Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, is a Silver Star recipient for whom a campaign, led by his former battalion commander, fought to get his award upgraded to a Medal of Honor. In December, then-President Trump signed a bill authorizing the military’s most prestigious award to be posthumously awarded to Cashe.
Cashe was on a route clearance patrol in Samarra, Iraq in Oct. 2005. His normal vehicle had been declared non-mission capable before the patrol moved out, so he hopped into the gunner turret of the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
During the patrol, the vehicle struck a buried improvised explosive device and the results were catastrophic. The blast severed a hydraulic line for the rear ramp and spewed fuel all over the vehicle’s interior. After the vehicle strike, insurgents began firing on the convoy. Cashe was the first to escape the vehicle and, though burned and covered in fuel, was not yet badly injured.
Ignoring the danger to himself, Cashe moved to the driver’s door and removed the soldier from the wreckage. While he was doing this, the squad leader in the troop compartment managed to open a hatch, and here is where Cashe really distinguished himself.
Cashe reached through the flames around the opening and began pulling the severely injured soldiers out of the vehicle. While removing the first soldier from the rear compartment, the fuel on Cashe’s uniform ignited. Despite this, Cashe would return to the vehicle and rescue five more soldiers alive from the vehicle. He even returned a final time to pull out the body of the unit’s interpreter.
Cashe then refused to take a spot in the casualty evacuation vehicles until all of his men were secured. By the time Cashe accepted a ride away from the battlefield, he had second and third-degree burns over 72 percent of his body. He would die five days later at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas.
As the undergraduate college of our country’s naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the US. Navy and Marine Corps. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Burke)
Listening to 1st Class Midshipman Sydney Barber speak can make someone wonder if they are living up to their potential. But that’s what she does — reaches high and inspires those around her to do the same.
Barber, 21, found purpose at a young age through community service and now is making history as the first Black female brigade commander for the U.S. Naval Academy. And this is only the beginning of her professional impact.
Barber was chosen for this role because of her outstanding ability to perform as a leader. To plow a different path than her parents, who were both in the Navy, she initially resisted joining the Academy. But Barber learned a valuable lesson as a teenager — find your purpose and let it drive you. Her journey has been packed with life-changing moments of awareness.
Barber grew up in an affluent community in Lake Forest, Illinois, but her family had a lower socioeconomic status than her peers.
“I wasn’t going on the nice vacations and I didn’t have all the nice cars,” she said.
Her classmates drove Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, and Teslas in their sophomore year of high school, and she didn’t have a vehicle.
“I would often compare myself to the people around me,” she said. “But I know it wasn’t till later that I realized that I have everything that I need.”
She refers to this realization as her “awakening.”
As a middle schooler, a time when many kids are hanging out with their friends, Barber started serving at homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
“I remember that was a very eye-opening experience for me early on in my life,” she said. She also served with the Senior High Youth Group (SHYG) and led a small group for fifth- and sixth-graders.
“I really found my niche within my church community and within the community service clubs at my school,” she said.
Helping people in underserved areas like inner-city Chicago, India, and the Dominican Republic fostered a heart for service and opened her eyes to what matters.
“I saw people who were so filled with joy and passionate in their lives, not because of materialistic things or because of an abundance of money, but just because of their faith and their family and their purpose,” she said.
Afterward, she says she found a greater calling and more purpose in life by using that passion to give to others. It was the idea of service that guided her during the college selection process.
Barber discovered that the Naval Academy was the perfect place, because of its rigorous academics and dual alignment with her goals.
As Barber steps into her new role as brigade commander, she will lead over 4,000 midshipmen. Her duties will include managing their daily activities and professional training for the length of the semester. It wasn’t until 1976, 131 years after the Academy was founded, that women were admitted. Barber is one of 15 chosen to lead in the last 44 years. But most importantly, she is the first Black woman in command.
Brigade commander isn’t a role she initially set out for, but the value she places on her purpose won’t let her sit on the sidelines. Her internal push to be the best leader means jumping at any opportunity for professional growth and the chance to make others better.
However, she still faced some doubts.
“I thought that I had a very little chance of getting it just because it’s very competitive … The thing that really hit me over the edge is I didn’t want to be the person to count myself out and tell myself no,” she said.
Barber pursued this position, not because of her gender or race, but because she felt like she had to pursue it.
“It had to be because I knew that I was going to be Black and female and a great leader.”
Barber will continue to put her heart and soul into pursuing every chance to stretch herself while simultaneously making an impact. After graduation, she will be commissioning into the Marines, where she plans to be the best.
“I never strive for a billet. I don’t strive for a position, but I definitely strive for a purpose and in the purpose where I’m going to thrive and help those around me thrive and make the world as a whole a better place,” she said.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.
The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.
Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.
Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.
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.”
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:
A former “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor has left Hollywood to battle the Islamic State in Syria, despite having no previous military experience.
English-born Michael Enright, 51, said in a filmed interview with the Gulf-based AlAlan TV network that the extremist organization is “a stain on humanity,” and one that he personally hopes to destroy.
The actor has also stated that his decision to serve was triggered by a desire to right what he considers a national wrong, referring to the execution of American journalist James Foley by a member of ISIS who is believed to be British.
Enright fights alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has become a pivotal player in the American led alliance against ISIS.
Mr. Enright is one of dozens of foreign fighters have travelled to the self-styled Kurdish enclave of Rojava to join the fight. Most have a military background. Many have been recruited via Facebook, and some have funded their airfare on crowd funding websites.
Check out the AlAlan TV video below for the full interview:
But you may not know that Stewart has been an advocate for troops throughout his tenure, and has used his show on occasion to advocate for veterans and veteran-related causes. Here are five times in recent years he tried to make a difference:
When he brought on Eric Greitens, CEO and Founder of The Mission Continues, to discuss how returning veterans could transition into service and leadership roles in the civilian world.
Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called OperationTenzing Nepal.
The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.
Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.
Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.
Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.
Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.
Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.
Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.
Popular comedic actor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Riggle volunteered his time to star in a new public service announcement to help showcase the strengths of military veterans.
The PSA titled “What to Wear” is the third in a series created by Easter Seals Dixon Center, a non-profit changing the conversation about veterans and military families to highlight their potential and create life-changing opportunities.
The majority of the PSA’s production team were made up of veterans, including actor and Air Force veteran Brice Williams, who co-stars with Riggle, and director Jim Fabio, who currently serves as an Air Force Combat Camera Officer (all three are pictured above). Fabio was selected out of more than 50 directors — all military veterans — and was mentored by Hollywood producer-writer Judd Apatow during the process.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wants Post 9/11 veterans to know their wartime service strengthens their character through what he has coined “post-traumatic growth.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Centcom commander adapted a speech he gave recently in San Francisco that is a must-read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In it, he writes of how veterans should reject a “victimhood” mentality and ask for nothing more than a level playing field after they return home.
For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.
Well-known and especially beloved by Marines, the 64-year-old general retired from the service in 2013 after 41 years in uniform. Since then, he has been teaching at Dartmouth and Stanford University, offered testimony to Congress, and started work on a book on leadership and strategy.
“I am reminded of Gen. William Sherman’s words when bidding farewell to his army in 1865: ‘As in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens,'” Mattis wrote.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for troops who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.
On this day, Americans may be posting tributes on social media or attending events to honor the fallen. For a group of Recon Marines however, their way of honoring fallen brothers is with an intense, grueling challenge over nearly 30 miles.
“I’ll run for him until I retire,” says Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May of his comrade Staff Sgt. Caleb Medley, in a new video produced by the Marine Corps. Medley died in Feb. 2013 in a parachuting accident while training in California, according to The Marine Times.
As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.
With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.
Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.
As the founder and president of Ranger Up, Nick Palmisciano now commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery. 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. But the part-time passion that followed him into the corporate world became a full-time job after he refused a promotion that would’ve slapped on the “golden handcuffs,” according to an interview he gave to Steven Pressfield Online.
“I knew that if I took that promotion, the golden handcuffs were being slapped on and Ranger Up was going to die,” he told the site. “And I was going to spend my life working for other people doing something I really didn’t care about that much.”
He left the corporate world soon after his promotion was announced, but it wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was scared, to be honest,” Palmisciano told WATM. “I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, because I just — I controlled my destiny — 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.”
But less than two months after he went all-in with Ranger Up, Palmisciano was facing disaster when his bank account dwindled to just $1,300. “I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, and 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.”
His business improved, Palmisciano said, after he broke down tasks into manageable blocks that would get him to where he wanted to go. He looked at costs and realized the company was bleeding money. Then he found out that most of his sales were coming from just 20 percent of his inventory. “It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day,” he said.
His account went up to $1,350 next month, then to $1,500. The company began growing and it never stopped, due in large part to social media. Though, Palmisciano admits, it never gets easier. “There’s a new [challenge] every year,” he said.
According to Internet Retailer, the company saw $750,000 in sales in 2013 driven from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where it has a large audience of die-hard fans.
“Our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business,” Palmisciano said. “How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends, and if we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.”
Now, the company sponsors MMA fighters and also owns rugby apparel brand American Sin Bin and Unapologetically American, a brand meant to reach beyond the military veteran demographic. And Palmisciano personally helps fellow entrepreneurs and continually supports veterans’ causes.
Entertaining friends is what has given rise to Ranger Up’s latest venture: making a feature film. On Tuesday, the company announced its intention to make a movie titled “Range 15,” a post-apocalyptic comedy film made by and for veterans. In partnership with fellow veteran-owned business Article 15 Clothing, Ranger Up launched a crowdfunding campaign to ensure it would be the “military movie you’ve always wanted someone to make.”
At this writing, they are about 75 percent of the way there.
“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. You know we don’t care if someone’s offended by it, we don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate,” Palmisciano said. “We don’t care about any of that stuff. Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do.”
Want to hear more from Nick? Check out his “how to get a job” series for veterans below, or follow him on Twitter at @Ranger_Up.