7 things to know about being a military veterinarian - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Humans in the military rely on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to take care of them while they’re on the job. Military working dogs need someone to look after them, too. That job falls to military veterinarians. Military veterinarians provide medical and surgical care to all kinds of military working animals, but their responsibilities go far beyond that of a normal veterinarian. 

What the job entails

The primary role of Army veterinarians is to provide care for animals- both for working animals and for military family pets. While on active duty, however, their responsibilities vary from mission to mission. They are highly involved in supporting public health and humanitarian projects, like creating vaccines and developing strategies to prevent the spread of animal-borne diseases. 

They’re also in charge of inspecting food sold to service members to make sure it’s safe for consumption. They may even perform audits of major manufacturing plants to confirm that they’re following food safety protocols; think Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry’s. 

Things to know before you try it

  1. After education, it’s basically an eight-year commitment.
    Most military veterinarians go through the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. The HPSP contract stipulates a minimum three year commitment to active duty, plus five years of reserve duty. While vets are rarely called upon during the five years on “inactive” duty, it’s always a possibility. 
  1. Veterinarians typically enlist as officers, not soldiers.
    When you become an Army veterinarian, you’re not signing up to fight. Instead of Basic Training, you attend a Basic Officer Leadership Course for a few months. It’s not as physically tough as the boot camp designed for soldiers, but you still have to be in decent shape. New veterinarian officers also attend a one-year internship program which doesn’t count toward your active-duty requirement.
  2. Being involved in combat is always a possibility. 
    While your job description is to care for animals and assist with humanitarian efforts, danger isn’t off the table. Most Army vets never see combat, but it has happened. If you’re sent to a combat zone, you will carry a weapon and should be prepared to fire it. Most missions are fairly low-risk, but veterinarians HAVE been wounded or killed on the job. Veterinarians are never assigned combat-related tasks, but if you’re in the vicinity of an unexpected attack, anything can happen. In other words, if you want a risk-free gig, this isn’t it. 
  1. Travel is part of the job description.
    Military veterinarians can be assigned to missions anywhere in the world. This is a pro and con in one. You get the opportunity to see amazing places. If you become a Special Forces vet, you can work on serious international animal health projects. The Navy’s marine mammal program is another option.

Regardless, you’re going to be moving around while on active duty. Family members and pets may be able to join you on some missions, but that’s not always an option. If you do have pets or children with you, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care while you’re working long shifts or overnight. If you’re on a combat mission, it’s important to have a network of friends and family to care for your pets while you’re away. 

  1. The options for advancement are appealing.
    If you’re considering a long-term career in the military, there’s a program for that. The Long-Term Health Education & Training program will cover the cost of veterinarians to continue their education in a number of specialties, like pathology, emergency/critical care, radiology, and surgery. After retiring from the military, veterinarians often start their own private practice or transition into teaching- all while receiving a hefty pension!
  2. The pay is nothing to laugh at.
    The pay and benefits are very good compared to our civilian veterinary colleagues. When I started out four years ago at an assignment in the U.S., I was making about $75,000 a year. Now while assigned in Europe I am making about $100,000 a year. It can be kind of tough to calculate the exact salary because of all the different types of special pay, housing/living allowances, etc, and that stuff changes depending on where you are located.
  3. You’re a veterinarian, but you’re also a military professional.
    This one bears repeating. While military veterinarians are there to care for animals, they’re also committing to serving the US Army. During your years of service, the army will decide where you work, when you work, and what your job entails. That might mean getting deployed to a combat zone even though you’d prefer to work on the home front. If you’re a leader who likes to carve your own path, you’ll probably be disappointed.

    If you’re passionate about animals and interested in serving your country, becoming an Army veterinarian is probably a great fit. The benefits don’t hurt, either! 

Steps to becoming a military vet

The U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program is usually the first step to becoming a military veterinarian. You’ll have to convince the military that you’re worth the investment, but if you get the scholarship, the program covers your tuition while you earn your D.V.M. Alternatively, the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program can help those who have already completed school. 
Your military committment doesn’t begin until you’re done with school. At that point, you complete Basic Officer Training and an internship before beginning active duty. After three years of service, you can join the Army Reserve. There, you’re welcome to run your own practice. To get started, learn more about the process here or contact a recruiter. If you want to hear a first account of what it’s like becoming an Army Veterinarian, Elliot Garber can tell you all about it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army veteran Nathan Goncalves

On this week’s episode, Borne the Battle features guest Nathan Goncalves, who shares his story of struggle and perseverance.

While Goncalves didn’t have the intrinsic calling to join the military, he enlisted at 23, seeking reform and discipline. It was in the Army that Goncalves sharpened his focus and developed lifelong friendships and mentors.


Rough transition

However, Goncalves’ transition back to civilian life was not easy. In fact, it turned out to be some of his lowest valleys–involving addiction, PTSD, and anger management.

But things started to change when Goncalves heard he was going to be a father. In this episode, he discusses how an intense work ethic allowed him to achieve a bachelor’s degree at UCLA in less than three years.

Goncalves applied to UCLA’s Law school to study corporate law. He was accepted, but a bitter divorce hampered those plans. Through his own experiences, Goncalves realized there was no advocacy for situations like his own. So he sacrificed a potentially lucrative corporate law career and switched to family law to offer services to homeless and low-income veterans.

Equal Justice Works Responds to Veteran Crisis

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Goncalves is now hosted by Harriet BuHai Center for Family Law and sponsored in house by Equal Justice Works. He continues to fight for family integration for homeless and low-income veterans as they transition back into the civilian communities.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 courses open to civilians that actually teach you how to operate

Look, we get it. You have an unquenchable thirst — a yearning for the trumpets and cannon-fire, but the kids have soccer practice on Tuesdays and you have bowling league on Thursdays. What is a would-be operator to do?

High-end training is seeing an incredible boom right now. Whether you’re a Global War on Terror (GWOT) veteran looking to relive some of those glory days or just a red-blooded American looking to add a little spice to your life, there are training opportunities aplenty.


But what about the serious student who wants to challenge themselves at the same level as some of our most elite warriors? We’re going to give you a rundown of some of the best private training opportunities available because this is America — and the only reason you need to drive fast, shoot stuff, and jump out of airplanes is that you want to.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, helocast into the water from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)

You can’t jump right into a high-level class though, so we’ve provided a roadmap to keep it fun and relevant. If you’re already at a high skill level, go ahead and jump right into the deep end, but don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Many of the classes and events are also physically demanding, so make sure you prepare before beginning your own special Q course. Once you’ve been training and start feeling good about yourself, amp it up and challenge yourself with our first training event:

1. GoRuck. The lads over at GoRuck have been doing their thing for a while now, and the GoRuck Challenge has evolved into a multi-event destination. As special as the Special Forces are, they’re all ground-pounders at heart, so you’ll need to be able to put weight on your back and get to the objective. If you really want to have some ruck credibility, be prepared to complete the two-day H-T-L, a combination of their Heavy, Tough, and Light events. Before you can be special, you gotta be tough. GoRuck also offers Ascent, a three-day “adventure” that will immerse you in wilderness survival, first-aid, and mountaineering — minus the granola-eating hippie garbage from your REI wilderness survival classes.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

GoRuck Ascent is legit wilderness training.

(Screen grab from YouTube video uploaded by Tony Reyes)

2. Courses of Action. Leadership training is paramount in the military. Courses of Action, led by former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO Johnny Primo, offers a Small Unit Tactics course that focuses on rapid decision making, communication as a leader, and other essential skills in highly stressful situations. The four-day course is held in Texas and rotates students through leadership roles and at least 12 missions, always facing an opposing force. Regardless of the small unit you lead — family, work team, weekend softball league — you’ll learn effective skills that will impact every aspect of your life.

Land, sea, air … it doesn’t matter where! If you’re special, you take the fight wherever it shows up. The next two courses are all about that life aquatic. If you can’t swim or haven’t in years, you might want to check out the local Y to get your feet wet before diving in.

3. PADI Open Water Diver. A basic diving certificate is just the beginning — like any other skill, you have to keep improving. PADI provides classes and certifications all over the country, so don’t let a lack of an ocean get in your way. The Advanced Rebreather Diver is where all the cool kids are, so be prepared to put in the time to claim your throne as the King or Queen of Atlantis.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

PADI offers courses across the country, including everything from basic diving certification to advanced rebreather diver.

(Photo by Jennifer Small/PADI)

4. OC Helicopter PADI Heli-Scuba Course. Any weekend warrior can dive out of a boat. If that’s not good enough for you, you’re, well, special. And special people dive out of helicopters. That’s right, it’s time to take your diving to the next level with helo-inserts. At id=”listicle-2641265805″,250 per person, it’s not cheap, but think of how impressed that chick over in accounting is going to be. You can’t be the office alpha if you’re not doing alpha stuff.

Well, we’ve covered land and sea — now it’s time to take to the air. Hold on to your security blanket and prepare for the airborne lifestyle. It’s not cheap or easy, but you’re up to the task. Besides, you can’t look down on the regular grunts doing grunt stuff if you’re not Airborne!

5. HALO Loft. There are great skydiving instructors all over the country, but there’s only one civilian High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump, and that’s HALO Loft. How high are we talking? How does 28,000 to 43,000 feet sound? Honestly, it sounds terrible to me, but I’m not special. If you want to claim those bragging rights, tuck your pants into your boots and get ready to regale the world with tales of airborne glory.

HALO Tandem Skydive from 30,000ft

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You’re almost there. You’ve forged yourself into something better than you were, but now that your body and will are steel, it’s time to sharpen. These are the skills that really set you apart from the pretenders — skills that have real-world, everyday applications for the safety and security of you and your loved ones.

6. ShivWorks ECQC, Extreme Close Quarter Concepts. There are a lot of folks out there teaching great things, but Craig Douglas at ShivWorks has been teaching people how to work in close and nasty with blade work, weapon retention, clinching, groundfighting, and striking, mixed in with plenty of force-on-force. His 20-hour ECQC course has been taught all over the world to all sorts of very special folks and is one of the most refined curriculums out there when it comes to getting it done up-close and personal. It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt or you’ve been sweeping the leg since the 1980s, you’ll learn something that will have an immediate impact on the way you live your life.

7. Jerry Barnhart Training. There are many shooting programs ranging from very good to complete crap, but there is only one Jerry “The Burner” Barnhart. Even though The Burner has been teaching deploying units since 1987, his classes have become a rite of passage in the wake of the GWOT. There are plenty of competition guys who have worked with our special warriors, but none have had an impact on the industry like Barnhart. From helping guys situate their kit to refining trigger presses, he’s next level. He doesn’t publish a training calendar (he doesn’t have to), but get a hold of him and get into a class.

Burner Series Intro

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8. Rogers Shooting School. This is one of the granddaddies of the tactical shooting world. Bill Rogers has been training military and police instructors from around the world for more than four decades. This school is recognized as one of the most challenging shooting schools in the world and has humbled some of the best shooters from some of the most elite units. Rogers and his cadre tolerate no crap; be ready to go out into the Georgia woods and come out a week later a whole new shooter. Focusing on targets that stay still for a maximum of one second, this advanced school is not for the easily defeated.

9. Greenline Tactical. Don Edwards spent over 20 years in the Special Operations community fighting everywhere from Operation Just Cause (Panama) to Operation Enduring Freedom. He spent this time perfecting the skill of fighting under night vision, and when he retired, he went to work consulting and teaching for TNVC, cementing himself as a go-to source for all things night vision. When it comes to getting your night-jiggling on, no one speaks with more authority than Edwards. Check him out to find out why the good guys own the night.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Tim O’Neil has won five U.S. and North American Rally Championships; he was a factory driver for Volkswagen and Mitsubishi through the late ’80s and early ’90s and drove for the official U.S. Air Force Reserve team in the early 2000s.

(Photo courtesy of Team O’Neil Rally School)

10. Team O’Neil Rally School. Cars kill far more people every year than gunfire, so one of the best things you can do as a prepared citizen is to get some advanced driver training to even those odds. The Team O’Neil Rally School has become one of the most prominent providers of advanced driver training to Department of Defense clients. Their Tactical Mobility Package focuses on skills ranging from recognizing vehicle ambushes to high-speed loose surface training to skid pads — and even high-angle ascents and descents. If you’re going to be driving a Hilux on a crappy road in the dark — or just driving your kids home from school — Team O’Neil is where you need to go.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Win the first War on Terror by backing ‘Shores of Tripoli’ on Kickstarter

It was the first time the United States fought a pitched battle on foreign soil and, as a sign of things to come, came out the victor. In 1805, Arab mercenaries and United States Marines under the command of William Eaton and Marine Lt. Presley O’Bannon marched on the Tripolitan city of Derna. Their mission was to capture the city, then restore the rightful (American friendly) ruler of Tripoli to the throne. The Marines were outnumbered by nearly ten to one and made an overland march of 500 miles before they could even attack.

Well, do you have a better idea? A new strategy game on Kickstarter invites you to give it a shot.


In Shores of Tripoli, a new game from Washington, DC’s Fort Circle Games, take one or two players to take up arms as either the United States or the Bashaw of Tripoli in a game of wits and maneuvers designed to bend your opponent to your will. Tripolitania wants to keep conducting pirate raids that have brought it so much wealth in gold and slaves. The United States is out to end the reign of Barbary terror and restore the freedom of American ships at sea.

With cards representing significant events and the most important players in these events, players use dice and in-game figurines to start battles, start diplomatic talks, and get more troops to the fight. To win, the Americans must force the Tripolitans to submit to a peace treaty or forcibly install a pro-American ruler.

Guess which route the Marines chose.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

“Lolz” – Lt. Presley O’Bannon.

To win as Tripoli, you have to inflict enough shock and damage on the Americans and their squadron of ships as possible, sinking four frigates or capturing 12 merchantmen.

Shores of Tripoli the board game honestly looks like any history buff’s greatest wet dream. Along with educational information about the conflict, the game comes with a high-quality game map, 82 wooden game pieces, and a lot of other high-quality elements. One historian’s review of the game called it “historically accurate” and “sophisticated” as well as “beautifully designed” and – most importantly, “very fun.

Now learning about military history doesn’t have to mean memorizing a bunch of boring dates. Now it means taking down the first terrorists with the United States Marine Corps.
7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Which looks like everything I’ve ever wanted in any game anywhere.

(Shores of Tripoli on Kickstarter)

You won’t get it in time for Christmas 2019, but for a backing of .00 you can get a copy of this amazing-looking historical strategy game. Or in true Marine Corps fashion, you can donate your copy to Toys for Tots. As you donate more money, you get more copies of the game, presumably one for yourself and up to 30 to donate to schools and Toys for Tots.

William Eaton just declared himself general and commander of the force that attacked Derna. For id=”listicle-2641249602″,000 you can declare yourself the Executive Producer of Shores of Tripoli game. Head on over to its Kickstarter page to find out how.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Ways to Show Your Gratitude During Military Appreciation Month

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.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

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.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LED therapy ‘worth every second’ for Gulf War vet

Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.

“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”

Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.


VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.

Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Improvements in memory and energy way up

“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”

During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.

When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

“It’s worth every second.”

“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”

Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.

“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the most irritating troops to have in your squad

In a perfect world, you’d have a squad of hardcore and dedicated troops to your left and your right who you can count on to always have your six. For the most part, this is true. Your standard squad within the military is a ragtag group of misfits who are ready to kick ass and take names.

But there’s always that one guy who’s just there. Everyone else is close knit but, for whatever reason, while everyone begrudgingly accepts that guy in an official capacity as technically one of them, you’re unlikely to see anyone invite that person out for a beer on the weekends.

Now, nobody’s perfect. And someone in your squad might exhibit a couple of the following traits and still be cool with everyone. But we can all admit that there are some troops who’ve stepped over the line into being plain annoying — and they typically fall under one or more of the categories:


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“Oh, wow! Your feet are hurting on this ruck march? No way! You’re literally the only person that that has ever happened to!” (U.S. Army photos by Pvt. Adeline Witherspoon)

The whiner

Give this person a brick of solid gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy. They never see the good in any situation and they’re constantly reminding everyone that they’re out of their comfort zone.

Even just yelling at this person to stop whining starts getting on peoples’ nerves after a while.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“Stop trying to get ahead in your career! You’re making us all look bad!” (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

The Captain America

There’s nothing wrong with trying to be the best at any given thing. PT standards are meant to be exceeded and rule-abiding troops are rarely going to bring the hammer down on the rest of you. But there’s something about this person that just makes everyone else just look bad.

You may not be doing anything wrong, but you’re hot garbage compared to this guy. The “Captain America” of your squad is the type of person that the chain of command points to and says, “why can’t you guys be more like him/her?”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“As seen in their natural habitat, this brown-noser has gone a step too far.” (U.S. Navy photo by Midshipman 3rd Class Dominic Montez)

The brown-noser

While Captain America is great and the command knows it, the brown-noser is ate-the-f*ck-up and still tries to make everyone think they’re on Cap’s level.

Given even the most minor of accomplishments, this dude is trying to show off to the world. Any mistake and they’re trying to brush it under the rug or shovel it onto someone else.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“Guys?” (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)

The loner

This guy lives by the “Army of One” mentality. It’s one thing for a troop to be quiet and shy around the rest of the squad, but this guy makes it a point to show he’s above hanging out with you lot.

Paradoxically, this guy is also the one person trying to make everyone look at him when he does something good and expects a ticker-tape parade in his honor.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“Can you schedule that wisdom tooth removal for the 17th? We’re going to the field soon.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland)

The escape artist

There’s not a single soul in the U.S. military that enjoys the pointless details that just keep everyone under the eye of the first sergeant until close-of-business formation. No one’s special and you can’t wiggle out of it — except this guy somehow.

They always have an ace up their sleeve. One day it’s dental, another it’s finance, and the next it’s some nondescript family emergency. For some reason, these things only manage to crop up when there’s a detail coming up. Their goldfish never needs to go to the vet when fun stuff is going down…

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“As my first sergeant once said; You can either be smart or strong in this Army. The choice is yours.” (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)

The “can’t get right”

Bless this troop’s heart. They aren’t inherently a bad troop, they’re just… stupid.

They’ll give their all and have the best of intentions, but they’re just not cut out for the intense lifestyle of the military. They wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t dead weight that everyone else needs to carry.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
“Ka-caw!”

The Blue Falcon

F*ck this guy. The rest of the troops on this list can be forgiven if they’re genuinely pleasant to be around or can occasionally bring the funny. These f**kers have no remorse about intentionally screwing over their battle buddies and will throw anyone under the bus if it means personal gain.

Anyone can be accepted into the team if they’re willing to try to be a team player — except these f*cks.


Feature image: USMC photo by Sgt. Justin Bopp

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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.


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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

 

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

Borne the Battle: Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.

Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Navy pilots prefer to be called ‘naval aviators’

At some time in our military careers, we come across pilots of all sorts, helicopter pilots, Air Force cargo pilots, Navy fighter pilots, etc. While the former two might allow you to refer to them as simply “pilots,” there’s a good chance the naval aviator will take the time to remind you that he or she is an “aviator,” not a pilot.

And there’s a very good, non-egotistical reason for that. We promise.


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Insert obligatory “Top Gun” reference here.

During your military experience, you may have noticed the Navy has an entirely different vocabulary for so many things. Floors become decks, walls become bulkheads, beds become racks, etc. But the Navy’s tradition of a maritime language exists for a reason. It turns out the world they live in predates the United States Navy, the United States, and most navies, not to mention the concept of powered flight.

The maritime world is way, way old, man. And the terms used to describe that world are too. We can’t just change them overnight. Or ever, as it turns out. So while the aviation world refers to a pilot as someone who flies an aircraft, that term has a different meaning in the maritime world.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

No one aboard this ship called those boxes “toilets” but they had the same use.

For hundreds of years before navies around the world were flying jet-powered aircraft off the decks of massive floating cities, “pilots” were operating in navies long before ships had engines that weren’t powered by wind or slaves. In those terms, a pilot is specially qualified to drive a ship in and out of a specific port or a specific area. For large ships, this pilot is someone from outside, who literally comes in to your boat and drives it into the harbor because he or she knows the area better than anyone else.

The pilot will roll up next to your ship aboard a pilot boat, which carries the pilot in a boat, one marked “pilot boat.” And those poor guys have to climb up the side of your ship just to park it for you. Both naval aviators and maritime pilots have a hard job that allows for zero error – so call them whatever they want.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 veterans that can really hook you up in your civilian life

It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.

The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.

College classmates

Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.

In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.

(Bath Township Police Department)

Police officers

There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.

Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.

Security guards or bouncers

Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.

If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

…or so I’ve been told.

Personal fitness trainers

Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.

Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Retail workers

Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.

Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.

Bar-goers

Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.

Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Potential bosses

If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.

The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to resolve a fight in under a minute

We’ve all been there.

Maybe you’re exhausted at work and accidentally end up butting heads with a supervisor, or maybe things have boiled over at home and you suddenly find yourself in a shouting match over who forgot to buy toilet paper on their way home.

Before you know it, emotions have taken over and an otherwise inconsequential situation has turned into an hour-long conflict with someone you otherwise love or respect.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no need to pay for anger management lessons or pick up a self-help book, because psychologists Susan Heitler and Susan Whitbourne have a few actionable suggestions that can help anyone begin to immediately de-escalate a conflict and come to a resolution that both parties can agree on.


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

(Photo by Harli Marten)

It’s tempting to swallow up our emotions in order to avoid a conflict, but Heitler and Whitbourne say instead it’s important to acknowledge that our negative emotions may be trying to tell us something.

“Negative emotions help you by telling you that there’s a conflict — i.e. a decision ahead, something you want that you are not getting, or you are getting something you don’t want,” Heitler, a psychologist and author of “The Power of Two,” told Business Insider. “Like yellow highlighting, they signal to you pay attention and do something.”

However, “addressing a conflict with negative emotions in your voice invites the person you are trying to work with to get defensive,” she said.

While it’s important to check in with our own emotions, Whitbourne, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said it’s also important to have empathy and stay in touch with the other person’s emotions as well. If you go into an argument only caring about your wants and needs, a win-win solution is going to be much harder to come by.

Instead, both psychologists suggest keeping a friendly tone when expressing your concerns and trying to understand the other point of view as well. Your tone of voice is the first key to resolving a fight quickly.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

(Photo by Nik MacMillan)

2. Get on the same page

You could spend hours arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong, but the psychologists said a little empathy is the trick to ending a fight quickly.

“Access those feelings of empathy in which you put yourself in the other individual’s place,” Whitemore said. “Without being disrespectful of the other person’s unhappiness in the moment, you might even try to find a way to laugh yourselves out of the situation if it indeed was something ridiculous.”

Likewise, Heitler said it’s important for both parties to reiterate that they understand the concerns of the other person.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

(Photo by Joshua Ness)

Another important step in resolving your own conflicts efficiently, say the psychologists, is to brainstorm not only solutions that work for both parties, but plans to actually achieve those solutions.

“At the time of the resolution, set forth the agreement that both of you will adhere to the decision that was mutually reached. This will help you push the reset button should the conflict begin again,” Whitbourne said.

Heitler also suggested taking time to make sure both parties understand the agreement the same way, and that no stone has been left unturned.

“End with this magic question: Are there any little pieces of this that still feel unfinished?” she said. “Then summarize the conclusion, especially what each of you will be doing as next steps, and you are good to go.”

Conflict is not always avoidable, say the psychologists, but how you approach the situation can make a world of difference in the outcome you see.

By checking in honestly with your own emotions, as well as honoring the emotions of the other person, you can begin to quickly find the root of the argument and come to a solution that works for both of you — without burning any bridges along the way.

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

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