In a perfect world, you’d have a squad of hardcore and dedicated troops to your left and your right who you can count on to always have your six. For the most part, this is true. Your standard squad within the military is a ragtag group of misfits who are ready to kick ass and take names.
But there’s always that one guy who’s just there. Everyone else is close knit but, for whatever reason, while everyone begrudgingly accepts that guy in an official capacity as technically one of them, you’re unlikely to see anyone invite that person out for a beer on the weekends.
Now, nobody’s perfect. And someone in your squad might exhibit a couple of the following traits and still be cool with everyone. But we can all admit that there are some troops who’ve stepped over the line into being plain annoying — and they typically fall under one or more of the categories:
“Oh, wow! Your feet are hurting on this ruck march? No way! You’re literally the only person that that has ever happened to!”
Give this person a brick of solid gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy. They never see the good in any situation and they’re constantly reminding everyone that they’re out of their comfort zone.
Even just yelling at this person to stop whining starts getting on peoples’ nerves after a while.
“Stop trying to get ahead in your career! You’re making us all look bad!”
The Captain America
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be the best at any given thing. PT standards are meant to be exceeded and rule-abiding troops are rarely going to bring the hammer down on the rest of you. But there’s something about this person that just makes everyone else just look bad.
You may not be doing anything wrong, but you’re hot garbage compared to this guy. The “Captain America” of your squad is the type of person that the chain of command points to and says, “why can’t you guys be more like him/her?”
“As seen in their natural habitat, this brown-noser has gone a step too far.”
While Captain America is great and the command knows it, the brown-noser is ate-the-f*ck-up and still tries to make everyone think they’re on Cap’s level.
Given even the most minor of accomplishments, this dude is trying to show off to the world. Any mistake and they’re trying to brush it under the rug or shovel it onto someone else.
This guy lives by the “Army of One” mentality. It’s one thing for a troop to be quiet and shy around the rest of the squad, but this guy makes it a point to show he’s above hanging out with you lot.
Paradoxically, this guy is also the one person trying to make everyone look at him when he does something good and expects a ticker-tape parade in his honor.
“Can you schedule that wisdom tooth removal for the 17th? We’re going to the field soon.”
The escape artist
There’s not a single soul in the U.S. military that enjoys the pointless details that just keep everyone under the eye of the first sergeant until close-of-business formation. No one’s special and you can’t wiggle out of it — except this guy somehow.
They always have an ace up their sleeve. One day it’s dental, another it’s finance, and the next it’s some nondescript family emergency. For some reason, these things only manage to crop up when there’s a detail coming up. Their goldfish never needs to go to the vet when fun stuff is going down…
“As my first sergeant once said; You can either be smart or strong in this Army. The choice is yours.”
The “can’t get right”
Bless this troop’s heart. They aren’t inherently a bad troop, they’re just… stupid.
They’ll give their all and have the best of intentions, but they’re just not cut out for the intense lifestyle of the military. They wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t dead weight that everyone else needs to carry.
The Blue Falcon
F*ck this guy. The rest of the troops on this list can be forgiven if they’re genuinely pleasant to be around or can occasionally bring the funny. These f**kers have no remorse about intentionally screwing over their battle buddies and will throw anyone under the bus if it means personal gain.
Anyone can be accepted into the team if they’re willing to try to be a team player — except these f*cks.
Ah, another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. By law of averages, at least a few people somewhere in the military spent a nice evening with the person they genuinely love. The rest of us are in the field, deployed, or stationed god-knows-how-far away from our beloved.
Sure, sure. Many of those in the military marry extremely young and the spouse is often quick to put eighty-seven bumper stickers on the minivan saying they have the hardest job in the military… But on Valentine’s Day, we can let them pretend being bored, worried, and lonesome during a deployment is more difficult than serving as a nuclear submarine’s engine mechanic. After all, military spouses do put up with a lot of our sh*t, so one day with an inflated ego is fine.
Anyways. Knowing the average memer is probably stuck in the barracks and taking Hooter’s up on their order of free buffalo wings for single people, here’re some memes to take your mind off the crippling loneliness. Enjoy!
We’re nearing the middle of January, and chances are your new year’s resolution is already feeling like a bit of a battle. Resolutions are a helpful tool for testing ourselves and improving our willpower, but if you’re having a really hard time sticking to your new vow, you might be better off giving up.
Psychologist Niels Eék, the cofounder of mental health and wellbeing app Remente, told Insider resolutions can offer us direction if we’re suffering from end of year anxiety about what we actually achieved in the previous 12 months, and making clear future goals can really help us focus.
“The extent to which resolutions can help you will depend on your personality, though,” he said. “Consider if having a deadline and an annual roadmap is a good motivator for you, or if it will make you procrastinate and stress. If it’s the latter, new year’s resolutions might not be for you.”
“The joke is supported by the advertising industrial complex, which sees a huge increase in the sale of diet products and gym memberships every January,” she said. “So if you make a resolution on New Year’s Day only to forget about it three weeks later, you are the rule, not the exception.”
Many people set resolutions that they’re simply not going to stick to, like signing up for a marathon when they’ve never put on a pair of running shoes in their life.
According to Statista, the most common resolutions include “exercise more” and “lose weight,” but only about a quarter of people are actually able to keep them. Eék said this is because it requires a lot of effort to change habits that are ingrained in us.
“To succeed, you not only need to keep your own motivation intact, you will also need to consider the environment you live in, the company you keep, and your day-to-day routines,” he said. “For instance, if your resolution is to ‘lose weight,’ going on a diet might work for a little while until your cravings take over.”
Being clear about why you’ve made certain resolutions also helps in the fight against losing interest. If it’s something based on what you want, not what other people and society think you should do, there’s a much better chance you’ll persist with it.
To give up or not to give up?
Daniel said if a resolution doesn’t come from the heart, it’s not going to stick.
“Making extreme commitments on a specified holiday because popular culture prescribes it is not a firm foundation for that intention to take root,” she said. “Instead, consider making simple resolutions every day or every hour about small things that are easy to manage.”
For example, try starting every day with the intention of counting to ten before you react to an annoying coworker. Or pick things you can improve at over time, like being a better listener, driving more carefully, or watching less tv news.
Resolutions are supposed to be a challenge, and when life throws you a curveball, it’s all part of the fun, Eék said.
“Expect setbacks and disappointments along the way,” he said. “If you stay focused and inspired, though, I’m sure you’ll achieve your goal before the year is over.”
“As such, setting a goal can have a powerful effect on the brain as it can trick the brain into believing it has already accomplished the goal, making your desired outcome part of the brain’s self-image,” Eék said. “This is what makes goal-setting such a powerful tool.”
On the other hand, this means your brain can be your harshest critic, he said, which makes it even more disappointing if your resolution isn’t going to plan.
“By not meeting your goal, your brain will react as if you have taken something away that it already had and, therefore, will become upset and react by cutting off your supply of dopamine [the feel-good hormone],” Eék said. “Feelings of anger, disappointment, and embarrassment may arise instead.”
It’s likely you’ll hit a wall at some point, which means it could be time to readjust. But if you’ve reflected on why you’re not succeeding, made some changes, and you still don’t feel any motivation whatsoever, then it might be time to throw in the towel.
These are some tell-tale signs you should give up on your resolution:
You’ve lost sight of why you decided to do it in the first place.
You keep thinking that you “should” instead of “want” to keep going.
Your plans have changed and your resolution no longer fits in.
It’s negatively affecting your mental health.
Essentially, if you’ve lost sight of the point of the resolution you made, it’s making you feel like a miserable failure, and it’s getting in the way of you achieving anything else, then you should give yourself a break.
“Remember, at the end of the day, a resolution is there to help you, not to cripple you,” said Eék. “If it’s continuously doing the latter, simply let it go.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The success of Operation Overlord, the Battle of Normandy that established a bridgehead on the continent for the Allies, required everyone to do their part. Even the people of occupied France had a role to play, and theirs was as significant as the men who landed on the beaches.
One Special Forces officer, Cpt. Joseph Ivanov, wants to help their stories live on for the next generation by erecting a monument to them.
The idea came to him after watching a documentary about the dedication of a monument to Operation Neptune in 2012. Neptune was the code name of the seaborne invasion of Normandy that began on Jun. 6, 1944. As a member of Special Forces, Ivanov sees the French Resistance as an essential part of special warfare’s history and development. He was surprised to find no memorial existed in their home country to commemorate their role in Operation Overlord.
“It’s like 67 years later, they put a monument at Utah Beach to commemorate Operation Neptune, what the Navy did,” he told journalist Jeff Stoller. “How did we go so long without paying a tribute to these men and women?”
French Resistance fighters were also known as the French Forces of the Interior or the Maquis, depending on where you sat in the Allied chain of command. They were resistance cells and guerrilla fighters made up of men, women and even children who actively worked against occupying German troops and Vichy French collaborators.
They were everything the Nazis hated, from academics to Communists, French Nationalists to Catholics, Protestants, even Jews. To facilitate the D-Day landings that closed out WWII, the Resistance conducted intelligence gathering on German troop movements and fortifications as well as sabotage raids on critical infrastructure.
To pay homage to those who fought in the Resistance during Operation Overlord, Ivanov first contacted Steven Spears, who created the Operation Neptune memorial at Utah Beach. The artist excitedly designed a monument that features three figures around a bicycle, each representing an aspect of the resistance, the guerrillas, the auxiliary, and the underground.
In the design is a middle-aged man with a rifle, who represents the guerrillas. Next to him is a boy on the bicycle who represents the auxiliary. The third figure is a woman handing out a communication, representing the underground.
Once the scale model design was carved, the two reached out to Operation Democracy, a nonprofit whose goal is to strengthen the historic and necessary bonds of friendship between France and the United States through significant educational projects. Operation Democracy offered its organization as a means for the effort to take tax-free donations toward the construction of the monument.
Ivanov paid for the work himself up to this point, and hopes to raise enough money to finish a full-scale construction and ship it to Normandy in time for it to be dedicated on the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June 2021.
Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.
Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.
“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.
At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.
Pay off your loans faster
At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.
Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.
Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.
Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.
Continue your education
Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.
We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.
Enjoy other generous benefits
In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.
Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.
Other perks include:
Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
A robust federal retirement package.
Work at VA
Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.
Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.
A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.
(U.S. Air Force)
The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.
The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.
“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.
(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)
Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.
“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.
But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.
When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’
How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.
While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.
He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.
“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.
The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).
Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:
You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’
They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.
Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.
Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.
Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.
The tradition of naming major operations with an inspiring name is relatively new considering the long history of warfare. Battles and conflicts before 1918 are titled after a city or territory: The Battle of this, The Siege of that, or The Third battle of this and that. In 1918, the central powers launched Operation Fist Punch and were able to capture the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine from the Russian Bolsheviks. Over the course of 11 days the Russians surrendered and highlighted the merits of naming offensive operations with a name. From this point forward commanders around the world contemplated giving operations proper names.
The World Wars made it a thing
During World War I Germany favored naming operations over radio communications to maintain secrecy. When we fast forward to World War II the naming of operations had evolved. The Nazi empire, armed with the newly forged weapon of propaganda, blazed across Europe with the intent of intimidating allied forces and inspiring support for the war in Berlin. However, the allies had their own champions such as Frank Capra, to counter the Nazi’s Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the will. While the media giants battled on the silver screen to win the hearts of the civilians at home, allied commanders debated, agreed, and named operations to maintain operational security and motivate the troops conducting them. For example, the British launched Operation Chronometer in 1941 to capture the port city of Assab on the west coast of the Red Sea. On the American front, operations follow a color code prior to 1943.
Winston Churchill is the grandfather of modern ops names
The turning point for the Pentagon on the subject of operational names came when Winston Churchill petitioned a better way of naming them. He convinced allied high command that they should change the name of Operation Soapsuds, the bombing raid of Romanian oil fields, to Operation Tidal Wave. At the time British commanders were vulnerable to committing their troops to comical names he outlined three clear guidelines:
1. Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency. They ought not to be names of a frivolous character. They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, names of living people, ministers and commanders should be avoided.
2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called “Bunnyhug” or “Ballyhoo.”
3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.
The U.S. adapted to use nouns and adjectives for operations consistently afterwards. With success gaining momentum in both the European and Pacific theaters, the importance of good sounding names grows as well. America did have some proper sounding names that obscured the mission such as the Manhattan Project in 1941. America had parallel thinking with Britain, it just needed a little nudge to cross over.
The U.S. is the current champion of Badass Operation Names
The allies had Operation OVERLORD for the D-Day invasion and Operation Downfall, the proposed invasion of Japan. Among the sea of operational names that sprouted from the war, it had become an American tradition to pick awe inspiring names for operations of future wars. Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom – Americans are the best at it. Our secret ingredient is a little computer system, NICKA. It that tracks the names of code words, exercises, and nicknames to ensure they are not duplicated. The task of new names falls upon commanders at the highest levels. The pentagon chooses first and second words for an operation dictated by OPNAVINST 5511.37D in three steps:
First, Permanent First Word Assignment. Major users are permanently assigned first words in enclosure (1) to avoid duplication. Applicable activities shall use these for all originating nicknames/exercise terms. Authorized Navy first words are chosen from blocks of letters assigned to Navy, listed in enclosure (1). All nicknames which are exercise terms will follow the criteria for propriety given in subparagraph 7d.
Second, Requests for first word assignments will be made in writing by the initiating activity (see paragraph 9a) to CNO (N30P), who will ensure its validity. Nicknames/exercise terms must be approved before use. CNO (N30P) is the approving authority.
Third, Second Word Assignment. The second word is used in combination with the permanently assigned first word to identify a specific nickname/exercise term. Users with first, word assignments can suggest a second word to CNO (N30P) in writing. All second words must be approved by CNO (N30P) before use. Unlike first words, second words are not restricted by alphabet. The first and second words combined must meet criteria in subparagraph 7d.
For decades the U.S. has had names that get the juices flowing. Operation Red Dawn was the prelude to the toppling of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein. Operation Urgent Fury served to make an example of the island nation of Grenada. It was getting too close for comfort with the Soviet Union. The millennial generation has Operation Phantom Fury, the Battle for Fallujah. There are still more blank pages in the book of history with room for future wars. Rising tensions in the South China Sea may call upon the pentagon once again to come up with a name. This time to liberate the pacific, only time will tell what it may be.
When was the last time you sat around the campfire with civilians who support the military, current military personnel serving in our armed forces as well as our veteran community to share like-minded stories, help support each other and bring honor to those who served? Well, if you said never, then now is your chance. Ruck ‘N’ Run®, created by Army Drill Sergeant George Fuller, wants you to know that if your interest is in uniting with those who stand behind veterans, raise money for those in need and reduce the over-commercialization of current military holidays that may have lost some of their message, you can now be a part of providing help. “We all race together and then celebrate our hard work together around the fire pit,” Fuller said. “It’s a big part of our logo and very unique to our events.”
Ruck ‘N’ Run was born out of a desire to Honor, Build and Connect, or HBC for short. “We honor those who served, build camaraderie and connect the community and do so through challenges, events and gatherings that help to support a good cause.” Those who participate in either the annual event or the monthly challenges that take place both physically and virtually, have the ability to complete challenges, earn awards, and most importantly, become connected with those who support the mission.
“Our annual boot camp inspired walk/run allows the general public to interact with those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Fuller explained. “This is our original and main event held on the Saturday before Veterans Day, on location in Republic, MO.” Our Shadow (virtual) events allow the world to participate”. Honor, Build and Connect, was created to bring those in the military a reminder of why we serve, but also to our veterans the ability to further connect with those both in and outside of the military as well as connect the communities in a way not seen before in other events. “We connect the community through fun, motivating, yet challenging events,” Fuller said. “We also connect the community for a greater purpose and one that is in need now more than ever.”
Raising funds for the “In Their Honor” fund helps to provide assistance to families of U.S. service members that pass away. This can help offset the cost of food, lodging, transportation and other unforeseen, incurred expenses. This is different than any other form of military assistance or aid provided today and one that sets Ruck ‘N’ Run as a front runner in aiding veterans in need. While the worldwide pandemic looms on, there are still those who serve and need our help. “As we continue to support our nation abroad, there are those who make the ultimate sacrifice and we need to help the families get back on their feet during these times.”
While we are able to raise money to help and bring about more focus to this need, the ability to gather has diminished greatly and we need to be aware that these needs still exist. With the expansion and growth of our monthly virtual offerings and shadow events to include new team based challenges, we have been able to raise considerably more money and awareness but there is always more help that is needed. “As more and more people seek online ways to help, the ability to join a Ruck ‘N’ Run event and be able to Honor, Build and Connect has become even easier as we have expanded our offerings of challenges which will not only help to honor those who served, but raise funds to help families for the ‘In Their Honor’ fund. Most importantly, it offers a way to stay (and remain) connected to active military, veterans and civilians looking to build, help and support each other,” Fuller said. “Please consider joining our mission; we look forward to connecting with you”.
If you are interested in joining an event with Ruck ‘N’ Run®, visit the website for more details.
Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. Everyone knows that they have their own office in the battalion building and troops are generally aware that their door is intentionally left open, figuratively and often literally, but that’s about the extent of most troops’ interactions with them.
While it is true that one of their primary purposes is to provide religious aid to their troops, they offer the troops of their battalion much more.
Chaplains also provide services for the fallen, in whatever faith the troop held in life.
As odd as it may sound for troops who sport religious symbols on their uniforms, chaplains aren’t supposed to prioritize their own faith over any other. Simply put, a chaplain who is of a particular denomination must be well-versed in many religions so they can provide support to those of other faiths. For example, it’s not uncommon for a Christian chaplain to be knowledgeable on how to welcome a Shabbat for troops of Jewish faith.
Chaplains can accommodate the religious needs of troops but they aren’t allowed to proselytize (attempt to convert) any troop. When it comes to getting troops to attend services, they’re not allowed to do much outside of making a service schedule known. These restrictions on converting are essential to maintaining trust between troops and chaplain. A trust that must exist for chaplains to perform their other role: being the battalion’s first stop for mental, emotional, and moral support.
Entirely from personal experience, chaplains (or more likely, their assistants) seem to be the only ones in the unit who know how to make a decent cup of coffee. But if that’s what it takes to get someone who needs to talk in the door, it’s a good thing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Herrick)
Just as with a civilian religious leader, the unit’s chaplain is covered under clergy-penitent privilege. This means that anything that a troop tells the chaplain will be kept in confidence between the two (unless the information exchanged presents a clear and immediate danger). Chaplains are also not allowed to turn anyone away, so a troop could, theoretically, step into a chaplain’s office and rant to their heart’s content — and the chaplain will listen to every word.
Chaplains are there to assist with crises of faith, relationship issues, problems at work, and even things that could be legally held against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. More recently, chaplains have played an essential role in suicide prevention, too.
But if you wanted to talk religion with them, they’ll definitely have some advice for you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert)
No matter how bad things get, the chaplain will always be there. In fact, they aren’t allowed to stop you from talking to them, even if you’re going on for hours. They can offer aid and support for many matters, but they aren’t allowed to openly discuss your issues with anyone — no matter the circumstances. And they can quietly steer the troop toward proper help, if a troop so desires.
They offer this to every troop in the unit, all without a mention of religion.
The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.
Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.
Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.
With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.
WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?
Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.
WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?
Tess:I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.
WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?
Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.
Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.
WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.
Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.
WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?
Tess: I got hurt.
WATM: You got hurt?
Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.
WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?
Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.
WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?
Tess:I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.
WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?
Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.
WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.
Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.
WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?
Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.
WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?
Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.
WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?
Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.
WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?
Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.
WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?
Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.
WATM: And children?
Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.
WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?
Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.
WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?
Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.
WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?
Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.
WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?
Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.
WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families
Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.
When you’re sitting by the fire with a cup of cocoa, a white Christmas sounds heavenly. When you’re at war, it’s a different story. During Washington’s camp at Valley Forge, roughly 12,000 continentals wintered in ragged huts. The frigid temperatures resulted in frequent bouts of disease, especially since many of the soldiers were lacking in proper clothing. Some weren’t fit for service at all, their bare feet leaving bloody footprints in the snow. It wouldn’t be the last time that American soldiers battled the elements. During the Civil War, the Union army confronted the Confederates on the Ozark Plateau in the cold of winter. The Confederates retreated, but the Union army gave chase. Mid-pursuit, the weather took a turn for the worst, and both armies were engulfed in a storm of snow and sleet.
So what’s the deal with this fluffy white stuff that can cause so much trouble? How does it work? Interestingly, snow isn’t as self-explanatory as you’d think. Keep reading for some of the most surprising tidbits about nature’s chilliest, prettiest form of precipitation.
The hush of falling snow is a real thing. A blanket of freshly fallen snow actually absorbs sound waves quite effectively, which is why a snowy night seems a little quieter than usual. Strangely, winter weather can also amplify sound, leading to lingering echoes through the treetops. When the snow melts and refreezes, it turns into ice. Instead of absorbing sound like snow, ice reflects it! Pretty cool, huh?
Snow is white…or is it? Snowcapped peaks look pretty darn white, but snow is actually colorless. The clear flakes scatter light in all directions, diffusing the complete color spectrum and making it appear white. That said, snow can take on different hues in different conditions. Environmental pollution and algae can turn snow orange, pink, or even black. Meanwhile, deep snow can absorb more red light than blue, giving it a chilly, bluish tint.
Snow is warm. Sort of. While snow is technically frozen, it traps tons of air as it collects on the ground. 90-95% of fallen snow is actually trapped air, making it a shockingly good insulator. That’s why animals make burrows in the winter, and why igloos aren’t ice cold. The inside of an igloo can stay up to 70 degrees warmer inside than out! Soldiers have also used the insulating power of snow to their advantage. At the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska, the temperatures can reach negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but students learn to survive.
Snowflakes form around a nucleus. While snow doesn’t develop like the cells you read about in 7th-grade biology, they do form around a central particle. A speck of dirt or other microscopic debris becomes the center of each snowflake as it freezes, giving it that classic snowflake shape. This is why snow looks different than hail or sleet, which freeze as they fall without the help of a nucleus. If you look at a snowflake under a strong enough microscope, you can see the material that started it all.
There are over 35 kinds of snowflakes. One scientist named Andy Brunning loved snow so much that he identified as many different types of snowflakes as he could. In total, he found 35 types of snowflakes. He organized these into categories, including germs, rimed, plane, irregular, and column. Which is your favorite?
Snowflakes always have 6 sides. The 8-sided snowflake decorations you found at Homegoods are a lie. The geometry of water molecules makes it impossible for anything but a six-sided ice crystal to form. Not five-sided. Not eight-sided. Six. Get it right, Hallmark.
Snowflakes CAN be identical. If you’ve ever told someone they’re as one of a kind as a snowflake, it might be time to come up with a new compliment. While snowflakes do come in a wide array of shapes and patterns, a scientist named Nancy Knight found two snowflakes that were completely identical. I guess the clouds were expecting twins.
The biggest snowflake recorded was bigger than your head. Unless you have a really big head, that is. The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide! It fell during a winter storm in January 1887 in Fort Keogh, Montana. Some ranch owners there claimed the flakes were as big as milk pans!
It once snowed over 100 inches of snow in a single day. If you love snow, Capracotta, Italy is the place for you. On March 5th, 2015, it snowed 100.8 inches in less than 24 hours. That’s more than eight feet! Italy’s not the only place to get great snow, however. In Washington State, Mount Baker saw the greatest recorded snow in a single season, ringing in at 1,142 inches.
Not all snowstorms are blizzards. You know how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? The same goes for blizzards and snowstorms. All blizzards are snowstorms, but it’s the amount of wind that sets blizzards apart. Snowstorms come with plenty of falling snow, but blizzards take it up a notch with sustained heavy winds or frequent gusts of 25 mph or more.
I love a white Christmas as much as the next guy, but if it’s that stormy out I think I’ll stay inside. Cocoa, anyone?
At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”
Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.
Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.
Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)
Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.
While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)
One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.
Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)
Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.
It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.
After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.
After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.
Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.
World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.
(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.
Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.
It was recently reported that, back in October, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit drank Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, dry when they pulled into port. That’s not an expression or an over exaggeration. They literally drank every last bit of alcohol in the city over the course of their liberty to the point where the town reportedly had troubles restocking for their own citizens.
The most astounding thing about this entire story is that only one young, dumb lance corporal got in trouble for disorderly conduct — and we can only assume they’ve since been Ninja Punched into oblivion. But seriously, I have strong reservations about there only being one drunken problem. You mean to tell me that we can’t throw a barracks party without the MPs getting involved and an entire MEU got sh*tfaced drunk and only a single idiot did anything wrong?
I’m not saying it’s completely impossible — maybe things happened and were simply kept in-house — but if it’s really true and everyone was that well-behaved… BZ. Color me impressed.
To all you troops out there that aren’t that one Marine in Reykjavík, you’ve earned yourselves some memes.