Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys

At a distance it looks like an American Flag, but a closer inspection reveals it’s also an army – one comprised of 4,466 toy soldiers.


High school senior Jacob Feazel from Peru, Indiana created a 4’x6′ American flag using the classic plastic toy ‘army guys.’

In an interview with WishTV,  he said, “The soldiers are what make the U.S. free, you know? They fight for us so I figured it’s honoring them by putting them in the flag.”

Once he was done, his parents posted photos of the patriotic project on Facebook. That gallery has been shared over 188,000 times.

Feazel has received multiple offers to buy his creation, and Grissom Air Reserve base has expressed interest in displaying it. Aside from entering it into a scholarship competition and local art shows, he plans on keeping it.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
(Photo: Stacey Feazel’s Facebook page)

Want to make your own ‘Army Guy American Flag”? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4,466 toy soldiers (in 7 different poses)
  • A 4’x6′ wood board
  • 20-30 cans of spray paint (red, white, and blue)
  • Glue, lots of glue
MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

Two sets of twins leave Coastie couple seeing double

Charlie and Tae Willis found each other in the most unexpected place. Both active duty in the Coast Guard, Tae was lost at her new duty station in Hawaii — like, literally lost. Charlie, being the gentleman that he was, helped her get where she was going. The rest is history. They were married not long after.

Both are operations specialists who say they love their jobs. Their roles require them to provide around the clock command, control, communications, planning, and response to emergent events like search and rescue, pollution, or other serious maritime incidents.

Their Coast Guard careers brought them to Virginia after they were married, and they say they held off on having children right away.

“We wanted to wait, love on each other, and travel a bit first,” Tae said.

A few years later, when they were ready to add a child to the mix, they got two.

The first set of Willis twins, Aria and Bryson, were born on December 12, 2019. Though it was a surprise for them, it wasn’t completely unexpected.

“Twins do run in our families. I have an aunt and uncle who are twins,” Charlie explained.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Charlie Willis with the couple’s oldest twins. Courtesy photo.

He jokingly blamed Tae for the multitude of babies because she kept telling him she wanted to have two children before they left Virginia for a new duty station.

“I told her you weren’t specific in your prayer,” Charlie laughed, adding he takes some of the blame too because he always wanted four children in all. “I guess I wasn’t specific enough in my prayers either. I’m just going to stop saying anything at all.”

This is because three months after their babies were born, they found themselves pregnant again. Charlie shared that they were watching Netflix when he noticed his wife with a peculiar look on her face. He asked her what was wrong and she said “I’m late.”

“I said late for what? You aren’t working right now,” he said, laughing.

Tae was still on maternity leave from having Bryson and Aria. She was too scared to look at the home pregnancy test they took a little bit later, so he did.

“I was like, oh we are good. There’s a solid line and a faint line and she said, ‘wait, what?’ So, I looked at the box and realized what it meant and said are you kidding me!”

The shock and awe would keep coming when they made their way to the ultrasound room a month later. Two heartbeats were blinking back at them on that screen.

“The shock is funny. People would ask me when I was pregnant what I was having, and I’d say two boys. Then they’d say what did you have last time, and I’d tell them a boy and a girl. Their response is always ‘wait … what,’” Tae said through laughter.

She gets a lot of ‘wait, whats’ and ‘are you serious’ from most people she encounters.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Tae Willis with the couple’s newest additions. Courtesy photo.

One of the first things the Willises did was upgrade their car to a van. Cayden and Dakari, the second set of twins, were born on Nov. 18, 2020 — 11 months after their brother and sister. The babies’ names go in the order of the alphabet — yes, that was definitely on purpose.

“Life is tiresome — we don’t know the meaning of sleep anymore. But life is good,” Tae said. “We are new parents and doing it all over again … it’s been a little hectic in the house.”

Thankfully, the Willises said they have a lot of support from their friends and family. Both shared that the command and team they work with at their units have also been a big help as well.

So, what do the older siblings think of their new baby brothers? Not a whole lot, just yet.

“They mostly just stare at them and then they go on and play,” Tae said. Right after their new brothers were born, Bryson and Aria learned to walk.

Both Charlie and Tae will soon be returning to work. This will pose a bit of a challenge for the family in terms of childcare costs. The teams at both of their units realized this immediately and put their heads together to see how they could help the family. The U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association stepped in to do a fundraiser, and an Amazon wishlist was also created for those looking to support the family in any way. One thing always in need: diapers. Mountains of diapers.

While the couple said they aren’t positive another Coastie family doesn’t have double twins, they are pretty sure they win the award as the only dual-enlisted couple with double the love. Despite the challenges and lack of sleep, the Willis family counts their blessings — all four of them — every single day.

Looking for a way to help this new, growing family? Click here to visit a curated Amazon list for the Willis family.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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Joe Galloway of ‘We Were Soldiers’ fame passed away at 79

Joe Galloway is best known for his coverage of the Vietnam War. Embedded with the 1st Cavalry Division, he was present at the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. His experience at Ia Drang served as the basis of his book “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.” On August 18, 2021, Galloway passed away at the age of 79.

A native of Refugio, Texas, Galloway got his start in the news industry in Texas and Kansas. While working for United Press International, he was sent to Vietnam to cover the development of the war in 1965.

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The Battle of Ia Drang was the first large scale helicopter air assault (U.S. Army)

Galloway was embedded with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. When the unit engaged with PAVN forces at the Battle of Ia Drang on November 14, Galloway caught a Huey to cover the engagement. During the battle, Galloway met the commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, Lt. Col. Harold ‘Hal’ Moore. The two men would become close friends as a result of their shared experience. Moore would rise to the rank of Lt. Gen. and co-authored “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” with Galloway.

The Battle of Ia Drang was a bloody one that lasted six days. Galloway himself recalled it as the “biggest battle of Vietnam, the bloodiest battle of Vietnam.” The fighting was so intense that he was forced to take part in it despite being a reporter. Galloway took up arms against the enemy to save himself and the soldiers around him.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Galloway in Vietnam in 1965 (The Vietnam War Summit)

Under heavy enemy fire, he even carried a badly wounded soldier to safety. “People died all around me. I had their blood on my hands. I carried dying boys. I carried ammo. I carried water,” Galloway recounted of the battle. “And I carried a rifle, and I made use of it.” For his actions at Ia Drang, Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star with V device for valor in 1998. He is the only civilian to receive a medal for valor from the Army during the Vietnam War.

Galloway’s experience at Ia Drang changed him. “I was somebody when I went to Vietnam. I was somebody else when I came out,” he said. Galloway went on to work for other publications after Vietnam. He covered the Gulf War and reported on two tours to Iraq. In 2006, he retired from journalism.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Galloway speaks at a Leader Professional Development session (U.S. Army)

Galloway’s legacy is preserved in his book, but also in the movie that it inspired. The 2002 film We Were Soldiers features actor Barry Pepper depicting Galloway and Mel Gibson depicting Moore. In 2008, Galloway and Moore released a second book, We are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam. Galloway also consulted on a PBS documentary about the Vietnam War and narrated another Vietnam War documentary, A Flag Between Two Families.

Galloway’s service to the soldiers of the Vietnam War was exemplary. At his Bronze Star ceremony, Maj. Gen. Allan Elliott called Galloway a “national treasure.” His dedication to the troops whose stories he told ensured that their service and sacrifices did not go unnoticed.

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Galloway receives a branding iron following a screening of We Were Soldiers to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas (U.S. Army)

Feature Image: Marines give Joe Galloway a bird’s eye view of Haditha (DVIDS Hub)

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Video game writer, novelist and Marine sergeant Justin Sloan shares his life journey

Writer for the “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” video games and science-fiction novelist Justin Sloan once lived a warrior life in the Marines before following his artistic passions. The former Marine sergeant gives us the skinny on his passion for the Corps, transitions into government finance and then to the world of writing. In a continuing series that features former and retired Marines and their contributions to entertainment, We Are The Mighty asked Sloan to discuss how his past led to the present and to provide learning points he gathered along the way.

Sloan was born and grew up in the state of Washington and he had, “a good childhood.” He went to a public school system and took a lot of the opportunities offered to him. He grew up next to his best friend in school that later joined the Marines with him. He also convinced a few more of his buddies to join the Corps as well and about six of them went off to join the Marines together. He wrote and illustrated comics in his youth and considered being an artist at the time. He was initially informed by a guidance counselor, incorrectly, that the only creative profession he could pursue was as an advertising executive. That didn’t interest him, so he looked elsewhere for a career.

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Sloan with his sister and great grandmother. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

While in high school, Sloan met a Japanese teacher that changed his life forever. In his junior year he signed up for the Japanese course and the teacher turned his life around. He had a less-than-ideal grade point average before taking the class and vastly improved his grades after being in it. The teacher allowed Sloan to take three Japanese classes at one time to include first, second-and third-year Japanese. His mother told him if he got a 4.0 GPA, she would pay for half of his trip to Japan. When he did, although she was surprised, she kept her word. He paid for the other half of the trip working a dishwashing job.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan with his cousin. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

He learned that, “If I work hard, then I can see results, and getting straight As was not that hard. Japan was mind-blowing when I went where they had cell phones in 1999 which America did not. The trip was a big part of me in joining the Marines.” Sloan’s love for the Japanese culture drove him to join the Corps and he specifically requested Okinawa as his first duty station. In preparation for going to boot camp, Sloan, “watched a lot of Full Metal Jacket to get in the right mindset.”

In the Corps, Sloan was a Cryptologic Linguist (MOS 2673). His fluency in Japanese played a large role in getting the specialty and he studied Kung Fu while stationed in Okinawa. Sloan did want to be a “ninja” once he graduated from boot camp and his martial arts training would come later in his career. His job required him to review numbers and codes. He worked with code machines using propeller logic and cards that were fed into machines. That job was phased out, so he was given the MOS of Special Intelligence System Administrators (MOS 2651) and did Special Security Officer (SSO) work, working on clearances for Marines in the unit and determining if they were allowed in the Security Compartment Information Facility (SCIF). His service in Japan was busy and kept him focused on his intelligence specialty.

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Sloan during his time in the Corps. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

Sloan was highly interested in studying the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and the Marine Corps warrior ethos had been a key motivator for him to join. He became a MCMAP instructor and a Kung Fu instructor. Sloan shared, “MCMAP reinforced the positives of the Corps for me and saved me from not reaching my highest potential in the Marines….the whole warrior ethos training and going over the Medal of Honor winners…it helped motivate us…and MCMAP helped me appreciate everyone in a more professional manner.” He was one of the first Marines in the fleet to be trained in MCMAP as the Corps had just switched from the Close Combat training program. Sloan, “thoroughly enjoyed the warrior ethos training….and was a black belt instructor in MCMAP,” by the time his service ended. He earned the secondary MOS of 8551 – Martial Arts Instructor. He left the Corps to pursue his desire to have a family and be settled in one place. He taught Muay Thai kickboxing for years after he got out of the Marines and he continued pursuing the warrior ethos learned while in the Marines. He trained in Japan, Thailand and Italy in martial arts. 

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Sloan standing next to a Vietnamese tank. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

Sloan decided to do professional schooling and he just, “rolled right into the education, which was a lot of fun.” He earned a BA in Japanese from the University of California, San Diego and he studied abroad at Keio University for Japanese and then Kyung Hee University to study Korean for the State Department’s Critical Language Program in Suwon, South Korea. He earned his Master of Arts in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins. He took his education and worked for the Department of Commerce as a Management Analyst/International Trade Specialist.

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Sloan winning a fight. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

During this period, he was a part of the, “…Presidential Management Fellowship Program, which is a fast-track system, which I was invited to join, where it was exciting to participate in…” Sloan was then selected for a position in the Commerce Department called the, “…Post Conflict and Reconstruction for a couple of years where we were basically working with policy…with how the government can go get involved in post-conflict situations and help stability like Sudan and Haiti just after the earthquake….to get the economy moving.” His experience as an analyst led to him working for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco as a Supervisory Analyst and Country Manager. He wrote political, economic and banking analysis papers on Asia while at the bank.

After working at the reserve bank, he decided it was time to go back to his creative roots. “My life came full circle to where when I was 12, I was drawing comics and trying to design a video game with a friend then. We reached out to video game companies and were trying to sell them on it. They responded with, ‘You are like 12 and this is not how we do things.’ (In 2010) I had started writing books about my experiences and adventures overseas seeing the world,” which was based on encouragement by his grandmother. He had just taken a class on the Peloponnesian War, which he used as inspiration for his first book. He wrote his first fiction book on what he had done in a Peloponnesian War setting. He completed it in three months and found out how much he loved writing.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan coaching a kickboxing fight. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

He decided to start down the path of being creative and did a lot of networking. Sloan completed a Master of Arts in creative writing from Johns Hopkins during this period as well. He had conversations with anyone in the field who would talk with him. Through networking, he was able to secure a job with Telltale games in 2014. Telltale was hailed as the “HBO of gaming,” by the New York Times. Sloan said, “They really liked my writing samples and screenplays I had done at that time.” He brought his experience with war games at the Commerce Department into gameplay during his interview.  Sloan credits his experience in the Corps with getting his first job as well. “The experience in the Marines really helped, to where a lot of employers are looking at that past experience and thinking this is someone who is reliable, dependable and someone who cares about their country.”

He was a writer on video games such as “Minecraft: Story Mode,” “The Walking Dead: Michonne” and “Game of Thrones.” He was also a contributing writer on “Tales from the Borderlands.” He eventually moved on to a different firm in video game writing and then on to being a full-time novelist. His proudest achievement thus far has been, “…working on the ‘Game of Thrones’ games. Waiting for the ‘Game of Thrones’ book is what spurred me on to write my first novel….it was a full circle process….I worked on a mobile ‘Avengers’ game which was great too….I am proud of my own novels as well where it was just me working on the book.”

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan during his time at the Commerce Department with Secretary Locke. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

Sloan credits Corps values such as, “…camaraderie where a lot of veterans out there want to keep loyalty and brotherhood together and we are part of the community….some veterans throw that away once they get out which I don’t understand….We get ahead by working together and I have had good experiences with veteran groups in entertainment. We should rise up together as, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’” He credits the Marine leadership traits in leading artists and co-authors, “…it is about knowing how to treat the people who work for you… Hiring fellow veterans for a project or job to work on feels great and you know what you are getting. Hiring civilians, you get a broader range of what they can and can’t do. In some essence, I prefer to hire veterans because you know what you are getting into.”

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan during his time at the Japanese Research Internship. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.


Sloan believes Marine Corps values can find their way into Hollywood by “…maintaining our camaraderie and working together after our time in service. We need to find more of a J.R.R. Tolkien style of Inklings (author C.S. Lewis was part of the group) where they all worked together. They shared their poetry. They came up together where if we could get more involved like that it would be awesome. We need to find civilian groups that have similar values as the Marine Corps. Some people are too busy asking, ‘How can you help me?’ and don’t get the long-term approach.”

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan at Telltale 2014. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

He commented that Marine Corps stories can find their way into Hollywood “by working together more. When trying to sell a screenplay it is about you and why would we want to work with you. It is not just about your screenplay and being awesome. It is about selling you and the big picture view.” Sloan brings up how, “I recently wrote a story on a Marine that gets in trouble in Thailand. It is a personal story I can sell because it comes from me. I lived in Asia and was in the Marines where I can understand what my character is going through…People then have a reason to believe in you.” 

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan at the Disney D23 Conference. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

Sloan likes filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and his, “poetry between the lines.” In Sloan’s first novel, he wrote to ensure having the “military between the lines,” to make it real and as if it was a part of him in the writing. He described, “You must impart your sense of ideals and for your time in the military….you can stress when telling people about the story.” Sloan wants to get into directing his own films here next. He has taken storyboard classes and finds his transition to be “the next logical progression.”

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan at the NETWO Writer’s Conference. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan.

He has spoken at the Austin Film Festival, LA Comic-Con and San Francisco Writers Conference. He optioned a TV show recently as well. He is going to be spending the next two years focusing on studying directing. He shared his insights: “You will have a couple of years of low times when pursuing your dream, but I have had some great years as a writer as well.” Sloan offers these insights and words of encouragement for those seeking to journey into the creative side of Hollywood. His journey, as with others, requires patience, perseverance and a purpose-driven focus. Sloan’s novels include “Gateway to the Universe: In Bad Company,” “Claimed by Honor,” “Justice is Calling” and “Shadow Corps.” 

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
Sloan at the Austin Film Festival as a panelist. Photo courtesy of Justin Sloan. 
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This Army program is launching co-working spaces for milspouses

Last year, the Army announced its new initiative to provide workspace for military spouses, complete with comfy chairs, desk space and reliable Wi-Fi. The initiative is part of growing efforts across the branch to provide more stable working conditions for military spouses, who often have difficulty finding work through frequent moves. 

It’s no secret that military spouses — and their careers — often take a huge hit with each PCS. There’s the inability to find a new job, or simply not being able to gain tenure with a single company. Add in stigmas about sudden PCSs, and the hits just keep on coming. 

For many military spouses, this has meant finding work that they can do remotely or even starting a business of their own. The former was only increased through the COVID-19 pandemic. Army spouses across all bases were working from home offices, or even looking for office space to rent in order to maintain their careers. Of course, both options came with problems — the former with distractions at home and the latter is expensive.

Enter the new workspace initiative. 

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A Soldier walks into Graham Hall, where transition briefings occur. The spouse work spaces are strategically located in the basement of the same area with the Soldiers so they can also receive briefings as well as training, career and collaboration opportunities. Senior leaders of Fort Knox say they are working to provide spouses access to as much of the same opportunities as their Soldiers. (Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News)

Powered by the Army Quality of Life Task Force, military spouse coworking spaces are slotted to land in eight bases in the U.S. 

Fort Belvoir, Virginia opened its space this March, located in the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center. Where the co-working area now sits was once a barely-used respite lounge, said Lisa Marie Riggins, president and CEO of USO Metro. Wanting to do the project justice, the USO donated $80,000 and dedicated the space toward working spouses. 

Space that’s now open to Fort Belvoir spouses includes state-of-the-art workspaces with new tech for video calls, noise-canceling telephone booths, an equipped conference room, outdoor seating space, ergonomic features and a coffee bar/lounge area.

Work has also begun at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with plans to open later in 2021. 

Additional coworking locations are planned for Fort Drum, New York; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and West Point, New York. 

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Command Sgt. Maj. William Fogle, senior enlisted advisor at Fort Knox Garrison, provides a look at one of five offices that Fort Knox will soon be providing for spouses who want a work space outside the home. (Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News)

The program was announced in December of 2020 by Lt. Col. Keith Wilson, a regional director for the Soldier for Life Program. 

Wilson said a survey was sent out among service members, revealing that spouse work situations are a large factor in soldiers’ decision to stay in the Army. The survey was sent out in 2019 through Hiring Our Heroes. Of those answering, 48% of soldiers whose spouses had an upper-level degree said they considered leaving the military to allow for better employment options for their spouses; 40% of all participants said the same, regardless of their spouse’s education.

Spouses responded that they work remotely in order to add income to their family, find fulfillment and utilize upper-level degrees, whether that’s done through a home office or at various Wi-Fi spots near their current duty station, either on or off post. 

“While most of our installations offer quality education centers, libraries and cyber cafes, none offer dedicated professional workspace focused on our self-employed and remote-working military spouses. That needs to change,” Wilson said.

Feature image: USO courtesy graphic

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Why you should be using your VA Loan for investment properties

Have you ever had one of those lightbulb moments that flips your perspective upside down? I had one of those exactly five years ago while training to be a copilot on the mighty CH-53E at MCAS New River, NC. I still remember talking to my dad on the phone after the oncoming duty-stander reported late at night and turned over the watch with me. “I don’t care if the market crashes!” I proclaimed into the phone.

That was a powerful statement to say out loud and it felt especially good saying it to my dad, who was very conservative financially. Our family lived like royalty when my family lived in Ukraine for the better part of two decades, but coming back to the United States created all sorts of financial turmoil.

Of course, the somewhat hot-headed remark begged the question, “Well, why the hell don’t you?”

”Because we’ve been thinking about real estate investing all wrong,” I continued. “We shouldn’t rely on an unpredictable market to control our return on investment. I don’t care about appreciation anymore, I care about monthly income, or cash flow. From now on, we are going to look for properties that put money in our pockets every dang month.

You could almost hear the audible click over the phone line. A light bulb had just gone off.

The phone conversation continued for another hour or so before we finally hung up and decided to talk about real estate some more the next day.

Let me take a quick step back and make sure we are all on the same page here. The epiphany moment I had five years ago – I was so passionately trying to pass on to my dad over the phone – was simple, yet incredibly powerful. What I realized was what my family valued more even than a large heap of cash in my savings account was a consistent stream of income. To put it bluntly, I wanted to create streams of mini pensions through multiple rental properties to pay for all our regular expenses and then some. I wanted this because I wanted to be financially free.

Why did I ever think that buying a house and waiting for it to appreciate was the right way to invest? If that was the case, another 2008 real estate crash would surely ruin everything.

Realizing there was a different way to invest in real estate was almost nauseating because of how mad it made me for not understanding or learning about it earlier in life. My next thought was, “Why doesn’t EVERY eligible service member use their VA Loan then?” After all, as long as the rent was high enough to cover the mortgage, a dependable property manager, reasonable maintenance expenses, some reserves and still have some cash to spare (read: cash flow), this should be a no brainer. Right?!

Maybe it is because a lot of veterans are really turned off by the thought of a VA Loan — they think it’s a huge liability or just a boring thing to talk about, but nine times out of 10 it typically boils down to access to education and trusted professionals to help someone get their foot in the door. The reality is, it’s not just a few veterans . . . There are millions of veterans who have yet to use this incredible wealth-building benefit. In the military, we get used to working in fire teams and squads and it just makes sense for us to want a trusted team of Real Estate agents and Lenders that are all investment-minded and have a military background to work with. The secret weapon that a lot of these investment-minded agents and lenders have, is the understanding of what to look for when it comes to Military House Hacking (check this book out to learn more) and how to run the numbers quickly and efficiently when trying to filter out the homes with no future cashflow potential. Remember, the objective isn’t potential appreciation (that’s just a cherry on top!). The objective is to create a stream of income when it’s time to rent out your home.

Find an agent or lender here

About a year after that phone call with my dad, I partnered on my first rental home and first apartment complex. My life and the lives of my parents and siblings had changed forever. We were on track to create financial freedom and legacy wealth for generations to come WITHOUT worrying about the market crashing down on us. Sure, everything has its risks, but there was a particular comfort that came with the more education I immersed myself into. It seemed as though real estate was more transparent and without the smoke and mirrors. Still, it was a lot of information and not necessarily easy, but it felt so real and doable that I knew I was hooked for life. It was around that time, that I decided I had to start sharing these principles and little-known strategies with other military members and their families.

Register to watch the Military Real Estate Investing Masterclass

This article originally appeared on Active Duty Passive Income. Follow them on Facebook.

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7 solid reasons why combat veterans should open a business

Whether it’s after four years or twenty plus years, everybody gets out of the military. It can be daunting to figure out what to do after. Of course, if one retires, that can be it. However, most veterans are uncomfortable being inactive even if they have that option. Which is a good trait to have in entrepreneurship. In fact, the past decade has shown an increased push to have small business training, mentorship and access to funding than ever before.

1. Veterans hire veterans

Naturally, the character traits honed in military service make veterans a force to be reckoned with in the workplace. Combat veterans often feel like they don’t have to prove anything to anyone, which is correct in theory but counterproductive in practice. Civilians don’t know what they don’t know about you. Some combat veterans are fine with doing the job to the best of their ability, getting a check and going home. There is nothing wrong with that.

Yet, combat veterans can always do more, they know they can captain the ship. Non-combat arms-related military occupational specialties provide the advantage of their service years count as experience, where typically grunts do not. In 2014, when I was a freshman in college I applied to a famous sci-fi themed electronic store in Burbank to sell TVs. The hiring manager told me that my military experience did not count as real job experience — to sell TVs — An entry-level job position. From that point on, I knew assimilation to the civilian world would require patience and understanding that is not given to veterans. Some employers just will not hire you because of your service and they hide behind the fact it’s almost impossible to prove it.

2. Be the boss a civilian can never be

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You already know how to lead in far more challenging situations. Put it to good use! (U.S. Army/ Spc. Derek Mustard)

“I want to hire veterans because they’re bad ass, not because somebody feels bad for them. No! You get some meateaters sitting at the table, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done. You’re going to do it and you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. You can trust that they’re going to deliver, because they told you they were going to do it. That’s the advantage of hiring vets, as a vet, because you have this common starting place. They still have to earn their spot, but if I have a former grunt platoon sergeant or 0369 that doesn’t know how to get out after it, I’m going to know pretty quick. There are a lot more of the guys who do know how to get out after it and get it done responsibly with high integrity. Tons of opportunity there.”

James Brobyn, CEO of American Fiber Co., U.S. Marine

Looking back at my own employment history, I do not think I ever worked for anyone who wasn’t a veteran. The stigma against combat veterans in particular makes the already small pool of jobs harder to break into. However, as a small business owner, you know what it takes to have been an 0311 or 11B infantryman. You know it’s more about problem-solving with limited intel and making it work with the resources and information at hand. Civilians have a hard time grasping that, and those that do, see you as a threat to their own jobs.

Veterans in a position of leadership often get the best out of their teams because they treat them like people. The end justifies the means, as long as the law isn’t broken. Improvise, adapt, overcome. As a veteran entrepreneur, you can pay your success forward by giving another veteran employment without worrying if they will let you down. Nine times out of ten you’re going to get a motivated warrior loyal to you and your business.

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It’s as true as ever with vets: If you take care of us, we’ll take care of you (Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay)

3. Combat veterans have integrity

Business is trust. I trust you to do what you say you’re going to do and you trust me to do what I say I’m going to do – but here’s a contract in case that trust is broken. It’s about integrity.

4. Combat veterans can network efficiently

“It doesn’t matter what you know, it’s who you know.” There is some truth in that saying because, unlike the military, your proficiency at your job is not enough. Even the field with networking with other veterans and civilians. Although I do not like that word, networking –because it sounds insincere — it is necessary as an entrepreneur. Networking in my mind is the process of finding allies in your industry or complementary industry that can provide a mutually beneficial trade of information. How can people support you if they do not know you exist?

Think back on your service. How many times were you able to do this or that because you had a buddy who was your connection? Same deal. You met at a sports club, a bar, through an acquaintance, school, event or a former job. Combat veterans have a form of charisma that is like magnetism for respect. Your service has earned you the benefit of the doubt, now prove you deserved it in the first place. Over the years, these business relationships can evolve into professional friendships. How many times have you heard a famous CEO say his friend is a CEO somewhere else? It doesn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen overnight.

5. Veterans have initiative

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Literally or figuratively, vets are ready to put the hard hat on and get to work (Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

The SBA offers support for veterans as they enter the world of business ownership. Look for funding programs, training and federal contracting opportunities.

Small Business Administration

“I do not know the answer but I know how to find it” is my favorite phrase from the military. One of the first steps to creating a business is a business plan. The Small Business Administration was created in 1953 as a federal agency to provide counseling, capital and contracting expertise in regard to small business. It also has a mission to support veteran-owned businesses by guiding them to specific advantages one would not know of otherwise.

Combat veterans googling where to start will find their first step here. It takes initiative and follow-through but the information is out there. The SBA has gotten better at providing resources to veterans in the past decade. The only thing better than finding a job is creating one.

6. Vets First Verification Program

The Vets First Verification Program affords verified firms owned and controlled by Veterans and Service-disabled Veterans the opportunity to compete for VA set asides. During verification, the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) verifies service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs)/VOSBs according to the tenets found in Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 74 and 13 CFR Part 125 that address Veteran eligibility, ownership and control. In order to qualify for participation in the Veterans First Contracting Program, eligible SDVOSBs/VOSBs must first be verified.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA is improving by leaps and bounds every year. The VA of today can and will help you with your small business attain government contracts by partnering with the VA itself or other agencies. It is safe to say that even the smallest of government contracts bring in a good amount of money, especially when you have multiple, recurring contracts with the peace of mind that Uncle Sam is not going to default.

7. Freedom

Finally, the biggest advantage of starting your own business is that you do not have a chain of command to answer to. No bosses, no corporate ladder. Freedom to create your own client base and decide who you do or don’t want to do business with. You have the freedom to succeed or fail and it all rests on your determination. It is not easy and the road ahead is full of danger but veterans are cut from a different cloth. Combat veterans did not shy away from the insurgents, so why fear some paperwork?

If it takes breaking night with the coffee maker churning out beverages at the cyclic rate, veterans will get it done. You’ve been there, done that. When you’re on active duty, you do your best because anything less is shameful. You don’t want to fail others. In the civilian world, you do your best because you do not want to fail yourself. As a small business owner, you have the freedom to follow your dreams.

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

MIGHTY LIFESTYLE

The military-exclusive watch you don’t want

How do know someone is a pilot? If they don’t tell you (they will though), their large and flashy watch will give it away. Whether it’s a Breitling or IWC, that piece of wrist bling will give away their occupation faster than Maverick can find a girl to hit on in a bar. That said, aviation watches were originally designed to be large and legible. Behind the controls of a high-speed fighter, a pilot needs to be able to receive and process information like speed, time, and altitude quickly. While the current crop of pilot watches gives aviators and aviation enthusiasts plenty of choice, there’s one pilot watch model you wouldn’t want to own. Or, depending on your idea of fun, perhaps you would.

British engineering has given us such inventions as the vacuum flask, the modern fire extinguisher, the telephone, and the tank. However, perhaps one of the most overlooked British engineering achievements is the ejection seat. Pioneered by Martin-Baker, the ejection seat allows crews to safely egress fast modern aircraft. Martin-Baker first demonstrated the concept in 1946 and the first emergency use of an ejection seat occurred in 1949.

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Martin-Baker has supplied 93 air forces around the world (Martin-Baker)

Early ejection seats used a solid propellant charge. However, as planes got faster, so too did the seats. Ejection seats were eventually fitted with rockets in order to clear the pilot from the aircraft to a safe height, even on the ground. The ejection seat handle also changed over time. Originally, the handle was placed overhead. This design forced the pilot to assume the proper posture and protect their face with their hands after they pulled the handle. However, as seen in Top Gun, the overhead handle proved difficult to reach if the pilot was subjected to high g-forces. Martin-Baker added a second handle at the front base of the seat between the pilot’s legs that would be easier to reach. As helmet and mask technology developed, the overhead handle was done away with completely.

Martin-Baker reports that over 7,600 lives have been saved by their ejection seats. For their accomplishments, the company has been honored with 11 Queen’s Awards. Today, over 17,000 Martin-Baker ejection seats are currently in service. Modern U.S. aircraft fitted with Martin-Baker seats include the Northrop F-5 Tiger, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

If a pilot ever does have to eject in an emergency, it’s bound to be a memorable event. To mark such an occasion, Martin-Baker teamed up with the Bremont Watch Company to make a watch exclusively for pilots who have ejected using a Martin-Baker ejection seat. Founded in 2002, Bremont prides itself as an English-based watchmaker with “LONDON” displayed on the dials of their timepieces. The company regularly collaborates with British military units to make special order watches for particular commands. Film enthusiasts may recognize the brand as the official watch from the 2014 action spy comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service.

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The MBI was the first watch that Martin-Baker tested in a live launch (Bremont)

In 2007, Martin-Baker approached Bremont with the idea to collaborate on a watch that could survive the same rigorous testing program as their ejection seats. The precise and delicate inner workings of mechanical watches would require extra care and protection to achieve such a feat, but Bremont accepted the challenge. After two years of research and development, the Bremont MBI was born.

Bremont designed a specialized anti-shock case mount to allow the watch to survive an ejection from an aircraft. The watch was subjected to 12-30G during testing and continued to run within normal specifications. Additionally, the MBI features a Faraday cage to protect its movement from the harmful effect of magnetism that is prevalent in aircraft cockpits. Though civilian models are available in the Bremont MBII and MBIII, the MBI has exclusive features that differentiate it from its commercial counterparts.

All models feature a red lollipop tip and a yellow and black striped counterbalance on their second hand which is reminiscent of an ejection seat handle. However, only the MBI features a full yellow second hand arm. Additionally, the MBI is the only model to bear the Martin-Baker logo on its dial. The most obvious differentiating feature of the MBI is its red aluminum barrel, allowing an ejection seat survivor to be quickly identified. All pilots think they have interesting stories to tell, but if you see one wearing a Bremont MBI, it may actually be worth listening to.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys
(Martin-Baker)
Articles

Military Families Advisory Network introduces 2021-2023 Advisory Board

Military and veteran spouses selected from nationwide search to represent their communities and provide a deeper understanding of what today’s military families need and value

One of MFAN’s greatest assets, the advisory board is a talented group of military and veteran spouses who are leaders, changemakers, and champions for military families in their community and around the world. Organized as a peer-influencer model, advisors utilize their unique perspectives and diverse networks to provide an authentic pulse on the most pressing issues facing the military community today. The work of the advisory board not only informs MFAN’s research, programming, and strategic priorities, but connects leaders in the public and private sectors – including the White House, U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Defense, corporate partners, and military and veteran service organizations – with the lived experiences of military families.

The 14 advisors were selected from over 260 total applicants, a program record. MFAN’s fifth cohort represents 10 states and includes spouses of active duty service members and veterans from all six branches of service and the National Guard.

“Our advisory board is the foundation for all we do – informing us on emerging trends that are starting to take root in military households and allowing MFAN to stay one step ahead on key issues like military housing and food insecurity,” said Shannon Razsadin, MFAN president and executive director. “We’re thrilled to welcome our new advisors. I look forward to learning from them and working together to serve our incredible community.”

Advisors apply for and are selected to serve two-year terms. Candidates are selected by the MFAN Board of Directors.

Through a rigorous application and interview process, the new advisors have offered insights into critical areas affecting the military community like food insecurity, access to affordable housing, financial readiness, education, health care, employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran caregiving, the transition to civilian life, LGBTQIA+ rights, and more.

“Choosing from our largest applicant pool yet, we’re incredibly grateful for everyone’s interest and commitment to serving the military community with us,” said Rosemary Williams, chair of the MFAN board of directors. “In selecting our new advisors, we focused on building a diverse and unique team with the ability to represent the entire military community. We’re thrilled to work with this impressive group and support our most deserving families.”

2021-2023 advisory board members include:

  • Joanne Coddington (Army Veteran, Army Spouse – North Carolina)
  • Heidi Dindial (Navy Veteran, Navy Spouse – Virginia)
  • Jennifer Gibbs (Coast Guard Spouse – Minnesota)
  • Jennifer Goodale (Marine Corps Veteran, Marine Corps Spouse – Virginia)
  • Joanna Guldin-Noll (Navy Spouse – Pennsylvania)*
  • Lauren Hope (Army Spouse – Colorado)
  • Kyra Mailki (Air Force Spouse – Colorado)
  • Cindy Meili (Air National Guard Spouse – New York)
  • Mary Monrose (Navy Spouse – Hawaii)
  • Rachel Moyers (Air Force Spouse – Missouri)
  • Hana Romer (Marine Corps Veteran, Marine Corps Spouse – California)*
  • Alexandra Simon (Navy Spouse – Louisiana)
  • Margaret Van Lieshout (Army Spouse – Louisiana)
  • Mychael Willon (Army Spouse – Virginia)

*Served on 2019-2021 Advisory Board

If you are interested in scheduling an interview with a 2021-2023 advisory board member or with an MFAN spokesperson, please contact media@militaryfamilyadvisorynetwork.org.

Feature image: U.S. Army

Articles

8 girly songs only a real squad leader sings

The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.

In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?

 Ke$ha – Tik Tok

Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?

Pinkfong – Baby Shark

If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.

Katy Perry – Firework

For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.

Britney Spears – Baby one more time

A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.

Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle

Same as above.

Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.

The Navy’s theme song

As is tradition.

Aqua – Barbie Girl

We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

Intel

Watch these flight students pass out during high-G training

Someone posted this undated video compilation of airmen going through Air Force G-Force training. From their patches and some of the onscreen text, it looks like they’re from Air Force Air Education and Training Command, maybe in the Texas National Guard.


The centrifuge used here is measuring how the airmen withstand rapid acceleration and increased weight. The human body has different levels of tolerance for this kind of acceleration. When the body accelerates, blood is drained away from the brain. Too much too fast will cause loss of color vision, then complete loss of vision and eventually g-induced loss of consciousness or “G-LOC,” when the subject blacks out.

 

NASA has centrifuges to reproduce conditions up to 20gs. The untrained will typically lose consciousness between 4 and 6 Gs. Human centrifuges like these test the reactions and tolerance of pilots and astronauts to acceleration above those experienced in the Earth’s gravity. Brooks City Base in San Antonio, Texas maintains one such training and testing center for pilots and weapons systems officers.

This video so much better when the Fatboy Slim music comes up.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube.

Articles

The Navy SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden wants you to invest in a new beer company

Robert O’Neill, the former SEAL Team Six operator who is credited for firing the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, has a new venture. This time the only “pop-pop” coming from O’Neill is the pop of a beer tab. 

He has a pre-IPO investment opportunity for anyone who’s both a fan of the armed forces of the United States and of craft brews: Armed Forces Brewing Company

O’Neill made a fun, goofy and at times purposely over-the-top commercial/investment pitch video, recently shared on YouTube. The video takes shots at foreign breweries, beer hipsters and more, all to get you to invest in the company. 

The former Navy SEAL kills aliens, trashes the competition and even pokes fun at himself, referencing the Delta Airlines flight in which he refused to wear a mask and was subsequently banned from the airline. Have a look:

The new venture is a brewing company comprising three brands: Seawolf Brewery, Soldier Brewery and Airmen Brewery. As of July 2021, only two beers under the Seawolf brand appear on the website. Launched by O’Neill and other special operations veterans, it’s designed to pay tribute to all branches of the military (yes, even the Space Force). 

If beers like Special Hops IPA and Cat Shot American Craft Lager sound good to you, then you can not only buy one, you can own a piece of the company. Armed Forces Brewing Company is looking to raise $7.5 million in a campaign to grow its business. With a $200 minimum investment at $10 per share, interested parties can not just get a piece of the company, they can score some fun perks.

According to the investment site, there’s more to the brews than a gimmicky commercial and one of the world’s most famous special operators. The site says its products are brewed by an award-winning brewmaster, that it’s run by successful, seasoned hospitality industry veterans and that there are plans to hire a workforce made up of 70% military veterans.

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The commercial was not clear on whether or not dress blue yoga pants will be issued to employees (screen capture from YouTube)

Right now, the beer is available only in a handful of states but will soon be available in as many as 46. The company also says it’s planning a national expansion and already has a foothold to get three of its beers into military exchange stores.  

As for the perks, $200-$499 will get investors an Armed Forces Brewing Company logo stick, challenge coin, a 5% discount online, along with your name on its online wall of investors and an invitation to the company’s annual shareholder event. Other levels offer VIP access at events, early tastings and even the chance to create and name one of the company’s beers.

Teen creates American flag using plastic Army guys

Perks are all well and good for a casual investor who wants a stake in a veteran-owned business. The biggest question for any serious investor is: is it a sound investment? According to the company’s SEC filing, Armed Forces Brewing Company has some big obstacles:

  • It’s a relatively new entity with limited tangible assets and its continued operation may require substantial additional funding
  • The company has a very short operating history and no assurance that the business plan can be executed
  • The company has entered a highly competitive industry and within this highly competitive industry are companies with established track records and substantial capital backing. 
  • The industry in which the company participates is highly speculative and extremely risky.

But there’s no significant reward without significant risk, as Robert J. O’Neill would likely tell you. Armed Forces Brewing Company could become the veteran-owned longshot-turned-competitor, in the vein of great companies like Black Rifle Coffee and Hire Purpose.

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