Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

On her way to graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University, Victoria Kelly didn’t envision a future as a military spouse. She was intently focused on political science with an eye on a career in international law.


All of that started to change when she attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference during the spring semester of her senior year. There she met one Midshipman First Class Will Kelly who was on his way to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at the same time she was headed to Ireland to pursue a masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College in Dublin. That connection led to a relationship.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book
Victoria Kelly — Navy spouse, mother, poet, and novelist

They managed to keep their love alive over the months that Will attended flight school and Victoria studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she honed her literary chops, mostly focusing on the fiction genre. Once Will pinned on his Wings of Gold the two got married and moved to Virginia Beach where he was assigned to his first F/A-18 squadron.

Will went to sea with VFA-31 “The Tomcatters” and flew missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while Victoria took care of the homefront. For all of her education, nothing to that point had really prepared her for the emotions — the fears and frustrations — that surround a wartime deployment.

It was fertile ground for an artist. The muse descended and the words started coming to her but as poetry not fiction. She was satisfied enough with the results to submit her poems to some contests and literary journals, and she wound up winning awards and getting her work published. Her first poetry chapbook, Prayers of an American Wife, won the Coal Hill Prize and was published by Autumn House Press in 2012.

Her second book of poems, titled When the Men Go off to War, was just released by the Naval Institute Press and is already receiving a lot of attention from both the military community as well as literary critics. Connecticut State Poet Laureate Dick Allen said, “Hers is one of the finest first collections of poems I’ve read in the last decade,” and writer Dorianne Laux characterized the work as “quiet, spare, and moving.”

An excerpt from the poem “Patuxent River” provides a good example of Kelly’s signature phrasing and metaphor:

. . . My husband stopped the car, stepped out to the road, and lifted

his face toward the roar of the jets overhead, looking

the way people look in the rain in movies

when they are happy. To him the were

as beautiful as children, those gray,

hairless beasts that had brought us here,

but he talked of them like mistresses, and he loved them,

and I loved him . . .

When the Men Go off to War is full of these sort of evocative passages, at once beautiful and tragic and always real. Navy SEAL veteran and bestselling author Eric Greitens may have put it best when he said, “We leave [Victoria’s] poems wiser and stronger.”

Watch this animated short featuring the title poem from When the Men go off to War:

Besides being an accomplished poet, Kelly is about to be a published novelist. Her debut, Houdini’s Wife, will hit shelves in March of 2016.

For more information about Victoria Kelly and to order the book visit her website here.

Now: These women served by serving booze to soldiers in battle

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Today is National K9 Veterans Day

National K9 Veterans Day, March 13, is a day set aside to honor commemorate the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs throughout history.


It was on March 13, 1942, that the Army began training for its new War Dog Program, also known as the “K-9 Corps,” according to American Humane, marking the first time that dogs were officially a part of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Also read: 13 pictures of military working dogs being good puppies

The rest, as they say, is history. Officially a part of the service, the dogs of war span centuries and include such heroes as Sgt. Stubby, the original war dog, Chips, the most decorated dog in World War II, Lex, who retired with his fallen owner’s family, and Cairo, the Navy SEAL working dog on the bin Laden raid.

Today’s military dogs are valued as important members of their military units and even have their own retirement ceremonies, awards and medals, and memorial services.

 



MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US and NATO are boosting their presence in a hotspot for military activity near Russia

The long-awaited announcement about the redeployment of thousands of US troops currently in Germany finally came at the end of July.

US officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Tod Wolters, who heads US European Command, outlined the moves and the strategic reasoning behind them. President Donald Trump immediately undercut their remarks, but their references to the Black Sea reflect how the region is a growing point of tension with Russia.


“We’re moving forces out of Central Europe, Germany, where they had been since the Cold War,” Esper said. “We’re following, in many ways, the boundary east [to] where our newest allies are, so into the Black Sea region” as well as Poland and the Baltics.

The shift means European Command will “now be able to rotate units in perpetuity in multiple locations,” including the Black Sea, which “dramatically improves our operational capability,” Wolters said.

‘The Kremlin sees that’

Moscow, the most powerful Black Sea state, invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008. Tensions have remained high since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

“The Black Sea region is what the Kremlin uses launch its operations in Syria and Libya and the Eastern [Mediterranean],” Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe between 2015 and 2017, told Insider. “It’s how they influence everything that goes on in the Balkans and the Caucuses as well as obviously Ukraine and Moldova.”

Hodges is one of many who criticized the redeployment of European Command forces, arguing it doesn’t improve readiness and that the manner in which it’s being done hurts NATO.

“Having said that, I always welcome any additional focus on the Black Sea region, because I think that … needs to be a much higher priority,” Hodges said, adding that Esper’s suggestion that a Stryker brigade could be deployed to the region was “a very good idea.”

“Increasing [NATO] naval presence in the Black Sea region really is even more important,” as the Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian navies are “still not a match for the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” Hodges said.

Hodges cautioned that the coming months — with an ongoing drought in Crimea, US and Ukrainian elections, and Moscow’s major Kavkaz-2020 military exercise in southwestern Russia — could see more Russian action.

Concerns about more aggressive moves by Moscow have risen on other occasions since 2014, and experts have said seizing more Ukrainian territory now amid that drought doesn’t make much political or logistical sense for Moscow.

But the combination of factors creates an opening, Hodges said.

“Given the inconsistent response by this administration in the United States, and other than EU sanctions on Russia there hasn’t been that much in the way of real, firm response in the region” to Russian actions, Hodges said. “I think the Kremlin sees that.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. (US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy)

‘The increasingly important Black Sea’

In June, Adm. James Foggo, outgoing commander of US naval forces in Europe, said eight US ships spent about 120 days patrolling the Black Sea last year and “routinely” conduct “complex exercises” like Sea Breeze with allies and partners.

The US military has increased its presence in the area in recent years, and the 20th iteration of Sea Breeze, a Ukrainian-US exercise with other Black Sea and NATO nations, was the latest example.

“Every visit to the Black Sea encompasses working together with our partners and growing our interoperability,” Cmdr. Craig Trent, commanding officer of Navy destroyer USS Porter, told Insider. “Together, we executed a complex, multi-warfare exercise all without stepping foot ashore for face-to-face planning due to COVID mitigations.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

US sailors conduct simulated small boat attacks from USS Porter during Sea Breeze, July 22, 2020. (US Navy/Interior Communication Electrician 2nd Class Jeffrey Abelon)

This year it included more than 40 ships and aircraft from eight countries. The Porter was there on its third Black Sea patrol in five months.

The destroyer “conducted surface action group tactical maneuvering, over-the-horizon surface targeting, air defense, and anti-submarine operations,” Trent said.

The Porter worked with a US P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “to share a common tactical maritime picture” and “with Ukrainian tactical aircraft during the air-defense exercises,” Trent said.

The P-8A worked with ships and aircraft, including Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets, on undersea warfare and air-intercept training, Cmdr. M. Trever Plageman, head of Patrol Squadron 47, told Insider. (Russian planes frequently intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea, including during Sea Breeze.)

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

USS Porter and an Air Force MC-130J exercise together during Sea Breeze, July 20, 2020. (US Navy)

The Black Sea “provides complex training opportunities, which enhance aircrew proficiency for littoral undersea warfare,” Plageman said. “Of equal importance was the cooperative interaction with allies and other partner nations, which improved our squadron’s interoperability within the increasingly important Black Sea region.”

The Porter also worked with the US Air Force on “air defense and surface-to-air integration of systems,” Trent said.

During Sea Breeze, US Air Forces Europe led a one-day mission with Navy and Space Command assets “to train US forces to integrate, operate, and communicate while executing all domain operations,” according to a release.

It included F-16s that “conducted training scenarios” using Joint Air-to-Surface Missile cruise missile tactics. The JASSM is a long-range “precision standoff missile” designed “to destroy high-value, well-defended targets.” US Special Operations Command Europe also sent an MC-130J aircraft “to exercise special operations forces insertion.”

Sea Breeze concluded on July 26, but on August 2, the Navy and Air Force conducted a similar exercise in the area — with live weapons.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

2,000 Gold-Star family members go to Disney thanks to Gary Sinise

The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.


According to an Instagram post, the foundation is tracking 1,722 participants this year, including hundreds of kids from over 650 families.

Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.

The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.


I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …

facebook.com

Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.

In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.

Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.

And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.

After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.

If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman awarded Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in Afghanistan

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

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

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


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

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why only an idiot would render a  salute in a combat zone

It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.

Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.

But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.


Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

There’s a time and place for a salute. Remember, the respect the salute is meant to convey is more important than the act itself.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Miller)

First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.

It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

If you’re going to salute in combat, you’re wrong. If you’re going to salute with a rifle and it doesn’t look like the above photo, you’re even more wrong.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Martinez)

Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.

But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Yeah. Jokingly saluting an officer and saying “sniper check, sir!” suddenly became a little less funny, huh?

(National Archives)

Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.

While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.

Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.

You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

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?

Thinking big

“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.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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 victims

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.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Medal of Honor recipient Ronald Shurer dies at 41, remembered for how he lived

On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.


Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.

9/11 changed them.

In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.

Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.

The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.

But he didn’t stop.

Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.

He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

upload.wikimedia.org

In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.

On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.

On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

www.army.mil

Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”

www.instagram.com

Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week…”

Two days later he was gone.

Shurer was the embodiment of devotion, courage and sacrifice. He leaves behind his wife, two children, and a devastated country that is forever grateful for his service.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Only a handful of the Air Force’s B-1 bombers are ready to deploy

Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment’s notice.

The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.

“We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today,” Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


“Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot,” he said. “The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Force Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) officials told Task Purpose on July 31, 2019, there are seven fully mission capable bombers.

Hyten said the B-1 has borne the brunt of constant deployment cycles.

“We saw issues in the B-1 because we’re just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them. And so we had to pull back a little bit and get after fixing those issues. And the depots can do that if they have stable funding,” he said.

Gen. Tim Ray, commander of AFGSC, agreed that demand has outstripped available aircraft.

During a speech at the Deterrence Symposium in Nebraska on July 31, 2019, Ray spoke about “setting the pace” for deterrence, saying that sometimes the demand for resources wins out.

Earlier in 2019, Ray said the Air Force overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected.

“We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command],” he told reporters during a breakfast with reporters April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Ray said that’s why he recalled the aircraft to the U.S. to receive upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagle fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight.”

Last year, B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from the B-52 Stratofortress. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess returned home March 11, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine.

By the end of March 2019, Ray had ordered a stand-down, marking the second fleetwide pause in about a year.

AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet. Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews’ safety.

The aircraft resumed flights April 23, 2019.

The command again grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year over a problem also related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)

That pause was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess-based B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow during an earlier in-flight problem.

Lawmakers took note this summer: The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in its markup of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requested that the Air Force offer a plan for how it will address the B-1’s problems. Committee members were aware that the B-1’s availability rates were in the single digits, according to Air Force Times.

The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to fly at any given time to conduct operations — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.

The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. It plans to retire the bombers in 2036.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Lists

6 joys of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a sweet moment for everyone in the military. Stateside troops have come home for momma’s cooking and haven’t worn out their welcome yet and even deployed troops shift down into first gear.


But then there’re the troops still on the installation who, for whatever reason, are saving their leave days will enjoy what is, essentially, a free week off. As with everything in the military, your personal experiences may differ, but these are the six joys we’ve experienced of being a lower enlisted not on holiday block leave.

6. There isn’t much to do

The military never fully stops, but when there’s not much to do, well… Troops don’t end up doing much of the burdensome busywork they’re used to doing. You can’t get into the motor pool because everyone with the key is gone. You can’t go to the field or do some training exercise because no one is around to lead it. You’ll probably just lounge around the company area until CoB.

As long as there’re no incidents, troops will probably be cut loose early.

Just relax. Do nothing. (Image via GIPHY)

5. There’s noone around

Hate the lines getting on- and off-post? Hate the lines getting whatever’s discounted at the Exchange? Can’t stand that one prick in your unit? Not this week! This week, it’s basically just you and a handful of others!

Of course, you’ll be given something to do. For example, you’ll probably sweep and mop the barracks, but unlike every other time you clean it and the unit comes back from the field or someone throws a raging barracks party, it stays clean. Chances are, the last person who walked it was you, when you cleaned it.

What waiting for everyone to come back feels like… (Image via GIPHY)

4. Sure, staff duty…

Holiday staff duty ranks up there with watching that prick you hate in your unit get promoted higher than you, getting your nearly-immaculate rifle kicked back for the seventh time by the armorer, and taking a Combatives class with that roided-out monster of a Staff Sergeant who’s ready to knock you out.

Related: The 5 stages of grief as explained by Holiday staff suty

This week, though, it’s nothing. There’s no paperwork to file. Rarely do you need to call “Attention/At Ease” for a ranking officer/NCO because they probably won’t even come by. The duty officer probably won’t care if you bring a TV or computer to play video games — ask them before assuming you can, obviously.

This could be you at hour 16 of staff duty. (Image via GIPHY)

3. Your superiors become more ‘human’

51 weeks out of the year, your superior is — and should be — on your ass. Nothing personal, it just comes with the territory.

If they stay behind for block leave as well, you’ll see an entirely different side of them. They become human again. There’s just no need to keep up the “hard-ass” act constantly. Even they need to relax and enjoy the holidays doing nothing.

Your NCO finally being human. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Chow halls are far better

If you’re a cook, that is. Your work schedule probably hasn’t changed, except now you can practice all of the fun recipes you’ve been meaning to whip up.

If you’re not a cook, eating their awesome, new recipes prepared alongside the higher-quality holiday chow without the long lines keeping you from eating more than two pieces of bacon… Chow halls really do become the morale-boosting, five-star restaurants the cooks think they are.

Eat up. Chances are you’re also not doing unit PT. (Image via GIPHY)

1. Still get holiday four days

But what if you want to just relax and do nothing? Well, the back-to-back, four-day weekends got you covered. Sham for three days; four days off. Sham for another three days; another four days off. If you’re so inclined to go home for momma’s home-cooked meal, just fly home for the weekend and come back to post before Wednesday.

Save the 14 days of leave for two weeks when your unit is busy doing things.

Seriously. Don’t waste your leave days. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coronavirus stimulus checks: Everything military families need to know

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
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

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.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

live.staticflickr.com

What if my family and I are stationed overseas?

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.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

You love watching military reunions. We wish you could see the goodbyes.

On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.

She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.

But some of us in military families saw something different.


As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.

Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.

But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.

I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.

I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.

I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.

I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.

But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.

I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why I started my own GORUCK club

I have a secret to confess: I started a GORUCK club for selfish reasons.

There’s a perfectly good GORUCK club at GRHQ, only 4 miles from my home, and yet earlier this year I founded the GORUCK Mother Ruckers to serve my needs. And by needs I mean not getting into a car with my children unless I have to while maximizing time spent moving outdoors, with the option to bring my wards.


Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

As luck would have it, turns out that my needs are also the needs of others in my community. And by community I mean local moms in my neighborhood.

This is where we meet up, on a street corner that’s a stone’s throw from everyone’s homes. Easy, convenient, just ruck up and step out your front door.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Another thing that’s really great about our GORUCK club – and all GORUCK clubs for that matter – is that you only need a party of 2. Sure, it’s better with more folks and we take the more the merrier approach when it comes to people. We call it GORUCK Mother Ruckers not to be exclusive but because our GORUCK club is run by moms. It’s also cool to bring your kids, pets, and significant others (in no particular order) or just yourself if you happen to have lucked into some free alone time. Nothing reminds you how grateful you are to have a few moments of peace from your children than being next to another parent’s screaming kid.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Before kids, we used to workout more, sleep in more, and do less with that free time we never fully appreciated. Time is our most valuable resource, then and even more so now. We don’t have time to waste by stress-driving to make that gym or pilates class whenever the stars align for all kids to be healthy or cooperative. Somewhere floating in cyberspace is a graveyard of forgotten or unredeemed exercise classes that moms like me have decided just aren’t worth the hassle.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

And yet we know deep down that we as moms and as humans need to prioritize our physical and mental health. My friend Amy said it best the other day, that “women tend to have a lot of pulls and tugs on their time.” In her career as a cardiologist, she sees that “the health of women, in terms of the time to go do physical activity and exercise, gets deprioritized to the very end of the list, after checking off everything else we need to do for everyone else. There is also a social isolation, that you end up being so busy caring for folks around you and having your nose to the grindstone, that the idea that you’re gonna just kinda go hammer it out in the gym or on an exercise machine at home, sometimes just can be lonely.”

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

This is the not so lonely hearts club. After some sniffing and snack stealing attempts, we ruck south on our weekly pilgrimage in search of smoothies, fresh air, and cute pups of course.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

There once was a time when I ran a lot, in high school and in college and even for years after that, my favorite runs were with others or on my own to keep the cardio streak going. I still love running but dislike how fast my base erodes from an inconsistent life schedule. I also have a harder time finding someone to run with me when those unpredictable moments of freedom pop up. For some reason, probably having to do with that erodible base, when I ask my friends to go on a run with me, I don’t get a great response.

When I say, let’s go for a ruck and you can bring whoever you want and you pick the weight, I get more yesses. With rucking, the barrier for entry is lower and more accessible on many levels. On the level of not requiring a babysitter and also on being a scalable workout. We might move at kid pace but there are plenty of extra coupon carry opportunities along the way.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

And so we ruck on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or just to the last street for a missing shoe.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

At last we reach the halfway point and it’s time to refuel the restless natives. These are before smoothie faces.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

And these are post smoothie smiles.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book
Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

Sometimes the term selfish gets a bad rap, especially if by being selfish you really are trying to set yourself up for success to take care of others who need you, day after day, to be your best or close to it. It’s pretty empowering to prioritize yourself to the top of the list and then watch your fellow moms do the same: we can do it, better together, as neighbors and friends and parents and people.

Victoria Kelly beautifully captures military spouse life in poetry book

So what’s stopping you from joining a GORUCK club or starting your own?

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Instagram.

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