20 little known facts about VA medical centers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

When you work at VA, you’re a part of a major piece of America’s history. Our roots date back to the Civil War, when the first hospitals and homes for disabled former soldiers began to open.

Today, across the nation, we provide top-notch care to 9 million Veterans in our medical centers. Many of these have long and unique backstories themselves. Whether you’re considering a career at VA or have worked here for years, you might be surprised by some of these 20 little-known facts about VA medical centers.


  1. The Togus VA Medical Center in Maine is the oldest facility for Veterans in the nation.
  2. The Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott, Ariz., is located at the site of Fort Whipple, a base for the U.S. cavalry after the Civil War. It later became headquarters for the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War.
  3. The Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System began on an abandoned recreation spot known as Pastime Park, which at various times had been a skating rink, bowling alley, dance hall and a notorious roadside tavern.
  4. Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., is named for the only Holocaust survivor to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
  5. The incredible views of the Smoky Mountains at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tenn., (pictured at the top) were intended to benefit the recovery of the tuberculosis patients who were first treated there.
  6. Even before its official dedication, the VA San Diego Healthcare System jumped into action to provide emergency care following a 1972 California earthquake.
  7. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic — which offers disabled Veterans the chance to ski, rock climb, scuba dive and more — is held each year at the VAMC in Grand Junction, Colo.
  8. When the original Wilmington VA Medical Center opened on Aug. 26, 1946, 77% of the staff were Veterans.
  9. The first VA hospital in Miami, Fla., was actually a former hotel.
  10. At the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and Clinics, Veterans participated in weekly taste tests to set the menu at the American Heroes Café.
  11. The Boise VA Medical Center occupies most of the former Fort Boise. Its sandstone buildings are some of the oldest in the city.
  12. The site of the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., was once a former board track racecourse. Popular in the early 1900s, board track racing was a motorsport race on an oval racecourse with a surface of wooden planks.
  13. The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, Ill., is the first partnership between VA and the Department of Defense, integrating Veteran and Naval health care into one facility. It’s also named for Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks in the popular movie.
  14. Arrowheads and relics from Susquehannock tribe can still be found on Perry Point Peninsula, home of the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
  15. The Battle Creek VA Medical Center was initially called Veterans Hospital Number 100 because it was the 100th VA hospital built in the United States.
  16. Henry Ford attended the groundbreaking of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.
  17. At the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, three large atria in the facility allow for a window with natural light in each patient’s room.
  18. From the 1920s to 1965, the Cloud VA Medical Center’s farm served as both occupational therapy and a source of local crops and milk for the hospital.
  19. The VA Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo., occupies the Jefferson Barracks, the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River.
  20. The Montana VA Health Care System serves one of the highest per-capita Veteran populations in the U.S. — almost 10% of the state’s population has served!

Work at VA

See a VA medical center that piques your interest? Check if they’re hiring!

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret leads crisis innovation for Team Rubicon

September is disaster preparedness month, which the military is highly trained to respond to. When Team Rubicon needed someone to lead Crisis Innovation, they chose a Green Beret – naturally.

Lee Harvey is a retired Green Beret but he led a very interesting career before donning that coveted headwear. “I joined the military as a young lad and did four years. Then I went to college and played college football. I went to the NFL, left the NFL and went to NASA where I was an engineer. Then I woke up one day and said ‘I want to be a Green Beret’,” he said with a laugh.


Growing up Harvey actually wanted to be a fighter pilot, but discovered he was terrified of heights. He figured flying a plane with that fear wasn’t a good match, but had it in his head to take on what he deemed the toughest job in the military. “One of the reasons I joined the Green Berets is because I was afraid of heights. I’ve made over 300 jumps out of airplanes, but I am still afraid of heights and still hate flying…I don’t believe in letting fear hold me captive,” Harvey explained.
20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Lee Harvey)

After retiring from the Army, Harvey was working as a Nuclear Engineer at the Air Force nuclear weapons center. Co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, Jake Wood, was looking for someone with a special forces background to fill the leadership role in Crisis Innovation and was referred to Harvey.

When Harvey received the job description, he was intrigued. “I said, ‘You want me to travel around the world and problems?’ That’s what I’ve done, I’ve been in 50 or 60 different countries as a Green Beret. It’s right in my wheelhouse and I get to help people,” he explained. “It’s that selfless service that I really enjoy. They aren’t about themselves, they are about serving communities and humans, relieving human suffering.”

Team Rubicon got its start in 2010 when two Marines, Wood and William McNulty decided to head to Haiti after they saw that relief from the recent earthquake was slow and dismal. They found that by utilizing the leadership and medical abilities they gained in the military – they could make a difference. Since its inception, they’ve gone on to respond to disasters all over the world.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Lee Harvey)

“Being in the Green Berets, preparedness is near and dear to our heart. It’s what we do – we plan and prepare. The preparedness month started in 2004 by FEMA, it was designed to get homeowners and individuals prepared,” Harvey explained. He referenced a study that came out indicating only around 70 percent of people in the U.S. actually have survival supplies in their home and less than 50 percent have a preparedness plan.

It’s something Team Rubicon wants to change.

One quick way to start in evaluating preparedness Harvey encouraged is to review insurance policies. When a hurricane was coming his way, he examined his own policies. Harvey was shocked when he found out his hurricane insurance didn’t include wind damage – which was a separate policy. “Read the fine print,” he said.

Go bags. Words that are music to the ears of the military but especially Green Berets. Harvey recommends one for each person on each side of the house. “What happens if a tree falls on the front of your house and you can’t get to it? Then you can’t get out. I make two… one for the front and one for the back, well, actually three because I always have one in my car too,” he said with a laugh.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Lee Harvey)

Harvey stressed that although there are lists out on the internet for go bags, each person will have different needs. He shared that his bags include epi pens for his son, who has allergies. While the reference lists are a good start, time needs to be invested in your go bag. “Each go bag should be tailored to fit your needs. Take a day and thoroughly plan it out. Once you do that, you already know it’s there. When you need it is when you don’t have it,” he explained.

Another tip from Harvey was to check your go bags quarterly and when you pack your radio, don’t put the batteries in it until it’s going to be used. This is because even though it is turned off, it will continue to utilize the battery making it ineffective when you need it the most.

“Our coach used to say ‘you are only as good as your last play’. So, if your last play is that you forgot to pack a go bag and a hurricane is coming…There’s no tomorrow, you don’t get a chance to do tomorrow over so make a plan,” he said. Harvey also stressed that people need to listen to their local authorities and not try to ride out a disaster just because they have a go bag.

Leading Crisis Innovation for Team Rubicon has been an incredible experience, Harvey shared. He’s grateful to be a part of something he equates with “selfless service” once again. He also hopes that those reading this article will be inspired to prepare for themselves and their family. Oh – and pack multiple Green Beret approved go bags, of course.

To learn more about Team Rubicon and their mission, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 7th

There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.

Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.


20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via The Lonely Operator)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Shammers United)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(N. Robertson)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Space Force Actual)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Military World)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme by Ranger Up)

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

popular

5 coffee brands to buy for when you’re stuck on duty

The two most welcomed smells in the military are coffee and gunpowder, and if you’re in the field, you may get both. There are few things that are as satisfying as your favorite cup of Joe when you’re on duty in garrison, training, or forward deployed. Nobody wants to be that guy who falls asleep on post — legal consequences aside, it’s just downright embarrassing.

Staying alert begins with preparation and tactical knowledge of the endless options vying for our patronage. The brands of coffee we enjoy say a lot about ourselves and what’s important to us. When we stand post, looking out into the abyss, reflecting on our lives and why we fight, a warm cup in our hands is a welcomed friend.

Black Rifle Coffee Company


Black Rifle Coffee Company is a veteran-owned and operated brand that brings a level of professionalism and attention to detail that can only be expected from veterans. While massive corporations will sacrifice quality for profit, this company’s quality assurance team will not. Not only do they make a mean brew, but they are also a positive reflection of veterans, successfully assimilating and thriving in the private sector.

Cafe Bustelo

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

 

Café Bustelo is like a Marine infantry sergeant: aggressive, strong, and possibly foreign. It has a balanced taste, but it will definitely give you the intense energy boost that one needs at zero-wtf. It’s small, lightweight, and you can toss it in with the gear. The officers and Staff NCOs aren’t going to deny free coffee, either.

Folgers, classic roast

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Folgers is the brand people love to rag on, but let’s be honest here: it’s pretty good. Their marketing is even better. There is a 100% chance that when you saw the name, you sang the jingle in your head. “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.

Folgers seals its product in airtight plastic containers, ensuring that when you need it, it’s still fresh. Plastic containers bring their own benefit to the field because they’re water resistant, which is particularly important when it’s raining sideways.

The crucial part of the equation, no matter which brand you select, is the water-to-grounds ratio. For every six fluid oz of water, add one tablespoon of coffee — two tablespoons for a strong cup, and three or more if you want to see sound.

Starbucks

20 little known facts about VA medical centers
It’s okay to like sugary things, even if First Sergeant makes fun of you.
(Luke Air Force Base)

 

There’s a stigma against drinking Starbucks in the military because, in 2004, an email circulated around the internet stating that the company did not support the war or the troops. This rumor has been proven false, but the truth somehow doesn’t usually have the same reach of the rumor mill.

Bringing Starbucks to the office or field is a Bootenant move, albeit a delicious one. If you’re a staff NCO, you know your role as an advisor to the brass, guide him to more rugged-fix-bayonets coffee when your little booter is ready. Until then, enjoy the Caramel Frappuccinos and other embarrassingly named treats they’re willing to share.

Good ol’ standardized, rust-bucket, gut-rot coffee from Uncle Sam

20 little known facts about VA medical centers
US Marine Corps Private First Class Faris M. Tuohy drinking a cup of coffee aboard a ship off Eniwetok after two days of fighting, Marshall Islands, Feb. 1944
(United States National Archives)

We live in a society where we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it. We’ve come a long way, but sometimes that rust-bucket coffee from the mess hall is exactly what the doctor ordered. There were times in Afghanistan when a hot cup of mud after a patrol would hit the spot. Warriors do more with less, they’re a hardened breed, and that’s why they never take life — or coffee — for granted.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part two

On our first trip to Saigon we unsuccessfully searched for a villa, called House 10, that had been used during the war. It was initially a Central Intelligence Agency property that was used to support clandestine activities in Vietnam and other locations in Southeast Asia. Over a period of time, it morphed into something else and began to be used as an operations and logistics center for MACV-SOG activities.


20 little known facts about VA medical centers

During my tours, MACV-SOG had established their headquarters on Pasteur Street and House 10 became a safe house for personnel who were assigned to one of the activities of MACV-SOG outside Saigon. We stayed at House 10 when we came to town for mission debriefings and mission prep.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Its location on a broad, tree lined boulevard was very tranquil and quiet. At that time it was run much like a hotel – with individual rooms, laundry service, a grill (where you could get hamburgers etc.), a small bar and an activities room with a pool table. They had listings for local restaurants for various types of food – from French Cuisine to Thai and Japanese as well as local – and they knew which bars catered to US Special Forces personnel.

Before leaving Saigon I did some additional research on the location and address for House 10 – without much hope of finding it – figuring we’d give it one more try. Low and behold, we did find it! The accompanying video says volumes.

If you find yourself in Saigon, here’s the location.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

The flags that fly in front are not what they were the last time I was here, the building is apparently not in use at the moment, and they offer a different kind of ‘Tough Service’, but that’s OK. Vietnam, House 10, and all of us — we have to keep reinventing ourselves.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

It was very emotional to return to a location that I remembered so well. My thinking turned to those I knew during those times – fine men all – some who returned and some who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to refurbish an old missile silo

It’s the ultimate getaway for the type of person that’s either preparing for an inevitable doomsday, really into Cold War history, or is simply done with everyone’s collective crap. We’ve got some good news for the reclusive and slightly paranoid: If you’re willing to put in the time, money, and effort, you can own your very own abandoned missile silo!

Once you put in the requisite funds and elbow grease, you can gloat to the internet about how your pad is much cooler than everyone else’s suburban townhouse (or that yours can survive a zombie apocalypse, whichever floats your boat).

But, as with everything else, it’s much easier said than done, even if you’ve got an extreme amount of cash laying around. Here’s what it takes.


20 little known facts about VA medical centers

I don’t read Russian but I’m highly confident that that reads, “Free Candy, Don’t mind the killer clown”

(Photo by Charlie Philips)

One of the first hurdles in getting your dream silo is finding it. The U.S. military technically had to release the exact locations of all nuclear silos in accordance to many nuclear arms treaties, but many of these silos have either been retained by the government as relics of a forgone time or have had their legal rights transferred back to the original landowners, from who they taken via eminent domain.

Since you’re probably not going to easily wrest the land deed from the government, your best bet is to find a private owner and hope they’re willing to sell — and that’s going to be a pricey venture.

Say you found the silo and it’s for sale — it’s likely going for somewhere in the range of 0k and million. Thankfully, those on the higher end have already been remodeled into beautiful homes capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. Congratulations. Your wallet is lighter and the job is done.

For the rest of us who’ll never see that amount of cash in one lifetime, we’ve got some options — but they’ll take work.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Oh. And there’s no natural lighting. Unless you want to just keep the “roof” open at all times.

(Photo by David Berry)

The silos that haven’t been refurbished have endured years of ruin and decay since the Cold War. After nearly thirty years of disrepair, they are more than likely flooded out. Mold and pests have probably made the place inhospitable and the rust has likely semi-permanently sealed some parts off. Expect to spend lots of time bringing the place up to inhabitable standards.

The next hurdle will be rewiring the place to allow for modern electricity and plumbing. Thankfully, housing troops within the silo and launching a nuclear ICBM both required a vast electrical grid. Unfortunately, that grid is underground, so working on it may require tunneling. Additionally, being so far underground also causes plumbing issues that may require equipment outside of the typical. Again, be ready to shell out some serious cash.

Large areas of these silos were used as living spaces by troops who once worked there. These same quarters will likely become your living space. Other areas will be filled with the remnants of old missile equipment, which you’ll probably want to clear out to make space for your personal stuff (unless you’re got super-villain plans).

To see someone take on this journey of converting an old missile silo into an awesome home, check out the following YouTube video from Death Wears Bunny Slippers — which is a highly appropriate name, given that the name belonged to the Air Force nuclear missile combat crews.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why combat ‘staches are awesome

There comes a point in nearly every deployment where troops get so bored out of their minds that they try anything to stay entertained. One of the most time-honored traditions while deployed is for troops to try walking on the mustached side of life. It’s the perfect place for it, too — away from the judging eyes of friends, family, and significant others.

Back in the day, troops could rock whatever facial hair they felt comfortable in. Over time, regulations changed and, in the 20th century, the wearing of beards was banned service-wide, affecting nearly all U.S. troops. The mustache, however, has been allowed to remain as long as it falls within strict guidelines.

To be honest, most guys can’t pull it off. But for those majestic few that can — the word ‘glorious’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Here’re the top reasons why you must respect the combat ‘stache.


20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Every single time a troop shaves their face, the eternal debate rages anew.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. April Mota)

They’re one of the last bits of personal freedom that troops can wear

Troops seldom get a chance to sport any kind of individuality while in uniform. That’s kind of the purpose of uniformity. Most times, they can’t even decide on which of the three authorized hairstyles to sport: bald, buzzed, or high and tight.

Adding a layer of “mustache or no mustache” to that list makes you feel like you’ve got some sort of individuality left.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

If they’re patient enough to have a well-groomed mustache, they’re patient enough to handle the military.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William Jenkins)

They show you take pride in your apperance

Anyone can take a razor to their face in the morning and be done with it. It takes someone who’s really invested in their ‘stache to go the extra mile and groom it to standards. As much as everyone would love to rock the Sam Elliott, Uncle Sam says no.

While each branch has slightly different mustaches regulations, in general, troops have to keep it professional and proper. Believe it or not, it takes skill to make a mustache not look like a high schooler’s poor attempt of whiskers.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

I think the ghost of Colonel Olds just shed a single manly tear over this nose art.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

They’ve been worn by many of America’s greatest warfighters

Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing, Col. Robin Olds, Col. Teddy Roosevelt, Col. Lewis Millett, Sgt. Alvin York, and probably the drill instructor who first showed you how terrifying a knifehand can be all had one thing in common: a glorious mustache.

Now, it may not have been the lip fur that made them all heroes, but it couldn’t hurt to channel them through your own.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Seeing a mustache like this means you’re 150% more likely to be dropped and have to do push-ups.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shannon Yount)

They tend to an NCO’s intimidation factor

Drill sergeants are terrifying on their own. When your drill sergeant has a mustache above his snarl, you know you’re in deep sh*t. This also works for nearly every other NCO in the military. The motor sergeant? Hell no. You’ll do your own 10-level work. Medic? You’re fine with just ibuprofen and water. Supply sergeant? Yeah, you’re going to fill everything out in triplicate.

The only way for this to not work is if their mustache starts growing in like Worf’s from Star Trek. Then it just becomes too silly to take seriously.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

If you thought this was just for fun, you are dead wrong! This is not a game!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Nathan Maysonet)

They’re a fun way to prove manliness among your peers

The military runs on pissing contests. If you can objectively put a qualitative number to anything, you can be sure that troops will find a way to measure themselves against their peers.

If you can grow a full Bert Reynolds, right on! You’re manly enough to keep it. If your unworthy display of peach fuzz barely grows in after a month, you’re justifiably going to be mocked.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Air Force veteran started the Make-A-Wish Foundation

To say Make-A-Wish Foundation founder Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.

They stopped in Michigan for five years.


When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”

In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.

Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”

Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.

In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”

Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”

When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”

Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”

Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.

“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”

The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”

“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 480,000 wishes have been granted.

Shankwitz said, “Every 26 to 28 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”

More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines and sailors visit Iwo Jima for ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

74 years ago the U.S. Marine Corps underestimated their enemy, what they had anticipated to be a short battle against the outnumbered Japanese troops ended up as a 36-day siege resulting in nearly 7,000 Marines losing their lives. There was no doubt the U.S. would successfully complete their mission, however the landing forces were not prepared for the Japanese that were well entrenched and had prepared for battle, resulting in one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history.

Iwo Jima has since become a memorial ground to honor all of the American and Japanese troops that died in the battle. Today Japan and the U.S. are allies, on occasion service members are able to visit the island and reflect on the history. Stepping foot on an iconic battle site of World War II is a once in a lifetime opportunity that most service members do not get to experience. Marines and sailors of Okinawa were fortunate enough to visit the island and learn about some of the history of that Battle.


A professional military education presentation was given on the beaches by U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Evan C. Clark, the training officer of 7th Communication Battalion, July 2, 2019. The Marines and sailors hiked the 5k trail from the flight line to the beach, along the way were various memorials of those who fought during this 36-day battle.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones prays at the base of Mt. Suribachi, Japan, July 2, 2019. Jones, the Navy Chaplain of 7th Communication Battalion, spoke with the Marines and sailors and did a moment of silence to honor the service members that died in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

“One memorial stood out to me as especially moving,” said Clark. “There was a memorial built where U.S. and Japanese veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima were brought back, where they met stands a plaque honoring their reunion.”

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion hiked to the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

The plaque was made for the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima when American and Japanese veterans of the war returned to the island. They came together in friendship to honor the sacrifices of those who fought bravely and honorably.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion collect sand from the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

Following the presentation, U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm. Bn. offered a prayer and proposed a moment of silence to honor and respect all of the people that died during the events that took place on Iwo Jima.

“Any person that has served has seen pictures from Iwo Jima, particularly the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi,” said Jones.

But it’s impossible to fully comprehend from just pictures as to how many bodies were here strewn all over the beach and the extreme difficulty they went through. Being here has brought a better understanding of what took place here. — U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm
20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion listen during a Professional Military Education on the beaches of Iwo Jima, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

Both Clark and Jones said they believe the presentation to be important and beneficial to the Marines and sailors serving their country.

“More than anything, it is a reminder of our history,” said Clark. “This is why we exist as a service. This is where we rediscover the importance of what the Marine Corps does.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 times they found something on Storage Wars that could’ve been hidden in a barracks

“Storage Wars” has uncovered thousands of odd things in the depths of overdue storage units during their 12 season span: breast enlargement machines, an Elvis Presley collection, and a disturbingly complete “My Little Pony” collection. There have been a couple things stuck in the crannies of a storage unit, that might as well have been found under the bed of some unkempt barracks room. These are seven of those such items…


Storage Wars: Rene and Casey Find a Stripper Pole (Season 5, Episode 5) | A&E

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A stripper pole

It’s definitely odd that this was lost in storage and not in the dull lamp-shadeless lighting of some recently divorced 30 something’s bachelor pad. Be honest though—if you found a stripper pole stored in an abandoned unit, or in a barracks occupied by a bunch of single military men—you’d be more surprised to find it in a storage unit.

Storage Wars: New York: Mike’s Nuclear Fallout Locker | A&E

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Gas mask

Perhaps not the strangest find by a Storage Wars team, but this one could easily be misplaced in the messy sprawl of barracks across the U.S. It probably would be a personal use mask, not a military use one. Anyone who has ever sat next to a soldier after they’ve just eaten their 6th straight microwaved pulled pork Hot Pocket knows exactly why someone would have one of these bad boys handy in the barracks.

Storage Wars: Ivy’s World War II-Era Mine Sweeper (Season 9, Episode 9) | A&E

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World War II minesweeper

In a unit down in Lancaster, California, the “Storage Wars” gang unearthed this 0 relic inside a tin Army supply box. So this one could easily be lost in a barracks somewhere of some explosive ordnance expert’s bed. You might be thinking to yourself, “why would a modern soldier be holding onto something that was still being used in 1943?” And to that question, the answer is: because it’s the military and it’s probably still currently issued.

Storage Wars: Mary’s Vintage Camel Saddles (Season 8, Episode 13) | A&E

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Camel saddles

In yet another abstract find in Southern California, “Storage Wars” heartthrob Mary stumbled upon a saddle meant for a two-humped camel. I have personally witnessed a particularly wild Marine try to “ride” a wild deer on a hunting trip. The idea that that same man would have a saddle specifically intended for tossing on a wild camel in the middle east in hopes of domesticating the beast—does not sound off base to me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBOJ-jRzips
Storage Hunters (USA) Brandon & loris snakes in an storage bin

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Fully alive snakes

​There is an episode of Storage Wars where they uncovered a bunch of ​living​ albino pythons. Buteveryone knows youcannot have pets in the barracks. Everyone also knows the drinking age is technically 21. It would be very reasonable to imagine how these rules might be bent. Maybe a soldier takes a sip of a beer. Seems reasonable enough. Maybe a soldier keeps 8 fully grown albino pythons in a tank so that he could throw rats in it then sit around the tank with 4 or 5 buddies and scream and cheer as the pythons educate the rats on the hierarchyof the food chain.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers

Snake skeletons

This find came on the heels of a massive 100 unit auction in (you guessed it) Southern California. The lucky buyer was more than surprised to find a display case featuring a perfectly laid out snake skeleton. Now, you may find this in a barracks, but only as an inevitable result of the previous “item” on the list.

Finders Keepers (2015) – Foot in a Grill Scene (2/10) | Movieclips

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A forgotten limb

Okay so this one is from a documentary called “Finders Keepers” but it was simply too good to pass up. In the movie, a man named Shannon Whisnaut purchased what he thought was a run of the mill storage unit, waiting to be flipped. When he opened the vault, he happened upon a standard barbecue. When he opened the top he discovered someone had some foil-wrapped leftovers on the grill. He removed the foil to unveil—a human leg. He reported the leg to police. The previous owner John Wood, was tracked down, and he immediately copped to knowing about the leg. In quite possibly the most “oorah” twist of the list, he had lost the leg in a 2004 plane crash and opted to keep the severed limb so that it could be buried with him—only to forget where he put it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.

Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.


When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.

20 little known facts about VA medical centers


Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.

Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.

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

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