Ensign Rubin Keltch died trying to rescue his shipmates after his Navy vessel was attacked by a German submarine
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.
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!
As the confetti of the New Year celebration is swept away, love begins to take over. We watch the red and pink heart covered “things” fill the stores in anticipation of February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The history of this day is long and can be traced back to ritualistic goat sacrificing for fertility long before we heard the ruminants of “roses are red and violets are blue” poems and exchanged sweet cards.
Weird sacrifices aside, the modern-day Valentine’s Day is aimed at celebrating love. Gone are the days of it just being about the special someone in your life. Now, Americans are also buying gifts for family members, children’s classmates, coworkers, and even 27% of Americans are celebrating with gifts for their pets!
The National Retail Federation reports that 2020 will be the biggest spending year for Valentine’s Day; the average person is planning to spend upwards of $196.31 each this February 14. Although spending is definitely up, that same report showed that only half of Americans are actually celebrating the holiday down from 61% in years past. Those that are choosing to rebel against all things V-Day related in strong protest against what they feel is an over-commercialized and single person ostracizing holiday.
For a military spouse, this day can come with its own set of challenges, especially if their service member is deployed. When the service member is gone, military spouses are already fighting internal debilitating mental health battles and balancing already overloaded plates. The idea of celebrating a day which is traditionally aimed at couples – hurts. But who says love has to hurt?
Love has long been associated with kindness. Did you know that random acts of kindness have been found to increase heart health by lowering blood pressure for the person performing the act? That same study also found that it reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and increases happiness. This year, random acts of kindness week kicks off on February 13th – the day before Valentine’s Day! It’s a sign.
So, despite the disdain for cupid’s day – whatever your reasons – you can make it your own special kindness-filled day. Here’s are 5 ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day:
Go buy those annoyingly pink cards and candies, then leave them for strangers to find. Their smiles will make you forget how much you dislike V-Day, promise.
Give a valentine to your community
Remember that park filled with trash? Clean it up. That foul-mouthed graffiti on the wall? Scrub it off. Love doesn’t have to be directed at a person, go love on your community.
Visit a nursing home
Feeling blue about being alone? I promise the residents of your local nursing homes are even more lonely. Go spend some time with those that are forgotten, you’ll feel better for it. One study found that those that are kind to others have reduced feelings of depression.
Go serve a meal
The best way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Go feed a meal to those with next to nothing. Volunteers taper off after Thanksgiving and Christmas – shelters are desperate for help to continue their good work. Find your local homeless shelter and get to work.
Spend time with Fido and all his friends
The Humane Society is always in need of someone to love on the animals in their care. Did you know that when humans love on dogs, the love hormone oxytocin increases for both man and their best friend? Go walk some dogs and snuggle some kittens.
This Valentine’s Day, try and check your automatic reflex to grimace as you walk through the stores covered in pink. Instead, make the day your own special day filled with love and kindness. What are you waiting for?
On this day 19 years ago, America woke up to unimaginable news. Nineteen members of al Qaeda had hijacked four fuel-loaded U.S. commercial airplanes. One crashed into the Pentagon. Two more hit the World Trade Center. The final plane was destined for the White House, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the passengers and crew, it never made it. That day, a total of 2,977 lives were lost; killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
September 11, 2001, showed us the very worst of humanity, but it also showed the very best. Nineteen men set forth to destroy our country, while thousands more stepped forward to heal it. We were reminded of what Americans are capable of; incredible kindness, selflessness and unity. The 11 figures below are just a few of the remarkable individuals who put their lives on the line that day, and gave us exactly what we needed: Hope.
Father Mychal Judge
While thousands lost their lives on that dark day, the first recorded casualty was Father Mychal Judge. The Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain chose to walk into the burning World Trade Center to bring comfort to wounded firefighters and others injured in the attack, listening to their final confessions and blessing them in their last moments. He gave his life just to bring others peace.
Flight 93 passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick
What would you do if your flight was hijacked? We’d all like to think we’d be as brave as these four men who fought their hijacker and helped prevent an even greater tragedy. When Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick boarded United Airlines Flight 93 that morning, they had no idea what was about to happen. In a stroke of “luck,” the flight was delayed slightly. Because of this, when the hijackers took over the plane at 9:30, the other attacks had already taken place. When the four passengers called their loved ones, they learned of the hijacker’s intentions for the plane — to crash directly into the White House.
To prevent this from happening, they worked with members of the plane’s crew to fight back against the terrorists. When the hijackers realized the passengers might successfully breach the cockpit, they opted to crash the plane into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The efforts of Beamer, Bingham, Burnet and Glick saved hundreds of lives that would have been lost had the plane reached its intended target.Before the plane went down, Burnett spoke to his wife on the phone, saying calmly, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney
One thing all these stories have in common is quick thinking and calm resolve. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 could easily have panicked when the plane was hijacked. A passenger had already been stabbed, some crew members were murdered, and the air was filled with something similar to mace, but they calmly notified their colleagues on the ground of the scene unfolding.
Those on the receiving end were astounded by their unwavering professionalism, listening carefully as they provided details about the hijackers throughout the flight. The information they shared helped the FBI uncover their full identities.
Wells Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower when it was struck by Flight 175. He called his mother and left her a voicemail, calmly telling her, “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”
He had no obligation to help anyone escape other than himself, but the former volunteer firefighter chose to anyway. He helped over a dozen people get out before running back into the building alongside firefighters to save even more. He carried one injured woman out on his back, directing disoriented and terrified office workers to the ground floor. Survivor Ling Young told CNN, “He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down.”
His body was recovered in a stairwell, his hands still holding a “jaws of life” rescue tool. He is remembered as “the man in the red bandana,” a commanding, brave figure who worked to save all he could.
Stanley Praimnath was trapped on the 81st floor of the South Tower when the second plane, Flight 175, struck. He was close enough to see the plane approaching, yet he survived the impact. Terrifyingly, he still had no way to escape the teetering tower. Luckily, Brain Clark heard his calls for help and talked him through a challenging escape route. As it turns out, by stopping to help Stanley, Brian also saved himself. Before he heard Stanley’s cries, he was headed to the upper floors to wait for help. The building collapsed within the hour. Those who had continued up the tower never made it out.
Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira
Two colleagues, Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira, were in the North Tower when the planes hit. Most people would be desperate to get out, but when the two men ran into a woman in a wheelchair on the 68th floor, they didn’t hesitate to stop. Together, they strapped Tina Hansen to a lightweight emergency chair and carried her down endless flights of treacherous stairs. Thanks to their selflessness and determination, all three of them survived.
Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz
Construction manager Frank De Martini and construction instructor Pablo Ortiz were both in the North Tower when it was hit. Instead of scrambling to safety, they took it upon themselves to rescue as many people as they possibly could. Many were trapped on the tower’s 88th and 89th floors, so the two men went into action. They opened jammed elevator doors, cleared debris, and directed people to safe escape routes. The North Tower collapsed while they were still inside. Before it did, however, they saved over 50 others.
Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes
Although members of the military eventually retire, their dedication to their country does not. Former Marine sergeants Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes had both been out of the military for some time. Yet, when they heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, they put their uniforms back on. Karnes was all the way in Connecticut when he sped off to New York at 120 mph to help.
He ran into Thomas at the site of the collapsed towers and together they began searching through the rubble. They identified two New York Port Authority police officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, trapped 20 feet below the surface. Both men were seriously injured, but after a total of 11 hours they were both successfully rescued. Karnes later reenlisted, serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
Cyril Richard Rescorla was born in Britain, but his dedication to the United States is unmatched. A Vietnam Vet with a Silver Star, police officer, and private security specialist, Rescorla had frequently warned the Port Authority that the World Trade Center was vulnerable. At the time of the attack, Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley in the South Tower, and when his fears were realized he dove in to help.
When the first plane hit the tower across from his, Rescorla was directed to keep his employees at their desks, but he ignored this order. Instead, he issued an evacuation order, walking employees through the emergency procedures he had made them rehearse time and time again. He had evacuated over 2,700 employees and visitors in just 16 minutes when the second plane struck the building they had just escaped from. Throughout the tense evacuation, his steady voice singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” rang out through a bullhorn, giving people strength and calm.
According to The New Yorker, he called his wife during the evacuation to tell her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”
He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower on his way to find any who had been left behind.
Maj. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville
When Major Heather Penney and Colonel Marc Sasseville learned of the initial attacks, the two National Guard pilots prepared to intercept United Flight 93, the fourth and final hijacked plane. They aimed their two F-16s directly at the wayward Boeing 757…except they were completely unarmed. The only way for them to stop the plane would be to ram into it- essentially a suicide mission.
“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney told The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
Fortunately, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 took on the job themselves. While Penney and Sasseville never had to complete their death-sentence mission, they were fully prepared to go down with their aircraft to protect others from harm.
Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski
On September 11, 2001, Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski was just a tour guide at the Pentagon. He was working on the opposite side of the building, so far away that he didn’t even hear the plane hit. The former volunteer firefighter and EMT didn’t hesitate to volunteer his services, however, racing to the site of the crash. He had to evade police officers and go around barricades to find a medical triage station and begin giving medical care to countless victims.
He then voluntarily ran back into the building to search for survivors while the building was still in flames. He gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back into the building while it was still in flames. Former Vice President Joe Biden said of Doboszenski’s heroic act, “When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site. For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”
Last but not least, Roselle
Some heroes have two legs, but some have four. Roselle, a guide dog, was on the 78th floor with her blind owner, Michael Hingson, when the plane hit. She guided him all the way down to safety. Without her, he most likely wouldn’t have made it out alive. The heroic pup lived a long, happy life until her passing in June 2011, and her owner has since written a book in her honor.
These are just a few of the innumerable heroes of 9/11. To the police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and ordinary citizens who brought light to one of America’s darkest days: We humbly thank you.
Moving and finding a new home is part of military life. While one year you were in a cold and frigid climate for the holidays, the next might have come with tropical and warm afternoons. (Mimosas by the beach anyone?!) That’s part of moving from base to base — sprinkled in years where you are traveling or spending time back home with family and friends. No holiday season looks the same.
But that doesn’t mean you’re missing out on any family favorites. Traditions travel right along with you, and adapt to all climates — deployed days included.
But that also means taking memories as you go, and finding new ways to call upon previous duty stations. Photos and small momentos help you and your family call back upon old addresses, and all of the fond memories that were made at each location.
From the year you saw Santa at a luau, to the time you were snowed in with hot cocoa, to the year everyone was quarantined at home, take a look at these creative ideas to turn your PCSs into memorable holiday art.
- Box tag art
What better way to keep your holiday moves in check than with a single, tag-filled ball — each of which reminds you of the worst parts of moving. Best of all? It’s all behind you, and now you can look back and laugh at those pesky little tags.
- A holiday card
Ready to announce your next PCS? Recently moved and letting folks know about your new address? Use your holiday card as the perfect announcement to send out to the masses. You can use a posed photo, or a mix of funny images where everyone is scrambling to get it all done. Take your pic of the narrative, then send out your cards to those you love!
- Address momentos
There are hundreds of ways that folks can commemorate each duty station and/or home. Just check out Pinterest for some examples of address boards, stat cut-outs, or insignia from each unit. Find a look that compliments your style and craft your way to a holiday or year-round shrine to each of your many homes.
Not feeling the crafty spirit? Order something and just hang!
- Holiday art party
Leaving around the holidays? Throw a party wherein our closest friends gather together to create a piece of art. Schedule a paint night, make wreaths, whatever your heart desires. While you’re at it, you can sign momentos for one another to seal in your memoires, long after the move.
Note: Make your “party” COVID friendly with virtual meetings and dropping items on the porch.
- A PCS tree
Earlier we talked about making ornaments, but why not kick it up a notch and devote an entire tree to PCS decor?! You can make ornaments out of maps, keys to old houses, and more. This is also a great way to get kids involved and help them with the transition process of moving somewhere new.
- Shadow boxes with momentos
As you move, hang onto key memories with souvenirs. Things like ticket stubs, photos, menus, or small trinkets can help remind you of some of your favorite days from the past. Keep a shadow box for each duty station, then dress them up with holiday flare like ribbons or lights to make moving extra special through the holidays.
- Themed gifts
When sending gifts to loved ones far away, your new spot can be something fun to incorporate. Create a heartfelt card and include something that’s special about where you are. Perhaps a photo, a recipe for a local dish, or some handmade goods that’s original to the area. This will be fun to explore your new town, while being able to share a creative gift with those you love.
- A memory jar
Create a “memory jar” by compiling favorite memories and putting them into one place. With your family you can sit around and talk about some of your favorite holiday moments, and where you were at the time. Best of all, you can keep this jar with your holiday decor, adding to it each year. It will be so special to look back upon handwritten notes and what was special to each member as you moved.
This is a new holiday tradition that can embrace moves and draw upon past memories all at once.
Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.
Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.
If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.
Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)
It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.
This is what one of these kits looks like.
(Photo by Coin-Coin)
This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.
After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.
Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)
Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.
In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.
This is how the professionals do it.
(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)
You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.
So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,
Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)
Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.
Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.
To read the full story, check it out here.
Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.
The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.
Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?
“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.
Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.
According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.
Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.
SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.
“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”
Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.
Why is this so hard?
Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.
While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.
“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.
Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.
“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”
Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act
The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.
“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”
Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.
“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.
Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.
See something. Say something. Do something.
According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.
In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).
For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate
Canceled plans? Been there, done that. Holidays alone? Nothing new. Making friends as an adult? A daily norm. Learning to live with everything in your house broken? It’s a non-issue. These and so many others are daily norms for military spouses — AKA milspos. And what better way than to celebrate in these most loved (or most hated) moments than with a good collection of memes?
Take a look at some of these all-too-real memes that describe perfectly the life of a military spouse.
- The stages of deployment in terms of personal hygiene
Don’t act like you’re shaving your legs while they’re gone.
- When you see your Facebook friends complaining about solo parenting for a day
Cry. Me. A. River.
- When friends and family asks how you are and this is your response
Milspo’s best friend.
- When someone says you “knew what you got yourself into” but it’s not how you remember your vows.
Not that we’d change it, but can’t we still be surprised about the craziness?!
- When most of your milspo friends joined an MLM at some point or another.
Hey, it’s a job that travels!
- When the universe aligns and you meet a new bestie.
The stars don’t always work in your favor, but when they do, it’s magical.
- Life just moves quicker in the military
Whether or not this was you, it’s funny.
- When everyone is freaking about COVID and you’re just like ???
Different day, same lack of control.
- When moves never get easier, you just lower your expectations
What was said on moving day (week, month) doesn’t count.
- Civilians, new military girlfriends, still full of logic and hope
It’s always so sad before their expectations are crushed.
No doubt that 2020 has brought on some of these memes and brought them to life for real — not just as a once funny joke. Luckily the military has given us the tools to deal with quickly changing plans … even if we aren’t happy about it.
Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.
So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.
Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.
Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.
Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.
Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.
The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.
By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.
One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.
Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).
Seriously how fun is this:
For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.
For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.
Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. Right now, they have 45 kids paired with 45 veterans. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.
The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!
Marriage can feel like a roller coaster, full of unforeseen ups and downs. But a marriage that becomes divided by sobriety levels up the ride, adding sharp turns, twists and loops that will make any head spin.
From the moment my husband and I met in 2007 — at a bar on a Monday night — alcohol has played a significant role between us. We bonded and drank our way through every phase: courting, engagement and newlywed. We drank through good times and bad, for good reasons and not.
When we entered the new-parent phase, there was a shift. My husband, whose sole goal in life was to be a dad, started to slow down his drinking. I boldly amped it up, increasing with each of the three children we brought into the world.
When my heavy weekend drinking trickled into weekdays, my husband expressed concern. When I drank excessively while he was on missions, he gave me ultimatums to not drink.
When my few solo travels resulted in reckless drinking, we both agreed I should stop altogether. Twice I attempted to break up with alcohol for my kids and marriage — once for 100 days, the other for eight months.
Yet, I knew I’d drink again because that’s what my husband and I did. We drank. A lot. Together.
By the beginning of 2017, my drinking was at an all-time high, and I was at an all-time low. My soul felt beyond broken. I was living life on alcohol’s terms rather than my own.
I was in single-mom-mode with our kids and on day four of an uncontrollable bender. I heard a very distant voice. It was my own, deep inside, and it said, enough. In that moment I knew I was ready to get sober — not for my kids, not for my marriage, but for me.
Fast forward to today, more than three years later, and I’m still gratefully sober.
The years have gifted me heaps of self-growth, such as how to honor my feelings, to stay present and to live authentically. I’ve found my voice and my calling in a new career. I’ve also done a complete 180 on how I perceive alcohol and the alcohol industry.
When people ask about the hardest part of recovery my answer has been and remains my marriage.
At first, it was not only the elephant in the room, but an elephant between us. To remove the elephant, we’ve attempted a dry house, which resulted in resentment from both parties.
We’ve tried a normal routine of my husband drinking as he pleases, which has also resulted in resentment and rejection from both parties.
We’ve talked. We’ve fought. We’ve cried, and we’ve loved each other so hard through it all.
(Military Families Magazine)
So how then do you live in a soberly divided marriage?
For us, there is no black-and-white answer, but I can attest to what we’ve learned over the years.
Honest communication is a must.
If I’m triggered or having an off day, it’s best to own it and say it aloud. Otherwise, my husband may have no understanding as to my bitterness or emotional distance. Plus, he’s able to better support me in the future, and vice versa if he struggles on his side of the journey.
Establish and honor boundaries.
Being around my husband when he drinks usually doesn’t bother me because, oddly enough, I like his tipsy, talkative lighter side. But my boundary is set at two nights in a row of his drinking. Beyond that and he knows he’ll find me elsewhere, doing my own thing. He honors my choice and space, but more times than not, he’ll not risk losing my company for a drink.
Respect the differences.
He’s a science guy. I’m a believer in Jesus. In all our time, we’ve respected our differences in faith. Similar respect is now applied to our opposing relationships with alcohol. We agree to disagree, and we do so respectfully.
Time and patience do wonders.
Despite the infinite ups and downs outside that come with being soberly divided, it’s clear with every passing sober day, we grow stronger in our marriage. We also grow stronger as individuals. But we must practice patience when the sober journey feels tough.
Practice empathy daily.
Lastly, without empathy, we may have fallen apart years ago. With empathy, we see through each other’s eyes more clearly. We’re better equipped to practice the “Golden Rule.” We’re forever reminded that at the end of the day, we’re two imperfect people doing our best to love each other through the sober journey’s good, bad and in-betweens.
Visit https://www.instagram.com/teetotallyfit/ to follow Alison Evans’ journey with sobriety and fitness.
Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.
Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.
The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.
No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.
“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.
To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.
“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.
Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.
U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.
Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.
Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.
However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.
Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.
Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said.
“On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”
It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.
“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”
The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.
This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.
No school. No playdates. No camps. No pool outings. The world as kids know it has been thoroughly upended and they are justifiably anxious, whether they show it or not. It’s up to the adults in the room to get them to open up about those feelings so that they can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity, and a very light touch.
“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.
“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.
Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:
- What did you learn about today?
- What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
- What was the most fun thing you did today?
- What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
- What was the toughest part of your day today?
- What was something you didn’t like about your day?
- What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
- What can we do together to make it better?
- I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?
As with most things in life, timing is everything.
“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.
He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.
“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”
If your children aren’t able to articulate how they’re feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won’t dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they’re feeling.
“If you can name it, you can tame it,” says Bubrick.
His final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don’t spin out. Don’t catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren’t having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We’re all stuck at home together.
“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends. Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he says.
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.
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.
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.