3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

When I was a young military spouse, I aspired to be the quintessential image of “the military spouse” I envisioned. These people were strong and capable; they could handle any crisis thrown at them; they were flawless and supportive and picture-perfect.

Now that I am nearly 18 years into this military gig, my idea of the military spouse has evolved. But the one constant is this: These women and men are strong, capable and supportive individuals. They are the people behind the scenes of our service members, the ones keeping families afloat and holding down the homefront.

That’s why I love Milspouse Appreciation Day – it’s a day to celebrate us!

At The Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, I have met more strong milspouses who are doing amazing work in their communities and in the world. Milspouse entrepreneurs are combining both military life and entrepreneurship. 

For this year’s Milspouse Appreciation Day, here are three milspouses you need to know  – three women finding success and validation in their journeys. They are balancing all of this and quite frankly, making it look easy (although I know it is not!).

  1. Felicia Jackson, owner and inventor of CPR Wrap

The invention of CPR Wrap emerged from a truly life-changing moment. Felicia Jackson was trained in CPR but when her toddler son went into cardiac arrest, she froze. Her husband quickly jumped into action, but this moment changed her life. “As a soldier, my husband was taught to overcome and react strategically to various situations and because of this, we have a thriving 20-year-old son today.” Military life trained both of them to adapt, overcome and be prepared – and it led Felicia to develop CPR Wrap.

CPR Wrap is a translucent overlay that guides anyone through the four American Heart Association CPR steps. It is made with medical-grade materials, AED compliant and packed in an easy-to-store, compact design.

When asked what she, as a successful milspouse entrepreneur, would advise to younger milspouses, Felicia stated, “I would advise any military spouse, young or seasoned, to not wait until everything is perfect. Take matters into your own hands and get the information you need and execute! We are all learning and you will never have all the answers; just be open to learning and use the military community for mentorship, advice and connections.”

Find out more about Felicia and CPR Wrap here.

  1. Colleen Marchi, owner and creator of Magical Order of the Brave Knights

For Colleen Marchi, service to others and the community has been in her blood. Her mother is a teacher, her father a psychologist, her oldest brother is a firefighter, and her other brother went to West Point and became a pilot in the Army. She met her Army husband while earning her Master’s in psychology, and she was drawn to his dedication to service, too. 

But military life is hard, and it was during a deployment the idea for the Magical Order of Brave Knights was born. Colleen’s youngest son began to experience separation anxiety. She tried everything to help him feel safe and protected to no avail. Finally, after one night of being up multiple times, Colleen came up with a solution. She created the Brave Knights to help children give up their worries and ultimately overcome them.

“The Magical Order of Brave Knights was created with the intent to help develop strategies to conquer separation anxiety and nighttime fears and replace it with happiness and blissful sleep. Our Brave Knights offer your child friendship, devotion, love and guardianship all through the night.” With Sir William the Brave Knight, a flashlight and her book, Colleen is helping military kids overcome their fears and supporting the community.

Colleen noted one of the most important military mottos, “Adapt, improvise, and overcome,” is also perfect for entrepreneurs. “I have learned to pivot, adapt, improvise and overcome all the obstacles that inevitably come my way in business. This resiliency and service mindset is what makes military spouses the best entrepreneurs.”

To learn more about Colleen and the Magical Order of Brave Knights, click here.

  1. Megan Malone, owner of The Akazi Project

The heart of The Akazi Project is women: in the name, the founders and the people who benefit from the sales of their products. For Megan Malone and her business partner, the desire to help women in Malawi with access to medical care led to the Akazi Project. This jewelry line works collaboratively with female crafters and miners from Malawi and Guatemala by giving jobs and skills and profits back to their communities.

Megan has been married to her Navy husband for 13 years and credits the lifestyle with giving her the flexibility and adaptability necessary for entrepreneurship. But, she also wants milspouses to know you can have your own life outside of the military, something her business has given her. 

“You are your own person, not your partner’s work…I think it is so incredibly important to remember you have your own value and it’s MORE than okay to invest in yourself. I asked myself early on, ‘What is your own personal call to serve?’ and for me, it is my work as a public health practitioner but also as an ever-evolving person looking to achieve my own goals.”

For more information on Megan and The Akazi Project, click here.

These spouses are the embodiment of strong, milspouse entrepreneurs and community leaders. While each has her own business and niche, they all show us military life can be an asset in our personal and professional lives. For Milspouse Appreciation Day, we hope you draw inspiration from them and from yourself.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Marine pens book for military kids experiencing separation

When Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Padgy Soltis experienced her first separation from her son, Michael, in 2016, he was only 8 months old. Working away from him for two months at such a young age was incredibly difficult for the new mom. In her downtime, she poured her emotions into writing a poem about the separation, a reminder for herself and her young son that they would soon be reunited.

The poem has now become a children’s picture book that was released in April during Month of the Military Child. “I Will Come Back” reassures military kids and their caregivers that separations – whether they be for deployments, work trips, or evenings with a babysitter – are temporary, and that the bond of love families share cannot be broken by distance.

After that first trip, Soltis also completed a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan while her son was small.

“The hardest part was feeling like I was missing out on such an important time in his life,” Soltis said of that deployment. “My son turned 3 when I was deployed and it hurt more than I thought to be away on his birthday.”

Coming home again was also difficult, as her son readjusted and they rebuilt their connection. Soltis credits technology like FaceTime and USO recordings of her reading bedtime stories with keeping their bond strong through the separations.

“Knowing that my husband was taking care of our son,” she says, also made it easier.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day
The Soltis family is a dual military household navigating the challenges of parenting while deployed. Courtesy photo.

In their dual military family, both parents have deployed at different times.

“Children are a lot stronger and resilient than we think,” Soltis said. “Being a dual military family has been tough, but my son hasn’t missed a beat.”

“I Will Come Back,” available for sale now, is a bilingual picture book told through rhythmic language and beautifully illustrated. Each page showcases the bond between child and parent through simple connections like jumping in puddles or bedtime pillow fights.

“I wanted to incorporate things that would resonate not only with my child but also with children around the world,” Soltis said.

Telling the story in both English and Spanish was also important to her.

“I was raised bilingually and it is important to me to pass down the language of my family to my children,” she said. “Books have been such a great resource on our bilingual journey and we simply need more of them out in the world.”

Most of all, Soltis hopes “I Will Come Back” serves as a reminder for kids, and their parents, that their bonds can withstand time apart.

“I hope my book helps families (especially children) cope with periods of separation: whether it is a couple of hours, a week, or months,” Soltis said. “Families will benefit by reading this book to children before their departure and during their time away.”

“I Will Come Back” by Padgy Soltis is now available for purchase on Amazon

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air commandos wrecking cars and saving lives

Jaws of life. Hooligan tools. Chainsaws. Hammers.

Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.


Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.

Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)

“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”

The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.

“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).

Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.

Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.

Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).

Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy made Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer Honorary Naval Aviators

Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.


3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)

The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.

On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:

In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)

Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.

In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Female Air Commando at the helm of Special Operations Wing

Colonel Allison Black, a female Airman, made history earlier in the summer by becoming the vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing. She is the first female to command at that level in the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

And yet this is not Col. Black’s first. Earlier in her career, she became the first female navigator in an AC-130H Spectre gunship to participate in combat operations. The different variants of the AC-130 are an invaluable asset to ground forces and they provide extremely effective close air support.

“It’s a great honor to serve the Special Tactics community as their vice wing commander,” said Col. Black in a press release. “I’m now a direct part of the machine that I’ve directly supported my entire aviation career from the air. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Col. Matt Allen. He’s a dedicated leader and consummate professional who deeply cares about our people. As Col. Allen’s vice, it’s my role to follow his lead and drive the organization toward a successful future.”

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

U.S. Air Force Col. Allison Black is the vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 24th SOW is U.S. Special Operations Command’s tactical air-to-ground integration force and the Air Force’s special operations ground force, leading operations in precision strike, global access, personnel recovery and battlefield surgery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Williams)

Col. Black began her career as an enlisted Survival, Evasion, Escape, and Resistance (SERE) specialist in 1992. She commissioned in 1998 and became an AC-130 navigator and later combat systems officer. She then headed the Operational Integrated Communications Team at the Pentagon and then served as the operations officer and later commanding officer of the 319th Special Operations Squadron. Before assuming her current assignment, she spent a stint at the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters.

The commander of 24th SOW, Colonel Matt Allen, said that “With any leadership team, you want to have people that cover each other’s blind spots and are able to bring the best out of the organization. Not only does Col. Black have a rich history as an aircrew member within AFSOC, but she also has key insights working on staffs within U.S. Special Operations Command and she is a female colonel, which provides really good insight as we look at our diversity and inclusion aspects of the force to make sure that we’re making good organizational decisions on bringing in the first wave of female operators onto the line.”

Based in Hurlburt Field, Florida, the 24th SOW is one of the three special operations wings in the Air Force. The unit is one of the most decorated in the entire Air Force. Airmen assigned to Wing’s units have received six Air Force Crosses, 32 Silver Stars, and hundreds of Bronze Stars with the Valor device (respectively, the second, third, and fourth highest award for valor under fire); the Air Commandos have also received 105 Purple Hearts, while 17 have made the ultimate sacrifice.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Special Tactics Airmen during a training exercise (U.S. Air Force).

The 24th SOW commands 14 Special Tactics, training, and support squadrons. In addition, two Air National Guard squadrons fall under 24th SOW and augment the organization as needed.

“Let’s just make a difference. Let’s exploit what I have learned throughout my career on operations, risk management, and regulations,” added Col. Black. “Let’s uncover all of that and let’s roll up our sleeves and use that to make our community stronger and more effective. Let’s exploit technology and work to define what the future holds. We need to determine what niche capabilities our current Special Tactics force must bring to the future fight.”

Before Col. Black’s appointment, the special operations community achieved a historic milestone with the graduation of the first female Soldier from the modern Special Forces Qualification Course. The female Green Beret became the first to don the coveted Green Beret and join an operational team – Captain Katie Wilder had been the first woman to pass the old version of Special Forces training in the 1980s but only received her Green Beret after a legal saga and never joined an operational team.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

When we envisioned our first publication for this blog, we never dreamed we would be interviewing one of our own founders for it. Or, that the topic would be her diagnosis and recovery of COVID-19. Despite the initial anxiety and concern over her positive test, she chose joy. Every day.

Samantha Gomolka is a Physician Assistant for a dermatology office in Buffalo, New York. Her state is arguably the hardest hit with COVID-19 and although schools and businesses were shut down, she continued to work and treat patients. “It was my biggest fear…. That if my family got sick, it would be because I brought it home. It was a heavy weight to carry,” she said.


3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

www.inspireupfoundation.org

Gomolka shared that she researched the signs and symptoms heavily, watching closely for fever or any shortness of breath. When she started with a cough and headache, she didn’t initially think it could be COVID-19. A few days later, the fever and body aches came. “In that moment, you are kind of stuck between the place of fear and disbelief,” she said. Gomolka said she just knew she had it. She quarantined herself in a guest bedroom, praying she wouldn’t pass it to anyone else in her family. A call to the public health department gave her the verbal instructions of self quarantine and presumption of COVID-19 based on symptoms, but there was no test available to her due to being considered low risk, and lack of other comorbid conditions.

Gomolka wouldn’t get one, until she ended up in the emergency room.

“Getting up from the bed to walk into the kitchen is not usually challenging. With this, there was an air hunger. It became a conscious effort to breathe in and out all day long. The feeling that I could never get enough air was making me live right under the threshold of panic,” she shared. Gomolka finally went to the emergency room when breathing became even more difficult and was placed on oxygen for hours. It was there she received her Chest X-ray, CT scan and COVID test, which revealed she did in fact have the virus. Then her husband, who had just returned from a long deployment overseas, started getting sick too.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Their family was quickly and officially served with mandated home quarantine paperwork by their local sheriff’s office, unable to leave their home at all. Contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family — her biggest fear — could have caused despair. Instead, she found the beauty in it.

“It comes down to perspective….. to find the opportunities for beauty. You have to choose joy,” she shared. Gomolka shared that having time slow down for her family was a blessing. Relationships were strengthened and hearts were lifted. What could have been a time of anxiousness was an opportunity to reconnect and spend time in a space of gratefulness.

Gomolka also shared that initially she hesitated in going public with their diagnosis, wondering if people would respond in a negative way. The result was completely opposite of that. “We had an entire community, local and virtual of people who just rallied around us and lifted my family up,” she said.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

She shared stories of receiving aid from the Green Beret Foundation, needed medications on her doorstep, warm meals and groceries were provided, gift cards for expenses, activities for her children, and even coffee creamer. All of this during a time that could have easily slipped their family into a dark space, was nothing but light. Gomolka shared that her family feels like they could never repay the true value of these gifts. Instead, they plan to pay it forward.

“We are trying to figure out how we make that kind of difference in someone else’s life and come to their aid in a way that makes impactful change,” she said. One of the ways she’s going to do this, is to immediately go back to work treating patients with emergent conditions and skin cancer. She and her husband also signed up with the New York Blood Center, the American Red Cross, and Upstate University Hospital with the National Plasma Antibody project, hoping they can give their plasma for use in critically ill COVID19 patients. They also plan to try to complete errands and shopping for members of their community who are immunocompromised or elderly.

“We are always going to encounter challenges, but how do you respond to them? Find the good,” she said. She continued on saying that this experience has broadened her definition of what a hero is. “As a military family we tend to think of heroes as someone in a camouflage uniform, but that has changed for me,” she said. Gomolka explained that now, her version of a hero are the people who run towards danger while the rest of us “hunker down”. The grocery store workers, health care professionals, and deliverymen — to name a few.

When asked what she would tell those reading this article, she smiled and shared that although she knows her diagnosis and experience is not the same as others, she wants people to know that together we can make it through anything. She implored people to “pause, and take it all in and find the beauty”.

This article originally appeared on InspireUp Foundation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This astronaut was the only American not on Earth on 9/11

If you were old enough, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001 when you heard about the towers falling. Personally, I was on my way home from school after being let out early as a result of the attacks, when my mother told me what had happened. We had visited Washington, D.C., just a few months before, so while I wasn’t entirely familiar with the World Trade Center, I knew exactly what the Pentagon was; the fact it had been attacked shocked me. For NASA astronaut Capt. Frank L. Culbertson, Jr., who was in space aboard the International Space Station, the attacks on 9/11 were personal.

A South Carolina native, Culbertson attended the United States Naval Academy where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. While at Annapolis, he was also a member of the Academy’s varsity rowing and wrestling teams. Following his graduation and commissioning in 1971, Ens. Culbertson served aboard the USS Fox in the Gulf of Tonkin before he reported to NAS Pensacola for flight training.


Culbertson earned his designation as a Naval Aviator in May 1973. Flying the F-4 Phantom, he served with VF-121 at NAS Miramar, VF-151 aboard the USS Midway out of Yokosuka, and with the Air Force 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB where he served as a Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Culbertson then served as the Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer aboard the USS John F. Kennedy until May 1981 when he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River.
3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

A VF-151 ‘Vigilantes’ F-4 takes off (U.S. Navy)

Culbertson graduated from Test Pilot School with distinction in June 1982 and was assigned to the Carrier Systems Branch of the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate. He served as the Program Manager for all F-4 testing and as a test pilot for automatic carrier landing system tests and carrier suitability. Culbertson took part in fleet replacement training in the F-14 Tomcat with VF-101 at NAS Oceana from January 1984 until his selection for the astronaut training program.

Following his selection as a NASA astronaut candidate in May 1984, Culbertson completed basic astronaut training in June 1985. Since then, he worked on redesigning and testing Space Shuttle components, served as a launch support team member on four Shuttle flights, and assisted with the Challenger accident investigations.
3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Culbertson’s official astronaut portrait (NASA)

Culbertson’s first space flight was a five-day mission from November 15-20, 1990 aboard STS-38 Atlantis. His second space flight was a 10 day mission from September 12-22, 1993 aboard STS-51 Discovery. On August 10, 2001, Culbertson made his third space flight as the only American crew member of Expedition 3 to the ISS. He lived and worked aboard the ISS for 129 days, and was in command of the station for 117 days. On 9/11, as the ISS passed over the New York City area, Culbertson took photographs of the smoke rising from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.


He later learned that American Airlines Flight 77, the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon, had been captained by a friend of his from the Navy. Charles “Chic” Burlingame III was the pilot of Flight 77 before it was hijacked following its takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. Culbertson and Burlingame had both been Midshipmen, Aeronautical Engineering students, and members of the Academy’s Drum Bugle Corps together at Annapolis. Both men also went on to attend flight school and become F-4 fighter pilots. With his trumpet aboard the ISS, Culbertson played taps in honor of his friend and all the other victims of the attacks that day. The Expedition 3 crew left the ISS aboard STS-108 Endeavour and landed at Kennedy Space Center on December 17, 2001.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Culbertson’s official mission photograph for Expedition 3 (NASA)

Culbertson retired the next year on August 24. Over his long career in the Navy and with NASA, he logged over 8,900 flight hours in 55 different types of aircraft, and made 450 carrier landings, including over 350 arrested landings. His awards and honors include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal. In 2010, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Of all his many achievements, Culbertson is still best known for being the only American not on Earth on 9/11.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy won’t reinstate Crozier, holds 1-Star’s promotion over poor decision-making

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story and the headline incorrectly stated that Rear Adm. Stuart Baker had been fired. His promotion has been held by the Navy.

The Navy won’t reinstate the captain who was fired after warning of a serious health crisis on his ship, and the captain’s superior has also had his promotion withheld as the result of a deeper probe into the matter, top Navy leaders said on Friday.


The Navy secretary and top admiral reversed course on a previous recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Crozier will be reassigned. If he was still in command today, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said he would relieve him.

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“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said.

Crozier acted too slowly to keep his crew safe and made questionable decisions to release sailors from quarantine, potentially putting others at risk, the CNO added. Gilday also said the email Crozier sent warning about the situation on the ship “was unnecessary.”

Gilday, about two months ago, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

“Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation,” Gilday said on Friday. “… Capt. Crozier’s primary responsibility was the safety and the wellbeing of the crew so that the ship could remain as operationally ready as possible. In reviewing both [Rear Adm. Stuart] Baker and Capt. Crozier’s actions, they did not do enough soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation.”

Baker, former commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, won’t be promoted pending further review, Gilday said. His promotion to rear admiral upper half was approved by the Senate on March 20.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

“They were slow egressing sailors off the ship, and they failed to move sailors to available safer environments quickly,” Gilday said. “… It is my belief that both Adm. Baker and Capt. Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

The decisions are the result of a deeper review into the situation on the Roosevelt, which James McPherson directed in April over what he called “unanswered questions” while serving as acting Navy secretary.

Braithwaite said on Friday he stands by the latest investigation’s findings. Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, also said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was briefed on the findings and supports the Navy’s decisions.

Baker was aboard the Roosevelt when Crozier emailed several people about a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the crew. Crozier, whose email asking for help was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, was ultimately fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over his handling of the situation.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

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Modly told reporters when announcing his decision to relieve Crozier of command that the captain should’ve walked “down the hallway” to discuss his concerns with Baker before sending the email. Modly later resigned from his post as acting Navy secretary amid backlash over these events.

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam in late March as more than 100 crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes-fatal illness caused by the coronavirus. Crozier had warned in his email that sailors could die if they didn’t quickly evacuate the ship.

“If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” he said.

Ultimately, more than 1,200 members of the roughly 4,800-person crew tested positive for the virus, including Crozier. One sailor, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., died of the illness.

Gilday said his initial recommendation to reinstate Crozier was based only on “a narrowly scoped investigation” that looked only at why he had sent the email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-acting Secretary Modley’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday said, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

The CNO said the two-month-long deeper investigation, ordered by McPherson, made additional facts visible. That included the decision to lift quarantine in part of the ship, which allowed about 1,000 crew members to potentially expose other sailors to the virus, Gilday said. He also said Crozier and Baker failed to take advantage of 700 beds in a gym in Guam that were spaced 6 feet apart, choosing to put his sailors’ “comfort over safety.”

In his endorsement letter accompanying the results of the investigation, Gilday said he thought Crozier had the best interests of his crew and the readiness of the ship in mind. But, he added, Crozier did not “forcefully and expeditiously execute the best possible and available plan, or do enough, soon enough.”

Baker and Crozier were talking to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commander every day, Gilday told reporters on Friday, and if the two had issues they should have raised them.

“If [Crozier] fearlessly communicated with that email that he sent — that I’ve never disagreed with, his fearless sending of the email — then he certainly should have just [as] fearlessly communicated issues every day during those video teleconferences,” Gilday said.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that everyone up and down the Navy chain of command had a role to play in the inadequate response to the situation on the carrier. Smith announced that his committee has launched its own investigation into the Roosevelt’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Department’s civilian leadership portrayed Captain Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame,” Smith said. “… While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

I’m a milspouse living with chronic anxiety. Here’s what I want you to know

It’s Monday. I’ve been awake since 6am and I’m sipping on hot coffee – a rare treat in my house, since my kids are still asleep – and looking at my weekly planner. I see that I have another full week of appointments and social gatherings.

Seems pretty normal, right?


For any other person, this looks like a normal week. As for me, this looks like a million things to do and I start thinking of all the ways any of these can go wrong. I quickly become overwhelmed, and then, anxious. I try to gain some control by using my husband as a soundboard to discuss everything coming up, and we formulate a plan together. His reassurance is what helps me overcome the anxiety and get things done.

Then, he calls me and tells me he has a last-minute TDY, and he leaves this weekend. Once again, the military has thrown a wrench in our plans, and I am expected to pick up the slack and adapt.

For some, this last part is just par for the course, and they manage just fine despite the difficulties ahead. For me, my anxiety is now in full swing. How will I get through this?

This is just one example of how my anxiety used to affect my daily life as a military spouse. My anxiety also had control over other aspects, such as:

  • Making friends at a new place (because I feared I wouldn’t be accepted by them)
  • Cancelling plans
  • PCSing
  • My spouse’s work schedule changes
  • Deployment

As military spouses, the expectations placed on us to be strong can be difficult even without anxiety. With anxiety, those expectations are even harder to meet – including the ability to quickly adapt to situations and do things on our own while our spouses are gone. It is really hard to ask for help because we don’t want to be a burden, and as a result, we often feel more alone than we actually are.

If any of this sounds like what you are experiencing, I want you to know that you are not alone! Your friends, key spouse, and even mental health professionals are there to assist you when you are struggling, and it is okay to ask them for help. Asking for help is the best thing I ever did, and if I can do it, you can, too!

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Travis AFB kids make hundreds of masks for frontline workers

A military doctor inspired local children to support frontline workers after sharing his secret to becoming a superhero: wearing a mask.

Christy Hanbyul Na, a military spouse, teamed up with military kids from Travis Air Force Base to decorate and distribute masks for frontline workers and deployed service members.

Na’s husband, who treated the first COVID community spread patient in the U.S., is a third-year emergency medicine resident at a hospital in Sacramento, California. She said she’s used to seeing her husband leave for work with a smile on his face, but lately, the stress and strain of treating COVID-19 related patients has started to wear on him.

“He sees ICU beds piling up and fears for the day he might have to take a ventilator off a patient to put on another patient,” Na said.

So, she decided to do something about it. Before beginning this project, Na didn’t have much experience with a sewing needle and thread. She taught herself to sew masks in her limited free time. She knew that many frontline workers like her husband weren’t going to get a chance to spend the holiday season with their loved ones, and she wanted to find a way to give back.

Initially, Na planned to send gifts filled with candy, a thank you card, and a mask to frontline military personnel. But she quickly realized that this project would take a lot of help, so she enlisted the support and efforts of elementary school students from Scandia Elementary School and Travis Elementary School, and the Travis Air Force Base Youth Center.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

“When I came up with the idea, military kids immediate came to my mind because I knew I could count on them to understand what it feels like for frontline workers who might not get to go home for the holidays,” Na said.

After Na sewed the masks, it was up to the kids to decide how to decorate them. Some masks were decorated with hearts and smiling faces, while others were decorated with patriotic colors. The masks were distributed over Christmas and included a photo of the children who were part of the project, along with treats and a card.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Na set up a Travis AFB Kids Instagram page to highlight the military kids’ efforts. Recipients of the masks included military service members, police officers, firefighters, nurses, and other frontline workers. Na hopes the kids who participated in the project learned that superheroes come in lots of forms and sometimes look like military personnel and postal workers and grocery store workers.

“Masks give them superpowers against the coronavirus villain, just like Captain America’s shield,” she said.

Na’s ultimate goal was to give thanks and hopefully bring a smile to the frontline workers who sacrifice their lives and work tirelessly against the coronavirus fight. She said the delivery of masks in December was a small part of giving back, but she hopes to repeat the experience in the future.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Current Centers for Disease Control guidelines encourage all Americans to wear masks while in public or when unable to maintain a six-foot distance. Get updates on this project by following Travis AFB Kids on Instagram.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One vet’s story about coming back from the brink of suicide

In 2017, I left the military after 14 years of service as an Army military policeman. I came to Texas with a debilitating back injury, PTSD, little financial security and Hurricane Harvey was looming in my future. Like so many that are in pain, I started to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs.

Then Hurricane Harvey hit: the catalyst that tipped the scales. With my savings already gone and no assistance from FEMA, my family was left living in a hotel room. Feeling like I couldn’t provide for my family only worsened my PTSD. But I couldn’t go to anybody – I told myself that other people need help more than I do and that my problems weren’t “that” bad. So I tried to deal with it on my own, but I was in too deep.


3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

(Military Families Magazine)

So deep, that in October 2017, I drove to the hotel I was living in, parked the car and pulled my pistol out of the glove compartment. I didn’t see any other options. At that moment, my fiancée came outside. I couldn’t let her see what I was about to do, so I put the gun away and followed her inside. There she handed me a check and I learned that somebody applied for a grant for me from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It wasn’t necessarily the money that brought my head above water so that I could reanalyze the situation and take the next step forward — It was the fact that somebody cared enough about me to notice I was struggling and offer help.

From that point on, I knew that I wanted to help others. For those that know somebody who needs help, don’t sit by. Everybody has the power to make one small action that can change somebody else’s life, and in a time with so much uncertainty and fear in the world, we should all aim for that.

How can you help those in need?

So here are five small things that you can do today to help somebody in your life that may be struggling.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

(Military Families Magazine)

1. Notice changes.

In our fast-pace culture, its common to rush by people, even those you love, and not really notice how they are doing. Have they become quieter and more withdrawn or perpetually angry? That is often a big signal that they are struggling with something. Other top signals include changes to their hygiene, sleep, appetite and focus. But did you know that even positive changes are often indicators of mental or emotional turmoil?

Trust your gut. If somebody has become more social all of a sudden and they seem “fine” now, they probably aren’t really fine. Really taking the time to notice people in your life and be aware of any personality changes is the first step to being there for somebody.

2. Avoid giving advice and silver linings.

Once you start noticing the people in your life that may be struggling, it’s tempting to want to talk to them. But avoid giving advice and silver linings, as it can tend to make somebody shut down even more. You want to create space where they can open up to you, so check in often and just be there to listen – even if they don’t want to talk.

If they do want to open up to you, make an effort to hear the story from their perspective. Even if their struggle doesn’t make sense to you, avoid saying “it could be worse” or listing the reasons why they should be happy. Fight the urge to try and “fix” their problems. Sometimes, the best fix is to just lend a listening ear and to know when to refer your loved one to a professional.

3. Be proactive.

If you notice that somebody in your life could use a little tangible help, be proactive and offer it, rather than saying “let me know if you need anything.” While that may be a socially acceptable phrase, it puts all the pressure on the other person to reach out to you. We are often conditioned to see asking for help as a weakness, so the odds that they take you up on the offer are small. So if you notice a mom on your kid’s soccer team is constantly late for pickup, offer to drive her child home. If your sister’s health is poor, but she can’t afford to eat well, drop off a healthy meal once in a while. Apply for that financial aid for somebody. Your gesture doesn’t need to be big — It’s often the little things that help people the most.

4. Suggest volunteering.

Today, I travel around speaking and advocating for PTSD and suicide awareness. While sharing my story provides hope to others, it also continues to heal me. I have found that each time I recount my experiences, I release more of the burden of these stories. That’s why I continue to serve, and because of my service I have been named a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing, which aims to bring to light the continued service of America’s veterans.

Remind your loved one that volunteering and serving others is a great way to foster their own healing. Invite them to go with you to a food bank or animal shelter as a way to get out of your head for a few hours.

5. Remember to care for yourself as well.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take care of yourself as well. Do not blame yourself for not “doing enough” or not feeling comfortable talking to somebody about their experiences. Even following just one of the tips above can mean the world to somebody. It did for me.

I still don’t know who applied for that grant for me, but it changed my life. Today, I am in school working toward becoming a family law attorney, I speak on and advocate for PTSD and suicide awareness and I am a spokesperson for the VFW’s #StillServing campaign.

Chris Blevins is a veteran of the US Army, serving 14 years as a military police officer with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, he is an advocate for post traumatic stress disorder awareness and suicide awareness. He attends the University of Texas San Antonio where he is pursuing a degree in politics and law with the goal of becoming a family lawyer. He is a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing and lives in San Antonio with his wife and four children.

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


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top Marine general warns that border deployments hurt combat readiness

President Donald Trump’s decision to send troops to the southern border and funding transfers following the declaration of a national emergency pose an “unacceptable risk to Marine Corps combat readiness and solvency,” the Marine Corps commandant warned.

An internal memo sent in March 2019 by Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan listed “unplanned/unbudgeted southwest border operations” and “border security funding transfers” alongside Hurricanes Florence and Michael as “negative factors” putting readiness at risk, the Los Angeles Times first reported.


The four-star general explained that due to a number of unexpected costs, referred to as “negative impacts,” the Marines will be forced to cancel or limit their participation in a number of previously planned activities, including training exercises in at least five countries.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Asia J. Sorenson)

He warned that the cancelled training exercises will “degrade the combat readiness and effectiveness of the Marine Corps,” adding that “Marines rely on the hard, realistic training provided by these events to develop the individual and collective skills necessary to prepare for high-end combat.”

Neller further argued that cancellations or reduced participation would hurt the Corps’ ties to US allies and partners at a critical time.

Border security is listed among several factors, such as new housing allowances and civilian pay raises, that could trigger a budget shortfall for the Marine Corps, but it is noteworthy that the commandant identified a presidential priority as a detriment to the service.

In a separate memo, Neller explained that the Marines are currently short id=”listicle-2632709751″.3 billion for hurricane recovery operations.

“The hurricane season is only three months away, and we have Marines, Sailors, and civilians working in compromised structures,” he wrote.

3 military spouses you need to know on MilSpouse Appreciation Day

Marines help push a car out of a flooded area during Hurricane Florence, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez)

The Pentagon sent a list of military construction projects that could lose their funding to cover the cost of the president’s border wall to Congress on March 18, 2019. Among the 400 projects that could be affected were funds for Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, both of which suffered hurricane damage in 2018.

Congress voted in March 2019 to cancel Trump’s national emergency, but the president quickly vetoed the legislation.

Critics have argued that the president’s deployment of active-duty troops to the border, as well as plans to cut funding for military projects, are unnecessary and will harm military readiness.

In October 2018, more than 5,000 active-duty troops joined the more than 2,000 National Guard troops already at the southern border.

The deployment, a response to migrant caravans from Central America, was initially set to end in mid-December 2018, but it has since been extended until at least September 2019 As of January 2019, border operations have already cost the military 0 million, and that figure is expected to grow throughout 2019.

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

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