Testosterone, estrogen, and leptin are just a few of the hormones that our bodies naturally produce. These hormones allow us to grow muscle, regulate our reproductive systems, and boost our metabolisms so we can lose weight. However, the stress generated by deployment cycles and our hectic schedules causes the human body to also produce a complex stress hormone, called cortisol.
This vital hormone is created by the adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys.
Cortisol dictates how your body manages the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that you intake during meals. It lowers the amount of inflammation in your body and is one of the contributing factors to the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response.
Experiencing chronic stress makes for increased levels of this powerful hormone. Having too much cortisol results in mood swings, “brain fog,” interrupted sleep patterns, and increased visceral fat (fat stored within the abdominal cavity).
But don’t worry — getting rid of those extra layers on your tummy doesn’t have to be difficult.
If you think your body is having trouble regulating cortisol production, you can go to your doctor and request a saliva test that monitors stress and hormone levels. Even if you don’t have stress-induced love handles, this might be a test worth taking. After all, having too little cortisol can also have negative affects on the body. Low cortisol may result in lowered blood pressure, a loss of appetite, and general fatigue.
Maintaining a healthy cortisol level is as easy as working out a few times per week, improving your social life, and finding time to relax whenever possible. Our bodies weren’t designed to endure constant stress, but the occasionally worry sits with us just fine.
Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre here.
Inspired by the Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, Britain’s Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014.
The prince, who was on hand at the opening ceremony, flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan during his military service.
“Invictus is all about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship, and refused to be defined by their injuries,” he said last night. “Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey to recovery. Above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women, injured or not, provide about the importance of service and duty.
“We made a great start in London in 2014,” he continued. “We took it to the next level in Orlando last year, and over the next week, in this year, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world.”
More than 550 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from 17 nations will compete in 12 sporting events at the Invictus Games, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair basketball. The games run through Sept. 30.
“[There are] more competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families, and more people watching at home than ever before,” Harry said. “With the people in this arena tonight and those watching across Canada and around the world, we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. In the days ahead, I know that many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you’re ready for some fierce competition. I hope you’re ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you’re ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you’re ready to see role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you’re ready to see lives change in front of your eyes.”
Camaraderie Among Athletes
Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, co-captain of the US team, said he thinks his squad will be strongest in rugby, track and field, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and swimming. The camaraderie among the athletes from the respective service branches and other countries has been good, he added.
“I visited with someone from the Netherlands for about 20 minutes this morning,” said Sears, who said his favorite sport is wheelchair racing on the track. “Everybody’s getting along, laughing, and having a smile on their face.”
His mother, Judy Pullin, said she is proud of her son and his team.
“I’m very proud of Ivan. I’m going to be the bragging momma here. He medaled four times here last year. He medaled four golds, and it was just amazing. I was definitely crying,” she said. “These are all athletes. Yes, they may have a disability. They may have something physical or an invisible wound, but you’ve just got to be proud of them.”
Medically retired Cpl. Melanie Harris of the Canadian armed forces, who is competing in compound archery and sitting volleyball, joked that the Canadian motto is, “I’m not sorry.”
“Canadians are known for being sorry but not sorry; however I want them to know they’re always welcome back here,” she said with a laugh. Harris said Canada’s wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball will be among the Canadian team’s best events.
“It’s going to be a great competition,” she said. “We’re going to do great. We will bring some gold home. We don’t mind sharing, too, but whoever wins wins, [and] we’re going to fight for it.”
Harris said her teammates have been taking care of each other and are like family. “We’re all there for each other,” she added.
Medically retired Lance Cpl. Dennis Resell of Denmark’s special operations forces is competing in archery and sitting volleyball. He said he has confidence in his team as well. “We’re going to do great. You can’t beat the Vikings,” he said. “Team Denmark’s biggest strengths are definitely our team spirit and our brotherhood.”
Resell said he enjoys the camaraderie among the athletes and had been looking forward to the opening ceremony. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “Walking in there, people cheering — it’s going to be great.”
The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces from Ottawa and the Royal Regiment Band from Quebec performed as the 550-plus competitors from the 17 participating countries entered the arena. Thailey Roberge of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Elliot Miville-Deschenes of Montreal represented the youth of Canada and hosted the opening ceremonies. They sang “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, and then “Under One Sky” to celebrate the Invictus Games Flag Tour.
As Laura Wright sang the official 2017 Invictus Games song, “Invincible,” more than 200 members of the Canadian Military Wives National Choir joined her. Canadian Rangers marched in bearing the Invictus Games flag and raised it high.
Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan performed “I Will Remember You” and then spoke of the Lighting of the Flame ceremony, which began in Kabul, Afghanistan. The flame passed from Afghan security forces veteran Maj. Ahmad Shahh to retired Canadian Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, official ambassador of the Toronto Games.
Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 organizing committee, said the committee is leveraging most of the infrastructure used in the Pan American Games here in 2015.
“We will be up in Scarborough for swimming. Tomorrow, we will be up at York University at their brand new stadium for athletics. The old Maple Leaf Gardens will be a massive hub of activity. We drained the reflective pool at the Nathan Phillips Square to host wheelchair tennis. We’re hosting archery at Fort York, and we’re using Hyde Park for cycling,” Burns said. “This city is going to be lit up over the next eight days. There isn’t anywhere you’re going to be able to turn and not see a banner or sign or sport competition or the competitors throughout the city enjoying themselves.”
He said the closing ceremony and almost every ticketed sporting competition has sold out.
“Over the next eight days, you will be moved; you will be inspired. You will be entertained. You will see things on the playing field you have never seen before,” he said. “These games aren’t about the finish line. These games are all about making it to the starting line. The men and women who will be competing in these games — talk to any one of them — they’ll tell you that they have been injured as a result of their service. Any one of them has been tested many, many times by faith throughout their careers, and yet they remain undefeated, undiminished, proudly and distinctly unconquered.”
Words of Encouragement
First Lady Melania Trump met with the US team before the ceremony.
“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” she said to the roughly 100 athletes. “I want to wish you good luck, though I know you won’t need it in these games. Take that fighting spirit that I know you have and bring home the gold.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered encouragement to the Invictus Games athletes. “You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win,” he said. “Through your athleticism, through your drive and your competitive spirit, you are showing the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength.”
Actor Mike Myers, Invictus Games 2017 ambassador, said he supports the Invictus Games because they provide the adaptive athletes the ability for rehabilitation, personal achievement and recovery through the power of sports.
“I come from a military family,” he said. “My mother, who passed away in March, was in the Royal Air Force. She’s one of those ladies you see in World War II movies. She would move the fighters toward the incoming Luftwaffe bandits — that’s what my mom would do.
“My father was a royal engineer in the British army and built bridges, cleared minefields,” he continued. “He often recited the unofficial motto of the Royal Engineers: ‘We do the impossible immediately. Miracles take a little longer.’ Mostly, my father spoke about the unbreakable brotherhood of those who served. He remembered the name of every single British soldier he served with, and for every name, [he had] a hilarious story.”
Myers said he’s grateful for those who have and continue to serve.
“Those that serve our country deserve our utmost respect, and all the [veterans] in the Invictus Games have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude from the bottom of my heart,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Thank you very much. What I do for a living is silly, and without brave people who keep us safe, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The Invictus competitors represent the very best of the human spirit, and I know my mother and father would have wanted me to support that spirit, the competitors and the thousands of wounded warriors around the world. I want to thank all the competitors in the Invictus Games, all of the soldiers currently serving and all of the family members and caregivers. The caregivers are the unsung heroes of service to this country and to all countries. Thank you for your service.”
Helping in Recovery
Harry said he created Invictus to help veterans in their recovery. “In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic,” he said, “I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light and show us all that we have a role to play, that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbors and communities. That’s why we created Invictus — not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives.”
As the prince closed the ceremony, he spoke directly to the competitors. “For the next week, we entrust you with the Invictus spirit. You have all come such a long way,” he said. “Some of you have cheated death and have come back stronger than before. Some of you have overcome emotional challenges that, until very recent years, would have seen you written off and ignored. And now you are here, on the world stage, flags on your chest, representing your countries again, supporting your teammates, and looking up into these stands and into the eyes of your families and friends.
“You are all winners,” Harry said to the competitors. “Please don’t forget to love every second of it. Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support and don’t forget you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let’s get started.”
It’s easy to exhibit mental toughness when you know exactly where the fire is coming from, for example, hostile territory or the far side of the range. It’s a lot harder when you’re not sure if your coworkers, a rival company, or the customer standing across from you is your enemy or your ally.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Navy Vet Dr. Seth Hickerson, the CEO of A Boost Above. They specialize in Leadership and Mental Toughness Training. It’s a little different than you may have experienced in the military though…
We talked about mental toughness, education, loneliness, breathing, domestic terrorism, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So hold onto your butts as you jump into this all too familiar rabbit hole.
How is Boost’s mission to defend the nation against domestic terrorism?
Me and my team are Vets…and we signed an oath to support and defend the United States against ALL enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we believe there are domestic institutions that do not have the best interest of our citizens in mind. Rather they are focused on controlling, manipulating, conditioning people to perpetuate hyper-capitalism and elite ideologies…so we wanted to create a company that provides awareness, education, and more importantly, training to help our citizens live their best lives.
We want people to be healthy, happy, and whole…
In our world out there today, it’s all about psychological warfare, and sadly most of our citizens are completely unarmed…so they are in a losing battle. We want to equip them.
The root cause is simple. We are still utilizing antiquated systems and institutions that were designed during the industrial revolution to produce workers instead of thinkers. The world and society has changed exponentially, but we still push people through “systems,” control media, Perpetuate the illusion of “the American dream” all in an attempt to control the masses while also extracting as much money from them as possible before they die…right before they can cash out their 401ks.
Some of the U.S. Army’s Boost trained Medics.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How can Boost help address the loneliness problem that’s running rampant lately?
First by educating and raising awareness as to why we have a loneliness epidemic. Technology is the main culprit…the devices we are using to “connect” us are actually isolating us. We are devolving as a species….Humans are meant to be tribal, communal, social.
We need to interact…face to face…not online.
Also, technology provides people an opportunity to constantly compare themselves to others. But what they are comparing themselves to are illusions. Not reality.
News media perpetuates this by utilizing fear-based sensationalism…they use stimulus content that makes people fearful, racist, divided, and not want to leave their house.
Social media uses fantasy-based sensationalism….the content on there is FANTASY, but people believe it is real. “Why can’t I have the nice car, vacation, job, family,” Why can’t I look like that, cook like that etc. So it makes them feel less than, feel inadequate.
These are just a few things that perpetuate loneliness.
It takes TRAINING to overcome this stuff…and that’s where we come in.
The civilian world may look cuter and nicer than the military but there’s just as much suck that needs to be embraced.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How specifically can Boost be used to help service members transition out of the military more effectively?
The biggest challenge Vets face when transitioning to civilian life is the loss of identity.
Only Less than 1% of our population serves in the military. It is a tight, highly trained fraternity, brotherhood. We think, act, and behave differently.
It is difficult to transition from the warrior mindset to the civilian one.
In my opinion, the ball gets dropped because we don’t do a good job of educating and prepping Vets before this transition happens. Then when they struggle, get depressed, lose confidence etc…we stick them in the “mental illness model” and expect them to sit on couches, treat them like they are broken, and have them “talk about things” with some egg-head who has never served.
Vets need training….we are mission-oriented…always will be…we need tasks and something to work towards…we don’t need talking…we need training.
Boost is training…not therapy.
Dr. H and cohorts spreading techniques that help vets transition out of the military more successfully.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
Can you give a quick rundown of BAMO, why it works, and why everyone should be using the breath to help regulate themselves?
Since we are Vets…we LOVE acronyms. BAMO is one of the first techniques we teach people. It stands for Breathe And Move On. The two most powerful things in a person’s lives are their thoughts and their breath…and most people have NO idea how to control either.
BAMO is a breathing technique we teach that basically shows you how to “flip the switch” from sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic “aka the parachute”….it is what calms you down.
When someone gets scared due to a stimulus that they have perceived as a threat it activates the sympathetic nervous systems and engages the flight, flight or freeze…rapid heart rate, blood restricts only to essential organs, fear/worry mindset, sweating, trembling, breathing rapidly…it’s very hard to perform when this is happening…so you need a quick way to flip the switch to the parasympathetic nervous system…to calm your ass down..even if it’s just for a few seconds so you can execute the task at hand.
We use the 4×4 breathing technique…a simple breathing technique that you have to PRACTICE…four seconds in through the nose, breathing into the belly, then four second exhale through the mouth…..COUNTING to four in your head on the inhale and exhale (hard to think/worry about anything else) when you are counting in your head. The trick is to practice this breathing technique often throughout the day when you AREN’T SCARED or WORRIED…so that your body can adjust to it and then automate it once any negative stimulus comes your way…that’s when you are on the next level.
Dr. H and Boost sponsor all kinds of events that help make their community stronger in their free time.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
At Boost we are very aware of the alarming suicide problem as it pertains to our military Veterans, and we understand they need access to more tools.
We have served on many deployments and multiple combat operations at all levels…from grunts to upper echelon (SEALs and Rangers). We are also PhD’s in Human Performance, Psychology, and Educational Leadership.
Most importantly, we are Vets that want to help Vets.
Vets need to see what they are doing as training…not therapy. The current model promotes and perpetuates a sense of brokenness. And it’s usually led by someone that has “not been there.”
Vets are warriors. They need to be treated accordingly and given the tools in a way that makes sense to them and makes them proud to be doing the training.
So that’s our approach and philosophy.
We believe that by providing a modern and fun, measurable, accessible training systems utilizing technology is imperative. Our unique methodology (mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training, cognitive fitness training, and spec ops training) can give each and every veteran the tools they need to thrive. No insurance, no appointments, no coaches, no BS…and deployable anywhere anytime.
The Marine Corps and Navy have a complicated relationship at sea. There is no shortage of inter-branch jokes at one another’s expense. Time old classics such as, ‘The Marine Corps is the men’s department of the Navy,’ (which is true) does not inspire loyalty while underway. The military branches are brothers in arms, and just like brothers in real life, they like to beat each other. That is, until the president issues the order to liberate a country or provide humanitarian aid. Life’s boring on ship. Naturally Marines and sailors will always find things to bicker about.
1. Waiting in line
An argument between Marines and sailors always breaks out at the head of the line, especially at chow time. The Marine Corps has early chow and late chow. The Navy does as well but they take it to another level. Instead of having a separate line for people on post or at work, and be civilized, they just cut in front of the line like heathens. This, of course, causes problems when one gets between a devil dog and his chow. By the end of the first month it is guaranteed that new rules will be set in place because of the culture clash.
2. E5 and below working parties
Every time there is a RAS, also known as a Resupply at Sea, the intercom will announce an E5 and below working party. The Navy promotes faster, thus, they will have more E5’s than the Marines stationed on board. However, a Marine infantry sergeant who has served multiple combat deployments is going to have a few choice words about doing bush league tasks like that. In the Navy, one doesn’t get respect until they become an E6.
3. Who drinks more
Marines do. This one is a given, Marines can out-drink any sailor in any hemisphere. It’s not even a contest. Also, Corpsman with the Fleet Marine Force count as one of us. So, although a Corpsman maybe out-drinks a Marine it doesn’t count because he’s cool.
4. The gym
The Navy’s version of a POG is a button pusher. The Marines aboard the ship need to weight train because it is part of their job to be in top physical shape. These are the guys who, if the president wants a country invaded in 24 hours, are landing on the beach. The sailor on social media all day in his office doesn’t need to be in the gym. Worst yet, they don’t know how to train correctly and get in the way. Eventually, the ship will have to divide the gym into blocks when one branch has access to it without the other. Marines won’t budge on this one: your ship, our gym, stay out.
5. Extra duties makes everyone extra petty
The ship also needs help with other duties in the kitchen, the ship store, security and watch on the command deck. Drafting Marines into these roles is a double-edged sword. If crew as a whole gets along things will be quiet and uneventful. That’s the exception, not the rule.
Every single one of these altercations will result in pettiness on both sides. The Navy engineers will turn off the air conditioning in the Marine berthing. The Marines running the ship store will give priority to their friends because the sailors cut in line at chow. If a port allows some adventure everyone will be scattered to the wind. If port is limited to a small area with beer, there is probably going to be a fist fight. When sh*t needs to get done, everyone will put their differences aside and accomplish the mission. When there is no clear mission, both branches will always clash underway. ‘Rah.
“UNREP” (short for “underway replenishment”) is the term used to describe the transfer of fuel, food, ammunition, repair or replacement parts, people and mail from supply ships to combatants like frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers.
Simply put, UNREP keeps Navy ships at sea. It’s a dangerous and intense evolution.
UNREP begins by raising the Romeo flag. On the control ship, it means, “I am ready for your approach.” On the approaching ship, it means, “I am commencing.”
One of the most challenging aspects of UNREP is matching the speed of the control ship and steering into position.
Once the ships are on a parallel course, a shotline is sent for the phone and distance (PD) line, which is marked by flags every 20 feet. Once the shotline is fired, sailors on the supply ship catch it like a wedding bouquet.
After the shotline is received, line handlers must haul in the messenger line, which is much heavier.
After the wires and hoses are connected, the teams on deck and in the pump room are ready to begin the transfer of cargo and fuel.
Sailors in the pump room monitor fuel levels…
… while pallets of food, mail, and supplies are transferred topside.
At the same time sailors man the .50 cals, ever-vigilant for threats.
Thousands of pounds of fuel and cargo are transferred between the ships while maintaining the same speed and distance apart.
The exchange can be dangerous for both sides…
Sailors have to watch out for rogue waves.
Helicopters can also be used for resupply …
They call this process “VERTREP,” short for “vertical replenishment.”
Resupplying the ship is an all-hands task. In this photo, sailors and Marines on an amphibious ship form a human chain to transfer packages.
Sometimes ships will tag-team a supply ship to save time. In this photo, two missile destroyers — an Arleigh Burke class and a Ticonderoga class — are attached to the USNS Lenthall (T-AO 189).
Sometimes an UNREP could go well into evening…
… and package distribution could go on for hours after the ships have disconnected.
But, the long hours and hard work pay off when you receive a care package from home; it’s like Christmas.
We all know them quite well considering we screamed them from the top of our lungs while wearing full PT gear and running through our respective bases.
We’re talking about our beloved military cadences.
The same ones that sound incredibly catchy but are used to keep service member tactfully in line during a run formation. Sometimes they’re even hilarious and surprisingly helpful for morale.
After we collected our DD-214s, we practically sprinted off base with every intention of never looking back, but once you hear one of those motivating songs, the military mindset kicks in, taking you right back in time to the good ol’ days of group PT.
Our mothers put up with so much and they never get the credit or recognition they deserve. They carried us for nine months, spent every waking moment of our first few years diligently caring for us, and tried their best to make us our best. Then, after we turn 18, we go to war and we stop calling.
We rarely ask for their advice and often jump face-first into the very potholes they told us to avoid — and still, they couldn’t be any prouder.
This one goes out to all you lovely military moms out there. This is why you’re the best.
The “My child is an Airman/Soldier/Marine/Sailor” bumper sticker is far more impressive than any college.
(Photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Carter)
They’re brought into the military life while stuck with civilians
More often than not, our mothers don’t really get a say on whether we join the military. Sure, she’ll be a little disappointed when it finally sets in that their kid isn’t going to be a millionaire brain surgeon who can afford to buy her a beautiful mansion (sorry, mom, but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen with my high-school grades), but they’re still proud of their baby.
Next, they’re sucked into the military lifestyle and there’s no way of backing out. They’ll try to move on as if everything is normal, but they’ll find that their patience with civilian moms will quickly wear thin.
The pain is all worth it for the moment that plane lands, though.
(Photo by Capt. Richard Packer)
They’re heartbroken almost the entire time we’re gone
Deployments are rough on everyone. In our absence, friends we once knew change entirely and even some lovers fade away. But our mommas will always remain. They’ll never stop thinking of us as their babies.
Sure, most moms can keep their composure in front of others, but there isn’t a moment that goes by that they’re not thinking of us.
They may not get info on the exact moment you’re landing until just hours beforehand, but you can be certain they’ll be there!
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)
They go months without knowing if we’re okay
Communications blackouts are no joke. When something major happens, troops will be told to cut off all communication with the folks back home. These blackouts happen without notice.
Not to make everyone feel horribly guilty, but, uh… sometimes we tend to do this accidentally by using our few phone calls back home to check up on our significant other instead of letting our mothers know that we’re doing fine.
And in return, one of the few gifts we can give back is allowing them to pin rank on our uniforms. It may not seem like much but, to them, it means the world.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alana Langdon)
They’re always on-point with care packages
Without exception, care packages are loved and appreciated by deployed troops. It’s always nice when schools, churches, and other organizations send out the standard collection of socks, baby powder, and Girl Scout Cookies, but our moms know how to out-do everyone.
Our moms have read through every single article on the internet about care packages and what to put in them. They’ll toss in home-made cookies, personal photos, and things we’ll actually cherish while deployed. After all, mom knows best.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)
They do everything in their power to keep you stress-free
If there’s one skill that every mother learns to master over 18+ years of childrearing, it’s how to handle insane and ridiculous problems. Putting out match-sized fires is nothing when they’ve learned to deal with forest fires.
You might realize it, but our moms are our best friends while we’re deployed. They’re our bakers, our financial advisers, our babysitters, our confidants, our emotional rock, and, if you’re like me and had the pleasure of enduring a deteriorating marriage while deployed, our enforcers (my mom is badass like that).
Above all, your mother is the one woman on this Earth who will love you most.
Nobody wants to hear the phrase, “suck it up, buttercup.” But there’s a reason for it outside of being plain rude. The fact is, there isn’t much to be gained by complaining about something uncomfortable to others that are stuck in the same suck.
Think about it this way: it’s like being stuck down in a well with a few others. What good does it do for anyone if you start whining about how you hate wells?
Everyone around you is dealing with the same problems. You can either work on improving what you can change, embrace the things you can’t, and joke about the suck with everyone else — or you could just get out. These are the comfort zones you’ll learn to abandon by joining the military.
Nobody wants to wake up early. Nobody. It’s impossible for any human being to willingly enjoy the idea of getting less sleep because they feel the need to get some physical exercise. If that does describe you, I seriously doubt that you’re a human being, but rather some sort of autonomous robot.
We do it because we must.
The human body
Before you know it, you’ll end up in communal showers. There, you’ll see plenty and plenty will see you.
And we’re not talking about exposed genitalia — you’ll get over that real quick. You’ll see sores, fluids, and all sorts of nastiness that some happens to the human body during a deployment. If you’re a medic or Corpsman, expect your friends to randomly ask, “hey, doc, does this look infected to you?”
It’s not just knee and back pain, or “weakness leaving your body” as the PT instructor calls it. That’s guaranteed. Expect an amount of unnecessary physical pain. If your battle buddy is an idiot, expect to get smoked with them. If they have a loud mouth at the bar, expect to get punched in the face at least once throughout your career.
Just get used to waking up in the morning and wondering what happened to your 18-year-old body. Be prepared to ask yourself why you’re complaining about the same pains as your grandmother.
Lack of personal space
If you maintain a personal space bubble and feel awkward when someone comes within a foot of you, curb it. You probably shouldn’t be claustrophobic either.
You won’t have any room to do anything or anywhere to be by yourself.
Sharing personal details
Don’t feel like spending 12 hours at a time with the options of staring at a blank wall or talking with some random person? Too bad. You’re about to turn into Forrest Gump and tell them everything.
Learning you’re not special
Individualism is a blight on the uniformed services. It’s “one team, one fight,” not “everyone plus this guy.” This rule applies to everyone — and not just the person crying because Sergeant gave them a dirty look. Even the troop that is damn-near Captain America is guilty if they start demanding the military start handing out opportunities.
The military doesn’t owe anyone anything unless it’s earned. And even earning something doesn’t mean the door is now open for making more demands.
The Silver Star is currently the third-highest award for valor in combat. The decoration is given to those that exhibit exemplary courage in the face of the enemy. For reference, there are only three women in history that have garnered the honor. The first woman since WWII to earn this prestigious medal did so by directly engaging in combat with the enemy.
When Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester joined the military in 2001, neither she nor anyone else would have guessed that she would be the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star. Hester was assigned to 617th Military Police Company, National Guard, Richmond, KY. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened right before Hester was shipped off to basic training. Soon after Hester completed training in 2004, she deployed to Iraq.
On one particular convoy, in Baghdad, the Humvee ahead of Hester was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Explosions and gunshots rang out while Hester followed her squad leader, Sgt. Timothy Nein, as they positioned themselves in front of a trench and fired back. After 45 minutes of taking enemy fire, the ordeal had ended.
Although three of Hester’s team members were injured, all of them survived the firefight. Hester and Nein received Silver Stars for their actions that saved their whole squad from insurgent attack.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of veterans looking to service and therapy animals to aid them through daily life. These faithful companions help vets navigate through various environments, provide crucial emotional support, and retrieve beers from the fridge (we wish).
Now, before anything else, let’s answer the important question: Yes, you can still pet these animals as long as the owner gives you permission.
Since our little buddies have thoughts and emotions just like us, they need to find a way to relay information. After a while, humans pick up on the little personality quirks that our furry friends put out there, like tapping the water bowl with a paw when they’re thirty or standing next to the door when it’s time to pee.
These tiny messages are easy to pick up if you’re paying attention, but some other messages are so subtle that you need to be a dog whisperer to understand. So, to help you out, we’ve compiled a brief list of those important messages.
We’ve all seen a happy puppy quickly wag their tail when excited to see their owner. On the contrary, when a pup’s tail slows down, it’s not because they’re tired — it’s because you confused the sh*t out of them. They don’t know what you want them to do. Slow down and be clear with your commands.
A tucked tail
While humans show emotion using their eyes, a dog shows it through their tail. If your service animal tucks their tail between their legs, it’s a sign that they’re nervous and afraid of feeling pain.
Dogs carefully examine new environments. When they’re settling in and paying close attention, they’ll shift their ears up and forward.
Resting their head on you
Humans require attention from their peers every now and then — your service animal is no different. When your little best friend walks up to you and puts his or her head on you, it’s because they want to be noticed.
Working out your core is one of the toughest and most painful parts of any exercise routine. Putting strain on your torso and getting that unique, deep burn isn’t a very appealing prospect to most people — they’d rather be making gains in their arms or chest.
Planking primarily targets your core muscles, like the hip abductors, pelvic floor, lower back, and lower chest. During a plank, all of these structures must work in concert to hold up the body’s weight, strengthening the entire group with a single exercise. Although most people only hold the position for between 30 and 60 seconds, this brief moment can feel like a freakin’ eternity.
To help all you hopefuls looking to strengthen your core, we’ve come up with a few proven remedies to get your mind off the anguish. Use these tips to hold a plank for long periods of time, build core strength, and, most importantly, get those abs to pop out.
As you hold a plank, your body will tire out. Your torso will let your brain know it’s getting sore via pain receptors. Although it’s wise to listen to your body, at times like these, it’s better to distract yourself from every little message sent to the brain. A great way to do this is by focusing on your breathing.
Breathing deeply relaxes your body and blocks out distracting thoughts like, “when the hell will this exercise be over?” The next time you decide to shoot for a 45-to-60-second plank, inhale in on a 4-count and exhale for just as long. After just fifteen inhales and exhales, you’ll be at the 1-minute mark.
Working out is meant to break you down physically. It takes mental strength to push through discomfort. That’s exactly why so many people hire trainers — for outside motivation that pushes them through those last, crucial minutes of intense training.
If you don’t want to shell out cash for a trainer, there are other ways to find the motivation to get into tip-top shape. Many people watch cool motivational YouTube clips to distract the mind and block out the physical pain. Via that smartphone you keep in your pocket at all times, you can quickly view a “moto” clip (like the one below) to get you through those final seconds of your plank.
As with any other exercise, there are many variations of planks, each designed to focus on the various muscles that make up your core. You can use this information to your abdominal advantage. If you start out in a four-point plank and fatigue sets in, modify the exercise and move into a side plank.
The idea is to build up your strength gradually — go until you can’t.
Everyone likes music. There’s no doubt that you’ve memorized a few verses during all those hours you’ve logged listening to the radio. So, as you set out to challenge your body via planking, start reciting a 45-to-60-second song verse in your head — not out loud — to get you through the tough, physical static hold.
With more than 200 USO locations throughout the world, their mission never ends, connecting American’s troops to their friends and families back home.
For more than seven decades, the USO — or United Service Organizations — has thrived on boosting the morale of service members stationed around the globe with various musical performances and celebrity appearances.
Famous for entertaining the troops, the USO has established a program that will continue to support service members as they transition back into civilian life called Pathfinder.
Cpt. Jason Pak takes time with his interpreter for a quick photo op during his Afghanistan deployment.
The USO Pathfinder transition program offers personalized and hands-on services to those exiting from their military obligation.
USO Pathfinder services are co-located with USO centers at 13 locations across the U.S. for one-on-one support.
This Pathfinder program connects service members and military spouses to the resources that are best fit for them across a variety of focus areas, including employment, education, financial readiness, veteran’s benefits, housing, legal family strength wellness, and volunteerism.
The Marine Corps’ last Mounted Color Guard, housed at the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, launches into the year 2017 and its 50th year of service.
“In 1966, Lt. Col. Robert Lindsley came to MCLB Barstow (after serving in) Vietnam,” explained Sgt. Terry Barker, MCG stableman.
“At that time a lot of the dependent children from base would take horses from the stables and ride them out in town in parades. Rather than the kids riding in the parades, Lindsley decided that we needed to have the Marines riding with the horses, so in 1967 he stood up the official Marine Mounted Color Guard here.”
The stables were renamed to honor Lindsley as the founder of the MMCG during a ceremony held on base in April of 2010.
Lindsley, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born into a military family then joined the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine in December 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1950, he was commissioned and after several assignments, he was stationed at MCLB Barstow where he was assigned to the Center Stables Committee, which later became the Mounted Color Guard.
Though there were multiple MCGs initially, MCLB Barstow is now home to the last remaining MCG throughout the Marine Corps. They travel far and wide to participate in events from coast to coast.
“Depending on budget and scheduling, we might be in events from California to Louisiana, Florida to D.C., Tennessee to Oregon,” Barker said.
“We cover the four corners of this country.”
There are some events that they never miss, such as the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif. every January. In that event, the MMCG always leads the parade and is the only unit to hold the American Flag. As a recruiting tool, the MCG reaches areas of the country where the Marine Corps is not otherwise represented.
“We have big bases in California, North Carolina and Okinawa,” Barker said. “There are states in the mid-west where there are no Marine Corps bases, active or reserve. So, when we participate in rodeos, parades, or monument dedications, we are quite possibly the only Marines in the entire state. Everybody sees Marines on television, or in the news, but they rarely get to stand next to them, shake their hand and talk to them. That’s what we get to do.”
The horses and Marines train together daily, and always travel together.
“We have a truck and trailer, and wherever they go, we go,” Barker said. The Marines often go so far as to sleep in the truck and trailer, rather than reserving hotel rooms, in order to save money and stay as close as they can to the horses to ensure safety.
“Another benefit is we can get them ready earlier,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG Stableman. “Also we have to stay with our horses if they are not in a stables area.”
All of the travel can be difficult, but Cummins said it’s nothing like a deployment.
“For me, my wife is pretty conditioned to it,” he said. “It’s the kids that make it hard sometimes. They don’t know why you have to go.”
It helps to come back and get into a regular routine with family, as well as the horses.
“Our daily regimen (at the stables) depends on what’s going on, as far as events,” Barker explained. “We get here at 7 a.m. and feed and water the horses, and muck the stalls out. As Marines, we still have jobs to do as well, plus ground work, saddle training, and ranch maintenance.”
“For our maintenance training and farrier work we have Terry Holliday, a contractor,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG stableman. “Each Marine is assigned to two horses to work with daily, and if any Marines are out, we cover their horses, too.”
Much has changed over the years, to include the procurement and initial training practices for the horses. In the early stages, Lindsley went to Utah with $600 to purchase horses for use with the MCG Marines.
“The horses we use today are all obtained through the Horse and Burro Program out of Carson City, Nevada,” explained Barker. “From there, they go through an inmate rehabilitation program, where the inmates get the horses to where they are green-broke, which means you can approach them, touch them, and touch their feet and so forth.”
Some of the Marines assigned to the MCG, such as Barker and Cummins, as well as two other riders, Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, and Lance Cpl. Alicia Frost, have prior experience riding and working with horses. However, most of the riders assigned to the MCG, such as Sgt. Moises Machuca and Sgt. Miguel Felix who are both currently with the team, did not have any experience with horses prior to their arrival. It is Holliday’s task to train the Marines to ride the horses effectively. The Marines learn basics first, such as the use of saddles, rein work, the various types of bridles and their functions, as well as how to make contact with the animals.
“They may come to the MCG without experience, but these are Marines and they’re the best of the best, so they do this like they do everything else,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Atkinson, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mounted Color Guard. “They work hard and become the best. It’s an honor to represent the Marine Corps in such a manner.”