32 terms only airmen will understand - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

32 terms only airmen will understand

As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.


“Airman Snuffy”

The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.

What the Piss

This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.

The Snake Pit

Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.

House Mouse

Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.

 

32 terms only airmen will understand
Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Stress Cards

The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.

Rainbow Flights

Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.

Reporting Statement

“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.

AF Form 341

Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.

32 terms only airmen will understand
Here, Staff Sgt. Michael Sheehan fires a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer, or MAST, at Saylor Creek Range at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank

More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.

Dirtbag Airman (DBA)

The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.

Pull Chocks

Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.

DFAC

The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.

32 terms only airmen will understand
Airman 1st Class Mohamed Berete, 22nd Force Support Squadron services apprentice, hands a salad to Airman 1st Class Joshua Houseworth, 22nd Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, at the Chisholm Trail Inn dining facility. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Maria A. Ruiz)

Load Toad

A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”

Squawks

Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.

Prime Beef

Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.

BRRRRRT

The sound an A-10 Thunderbolt II aka “Warthog” makes when projecting freedom.

32 terms only airmen will understand
(U.S. Air Force photo)

BTZ

Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.

AFI 36-2903

This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read. 

The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”

Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.

32 terms only airmen will understand
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs June 26, 2014, at Mount Rushmore. The Drill Team recently completed a nine-day, seven-city, 10-performance tour across the Midwest with the U.S. Air Force Band’s rock ensemble Max Impact. During the tour, the two groups performed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin)

Whole-Airman Concept

An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.

FOD Walks

FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.

First Shirt or “Shirt”

The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.

32 terms only airmen will understand
Capt. Patrick Applegate, an Airman with the 23rd Bomb Squadron currently deployed with the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, removes ground safety pins on a MAU-12 Jan. 29, prior to a B-52H Stratofortress live drop mission for exercise Tropic Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Operation Golden Flow

Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.

Why Not Minot?

Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.

JP-8

Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.

Prop Wash and Flight Line

A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”

32 terms only airmen will understand
Staff Sgt. Nathan A. Hruska fires his Beretta M9 pistol during a weapons qualification Aug. 15, 2014, at Operation Northern Strike in Alpena, Mich. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Wing King

The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.

Breaking Red

Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.

LOX

Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)

IYAAYAS

Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).

 

32 terms only airmen will understand
US Army Staff Sgt. Scott Graham, a medic with the 214th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), carries a litter and a backboard from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to extract a simulated patient during a medical evacuation mission. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed)

Port Dawg

Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.

Army Proof

Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Talks: MOH Recipients MSG Matt Williams and SSG Ronald Shurer

We recently sat down with Master Sgt. Matt Williams and Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer of ODA 3336, the first Green Berets to receive the Medal of Honor from the same team. The men recount their harrowing experience, and talk about the brotherhood within the Special Forces community, and what the Medal of Honor means to them.


On April 6, 2008, Operational Detachment-Alpha 3336 entered the Shok Valley in Afghanistan with their Afghan Commando partners to capture a high-value target. Almost immediately upon insertion, the team came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire. Within minutes of landing, the team was dealing with their first casualty and began coordinating an evacuation down the side of a mountain in a foreign language, all the while calling in danger close ordnance to repel the enemy onslaught.

32 terms only airmen will understand

MSG Williams while on a mission in Afghanistan

(Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army MSG Matthew Williams)

Green Beret teams were some of the first Americans into Afghanistan after 9/11, and the unique nature of their mission inspired Williams and Shurer. Both men feel strongly about the brotherhood that is established within the Special Forces community and speak to those feelings throughout the interview. “I’ve read books, and seen movies, but until you’re in the Q Course, you see that the focus isn’t this tough, lone soldier. It’s much more of a team aspect,” said Shurer. “They’ve got to find those guys with the strong personalities but can play as part of a team, that’s why it kind of fit well with me.” Shurer added.

32 terms only airmen will understand

​MSG Williams receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(Photo Credit: Sgt. Keisha Brown)

As with many other Medal of Honor recipients, the award has changed their lives as they are now part of the Medal of Honor Society, and have appeared on national media to share their heroic actions and remember the efforts of others.”You’re not wearing it for yourself, you’re wearing it for all those guys who didn’t come home, and everyone out there who is still doing the job and still doing the mission,” said Shurer. “If nothing else it puts me in a position to highlight great things that are done constantly by SF teams, special forces teams are always, are constantly out there doing these things” added Williams, “I hope you see a representation of the great things that all the men and women that serve the country are capable of doing and do” he added.

Check out the full video above. Click to read the official citation for MSG Williams and SSG Shurer

32 terms only airmen will understand

SSG Shurer receives the Medal of Honor from POTUS

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

For a man who is 95 years old, Marv Levy has an ambitious drive that is inspiring. He’s thinking of his next literary challenge, with an eye on writing another novel.

“But I’m not sure what it is,” the celebrated NFL coach said in a recent interview. “I keep telling myself I’m going to sit down and plot out what it will about. I’ll figure it out.”

Levy, who earned a master’s degree in English history at Harvard University, has been busy since retiring from coaching in 1997. He has authored a children’s book, “Go, Cubs, Go,” about his hometown Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016; a memoir titled “Where Else Would You Rather Be,” about his nearly five-decade coaching career, which is most remembered for his Buffalo Bills reaching four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s; and a novel called “Between The Lies,” a New York Times bestseller about a coach who cheats to win the Super Bowl.

`The greatest generation—a title deserved’

He has also written a book of poems, one of which he recited during a recent ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of V.J. Day, the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, that ended World War II. Speaking by Zoom to “Friends of the National World War II Memorial,” Levy recognized the significance of that day:

“World War II is over, at last it was done. Oh, how we celebrated, was it ever fun. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in our spiffy dress uniforms flooded the scenes. Pretty girls wearing gloves and cute little hats, in high-heeled shoes rather than flats, greeted us now wherever we’d go, in the streets or in bars, or at the USO… I’ll remember all of those with whom I served. The greatest generation—a title deserved.”

Enlisted right after high school

Levy served in World War II in the Army Air Corps. (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bills)

Levy served during World War II at the Army Air Field in Apalachicola, Florida. He enlisted right after graduating from high school in 1943 and wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. A sergeant refused to let him in the air corps because he lacked 20/20 vision, but he managed to train on the base.

“The sergeant found out I was dating his sister in high school,” Levy remembered. “He said, `I’ll let you in. But after basic training, you won’t be able to go to pilot school.’ So I became a meteorologist. I was a meteorologist at Apalachicola and one or two other bases. But most of my time was at the Apalachicola base.”

Just as Levy’s unit was to deploy to the Pacific theater, the war ended. He said he felt terrible that he couldn’t be a pilot but remains proud to have served. Three of his high school classmates and one from grade school were killed in the war.

A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Levy explained why World War II struck an emotional chord with him. He had a grandmother who was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States but left behind four brothers who were doctors and college professors. They were among the more than 30,000 Jewish people who were massacred at Babi Yar near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within a two-day span in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation.

“World War II has tremendous meaning for me,” Levy said. “I have high regard for the people with whom I served. Our cause was essential because of Nazi Germany, in particular.”

Years later, Levy coached the Bills to Super Bowl appearances in the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons. The Bills lost each one, but Levy is still the only NFL head coach to ever take a team to four straight Super Bowls. He compiled a 154-120-0 record (.562 winning percentage) in 17 NFL seasons and is enshrined today in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

World War II a `must win’

At a press conference before his final Super Bowl, a reporter asked Levy if he considered the game a “must win.”

“I said, World War II was a must-win,” Levy remembered. “The media were all there, so it came out. The next day at the hotel where we were staying, a man in a restaurant called me over and said he heard my comments and admired them. He told me how meaningful they were. That was a huge compliment for me because I knew and admired him.”

That man was Andy Rooney, the renowned radio and television writer who was best known for his long-running weekly broadcast on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” Rooney was also an accomplished war correspondent during World War II.

“Serving in World War II was what I wanted to do,” Levy said. “The whole country was totally immersed in the war. Most of us wanted it to be over with. It was quite a day when it ended.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 Reasons the Turkey Should Have Been the US National Bird

This article was sponsored by ButcherBox.

Every year, the United States goes through some 46 million turkeys, many of them going toward Thanksgiving dinners around the country. Meanwhile, no one sits down to eat American Bald Eagles. 

There are many reasons for this; the most important is that it’s illegal because it’s the United States’ official bird. But it didn’t have to be that way. Founding Father and First American Benjamin Franklin thought the Bald Eagle had a “low moral character.” Instead, he believed it should have been the wild turkey, which he called a “bird of courage.”

Before we get into why Franklin was right, you need to know about ButcherBox. ButcherBox delivers 100% grass-fed, grass finished beef, free-range poultry, heritage-breed pork, and wild-caught seafood directly to your doorstep for less than $6.00 per meal. For a limited time, new members will receive a FREE turkey (10-14 lbs) in their first box. This offer expires November 15, so run (don’t walk), because if you don’t get the turkeys, they might get you.

1. The turkey is a stone cold killer

Wild turkeys have a very rigid social structure. The term “pecking order” likely originated with turkeys – and turkeys don’t care what species you are. If you’re lower on the pecking order, they will let you know. 

And that’s no joke. A turkey has 270 degree vision and can see better in the daytime than most other animals. To top it off, we’re talking about a 20 lb+ bird that can fly up to 60 miles per hour.

So, get some turkey before they get you.

2. They’re delicious and plentiful

As far as a food bird goes, you can’t get better than a turkey. The same 20-pound frame that makes a turkey a formidable adversary also makes it a rich prize. 

Simply put, a turkey yields a lot of food. And like the Bald Eagle, its conservation status is of “least concern” to environmentalists. It wasn’t always this way. By the early 20th century, the American wild turkey was almost extinct. It bounced back in a big way, though.

Unlike the Bald Eagle, they are still legal to eat. By the 1950s, turkey was one of America’s favorite foods.

3. They were probably velociraptors 

Disclaimer: We are not zoologists. Please do not use this for your science paper. (Original Source: Matt Martyniuk)

Despite what some incredibly popular movies would have you believe, the Velociraptor was likely not any bigger than a wild turkey. 65 million years ago, the raptor was a bizarre, bird-looking creature, even back then. With feathers and its signature longclaw, it would have been a fearsome creature.

Given the temperament of today’s wild turkeys, they can’t be too far removed from their dinosaur ancestors, can they?

4. Turkeys are meat-eaters

The wild turkey isn’t going around pecking at corn and feed like a chicken. When it comes to eating, turkeys don’t really hold back. Sure, they will indulge in what’s provided like any other bird, but turkeys won’t stop there. They will even eat small reptiles.

Awesome.  

5. Mayans worshipped turkeys as gods

Even if the rest of America didn’t share Benjamin Franklin’s vision of the turkey, Franklin wasn’t alone. Centuries before Franklin started going around inventing stoves and bifocals, the Mayans of Central America were domesticating turkeys for religious reasons.

Mayans believed the bird had special powers, and could only be owned by the rich and powerful among them. 

Beat that, eagle. 

6. The tryptophan thing is a myth

Every Thanksgiving, without fail, someone perpetuates the myth that turkey contains an abundance of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is the reason we fall asleep so fast after eating it. This is fake news. In fact, it sounds like something someone over at Big Chicken made up to muscle in on turkey’s Thanksgiving monopoly. 

While turkey has a lot of the amino acid, it’s not what’s putting us to sleep. We fall asleep because we just stuffed our faces with butter, sugar and carbohydrates. 

7. The eggs are even more delicious

Look at these beauts.

Why don’t humans eat more turkey eggs? Because turkeys require more food and space to lay eggs, and when they do, they don’t lay quite as many as chickens. So acquiring eggs from turkeys can be much more expensive than the chicken. A turkey egg can cost twice as much as a dozen chicken eggs. 

But when you taste the difference between chicken and turkey eggs, you’ll understand why it’s worth $3.00 per egg.

BONUS — 8. Without turkeys, Thanksgiving gets weird

While no one ever thought to go around eating bald eagles for Thanksgiving (yet), the Thanksgiving dinner table in America was a very different place before we accepted turkey as our bird and savior. 

For example, the pilgrims likely ate seals for the first Thanksgiving, which shows why England was right to persecute them. Just drawing on presidential Thanksgiving menus, things didn’t exactly get better from there. President William Howard Taft had a possum for Thanksgiving one year and Calvin Coolidge ate a raccoon.  

We can thank the turkey for not having to have Thanksgiving dinners we likely hunted with our cars. 

That being said, don’t forget to head over to ButcherBox and get your FREE turkey when you sign up as a new member! ButcherBox turkeys are free-range, all natural (no antibiotics or added hormones*), and humanely raised by trusted farmers who believe in better. Box options and delivery frequencies are flexible to fit your needs, or cancel anytime with no penalty. 

* Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones or steroids in poultry.

This article was sponsored by ButcherBox.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring our fallen isn’t political. It’s American.

I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.



That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.

You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.

32 terms only airmen will understand

Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)

Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.

In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.

32 terms only airmen will understand

A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden

While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.

We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

32 terms only airmen will understand

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

When we envisioned our first publication for this blog, we never dreamed we would be interviewing one of our own founders for it. Or, that the topic would be her diagnosis and recovery of COVID-19. Despite the initial anxiety and concern over her positive test, she chose joy. Every day.

Samantha Gomolka is a Physician Assistant for a dermatology office in Buffalo, New York. Her state is arguably the hardest hit with COVID-19 and although schools and businesses were shut down, she continued to work and treat patients. “It was my biggest fear…. That if my family got sick, it would be because I brought it home. It was a heavy weight to carry,” she said.


32 terms only airmen will understand

www.inspireupfoundation.org

Gomolka shared that she researched the signs and symptoms heavily, watching closely for fever or any shortness of breath. When she started with a cough and headache, she didn’t initially think it could be COVID-19. A few days later, the fever and body aches came. “In that moment, you are kind of stuck between the place of fear and disbelief,” she said. Gomolka said she just knew she had it. She quarantined herself in a guest bedroom, praying she wouldn’t pass it to anyone else in her family. A call to the public health department gave her the verbal instructions of self quarantine and presumption of COVID-19 based on symptoms, but there was no test available to her due to being considered low risk, and lack of other comorbid conditions.

Gomolka wouldn’t get one, until she ended up in the emergency room.

“Getting up from the bed to walk into the kitchen is not usually challenging. With this, there was an air hunger. It became a conscious effort to breathe in and out all day long. The feeling that I could never get enough air was making me live right under the threshold of panic,” she shared. Gomolka finally went to the emergency room when breathing became even more difficult and was placed on oxygen for hours. It was there she received her Chest X-ray, CT scan and COVID test, which revealed she did in fact have the virus. Then her husband, who had just returned from a long deployment overseas, started getting sick too.

32 terms only airmen will understand

Their family was quickly and officially served with mandated home quarantine paperwork by their local sheriff’s office, unable to leave their home at all. Contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family — her biggest fear — could have caused despair. Instead, she found the beauty in it.

“It comes down to perspective….. to find the opportunities for beauty. You have to choose joy,” she shared. Gomolka shared that having time slow down for her family was a blessing. Relationships were strengthened and hearts were lifted. What could have been a time of anxiousness was an opportunity to reconnect and spend time in a space of gratefulness.

Gomolka also shared that initially she hesitated in going public with their diagnosis, wondering if people would respond in a negative way. The result was completely opposite of that. “We had an entire community, local and virtual of people who just rallied around us and lifted my family up,” she said.

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She shared stories of receiving aid from the Green Beret Foundation, needed medications on her doorstep, warm meals and groceries were provided, gift cards for expenses, activities for her children, and even coffee creamer. All of this during a time that could have easily slipped their family into a dark space, was nothing but light. Gomolka shared that her family feels like they could never repay the true value of these gifts. Instead, they plan to pay it forward.

“We are trying to figure out how we make that kind of difference in someone else’s life and come to their aid in a way that makes impactful change,” she said. One of the ways she’s going to do this, is to immediately go back to work treating patients with emergent conditions and skin cancer. She and her husband also signed up with the New York Blood Center, the American Red Cross, and Upstate University Hospital with the National Plasma Antibody project, hoping they can give their plasma for use in critically ill COVID19 patients. They also plan to try to complete errands and shopping for members of their community who are immunocompromised or elderly.

“We are always going to encounter challenges, but how do you respond to them? Find the good,” she said. She continued on saying that this experience has broadened her definition of what a hero is. “As a military family we tend to think of heroes as someone in a camouflage uniform, but that has changed for me,” she said. Gomolka explained that now, her version of a hero are the people who run towards danger while the rest of us “hunker down”. The grocery store workers, health care professionals, and deliverymen — to name a few.

When asked what she would tell those reading this article, she smiled and shared that although she knows her diagnosis and experience is not the same as others, she wants people to know that together we can make it through anything. She implored people to “pause, and take it all in and find the beauty”.

This article originally appeared on InspireUp Foundation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Sergeant Major of the Army shares his reading list

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.


We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words:

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1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.

Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.

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2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.

Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.

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3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann

After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.

The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.

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4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.

One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.

This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.

6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee

I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.

This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.

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7. Winning by Jack Welch

I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.

It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.

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9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.

This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.

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10. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.

Start today

During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.

“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII Army veteran just celebrated his 102nd birthday

The McCurtain County VA Clinic and members of the local community gathered in Idabel, Oklahoma to celebrate World War II veteran Sydney Hunnicutt’s 102nd birthday.

“We truly care about the veterans in our community and we just want to make a difference,” said Lisa Morphew, registered nurse and clinic manager. “We love our veterans and want to show them that we’re here to help, whatever their needs are.”

VA clinic staff presented birthday cards and Jonathan Plasencia, associate director for the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, presented a gift bag to Hunnicutt on behalf of VA Voluntary Service.


Twelve of Hunnicutt’s family members were able to attend the party including several who were visiting from California. Dorothy Cash, Hunnicutt’s daughter, said she was grateful to the clinic and community who helped make the day special for her father.

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Jonathan Plasencia shakes Sydney Hunnicutt’s hand.

“It means the world to us,” said Cash.

During World War II, Hunnicutt was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed to the Philippines with the 63rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division. During the Battle of Luzon, Hunnicutt fought the Japanese and was shot in his left hand. He lost two fingers and was later awarded a Purple Heart.

“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate a member of the Greatest Generation,” said Plasencia, who drove from the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee to celebrate Hunnicutt’s milestone. “Veterans have many options for their health care and when they place their trust in VA, that is a privilege we do not take lightly.”

“It couldn’t have been better,” said Hunnicutt, who turns 102 on July 13, 2019.

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Clinic staff join Sydney Hunnicutt for his 102nd birthday celebration.

Hunnicutt has been a patient at the clinic since it opened in 2017, and Dr. Jose Gomez has served as his primary care physician.

“He is so happy,” said Cash. “Dr. Gomez has been the best.”

Dr. Gomez said it’s been a privilege to provide care for Hunnicutt.

“I want to thank him for his courage and for putting his life on the line for us to be able to have the freedoms that we have,” he said. “It’s an honor just to shake his hand.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why are so many politicians vets? The reason is hiding in plain sight.

American politics is a touchy subject, but voters from any party can easily observe how many veterans go into politics. Currently, the House of Representatives includes 76 military veterans; roughly a fifth of all members. Historically, veterans used to be even more active in Congress. So why are so many politicians vets, and what do they bring to the table that other candidates don’t? 

The timing for vets to run for political office is perfect. 

America loves our patriots, but it goes beyond that. The age at which people typically leave the military and pursue other careers lines up perfectly with the age requirements for elected officials. Some people know they’re going to pursue politics from the start. They start working in the field right out of college so that running for office becomes a natural career progression. 

If you’re hoping to get into politics from a completely different field, however, it’s not that easy. Unless, that is, you’re a vet. Most Americans would be hard-pressed to make a major career change in their 30s. There are no guarantees in politics. You can work on a campaign for months and walk away without a job. It’s a big risk; too big for average Americans to justify. 

Members of the military, on the other hand, often change careers in their 30s and 40s. Unlike the rest of the population, they’re free to explore new opportunities with fewer concerns about job security. 

Why do so many vets move into politics in the first place? 

The reasons for vets to become politicians are, for the most part, pretty self-explanatory. If you joined the military because you wanted to serve your country, getting elected to office provides another way for you to contribute. 

John Kerry is a former naval officer turned politician
Before going into politics, John Kerry was a Naval Officer.

While veterans can always volunteer instead, many are driven to serve their country in a more concrete way. By getting involved in government, they have the opportunity to make a difference for future members of the US Armed Forces, as well as the civilians they swore to protect. 

Do veterans actually make better politicians?

Military experience isn’t an automatic qualifier for political office. Whether or not a veteran will make an exceptional politician depends on their motives. If they’re changing careers because they’re driven to serve- because they have strong views and strong values that they hope to share with their countrymen, that’s a good sign that they have political leadership potential. 

Former President George became a politician after leaving the Air Force Bush
Former President George W. Bush was a First Lieutenant in the Air Force before becoming a politician.

If a candidate is just running for office to follow in their family’s footsteps, being a veteran won’t magically make them a worthy candidate. In that same vein, their military experience is only valuable if their motives for enlisting were pure. Enlisting just to advance their future political career is a shady move that undermines the values of the veterans who run for the right reasons. 

That said, for veterans who are in it for the right reasons, their military experience can be a tremendous asset. The values of respect, discipline sacrifice, and dedication to a greater purpose can all make a person a better politician. Whether or not they put their military values to work in their policies is entirely up to them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things you probably didn’t know about the U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard gets a bad rap as “those people who bust up boat parties and check for life vests,” but they’re actually a bunch of terrorism fighting, pirate hunting, lifesaving warfighters.


Check out these 7 surprising facts about America’s oldest maritime branch:

1. The Coast Guard is the oldest continuous maritime service, no matter what the Navy claims as their birthday.

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Revenue Captain William Cooke seizes contraband gold landed from a French privateer, 1793.

After the American Revolution, the Continental Navy was disbanded, and the nation was without a naval force until the Revenue Cutter Service, the precursor to the Coast Guard, was established on August 5, 1790. This was seven years before the first three Navy ships would sail in 1797.

2. The Coast Guard was the first agency to respond to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

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U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Beaty of Long Island, N.Y., looks for survivors in the path of Hurricane Katrina as he flies in an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter over New Orleans. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi)

As soon as it was safe for the Coast Guard to fly, crews from all over the United States began to save those left behind in murky waters and stranded on rooftops, deploying even before the Louisiana National Guard. The USCG would save more than 33,000 lives in the aftermath.

3. Before there was a government in Alaska, there was the Revenue Cutter Service.

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Postcard of the U.S. revenue cutter Perry poses with Perry Island behind them. Perry Island was near Bogoslof Island in the Bering Sea. It arose in a volcanic eruption in 1906, witnessed by the crew of the Perry, and sank back under the sea about 5 years later.

After a failed, ten-year-long attempt for the Army to take charge of the vast coastlines of Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was charged with taking care of the Alaska territory and its people. Over the next eight decades, the USRCS, and later the Coast Guard, would watch out for the best interests of natives,

4. The Revenue Cutter Service was the original IRS.

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Coast Guardsmen wear traditional U.S. Revenue Cutter Service uniforms at a welcome reception aboard the US Brig Niagra during Detroit Navy Week 2012. The weeklong event commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812, hosting service members from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor)

The US Revenue Cutter Service was established first and foremost to enforce the taxes and tariffs of the newly born country in an effort to recover from the debt that the revolution had caused. This mission would evolve into the Coast Guard’s role in maritime law enforcement and drug and interdiction.

5. The Coast Guard has one of America’s only active commissioned sailing vessels, and it was originally a Nazi warship.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sails under the Golden Gate Bridge during the Festival of Sail on San Francisco Bay. The Eagle is a three-masted barque that carries square-rigged sails on the fore and main masts. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Sherri Eng)

The SSS Horst Wessel was taken by the U.S. as a war reparation at the end of World War II, and given to the US Coast Guard upon request of the Coast Guard Academy’s superintendent. Since 1946, the Cutter Eagle has deployed around the world yearly with cadets and officer candidates to teach them the art and science behind sailing, as well as team work and crew safety. Civilians are occasionally invited aboard, including President John F. Kennedy and Walt Disney, who climbed the riggings of the main mast with cadets.

6. A Coast Guard vessel was once used to broadcast propaganda through the Iron Curtain.

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The Courier (Coast Guard)

During the Cold War, the United States developed Voice of America, a program that still today seeks to serve as an accurate news source, and is broadcasted throughout the world. The Cutter Courier was stationed in Rhodes, Greece from 1952 to 1964 and was outfitted as a giant radio transmitter, transmitting news into the Soviet Union.

7. The Coast Guard evacuated Manhattan in the wake of 9/11.

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Coast Guard crewmembers patrol the harbor after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Terrorist hijacked four commercial jets and then crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. (USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto)

Before the dust had settled at Ground Zero, the Coast Guard conducted an evacuation of more than 500,000 terrified and confused citizens from Manhattan to mainland New York City with the help of civilian vessels ranging from ferries to small sailboats in the area. After the cleanup began, the Coast Guard Commandant ordered a detail of Coasties to clean the Trinity Churchyard, where Alexander Hamilton, considered Father of the Coast Guard, is buried.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

The United States Coast Guard Culinary Team beat 19 competitors to be named 2020 Joint Culinary Training Exercise Installation of the Year.

The competition included teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international teams from France, Germany and Great Britain, with the Coast Guard earning 20 medals — five gold, six silver and nine bronze, according to a Facebook post. Chief Petty Officer Edward Fuchs, team manager, says training time helped the chefs prepare.

“One of the things that gave us a leg up this year that we’ve never had before is that we had 10 days of training time leading up to it,” Fuchs said. He added that time to run through everything with a team that had never worked together before, made all the difference. He credits Master Chief Matthew Simolon and his crew for opening up the USCG Yorktown, Virginia, galley for their team as one of the reasons they won.


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Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the Coast Guard Team Advisor, shared that many of the other military branch teams competing there had been working on their craft together for six months or longer to prepare for the competition.

“The reaction from them when they would learn about us (USCG team) only being together for nine days prior to the start of the competition was pretty awesome. They understand how hard this thing is and how much work goes into it,” Jeffries said. “The Yorktown galley made it all possible by getting us rations or running us to the store. Without them, this wouldn’t have been successful at all.”

The road to competing in this culinary competition isn’t easy. The hours are long, often stretching into 12-plus hour days. Fuchs shared there was one stretch where he was away from his hotel room for 30 hours. But that continuous hard work and unfailing dedication paid off.

Fuchs said the Coast Guard has always had to work a little harder because all of the rules and important communications come through the Department of Defense, which led to his team being behind on this year because the group was left out of those important emails. He also shared that throughout the 14 years since the Coast Guard first competed, there were years they weren’t funded to compete.

“For a while it was just us and our personal funds keeping it alive,” he said.

One year, as an example, they were sponsored by The Coast Guard Foundation. In years past, the chefs competing were mostly those located in Washington, D.C. and the Virginia areas that were close by to the Fort Lee competition because they just couldn’t afford to bring in chefs from units throughout the country. He continued saying that “we kept it on life support, waiting for that funding stream to come through.”

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Jeffries echoed Fuchs statement, saying for years it really was a few of them spending thousands of dollars each to maintain a Coast Guard team.

“The coverage was still there because that was our way of being able to showcase to the right avenues, ‘hey we are out here doing awesome stuff and representing the Coast Guard in a great light’ … let’s fund this thing so we can get other people out here,” he said.

They got their wish. The Coast Guard team has been funded for the last two years and this year they were able to bring in chefs from all over the fleet; something they have never been able to do before. And this year’s team was a vibrant representation of the force’s culinary rate and it made all the difference.

“We’ve done this for 14 years and every year you think you have a chance (for culinary team of the year) and then it’s not you. … It’s indescribable, that feeling that you feel when you train a team and they win it. I can’t even put into words the pride and the joy watching them go up on stage to receive the award for culinary team of the year,” Fuchs said.

“We were celebrating the night before because of how great of a job that everyone did in their own personal competitions. The Coast Guard medaled every competition and we already knew that our Coast Guard Chef of the Year had a shot at Armed Forces Chef of the Year, something that the Coast Guard had never won. There was just already so much to celebrate,” Jeffries said.

Both Fuchs and Jeffries describe an “intense” energy in the room after Team Coast Guard was announced as the winner. And so was the respect.

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

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