Following World War I, many troops were rapidly diagnosed with “shell shock.” World War II brought the new label of “combat stress reaction.” Today, it’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD – which is diagnosed when negative symptoms arise after experiencing a traumatic event. Marine veteran John Welch doesn’t shy away from sharing his own diagnosis of PTSD caused by combat. In fact, he thinks it’s vital that it is talked about, because that’s the only way veterans will begin to heal.
Welch followed his father and brothers into the Marines. He always knew he’d become one himself because it was ingrained into him his whole life. Although he doesn’t regret a moment of his service to this country, he’s uncomfortable with talking about it. For a long time, being a Marine was all that he had and it wasn’t enough.
He knows the dark and deeply-rooted impacts of PTSD intimately because he lived in that space for a long time after leaving the Marine Corps. Welch said that he slowly came back to life after receiving his service dog, Onyx, four years ago. “She took me out of the darkness and brought me back into the world,” he shared. Once Welch was on his own path of healing, he wanted to find ways to help other veterans make it there too.
He started with reclaimed wood.
Welch feels like he was probably always artistic, but that by working through his trauma by using things like art, he flourished. Since then, he has spent years building and creating custom wooden American flags for veterans. He doesn’t charge for them or take requests but instead waits to be led to the person who needs one the most. At this point, he has made hundreds.
“Yeah, I have PTSD. But there is a way out. That way out is to do for others,” Welch said candidly. He believes serving others saved him. Welch uses his flag art to work through his own trauma and give back, but he is also a peer liaison volunteer at his local VA. There, he works closely with other veterans suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD. He was feeling content. But there was more waiting for him.
While shopping at his local Christmas tree store, he ran into a friend. After talking a while, he suggested that Welch join Team Rubicon, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service and leverages their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond and recover from disaster and humanitarian crisis. The friend wouldn’t give him details and instead pushed him to look it up. After he learned TR’s mission, he realized it was a way he could continue to further his service, and joined immediately, spending almost his first year deployed on Team Rubicon operations.
“Team Rubicon gave me the ability to serve others,” Welch said. “I lost that sense of service when I left the military. When I joined Team Rubicon, it gave me that back.” Welch has now been a volunteer with Team Rubicon since 2018 and has gone on several deployments with them. Currently, he’s entering his tenth straight week serving in the COVID-19 response team for New York.
There’s nowhere he’d rather be than beside his fellow “Greyshirt” teammates helping people in need. “Team Rubicon has been instrumental in getting me better,” he shared. When the newest Team Rubicon volunteers didn’t receive their coveted grey shirts in time, Welch jumped in immediately and handcrafted wood plaques for them to welcome them to the team.
Welch shared that at one time he was deemed “broken.” He discovered that by serving others, he was made whole again. “When you look back at your life, you should ask, ‘Did I make a difference in the world?'” he said. Although he knows most people cannot give the amount of time that he does to service, he hopes that those who hear his story see the importance of giving back.
While Welch quite literally spends almost his entire day in service of some kind, he’s never been happier. It saved him. He’s hoping it’ll save others too.
Look, airmen are technically people. That’s why we can’t slap a fence around the Air Force, call it a zoo, and call the day done. Especially since we need a few of them to fly close-air support and whatever else it is that they do. So, the boys in blue tiger stripes are going to keep wandering around, quoting Nietzsche (even if they are finally getting rid of those stripes).
If you are forced to interact with one of them, here are some pics you can drop on the ground and escape while they argue the semantics or parse the meaning of it:
Looking for a last minute gift for that whiskey lover on your list who also happens to love history? Why not buy a bottle of small-batch whiskey from George Washington‘s distillery?
Even though it’s not the original location, it’s a pretty close replica and it churns out recipe-exact whiskey. So you’re basically sipping on the same stuff that the big guy himself liked to sip on.
Who doesn’t love whiskey?
Just like now, alcohol played a significant role in the lives of people in the 1700s. In addition to social drinking, alcohol was used a lot for medicinal purposes, so having a distillery meant that Washington could sell his booze to many different markets. Distilleries were super common in early American life, just like now. Currently, America produces about 37 million cases of whiskey each year in 129 distilleries.
Way back in 1799, Washington’s distillery produced something like 11,000 gallons of whiskey, making it one of the largest distilleries in all of America at the time. Admittedly, America’s size in 1799 wasn’t nearly what it is today, but still – 11,000 gallons is pretty impressive. For comparison’s sake, other distilleries in Virginia at the same time only made about 600 or so gallons of fine, fine whiskey.
Whiskey making was even one of the earliest “cottage industries” in America. Cottage industries are the kinds of businesses people can run out of their homes. In the digital age, that could be anything. Back in Washington’s day, running a successful shop out of a kitchen or farm, or in Washington’s case, a still, required a different kind of setup. And that’s exactly what Washington did.
First, the basics
So you already know Washington was our first president, and he did a lot for the future generations of whiskey loving Americans who would come after him. But one thing that lots of people don’t know is Washington was all about a good side hustle.
In fact, he was working on side jobs before that term even entered our lexicon.
Throughout his life, Washington was forever trying to reduce his expenses and make more money on the side. That’s how he got his start with the distillery in the first place! He just wanted to make some extra cash. It’s wild to think that the first president and former General of the Continental Army trying to keep up a side job is hilarious. But it also sort of embodies the whole American work ethic of always looking for opportunity. And, even though he had no previous experience with distilling, Washington decided to give it a go after realizing how much money he could make.
A diverse product line
At its height, Washington’s distillery produced more than just whiskey. His original recipe was a blend of 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley and it was distilled twice then sold under the label, “Common Whiskey.”
But his distillery also featured more expensive whiskeys flavored with cinnamon and persimmons. Brandies made with apple, peach, and persimmons were also sold along with kinds of vinegar.
One big difference between Washington’s Mount Vernon whiskey and the whiskey produced today is that Washington’s wasn’t aged, which meant that it never took on the color of the casks. Today, the distillery maintains that heritage – its whiskey remains unaged and clear.
Every year, families across the country have empty seats at their tables. Beds are no longer filled and stockings no longer have owners. These empty spots – they exist every day of the year, not just on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. Lost heroes have given their lives, and it’s a reality that impacts Americans every day, not just national holidays. That fact is the foundation for Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that places wreaths on hero graves each December.
Their goal is to honor the fallen – whether lost in war or decades after their service – with a beautiful, thoughtful wreath, complete with a signature hand-tied red ribbon. Today, WAA places wreaths in more than 2,100 locations, mostly cemeteries, including at sea and abroad.
How they got started
Before WAA got its start as a national and notable nonprofit, there was a business owner in the Northeast, Morrill Worcester, who owned the Worcester Wreath Company. When Worcester was a 12, he won a trip to Washington, D.C. where he visited Arlington National Cemetery.
Fast forward to 1992, where he operated his business in Harrington, Maine. This year was notable, as the company was met with extra wreaths during the holiday season. Worcester remembered his trip to Arlington as a child, and arranged for the extra wreaths to be delivered to veteran graves. He worked with Maine Senator, Olympia Snowe, to have the wreaths placed in an older section of graves that received few visitors.
The good deed was met with more volunteers, including trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., whose owner, James Prout, transported the wreaths. Then, members from the local American Legion and VFW locations who tied and added red bows. Finally, volunteers put together a wreath-laying ceremony, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This continued annually, until an image went viral in 2005. Thousands of volunteers stepped forward to help, with others asking to recreate the program at their own local cemetery. Their efforts were expanded and wreath laying ceremonies took place across the nation, sparking a holiday, National Wreaths Across America Day.
Creating a seasonal nonprofit
After attention continued to spread, Wreaths Across America was formed in 2007. The nonprofit was founded by Worcester and his family, veterans, and other volunteer groups. Their mission to: Remember. Honor. Teach. Has been celebrated every year since.
Volunteers can purchase wreaths online or over the phone, along with dedicating wreaths to a specific loved one. Pages of messages remember the fallen and loved ones through the purchase of a wreath.
Remembrance Tree Program
As Gold Star families visited the tree farms where future wreaths are grown, it was soon found that there was a sense of calming in the process. To help spread this comfort to more families, the Remembrance Tree Program was founded. Free for veteran families, members can visit the evergreen trees in Columbia Falls, Maine. Here they can choose a tree to dedicate a living memorial to their fallen soldier. Dog tags are printed with custom messages and placed on a tree trunk. Balsam tips are harvested every three years to make wreaths, while the trees remain standing.
Find more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 877-385-9504.
Visit the WAA Museum
Columbia Falls, Maine is also home to the Wreaths Across America Museum, which opened in 2001. The museum features awards, memorabilia, and photos honoring its fallen soldiers and their missions. Visitors also can take in a video that explains the organization’s history.
Volunteering with WAA
Volunteers who want to donate their time to having wreaths donated, or to laying wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day, December 19, 2020, can learn more at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/ or by calling 877-385-9504.
In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.
To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.
Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.
Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.
The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.
108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.
(US Air Force photo)
With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.
The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.
In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.
“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.
(US Air Force)
Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.
One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.
Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.
(US Air Force)
In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”
He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.
Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.
They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.
Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.
(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)
During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Everyone knows you can’t leave Marines alone to be bored. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and no one plays around more than Devil Dogs. If you don’t believe me, just check out Terminal Lance’s Instagram page for a few minutes. I’ll wait.
While most Marines are content to goof around in the barracks or as a group during some hurry-up-and-wait, there are some examples of Marine Corps behavior that show why you should never leave Uncle Sam’s Most Capable troops alone to their own devices. Even for a minute.
(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)
Made a personal weapon from an aircraft machine gun
While fighting in the World War II Battle of Bougainville, Cpl. Tony Stein picked up a .30 caliber ANM2 Browning machine gun from the wrecked wings of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Since he was a toolmaker before the war, he was able to refashion the aircraft weapon – which fired 1200-1500 rounds per minute – into a personal machine gun. He dubbed it “the Stinger” and later carried it into combat on Iwo Jima.
While there, Stein would clear enemy pillboxes with the Stinger, then carry a wounded Marine back to the beach as he picked up more ammunition. Stein did this eight times, and for his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was later killed by a sniper in the battle for Mount Suribachi – which he only joined after leaving a hospital ship.
Became a Warlord in Somalia
Remember the movie Black Hawk Down, where a group of Army Special Forces operators and Rangers attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in order to regain the stability of Mogadishu? It’s too bad the Army didn’t know that all they had to do was wait until 1996 when his son would rise to power.
His son, Hussein Farah Aidid, was just hanging out as a Marine Corps artilleryman in Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, Calif. As a matter of fact, just a few years after the events of Task Force Ranger depicted in Black Hawk Down, the younger Aidid told his reserve unit he was leaving the country for a while. And he did. He went to Somalia to prepare to take his father’s place in one of the most powerful militias in Mogadishu. When Mohammed Farah Aidid died, his son was declared his successor. The Corporal was now a General.
Sgt. Faustin Wirkus’ weekend libo is off the chain.
Became the Voodoo King of Haiti
In 1915, Sgt. Faustin Wirkus was one of many United States Marines sent into Haiti to stabilized the American-backed government from succumbing to a German-backed coup. After four years of duty in the Caribbean, the NCO was sent to La Gonâve, an island that, until he came along, no white man had ever set foot on and lived. This worked out for Wirkus because he had been curious about Gonâve for the entire time he was deployed. His first assignment there was to arrest the locals for practicing voodoo.
The local voodoo queen, Ti Memenne, had a ceremony for Faustin, which he thought was a celebration of some kind. And it was. The locals thought their old king had been reincarnated as a white man. They decided that Faustin was their new old king – and he ruled their island until the President of Haiti forced him to go home to Pennsylvania.
Howard Foote always wanted to be a fighter pilot. Sadly, when he was joining the Marine Corps, he could not qualify to be a pilot, so he settled for the next best thing: an airplane mechanic. But just because the Marine Corps said he wasn’t allowed to be one of their pilots didn’t mean he would never fly a USMC fighter. One night, the mechanic suited up, hopped in his perfectly-maintained A-4M Skyhawk, and took off into the night.
The Corps, to their credit, didn’t try to intercept Foote as he flew his way around the skies above California. Foote flew the fighter to his hearts’ content and landed safely… into the hands of the waiting police. He was sent to the stockade and served some time before being discharged. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a dishonorable one, so Foote was able to realize his dream of becoming a pilot – this time legally. For NASA.
Lots of Marines fall in love and get married to a local when they’re in the middle of their first assignment. While some aim low and take strippers or lawyers, one enlisted Marine decided that wasn’t enough. His deployment to Bahrain was going to be memorable, so he decided to marry into a local family.
The ruling Al-Khalifa family, that is.
In 1999, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson fell in love with Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa after meeting the princess at a local mall. He helped smuggle her out of Bahrain and into the United States, which is why he later faced a court-martial, not for getting married without the Corps’ consent.
If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…
…do not despair.
While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.
What is it? Let me explain…
What is our ultimate goal for our kids?
Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.
My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.
(Photo by Tim Pierce)
Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?
How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?
But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.
As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.
They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…
1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.
I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.
Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.
No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.
Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.
(Photo by Janice Cullivan)
2. Military kids learn early networking skills.
With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.
Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.
In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.
3. Military kids are taught to persevere.
Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.
Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.
When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.
I’ll take vines over roots any day.
While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.
The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.
And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.
Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.
All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.
For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.
The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.
That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.
In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.
Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.
MSG Williams (Left) and SSG Ron Shurer (Right) with an Afghan Commando.
We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.
On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.
MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan
(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)
Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.
MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)
As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.
Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer
Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? You might be looking for true love, but chances are good that you are the victim of one of thousands of military romance scams conducted every day.
U.S. military officials have warned those involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with someone claiming to be a U.S. military member serving in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere.
Officials and websites like Military.com receive hundreds of questions or allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone who claims to be in the U.S. military but started asking for money for various false service-related needs such as transportation costs; communication fees; or marriage, processing or medical fees.
(Flickr photo by Mr Seb)
Victims of these online scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery.
The U.S. has established numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.
Are you being scammed? Here’s how to know.
Military romance scams: what to look for
There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:
They say they are on a “peacekeeping” mission.
They say they are looking for an honest woman.
They note that their parents, wife or husband is deceased.
They say they have a child or children being cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
They profess their love almost immediately.
They refer to you as “my love,” “my darling” or any other affectionate term almost immediately.
They tell you they cannot wait to be with you.
They tell you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam for security reasons.
They tell you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
They claim to be in the U.S. military; however, their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States.
Military romance scams: common questions
Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Military.com regularly receives questions about these claims. Here are common answers to those questions:
Military members and their loved ones are not charged money so that they can go on leave.
No one is required to request leave on behalf of a military member.
A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of military personnel planning to take leave.
A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
Military members are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
Military members do not need permission to get married.
Military members do not have to pay for early retirement.
All military personnel have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide. Family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
Military aircraft are not used to transport privately owned vehicles.
Military financial offices are not used to help military personnel buy or sell items of any kind.
Member of the military deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
Deployed military personnel do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.
Military romance scams: how to avoid them
You can avoid being taken for a ride by a military romance scam artist by practicing a few easy habits.
(Flickr photo by Saws)
Never send money. Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union.
Do your research. If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out. Research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
Communicate by phone. Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
Fact-check. Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality. Check the facts.
Don’t use a third party. Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often, the company exists but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
Watch for African countries. Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country. While some U.S. troops are stationed there, they are few and far between. Someone claiming to be in a place where we have few troops is suspect. Many scams originate in Nigeria.
Watch for grammar. Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
Be guarded. Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.
Military romance scams: how to get help
How do you get help if you are the victim of a romance scam or think you have found a scammer posing as a military member?
Unfortunately, if you’ve given money to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get it back since scammers are often located overseas and are untraceable.
You can, however, report it.
You can report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership) on its website.
You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations. Report it online or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Finally, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams by email at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There’re few things in the United States that are as American as Kentucky Straight Bourbon. How American is it? In 1964, the United States Congress actually declared Bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the US,” therefore protecting its name and production methods from foreign knockoffs.
There are also few things as American as helping each other out in times of crisis. And right now, as we all know, these are incredibly challenging times. Thankfully, folks all across the United States are working hard to help each other out.
You’ll find this same American spirit in companies like Evan Williams. During a global pandemic, Evan Williams is introducing their veteran-focused American-Made Heroes Foundation. This new foundation is designed to support nonprofits who work with the veteran community, helping the brave Americans who have served our country — especially the ones who may be further struggling due to this ongoing health crisis.
Evan Williams has grown into one of the biggest Bourbon brands in the world, known for its smooth taste and value. They’ve shown the world that you don’t have to pay outrageous prices or deal with obnoxious gimmicks to enjoy a great Bourbon. And as they’ve grown, they’ve made a great effort to give back — the American-Made Heroes Foundation is Evan Williams’ way of giving back to those who served.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of things in life have been put on hold. A lot of nonprofits that support veterans and their families have had to cease operations while figuring out their next steps. Now, more than ever, these nonprofits need support, and Evan Williams is committed to providing that support. The American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund provides grants of up to ,000 to support nonprofit community organizations in the United States that provide services to US military veterans and are impacted by COVID-19.
Each year, they also honor six inspiring veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country and its citizens. After choosing veterans to honor, Evan Williams features these Heroes and their exceptional stories of honor, bravery, and service to their community on a special edition bottle.
This year, they honored six amazing Americans and donated to the charity of choice of each veteran. Here’s a small sampling of the selected heroes. We encourage you to go check out the other stories, which are just as inspiring:
Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez
Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez hails from San Francisco, California, where he studied electrical engineering and worked at NASA’s Research Center. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1981 when he was 21: kicking off a decorated 22-year career that would take him to Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Along the way, he served in the Persian Gulf War, earned five advanced degrees, and had two children-both born overseas.
“There are so many different opportunities the military has to offer,” says Eddie, who took full advantage of the training and education programs that taught him persistence, determination and attention to detail. He worked as an aerospace ground equipment mechanic, a radio communications maintainer, and a professional military education instructor, before retiring as Flight Chief of the Airmen Leadership School in 2003. But his record of service continued.
Leveraging his master’s degree in Public Administration, Eddie went to work for the Department of Labor, before moving on to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). As an Administrative Officer for Mental Health, he spent nearly a decade advocating for veterans and strategizing ways to improve the V.A.’s processes. “I’ve always had a sense of ownership and giving back to my fellow veterans,” Eddie says. His friends describe him as a “big guy with a big heart.”
After 35 years of federal employment, Eddie returned to the Bay Area to pay it forward. He is the founder and CEO of OneVet OneVoice: a non-profit organization that assists some of California’s 1.8 million veterans with healthcare, education, housing, and job opportunities. He also established the American Legion Cesar E. Chavez Post #505, the San Francisco Veterans Film Festival, and the Veterans Town Hall Collaborative.
Eddie has chosen OneVet OneVoice as his charity for this year, and you can learn more about their mission at https://onevetonevoice.org/
Missionary. Marine. Advocate. There are many ways for a person to serve, and Jonathan Hiltz has done them all. Jon grew up helping the poor in Mexico, then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after the events of 9/11. He deployed to Fallujah with the 8th Marine Regiment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he spent a year working as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Specialist.
“The Marines was kind of countercultural to what I did [before],” Jon explains. As a missionary, “I was serving people, helping people-and then I went to war.” In reality though, the military was just a different kind of service. He did a bit of everything: weapons detection, interior guard, convoy security-even distributing ballots to Iraqis to help facilitate their first elections.
Upon completion of service, Jon chose to exit the Marines and return to his missionary roots. He enrolled in St. Louis Christian College and began volunteering to help the homeless. “It was just a progression,” Jon says of his work. “What are the needs? I’m going to start checking off the boxes.” He is the founder of the Arise Veteran Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri; and Love Goes: a non-profit working to alleviate poverty in Southern Illinois.
Today, Jon lives with his wife, Amber, and three children in Marion, Illinois, where he also works as a Peer Support Specialist at the VA Medical Center. There, he helps other veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse. “I use my story a lot to help other people,” he says, referring to his own struggles with PTSD. “I’ve been in combat, too. You can still do better. You can have a good career. You just need help sometimes.“
Mary Tobin grew up watching her mother do everything in her power to help those in need-even when her own family didn’t have much. She left Atlanta, Georgia, at age 17 to join the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was in her third year of training that 9/11 drastically altered the trajectory of her career. She deployed to Iraq six months after graduating: the only woman and black officer in her unit.
“Everything I ever learned about leadership, I learned in that first deployment,” Mary says, which also earned her the Combat Action Badge. She completed a second deployment to Iraq with the Combat Aviation Brigade, before becoming a senior leader of a military intelligence unit in South Korea. It wasn’t long after that the injuries she sustained in Iraq caught up with her: putting an end to her 10-year career. For the first time, Mary was a soldier without a mission.
Driven by the commitment she made at West Point-to fulfill a lifetime of selfless service to the nation-Mary began working with volunteer organizations that supported veterans, women of color, and the homeless; including USA Cares and Community Solutions. “I had to feel like I was having a positive impact on someone or something,” she explains. “I served with some pretty amazing people. I want to live a life worthy of those who gave their lives for our freedom.“
Mary has chosen The Mission Continues as her charity, where she currently serves as the executive director. The Mission Continues: is a national nonprofit that empowers veterans to become leaders in their communities and supports neighborhood transformation efforts. “I am a product of what happens when you no longer call me broken and you tell me I’m strong,” she says. “There are millions of ‘little Marys’ out there who need THIS Mary to remind them that they can be whatever they desire. It’s the least I can do.“
In addition to giving grants to these veterans’ nonprofits of choice, Evan Williams has also given over 0,000 to 501c3 organizations that serve veterans and the greater military community over the last five years. And while that is generous by any means, they aren’t done yet.
Thank you, Evan Williams for not just throwing up a patriotic image on your bottle. Thanks for honoring veterans by putting them right next to your brand and giving to those organizations that serve those who served.
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are conducting a month-long military exchange program with Marines from the Indonesian Korps Marinir in Eastern Java, Indonesia, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 6-29, 2019.
The exchange program, designed to strengthen the partnership between the two militaries, involves each country sending a platoon of Marines to live and train together at the others’ military bases. Working closely though a rigorous training schedule focused around individual, team and squad level tactics, Marines from both nations are able to learn from each other and continue to improve their ability to work together.
“For basic tactics, we do the same thing for shooting and maneuver, but we have a different terrain and environment,” said 2nd Lt. Gilang Kanandha, a platoon commander with the KORMAR. “We can make our Marine Corps better by learning new things and [the U.S.] Marines can learn something new too.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines patrol through the woods during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
Not only do the Marines share tactics with each other, they also develop new leadership styles and establish relationships with their partner nation counterparts.
“We are able to train together and be aggressive when it’s time to do that,” said 1st. Lt Joseph Artis, a platoon commander with Co. A., 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment. “But during our down time, we have the ability to just be Marines together.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines eat together during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“Our relationship with our Indonesian counterparts is very strong,” said Staff Sgt. Nathanial Skousen, the company gunnery sergeant for Co. A., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He noted how naturally the Marines from both nations interacted with each other, “It’s as if the same type of people are drawn to serve their nation’s military,” said Skousen.
The KORMAR exchange enhances the capability of both services and displays their continued commitment to share information and increase the ability to respond to crises together across the Pacific.
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and an Indonesian Marine pose for a photo following training during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“It causes us to open our eyes a little bit when we experience things with Marines from overseas,’ said Artis. “The fact that this is happening in different parts of the world, it gives us perspective that there is a global mission we are trying to achieve. It’s not just us in Hawaii trying to do this.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.