Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Luke and Amy Bushatz knew they needed a big change or they weren’t going to make it. So, they packed up their life, two boys and headed west. Their next stop? Alaska.


“In 2015 we realized that to really seek mental health help and recover from this super challenging deployment that Luke went on in 2009 and 2010, where he sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, PTSD and we lost over 20 soldiers…. To do that, we had to get out of the active duty Army,” Amy explained.

While deployed in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, Luke’s vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.

He was the only survivor.

They also knew they needed to move somewhere that would allow healing and give Luke the outside space he craved and desperately needed. “We knew when we spent time as a family camping, he felt a relief from all of those things. It was like watching someone take off a backpack… it was really a powerful transformation,” Amy said. On a whim, she suggested Alaska.

Luke researched and found a graduate program in Alaska that fit his goals. With her job at Military.com, where she is now the Executive Editor, Amy knew she could work anywhere. After selling some of their belongings and letting the Army move the rest, they filled their station wagon and hit the road. They planted their feet on Alaskan ground in June of 2016.

Although Luke eagerly dove in seamlessly, Amy shared that it took her some time to adapt. Realizing that Alaska wasn’t going to change, she knew she needed to adjust her own mindset. A competitive person by nature, she utilized that fire to challenge herself to spend time outside.

It changed her life.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)

When Amy realized she’d spent 20 consecutive minutes outside for over 1,000 days and it was changing her life, she felt called to share that commitment to the fresh air with others. She started a podcast, blog and co-founded the company Humans Outside, where she challenges everyone to spend 20 minutes outside a day, no matter the weather. She also snaps a picture each day of her outside time on Instagram to inspire others.

Luke also believes that being outside can have a deep positive impact. “Nature can be an escape or you can use it as a tool to refocus and reenergize so that you can then do the hard work of therapy, working on your relationship with others and yourself to be a complete person,” he explained. Luke stressed that going outside won’t solve your problems but can help put you in the headspace to tackle them effectively.

“Getting into the mountains helps him take that breath so that he can have the brain space to sort through stuff,” Amy said. She continued, “For someone who is dealing with a brain injury… Your injury does not look like an injury because you look perfectly healthy. Going outside is one of the major tools that helps us.”

“When you make a big decision to change the focus of your life, the whole paradigm of how you view your life changes. It was really back in 2015 that we made that decision and I was a mess. The decision was to either refocus my life or lose everything,” Luke shared. He continued, “That’s the thing with the outdoors, it helps me retool myself and my relationships.”

In 2017 he went to an event hosted by Remedy Alpine and it was there he found even more peace.

Remedy Alpine is a nonprofit organization that is owned and operated by veterans. Their purpose is to share their deep passion for the outdoors with their veteran community and help them navigate the healing experience that spending time outdoors can bring.

“One of my passions is going outside and taking veterans to the backcountry. I had started a master’s program with the intent of starting my own program. It just happened that God put me, Eric and Dave together. Instead of competing, we said, ‘Hey let’s do this together!” to make this specific program [Remedy Alpine] even bigger and better,” Luke shared.

Dave Joslin and Eric Collier met through the Wounded Warrior Project. They realized that they both had a deep passion for the serving veterans and also for finding healing in the solitude of the backcountry. It was there that Remedy Alpine came to life. They brought Luke on as a co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer in 2017.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)

“There is a big difference between solitude and isolation. Isolation is not good for your mental health and does not have good outcomes. Going to the backcountry, on the other hand, increases solitude which is linked to healing. But solitude doesn’t have to be done by yourself,” Amy explained.

Psychology Today says that solitude can in fact improve things like concentration and productivity while rebooting your brain and giving you the opportunity for self-discovery.

“You can find that solitude and find that good healing in the outdoors while overcoming physical challenges in a way that you can’t find at home trapped on your couch,” Amy said. She understands the difficulty of certain seasons impacting motivation, however. January in Alaska comes to mind for her, with its freezing temperatures and minimal daylight. But they still go outside and it makes all the difference in the world in their wellness.

Both Luke and Amy have simple advice on using the outdoors to create deep healing: Just try it. They did and they’ve never looked back.

To learn more about Humans Outside and how you can challenge yourself to spend more time outdoors, click here. Want to know more about Remedy Alpine and how they are helping veterans in Alaska? Check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 rituals younger troops do before deployment

Deployments are hard on everyone. But no one feels the sting of a deployment like the troops. The more senior troops who spout the phrase “not my first rodeo” like they came up with it really are used to the lifestyle change of deployments. They’ll kiss their family goodbye and tell them that they’ll see them in a few months. No special rituals required.

Younger troops who’ve never deployed often have no frame of reference for what’s about to happen. They’ve been preparing their entire career for this moment but they are lost. Since their leadership is often more focused on getting the missed holidays out of the way early — the Joes will fall into these same traps.

Related: 7 dumb things troops do the first week home after a deployment


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

If your way of disseminating important information is through something that you KNOW puts people to sleep, don’t expect anyone to listen.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

Forget about all of the actual pre-deployment checklists the CO put out

The commander thinks they’ve set up a nice plan for all of their troops to successfully get ready for a deployment. They probably even tasked a high-speed platoon leader with detailing it all out in a nice PowerPoint presentation to show all of the eager troops two weeks out.

Too bad no one is going to follow those plans. Troops won’t even follow the stupid simple recommendations like “unplug your car battery” or even “leave your car somewhere secure.” That’s just the light stuff. You can be certain that there’s a handful of people who never got their will finalized or a special power of attorney written.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

NCOs might join in. But their excuse is to “watch out for them doing dumb stuff.” At least that’s what they tell their spouse.

(Photo by Sgt. James Avery)

Drink heavily

The last few days of being stateside is usually filled with plenty of alcohol. From day drinking to barracks parties to bar hopping, younger troops will always have a glass or can in their hand.

To be fair, there isn’t much change in a younger troop’s drinking habits from a regular pay day to the day they find out that they’re deploying. They now just have an excuse to indulge (and a sympathy-earning reason for smelling like a brewery the following morning).

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Troops never change.

(National Archives)

The ritual of partying until you pass out

To put this as politely as possible for our more family-friendly audience, younger troops are trying have a good time with the person that they’re interested in. They often have a secondary goal while out barhopping: to find that last bit of companionship before going on a twelve month drought.

Whether they’re in the search of the “right one” or “the one right now” depends on the troop. But you can be sure that they’ll use the “I’m an American GI about to deploy” as a pickup line. This often leads directly into the next box on their checklist.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

But then again, I’m a romantic who likes to believe love isn’t dead in this world.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)

Marry without hesitation

It’s just a part of military culture that troops often jump headfirst into a marriage that they aren’t prepared to be in. The promise to get out of the barracks isn’t much of a concern but if they’ve already found the one that they’re in love with (or occasionally “in love” with), they’ll tie the knot right away. 

There is a financial benefit that troops keep in mind. The joke about troops and their soon-to-be spouse just after the BAH and Tricare has some grounding in reality. So why not nosedive into a presumably life long commitment for an extra bit of cash every month? Yikes. Save this very real ritual for when you’re ready.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Unless it’s something small or quick, don’t expect it to heal up before deploying either.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Katelyn Sprott)

Getting a new tat (or five) is one of the more harmless rituals

Tattoos and troops also go hand in hand. Since they won’t be getting any new ink (or at least access to a clean and healthy environment) for a while, they’ll try to get that last idea that they had in mind done before stepping foot on that plane.

Plenty of troops also forget the logistics behind huge tattoos. Back pieces or intricate artwork like sleeves take a lot of time to ink and even more time to heal up before the artist could finish their work. So it’s not uncommon for troops to deploy with just the line work done and have to wait until they’re back to finish coloring it in.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Cool points downrange aren’t given for looks — they’re given for actions.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Malissa Lott)

Buy all sorts of tacticool crap they probably won’t use- a pretty useless ritual

There’s kind of a misconception spread by video games that troops can just attach whatever they want onto their weapon or that they can use whatever tacticool stuff they want for their deployment. The actual truth is that if it wasn’t issued out (or sold at the Exchange), it can’t be used.

It’s their money so they can spend it how they like. But no platoon sergeant will ever let their private go outside the wire wearing some gear that looks operator AF but is really just cheap and painted black. Same goes for any kind of modification to their assigned weapon.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Oh the joys of life without responsibilities. ​

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Josef Cole)

Blow all of their money

This is possibly the dumbest ritual on the list. There are benefits to deploying while being young, single, and debt-free. Troops can blow every single cent in their bank account and not have to worry about making ends meet for the next few months.

There are at least three meals a day and a bunk to sleep on until they get back and blow all that money they saved.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the states with the largest National Guard units

As of December 2018, nearly 430,000 Americans served in the US Army and Air National Guard, according to Department of Defense data.

Guard members sign up to commit one weekend a month and two weeks per year for training — but are often asked to sacrifice much more in service to their state and country.

Between September 2001 and September 2015, some 428,000 members of the National Guard were sent on deployments.

These troops also answer the call when disaster strikes their home states, like the recent fires in California and during Hurricane Harvey.

When it comes to capabilities, no two states are alike — we ranked the top six, measuring everything from sheer size of force to whether the state has special forces, strike, and a brigade combat team. Overall, we found Texas has the most capable National Guard.


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Texas Army National Guard soldiers from the 143rd Infantry Regiment conduct a live fire exercise at Fort Hood, Texas in October 2018.

(Texas National Guard photo by Sgt. Kyle Burns)

1. Texas

Don’t mess with Texas’ National Guard.

Texas has a number of capabilities that elevate the Lone Star State to the #1 position.

Its sheer size is a significant factor — the Texas National Guard is host to nearly 21,000 troops, including its army and air components.

Texas is also home to two companies of the 19th Special Forces Group and Air Guard fighter and attack wings that provide strike and drone capabilities.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A California National Guard soldier from the 19th Special Forces Group descends for a landing during a high altitude, high opening training near Los Alamitos, California in February 2018.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

2. California

California’s National Guard forces nearly equal those found in Texas, including Green Berets in the 19th Special Forces Group.

But because the nation’s most populous state only yields roughly 18,000 troops, they fall in at #2.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier looks out the side of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter near Nichols, South Carolina, in September 2018.

(Pennsylvania National Guard photo by Capt. Travis Mueller)

3. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania hosts more guardsmen than California, with a force almost 18,500 members strong.

But because the state does not have Special Forces troops — the most elite forces in the Army, who are called upon for the most dangerous missions — it slid back to take the #3 spot.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, sit on the flight line at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where they fly to conduct training and maintain readiness during winter months.

(Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Hope Geiger)

4. Ohio

Though small in geographical size, census data shows Ohio to be the 7th most populated state in the US, so it’s no surprise that it has a highly capable National Guard.

Its 16,500 guard members include Green Berets, jet pilots, and an infantry brigade combat team that has deployed to Afghanistan.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Soldiers assigned to the 101st Cavalry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard off load from a CH-47 Chinook during cold weather training in January 2019.

(Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell)

5. New York

Although New York does not have Special Forces, its force is sizable at 15,500 strong.

It hosts not one but two air attack wings — who fly MQ-9 Reaper drones — and an infantry brigade combat team.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Georgia Army National Guard helicopters fly over the Georgia State Capitol during the inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp on Jan. 14, 2019.

(Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)

6. Georgia

Georgia may not have Special Forces, but it hosts the sixth-largest National Guard in the US, with roughly 14,000 troops including an infantry brigade combat team.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 steps to organize your military life this year

Whether you have lived in your house 10 days, 10 months or 10 years (is that even possible?!), there is always a need for more organization.

Military spouse or not, becoming more organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Pinterest, TLC and Mari Kondo capitalize on these goals and provide wonderful ideas, tips and tricks. In addition to these marvelous tools, we have a few of our own military spouse-specific organization tips to help you get set in 2020.


1. Label all drawers, baskets and cupboards

Have you ever planned to put an item away only to realize you were envisioning its location in your previous home? Labels help us remember where we store things as well as inform our significant others. After deployment, readjusting is hard enough without having him/her put things away in areas they do not belong. Use a label maker to help clear your own brain fog and prevent lost items as result of misplacement.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Photo by Tim Gouw)

2. Utilize a scanner

Medical records and school records are very important. Utilize scanning abilities to import documents into organized computer files and/or print documents to manually file them in a binder or a filing cabinet.

3. Update your Addresses

Perhaps you have a collection of ‘return to sender’ Christmas cards from military friends who moved within the last year. Now is the time to register with an online address collector (make your friends do the work), update your excel spreadsheet or use a pencil in an address book. Be sure to also include addresses from each home you have lived in. This will ease the task of filling out job applications that have you list each residence within the past five years (insert facepalm).

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Photo by Alejandro Escamilla)

4. Schedule everything

Just kidding. We all know once your calendar gets organized, duty will call and everything will need to change.

5. Add information to the contacts in your phone

When you scroll through your phone and find three Sarahs and two Johns listed, but you cannot remember who these people are, it is time to organize your contacts with more than just first and last names. Try listing the installation you were at, the city you lived in or some kind of description. This way you can identify the caller quicker than five minutes into the conversation when she finally mentions something that sparks a memory in your brain.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

6. Move

Moving may seem like the complete opposite of getting organized, however, it offers a great opportunity to purge, the first step in organization. Consider a PCS as a Personal Clearing of Stuff, and thank the military for allowing you to ask the question ‘does this spark joy?’

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

China threatens family members at home to control people abroad

Anastasia Lin may never see her family in China again.

Shortly after winning the Miss World Canada title in 2015, Beijing deemed China-born Lin “persona non grata” — a powerful diplomatic term that effectively banned her from the country — because she was speaking out on the country’s human-rights issues.

But more problematic than Lin’s ability to enter China, is the difficulty her family have had trying to leave, which is being used as leverage to pressure the Chinese-Canadian actress and activist.


While in Australia in early 2018, Lin told Business Insider how her uncles and even elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong revoked in 2016 in an attempt by authorities to silence Lin and punish her Hunan-based family.

“The day before I left, my mother told me that the police went into my grandparents home and took away their visa, their Hong Kong visa. These are 70 year-olds, and they took it away. They intercepted my uncle in the airport on his way to Macau, to Hong Kong,” Lin said.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Anastasia Lin speaks at the National Press Club on Dec. 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

“My grandmother told me … they took away the Hong Kong visa and they said very explicitly that it was because of my activities overseas and influence,” she said. “Since then, my grandparents have been getting routine police visits.”

Lin’s great-grandfather was executed in public during the Cultural Revolution “to warn the rest,” according to Lin, and the fear from that time has returned for her grandparents who are now subject to regular house calls by authorities.

“Later on my grandmother told me that the visits sometimes are with fruit and flowers but it was for the purpose of persuading them to persuade me to do less, to not do anything, and to convince me to be on the opposite side,” she said.

These weren’t the first threats and police visits Lin’s family received. Within weeks of winning her crown, security agents started threatening her father telling him that his daughter “cannot talk” about Chinese human-rights issues.

“My father sent me text message saying that they have contacted him telling him that if I continue to speak up, my family would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution. My father’s generation grew up in the middle of Cultural Revolution, so for him it’s the biggest threat you can make. It means you die, you get publicly persecuted,” Lin said, adding that her father “begged” her for a way for the family to survive in China.

Lin said it’s been a long time since she spoke to her father because their calls are monitored, but she learned recently his passport was rejected for renewal.

Lin is just one of many Chinese expats and exiles whose mainland relatives are used as leverage to try and control China’s reputation abroad.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Chinese President Xi Jingping.

Business Insider has previously reported on how relatives are contacted to try and control what their adult children are posting on social media while they study at foreign universities. And ethnic minority Uighurs, Tibetans, and other human-rights activists who have faced persecution have frequently said their family members are used as leverage to try and control their actions and speech overseas, with some even being blackmailed into spying for the state.

Family members of five Radio Free Asia journalists, including two US citizens , were recently detained in an attempt to stop their reporting on human-rights abuses against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. One of those journalists is Gulchehra Hoja, who had more than 20 relatives disappear all in one day, in early 2018.

“When I heard my brother was detained, I [initially] chose not to speak up because my mother asked me, ‘Please I already lost you, I don’t want to lose my son too,” Hoja told a congressional hearing in July 2018. “We don’t want to put them in further danger because of our acts or any word against China.”

“My family haven’t been able to be reunited in 17 years,” she added.

The fear of this happening is also an effective enough tool to self-censor criticism, even if family members aren’t being directly threatened.

Square engineer Jackie Luo explained on Twitter what happened when the Chinese government closed down one of her mother’s WeChat groups here people in China and abroad would send hundreds of messages a day talking about social issues.

“They asked the person who started the WeChat group to restart it. He lives in the US now. But he won’t; he’s afraid. He has relatives in China, and if the government is monitoring him, then it may well be unsafe. They understand. This social group of 136 people — it’s dead now,” Luo wrote.

But when people choose to speak out, it can be harder for those still in China to understand.

“My grandpa [is] like, ‘Well why don’t you just give up, then you can come back?'” Lin said. “They think it’s that easy because the Chinese Communist Party promised them that if I don’t speak up, I will get to go back, but I know that’s not the case. I know usually if you don’t speak up you don’t have any leverage. They will just kill your voice completely.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most confusing days of any military career

Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.

Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment

(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)

Day 1

The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.

Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.

Expect the unexpected.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick

The day you become a supervisor

This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.

The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.

It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214

Photo via Parade.com

The day you get out

There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.

Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring the warrior spirit: The National American Indian Veterans Memorial

“We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.” – Hopi leader

“The Native American Veterans Memorial is for healing,” monument designer, Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen, peace chief, and Vietnam veteran, Harvey Pratt said.  In addition to serving with the 3rd Marine Division in 1963, Pratt worked in law enforcement over 50 years. His career consisted of being a renowned forensic artist and he is now a multimedia artist inspired by his heritage. When asked why he and so many Indians voluntarily join the military, Pratt explained their warrior tradition of defending their people and homeland, despite the history of oppression by the U.S. government.

Designer Harvey Pratt

“God gave this land to the Indians first and so this is Indian country and will always be Indian country. Our blood is spilled all over this country and world, fighting for this country. We will always fight for this land.” Pratt described the design, stating not only could his great-grandfather, Edmund Guerrier, a Sand Creek massacre survivor, recognize its symbolism, so could his children, grandchildren and every member of America’s 573 tribes. 

Located at the entrance of the National American Indian Museum in D.C. and surrounded by gardens, a paved, lit path will lead visitors to a large stainless-steel circle mounted on a stone drum fountain. The symbolism of a drum’s beat, reverberating through the rippling water, will be a call for healing across the land. And on ceremonial occasions, the circle’s base will ignite in flame.

Pratt explained how the round design is timeless and in sync with the other features of the memorial, symbolizing the cycle of life and death and nature’s connection with everything. He detailed how the site will also include four benches for visitors to sit and reflect. And spaced according to the four cardinal directions, four lances will point skyward with feathers in the four battle colors of white, yellow, red, and black, as well as battle streamers. 

Veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and visitors will have the opportunity to tie their own prayer cloths to these lances. 

He concluded, “Although the memorial is for American Indians, ‘war mothers,’ and their families, all vets are welcome to come feel the power and strength and to feel blessed.” Dr. Herman Viola, historian, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and senior advisor for this memorial, explained the significance of the monument, with Indians serving since the Revolutionary War at a greater percentage than any other ethnic or racial group – currently almost 19 percent.

Viola described their history of service. American Indians are “fiercely patriotic,” he said. They have been at “the forefront of our nation’s military conflicts despite the fact that until WWII many tribal people were not citizens and could not vote in their own country.” For example, “Though not liable for the draft during the Great War, of the “10,000 Native Americans who served in the Army and the 2,000 who served in the Navy… three out of four were volunteers.” And “World War II witnessed an even more remarkable wave of American Indian patriotism… All told, 10 percent of the country’s Native population of 350,000.” This included one third of able-bodied men, ages 18-50, as well as 800 women. 

“In fact, had all eligible Americans in the United States enlisted in the same proportion as did tribal people there would have been no need for a draft,” Viola said. “It is an exemplary record of military service that continues to this day.” Viola ended by relaying the words of a Hopi leader speaking on the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by Indians and their families. He said “The fact American Indians are fighting for this great country of ours needs to be recognized. We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.’” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeCOrPTLQFc&feature=youtu.be

A virtual dedication took place Nov. 11, 2020: https://americanindian.si.edu/nnavm/

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drink up with these 5 veteran-made spirits

There’s a culture in the military of service and honor, integrity and sacrifice; all those good things. There’s also plenty of tradition in sitting down with a glass of something and talking about the glory days, remembering the friends lost and cherishing times spent together, on and off the battlefield.


Here are 5 veteran-owned companies bettering lives around the world with their innovative spirits:

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Merica Bourbon

1. Merica Bourbon

If you like the “sweet taste of freedom,” then pour yourself a glass of this fan favorite. With a smooth mouth-feel and complex flavor, this is definitely a bourbon you can get behind.

According to their website, “Merica Bourbon was born from military veterans who wanted to share the great taste of bourbon and freedom. It’s all about the flavor. This bourbon is meant to be shared with friends, on the rocks or neat, reminiscing on the good moments in life. So pull up a chair and have a glass or three with us and let us celebrate freedom together.”

Merica Bourbon was founded by Marine veteran Derek Sisson who brought us Famous Brands, and Army veteran Daniel Alarik, the mastermind behind Grunt Style.

Cheers, brothers.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Heroes Vodka

2. Heroes Vodka

Founded by Marine veteran Travis McVey to honor two of his friends he lost while serving, Heroes Vodka is the “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation.”

Since launching on Veteran’s Day 2011, Heroes Vodka has given over 0,000 back to veteran-focused local and national nonprofits. If that isn’t enough to get you to indulge, it should help that this vodka is actually delicious. Four times distilled, it’s as easy to drink as this brand is easy to love. Their list of accolades and awards are impressive, including multiple gold medals in tasting competitions like the “Vodka of the Year” at the Melbourne International Spirits and New York City’s 50 Best Domestic Vodkas Competition.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Desert Door

3. Desert Door Sotol

If you’ve never had Sotol, get ready to be hooked. Desert Door is made by hand in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants by three military veterans who met at an Executive MBA program. Marine veteran Brent Looby, Navy veteran Judson Kauffman and Army veteran Ryan Campbell are the best example of how different branches can unite around alcohol and entrepreneurship.

According to their website, Desert Door Sotol tastes unquestionably of the land. The sweet citrusy and herbal flavor is reminiscent of a desert gin crossed with a smooth sipping tequila.

Tasting notes include herbaceous, creamy and vegetal. It leads with grass and earth on the nose with a touch of natural vanilla. Toffee, mint, cinnamon and clove combine with citrus in a distinct way on the palate. It finishes with minerality and a welcome vegetal quality that will make you wonder why you haven’t met before and have you dreaming of your next encounter.

Desert Door Sotol stands alone as a great sipping drink, but it will level up your cocktails like never before. Our favorite? Use it in a “Desert Paloma” with grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar and get ready for it to change your life.

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Hotel Tango Distillery

4. Hotel Tango Gin

Travis Barnes, like so many other incredible Americans, felt the call to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He left school at Purdue to serve his country. Following three tours in Iraq where he received multiple combat medals and incurred a Traumatic Brain Injury following an IED attack, Barnes received an Honorable Discharge and after graduating law school, pursued a new passion: distilling. The spirits are “fit to serve and made to share.”

While Hotel Tango crafts bourbon, whiskey, voka, rum, cherry liqueur, orangecello and limoncello, their gin is our very favorite. With a new wave style that’s citrus forward, it’s pleasing to gin vets and newcomers alike. Serve with tonic or sip on its own.

You can’t go wrong with this gin.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Willie’s Distillery

5. Willie’s Distillery

Willie, originally hailing from Appalachian moonshine country in western North Carolina, is a veteran of the Army and U.S. Forest Service, serving as an Army Ranger, Special Forces Medic, Hotshot Wildland Firefighter and Smokejumper. Clearly, he’s a badass, as is his product line.

Notably, according to their website, Willie’s Distillery mills, mashes, ferments and distills corn, barley and oats on site, as well as producing spirits from ingredients like molasses, cream and Canadian whisky. Their spirits are distilled in a custom Bavarian Holstein still, crafted by a family-owned company that has been building world-class spirits stills since 1958. If that isn’t already incredible, they employ veterans in positions ranging from production and sales to management.

While Willie’s has all sorts of spirits from vodka and bourbon to their legendary moonshine, our favorite has to be the coffee cream liqueur.

Nothing says White Russian like Willie’s.

The lawyers make us say this: If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly and make sure you have a sober driver. We’re going to add: there’s nothing more responsible than supporting these 5 veteran-owned companies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 signs you grew up as a military brat

Military culture is something you definitely have to be a part of to understand. Bob from accounting trying to relate to the strictness of your Drill Sergeant dad’s rules and regulations from a civilian perspective boils your red-hot American blood faster than anything else.

Sure, growing up a military brat separates you from the rest of the world, but also gains you entrance into the greatest 1% club out there. Here are the signs you might have grown up a military brat.


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You have no idea how to answer, “Where are you from?”

Well, that depends. Do you mean where I lived the longest? Where I was born? Where I spent my best years? To be perfectly honest, you have no idea, so you just throw a random state (or country) out there and hope it makes you sound as cool as you look.

You’ve visited more countries than most adults 

In most cases, a 16 year old reminiscing of skiing the Alps on holiday or discussing the economic impact of buying American grocery staples abroad would sound like a big fat lie. But not for you, you cultured darling. You spent your three-day weekends on a multi-country European tour instead of grabbing burgers and a movie.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

You have to explain why you were born in another country but aren’t from there

No, I wasn’t born in America. No, I’m not a foreign citizen. No, I do not have a family heritage from that country either; I was just born there. Yes, it’s very annoying to explain this to people dozens of times.

You know your Social Security Number

You don’t need to call mom to ask her your personal information, you’ve got that on lock along with your service member parent’s as well.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

You can’t stand civilians freaking out over moving…down the street

You’re crying over the sentimental loss of moving two blocks down in the same neighborhood while keeping the same circle of friends, same zip code and same schools? Please, do explain to me how sympathetic I should be toward you (eye roll).

You know the metric system

Amid a long list of random knowledge nuggets that you possess, growing internationally meant exposure to a system the entire world works within…except America.

Being late is a crime you’ll never commit

If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time, the Captain will likely treat it as if you just committed a crime against time itself. Ten minutes early is precisely on time in your book.

Bowling is your party trick

A weird yet common pastime in military culture…bowling. Nearly every duty station had a bowling alley and you’ve likely spent an unhealthy amount of time practicing your spins.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

media.defense.gov

You’ve ridden on an airplane next to a Humvee in the cargo hold

Space-A flights are something else. There are no peanuts, no TVs in the headrests and zero chance you’ll snag a window seat.

You were “hella” cool with your ID card

Don’t even try to deny it. You thought you were crazy important toting around that ID card as a kid.

Getting up early is the standard operating procedure

Sleeping until 0700 hours sounds like a vacation after growing up a military child. Your entire neighborhood believed exercise was best before the sun rose each day.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Your parents take respect to a whole new level

Preparing your less than lazy friends for a stay at your house may have required an entire operation in itself.

When you were raised among Rangers, nothing scares you

“Your parents scare me,” might be a phrase you’ve heard a time or 20. But whether you were raised by Seals, Rangers or Green Berets, 200 pounds of American fighting muscle looks like your favorite uncle, not a death sentence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army is making it rain ‘Presents from Paratroopers’ in Fayetteville

The 82nd Airborne Division is getting in the holiday spirit early this year with the annual ‘All American Presents from Paratroopers.’

“All American Presents from Paratroopers is an annual event the 82nd Airborne Division hosts in order to give back to the surrounding Fayetteville community with holiday gift donations while enhancing our Airborne capability and giving our paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings,” MSG Alex Burnett, PAO NCOIC of the 82nd Airborne, told We Are The Mighty.

The paratroopers who donated toys received a raffle ticket for a chance to earn foreign jump wings during the two-day airborne operation.

“Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg donated a present and were given a raffle ticket early Monday morning,” Burnett said. “Later in the day, the Division held a lottery and those with matching tickets were given a slot to jump on December 2nd and 3rd with a Chilean Jumpmaster.”

82nd airborne participates in presents from paratroopers

2020 marks the second year the division has hosted this event, which is open to any current paratrooper serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“In years past, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command hosted an event called Operation Toy Drop which was a similar event, but their last event was in 2018,” Burnett shared. “In the spirit of that tradition, last year the 82nd decided to create All American Presents from Paratroopers.”

This year, the event collected more than 1,500 toys, which will go to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Fort Bragg USO, Armed Services YMCA, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.

“I wanted to participate in Presents from Paratroopers, because it’s important to me that we give back to the local community and help those in need,” Staff Sgt. Alina Zamora, 82nd Airborne Division Paralegal said. “The fact that we can do that and earn a set of foreign jump wings makes the event even more special. I am glad I got to be a part of it.”

a paratrooper loads presents in a jumper's bag

The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations and the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since its initial members in 1917 came from all forty-eight states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.

“The All American Division is fortunate to be a part of the Fayetteville community and we are proud to be able to give back while providing our paratroopers the opportunity to jump and earn a set of foreign jump wings,” Burnett stated.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways to make your civilian team as high performing as your military one

This article was sponsored by Purdue Global.

One of the best attributes a service member leaves the military with is the ability to perform exceptionally well in teams. Chances are, if you’re willing to put your life in the hands of the person on your left and your right, you tend to trust them.

Teamwork comes down to trust and we know there’s nothing more difficult than leaving the service and trying to figure out what really makes Tom in accounting tick or why Karen at the front desk always puts you on hold. We know you’re skeptical of those “civilians,” but with these 7 tips, your team will work through that whole “forming, storming, norming, performing” team dynamics cycle in no time.


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Do things together after hours

No better camaraderie is formed than over a pool table, a dart board, appetizers, or a get together after work. Organize a monthly outing and put it on the office calendar. The first one might be a little awkward, so you really only need to book that babysitter until 9. But after that first layer of ice is broken, the “We should do this more!” emails will start rolling in.

Getting to know people outside of work helps break down their professional role into more of a, “Wow, these people are humans, too!” Turns out Karen has been through a lot — no wonder she is the way she is. Or how about when you finally find out that Tom has an unbelievable karaoke voice?

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Recognize hard work

The military is known for promotions, ceremonies, and public displays of affirmation. Civilian life? Not so much. Anything you can do to get your office on board with recognizing one another’s efforts is a great way to boost morale. Maybe it’s informal, like sending out a quick email to the team every Friday. Maybe it’s a quick, monthly gathering where each member highlights something someone else did to help them professionally or personally. The more you can do to find out how people like to be recognized, the more motivated they’ll be to come to work with a good attitude.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Support one another

You’ve literally carried some of your battle buddies. Working in the civilian world isn’t all that different. Yeah, you might not have to fireman carry someone during training, but could you offer to stay late on Tuesdays so Jeff in HR can make it to his son’s baseball games? Little things like that go a long way. The new mom who might need an hour to run home for a nap, the project lead who you can send home for a few hours just to do one night of dinner and bedtime with the kids — anything you can do to help your team feel more like a family than a disparate unit will help.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Work through high-pressure situations together

You know adrenaline brings people together. Working in high-pressure situations should make a team stronger, not break. Find out what you can do to dissolve tension. What would you do with your unit? Crack a well-placed joke, offer support where you can, and look for the good while offering constructive feedback. Sure, we know it’s hard not to roll your eyes and start yelling about IEDs and ambushes when Eric from logistics tells you that, “You don’t understand the pressure!” but in the history of the world, one-upping someone has never worked in making them feel better. Dig deep for your empathy and find a solution together.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Do team-building activities 

You’ve done 1000 leadership simulations in everything from the woods to abandoned buildings. The reason the military stresses team building and trust is because, spoiler alert: it actually works! When you’re able to develop your own leadership skills and philosophy alongside your teammates, you understand one another better. These experiential activities also help you all recognize one another’s strengths and areas for growth. The more you understand one another, the better your team will perform.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Come up with callsigns

Inside jokes (when everyone is in on it) give your team a sense of unity. Lay the groundwork for how someone gets a callsign and then do an officially unofficial ceremony once someone has earned one. Building camaraderie through humor is one of the reasons military culture runs so deep.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Learn from the experts

Finally, whether you’re an expert in managing teams or need some help, Purdue Global can help develop your leadership style with their Associate of Applied Science in Small Group Management as well as a host of other programs. The Small Group Management program provides a focus on small group management skills including: communication skills within small groups, managing conflict, risk management, ethical decision-making and problem solving, subordinate development, team synergy, and effective goal setting.

Learn more about this offering and their other programs.

This article was sponsored by Purdue Global. The appearance of Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day

As the confetti of the New Year celebration is swept away, love begins to take over. We watch the red and pink heart covered “things” fill the stores in anticipation of February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The history of this day is long and can be traced back to ritualistic goat sacrificing for fertility long before we heard the ruminants of “roses are red and violets are blue” poems and exchanged sweet cards.


Weird sacrifices aside, the modern-day Valentine’s Day is aimed at celebrating love. Gone are the days of it just being about the special someone in your life. Now, Americans are also buying gifts for family members, children’s classmates, coworkers, and even 27% of Americans are celebrating with gifts for their pets!

The National Retail Federation reports that 2020 will be the biggest spending year for Valentine’s Day; the average person is planning to spend upwards of $196.31 each this February 14. Although spending is definitely up, that same report showed that only half of Americans are actually celebrating the holiday down from 61% in years past. Those that are choosing to rebel against all things V-Day related in strong protest against what they feel is an over-commercialized and single person ostracizing holiday.

For a military spouse, this day can come with its own set of challenges, especially if their service member is deployed. When the service member is gone, military spouses are already fighting internal debilitating mental health battles and balancing already overloaded plates. The idea of celebrating a day which is traditionally aimed at couples – hurts. But who says love has to hurt?

Love has long been associated with kindness. Did you know that random acts of kindness have been found to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure for the person performing the act? That same study also found that it reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and increases happiness. This year, random acts of kindness week kicks off on February 13th – the day before Valentine’s Day! It’s a sign.

So, despite the disdain for cupid’s day – whatever your reasons – you can make it your own special kindness-filled day. Here’s are 5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day:

Spread kindness

Go buy those annoyingly pink cards and candies, then leave them for strangers to find. Their smiles will make you forget how much you dislike V-Day, promise.

Give a valentine to your community

Remember that park filled with trash? Clean it up. That foul-mouthed graffiti on the wall? Scrub it off. Love doesn’t have to be directed at a person, go love on your community.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Visit a nursing home

Feeling blue about being alone? I promise the residents of your local nursing homes are even more lonely. Go spend some time with those that are forgotten, you’ll feel better for it. One study found that those that are kind to others have reduced feelings of depression.

Go serve a meal

The best way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Go feed a meal to those with next to nothing. Volunteers taper off after Thanksgiving and Christmas – shelters are desperate for help to continue their good work. Find your local homeless shelter and get to work.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

upload.wikimedia.org

Spend time with Fido and all his friends

The Humane Society is always in need of someone to love on the animals in their care. Did you know that when humans love on dogs, the love hormone oxytocin increases for both man and their best friend? Go walk some dogs and snuggle some kittens.

This Valentine’s Day, try and check your automatic reflex to grimace as you walk through the stores covered in pink. Instead, make the day your own special day filled with love and kindness. What are you waiting for?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the military goes out of its way for certain animals

Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.

The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.

This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
The world’s premiere fighting force is brought to a stand-still because of one, adorable little turtle.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.


Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.

The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
In the case of some tortoises, it’s many generations. You know, because they live longer than humans.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)

“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.

Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
And if you’re stationed anywhere in Hawaii, that means hundreds of different species.
(U.S. Army)

The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:

They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.

There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
Turns out suffering theu00a0occasional mortar death is better than being gobbled up by a pack of coyotes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.

It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.

The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.

Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.