5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

While the Fourth of July may look a little different this year, you can still celebrate the holiday in style with virtual concerts, televised fireworks, a museum tour or a virtual run. Look up, and you may even catch a military flyover.


USO holiday concert

The USO will host a first ever Fourth of July concert on its Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels at 12 a.m. EST and 12 p.m. EST to accommodate times zones around the world. The concert, the first of a three-part summer series airing through Labor Day, will be headlined by country music legend Clint Black. The concert will include a special nod to American surf music by the iconic Mike Love and The Beach Boys and will feature special guests John Stamos, comedian Iliza Shlesinger, actor/musician Craig Robinson, and “America’s Got Talent” world champion Shin Lim.

A Capitol Fourth

The 40th annual broadcast of A Capitol Fourth will air on PBS Saturday, July 4 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. EST, as well as on American Forces Network for troops around the world. The program can be heard on NPR member stations nationwide, and it will be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and PBS. This year’s concert, co-hosted by John Stamos and Vanessa Williams, features pre-taped performances without a live audience.

Museum tour

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio will be open July 4 to share the stories of our nation’s veterans. In a press release, Lt. General Michael Ferriter, president and CEO of the museum, said that the facility is excited to welcome guests during the holiday weekend to share the stories of veterans from the Revolutionary War to today.

“This year is an opportunity to create a new tradition of celebration and remembrance,” Ferriter stated.

Museum goers will find the exhibit “So Ready for Laughter: The Legacy of Bob Hope,” which explores Hope’s major tours and travels during World War II. The exhibit features nearly 50 artifacts and an original documentary. Highlights include rare and unpublished photographs of Hope; wartime correspondence between Hope and servicemembers; WWII-era relics engraved to Hope; videos of his traveling, wartime troupe; and Hollywood Victory Caravan programs and scrapbooks. Details can be found here.

Ruck, walk or run for independence

Get out and move your feet with the USO’s “Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk Run for Independence.” The virtual fun run, presented by Delta Air Lines, includes USO music playlists, a Facebook live rise and shine warm-up featuring Robert Killian, the National Anthem sung by the USO Show Troupe and a virtual celebration.

“With so many of us stir crazy during the pandemic, this is a great, all-inclusive, safe event for families to get out and celebrate the holiday,” said Bob Kurkjian, president USO West. “Families can, run, walk or even ruck the event.”

Registration is , with proceeds going to the USO. Participants will receive a USO branded t-shirt, downloadable bib, face mask and medal. Ahead of the event, tune into The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon event on Thursday, July 2, 2020 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. PST, an event that brings together our nation’s troops, the funniest comedic talent, and Bob Hope USO’s dedicated community partners.

2020 Salute to America

This year, 1,700 service members will provide aerial, musical and ceremonial support to the 2020 Salute to America event, held in Washington, D.C. This year’s celebration will honor cities of the American Revolution and military aircraft will fly over Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. From there, they will join other DOD and heritage aircraft to fly over the nation’s capital. The exact timing has not yet been announced but more details can be found here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Having a VA disability rating doesn’t prevent you from serving in the military

There are many myths about having a Department of Veterans Affairsdisability rating and serving in the military. The most common is that, if you have a VA disability rating, you can never serve in the military again. Or if you do serve in the military, you have to waive your disability rating or all of your VA disability compensation. None of these statements is completely true.


The truth is, in some cases, it is possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating.

Because you can file a VA disability claim only after leaving active duty, this article is making the assumption that the military member has left active duty and is either transitioning into the Guard or Reserves or trying to return to active duty after a break in service.

Can You Serve in the Military with a Disability Rating?

The answer is maybe. Simply having a VA disability rating does not prevent someone from joining the military. However, the underlying medical condition may prevent someone from medically qualifying to serve again.

For example, you can receive a VA disability rating for knee surgery that you had while on active duty. If your knee has otherwise healed and you can perform your military duties, remain deployable and pass your PT test, then you may be eligible for continued military service.

However, other underlying medical conditions may prevent you from joining the military again. For example, it may be difficult to join again if your VA disability rating stems from a serious medical condition that prevents you from being able to perform your military duties, maintain deployability status or pass your PT test.

If you had a break in service before trying to go back into the military, you may need to process through MEPS again. If you have a VA disability rating or certain other medical conditions, you may need to apply for a medical waiver to join the military.

Can You Serve on Active Duty with a VA Disability Rating?

Provided you have been medically cleared to serve, simply having a VA disability rating isn’t enough to prohibit you from serving on active duty.

However, federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.

So, while you won’t have to waive your actual VA disability rating, you would need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments until after your active-duty service ends. After that, you can contact the VA to resume your payments.

What About Serving in the Guard or Reserves with a Disability Rating?

The same rules apply to members of the Reserve Component as they do for active duty. However, there is one big difference: You don’t have to suspend your VA disability compensation payments unless you are serving in a full-time capacity.

When you receive VA disability compensation, you receive it on a monthly basis.

When you serve in the Reserve Component, you receive military pay only on the days you serve (typically one weekend a month, and two weeks a year). You actually perform four drill periods on your weekend drill and receive pay for four days of work. You will receive only one day of pay for the other days you serve in the Reserve Component (Active Training, TDY, PME, etc.).

The typical Guard or Reserve member receives military pay for only a handful of days per month. They are in an inactive status and are not receiving compensation for the remaining days of the month.

Remember the rule above: “Federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.”

The law requires members of the Reserve Component to waive either their military compensation or VA disability compensation for days in which they received both forms of compensation. Thankfully, it’s easy to decide which pay to waive.

Deciding Which Pay to Waive

Simply compare your monthly VA disability compensation payment to the base military pay for your paygrade and years of service. Waive the lesser of the two (Spoiler: This will almost always be your VA disability compensation).

Keep in mind you have to waive your pay only on the days on which you receive both forms of compensation. In other words, the pay you waive is prorated — you don’t have to waive the full month of either of these payments, only the prorated amount for the days on which you received both.

Both the VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) prorate the payments based on a 30-day month. This means each day of VA compensation is worth 1/30 of your monthly VA disability rate. Likewise, each day of military service is worth 1/30 of your base military pay.

So if you serve the traditional one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you would receive military compensation for 63 days of service (48 weekend drills and 15 AT days).

The VA sends members a copy of VA Form 21-8951 at the end of the year documenting the number of days on which they received military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same period of service.

You use this form to elect to either waive your VA disability compensation or your military pay. This article explains VA Form 21-8951 in more detail.

If you waive your VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold future payments based on the number of days for which you received compensation in the previous year. If you were paid for 63 days of military service, the VA would withhold a little more than two months’ worth of disability compensation from future payments. You can even request that the VA withhold only a portion of your future payments until the full amount is withheld.

If you choose to waive your military compensation, you would need to repay the military in full. This would mean writing a large check to DFAS.

In most cases, you will have earned more military compensation than you received in VA disability compensation, so it would make much more sense to waive your VA compensation.

In Summary

Yes, it may be possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating, provided your underlying medical condition doesn’t prevent you from meeting requirements. If you serve on active duty, in the full-time Guard/Reserves, or you have been activated, you may need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments to comply with federal law. Otherwise, members of the Reserve Component may need to waive either their military compensation or their disability compensation for the number of days on which they received both forms of compensation on the same day.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Guadalcanal Cocktail is a delicious way to celebrate VJ Day

The United States’ win over Japan in World War II won’t be nationally celebrated on again until its September anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it whenever you want. Grab yourself a bottle of Old Crow bourbon and let’s get down to it with the Marine Corps’ finest beverage.


The capture of Guadalcanal in World War II marked another turning point in the war for the Pacific. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy was irreversibly trounced at Midway, the Japanese were still making gains in the war. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, all that ended. America took the initiative and Imperial Japan never again recovered their post-Pearl Harbor momentum.

When the Navy dropped the Marines off at Guadalcanal, Admiral Chester Nimitz left them with some cases of Old Crow bourbon. To make the limited supply last, the Marines rationed their bourbon to two to four ounces of the hard stuff per day. Being the disciplined warriors that the Marines are, they took the rationing a step further and cut the bourbon with their supply of unsweetened grapefruit juice.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

U.S. Marines landing at Guadalcanal.

While unsweetened grapefruit juice and warm bourbon may seem like a harsh combination, keep in mind that some Japanese positions captured by the Marines also featured icehouses. Being able to cool down their beverages was a nice added bonus to wresting positions from Japanese control. Even if they couldn’t ice it down, harsh cocktails were hardly the biggest worry the Marines face on Guadalcanal.

For just over six months, Marines made amphibious landings to capture heavily-defended airfields and ridgelines as the Navy battled it out with Imperial Japanese submarines and battleships off the coast. At its outset, victory at Guadalcanal for the United States Army and Marines was anything but guaranteed. By the end of it, even the Japanese began to call Guadalcanal “the graveyard of the Japanese Army.”

So, if you’re looking to toast to the bravery of U.S. Marines, mix some Old Crow Bourbon with some fresh grapefruit juice, serve it over ice, and enjoy!

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 upsides to being stationed at Fort Drum

So you’ve received your orders PCSing you to Fort Drum, NY. You’ve cried, bargained with the branch, tried to get a buddy to switch with you, but you’re going. Yes, the winters will be long and cold—annual snowfall is nearly three times the national average and can last into May. Yes, the op tempo is high and you’ll be doing PT and field exercises in the snow. But, fear not, because it’s not all doom and gloom with 10th Motown. Here are a few bright sides to look on if you find yourself assigned to Fort Drum.


5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

I’ll Try Sir depicts Cpl. Calvin P. Titus scaling Peking Wall for which he received the Medal of Honor (H. Charles McBarron Jr.—Public Domain)

1. Unit history

The 10th Mountain Division has a long and prestigious history that few other units can match. Battalions currently organized under 10th Mountain have seen combat going all the way back to the Civil War. Since then, 10th Mountain units have participated in every major conflict. Notable actions include Little Big Horn, Peking, Mount Belvedere, Mogadishu, Takur Ghar and Kamdesh. When you don the crossed swords and Mountain tab, you become part of a long legacy of warriors.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

When you need something on your right sleeve (U.S. Army)

2. Deployment

Since 2001, the most deployed unit in the United States Army has been the 10th Mountain Division. Whether it’s because of the unit’s readiness and combat proficiency or because the soldiers would rather be anywhere else during the intense winters, an assignment to the 10th Mountain at Fort Drum is basically a guarantee that you will deploy. Looking on the bright side, it is an opportunity for junior soldiers to earn a deployment patch and also means deployment pay.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands (Boldt Castle)

3. Beautiful summers & the great outdoors

“But the summers are so beautiful there!” Anyone moving to Fort Drum has heard this as a bright side to look on. While the winters are truly ridiculous, the summer months do help to offset their unpleasant nature. Generally mild temperatures and a temperate climate allow Fort Drum residents to take full advantage of the many outdoor pursuits that are available. The mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes support nearly every type of recreation. Northern New York offers plenty of boating, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, and even the opportunity to ride a pedal-bike on a defunct railroad. The winter also offers great snowboarding and skiing for everyone with Dry Hill being one of the best slopes for beginners and Lake Placid for Olympic prospects. For less active individuals that just want to enjoy the mild summers, the Thousand Islands region also offers plenty of tours, restaurants, and shops.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Ottawa is a must-see if you find yourself up north (Ottawa Tourism)

4. Canada

Yup, the border with the Great White North is just a 30 minute drive from Fort Drum. Another 30 minutes past the border and you’ll be in Kingston, a little city on Lake Ontario that also hosts Canada’s West Point, the Royal Military College of Canada. Another hour will take you to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and another hour on top of that will take you to Montreal, home of the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix. It’s also worth noting that flights out of Ottawa and Montreal are often much cheaper than flights out of Syracuse, the closest major U.S. airport to Fort Drum. Of course, all of this is unfortunately moot until the border reopens and travel restrictions are lifted.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

You might have to dig yourself out, but you won’t have to report (U.S. Army)

5. Snow days

Limited visibility, extreme temperatures and hazardous road conditions are commonplace at Fort Drum and the surrounding area. Mirroring the local school district, Fort Drum often shuts down and issues a no report order when these conditions make travel too dangerous. On average, soldiers can anticipate anywhere between 1-2 weeks of snow days scattered throughout the winter season. That said, if your report date happens to be on one of these snow days, you will still be required to report and sign-in in person.


MIGHTY CULTURE

The right way to tell your partner you want a divorce

The messiness of divorce has been well documented. The attorneys, the custody battles, dividing everything up. But how does one initiate the process? When you are sure you want to go through with one, how do you tell your spouse you want a divorce? In movies, it’s often blurted out in the midst of a heated argument, with one partner or the other dramatically shouting, “I want a divorce!” But in life, things tend to go a bit differently. And, if you want the ensuing legal battle to be civil, it’s in one’s best interest to take pause and really determine how to tell the person they vowed to spend the rest of their life with that it’s over. So how does one deliver this particularly life-altering bit of news? There’s no one way to do it. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Timing is everything

To say that telling your partner you want a divorce is delicate is an understatement. It is an enormous decision, one that, when broached, will alter both of your lives forever. As such, you want to make sure that you choose to have the conversation at a time when your partner is emotionally capable of receiving the news. In other words, don’t tell your partner you want a divorce when when they’re stressed or emotional. “You know your partner better than anyone, so don’t make the disastrous mistake of bringing up divorce in the middle of an important life event,” advises relationship coach Alice Wood. “Be patient and remember that the announcement can wait until a moment when its impact will be the least damaging.” Is this obvious? Yes. But it’s essential.

2. Find the right location

Ideally, you want to break this news in a private, quiet space. Don’t have the conversation in a crowded restaurant or even at home when the kids are in the next room. Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers suggests that, if the couple is in therapy, the therapist’s office might be a good location. “In this way, both parties can feel safe and free to ask questions and/or gain an understanding of what the other party is thinking without erupting into an argument,” he says. “Further, the therapist can help create healthy boundaries moving forward which can prove invaluable when the going gets tough.”

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

(Photo by Guian Bolisay)

3. Avoid details

When the time is right to bring up the topic of divorce, Kelly A. Frawley and Emily S. Pollock, partners at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres and specialists in matrimonial and family law, suggest not getting into details or specifics of how the divorce will work, custody arrangements or anything other specifics, as they will only overwhelm your partner further. “If he or she is just hearing about the possibility of divorce for the first time,” they say, “don’t go in details about how you are going to divide the brokerage account, who should have the kids for Christmas this year, or how you are already looking for a new apartment.” The key is to give the person time to digest the concept, show emotion, and ask questions.

4. Choose your words

Telling your partner you want a divorce is difficult. There’s no need to make it worse by blaming your spouse for their shortcomings or using phrases like, “You should have,” “You don’t,” or “You didn’t.” You also need to be honest about what you’re feeling and why you believe this decision is the right one. So, when talking about divorce, you have to be specific in your language — this isn’t the time to be vague. “If your words are ambiguous, you may leave your spouse/partner with a glimmer of hope that the marriage can be saved, when that is not your intention,” says Craig S. Pedersen, a partner at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers. “That can only create further problems down the line.”

5. Acknowledge your mutual unhappiness

Even if a divorce is more one-sided, chances are that neither party in the marriage is particularly thrilled about the way things have been going. With this in mind, it’s wise to open the conversation by laying the cards on the tabled. “I usually will suggest that they start the conversation with a statement such as ‘As you know, I have not been happy in the marriage for a long time. I also think you have not been happy either,” says New York divorce lawyer Jacqueline Newman, author of the Soon to be Ex series of books. “If the other person can acknowledge that he or she is also unhappy, it makes it an easier conversation to have as it is not so one-sided.”

6. Consider a team approach

Rather than focusing on the fact that you and your partner are separating, it’s essential to shift the perspective a bit and talk about how you both will work together to make this while process as easy as possible. “Divorce does not have to be a battle,” reminds Valencia. “Especially if you have children, your common goal should be what is in their best interests. Approaching a divorce by listing the common goals will help both parties realize they are in this together and cooperating behooves both of them.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these great camo patterns from around the world

Militaries around the world use camouflage to evade detection by the enemy in all kinds of environments, from jungle and desert to city streets.

Avoiding detection is often a matter of life and death, and the patterns and colors are dictated by the environment where troops expect to operate.

Some work better than others, but all patterns are designed to help troops blend in with their surroundings.


5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

British Soldiers use a compound as shelter during an operation in Afghanistan.

(Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wiepen)

1. Desert camouflage

Desert camouflage has gone through a host of updates since the war in Iraq began, in an effort to make troops harder to spot in sandy and dusty environments there.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to Marines during a town hall in Shorab, Afghanistan, June 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

2. US Marines wear a digital pattern with small pixels.

MARPAT, as the camo pattern is known, is widely viewed as one of the best concealment patterns because of the small, digitized pixels.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

US and Romanian soldiers discuss an operation during a multinational exercise in Poland in June 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Hubert Delany)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

A Russian soldier participates in an exercise in February 2018 in Belarus.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Dutch troops pictured during NATO exercise Trident Juncture.

(Photo by Hille Hillinga)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Belgian and German soldiers conduct weapons proficiency training in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.

(Allied Joint Force Command Naples)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Sailors from the HMAS Warramunga pictured during an interception of a suspect vessel in the Arabian Sea, where they seized approximately 100kg, or 220 pounds, of heroin.

(LSIS Tom Gibson Royal Australian Navy)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Sailors attached to the USS Blue Ridge fire M16 rifles during qualification training at Camp Fuji.

(Photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Ethan Carter)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Army students in a cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Army students in cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

A camouflaged Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle sits under a tree in Poland.

(Photo by Spc. CaShaunta Williams)

11. Militaries have creative ways of concealing vehicles, like this infantry carrier.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most recent Korean War remains are close to a final ID

In defusing tensions between the United States and North Korea in 2018, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un returned the remains of 55 allied troops, kept by the North for the previous 65 years or more. Almost 7,700 members of the United States Military remain unidentified from the Korean War, which killed more than 36,000.


North Korea returned the remains in July 2018 after a historic summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. It was a first for a sitting President to meet the reclusive leader of North Korea and a first for the North Korean dictator to meet with a non-Chinese foreign leader outside of the Hermit Kingdom.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Transfer cases, containing the remains of what are believed to be U.S. service members lost in the Korean War, line a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

Unidentified remains were transferred from the United Nations Command in South Korea to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the team that manages the repatriation of American war dead, identifies them, and ensures they are returned to their families for a proper burial. They were received in an “honorable carry” ceremony in Hawaii.

The only personal item returned by North Korea that could identify any of the remains was the dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. It was the first of such returns since President George W. Bush halted the cooperation with North Korea in 2005.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

An honor guard detail of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command personnel conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

DPAA’s mission is to search for, find, and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable.

The recently recovered remains have been mostly identified. The lab responsible is still finalizing the process and doing one last quality check before telling the families of the fallen. Master Sgt. McDaniel’s family has already received his dog tags, along with the hope that their long-lost father is among the honored dead on their way home. Only three others have been positively identified thus far.

Trump and Kim are expected to meet again in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unguarded: The raw truth of CPT Florent Groberg’s unexpected bravery

The sacrifice of a Soldier is not measured by the medals he wears. The unfathomable courage in a split second is when the real sacrifice is made. Bravery is cultivated in the most critical hours of our lives; in a decision that is often not intentional, but innate.


For CPT (RET) Florent Groberg, his hardest battle came after the fight. August 8, 2012, changed his life forever. Eight seconds was the only separation between life and death. From this tragedy rose a man who is fiercely passionate about leadership, mental health advocacy and sharing stories about the heroes we’ve lost. But those eight seconds took something from him. Here is the story of CPT Groberg’s unexpected bravery.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

In an interview with We Are The Mighty, Groberg said, “After the ceremonies, the awards and the newly acquired celebrity, I was alone. My new life was hard. Being in the hospital was hard. The surgeries, the pain and the lack of sleep and privacy only made matters worse. For years I wasn’t myself. I was angry that I was alive. I survived, and my brothers didn’t. They were leaders that had families. Kennedy had a wife and one-year-old twins. I was single. I had no one, only survivor’s guilt. Four of my brothers were killed that day: August 8, 2012.

“The day started off as normal, well, as normal as it can be downrange. We were headed to a meeting in the governor’s province. This was a green zone, so not much ever happened there. I was working as the security detachment commander. The task was simple: Get everyone to and from the meeting safely. Easy enough, right? Our team proceeded to travel outside of the wire. We were carrying high ranking officials that day, so of course, precautionary safety measures were in place.

“As we traveled further outside of the wire, I received notification that the security detail at our arriving destination had dispersed. This left me with an eerie feeling. Two motorcycles approached our convoy on the bridge. I noticed a structure to the left … someone was standing there. As the motorcycles stopped, the drivers dismounted and began to flee. The person near the building began walking toward us.

“He had on a suicide vest.

“I ran toward him, to keep him away from the others. SGT Mahoney helped me. [The bomber] detonated his vest. The blast sent me flying. Another bomber was near and prematurely detonated his device. I was severely wounded, but alive.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

“Lying in the hospital, I replayed the scenario over and over. Wondering what I could’ve done differently to save my brothers. I was heavily medicated and suicidal. My brain became my own worst enemy. I felt like a failure. I didn’t feel worthy of being alive. I wasn’t myself. My thoughts were constantly racing. I needed out.

“I learned a lot about myself during those two years. I learned that anyone is susceptible to PTS and it’s okay to be vulnerable. We just don’t have to hold onto those thoughts. During my hospital stay, Travis Mills visited me and reminded me of my purpose. I needed that. I had a new mission — honoring my brothers by telling the stories of their bravery. In order to understand true patriotism, we must be willing to forgo our personal needs and put our country first. I did that. Not for a medal. I was just doing my job. I was willing to fight for what I was proud of.”

On November 12, 2015, CPT Florent Groberg was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama, in a White House ceremony. In the ceremony, President Obama said, “On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best. That’s the nature of courage — not being unafraid, but confronting fear and danger and performing in a selfless fashion. He showed his guts, he showed his training; how he would put it all on the line for his teammates. That’s an American we can all be grateful for.”

Countless veterans, service members and civilians agree. Krista Simpson, who lost her husband SSGT Michael Simpson recently had the opportunity to hear CPT Groberg speak at the Military Influencer Conference. Her reaction to his speech was profound. “There is something so remarkable about a leader who has the courage and intelligence to allow his people to guide him through something that can be life or death,” she said. “The humbling honor to serve his country wasn’t lost on Medal of Honor recipient, CPT Florent Groberg from the moment he put on the uniform.

“I sat in the audience watching this brave man downplay the highest honor our country awards a soldier with deep admiration. He hates being called a hero. Flo believes the heroes are the families of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. He acknowledged that there were families missing out on a life with their loved ones. Tears streamed down my face as he looked at me, nodding in recognition for the final sacrifice my husband, SSG Michael H. Simpson, made May 1, 2013. It’s men like Flo and our great nation that ignite the pride I have for his sacrifice.”

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

CPT Groberg was medically retired, awarded the medal of honor and wrote a book about his experience: 8 Seconds to Courage: Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. He’s involved with organizations like Bravo Sierra, which helps strengthen the physical and mental wellness of current service members and veterans. CPT Groberg advocates for the mental well-being of our service members. If you are struggling with something, please speak up. CPT Groberg has a few suggestions on how you can remain mentally resilient during tough times.

For Troops:

  1. Go have a conversation with someone you trust.
  2. Don’t go through it alone. Keeping it in only leads to negative consequences.
  3. Remember: It’s okay to be hurt. Take responsibility for your healing, get help.

For Commanders:

  1. Don’t be judgemental. Listen to your troops. Understand the cause of their discord.
  2. Continue to evaluate the mental well-being of your troops. Incorporate training that will help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Talk about TBIs, PTS and life after war.
  3. Remember: Not every individual suffers the same. No one solution will fix it all. Be vigilant but remain open.

And as CPT Groberg so aptly stated, “There is an opportunity to strengthen our troops. Banding together will make us healthier and a stronger fighting force. Turn the lessons from failed missions into paths that lead to success.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 more uniform parts hipsters would love — now that PT belts are cool

As if civilian fashion statements couldn’t be any more incomprehensible, Urban Outfitters has planted its own ludicrous flag into the fashion world with their newest accessory: a $30 highlighter-yellow, reflective belt. You know, the exact same type used by troops all over the world since the early ’90s.

At first, this news might confuse and frustrate you — it’s not stolen valor, but it’s definitely appropriation. Then, it’ll dawn on you: the fools who buy this belt are literally spending $30 on a product that you can buy for $8 at the PX. So, in a way, who can blame Urban Outfitters? Who wouldn’t want to pick up a few and sell them, making a cool $20 profit each?

Hell, we all have tough boxes full of a bunch of old uniform parts that hipsters would pay out the ass to own. The Afghanistan dust just adds character. It’s like the “distressed” or “worn-out” look that’s apparently a thing. Well, try these on for size:


5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Enjoy it! You won’t be wearing that thing until you retire.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus)

Boonie caps

Everyone loves their boonie cap when they get issued one. Then, when they deploy, they quickly realize that they’re in a unit that doesn’t allow them to wear it. Occasionally, you’ll see some other soldier wearing it at one of the bigger, POGgier air bases, but that’s still not you.

Troops only really get the chance to wear them when they’re out of the service and decorate it with whatever kind of pins they can attribute to their military career. Hipsters love decorating their junk with more junk.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

The leather shells can withstand countless air assault missions and not rip. The inserts can barely keep the wind out.

Glove inserts

Hipsters go apesh*t over worthless things that seem (and are) cheaply made. There’s nothing more worthless and cheaply made than a 2nd Lt with a map those lime-green inserts that are supposed to be worn inside of actually-useful leather gloves.

In fact, those inserts are so garbage that soldiers will often find a different pair of gloves that are “in regulation” just to avoid having to wear anything that requires these things. To make matters worse, no one ever buys them, but we all have at least five spares that magically appeared on our CIF gear lists.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Feels like I’m wearing nothing at all. Nothing at all. Nothing at all. Nothing at all. Nothing at all…

(Ranger Up)

Ranger panties

Hipsters love wearing things ironically. There’s nothing veterans wear more ironically than the ranger panties that leave barely anything to the imagination.

Ranger panties are perfect for everything! You can run in them. You can sleep in them. You can go to the beach in them. You can slack off on the couch and watch Netflix because you’ve become fat and lazy since you got your DD-214 in them. You can even go hiking in them!

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Thankfully, the two socks in each pair change color at about the same rate.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brian A. Barbour)

Green knee-high socks

As mentioned above, the magnitude of one’s hipsteriness is defined by how “rustic” their clothing looks. That’s why they’ll dress like lumberjacks despite having never touched an axe.

That means they’re chomping at the bit for any piece of clothing that starts to wear out after a single day! Luckily for all you hipsters out there, these green socks turn puke yellow after just one wear. Now that’s efficiency!

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

“Oh, god. Is Lieutenant Carl still trying to do the whole Batman thing?” — “Yeah, just ignore him and it’ll stop…”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Mess dress cape

Hipsters must go overboard with everything they wear — otherwise, they won’t get enough attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s the dead of summer, they’ll still wear a cardigan with a loud scarf. They keep beanies securely affixed to their heads until they’ve grown enough hair to sport a man bun.

Why not add the most over-the-top piece of an officer’s uniform? You know, that cape they’ve all secretly purchased but won’t dare wearing to the unit ball?

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Obviously a picture of them in the bag. The internet couldn’t handle the raw sexual energy that these things exude when worn by a model.

(Exchange)

Those sexy AF military-issued skivvies

For some reason, hipsters always seem to dress like it’s laundry day. For the troops, laundry day is the only time that anyone would ever dare to put on these bad boys.

I mean, who doesn’t want to prove their manliness by having their genitals rubbed up against sandpaper all day?

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Except this guy. He managed to pull the look off. But you are not this guy, so you can’t.

(Tennessee State Archives)

GI glasses

I’d love to make some funny, sort of ironic joke about hipsters wanting to wear the BCGs — but that’s almost exactly the type of glasses that they actually wear, whether they need prescription lenses or not.

When troops who wear glasses get to their first unit, they immediately toss their up-armored eyewear and carry on wearing whatever else. Barely anyone in the history of these damned glasses has looked good in them — but for some reason, hipsters think they cracked the code.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This rare Army award is given to aviators who expertly crash

The military has a lot of official and unofficial awards for when tragedy strikes. Soldiers saved by their helmets often receive sections of the helmet after it is studied. Troops hit by enemy weapons get Purple Hearts. And aviators flying for the Army are awarded “Broken Wings” when they manage to avoid a crash or crash safely when tragedy strikes in mid-flight.


The Broken Wing Award dates back to March 1968, and it has been awarded to hundreds of air crewmembers and pilots for avoiding crashes or minimizing the damage resulting from them.

Avoiding crashes may sound easy, but the award is given for serious crises like in 1987 when two OH-6 helicopters crashed in midair and Hugh D. Odum, a warrant officer, saved his bird alongside Warrant Officer Mark Desjardins.

In 2016, Navy aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon became the first sailor to earn the award when she took part in a training flight with an Army pilot. They were practicing an exercise on just one engine in a UH-60L Black Hawk when that engine failed, and the helicopter began to fall at almost 12,000 feet per minute. In that emergency, the two pilots had to take turns taking certain actions to save it, but they managed to do so in the only five seconds they had to avoid a deadly crash.

The award is typically given for in-flight emergencies caused by mechanical failure or environmental factors, though the guidelines for it do say that enemy action isn’t a disqualifier. While receiving the award is considered an honor, it’s not something anyone hopes for.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presents the U.S. Army Broken Wing Award to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff.

(Collin Magonigal, RTC)

“I appreciate the award,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Hagerty while receiving the award for saving his helicopter after a cardboard box went through the engine. “I don’t think I want to earn another one though.”

The helicopter had suffered engine failure, and the pilots had to carefully tip the helicopter over a cliff and then use the speed and power from the fall to reach a safe landing spot and do a “roll-on landing” where they have no power left to flare and hover, so they touchdown and roll to a stop instead. So, a controlled crash off of a cliff. No one wants that.

And no pilot wants to face any of the situations that result in a Broken Wing Award nomination. Not the crash off the cliff, not the midair power failure that Gordon suffered, not the midair crash that Odum and Desjardins survived.

The Army gives out the award about 12 to 15 times per year. According to Army Safety, the criteria are:

An aircrew member must, through outstanding airmanship, minimize or prevent aircraft damage or injury to personnel during an emergency situation. Aircrew member must have shown extraordinary skill while recovering an aircraft from an in-flight emergency situation. If more than one crewmember materially contributed to successful recovery from the emergency, each of those involved should be considered for nomination.

Each in-flight save by Army aviators represents lives saved and airframes preserved. Obviously, the lives are more important than the helicopters, and occasional plane (the Army has very few planes, so the award naturally goes predominantly to helicopter pilots), but each helicopter saved does represent millions of dollars saved by the Army.

It’s the award no one wants to earn, the Army doesn’t want to have to give out, but each time an aviator gets their broken wings, lives are saved, and aircraft stay in the fleet.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is conquering adversity and extreme sports

In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.

As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.

On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.


Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.

Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.

In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.

When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”

In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.

Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN

www.youtube.com

As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.

From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How pilot training has changed over the years

Pilot training is constantly changing to ensure students have an environment where they not only learn to fly, but to adapt and quickly out-think their enemies.

With senior leadership making innovation a priority, the Air Force has changed how airmen are trained and how they become proficient at their jobs. This in turn has changed the way the Air Force develops pilots and what pilot training currently looks like.

For instance, pilot training currently consists of three phases starting with the academic and simulator phase. After the academic phase, student pilots are sent to train in the T-6A Texan II, the primary training aircraft.

Once the students complete the second phase, they are selected for either the airlift/tanker track in the T-1A Jayhawk, or the fighter/bomber track in the T-38C Talon.


“When I went through pilot training in the late 1960s, we started off flying the Cessna T-41 Mescalero for six weeks, the T-37 Tweet for five months and finished training in the T-38 Talon for a total of 52 weeks of training,” said Jim Faulkner, Vance Air Force Base, a graduate of pilot training, class of 1968.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

U.S. Air Force Cessna T-41 Mescalero.

Although students in the 1960s and students today reach the same goal, there have been adjustments made over the course of time to focus pilots on mastering the specific style of aircraft they will fly once training has finished.

In addition to changes in the training aircraft, there have been technological advancements to improve the way students operate an aircraft.

“We had simulators, but the concepts that they covered were limited and did not give us any visual aids to look at while training,” said Jim Mayhall, pilot training graduate, class of 1967.

In the same way that older generations used simulators to gather a feel of the aircraft and location of instruments, current students use simulators to familiarize themselves with flying maneuvers and concepts before they reach the cockpit. The changes in technology have the potential to give students more realistic training for what they will experience in the cockpit.

“Being able to gain exposure to 360-degree videos of the local area, patterns and virtual-reality videos saves money and time,” said 1st Lt. Jason Mavrogeorge, 8th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot.

5 ways military families can celebrate the Fourth of July

2nd Lt. Kenneth Gill, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron, and Capt. Peter Shufeldt, an instructor pilot assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron, start up the T-6 Texan II before take-off, May 2, 2019, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft the student pilots learn to fly before moving on to other aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Zoe T. Perkins)

“Students should have seen the arrivals, departures and instrument approaches before their first flight,” Mavrogeorge said. “Giving the students more flying experience gives them confidence and allows me to enhance their flying skills as an instructor.”

Similar to the technological changes made within pilot training, there have been changes in monitoring the safety of pilots while flying.

The safety standards did not require pilots to wear a G-suit in the T-37 Tweet. When the T-37 was replaced with the more maneuverable T-6A Texan II, pilots were required to wear a G-suit during flight to prevent the possibility of losing consciousness.

All the great changes and advancements in pilot training are possible thanks to those who laid the groundwork and figured out what to avoid.

“The only thing that remains constant in the Air Force pilot training program is that we will continue to produce great Air Force aviators and future leaders,” Mayhall said.

Vance trains more than 350 pilots a year, totaling over 34,000 since pilot training began in 1941.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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