Team Rubicon, the disaster response organization known for mobilizing Veterans in response to tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters, has once again begun deploying its Veteran volunteers to the Navajo Nation to provide medical relief and assistance.
It’s the second time this year that the Tribe and Team Rubicon have worked together. Over 91 days, beginning in April, Team Rubicon placed 128 volunteers – including 47 Veterans – within the Navajo Nation, where they helped treat more than 3,000 patients.
With hospitals and medical centers across the U.S. beginning to stagger under a growing wave of coronavirus infections, the remote Navajo Nation is being especially hard hit. To help meet the needs, Team Rubicon is deploying former military medics, physicians, nurses and more to the Navajo Nation to serve alongside Indian Health Services medical teams in hospitals and clinics, and to help staff ambulances.
That it is primarily military Veterans who are volunteering at the Nation is perhaps appropriate as the Navajo tribe has a legacy of military service: In addition to the famed Navajo codebreakers of World War II, the Nation boasts approximately 12,000 Veterans among its ranks.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, and relief operations from the most active disaster season ever ongoing, Team Rubicon is actively recruiting medically trained volunteers – including VA clinicians and former military medics – to join it in helping serve Veterans and civilians across the U.S. In the future, Team Rubicon’s medical volunteers will also be needed for international operations, such as on Team Rubicon’s 2014 mission treating refugees in Greece, and its 2019 mission to the Dondo District in Mozambique where it provided medical support to residents impacted by Cyclone Idai.
What is Team Rubicon? Team Rubicon is a Veteran-led disaster relief organization that serves communities by mobilizing Veterans, first responders, and civilians to help people prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
How Medical Providers Can Volunteer with Team Rubicon From disaster medicine to pandemic relief, Team Rubicon deploys EMTs, nurses, paramedics, physicians and more to serve people in need in the U.S. and around the world. Visit www.teamrubiconusa.org and sign up to put your medic skills to work for good.
How Veterans Can Volunteer with Team Rubicon Want to put your experience in the military to new use? Team Rubicon helps Veterans of all stripes find new ways to serve. To volunteer, visit www.teamrubiconusa.org/volunteer.
The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA.
Photographer Michael Stokes has taken the internet by storm with his powerful, provocative photo endeavor “Always Loyal,” a coffee table book featuring amputee veterans of all branches.
Rather than minimize his models’ wounds, Stokes boldly showcases their prosthetics (or lack thereof) in a series of semi-nude, erotic photographs.
Most of the featured male subjects lost limbs to IED attacks, and Stokes uses powerful poses to highlight the bravery and beauty of his models — shattering the stigma that wounded warriors can only be depicted in somber, “respectful” situations.
“Why can’t an amputee be shot with glamour?” Stokes told People in a recent interview. “These veterans were making themselves vulnerable and deserved to be treated like any other model. If they can handle it, why not?”
To fans who praise him for making his models “feel like men again,” Stokes strongly disagrees.
“I’m not giving them their confidence back,” he told MTV. “They already have it.”
The project first began more than two years ago when Stokes met then-aspiring fitness model and amputee vet Alex Minsky. Stokes had been shooting fitness models for some time, but the encounter with Minsky motivated him to capture veteran subjects with just as much sex appeal as a “typical” model.
He had no idea what an impact his photos would have on the veteran community, or the models themselves.
“I’ll never forget the second soldier I shot,” Stokes told MTV, recalling that the soldier told him, “‘This photo shoot was the best day of my life. I could never imagine doing something like this. Being naked in front of somebody for so long — it’s an incredible experience.'”
Stokes added: “And he hadn’t even seen the photos yet!”
The book showcases 14 veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan. The photos vary in tone: some models playfully show off some “leg” while others smolder at the camera. One thing is clear in every photo, however: these guys are hot, and they know it.
So does Stokes’ growing fan base. His Kickstarter campaign for art books “Exhibition and “Always Loyal” reached its $48,250 goal in just over an hour, and has now earned a whopping $321,694 with five days still left on the campaign.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.
And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!
But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.
As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.
Ask the Locals
Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.
Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!
Try Everything Twice
One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.
Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.
Eat All the Foods
Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.
How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.
Don’t Say No
This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.
You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.
Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?
Luke and Amy Bushatz knew they needed a big change or they weren’t going to make it. So, they packed up their life, two boys and headed west. Their next stop? Alaska.
“In 2015 we realized that to really seek mental health help and recover from this super challenging deployment that Luke went on in 2009 and 2010, where he sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, PTSD and we lost over 20 soldiers…. To do that, we had to get out of the active duty Army,” Amy explained.
While deployed in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, Luke’s vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.
He was the only survivor.
They also knew they needed to move somewhere that would allow healing and give Luke the outside space he craved and desperately needed. “We knew when we spent time as a family camping, he felt a relief from all of those things. It was like watching someone take off a backpack… it was really a powerful transformation,” Amy said. On a whim, she suggested Alaska.
Luke researched and found a graduate program in Alaska that fit his goals. With her job at Military.com, where she is now the Executive Editor, Amy knew she could work anywhere. After selling some of their belongings and letting the Army move the rest, they filled their station wagon and hit the road. They planted their feet on Alaskan ground in June of 2016.
Although Luke eagerly dove in seamlessly, Amy shared that it took her some time to adapt. Realizing that Alaska wasn’t going to change, she knew she needed to adjust her own mindset. A competitive person by nature, she utilized that fire to challenge herself to spend time outside.
It changed her life.
(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)
When Amy realized she’d spent 20 consecutive minutes outside for over 1,000 days and it was changing her life, she felt called to share that commitment to the fresh air with others. She started a podcast, blog and co-founded the company Humans Outside, where she challenges everyone to spend 20 minutes outside a day, no matter the weather. She also snaps a picture each day of her outside time on Instagram to inspire others.
Luke also believes that being outside can have a deep positive impact. “Nature can be an escape or you can use it as a tool to refocus and reenergize so that you can then do the hard work of therapy, working on your relationship with others and yourself to be a complete person,” he explained. Luke stressed that going outside won’t solve your problems but can help put you in the headspace to tackle them effectively.
“Getting into the mountains helps him take that breath so that he can have the brain space to sort through stuff,” Amy said. She continued, “For someone who is dealing with a brain injury… Your injury does not look like an injury because you look perfectly healthy. Going outside is one of the major tools that helps us.”
“When you make a big decision to change the focus of your life, the whole paradigm of how you view your life changes. It was really back in 2015 that we made that decision and I was a mess. The decision was to either refocus my life or lose everything,” Luke shared. He continued, “That’s the thing with the outdoors, it helps me retool myself and my relationships.”
In 2017 he went to an event hosted by Remedy Alpine and it was there he found even more peace.
Remedy Alpine is a nonprofit organization that is owned and operated by veterans. Their purpose is to share their deep passion for the outdoors with their veteran community and help them navigate the healing experience that spending time outdoors can bring.
“One of my passions is going outside and taking veterans to the backcountry. I had started a master’s program with the intent of starting my own program. It just happened that God put me, Eric and Dave together. Instead of competing, we said, ‘Hey let’s do this together!” to make this specific program [Remedy Alpine] even bigger and better,” Luke shared.
Dave Joslin and Eric Collier met through the Wounded Warrior Project. They realized that they both had a deep passion for the serving veterans and also for finding healing in the solitude of the backcountry. It was there that Remedy Alpine came to life. They brought Luke on as a co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer in 2017.
(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)
“There is a big difference between solitude and isolation. Isolation is not good for your mental health and does not have good outcomes. Going to the backcountry, on the other hand, increases solitude which is linked to healing. But solitude doesn’t have to be done by yourself,” Amy explained.
Psychology Today says that solitude can in fact improve things like concentration and productivity while rebooting your brain and giving you the opportunity for self-discovery.
“You can find that solitude and find that good healing in the outdoors while overcoming physical challenges in a way that you can’t find at home trapped on your couch,” Amy said. She understands the difficulty of certain seasons impacting motivation, however. January in Alaska comes to mind for her, with its freezing temperatures and minimal daylight. But they still go outside and it makes all the difference in the world in their wellness.
Both Luke and Amy have simple advice on using the outdoors to create deep healing: Just try it. They did and they’ve never looked back.
To learn more about Humans Outside and how you can challenge yourself to spend more time outdoors, click here. Want to know more about Remedy Alpine and how they are helping veterans in Alaska? Check out their website.
Aviation journalist and expert Ian D’Costa shared a video on Oct. 1, 2018, we had to pass on. This Korean news video, originally published on bemil.chosun.com, loosely translated from Korean as “Military News”, is a dignified and heart-wrenching tribute to South Korea’s repatriated fallen soldiers from the Korean Conflict.
On Oct. 1, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in cancelled the traditional South Korean military anniversary parade in favor of holding a ceremony for the arrival of remains of South Korean soldiers killed during the Korean conflict. The remains were repatriated in early 2018 from North Korea, flown to Hawaii’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for DNA identification and, once verified as South Korean servicemen, scheduled to return to South Korea for formal military burial.
D’Costa managed to find the Korean in-flight newsreel video of a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15K Slam Eagle of the 11th Fighter Wing from Daegu, South Korea joining other aircraft including FA-50 Fighting Eagles of the 8th Fighter Wing at Wonju, South Korea as they escort the remains flight in a ROKAF C-130H transport.
The newsreel video published on bemil.chosun.com shows an F-15K Slam Eagle crew fly right wing formation alongside the remains flight C-130H and, with perfect military precision, render a final in-flight salute before dropping back to fly wedge formation while escorting the aircraft. It’s a heart-wrenching moment to see.
The video goes on to show the precise and reverent loading of the remains onboard the C-130K flight in Hawaii for return to South Korea. The remains repatriation flight was escorted by two ROKAF F-15K Slam Eagles and two FA-50 Fighting Eagles.
The dignified gestures attendant the handling of military remains is an important ritual in observing the personal loss to families of fallen servicemen. In this case, the rituals are also a historic part of the slow healing process between the two fractured Koreas.
The aerial funeral procession in flight near South Korea as it returns from Hawaii.
According to several sources including CNN, South Korea suffered 217,000 military and a staggering “1,000,000” civilian casualties during the entire Korean Conflict which began on June 25, 1950, and continued to varying degrees until April 27, 2018, when talks between North and South Korea brokered by the United States brought an end to the conflict. According to reports, 7,704 U.S. servicemen remain unaccounted for following the end of the Korean Conflict.
Thanks to Ian D’Costa of The Tactical Air Network, Sightline Media Group and We Are The Mighty for letting us know about this story.
Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.
Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.
In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.
(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)
RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.
That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.
In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.
Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:
“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”
I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.
So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien
As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.
“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”
“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.
“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.
While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:
“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”
Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.
May is Military Appreciation Month. Each year the President makes a proclamation reminding the nation of the importance of the Armed Forces, and declaring May as Military Appreciation Month.
Here are 10 ways you can show your gratitude to military members during Military Appreciation Month:
Wear your pride
Pull out those patriotic and military themed shirts, or buy a new one and wear them with pride. This shows those members of the Armed Forces that you support them and appreciate all that they do.
Donate to a military charity
If you want to give of yourself or financially, consider donating to a military charity. It can be difficult to know which charities are worthy of your gifts, as there are so many out there. The key to this is to do your research before you decide. A few of the top rated charities are: The Gary Sinise Foundation, Homes for Our Troops and Fisher House Foundation.
Fly the flag
As Americans, this is always the number one way we show our patriotic pride. During the month of May fly those colors (properly, of course) and show your pride and appreciation for those who protect our country every day.
Buy a military member a drink, coffee or meal
If you are out, why not buy a military member a drink, a coffee or even a meal? Acts of kindness are always appreciated by the men and women of the Armed Forces.
Take to social media
This Military Appreciation Month, fill up social media with notes and posts of how much our military is appreciated. Paint your gratitude across Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.
Send a note or card
There are thousands of men and women deployed across the world from all branches of the military. Send them a note or a card telling them how much you appreciate their service and sacrifice. Better yet, get the kids involved and have them make cards to send to the troops.
Send a care package
If you want to take things a step farther, care packages are always appreciated by the troops, especially those deployed. Websites like Operation Gratitude give information on how to best get care packages to the members of the Armed Forces.
Pay respects at a military cemetery or memorial
Part of the month of May is Memorial Day. This is one of the reasons this month was chosen for Military Appreciation Month. Take the time to visit a cemetery or memorial and pay your respects to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Support military-owned businesses
There are many military members, military spouses and veterans who own their own business. Find some in your neighborhood and make a point to support them by stopping by, purchasing their goods, and recommending them to your friends and families.
Say thank you
Any of these options are a wonderful way to show appreciation to members of the military. However, oftentimes a simple ‘Thank You’ is more than enough. If you see a member of the military out and about, take the time to give them a smile, a handshake, and a thank you. Those two words mean more than you can know.
May is Military Appreciation Month. However, these men and women serve and sacrifice every day of the year. Yes, this month in particular show your gratitude towards them. But, remember them the rest of the year as well. They make the choice to serve and to sacrifice for you, give them your thanks every day.
Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.” When most people think of Harry S. Truman, they think of the president who signed off on the first and only wartime use of nuclear weapons. But before Truman became the 33rd President of the United States during World War II, he was a senator from Missouri. One of the projects in which Truman was instrumental as a senator was establishing Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP).
LCAAP is the single largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense. Initially operated by Remington Arms, the government-owned, contractor-operated facility is currently run by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK. Basically, they provide all branches of the U.S. military with every round of small-caliber ammunition they need. This goes beyond supply and demand — it’s a living legacy.
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Installation Mission Video
uring an exclusive private tour of LCAAP, Whitney Watson, manager of media relations and communications with Northrop Grumman, divulged that the media hadn’t been granted access to the facility in years. However, being invited to visit Lake City and actually getting through the doors are two different things — the security process was unlike any I’d previously experienced. Once inside, though, it was like stepping back in time.
In 1940, the government purchased nearly 4,000 acres of privately owned property in Independence, Missouri. Then-senator Truman helped secure both the land and the funding for establishing LCAAP. Ground broke in December 1940, and the first round — a .30 caliber — came off the line on Sept. 12, 1941. In October 1941, the first shipment left by rail. LCAAP was up and fully functioning within nine months in an era before modern capabilities and technology while enduring a Midwestern winter and in the midst of war. During World War II, LCAAP employed 21,000 full-time workers and produced 50 million rounds per year.
Lake City lives up to its name, functioning as a self-sufficient city. The property contains 22 miles of road, 11 miles of railroad (not currently in use), military housing, a 24-hour police force, a hospital, nine medical locations, a cafeteria, a non-federal post office, a fire station (complete with a bunkhouse), a gym facility, a road maintenance crew, a water production plant, three wastewater treatment facilities, and indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.
An aerial view of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.
(Photo courtesy of the LCAAP Facebook page)
From the buildings to the machines, all of the original equipment remains functional and, to some extent, is still utilized. It was surreal to see the newer robotic equipment mixed in with the legacy equipment on the production floor. The legacy machines are the original machines installed upon the opening of LCAAP. As of today, they continue producing rounds as quickly and efficiently as their modern counterparts — this is 1930s technology functioning without fail in 2019! It speaks volumes for LCAAP and the pride with which they have maintained their facility and equipment.
The employees at LCAAP are often generational, and they share a deep understanding of the importance of their product, where it goes, and what it’s used for. The prevailing objective is that not a single round can fail — lives literally depend upon it. To ensure this, LCAAP has a prodigious process for case traceability. Each round has a specific stamp on the head, which allows it to be individually traced to the day, time, and machine that produced it. This way, if there is ever an issue during their extensive testing protocol, they can quickly ascertain why. Lake City produces 4 million rounds per day, so being able to trace each one is not only essential, it’s astonishing.
Another example of the pride and teamwork at LCAAP is the motto “One Team, One Mission,” which is visible at various places around the facility. The saying was originated by Watson.
LCAAP produces 4 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition per day.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
“In the years immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, with widespread military operations throughout the Middle East, Lake City employees could turn on the news every night and see the products they produce in action. In 2019, that isn’t the case. Even though we still have troops fighting all over the world, it’s not on the scale it was a decade earlier,” Watson said.
“We were looking for a way to remind Lake City employees that, first, we are all on the same team — regardless of what your job here is, every one of us is an important part of the team and we need to perform like it,” he continued. “And second, that our mission hasn’t changed: to produce the quality ammunition that the men and women who defend our country deserve.”
The phrase has been incorporated throughout the plant on signs, shirts, hats, and other items, and, according to Watson, it’s working.
LCAAP has a history of employing women, as well as generations of family members, that goes back to its World War II roots.
(Photo courtesy of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant)
“Our employee engagement has risen dramatically over the past few years,” he said. “Fewer employees are leaving for other opportunities (even in this historically low unemployment), and we are performing amazingly. I never served in the Armed Forces, but I am very proud to be a part of a team whose sole mission is to support the warfighter.”
LCAAP’s commitment to those who serve the country doesn’t stop when they turn in the uniform; the company also supports and values veterans. They partner with the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors to host an annual turkey hunt for veterans. The vets get to hunt the LCAAP property — 4,000 private acres of prime hunting land. While at the facility, the guests of honor are treated as such. They enjoy a hotel stay, catered food, dinners out, and a paid shopping spree for gear.
LCAAP is also involved in the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter of the Association of the United States Army. This spring, 100 LCAAP team members will participate in and financially support a project to build a home for a disabled veteran who is raising her young grandchildren. Watson said that a significant percentage of the workers at LCAAP are veterans and that hiring former service members is a top priority.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
When asked what Lake City Ammunition means to him, Watson responded: “My father fought in the Pacific during World War II. Even though we have some of the most modern manufacturing equipment in the industry, we also still use some legacy equipment that has been in operation since the early 1940s. It means a lot to me knowing that some of that equipment may have been used to produce the rounds he fired, either in training or in combat. The ammunition that may have helped save his life or the life of one of his buddies. Who knows? I do know that the ammo we make today definitely helps save lives. And that means more than I could express.”
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is much more than a facility manufacturing small-caliber munitions — it’s a small community and an important asset to the U.S. military. With a 1.6 billion round per year production capacity, Lake City is vigilantly prepared to ramp up production at a moment’s notice. But most importantly, Lake City is a family — a family that extends to every individual who touches one of their rounds.
Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment — is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22, 2019.
Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of Red Flag-Alaska. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JB Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base.
In addition to the U.S., airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JB Elmendorf-Richardson during the exercise to engage with airmen and leaders of all participating countries.
“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Ra Young-Chang, chief master sergeant of the South Korean Air Force, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior enlisted leaders are briefed before an F-22 Raptor jet engine test cell function check at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Valdes)
“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”
Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand gathered in the same location.
“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota, Japan Air Self-Defense Force senior enlisted advisor.
This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, 2019, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.
“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at (JB Elmendorf-Richardson),” Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”
An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot from the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, performs pre-flight checks at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 25th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation’s’ air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
All Red Flag-Alaska exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska. The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.
Red Flag-Alaska exercises, which provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments, date back to 1975, when the exercise was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.
Red Flag-Alaska executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. Red Flag-Alaska has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combined warfighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, taxis at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 13th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation”s air forces from around the Pacific.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)
Wright offered a message to RF-A global airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.
“Come here, work hard, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”
Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in Red Flag-Alaska.
“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”
Few actors play a salty old veteran better than Clint Eastwood. Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, but never quite made it over to the Korean Peninsula. He was a swimming instructor at Fort Ord and survived a plane crash where he had to swim to safety. Four years later, the onetime soldier was one the silver screen, in 1955’s Never Say Goodbye. Ever since, the veteran’s life has been a critical aspect of many of his onscreen characters, of which there have been many.
Mitchell Gant, “Firefox”
Clint Eastwood plays Gant, a Vietnam veteran and pilot who’s assigned to sneak into the Soviet Union and steal the most advanced fighter aircraft ever built. Part action-adventure, part spy thriller, Firefox may not wow you today, but the character of Mitchell Gant is a fun one. He is a former USAF prisoner of war who was held captive in Vietnam, but now, because he speaks Russian (his mother was Russian), he gets to embark on a top-secret spy mission to infiltrate the USSR.
Frank Corvin, “Space Cowboys”
Space Cowboys doesn’t just have Clint Eastwood, it has a digitally young version of Eastwood as Frank Corvin shows his disappointment with the Air Force for abandoning his crew’s mission to go into space. After 40 years and the crew much aged, Eastwood’s Corvin, along with Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland, get their chance to show off the right stuff. There aren’t many movies about the USAF test pilots’ glory days, and Space Cowboys is a great example.
Walt Kowalski, “Gran Torino”
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who is very content with the way things are, even as the rest of his world is crumbling around him. Kowalski is very much prejudiced against Koreans, long after the war ended. This fact is only highlighted when a Korean family moves in next door, and the youngest son attempts to steal his well-kept 1972 Gran Torino. Gran Torino features at least one of Eastwood’s most badass lines: “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have f**ked with? That’s me.”
Josey Wales, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”
Josey Wales is a farmer turned Confederate bushwhacker who ends the Civil War on the run from Union soldiers, but Josey Wales wasn’t fighting for the Confederacy, not really. He was fighting to avenge the murder of his family by pro-Union militias. With a bounty on his head, Wales is joined by a group of extraordinary adventurers who help Josey Wales on his quest to stay alive, stay free, and escape to Mexico. He gets revenge against the man responsible for his family’s death, but his escape is a lot less of a shootout than expected.
Way before that, though, Josey Wales wipes out a whole unit with a Gatling gun.
Pvt. Kelly, “Kelly’s Heroes”
In the closing days of World War II, Private Kelly – once a Lieutenant Kelly, who ended up court-martialed for a failed infantry attack – gets wind of million in gold bars hiding just behind enemy lines. While his unit is halted near the town of Nancy, Kelly enlists some of his men to go AWOL and make a dash for the gold. They fight their way to the gold against overwhelming odds. When they can’t fight anymore, they offer the Germans a cut of the action.
Luther Whitney, “Absolute Power”
Luther Whitney is a Korean War veteran who left the military and became one of the world’s best and most formidable cat burglars. While robbing the home of a wealthy industrialist, he witnesses the President of the United States attempt to sexually assault the rich man’s wife. She fights him off until she’s killed by the Secret Service, who attempt to cover up the episode. After being framed for the killing, Luther decides to use his skills, along with evidence he took from the crime scene to re-frame the President.
With Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Haysbert, there’s so much testosterone in this movie, it might as well be a war film.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge”
When Gunny Highway stands up to his Major and says “with all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me” while smoking a cigar, it was the one time I wanted to join the Marine Corps.
Harry Callahan, “Dirty Harry”
All badass characters who came before and after are all trying to live up to one character: “Dirty” Harry Callahan. A hard-boiled cop who operates using his own set of rules, Harry Callahan remains cool under fire but gets heated when the bad guys win. Not much is known about Dirty Harry, and you pretty much have to watch the whole series to get a picture of the character. We don’t even find out he was a Marine until the second Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force, when we learn Harry didn’t finish his 20 years. In the final film, The Dead Pool, Harry drinks from a Marine Corps mug.