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
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
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
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.
Shaw Air Force Base is known by those stationed there as Separates Husbands And Wives. Between the Red Flags at Nellis, the endless human centipede of exercises, and a deployment, my husband Mike was gone over half of our days during that assignment. It was there I learned what it meant to be alone even while in a marriage, but I dealt with it by finding pockets of positivity. Deployments are tough, but if you look, you can find some gold nuggets in that steaming pile of anxiety poo.
Here are some perks to having a deployed husband:
1. Twice the closet space.
He doesn’t need to know that his pitted out Yuengling shirts are getting boxed up with collegiate football hats of schools he didn’t attend in order to make room for my legion of maxi dresses. The flannels, however, can stay.
2. Suddenly, the toilet paper roll lasts longer.
Turns out if your partner spends as much time on the toilet as a small construction crew fed on chicken fried steaks and protein shakes, the t.p. budget shrinks when he leaves. That newfound cash can be spent on regular pedicures, or a reasonably priced used Lexus.
3. You can take up the whole bed.
I call my favorite position, Drunken Starfish.
4. Retail therapy is fine!
His income is tax-free, and now I need a new credit card because the strip on my old one is wearing out.
Photo by USFS Region 5
5. Less frequent leg shaving.
That is, until your nephew feels your shin and asks, “Why does Aunt Rachel’s leg feel like a pine tree?” Twerp.
6. No bras in the house.
The bra hits the floor before the alarm goes off. I could set a world record for how fast I can unclasp my underwire and pull it out through the bottom of my shirt.
7. I can sleep better through the night without a 200 lb. land manatee flopping around next to me.
Not to mention the pillowcases are significantly less sweaty.
8. No sound of velcro in the morning.
9. Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for lunch. Cereal for dinner.
Honorable mention goes to chips and salsa.
10. Let me introduce you to “The D Card.”
Don’t get me wrong, I was worried every day for his safety, and wished time would speed up for him to come home, but the ultimate reward for enduring a deployment is getting to play the “D Card.” Fewer phrases pack a punch harder than these four words: My husband is deployed.
11. Priority vacation days at work.
When everybody is trying to take off for the holidays at the same time – wham! – I play the D Card and skip to the front of the line. No way am I missing Mom’s orange fluff at Christmas to decorate a tree by myself.
12. People put you on a pedestal just for being present and fully dressed.
Trust me, it doesn’t always happen.
13. Sometimes patriotic strangers pay for your drink.
One man tried to pick up my tab without me seeing. Little did he know I drink enough scotch to ration a ship full of sailors across the Americas, so he kindly paid for half. God bless you, citizen.
14. It shuts down unwanted attention from men.
I remember being asked, “How come your man’s not out with you tonight?” (First off– ew.) When I dropped the D Card, it abruptly came to a halt. There’s no comeback. Then I did the Hammer Dance to the tune of “U Can’t Touch This” and got myself some jalapeño poppers.
15. You get a hall pass for mood swings.
WHICH I DON’T F*CKING HAVE!
16. You can zone out at work hassle free.
All I have to do is pull up an article about F-16s, maximize the screen and then stare out into space. My boss thinks I’m anguished about my deployed husband, when really I’m thinking about Downton Abbey, or why white queso tastes better than yellow queso. But truthfully most times I’m anguished about my deployed husband.
17. Nice people send you nice cards.
One of the best things, truly, is finding out how big your friends’ hearts are. People send you cards and care packages, and a few more ambitious friends fly out to visit. I was touched to find out I had a group of friends who started a secret thread to coordinate when they could visit me so it was spread out over the deployment.
Is it indecent to use his time in combat to make my pain a little less difficult? I don’t think so. Deployments are dark times. It’s something those of us have earned through tears and sleepless nights when something goes bump outside the bedroom window. I remember driving over to my friend’s house one night because her neighbor wouldn’t stop being a creep, knowing her husband was away. We stayed up on her back patio with shotguns across our laps until we ended up making margaritas and playing Yahtzee until 3 in the morning.
If you’re the one left behind, it can feel like half of your puzzle is missing its pieces. For me, a gold-medal overthinker, I questioned who I was as my own person and why I couldn’t seem to handle life, which made me feel even worse about myself. I refused to feel helpless, but there it was. We had built a life for two, and I was forced to fly it solo. So no, I do not feel bad about playing the D Card.
But the biggest high of having a deployed husband is when you lock eyes across the hangar at 2 a.m. after seven months. Your heart pounds as you watch that tan flight suit cut through the crowd of hundreds, and you finally get your kiss, bristly though it may be.
Wellman and coworkers at the hospital’s opening, April 14, 2020.
Fred Wellman, a West Point graduate and retired public affairs officer, was at home in Richmond, Virginia when he got a call from his friend Kate Kemplin, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing in Ontario, Canada, who was driving to New York.
“She said, ‘we’re building a hospital and we need your network in New York City,'” Wellman, who holds a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, told We Are The Mighty.
Kemplin was referencing what would become the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field, a temporary hospital created to care for COVID-19 patients.
“She needed someone to handle the administrative aspects — things like admin work, bed tracking systems, logistics, not a hospital person, but someone intimately familiar with processes,” Wellman explained. “I was telling my girlfriend about all of this later on and she looked right at me and said, ‘You know that’s you, right?'”
Wellman, the founder and CEO of public relations and research firm ScoutComms, talked to his senior staff and family and called Kemplin back.
“It sounds like you need me,” he told her.
Wellman pauses for a selfie in what would become The Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field.
Courtesy of Fred Wellman
Wellman drove to New York City, where he has been working for a week in his new role as chief of staff at the field hospital, where the staff is composed entirely of former military.
“We put the SOS out to the Special Forces community for medics, and said we need you in New York within a day or two,” Wellman said. “We were able to bring in Special Forces medics as healthcare providers under doctor supervision. It’s never been done in a stateside setting, to use former medics as providers. They’re putting on PPE and taking care of patients. That’s what’s so revolutionary about this. These are former special operations community medics and healthcare workers who have come together on a week’s notice. It’s never been done. Using medics this way is unheard of.”
On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital opened.
Melissa Givens, a retired Army colonel, serves as the hospital’s medical director with over 20 years of experience in emergency and special operations medicine and disaster operation.
“We’re able to let veterans do what they love to do and that’s run at the sound of gunfire, and the gunfire is coronavirus. Here we come and we’re here to help,” Givens, who left her work as a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, D.C. area to aid in NYC, said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.
The temporary hospital, named after Navy SEAL medic Ryan Larkin who died in April 2017, has the capacity to treat 216 COVID-19 patients, as well as staff a 47-bed emergency department outpost.
“Many beds are being taken up at local hospitals by people who are recovering and we need those beds for sicker people,” Wellman said. “Hospitals are using their waiting rooms, cafeterias, as bed space. We have treated a couple dozen patients [here], and that’s growing quickly. Our hope is to get our system working really well and to get sicker patients into the proper hospitals where they belong.”
Despite the enormous physical and mental strain of the work being done, Wellman admits that the military’s ingrained sense of camaraderie has helped.
“We all understand the gravity of what we are doing and why we are here,” he said. “[But] seeing the way all these veterans, from different branches of service, with different experiences, and completely different ranks, just fell right into a unit from day one.”
Speaking through a mask as the interview ended and Wellman headed back inside the bubble, he likened his experience to his former life as an executive military officer.
“I went to Iraq three times and Desert Storm before that. That first deployment, you didn’t know what to expect; it’s planned, you know what you’re going to do, but once you cross that border, all bets are off. Yeah we have systems and processes, but this virus gets to vote, too.”
In May we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. The military lifestyle is one of constant change and uncertainty. This alone can be a trigger for mental illness. As a nation, we are now facing unimaginable mental illness triggers as quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing continue. Throughout this month, let us focus our attention on this issue and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Mental Health Facts
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is defined as a condition which affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. Mental health conditions can be triggered by influences in one’s environment, lifestyle, and/or develop as a result of genetics. A USO study conducted in 2018 reported military spouses expressed a lack of identity and sense of purpose. The same study highlighted their difficulty maintaining networks and support systems. In addition, military spouses felt a lack of control over their lives and expressed an inability to plan for their futures. A 2017 DOD study found that military spouses experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Think about these statistics and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Barriers to Seeking Treatment
What barriers exist that prevent military spouses from seeking mental health treatment? There is a stigma associated with mental health disorders and a lack of knowledge regarding available treatments and resources. Some people may not even recognize they have an issue. Military spouses may have an additional fear of their condition negatively affecting the active duty member’s career. Could it affect opportunities for promotion, potential for future assignments and/or duty locations? There is a fear of family, friends, and colleagues being judgmental. In order to remove the barriers to seeking treatment, we need to remove the barriers to discussing mental health within the military spouse community and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Changing the Mental Health Landscape
How do we change the landscape surrounding the mental health of military spouses? We can begin by supporting each other and fostering a culture of inclusiveness. Be an active part of the solution amongst our own by lending an ear, asking questions, and encouraging others to ask for and accept help. We need to increase our knowledge of available resources and share them with others. A list of free, confidential mental health resources is included at the end of this article. We have the ability to change the stigma. Let’s be the voice for those who aren’t able to speak by asking:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
No matter how resilient we are, there will always be aspects of our lives that are beyond our control. However, we need to recognize that we do have the ability to control our own identity, purpose, wellbeing, and mental health. It takes courage to ask for help and there is no shame in needing it. Military spouses have a duty to advocate for their active duty members and their families. In order to be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must advocate for fellow spouses, ourselves, and our own mental health.
Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of hurting themselves or others, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room to get help immediately. Please don’t let a cry for help go unheard. Included below are several mental health resources.
If you’re unfamiliar with Howard Schultz, he is the billionaire former CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Coffee, among other entities, and he and his family are on a mission to unlock the potential of every single American – especially veterans. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to fund some of the most powerful, potent veterans programs in the country.
Remember the rumor that Starbucks hated vets and the military from a couple years ago? That was false. In a big way.
The Schultz Family Foundation believes Post-9/11 veterans are returning to civilian life with an enormous store of untapped potential and a reservoir of diverse skills sets that could be the future of the country. Part of its mission is to ensure that every separating service member and their spouse can find a job if they want one. The Schultz Family Foundation makes investments in returning troops in every step of the transition process, from before they ever leave the uniform all the way to navigating post-service benefits.
Once out of uniform, the foundation supports programs and organizations that not only promote finding a job based on skills or learning new skills to get a new career, but also programs that are not typical of a post-military career. These careers include community development, supporting fellow veterans, and of course, entrepreneurship.
Nick Sullivan is an eight-year Army veteran who works with the Schultz Family through the Mission Continues.
Whether working for or donating to causes that directly help veterans or ones that support vets in other ways, The Schultz Family Foundation has likely touched the lives of most Post-9/11 veterans who have separated from the military in the past ten years. Whether through Hire Heroes USA, the Mission Continues, Blue Star Families or Onward to Opportunity, the Schultz Family has been there for vets. Now the Schultz Family Foundation is supporting the Military Influencer Conference.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Maybe starting your own business isn’t your thing. Veterans looking for support can visit the Schultz Family Foundation website for veterans and click on the “get help” button to join a community of thousands who did the same – and are happy they did.
We’ve all had that item we wanted to buy but maybe couldn’t quite justify or afford, but figured out a way to make it happen. For Air Force veteran David it was a 1971 Rolex Cosmograph Oyster. He appeared on Antiques Roadshow this week to tell his story and to have the watch that he so desperately wanted, but ultimately didn’t wear, appraised.
David entered the Air Force in 1971 with a draft number of seven.
He was stationed in Thailand from 1973-1975. While he was there, he flew on Air America and Continental and noticed that the pilots wore Rolex watches. “I was intrigued,” he told appraiser Peter Planes.
At his next duty station, Planes started scuba diving and found that the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster was a great resource to have underwater. He ordered one from the base exchange in November of 1974. With his ten percent military discount, it cost him 5.97. Making only 0 to 0 per month, that was a big buy. When he got it, it was too beautiful to wear. David put it in a safe deposit box and has kept it there since he bought it, only taking it out a few times to admire it. With all his original paperwork and the watch in pristine condition, David fell on the floor when Planes told him the value of the watch.
See his reaction and how much the watch is worth now:
The next James Bond movie and Daniel Craig’s last in the role looks like it’s easily going to the best of his movies as 007. And based on the second trailer for No Time To Die, it’s possible this could be the best Bond movie ever. The second trailer for No Time To Die finds Bond teaming-up with a new “double-0” agent, and seemingly allying himself with an old baddie. Most of all though, this looks exactly the kind of escapist action we want from James Bond right now, complete with a jolt or the franchise: moving beyond being just about James.
Following the events of Spectre (2015), this movie seems to be about James Bond coming out of retirement after having lived happily and quietly with Madeline Swan (Léa Seydoux) for a little while. And as we know in the previous trailer (released much earlier in 2020), Swan will have some kind of secret past that puts her at odds with Bond. Is she a secret spy? Someone being controlled by another baddie, like Vesper was in Casino Royale? Is there actually any new plot ideas here? Well, maybe not, but that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t look awesome. Here’s the new trailer, courtesy of the official 007 Twitter.
There are still a few mysteries here, and if we’re being fair, one element that seems to be taking the 007 franchise in a very new direction. We’ve known for a while that Lashana Lynch would be playing a new agent working for MI-6, but some rumors suggest she’s actually the new 007 because after he retired, Bond’s number was given to someone else. In the new trailer, Bond says “I’ve met your new double-o,” referring to Lynch’s new character. It’s also clear that at some point in the movie these two will be teamed-up, which strongly suggests that Lynch will become a new 007 in her own spin-off movies. The Bond franchise floated this idea once before when Halle Berry played the CIA agent Jinx in the 2002 movie Die Another Day, but a Jinx standalone movie never actually happened.James Bond will always be a man, according to series producer Barbara Broccoli, but that doesn’t mean a new 007 can’t be a Black woman.
It’s also not clear if Rami Malek’s new character is secretly Dr. No in disguise, though Madaline Swan calls him by a different name, assuming she’s talking about the same person. As for the rest of the cast, everyone from the Craig Bond-era is back, including Jefferey Wright as Felix Leiter, Ralph Fiennes as “M”, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Ben Winshaw as “Q.” This movie is also a reunion of sorts between Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, who both starred in Knives Out. In fact, just like in Knives Out, it looks like these two are also teaming up! Finally, Christoph Waltz is back as Blofeld, and he implies that he and Bond are now fighting “a common enemy.”
With classic car chases, slick Bond action, it’s possible that No Time To Die could become the Bond movie to rule them all, and a perfect way to close out Daniel Craig’s run as 007.
The new trailer says that No Time To Die will be in cinemas in November. Previously, the release date was pushed back from its first release date in April. Right now, it seems like MGM is pretty serious about this release date. So…we’ll see!
As the United States continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government has passed legislation that will send stimulus checks to most tax paying Americans, including military families.
These stimulus checks are a part of a massive $2 trillion effort to not only assist Americans who are financially struggling amidst this time of layoffs, furloughs, and social isolation, but also to inject funding directly into businesses around America that are continuing to employ people throughout this chaotic time.
The payments heading directly to American families in the coming weeks are projected to reach nine out of 10 households in the country, which means military families can count on receiving these payments despite the military itself not suffering the same sorts of layoffs and reduced employment found elsewhere in the nation. This money can be used to help offset lost spouse income, the cost of buying essential cleaning materials, and the cost of being stuck in your homes on base or elsewhere.
Service members that are suffering financial hardship as a result of being caught between duty stations while executing orders at the time of the Pentagon’s stop-movement order are eligible for other financial assistance provided through the Defense Department. Those payment have nothing to do with the coronavirus stimulus checks the Treasury Department will soon be sending.
So who, exactly, is eligible for a stimulus payment and how much can they expect to receive? We break it all down below.
How much will I receive in my coronavirus stimulus check?
Stimulus payments are based on the recipient’s adjusted gross income, so the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to Americans that are most in need. It’s important to note that basic entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) are not included in your family’s adjusted gross income. Only taxable income (basic pay) is taken into account for tax purposes.
You can find up to date info on the IRS webpage here.
Coronavirus stimulus payments include:
A maximum id=”listicle-2645620124″,200 per adult
Up to ,400 for couples who make up to ,000
An additional 0 per each child that is 16 or younger
However, at a certain income level, the payments begin to reduce until a certain point, in which they stop completely.
Those who make over ,000 per year individually will see payments reduced by for each 0 in their Adjusted Gross Income over the ,000 cap.
Individuals who make over ,000 per year will not receive a payment
Couples filing jointly who make more than 8,00 per year will not receive a payment
Those who file as “head of household” will not receive a payment if their income is about 2,500 per year
Dependent adults are not eligible for a payment, including college aged children and adults with disabilities
How does the government know how much money I make or how many kids I have?
The Treasury Department will be using 2018 tax returns to assess income level and dependents, as well as the direct deposit information for those who have it in order to deposit the stimulus checks.
What if my income was above ,000 in 2018, but has since dropped?
These payments are really just an advanced tax credit, so even if you don’t receive a payment because your 2018 taxes showed you as ineligible, you can still receive it as part of your tax return when you file your 2020 taxes.
Do I have to sign up or fill out forms to receive my stimulus payment?
As long as the IRS already has your bank account information from your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, all you have to do is sit and wait for the check to hit your account. However, if you have not yet filed your 2018 taxes, the IRS encourages you to do so as soon as you can, otherwise your payment may be delayed.
The IRS said that they will be building a portal to change direct deposit information in the coming weeks.
As long as you meet the income requirements and have a social security number, you will still receive the payment regardless of where you are stationed.
Will I have to pay taxes on the stimulus payment?
No, these payments are technically considered a tax credit.
What if I don’t have direct deposit established for my taxes?
Your payment will come to you the same way a tax refund would, so if you don’t have a direct deposit account established with the IRS, the check will be mailed to you at the address listed on your tax return.
The best backyardgames, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.
Yard Games Kubb
The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.
More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.
A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.
On a Sunday a little over 12 years ago, on a battlefield far from home, US Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, then in his mid-20s, suddenly found himself in an intense firefight that changed his life forever.
The mission was to capture or kill a local terrorist leader holed up in a mountain fortress occupied by Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces in eastern Afghanistan.
The plan was to insert US Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos into a valley below by helicopter and take the enemy by surprise. Once they were on the ground, the joint force was expected to climb into the mountains on foot, infiltrate the town, neutralize the hostiles, and get out.
Some of the troops called to execute the mission questioned whether it was too risky. Their concerns were brushed aside, and the mission moved forward as planned. A fellow Green Beret who went with Walding on the mission told Insider it was “cursed” from the start.
This is the story of not just that fateful mission, but Walding’s refusal to give up after tragedy struck.
John Wayne Walding and Ryan Wallen, a fellow Green Beret who accompanied Walding on the fateful mission. (Courtesy photo)
‘A very long day at the office’
On April 6, 2008, a handful of troops with Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group and a number of Afghan commandos flew into Shok Valley. It was the start of what Walding called “a very long day at the office.”
Shok Valley (US Army graphic)
Their troubles began almost immediately upon arrival.
“We couldn’t even land, the terrain was so f—ing bad,” Walding’s friend and fellow Green Beret, former Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallen, recalled. “Our helicopter just kind of hovered about 10 feet up over a freezing cold river and gigantic rocks, and we had to jump out of the back. This was already a rough start.”
Their situation quickly got worse. As the lead element made its way toward the objective, the mountains suddenly erupted with gunfire. A large force of several hundred enemies ambushed the American and Afghan troops, upending the mission and turning it into a terrifying fight for survival.
“Gunfire just opened up on us,” Wallen said. He was positioned down by the river near the base of the mountain when the bullets started to fly.
“I took a [rocket-propelled grenade] and kind of got blown out,” Wallen continued. “I was laying half in the water, bleeding out of my throat and chest, beaten up a little bit. The overpressure kind of f—ed me up.”
Nothing vital had been damaged in the blast, so the team’s medic, Staff Sgt. Ron Shurer, was able to get him patched up and back in the fight. Farther up the mountain, the lead element was pinned down and taking heavy fire.
An Afghan interpreter had been killed, and two US soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr and Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, were severely wounded. Supporting, Walding moved into position between them and the incoming fire. “That’s when I got shot,” he said.
An enemy sniper shot Walding in the leg, nearly tearing it from his body. “It was hanging on by like a tendon or two,” Wallen said. “I’ve never seen an injury that looked that bad.”
“I never will forget falling forward and then rolling over to see that leg just hanging there by only about an inch of flesh,” Walding recalled. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Walding was not done fighting though. After putting a tourniquet in place to stop the bleeding, he used his boot laces to strap the bottom part of his leg to his thigh, picked up his rifle, and got back to it.
Most of the US Special Forces team suffered wounds of one kind or another, but “as f—ed up as everybody was, we didn’t have time for anybody to lay there bleeding and dying,” Wallen said.
American planes were called into conduct dozens of danger-close airstrikes with large bombs that Walding said blacked out the sun with debris.
Unable to move forward with their mission, the US and Afghan troops fought fiercely for hours just to stay alive until they could be pulled out.
Wallen and a few others helped get Walding down the mountain and to the evacuation point. “As the medevac birds were coming in, we were dragging casualties across the river, and it was freezing,” he said.
They tried a couple of times to get Walding on a helicopter but were unsuccessful, as the helos were either full or taking rounds, and each time they failed, they had to carry him back across the river to a safe position shielded from the gunfire.
“Finally, a third bird came in, and we took JW back across the river a fifth time,” Wallen said. “We were finally able to get him on that bird, but we ended up giving John hypothermia along with all of his damn injuries. It was like bad things kept stacking up.”
All of the US troops that went into Shok Valley made it out alive. Some of the Afghans, however, did not. Although they were unable to complete the mission, the US and Afghan forces left behind hundreds of enemy dead.
Ten members of Walding’s team, himself included, would later be awarded the Silver Star. Not since Vietnam had that many Silver Stars been awarded for a single engagement. And, two of the soldiers who were in Shok Valley later received the Medal of Honor for their courage under fire.
The immediate aftermath was no celebration though. Walding, who had hoped that his leg could be saved, went into surgery. “I never will forget waking up the next day,” he recalled. He said he was afraid to look down. When he finally did, he cried.
John Wayne Walding (US Army Photo by Capt. David Chace)
‘A leg was not going to stop me’
John Wayne Walding was born on the Fourth of July in Texas. His father named him after the famous actor who starred in classic Westerns and war movies because, in his words, if “you have a cool birthday, you need a cool name.”
But while Walding was named after the man who directed and starred in the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” he never thought much about the military until he was about 20 years old and realized he needed a real job.
Walding talked to a recruiter who asked him if he wanted to shoot missiles. He said “Hell yeah” and joined the Army as a Patriot missile operator.
He found his true calling after he joined up though. “As soon as I saw the Green Berets and what the tip of the spear really is, that really got my gears spinning,” he told Insider.
Wallen met Walding when the latter joined his team as a Green Beret, and they quickly became good friends.
“It was one of those connections that, just right away, we just kind of hit it off,” Wallen said. “We developed a really strong bond, and then it was just solidified when we were baptized in blood together.”
Wallen said he was one of the first people to see Walding when he came out of surgery after being wounded in Shok Valley.
Walding had been torn apart in battle, something not easily overcome, something that some never overcome, but he determined he was not done being an elite soldier. “Donning that Green Beret was one of the most profound moments of my life, and a leg was not going to stop me from doing that,” he told Insider.
Being a Green Beret meant being a part of something special, something meaningful that’s bigger than any one person. Reflecting on the events that unfolded in Shok Valley, Walding said, “We didn’t get through that day because I was great or any of our guys. It was because we were willing to fight to the death to keep each other alive.”
“You don’t just wake up the day after all of that and say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll hang up the hat.'”
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘You do it because you love it’
Walding said that he tries to live his life in such a way that he is not simply good, but great. Following his recovery, he decided to become a Special Forces sniper.
Just two years after he sustained a life-altering injury, Walding began the intense seven-week Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina equipped with a ruggedized prosthetic and a determination to excel against all odds.
“Why did I keep going? Because I loved it,” Walding said.
“You don’t do what I did because you like it. You do it because you love it,” he continued. “To become a Green Beret, there’s a lot of people that quit because they just liked it. They liked the idea of being one, but that’s not how I live.”
Snipers are essential assets who provide battlefield intelligence and long-range precision fires, and the training is challenging across the military.
For the Special Forces, sniper training can be even more demanding. Through shooting and marksmanship sessions, gun runs, stalking, fast rope training, and climbing exercises, Walding held his own despite his prosthetic. “I never finished last,” he said.
Walding made history in the summer of 2010 by becoming the first amputee to graduate from the elite special warfare sniper course.
“His story is incredible,” Wallen said. “I don’t know that many people on the planet have the kind of resilience he does.” That’s not to say that there weren’t bad days, but when times got tough, it was his faith, family and friends, and love of country that got him through.
Walding wanted to return to his team and operational status, but he ultimately decided against it, opting instead to stay on as an instructor.
“I knew that no matter how good I was with one leg, a Green Beret with two was always going to be better,” Walding told Insider, explaining that he would never want to be in a scenario where one of his brothers or sisters was injured or killed because of him. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” he said.
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘Forever remember the cost of freedom’
After serving 12 years in the military, Walding retired in 2013 as a Sergeant First Class. He now lives in Texas with his wife and four kids.
As a civilian, Walding continues to serve.
He started Gallantry Global Logistics, a company named after the words on the back of his Silver Star, which reads “for gallantry in action.” He hopes to see it become the largest veteran employer in Texas. He is also the co-founder of Live to Give, a water bottle company that donates half of all profits to veteran and first responder charities.
Walding named his shipping company after his Silver Star, but the Purple Heart he was awarded for the injuries he suffered in Afghanistan has tremendous meaning too.
“I wear that Purple Heart figuratively every day,” Walding said. “Every single day, I wake up and I see my leg is missing. I will forever remember the cost of freedom. It really is a driving factor for me to not be good, but be great.”
Maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you’ve considered homeschooling your kids, but have never taken the time to give much effort and research to the idea. Well, many schools in the U.S. have closed their doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and this is the perfect opportunity to try it out!
According to a census done in 2012, approximately 3 percent of U.S. students were being homeschooled. That is roughly 1.5 million students. This number has increased significantly since homeschooling platforms and options have diversified. There are co-ops and multiple curriculums to fit a variety of lifestyles and beliefs.
A new survey found that 11 percent of military families have chosen to homeschool for different reasons. One of the reasons is to give their child stability because they don’t like having to uproot them from learning facilities with every PCS move. It also allows them to have more control over their kids educational process and learning environment.
If you are a newbie and have been pushed into the role of “teacher” because of this pandemic, don’t fret. Here are some PRO tips from actual homeschooling moms that have been in the game for a while.
Keep it simple – Don’t try and print out every curriculum you can find and then stress yourself and your kids out. Let them read to you or practice writing their letters with their finger in a plate of salt (age appropriate of course).
Make a schedule but be flexible – Yes, schedules help with focusing and staying on course, but life happens.
Use what you have – Don’t make it complex. Go through household items to cover a lesson. For example, if you’re covering shapes, have your kids go through the house and find all the spheres that they can. This could include balls, fruit or even toys.
Make it practical – If you’re doing a science lesson, put the book down and go on a nature walk to find things outside that reflect what the lesson is about.
Start early – Everyone has a fresh mind in the morning. Afternoons are a hard time for kids to focus.
Don’t make lessons long – Learning should only be 1-3 hours max per day.
Take multiple breaks – You can stretch out your learning throughout the hours. Don’t try to do it all in one clump of time.
Be patient – Remember you are a parent first and you all need grace while you’re figuring it out
Make it engaging and FUN – This isn’t a classroom. You are in control of the fun meter. Turn it up!
Do what fits your family’s vibe – You have the freedom to tailor your lessons to the way you know your kid learns. Try different approaches until you find one that makes sense for all of you.
Maj. Philip D. Ambard was killed in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. A decade after the death of her husband, a Gold Star wife continues to go the distance to carry her airman’s memory around the globe.
Air Force Maj. Phil Ambard deployed to Afghanistan to serve on a NATO team training the Afghan Air Force when he was killed during a shooting at Kabul International Airport, according to the Air Force. He was 44. His widow, Linda Ambard, describes him as a husband and father who exuded kindness and fun. She refers to him as the “Disneyland parent.”
Linda said she didn’t mind being the rule maker, knowing that Phil’s childhood shaped so much of who he was. Phil was a French-Venezuelan immigrant who didn’t even know English when he arrived on American soil at the age of 12. A self-taught linguist, he would go on to learn 10 languages and, in 2003, started a career at the Air Force Academy’s Department of Foreign Languages.
A fellow professor described Phil’s impact on his student.
“You would always see a line of cadets at his office,” Lt. Col. LeAnn Derby said in an interview with the Air Force shortly after Phil’s death. “It was easy to see the impact he had on them.”
Growing up in Venezuela was a tumultuous experience for Phil, Linda says, but it also inspired him to always prioritize his family and value all people in his adult life.
“One thing that I learned from my husband was to really love my country, warts and all,” Linda said with a smile.
But he almost wasn’t her husband. Phil asked Linda out more than a dozen times before she said yes.
“I didn’t want anything to do with him because he was almost six years younger than me,” she said. “We became friends through the course of him asking the first 19 times and it became a joke. Then one day he said, ‘This is the last time I am going to ask you out if you say no.’”
Four months later they eloped.
“He was the kindest and most humble person I knew … He saw the invisible people. You know, the people who come and do the cleaning at your workplace? He would practice any of his 10 languages to figure out which one they spoke,” Linda said. “He’d find out about their families or sodas and snacks they liked, then he’d show up with them. He felt like you could change people more by being kind and meeting them where they were.”
Phil enlisted in the Air Force to not only serve but also to earn his citizenship. He would go on to become an officer and teacher. Despite the security of his position teaching at the Air Force Academy, he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011.
One of the hardest parts about the day he lost his life was that he knew his assassin, Linda explained. The Afghan soldier who ambushed those airmen was someone Phil considered a friend. They often lunched together and conversed in different languages. Phil’s death changed everything for his family and there was more trauma to come.
“Two years after he was killed, I was at the Boston Marathon when all hell broke loose,” Linda said. “I was one stop away from the finish line and I was smiling; it was a good day. I was running to honor and remember Phil. They had chosen me to do that. Then the first boom hit … I became terrified and it lives on in my nightmare and it overlaps with Phil. But it woke something up in me. I can’t let terrorism have anything else from me … I have to fight to thrive, and by doing that I am honoring Phil.”
Linda went on to earn a master’s degree in military resiliency counseling and began using her voice.
“The military is very good at recognizing the funerals … but they aren’t so good at what comes next,” she explained. “The cost keeps going. It doesn’t go away just because it’s been 10 years.”
Linda shared that trauma severely impacts those who experience it and can continue to wreak devastation on lives. It’s with this in mind that she continues to counsel, train, and educate, hoping to change and improve the lives of other military families.
A decade later, Linda is still running marathons to honor Phil on every continent except Antarctica — but that’s coming in March 2022. She also found love again and is engaged to be married. One lesson she’d like people to take away from her story is to love more deeply and take the time to show it because we never know how much we have left.
To register for the #TUPMile, click here and visit TUP’s Facebook Page for more information. While there, learn more about their stories and lives. And don’t forget to tag #TUPMile and #MotivatedByTheirLives in your mile.
Almost everyone agrees that being preparedfor the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.
In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?
The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.
We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.
The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst
“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.
In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.
“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”
“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.
This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.
In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.
The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst
There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.
“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”
However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.
“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”
To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.
“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”
While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.
A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.
“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”
So where does that leave us?
There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.