Hip Hop group Space Force, composed of a trio of military musicians, recently released the video to their newest song Galaxy from their album Rocket Science. Filmed in the mountains of Colorado, the video explores the search for oneself through a sci-fi twist.
The group includes Topher, a former cryptologic language analyst for the Air Force; D.Cure, a former military Law Enforcement Officer/ 911 Dispatcher for the Air Force; and The Marine Rapper, a former combat correspondent with Marine Corps infantry battalions.
As a rare bonus for military content, this video is suitable for work and families, so check it out right here:
This isn’t the first time The Marine Rapper (affectionately known as TMR) has made waves. After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he left the Marine Corps in February 2014 and began focusing on music as both a profession and a means of cathartic expression. His music has been featured on the Range 15 movie soundtrack, the Oscar Mike TV series on Go90 network, and Apple Music.
Here’s a sample of lyrics more than one veteran can relate to:
Lock and load, whoa Follow code, let it go Do what I was told Debating whether I can take the shot, oh Pray I’m not the one in that spot, no It’s a war going on right now in my head Fighting with all the bs you fed
This week, We Are The Mighty’s President Mark Harper sat down with the Suit Soldier podcast to talk about his time in service with the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Camera, and how that prepared him to lead a global company. From photographing the front lines to running a business that tells engaging stories about the military, Harper’s path wasn’t quite as unconventional as other transition stories. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
In this episode, Harper shares some of his tactical tips for transitioning, helpful recommendations for resumes as well as other practical guidance for the service member getting ready to leave active duty. But more than that, Harper tells his story. How his dad’s time in the Army instilled a deep calling to serve, how he captured poignant portrayals of life on the front lines through the lens of a camera, and why he moved to L.A. without a job to pursue his dream.
The Suit Soldier podcast is created by Chris Coker, a Business Architect and Career Coach who talks with today’s top veterans to get their story on transitioning from the military so you can understand the path from military service to business success. Discover the traits you already have within yourself that you can deploy into your career and business to achieve your own definition of success.
Comfort is one of the last things in mind when the U.S. Navy designs a submarine. There’s little room to walk around, restrooms and showers are kept as cramped as possible to make room for ordnance and mechanics, and the perpetual lack of sunlight and fresh air will make you forget what time of the day it is.
Add all that up and you’ll quickly realize being deployed for months on end on a submarine is enough to make most people go crazy with cabin fever — but the submariners of the United States Navy are legitimate badasses, so they make due.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
An extra two hours of duty is nothing if it means not losing your freakin’ mind.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
There’s a certain flow that gets developed while underway. The lack of sunlight actually makes it easier on the human body to adapt to a new circadian rhythm, which makes splitting shifts a little easier. There’s a running joke among submariners that the only reliable way to tell the time it is by what the mess hall is cooking. If it’s waffles, it’s probably morning. If it’s leftovers, it’s definitely midnight.
The crew takes turns cycling through three eight-hour shifts: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of duty, and eight hours of free-time. Prior to 2014, submariners endured an 18-hour day that was split into three sections of six hours of each, but it was decided by the powers that be that shifting people off of a 24-hour cycle was a terrible idea for everyone’s sanity.
This 15 sq. foot rack can be all yours for the low, low price of a one enlistment contract!
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
When it comes to sleeping, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the racks resemble coffins. Stacked two high and barely arms-width apart, the only way you can get any kind of privacy is via a tiny, little curtain. If you can get used to that, great. If you can’t, well, sucks to be you…
The space for your personal belongings amounts to all of a single drawer under your rack and a cabinet above your pillow. To everyone else in the military, that’s about a duffel bag’s load of stuff to last you an average of 90 days. What this means is that you’ll usually take changes of uniforms, the occasional personal memento, and that’s about it.
Slackers, rejoice! You probably won’t be PTing that much while you’re underway. Just remember that PT standards still apply when you’re back on land, so there’s that…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor)
After the submariner finishes their assigned watch, their time is their own until they head back to bed. They’ll often get called back for work or get stuck on some mind-numbing detail — but sometimes, it’s a nice break in the monotony.
Since you can’t really chill out in the living quarters if you’re lower rank, the preferred way to relax is to crowd into the mess hall and watch TV. New submarines are being fitted with internet access to give submariners something to do — but don’t expect speeds greater than old-school dial-up all the way down there. There are gyms on board, but you’ll have to stretch your definition of “gym” to mean two machines that are shared among the crew.
Life isn’t easy on a submarine. It’s not for everyone. But if you can endure the extensive training to earn your Submarine Warfare Insignia and knock out a deployment-at-sea in a cramped tin can, you’ve earned the right to be objectively cooler than (nearly) everyone else in the Navy.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.
Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.
But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:
R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.
Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.
Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.
So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.
The Marines in this series are downright authentic.
Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.
The nod of approval for this series.
If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.
Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.
The cast of this series could not be more perfect.
‘Band of Brothers’
Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.
So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
Hearing the devastating fires that are ripping through Australia right now is heartbreaking, but one family is really stepping up, and their father would be really proud. Steve Irwin’s kids are continuing his wildlife preservation legacy and have already saved 90,000 animals in their homeland.
According to CNN, The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s daughter, Bindi, and the rest of the family, have rescued and treated over 90,000 animals who were injured in the recent wildfires in Australia. The Australia Zoo, which is owned and operated by the Irwin family, and their conservation properties, are not endangered by fires raging right now, and they’ve taken in and cared for animals affected by the fires. The 21-year-old shared the Wildlife Hospital at their zoo is “busier than ever” and they will continue to help as many animals as they can.
The environmental activist and conservationist has been sharing photos on her Instagram account of some of the animals that her Wildlife hospital has seen and treated, and the stories of some who, sadly, they could not safe. Blossom, a possum, was featured along with powerful words urging others to help how they can.
“Devastatingly, this beautiful girl didn’t make it even after working so hard to save her life,” she writes. “I want to thank you for your kind words and support. This is the heart-wrenching truth, every day is a battle to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Statistics show almost a third of koalas in Australia’s New South Wales region may have been killed in the raging bushfires, and there’s no question what Bindi and her family are doing to try and help is incredible.
The family shared how others can get involved in caring for the animals who have been harmed. “If you would like to lend a hand, the local fire stations could sure use donations as they are working so hard to keep everyone safe,” she writes. “One of our team members is currently fundraising to construct drinking stations on our conservation property due to the critical drought. You can find his fundraiser by visiting the link in my bio.”
“Together we can make a difference to help our planet in this time of devastation.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
It turns out a massive flood control project is an excellent way to unearth dinosaurs. At least, that’s what happened back in 1993 in Coralville, Iowa.
In 1993, Coralville, Iowa, experienced 28 days of rain. More than 17,000 cubic feet of water flowed over a spillway, wiping out the state’s yearly crop of soybeans and corn. Roads were obliterated, people’s lives were in jeopardy, and the city was literally drowning.
The Coralville Dam was built in the 1950s by the US Army Corps of Engineers to help provide flood protection for the Iowa River Valley to the south. It was named after the city, which had weirdly received its name from the ancient fossilized reefs that stud the river’s limestone.
Once the rains stopped and the citizens of the city could step outside without being swept away, the Corps returned to the site to assess the damage and explore the choices for reconstructing the dam. What they discovered shocked everyone.
The Corps discovered that the floods eroded five feet of limestone from the edge of the spillway. This created a gorge and unearthed several fossil beds, most of which were about 375 million years old. The fossils were mainly marine creatures that had once lived in the sea that used to cover Iowa. Because the Corps discovered them, all the sea creatures immediately became the property of the US Army.
That’s not to say that the Army will be opening a theme park filled with these fossils any time soon, but it’s pretty exciting to think that the Army has done its part to help advance the field of paleontology.
The survey archaeologist for the Corps, Nancy Brighton, said that the collection spans the entire paleontological record. So anything relating to animals and the natural world that existed before humans are included in that.
Because the Corps of Engineers manages more than 8 million acres of land across the United States, finds like the one in Iowa aren’t super uncommon. In fact, the Corps asl owns one of the most intact T. rex skeletons ever found. More on that later.
All thanks in part to the Flood Control Act, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 that decreed the need for dams, levees, and dikes all across the country. But before construction could begin on those early-iteration dams, the Corps had to complete a thorough survey. Those surveys almost always exposed ancient fossil beds.
In fact, it’s assumed that most of what American archeologists have discovered are thanks in part to the efforts of the Corps. All of the hydropower and flood control projects that started back in the 1950s certainly paved the way for new discoveries.
The greatest of all of these discoveries didn’t happen way back, though. It was just a few decades ago, in 1988, on Labor Day. That morning, Kathy Wankel, a hiker, and amateur fossil collector, was trekking through Montana’s Fort Peck Reservoir when something caught her eye.
At first, she thought it was a shoulder blade pushing up through the rocky soil. The lighting was perfect, according to Wankel, which allowed her to see the webby pattern of bone marrow, and that’s when she knew she’d discovered something big.
And by big, of course, we mean enormous. Wankel and her husband had stumbled on the remains of a T. rex thought to have roamed the Montana area some 66 million years ago. The discovery that Wankel and her husband made was one of just eight at the time. Since then, about 50 other skeletons have been discovered.
It took nearly a year to figure out who owned the land where the skeleton was found. At long last, the Corps began to dig. It took several years and a large team to unearth the 38-foot skeleton weighing in at nearly six tons. The most astonishing part? It was almost one hundred percent complete, making it the first specimen to be discovered with small lower arm bones fully intact.
Since 2017, the T. rex has called the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History home. The Corps of Engineers has agreed to a 50-year loan to ensure that all Americans have a chance to see it – when the world’s not locked down with COVID, at least.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.
She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.
Four years later, her advice to others is simple.
“You have to be ‘all-in,'” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.”
“Do not let ‘quit’ in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”
Maj. Lisa Jaster in late 2015, after her graduation from Ranger School that previous October.
(Courtesy of Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster)
The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a citizen soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.
In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for MS Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.
In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.
Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.
“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, poses with her family after promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col. Jaster graduated from Ranger School in 2015, the first female officer in the Reserve to do so.
(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)
“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three Cs – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”
Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.
“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.
“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”
Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.
She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, receives a new patrol cap from her family signifying her promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col.
(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)
“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”
Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.
“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.
“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.
The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”
Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.
All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”
What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.
If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.
How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”
In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.
To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.
For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.
Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.
Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.
“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.
Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.
Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.
“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”
The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.
The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.
Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.
The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.
“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.
“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.
“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”
Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.
“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.
Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”
Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.
Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.
“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”
It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.
Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.
“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”
Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.
Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.
“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.
Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.
“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.
“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”
Guo says this is nothing new to him.
“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”
Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.
“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.
“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
I can feel the gaze of the maintenance master chief beating down on the back of my neck from a mile away. At that moment, I exist in the paradox of being micromanaged by the front office while working a set schedule, flying sorties, and doing minimal maintenance.
Night check, on the other hand, is a different kind of ass-backwards; catch a couple of late flights in and fix whatever gripes the officers make up, including classics like:
“It smells like burning toast in the back of the aircraft.”
“The rudder sticks when held in position for too long.”
“The seats are uncomfortable.”
VAW-125 E2C sits on a flight line
A flight rolls in. Unphased, I throw up a salute, welcome the aircrew back, and start my inspection.
Every DET has its ups and downs. Sometimes you’re flying exercises at TOPGUN in the middle of Fallon, Nevada, sometimes you’re drinking double-shot margaritas with a parrot on your shoulder in Key West. This time, it was the latter.
I stroll into the hangar for muster a little disoriented and hungover from exploring the town the night before. Another surprising Navy DET tradition is to drink — and to drink heavily. Detachments are the only time fraternization is brushed under the rug; an E1 sailor and an officer can be seen throwing back a couple shots, calling each other by their first names, but find their military bearing by 0600 the next morning.
Naval Air Station Key West: Where magic happens.
I check the flight schedule and don my gear as I see my name scribbled on the board. My supervisor yells for me as I’m running out the door to catch my flight.
“Listen Kim, the sooner we get this sh*t done, the sooner we’re off — and the sooner we’re off, the sooner we’re at Cowboy Bill’s!”
Blurry, much like the memory of the night.
Photo by Sung Kim
On Wednesdays, the neon lights of Cowboy Bill’s is a beautiful sight for any metaphorically shipwrecked sailor, marooned far from home and looking for good times, cheap drinks, and morally flexible women. There, they honor a time-old tradition, one that’s highly recommended by the saltier vets in the squadron: topless mechanical bull riding. And it’s every bit of Christmas your six-year-old heart could ever dream of.
Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” will exist for as long as strip clubs do.
I’m one flight away from having Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” ring in my ears and I’ve already picked up scent of the drunken regret ahead of me when I get the call over the radio: My pilot discovered a hole in one of the stabilizing rudders. Unlike most complaints, this was an actual gripe that downs an aircraft. And if the aircraft is down, pilots can’t get their hours in.
I mourn the loss of the wonderland filled with inebriated bachelorettes slow-grinding on a mechanical bull that I’d built in my foolish imagination.
A quarter-sized divot in the rudder stands between me and my paradise; a quarter-sized problem that’s about to be fixed with a dollar-sized piece of duct tape. I run into the shop, grab a roll of duct tape, patch the hole, and epoxy the sides so that the integrity of the tape stays flush while in flight. My supervisor signs off on it, calls maintenance control, and we’ve got the green light.
Upon pre-flight inspection, my pilot calls me up to the top of the aircraft. “What is that, Kim? Duct tape?” I panic.
“No sir, it’s high-speed aero-tape sir,” I lie, reflexively. What am I doing? Why wouldn’t he know what duct tape looks like?
He’s puzzled because he’s never heard of it, so he summons my supervisor. He hasn’t heard of it because it doesn’t exist, just like my soon-to-be-over naval career.
“High-speed aero-tape?” My supervisor chuckles. “You’re lucky we’re on DET son, as soon as this b*tch comes back, write that sh*t up for day check. We’re going to Cowboy Bill’s.”
I was bailed out. My supervisor had my back like he always did and confirmed that the hardware store duct tape my lieutenant (with an engineering degree) saw, was, in fact, a fictional, quick temporary fix patch substance called, “High-Speed Aero-Tape.”
But hey, if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it can’t be fixed.
When the closest VA clinic is miles away, or you have a hard time traveling from place to place, the last thing you want to do is make a trip to the doctor’s office. We get that. Your time is valuable.
In 2005, VA created My HealtheVet next to a coffee shop inside the Portland VA Medical Center. The small kiosk (and floppy disk drives) are long gone. However, the concept remains the same. Give veterans’ the opportunity to play an active role in their health care while saving them time in the process.
Today, over 4.9 million veterans have registered online for VA’s patient portal, My HealtheVet, to refill their prescriptions, download and share their medical records, schedule and view appointments, and send secure messages to their health care teams.
Over 140 million prescriptions refilled
Get this: My HealtheVet has refilled more than 143-million prescriptions over the last 14 years. It could take you just a couple of clicks to order your next prescription. And it will be delivered right to your doorstep.
It’s easy to sign up for an account, and it’s completely free! You can even upgrade your account the next time you’re at a VA clinic to access all of My HealtheVet’s features:
Refill prescriptions online
Schedule and view VA appointments
Download and share your medical records, including medical images
Send secure messages to your health care teams
Access to mental health resources
Gain knowledge through the Veterans Health Library
Click to learn more information about My HealtheVet and start saving time today!
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.