How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Watching Joe Real and his coffee crew hustling from car to counter, drinks or tablets in hand, as they serve a stream of cars and walk-up customers is inspiring. The service is quick but seems to steadily pour in throughout the morning. 

For Joe, everything about his business Drive Thru Joe’s has been fast-paced. This USAF veteran opened his first coffee truck on Oahu in December 2017; in nearly three years, he has expanded to two permanent locations and is poised to operate six by early 2021. 

How does a military veteran with no experience in coffee or restaurant service not only survive but thrive in a high-income state like Hawaii? Coffee is a niche market on the island, and there is plenty of competition from major retailers and local mom and pop restaurants. 

But Real saw it differently. He saw a chance to bring comfort and community with convenience to a military base. “Coffee can be your home or sense of belonging when you are away,” he stated. “Having a solid coffee stop or place that is ‘yours’ at an affordable price was the goal.” 

Real was ending his 6-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force. He was always the lowest ranking guy in his Intel squadron, and coffee runs were his task. He described the process of leaving the base, waiting in line while feeling entirely confused with the complex coffee orders and returning to the base again. This was such a long process in the workday and it was also ineffective. Half of the time the orders were not correct or were cold by the time he drove back and found another parking space. 

While he was deployed during his final year of his commitment, Real spent his downtime researching coffee and investing his money. He grew his funds and his education on the entire process, from bean to cup. He returned to Hawaii, separated from active-duty, and purchased a food truck. 

The beginning of a coffee community 

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
(Drive Thru Joe’s)

Joe was attending university and opening a business with a lot of his own capital. But he credits military benefits and programs for helping him start Drive Thru Joe’s. He took advantage of the GI Bill to attend school and help him with expenses. The VA loan enabled him to purchase a home with great rates and stability. Finally, the Boots to Business program for veterans and disabled veterans was crucial in getting him smart on entrepreneurship and business. Without these, Real is not sure he could have succeeded. 

He opened his first location on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on December 20, 2017. 

It was a tough start. He and his single other employee hustled with a single espresso machine. They learned on the fly and quickly discovered that pivoting their business toward cold drinks would be lucrative and efficient. They could make four cold brew beverages in the time it took to make one hot beverage. Real also learned that quality and customer service are better than drinks. 

Soon, the truck moved locations to Schofield Barracks, and the business took off. With a larger customer base and a prime location in front of the commissary, Real and his team started building a following and a community. He focused on bean quality and keeping his supply chain local to support both the military and Hawaiian communities. He and his staff take pride in not only serving coffee quickly but also educating their customers. It makes them more unique than the average coffee spot. 

“If you take just a few minutes to talk to someone about their tastes and what they like, you build that connection,” Real told WATM. “They want to come back. Coffee is super important, but customer service is too. They go hand in hand.” They averaged over 3500 drinks a week last year and are poised to double that this year. 

Real also loves staying connected to and serving the military community. 

Drive Thru Joe’s works has collaborated with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts on base and is a sponsor of the Schofield Soccer Club. He has also participated in fundraisers for the local schools and the enlisted spouses club. While he was ready to leave active-duty, Real wanted to stay affiliated with the military and serve this community he is so proudly a part of. 

What’s next?

Aside from expanding to more locations on the island, he is working on franchising. Real would like to see Drive Thru Joe’s on bases around the United States – it is a long process that he is working on now. He hopes to offer these opportunities to other veterans. With all the branding and systems in place, it would allow his business to grow while also enabling others like him to succeed in their own endeavor. 

The most important thing to him is to keep the same spirit, community, and aloha of Drive Thru Joe’s at every location. What started as a simple coffee truck has turned into an almost cult-like following, with customers PCSing off-island and still posting about the coffee. He chuckles at the posts about brewing “Joe-style” at home and enjoys knowing that they have made an impact on people.

I have no doubt that in the next 10 years, I’ll find another Drive Thru Joe’s coffee truck somewhere on the mainland. And I will happily place my order for the best cold brew on Oahu, wherever that may be.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We tried Google’s veteran job search to see how well it works

Firing 155mm howitzers at targets spotted with high-tech drones in order to open a corridor for sappers and infantry to break through enemy defenses is great and fun, but it doesn’t translate easily into corporate skills.

So now, Google is helping make a translator that will match up veterans and corporations.

As companies realize more and more that veterans as a community bring many ideal traits to the business place, such as an accelerated learning curve and attention to detail, there’s a bigger push to hire a vet. So now it’s just a matter of translating “COMBAT ARCHER linchpin; prep’d 4 tms/1st ever JASSM live fire–validated CAF’s #1 F-16 standoff capes” into a resume bullet.

Enter Google.


No simple code can define who you are, but now it can help you search #ForWhateversNext → http://google.com/grow/veterans pic.twitter.com/yrrA1SdKqc

twitter.com

First, watch the Super Bowl commercial announcing it:

In one of two 2019 Super Bowl commercials, Google advertised their Job Search for Veterans initiative, where service members can enter their military occupational specialty codes into a google search and find relevant civilian jobs that require similar skills.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

“Will a cubicle in the corner work for you?”

By typing “jobs for veterans” in Google followed by the appropriate MOS/NEC/AFSC/etc, they can pull up a more streamlined job search. It still seems to be a hit-or-miss function, but I just assume most computer algorithms get more efficient with time. Remember CleverBot?

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

I should definitely ask We Are The Mighty for a raise…

Google picked up on my management experience and even though I don’t have a business background, I feel confident that I could go in and land any of these jobs. As an Air Force intelligence officer, however, I have one of the easiest careers to transition into the civilian work place.

So then I tried it out on Logan Nye, one of our Army guys:

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Logan, come back to Los Angeles.

According to Nye, “[Public Affairs Print Journalist] doesn’t learn video at all. You know, the 3rd entry in that list. And public relations managers mostly build programs, which is a 46A thing. Editor is arguably within reach for 46Qs. Assistant editor is definitely within reach for good 46Qs. But the rest of these have only a limited connection to what 46Qs actually do and learn.”

Nye argued that it might be the most difficult for junior- to mid-enlisted vets to step straight into these kinds of six-figure jobs, especially given how specific military training is in reference to the equipment used and the culture that surrounds the job. Troops considering getting out will need to make sure they’re developing the skills needed for the target job, because the military “equivalent” won’t be a perfect match.

That might be true, but I would maintain that this gives veterans insight into civilian careers similar to their own. This gives them a place to begin with adjacent training requirements.

I’ll bring it back to the accelerated learning curve. Vets are used to moving around and learning on-the-job training quickly; we’re conditioned to adapt because of our military foundation: discipline, hard work, mission-focused, service before self.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

At the end of the day, I appreciate any resource or hiring initiative out there for veterans, many of whom put their careers on hold to serve in the military. Adjusting to the civilian workforce can take some time, but ‘Job Search for Veterans’ seems to make it just a little bit easier — and will hopefully give vets more confidence about the jobs they apply for.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Just keep your quirks to yourself until after you get the job.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what an unarmed chaplain brings to the battlefield

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.

This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.


How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.

(U.S. Army)

Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.

This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.

It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.

(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)

A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.

Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.

He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.

Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.

For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.

MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Citizens of the United States of America tend go mildly wild when they celebrate the fourth of July. It was on that day, in 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted the Deceleration of Independence, severing our nation from the British Empire.

Most people commemorate this fateful moment with a nice, wholesome family gathering. Dads work the barbecue while telling awful puns and moms try to make sure the kids don’t hurt each other with sparklers. The evening’s merriment is capped off by watching the fireworks explode over the nearby lake.

Now, we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing things wrong — if you’re into that mundane, picturesque lifestyle, more power to you — but we are here to tell you that veterans like to go big. Real big.

Independence Day is what binds the veteran community. We may argue and bicker over little things, but each and every one of us loves this country and its people. In demonstrating that love, we tend to go a little overboard when partying on what is, essentially, America’s birthday.


How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
Just like the good ol’ days! (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales)

 

Going to the range

Veterans and firearms go together like alcohol and bad decisions. When veterans get a free day off work, they might visit the firing range. When they get a day off for the 4th, they’ll be there for sure — you know, for America.

In this case, “firing range” is a pretty vague term. It could mean a closed-off, handgun-only range, a range out in the middle of nowhere that allows you to legally fire off a fully automatic, or, if you happen to be in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, your backyard. Regardless of how we do it, it’s our little way of supporting the Constitution — through celebrating the 2nd Amendment.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
Who doesn’t love watching 50 cannons go off? (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Coulter)

 

Visiting military installations for the “Salute to the Union”

Every year, on the fourth of July, military installations hold a ceremony at noon where they fire off one gun for every state in the Union. Some of the veterans who once participated in those ceremonies come back many years down the road to see it again.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
“You can eat all of that, right?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

 

Hosting massive barbecues

Burgers sizzling on the grill is the unofficial smell of the holiday. You can’t go anywhere in America without sniffing out some hot dogs, steaks, and whatever else the veteran is cooking.

The only downside is that veterans tend to go a little overboard on what they think is the “right amount of food” for everyone. Veterans prepare for the event that everyone’s going to eat a dozen burgers. Deep down, we know that’s not going to happen, but what if…

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
There are no safety briefs in the civilian world, but there probably should be… (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kareem Abiose)

 

Drinking enough alcohol to relive barracks life

Sobriety is entirely optional on Independence Day. From the moment they wake up until they eventually pass out from taking too many shots in the hot summer sun, veterans spend the entire day drinking .

Of course, they should always err on the side of responsibility and remember all of the safety briefs they got when they were in. They’ve got the basics down, like “don’t drink and drive,” but they might forget some of the niche briefs, like “don’t get drunk and decide to shoot bottle rockets out of a metal pipe like a friggin’ rocket launcher” — so that’s probably still game.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
But, you know, any of the veteran-owned t-shirt company shirts are open game! (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

 

Wearing unapologetically American clothes

It’s America’s birthday, so dress for the occasion. American flag hats, tank tops, underwear, you name it. Today, everything is red, white, and blue.

Technically, such articles of clothing are discouraged by the Flag Code, but it’s an expression of patriotism — and the First Amendment allows you to express yourself like that.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
No 4th of July is complete without driving 110 down the freeway blasting “Free Bird.” (Photo by Jon Callas)

 

Blasting American musicians

As much as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Iron Maiden all kick ass, let’s reserve this day for America and American rock stars, baby!

Any party celebrating American independence should have a playlist featuring plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Aerosmith.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
If you’re doing it right, the neighbors should confuse your backyard for the show put on by the city. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

 

So many fireworks…

Veterans refuse to be outdone by the neighbors down the road who think their puny little display of patriotism is the best way to celebrate America. If that veteran also happens to be an old-school artilleryman or mortarman, you’re about to see something special…

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
If you see one of our brothers or sisters with one of these signs, you can just ask them and let them know when you’re doing the fireworks. Just don’t be an asshole about it. (WLKY News Louisville)

 

Chosing to avoid fireworks

Every year on social media, we see photos of signs placed in front of veterans’ homes politely asking neighbors to not set off fireworks get picked apart by the veteran community. You know what? A veteran choosing to spend America’s birthday exactly how they want to is veteran as f*ck, too.

Can’t stand large crowds of people and the traffic? Stay in. That’s veteran as f*ck.

Don’t want to be in a public place when loud explosions go off? You don’t have to be.

This is a day to celebrate America’s freedom. If you’ve raised your hand, there’s no way anyone can take your veteran status from you. Independence Day is about celebrating freedom. You celebrate it however you feel necessary.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s one of the hardest Army courses you’ve never heard of

In the thick heat of a Missouri summer, the number of Army Engineer Dive School dropouts rises faster than the steamy temperature.

“Does anyone want to DOR (drop out on request)?” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner, as soldiers in soaked combat uniforms push through the pool’s waters in the early hours of a muggy July morning.

Holdner, a diving cadre instructor, looks over at the soldiers struggling in the pool. Two raise their hands. Four leave the class before noon.


Army has divers?

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Related video:

By the time the physical training session finished in the late afternoon, another five followed.

One day into the first week of Engineer Diver Phase I course, a class of 12 has dwindled to two: the first, a soldier who had already passed the course two years ago. He left the Army and worked his way back. The other: a soldier who struggled swimming the endurance laps necessary to be a deep-sea diver but passed other aspects of the course, including the classroom lessons and physical training exercises.

The cuts come swiftly. Some quit out of their own accord. Others simply did not meet the rigid standards of the course. The Army designed it this way; to weed out the weak-minded, weak-willed and those unable to remain calm during extended hours underwater. In maritime conditions, Army divers must be prepared to act in seconds; they must react to sudden changes in currents, waves and the elements.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner pours water on students as they attempt to complete flutter kicks. The water simulates the sensations of drowning. The exercise tests students’ ability to perform under extreme duress.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

More than 90 percent of students won’t advance past the school’s first phase at Fort Leonard Wood. Among those who didn’t make the first week: recruits who had years of competitive swimming experience and former high school athletes.

The instructors know oceans, rivers and lakes can be a brutally cold, unforgiving places.

They attempt to make the course as unforgiving. At Davidson Fitness Center’s 25-meter pool, divers face two crucial initiation tests. Holdner said the majority of students don’t make it past these two exercises.

The first, students must swim the width of the pool in a single breath — underwater. Then the new recruits jump off a high dive board, surface, and swim to the far side of the pool and back and tread water for 40 minutes.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Pfc. Nolan Hurrish, right, emerges from the pool with other students during an Army engineer diving training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

During the first half, students keep their heads out of water while using their hands and feet. During the second 20 minutes, they perform the “dead man’s float” — a survival technique where soldiers bend at the waist facing the water with arms out while holding their breath, simulating a floating corpse. When they need to breathe, they collapse arms and legs at the same time to raise their head above the water before dipping their faces back in the water.

In the second test, soldiers must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes and 30 seconds using breast stroke or side stroke, then do 50 pushups, 50 curl ups and six pullups. Finally, they must run a mile and a half in 12:30 or less.

As students attempt each exercise, they face the possibility of being dropped from the course and being reclassified into another career field.

“Every single time I’ve got to drop somebody,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Bailey, the lead instructor. “I feel bad because I know that they got into something that they knew nothing about. Because we’re a small field, very few people know that we exist.”

Students spend up to three and a half hours per day in the water, but also spend time in the classroom, learning about diving physics and how to maintain their equipment.

Dive instructors put students through a series of rites of passage, and ultimately test whether students can remain calm in situations that often cause heightened panic. The first such test came on the third day of training.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

In addition to remaining calm underwater and developing breathing skills, diving school students must maintain rigid physical fitness standards.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Test of Wills

A soldier’s exasperating screams echoed in the swimming complex as he struggled to retrieve his equipment at the bottom of the pool. Instructors removed the diver’s mask, fins and air regulator and tossed them into the deep end of the pool. When the course began earlier that week, he lagged behind classmates during endurance laps.

Now at 1:30 p.m., the weather conditions in central Missouri hovered at around 95 degrees.

Inside the swimming complex the heat and humidity make the poolside area feel like a pressure cooker, not making the training any easier. During the test, instructors rip off pieces of the students’ scuba gear. soldiers must descend 14 feet and retrieve the gear in a single breath.

Holdner and Bailey bobbed at the surface, shouting instructions. They slapped water into the faces of the two remaining students in an attempt to simulate the unpredictable sway of an ocean current.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Pfc. Stephen Olinger dons swimming fins before a training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July 2018.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Here both instructors attempted to escalate the stress level to a fever pitch. Their screams, combined with the splashing water, simulate what instructors call a “rough sea state.” On missions, a diver’s rig might fail and they would no longer be able to breathe. Or divers may get bumped by an obstruction, falling debris, marine life or land they didn’t see. The current can also knock their air regulator off their suit.

When faced with the possibility of drowning, the diving instructors said water fills a swimmer’s nostrils, invoking feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. It can cause extreme panic, breaking down even the best of athletes and the most confident swimmers.

“We say water is the great equalizer,” Bailey said. “We have plenty of people that come here that are great physical specimens … They can do everything on land … But then, you put them in the water and guess what? They fall apart. They become two different people.”

Water can create extreme panic causing soldiers to lose their bearing, forcibly shoving fellow swimmers out of the way in order to reach for the shore. The violence of the water currents can push some soldiers to the edge.

“If you’re not comfortable,” Bailey said. “Water will bring out the worst in people.”

Bailey, a soldier with a neatly-combed crew cut and a stocky, fit build, teaches the class with a cool demeanor. He barks instruction with stern authority, but minutes later will crack a joke to put the students at ease.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Army divers must be able to communicate with the crew above before going on a deep-sea dive. Though they must operate underwater with little instruction, a deep-sea diver will have the only view of the operation.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

An experienced veteran diver of 13 years, he tested his mettle at sea on a diverse array of maritime missions across the globe. He faced one of his most difficult challenges during a deployment to Iraq along a river. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had damaged a bridge and infantry units needed engineer divers to perform reconnaissance underwater.

At the river’s center in the shadow of the bridge, Bailey, then a young soldier, entered the water. He and another diver descended nearly 40 feet into the river’s depths. Almost immediately after he entered the river’s pitch black waters, disaster struck.

“As soon as I hit that water, I lost my grip,” Bailey said. “The current took me and immediately just threw me back.”

As he felt the pull to the bottom, the river broke his helmet’s seal. Cold water rushed into his head gear. His suit remained attached to an umbilical air supply cord, restricting his movement. He waited for a teammate to pull him back to shore while calming his nerves in the face of extreme conditions.

“I couldn’t swim to the shore,” he said. “I wasn’t moving. The only way I was getting out of there is if I was getting pulled out. And now my helmet was flooded. So what would have happened if I had panicked or I was not able to remain calm?”

Soldiers must face the fear of drowning and their own mortality on each mission. And each time, Divers must tame their emotions or lives will be at stake. In the worst conditions, soldiers will operate with limited visibility while carrying up to 80 pounds of underwater gear.

“I’ve been in situations where I’m using my hands as my eyes,” Holdner said. “One little mistake can be an injury for you. It’s not an environment that’s going to go easy on you.”

Holdner, a youthful-looking staff sergeant with slicked back dark hair who sports a cascade of tattoos on his right arm, graduated from the course in 2010. He entered with a larger class — 96. Only six made the cut and advanced to Phase II. Holdner said the mental hurdles the course poses can be the most difficult to overcome.

Even the second-time student looked visibly rattled as the two jockeyed for position before descending below. Athletically built with a wide upper body, the student easily passed the physical fitness tests and he seemed likely to survive to the next phase in Panama City, Florida.

Then the unexpected happened.

Inexplicably, he swam to the poolside and signaled to the instructors he wanted to drop out. He decided he had enough.

One student remained.

The private’s panicked expression reflected his extreme duress. Of the 12 students who attempted the course, he was the only remaining soldier. The shortest student in the class, this soldier struggled to finish the swimming endurance drills earlier in the week. But he persevered to make it to the third day.

But his chances have dimmed.

As the private spent more time bobbing his head above the surface, he lost valuable time that could have been spent underwater searching for equipment.

An instructor then blew his whistle. The soldier didn’t make the cut.

Slowly, the soldier swam toward the pool’s edge. Still breathing heavily, he gingerly exited the pool and walked toward his gear. He must now wait for the Army to reclassify him into a new career field.

About 12 to 20 students begin each class. Only 1 to 3 normally graduate. Sometimes, as with the July 2018 students, none make it.

Although instructors must cut the majority of the students, they don’t take each decision lightly. Often before they pull recruits from the course, they have counseling sessions. They sit down with each student and explain why they cannot advance to the next phase.

Often, emotions spill.

“They’re in tears,” Bailey said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do for a long time or this is something that they’ve told their family about and everyone is rooting for them and they don’t want to disappoint their family.”

Bailey said recruiters and drill sergeants often don’t have accurate accounts of engineer diver training. Soldiers then arrive at Fort Leonard Wood with misconceptions about the realities of training.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Navy instructors check Soldiers’ scuba equipment. Equipment management and maintenance is critical for diver safety, instructors said.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Promising Pair

Two Phase I diving school graduates joined the class of students who trained here in the July heat. Instead of sporting the black Army shirts with gold letters, they donned white shirts and brown swimming trunks to distinguish themselves from the current class. They continued to train with incoming classes to keep their skills fresh as they waited for Phase II in Panama City.

Pvts. 1st Class Stephen Olinger and Nolan Hurrish are only months into their Army careers.

Olinger, a bright-eyed recruit who was raised partially overseas, carries a swagger and self-confidence as he approaches each exercise. He graduated in March. Hurrish, a soft-spoken but diligent recruit from Wisconsin, has quietly passed each test. They don’t know if they will survive the next six months at Panama City. But they remain optimistic that in less than 16 weeks they will join the fewer than 150 Army divers worldwide.

“I have an attitude like ‘this is it,” Olinger said. “This is what I came here to do. If I fail out, I fail out. But I’m going to give it everything.”

The world’s five oceans, where many of the 12 dozen or so Army divers throughout the world must perform, can be ruthless.

The sea is an unpredictable, faceless adversary unlike any other soldiers face in the battlefield, and no less deadly.

Students will get their first taste of that adversary off the shores of the Florida Panhandle in Phase II of the diving school.

(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Army’s engineer diver training. For part two, click here.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Slaughter really was a sergeant of Marines

As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.


Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.

The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.

He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.

It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.

Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 pictures of huge cats sitting on the world’s most powerful weapons

Cats are apt to perch wherever they please — on your keyboard, atop the refrigerator, or squished into a box. But a cat on top of a submarine is unexpected, to say the least.

Military Giant Cats (@ GiantCat9 on Twitter) is a bizarre Twitter account that’s exactly what it sounds like — photos of giant cats on top of, playing with, or stalking various militaries or weapons systems.

The account’s creator, a person who identified himself as Thomas, told Insider, “I started this weird account because I love the absurdity of [the] internet, I love the cats, I worked several years in the defense industry.”


“A lot of people send me [cat] pics in the DM,” Thomas told Insider via Twitter direct message. He then Photoshops the cats onto airplanes, submarines, battlefields, and tanks, much to the delight of the account’s 29,000 followers.

Take a look at these felines on fighter jets in the next slides.

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

7. And an NH90 making a very special delivery.

Thomas told Insider he was “surprised by the buzz” around the account, but noted that cats are “easy clickbait.”

(Military Giant Cats)

8. The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard even got in on the fun.

Or is that Purr-l Harbor?

(Military Giant Cats)

(Military Giant Cats)

10. This is a literal Tomcat F-14B.

Cat puns aside, Thomas told Insider, “I have nothing to sell, no political message, my Photoshop skills are quite modest, I just want to have fun and share a good time with the Twitter community.”

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

Articles

How the WWII Willys Jeep got its nickname from the Popeye cartoons

The U.S. Army Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance light utility vehicle was the primary light-wheeled transport of the U.S. and many of its allies during WWII. Today, these trucks are still used in Third-World countries as reliable transportation. Made by Willys-Overland as the MB and Ford as the GPW, the vehicle is better known by its nickname: Jeep.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
Willys-Overland officials demonstrate the Jeep on the U.S. Capitol Steps in February 1941 (Public Domain)

Despite the prevailing theory, the Jeep did not derive its nickname from the pronunciation of its “GP” designation. After all, the GPW name was an internal Ford naming convention. In fact, the Jeep name was given to other 4×4 vehicles before it was applied to the Willys MB/Ford GPW.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
Eugene the original Jeep (King Features Syndicate)

On March 16, 1936, the Popeye the Sailor comic strip introduced the character Eugene the Jeep. A mysterious animal with magical or supernatural abilities, Eugene was Popeye’s jungle pet. Moreover, his small size and inexplicable powers allowed him to walk through walls, move between dimensions, and generally go anywhere to overcome otherwise impossible situations.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
The British SAS used heavily armed Jeeps extensively in North Africa (Imperial War Museum)

By the late 1930s, Eugene the Jeep’s ability to go anywhere resulted in troops nicknaming their four-wheel drive vehicles Jeeps. These vehicles included converted four-wheel drive civilian tractors supplied to the Army, and 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton Dodge Reconnaissance/Weapon Carrier trucks. The Canadians also nicknamed their Ford Marmon-Herrington half-track, “Jeep.”

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
General Eisenhower called the Jeep “one of the six most vital” U.S. vehicles to win the war (U.S. Army)

However, the nickname was not exclusive to the go-anywhere trucks and tractors. Small anti-submarine escort carriers were nicknamed “baby flattops” and “jeep carriers”. The nickname was also given to several aircraft including the Kellett autogyro prototype, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress prototype and the Curtiss-Wright AT-9 trainer plane.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community
(Left to right) A Willys 1/4-ton Jeep, Dodge 3/4-ton Jeep, and Dodge 1/2-ton Jeep (U.S. Army)

Upon America’s entry into WWII, the majority of its light trucks were actually Dodge 1/2-tons and 3/4-tons. It wasn’t until 1943 that the Willys and Ford 1/4-tons outnumbered their heavier Dodge counterparts. Despite their differences, all three light truck variants were nicknamed Jeeps. However, the Jeep name is best associated with the 1/4-ton truck whose appearance has been preserved in popular media and the modern Chrysler/Stellantis North America Jeep Wrangler.

Feature Image: U.S. Army photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

This SEAL will show you how to defeat the enemy when it follows you home

What happens when troops return from the battlefield with no enemy left to fight? According to Navy SEAL Mikal Vega, we bring the enemy home — and it destroys us.

“While in the military, we focus on cultivating a destructive force that we unleash on the battlefield within our respective fields — which we do with great success — but what happens when there’s no longer an enemy to release that energy upon is that it still remains. We create an enemy and that can manifest in a myriad of ways,” he cautions.

“The only thing we can do to offset it — and warriors throughout history that we model ourselves after understood this — is the cultivation of creative forces. The warrior walks that razor’s edge in between the two, drawing strength from both the creative and the destructive side of the spectrum.”

Vega, a combat vet himself, uses his creative energies to help guide the veteran community to healing, especially in light of the troubling 22-a-day statistic about veteran suicide. And his methods aren’t what you might think:


How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Vega developed his Vital Warrior Program to help break down the stigma associated around cultivating creativity and healing. Vital Warrior at its core is all about teaching men and women to go inside, discover their creative talents, and use those creative talents in service of the people around them and to uplift and inspire them to do the same for others.

He served 22 years within the Navy SEAL Team and EOD communities. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and while manning the turret of an HMMWV, he sustained an injury from an IED detonation that caused severe cervical trauma, ulnar nerve damage, and a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI).

After a medical retirement and VA-prescribed narcotic painkillers and psychoactive drugs, Vega hit his limit. He recognized that the medications were having an adverse affect on his health and he decided to explore his own healing regimen of myofascial release, acupuncture, and yoga.

He takes a discipline-oriented and regimented approach to his yoga practice, which he now teaches in Venice, CA, offering free classes to veterans in a donation-based environment. He empowers his students to reject the victim mindset and take responsibility for their health. In the military community in particular, that often means breaking through pre-conceived notions about yoga, breaking the stigma about practices like meditation, and introducing the modern warrior mindset into peaceful practices.

“Once vets show up and do it — and really try — they’re floored,” he shared.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1SZmUIAOGy/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Mikal A. Vega on Instagram: “This track is available now with your preorder (link in bio). Vital Warrior music was created to increase performance and creative flow.…”

www.instagram.com

Listen to a sample of Vega’s latest project:

He talked about that nagging sense of anxiety when you ignore the work you know you should be doing and its adverse effect on the warrior in particular. “If you’re not engaged in the fight, you know you’re not and you’ll be crushed by the energy of it,” he observed.

Vega has a steady career in TV and film, with past credits including Colony, Hawaii Five-0, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. He’ll also appear in the upcoming second season of Mayans M.C., set to premiere September 3rd.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

His entertainment career allows him to serve his non-profit, leading to one of his most exciting endeavors yet: a music album appropriately titled Vital Warrior, available now on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and more. Featuring deep earthy tones and Vega’s rich voice, the album is designed to not only increase performance and creative flow, but, through the use of the mantras selected, to become a transport vehicle to a better place.

Whether you listen to it during strength-training or yoga, the music will hit the right spot.

Vega served as both the Executive Producer on the album, as well as a vocalist and composer, along with Composer, Musician, and Vocalist Jesus Garcia and Latin Grammy winner and Sound Engineer Rubén Salas — both of whom also produced the album.

“This practice is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can see why people might resist it. I’m going up against higher versions of myself, and doing it every day. There is nothing else — it’s me up against me,” he confessed. “It is our sincere desire that this album and this technology engages people because if it does, their life will become better. It doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing — they’re life will become better.”

Sign me up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Being productive: 10 things you’ve been putting off doing but shouldn’t

You’re stuck at home. You’ve watched everything interesting on Netflix, and it’s only been a week. It might be time to do some of those projects you always knew you should but have been putting off… and off… and off… If you can accomplish all of these, you’ll come out of this time of lockdown with a much more organized life and a clearer head.


How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

1. Get your documents in order

Put all of your family’s essential documents in one place. This includes marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, car titles, a copy of your LES and orders, the deed to your house and insurance documents. Do you have a will? If not, now is a good time to do one, either online or virtually with a lawyer. Make sure you have all the insurance you need – not just auto and health insurance, but pet insurance, disability insurance, cell phone insurance, and flood insurance. Also insure your wedding and engagement rings. These are the ones people typically overlook.

2. Photograph your house

Take a photo of everything in your house for insurance purposes. Make sure you have a photo of each room, and all of your valuables. If you have a prized book collection, photograph the titles – you’ll want to remember what they all are if you have to replace them. Keep the photos on the cloud and on a USB that you keep in your safe.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

3. Clean your car

Now is the perfect time to clean your car! Like, really clean it. Take everything out – all the car seats, trash, reusable shopping bags, first aid kit, etc. Wipe down everything with a leather or car cleaner. Vacuum everything – get into the nooks and crannies. Clean the inside of the glass and all the crevices of the vents. Then tackle the outside of the car. Get a full tank of gas. You’ll feel SO much better.

4. Go over your finances

First, if you don’t have a budget, make one. It’s especially important now to stick to one and to know what you’re spending (and not spending). If you’re married, do this as a couple. Next, go over all of your bank accounts and make sure both you and your spouse know how to access all funds and what the passwords are (so military spouses don’t know the passwords to pay their bills until a deployment happens). Go over all of your investment accounts. If you have kids, consider setting up a 529 for them. If you haven’t yet, set up an IRA or Roth IRA. Put contributions on auto-debit if you tend to forget. Another tip to consider is splitting your savings accounts into different accounts. For example, have one for “vacation,” one for “auto tax (which usually is billed all at once every year), one for “utilities” or any quarterly bills, one for “auto maintenance fund,” etc. This will make it easier to see what you have in each.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

5. Get rid of stuff

Go through every room and every closet and see what you have that you can either sell online, donate or save for a garage sale this summer (hopefully we’ll be able to have these this summer). This will help free up some extra cash if you need it, and it will also help you see what you have and what you don’t use. You’ll be surprised what you find. Commit to doing one room of the house each week.

6. Home improvement projects

Now is the perfect time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve always wanted to do. Change out the hardware in your doors and outlets – it will make a big difference. Paint. Change out light fixtures. Replace your faucet or backsplash. Paint your front door. These are simple fixes that have big impact.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

7. Make a list of grocery staples and meals

Write down all of the things you regularly buy at the grocery store – this will make your life so much easier when you’re shopping. Identify a place in your fridge or pantry for each of these items and always put them there; that way, you can see when you’re out. Also, put together a list of five to ten meals and recipes your make regularly. That’s the first step to meal planning, which is the first step to a much more organized dinner life.

8. Back up your files

Make sure all of your computer files are backed up. Clean out any unnecessary computer programs. Print out your favorite photos and put them in an album too, which will give you extra security.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

9. Zero-out your inbox

This may be the most difficult, but it’s so important for your productivity. If you have thousands of emails (too many to sort through), I recommend creating a folder called “Emails until January 2020” and putting them all in there. Then create either work folders or folders for your person emails like “Online orders,” “Kids school,” “House,” “Military,” etc. Go through the last several months and start a new system of filing everything away (or deleting it) once you read it.

10. Talk about your future

Talk about your goals for the future with your spouse, or, if youre single, journal about them. Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? What is that trip you always wanted to take? If you identify what’s important to you now, you can do the steps necessary to get there.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 unintentionally hilarious military acronyms

The United States military loves slapping an acronym on anything that moves. Actually, things that don’t move are equally likely to be described with a jumble of letters when words would do the trick just fine.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the acronym-izer should’ve put more thought into the process, and we get some unintentionally hilarious descriptors.


How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

1. PMS

Every Professor of Military Science is used to the giggles because every new set of students is equally immature.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

2. MANPADS

While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, anyone who’s carrying a Man-Portable Air-Defense System better be ready for a few comments about whether they might need a diaper.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

A male chicken is usually called a rooster but it’s also known as a cock.

3. MANCOC

Students at the Army’s Maneuver Advanced NCO Course must’ve gotten mighty tired of questions about their MANCOC. Perhaps that’s why it’s now called the Senior Leader Course.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Richard Cheney is known as Dick to his friends.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

4. DICC

But those guys likely were not nearly as tired as the intelligence officers answering questions about their Defense Intelligence Collection Cell.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

John Travolta is king of the disco in “Saturday Night Fever.”

(Paramount)

5. DISCO

Spending an evening processing requests down at the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office isn’t nearly as glamorous as the acronym might suggest.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride.

(Disney)

6. MAGIC CARPET

OK, maybe the acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologieswasn’t unintentional. Someone put a lot of effort into making that one work.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

One Dr. Bob is a noted folk artist. The other co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

7. DRBOB

The future of commissaries and exchanges may be in the hands of the Defense Resale Business Optimization Board, but how many New Orleans folk art fans think of the famed painter behind the city’s “Be Nice or Leave” signs? What about the AA members who know Dr. Bob as Bill W.’s cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous?

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

Rick and Morty should be your preferred source for fart humor.

(Adult Swim)

8. FARP

Everyone at the Forward Area Refueling Point is tired of your fart jokes.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

We can’t really go there.

9. FAP

The Fleet Assistance Program, aside from assigning Marines to extra duties outside the normal chain of command, raises an entire set of issues that we can’t really discuss here.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

A fine-looking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

10. BLT

Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious Battalion Landing Team?

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII vet finally receives Silver Star for heroism at Battle of the Bulge

Staff Sgt. Edmund “Eddie” Sternot of the 101st Airborne Division was finally honored posthumously Nov. 10, 2019, with a Silver Star for his gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge on Jan. 4, 1945 in the Ardennes Forrest.

Sternot’s unit set up a perimeter defense around Bastogne and was prepared to defend against the many German counterattacks.

On that heroic day in January, Sternot’s unit was hit by a series of strong attacks by the German army leaving his unit isolated and alone. Sternot bravely led his machine gun section from several different positions to beat back the German attacks leaving 60 enemy dead in front of his machine gun station.


Sternot earned a Silver Star for his heroism, but on Jan. 13, 1945 he courageously exposed himself to enemy fire to throw a hand grenade and was killed in action by a German tank round before he could ever receive the award.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

A picture of Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot’s grave site on display at the award presentation ceremony.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

Today the soldiers from Sternot’s unit, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne”, 101st Airborne Division received their prime opportunity to present Sternot’s last living relative his Silver Star at a Silver Star awards ceremony at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation.

Lt. Col. Trevor Voelkel, commander of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, had the honor of presenting the Silver Star today alongside retired Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III, an alumni of the regiment himself, and was humbled to be present at such a historical moment.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Trevor Voelkel, commander of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division greets U.S. Army veteran, Arthur Petterson. Petterson served in 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and jumped into Normandy during WWII. 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division presented a Silver Star that Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot earned for valor prior to being killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII to his last surviving family member Delores Sternot Nov. 10, 2019

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

“While serving in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, we received word of this story and without hesitation began planning,” said Voelkel. “I looked at the plaque of Silver Star recipients in our headquarters and saw Staff Sgt. Sternot’s name on it. I’m honored to be here and be a part of this ceremony.”

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division plaque of WWII Silver Star Recipients.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

The Silver Star was presented to 80-year-old Delores Sternot, Staff Sgt. Sternot’s first cousin, of Goleta, California.

Delores, full of emotion, continued to wonder why such a ceremony was happening as she often referred to their family as ordinary folk.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

U.S. Army retired Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III, left, shakes the hand of Delores Sternot after she receives Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot’s awards for valor at the Silver Star awards presentation ceremony.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

Dorman gladly answered that question during his address to the audience of the ceremony.

“I commanded Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment many years ago so it is very humbling to be here,” said Dorman. “Delores has stated that her family are ordinary folk but that’s what makes them great. Ordinary folks do extraordinary things for the nation in times of peril.”

Delores also received Staff Sgt. Sternot’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart formally during this ceremony in front of veterans, family and friends within the community of Santa Barbara on behalf of the 101st Airborne Division.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Trevor Voelkel, right, commander of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, addresses the audience at the Silver Star award presentation for Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, felt that it was essential to give Sternot the proper honors that he deserves as a soldier within the division’s legacy and history.

“Staff Sgt. Eddie Sternot is part of the Greatest Generation and the 101st Airborne Division’s incredible history,” said Winski. “I’m extremely proud that we are able to render proper honors to him and to his family with the presentation of a Silver Star that Staff Sgt. Sternot earned during the Battle of the Bulge.”

After nearly 75 years Sternot and his family received a ceremony fit for a hero. It has been a long time coming and with many emotions Delores was overwhelmed by the love and care shown by all the service members present.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

A picture of a young Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot on display at the award presentation ceremony.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

Retired Army Lt. Col. Bill Linn worked over 20 years to bring closure to the Sternot family and has become a family friend in the process.

“This was about principle,” said Linn. “I have always fought for principles. It doesn’t matter if 75 years went by or what his rank was. He deserved this ceremony. This is a win for the Army. This is a win for the 101st Airborne Division.”

Col. Derek Thomson, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne”, is especially proud that his soldiers from Sternot’s very own unit were able to honor him today.

How a USAF veteran turned a coffee truck into a community

1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division plaque of WWII Silver Star Recipients, Staff Sgt. Edmund Sternot’s awards and program on display at the award presentation ceremony.

(Photo by Maj. Vonnie Wright)

“Staff Sgt. Sternot represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division and the 327th Regiment,” said Thomson. “It was the sergeant on the ground who made all the difference in the Battle of the Bulge, and Edmund will always serve as an example of what real combat leadership looks like. His memory lives in today’s Screaming Eagles, and it is with great pride that the 101st presents the Silver Star to the family 75 years after he earned this extraordinary honor.”

During this Veterans Day weekend there was no better way to honor those that served and continue to serve than with honoring this American hero.

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

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