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Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

US Army Sgt. Charity Webb was reunited with a puppy named Pup Pup that she had bonded with while stationed as a cook in Eastern Europe last fall, which was first reported by the New York Post. The almost impossible task was made possible by a nonprofit organization out of New York called Paws of War, and this isn’t the first time the group has accomplished such a mission. 

Robert Misseri, the founder of Paws of War, said the operation cost approximately $7,000 total, from finding Pup Pup, completing vaccines and any needed treatment through a local veterinarian, temporary foster care, travel costs, and many other factors. 

“When we arrive, the soldier can play a little role in locating their dog. We have to learn where that dog is [from the soldier]. We have to find that dog,” Misseri said, “and we have to get that dog safely to a veterinarian and then start the process to get that dog to America.”

Read Next: Fred the Afghan: How a Stray Dog Changed a Marine’s Life

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Pup Pup was out of a litter born in the area where Sgt. Charity Webb was stationed, somewhere in Eastern Europe. Photo courtesy of Paws of War.

Locating a dog that a soldier bonded with overseas is no easy task, especially with COVID-19 restrictions severely complicating transport, but Misseri said it’s all worth it. 

“The soldier will feel like a failure, thinking that ‘deployment is up’ and that this dog will think that this person abandoned it,” said Misseri. “And the soldier will always wonder whatever happened to that dog — it’s not like that dog’s going to go into a good home or someone’s going to take over caring for it. It’s going to go back to struggling. So it is so important for both soldier and dog to get back here and reunite.”

Misseri explained that reuniting a dog with a soldier can significantly help a soldier’s mental health when they get home. He said he’d been in touch with soldiers in the past who had to leave their dogs behind overseas, and “it was just something that they could not get out of their head.” The grief from leaving their dogs worsened some soldiers’ post-traumatic stress symptoms, he said, adding that some soldiers experienced nightmares about it. 

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

Webb told the Post that while deployed, she was missing her other dog back home and her family. Pup Pup helped her through all of that. 

“You miss your family, you’re missing Christmas, Thanksgiving, all of that, so it was good to have her occupy my time and my mind and not think about my time away and stuff, so she really did help with that,” Webb told the Post.

Misseri said they have located dogs in areas where locals and/or authorities will shoot them, or capture them and then put them down, or just outright mistreat them in abusive ways. 

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

“For the puppies, they just kill them off because there’s so many strays,” Webb told the Post. “So we didn’t want them to get the puppies because we knew they’d kill them — there was no doubt about it.”

According to the Post, a fellow soldier told Webb about Paws of War, and she reached out for help. A financing issue was preventing them from getting Pup Pup back, but after the Post published the initial story, Misseri said they accomplished their goal of getting Pup Pup back in Webb’s hands on Feb. 24. The dog and the sergeant reunited at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Webb is stationed. Enough donations came in that there was enough to get a second dog to another soldier.

Misseri said Paws of War has reunited more than 100 soldiers with dogs that they had to leave behind when returning to the states.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.


Neall Ellis isn’t most people.

After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.

With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Russian Mi-24 Hind.

Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Working for the Sierra Leone government, Ellis and his crew were seen as the most effective force against the rebels, even though they were a single gunship. As Ellis put it, “the gunship strikes the fear of God into the rebels. They run into the bush as soon as they see it.”

As the rebels advanced on the capital, Freetown, the British forces remaining in Sierra Leone evacuated. Freetown looked as if it would fall to the rebels.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
The city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, was a front for brutal fighting during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 90s. (Photo via Flickr user David Hond. CC BY 2.0)

In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.

But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”

Ellis’ response was epic.

Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Coalition forces release informational leaflets out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over villages in the Logar province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2014. The leaflets are used to pass along information to the local populous regarding on going operations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”

And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.

Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.

His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.

Need more inspiration? 4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.

Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.

Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.

Later, he would also fly in Afghanistan “where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.”

At the age of 67, he is currently rumored to be flying against the Islamic State.

Articles

9 awesome historical photos of Armed Forces Day celebrations

Armed Forces Day is a holiday where few can put their finger on its history, but most people agree the armed forces are pretty great and just roll with it. The day was originally called for by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Johnson was trying to finish consolidating the military branches into the newly-formed Department of Defense under the 1947 National Security Act and its 1949 amendment, but the public had seen the branches as separate entities until this point.


So, Johnson asked the branches to stop endorsing days for each force and instead embrace a day to celebrate all branches together. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all switched from their own day to Armed Forces Day. The Marine Corps joined Armed Forces Day but still celebrates its own day on November 11, the birthday of the first United States Marine Corps. Today, the Coast Guard is also celebrated during the festivities but maintains its own day, August 4.

1. 1950: The First Armed Forces Day

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

Armed Forces Day was established in 1949 and the first celebration was set for May 20, 1950. This photo from the first celebration shows a specially rigged jeep being used for recruitment during a parade.

2. 1951: Presidential review

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

Parades, along with air shows and displays of military equipment, would continue to be a part of celebrations. In 1951, this photo was taken of soldiers saluting President Harry Truman during a march down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.

3. 1956: Engineers build a castle with portcullis

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

This exhibit was constructed at Bolling Field — now Bolling Air Force Base — in Washington, D.C. The red castle constructed by the Marines is a symbol of the combat engineers.

4. 1960: Old cavalry and new

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

At Fort Devens, Massachusetts, the Army displays its most current cavalry with its oldest. Tanks have come a long way since then, but fighting on horseback has come around again.

5. 1961: Touring the “Flying Banana.”

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

Civilians tour the H-21 cargo helicopter in this photo from 1961 Fort Devens, Massachesetts Armed Forces Day celebrations. Nicknamed “the flying banana” the H-21 began to be phased out the same year this photo was taken. The CH-47 replaced it and is still the Army’s main lift helicopter.

6. 1968: “Frog men” display their skills for Armed Forces Day TV episode

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

In 1968, “The Mike Douglas Show” did a series of episodes celebrating the military branches. In this photo, an underwater demolition shows how they conduct high-speed pickups to retrieve swimmers from the water. UDTs were the predecessors to the modern Navy SEALs.

7. 1973: American Armed Forces Day in England

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

America’s Armed Forces Day is celebrated by the armed forces regardless of their geography. In this photo, a child plays in the cockpit of an F-4 fighter during an open house at Bentwaters Air Base, England.

8. 1976: Air assault over the Washington Monument

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

A medical evacuation team prepares to rappel during a demonstration over the Washington Monument in D.C.

9. 2000: Blue Angels demonstration

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: defense.gov

Air shows have been a part of Armed Forces Day since the first celebrations in 1950. They’re still a great crowd pleaser and the Navy’s elite Blue Angels always put on a great show. This photo is from an open house at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

NOW: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

AND: The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

Articles

The incredible story of Maj. Jim Capers, a Marine hero still fighting for the Medal of Honor

Heroism

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe


Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.

But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.

“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”

Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.

From Maxim:

Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.

On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.

That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.

On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.

“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”

Read more of Capers’ incredible story at Maxim

NOW READ: This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Intel

Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
(Photo: U.S. Navy)


Last month the Navy Research Lab powered a radio-controlled P-51 model using a “gas to liquid” process that takes seawater and turns it into fuel.

According to a jargon-rich NRL press release, the process goes something like this: An innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

In other words, seawater goes in the tank and the motor cranks up and the airplane flies.

“In close collaboration with the Office of Naval Research P38 Naval Reserve program, NRL has developed a game changing technology for extracting, simultaneously, CO2 and H2 from seawater,” said Dr. Heather Willauer, NRL research chemist. “This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation.”

Equally amazing is how nobody seemed to notice, or if they noticed they didn’t seem to care. (This is when conspiracy theorists blame Big Oil.)

Here’s a video that shows the R/C P-51 flight:

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OR: The top 5 weapons the US Navy needs right now

Mighty Moments

11 steps to turning a puppy into a badass military working dog

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

 

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Facebook.com/DoDMWDBreedingProgram

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Facebook.com/DoDMWDBreedingProgram

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Megan E. Acs

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Facebook.com/MilitaryWorkingDogs

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Clayton Lenhardt

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Brandon Beach

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Lance Cpl. Suzanna Lapi

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Chris Hartman

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Corey Hook

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

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Facebook.com/MilitaryWorkingDogs

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.

 Now: The top 10 militaries of the word, ranked

Articles

Nick from Ranger Up on entrepreneurship, why most business books suck, & his hero Captain America

Nick Palmisciano commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery as the Founder and President of Ranger Up. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.


Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. Now nine years later, it’s a business that continues to grow.

WATM spoke in depth with Palmisciano about his business challenges, how he overcame them, his future plans, his heroes, and much more.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo Credit: Youtube/screenshot

We Are The Mighty: When you refused a promotion and went all-in with RangerUp, it was a huge risk. Do you remember what you were you thinking at that moment?

Nick Palmisciano: I was scared, to be honest. I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, you know, because I just — I controlled my destiny, you know, and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate.

Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more, and I’m sure you realize that … but you know you feel alive because you kill what you eat, the company grows, you get a paycheck, the company grows, you get to continue paying employees. [If] the company doesn’t grow, it dies, and you fail. So it’s a lot more exciting and a lot more rewarding when you do well and hits a lot more than a normal job when you do poorly.

WATM: Do veterans have an advantage or disadvantage in starting their own businesses?

NP: We have both. So the statistics show that veterans do better than any other population in the country at starting their own businesses and maintaining their own businesses. I think that’s true for a couple of reasons: One, we have endured a lot, and we are used to a situation where at first we are not the best at something, [and] we have to work really hard at it and, over time we get a skill set. Those are incredibly helpful attributes. When you’ve actually done hard things several times, it makes the next hard thing easier to accomplish.

The other thing is that we genuinely like to work in teams and we are happy when other people succeed, but the military is built around [the idea that] you learn something, and then you achieve a level and then you teach other people how to achieve that level and your success is married to their success. That’s not true in the civilian world. People are a lot more self-centered — whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, they are focused on their own promotion, their own skill sets, their own growth, and they don’t think about the team as much as military people do.

So that’s the upside. The downside is that the military makes things very easy for us, and that’s probably counterintuitive because nobody looks back at their military experience and says “Man that was so easy” but they tell you “If you want to go to this next job, you go to this school. If you want to go to this next job, you need to do these things in the unit. You need to have these jobs.”

There’s a structure to the whole thing. There is no structure in entrepreneurship and when I see people [who] are trying to start business that are really sputtering, a lot of times they’re coming to me, they’re coming to other entrepreneurs and they’re saying that they’re looking for advice, but they’re really looking for me or others to do all of the work for them and they just want to knock down these easily set up targets. And that’s just not the way that entrepreneurship is. You have to go into nebulous situations and figure out a way through and there’s a lot of suffering in there and you might be great for two years and then something else comes in and changes the whole game, and you have to rethink everything that you’re doing.

So there’s good and bad. You know on the whole, I think you’re better off being a veteran, and the statistics show that, than not, but there are things that kind of bite us in the ass too.

WATM: How about in the corporate world?

NP: Um, again, it’s kind of — it’s a two-pronged answer — thinking that you are better than people, or that you are owed something, or that they all suck because they’re civilians, you are setting yourself up for failure. So if you go in with that approach, which a lot of people do, and then complain that no one wants to hire vets, you’re not going to do well, because frankly, nobody wants to be treated like sh-t. No one want to be looked down upon, so if you go in with a negative attitude, then people aren’t going to like you and you’re not going to get hired. If you go in with the same attitude that you had when you went into a new job in the military — “I don’t really know what I’m doing and I have to rely on the people around me to teach me everything I need to know, but be proactive in learning everything that you can,” — you’re going to do extremely well.

Every time I had a new corporate job, I spent most of my time for the first few weeks basically talking to everybody that was in the group — no different than somebody coming into a new unit [and] figuring out how the unit works what the SOP’s were — and then after that after I felt like I had a handle on it. Then I was going to best practices and other organizations, the internet, etc. to figure out how I could improve my job, the organization, and take it to the next level in any number of areas.

That’s the approach that you need to take to figure out what’s going on and then figure out how you can be most valuable and see what you can bring to the table, as opposed to “let me tell everybody here how things should really work, I was in the military.”

So just like anything else, going in humble with the intention of truly being helpful as opposed to trying to rise above other people is going to make you successful.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

WATM: How do we get over that “I’m better than you” military mindset?

NP: I try to flip it around for people. You know, when people get out [of the military] and go to college and college students are making gross assumptions about them, you know about how having post-traumatic stress is going to result in them doing something insane, or about killing people or about this, that, or the other thing … all the stereotypes that you hear about college students.

How much does that infuriate them? How much does that make them want to have nothing to do with these people, does that make them feel like they’re a fish out of water in this organization?

Flip it around and treat somebody like that because they don’t have the same experiences that you had, and guess what? You’re the a–hole. You know, so stop being an a–hole.

You go in and you’re walking into their organization. You wouldn’t walk in from basic training, or for that matter, walk in off the street to basic training and [say] “alright check it out drill sergeant, let me tell you how it really is.” Because they’re gonna be like who the f–k do you think you are?

It’s no different. It’s no different walking into a company. You can’t walk in one day and tell everybody how it is or how it should be or, the way that it should work or that they’re all wrong, because you don’t know what you’re doing — no matter what experience you have — you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how that organization [operates], what they do on a daily basis, and you don’t know the constraints and you don’t know the personalities involved.

You know if you flip it around, it suddenly sounds ludicrous, right? It’s the same thing.

WATM: What do you think was your biggest challenge with RangerUp, and how did you get through it?

NP: [Sighs] There’s a new one every year, man. Honest to God. There’s a new one every year. You know, the most dramatic challenge I went through [was that] I went through leaving corporate America and literally a month and a half later I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, mutual funds and all that stuff, and I was down to $1,300.

And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve. You know, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s inventory management, whatever, because if you take a step back and you look at all of it, all the problems and all the challenges, it’s overwhelming.

So, you know, putting it in military terms, right, if you can sit back and say I want to conquer the country of Iraq, that’s an insane task that requires many people thinking and assessing and even then it’s challenging but when you break it down: The first thing I need to do is, I need to take this city, I need to take this block, I need to take this street, [and] it becomes manageable.

So sometimes, especially when everything is sh-tty, and when cash flow’s tight and when you don’t have enough inventory … when sales are down for the month and there’s a new predator or whatever it is. When things are very challenging, you’ve got to narrow them into a list, because otherwise it’s overwhelming.

You put one thing on the list at a time, you do it until it’s done, and you do it so that it’s high quality, and then you do the second thing on the list and when you knock things out like that and you go through the formula of A, B, C, you find yourself in a better position after several miserable weeks.

If you just try to solve it all at once, you get nothing done, you can’t sleep at night, and it doesn’t improve. And so, I went from being a dude that had a lot of money to a dude that had $1,300 to his name and had maxed out credit cards.

But by knocking out one thing at a time, the next month I had $1,350, and the next month I had $1,500, and you know, I’ve taken that approach with everything. So every time something goes wrong, you have to assess, what is it?

Well, this time I have too much inventory in styles that weren’t really selling, how did that happen? So you figure all that out, and what I know is that I need money right now to make a sale on this inventory that isn’t showing, even if I take a loss on it because I need to get cash into the system, then how do I figure out how to do that next time? What led me to this?

So you need to go through the steps and at some point, like right now we have a very fancy inventory management system, we use algorithms to determine that we built based on our analysis and how many of something we should order. But that didn’t happen in a day because we f–ked up, and then we fixed it, and then we f–ked up again and then we fixed it, and as long as you don’t make the same mistakes, over time you start building a business that is very efficient and very sophisticated.

But at the beginning it’s like “hey, how many of these should we order? I don’t know, 100? 150?” And now it’s… I don’t want people rounding because we found two years ago that by rounding up to the nearest 12 shirts, we added $80,000 of inventory, 3 or 4 shirts at a time, and that money needs to be working, not sitting on the shelves.

You see what I’m saying? It all kind of builds.

WATM: I’ll follow up by asking, specifically, because you brought up the thing with $1300, how did you break that up, what was your priority there? It’s daunting, you’re looking at your account and seeing that you only have $1300, and you’ve gotta make money. What were the manageable tasks that you found got you to $1350 in the next month?

NP: The first thing was figuring out where the money was going, [and] where are we spending. One of the the big things back then was we really valued things. We were a smaller company, doing what the other people were doing, and we really valued things like athlete sponsorship and trade shows, and you know all the things that all the other companies are doing that everybody tells you are critical.

[We] just kind of walked through that and asked, is this critical? What does it really cost to do a trade show? What does it really cost to have an athlete? And then you figure out what the value of having these things really is. We almost don’t do any trade shows anymore because the average trade show ended up costing around $27,000 when all is said and done, and you just don’t get that kind of return. It’s just a thing that somebody created that people do, and everyone goes, “oh you’ve gotta be involved in this or else you’re not really in the industry.”

Well that’s not true at all, but that’s what everybody says. And you know, we do sponsor athletes, but we only sponsor our kind of athlete, and we figured out what that meant.

Inventory. It was a big issue back then and I was trying to figure out why sales weren’t growing — why we were very profitable, but we had no cash on hand. So it was a simple Excel spreadsheet where I rank-ordered all of the styles by sales and then to the right I put their inventory value and then I realized that I was getting 80 percent of our sales on about 20 percent of our inventory, and the other 80 percent of our inventory accounted for 20 percent of our sales.

It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day, and you think about things like if I only print this smaller number, it’s gonna cost a dollar something more per shirt and that’s gonna be a ton of money — and it is a ton of money — and it’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars in useless inventory, and there’s no science to that.

It’s hard to balance what’s appropriate. Is it profitability or is it cash flow? You’ve gotta strike a balance, like you’ve gotta hold some inventory or you can’t sell but if you have too much inventory you have nothing available for investment.

So we did a fire sale on that 80 percent of the inventory and much of it we took a loss or did breakeven on, and then all of a sudden we had some cash and we invested that cash into styles that sold, and we were able to then create more styles and started developing styles more routinely.

All of these things were things I was working on over several months and the low point just happened to be at that $1,300 and so I had already been working to solve the problem. And it finally started clicking that following month, like all of a sudden these new styles were coming in, we were selling more, we had a little more cash on hand. I was able to pay myself a little more, and it wasn’t a ton more — like another $100 or $150 a month — but that little amount made all the difference. So you kind of chip away at these small things and they add up to be big things very quickly.

WATM: What are the tools you use on a daily basis to be more productive and get things done?

NP: I’m not a really fancy guy even though I have an appreciation for a lot of these crazy apps out there but really at the end of the day there are three tools that I use all the time.

Excel is the lifeblood of everything I do and I am an Excel ninja. People say that they are an Excel ninja because they can do a couple of basic formulas but there is nothing I cannot do in Excel. Spreadsheets are very complicated you know, drop down menus and like it’s just … [being] able to very quickly look at data and convert that into a few possible directions that you should go and that you should look at, is invaluable. If you’re gonna start your own business and you’re one of those people that’s like “Oh I’m not good at that, or I really don’t know that much about Excel,” take courses, start figuring out how to do analysis, [because] it’s really important.

The second thing is Quickbooks; I don’t care if you’re a brand new business and you only have $400 in sales, start using Quickbooks, start figuring out how all the different sheets work and fit together and constantly be looking at your business to see what’s going on. If you don’t know, then your success is just dumb luck.

You have to know what’s going on in the company. And then the last thing is just that I use the notepad on my iPhone and Tom [Amenta, COO of RangerUp] has Evernote or whatever the hell it’s called, and a few other fancy things but I just use the notepad every day and write down what I have to do on this day, and if I don’t get these things done then I have failed.

Or, at the very least I take it and I move it on to the notes for the next day. But every single day I am trying to knock out certain things. So those are the three very simple tools that I use constantly. You open up my computer and there’s always six or seven Excel sheets open and I get a daily Quickbooks report with a list of various things that are important to me along with a scorecard that the various managers inside the business provide me on a weekly basis and I hold myself accountable with my phone which is always with me.

WATM: I’d be really fascinated to learn what your creative process is like. You guys are churning out videos, blog posts, social media, memes, all kinds of stuff. How do you decide what’s good, who’s coming up with this stuff? Can you take me through what that’s like?

NP: We have a really good creative team and that’s me, Tom Amenta, Jack Mandaville, Patrick Thomas Baker, and all of our designers. It’s just a really good group of people, but it also extends to anybody [who] wants to be involved.

So sometimes we have, I don’t know, three organized meetings about various topics in terms of creativity every week so one is the design process, one is videos, and one might just be general ideas about projects you take on.

But then also there are people like Jack, Pat and I that are literally always thinking about this kind of stuff. Like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and jot down some stupid video idea or an article I want to write or whatever, and it hits me and I put it down.

And you know, our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business. How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends? If we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.

WATM: Tell me about the movie “Range 15”.

NP: Range 15 is a post-apocalyptic comedy. Think of it as “The Hangover” after the apocalypse with veterans leading the charge to save the world. And in terms of the plot that’s kind of what I can give up right now.

The main character in this movie is going to be Mat Best. He’s got the high cheek bones and the steely blue eyes so we thought it was a no-brainer, and then the rest of the Ranger Up and Article 15 crew who I’m with, Dakota Meyer, Leroy Petry, Tim Kennedy and we just got a really interesting call that I did not expect from another well-known military celebrity that is interested in being involved.

And he has already had a very popular movie done about him, but he has never done a comedy before, and I think we’re going to be adding his seal to the mix here. But the concept here is that veterans are always portrayed in a certain way in movies, even positive movies. It’s always about sacrifice and suffering and they always end up worse off from their experiences. And that’s really just not the case. I mean it’s the case with some people, sure, but on the whole veterans are the most industrious, fun, can-do people that I’ve ever met and that I think most people will ever meet and so we just wanted to have fun with it.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

So for example, we’ve got two Medal of Honor recipients in this thing and they’re poking fun at each other and the service. And they’re in a movie that could be described as one of the most ridiculous movies that you’re ever gonna see anywhere, and they’re doing it because they should be able to do it. Nobody should be able to tell these guys, “you can only do this type of film” or this kind of documentary.

No, because they want to do the same kind of thing that we want to do. They want to amuse our friends, they want to show them that you can do anything. I mean for all, for any negative threads that are on us doing this silly movie, at the end of the day, in 24 hours we’ve raised almost $200,000 [Editor’s note: Now it’s almost $500,000] to do a movie for our community.

I’ll be honest, the folks at IndieGoGo spoke to a mutual friend and had told them that we were going to launch and they kind of ignored it. And the president of IndieGoGo called and his question to them was “Who the f–k are you guys?” Because he didn’t understand, he did not understand how we were doing it, and it’s because people don’t understand the community and understand what these kinds of things mean to the community.

It’s gonna be a good movie. It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. We don’t care if someone’s offended by it. We don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate, and if this isn’t gonna do well in the Asian market. We don’t care about any of that stuff.

Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do. And it basically breaks all the rules. Our IndieGoGo campaign wasn’t set up the way IndieGoGo says you should set up a campaign, our marketing strategy isn’t what they say you’re supposed to employ, we’re not relying on Hollywood interviews, we’re not relying on press and we’re not relying on any of this stuff and we’re doing it hardcore, direct and social.

And we’re on pace right now to be one of the largest funded movies ever on IndieGoGo, and I think that speaks less about us and more about the community.

WATM: What about the decline of the military comedy in a post 9/11 environment? Why has that happened and were you actively trying to combat that?

NP: You should be able to have fun with it. And we saw the same kind of thing with some people with “Enlisted.”

Military veterans are not saints. And I don’t mean that in like we aren’t good people, but you do not need to bow down to the altar of the veteran. We’re regular people, and we should be able to make fun of ourselves. And if you think that veterans can’t because they have to live up to some standard or stereotype, that’s your problem, not ours.

I think  most veterans have a lot of fun, are funny people, enjoy life and don’t want to be stuck with this view that they are droids that are serious and boring people. I think it’s unfair and we want to shatter that.

WATM: It seems counterintuitive to work with Article 15 Clothing, which outsiders would view as a competitor. How do you explain that relationship? It seems antithetical to the norms of business to be friends with companies creating such similar products.

NP: With Article 15, we have a very similar ethos. Those guys genuinely care about the veteran community; it’s not just window dressing. So they’re genuine guys and I like them personally, but the second part of it is that I don’t think it’s a zero sum game. I don’t wish failure on anybody.

We grow, they grow. Grunt Style [another military apparel company] grows and it’s not a bad thing  [because] these people are employing veterans and doing good things. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t had a single year where we haven’t had triple or double digit growth, so I’ve got no reason to complain.

When you sit around and look at competitors and worry about what they’re doing, and worry about other people, you are stagnant, you’re not improving, you’re not creating new products. You’re just worrying and you’re trying to go backwards. When you [should] look forward you grow.

That’s what we do, so I worked with Article 15, and we became friends, I gave them some advice here and there, and as a result of that mutual trust we kind of hung out and came up with the concept of doing this together and it’s been a really good partnership.

You can ask them the same questions and I’m relentless — that’s my personality — so from the moment that we decided to do this, I’m the guy who is annoying the sh-t out of everybody like “hey, we gotta do this, here’s our timetable, hey, we’ve got to get the lawyers to do this, we’ve gotta fill out this form and here’s the script notes. I need this and I need that.”

And Jarred [Taylor] is a promotional genius, Mat is a very creative dude, he’s hilarious, Jack [Mandaville] is hilarious, and everyone is kind of bringing something to the table. Individually I’m not gonna say, “could Article 15 have not done this without us?” No, I would never say that. They’re motivated guys, and they could have done it, same with us, like we could have done the same thing.

But together, we’re unstoppable. And I truly feel that way. Working together on this, we’re unstoppable. We’re putting up numbers that are shocking on IndieGoGo because the general population has no f–king idea who any of us are. But we’re still putting up numbers that are a quarter of what Broken Lizard just did with “Super Troopers” and that’s a movie that probably 20 percent of America has seen and loves, because we work great together, and have been able to kind of check egos and just work really hard.

So, for me it’s just been a win for everybody and it’s been an awesome experience.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael Maclleod

WATM: You were an Army officer, so I’m curious as to what terrifies you more: leading a unit of soldiers, or leading your own company? Or is it similar?

NP: It’s really different. And I also think it’s different because as you get older you think about things differently too. Like to think if I was this age, and if I were to take a platoon now, I would have been a lot more afraid than I was then, because when you’re 21 or 22 and just out of Ranger School, you feel like you’re unstoppable and you’re surrounded by guys who feel like they’re unstoppable.

Deploying was definitely nerve wracking because, a lot of people say this, but I was one of the guys that really loved everybody in my platoon even if they were a pain in the ass, and I really looked at them as my family. And it was terrifying to think of losing somebody. But I was fortunate that I wasn’t in a position where that happened. So, I was a young guy and felt invincible and never was faced with some of the bad things that happened to other people.

The stress is different though. The stress of a business is constant, and it’s not something where there is a clear, there’s no clear enemy right? It’s just this constant stress. Do we have the right inventory? Do we have the right ideas? Do we have the right advertising strategy? Oh crap, this thing went wrong. We need to fix this. The shirts came in wrong, the movie title headline is off because of X,Y, and Z, the lawyers didn’t get us the paperwork in time.

So now, my brain works 24/7, and it’s never over. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, I’ve basically had this constant stress in the back of my head, whereas the military, the stress has much higher peaks but shorter duration.

You get back from deployment and that stress drops significantly, then you deploy and the stress peaks. Within an entrepreneurial endeavor, the stress never goes away. It’s just always there. There’s always something you could be doing. That was a convoluted answer, but in the worst situation, [there’s] no question about it that the military is more stressful. On a day to day basis it’s more stressful to be an entrepreneur.

WATM: Living or dead, who are your top 3 heroes?

NP: George Washington is the best president we will ever have. I’ve read just about everything written on the man and people have no idea how much that dude did for the country and for our way of life.

Cheesy I know, but my father came over from Italy when he was eight years old, volunteered for Vietnam, served for six years, got out and used the GI Bill to be the first person to go to college in our family on either side, graduated valedictorian, and sacrificed significantly so that my mom and my brother and I grew up thinking anything was possible, and essentially made it so that we did make anything possible that we wanted to do.

And then third, gosh, you know the third one is a tough one, I’m not really a big hero worship kind of guy but I’m gonna go with Captain America. I’m serious. I’m going with Captain America because no matter how bad it gets, he sticks to doing what the right thing is and he never allows his principles to be shaken.

WATM: You want to start a new business instead of RU. What is it?

NP: That’s a tough one for me to answer because I have so many offers on the table right now. If I wanted to do something completely different I would do something that involved absolutely zero inventory.

So we’re kind of doing something that’s been a dream of mine for a long time, and that’s to get into the movie business. I mean, we might get into doing this movie and realize that we all hate movies. You know I enjoy doing advertising work, I could also see myself at some point disengaging from business and spending some time doing some nonprofit work.

It’s tough for me, because literally every day someone is trying to buy us, get us involved in a new business or hire me or Tom or somebody away from here. So I almost can’t even answer that.

At the end of the day, I want to work with really good people because the business almost doesn’t matter. I don’t even really like T-shirts. I tell people that all the time. But I really like my customers. And that’s what keeps me in the game with RangerUp.

If I had the opportunity to take over a $200 million business, but the focus was on football players or something, I don’t think my heart would be in it and I don’t think that I would be as good at it. Working with good people, and customers that I believe in, that’s kind of what motivates me. I need to care about what I’m doing.

I was in a position in corporate America where I was making a lot of money, I was on pace to make a bunch more money, and that taught me that I really don’t care about money. I mean obviously, I need to eat and I need to take care of my family, but I don’t need to be Kanye or Mayweather blowing 100K at a strip club. That’s not gonna make me happy. So whatever I do, the work has to be worthwhile.

WATM: What’s the #1 business book you find yourself recommending to people?

NP: I don’t really believe in business books. They’re just cheesy, they’re narcissistic, they’re people telling you how great they are, for the most part.

I would tell you that Ryan Holiday wrote a really cool book called The Obstacle Is The Way. It’s not really a business book but it is a great read and it’s founded on the principles of stoicism. And if you want to go back even further, read Marcus Aurelius. One of the great things that I learned from Ryan, and this is just from personal interaction with him, is that if you want to know something about a topic, any topic, walk into the bookstore and find the oldest book on that topic that’s still in print, because if it’s still in print, it’s because it’s a good book.

If it’s a new thing that someone famous just wrote, it’s probably a piece of sh-t, and I’ve found that to be true. And I’ve started reading older and older books, and the classics, and philosophy, because I find that to be a lot more valuable than reading about some dude that just launched an app and is 25 and trying to tell people how to run their life and run their business.

Sometimes people are really good, sometimes people are really lucky, [and] sometimes people are really good and can’t tell a story. Read old books.

WATM: What about a military-related book?

NP: That’s tough. I really like Gates of Fire, I really like Starship Troopers, the book, not the movie although the movie’s fun. The Long Grey Line, that’s a great book. Black Hawk Down. There [are] so many great books out there it’s hard to pick just one. Sean Parnell’s Outlaw Platoon, that’s a new one. I really enjoyed that book and Sean is a great guy. That probably makes that book even better for me, but to say that I have a favorite is pretty challenging.

WATM: Last thing: Where do people go to learn more about you? Besides RangerUp.com, do you have a personal website, Twitter account, Instagram, or smoke signal that you would recommend? Video you would want people to watch?

NP: @Ranger_Up is my Twitter, and that’s me tweeting 90 percent of the time. I don’t have a personal account yet but I’ve been getting kicked in the ass to start one so that’s coming soon [laughs].

Watch the “How to Get a Job” series. That’s what I care about. Just figuring out how to get people set up for success, so if the question is what am I about, that’s gonna be the best video for that.

WATM: Thanks so much, Nick.

NOW: The 9 best items deployed troops use instead of cash

Intel

Watch a soldier return from Afghanistan to surprise a total stranger

We’ve all seen the military homecoming videos, with a service member returning from overseas to surprise their loved ones.


But what happens when a soldier comes home and surprises a total stranger? Well, not to worry, because the satirical website ClickHole has you covered.

“I think he’s going to be very surprised, because he has no idea that I’m finally back from Afghanistan,” says “Sgt. Luke Brundage,” in the video produced by the one-year-old offshoot of The Onion.

With the look and feel of many familiar homecoming videos, the video hilariously illustrates a very awkward meeting, if something like this ever did occur. Interestingly enough, the actor who portrays Brundage is a Marine veteran, according to The Marine Times.

And while it does have some technical errors (using “soldier” instead of Marine, for instance), it’s still funny as hell. And the actor, Jonah Saesan, had little to do with pointing those out.

“A few people want to focus on the detail,” Saesan told The Times. “I don’t think they understand how little I had to do with the creative process.”

Now watch the video:

NOW: The hilarious ‘Awesome Sh-t my Drill Sergeant Said’ is now in book form

Articles

New monument will honor Vietnam helicopter crews

A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.


The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
(Photo from Wikimedia)

Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.

The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.

Mighty Moments

This Marine single-handedly cleared a rooftop after his squad was pinned down In Fallujah

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.


Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

Check out our video recap on Facebook.

“Adlesperger was killing insurgents so they couldn’t make it up the roof,” said platoon corpsman Alonso Rogero, in his written statement of events. “The insurgents tried to run up the ladder well, but PFC Adlesperger kept shooting them and throwing grenades on top of them.”

From Defense.gov:

Finally, an assault vehicle broke through a wall on the main floor. Adlesperger rejoined his platoon and demanded to take point for the final attack on the entrenched machine gun. He entered the courtyard first, and eliminated the final enemy at close range. By the end of the battle, Adlesperger was credited with having killed at least 11 insurgents.

He died a month after his heroics in that Fallujah house, but Adlesperger was posthumously promoted to lance corporal and recommended for the Medal of Honor. The award recommendation from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines originated with 1st Lt. Dong Yi and moved up the chain of command, with concurrence from Adlesperger’s battalion commander, regimental commander, and division commander.

Two years later, when his recommendation reached the MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, it was downgraded to the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award. His award recommendation did not include any comments or reasons as to why.

He was awarded the Navy Cross on April 13, 2007.

NOW: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah

Articles

These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe


Two photographs are taken and then merged into one. The single image reveals a person looking at their reflection in the mirror, in different clothing. It seems a simple concept, but when applied to veterans, photographer Devin Mitchell’s Veteran Art Project gives a powerful view of military service and the back stories of the individuals underneath the uniform.

“I don’t interview them, all I ask is if they’re [a] veteran and if I can come and take their picture,” Mitchell told The Washington Post’s TM Gibbons-Neff. “This is an opportunity for people to speak without having to say something.”

And Mitchell’s photos speak a thousand words.

In one photo posted to Mitchell’s Instagram page, uniformed Marine Cpl. Brad Ivanchan looks out at his veteran self, now in civilian attire. His rolled up pants reveal both legs replaced with prosthetics, a result of his stepping on an improvised explosive device in Sangin, Afghanistan, The Post reported.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

There are others, many of which break the stereotype of the “typical” veteran. There is Leyla Webb, a Muslim woman, who dressed in traditional Islamic garb for her photo shoot. Eric Smith wrote “Pride” in red ink on his chest as he looks to himself putting on his Army uniform, signifying his service as a gay soldier.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

“A lot of veterans feel they’re misunderstood,” Mitchell told Yahoo News. “And they don’t have a voice or platform. Even though these pictures don’t have audio, I feel they still speak very loudly.”

It’s up to the individual veteran how they want their photo to be taken. Some are photographed in full dress uniform, while others may wear combat gear. Perhaps one of the most powerful images thus far is from Dave and Daphne Bye, two Marines once married who took their photographs together, despite their recent divorce.

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

“I think it’s important for everybody to understand that even though we looked happy on the outside and that we truly did try for us and our daughter there’s only so much you can do when the issues are within yourself,” Daphne told The Post, noting the couple’s struggle with post traumatic stress disorder.

Now a junior at Arizona State University, the 27-year-old Mitchell began his project as a photo essay that would hopefully get him into graduate school. Despite finding it difficult to find veterans to shoot initially, his goal now is 10,000 photos, and his email inbox has been flooded with requests.

Since he’s still a student, Mitchell — who completes classes remotely from where he lives in Los Angeles — has limited means to travel to veterans. If you’d like to participate (especially in the L.A. area), you can email him here.

Check out some more of the photos below and be sure to follow the project on Instagram:

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

 

 

Intel

These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Photo: Youtube


There’s a veteran’s service initiative in Chicago that is literally saving children’s lives.

As part of the “Safe Passage” program, a non-profit called Leave No Veteran Behind deploys veterans to troubled areas of Chicago to watch over kids on their way to and from school. The organization repays student loan debt for service members in exchange for community service projects like this one, and also helps with employment and transitional jobs.

“We’re here faithfully; we’ve been here since day one,” veteran Bernard Cooks told NPR. “Our intention is to be here until the last day so kids can figure out that, ‘Hey, there’s somebody that actually cares about our safety,’ and they can feel confident going up and down these streets.”

From NationSwell:

In response to the widespread violence among youth in parts of Chicago, LNVB approached the Chicago school system to see if veterans could help. Tipped off about repeated violent incidents on the corner of 35th and Martin Luther King Drive, LNVB deployed 20 veterans to the location to stand guard, positively engage with youth and maintain the peace. Several weeks of calm led to expansion, and now, more than 400 veterans have participated in the Safe Passage program, positioned at several hot spots for crime in tough Chicago neighborhoods. On any given school day, about 130 veterans patrol the streets. As a result, the Chicago police has seen a significant decline in violence in the communities served.

114 children were murdered in Chicago from 2010 to 2014, CBS News reported. Many were injured or killed by gangs. Watch how Leave No Veteran Behind is helping to bring these numbers down:

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Meet the first Marine Officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe


NEW YORK – Staff Sergeant Patrick Poorbaugh received his commission to become the first Marine officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War began during a ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May 21.

The Ivy League school has not accepted Naval ROTC graduates since that time due to the unpopular stance of the Vietnam War.

“I want Marines to know that I will be competent and I will get the job done and I will be looking out for them,” Poorbaugh said after his commission. “This is exactly what we expect from our SNCOs and that’s what they can expect from me as a second lieutenant.”

Poorbaugh’s commission was attended by dozens of well wishers including service members from other branches and other leadership, including the Columbia University School of General Studies Dean, Peter Awn, and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Juan Garcia.

“This is a big deal!” said Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, Eastern Recruiting Region and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island commanding general. “This is the first Marine Corps commissioning since 1970. Your choice to continue to serve this great nation, for the commitment we know it will take from you to carry out the duties of an officer of Marines, your willingness to confront dangers on the nation’s behalf in the months and years to come are all noteworthy.”

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands at attention while his citation is read during his commissioning ceremony at the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies

Poorbaugh was raised in Mackinaw, Illinois, and joined the Marine Corps after graduating Dee-Mack High school in 2005. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2008. He planned to initially leave the Marine Corps after his first enlistment, but decided to stay and get more change, and more of challenge and to keep leading Marines.

“One trend among non-traditional students and especially vets is that we sell ourselves short,” Poorbaugh said. “Most of us didn’t perform well at the high school level and don’t think they can achieve that higher level of education. But after you been in for a little while you realize that you can do anything. I can go to any school; I can learn anything; I can do any job. You just have to have a plan and put in the time and effort.”

So he did by earning his chance to become an officer through the Marine Enlisted Commission Program and starting school at Columbia in 2012.

“Having access to the Ivy League schools (gives the Marine Corps) that diversity of thought and the Marine Corps needs diversity not because it makes us the best fighting force in the world, we get that through training,” said Williams, the oath of office administrator for the ceremony. “But this keeps us tied to the nation, to the people. We are America’s Marines.”

According to Awn, having an active-duty Marine attend Columbia was a benefit to all parties involved.

“GS is an extraordinary college as it brings into the undergraduate program people like Patrick Poorbaugh, who not only represents the best of the Marine Corps but his impact on the other students at Columbia has been substantial,” Awn said. “To see him commissioned today is an extraordinary honor both from Columbia and for the college from which he graduated. To get to know an enlisted man and now an officer is life changing for lots and lots of people on this campus.”

“For us to have a Columbia alum of that caliber is really an honor.”

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe
Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands poised to take charge as America’s newest Marine second lieutenant and Columbia University graduate during his commissioning ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies.

According to Williams, The Marine Corps recognizes that America’s vast diversity in cultural backgrounds, skillsets and ideas has been and always will be critical to its success as a nation.

“We need smart leaders and he is a smart man and a great Marine,” said Williams. “It’s always great to have a Marine graduating from one of the Ivy League schools because he brings a different perspective and different way of thinking and that only makes us better.”

Williams ended the ceremony by giving America’s newest Marine second lieutenant words of encouragement.

“You will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Marines you lead,” Williams concluded. “Have the confidence to lead them … for you are in charge of an elite warrior class.”

Poorbaugh graduated with a degree in Political Science and will report to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, to begin his commissioned career as a ground officer.

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