How to take care of your mental health this Christmas - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner — for many, a time of cheer.

But the holidays are also tough for many who know spending several days with their families brings chaos, judgment, and the reopening of old wounds — particularly now the political chasm between the generations seems wider than ever.

It’s always vital to look after your mental health, but Christmas get-togethers with family members you only see once a year and too much wine can bring about unpleasant moments that burn us out.


Niels Eék, a psychologist for the mental health platform Remente, told Insider there are some key coping mechanisms that can ease us through the holiday season with less stress and angst this year.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Paola Chaaya)

“A lot of the time, stressful situations can make us feel helpless and trapped,” he said. “Always trying to think about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational, but will also help you solve the problem at hand.”

‘Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing’

Firstly, he said arguments usually arise from miscommunication or rash responses, which often aren’t intentional.

“If you want to avoid a row, it’s often beneficial to take a step back and try to understand all of the viewpoints involved,” he said. “Examining the bigger picture is key. What is everyone trying to achieve?”

For example, if tensions are running high around the Christmas preparations, write all the tasks down and delegate them by priority. Or if a relative has said something you think is hurtful, try and work out what they meant without reading between the lines. In other words, be diplomatic, Eék said.

“Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing,” he said. “Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response, such as ‘thank you for your opinion, I’ll think about it’ or ‘what did you mean by that, could you explain a bit further?'”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Toa Heftiba)

Listening is always your friend when it comes to communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you. It’s better to attempt a base level of respect before firing shots that aren’t going to get you anywhere.

Of course, if you’re not being granted the same respect in return, you’re well within your rights to excuse yourself and no longer interact with that person.

“Even if forgiveness is impossible, take a deep breath and try to stay calm,” Eék said. “After all, you’re unlikely to see them again for a long time, and it might be worth it for the sake of everyone else’s Christmas to just smile and power through it.”

Don’t spread yourself too thin this year

As we get older, we realize there is no real obligation to spend time with people who have hurt you. Unfortunately, for some people, that includes their families.

But whatever your situation, the excitement around Christmas can mean spreading yourself too thin. That’s why Eék said it’s important to say “no” around this time of year. Trying to cram everything in means you can lose out on resting, which can make everything else more frustrating and exhausting.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Photo by Drew Coffman)

It’s just as justified to make time for what’s important to you — whether that’s getting enough sleep, exercising, or reading a book — as it is to spend time with friends and family. So never apologize for taking some time to take care of yourself, and for making decisions about the events you actually want to attend.

“Knowing the motivations behind your decisions will help you figure out what you want to do this Christmas,” said Eék. “And who you want to spend your time with.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 28th

It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.

To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.

Let these memes help soothe the pain.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Lock Load)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Call for Fire)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Shammers United)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via PNN)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via WWII Pattonposting)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This free retreat gives military spouses a chance to interact with the Love Language expert

Deployments are a staple of military life. But often, military spouses and significant others are left to go-it-alone, especially if they do not live near a military installation. This year, two women are looking to change that with an online retreat headlined by huge names in the military community and outside of it, including keynote speakers Dr. Gary Chapman and Jacey Eckhart.

Joanna Guldin-Noll, a veteran’s spouse and writer behind popular military spouse lifestyle blog Jo, My Gosh!, and Becky Hoy, a military spouse and creator of deployment subscription box Brave Crate, believe that good can come from deployments when approached with intentionality.


“We want to create a place where military spouses and significant others can access resources, best practices, and camaraderie to help them prepare for deployment,” Hoy said.

Held November 8-10 and completely online, PILLAR gathers more than 20 military spouses and experts for a three-day event. Among the line-up of speakers and panelists is Dr. Gary Chapman, bestselling and world-renown author of The Five Love Languages series. Using an interview-style format, Chapman and Hoy will discuss relationships, the military and how to make the Five Love Languages work during deployment. Chapman will answer questions sourced directly from PILLAR attendees.

Including the needs and wants of attendees is important to the duo. “The idea of a wife pining over her husband for a year and doing nothing but waiting while he’s away just isn’t the lived reality of military spouses,” Guldin-Noll said. “Military spouses are finding opportunity in deployment. We are honoring that by incorporating a diversity of voices, military branches, backgrounds and experiences into the retreat.”

Sessions include actionable financial information provided by the retreat’s presenting sponsor, USAA, yoga instruction from Bernadette Soler, and how to ask for and accept help from therapist E.J. Smith. While the retreat will have a schedule, attendees will be able to view sessions and access resources whenever they are able. The flexibility is a nod to the very real demands of military families during deployment as well as the hope to make the retreat as accessible as possible, regardless of where attendees live.

“Military family life can be viewed as being so difficult, but when we reprogram our mindset, we can see there is so much joy to be found along the military life journey,” Jessica Bertsch said, a PILLAR speaker who has experienced multiple deployments. “PILLAR is taking a hard topic like deployment and bringing hope and solutions for military spouses.” The president of Powerhouse Planning and Coast Guard spouse will speak on finding joy in deployment.

PILLAR is free to military spouses and significant others. Registration is open at pillardeploymentretreat.com until November 8; however, if you want to submit a Five Love Languages question, you’ll need to sign-up before September 10 — the deadline for question submissions.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

At NVI, we love to talk about “user experience” (check out any of our previous blogs here, here, or here on the topic). Part of user experience is perspective taking, or walking a mile in your user’s shoes. To that end, we’re inviting you to join us on an emotional rollercoaster full of anticipation, promise, disappointment, and resilience. Welcome to the life of one transitioning veteran.


[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FTkK1hSxgwi0AiPfH_-G-8YliEi3-YqE8YJo5WZ12mLv_Azeare_jKxIY-APNM3DEkNfU-B51jkPFycKiglN6HpTNJ4xfhtlr9OI1ehO0dZH8jqjsI35yy8rVnskg7sYO8MKM4KZ6&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=290&h=cef80948dc66bc581758abd837ec1bc7a86596f5ef626917034211d2c943d9ae&size=980x&c=651230502 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FTkK1hSxgwi0AiPfH_-G-8YliEi3-YqE8YJo5WZ12mLv_Azeare_jKxIY-APNM3DEkNfU-B51jkPFycKiglN6HpTNJ4xfhtlr9OI1ehO0dZH8jqjsI35yy8rVnskg7sYO8MKM4KZ6%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D290%26h%3Dcef80948dc66bc581758abd837ec1bc7a86596f5ef626917034211d2c943d9ae%26size%3D980x%26c%3D651230502%22%7D” expand=1]

lh5.googleusercontent.com

Part I: Getting Out

Your separation request has been approved. This is happening. It’s really happening.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FsthJ_mFPjuRETSSPVbnvl0iU7kGm48wesZTkSljlZrGa38ohdu5kEvIeN2KLMOqcnRbhBJCz-3mJwT68LIa7R3T3TX_GTa-kj5ij8c5tc8yJ9FMz9o3X2W6lMqC-H8XN_HT4_FAb&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=758&h=8087bcde1fb489670f220ae027629cd346bf6e9ad08da41404b5e4b0b8666334&size=980x&c=2803593452 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FsthJ_mFPjuRETSSPVbnvl0iU7kGm48wesZTkSljlZrGa38ohdu5kEvIeN2KLMOqcnRbhBJCz-3mJwT68LIa7R3T3TX_GTa-kj5ij8c5tc8yJ9FMz9o3X2W6lMqC-H8XN_HT4_FAb%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D758%26h%3D8087bcde1fb489670f220ae027629cd346bf6e9ad08da41404b5e4b0b8666334%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2803593452%22%7D” expand=1]

lh5.googleusercontent.com

You get a date for TAP (now Transition GPS) and don your finest (OK, only) business casual duds (or, if you’re me, drop some serious coin at Ann Taylor Loft because you own no business casual attire). Turns out you clean up alright!

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F8pFPwminUkd79ZQ9hxsDxTzNJrO9waJ9kiSDBXYZBv_SK6ZbEWXVERL0cwfgxj26YY37l4Nxr5V8oAv7uJvXHoFsf_Jvm462Bwa2tgiCH3Oe3WiNVK742dlhViQE7KQk4y7s4hBy&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=65&h=734073c9f669e306811e1411646217e6924e37e8f342c3c5505aea7aea2d7a44&size=980x&c=2834207445 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F8pFPwminUkd79ZQ9hxsDxTzNJrO9waJ9kiSDBXYZBv_SK6ZbEWXVERL0cwfgxj26YY37l4Nxr5V8oAv7uJvXHoFsf_Jvm462Bwa2tgiCH3Oe3WiNVK742dlhViQE7KQk4y7s4hBy%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D65%26h%3D734073c9f669e306811e1411646217e6924e37e8f342c3c5505aea7aea2d7a44%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2834207445%22%7D” expand=1]

lh5.googleusercontent.com

Welcome to your Transition GPS. Cue three-to-five days of sipping from a proverbial firehose full of PowerPoint presentations. Job search, interviewing, benefits (oh my). Not exactly how a soon-to-be veteran spends every single day for umpteen years until this day, but onward.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5LoOoSAY_Q55vsErhCXuhuO8rS-881rf3bkL7thsfnyGuSt5nmRzQZGrj29QulJBMBLbsa_Fo5F3vSGIq11CpI84a-nOkZB3y52Xdn16fqKiKJIvUYwWfBCx0vm2UEhkdXOiOQFj&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=704&h=663631456df5ad3dfda73514cba3a3d4bd63f5ce81e7cf0e2931d4d6c235812b&size=980x&c=2247768002 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5LoOoSAY_Q55vsErhCXuhuO8rS-881rf3bkL7thsfnyGuSt5nmRzQZGrj29QulJBMBLbsa_Fo5F3vSGIq11CpI84a-nOkZB3y52Xdn16fqKiKJIvUYwWfBCx0vm2UEhkdXOiOQFj%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D704%26h%3D663631456df5ad3dfda73514cba3a3d4bd63f5ce81e7cf0e2931d4d6c235812b%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2247768002%22%7D” expand=1]

lh3.googleusercontent.com

To be fair, you’re also guided through exercises like a financial wellness worksheet that alerts you that, without BAH, life’s going to be tough.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FBo_kK0mgMtI1YzargkejmJ7qnSGumCkUacJu4zhkO4KlJmde1gd0XkA6yuNcAa6W-MBNk1nc-JHPVnfVUVDTRYyiaoxI8GSd_rlRe-Lj0j3xFLNAYnv1XVlZk_FjwyPYEwlWUKEd&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=147&h=9c1fb3f1f56f56a3b18b28395e3c465f90f8243dc08f28c4a935678844a1d7b5&size=980x&c=3226395597 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FBo_kK0mgMtI1YzargkejmJ7qnSGumCkUacJu4zhkO4KlJmde1gd0XkA6yuNcAa6W-MBNk1nc-JHPVnfVUVDTRYyiaoxI8GSd_rlRe-Lj0j3xFLNAYnv1XVlZk_FjwyPYEwlWUKEd%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D147%26h%3D9c1fb3f1f56f56a3b18b28395e3c465f90f8243dc08f28c4a935678844a1d7b5%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3226395597%22%7D” expand=1]

lh4.googleusercontent.com

Then, you get to the section on labor market information and find out (shock, horror) that your hometown has precisely zero jobs matched to your career field. Guess it’s time to consider your soft skills…

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fxrp5s8XwN4cnYoumpUBar-3UrFN_lVTUf6Q_5FUACNSrHIYo8EvGGK3nuMdC75pnnl99kC13aJswmI3E-HUSlGILL6zi3NiE-uyahamAymXkzNFJl1V7IcjeYd1c9NQju9RfX5u9&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=577&h=2602a8483acccc62ef0d9b6706aed0919d86bc3c1d7fc0779842daeafaa29d5e&size=980x&c=4066637135 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fxrp5s8XwN4cnYoumpUBar-3UrFN_lVTUf6Q_5FUACNSrHIYo8EvGGK3nuMdC75pnnl99kC13aJswmI3E-HUSlGILL6zi3NiE-uyahamAymXkzNFJl1V7IcjeYd1c9NQju9RfX5u9%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D577%26h%3D2602a8483acccc62ef0d9b6706aed0919d86bc3c1d7fc0779842daeafaa29d5e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D4066637135%22%7D” expand=1]

lh3.googleusercontent.com

At the end of the program, you’ve got a signed transition plan that says you know what you’re going to do and you’re clear on how you’re gonna do it. In reality, it’s more like this:

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fv4zCh4RZ4xrLC70BnFiJHcwB2Ddr9bLIXcaouBIUgDVpx25I_JAKX_-LWk7r1womfzQQgJEJrqLDBSuNN-9E3_5x_E-W42Zof0z6l7yzBZK2Oa2Qf72f2ktNBwW1Kz3oGN1qF_-B&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=126&h=908474624128cfe9b9ef9a8ab9532f034553f3a56b58a69d532491c87d43be36&size=980x&c=1143917648 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fv4zCh4RZ4xrLC70BnFiJHcwB2Ddr9bLIXcaouBIUgDVpx25I_JAKX_-LWk7r1womfzQQgJEJrqLDBSuNN-9E3_5x_E-W42Zof0z6l7yzBZK2Oa2Qf72f2ktNBwW1Kz3oGN1qF_-B%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D126%26h%3D908474624128cfe9b9ef9a8ab9532f034553f3a56b58a69d532491c87d43be36%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1143917648%22%7D” expand=1]

lh5.googleusercontent.com

Oh well. Onward to outprocessing!

For the uninitiated, this bureaucratic rite called “outprocessing” is essentially a quest for about two dozen signatures. Your mission is complicated by your signatories’ preternatural ability to have just stepped out when you show up. Challenge accepted.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fgc8mPwN8nEHHCBAfu6jHtneH3rG-E_vzj9elBegSk_LrEhqDrKWN4FxxrRDuprVM44zxHfHSa2xMZI4EuNcs5hflkPx2Wt769R14RPNmZ3_4jbBRMLqv3gBEch5rilHw6MNeh8Nq&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com&s=337&h=478e3ad57dbe63e5f508d96efdf5888a615cbd528acf93bb06ed3cecd9c9cc2a&size=980x&c=3040342644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fgc8mPwN8nEHHCBAfu6jHtneH3rG-E_vzj9elBegSk_LrEhqDrKWN4FxxrRDuprVM44zxHfHSa2xMZI4EuNcs5hflkPx2Wt769R14RPNmZ3_4jbBRMLqv3gBEch5rilHw6MNeh8Nq%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh5.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D337%26h%3D478e3ad57dbe63e5f508d96efdf5888a615cbd528acf93bb06ed3cecd9c9cc2a%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3040342644%22%7D” expand=1]

lh5.googleusercontent.com

A few weeks and a couple dozen signatures later, it’s your special day. The much-fabled “final out.” If you’ve satisfactorily completed your quest, you’re outprocessed! If you bungled any of your tasks, do not pass “go” or collect 200 dollars. You’re in for a wild goose chase (and possibly a stern talking-to). Time for the most sacred of paid time off: terminal leave.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The USS Michael Murphy flies some of the best flags in the fleet

The flying of different flags on naval vessels is a sub-culture in and of itself. Depending on their heritage, culture and achievements, ships sometimes fly the first Navy Jack, a Jolly Roger or the traditional Stars and Stripes. However, USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112) might fly two of the best flags in the fleet.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
A Marine rifle team stands at parade rest as USS Michael Murphy passes by during the 75th Anniversary of the End of WWII ceremony at Pearl Harbor (U.S. Navy)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer is the 62nd ship in her class and is homeported at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She is named for Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael P. Murphy, and was christened on his birthday May 7, 2011. Murphy gave his life to save his SEAL team in Afghanistan in 2005. His heroics, and those of the other SEALs involved in the ill-fated Operation Red Wings, are immortalized in the book Lone Survivor and its subsequent movie. Murphy was the first sailor to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War (Senior Chief Britt K. Slabinski was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2018 for actions undertaken in 2002). As such, the crew of the ship that bears his name have a lot to live up to.

Fittingly, the ship’s motto is, “Lead the fight!” The command also prides itself as the, “MOST LETHAL, BEST DESTROYER of the FLEET!” To communicate this enormous pride, USS Michael Murphy flies an absolutely enormous American flag when she comes into port. When leaving port, she flies a similarly large skeleton frog flag as a tribute to the frogman for whom she is named. On certain occasions, USS Michael Murphy will even fly both flags.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
USS Michael Murphy flying her skeleton frog flag (U.S. Navy)

USS Michael Murphy often flies her gigantic American flag during special ceremonies where the ship is underway like the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II commemoration ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She also flew the flag during the 79th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor ceremony. During the ceremony USS Michael Murphy sailed in front of the USS Arizona memorial. The flag flew large and proud as Michael Murphy‘s sailors saluted their fallen comrades entombed within the Arizona.

The ship’s social media posted about the enormous flags saying, “Sometimes, just sometimes… you just have to let them know who’s arriving!” And let them know she does. If ever you spot a destroyer coming in or leaving port and flying an absolute unit of a flag, you’ll have no doubt that it’s the USS Michael Murphy and her crew continuing to lead the fight.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
You can’t mistake her for any other ship when she hoists that huge flag (U.S. Navy)
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A New York hospital needed more beds and providers. They called in Special Forces.

Fred Wellman, a West Point graduate and retired public affairs officer, was at home in Richmond, Virginia when he got a call from his friend Kate Kemplin, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing in Ontario, Canada, who was driving to New York.

“She said, ‘we’re building a hospital and we need your network in New York City,'” Wellman, who holds a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, told We Are The Mighty.


Kemplin was referencing what would become the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field, a temporary hospital created to care for COVID-19 patients.

“She needed someone to handle the administrative aspects — things like admin work, bed tracking systems, logistics, not a hospital person, but someone intimately familiar with processes,” Wellman explained. “I was telling my girlfriend about all of this later on and she looked right at me and said, ‘You know that’s you, right?'”

Wellman, the founder and CEO of public relations and research firm ScoutComms, talked to his senior staff and family and called Kemplin back.

“It sounds like you need me,” he told her.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Wellman pauses for a selfie in what would become The Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field.

Courtesy of Fred Wellman

Wellman drove to New York City, where he has been working for a week in his new role as chief of staff at the field hospital, where the staff is composed entirely of former military.

“We put the SOS out to the Special Forces community for medics, and said we need you in New York within a day or two,” Wellman said. “We were able to bring in Special Forces medics as healthcare providers under doctor supervision. It’s never been done in a stateside setting, to use former medics as providers. They’re putting on PPE and taking care of patients. That’s what’s so revolutionary about this. These are former special operations community medics and healthcare workers who have come together on a week’s notice. It’s never been done. Using medics this way is unheard of.”

On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital opened.

Melissa Givens, a retired Army colonel, serves as the hospital’s medical director with over 20 years of experience in emergency and special operations medicine and disaster operation.

“We’re able to let veterans do what they love to do and that’s run at the sound of gunfire, and the gunfire is coronavirus. Here we come and we’re here to help,” Givens, who left her work as a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, D.C. area to aid in NYC, said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.

The temporary hospital, named after Navy SEAL medic Ryan Larkin who died in April 2017, has the capacity to treat 216 COVID-19 patients, as well as staff a 47-bed emergency department outpost.

“Many beds are being taken up at local hospitals by people who are recovering and we need those beds for sicker people,” Wellman said. “Hospitals are using their waiting rooms, cafeterias, as bed space. We have treated a couple dozen patients [here], and that’s growing quickly. Our hope is to get our system working really well and to get sicker patients into the proper hospitals where they belong.”

Despite the enormous physical and mental strain of the work being done, Wellman admits that the military’s ingrained sense of camaraderie has helped.

“We all understand the gravity of what we are doing and why we are here,” he said. “[But] seeing the way all these veterans, from different branches of service, with different experiences, and completely different ranks, just fell right into a unit from day one.”

Speaking through a mask as the interview ended and Wellman headed back inside the bubble, he likened his experience to his former life as an executive military officer.

“I went to Iraq three times and Desert Storm before that. That first deployment, you didn’t know what to expect; it’s planned, you know what you’re going to do, but once you cross that border, all bets are off. Yeah we have systems and processes, but this virus gets to vote, too.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier set to become the first ever female Green Beret

For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.


The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez/Released)

The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.

This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.

“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)

Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside Project Galahad: How the 75th Ranger Regiment used ‘creative destruction’ to prepare for the modern battlefield

The next war will be dynamic and disruptive. To prepare for it, some US military leaders have embraced a mindset of “creative destruction” in order to challenge orthodoxy, adopt revolutionary changes, and even question how success should be defined on the battlefield of the future.

Along that line of thinking, for the past three years the US Army’s vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell called “Project Galahad.” This select team has subsequently gone against the grain of so-called conventional doctrine and investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems.

“We need to be nimble and can’t hesitate to wipe the board when we need to,” Army Lt. Col. Adam Armstrong, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment who served as a Project Galahad team member, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

According to a forthcoming article in the Special Operations Journal, Project Galahad was an “act of creative destruction” intended to “create cognitive space for experimentation.”

Armstrong described Project Galahad as a “mixed team of carefully selected officers and [non-commissioned officers] from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds chartered to think big with nearly complete autonomy, beholden only to the [regimental commander].”

“Done a lot of jobs — that’s easily in my top three,” Armstrong added.

With support from the Joint Special Operations University, since 2018 Project Galahad has become a permanent fixture within the 75th Ranger Regiment’s command system. The project’s goals include “fostering innovation” and “disrupting legacy systems to provide novel opportunities.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

‘Revolutionary Change’

Project Galahad implemented a decision-making process called “military design thinking.” A specialized field with roots in chaos and complexity theories, design thinking fosters divergent and experimental ways of problem solving.

Design thinking spurs its practitioners to “challenge their fundamental beliefs” in order to “reframe” a situation. According to the methodology, if you see problems in a different light, you’re more likely to produce innovative solutions.

An early version of design thinking called “Systemic Operational Design theory” — a product of the Israeli Defense Force’s Operational Theory Research Institute  — was put into action by select US military teams on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq during the mid-2000s. Since then, the methodology has become more mainstream within the US military as it prepares for a new era of great power competition.

“History seems to show folks rarely know when they are in need of a revolutionary change until circumstances force it upon them,” Armstrong said.

America’s military personnel have the natural attributes of autonomy, creativity, and the appetite for taking risks that are necessary to combat modern adversaries. US society is unique in the value it places on novel and unconventional thinkers. We praise the rule breakers. Whereas in many other countries — particularly those of America’s primary adversaries, Russia and China — that sort of proclivity for independent thought is not inculcated in citizens throughout their lives. So, some say that a design cell like Project Galahad is an effective way for US military units to take advantage of their premier battlefield advantage — the independent character of American troops.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
Afghan and coalition security forces target a Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan safe haven, detaining six insurgents during security operations in Burkah district, Baghlan province, Afghanistan, March 14, 2011. Photo by Sgt. Brian Kohl/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Answering directly to the regimental commander, Project Galahad does not implement policy. Rather, this unique team is charged with bucking orthodoxy and coming up with new ways of doing business. Unlike some other innovation-geared groups and think tanks within the US military, Project Galahad is meant to keep its pulse on the day-to-day realities of regimental life, as well as the requisites of real-world combat.

Prior to the beginning of Project Galahad in 2018, the military design process had already been used for solving real-world combat problems within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Once enacted, Armstrong said Project Galahad was subsequently geared toward “ill-defined, often nascent, and ambiguous problem sets.”

To foster creativity, the Project Galahad team members created a workspace more analogous to a Silicon Valley startup than an elite special operations unit. They covered the walls with whiteboards and Post-it notes and established dedicated collaborative spaces. They even repainted the interior in “less depressing paint than the bland tan colors found in so many government buildings,” Armstrong said. The overarching goal was to spur abstract thought. And, in that vein, the team frequently turned their cellphones and computers off and engaged in what they called “deep thought sessions.”

“By using abstract thought we found we could conceptualize things that maybe we hadn’t thought of, see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” Armstrong said.

The team’s composition, too, was key to its success in generating innovative ideas. There was a major who studied music in university and who was, in Armstrong’s words, a “completely disruptive thinker.” There was a master sergeant who’d spent his career within the regiment and had an MBA “from a very high-end program.” There was a midcareer officer with a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear background, a retired Army master sergeant, and a young officer with only one year in the regiment.

“Each Ranger brought a unique perspective — officer, enlisted, lots of time and life experience, or less,” Armstrong said, adding: “We also kept each other honest. Everyone had a voice, people could question things, we could argue. I was well out of my comfort zone, but that became comfortable after a few months.”

Still, it was difficult for Project Galahad team members to “reframe.” For his part, Armstrong said that after spending 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he had a lot of “institutionalization” to kick.

“My undergraduate degree is in physics, with almost 10 years in the regiment and an infantry officer — that’s about as ‘regimented’ as they come,” Armstrong said, adding: “We found that the key for Galahad’s team members was their assimilation through structured professional development. Team members went through courses on critical thought, basic and advanced design, and even cognitive optimization.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment conduct FRIES training (fast rope infiltration and extraction) at Fort Benning, Georgia, May 5, 2015. Photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt, 75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Rangers Lead the Way

The Army’s premier special operations direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.

“The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force the Army has to offer,” the Army says on its website. “Their mission, depending on the operation, can range from airfield seizure to special reconnaissance to direct action raids on select targets and individuals, and they have a rich operational history.”

Ranger units have always been outliers within Army doctrine. The concept of “standing orders” was adopted by US Rangers during the French and Indian War — from 1754 to 1763 — to facilitate the execution of small-unit raids.

Following the Vietnam War, a new, permanent peacetime Ranger battalion was established to be a “change agent” within the Army. It has gone through a series of expansions since then, from a single battalion to a regiment, and more recently adding a special troops battalion and military intelligence battalion. Thus, the experimental Project Galahad program is well suited to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s institutional culture, which remains receptive to novel and unconventional solutions to combat problems.

Since October 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in support of counterinsurgency fights that stemmed from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. War is always chaotic and dangerous and unpredictable. Yet, over the past two decades of unending combat, war has — in the American experience — existed, more or less, within a fairly consistent battlefield architecture. The nature of combat, the terrain within which it is fought, and even the general nature of the enemy haven’t significantly changed since 2001.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
US Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, France, June 4, 2019. Photo by Master Sgt. Andy M. Kin/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

So, while the US military is battle-hardened after 20 years of counterinsurgency combat, all that experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a battlefield advantage against modern adversaries such as China and Russia. When Project Galahad was created, the Rangers faced “plenty of problem sets related to national security, which we knew had the potential to be very different from our experiences of the last 20 years,” Armstrong said.

The unrelenting pace of two decades of constant counterinsurgency combat has been an obstacle to the regiment’s ability to foster innovative, novel solutions to burgeoning threats. In short, the real-world demands of combat took precedence over the kind of “creative destruction” needed to adapt to new threats from burgeoning great-power competitors.

“The operational demand for continuity leaves little room for those who stray outside time-proven institutional practices. The uncertainty of war makes experimentation, even in conceptual forms, a difficult and controversial undertaking,” according to an excerpt from a forthcoming article in the Spring 2021 issue of the Special Operations Journal.

After its conception, Project Galahad helped the 75th Ranger Regiment to address future problems without diverting time and energy away from the management of ongoing combat operations.

“Project Galahad was able to take the problem set on, run it through some design iterations, and then bridge to plans while staying linked in with the regimental commander and our [higher headquarters],” Armstrong said. “Overall, I think that provided a much better product, while allowing quality to remain high on everything else that the regiment was working.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
US Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction from their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain their tactical proficiency. Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

Project Galahad’s purview also extends to the most basic institutional standards of the US military, including chain of command systems that date back to the 19th-century Prussian army.

In 2017, Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “recognized the risk posed by a legacy paradigm that applied yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s challenges,” write the authors of the excerpted Special Operations Journal article, which was posted to Facebook.

The Prussian army’s general staff system became the gold standard for Western military chains of command after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871. For his part, Tegtmeier “decided to take unconventional action toward his own organizational form and took steps to upend the legacy, Prussian-designed Regimental staff system,” the Special Operations Journal reports.

The article’s authors add: “[Tegtmeier] saw the emerging complex security environment of the 21st century as something that required a new way of operating at the Regimental level, starting with his staff’s structure and processes.”

‘Studio for War’

The 2018 US National Defense Strategy made it clear that the preeminent challenge to the US was no longer terrorism but near-peer competitors such as Russia and China. That document underscored the ongoing evolution of thinking within the Pentagon that has spurred changes spanning the gamut from the creation of the US Space Force to the development of new battlefield technologies like artificial intelligence and ultra-long-range artillery systems.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
A US Army Ranger of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, scans his sector in the prone position during a live fire exercise on Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Jan 23, 2014. Rangers incorporated live fire training into battle drill exercises. Photo by Pfc. Sean Carlos/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

In June 2017, Tegtmeier charged a small team with investigating how the legacy Prussian command system was hobbling his unit’s ability to face new threats. His team came back and confirmed that, yes, the 150-year-old chain of command was indeed a hindrance to innovation. The team also identified an “insular culture” that this old system created, which was also stifling innovation.

Tegtmeier’s investigative team proposed two options to shake things up. He could either implement a top-to-bottom upheaval of the current command system or put in place a “standing cross-functional team” to address specific challenges outside the normal chain of command.

According to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article: “The re-organize option that flipped the Prussian-style staff structure on its head would be recognized as the superior option, despite the vast undertaking required.” However, that option also “risked functional chaos,” the article states.

“The process of analyzing which direction to go was pretty involved — and [Tegtmeier] was leaning toward a complete restructure for most of it,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to eliminate the typical ‘silo’ effect you get in conventional staff structure.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
US Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment stand in formation during an award ceremony hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Rangers are still at war, and sweeping changes to a 150-year-old command system might be too risky to carry out when lives are still at risk and American national security is still at stake. The regiment’s leadership also worried that the “re-organize option” could adversely affect the unit’s interoperability with the rest of the Army.

Moreover, by existing wholly outside the normal chain of command, the cross-functional team option would likely face less institutional resistance. According to the Special Operations Journal: “It would be a dynamic and highly experimental ‘studio for war’ within the Regiment, unlike any other staff function.”

Ultimately, the cross-functional team option was chosen for its practicality. Thus was begot “Project Galahad.” The project’s name is a nod to a legendary World War II unit, known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” which saw combat in Southeast Asia.

“‘Project Galahad’ was the answer to what I saw as a dire need in our formation — the ability to mass quickly on complex, ambiguous problems without a loss in capacity for the rest of our Regimental staff, already consumed with force generation, force modernization, day to day warfighting, and sustaining readiness for contingencies,” said Tegtmeier, the former 75th Ranger Regiment commander, according to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire off a Carl Gustaf 84 mm recoilless rifle at a range on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 26, 2014. Rangers use a multitude of weaponry during their annual tactical training. Photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Project Galahad team quickly identified “tensions” in the unit. One example: the occasional disparities between the qualifications that make a good Ranger versus what’s most beneficial for career advancement within the Army’s promotion system. That includes the need for Rangers to pursue higher education for the sake of their Army careers — all while maintaining the regiment’s unrelenting operational tempo.

One Project Galahad success story is in the so-called “war for talent” — or, in other words, the ongoing effort to improve recruiting and retention, and to “take care of our people,” Armstrong said. Due to Project Galahad’s recommendations, the 75th Ranger Regiment implemented the “Phalanx” program, which, according to Armstrong, has been instrumental in fostering a healthy unit culture that spurs the regiment’s Rangers to achieve peak performance.

‘Meat on the Bones’

Disruptive change is not always an easy ask within the hierarchical command structure of the US armed forces. Contrarian thinkers may be reluctant to buck the system for myriad reasons — such as the potentially negative consequences on one’s prospects for career advancement.

In short: the hierarchical command system that maintains order and discipline amid the fog of war may not be ideal for fostering creative brainstorming sessions within peaceful circumstances. Still, the so-called old ways remain useful when it comes time to turn innovative ideas into action on the battlefield.

“Design allows you to frame a problem and identify some potential solutions but it still requires a bridge and handoff to plans teams for some detail work, placing meat on the bones,” Armstrong said.

“Conventional chains of command can be pretty ideal […] particularly in a time-constrained environment,” he added. “All that said — [for a] complex problem, when I have the time, I’m probably going to apply design whenever possible.”

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas
US Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, California, Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. Photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/US Army, courtesy of DVIDS.

While the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Project Galahad has proven successful, other Department of Defense programs geared toward the generation of innovative solutions to tomorrow’s problems have not fared as well under current budgeting priorities.

In October, Coffee or Die Magazine reported on the Army’s decision to defund its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies — colloquially known in military circles as the “Red Teaming University.” The news followed the Army’s recent decision to shut down its Asymmetric Warfare Group, as well as the Marine Corps’ recent decision to close an experimental training program that focused on complex urban terrain called Project Metropolis II.

Some military experts have criticized these moves as shortsighted and part of a broader prioritization of Pentagon resources toward acquiring new technologies, rather than researching how doctrine should evolve to combat modern threats.

Throughout history, US military-industrial dominance has permitted the luxury of warmup periods in its wars to arrive at a coherent strategic vision and develop workable tactics to achieve victory. Famously, US military forces honed their combat acumen on the North African front in World War II before embarking on the liberation of Europe.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied North African campaign, An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson wrote: “Like the first battles in virtually every American war, this campaign revealed a nation and an army unready to fight and unsure of their martial skills, yet willful and inventive enough to prevail.”

However, against a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China, US military forces will have less time to hone their tactics and find their confidence in battle. The next war may be over before America’s armed forces learn how to fight it. Thus, one key goal of experimental programs like Project Galahad is to spur innovations to combat future threats before meeting them for the first time while in a war.

“That’s the classic innovation conundrum,” Armstrong said. “I think getting it right, 100%, the first time is pretty tough — but I think the employment of concepts like design are going to help us get closer to the mark, and hopefully save us from having to learn some hard lessons at high cost.”

He added, “I am a firm believer that design would work anywhere in the Army, something as simple as applying design thinking to routine problems could be hugely impactful.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how female veterans get the mental health care they need

Women veterans are more likely to die by suicide than women who did not serve in the military, and, in a 2011 survey (the most recent survey of this kind), 46 percent of women veterans in California reported a current mental health problem. Los Angeles County, meanwhile, is home to approximately 20,600 women veterans, the fourth-highest population of any U.S. county.

Women Vets on Point (WVoP) has one goal: to connect women veterans in Los Angeles County with compassionate mental health care delivered by providers who understand their experiences and needs.

WVoP is led by women veterans, including Kristine Stanley, who served in the Air Force for 24 years. She recalls that she struggled in her first year after leaving the military and didn’t know where to turn for help.

“I want my fellow women veterans to know they are not alone,” said Stanley, program coordinator for WVoP at U.S.VETS. “I know they may feel invisible or forgotten, or that no one realizes they’ve served. That all changes with Women Vets on Point. If they have ever put on a uniform, this program is for them.”

At www.womenvetsonpoint.org, women veterans can:

  • Connect with a WVoP team member. Team members listen to women’s stories and help them find mental health care providers who have experience working with women veterans on challenges related to post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, domestic violence, and more.
  • Get referrals for services that can assist with legal, employment, housing, and child-care needs.
  • Hear stories of hope and recovery from other women veterans.
  • Locate tools and resources to help them better understand their symptoms.
How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) attached to Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conduct a security patrol in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 3, 2011. The FET aids the infantry Marines by engaging Afghan women and children in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)

In creating WVoP, U.S.VETS partnered with Education Development Center (EDC), a nonprofit that advances innovative solutions to improve education and promote health. EDC was selected because of its experience in using technology tools to facilitate effective mental health treatment.

“There are very few programs tailored specifically for women who served,” said EDC project director, Erin Smith. “EDC’s research enables us to recommend solutions for some of the challenges women veterans may face. The bottom line is that earlier access to treatment can mean higher quality of life. And we know how to help women engage with treatment in ways that work with all of the other responsibilities they are carrying.”
How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Claire Ballante holds an Afghan child during a patrol with Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment in Musa Qa’leh, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2010. Ballante is part of a female engagement team that is patrolling local compounds to assess possible home damage caused by aircraft landing at Forward Operating Base Musa Qala.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres)

Many of the challenges faced by women veterans are distinct from those faced by male veterans or other women, and these challenges may be poorly understood by the public. According to Stanley, some people assume that women veterans can’t have experienced trauma if they didn’t serve in a traditional combat role. Another common misconception is that women veterans’ challenges are related only to military sexual trauma.

“Women Vets on Point knows what misconceptions are out there,” said Stanley. “And we know that the needs of women who served have not been sufficiently addressed. Women Vets on Point is going to make serious changes for women in this community and hopefully make the journeys of women veterans easier in the future.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

These Dutch villagers wait years to adopt US graves from World War II

There are so many rich, incredible facts surrounding the World War II-era Netherlands American Cemetery near Maastricht. It lies along a highway that saw some of history’s most memorable names – Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, just to name a few. In the 20th Century, Hitler’s Wehrmacht also used the road to capture the Netherlands and Belgium and bring them into the Nazi Reich.

What rests there now is a memorial and cemetery to those who fought to liberate the country from the grip of the Nazi war machine. The locals have never forgotten who died there and, from the looks of things, they never will.


How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The cemetery is meticulously well kept. A memorial tower overlooks a reflecting pool and at the base of the tower is the stature of a mother grieving over her lost son. Elsewhere on the grounds is a list of the battles and operations fought by U.S. servicemen during World War II, the names of those 8,301 men buried on the grounds, and the names of those 1,722 who went missing while fighting in the Netherlands.

Among the honored dead are seven Medal of Honor recipients and a Major General. In all, it’s a remarkable site with historic significance. The most significant thing about the 65-acre Netherlands American Cemetery is who takes care of each American gravestone.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Since 1945, the Dutch people in the area have adopted individual graves, keeping the site clean and maintaining the individual memorials. They ensure that flowers adorn their adopted grave and that the name and deeds of the American interred there are never forgotten. They actually research the entire life of their adopted fallen GI. Some of them adopt more than one.

Ever since the end of WWII, people have adopted the graves of these men and women out of a deeply heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices that they made for our freedom,” local Sebastiaan Vonk told an Ohio newspaper. “They truly are our liberators and heroes.”

The Foundation for Adopting Graves at the American Cemetery Margraten has 300 people waiting to join them.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

The American Cemetery is one of the largest in the world. Its upkeep and memory are so important to the locals whose families saw the horrors of Nazi occupation. Even those separated by the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands by a generation or more still hold those names dear and are taking their remembrance project one step further – remembering their face.

A new effort, The Faces of Margraten, seeks to collect photos of the men who died or went missing in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. On Dutch Memorial Day, the group displays personal photos of more than 3,000 of those interred in the cemetery, holding an event that “brings visitors face-to-face with their liberators.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers share stories of suicide to save others

There was the staff sergeant who walked onto the street in front of his home — gun in hand — ready to end his life, when a neighbor stopped him from pulling the trigger.

There’s the lieutenant who vulnerably opened up to his commander during a battle assembly weekend — eyes so tired from not having slept in two days — and admitted he needed help.

The chaplain who lost his father to suicide in his grandmother’s house.

The sergeant who lost a soldier during deployment.

The officer who handled a suicide investigation case.

A lost brother. A mother. A close friend.


Each of them sat in front of the camera to share their stories — raw and real and unscripted — for a new take on suicide prevention.

“The idea was, talk directly into the lens as if you were looking at that person who is in crisis. Look at them in the eye. Say whatever it is you need them to hear,” said David Dummer, the suicide prevention program manager for the 200th Military Police Command, headquartered at Fort Meade.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Since 2010, the command’s suicide rate has dropped 65 percent. It is currently at its lowest point on record. In four of the last five years, the command’s suicide rate has been below the civilian rate, based on similar age demographics. That’s not often true throughout most of the armed services, said Dummer.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous, tremendous reduction in our suicide rate using the old material, and I think these new (videos) will take us even further in the right direction,” said Dummer.

The goal is to create something new, powerful and impactful to use in suicide prevention training, unlike some of the canned material that has been in use for several years now.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Maj. Valerie Palacios, a U.S. Army Reserve public affairs officer for the 200th Military Police Command, operates a camera on a slider during an interview for a video project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Suicide prevention training is required for all soldiers. In spite of everyone recognizing how incredibly important it is, soldiers often groan at the training because the materials used often feel scripted or repetitive, said Dummer.

“Our suicide prevention effort is to save lives. We recognized some time ago that the training material we have been given to use is rather stale,” Dummer said.

These new video messages are intended to change that. They are designed to supplement current material, not replace it.

“The official Army line is to reduce suicides, but in the 200th we’re aiming to eliminate them completely,” said Dummer.

The video shoot spanned two days at the Defense Media Activity (DMA), recorded inside a state of the art studio that reassured everyone that this was important. Their stories would be handled

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

with care and professionalism. It wasn’t going to be some PSA message haphazardly thrown together at the last minute. Dummer and his team at the 200th MP Command had been planning this shoot for months, calling soldiers from across the United States to take part in the effort.

“Their words have power. That power will ripple throughout the audience and beyond as people start to talk about what they saw on camera … It takes a lot of courage to get up and speak about your personal experiences publically,” Dummer said.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and civilians pose for a group portrait after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

The primary audience for this video is the MP command itself, composed of nearly 14,000 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers across the United States. Most of those soldiers are MPs who specialize in combat support, detention operations and criminal investigations — among other job specialties. These are soldiers who have experienced deployment, trauma and life stressors as intense as any active duty soldier.

“I always brag that I have more combat stripes than I have service stripes,” said Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a 20-year Army veteran who is also a civilian police officer from Atlanta.

Snowden is also a suicide prevention instructor who often shares personal experiences to connect with soldiers during training.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

David Dummer (top), suicide prevention coordinator for the 200th Military Police Command, and Maj. Valerie Palacios, the command’s public affairs officer, conduct a video interview during a project organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“Me being a police officer thinking I knew how to handle every situation, because I’ve dealt with child molestations. I’ve dealt with suicides … Overdoses. Murders. On the outside looking in, you have that mindset, just like you would in the military, that it’s work. When it’s over, it’s over. You go home,” he said.

Yet, the challenges of adjusting to home life after deployment only grew worse when trauma struck in his own house. One of his own daughters was sexually assaulted. He felt like a failure. He was her father. Her protector. A police officer. A former infantryman. If he couldn’t protect her, who could?

Over time, that sense of shame and worthlessness brought him onto the street with a gun. He didn’t want to end his life in his house or his back yard. He looked both ways to ensure no cars were coming. Then he heard a voice.

“Hey, brother, what are you doing?” It was his neighbor. Up until that day, Snowden didn’t even know the man’s name.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Staff Sgt. Preston Snowden, a U.S. Army Reserve military police soldier with the 200th Military Police Command, poses for a portrait while participating in a video project hosted and organized by the 200th MP Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Snowden tried to make some excuse.

“That’s bull—-,” the neighbor responded. “I see it. Cause I’ve done it. I was there. I could see it a mile away. I could pretty much smell it on you. Let’s talk.”

The man introduced himself as Fred. A 32-year Army veteran. A man who cuts the grass and works in the yard every day as his personal outlet. Through that interaction, Fred saved Snowden’s life.

Other stories shared on camera didn’t have a happy ending. On holidays and birthdays, soldiers still miss the loved ones they lost to suicide. Yet, even though each story is personal and unique, they all share a universal message.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers listen to a final “out brief” after completing a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“I think the one theme that emerged from every single story … is the value of reaching out to someone around you, or to the people around you, and asking them for their support in getting through whatever tough time you’re experiencing,” said Dummer.

Soldiers often don’t express their need for help because they’re afraid of losing their security clearances, or their careers. They’re afraid of appearing weak or inferior. Dummer hopes to help dispel those fears through this video series.

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

Sgt. Claude Richardson, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier and suicide prevention instructor with the 358th Military Police Company, talks about his experience as an instructor during a video project hosted and organized by the 200th Military Police Command’s Suicide Prevention Program to document the stories of suicide survivors and those affected by the suicide of loved ones during a two-day shoot at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Md., Dec. 14, 2018.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Dummer also wants all Army Reserve leaders to know that if a soldier expresses suicidal ideations, commanders can place those soldiers on 72-hour orders to provide them immediate medical treatment at the nearest civilian emergency room or military hospital. The video will also provide a list of other helpful resources, such as “Give an Hour,” which offers free behavioral health services to all military members.

It’s not enough to raise awareness about a problem, if that awareness offers no solutions, Dummer said. These videos will do both.

The command has at least one more day scheduled at the DMA studios in January, before post production and editing begins. Once finished, the videos will be packaged and distributed throughout the command for training purposes beginning in the spring of 2019.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 hard truths about what marriage is like after military life

I spent 10 years searching for joy in the moments that we weren’t together. I thought retirement would be easy, that the search would be over, and that the bond we shared prior to deployments would naturally realign us.


The truth is marriage takes work. I love this man fiercely and he loves me, but sometimes that is not enough. Here are three hard truths I’ve learned about marriage after the military and what living together really looks like:

How to take care of your mental health this Christmas

live.staticflickr.com

I miss the goodbyes.

I miss the goodbyes. It feels like a betrayal to even write that, but the truth is that goodbyes and time apart became a familiar routine. Whether it was him leaving for training or deployment, or me packing up to head out for another medical trip for our daughter, goodbyes were a constant dynamic of our relationship. And so were hellos.

Perhaps that’s what I really miss, the hello. I miss that moment that you catch each other’s eye after months apart, that first kiss, that first reconnection. The honeymoon period is glorious, and perhaps I thought that’s what we were entering with retirement.

C.S. Lewis talks of a quieter love that enables us to keep our promise of commitment to one another. He says it is a deep unity that is “maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” He goes on to say that “It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

We are always together.

Prior to retirement, we both looked forward to hellos. Now we crave opportunities and outlets to explore separate interests. I dreamed about lunch dates and long slow days together. Those lunch dates and long slow days are typically in doctor offices and waiting rooms.

In the beginning, we approached retirement as a honeymoon period when we should have been looking to the bigger picture and the skills we developed during reintegration. Instead of being honest and open about our expectations and disappointments, my husband and I began to hold resentment that only led to more misunderstandings. We had forgotten how essential open communication is during the reintegration period and how living together holds challenges that are new to couples who have spent so much time apart.

We’ve learned to pause and re-access, to not sweat the small stuff, to communicate clearly, and to not be offended when the other one needs to recharge with friends or some much needed time alone.

The romantic notion of spending every waking moment together is great in short bursts, but that passion is not sustainable for the steady commitment of marriage. There will be moments where we don’t like each other. The truth is we are in it for the long haul. That includes hospital rooms, counseling appointments, financial planning, and an occasional rushed meal of ramen before shuffling out the door for one of the many kid events or late night Walmart runs for forgotten school projects.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fphoto-1480623826718-27e89ac63a4f%3Fixlib%3Drb-1.2.1%26ixid%3DeyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9%26auto%3Dformat%26fit%3Dcrop%26w%3D1950%26q%3D80&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fimages.unsplash.com&s=340&h=075563782d4f62891e0869d0253ae06a98c19084ca94270a3cce7695848c6894&size=980x&c=3206087989 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fphoto-1480623826718-27e89ac63a4f%253Fixlib%253Drb-1.2.1%2526ixid%253DeyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9%2526auto%253Dformat%2526fit%253Dcrop%2526w%253D1950%2526q%253D80%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fimages.unsplash.com%26s%3D340%26h%3D075563782d4f62891e0869d0253ae06a98c19084ca94270a3cce7695848c6894%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3206087989%22%7D” expand=1]

We will get through this

One of my favorite faith leaders is Fr. Richard Rohr who says, “Love and suffering are finally the same, because those who love deeply are committing themselves to eventual suffering, as we see in Jesus. And those who suffer often become the greatest lovers.”

I have found that the chaos and trauma that comes with life will either break or strengthen a marriage. Much like deployments and reintegration bring to the surface the underlying issues in the relationship, the difficulties that come with transitioning into civilian life can uncover problems you’ve stuffed down so deep you’ve forgotten they were there.

My husband and I statistically should have called it quits between our daughter’s cancer and military life. When I’m honest, I have to say that there have been times we almost did.

We all hold the skills necessary to make this new world of retirement life work. It’s simply a matter of repurposing the skills we’ve been learning throughout our military journey.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information