When it comes to branch rivalries in the military, you’ll find none greater than that between the Marine Corps and the Navy. It may be because we’re technically a part of the same branch but, either way, we constantly give each other sh*t for any reason we can find. Even still, Marines and sailors get along quite well — in fact, we probably get along better than any other two branches of the armed forces.
Yes, the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy, but we’re still considered separate branches. We have different goals, but they complement each other’s. So, we work closely together. All of those hours spent cooperating means that we’ve gotten to know each other pretty damn well over the years. Even Marines or sailors who have left the service find the most common ground with their cross-branch counterparts.
Here are a few reasons why Marines and sailors so often end up as the best of friends:
Our relationship is symbiotic
Even though Marines tend to do all the heavy lifting, the Navy is usually right there with us to share the burden of being the greatest war fighting faction ever to exist. In fact, because Marines are amphibious, we need the Navy to cart us around — like our own personal taxi service.
Marines and sailors share manpower
As part of that symbiotic relationship, the manpower between the branches is often shared. The Marine Corps uses Navy Corpsman for medical needs and aviation units in either branch are often filled out with a mix of mechanics from both sides.
We can constantly joke about each other
One thing you’ll find is that Marines have plenty of jokes for Sailors and vice versa. Furthermore, you’ll find that we can both take the jokes quite well. Hell, we even share a notoriety for being a bunch of drunken bastards.
Marines and sailors have the best military uniforms
Marines have the best uniforms ever conceived by any military branch — but the Navy comes in at a (distant,) solid second place. Both of our branches have the most recognizable and aesthetically pleasing uniforms out there. Sure, we may not wear berets, but we have sexy dress blues. The best part of it all? A Navy corpsman embedded in a Marine unit, referred to as “green side,” can choose to wear the Marine dress blues.
They’re our closest sibling
Marines don’t have as much of a working relationship with other branches as they do with the Navy. Ever since the planet was blessed with United States Marines, the Navy has been right there alongside us, fighting and winning every battle we possibly can.
If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”
Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.
The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.
Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.
Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.
Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:
“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”
“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.
The moving lyrics of the song:
I walked through a county courthouse square On a park bench an old man was sitting there I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.
He said, have a seat, and I sat down Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town? I said, I think it is He said, I don’t like to brag But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag
You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key Sat watching it writing say can you see And it got a bad rip in New Orleans With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.
And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag
On Flanders field in World War one She got a big hole from a Bertha gun She turned blood red in World War Two She hung limp and low a time or two She was in Korea and Vietnam She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home In her own good land here she’s been abused She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in ‘Cause she’s been through the fire before And I believe she can take a whole lot more
So we raise her up every morning We take her down every night We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right On second thought, I do like to brag ‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag
For the first time in American history, a female Soldier has completed U.S. Army Special Forces training and has earned the right to don the legendary Green Beret.
Despite how often people get the moniker wrong, Special Forces is only a title that applies to the U.S. Army’s elite special operations Green Berets. SEALs, Rangers, Marine Raiders and others all fall under the broader term of “Special Operations,” but only the Green Berets are rightfully called Special Forces.
“Good for her! It was only a matter of time and I would guess it will become more and more common over the next few years, across USSOF.” -Former Navy SEAL/CIA Officer Frumentarius
Special Forces Assessment and Selection (US Army)
In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the formal ban on women serving in combat roles, and in 2016 all military occupational specialties were opened up to female service members, including those in elite special operations fields.
“There will be no exceptions,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in 2015. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
The identity of the woman that fought her way through all six phases of Special Forces training has not been revealed, citing privacy concerns for the Army’s newest Green Beret, but the impact of her accomplishment remains.
“We don’t need to know her name or see her to be inspired by her, just knowing that there is a female green beret can motivate any Soldier to do better or to reach for their goals.” -Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard
What we do know about this history-making Soldier is that she was among only a handful of females that made it through the initial 24-day assessment that serves as a screening to eliminate those who may not have the mental or physical capacity to complete the training. Now, even with Special Forces training behind the America’s female Green Beret, her days of training are far from over. Once you earn a spot in a Special Operations unit, training is continuous to ensure special operators are well prepared for any challenges they may face.
Special Forces Green Beret soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces Groups stand silent watch during the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President John F. Kennedy (U.S. Army Photo)
Former Green Beret NCO and Warrant Officer Steve Balestrieri used to oversee portions of the selection process, and earlier this year wrote an article for Sandboxx News entitled, “Women Passing Special Forces Selection? Yes you can,” in which he outlines the challenges all aspiring Green Berets must face, as well as some that are specific to females serving in that capacity. We asked Balestrieri how he feels about seeing this historic event unfold.
“I think that (from what I heard from those who know), this woman had no corners cut for her, and not only met but exceeded the standards. For her, now the journey really begins. I truly wish her all the best.” -Former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri
As Balestrieri writes in his piece, some members of the Special Operations community may well harbor some outdated beliefs when it comes to women serving in these elite roles, but as he points out (and our discussions with other Special Operations veterans seem to further prove), many of America’s elite warfighters are happy to see their female peers work their way into their elite company.
“I wish her all the best, I hope she crushes it. There are a lot of outside opinions that ultimately don’t matter so long as she does her job and does it well.” “At the end of the day, SOF is a place where politics don’t really matter as long as you can do your job to standard.” -Luke Ryan, Former Army Ranger
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with the National Guard shares best practices to U.S. and Chile counterparts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/Released)
Green Berets are tasked with a number of difficult mission sets in combat environments, from direct action operations to training foreign military forces to provide their own defense. Alongside their peers in the Special Operations community, Green Berets have served as part of the backbone of America’s presence in Global War on Terror operations the world over.
Earning the right to wear the Green Beret is an incredible feat for any Soldier, but becoming the first female to earn one is not only historic, it’s an important message to Soldiers of all types across the force: Being a man is not a prerequisite to becoming one of America’s most elite war fighters. Because the history-making Soldier serves in the National Guard, it also shines a valuable light on the opportunities service members of both genders have in both active and reserve capacities.
“I mean it’s a major win for females everywhere, it’s bigger than just the Army, especially the National Guard. It’s proof that women are capable and that institutions are capable of change. She’ll be able to bring her own strengths and capabilities to that community, which will make it better. “ -Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard
In 1981, a female Soldier named Capt. Kathleen Wilder was failed as she very nearly completed Special Forces training. After an investigation into her dismissal, it was found that she had “been wrongly denied graduation.” Now, nearly four decades later, significant challenges remain for women in military service, but this momentous occasion is a step in the right direction.
More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day in America. This number does not include the loss of first responders, caregivers, or their family members. Due to the lack of effective treatment for mental health issues developed from traumatic experiences, self-medicating, isolation and violence have plagued a generation of heroes.
The Boulder Crest Retreat, a privately funded organization, uses an innovative approach to treating mental health issues in veterans, their families and first responders, without the use of drugs. Treating symptoms derived from mental health issues has become big business in America, especially amongst the Armed Forces. Medicating symptoms of PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues only create new, and possibly, worse issues like self-medicating, leading to addiction.
America’s service members are exposed to numerous levels of trauma when they go to war. Upon their return home, they may experience feelings of paranoia, anger, guilt and sadness. Expected to function normally, many of them indulge in unhealthy coping habits to appear ordinary. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during Vietnam, 15 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD, this number later increased to 30 per 100 in more recent studies. In the Gulf War, 12 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. Now, in OIF and OEF, the numbers have continued to rise and are anywhere between 11 to 20 diagnosed in any given year. With the number of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD growing rapidly, the costs have become unmanageable for VAs across the country. They have partnered with non-profits and other state agencies to help fill the financial void for treatment.
Chairman, and Co-Founder of Boulder Crest Kenneth Falke, spoke about his personal journey to creating a place of peace for Veterans and first responders. He visited top psychiatrists from a few of the best universities in America, including Harvard. He was in search of a way to help relieve the stigma of mental illness. On this journey, he met Dr. Richard Tedeschi. Dr. Tedeschi has studied the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on individuals and families for many years. He now teaches post-traumatic growth and how the traumatic experiences people face can create a positive response over time.
With the incorporation of methods taught by Dr. Tedeschi, Falke was able to offer a comprehensive curriculum to people who’d before, only been treated with medical intervention. “We need to normalize mental health issues,” Falke insisted. Boulder Crest does just that. The program began five years ago with the help of philanthropic funding. Falke said, “At some point in time, we all suffer.” He’s right. Nearly every person on the planet has experienced some form of trauma in their lives. With the help of Boulder Crest, people can feel safe and normal. Instead of treating symptoms, Boulder Crest teaches wellness to their clients, with a focus on mind, body, spirit, and finance. There is a program specifically for family members, couples, and caregivers. The family path program also teaches family members how to live a mentally healthy life. This program has proven to be more effective than symptom reduction alone. The Warrior Path program is an 18-month program with a required seven-day, in-residence stay for all clients. Male and females are housed separately throughout the duration of the program.
The Boulder Crest Retreat has two locations; Virginia and Arizona. Sitting on acres of grasslands, Boulder Crest offers a desirable serene ambiance best for rest and relaxation. Each location houses about 10 males and two females per year. With the ever-increasing need for services, Boulder Crest Retreat hopes to offer its program to more individuals in the coming years. The organization also offers activities outside of formal instruction such as; Archery, Equine therapy, the labyrinth, and so much more.
Boulder Crest Retreat is free to combat veterans (honorably discharged), their families, and first responders. Potential clients do not need a mental health diagnosis to be considered for the program. This retreat is a highly sought-after program. Wait times can be up to six months, depending on location. Proven to be three to five-times more successful than medical intervention alone, this program has changed how PTSD is treated.
Because programs like Boulder Crest are funded through the community, they rely on crowdsourced funds to operate. There are ways you can get involved that will empower you to want to do more for America’s veterans and first responders. By attending events, donating, and volunteering, you can help more Veterans get the treatment they need. If you are a college student, applying to be an intern at Boulder Crest Retreat, not only helps them, but it helps you too.
If you are a veteran or first responder and have experienced Post Traumatic Stress and could use some encouragement and guidance, contact Boulder Crest. Your now doesn’t have to be your forever. Change paths and begin the wellness journey you deserve.
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
For anyone who’s been in the military, it goes without saying that being in the Air Force and being in the Marine Corps are two very different ways of life. This extends from enlisted troops all the way to the pilots flying in the skies above any active battlespace.
And it goes well beyond physical fitness standards.
A fact which totally earns a thumbs up from the USAF.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
In the Air Force, once a pilot is finished training, he or she is a full-fledged pilot, who still might train in other areas outside of their chosen aircraft, be it helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. The investment the Air Force puts into training its officers to fly means those pilots are going to be flying as much as the USAF can safely force them to. As company-grade officers, they’re pretty much going to live in the wild blue yonder. As they advance in rank and skill, however, they will slowly be moved to more administrative and management positions, staff jobs, or even instructors. If they want, they might even get a chance to chew some dirt as an air liaison officer.
The life of a Marine Corps officer is much, much different.
Which goes beyond just the uniform, which is admittedly much cooler.
Anyone reading this site probably knows the saying “every Marine is a rifleman.” That goes for Marine Corps officers, too. But USMC pilots must also graduate from the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course so they can learn to command platoons of Marine Corps riflemen – and that’s before they ever become naval aviators.
It’s important to know that Marine pilots are trained as all Marine Corps officers are trained and that they’re also trained as all naval aviators are trained. They take the same training as infantry officers and as naval aviators. As if that wasn’t enough work, the Marine Corps doesn’t wait for officers of Marines to grow in rank before assigning them extra duties around the unit or a duty outside of flying altogether. This means the Marine directing close air support on the ground with you one day might be providing that top cover for you another day.
All that and they have to land on aircraft carriers too. Probably in the dark.
As the United States approaches two months in quarantine, people from all walks of life are starting to feel the effects of social distancing and continued isolation. Retired Air Force Lt. General Stanley E. Clarke III, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Kelly Reynolds, decided to change that narrative.
With an ice cream truck.
Reynolds shared that the family lives in a strong community committed to always supporting each other. Things like kids writing sweet words in chalk on the sidewalks and adults creating fun scavenger hunt games have been the norm during their quarantine. After listening to her mother describe neighborhood ice cream trucks to her 6-year-old son one day, she had an idea. “I turned to my mother and said we should take ice cream to everyone, that it would be so much fun,” said Reynolds.
The idea expanded to creating an actual ice cream truck using Clarke’s old Chevy Apache to distribute the sweet treats. All the grandchildren jumped in to help. Together, the family quickly went to work creating handmade signs and colorful decorations for the truck. They even fashioned a special tube for distribution so they could safely hand out ice cream while still practicing social distancing. Then they waited for a sunny day, spread the word and hit the road.
The excitement on the faces of all surprised by the ice cream truck was contagious. “It was like an infection of joy being spread. To be a part of it was so much fun and to know that what we did had an impact was incredible,” said Reynolds. She explained that their family resides in a quiet neighborhood in Kentucky, which is filled with medical personnel. Knowing that their surrounding community is battling the pandemic on the front lines made their idea to give back even more special and important to them.
Clarke agreed and shared that he was personally inspired by a group of military spouses who founded the GivingTuesdayMilitary movement. Three women, who were named “Spouse of the Year” for their respective branches, launched an initiative to inspire over one million intentional acts of kindness. Clarke is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Armed Forces Insurance, which owns the Military Spouse of the Year award program.
“This is exchanging ice cream for smiles because how many people are smiling out there, particularly during a crisis? How cool is that?” he said. Clarke said he feels that doing things like this can really make a difference, especially now. Reynolds expanded on that to explain that people really don’t need to do anything extravagant or big, but that it was the little things that truly matter.
Studies have shown that social isolation can eventually lead to poor health outcomes. The rapid progression of COVID-19 has forced states to implement social distancing and stay at home orders to save lives. Communities around the country are finding ways to come together to engage with each other safely while also inspiring hope with kindness. General Clarke and his family are one example, and they truly hope to inspire others to do the same.
“Find a small way to spread kindness and joy and just do it. It will impact people,” Reynolds said. She feels that these are the kinds of things that need to be seen on social media. Messages of kindness and hope to lift people during a time of fear. “The biggest impacts we can have on people are the ones we don’t even know we are creating,” she shared.
This family’s story of kindness is having an impact. Word is quickly spreading about their homemade family ice cream truck. Several leaders of military bases loved it so much that they talking about starting their own ice cream truck caravans. This demonstrates how one act can have a ripple effect, with no end in sight.
For the first time in their history, the Army will be completely reliant on the internet and social media to complete their summer recruitment of soldiers. With COVID-19 impacting their ability to do face to face recruitment events, they’ve become innovative. Their goal: 10,000 new soldiers.
The Army paused briefly in processing new applicants and significantly reduced the number of recruits at basic training to ensure they could reduce risks of infection and keep potential soldiers and staff safe. Once all measures were in place, the Army hit the ground running for recruitment.
The Army typically sends between 10,000 to 15,000 future soldiers to basic training every summer. The challenge, however, will be making that happen through a computer. In the months leading up to the summer push, most recruiters are inside high schools and continually interacting with youth. Although the pandemic prevented that, recruiters got creative.
These past few months have seen recruiters actively engaging on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even playing video games with potential future soldiers. Although this definitely helped the Army somewhat maintain their recruiting numbers, a bigger push is needed to ensure mission readiness.
The Army’s virtual nation-wide hiring campaign will run from June 30 to July 2, 2020. Those who are eligible and join during the hiring event can earn a ,000 bonus, on top of other available bonuses and student loan payoffs. This campaign will be a test of the Army’s digital footprint and their ability to reach potential young soldiers virtually.
Command Master Sergeant Tabitha Gavia is the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It is her command leading the national hiring event. “We are responsible for the mission that the Army gives us every year, to recruit a certain number of Army and Army Reserves,” she shared.
According to an Army press release, “Army National Hiring Days is an all-Army effort to inspire individuals across the nation to ‘Join Us.'” This will be the first time that the Army has collectively come together as a whole to leverage the digital space in a nation-wide recruiting effort.
The Army has over 150 career opportunities for those that want to join. When someone signs up, they will also pick their job at the same time. When they finish basic training, they are sent to their specialist training for their chosen career field.
During Army National Hiring Days, those who want to learn more about the Army and inquire about joining can visit their recruitment website. There they’ll find a wealth of information about careers, qualifications, and specific hiring incentives.
There are always unique challenges to recruiting, even without a global pandemic. “External environments are the real challenges. One in particular is the significant number of people who simply aren’t qualified to serve in the armed forces,” Gavia explained. According to a recent 2019 study by Mission: Readiness, they found that as much as 75% of America’s youth is ineligible to serve. The three top reasons for ineligibility include being undereducated, involved in crime or physically unfit.
Gavia shared that another unique challenge in recruiting is that many young people simply don’t know enough about the Army, especially if they don’t live near a base or weren’t raised in a family of service. “We have to get people to get to know us and overcome preconceived notions and fears,” she said.
One example of a current fear is the recent ongoing protests and the involvement of the U.S. military in shutting them down. This led to a lot of potential recruits to question whether they wanted to be a part of the Army or any armed service at all. “Our recruiters faced backlash in their communities. They then had to explain that this is one aspect of supporting the country, but becoming part of the team there would be other things you would be doing and that this isn’t a true reflection of the Army,” Gavia shared.
The Army is also seeking to create a more diverse service. They aim to be the national leader in embracing a more diverse and inclusive environment. “It’s important to stress our diversity. Our strength really lies within our diversity….We want the public to understand and know this is important and a part of who we are,” said Gavia.
To learn more about the Army’s mission and dedication to inclusiveness, you can check out their website which details their commitment to diversity. For those who are interested in learning more about the Army and how they can make a difference by becoming a soldier, click here.
Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.
Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.
“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”
Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.
Maintaining the pace
Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.
“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.
His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.
On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.
“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”
Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.
“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”
Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.
“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”
Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.
Never giving up
“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’
“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.
“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”
And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Military parents: we’re one great big, loving, dysfunctional family. We may have a lot of differences, but we also have a lot in common. Find out the answers we received when we asked a group of military parents to complete the statement “you know you’re a military parent when…”
1. You stalk the mailman.
You can especially relate to this when your military member is a recruit or trainee. There are no phone calls, text messages, emails coming through. If you’re waiting to hear from them, all you can do is wait until the mailman comes rolling down the street and stops at your mailbox with your fingers crossed.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)
2. Whenever you hear the National Anthem your heart fills with pride.
You’re at a stadium sports arena for a game or concert, and you hear the national anthem. You stand a little taller, sing a little louder and you see that veteran in the audience still standing at attention all these years later and a tear trickles down your face, and can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.
U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
3. You can bring any conversation back to the fact your child is in the military.
Parents are the best at this, aren’t we? You often sit and listen to your friends talking about their kids at college or high school, you wait for the perfect moment to tell them all about your child in the military. “Did I tell you Johnny is getting ready to deploy right now?”
4. You wear RED on Fridays
Remember Everyone Deployed means you wear red on Fridays to let all those serving overseas on deployment know they’re not forgotten; that a nation they’re fighting for is praying for them, is thinking of them constantly, and is proud of them.
5. Your new favorite vacation destination is the Permanent Duty Station of your military member.
A non-military parent may schedule their vacations to a sunny beach destination, or maybe even an amusement park. Not military parents! Our vacations are now to wherever our child is stationed, whether it’s in the desert, the cold, overseas, or wherever else our military member is living at that time. “Woo hoo, it’s time to go to 29 Palms!”
6. You now understand and use military time and the phonetic alphabet.
You tell your co-worker you’ll be getting off work at 1630. They look at you with a confused expression on their face and you say, “Oh, I mean 4:30 p.m. I’m sorry, I’m so used to using military time with my son/daughter in the military now.” (As an aside, this a great way to start that conversation about your child in the military – see #3 above.)
7. You have a military t-shirt for every day of the week, along with pins and hats.
You can’t get enough of military swag! Whether it represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, you have t-shirts, hats, socks, earrings, necklaces, pins, stickers for your car. You name it, military parents have something for every occasion, and they wear or display it loud and proud.
8. You see the proud parent of a “insert college university name here” and you laugh.
You can’t help but giggle. Their child might have went to a top college or university, but your child is a part of the finest fighting military in the world. Go USA!
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)
9. You’ve become an expert at mailing out care packages where the items inside aren’t as much as the postage to send it.
You do this especially when your military member is deployed overseas. Baking cookies, brownies, sending wipes, toiletries, etc., are all great ways to stay connected with your loved one, and often gives them something that they truly need. A lot of the time, the cost of sending the package outweighs the monetary value of what’s inside!
10. You know that things can and will change.
If there’s one thing a military family, including military parents, has to be, it’s flexible. Your loved one’s plans can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to learn to go with the flow and be supportive.
There were over 250 comments from parents around the country when I asked for feedback. I could only choose 10. Which of these was your favorite? Share your comments below – we would love to read them!
The data-crunching personal finance site took data points from all 50 states, using what it calls “13 key indicators of patriotism.” The indicators include military-related markers, like average number of enlistees, veteran population, active-duty population and reservists. Those make up the “military engagement” part of the calculation
The site also included other forms of patriotism, like voting, volunteering, civic participation and the emphasis schools put on civic education. These factors (and others) make up the “civic engagement” part of WalletHub’s calculation.
Without further ado, here are America’s most and least patriotic states.
The Most Patriotic
1. New Hampshire
We talked about this. The granite state is as hard-core patriotic as they come. True to the foundations of the United States, New Hampshire once threatened to secede from the Union in protest of what it saw as the federal government’s overreach in taxation and personal freedoms. In 2016.
U.S. Army artillerymen conduct a sling-load operation during Operation Granite Viper at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015. The artillerymen are assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Benjamin Moreau)
If it seems like the least populous states tend to be at the top of the “most patriotic” list, you aren’t wrong. As of January 2020, Wyoming was No. 50 in terms of population in America, but still produced the ninth most troops as a percentage of population — and the fifth most veterans.
The 39th most populous state is the third most patriotic, according to WalletHub. No small potatoes.
The home of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, along with dozens of separate units from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, Alaska boasts thousands of military personnel. It also boasts the most military veterans per capita and the second most number of military enlistees. The Great North also invites veterans to come get a share of oil profits.
Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is the fifth most patriotic state on the list. Unlike some of the other states at the top of the list, Maryland is full of people, the 19th most populous state in the Union. It also produces the fifth most Peace Corps volunteers.
The Least Patriotic
To name the states that are “least patriotic” isn’t to say that they aren’t patriotic at all or that the people who live there don’t love their country. It simply means that they aren’t as active in the 13 areas WalletHub measured as a barometer of patriotism.
46. West Virginia
West Virginia sits atop the bell curve when it comes to military engagement but is close to the very bottom when it comes to voting in presidential elections. Maybe the mountains have something to do with it!
Don’t @ me, Texas. I didn’t come up with this study or its metrics. But while Texas sits at No. 11 for its military engagement (because of course it does, it’s Texas), its weighted civic engagement rating is all the way down at No. 49. If Troy Aikman told you to go vote, would you do it?
Despite being home to the U.S. Navy’s base in San Diego, the Marine Corps‘ base at Camp Pendleton, and a slew of other military bases, the sheer number of people in California makes it difficult for the state to rise to the top of the list of veterans per capita. The Golden State also has one of lowest numbers of volunteers per capita.
Maybe if we put a drug legalization referendum on the ballot, California’s voter participation will skyrocket.
49. New York
The Empire State has the fewest veterans per capita, which is hardly surprising, given how many people are in New York — and New York City, especially. The state also ranks below California on the volunteerism spectrum. It seems unfair to the rest of New York State, to be weighed down by the City, but the home of the 10th Mountain Division sits solidly at No. 49.
Statues aren’t part of the ranking. (The White House)
50. New Jersey
The state that saw George Washington cross the Delaware to MDK German mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas is now one of the states with the fewest veterans per capita, as the 11th most populous state. It’s also sitting at the bottom of the “military engagement” spectrum and somewhere near the bottom of the “civic engagement” spectrum.
Find out where your home state sits on the list of most patriotic states by visiting WalletHub and learning how it came up with the rankings. Once more, before I hand out my email address and Twitter handle, I’m not calling your home state “unpatriotic.” I’m just the messenger, reminding you to go vote.
Rifle marksmanship is one of the handful of skills that everyone in the military needs to master. It doesn’t matter if you’re an infantryman, a special operator, or an admin clerk in the Reserves, everyone needs to master the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Being well-versed in marksmanship is what makes all of America’s warfighters, without exception, deadly in combat. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive, it’s also the one badge that every troop, service-wide, wears to signify their combat prowess. The marksmanship badge holds enough weight that a young private with expert could easily flex on a senior NCO with just a pizza box.
Here’s what you need to know:
These fundamentals can be applied to stress shoots, too.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor)
Don’t: overthink it
There are just four things (outside of the obvious safety concerns) to worry about while you’re firing a weapon. These four basic components are drilled into every Army recruit’s head while at basic and they’ve been incorporated into marching cadences: steady, aim, breathe, fire. This should be your mental checklist before you take a shot.
Are you and the weapon in a steady position? Are the sights properly aligned to ensure accuracy? Are you breathing normally and timing your shots accordingly? Is your finger comfortably aligned with your trigger so you can pull it straight back?
Hey, man. It’s cheap, you can practice the fundamentals of marksmanship, and it’s fun.
(Screengrab via YouTube / ThePinballCompany)
Do: practice as much as you can
There are countless drills that you can do if your armorer lets you draw your weapon. For example, there’s the famous “washer and dime” drill. You can test how well you’re following the 4 fundamentals mentioned above by placing a single washer or dime on the barrel of an unloaded rifle. If your stance is good, your aiming isn’t jerky, your breathing is regular, and your trigger squeeze is solid, the balancing dime shouldn’t fall when you pull the trigger.
In the absence of your rifle, as odd as it sounds, you can still get some “range” time at your local arcade. If you spend your entire attention on the four fundamentals, playing some coin-operated shooter video game can be great practice. You’ll have to worry less about aiming, though — those machines are almost always misaligned.
Spend a little extra time getting everything just right.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jericho Crutcher)
Don’t: rush zeroing
No two people will have the same sight picture, so you need to zero your almost nearly every time. Even something as slight as adjusting where you place your cheek against the buttstock will readjust the sight picture.
Even if you’ve spent the entire afternoon getting everything to surgeon-level precision, do it again. Endure whatever asschewing you’ll get from higher ups and belittlement from your peers because you’re not hurrying along.
The only terrible part of the day is having to police call the ammo.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tiffany Edwards)
Firing a weapon is meditative for some people. Leave your stresses and worries at the bleachers because, right now, it’s just you and your firearm. In that brief moment when the range safety calls your lane hot, all you need to think about is hitting the target.
Don’t be intimidated by your weapon. You’re almost certainly safe if you’re on the opposite side of the barrel. There will be a bit of a kick when you fire — that’s normal. If you start anticipating the kick, you’re going to screw up all the four fundamentals because you’ll be more worried about how your weapon nudges your shoulder.
Enjoy the fact that you’re not spending your own money on ammunition or range time. If you miss a target, who cares? Don’t waste ammo trying to shoot that target a second time. The Army’s rifle qualification is 40 targets with 40 rounds. If you fire and the target doesn’t go down, don’t spend two more rounds trying to hit it or else you just screwed yourself out of two more potential hits.
Hate to sound like that guy, but someone else can and will take care of it. Don’t stress.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Lewis)
Don’t: panic if your weapon jams
There’re plenty of different ways that your weapon might act up, preventing you from putting more rounds down range. The easiest fix is simply slapping the bottom of your lowest-bidder magazine to ensure that the next round enters the chamber.
If it’s something that takes more than a few seconds to fix yourself, simply clear your weapon and place it on the sandbags. Explain what happened to the nearest range safety officer and you’ll probably get another crack at qualifications next round.
There is a method to the madness. If your NCO is having you clean them days or weeks after the range (and you already cleaned them then), they’re just looking for busy work.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
Do: clean your weapon afterwords
There’s a very good reason that they tell you to clean every single crevice of your rifle every time. A rifle is made up of many tiny, precise mechanisms that need to be perfectly clean and in order to avoid any kind of malfunction. A small carbon build-up can wreck the chamber of a rifle worse than any kind of mud.
On the bright side, while you’re taking your weapon apart and cleaning it thoroughly, you’ll grow a deeper understanding of how these little parts all work in relation to one another. Before you know it, you’ll think of your rifle as an extension of your body.
With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.