Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Carry The Load is partnering with VA’s national cemeteries to honor and remember America’s heroes during Memorial May, the third year in a row.

Carry The Load provides an active way to honor and remember the fallen. During visits across the nation, people can join to hike or bike alongside members. This connects Americans to the sacrifices made by military members, Veterans, first responders and their families. Participants many times carry a paper affixed to their back or backpack, highlighting a fallen hero. This shows who they honor by “carrying the load.”

The Carry The Load team stopped at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia May 10. The group was part of the East Coast relay team that started in West Point, New York. One of the team members was Andrew DeLeon, a Marine Corps Veteran who is a current Air Force Reservist and firefighter in Dallas, Texas. He said the relay hits home because he’s lost teammates both in the military and as a firefighter.

“Our mission is to raise awareness across America to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day,” DeLeon said. “We are honored to be here at one of the national cemeteries. I, along with my fellow teammates, are just trying to pay back, even if it’s just a small piece of appreciation for those that laid down their lives.”

The Culpeper National Cemetery director, an Army Veteran, said the partnership is mutually beneficial by honoring the fallen.

“Carry The Load events enhance the true meaning of the National Cemetery Administration by bringing even more awareness to the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes,” Jason Hogan said. “Seeing a giant American flag through Culpeper and being a Veteran myself, it gives me a great sense of pride of the millions of people who have sacrificed for this great nation.”

Want to participate?

The partnership started April 29 and runs through Memorial Day weekend. Carry The Load marchers will visit 43 national cemeteries in all.

Carry The Load invites people to hike or bike alongside them. Upcoming dates include national cemeteries in the following states:

East – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas

Midwest – Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas

West – California, Arizona, Texas

Mountain – South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma

Carrying the load
Screen capture from Veterans Affairs video on Youtube

In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, people wishing to participate in different legs of the Carry The Load march should register in advance at www.carrytheload.org.

Upon registering, participants can participate several ways. People can host a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a City Rally, or take part virtually throughout the 32-day event.

The event ends May 31 in Dallas, Texas.

Cemetery guidelines

While visiting any VA national cemetery, participants should wear face masks and exercise social distancing. Gatherings at national cemeteries will also be subject to size limits.

The list of national cemeteries participating is at https://www.cem.va.gov/docs/National_Cemeteries_along_CTL_Relay_in_2021.pdf.


-Feature image: U.S. Army Photo by Rachel Larue

Articles

Gary Sinise Foundation announces Air Force veteran as new CEO

The Gary Sinise Foundation announced that Dr. Mike Thirtle has been named as the organization’s next chief executive officer. Established in 2011 by award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, the Gary Sinise Foundation’s mission is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. The Foundation achieves its mission through programs and initiatives designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.

Gary Sinise has been leading the Foundation since its inception 10 years ago, growing the organization exponentially and consistently exceeding its annual goals. As the Foundation’s chairman, Sinise and the Board of Directors selected Thirtle to lead the Gary Sinise Foundation as the organization expands and ascends to new levels of delivering on Sinise’s commitment to serve and honor our nation’s heroes and their loved ones.

“As the Gary Sinise Foundation enters our second decade, it is my great pleasure to announce our new Chief Executive Officer, Mike Thirtle,” said Sinise. “With over 20 years of military service, 12 years at the RAND Corporation, and 7 years as president and CEO of the nonprofit Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Mike brings tremendous experience to GSF, and I am looking forward to working with him on the GSF mission of service for our defenders and their families.”

Thirtle — who will officially assume the role on July 12 — joins the Foundation with a passion for serving others and a broad background in philanthropy, non-profit leadership, strategy and policy analysis, business consulting, higher education, and military service. He will report directly to the Board of Directors and will lead the day-to-day programs of the Foundation.

“I am deeply honored to serve Gary, the Board, and the staff at the Gary Sinise Foundation as we support the millions of defenders, veterans, first responders, and their families across our nation — the true heroes and guardians of our freedom,” said Thirtle, an Air Force veteran. “It is because of their sacrifices that we enjoy the fruits of freedom and for which we are all grateful. My wife, Juli, and I look forward to being part of the Gary Sinise Foundation family and supporting Gary and this amazing cause.”

Retired Air Force Gen. Robin Rand will continue to serve as CEO until Thirtle assumes the position of CEO on July 12. Sinise recruited Rand in 2018 for the position of CEO after he ended a long career of active-duty service in the Air Force, retiring as a four-star general. He was selected by Sinise for the role given his deep understanding of the needs of the military and veteran community and his passionate desire to give back, which Sinise felt were crucial to elevate the Foundation and further its mission.

Sinise praised Rand’s contributions saying, “I am extremely grateful to Gen. Robin Rand for his leadership of the Foundation these past 2-and-a-half years beginning in October of 2018. We have certainly faced tremendous challenges during this time, especially with the 2020 global pandemic, yet under Robin’s leadership, the Foundation has continued to excel, sailing full speed ahead with tremendous growth throughout this period. He is a gifted leader and a good friend. On behalf of all of us at the Foundation, I thank him for his dedication and time with GSF, and especially for his 40 years of service to our country in the United States Air Force.”

Rand shared his reflections, saying, “The mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation is so noble, and it has been a tremendous honor to serve at the GSF for the past 33 months. I’m forever grateful.”


This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine artist Maximilian Uriarte publishes compelling new graphic novel

Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.

Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.


When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.

Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.

“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.

Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.

In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.

“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.

“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”

Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.

The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”

The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.

Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”

When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.

Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.

You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking a swing at the drill sergeant is a horrible, stupid idea

Life in the military isn’t for everyone. It’s totally understandable if you get started, realize it’s just not the life you’ve envisioned for yourself, and seek a different path. Best of luck with that, dude. Be a productive and helpful member of society in whatever way you feel best.

Yet, for some odd reason, whenever douchebags open their mouths and offer an unnecessary excuse for not serving, they’ll offer the same tired, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-macho, bullsh*t along the lines of, “I couldn’t do it because I’d knock that drill sergeant out if he got in my face.”

Okay, tough guy. 99 percent of the time, you’ll lose that fight — no contest. That other one percent of the time, when you put up a brief fight, you’ll end up wishing a broken nose was the worst thing you had coming.


First and foremost, drill instructors, Marine combat instructors, drill sergeants, military training instructors, and recruit division commanders are highly disciplined and trained to never initiate a physical altercation. They’ll yell, they’ll get in your face, and they’ll generally treat you like the lowest form of scum on this Earth to break you down before building you up into what Uncle Sam needs. Picking a fight with you is pointless when they’ve got thousands of other tools in their repertoire.

And if they start getting physical without being provoked, the consequences are severe. It’s not completely unheard of, but reports of drill sergeants resorting to violence are few and far between — even when considering old-school drill sergeants. Of course they’re going to threaten it — stressing out and terrifying recruits is kinda their shtick— but they can’t even touch your uniform to correct a deficiency without informing you they’re going to do so, let alone take the first swing.

Now. Up until this point in the article, the disclaimer of “starting the fight” has been attached to each and every instance of hypothetical ass-beatings. What happens to the sorry sack of crap who tries to assault a non-commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces? Well…

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Ever wonder why they’re always in PTs?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

Spoiler alert: It won’t end well.

In order to reach the point where they’re screaming in your face, an instructor has undergone intensive hand-to-hand training — to later teach it to young recruits. In the Army, you can’t teach combatives unless you’ve undergone an intensive one-week course specifically on training a platoon-sized element and another two-week course on training a company-sized element. All of this is in addition to whatever personal CQC training they’ve undertaken.

And then there’s the size disparity. Drill sergeants and drill instructors are, generally, physical monsters. That “make you pass out” smoke session is a warm-up for most instructors. They PT in the morning with the troops, with them again throughout the day to prove “it’s nothing, so quit b*tching,” and then find time to hit the gym afterwards. Technically, a drill sergeant just needs to pass their PT test, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t get a (or near to a) 300.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

And because this will get mentioned in the comments: Hell no. A drill sergeant would never lose their military bearing by recording a brawl between a troublesome recruit and another drill sergeant and uploading it to the internet.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the hyper-macho scumbag lands a good one and they aren’t given an impromptu tracheotomy via knife-hand. Before that clown can clench their other fist, each and every other instructor in the area will pounce. Drill sergeants are loyal to their own, so expect them to join in swinging — even if they clearly have the fight won.

Finally, there’re the repercussions. The fool that initiates a fight is going to jail and is getting swiftly kicked out with a dishonorable discharge — no ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t expect that court-martial to go over well when every instructor there is a credible witness and the other recruits who watched have recently been instilled with military values. No one will back up the scumbag.

Keep very much in mind — these instructors will never lose their military bearing. Dropping that bearing for even a fraction of a second could mean the loss of the campaign hat they worked so hard to earn. There’s no way in hell that one asshat will take that away from them when they know countless ways to deal with them that don’t involve realigning their teeth.

popular

Someone coined a term for the English spoken by military veterans

Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff” documented the United States’ postwar love affair with high-speed, high-powered aircraft, rocketry, and the test pilots who flew them. Wolfe used an interesting term to describe how military personnel and veterans speak English, “Army Creole.”


Army Creole, according to Wolfe, was a “language in which there were about ten nouns, five verbs, and one adjective.” In the book, the word “f*ck” is used for all of these.

 

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Also, the movie is really good too. (Warner Bros.)

 

The original Army Creole as described by Wolfe was a manner of speech similar to actual creole. The term now refers to the military-veteran propensity toward including swear words as intensifiers and the sometimes overwhelming use of acronyms.

Accoring to Wolfe, no one was more proficient in Army Creole than Mercury 7 astronaut Deke Slayton, who made people cringe whenever he got near a microphone, for fear he was “going to Army Creole the nationwide TV and scorch the brains of half the people of the U.S.A.”

 

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Slayton was actually very well-spoken in front of the mic. (NASA)

 

The unique name given to the dialect is not to be confused with Seaspeak, the official, universal language of mariners the world over. Developed in 1983, shipping experts and linguists devised a communication system, defining the rules for speaking on the ship’s radio.

In 1988, the International Maritime Organization made seaspeak official.

MIGHTY CULTURE

25 days of holiday memes

At last, it’s the holidays and whether you’re already exhausted, excited, or both, heaven knows we all need a good laugh. After all, a laugh a day keeps the hectic holiday stress (at least some of it) away; think advent calendar for jokes. Here are the 25 days of holiday memes. 

  1. Huh. What could it be?
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

It’s definitely a dog.

  1. Calm down, Darth.
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Some people take their decorations a little too seriously.  

  1. Michael emerges from his cave.
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Ah, the majestic creature awakens just in time.

  1. Christmas purge
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

It’s not safe out there. There’s merriment afoot.

  1. Baby, it’s Covid outside
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Very good reasoning you two; Tis’ the Covid season, as well.

  1. Can I get you anything?
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Classic Griswald Hospitality

  1. When your relatives argue on Christmas
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Sorry, bro. I didn’t pick ’em.

  1. Christmas tips
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

It’s like coal, but better.

  1. Look at what the dog did!
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Wait a sec. We don’t have a dog…

  1. A Very Snoop Dog Christmas
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

The version your kids haven’t read.

  1. Christmas decorating level: Advanced
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Santa would be pleased.

  1. Grinch Parenting 101
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Santa? Yes, hi. No need to bring presents this year. I would like some silence instead.

  1. How to establish dominance
Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

You’ll never forget me if you find tiny sparkles all over your house for the next year.

14.  Admitting your defeat

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

That’s enough LEDs and electricity usage to cover half the block.

15. Add a dinosaur

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

No, no, I didn’t screw up the gingerbread house. The kids needed to learn about paleontology.

16. When one goes out, they all go out

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Their commitment is annoying, but on point.

17. One snowflake falls

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

A timeless Christmas classic.

18. He sees you when you’re sleeping

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

And by the looks of it, that’s not all he sees.

19. What happened to all the cookies?

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Fine, it was him. But can you blame him?

20. Every mom on Christmas morning.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Pretend to be shocked. Moms deserve a win this year.

21. Front of the tree vs. back of the tree

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Only the wall is going to see it anyway.

22. P.O.P.D

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Guilty. Distribute the ornaments *evenly*, or suffer the consequences.

23. Ye Shall Return Home

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Ah yes..ye old turn off, wait 30 seconds and turn back on again. 

24. Cookie Bae 

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

I am the sprinkle master

25. Christmas now vs. then

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Socks would be amazing, quite frankly. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the new uniform changes for female Marines

Marines have been given the approval to let their hair down — at least some of it — while they work out.

Women with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training. The style, which pulls the top portion of the hair away from the face and into a ponytail while the rest of the hair remains down — is one of several new uniform-related changes the commandant signed off on this week.


“The section of hair pulled back into the half ponytail should be secured over the ‘crest of the head,'” according to a graphic depicting the new authorized look. “The half ponytail must lay flat, and hair may not stick straight out or at extreme angles from the head.”

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Female Marines with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pamela Jackson)

Half ponytails are allowed only for female Marines with medium-length hair. The style is authorized during PT, including when the Marine Corps combat utility uniform is worn during physical training. Women with long hair will still need to put their hair up, in a regular ponytail or free-hanging braid.

Half ponytails won’t be allowed with any Marine Corps headgear, the message states. And if the combat utility uniform isn’t being worn for PT, it’s back to the regular hair regs for all women, according to the message.

Women have also been given the OK to wear silver earrings with their service uniforms. Female Marines were previously allowed to wear only gold earrings with that uniform.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in an endurance course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb McDonald)

“Small, polished, yellow gold or silver colored, ball, or round stud earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with the service, blue dress, and blue-white dress [uniforms],” the message states.

The changes follow a survey the Marine Corps Uniform Board conducted earlier this year. Officials declined to provide the results of that survey, but it did ask Marines to weigh in on these two approved changes.

The commandant also this week granted men the approval to use black umbrellas when it’s raining while they’re in their service or dress uniforms.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These American WWII vets were awarded France’s highest honor

Ten California men who fought overseas with the US forces have been awarded the French government’s highest honor for their World War II service.


The veterans were each presented the National Order of the Legion of Honor during a ceremony Sept. 19 at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Among them was 94-year-old Sterling D. Ditchey, an Army Air Corps 1st lieutenant who flew 70 combat missions in Europe as a B-25 bombardier.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Ten California men who fought overseas with the US Army, Army Air Corps, and Marines during WWII pose after they were awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, during a ceremony, Sept. 19, 2017, at Los Angeles National Cemetery. Photo via Military.com

Ninety-five-year-old Ignacio Sanchez was part of 35 combat missions as a B-17 turret gunner.

The presentations were made by Christophe Lemoine, the consul general of France in Los Angeles.

Instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor recognizes exceptional service to France.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.


In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.

So, he popped open the hatch.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.

He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.

He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.

At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.

Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.

Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.

The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.

Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.

The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 veteran entrepreneurs you need to check out this Veterans Day

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”


This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.

But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.

(Doc Spartan)

Dale King, Doc Spartan

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.

That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.

So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.

(Marjorie Eastman)

Marjorie Eastman, Bicycle Deck of Cards

Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.

She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.

Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.

(Bison Union)

Bert Kuntz, Bison Union

You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.

These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”

Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

(Military Influencer Conference)

Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference

Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.

The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.

The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.

(Uncanna)

Coby Cochran, UnCanna

Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.

Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.

According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”

We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

It’s possible for Veterans speaking about their experiences — and working toward self-forgiveness — to heal their emotional wounds.

A Veteran’s Health Administration initiative is facilitating this process. The Atlanta VA Health Care System Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) collaborates with VITAS Healthcare, a palliative care and hospice services company, to offer healing and hope for Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges.

This collaboration is an effort of We Honor Veterans. The program, part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, is in collaboration with VA. We Honor Veterans helps care for Veterans at the end of life.

VITAS, part of We Honor Veterans, is a partner agency within the Atlanta VCP.


VCPs are coalitions that bring community entities together to foster Veterans’ access to care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Each VCP in the United States is part of the national VCP initiative. There are 41 VCPs as of December 2019.

The VCP initiative is a joint project of VHA’s Offices of Community Engagement (OCE), Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health and Caregiver Support.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Veteran Service Organizations can help.

Requesting a change in OTH discharge

A Veteran with an OTH military discharge is ineligible for most VA benefits. This can cause significant obstacles as they approach the end of life.

Larry Robert is a chaplain who provides supportive counseling to Veterans in this position. He also is the bereavement services manager and Veteran liaison for VITAS. VITAS helps Veterans talk through their reasons for OTH military discharges. It helps them file a request for a change in their discharge status with the Department of Defense (DoD).

Robert also helps Veterans understand their benefit options. The most important part of this process, he said, is encouraging Veterans to tell their stories. An OTH discharge may be a result of a Veteran not having the proper support for a mental health issue, for example.

“They are trying to forgive themselves and they’re making peace with something that brought them a lot of pain.”

Veteran Service Organizations can help

Veterans — even those not in hospice care — and caregivers or loved ones of Veterans should be aware of the process of requesting a change to their discharge status, as well as the palliative care services of We Honor Veterans.

Veterans should apply for a change in their discharge status and enroll for benefits when they’re well. They should have a Veteran service officer work with them on this process. A representative from one of the Veteran Service Organizations listed at the link above could also help fill out paperwork for a correction of their military record

Even if their status and record is not changed, Robert explained, the process of this work is transformative for many Veterans.

“It adds a voice to their pain. It makes it real. They’re able to then see their pain and discuss it. In becoming real, it becomes something than can be overcome.”

OCE supports the VCP initiative and partnerships throughout VHA. For more information on OCE’s work, visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Top 10 military charities of 2020

The holiday season is all about giving to those we love. It’s also a perfect time to give to those in need! These 10 charities are among the most highly-rated charities helping those who are more deserving of care than almost anyone: military personnel, veterans, and their families. The military community carries the weight of protecting our country. If you’re able to help, consider donating to one of these charities to lift a little of that weight off their shoulders. 

1. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

The mission of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is to help severely injured military personnel to receive the care they need to return to military service or transition back into civilian life. So far, the fund has raised $200 million for rehabilitation facilities, programs, and financial assistance. 

Their eight Intrepid Spirit Centers offer comprehensive treatment, including the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Over 90% of patients treated there are able to resume Active Duty. 

2. Fisher House Foundation

When soldiers are injured, having the support of their families is more important than ever. The Fisher House Foundation builds homes at military and VA medical centers worldwide so that families can stay together throughout medical treatment. Each Fisher House has up to 21 suites which include private bedrooms and bathrooms and access to a shared living room, kitchen, dining area, and laundry room. 

The Foundation also offers the Hero Miles program, through which people can donate frequent flyer miles to assist military families with travel expenses, with a similar program offered for no-cost hotel stays. Last but not least, their grant program offers scholarship funds for the children and spouses of veterans. 

In 2019, over 32,000 families were served, with over 500,000 served since the organization was founded. More than $25 million has been provided to students through scholarship awards, and over 70,000 flights have been covered. 

3. Semper Fi & America’s Fund

Semper Fi, one of the most renowned military charities, is dedicated to helping combat wounded, ill, and catastrophically injured veterans and their families. Their Transition Program helps servicemen and women recover and adapt to post-injury life, connect with their communities, and reach their career goals. They fund numerous adaptive fitness and sports programs, as well as therapeutic art and music classes. They also offer direct financial assistance to help support military families throughout the healing process. 

Semper Fi has been directed by military spouses from the start, so every program is designed with empathy and understanding. So far, $231 million has been provided in assistance, with services offered to 25,500 service members. 

4. Armed Services YMCA 

The ASYMCA is a segment of the YMCA dedicated to helping young enlisted military service members and their families. They’re the oldest US military support organization, dating back to 1861. All services and programs are provided at no cost and require no annual membership fees. Instead of focusing on one particular form of care, ASYMCA aims to be a constant resource throughout military life; from transitioning between bases to deployment. 

In total, they’ve provided care for 25 thousand military family members, and their volunteers have logged 11 thousand hours. In recent months, ASYMCA has also increased emergency relief services, launched virtual youth programs, and provided childcare for the children of essential workers to help military families impacted by COVID-19. 

5. Wounded Warriors Family Support

The Wounded Warriors Family Support organization works to improve the lives of military personnel and the families of those who were injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenges faced by wounded warriors and their loved ones are complex, so the program focuses on comprehensive care. 

Services include caregiver respite, veteran career training, adapted vehicles, and long-term care for veterans with spinal cord and brain injuries. They also offer all-expense-paid vacations to help veterans reconnect with their families! 

6. Mission Continues

Returning to civilian life often leaves veterans feeling a sense of purposelessness. Mission Continues is all about providing veterans with ways to provide service in their own backyards. More specifically, the organization gives veterans the tools to make an impact in underserved communities. In the process, veterans have the opportunity to get invested in their community, bond with fellow veterans, and reignite their passion for helping others. 

7. Homes For Our Troops

When severely injured veterans return home, their home is the same. Unfortunately, their abilities may be different. Homes For Our Troops donates personally-customized homes to help post-9/11 veterans live full, normal lives. Charity Navigator, America’s biggest independent charity evaluator, rated HFOT in the top four percent of charities, with a four out of four star rating. 

So far, HFOT has built 313 homes, with 90 cents of every donated dollar going directly to the project. The veterans helped never pay a cent.

8. Hope for the Warriors

Hope For The Warriors began on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC back in 2006. Military families realized how much of an impact war had on service members and their loved ones back at home. They started Hope For The Warriors to support the military community through transition programs, peer engagement, and health and wellness programs. Their approach is holistic and well-rounded, aimed at addressing each factor that affects a service member’s life.

Even today, the organization is run by military families and combat veterans. 

9. K9s For Warriors

When we have a bad day, many of us turn to our dogs for comfort. Veterans can rely on dogs for a whole lot more. K9s For Warriors provides fully-trained service dogs to post 9/11 vets suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or military sexual trauma. Their service dog program is based on research conducted by Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine to ensure that both vets and their service dogs are receiving the care they need. Vet care, assistance with housing, and home-cooked meals are also offered, so vets can bond with their support dog worry-free. 

In 2018, 122 vets were paired with service dogs, with over $13 million raised in total.

10. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, has spent the past 27 years giving comfort and care to those coping with the death of a loved one in the military. They provide 24/7 phone support, plus ongoing grief counseling resources, seminars, and youth programs. In 2019, TAPS welcomed close to 7,000 newly bereaved military families, and they answer over 19,000 calls to their helpline each year. Their staff is mostly made up of survivors of military loss who have already been through TAPS and want to help others in similar shoes. 

For more charitable military organizations to donate to, check out this comprehensive list by the Charity Navigator.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why Marines and sailors get along so well

When it comes to branch rivalries in the military, you’ll find none greater than that between the Marine Corps and the Navy. It may be because we’re technically a part of the same branch but, either way, we constantly give each other sh*t for any reason we can find. Even still, Marines and sailors get along quite well — in fact, we probably get along better than any other two branches of the armed forces.

Yes, the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy, but we’re still considered separate branches. We have different goals, but they complement each other’s. So, we work closely together. All of those hours spent cooperating means that we’ve gotten to know each other pretty damn well over the years. Even Marines or sailors who have left the service find the most common ground with their cross-branch counterparts.

Here are a few reasons why Marines and sailors so often end up as the best of friends:


Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Sailors know that Rip-its are the key to a Marine’s happiness on ship.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Reymundo A. Villegas III)
 

Our relationship is symbiotic

Even though Marines tend to do all the heavy lifting, the Navy is usually right there with us to share the burden of being the greatest war fighting faction ever to exist. In fact, because Marines are amphibious, we need the Navy to cart us around — like our own personal taxi service.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Navy Corpsman are the best addition, honestly.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

 

Marines and sailors share manpower

As part of that symbiotic relationship, the manpower between the branches is often shared. The Marine Corps uses Navy Corpsman for medical needs and aviation units in either branch are often filled out with a mix of mechanics from both sides.

We can constantly joke about each other

One thing you’ll find is that Marines have plenty of jokes for Sailors and vice versa. Furthermore, you’ll find that we can both take the jokes quite well. Hell, we even share a notoriety for being a bunch of drunken bastards.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
Marines, of course, still have the best uniforms of all.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by GySgt. Ismael Pena)

 

Marines and sailors have the best military uniforms

Marines have the best uniforms ever conceived by any military branch — but the Navy comes in at a (distant,) solid second place. Both of our branches have the most recognizable and aesthetically pleasing uniforms out there. Sure, we may not wear berets, but we have sexy dress blues. The best part of it all? A Navy corpsman embedded in a Marine unit, referred to as “green side,” can choose to wear the Marine dress blues.

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries
And much like you do with siblings, we take care of each other.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales)

 

They’re our closest sibling

Marines don’t have as much of a working relationship with other branches as they do with the Navy. Ever since the planet was blessed with United States Marines, the Navy has been right there alongside us, fighting and winning every battle we possibly can.

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