pandemic prevented that, recruiters got creative.

These past few months have seen recruiters actively engaging on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even playing video games with potential future soldiers. Although this definitely helped the Army somewhat maintain their recruiting numbers, a bigger push is needed to ensure mission readiness.

The Army’s virtual nation-wide hiring campaign will run from June 30 to July 2, 2020. Those who are eligible and join during the hiring event can earn a ,000 bonus, on top of other available bonuses and student loan payoffs. This campaign will be a test of the Army’s digital footprint and their ability to reach potential young soldiers virtually.

Command Master Sergeant Tabitha Gavia is the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It is her command leading the national hiring event. “We are responsible for the mission that the Army gives us every year, to recruit a certain number of Army and Army Reserves,” she shared.

According to an Army press release, “Army National Hiring Days is an all-Army effort to inspire individuals across the nation to ‘Join Us.'” This will be the first time that the Army has collectively come together as a whole to leverage the digital space in a nation-wide recruiting effort.

The Army has over 150 career opportunities for those that want to join. When someone signs up, they will also pick their job at the same time. When they finish basic training, they are sent to their specialist training for their chosen career field.

During Army National Hiring Days, those who want to learn more about the Army and inquire about joining can visit their recruitment website. There they’ll find a wealth of information about careers, qualifications, and specific hiring incentives.

There are always unique challenges to recruiting, even without a global pandemic. “External environments are the real challenges. One in particular is the significant number of people who simply aren’t qualified to serve in the armed forces,” Gavia explained. According to a recent 2019 study by Mission: Readiness, they found that as much as 75% of America’s youth is ineligible to serve. The three top reasons for ineligibility include being undereducated, involved in crime or physically unfit.

Gavia shared that another unique challenge in recruiting is that many young people simply don’t know enough about the Army, especially if they don’t live near a base or weren’t raised in a family of service. “We have to get people to get to know us and overcome preconceived notions and fears,” she said.

One example of a current fear is the recent ongoing protests and the involvement of the U.S. military in shutting them down. This led to a lot of potential recruits to question whether they wanted to be a part of the Army or any armed service at all. “Our recruiters faced backlash in their communities. They then had to explain that this is one aspect of supporting the country, but becoming part of the team there would be other things you would be doing and that this isn’t a true reflection of the Army,” Gavia shared.

The Army is also seeking to create a more diverse service. They aim to be the national leader in embracing a more diverse and inclusive environment. “It’s important to stress our diversity. Our strength really lies within our diversity….We want the public to understand and know this is important and a part of who we are,” said Gavia.

To learn more about the Army’s mission and dedication to inclusiveness, you can check out their website which details their commitment to diversity. For those who are interested in learning more about the Army and how they can make a difference by becoming a soldier, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 little reasons why being in the Space Force would suck

The announcement of the Space Force has plenty of us waiting for the day that the first recruitment office opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to go into space?

Sure, the Space Force isn’t going to be doing a bunch of sci-fi bad*ssery for a long while yet. In fact, the Space Force is likely going to spend more time monitoring satellites than training space shuttle door gunners, but let’s pretend that the day will eventually come where we need to send grunts into the great, dark beyond…

I hate to say it, but it’s still going to suck — and for some unexpected reasons, most of which stem from being outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.


4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

I’m highly confident that it’d be a terrible idea.

(20th Century Fox)

5. You’re going to have to ration everything

When it comes to the essentials, resupplies are going to be limited. When it comes to the extras, you know, the little things that make life comfortable? Ha! Good luck getting mom to ship those out to you. If you want something, you’re going to have to bring it yourself and make it last.

Right off the bat, you’re going to have to go without most of the junk that everyone takes for granted. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll be able to convince the next wave of spacemen (in lieu of an official demonym, let’s assume they’ll be called ‘spacemen,’ like ‘airmen’) to take up valuable cargo space just to bring you a bag of chips.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

The Earth is pretty and all, but you can only stare down at the Big Blue Marble so many times…

(NASA)

4. You won’t have many pastime options

Astronauts have a very strict schedule they need to follow or else they’ll be too weak to survive their eventual return. The average astronaut needs to exercise at least two hours a day to just to prevent bone and muscle loss. Since most troops tend to need more exercise to stay at peak performance, this figure will more than likely double.

Combine all that self-maintenance with an actual mission and troops are going to find themselves with barely any time to take a break.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Just imagine, you could pay off your Ford Mustang by the time you get out of atmosphere.

(NASA)

3. You probably won’t get any extra incentives for being in space

Colonel Buzz Aldrin was one of the finest airmen to ever grace the Air Force. He made history alongside Neil Armstrong by being the first men to ever step foot on the moon. Since he was on active duty, he submitted a travel voucher. For his 483,636-mile journey, he got a whole .31.

Once upon a time, you’d get a load of cash at the end of a TDY trip, but that per-mile rate is probably going to be non-existent when you’re travelling 4.76 miles per second.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

It’s like being in a slightly less comfortable Humvee for weeks. Only slightly, though.

(NASA photo by Bill Bowers)

2. You shouldn’t expect any kind of personal space in space

Once you’re on a space ship, that’s it. You obviously can’t leave the ship, so get comfortable, because you’re going to be packed in with your unit. If you’re claustrophobic, you’re probably going to go nuts.

This isn’t unlike what some submariners deal with, but subs surface every once in a while — and there’s a difference of magnitude here. The Apollo 11 capsule was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the crew was in there for only eleven days and modern astronauts have a bit more leg room, but if you’re up there for months at a time…

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

“Well, guys. I’m out. Have fun in space!”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Volkmar Wentzel)

1. After a while, your body won’t function like you’re used to

There’s no real order to the fairly terrible things listed here, but this one definitely takes the top spot. To put this in the most delicate way possible to stay in line with the family-friendly vibe we strive for here at We Are The Mighty, it has to be noted that astronauts run into health concerns after spending extended periods of space time. First, you’ll find your red blood cell count has dipped. Zero-gravity also makes the circulation of blood more evenly spread throughout the body, as opposed to it being able to concentrate in the lower extremities, like it does in regular gravity.

There are countless health concerns that come with spending extended time in space, but all of the above is to say that it’s actually extremely difficult for male astronauts to get an erection in space.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force B-52s teamed up with the Army for live-fire bombing exercise

US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircrews participated in live-fire training operations with the US Army over the Pohakuloa Training Area, located on the big island of Hawaii Nov. 15 and 18, 2019.

During the two separate days, two B-52 bombers coordinated with members of the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron and US Army Pacific 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team joint terminal attack controllers, also known as JTACs, to deliver a mixed payload of unguided, precision-guided and laser-guided weapons.

“This is a unique experience for the Army to integrate with Air Force bombers because controlling bombers is quite different than controlling helicopters or even fighter aircraft,” said US Air Force Capt. Mike Brogan, Pacific Air Forces bomber liaison officer.


To maintain readiness, crews often use simulation tools, so the opportunity for live-fire is a significant event for aircrews and those on the ground. “This is incredibly valuable to them because it demonstrates that what they are doing and saying is actually being seen and accomplished,” Brogan said.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, Nov. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Heal)

This event allowed the JTACs to conduct daytime missions as well as night training, giving them the opportunity to utilize equipment they wouldn’t normally work with during the day.

“Being able to practice close air support with B-52 bombers dropping over 15,000 pounds of high explosives while running alongside our Army brethren in a company movement with attack aviation to the left and active artillery to the right, provided numerous lessons to myself and my [team] that will help us to neutralize the enemy and keep our aligned [forces] safe when we deploy,” said Capt. Austin Hairfield, 25th ASOS flight commander.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Staff Sgt. Ryan Dillman, 25th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Control Party, plots friendly positions before passing targeting and terminal guidance to an AH-64 Apache during an exercise in Hawaii, November 2019

(US Army photo)

Additionally, during the Fire Support Coordination Exercise on the ground, they were able to perform Pacific Air Forces’ first off-board laser spot track between the US Army’s RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial System and the B-52’s targeting pod.

“Without the effective and efficient laser lock … the JTAC would have had to spend crucial seconds to locate the reinforcements himself and talk the aircraft onto the target before providing terminal guidance,” Hairfield said.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

An AH-64 Apache provides armed overwatch for Alpha Company during an exercise in Hawaii, November 2019.

(US Army photo)

The bombers, assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron out of Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, are currently deployed to Guam as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations.

The 19.5-hour flight from Guam to Hawaii and back required air refueling supported from KC-135 Stratotankers. Upon completion of the training mission the bombers returned to Guam completing a 7,000-nautical mile round-trip mission.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Dillman coordinates a Medical Evacuation for a notional casualty while Observer Controllers/Trainers stand by during an exercise on Pohakuloa Training Area, November 2019.

(US Army photo)

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

A UH-60 Black Hawk flares before landing with armed escort from an AH-64 Apache during a Fire Support Coordination Exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, November 2019.

(US Army photo)

Missions like these provide significant opportunities to strengthen joint capabilities in the region, enhance combined readiness, increase air domain awareness and help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The US has been conducting continuous bomber presence operations in the theater as part of a routine, forward deployed, global strike capability to support regional security since March 2004.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

Forget what you’ve seen in war movies, this is what hazing is like in Delta Force

George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Military units are strong on tradition, well, formal tradition anyway. Then… then there are those un-recorded traditions, born and raised and assimilated into every unit’s corporate culture. In my own squadron of Delta, there was the both cherished and despised tradition of birthday hazing.


Everyone suffered from it because, well… everyone has a birthday, and if you tried to keep your date secret, a new birthdate was promptly assigned to you, and you were to be hazed with additional spirit for your insolence. Above all, you were expected to fight, to fight hard against the birthday-boy onslaught.

I fancied myself as one who despised the ritual. Over the years, I looked on in abject horror as men were blindfolded, bound, hung upside down, and dunked repeatedly into the swimming pool hanging by a rope tied to their legs. As you can imagine, I suffered minor nightmares as my birthday approached.

And that day came.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
Pictured: definitely not me. The rest of my unit? Oh yes.

I entered my team room to the Cheshire grins of my brothers. Someone was singing “Happy Birthday” with a chuckle. I readied myself and, embracing the strategy I had devised, I spoke:

“I’ve decided, gentlemen, that I would not be participating in this ‘birthday bash’ tomfoolery. I’m protesting this with passive resistance; I won’t fight you.”

The Reverend Chill-D got his name when he suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, found Jesus once… for about a week. The Reverend was the pinnacle instigator and executer of the most heinous of hazing events. He loved it; it was in his life’s blood; he could taste it; he was born again into a world where hazing held the only key.

“You’re gonna do what… you’re not gonna do what, Geo??” he questioned with our noses damned-near touching tips.

“I… I… I’m not going to fight you guys, Chill-D.” I stammered.

“Well, well, well…” the Reverend continued, “Boys, looks like we got ourselves a coward! And we all know what we do with cowards!”

Suddenly, a great pounce erupted in the room. There was much suffering and gnashing of teeth; sinew and tendon stretched dangerously close to its tinsel edge. Bone creaked and popped and nearly broke… but held fast.

When I came to, I couldn’t move. I was bound, somehow, on every inch of my body and lying supine on the floor. I was gagged with what I recognized by taste as duct tape, a thing all military folk know as “hundred-mile-an-hour tape, roll, green in color, one each.” I divined that my body, too, was bound in such fashion. From behind, I was lifted vertically at my head by an unseen force. I could understand now that I was duct-taped to a moving dolly.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
I don’t think this scene was ever meant to be relatable…

 

“Time to go to the pool, Great Houdini… we’re throwing you in the pool taped to this dolly. Better start thinking how you’re gonna free yourself!” and I truly did start to ponder that conundrum, as I knew my men not to be simple braggarts. How long could I hold my breath? What tools might I be carrying in my flight suit?

A man shot into the room with a canteen cup and sheet of paper. With the shriek of more stripping of tape, the canteen cup was taped fast to my right hand, and the paper was slapped to my chest.

“We’re taking him right now to the finance window and standing him next to it!” reported the villain.

I was rolled to the finance window and stood. There, in line at the window, was a group of eight women from the Unit waiting to collect travel funds. As the boys left me, there was much staring and blinking between me and the women. I rolled my eyes vigorously to the extent that I became nauseous.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

“Please help…” one of the women began to read the sign on my chest, “…I must raise .56 to buy each of my friends a soda. If I fail to raise this money by 1300hrs, they will kill me.”

And the kind ladies each chipped in their change from their travel funds until I had some $40.00 and even a roll of Starburst candies. Yet I stood. I stood until some valiant men from our Signal Squadron came and sliced me loose.

As I stepped back to my squad bay pushing the dolly, I realized there would be more scunion to bear from the boys. I paused… and as the pool door was just to my side, I stepped in and plunged myself into the watery goodness.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
Not the kind of cannonballs the military normally advertises.

I then sloshed my way through the squadron lounge where my brothers languished before the TV, being it still the lunch hour.

“What the hell happened to you?” queried the Reverend.

“Some pipe-hitters from C-Squadron cut me loose… but then they throttled me and threw me in the pool!” I sulked as I headed for my team room. En route, I passed a bubba from our A-Assault team standing in the open doorway smiling at me.

“How that that new passive resistance policy of yours working out for ya, Geo?”

“Go f*ck yourself; that’s how,” said I.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 wacky sights from the Sturgis motorcycle rally

Every year, thousands of motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, South Dakota for days of camaraderie, fanfare and riding. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s rally is still happening. Here are 5 wacky sights you have to see to believe.

Zac Brown Midget Bowling

www.youtube.com

1. Zac Brown bowling a midget

The human bowling ball named Short Sleeve Sampson is considered by some as a rite of passage at Buffalo Chip and the Sturgis Rally. With his assistants, Lady Victoria and Summer, the midget wrestling icon lines up to be hurled down the lane at a set of bowling pins. Seeing country-music star Zac Brown partake in the action is like an odd cherry on top of a wacky sundae. That said, Zac Brown is joined on the list of midget bowlers by other famous artists like Rob Zombie, John 5 and Eric Church.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

(Rapid City Journal)

2. The kangaroo at the wedding

When Lady Victoria married Marco Webber at the 2009 Sturgis Rally, she was escorted down the aisle by Jack the Kangaroo of Roo Ranch. Lady Victoria noted that her previous marriage ceremonies were very traditional and wanted to change things up. For his services, Jack received a BreathSavers mint, a favorite treat of his.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

(Rapid City Journal)

3. Rhett Rotten and the Wall of Death

Sure, you could argue that it’s simple physics: counteracting gravity with sufficient velocity and centrifugal force. But, there’s just something fantastic about a man riding his motorcycle around on a wall. Did we mention that the wall is 12 feet high, 30 feet wide and 81 years old? If only Humvees were as reliable as the Wall of Death.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

(Rapid City Journal)

4. Riding through a beer wall

If you’re riding, it means you’re not drinking. So what’s the next best thing? How about riding through the drink? Bursting through a wall of cold ones results in a fantastic display of foam that we can only imagine must be supremely refreshing and satisfying.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

(Rapid City Journal)

5. A man in a barrel

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ll just leave it here for you to enjoy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army couple spreads joy through music

As the holidays are upon us, finding happiness in the midst of a pandemic has been challenging. One Army couple is using music to heal, connect and bring joy to veterans and military families around the world. 

When retired Army Sergeant 1st Class Jose Pomales enlisted at 17 years old in 1997, it wasn’t to become a member of the Army Field Band. Although he was an accomplished piano player growing up in Puerto Rico, he became a combat medic. He would serve as one during and after the attacks on the World Trade Center, deploying multiple times. In 2005, to the surprise of many, Jose made the decision to leave his MOS and return to his first passion: music.

“When you join after high school, you are just a kid. You sort of grow up in the Army. I had to grow up fast,” Jose explained. “Changing into music, everyone looked at me like ‘Why are you doing that?’ I saw a pianist playing with the [Army Field Band] and that was it.” Once Jose realized that he could apply to be part of the music program, he dove in – ready to make a difference in another way. He was able to deploy with the Army Field Band all over the world, bringing music to troops and boosting morale.  

For Army Staff Sergeant Megan Pomales, music was always for her. A “choir kid” growing up and avid piano player, she knew she wanted to continue with it. But she also felt a calling to serve, joining the Army Reserves after graduating college in 2008. “I was working for Universal Music Group in New York for a record label… But when I saw the road it would really take for me to dedicate my life to music in the record label industry, it just wasn’t for me,” Megan said. 

Megan also took a leap of faith, diving into active duty with the Army by serving in their music program. In 2011, she found herself at Fort Bragg in the Army Ground Forces Band as a vocalist and keyboard player. Later on, she made her way to Fort Eustis in Virginia where she met Jose. “I walked in and saw him and was like, ‘What is happening…’ – I avoided him like the plague,” she said with a laugh. 

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

It wasn’t long before the two soldiers became good friends and began dating, eventually marrying. Although they both have a very different background before joining the Army, their passion and belief in the power of music connected them right away. “I know I am very privileged with my position in the Army because I know Jose sees things from a very different world view with his combat medic experience,” Megan said. 

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Jose retired from the Army in 2018 and Megan began singing the lead with the Six String Soldiers in 2019. Although the Army Field band is known for doing traveling shows and their well-received holiday shows, COVID-19 has greatly changed the way they deliver music. This year, they wanted to go the extra mile to bring holiday cheer. Megan received a message from a fellow soldier and producer sharing that he wanted her to sing ‘Christmas 1914’ for the 2020 Holiday Show. “He sent it to me as a YouTube video and I listened to it and was completely undone,” Megan shared. 

Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell. 

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families
German and British troops playing soccer during pause in World War I

Never again would a war fully pause, but the memory of it lives on.

Not only did Megan take on the historic lyrics for the Sound The Bells show, but the Army also granted approval to record a music video to accompany the powerful song. Set in a church built before World War I, it was a fitting setting. Megan admits it was an emotional song to sing and there were definitely times it was difficult for her not to show it. It is her hope that the spirit of the song will hit home and remind people of possibilities, especially as the world continues to battle the pandemic. 

Jose and Megan share a deep love of purpose and giving that they are able to bring to fellow soldiers, veterans and military families through music. Knowing that they can create a connection, smile or bring peace as they serve their country is the reward of a lifetime. 

Happy Holidays! We Are The Mighty has proudly produced a holiday musical with the US Army Field Band, titled Sound the Bells. This excellent family entertainment will air multiple times on FOX BUSINESS and FOX NATION from 12/23 to 12/26.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Veterans can train for certificates and industry credentials before they leave the military – for free through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The Mission Continues is able to fund veteran empowerment projects and its community outreach programs. Hire Heroes USA is able to confirm it helped some 35,000 veterans get jobs. There’s one organization behind all of it: The Schultz Family Foundation.


If you’re unfamiliar with Howard Schultz, he is the billionaire former CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Coffee, among other entities, and he and his family are on a mission to unlock the potential of every single American – especially veterans. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to fund some of the most powerful, potent veterans programs in the country.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Remember the rumor that Starbucks hated vets and the military from a couple years ago? That was false. In a big way.

The Schultz Family Foundation believes Post-9/11 veterans are returning to civilian life with an enormous store of untapped potential and a reservoir of diverse skills sets that could be the future of the country. Part of its mission is to ensure that every separating service member and their spouse can find a job if they want one. The Schultz Family Foundation makes investments in returning troops in every step of the transition process, from before they ever leave the uniform all the way to navigating post-service benefits.

Once out of uniform, the foundation supports programs and organizations that not only promote finding a job based on skills or learning new skills to get a new career, but also programs that are not typical of a post-military career. These careers include community development, supporting fellow veterans, and of course, entrepreneurship.

4 lessons on how to handle the 2020 holidays from military families

Nick Sullivan is an eight-year Army veteran who works with the Schultz Family through the Mission Continues.

Whether working for or donating to causes that directly help veterans or ones that support vets in other ways, The Schultz Family Foundation has likely touched the lives of most Post-9/11 veterans who have separated from the military in the past ten years. Whether through Hire Heroes USA, the Mission Continues, Blue Star Families or Onward to Opportunity, the Schultz Family has been there for vets. Now the Schultz Family Foundation is supporting the Military Influencer Conference.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Maybe starting your own business isn’t your thing. Veterans looking for support can visit the Schultz Family Foundation website for veterans and click on the “get help” button to join a community of thousands who did the same – and are happy they did.

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