Military working dogs are among the world’s most elite four legged warriors. Serving side by side with U.S. troops since World War II these brave animals have saved thousands of lives and earned their stripes by performing as critical military assets. But before they ever patrol a base or go on a combat mission they must meet the very high standards of military dogs.
These are 11 steps to turning a puppy into a badass military working dog:
1. Breeding Procurement
The Department of Defense acquires puppies from breeders overseas as well as in the United States, but many now come from DoD’s own military working dog breeding program at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Established in 1998, the DoD’s state of the art whelping facility has dedicated “puppy development specialists” who take care of them until they are about 8-10 weeks old.
2. Fostering Program
If you live within two hours of Lackland and meet certain requirements you could qualify to foster a future K9 hero. The foster program allows the dogs to have a normal puppyhood by being exposed to different environments and become socially sound. Volunteer foster families take great pride in raising the puppies, like the one pictured above. See if you qualify to foster a puppy by clicking here.
3. Selection Evaluation
The dog will return to Lackland when he or she is around 7 months old and go through puppy training. In the same way civilians must be screened by military recruiters to see if they are a fit for the armed services, the puppies are evaluated to see if they display the attributes needed of military working dogs. If they don’t get selected to move on they may still qualify to be used at another agency or they will be adopted out.
4. Dog Training School
The few dogs selected go to Dog Training School, the military working dog boot camp. The dog trainers at DTS are experienced handlers from all military branches, and for many it’s a dream job to get assigned there. The entire mission of DTS is to train and certify dogs in the fundamentals of being an MWD. Each dog is different but typically they will be at DTS anywhere from 4 – 7 months. The head trainers will then assess the dog’s ability in detection and patrol work. Even here dogs can fail and wash out of the program. Some wash outs become training dogs for brand new handlers going through basic handlers course. The dogs who pass earn the coveted title of military working dog — but they are still not mission-ready.
5. Base assignment
Each newly-minted MWD will get orders to a kennels at a U.S. military base around the world. Normally, a MWD will work his or her entire career at one base.
6. Handler assigned
Every kennel in the military has a kennel master in charge of all operations of the unit. Once a new MWD arrives the kennel master will assign a handler. Now the MWD has finally been partnered with their first MWD handler, and the real training begins.
7. Obedience Training
Simply because a handler and MWD are assigned to each other does not mean they can function as a team yet by any means. The dog needs to learn to trust and respect the handler, and that starts with obedience training — the foundation of all good MWD teams. Handlers give basic obedience commands followed by lots of praise, and the team starts to create trust, mutual respect, and an overall bond.
8. Patrol Training
MWD’s have an innate drive to pursue (and bite) bad guys. Once a dog team has established a foundation of trust, allowing the MWD to do patrol training helps strengthen that trust while also creating in the MWD a sense of protection over the handler, and it keeps the MWD’s morale high.
9. Detection Training
While a few MWD’s won’t be certified in patrol, every MWD must be certified in detection as it is the primary mission of an MWD team. A dog’s nose can detect up to 10,000 – 100,000 times better than a human’s, they just need guidance on how to properly maximize their gifted olfactory skills. While each MWD is trained to detect either explosives or narcotics by the time they graduate DTS, handlers must train with them to learn each dog’s specific behavior when they pick up a scent.
10. Train, Train, Train
Every single day dog teams must train. Whether it’s patrol work, detection, or simple obedience they must develop an unbreakable bond in which they fully trust one another with their lives. In order for a dog team to work efficiently they must both be good, not one or the other. In the same way an infantryman must know his weapon inside and out and maintain it every single day, a handler must train, groom, and know everything about his or her MWD. Once the kennel master feels confident the team can work effectively together, an official MWD team certification is scheduled.
11. Dog team certification
To be certified as an official MWD team and granted authority to operate as one, the kennel master puts together a real-life detection training scenario that involves all of the odors the MWD is trained to detect. The commanding officer of the unit must be present and personally witness the MWD team successfully locate every odor. Once complete, they become an official military working dog team. And any handler will tell you that handling a military working dog is not only a tremendous responsibility but also a lifetime honor.
The U.S. Congress is not a generally popular branch of government. In 2013, a Politico survey revealed that Americans preferred colonoscopies, brussel sprouts, and even Nickelback to Congress. However, there’s one member of Congress today who you simply have to respect for his impressive resume. He’s certainly no career politician.
Mark Green graduated from West Point in 1986 and commissioned as an Infantry Officer. He graduated from Ranger School and was subsequently assigned to the 194th Armored Brigade at Fort Knox. During that time, he excelled and worked his way up the junior officer positions from rifle platoon leader, to scout platoon leader, and finally battalion adjutant. After he attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Green served in the 82nd Airborne Division as a company commander.
Green continued to excel in his Army career and was accepted to the Army’s medical program to become a doctor. He attended Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University and earned his MD in 1999. Given his exemplary performance as an Infantry Officer, Green was subsequently selected to serve as the flight surgeon for the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. As a Night Stalker, Green served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror.
In 2003, Green was part of Operation Red Dawn, the special forces operation that captured Saddam Hussein. Following the dictator’s capture, Green interrogated him for six hours. He recounted his incredible experience during this historic operation in his book, A Night With Saddam.
In 2006, Green retired from the Army as a Major. During his service, he earned awards including the Bronze Star and the Air Medal with V Device for Valor. After he left the Army, Green founded and served as the CEO of Align MD, a hospital emergency department staffing company. Staying in Tennessee after retiring out of Fort Campbell, he also founded two medical clinics that provide free healthcare to under-served populations in Clarksville and Memphis.
Green entered politics in 2012 when he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. During his time in the state senate, Green again made history when he helped repeal the Hall Income Tax. It was only the second time in U.S. history that a state repealed an income tax.
In 2017, Green filed paperwork to run for Governor of Tennessee. However, when Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District became open, he redirected his efforts to the U.S. Congress. Since he took office in 2019, Green has continued to fight for his fellow veterans and their families. The first bill he introduced in the House was the Protecting Gold Star Spouses Act which allows spouses to continue receiving benefits during a government shutdown. He also advocated to include provisions in the NDAA for veterans subjected to toxic exposure while serving at the K2 Air Base in Uzbekistan during the War on Terror.
Over his 24-year career in the active duty Army and Army Reserve, Green demonstrated exemplary service. From a hard-charging Infantry Officer to a Special Forces doctor interrogating Saddam Hussein, Green seemingly did it all. With his transition from the battlefield to politics, Green continues to embody the Army values of loyalty, duty and selfless service.
Chances are you have read a book that changed your mind, and possibly, your life. That is why most of us read, to learn something new, to be inspired, entertained, feel a closeness, or simply to transport us to a different place. I never anticipated how a book I opened last year would awaken my spirit in every way, offering generational and timeless truths. Moreover, it made me believe in fate again.
However, there is a catch. This life-altering book and its promise can only be retold here—because there was only one that was accidentally printed.
What Are the Odds?
Although I published my book a few years ago, the story about it that came to life happened in January 2019. It began when I placed an order with my distributor to restock my stash of hardcovers that dwindled from holiday sales. I love being gifted a signed copy of any book, so I keep this purchase option on my author website too. As my husband says, reading a signed book is like eating outside—the food always tastes better.
On my way out the door after the morning shuffle of grabbing jackets, bags and breakfast, a large box sitting in the foyer caught my eye. It was that resupply of books, having arrived the day before. Ever the multitasker, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, slit the taped seam of the box and took the first copy on top of the stack. Stuffing it into my purse, I planned to drop this in the mail to fulfill the personalized order in my inbox and knock one more thing off my to-do list! Yet sitting in my Jeep in front of the post office later that day, the universe stood still when I opened the book to autograph it.
It was not my book.
I snapped it closed—I was in utter disbelief—and stared at the paper jacket wrapped around the hardcover: The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11. Yes, that was my book cover. I removed the jacket, checked the gray cloth bound outside, which did have my last name and book title embossed on the binding. But when I opened it for a second time, this time slowly turning the first blank page at the beginning, I landed again on a cover page that was not the title of my book. I’m sure my lips mouthed the foreign words.
Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath was the manuscript bound inside my hardcover, in its entirety, which was revealed after inspecting the first few pages individually, to fanning to the end with my thumb landing on acknowledgments. Speaking of odds, I thought, what are the chances that two different books are accidentally and perfectly combined during a print run? The fact that the two bound together just happened to be books written by two veterans—from two different generations, two different wars—seemed unbelievable.
I returned to my home office, and after a few minutes of internet sleuthing, I discovered the other author—and he was alive! After digging up a phone number and being transferred through two secretaries, I was asked to hold. An older, warm inquisitive voice came through my iPhone. “Is this true? Our books are bound together?” Charles W. Newhall, the Vietnam Veteran and author whose book was combined with mine was the man on the other end of the call. I recounted the discovery, ending with, “Well, it appears to me I’m supposed to read your book.” He aptly replied, “And I yours. Let’s determine if we like each other and reconnect then.”
I smiled in response, “Sounds perfect.” I liked him instantly. And I was glad to hear he went by Chuck, since funny enough, my husband, who is also a veteran, shares his name—talk about alleviating confusion! I emailed him a short video of our book. Chuck was equally amused and replied he had already placed his online order for my book. I planned to start Fearful Odds over the weekend, but a cryptic one sentence email from Chuck a few days later kept me up all night reading his book.
“Just finished yours … much to discuss …”
The Striking Differences, the Eerie Similarities
Before the trending “OK, boomer” pejorative that mocks that crowd I’ll simply define here as those who won’t retire or stop running for public office, I had already (and unexpectedly) unearthed a deeper affinity for the Vietnam generation during my book tour. This unexplained connectedness made no sense to me then, nor did it as I began to read through the striking differences outlined in Fearful Odds. Chuck’s opening is the gut punch annihilation of 40 percent of his platoon the first few days in battle—casualties for the Global War on Terror are nowhere near those lost and immortalized on black granite in Washington DC. Make no mistake, though, every loss of life in combat is heartbreaking, even if it is one soldier from a battalion, as described in my book.
Nevertheless, Chuck’s counterinsurgency fight in the A Shau Valley and the jungles of Vietnam are a bloody contrast to the unforgiving mountains and deserts in the Middle East, in particular the narrow dirt roads described in my memoir about Eastern Afghanistan. Also, consider that while Chuck endured enemy fire alongside those who were drafted, I served with an all-volunteer force when rockets pounded our bases. In the 1960s and ’70s, families talked about our foreign policy commitments around the kitchen table because someone they knew would have their number drawn. Post 9/11, America has continued to go shopping at the mall while the smallest number in our history—less than 1 percent—wears our nation’s uniform.
These startling disparities of our times cannot be understated. I shook my head in disgust when reading about Chuck getting kicked out of a bar when he returned home—vulgarities and disrespect were hurled at him and another service member for simply wanting to buy their first stateside beer. When I walked through crowded airports upon my arrival, I experienced glares, too, but in another way. A stranger anonymously bought my lunch when I stopped to eat on my layover, passing along a simple message through the waiter: “Thank you for your service.” Let me say this: no post 9/11 veteran must go on a book tour to appreciate how differently we are treated from the Vietnam generation of service members.
On a personal level, while the combat Chuck and I experienced was separated by nearly forty years, there were far greater chasms between the baby boomer Chuck and this Xennial (a person born between Gen-X’rs and Millennials). For example, the obvious—I am a woman, and he is a man. Raised in the southwest in tract housing where baseboards are not flush, I have a Nashville spark perhaps only matched by the maverick fire Chuck emits from his palatial, East Coast, private school upbringing. And as I stand on the doorstep of middle-age, middle class, and rising, Chuck is perched atop a breathtaking legacy that most would not even dare to dream.
This is where the divergence in our stories end, overpowered by eerie similarities that still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Despite where each of us started, what we have in common was the unequivocal drive to start living as quickly as possible. Both of us share an unshakable reverence for tradition yet are clearly wired to defy norms and ask questions. Our yearning for adventure and thirst for knowledge can easily be romanticized as those who may be so bold to passion chase, speak up, take risks. The unflattering and imperfect side to ambition is present, too, as we both confide our edges with the reader. And, of course, our devotion to country and its higher ideals made the decision to serve in the military as natural as breathing.
Yet it was what was revealed in the pages beyond our like constitutions that kept me reading throughout the night.
For two absolute random books to be combined by mistake, both of our stories were set against the backdrop of serving in combat at the peak of military surges, for Vietnam and Afghanistan. Ironically, we were in the same unit too—he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, while I was attached to the Screaming Eagles four decades later. And he carried the weight and responsibility of lives—just as I did—as it was that we were both commanders.
It is easy to dismiss all this coincidence up to a point. But with the turn of every page, there was more that fueled the mystery of our printing error. Our equal commitment and love for those who fought by our sides is palpable. Just the same is our shared lessons learned on leadership, where our quotes dance around the same virtues. Resolute beliefs were sown—views that span generations—that service members must only be sent to win wars, not fight them endlessly. And chills ran through my body when I read the names of his soldiers that were identical to mine—every generation has a Schmitty and a Mac. However, it was the “close call” that made me set down the book and take a deep breath—we both drove over a roadside bomb that did not detonate.
Our stories together were culminating in timeless truths. Bound together, a new wisdom began to emerge.
I was about halfway through Chuck’s memoir when I flipped ahead to study the photos in the center of his book. His piercing eyes were a marked contrast to my ready smile; nevertheless, I knew that gaze. I looked at the clock and groaned. It had been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” Yet this next part of the story was about homecoming—leaving the military and establishing a new mission as a civilian. Or, simply, starting anew. The tired, catchy phrase transition overused by the post 9/11 military community was exactly the current chapter of my life. I had to keep reading.
I anticipated sage insight from this warrior who had gone before me that would help guide me through the maze of my newfound wilderness. I was, again, astonished by our similar steps and struggles.
Up to this point, both of our books also described how love shaped and empowered us. Particularly, the love we had with our spouses. Interestingly, we both highlight our R&R and the recharge it provided to finish our deployments. That said, he met his wife Marsi in Hong Kong in a Rolls Royce with a bottle of Dom Perignon, while my husband Charles picked me up in his Ford F150 with handpicked flowers, and we hid away in a townhome near the border of Kentucky. Call it coincidence, again, but Chuck and I both went on to business school, forged paths tied to entrepreneurship, and started our families. Charles and I had a son. Marsi and Chuck had two boys.
During this period, hardships that transcend and transformative events shook both of us to our core.
Life’s greatest battles are not necessarily reserved for those in combat. For years, I carried the burden as a spouse of a soldier, since Charles continued back-and-forth combat tours, juggling the fear of losing him and our ongoing pain of multiple miscarriages and infertility. Then, it happened on a Wednesday when the doctor told us our only child had infant cancer. There is a special kind of hell for moments in life like this. Chuck knew this all too well, and suffered greatly from Marsi’s bipolar disorder, depression and infidelity. On what was supposed to be just another cold, gray Saturday in winter, Chuck discovered Marsi’s body in the woods behind their house—she’d committed suicide.
His account of this awful tragedy and aftermath is some of the most gripping and honest writing one could read.
We may not all share the same experiences, but we do all have the same emotions. Chuck and I both recognized how the hardening from our past helped us overcome these crucibles. Every person has been through something—there are chapters in everyone’s lives that they would not want to read out loud. Even so, the human spirit is relentless. Resilience, grit, and courage is earned when you go through the tough times. Those reservoirs, faith, and professional help led both of us to new frontiers. For Charles and me, our little boy beat cancer and provides us never-ending happiness. For Chuck, a beautiful ray of sunshine named Amy brought his family back to life and has been by his side for thirty-seven years.
Healing can be found in the gardens of life.
In the gardens we meet
Indeed, we had much to discuss. Amongst other things, our combined stories tackle assumptions and dispel the notion of what we are all capable of enduring and producing. Yet the greatest revelation occurred when we met face to face in the spring.
Charles and I had planned a weekend road trip with our son to see the nation’s capital during the peak bloom of cherry blossoms. Since Chuck and Amy reside outside the Beltway, we coordinated a Sunday lunch before our drive back to North Carolina. We had chatted on the phone a few more times by now, delightful banter and, of course, divulging exclusive footnotes. I also learned Chuck’s book had a companion volume, Brightside Gardens: A Dialogue Between the Head and the Heart, which presents the emotional and visual impact of the Newhall’s exquisite fifty-four individual gardens on their private property. When we pulled into the driveway, Chuck walked outside to meet us in the courtyard.
He stood defiantly tall and ready to give us a personal tour of the grounds, in particular, A Shau Garden. Clutching a cane to help steady the shaky encounters Parkinson’s mounts on his aging vessel, I walked straight in his direction. My instinct said the only appropriate greeting would be how one would embrace an old comrade. I gave him a hug. Customary introductions were exchanged once Charles and our seven-year-old son climbed out of the Jeep. Then we followed Chuck’s lead through the iron gates.
My little boy skipped ahead as we inhaled the crisp early spring air and took in the beauty that surrounded us. It’s been said that you find meaning when you want or need meaning. Making sense of why I was walking beside Chuck, why our books were combined, was reminiscent in how his interwoven gardens urge you to not overthink nature. Accept remarkable turns of fate and allow them to touch your heart and ignite your spirit. Because when you stand amongst winter aconites, which Chuck planted in A Shau Garden to honor the fallen, one is reminded that the gift of each new day is rooted in both the joys and trials we face.
Whatever your war, cultivate hard-earned wisdom and you will not only prevail, but thrive.
Amy welcomed us as we approached the house, yet her glow and charisma was felt from the terrace. She reaffirms that our society should widen the definition of heroes. Our son immediately warmed up to her and their dear elderly pug, which was roaming through the ornate living room. We took a seat, and I finally presented Chuck with “our” book. He mirrored my response to this implausible printing error, looking over it slowly and carefully. And then, looking up at me and smiling.
Not every story about war is a war story.
Before we departed that day, Chuck and I made sure to exchange signed copies of our books. Overwhelmed by the surreal moment, I tried to inscribe a fitting note to him. Yet, for a person who is an author, I wrestled for the right words. Of all the personalized copies I have signed, this one was on a level all its own! Chuck finished what he wrote in his copy, closed the book, and handed it to me.
On our drive home, I found the treasure that awaited me inside his signed hardcover.
What are the odds that my book was combined with Chuck’s? Well, our books printed out of a warehouse that is part of the largest distributor of books in the world, Ingram Content Group. Despite proprietary confidentiality on the total numbers Ingram prints daily, it is safe to conclude our combined book is inimitable. I learned our books were not lined in the queue because we were the same genre or alphabetically close, either. And print errors of any kind are minuscule—Ingram boasts a Quality Efficiency Rating of 99.865%!
The team at Ingram said they have never heard of a printing error like this.
Our combined story was a harmonious call to action to live with conviction and for each other, to do so fearlessly, or otherwise said, find your frontline. One of Chuck’s favorite quotes captures this sentiment, which is actually the title of his third book that will be released later this year. When I saw Chuck and Amy again while passing through Baltimore for a conference, he handed me an early draft of Dare Disturb the Universe: A Memoir of Venture Capital. I would be captivated once more by the powerful details of his professional journey (he refers to it as a quest) that changed the world.
As we were wrapping up our lunch, I joked with Chuck, “Our printing error really should be a movie.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “It absolutely should be—it could save lives.” I knew the depth of his statement, not just meant for those in the throes of some form of adversity, for those searching or listless. Every twist in our paths matter. And sometimes they are intertwined to awaken us and bridge our understanding of life.
The mistake of our combined book was a perfect symbol to that point, solving the mystery. However we are tied in, each of us is unique, destined, certain the way we are. And not singular. We are not alone. In a time where isolation and feeling disconnected are more pronounced, the fateful error of our combined book is a reminder that our stories, our world, is bound together.
The providence of Chuck’s inscription exposed this epiphany: “It is so great—someone understands me.”
If not for a high draft number, Joe Mantegna might have chosen a career in the military instead of a forty-year career in entertainment. On Criminal Minds, Mantegna portrays David Rossi, an ex-FBI agent who was also once a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. This aspect of his character is especially important to Mantegna, who comes from a military family and is very passionate about military and veterans’ issues.
In the video above, Mantegna talks about his experiences with the military and why veterans mean so much to him. He and freelance writer Danny Ramm also talk about how and why they decided to highlight the plight of homeless veterans in multiple episodes of one of the biggest shows on television.
The CBS procedural is the second highest rated drama on the network. In its tenth season, its ratings are actually rising. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “aging most gracefully” as one of the top ten shows of the Fall of 2014. Mantegna and Ramm decided to use Rossi’s background as a Vietnam veteran to highlight the struggles of homeless veterans.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates there more than 8,000 homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. This is the largest population in the United States. They struggle with substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress, and many chronic health issues.
Two past episodes of Criminal Minds feature subplots about the man who was Rossi and Mantegna’s commanding officer in Vietnam, Harrison Scott, played by the late Meshach Taylor. On the show, Scott is a homeless veteran who transitions with help from the New Directions shelter in Los Angeles. Through Rossi, we get to know Scott, his issues, and the every day problems he and those like him face, living on the streets. Mantegna and Ramm also wanted to bring attention to the New Directions shelter.
New Directions was founded in 1992 to provide services to help these homeless veterans. These services include substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, job training and placement, and parenting classes. Veterans leave New Directions with a savings account, housing, a job, and most importantly, a sense of confidence in the future and a support system to see them through.
A third episode of Criminal Minds will air Wednesday, January 21st with another story about Harrison Scott. In this episode, Rossi discovers his friend has died. He flies to Los Angeles to make funeral arrangements and lay his friend to rest with the honor he deserves. It is also a tribute to actor Meshach Taylor, who died of cancer last year. The episode also feature two real-life three-star generals as well as real veterans instead of extras, with an emphasis on Vietnam-era vets.
Mantegna is also the national spokesman for the campaign to build the National Museum of the United States Army (museums for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy already exist).
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS and can be watched at CBS.com.
On Friday March 5, 2021, General Austin “Scott” Miller marked 915 days as the head of the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan. He is the longest-serving commander of the war in Afghanistan. The previous commander, General John Nicholson, held the position for 914 days until the change of command on September 2, 2018.
Miller is no stranger to the harsh realities of combat. He graduated from West Point in 1983. After completing Ranger school, his first unit was the 82nd Airborne. After that, he became a platoon leader in A Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Miller went on to become an instructor at the Special Operations Division School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 1992, he passed selection and was accepted into the elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force. His combat record includes Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Prior to assuming command of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Operation Resolute Support, Miller served as the commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command.
Just over a month after he took over in Afghanistan, Miller was taking rounds. On October 18, 2018, the bodyguard of a provincial Afghan governor opened fire during a meeting between Afghan officials and U.S. generals. The insider attack killed two high-ranking Afghans and wounded two Americans, including Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley, ORS commander in southern Afghanistan. Miller drew his sidearm, but was not wounded. Rather than evacuate under the protection of his security detail, he waited until the wounded were taken care of and left on the same helicopter as them.
Clearly, Miller is no armchair general. Despite his stars, he remains a warrior commander on the battlefield. This is also seen in his choice of weaponry. Most general officers are inclined to carry the standard-issue sidearm, the M17/M18 MHS which replaced the old M9. As a high-ranking officer with a security detail, it can be seen as unnecessary for a general to carry anything more. Miller, who was vindicated in the 2018 insider attack, believes otherwise.
The general is often seen carrying a kitted out handgun, rifle, or both. One such weapon is his .45 ACP 1911 handgun. A popular choice for elite units like Delta Force, Marine Force Recon, LAPD SWAT, and the FBI’s HRT, Miller was first issued a 1911 in 1992. According to Army spokesman Col. David Butler, the .45 on the general’s hip was issued as his assigned weapon in 2009. Where Miller’s 1911 all-steel, big-bore, old-school firepower, his other handgun of choice is modern perfection.
Glock pistols are quickly becoming the go-to pistol for elite military units like the Navy SEALs and MARSOC. The polymer-framed pistols have long-been the choice of law enforcement agencies, most notably the FBI. Although the Glock lost to Sig Sauer for the Army’s new standard-issue sidearm, it hasn’t stopped operators from carrying tricked out Glocks. Miller’s Glock has been seen outfitted with an extended magazine baseplate, a reflex red dot sight, and a compensator on its threaded barrel.
When it comes to personal security, General Miller doesn’t mess around. Although he turns 60 in May 2021, he shows no signs of slowing down. The general maintains his special forces roots and remains ready for a gunfight at any time.
Being a military spouse is a job. A job that requires grace and standing on your head while sewing new rank onto your spouse’s 15 sets of uniforms. It’s a job that commands that you hold your head high while certain people question or scoff at the value of your position.
Let me tell you a story that you probably already know a little too well.
A young girl is told by her parents that she can do anything, that she can be anything she wants to be, as long as she sets her mind to it. She works hard in school and graduates at the top of her class. She sets her sights high and has high career aspirations.
In college, she meets the man of her dreams. This young man, too, has big dreams. His dreams involve serving his country and protecting their freedom. As college comes to an end, the young man receives orders to be stationed overseas and the young girl must make a choice – chase after the career that she has been working towards all these years or choose the man that has unexpectedly entered her life and has become her life. She chooses love. Five years later she takes a moment to reflect and decides that if she could go back in time, she would still make that same choice all over again. She would choose love. She would always choose love.
That does not mean that it has been an easy journey. Life as a military spouse has been a bumpy ride – a worthwhile ride, but a bumpy ride nonetheless. In the early days of being a military spouse overseas, I struggled with the transition from being independent to being a dependent. I no longer had an identity other than being a dependent. I had my husband’s social security number memorized better than my own. I couldn’t even pay my own cell phone bill without my husband present or a power of attorney.
I went through various stages of grief. At first I was angry. “Do you have any idea what I have given up so you can pursue your dreams?” Then I was sad. I would ask through tears, “What is my purpose?” After some time, I made it to acceptance. I understand that I am supporting the greater cause. Every choice that I have made until now has led me to this point. I am successful, but in a very different sort of way than I believed in growing up. Before, I thought success was measured in career status and income level. Now I understand that there are different kinds of success. I have a loving husband, a beautiful baby, and a home that we can call our own.
Every day military spouses everywhere are working hard, often in single-parent-type circumstances, to find a way to make our career goals fit into our unusual lifestyle. It’s a cost that’s difficult to comprehend before you experience it.
Giving up the dream job for a PCS.
Finding out your career field is nonexistent at a new duty station.
Not knowing how you are going to balance everything while he’s away this time.
Even though I am in the acceptance phase of my journey, it doesn’t mean that snarky remarks from others don’t hurt. Someone very close to me said the other day, “Enjoy your day at home. I’m on my way to work because I don’t have a husband that supports me.” Others have made comments about how it must be nice to be a stay-at-home wife (and now mom). While they would never say it to my face, I have heard people comment about other military spouses being lazy or not doing anything with their lives. These comments are usually made from a combination of both humor and misunderstanding. It’s time to stop making assumptions based on the surface-level appearance of each other’s situations. Every military spouse has a story and we have all made sacrifices to live the life we are living.
In the 20th century, Cambodia saw more than its fair share of war and conflict. In the United States, we may be familiar with U.S. incursions into the country from neighboring Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but the conflict didn’t end with the U.S. withdrawal.
The years that followed brought the rise of the brutal dictatorial regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, along with an invasion by neighboring Vietnam. All of them laid landmines as a means of defending their wartime gains.
Over the course of several decades, the estimated four to six million mines laid in the country have been all but forgotten – except by the people who still live there.
An estimated 4,320 people were killed or wounded by landmines in 1996. Around 20 years later, that figure fell to just 77. International efforts from the United Nations and Japan work to reduce minefields along the country’s borders, mines remain a threat to those local in remote areas, area where living off the land is part of their daily lives.
Cambodia has set a goal of being free from mines by 2025, and one former child soldier is determined to do everything he can do personally to free his country from the terror of the mines.
Aki Ra was born in the early 1970s (he doesn’t know exactly when) to parents who were murdered by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. Almost as soon as he was strong enough to carry equipment and weapons, he was trained by the armed forces of Cambodia as a soldier.
When neighboring Vietnam invaded Cambodia, it not only ended the Khmer Rouge’s genocide against its own people, it toppled the government. Aki Ra was captured by the Vietnamese and forced to fight against the dictator’s forces. When the new government was formed, he enlisted as a soldier in the Royal Cambodian Army.
“I had [bad] feelings, because sometimes we were fighting against our friends and relatives,” Aki Ra told the Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction. “I felt sad when I saw a lot of people were killed. A lot of people were suffering from landmines. [But] I did not know what to do, [because] we were under orders.”
He was trained to place landmines along the Cambodia-Thailand border. More than a decade later, Aki Ra found himself attending school for the first time in his life. Now, he was learning to remove mines. When a UN peacekeeping force arrived in the country in 1991, he helped clear as many as he could.
After they left, he no longer had the specialized equipment they used to clear minefields, but he still had the skills of a minelaying soldier. Using his bare hands, a stick and a knife, he began his work of making the country safe for his people.
Using these hazardous methods for more than a decade, he finally worked to get accredited international demining training and explosive ordnance disposal certification at the
International School for Security and Explosives. Once he had that, he could establish his own organization, which he did in 2008.
Aki Ra had cleared an estimated 50,000 land mines by 2000, long before founding Cambodia Self-Help Demining.
The Cambodia Self-Help Demining organization he founded not only works to help remove the mines, it also trains others to go out into greater Cambodia to do more work to that effect. Eventually, he started collecting the detonated and harmless landmines he and his workers have dug up over the years.
That collection is now the foundation of Aki Ra’s Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Facility in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There, visitors learn about how the mines got there, how they are removed, and for a small fee for entry, help pay for the removal of even more mines.
“We must all do what we can to educate our children and make Cambodia a safe country again so that Amatak (his son) and all children can really live forever,” he says.
David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).
Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”
“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”
The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’
He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”
Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”
And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”
As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.
Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”
The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.
It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.
Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron land after a parachute jump as a part of Emerald Warrior.
An MC-130J Commando II from the 9th Special Operations Squadron taxis for departure from the Red Horse Landing Zone in support of Emerald Warrior.
An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 performs ground turns aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) tip their caps to the crew of the MilitarySealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) following a weapons onload.
Philippine Marines train with U.S. Marines attached to the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific during a fast-rope exercise.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise in the vicinity of SR-10 aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Comedy greats Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, and Rob Riggle all started their working lives in the military, and all of them have credited their service for giving them unique perspectives that shaped their routines or approaches to roles they played. And now a new generation of veterans are finding success in comedy.
Here are 15 veterans currently making names for themselves on stages and elsewhere around the country:
1. Julia Lillis
Julia is a Naval Academy graduate who has had great success as a stand up comedian and writer. She has appeared on E! and MTV and is a recurring guest on the Dennis Miller show. Julia has also done multiple tours entertaining the troops overseas.
2. James Connolly
James is a veteran of Desert Storm and Harvard graduate. He has appeared on VH1, HBO, Comedy Central, and is one of the most played comedians on Sirius XM. In addition, he has done multiple tours entertaining the troops and holds an annual “Cocktails and Camouflage” comedy show that raises money for veterans organizations.
3. Jose Sarduy
Jose is currently an aviator in the Air Force reserves. He’s made a big impact with comedy festivals, has toured overseas with the GI’s of Comedy, and currently co-hosts NUVOtv’s “Stand up and Deliver.”
Jon is a veteran of the Army infantry and founder of Operation Comedy, recruiting some of the biggest comedians in the industry to give free shows to veterans at signature venues like the Improv in Hollywood.
6. Justin Wood
An Army veteran turned stand up comic, Justin has performed at major venues throughout Los Angeles, toured with the GI’s of Comedy, and founded “Comics that Care” recruiting comedians to perform for homeless veterans. He recently made a viral satire video of him committing “stolen valor” (posted above).
7. Benari Poulten
Benari is currently a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a comic he has toured with the GI’s of Comedy and was hired this year as a writer on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.
8. Shawn Halpin
After serving in the Marine Corps infantry, Halpin has had success as a comedian opening for Pauley Shore, Tom Green, and as a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. He has entertained the troops performing with Operation Comedy, GI’s of Comedy, and Comics on Duty.
9. PJ Walsh
After serving in the Navy, Walsh has shared the stage with many comedy greats including Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He has performed for troops in several countries including Iraq and Afghanistan and is committed to raising funds for veteran organizations.
10. Jody Fuller
Fuller currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve with three tours overseas. His performance highlights include a opening gig in front of comedy great Jeff Foxworthy.
11. Will C
Will C served in the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. He has had great success as a comedian touring across the country and has appeared in numerous television roles. He founded The Veterans of Comedy, a group that tours nationally to entertain active duty military and veterans.
12. Tom Irwin
A U.S. Army veteran, Tom’s success as a comedian includes an invitation to perform at The White House. He has done multiple tours overseas entertaining troops and created a “25 Days in Iraq” show about his tour in Iraq.
13. Erik Knowles
Knowles is a Marine Corps veteran turned stand up who was a finalist at the California Comedy Festival and The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. He has worked with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and also tours with The Veterans of Comedy.
14. Katie Robinson
Katie is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns where she worked as a chem-bio-radiation officer. Known as “Comedy Katie” she is a regular at The World FamousComedy Store in Hollywood and won critical acclaim at MiniFest: Los Angeles.
Once a leader of soldiers under fire in Afghanistan, Daniel Rodriguez is now a leader on the football field.
He earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his heroics in Afghanistan, and his story aired on many national shows and programs. Now Rodriguez is in his second season with the Clemson Tigers, attending on the G.I. Bill since 2012.
His 2011 recruiting video attracted the attention of Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, who allowed him to join the Tigers as a walk-on wide receiver. “Like a lot of people, I was mesmerized by the video, his work ethic, and his drive to chase a dream,” Coach Swinney said in the video.
His dream to play college football started with a pact he made with his squad buddy, Pfc. Kevin Thompson, who also aspired to play. But Thompson was killed in the same fight against the Taliban for which Rodriguez earned his awards. Out of the 38 American troops who fought that day, eight were killed and 22 were injured, including Rodriguez. Rodriguez is fueled by this experience and the promise he made to his buddy.
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.