December brings a lot of holiday cheer, but it isn’t the only thing worth getting excited about. Military spouses around the world are all breathing collective sighs of relief that “No shave November” or “Movember” is finally over. It’s also time to finally take the family picture for the holiday card since your hairy honey is finally back to normal. Why do they do it to us? Despite the humor-inducing effects of growing a horrific caterpillar above their lips to creep us out, it’s actually for a really good cause.
After doing some digging, you might change your tune about the ‘stache. The purpose of Movember is to tackle and bring awareness to men’s health issues. It’s also not just a clever phrase, it’s a real thing. The Movember organization is actually a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to preventing the premature death of men from prostate and testicular cancers – as well as suicides. Studies have proven that the life expectancy of men is shorter than that of women’s and Movember aims to change that.
It was started in 2003 by thirty Mo’s (mustaches) and in 2020, it has since grown to a community of 6.6 million men. Since its inception, over 22.6 million people have donated to support the nonprofit organization and their focus on men’s health. Collectively, it has raised $1.16 billion for men’s health causes.
It’s more than growing out the ‘stash that creates cringe worthy pictures. It’s a conversation starter to a more open dialog for men to pay attention to their health. For veterans, this is especially vital. While groups around the world spend November raising money to fund the projects within Movember that support men’s health, one of their biggest focus areas is preventing suicide. This is an issue that is particularly important for the military community especially. Reports alarmingly show that more veterans are losing their lives to suicide than combat related injury.
So, why are men dying before women? There are many reasons that this can be attributed to. But one to pay particular attention to is their reluctance to seek help. Men are less likely to see a doctor or therapist for issues that come up, for a variety of reasons, but one is the mentality of remaining ‘tough’. Movember is about highlighting that caring and doing something about your health is being strong.
While us military spouses will never, ever… evvvvvveerrrr…. truly like Movember, we should complain a little less after reading through this. The dreaded mustache growing season is a month long dedication to ending the stigma around open mental health discussions and to encourage men to prioritize their health. Although we don’t want those ‘stashes sticking around come December 1, we do want them with us as long as possible. Movember – despite the horrific ‘stashes it brings – will help with that. To learn more about Movember and how you can support men’s health issues, click here.
Before he became a No.1 Billboard-charted artist, B. Taylor found success in sports and the military. The Peoria native played football and basketball at the University of Missouri and served in the Navy with distinction. His athleticism persisted into his Navy career and he played on the All Navy and Military Team USA basketball teams. He was later awarded special duty and given an honorary discharge by the Secretary of the Navy in order to pursue his interests in the NFL and music professionally.
B was discovered by the late Pete Moore of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles fame. “I call B. Taylor the ‘Stevie Wonder of Hip Hop’ because of his musicianship and it reminded me of when we, ‘The Miracles,’ discovered Stevie Wonder and brought him to Motown,” said the Motown legend. “B is my swan song.” In addition to Moore and The Miracles, B has been endorsed by The Temptations, The Marvelettes, The Vandellas, The Four Tops, The Gordy Family and even the Cash Family for his musicality and talents as an artist, producer, and songwriter. He has performed for President Bush’s family and President and First Lady Obama. B has also opened for notable entertainers like Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and Ray J.
B earned two Grammy Nomination Considerations in 2012 for his hit single “Fire In Your Eyes.” The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles Sales Chart. The music video for the song features actress Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame. The two met on the show’s set when B was invited to visit by a friend who serves as an adviser to the series. B and Perrette hit it off and Perrette invited him to her church. “She was just so charismatic and had a great spirit,” B said. The time they spent together inspired B to write “Fire In Your Eyes.”
“We were just hanging out afterward at church, playing piano and messing together,” Perrette recalled. The two artists collaborated on the song and music video. “I love his positivity,” Perrette said of B.
B has gone on to find success with appearances on ESPN, Extra and The Insider/Entertainment Tonight. He has been featured in Billboard and Black Radio Exclusive Magazine and wrote a chapter for the best-selling book Professional Performance 360 Special Edition: Success 2nd Edition. His chapter, “1 Life, 1 Miracle,” details his determination to pursue success throughout his athletic, military and music careers.
Though he has found great success as an artist, producer and songwriter, B has not forgotten about his brothers and sisters in uniform. He maintains an active presence in the military community as a Global Ambassador of Music and Entertainment for service members, veterans, first responders and their families. He is also a part of the 1 Life Organization, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat veteran and first responder ailments like PTSD, suicide, homelessness and depression. They do this through a variety of alternative healing therapies like music, arts, sports, and animal therapy programs.
Seeing the division and strife in America today, B decided to use his musical talents to deliver a message of unity and love. His new single, “We Are One, Love Is All We Need,” focuses on bringing people together on common ground like service and support. The music video was an immense collaboration that included organizations and agencies like the DoD, DHS, VA, Tampa Warriors and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to name a few. Thanks to the outpouring of support from so many communities, the video features first responders, service members, veterans and civilian community members united to deliver the message that we are one … and love is all we need.
There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.
Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.
Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.
And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.
Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights
The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.
The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.
Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)
After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.
And who apparently is also a legend.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”
Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)
Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:
“Freefall at 300 mph.”
Oh. Is that all?
For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.
He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:
Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.
Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.
From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.
Can you find the C-17?
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”
Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.
“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.
During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.
It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.
We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.
For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.
Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”
Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.
I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.
“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”
It was after 6 p.m. in the small Midwestern town as people began to end their day.
The warm colors of the mid-August afternoon sky started slipping into the evening. That’s when a handful of Army drill sergeants were inadvertently called into action, and saved a family from a burning vehicle.
Shortly before, people were driving home from work, running errands or just passing through Sparta, Wisconsin, on Highway 21.
Among those driving was David Turner, 62, a retired maintenance worker, who on Aug. 15, 2019, was in his silver SUV with his granddaughters — Delilah, 4, and London, 2 — on an evening cruise along the highway that connects Sparta to his hometown, Tomah, Wisconsin, roughly 17 miles away.
Meanwhile, several drill sergeants with the Army Reserve were also among the passersby.
They had finished a day’s work at Fort McCoy, a nearby Army base located between Sparta and Tomah, and were driving back to their hotels, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Juhl, a drill sergeant with the 95th Training Division.
The soldiers were on orders, training other Army Reserve drill sergeants vying for U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year later that month.
The right place, at the right time
The drive was cut short after the soldiers had pulled off the road into a nearby parking lot, tending to their first of two unexpected incidents.
The drill sergeants were parked outside of a local flower shop, and had their heads under the hood of a car, trying to pinpoint engine failure in one of the vehicles — but, they weren’t having much luck.
That’s when Sgt. Roger Williams, owner of the inoperable car, and who admits he’s “not a car guy,” called his non-commissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Justin McCarthy — who owns a car shop in Charlotte, North Carolina — for back up. Always willing to help, McCarthy arrived shortly after and identified the problem; a serpentine belt had snapped.
Williams, a Beloit, Wisconsin native, opted to drive his personal vehicle to Fort McCoy. The other soldiers, from various parts of the country, were driving rentals.
“We were meant to be there,” said Sgt. Daniel McElroy, a drill sergeant attached to the 108th Training Command, believing by serendipitous chance they were “at the right place, at the right time” to save lives.
As the men finished checking Williams’ car, Turner, the grandfather in a silver SUV, raced by them. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Turner was suffering from a medical condition at the time, rendering him unconscious. Yet his foot remained pressed on the vehicle’s accelerator.
“I noticed his vehicle going really fast before hitting a median,” said McElroy, adding that the sound of the engine racing initially caught his attention. They were stopped along a residential area, facing a four-way intersection, where vehicles typically drive slowly.
Within a fragment of a moment, the SUV smashed directly into a utility pole on the other side of the intersection, at full speed, splintering the tree-like column on impact and causing power outages in the area.
A “massive, fiery blue explosion” erupted, McElroy said, and was accompanied with multiple energy blasts shooting from the fractured utility pole. The mangled SUV caught fire.
Answering the call
Although the men were bewildered, working together came naturally. So, without a word or moment of hesitation, all four sprinted toward the burning vehicle. They felt their Army training kick in.
McCarthy, a 25-year service veteran, had experienced a similar situation during a 2007 deployment in Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He also has a civilian background with energy, and verified no live wires were touching the vehicle.
However, its motor was in flames, fluid had puddled onto the road around it, and black smoke from the engine poured into the air vents and filled the inside of the vehicle with smoke. It seemed the family was on borrowed time.
“The first person we checked was the driver,” Juhl said, after rushing to the vehicle, adding that Turner was conscious, but “out of it” at the time.
Turner, who suffered a fractured vertebrae among other injuries, was pinned in the driver’s seat. He woke up to the smell of air bag powder blended with engine smoke, he said, and immediately thought about his granddaughters in the back.
When the collision happened, the pole pretzeled the framework of his vehicle as easy as a soda can being crushed. The steering wheel immediately locked Turner into place. The soldiers tried opening the driver’s side door, but it was useless.
Like Turner, the door was pinned in. However, it was bent enough for the soldiers to fold the frame like a banana from the top, McCarthy said. They worked on the door until the glass from the driver’s side window shattered, causing black smoke to roll out from inside.
They could reach Turner with their hands, but were still unable to move him. All Turner could repeat was, “How are the girls?” in a dazed tone.
“I tried getting out on my own,” Turner later said. “The pain was so intense all I could say was ‘get the girls, leave me alone, if I die, I die.'”
At the time, the soldiers were unaware of any passengers. Due to the smoke-filled interior, deployed side airbag curtains, and dark tinted windows of the SUV — their vision was clouded, McCarthy said. In addition, he didn’t hear any crying.
McCarthy “didn’t know what to expect” when he opened the back door, he said, and his “heart sank thinking of the children’s conditions.” He and Juhl rushed to opposite sides of the vehicle to check the children.
McCarthy was greeted by the 2-year-old, London, and he asked “is it okay if I get you out of your chair?” London, safely in her car seat, replied, “I’m 2,” ignoring the question, raising her index and middle fingers. He didn’t see injuries on the girl.
Meanwhile, Juhl checked on Delilah, who also had no visible injuries. They removed the girls without any issues.
The soldiers “relied on their Army training in a civilian environment,” McCarthy said, adding, although it wasn’t a tactical vehicle, and they’ve “never trained with child seats,” it was comparable to “a gunner in a turret,” or similar training scenario.
Around this time, McElroy pulled Turner from the vehicle from the front passenger side door. After ensuring the victims were okay, and local responders arrived, the soldiers slipped into the crowd and left. It wasn’t until the Turner family searched for the men that their story was able to be shared.
The drill sergeants credit readiness training for their actions.
“The Army has done an outstanding job training individual soldiers,” McCarthy said, adding, “Things like combat lifesaving skills prepared me adequately, and without the Army’s training, I don’t know if I would have responded as effectively.”
“Those men were humble; they responded and went home,” Turner said, who is expected to make a full recovery. “But, the word ‘hero’ doesn’t touch who they are. Anybody who is in the military, if they are going through any training, should emulate the people who saved my life.”
2020 is a different year and this is especially true as we have our Thanksgiving dinners lockdown style. We veterans are like family: we can pick on each other and laugh. Let an outsider pick on us and it’s fighting words. This year is like a deployment — we need to find the little things to laugh about. I hope everyone is staying safe and riding this “deployment” out with a smile. Here are some Thanksgiving memes to bring a chuckle as you are loading up on turkey and likely less fixings.
I hope those crayons go well with gravy.
You know trainees are licking their chops for this food, the DI is doing the same to scuff them up afterward.
Seems like a valid question.
Thanksgiving or not, the BCGs kill the mood.
The kids’ table
Aww, the Space Force.
Give me a break
That’s right, four days of no bs.
There goes all the fun on block leave.
Pass the mashed potatoes
Who doesn’t feel like this after stuffing themselves on a good holiday meal?
Should have skipped the seconds
No one is looking forward to that Monday morning run.
Just saying we do have different methods.
Get ‘er done
We all know this is going to be trouble.
We can’t help it
I may be a tad jealous of having a butler.
Three cheers for propane
What could go wrong?
We actually do like the Air Force, I swear
Just another day for the Air Force.
The military doesn’t do miracles.
It’s sad but true.
We hope you have an awesome, safe Thanksgiving, despite a global pandemic and travel restrictions. At least they can’t take your turkey.
We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.
For me, that friend is James Brobyn.
As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.
In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.
James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”
Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”
My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.
The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”
James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”
I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.
James: White 1.
WATM:Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.
James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?
I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”
WATM:Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?
James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.
All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.
WATM:When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?
James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.
WATM:Kicked you out?
James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.
WATM:What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?
James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.
WATM:Why do you think they focused on you?
James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.
WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?
James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?
James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.
WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?
James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.
Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, ‘Will you help us out?‘ I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.
WATM:There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?
James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM:Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?
James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.
WATM:You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?
James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.
WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?
James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.
The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: Is the long game paying off?
James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.
WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?
James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.
Service members often encounter physical, psychological, and emotional adversity when protecting the freedoms this country was founded on. The injuries sustained both on and off duty require recovery in many forms – including physical competitions, religious programs, community outreach opportunities, behavioral health, and more. Some may only need a surfboard and a wave to ride.
Veterans, recovering service members and their loved ones attended the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 17-19, 2018. Operation Amped is a non-profit organization that promotes surf therapy to aid in the recovery of wounded, ill and injured veterans, and active-duty service members.
According to Joseph Gabunilas, Operation Amped co-founder, this program exists to provide a positive change in a participant’s future. Operation Amped accomplishes this by providing surf training once a year to wounded warriors, family members and veterans.
“It’s a good way to keep that negative stuff out of your mind while catching a wave,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Simons, participant at Operation Amped. “Surfing has given me a goal, something to work towards and keep my focus straight.”
Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)
The organization, which began in September 2006, had helped nearly 300 recovering service members, veterans, and their loved ones. Along with the support and attendance of family members and friends, that number has now reached the thousands, said Gabunilas, who served in the U.S. Army. Having both the recovering service members and their loved ones in attendance, can provide the therapy needed to overcome the trials and tribulations they may be experiencing.
“Ocean therapy is good for the mindset,” said Simons. “It’s good for those that have difficult issues they’re dealing with.”
Recovering service members, veterans, volunteers, and their loved ones prepare to surf during the 12th Annual Operation Amped Surf Camp at San Onofre Beach at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Noah Rudash)
Some of the adversity these warriors face include the loss of fellow service members in and out of combat, overcoming pain and physical injury. For three days each year, with the support of organizations such as this one, participants move closer to recovery one wave at a time.
Provisions come from volunteers and supporters who donate surfboards, wetsuits, food, tents, and tables. Most importantly, they donate their time.
“This is my way of giving back,” said Gabunilas. “I served 21 years and this is another way I can give back to the brave men and women fighting for our country.”
This annual event drives a passion for surfing for some and provides a recreational outlet for warriors and their family members to enjoy while physically and mentally challenging themselves in the water. The next clinic is scheduled for summer 2019.
The 2020 holidayseason — particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years — will be different. Much different. Common sense and COVID protocols demand that families avoid gathering. This is the smart way to approach the holidays amidst a global pandemic — better to see family over Zoom now, than to risk COVID and never seeing them ever again — but the realization of smaller tables and fewer in person season’s greetings still stings.
But, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are nothing if not resilient — and a bit more nimble than we once thought. And with a bit of creativity and flexibility, we can make the best of our particular circumstances. So, with this in mind, we wanted to offer a list of small, nice things that families everywhere can do to stay connected with the relatives they can’t see this holiday season. From sharing recipes and table settings to scheduling Zoom happy hours and cookie baking get togethers, the list offers some suggestions of ways to get together to help family and friends stay close this season. And, hey, we may even get a few new traditions to add to celebrations in the years ahead.
34 Small, Nice Things to Do For Family You Can’t See This Holiday Season
Send portioned-out ingredients for a beloved family recipe to everyone you normally see, so everyone can enjoy the recipe together.
Even better, schedule a Zoom call so that everyone can prepare the recipe together and enjoy all the normal reminiscing, laughter, and passive aggression that takes place in the kitchen over the holidays.
Have the kids make some place settings for the whole family and send them to relatives. Then, when you get together on Zoom, there’s a sense of togetherness and holiday joy.
Host a Jeopardy-style quiz game over Zoom, the questions of which are all comprised of inside jokes or family lore. “This relative always passes out before Thanksgiving begins.” “Who is Uncle Mark?”
Have your kids draw family members or festive scenes and get them printed as a canvas painting on Snapfish or another service. It’s a great personal gift that captures a moment in time.
Bake something — say, a pumpkin pie from scratch in a really nice baking dish — and overnight it. You can use specialty shipping from FedEx and get it delivered for Thanksgiving dinner.
Send flowers. It’s a nice touch.
Who doesn’t appreciate a big hunk of meat? Head over to to Crowd Cow or similar service and send something special — maybe a prime rib, maybe a pork shoulder — to cook and enjoy around the holiday.
Set up a family streaming movie date with Disney+ Group Watch or Netflix Party to maintain that ‘we watch these movies every year’ tradition
Set up Zoom cookie-making or -decorating party with family and friends. If you are within driving distance, mask up and distribute the ones you made.
Order everyone matching pajama sets to wear on the holiday so you can still act silly together.
Set up a family game night over Zoom with games you don’t need set pieces for, like charades or Pictionary
Create and share a playlist of holiday music so everyone can have the same holiday soundtrack.
Secret Santa works over Zoom. Also, you can re-brand that gifting game for any holiday (Secret Turkey? Secret New Year’s Baby?) We could all use a gift right now.
You know when family sits around the table with beers and plays games late into the evening? Why not do that over Zoom? If you have a particularly rowdy family, make it a drinking game.
Have the kids put on a play and livestream it to the rest of the family. Even if it’s a complete nonsensical disaster, what’s not to love?
Two words: Family PowerPoint. Whether it turns into a slideshow of the good times you all had over the years together or a lecture on sleep apnea and why it’s time Uncle Jim really did get that snoring checked out, it’ll be a lot of fun.
Order a regional favorite food on Goldbelly and send it to family so that the entire clan can have, say, their New York bagel tradition in tact on holiday mornings.
Have old VHS or super8 family movies? Convert them to digital — or just curate digital family footage. Then organize a family-wide digital film festival.
Send family members/grandparents a photo book (try Shutterfly, etc.) with photos of last year’s holidays so everyone can reminisce about better times.
Do you live close enough to relatives to drop-off food? Do it. Portion out dinner into Tupperware containers, mask up, and drop it on their doorstep.
Have a “secret” family recipe you haven’t shared? Write it down in a card and mail them out to people so everyone can be surprised with finally knowing — and sharing in — the secret.
Even better: Send everyone the same recipe and have a British Bake-off style contest where the best version of the recipe wins a prize.
Schedule time to drink coffee together the morning of over Zoom. Holiday afternoons tend to get hectic. But morning coffee? That casual holiday routine is one of those lovely traditions that can — and should— be shared.
Mail holiday cards. Lots of cards.
Send everyone ingredients for the same holiday cocktail.
Bombard family with lots of photos via text: What the kids are wearing. What you’re wearing. What you’re eating. What you’re drinking. The kids doing crafts. The kids napping. An adult napping. Just go big with photos of the day.
Get the family working together online to solve puzzles and find their way out of a Virtual Escape Room.
Among Us is the game of the moment for a reason: It’s the fun of murder mystery with the interactivity of video game. If your family is tech-saavy enough, it’s a great way to have holiday game night.
Have a Zoom family joke night. Everyone goes around and shares their funny holiday-themed joke. The one with the most laughs wins.
Bring some family members along via Facetime when there’s a snowball fight, the kids go sledding, or you go out to such festive — and safe — activities as a visit to the holiday lights at the local botanical gardens. Feeling like a part of the group from afar does wonders for someone’s spirit.
Whatever you do let your relatives know that you miss them and love them and can’t wait to celebrate safely together soon.
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.
There are few “safe” jobs in armed conflict, but certainly one of the toughest and most dangerous is that of a sniper. They must sneak forward in groups of two to spy on the enemy, knowing that an adversary who spots them first may be lethal. Here’s what Army and Marine Corps snipers say it takes to overcome the life-or-death stress of their job.
“As a scout sniper, we are going to be constantly tired, fatigued, dehydrated, probably cold, for sure wet, and always hungry,” Marine scout sniper Sgt. Brandon Choo told the Department of Defense earlier this year.
The missions snipers are tasked with carrying out, be it in the air, at sea, or from a concealed position on land, include gathering intelligence, killing enemy leaders, infiltration and overwatch, hunting other snipers, raid support, ballistic IED interdiction, and the disruption of enemy operations.
Many snipers said they handled their job’s intense pressures by quieting their worries and allowing their training to guide them.
A Marine with Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, uses a scout sniper periscope.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
“There is so much riding on your ability to accomplish the mission, including the lives of other Marines,” a Marine scout sniper told Insider recently. “The best way to deal with [the stress] is to just not think about it.” An Army sniper said the same thing, telling Insider that “you don’t think about that. You are just out there and reacting in the moment. You don’t feel that stress in the situation.”
These sharpshooters explained that when times are tough, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself because there are people depending on you. Their motivation comes from the soldiers and Marines around them.
Learning to tune out the pressures of the job is a skill developed through training. “This profession as a whole constitutes a difficult lifestyle where we have to get up every day and train harder than the enemy, so that when we meet him in battle we make sure to come out on top,” Choo told DoD.
A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover.
(US Marine Corps photo)
‘You are always going to fall back on your training.’
So, what does that mean in the field, when things get rough?
“You are going to do what you were taught to do or you are going to die,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, told Insider. “Someone once told me that in any given situation, you are probably not going to rise to the occasion,” a Marine scout sniper, now an instructor, explained. “You are always going to fall back on your training.”
“So, if I’ve trained myself accordingly, even though I’m stressing out about whatever my mission is, I know that I’ll fall back to my training and be able to get it done,” he said. “Then, before I know it, the challenge has passed, the stress is gone, and I can go home and drink a beer and eat a steak.”
Choo summed it up simply in his answers to DoD, saying, “No matter what adversity we may face, at the end of the day, we aren’t dead, so it’s going to be all right.”
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
Do the impossible once a week.
Sometimes the pressures of the job can persist even after these guys return home.
In that case, Sipes explained, it is really important to “talk to someone. Talk to your peers. Take a break. Go and do something else and come back to it.” Another Army sniper previously told Insider that it is critical to check your ego at the door, be brutally honest with yourself, and know your limits.
In civilian life, adversity can look very different than it does on the battlefield. Challenges, while perhaps not life-and-death situations, can still be daunting.
“I think the way that people in civilian life can deal with [hardship] is by picking something out, on a weekly basis, that they in their mind think is impossible, and they need to go and do it,” a Marine sniper told Insider. “What you’re going to find is that more often than not, you are going to be able to achieve that seemingly-impossible task, and so everything that you considered at that level or below becomes just another part of your day.”
He added that a lot more people should focus on building their resilience.
“If that is not being provided to you, it is your responsibility to go out and seek that to make yourself better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Cooking with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience. It allows them to learn and grow, and to feel like they are a part of the family meal. But it can also be messy and frustrating. In fact, it usually involves all of the above.
But with some key planning and a lot of patience, you can work to have meaningful experiences through cooking with your kids. Follow these simple tips for a better way to prep meals as a family. Remember, cooking offers up some great life skills they can call upon later in life, whether working as a military cook or getting crafty with MREs to make a better meal in the field.
Make it a lesson
Any homeschooling parent will tell you cooking is where it’s at for math, science and more. Don’t miss an opportunity to help your kids learn as you’re whipping up something delicious. You don’t have to do anything elaborate, just mentioning cooking temps or measuring sizes can do wonders for sparking questions.
Let them do the dirty work
Sure, as a parent who can easily do tasks like cracking eggs or flipping pancakes, it’s easier to just do it yourself. But allowing kids to do them (so long as it’s age appropriate) lets them learn. Plus, just imagine their little faces glowing with pride!
Let them choose the cuisine
No kid wants to make some fancy meal that they aren’t interested in eating. On the other hand, they’ll be over the moon to make pretzel dogs, pizza, cookies or any other kid-friendly fare. Let them choose the menu for an added dose of fun.
If ingredients are short on hand, lay forth some kid-friendly options and let them choose. You might even remind them that on a deployment or when the D-Fac is out of key items, making due is part of military life!
Have them clean up
Boring, right?! But cleaning is part of the cooking process. Teach them now that after cooking, you have to clean up to your standard of cleanliness. You may not normally clean like you’re getting an impromptu home inspection, but when there’s help, it’s a great time to start the practice.
Do you cook with your kids? What are your favorite dishes to make together?
Lockheed Martin, a major US defense contractor, has bottled the smell of space, purportedly creating “a scent that transcends our planet and brings the essence of space down to Earth.”
The new scent “blends metallic notes to create a clean scent with a sterile feel, balanced by subtle, fiery undertones that burn off like vapor in the atmosphere,” the company explained on its website, adding that now “men, women and children everywhere [can] smell like they’re floating through the cosmos.”
Vector, “the preferred fragrance for tomorrow’s explorers,” was announced just in time for April Fools’ Day and is the company’s first foray into the holiday.
You won’t be seeing this strange new fragrance at your local department store, but the scent does exist, a Lockheed Martin spokesman told Business Insider.
In the remarkably high-quality video Lockheed produced for its big April Fools’ Day prank, Tony Antonelli, a retired NASA astronaut who now leads the Orion spacecraft mission, describes his first encounter with the smell of space.
While working on the assembly of the international space station, he opened the hatch for a group of astronauts who had just completed a spacewalk, and it was then that he discovered that space actually has a smell.
“I was completely blown away. After over a decade of training, no one had told me that space smells,” Antonelli says in the video.
“The smell was strong and unique, nothing like anything I had ever smelled on Earth before,” he said, describing the scent as “some kind of metallic mixture of other things that I just didn’t know how to describe.”
That part of the story is actually true, Alex Walker, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Space, told Business Insider.
A sample of Vector.
(Lockheed Martin Space)
Antonelli may have never made it his mission to recreate and bottle the scent — basically the smell of burnt metal — for public consumption, as the video claims, but, with his help, Lockheed did manage to develop a scent similar to what Antonelli encountered.
“We actually developed fragrance samples based on Tony’s guidance,” Walker said. “His whole story of the smell of space, we took his guidance down to a local perfumery in Denver and bottled it.”
The company created three different scents, and then Lockheed excitedly determined which one most closely matched the smell described by the former Space Shuttle pilot.
Inside the Vector sample’s packaging.
“It’s like one of those fragrance samples you’d get at the mall,” Walker said, adding that the company produced roughly 2,000 sample bottles to hand out at next week’s Space Symposium in Colorado.
So Lockheed successfully bottled the so-called “smell of space,” an unbelievable feat done as part of a very elaborate joke.
“The reason we did this was to remind that the men and women of Lockheed Martin Space have been building spacecraft for more than sixty years,” Walker told Business Insider.
“We thought it was a great time to remind people of that. It is a reminder of unmatched expertise in the space industry, but also, it’s a reminder that we’re humans.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.
During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)
“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”
11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.