Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.

It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”

The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds. 

“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.

Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”

The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.

“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.

The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.

The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.

From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.

They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next. 

“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set. 

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.

“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female Marine combat photographer paves the way

Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.


So, she decided to join the military.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.

At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.

The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.

Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”

This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.

Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.

Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.

Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”

The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.

“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.

Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.

When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.

After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”

These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things to do at the start of your deployment

There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last. 

Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.


Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
You’ll also wish you’d marked your duffel bag extremely well…(U.S. Army)

 

Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice

Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.

When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
The USO building may not have much, but it’s better than nothing.
(U.S. Air Force)

 

Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks before deployment

Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.

The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages while you’re deployed.

Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
This one shack has seen the face of every troop who’s gone into theatre.
(Photo by Shane Songbird)

 

Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while

As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back from deployment 12 months later.

Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
It’s really fun to f*ck with the new guys, so don’t believe everything they say — except the parts about the camel spiders. Those things are hellspawns that deserve to be purged from this plane of existence.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going

The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.

Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your deployment experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
For some f*cking reason… The one thing that everyone will always get are these cheapo lawn chairs.
(U.S. Army photo)

 

Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops

It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re deployed for the first time or the fourth, you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realize that you forgot something ​seemingly insignificant,like a power adapter.

Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and is headed back home is trying to pawn off all of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore after deployment. In fact, you could probably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
Get your sleep in while you can!
(U.S. Army)

 

Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment

This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.

So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit for deployment is just being at the right place at the right time.

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 stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

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 CULTURE

Ruck ‘N’ Run honors those who served

When was the last time you sat around the campfire with civilians who support the military, current military personnel serving in our armed forces as well as our veteran community to share like-minded stories, help support each other and bring honor to those who served? Well, if you said never, then now is your chance. Ruck ‘N’ Run®, created by Army Drill Sergeant George Fuller, wants you to know that if your interest is in uniting with those who stand behind veterans, raise money for those in need and reduce the over-commercialization of current military holidays that may have lost some of their message, you can now be a part of providing help. “We all race together and then celebrate our hard work together around the fire pit,” Fuller said. “It’s a big part of our logo and very unique to our events.”

Ruck ‘N’ Run was born out of a desire to Honor, Build and Connect, or HBC for short. “We honor those who served, build camaraderie and connect the community and do so through challenges, events and gatherings that help to support a good cause.” Those who participate in either the annual event or the monthly challenges that take place both physically and virtually, have the ability to complete challenges, earn awards, and most importantly, become connected with those who support the mission.


“Our annual boot camp inspired walk/run allows the general public to interact with those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Fuller explained. “This is our original and main event held on the Saturday before Veterans Day, on location in Republic, MO.” Our Shadow (virtual) events allow the world to participate”. Honor, Build and Connect, was created to bring those in the military a reminder of why we serve, but also to our veterans the ability to further connect with those both in and outside of the military as well as connect the communities in a way not seen before in other events. “We connect the community through fun, motivating, yet challenging events,” Fuller said. “We also connect the community for a greater purpose and one that is in need now more than ever.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Raising funds for the “In Their Honor” fund helps to provide assistance to families of U.S. service members that pass away. This can help offset the cost of food, lodging, transportation and other unforeseen, incurred expenses. This is different than any other form of military assistance or aid provided today and one that sets Ruck ‘N’ Run as a front runner in aiding veterans in need. While the worldwide pandemic looms on, there are still those who serve and need our help. “As we continue to support our nation abroad, there are those who make the ultimate sacrifice and we need to help the families get back on their feet during these times.”

While we are able to raise money to help and bring about more focus to this need, the ability to gather has diminished greatly and we need to be aware that these needs still exist. With the expansion and growth of our monthly virtual offerings and shadow events to include new team based challenges, we have been able to raise considerably more money and awareness but there is always more help that is needed. “As more and more people seek online ways to help, the ability to join a Ruck ‘N’ Run event and be able to Honor, Build and Connect has become even easier as we have expanded our offerings of challenges which will not only help to honor those who served, but raise funds to help families for the ‘In Their Honor’ fund. Most importantly, it offers a way to stay (and remain) connected to active military, veterans and civilians looking to build, help and support each other,” Fuller said. “Please consider joining our mission; we look forward to connecting with you”.

If you are interested in joining an event with Ruck ‘N’ Run®, visit the website for more details.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds
Featured

These 4th of July memes are real firecrackers

Nothing says America like a great sense of humor. We practically broke the internet with our COVID-19 memes, but since we’re all sick of coronavirus, we wanted to brighten your spirits with some good old fashioned 4th of July ones. Also, since most of the firework displays across the country have been cancelled, we thought you’d need something to look at today. Be safe and happy 4th of July!


Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

1. Freedom rings

Hahaha, you can use this ALL day today. You’re welcome! And yes, we know it should be “there.” We don’t make the memes folks, we just share them.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

2. Will Smith

If you don’t watch Independence Day this weekend, is it even 4th of July?

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

3. Call the doc

What do doctors know? Just kidding. We love you.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

4. ‘Merica!

That’s right, bro. Wear those jean shorts with pride!

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

5. They’re coming

At least it will be a nice break from politics on social media.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

6. Videos

It’s so true. And yet, we’re all guilty.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

7. BREXIT

We started it!

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

8. What else is there?

Add in a hot dog eating contest and you’re all set.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

9. War

Make sure you try to spell U.S.A. with them.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

10. Pick up line

You can use this at today’s bbq, too.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

11. Michael Scott

Obviously if it’s declared it’s true.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

12. Doggies

Poor things. Extra cuddles for you!

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

13. Brace yourself

(Insert your own inappropriate rocket between legs joke here).

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

14. You got this

Happy 4th of July! Here’s to ‘MERICA!

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Father’s Day gifts made by veterans

In continuation with the complete catastrophe that is 2020, voters on both sides of the aisle agree Father’s Day 2020 official theme to be, “Sorry we forgot, this gift had express shipping.”

We’re just kidding, but you’re welcome for reminding you that Sunday, June 21 is Father’s Day. Since we all know you forgot, we’ve compiled a list so good that you won’t even mind paying the extra to get it there in time.


For the veteran

CBD oil

Yea, we went big and bold out of the gate, but for good reason. CBD products legalized by the Farm Bill have been destigmatized over the last few years. When the carpool moms are doing it, you know it’s pretty legit. Veteran-owned CBD companies like Patriot Supreme are advocating for non-narcotic options as a better alternative for pain, anxiety and all kinds of other benefits we won’t make claims for here. Military life ages the body at warp speed, so do your veteran a favor by offering some relief.

Beard oil

The first step in becoming the iconic “vet-bro” is to grow yourself a mighty fine beard. How does a modern military man call himself one without? Whether they’ve got an Abe Lincoln, chin curtain, (these are legit, we promise) or are in the infantile stages of some stubble, do their face a favor with some premium product like from Warlord.

For the brand

Entrepreneurship or the fast-growing area of solopreneurship is as American as it gets. The fight, the grind and the ridiculous amount of grit it takes to run your own business, especially on the heels of steady government paychecks from military life is tough. But tough doesn’t stop veterans. If yours is even remotely considering this route, you can’t go wrong with the suggestions below. Bonus points here since these options can be “ordered” at 11:59 the day before without looking sloppy.

-Booking professional headshots

-Signing them up for conferences like MIC

For the service member 

Statement pieces

Repurposing military surplus materials into high quality, durable travel or duffel bags and more is the kind of awesome Sword Plough is all about. Repurposed .50 cal casings made into money clips make a damn fine conversation starter and something dapper for all their new beard oil you ordered.

Local flavor

There’s one thing you can’t go wrong with this Father’s Day and that’s trying something new backed by hundreds of raving reviews. If you haven’t already, try using the store locator feature and grabbing a bottle of Mutt’s Sauce, the universal flavor loved across generations and oceans alike. Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr’s legacy is still alive today thanks to his granddaughter and Air Force Veteran, Charlynda.

Natural products…to combat all the unknown MRE ingredients they eat

Doc Spartan has exploded since their appearance on Shark Tank. Their line of natural first aid ointments and sprays should be a go-bag staple for any military member. While you’re at it, check out their lineup of natural, aluminum-free deodorants called “armpit armor.”

Recordable storybooks

What is often gifted to kids is actually a great option for Father’s Day too. Gifting fathers with a prerecorded favorite read in the voices of their children is a deeply personal choice. Most books can be re-recorded to accommodate for growing families over the years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Motivated by their lives: Honoring the fallen this Memorial Day

Memorial Day brings visions of outdoor family barbeques, filled beaches and the unofficial kickoff to summertime. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the one day a year we set aside to honor those who willingly died to defend our freedoms in service to this nation.

Families of the fallen don’t expect America to approach this day with sadness, however. They truly welcome the celebration of all things red, white and blue. But they hope that while the country enjoys the day, those enjoying the festivities remember the why behind it. It’s because of their loved one’s sacrifice that we can celebrate it at all.
Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Krista Simpson Anderson knows all about the loss and also joy that comes with Memorial Day. Her husband, Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson, was a Green Beret. He was so proud to serve and be a part of the 1st Special Forces Group where he was lovingly nicknamed “The Unquiet Professional.” On April 27, 2013, on his 20th day of deployment in Afghanistan, nearly a decade to the day from his enlistment in the Army, Simpson sustained critical injuries from an improvised explosive device. He fought to stay alive, saying, “Wife, kids, I love,” while being evacuated to the hospital.

His medical team did everything they could to keep him alive; bringing him back each time he coded. Simpson underwent multiple surgeries as they battled to treat his severe injuries. He was medevaced to Germany four days after the blast and his wife and family arrived on May 1, 2013 and he was declared deceased not long after they arrived. He then gave all his viable organs, serving others until his heart stopped beating.

He was only 30 years old.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

On the original day set aside as Memorial Day, May 30, 2013, Mike’s family said their final goodbye at Arlington National Cemetery. It was in that moment that Krista and a close friend decided to create a nonprofit organization to give back to all of those who had supported the family through their loss.

They called it The Unquiet Professional.

Since its inception, The Unquiet Professional has evolved from a fundraiser to an organization that provides resources and education to those actively serving, veterans, surviving families and Gold Star families. They also do a memorial run, every Memorial Day. The purpose is to spend that mile remembering the lives of the fallen. This year they are honoring Simpson as always but also SFC James Grissom, SSG Timothy McGill, SFC Liam Nevins and Sgt. Joshua Strickland, all who lost their lives within months of each other in 2013 defending their country.

But they were more than just soldiers.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Simpson was a deeply faithful man with an amazing sense of humor who loved his family. Grissom’s family shared that he had such a kind spirit and was always finding ways to help others. McGill’s sister Megan shared that he never told her he was a Green Beret because he was so humble and such a “gentle giant.” Nevins was known for his dimples, blue eyes and his love of pranks. Strickland was remembered by his family for living life passionately and always laughing.

It is the hope of all families of the fallen that the world will remember them this Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We honor Mike every day, but everyone honors him on Memorial Day. How could you not love that? I want people to celebrate, have barbecues and make fancy cocktails. Celebrate your freedom; that’s what he died for,” shared Anderson.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

You can join in on TUP’s virtual memorial run here. Share pictures on social media during your memorial mile and use the hashtags #MotivatedByTheirLives and #TupMile. For those able to participate in a longer run, Project 33 Memorial Foundation is also hosting a virtual 10k to honor MSG Nicholas Sheperty who was killed during military freefall operations on April 17, 2019. All proceeds raised from their run will go to a memorial stone in his honor.

This Memorial Day, run for the fallen. Enjoy the day to live as they would want us to, but don’t forget to pause and remember.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds


MIGHTY CULTURE

Tips for embracing new culture with an OCONUS Move

Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.

And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!


But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.

As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Ask the Locals

Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.

Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!

Try Everything Twice

One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.

Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Eat All the Foods

Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.

How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.

Don’t Say No

This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.

You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.

Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 23 years, soldier meets his father for the first time

The soldier nervously scanned the hotel lobby. Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a broad smile immediately filled his face.

“That’s my dad!” he said, and rushed to the hotel door. The soldier embraced his father, and it was clear he didn’t want to let go. Who could blame him?

This was June 24, 2019. He had waited 23 years for this moment.


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U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., nervously awaits the arrival of his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Leaving Guatemala

Spc. Brandon Paiz, remembered the day he learned he was going to leave his home.

“I was little, about nine and eight months,” Paiz reflected. “My mom said, ‘Hey we’re going to move to the United States with your stepdad, Roger.'”

Paiz, now a tall, muscular masonry/carpentry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company, talked about the apprehension he felt as a small child leaving his birthplace, Guatemala.

“It was a culture shock,” Paiz said. “The first thing I noticed about the United States is that is was really clean, the streets were really clean. It sounds weird, but they handed me a fruit — a banana — and I was like, holy cow, this thing is huge!”

Paiz said he was quick to adapt to his new home, starting with a new-found love of bacon. He also quickly learned to speak English from an unlikely source.

“Spongebob was my favorite cartoon when I was little,” Paiz said. “It was in Spanish, but when I came to the U.S., I kind of remembered the lines, what they were saying.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, sweats during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He took three years of English as a Second Language classes and, with the help of Spongebob, didn’t need any more classes. Still, it was not easy for the boy.

“There were times I just wanted to go back and see my friends again,” he admitted. He had some scattered memories, such as living in a tall apartment building in Guatemala City, where he would go to the roof and play soccer alone for hours. He remembered buying chips from a lady named Dora, and huge celebrations each March in Guatemala City where people would carry massive statues of the saints down the streets.

“I would make rugs for the celebration,” Paiz said. He spoke quickly and with excitement when recalling his tight-knit community.

Paiz first lived in New Jersey, where he had to re-adapt to being part of a new community. He said while he was learning English, some of the neighborhood kids didn’t want to involve him in activities. However, just as he had used Spongebob to improve his English, Paiz used another tool to make new friends: kickball.

“I was really good at soccer, so when I started playing kickball, then the kids finally started talking to me,” he said with a laugh.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, listens to the morning safety briefing before starting construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He was curious about his father. He didn’t know too much about him other than his name was Jorge and that he had seen some occasional pictures of him on his aunt Lorna’s Facebook. He didn’t understand why he had not been there, but he forgave him.

“People make mistakes,” Paiz said. “His mistake was he wasn’t really around as much as he should have been. I’m going to continue to build our relationship, because I can tell he regrets it. I don’t want to give him a hard time with more of the guilt he feels already, I’m just excited to get to know him more.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, hands construction equipment from a connex to Spc. Pierre Mebe, a plumber, also with the 358th, before beginning construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Joining the Army Reserve

“I joined the military for opportunity and education, but above all, I wanted to give back to the country that opened up the doors for me,” Paiz said. “I wanted to do it for the longest time, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it — whether I wanted to be a cop, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so I decided on the military.”

Paiz said he didn’t want to leave his mother, who had at this time divorced from Roger, so he decided on joining the Army Reserve. He didn’t realize it yet, but Paiz was about to join another tight-knit community.

He enlisted as a masonry/carpentry specialist and joined a rowdy group of construction soldiers from throughout Pennsylvania, the 358th Engineer Company, located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Joining the military proved beneficial in many ways. First, Paiz, who works as a sales representative for a cable company, was able to get the sense of service and giving back to his country as a soldier.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, plays with some dogs outside a medical clinic construction site June 21 in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Secondly, Paiz was re-united with a friend from high school, Spc. Pierre Mede, who just like him, had migrated from another country — Haiti — to the United States as a child. The two quickly went from friends, to inseparable best friends.

But most of all, although Paiz didn’t know it yet, the tiny unit from Pennsylvania was about to bring him back to Guatemala. The unit’s annual training mission was in support of Beyond the Horizon, an annual training partnership between U.S Army South, and one of the nations in their area of responsibility in Central and South America. As it so happened, this year’s rotation was in Guatemala, where the 358th Engineers would be building a medical clinic in the mountain village of Tojocaz.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Homecoming

Paiz knew his unit was going to be traveling to Guatemala. He knew that he would be flying in to Guatemala City where he would meet his aunt Lorna, who he had not seen in several years, but had been very close to growing up. But Paiz was not prepared for what would happen next at Guatemala City Airport.

“Obviously I recognized him, because I had seen him through photos,” Paiz said. “When I walked through the door … my heart just dropped. I knew this was the moment that I had been envisioning in my head for years — I just didn’t think it was going to be that day.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

“I hugged my aunt first, then my other aunt, and a family friend. Then it was his turn. I was really nervous when I finally met him.”

It was a moment he said had rehearsed in his mind countless times.

“I was really shocked, nervous, overwhelmed,” he said. “I had practiced what I was going to tell him for so many years, but it wouldn’t come out. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was glad that I finally closed that chapter in my life, and as it so happened, the military has done that for me.

“My heart was racing, and when I finally hugged him I was like, this is happening. This is real. Twenty-three years later I finally got to see my father.”

One of the soldiers snapped a photo of the brief, impromptu meeting. Paiz would carry it with him as he worked on the clinic with his friend Mede. It was a brief moment, but the two planned a second visit from Paiz in August.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, checks the level on a block during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

The clinic

Paiz’ story affected his new brothers in the 358th. It provided the extra bit of motivation the soldiers needed on their construction rotation. Three weeks is not a long time, but if you ask the soldiers, three weeks high in the mountains of Guatemala, sweating and grinding in the hot sun for more than 12 hours every day can be very long. To add to it all, the 358th fell into a situation where they were already several days behind on the project.

The soldiers would leave at 5 a.m. every morning, and come home dirty, sweaty, sore and tired after laying brick until sometimes well after 8 p.m. But though they acknowledged their fatigue, none complained. Because of Paiz, this mission meant something more to them.

His non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Pearce probably said it best: “We respect each other as people. Knowing the fact that one of the soldiers is originally from Guatemala, and that we’re here to help this community and this is his native country, I think everybody has pulled together to say ‘We want to do this.’ We are motivated to make this happen so we can say look what we did for this soldier’s native country.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Goodbye, for now

After waiting 23 years, Paiz had met his father and could look forward to the trip in August. As it turned out, he would not have to wait that long.

A couple weeks later, when some of the military leadership learned of Paiz’ unique situation, they arranged for him to hop on a helicopter that was already going from the base the soldiers were staying at with their Guatemalan counterparts in Huehuetenango to Guatemala City.

The flight was picking up some high-ranking officials and flying them back, so Paiz would only have a few minutes to see Jorge. They met for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City. Once again, his aunts were there and his cousin too. When everyone sat together at the table, it was as if the family had been together all along. Laughter filled the air.

The talk was of pride. Paiz’ cousin, Celia told him, “I am so proud of you that you became an American soldier. I am proud that you and the other soldiers work with the people here on this mission.”

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., poses for a photo with his cousin Celia taken by his aunt Lorna, June 24 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

There was more laughter, and then the room became quiet. Only Jorge spoke, and though he tried to remain composed, his son’s face brimmed with emotion. His father was apologizing.

“I’m very proud of you that you are an American soldier,” Jorge said. “I’m very proud that you are a good person and you make the right choices. You could have gone another path, but you chose the life of a soldier. That’s because you were raised well by your mother.”

He went on to say that although he had a family of his own, he still thought of his son even if it he felt as though he could not be there.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can maintain strong communication moving forward. I’m grateful that life gave us an opportunity to reunite.” He went on to say that when he saw him now, even as a strapping 23-year-old man, he pictured an 8-year-old boy.

“My son. My blood. A good boy. A good son.”

Finally, Brandon Paiz had gotten what he really needed from his father.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy sailors step up to help deliver meals to senior citizens

Two sailors partnered with Meals On Wheels (MOW) Mesa County to deliver meals to local clients in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area during Western Slope Navy Week, July 23, 2019.

The mission of MOW is to promote the independence, health, and well being of the elderly through quality nutritional services. This is the first time Navy Outreach has partnered with the organization during a Navy Week.

“We were really glad to have the sailors here to help us, and a lot of the clients were looking forward to the interactions,” said Amanda Debock, program manager. “We gave them a route that had a large amount of veterans and they were especially excited to have their meals delivered by active duty sailors.”


MOW Mesa County provides affordable lunchtime meals to seniors age 60 and older in Mesa County. Today, the program prepares and serves more than 120,000 meals annually and 500 or more per day.

Lt. Jacob Cook and Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Giovanni Dagostino, both assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, rode along with volunteer Steve Kendrick to deliver lunch to 19 clients.

“I have never volunteered with Meals on Wheels myself,” said Cook. “This experience has been really great just to go out and see what they do as an organization and to meet the people in this community that they serve and take care of.”

Seven clients included in the route were Navy, Army or Air Force Veterans that served during Word War II, the war in Vietnam and throughout various other periods.

“I was surprised how excited some of the veterans were when we showed up at the door,” said Kendrick. “We had one vet that was almost in tears when he saw the sailors come to the door in uniform. A lot of them just acted like [the sailors] were just part of their family. It seemed like it was a very special event for everyone.”

Started in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens, Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been serving nutritious meals to seniors for 49 years.

The Navy Week program brings sailors, equipment, and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand the Navy the nation needs.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 epic photos of Marines drinking snake blood and eating scorpions

On Feb. 12, 2019, the US and Thailand launched Cobra Gold, one of the largest multi-national exercises in the world.

The annual exercise brings together 29 nations as participants or observers; nine participating countries include the US and Thailand as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, according to a US Army release.

The exercise, which will end on Feb. 22, 2019, includes a field training exercise, humanitarian and disaster relief components.

One of the most anticipated aspects of the exercise is jungle survival training, when Royal Thai Marines teach their US counterparts how to identify edible foods, including plants and animals.

During the training, US troops have the opportunity to eat scorpions and geckos, and drink snake blood — all skills necessary to survive if one becomes isolated from their unit.


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U.S. Marines drink the blood of a king cobra during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

1. These Marines aren’t drinking snake blood just for show.

Jungle training teaches essential skills for survival in a wild, tropical environment.

Marines learn skills from identifying poisonous plants, differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and finding water sources if they get lost.

One of the instructors interviewed by Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg said that drinking animal blood is one way to stay hydrated in the absence of another water source.

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

US Marines cheer on comrades during the highly anticipated jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

A Royal Thai Marine instructor shows US Marines different types of snakes during jungle survival training.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Marines watch as Royal Thai Marine instructor shows off a snake during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Royal Thai Marine Corps instructor passes around freshly cooked meat during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

A US Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survivor training during Cobra Gold 19.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Gassaway eats a plant during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Royal Thai Marine shows US Marines what to eat in the jungle during the exercise.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

Royal Thai and U.S. Marines learn how to make fire in the jungle during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

9. Marines also learn skills like building fires and alternate ways to stay hydrated.

“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water. Wherever they’re filing to, they know where the location of water is,” said US Army Spc. Louis Smith.

Smith said that new knowledge is something he’d take back home with him.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 10 stupidest (yet true!) things civilians have said to the military community…in memes

People say dumb things all the time, it’s a fact of life. But there are certain gems that we’ve all heard civilians say in reference to military life that we just can’t make up. Many of those questionable comments will elect a chuckle or two while others cause dramatic eye rolls and lip biting (and not the sexy kind). WATM decided to capture some of the most memorable (and stupidest) comments. Buckle up!

  1. Civilian: “Do you know my friend? He’s in Bravo company.”

Sure, because there’s only around a half a million soldiers in the Army. I’ll text him right now.

2. Civilian: “Have you ever waterboarded anybody?”

Why is this question a real thing? And did you actually think they’d be honest with you either way? Yeah, Karen. Every Tuesday we round up some people and have our own little “ice bucket challenge” on base. Bye.

3. Civilian finds out member is deploying: “I hope you don’t die over there.

This is said wayyyyyy more than it ever should be – which is never. What else can the service member say to this one except “thanks” or “me too”?

4. Civilian: “I could never join the military, I couldn’t take people telling me what to do all the time.”

This one plays on repeat like the baby shark song you can’t get out of your head. Listen Todd, unless you are a dictator, there’s always someone telling you what to do. The police, your boss and little pesky things like laws. It’s a part of life, the military is just a little louder.

5. Civilian to military spouse: “Well, you know what you signed up for.”

No, we didn’t. When we marry our service member, we do it because we love them and want to spend our lives with them. We aren’t given a list of things that can go wrong (thank you Murphy) or a book on how to do actually military life. Hell, our spouses don’t even know how our own insurance works! We get it done.

6. Civilian: “Got any of those meals y’all eat in war?”

Yeah, Carol. I keep them in my trunk for snack time. No! Nobody carries around MRE’s or keeps them to eat on the regular; troops don’t even want to eat that crap when they are in the field training or overseas “in war” and have to.

7. Civilian: “I’m so tired, I only got 6 hours of sleep last night.”

Listening to civilians talk about how tired they are after sleeping in their soft beds is beyond annoying. All over the globe there are American service members working continuously to keep you safe, shut up.

8. Civilian: “Do you guys get any free time?”

Define the word “free”. When deployed or on mission, that would be a negative Nancy. Stateside service members are also still working and have very little time to hang out around the water cooler either. It is what it is. ‘Merica.

9. Civilian: “If I didn’t get injured I would have become Special Forces.”

Listen Frank, I am sure you reeeeally wanted to be Special Forces. It’s an admirable goal, seriously. Buttttt, we don’t believe you.

10. And finally…. our best one yet. Civilian: “2020 is the worst year of my life.”

We get it, 2020 sucks the big one. But as the civilians around us complain about “restrictions” and that the government is “controlling” their lives, we are rolling our eyes so hard it hurts. Shut. Up. No, we don’t wish ill on anyone, but this complaint is definitely sure to get a service member or milspouse riled up. Those in the military community have been experiencing setbacks, missed holidays and loneliness for some time now. When this pandemic is behind us, it is our hope that when you continue on with your regularly scheduled programming, you’ll be more grateful for what you do have.

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