Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

One hundred seventy-four miles may sound like a lot of ground to cover in one week, but to Lisa Hallett it’s minuscule compared to the 174 women who lost their lives in overseas combat since Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think women in service show an uncommon courage,” said Hallett, co-founder and executive director of wear blue: run to remember — a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of U.S. military members. “Their willingness to step into a man’s world, lead with conviction and have an impact on the success of our armed forces — I’m so in awe of that bravery.”

In conjunction with Women’s History Month and the 399,458 current-serving military women, Hallett and wear blue’s staff launched the inaugural Piestewa Challenge — a worldwide collective effort to pay tribute to the nation’s 174 fallen women. Kicking off Tuesday, March 23, the challenge invites groups of four to eight people to jointly run, walk, swim, kayak, bike or any other motion in completing 174 total team miles by March 30.

“Any movement counts!” Hallett said. “There is so much we can’t control in our lives, especially right now, but we can always do something intentional for ourselves, our communities and these women.”

The Piestewa Challenge is named after Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, the first Native American service member to be killed in combat on foreign soil and the first military woman to be killed in Iraq. March 23, the day the challenge launches, is the 18th anniversary of her passing in Nasiriyah. The symbolic starting line begins near Piestewa Peak in Arizona and ends 174 miles later — a location not far from Piestewa’s hometown of Tuba City on Navajo Nation.

Anyone — man, woman or child — can participate in any location. Hallett, herself a Gold Star wife after losing her husband John in Afghanistan in 2009, recommends joining the challenge not to check off another item on a to-do list, but as “a gift to ourselves and each other.”

“Here is a really simple way we can come together and connect as a military family,” she said. “When we remember the past, say these women’s names, we show the present how we will care for each other in the good and the bad in the future.”

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

The Piestewa Challenge is free and has already registered more than 1,500 athletes, although Hallett, an ultramarathon runner and Ironman participant, hopes for 5,000. Participants can join teams with names like “Hot Steppers” and “Wild Wicked Women” and log miles through Racery, a virtual race platform. Registration is available online.

The challenge is more than just lonely exercising. Athletes can begin the 174 miles with the “Piestewa Challenge National Circle of Remembrance” online Tuesday morning. The virtual ceremony will specifically honor Piestewa with a blessing from the Hopi people, her tribe, as well as reading aloud the 173 names of her fallen sisters. Additionally, wear blue will send emails throughout the week, each containing stories of soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors killed over the last two decades.

Many of the women’s family members are playing active roles in the challenge.

“It means so much that their loved one is not forgotten and that they do not remember alone,” Hallett said. “These women’s families have, in many ways, carried the weight of their service, and there is so much inspiration in witnessing each family’s courage and how they persevere.”

Hallett and her staff will be running on team “Run, Honor, Belong.” With each mile, she says, they will be thinking of each woman in the club of 174.

“This is an opportunity for the nation to turn the words, ‘Thank you for your service’ into tangible, meaningful action,” she said. “We’re going to carry with intention their legacies in our steps.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army celebrates women in combat

Observed on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. While the change to the Constitution was significant toward shaping gender equality, it highlights the complicated journey women had to gain equal rights.

“Commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Women’s Equality Day is so very significant,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas. Norris and Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham recently spoke about women who paved the way for today’s equality.

For instance, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776, asking them to, “Remember the ladies,” when making critical decisions to shape the country. Later in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first women’s rights convention in New York.


The convention sparked decades of activism through the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which helped lay a foundation for the 19th Amendment and paved the way for women to serve and fight alongside men in combat today.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley gets her Ranger tab pinned on by a family member during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018. Kelley was the first enlisted woman to earn the Ranger tab.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Later the civil rights movement of the 1950s generated the Equal Pay Act in 1963, followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law.

However, “women have been serving their nation through military service for far longer than we have had the right to vote,” Norris said.

During the Revolutionary War, women followed their husbands into combat out of necessity. They would often receive permission to serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses. Some women even disguised themselves as men to serve in combat.

“One of the more famous women to do this was Deborah Samson Gannett, who enlisted in 1782 under her brother’s name and served for 17 months,” Norris said. “Wounded by musket ball fire, she cut it out of her thigh so that a doctor wouldn’t discover she was a woman.”

The Army later discovered Gannett’s gender, and she was discharged honorably. She later received a military pension for her service.

Countless examples exist of women serving in various roles to support military operations during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and beyond.

Notably during World War I, upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas. While the most significant percentage of women served as nurses, some were lucky enough to assist as administrators, secretaries, telephone operators, and architects.

These women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment through their hard work and dedication to service.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Now Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visits Soldiers at Camp Bullis, Texas, on June 21, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

From the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 to the day the Defense Department opened all combat career fields to women in 2016, the role of women in the Army has steadily increased.

“Women are tough,” Norris said.

“We have been proving it for a long time now, and we have a knack for forcing change,” Norris added. “As Col. Oveta Hobby, a fellow Texan and the first director of the Women’s Army Corps, put it so well: ‘Women who step up want to be measured as citizens of the nation — not as women.'”

Inclusion

These are exciting times, said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army’s outgoing assistant chief of staff for Installation Management. Women are now on the forefront, serving in military occupational specialties they haven’t seen in Army history.

“Quite frankly, the Army is not [solely] a man’s job,” she said.

After a 38-year career, Bingham is now enjoying her last days in service, as she waits for her official retirement in September. During her career, she served as the first female quartermaster general, the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia. She was also the first female to serve in commanding general roles at White Sands Missile Range and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan.

“There is no way that I would’ve stayed in the Army 38 years if I didn’t feel a sense of inclusion. I will never downplay the word ‘inclusion’ — ever,” she said. “It is one thing to have a seat at the table. However, it is another to feel included in the decisions being made at the table.”

Considered to be a trailblazer by others, Bingham acknowledges the historical significance of her stepping into each position. However, recognizing the “trailblazer moniker” brings to light all the areas that women have yet to serve, she said.

“We will get there, as women continually distinguish themselves in roles that they haven’t typically [served],” she said. “The way I see it, you can choose to spotlight [trailblazers] but progress is having … more [women serving] than what we had before.”

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham talks with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, after promoting her to major general Aug. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Michael Curtis)

Similar to Bingham, Norris is the first woman to serve as the Texas adjutant general. As the senior military officer, she is responsible for the overall health, wellbeing, training, and readiness of Texas’ soldiers, airmen, civilian employees, and volunteers.

“I am simply another individual in a long line of leaders of Texas military forces,” she said.

“The fact that I am the first woman is secondary to me. What truly matters is that we have a leader of the Texas Military Department who is ready to command and take care of those who serve. I believe I fulfill that role based on qualifications and experience, not by being a woman.”

When it comes to women’s equality, the Army is doing a great job, Norris added. Based on her experience, the military is often the leader when it comes to opening up roles for women to serve.

Managing talent will be critical to the Army’s way ahead. It is about getting the right person, to the right place, at the right time, regardless of their race or gender, she explained.

And to all the women out there that are considering the Army as a future career, “I would tell them — join! Your nation needs you,” Norris said. In 2015, Capt. Kristen

Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to earn the Ranger tab, she noted.

“They are following a long line of powerful women who have forced change in our culture and by their actions opened doors for the generations that follow them,” she said.

“I challenge you to join and be the first one to break [a] barrier down,” Norris added. “The Army opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined possible. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our state and nation, and I encourage others to do the same.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 signs you grew up as a military brat

Military culture is something you definitely have to be a part of to understand. Bob from accounting trying to relate to the strictness of your Drill Sergeant dad’s rules and regulations from a civilian perspective boils your red-hot American blood faster than anything else.

Sure, growing up a military brat separates you from the rest of the world, but also gains you entrance into the greatest 1% club out there. Here are the signs you might have grown up a military brat.


[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F-%2Fmedia%2FImages%2FMHS%2FPhotos%2FKIT_photo.ashx%3Fh%3D407%26la%3Den%26mw%3D720%26w%3D720%26hash%3DE617EB03E9A2D2526EB9AB86B194A621A88C035D6B0E86E80633D0CF90DB5F15&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fhealth.mil&s=595&h=04eb25a7713af465516422726819e4468280de12ab2b9059324762bef8f6af38&size=980x&c=2481221841 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F-%252Fmedia%252FImages%252FMHS%252FPhotos%252FKIT_photo.ashx%253Fh%253D407%2526la%253Den%2526mw%253D720%2526w%253D720%2526hash%253DE617EB03E9A2D2526EB9AB86B194A621A88C035D6B0E86E80633D0CF90DB5F15%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fhealth.mil%26s%3D595%26h%3D04eb25a7713af465516422726819e4468280de12ab2b9059324762bef8f6af38%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2481221841%22%7D” expand=1]

You have no idea how to answer, “Where are you from?”

Well, that depends. Do you mean where I lived the longest? Where I was born? Where I spent my best years? To be perfectly honest, you have no idea, so you just throw a random state (or country) out there and hope it makes you sound as cool as you look.

You’ve visited more countries than most adults 

In most cases, a 16 year old reminiscing of skiing the Alps on holiday or discussing the economic impact of buying American grocery staples abroad would sound like a big fat lie. But not for you, you cultured darling. You spent your three-day weekends on a multi-country European tour instead of grabbing burgers and a movie.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

You have to explain why you were born in another country but aren’t from there

No, I wasn’t born in America. No, I’m not a foreign citizen. No, I do not have a family heritage from that country either; I was just born there. Yes, it’s very annoying to explain this to people dozens of times.

You know your Social Security Number

You don’t need to call mom to ask her your personal information, you’ve got that on lock along with your service member parent’s as well.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

You can’t stand civilians freaking out over moving…down the street

You’re crying over the sentimental loss of moving two blocks down in the same neighborhood while keeping the same circle of friends, same zip code and same schools? Please, do explain to me how sympathetic I should be toward you (eye roll).

You know the metric system

Amid a long list of random knowledge nuggets that you possess, growing internationally meant exposure to a system the entire world works within…except America.

Being late is a crime you’ll never commit

If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time, the Captain will likely treat it as if you just committed a crime against time itself. Ten minutes early is precisely on time in your book.

Bowling is your party trick

A weird yet common pastime in military culture…bowling. Nearly every duty station had a bowling alley and you’ve likely spent an unhealthy amount of time practicing your spins.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

media.defense.gov

You’ve ridden on an airplane next to a Humvee in the cargo hold

Space-A flights are something else. There are no peanuts, no TVs in the headrests and zero chance you’ll snag a window seat.

You were “hella” cool with your ID card

Don’t even try to deny it. You thought you were crazy important toting around that ID card as a kid.

Getting up early is the standard operating procedure

Sleeping until 0700 hours sounds like a vacation after growing up a military child. Your entire neighborhood believed exercise was best before the sun rose each day.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Your parents take respect to a whole new level

Preparing your less than lazy friends for a stay at your house may have required an entire operation in itself.

When you were raised among Rangers, nothing scares you

“Your parents scare me,” might be a phrase you’ve heard a time or 20. But whether you were raised by Seals, Rangers or Green Berets, 200 pounds of American fighting muscle looks like your favorite uncle, not a death sentence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How ‘upskilling’ with Microsoft can kickstart your new civilian life

‘Upskilling’ is the new corporate buzzword taking employers by storm. Never heard of it? Don’t be shocked; be prepared for a whole new mindset. 

Upskilling is when a corporation takes already-talented individuals and teaches them an entirely new skill set. It gives the company a new expert in a critical role and it gives an employee an entirely new career trajectory. 

While the word may be new, it’s something Microsoft has been doing with active duty military personnel for years.

Employers need skilled workers. But technology changes fast and the pace of that advancement changes the ways we live and work faster than we may realize. For job seekers, this can be an intimidating prospect. For veterans leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce for the first time, it can be overwhelming. 

Finding a career in tech as newly-separated veterans can be especially daunting if their military career wasn’t in a technical field. Those looking to go to college or technical training may not know what to study or be fearful of missing an emerging trend. 

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Wouldn’t it be great if America’s leading tech companies just offered training in the most necessary fields and then offered career prospects for those trainees? That’s what “upskilling” is all about. And the company leading the way is one of the world’s most valuable: Microsoft.

Microsoft isn’t just recognizing veterans’ service to a higher calling, the company recognizes their near-limitless potential. Microsoft knows what the military community has known all along: separating veterans leave the military with highly desirable skills that uniquely position them for a career in tech. 

Veterans come with the technical skills of their military career, which can provide valuable problem-solving abilities. They also come with the soft skills employers in this industry so desperately need. These are skills like self-actualization, leadership, being a part of a team and – of course – the value of a good day’s work. Some of us even come with security clearances.

That’s why Microsoft started Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA). 

MSSA is a training academy for high-demand careers in cloud development and server and cloud administration. The course lasts 16 or 18 weeks and graduates are guaranteed an interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of its hiring partners. The program is open to honorably discharged veterans and active duty service members with authorization from their units or commands. 

The program is the result of Microsoft’s ambitious 2015 goal of establishing 14 MSSA programs throughout the country and eventually having the ability to graduate 1,000 veterans every year. In January 2020, it met that goal, graduating its 100th cohort. 

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

MSSA is overseen by the Microsoft Military Affairs team, whose chief concern is helping veterans realize the full potential their military service offers them as well as any potential employer. Best of all, the team is made up of military veterans who know just how daunting a task leaving the military can be. 

Numbers don’t lie. To date, MSSA has a graduation rate of 94 percent and more than 600 companies have hired MSSA graduates. It’s a program that really works for the veteran community. 

Transitioning out of the military is a challenging time. Deciding what and where to study or finding that first post-military career is central to a successful transition. For vets who want a career in tech, Microsoft Software and Systems Academy is the place to hit the ground running. Their Tech Transition Toolkit offers some great tips on how you can get a head-start toward a fulfilling, rewarding career in tech.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Hurricane Hunters’ are capturing some wild photos of Dorian

US ‘Hurricane Hunter’ aircraft have been flying in and out of Hurricane Dorian, capturing wild photos of a storm that devastated the Bahamas and appears to be heading toward the US.

Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in history, has been downgraded from a Category 5 storm to a Category 2, as winds have decreased to around 110 mph from their earlier 185 mph, but this hurricane remains a cause for concern.


Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

The U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly in the eye of Hurricane Dorian, Aug. 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Diana Cossaboom)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by U.S. Navy Midshipman First Class Julia Von Fecht)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron shared this photo from a mission on Sept. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

“We’ve made it back home to Keesler Air Force Base,” the squadron tweeted on Sept. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

This image shows the “stadium effect” seen from the eye of the hurricane.

(Ian Sears/NOAA)

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

This image shows another view of the “stadium effect” seen inside Hurricane Dorian.

(Ian Sears/NOAA)

While Hurricane Dorian is not as strong as it was, it is still considered a very dangerous storm. The National Hurricane Center, a division of NOAA, sent out a notification Sep. 3, 2019, explaining that the storm may actually be getting worse given its growing size.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A hot YouTuber tried out the Marines’ boot camp

The Marine Corps has to recruit a bunch of teens and young twenty-somethings in order to keep recruits flowing in. And they sponsored four YouTubers to come and spend three days in basic training. The main star of the resulting video is Michelle Khare, a BuzzFeed.News journalist whose YouTube is pretty much all videos about her trying on other people’s lives like the ultimate tourist.


I Tried Marine Bootcamp

www.youtube.com

So when the Marine Corps asked her to try out their training, it was a pretty perfect fit.

But it’s easy to see the difference between basic training for YouTubers and people really entering the service. This author went through Army basic, but he still feels pretty certain that real Marines gets yelled at harder than this. And he definitely doesn’t remember the flock of camera people and producers who accompanied a “platoon” of about a dozen people.

But the YouTube recruits do go through some of the physical and mental challenges that break real recruits. And they made it through, partially thanks to the help of drill instructors who spurred them on even as they got too afraid. The A-Tower, familiar to most soldiers from the “confidence course,” nearly takes our friend Michelle out before the DI helps her master the fear.

The personalities go through some other fun staples of basic training, like breaking the seals on their gas masks in the chamber and firing M16s. Of course, the YouTubers get new or nearly new rifles with ACOGs, but no one said life is fair. And we don’t really need them to fire in combat successfully with iron sights anyway.

Oh, and that was the first day. And one dude literally dropped out after just that.

Like, dude, you’re doing the tourist version. It’s only three days long. Real Marine basic training is 13 weeks.

The rest of the personalities pushed on through physical training to muscle failure, drill instruction, rappel training, more obstacles, and a ruck march.

Check it out at the video embedded at top.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Purple Heart was donated — can you help find its owner?

Sometimes things are donated because they’ve lost their value. Sometimes, they’re donated because their value isn’t understood.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Don’t be a victim of a military romance scam

Are you dating or talking online to someone who says they are a military member? Have they asked you for funds or documents? You might be looking for true love, but chances are good that you are the victim of one of thousands of military romance scams conducted every day.

U.S. military officials have warned those involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with someone claiming to be a U.S. military member serving in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere.


Officials and websites like Military.com receive hundreds of questions or allegations a month from victims who state they got involved in an online relationship with someone who claims to be in the U.S. military but started asking for money for various false service-related needs such as transportation costs; communication fees; or marriage, processing or medical fees.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

(Flickr photo by Mr Seb)

Victims of these online scams often think they are doing a good deed by helping a military member. Instead, they have given their money to a scammer, sometimes losing thousands of dollars, with very low possibility of recovery.

The U.S. has established numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic. Unfortunately, the people committing these scams are often overseas — using untraceable email addresses, routing accounts through numerous locations around the world and utilizing pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes.

Are you being scammed? Here’s how to know.

Military romance scams: what to look for

There are a variety of words and phrases used by scammers to hook unsuspecting men and women into relationships. Here are some examples:

  • They say they are on a “peacekeeping” mission.
  • They say they are looking for an honest woman.
  • They note that their parents, wife or husband is deceased.
  • They say they have a child or children being cared for by a nanny or other guardian.
  • They profess their love almost immediately.
  • They refer to you as “my love,” “my darling” or any other affectionate term almost immediately.
  • They tell you they cannot wait to be with you.
  • They tell you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam for security reasons.
  • They tell you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
  • They claim to be in the U.S. military; however, their English and grammar do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States.

Military romance scams: common questions

Scammers tend to use similar stories to convince men and women that they have a legitimate need. Military.com regularly receives questions about these claims. Here are common answers to those questions:

  • Military members and their loved ones are not charged money so that they can go on leave.
  • No one is required to request leave on behalf of a military member.
  • A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of military personnel planning to take leave.
  • A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
  • Military members are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
  • Military members do not need permission to get married.
  • Military members do not have to pay for early retirement.
  • All military personnel have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide. Family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
  • Military aircraft are not used to transport privately owned vehicles.
  • Military financial offices are not used to help military personnel buy or sell items of any kind.
  • Member of the military deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
  • Deployed military personnel do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.

Military romance scams: how to avoid them

You can avoid being taken for a ride by a military romance scam artist by practicing a few easy habits.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

(Flickr photo by Saws)

  1. Never send money. Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union.
  2. Do your research. If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out. Research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.
  3. Communicate by phone. Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
  4. Fact-check. Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality. Check the facts.
  5. Don’t use a third party. Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often, the company exists but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
  6. Watch for African countries. Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country. While some U.S. troops are stationed there, they are few and far between. Someone claiming to be in a place where we have few troops is suspect. Many scams originate in Nigeria.
  7. Watch for grammar. Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.
  8. Be guarded. Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who pledges their love at warp speed.

Military romance scams: how to get help

How do you get help if you are the victim of a romance scam or think you have found a scammer posing as a military member?

Unfortunately, if you’ve given money to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get it back since scammers are often located overseas and are untraceable.

You can, however, report it.

You can report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership) on its website.

You can also report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations. Report it online or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

Finally, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams by email at spam@uce.gov.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Local children learn english with Fuji based Marines and sailors

U.S. Marines and Sailors with Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji participated in the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center’s third annual English camp Aug. 23 to Aug. 25, 2019, at CATC Camp Fuji, Shizouka, Japan.

The English camp served to provide 30 Japanese schoolchildren in the local community to learn English and experience American culture through a myriad of group activities with U.S. service members. The 30 selectness were chosen out of a pool of approximately 300 applicants.

“The children don’t have much of an opportunity in school to interact with English-speakers,” said Ayano Quentin, the host nation relations liaison with CATC Camp Fuji. To Quentin, this program gives these children the opportunity to have conversation practice with native English-speakers.


While at the youth center, the service members assisted the children with conversations and interactions in shopping, ordering food, sending mail, etc.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

Employees with the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center, schoolchildren and volunteers from the local community, and U.S. service members with Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji pose for a photograph during the youth center’s third annual English camp at the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center in Gotemba, Shizouka, Japan Aug. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Cpl. Marvin E. Lopez Navarro)

“The local community here really likes Americans,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Donnie Nelson, the CATC Camp Fuji chaplain. “This event is a great relationship-building opportunity and it’s also a time for these young students to learn English and also come onto our base.”

One of the signature events of the camp involves the participants visiting and touring Camp Fuji. There, the Japanese children are able to apply their English speaking skills while also witnessing several displays from the Camp Fuji Provost Marshal Office, fire station, and library.

In addition, all of the participants on the second day of the camp came back to the youth center to sing and dance to music popular with Japanese and American youths around a bonfire.

“The atmosphere felt very positive,” Nelson said, “the smiles, the games, and the music certainly played into that.”

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Sophia Meas, left, the warehouse chief with Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) Camp Fuji and native of Modesto, Calif., and Sgt. Justin Dodd, the range control chief with Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) Camp Fuji and native of Cornelia, Ga., pose for a photograph during the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center’s third annual English camp at the Camp Fuji Fire Station in CATC Camp Fuji, Shizouka, Japan Aug. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan H. Pulliam)

Nelson also stated that the Marines and sailors served as positive role models for the children.

The English camp is the largest community relations event Camp Fuji has with the local community where it has managed to garner national media coverage. Even though this camp has been held twice previously, this year’s English camp had over 300 child applicants from the local Japanese community.

CATC Camp Fuji provides U.S. Forces the premier training facility in Japan, supports operational plans, and strengthens relationships with joint and Japanese partners in order to ensure U.S. forward deployed and based forces are ready for contingency operations.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the first enlisted female Guard soldiers to graduate Ranger School

Two soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning Dec. 13, 2019. The school prepares soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.


“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'” said Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.

(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

As the first female National Guard enlisted soldiers to graduate from the school, Smiley and Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions. The others are U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who in 2015 became the first women to ever complete the school; U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Lilly, who was the first female National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, Smiley and Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.

“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There are many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” said Smiley. “Do it … Put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”

Smiley and Farber said the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper state assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduates U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as one of the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.

(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

“Train hard for it,” said Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”

Now that they have earned their Ranger tab, Smiley and Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the soldiers they work with and lead.

“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future soldiers,” said Smiley.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery, South Carolina National Guard command sergeant major, said he is proud of what Smiley and Farber achieved.

“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School. … It’s groundbreaking,” he said. “We always tell [soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a soldier brings.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Few things can truly lift a deployed troop’s spirits like hearing the words, “Hey you, you got mail” before having a big ol’ box plopped on their lap. It doesn’t matter what’s inside — just the fact that someone remembered them while they were away makes things better. Some troops are lucky enough to have family members who send out weekly boxes of momma’s cookies, but even those without a constant support network get love from churches, schools, and youth groups.

In the earlier years of the Global War on Terrorism, everybody sent care packages. There was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t putting something together to send abroad, whether it was for a cousin, a friend, a friend’s cousin — whoever. That same war still lingers today and troops are still struck with the same homesickness.

Care packages are the classic cure to homesickness and, even today, they remain the best remedy.


Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice
(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

Don’t get me wrong. They will still fight each other over a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

Some of the older items that were frequently put in care packages for troops, like socks, bars of soaps, and candies that (hopefully) won’t melt after being left in the desert sun for hours, are still appreciated today. Any time troops get sent handwritten notes and children’s drawings, they’ll feel obligated to write back — but things have changed since the beginning of the war.

Fewer troops are in direct combat roles and, thankfully, deployments have gotten shorter. Today, troops are less likely to be put directly in harm’s way for over twelve months at a time, but they’re still not home. What this means is that necessities that may have once helped forward-deployed troops remember what a shower feels like are now stockpiled in the chaplain’s office.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Everyone learns how to play spades while deployed. Why not give your loved one a nicer deck of cards to play with?

Living conditions while deployed have changed a lot since 2001. Today, it’s far less common to see grunts crammed in a hastily made hut. Showers are definitely more abundant and troops have access to places where they can buy their own hygiene goods. That’s not to say that every single American GI is living a life of luxury, but the general level of “suckiness” has been reduced.

In short, this means that troops aren’t hurting for baby wipes like they used to. They’re still helpful to troops who leave the wire, but they’ll more than likely just be used so a troop can skip showering for a day. What troops need now are things for the mind, not the body. Books, movies, and games help pass the time. Without electricity, troops will always pull out a deck of cards and get a game of Spades going.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by: Sgt. Frances Johnson)

The joys of having money and pretty much nothing to spend it on…

The leaps and bounds in technology have also changed the definition of hot-ticket care-package items. Troops no longer need to wait in long lines and hope that there’s still enough time on their pre-paid card to call home. Bases have been getting better and more expansive WiFi networks through the USO, which now allows troops to simply use their smartphone to call home while off-duty.

This boost in technology also does a lot of heavylifting on the part of AAFES, the service that sells regular goods to troops. Instead of hoping that they might have a new pair of running shoes or a fresh hard-drive for storing movies in this month’s package from home, they can just order stuff off Amazon.

Organization to honor 174 service women who paid the ultimate sacrifice
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

Military cooks always try to shove the healthy options down our throats. What we really want is some junk food that reminds us of being back home.

Which brings us back to what troops of today actually want and need. Anything given by a family member with sentimental value is always going to hit home. As corny as it sounds, troops will still put photos of their family and loved ones up on display, just as they have since photography was invented.

Any comfy fleece blankets will be used instead of the Uncle Sam-issued sleeping systems. I’ve personally known troops to keep those cheapo blankets they give out on international flights and use them for twelve months instead of the issued gear.

Sweets are always going to be enjoyed and shared — especially the homemade goods. It doesn’t matter if it was their own momma who made the cookies or someone else’s momma, they’ll be devoured.

It’s kind of a taboo thing to say, but troops will always ask for it, so it’s worth mentioning. If you know that the deployed troop smokes or dips, they could really use some actual stuff instead of the maybe-poisonous, maybe-just-awful tobacco products the locals sell.

It might seem like ancient history to some, but troops are still deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. That war has drawn on long enough that the needs of deployed troops have changed, but homesickness (and its remedy) remains the same.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information