Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

On the surface, the Benscoters are an ordinary military family— dad, Joe, is a C-17 pilot, married to college sweetheart, Danielle, with three children, Sophia, 9, Tyler, 8, and Emily, 4. But dig a little further and you will find that there is a superhero in the family.

Joe and Danielle Benscoter met at Auburn University and were married shortly after he was commissioned into the Air Force in 2007.

“He graduated from pilot training two months before I graduated from physical therapy school in 2009,” Danielle Benscoter told Military Spouse

When Danielle was pregnant with their second child, Tyler, the couple learned that their unborn son suffered from a rare, serious heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

“He essentially was born with half a heart since the left side of his heart was underdeveloped and unable to function properly,” she said. “Without surgical intervention, children born with HLHS will not survive longer than a couple of weeks.”

When Tyler was born, the Benscoters chose to take the surgical route and Tyler had his first surgery at 3 days old.

“His first open heart surgery, called the Norwood procedure, essentially changed his blood flow enough to allow him to grow larger prior to his second and third stage surgeries,” Benscoter said. “I was nervous, scared, anxious … all of the typical emotions a mother would have when their child is going into surgery. However, there was no second guessing on whether this was the right path for Tyler. I felt as if it were the only path for him and that gave me peace.”

The Norwood procedure was just the beginning of Tyler’s journey.

“He had his second stage surgery, the Glenn procedure, when he was 3 months old,” she said. “He had the Fontan procedure at 2 years old. These last two open heart surgeries allowed his blood to passively flow into the lungs instead of into the right side of his heart, get oxygenated, and get pumped out to the body by the right side of his heart, which is typically the job of the left side of the heart.”

Some children have survived into adulthood after Fontan physiology, not needing any other procedures after the third open heart surgery.  

“Unfortunately, Tyler wasn’t able to tolerate the Fontan physiology for nearly as long as we had hoped he would,” Benscoter said.

In early 2016, Tyler began showing several classic heart failure signs: decreased appetite, low energy, difficulty sleeping, and fluid retention, so the Benscoters took him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for answers.

“I brought him to CHOP and they confirmed that his body was no longer able to sustain his Fontan physiology,” she said. “His heart failure was so severe and came on so rapidly that he was referred to the heart transplant team and was listed for transplant within two months of his symptoms occurring. Unfortunately, his health continued to rapidly decline and his team was afraid he would die if he did not have a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) implanted. The VAD his cardiac surgeon implanted during Tyler’s fourth open heart surgery was never put in a child as small as Tyler. Thankfully, it worked wonderfully in Tyler and we were able to have him live at home for approximately a year and a half while he waited on the transplant list for his new heart.”

In November 2017, Tyler received his heart transplant and endured his fifth open heart surgery. 

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

“He did wonderfully for almost two years with his new heart before he began exhibiting signs and symptoms of heart failure in October 2019,” Benscoter said. “At that time, Tyler was diagnosed with rejection of his heart transplant.  His immune system began attacking his heart, causing his transplanted heart to fail.”

During this time, Joe transitioned from active duty to the Reserve so the family could avoid another PCS and keep Tyler with his cardiac team at CHOP.

“Our military family has been incredible throughout our journey with Tyler,” she said. “Joe has had several commanders who have done everything in their power to coordinate assignments that put Tyler near top-ranked pediatric cardiology care. We have had so much love and support from our Air Force friends who have cooked meals, babysat our daughters, and held fundraisers for us. The Dover Spouses’ Club has even donated money two years in a row to the Philadelphia chapter of Mended Little Hearts, a non-profit organization benefiting cardiac families at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”

Today, Tyler’s heart transplant team at CHOP is executing a very aggressive plan to help him fight off rejection with the hope that he may one day be eligible to be re-listed for another heart transplant.

“Joe and I feel so lucky to have Tyler as our son,” Benscoter said. “His existence has provided so much perspective in our lives. We have watched other parents lose their children to congenital heart defects and we realize that we may face that reality. When you live in that kind of mindset—knowing that your child may not outlive you—it forces you to really evaluate what matters.” 

American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month. It was established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who urged “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

To DITY or not to DITY?

With each set of PCS orders, I wonder whether we should consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM), which is the official name of what most of us call a DITY, or Do It Yourself move. It’s tempting — you hear stories of military families making tons of money, and it seems like there is less chance of damaged goods. If you’re considering a DITY move this PCS season, here are six questions you need to ask yourself:

How much reimbursement will you get?

For most people, the main reason to consider doing a DITY move is to make a little money. Before you get started, be sure you understand exactly what you will and will not receive, whether you do a DITY, a full government move, or something in between.

All service members who are executing PCS orders are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements, including:

  • temporary lodging,
  • monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage),
  • per diem for travel days,
  • dislocation allowance.

When you do a DITY move or a partial DITY move, you’ll also get an allowance for moving your belongings, based upon the distance and weight moved. From that allowance, you pay all the expenses of the move: packing materials, hired help, the actual transportation of your goods, and unpacking. Any excess reimbursement beyond your actual expenses is taxable income.

Contact your personal property office to be sure you understand your entitlements and the reimbursement requirements for your branch, including when you need to have your vehicle weighed (empty/full/both? start/finish/both?).

Can you manage an upfront cost?

All branches have a process for getting an advance of a portion of your anticipated move reimbursement, but it doesn’t always work out as expected. If you decide to do a DITY move, you should plan to pay for all expenses out-of-pocket and expect that it may take months to be reimbursed.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

Is moving yourself realistic?

Doing a DITY move is work, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things like a piano or old-school entertainment center. Do you realistically have the time, mental energy and physical strength to pack up everything you own, load it safely onto a truck — or into a moving container — and unload it all on the other end?

Do you have a lot of professional gear?

One major limitation of a full DITY move is there is no way to separate out professional gear weight. Service members and their spouses are permitted to deduct the weight of certain specified work-related items from the overall weight of goods. Separating professional gear is a big help if you are close to your weight allowance.

Will you be able to keep track of the paperwork?

DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military — requirements may vary by branch. Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income.

TIP: Experienced DITY movers recommend a designated folder or envelope for receipts, but also taking a photograph of every single receipt when you get it. Upload the picture to the cloud to ensure you’ll always have access to a copy.

Have you considered a partial DITY?

One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of a DITY move without the work is to do a partial DITY, which separates your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion you do move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure you want to do a full DITY, or if you have certain items you want to move yourself.

DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if it is the right option for you.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Milspo Mask Makers: Making a difference, one mask at a time

In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.

When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.


Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

www.militaryspouse.com

Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.

Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.

Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!

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

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.”

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

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.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

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.


Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 tips for preparing kids for your next PCS

Getting ready for a move can be rough at any age. But dealing with kids, especially those who are old enough to understand what changing duty station means, can be the roughest of all.


As adults within the military community, we are hardened by the experience of frequent moves — even if only as an idea. But kids are sensitive. They’re overwhelmed about leaving all they know and starting new, and understanding and catering to that mindset can help the experience be better for all involved.

Put yourself in their shoes

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller

Start by putting yourself in the kids’ situation. They are facing leaving their friends, their room, their school and teachers and their entire town. Depending on their age and how many times you’ve moved over the years, this may or may not be new. But either way, they are likely to be upset. Remember that just because they’ve done it before doesn’t mean it’s easier!

If you grew up in the military, you know first-hand how PCSing young feels. If you weren’t associated with frequent moving until later in life, you might have to try a little harder to understand kids’ priorities and why, to them, moving feels like the end of the world.

Tell them like it is

Kids are smarter than they often get credit for. Don’t beat around the bush or avoid a tough conversation. PCSing is part of the military lifestyle, and accepting that as a fact rather than trying to soften the blow can go a long way.

Once orders come in — or are about to — be honest. Tell your kids where you’re going, when, where the possibilities of new locations might be and more. Attacking this info head-on can give them the tools to better deal with a move.

Use available resources

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
 (U.S. Air Force photo/Corey Dahl)

Each branch will have its own resources for helping kids through big changes. Use them. Search at schools, MWR offices and more. Ask other moms what they do or use your online community for the best tips. When first moving, attend newcomers’ briefs so you can get acquainted with what’s on post, and what you have access to. Then use it! Child and Youth Services, or your branch’s equivalent, can help provide you with better data for tough conversations.

Get excited with them!

Moving is an exciting event for the whole family, so be sure to talk about all the fun that’s ahead! New activities, restaurants and outside events and more can all be taken in. Discuss future family adventures, traveling or even who you might stop and see along the way. What are the nearest vacation hotspots? What foods will everyone get to try? Are you getting closer to the beach? What about winter snow skiing where you can spend the weekends? Whatever excitement lies ahead, play them up so kids can be pumped about a location change.

Kids are extremely adaptable, and when given the opportunity to excite vs. stress over a situation, they can better cope through the moving and planning-to-move process.

Hide your parental stress

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
U.S. Army photo

Even the most straightforward PCS to date comes with a level of stress. However, the better you hold it together for the kids, the less they will feel the need to stress on their own. Keep anxiety-ridden conversations between adults. While it’s important to be honest, there are also things that kids simply shouldn’t worry about. Do your best to shelter them from knowledge that is beyond their control to help with mental health through your next move.

Moving with kids can be a big change for all, but as a military family, it’s something that will take place often. Use these steps to the best of your ability for smoother moves in years to come.

popular

This Army wife’s wedding dress is made of the parachute that saved her husband

During World War II, Maj. Claude Hensinger had to bail from his B-29 bomber. When he jumped out of his plane, he was packing a parachute that turned out to suit a number of purposes for a wayward pilot, not the least of all ensuring he came to Earth with a thud instead of a splat. It also turned out to be a blanket, a pillow, and a wedding ring.


Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Just making that jump is no small feat. (U.S. Army)

Hensinger and his crew had just successfully made a bombing run over Yowata, Japan but on the way back to base, one of their engines caught fire. Instead of heading home, everyone had to bail out over China. In 1944, survival was anything but guaranteed in that part of the world. Much of China was still occupied by the Japanese, who were always on the lookout for down Allied aviators.

As if roving Japanese troops wasn’t enough, the nights were cold, dark, and long on the ground there. He didn’t know if he was even in occupied territory. Hensinger was also injured from landing on a pile of sharp rocks and was bleeding. He kept a hold on his parachute, even after landing. It was a good thing, too. The chute kept him warm and kept his bleeding to a minimum.

Eventually, he made it to safety and then the comfort of the United States.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Hensinger and his wife, married after the war.

 

When the war ended, he returned to his native Pennsylvania, where he reconnected with a friend from his childhood — a girl named Ruth. The two began dating and in 1947, Hensinger wanted to propose to his lifelong friend. When he got down on one knee, he proposed to her without a ring. Instead, he held his lucky parachute in his hands. He told Ruth how it saved his life and that he wanted her to fashion a wedding dress from the dirty, blood-stained nylon.

Of course she said yes. To both questions. As she pondered how to make the paratrooper’s dream gown, she began to worry about how she could ever turn the nylon into a real wedding dress. One day, walking by a store, the inspiration came to her. She passed a frock that was itself inspired by one worn on Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind. She patterned the dress to match that while designing a veil and bodice to boot.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Vivian Leigh wearing the dress that inspired Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress in “Gone With The Wind.” (MGM/ Loew’s)

 

While another local seamstress sewed the veil and bodice, Ruth sewed the skirt, using the parachute strings to lace the skirt higher in the back than in the front. Keeping with tradition, Hensinger didn’t get to see his wife’s parachute dress until she walked down the aisle. He was a happy man, according to Ruth.

The couple was married for 49 years before Hensinger died in 1996. In the years between, two other generations of women were married in Ruth Hensinger’s parachute dress. The dress is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman awarded Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in Afghanistan

Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.

From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.


Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”

Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.

“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”

Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.

“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.

Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.

“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways the military prepared me to homeschool

Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.


Moving forward with confidence

The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.

Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan

When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.

Delegate when necessary

While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.

We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.

We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.

Think outside the box

I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.

Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.

Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse needs a kidney donor

Angelica Harris doesn’t look sick. Her happy, bubbly personality is radiating and it is noticeable the minute you meet her. But Harris is sick with life-threatening chronic kidney disease. If she doesn’t get a new kidney in the next few years, she will be on life-long dialysis.

“That’s the one thing I hear most times— ‘But you don’t look sick,’” Harris said.

Angelica with her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris

Harris’ condition is new to her. Although doctors have come to realize that her kidney function started to decrease up to 5 years ago, it wasn’t until this past April that Harris was officially diagnosed with kidney disease.

“The only other symptoms I had was in December 2016. We lived in Oak Harbor, WA and I kept getting [a] fever and chills— but only at night. The doctors ran a blood panel but not my creatinine levels,” she said.

Her doctors put her on antibiotics for a kidney infection but called a few days later for her to stop taking them because they weren’t working. After that, she felt fine and had no more odd symptoms. Occasionally, she would get bouts of extreme cold and fatigue but nothing pointed her to kidney disease.

After Harris and her husband, Navy Lt. David Harris, moved to Naval Air Station Key West in 2019, they visited a fertility doctor in Miami, FL. They had been trying to get pregnant for years. It was there that her doctor ran a battery of tests, including her creatinine levels, and discovered they were high.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

“They ran all the tests in February… But then the pandemic hit and I didn’t get a call until April that I needed to be seen by my [Primary Care Manager],” Harris said.

Harris, who is originally from the Philippines and moved here in 2014 with her husband after several years of dating, only told family and friends for the first few months after her diagnosis. After strong encouragement from her loved ones and even her nephrologist, she decided to use social media to try to find a suitable living donor.

Harris created a Facebook page and shared her story online in August. Her initial reached over 10,000 users in about four hours. She has since reached out to local newspapers to share her story and even has a magnet on her car that says “Looking for a Kidney” with her contact information below it to advertise to locals in the community.

Harris’ husband has three children from a previous marriage, and they are all older with two out of the house and one, a 17-year-old, living with her mom. But Harris has always wanted children of her own.

“I want 12,” she said. “I like noise and chaos, and I love hearing a house full of noise. I want that, too.”

But if Harris had never visited that fertility doctor in Miami, she may never have known she had kidney disease until it was too late.

Now, Harris is 36 and desperately looking for a viable living donor to help her live the life she wants to live.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

In the Philippines, she worked as a sales manager in a hotel. Her most recent job was a similar position at one of the resorts in Key West. But she was laid off because of the pandemic and has not found work since.

“I spend my days sorting through messages on Facebook about potential donors, most of them coming from the Philippines,” Harris said.

Harris has had a few people contact her from the United States who are willing to donate their kidney. One even got as far as the initial screening process but then was denied because of a history of urinary tract infections. It was a heartbreaking realization for Harris that she could be put on dialysis if she doesn’t find a donor soon.

“I don’t want to be stuck to a dialysis machine my whole life,” she said. “It’s like a part-time job. Four hours a day, three days a week.”

Although the criteria for being a potential donor is an arduous one, people can be initially screened online for free to see if they are a potential match. If they pass that first phase, they can then move onto the testing phase, which is also free.

“A perfect blood type match is best but I can have A positive or negative, or O positive or negative,” Harris said. “A being in good overall health is required, too.”

Another person contacted her saying she was interested in donating, but she was denied because she previously had cancer.

“She has already gone through so much but she still wanted to give her kidney to me. That was amazing,” Harris recalled.

Although Harris is in a dire situation, she never once comments that she feels disheartened.

“I feel blessed. TRICARE covers all costs of a kidney transplant for me and my donor… Living in the U.S. itself is a blessing… If I was in the Philippines, I don’t think I’d ever find out. There, you don’t go to the doctor until you’re critically ill,” she said.

Military spouse with her husband

According to OrganDonor.gov, 118,000 people are currently looking for organ donors, and a new person is added to the national transplant list every 10 minutes. Moreover, 20 people die every day while waiting for an organ donor.

One person donating their organs at the time of death can save up to eight people.

At the writing of this article, Harris is still looking for a potential living donor.

If you are interested in learning more about the donor process or if you would like to see if you could be a potential donor for Harris, click here.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 holiday classics you should send to deployed troops

Being deployed during the holidays can put a damper on the season’s celebrations. Great holiday movies tend to relieve and mentality transport your loved ones back home, even if only just for a few hours.


So the next time you visit a department store that sells DVDs, make sure you toss these films into your cart and send them to your favorite troop serving overseas.

Related: 13 old school war movies every young trooper needs to watch

7. Bad Santa (2003)

Directed by Terry Zwigoff, the film focuses on an alcoholic con man (Billy Bob Thornton) who dresses up as Santa to rob the department stores who hire him during the holiday season.

The film isn’t considered your typically holiday movie, but the comedy perfectly fits our dark military humor.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Like, really dark. (Source: Dimension Films)

6. Elf (2003)

Directed by Jon Favreau, the comedy features a rambunctious and tall elf named Buddy (Will Ferrell) who grew up in the north pole and sets out on a mission to the Big Apple to reconnect with his long-lost father.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
It’s ridiculous and we love it. (Source: New Line)

5. A Christmas Story (1983)

This is the epic movie that plays for 24-hours straight on TBS every season (just in case you didn’t know). Directed by Bob Clark, this classic follows a young boy named Ralphie whose sole mission is to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas – even if he shoots his eye out.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Which he nearly does. (Source: MGM)

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

The Jeremiah Chechik-directed comedy follows ambitious family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his crazy family as they gather together under one roof to celebrate Christmas. Spoiler alert: a lot of things break and catch on fire — that’s why we like it.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
This image is a true depiction of a barracks Christmas in Afghanistan. (Source: WB)

3. Jingle all the Way (1996)

After a father vows to get his only son the incredibly hard-to-find action figure Turbo-Man, he embarks on the ultimate foot race across town to find the famous toy while competing with a hilarious mailman.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Shenanigans ensue. (Source: Fox)

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Directed by Hollywood icon Tim Burton, this animated feature film follows Jack Skellington — aka the Pumpkin King from Halloweenland — as he stumbles Christmastown and gains a new perspective on life.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
This film is magical and we’re not embarrassed about loving it. (Source: Touchstone)

Also Read: 6 epic movie moments that always make Marines pump their fist

1. Die Hard (1988)

Starring Bruce Willis as New York cop John McClane, this wise-cracking detective has to take down a group of well-armed European terrorists to help save his wife — while barefoot.

This late 1980s action-packed movie does take place during a Christmas party — so it’s technically a holiday movie regardless of how many people get killed.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
And if you don’t love it, you can just go die…hard… (Source: Fox)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to talk to aging parents about them moving in with you

The costs of coronavirus won’t be fully known for months, if not years. Loss of income is already clear. People over 55 years old have been especially hit. Their unemployment rate was 13.6 percent in April, a 10 percent jump from March. While the conversations might have likely taken place regardless, their situation increases the chance that grandparents will have to move in with their adult children.

This is an emotional realization for the whole family. Having grandma or grandpa move in isn’t a simple transition for all parties. It involves issues of space, money, privacy, freedom, and ego. There’s resentment with, “I didn’t ask for this,” and all opinions would be living under the same roof. And parents who want to start the discussion are in the middle, their folks on one side; their spouses on the other.


“It’s a tricky position, especially if there’s tension and conflict,” says Megan Dolbin-MacNab, associate professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech University.

It certainly is. Before you start feeling disloyal to anyone, remember that this isn’t an inevitable event. It’s just a possibility, one that requires assessing and playing the scenarios. Before you start reconfiguring the house, it starts with a conversation about having your parents move in. Well, two actually.

Talking to Your Spouse About Having Aging Parents Move In

When deciding whether or not grandparents should move into your home, the first conversation should be at home, with your partner. This needs mutual buy-in, regardless of how dire the situation might seem.

“It’s got to be a choice. There is a choice,” says Roberta Satow, psychoanalyst, professor emeritus at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, and author of Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You.

When you start exploring the alternatives, you’ll see where moving in ranks and that can help make a decision. As you proceed, the main thing is to ask your spouse questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers, keeping in mind the essential fact that you’re making a big request, Satow says. Ask two fundamental questions. “How do you think this would work?” and “What would we expect from them?” This will get you thinking about everything from space allocations to sharing of bills to things you didn’t even consider.

You can’t nail down every detail, but you’ll get an outline and more comfort with the idea. You also want to ask your spouse, “What are your concerns?” Listen again without quickly reacting. You want your partner to be able to express reservations, even anger, and do so early in the process, because things won’t magically work out without intention.

“If you don’t talk about stuff, it festers and then it explodes,” Dolbin-MacNab says.

It’s important to also ask: “What can we do for us if this happens?” Kids already changed your relationship. Grandparents moving in will do it again, Satow says. You might not have any couple time now, but giving the two of you focus amid this discussion will again help with the consideration.

But don’t focus solely on concerns, by also examining, “What’s the upside?” There’s the potential for help with chores and childcare, maybe you two get a night out regularly, and there’s the chance for your folks and kids to deepen their relationship. Considering the positives gives a fuller picture.

Talking to Aging Parents About Moving Into Your Home

This issue may have never been broached before with your parents. If so, it’s not an easy topic to raise. If there’s the slightest opening, some show of worry, use it to start a conversation when you’re not all rushed and the kids are engaged with something else. Acknowledge the awkwardness, Dolbin-MacNab says, and approach it, like with your spouse, as not a done deal. This is not the time for foot-stamping declarations of “You’re moving in.”

Ask your parents, “What are you feeling and what do you want?” It’s their decision as well. As the conversation moves forward, you want to be clear with concerns and expectations, and that honesty might be a new dynamic for all of you, and just setting that standard might be the biggest component, Dolbin-MacNab says.

Ask them, “What do you expect?” as it relates to childcare, bills, household chores and time together. Let them give a sense of how it would look, then give them the picture of your day and your approach to parenting – awake by 6 a.m., no snacks after 5 p.m., we try not to compare the kids to others – and ask, “Do you think you could fit into that?”

Remember: If you’re asking them for something, you need to offer them room to make it their own, and that requires prioritizing what really matters and not caring so much about the rest, Dolbin-MacNab says.

But there’s no need to address every potential conflict. They’ll happen and are best handled in the moment. You’ve set the overall framework and the precedent of talking. Let them know that will continue where everyone can share how it’s working and what needs addressing, Dolbin-MacNab says.

And ask them, “What do you see as the benefits?” It’s a hard time for them. This may be a loss of everything from social networks to furniture and they may feel embarrassed, but getting them to consider the upsides might reduce the sadness and bring in the idea that something different is also something new.

Even when it’s just a potential, it’s easy for you and your spouse to see it as a burden and undue stress. But it’s not what anyone drew up. As much as it’s possible, try to approach it like a team by finding consensus, looking for solutions, and where.

As Dolbin-MacNab says, “We’re all working toward the same goal and we could make our lives easier.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This MOH recipient reenlisted to avenge his brother’s death

Army Master Sgt. Ron Rosser served for three years in the post-World War II Army in Japan and Germany and then reenlisted in June 1951 with a single purpose in mind: revenge for the death of his younger brother Richard, who was killed in action in Korea.


Rosser was sent first to Japan. He then volunteered for combat and fought with his command to get a place at the front, eventually landing a spot with Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.

In an oral history recording for Arlington National Cemetery, Rosser said that Big Army couldn’t understand his motivation for demanding to go to Korea. “I made up my mind that you can’t kill my brother and get away with it,” Rosser said.

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Rosser received the Medal of Honor in 1952 for his actions during the Korean War. US Army photo

Company L participated in both Bloody Ridge and the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. Bloody Ridge lasted over three weeks, and there were an estimated 2,7000 casualties. The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was a month-long battle in the Korean War and was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea, just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel.

Then, Company L was ordered to take a hill occupied by the Red Army near the town of Ponggilli. Rosser reports that he estimated at least three battalions on the hill, all in heavily fortified positions. The battle began with only 170 men from Company L. Shortly after maneuvers began, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero.

The Red Army was completely dug in, and they had the advantage. Rosser gave his radio to another soldier and decided to charge alone to the Red Army front line. He stopped at an outcropping to assess the situation.

Recorded as part of the oral history for Arlington, Rosser said that he considered how much trouble he’d been through to reach that point and that there was no use wasting the day. “I let out a war whoop and jumped in the trench. I just charged straight into them,” he said.

Rosser was armed with only a carbine and a grenade, a fact that’s noted on his Medal of Honor citation. He gained the top of the kill, killed two enemy soldiers, and then went back into the trench. He killed five more enemies as he advanced, often relying on hand-to-hand combat at times.

But Rosser kept advancing, sometimes relying on his rifle as a club. When he ran out of ammunition, he returned to his position to reload. Rosser said that all he was trying to do was protect the men he was responsible for in his unit. He worried that if he didn’t attack, the Red Army would charge down the hill and decimate Company L.

Of the 170 soldiers in the unit, 90 were killed, 12 were captured, and 68 wounded. As Company L retreated, the Red Army didn’t fire any shots at them.

On his Medal of Honor citation, it states that he killed “at least 13 enemy,” but Rosser counts the number as more than 40.

“The purpose of me doing all that crazy stuff was trying to stop them,” he said in the oral history.

Rosser was awarded the Medal of Honor in a June 1952 ceremony at the Rose Garden in the White House. After President Truman read the citation, he turned to Rosser and said, “Personally I’d rather have [the medal] than be president.”

Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable
President Harry S Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Rosser at the White House in 1952 (US Army)

Once pinned, someone told Rosser that now not only did all officers have to salute him, but so too did the president. He was sure someone was pulling a fast one on him. While not an official regulation, it’s a time-honored custom that shows respect, whether or not the Medal of Honor recipient is in uniform.

Rosser was in the Army until 1968. He repeatedly volunteered several times for combat following the death of another brother, who was killed in action in Vietnam. The Army denied Rosser’s request for combat. He retired as a Sgt. First Class but was later promoted to Master Sgt.

Of being a Medal of Honor recipient, Rosser said it could have been awarded to anyone he served with. “I didn’t do anything they didn’t do. I was just lucky enough to survive it.”

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