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

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 19th

It looks like the Department of Defense is finally retiring the Cyber Awareness Challenge training. Sure, it’s outdated, uses graphics from the early 2000s, and barely scratches the surface of cybersecurity in a world where new threats emerge every other minute. But the campiness is what made it so ridiculous that it was enjoyable.

I just want to throw out there that everyone freaking hated that training when it came out. Eventually, everyone started to like it in spite of it being silly – kind of like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Then as soon as too many people started to actually enjoy the ridiculousness of it… They pull the plug on it.

Coincidence? I think not.


Pour one out for the dude who always believed in your cyber security abilities when you doubted yourself. Jeff, you’re never going to be forgotten. These memes are for you.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Not CID)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme by Yusha Thomas)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via SFC Majestic)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme by Ranger Up)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

BONUS: You guys have a good, safe, and UCMJ-free four-day weekend! Happy Easter. 

In the famous words of my old First Sergeant… “Don’t do dumb shit.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: The Oldest Trainee in Fort Sill History

Most people who join the Military are young adults. In fact, as of 2012, the US Army reported the average age of people who enlist is 20.7 years. That’s almost as young as young adults come. Generally speaking, the maximum age of enlistment for most military branches is 35. However, there is one caveat: if you’ve served in the military before, they can waive the age limit. This means that some trainees might be even older. of course, that’s a rare exception. But it happens. Like with Spc. Swanson, BCT trainee at Fort Sill.  

A peek inside basic training at age 49

Fort Sill, an Army post in Lawton, Oklahoma is one of four Army BCT locations. It is also the post where John Swanson made the record for being the oldest trainee in Sill history. Swanson did his nine-and-a-half weeks of training at age 49, which was allowed because he had been in the military previously. The fact that he had also been in combat before earned Swanson a lot of respect from his fellow trainees. 

Swanson said his experience at Fort Sill not only re-trained him for the military, but it also gave him an inside view of the younger generation. He now has a much better understanding of how things work today versus the way things worked when he was a young adult. One of the things his Fort Sill Gen Z peers taught him was how to find humor in everything. Before re-doing his training at age 49, he found himself to be a lot more serious. Now Swanson has lightened up. 

Keeping up with the kids half his age couldn’t have been easy

Many of the other trainees, often half of Swanson’s age or even younger, watched in amazement at what Swanson was doing. The fact that he was so much older than them but was physically able to keep up with all the strenuous activity that Basic Training involves was notably impressive. 

Some even said it motivated them to push a little bit harder than they might have otherwise. Watching Swanson push on, doing things like one-armed push-ups when one of his shoulders started to hurt, gave them a true role model right in front of their faces. 

No slack for Swanson

Age and prior service didn’t mean they went easy on Swanson throughout his second time around at Basic Training either. They treated them just as they treated every other trainee, which is the way it should be. Giving Swanson slack would have defeated the purpose of re-enlisting anyway. But we can’t help but wonder what it was like for the Drill Sergeants shouting at him knowing full well he was twice their age.

Related: 5 of the worst misconceptions to have when joining the military

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Social credit and the Chinese military: counting the PLA’s troubles?

‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.


Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.

The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.

The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.

The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.

Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.

More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.

China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.

Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.

The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.

Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.

The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.

Just as a civilian social credit system might be used by the party-state to incentivise or force individuals, companies and other entities to ‘act in line with policies, directions and will of the CCP‘, the military equivalent could be used to similar effect in the PLA.

It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons Okinawa is an awesome deployment

Whether you believe Okinawa is a real deployment or not, it’s a great place to get sent for six months. We get it; a lot of us infantry Marines who joined in the post-9/11 era did so for one thing — to see some action — and getting sent to Okinawa means we aren’t going to. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Debbie Downer about it.

Okinawa, Japan, is a key piece of real estate for the United States Military, which is why we saw it necessary to fight over it back in 1945. It’s close to places like the Korean peninsula, and offers us an easy launching point if things ever get hot. But aside from the strategy, it’s actually a great place to spend six months of your life — if your command will allow you to enjoy it, that is.

Here’s why Okinawa is a great deployment.


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
But be cautious about how you act, since you’re essentially an ambassador. Put forward a positive image for the rest of us Americans.
(U.S. Marine Photo by Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)

There’s a lot to do

The United States has had a military presence on the island for a long time now, which means one thing: plenty of tattoo parlors and local watering holes for one to enjoy on the weekends. Aside from that, you can go diving, fishing; hell, you can even play tourist for a day and check out some of the local attractions.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
You might get to see where this photo was taken.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

Battlefield tours

Remember the battle that took place on the island back in 1945? Well, you might get the opportunity to tour some of the major points of friction and see where your Marine ancestors spilled some blood. If you’re into history, which you should be, this is an awesome thing to do.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
These mess halls rival the ones stateside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)

The mess halls are awesome

If there’s one thing you’ll remember about Okinawa, it’ll probably be that the on-base dining facilities were fantastic. There are people who are stationed there long-term, and having great food available helps keep everyone happy.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
It’s basically a business trip.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)
 

You’re being paid to be there

Wait — you’re complaining that you’re on an all-expenses-paid trip to an island in Asia? Seriously? Your command straight-up told you that you’re going there because the DOD saw it fit to send you there. This means that tons of taxpayer money went into paying for your plane (or boat) ride, your lodging, and your food.

Oh, yeah, and you’re still getting paid while you’re there.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal
Would you rather be this guy?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak)

 

You’re not stuck stateside

There are Marines in the Corps who spend their entire career without ever leaving the country. Who joins to do that? Would you rather be doing that? Probably not.

Sure, it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s better than never getting out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

www.youtube.com

Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 28th

It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.

To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.

Let these memes help soothe the pain.


Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Lock Load)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Shammers United)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via PNN)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via WWII Pattonposting)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 college scholarships for military children

If you have a high school senior graduating in 2019, then it’s the perfect time to start thinking about college.

If you haven’t planned on using the GI BILL for them, there are many scholarships for military children that they can apply for.

I’ve done some digging and have come up with 10 that you can consider. They range from offering $1000 a year for 4 years to a total award of $10,000 covering housing, tuition, and academic expenses.


1. AMVETS Scholarship

00 is awarded annually for 4yrs to those awarded with this scholarship. It’s specifically for children AND grandchildren of Veterans, Active Duty members and Guard/Reserves. Students also must currently be High School seniors. The next cycle for this scholarship will start in January 2019.

2. Scholarships for Military Children

This scholarship is awarded by the Commissary and funded by its contributors. It is currently closed for the 2018 year but will reopen between December 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

3. Chief Petty Officer Scholarship Fund

This scholarship will open for applicants in January 2019. Be prepared to apply. All children of active duty, retired or reserve Chief Petty Officers are eligible rather they are natural born, adopted or step children.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Chief petty officers from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gulianna Mandigo)

4. Frederick C. Branch Scholarship Program

Named after the Marine Corps’ first black officer, this NROTC scholarship is awarded to military children who plan on attending one of 17 black historical colleges. You can find the list here for more information!

5. Hero’s Legacy Scholarship

This is specific to children of a parent who has fallen in battle or have100% disability compensation. The Hero’s Legacy application process will open in mid-December.

6. Society of Daughters of United States Army Scholarship Program

Daughters AND granddaughters of US Army Officer’s (career or commissioned) are eligible for this scholarship. There is a small window to apply which only lasts from March 15th-March 31st.

7. Bonsai Finance Veterans Scholarship

Students will be rewarded with a one time 00 payment if chosen. Application consists of submitting a short essay in response to their questions. Applications are due September 28th.

8. Memorial Foundation Scholarship

The Enlisted Association Memorial Foundations Scholarship Program can be awarded to those children or grandchildren of good standing members of TREA (The Retired Enlisted Association). Applicants must submit a 300 word essay on a question posed by the organization.

9. VA Mortgage Center Scholarship

Recipients of this scholarship will be rewarded with id=”listicle-2631535261″,500 bi-yearly in May and November for five years. It’s a part of their Military Education Scholarship Program. For more information call their Scholarship Director at 800-973-4954.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways the military prepared me to homeschool

Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.


Moving forward with confidence

The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.

Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan

When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.

Delegate when necessary

While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.

We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.

We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.

Think outside the box

I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.

Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.

Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The science behind why beer tastes better outdoors

The difference between a good beer and a great beer could be the door that hits you on your way out to take a swig. There’s just something about having a cold one outside that makes the overall experience, including the taste itself, more enjoyable, experts agree. By taking the beer out of the kitchen or the bar, it becomes more celebratory, yet rebellious in nature — both aspects of life busy that parents could use more of.



“People have better associations with being outside, so their mood is generally higher,” Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychology at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, told Fatherly. The indoors, on the other hand, conjures memories of work, deadlines, responsibilities. “Having a unique experience can galvanize the pleasure response, so you would enjoy a beer a bit more by being outside.”

When people don’t drink too often or too much, a few beers can go a long way toward creating a pleasurable, relaxing experience. Alcohol kicks off a healthy release of endorphins, and a dopamine response along the reward pathways of the brain, research shows. There is also evidence that alcohol inhibits the central nervous system’s ability to respond to stress, which may explain why alcohol, in moderation, helps you unwind.

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Photo by Stacie DaPonte)

When you then take that experience outdoors, you get the added benefit of vitamin D, which helps to boost mood, immunity, and even weight loss, Johnson says. “I would imagine that this general phenomenon of alcohol reducing stress is compounded by being outside, given the positive associations we have,” he says.

Individuals who have had positive experiences with the outdoors are most likely to benefit from sipping a cold one in their backyards, Ryan Daley, a Master Cicerone and Senior Educator at Anheuser-Busch, told Fatherly. “Most people are already feeling great being outdoors, soaking up the sun, and hanging out with family and friends,” he says. “This is why drinking beer in the summertime is so enjoyable.” Daley beers that incorporate summers smells such as flowers, fruits, grills, and even sunscreen, to maximize the experience. He says beer styles such as kölsche, session IPAs, saisons, goses, and dark milds are all good options.

Beyond positive associations with nature, Johnson suspects that there’s something sweetly transgressive about drinking outdoors, especially in areas that have laws prohibiting it. But it’s not just the fear of getting reprimanded by a beach cop that motivates the rush. Perhaps the most important association people have with drinking outside is that it typically occurs during special occasions. A drink on your porch reminds you of a drink at a sprawling, outdoor family reunion, and helps reproduce those pleasurable feelings.

It’s not simply that the ambience of nature helps enhance what’s great about beer, but what’s great about beer also enhances what is great about the outdoors. It’s a better party when they both show up together.

“The primary reason why we beer would enhance the feeling of being outside is because both mirror the same, desirable emotions,” Johnson says. “The outside environment physically resembles the emotions we typically enjoy through alcohol, like being uninhibited and unconstrained.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The right way to tell your partner you want a divorce

The messiness of divorce has been well documented. The attorneys, the custody battles, dividing everything up. But how does one initiate the process? When you are sure you want to go through with one, how do you tell your spouse you want a divorce? In movies, it’s often blurted out in the midst of a heated argument, with one partner or the other dramatically shouting, “I want a divorce!” But in life, things tend to go a bit differently. And, if you want the ensuing legal battle to be civil, it’s in one’s best interest to take pause and really determine how to tell the person they vowed to spend the rest of their life with that it’s over. So how does one deliver this particularly life-altering bit of news? There’s no one way to do it. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Timing is everything

To say that telling your partner you want a divorce is delicate is an understatement. It is an enormous decision, one that, when broached, will alter both of your lives forever. As such, you want to make sure that you choose to have the conversation at a time when your partner is emotionally capable of receiving the news. In other words, don’t tell your partner you want a divorce when when they’re stressed or emotional. “You know your partner better than anyone, so don’t make the disastrous mistake of bringing up divorce in the middle of an important life event,” advises relationship coach Alice Wood. “Be patient and remember that the announcement can wait until a moment when its impact will be the least damaging.” Is this obvious? Yes. But it’s essential.

2. Find the right location

Ideally, you want to break this news in a private, quiet space. Don’t have the conversation in a crowded restaurant or even at home when the kids are in the next room. Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers suggests that, if the couple is in therapy, the therapist’s office might be a good location. “In this way, both parties can feel safe and free to ask questions and/or gain an understanding of what the other party is thinking without erupting into an argument,” he says. “Further, the therapist can help create healthy boundaries moving forward which can prove invaluable when the going gets tough.”

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

(Photo by Guian Bolisay)

3. Avoid details

When the time is right to bring up the topic of divorce, Kelly A. Frawley and Emily S. Pollock, partners at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres and specialists in matrimonial and family law, suggest not getting into details or specifics of how the divorce will work, custody arrangements or anything other specifics, as they will only overwhelm your partner further. “If he or she is just hearing about the possibility of divorce for the first time,” they say, “don’t go in details about how you are going to divide the brokerage account, who should have the kids for Christmas this year, or how you are already looking for a new apartment.” The key is to give the person time to digest the concept, show emotion, and ask questions.

4. Choose your words

Telling your partner you want a divorce is difficult. There’s no need to make it worse by blaming your spouse for their shortcomings or using phrases like, “You should have,” “You don’t,” or “You didn’t.” You also need to be honest about what you’re feeling and why you believe this decision is the right one. So, when talking about divorce, you have to be specific in your language — this isn’t the time to be vague. “If your words are ambiguous, you may leave your spouse/partner with a glimmer of hope that the marriage can be saved, when that is not your intention,” says Craig S. Pedersen, a partner at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers. “That can only create further problems down the line.”

5. Acknowledge your mutual unhappiness

Even if a divorce is more one-sided, chances are that neither party in the marriage is particularly thrilled about the way things have been going. With this in mind, it’s wise to open the conversation by laying the cards on the tabled. “I usually will suggest that they start the conversation with a statement such as ‘As you know, I have not been happy in the marriage for a long time. I also think you have not been happy either,” says New York divorce lawyer Jacqueline Newman, author of the Soon to be Ex series of books. “If the other person can acknowledge that he or she is also unhappy, it makes it an easier conversation to have as it is not so one-sided.”

6. Consider a team approach

Rather than focusing on the fact that you and your partner are separating, it’s essential to shift the perspective a bit and talk about how you both will work together to make this while process as easy as possible. “Divorce does not have to be a battle,” reminds Valencia. “Especially if you have children, your common goal should be what is in their best interests. Approaching a divorce by listing the common goals will help both parties realize they are in this together and cooperating behooves both of them.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Retired Navy pilot looks to continue his service in Congress

Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan outlet and does not officially endorse any candidate for office. However, we’re always happy to report and celebrate veterans doing important things.

Retired Navy Commander Todd Chase has a deep rooted belief in service. Raised by a single mother who was a social worker, she instilled in him the vital importance of serving others. He took those lessons from her with him as he raised his right hand to defend this country. Chase hopes to now continue that legacy of service to the halls of the United States Congress.


Chase was commissioned into the Navy in 1988 and went to flight school, becoming a pilot. He went on to fly the P-3 for hundreds of different missions. He served during the Cold War, tracking Russian nuclear submarines. He vividly remembers when the Soviet Union collapsed and watching those Russian submarines came up to the surface to head home. Chase decided to go into the reserves after eight years serving actively so that he could raise his children.

He was then accepted into Harvard Business School and there earned his Master of Business Administration degree.

Despite having his Ivy League education backing him, he wanted to continue serving in the Navy reserves. When he was home he was investing and building businesses. But when he wasn’t, he was flying to serve the needs of the country. He flew missions across the Libyan coast to combat terrorist activity and completed drug interdictions in South America. While doing all of this, he began to see things in his own town that he didn’t like. Rather than complaining about it, he said he decided to change it by running for office on the Gainesville City Commission.

He won.

He held that position for six years. When he left office, he went on to retire from the Navy in 2016 after 26 years of serving actively and in the reserves. He shared that he feels he is ready to bring his life experience and military service into Congress to continue serving.

“That sense of service when you serve in the military, the longer you do it – the more it grows in you…. we are at a point in this country where I believe that it is critically important that we have members of Congress who are experienced military veterans,” he explained. Chase shared that he felt service to this country is essentially a vital ingredient needed for successful leadership.

Following the Vietnam War, around 75% of Congressional members were veterans. That number has steadily been on the decline ever since then. In the 116th Congress, less than 20% of Congressional members have served in the military. He’s hoping to change that.
Republican Todd Chase For Congress

www.youtube.com

“It should give the entire country comfort to know that we have people [in Congress] who have served collectively together to fight for this country and then go on to serve for the good of the country as they set policy and govern it,” said Chase. He went on to explain that he feels it’s important that this country have people who believe in this country enough that they’ll volunteer to serve and possibly die for her.

Chase hopes that more veterans will consider running for government positions, bringing their sense of service and devotion with them. As the country just celebrated Memorial Day, it’s never been more important that we remember the cost of freedom and the importance of maintaining it.

It is with that in mind that Chase held a virtual Memorial Day event on Facebook Live attended by Gold Star family James and Donna Islam, Gold Star Mom Ronna Jackson, Gold Star Spouse Krista Simpson Anderson and Retired U.S. Army Major General David Kratzer. All of the families shared stories of their loved ones lost in service to this country. Throughout the discussion, one point was very clear. Each person remains devoted to ensuring that they are remembered. It’s not only about how they died, but that they lived.

Memorial Day is a somber reminder of loss but also a meaningful day to the families of the fallen. They know that on this day, the entire country stands in gratitude and love. Although the weight of their loss will always be heavy, the burden is lightened for them every time someone says their name. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Chase shared his own story of losing a fellow pilot and the impact that it has had on his life. It’s been 30 years but he still struggles with survivor’s guilt saying, “It could have been me.” That loss stays fresh in his mind as a reminder of how fragile life can be and how important it is to get it right. Chase shared that he’s spent his life trying to make the world better in any way he can. He’ll take this vision, purpose, and commitment to continued service with him to his next fight; a seat in the United States Congress.

To learn more about Todd Chase and his campaign for the United States Congress, head over to his website.

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