Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

U.S. Army veteran Bryan Fant was a helicopter crewman suffering from service-connected neck and back pain. After 17 years of service and three months in rehab, he was discharged from the Army and on the brink of a downward spiral. He alienated his friends and family, he was suicidal, and he was hospitalized following a seizure derived from overmedication, fatigue, and malnourishment.

He decided to make a change. He quit using pain medication and switched to medicinal cannabis — and yoga.


MIGHTY SPORTS

The most amazing charity work done by NFL players

It’s a well-known and well-reported fact that an NFL athlete makes a pretty penny… billions of them, to be precise. People train their whole lives for a shot at the big time. Sometimes, when they get there, they’re barely 22 years old or younger. Sometimes, they fall hard. But other times, they their sudden fortune into good fortune for those around them.


That’s especially true of sports personalities. Big-ticket players enter a city’s franchise team and become entrenched in the city’s culture, even though they may not hail from that city originally. The people embrace them and, when times get rough, these players turn around and offer assistance and comfort to those in need.

JJ Watt, Houston Texans

JJ Watt, a Wisconsin native who played with the Badgers in his college years, is kind of an intense guy in everything he does. This helps the Texans defensively on the field and it helps Texans in general off the field.

The defensive player raised some million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts across Texas, a sizable chunk of the cost of rebuilding. The JJ Watt Foundation has raised millions to fund after-school athletics in the state and Watt personally intervenes to take care of burdened Texas families – like those of the Santa Fe High School shooting victims.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Wentz was raised in North Dakota and played football for ND State but the Eagles quarterback can often be found elsewhere. With other Eagles players, he helped raise half a million dollars to build a sports complex in ravaged areas of Haiti and his Audience Of One Foundation operates a food truck that can be seen on the streets of Philadelphia, handing out food to those in need. In true food truck fashion, the truck’s name is “Thy Kingdom Crumb.”

When he’s not building in the developing world or handing out food, he’s running a series of summer camps to give youth in urban areas a true outdoor experience.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos

Brandon Marshall, a Las Vegas native who attended UNLV, was one of many NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem protests. But rather than just make a statement for the cameras, Marshall decided to take action off the field as well. After he took his first knee on Sept. 8, 2016, Marshall met with Denver police chief Robert White to facilitate dialogue between urban communities and the Denver police.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Michael Thomas and The First Step, founded by community philanthropist, Scott Van Duzer, a focuses on making genuine, lasting connections between kids and local law enforcement.

Michael Thomas, New York Giants

Whenever a list of the NFL’s most charitable players is written, Giants safety Michael Thomas has to make the list. Though he doesn’t necessarily operate his own foundation, he is a prolific volunteer in the Florida area and beyond (until 2018, he was with the Miami Dolphins).

The Houston native assisted in raising money to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, he helps young kinds interact with community leaders and local law enforcement through a program called “First Step,” he’s an active Big Brother and a volunteer for Food for the Hungry.

“The best thing you can give to these kids in these communities is time,” he told Points of Light, “show that you actually care.”

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

That’s the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees, an Austin, Texas native who played for Purdue in Indiana and was originally drafted by the San Diego Chargers, has forgotten none of those places. And he certainly hasn’t forgotten about New Orleans… or anywhere else, for that matter. He founded the Dream Brees Foundation in 2003 to support cancer victims, in memory of his wife’s aunt, who died of cancer. Brees and his organization have raised million to support those programs.

He donates millions to hurricane victims, including those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and of course, Katrina. He also helps fund the Purdue football team and, through Operation Kids, helped rebuild and restore youth athletic programs, parks, and playgrounds, and neighborhood revitalization programs throughout New Orleans. He even routinely visits deployed US troops on tour with the USO.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Eli Manning, New York Giants

Eli is definitely elite among generous athletes. He was named to Forbes 2012 Most Generous Athletes list for a sizable donation to his alma mater’s, University of Mississippi, sports program, named one of the the top philanthropists under age 40 in 2015, and even funds an operational clinic for children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Co-Winner also matched donations for Hackensack University Medical Center’s “Tackle Childhood Cancer” initiative, which ended up raising .5 million.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers

Sherman, the Stanford-educated cornerback, founded Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, an organization dedicated to channeling its resources to “ensure that as many children as possible are provided with proper school supplies and adequate clothing.”

He doesn’t stop at clothing. He also works with Microsoft to bring surface computer labs to underfunded high schools in places like his native Compton, Calif. and has affected more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles alone.

MIGHTY SPORTS

10 ways to switch up your bench press routine

The workout bench is something you find in just about every gym — even those tiny hotel workout rooms that can fit maybe three people. But it’s such a boring workout. It’s a flat, rectangular, stationary object with none of the bells and whistles of those fancy machines at the gym and all you ever see anyone do on it is bench press big weights, over and over. Here’s some advice: Get over it. The bench plays a crucial role in any strength-training program because, yes, it’s everywhere, but also it is versatile and allows for an increased range of motion during any given strength exercise.

You could spend a whole session doing variations on the traditional bench press and leave the gym a fitter man. But you can get even more mileage from your bench routine if you throw in some full body exercises that get your heart rate up and work other major muscle groups. Check out these 10 bench moves that get the job done.


1. Dumbbell triceps extension

Lie on the bench, feet on floor, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise dumbbells straight over your chest. Allow arms to drift back over your head slightly. Bend elbows and lower dumbbells toward the floor. Straighten elbows and raise dumbbells overhead again. (Note: If you feel more strain in your elbows than triceps, reach your arms farther behind your head.) 10 reps, 2 sets.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)

2. Decline sit-ups

Angle the bench to a roughly 30- to 45-degree position. Lie with your feet at the high-end, hooking your heels over the back of the bench, or using a strap around the ankles for support. Keeping hands behind your head, do 3 sets of 20 sit-ups. (Note: If you find a full sit-up too difficult in this position, either lessen the bench angle, or do crunches instead.)

3. Step-ups

Stand facing the bench, about a foot away. Place your right foot on the bench and step up, raising your left knee high in front of you. Step down. Repeat 10 times on the right side, then 10 set-ups with your left leg. Do 3 sets.

4. Incline fly

Hinge bench so that the seat is flat and back is at a 45-degree angle. Sit with feet on floor and lean back, holding a dumbbell in either hand. Raise your arms straight front of your chest, then open them wide out to the sides, letting them pass the 90-degree angle if possible. Raise them back in front of your chest. 15 reps, 2 sets.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

5. Leg raises

Lie on a flat bench, hips and butt positioned at the edge of one end, feet on floor. Place hands over your head, gripping the other end of the bench for support, or under your lower back. Lift your feet and straighten legs out in front of you, so that they are suspended in the air and creating a straight line with the rest of your body. Slowly raise your legs to the ceiling (count to 5). Lower them back down. 10 reps, 2 sets.

6. Isometric hold fly

The beauty of dumbbells is their symmetry — weights perfectly balanced on either side of your grip. Holding the dumbbell at one end, however, adds a whole new layer challenge, engaging more muscles and testing your body’s balance as well as strength. For this move, lie back on the bench, feet on floor. Holding a dumbbell in either hand, with your grip all the way at one end of the weight, raise dumbbells above your chest with straight arms, then open them wide out to the sides. Raise arms again until they are above your chest. Bend elbows, and lower dumbbells to chest. 10 reps, 2 sets.

7. Incline bench press

Set the bench at a 45-degree incline. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and lift it off the rack. Lower to your chest with a controlled movement, then drive through your feet, engage your core, and press it toward the ceiling. (Note: Make sure to keep the barbell directly overhead, rather than drifting forward.)

8. One-arm rows

Holding a dumbbell in your left hand, stand at the left side of the bench and place your right knee and right hand on it (as if you are down on all fours, but just two limbs). Leaning forward so that your back is parallel to the floor, drop your left shoulder slightly, bend your left elbow, and imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the dumbbell up to your chest. Lower. Do 10 reps on each side, 3 sets total.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Domagoj Ćosić)

9. Bench press

Ok, ok. We’re not going to stop you from performing the bench press. If you’re going to do it (and it’s a fine move, so don’t let us stop you), do it right: Lie on the bench, feet on floor, grabbing the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Lift bar out of rack and lower it toward your chest. Tuck elbows in at your sides. As soon as the bar touches your chest, engage your core and drive through your feet to raise the bar overhead. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.

10. Close-grip press

Same exercise as above, except place your hands just inside shoulder-width apart. This angle uses your triceps more, pectoral muscles less. 10 reps, 3 sets.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here’s how to register for the 2020 Air Force Marathon

If you plan to ring in the new year with resolutions of becoming a healthier you, what a better way to stick to that commitment than to sign up for the 24th Annual Air Force Marathon. Registration opens Jan. 1, 2020, at midnight, offering the lowest prices of the year with a New Year’s resolution special.

“Last year we made a significant overhaul of the course, added a kids race, and more entertainment and displays throughout the course,” said Brandon Hough, Air Force Marathon race director. “Based on the feedback, runners had a great experience so we hope to continue to make the Air Force Marathon bigger and better every year.”


After a successful turnout of the first kids run last year, the Tailwind Trot for children ages 4-12 will return and due to its popularity, the number of registrations will increase. In addition, the Fly! Flight! Win! Challenge will again offer the option to run either the half or full marathon along with the 5K and 10K run to receive the special finisher medal.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michelle Gigante)

New in 2020, a “virtual marathon” option will be available to allow runners from all over the world to join in from afar.

“We have airmen all over the world who want to be involved in this incredible annual tradition, but due to deployments, temporary duty assignments, remote assignments and a host of other reasons, they are not able to join us,” Hough said. “Adding a virtual option allows them to challenge themselves while taking part in the annual celebration of the Air Force Marathon.”

Participants can choose between the virtual half or full marathon and will need to run their selected distance between Sept.12-27 next year. Once runners submit proof of their accomplishment, they will then receive their finisher medal and race shirt. The virtual marathon option is open to all runners.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Libecap)

Registration prices will increase throughout the year leading up to the Air Force Marathon on Sept. 19. The New Year’s resolution special will be valid through Jan. 3, and prices are as follows:

Distance / Price
Marathon /
Half Marathon /
10K /
5K /
Tailwind Trot /
Challenge Series / 0

Military, including reservists and guardsmen, can receive off registration for the full, half and challenge races or off the 5K or 10K runs.

Runners can register at www.usafmarathon.com by clicking the registration tab.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The 10 best at-home dumbbell exercises for building muscle

Lots of work and busy family schedules can be a major hindrance to getting yourself to the gym. Don’t fight it. Cancel your gym membership and buy a set of dumbbells. Bam! Your home is now all the gym you need. Really. Dumbbells are staples in all gyms for a reason. They’re versatile as hell and can build muscle fast, if you know how to use them. All you need is 30 minutes, two-to-three days a week.

Like any strength workout, you are best off performing this routine with at least one day between sessions to allow your muscles a chance to recover. Once you get the hang of the basic moves, try the advanced variation to work your body a little harder. In all cases, you want to focus on form above all else, since the correct body position maximizes the load on your muscles. In other words, you’ll get stronger and fitter doing fewer reps and simpler moves with the right form than you will doing complicated sequences incorrectly.


To get started, grab two medium-weight dumbbells, find yourself some clear floor in your living room, basement, or garage, and get ready to pump iron for the next 30 minutes. Note: Most exercises require two or three sets. You can rest as long as you need between sets, but ideally you’ll aim for around 30 seconds.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Sergio Pedemonte)

1. The dumbbell move: Standing overhead press

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your knees soft, bend elbows and lift weights to your chest, then straighten elbows and push weights skyward until your arms are straight, palms facing forward. This is your start position. Bend elbows out to the sides and lower weights to shoulder height. Straighten arms and raise weights to the ceiling again. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Instead of lifting weights straight up, diagonalize to a spot just forward of your head, forcing your body to engage your core and pecs for stabilization.

2. The dumbbell move: Lunges

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand tall. Take a large step forward with your right leg, landing with a bent right knee. Lower yourself toward to floor until your right leg forms a right angle, knee over toe, and your left knee hovers above the ground. Push off your right foot and return to standing. Repeat on left side for one full rep. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Take these moves up two flights of stairs, stepping every-other-stair to maintain proper form.

3. The dumbbell move: Curls

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward, arms straight by your side. Keeping elbows stationary at your side, bend arms and curl forearms in front of you until weights touch your chest. Release. 10 reps, 3 sets.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Danielle Cerullo)

Make it harder: Perform curls while standing on one leg, the other leg bent in a right angle, knee flexed in front of you. Alternate legs with sets.

4. The dumbbell move: Lying chest press

How to: Lie on the floor, knees and elbows bent, dumbbell in each hand, and hands at your chest. Press dumbbells up into the air until arms are straight and weights are above your head. Bend elbows and release. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Straighten your legs as you lie on the floor. Lift your heels three inches off the ground. Keep them there as you perform the exercise.

5. The dumbbell move: Squats

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend knees and elbows as if you are about to sit down into a low chair. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are over your toes. Straighten back to standing. 10 reps, two sets.

Make it harder: When you reach the lowest point of the squat, push through your heels and jump vertically in the air. Land with soft knees and lower back into a squat again.

6. The dumbbell move: Dumbbell flye

How to: Lie on your back on the floor or on a bench. Lift dumbbells directly above your chest, arms straight, palms facing each other. Inhale and open arms wide out to the sides. Exhale and squeeze your chest muscles as you lift weights back up over your chest. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Do one arm at a time. This challenges your body’s stability and engages your core and glute muscles for balance.

7. The dumbbell move: Reverse flye

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Lower dumbbells to the floor below you, arms straight. Keeping your back flat, raise dumbbells out to the sides. Lower. 8 reps, 3 sets.

Make it harder: Perform a squat every time you raise your arms.

8. The dumbbell move: Corkscrew

How to: Interlace fingers around both dumbbells so you are holding them together with both hands. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate your body to the right, swinging your arms to your right side. Shift weight to the left, twisting your body and raising dumbbells above your left shoulder, arms straight. Twist back to the right, lowering dumbbells down to your right hip. Perform 10 corkscrews to the left, then switch sides and perform 10 twists to the right.

Make it harder: As you twist to the left, raise your right leg off the floor so that your weight is entirely supported by your left side. Do the same as you twist to the right.

9. The dumbbell move: Row kickback

How to: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist so your chest faces the floor. Keeping elbows tucked close to your sides, bend arms so weights come to your chest, then straighten them until weights are behind you. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Make it harder: Once arms are fully extended behind you, lift weights an extra 2-3 inches higher (using your full arm) to engage your deltoids. Release.

10. The dumbbell move: Pushup row

How to: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into a modified pushup position (resting on your knees, body at an incline, arms straight). Keeping your torso stable, bend your right elbow out to the side and raise the dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. Bend left elbow and raise the left dumbbell to your chest. Return to start. This completes one rep. 8 reps, 2 sets.

Make it harder: Perform move in full pushup position (legs straight, balancing on toes).

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The branches of the military re-imagined as major sports leagues

No analogy better describes life in the military than being on a sports team. From the obvious comparisons (you’re operating in a team environment) to the more nuanced (there’s always some kind of competition going on within that team), there’s no denying a strong correlation between the two lifestyles.

As anyone who’s part of the military community knows, there’s an eternal inter-service rivalry running between the branches of the US Armed Forces. This competition is played out in hypotheticals shared between bored troops because, truthfully, there’s no real way to determine which single branch ‘better’ than the rest.

At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of taste, much like choosing a favorite sports league to follow. Well, don’t worry, sports fans, we’ve selected a league for each branch so you don’t have to.


Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(MLB)

US Army = Major League Baseball

In a lot of ways, this is the easiest parallel to draw. The Army is the oldest of all the armed services, founded in June, 1775, which makes it less than a hundred years older than Major League Baseball, which was founded in 1869.

The Army is also the first branch that comes to mind when most people think of the US Armed Forces. All of us service members, current and prior, have been viewed as a “Soldier” by uninformed friends, family, or weal-meaning passersby. And if you’ve traveled abroad, you also know that most people assume every American loves baseball.

In many ways, the Army is “America’s service” in the same way that baseball is “America’s pastime.”

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(U.S Air Force Photo by Zachary Perras)

US Navy = National Hockey League

There are some abundantly clear parallels here, as well. The most literal of these connections is that the the Navy is known for its astonishing power on the seas and NHL players are known for being immense forces on ice — frozen water.

The Navy was founded second, in the fall of 1775, and the National Hockey league, founded in 1917, is America’s second-oldest league.

Furthermore, there’s a lot more to the Navy than most people realize, but everyone knows about their elite, the Navy SEALs. Hockey has a long, storied history, filled with amazing athletes — many of which are unknown by most, but everyone knows of Wayne Gretzky.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga
(National Football League)

US Marines = National Football League

This one truly is the easiest to see. First, they both have the coolest uniforms. The much-worshipped Marine Dress Blues is, without a doubt, the most iconic uniform in the American military — and there’s nothing that says “American sports” quite like an NFL helmet.

Both require peak physical conditioning. If you’ve ever seen a NFL player in person, you knew right away that they’re capable of some abnormally amazing physical feats. The same is true for most Marines; their physical appearance announces their membership before they open their mouths.

The last and most prominent similarity is their popularity. The USMC is respected and recognized all over America. If their body, posture, or uniform doesn’t give them away, their conduct will. Though the public perception of the NFL is currently suffering, there’s no denying that, historically, football has held a firm foothold in American hearts.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

The general public cheering on the Air Force but calling in the Army

(Erik Drost)

US Air Force = National Basketball Association

Simply put, the USAF is the youngest and most fly.

The NBA gets a lot of greats that would’ve likely played football or baseball in generations past. They constantly get the newest uniform and technological updates — and it’s the hardest league to get into (by percentage. There are 494 total NBA players and 1,696 NFL players).

US Coast Guard = Major League Soccer

Look, we know you’re important and there are tons of fans out there, but the American public just hasn’t caught on yet. I mean, soccer didn’t even make the cover photo of this article, so…

One day, Coast Guard. One day.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.

Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.

Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.


All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Nil Castellví)

Guides use voice commands and music

Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.

Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.

Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.

Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Murat Bahar)

New remote guiding system with sensors in vests

This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.

The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.

It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.

Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by McKayla Crump)

“How awesome to feel independent!”

“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.

“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.

“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”

Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

US Air Force Thunderbirds will perform Super Bowl flyover

The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds are scheduled to conduct a flyover during the national anthem performance at Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019, over Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 Total Force airmen to football fans around the world.”


The Thunderbirds’ flyover, its first public event in 2019, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, soaring over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment the final notes of The Star Spangled Banner are sung. They will take off for the Super Bowl LIII flyover from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia.

Super Bowl 51 2017 USAF Thunderbirds Flyby Compilation NRG Stadium Houston Texas

www.youtube.com

The Thunderbirds last flew over the Super Bowl in 2017 at the NRG Stadium, Houston.

The Thunderbirds’ team is composed of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted airmen and three civilians serving in 28 Air Force job specialties. In 2019, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 65 air shows in 33 different locations all over the world.

Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 300 million people in all 50 states and 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Veterans Golden Age Games torch delivered ‘Mission Impossible’ style

Staff Sergeant Tom McArthur of the Alaska Air National Guard practices it regularly: rappelling by rope from a helicopter. Whether it’s to rescue people who are lost in the woods, who are stranded because of a snowmobile accident, or who have been attacked by animals, making that descent is a standard part of his job.

So after descending from a height of 70 feet on June 5, 2019, with the torch for the 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games in Anchorage, Alaska, he sounded nonchalant about it.

“We’re pretty consistent about this,” McArthur says. “It’s one of the things we train for. Throughout the year, we do it a number of times.”

McCarthur’s breathtaking feat was the opening stage of a ceremonial passing of the torch, the theme of which was “Mission Impossible.”


The torch will be on display during the “Parade of Athletes” at the opening ceremonies of the Golden Age Games on June 6, 2019, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. The Golden Age Games, which include nearly 900 veterans age 55 and older and serve as one of VA’s premier sports events, began on June 5, 2019, and run until June 10, 2019.

On a clear, sunny day amid the backdrop of the snow-sprinkled Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage, McArthur descended from a Black Hawk helicopter that hovered over the fairway of the 10th hole at the Moose Run Golf Course. One of his colleagues, Technical Sergeant Jason Hughes, rappelled just before him.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

McArthur ran for a short distance with the gold-covered torch and handed it off. Master Sergeant Chris Bowerfind of the Alaska Air National Guard. Bowerfind and 21 other people then ran three-quarters of a mile in one direction along Arctic Valley Road, which is parallel to the golf course, and three-quarters of a mile in the other direction back to the starting point.

Taml, an emotional support dog who has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, ran alongside Bowerfind. He was also accompanied by four officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System, which is sponsoring this year’s Golden Age Games, some Veterans who are competing in the event, and members of the local community that support VA and the military.

The officials from the Alaska VA Healthcare System included Dr. Tim Ballard, director of the facility. He’s excited that the Alaska VA is sponsoring the Golden Age Games.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment hovers over a field to drop off two Alaska Air National Guard pararescuemen of the 212th Rescue Squadron and a torch for this year’s National Veterans Golden Age Games at Moose Run Golf Course, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, June 5, 2019.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pvt. Grace Nechanicky)

“We’re one of the smallest VA stations in the country,” he says. “So for us to be given this opportunity is really great. It’s a testament to our staff who are very dedicated to taking care of veterans. Often times, it’s the big facilities that get this sort of stuff. So it’s really cool that we’re a small fry in a great big VA, and we’re having an opportunity to host this event.”

Ballard explains that even though the Alaska VA is an outpatient ambulatory care facility, it has a major partnership with Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, a combined Army and Air Force installation.

“We have in-patient staff assigned to the hospital at JBER who see both Department of Defense and VA patients,” he says. “Roughly 85 members of our staff are embedded in JBER doing many inpatient activities. We’ve got a myriad of staff that are in the specialty clinics over there, including orthopedics, urology, cardiology, and the like. So even though we are outpatient from VA’s perspective, we really consider JBER’s hospital our hospital.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here’s why you might be gaining weight during summer months

Does your beach body seem to disappear as the summer progresses — covered in beer, braut, and sedentary fat? You’re not alone. While weight gain is seen as a winter sport, summer weight gain is much more common than people think. And like a thunderstorm on a sunny day at the beach, it sneaks up on parents and kids alike.

Two recent studies suggest that children lose weight during the school year, and gain weight in the summer due to increased consumption of sugary drinks and decrease structure when it comes to meals, activity, and sleep. It’s possible similar variables cause summer weight gain in adults. There’s evidence that people generally sleep less during the summer, due to increased daylight exposure and just being too hot to sleep comfortably, and sleep deprivation increases the production of cortisol — a stress hormone that drives sugar cravings, swelling, and overall weight gain. Making matters worse, adults tend to diet in preparation for the summer, which really prepares them to pack on the pounds.


“Summer weight gain is often simply the biological response to pre-summer attempts at weight loss,” health coach and fitness specialist Ragen Chastain explains. “That lose-gain cycle can be compressed with more extreme dieting. So that crash diet they sold you to get your summer body will actually be likely to give you your summer weight gain.”

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by i yunmai)

The lose-gain cycle Chastain is referring to is often seen in crash or yo-yo diets, or regimens designed for rapid weight loss that are rarely sustainable and often backfire. When people try to lose weight a month before vacation instead of gradually throughout the year, it depletes their metabolism in several ways. Calorie deprivation slows thermogenesis, the amount of energy the body spends digesting food, while increasing overall fatigue, which discourages exercise. Extreme dieting also leads to muscle breakdown, which means fewer calories burned both during physical activity and while resting. Likewise, depriving the body of nutrients further disrupts sleep, which takes a toll on a person’s metabolic rate, studies show. Once summer starts and these diets end, or just get cheated on a lot, an uptick of parties, barbecues, and vacations, and the all the high-calorie indulgences that come with them create a perfect storm for a summer belly. That’s why summer is surprisingly the perfect time to get fat.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Nik MacMillan)

While warm temperatures encourage physical activities, really hot ones have the opposite effect, and people opt for sedentary summer days blasting the AC. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends canceling outdoor exercise when the heat index is above 90 degrees, for anyone who works out regularly. For those who are not as fit, the ACSM suggests tapping out closer to 86 degrees and calling off any sport competitions or forms of extended activity at 82 degrees. That means in places with the highest heat indexes — which accounts for humidity as well as temperature — like Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, outdoor physical activity may not be a safe option for most of the season. Regardless of where they live, people are more likely to put off exercising outside in the summer than in the winter due to the weather, according to one study. Consumer trends data confirms that many people fill this time with more beer, ice cream, and hot dogs, only making matters worse.

That’s not to say that winter weight gain isn’t real. Research shows that people tend to pack on the pounds between October and January because of the holiday season, as well as the cold weather, which tends to decrease physical activity increase the urge to indulge. However, exposure to cold weather helps activate brown fat to heat the body, which in turn, burns other fat, and shivering burns calories further, so it’s not all bad.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

(Photo by Jakob Owens)

Still, if people are prone to gaining weight in the summer and winter, is everyone just getting fatter year-round? Not so. Spring, it turns out, is more conducive to healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss than any other season. Research shows that people are more likely to think about weight loss during winter and summer months, but the spring months are when they actually can do it. On average, people consume 86 fewer calories per day in the spring compared to the fall, are more likely to exercise outside, and engage in physical activity for longer periods of time. The best thing parents who don’t want to pack on the summer pounds can do is treat it like spring. Think of it as summer with a little more structure, sleep, and healthy food.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

“Back in the days when I got injured while serving overseas, the program to recover wasn’t like the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) is now,” explained Capt. David Espinoza, a wounded warrior athlete who is competing at the 2019 Army Trials, March 5-16, 2019.

Espinoza is a light-hearted, Florida-native, and also a Purple Heart recipient who has spent over a decade serving his country. Currently assigned to WTB-Hawaii, he is recovering from a motorcycle accident and receiving care at Tripler Army Medical Center. There he completed seven surgeries and received 26 pins in his left hand.


“The WTB is a great program because the unit has given me time to recover and get ‘back into the fight,'” he said. “And being a part of the WTB has also helped me to recover from my previous deployments.”

Espinoza was first led down the road to recovery in 2007 when the signal officer, a sergeant at the time, was deployed to Iraq. During a night convoy mission, Espinoza’s squad was ambushed by insurgents when his Humvee got hit by an IED and he fractured his left arm and femur.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod, a wounded warrior athlete from Fort Benning gets ready to shoot a bow at archery practice during the 2019 Army Trials.

(Photo by Leanne Thomas)

“I saw a bright light and my life flashed right before me … it was like shuffling a deck of cards,” he said. “The first card was me as a kid … then I recalled my entire life, all the way to current time.”

That experience, he explained, “Was an eye-opener, and it makes me feel grateful for what I have now.”

While recovering from injuries sustained during combat, Espinoza entered the U.S. Army Reserves and said he made a full recovery but went through the experience alone. Now assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit and competing in adaptive sports, Espinoza has the opportunity to heal alongside soldiers who have faced or are going through similar situations.

“It’s an honor to experience this event with other fellow warriors,” Espinoza explained.

The 2018 Pacific Regional Trials was Espinoza’s first adaptive sports competition. There he established a baseline to see where he stands as a competitor.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement … mind, body, and soul,” he said. “This experience has made a big impact on me, and also for my family.”

Now a rookie athlete at the 2019 Army Trials, Espinoza is competing in seven of the 14 sports offered: cycling, powerlifting, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and swimming.

“I’m really looking forward to competing in wheelchair basketball, but one thing I didn’t know is that I’m actually good at cycling,” the athlete explained. “It’s like a mind game and you’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’ve got this,’ because it’s seven laps, and those seven laps take a long time to finish.”

During the Trials, Espinoza, along with nearly 100 other wounded, ill, or injured soldiers and veterans are competing for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, coming June 2019 to Tampa, Florida.

“Hopefully this experience keeps going so I can continue to learn and grow as I take this journey to the next level,” he said.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The best and worst cities to be a football fan may not surprise you

Another football season is nearing its end and the excitement surrounding this season, the surprise Clemson win, the NFC Championship controversy, and the upcoming Super Bowl inspired the people over at WalletHub to do yet another study on the habits and happiness of your average Americans – this time, with a focus on the gridiron.


Keep in mind, this isn’t just about NFL football, but you will find familiar NFL franchise cities on the top of the list. It also includes NCAA football. Some 244 American cities were graded on 21 different metrics using a 100-point scale, with 100 being a perfectly favorable score. WalletHub included one professional team or one college team, and assigned weights to each category based on its popularity with fans. The weighted averages comprise the list and are grouped by city size.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

“Terrible.”

The top ten will likely not be a surprise to anyone. Pittsburgh, home of die-hard Steelers fans and the Panthers of the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference, tops the list. That’s followed by the homes of the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins, Saints, and so on. The first time the home of a nationally-ranked college football team comes is at the end of the 30 cities where NFL franchises are housed.

At the top of the college football list of best cities for football fans sits another unsurprising winner.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Roll Tide.

Clemson, S.C., may have defeated the Crimson Tide for the BCS National Championship, but they’re in second place when it comes to fandom. As you scroll the list you’ll find the homes of the Florida State Seminoles, the LSU Tigers, and the Penn State Nittany Lions. What might surprise you is the high ranking for the North Dakota State Bison, Appalachian State Mountaineers, and the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights.

In case you were wondering, West Point, N.Y. sits at number 39 while Annapolis, Md. is all the way at number 123, sandwiched between the home of the Cal Poly Mustangs and the Eastern Michigan University Eagles. Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is number 115.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

There’s always next year, Navy.

As for the bottom of the list, the lowest ranked NFL city is Cleveland, which is unsurprising considering they once dubbed the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium the “Factory of Sadness.” In terms of the NCAA, the biggest surprise at the bottom of the college football list is the low, low ranking for the homes of the Oregon State Beavers and the Purdue Boilermakers, who scrape the bottom of a list of 244.

Check out the full list in the WalletHub Infographic.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga
MIGHTY SPORTS

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are getting a makeover in their 39th year, with a sport that will test brute strength, leadership, skill, and a little brain power.

The team relay, which includes a “grenade toss,” and “shooting,” may feel like a return to basic training, but Troy Colón, who put together the event, said it’s just to add some military flair for the veteran-athletes.

“This is a throwback to their military days and that military camaraderie, but it is a thinking game,” he said. “Think before you act, and you may want to choose finesse over strength.”


The 39th Annual Wheelchair Games — a partnership with VA and the Paralyzed Veterans of America — takes place July 11 to 16, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Games feature a variety of competition for wheelchair veterans from VAs across the nation, as well as Puerto Rico and a team from Great Britain.

Some events include wheelchair rugby, power soccer, handcycling, and other track and field events.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

The new team relay will have a military theme at this year’s Wheelchair Games, like shot put grenades. If the shot put grenade makes it to a bunker, the team gets double points.

Colón, an assistive technology professional from the Louisville VA Medical Center in Kentucky, said the team relay takes a little bit from different parts of the Games.

25 teams — made up of five athletes each — will participate in this year’s relay. Each team must have at least one quadriplegic. Once one athlete completes a station, he or she will have to wheel over to the next station in the relay.

Here’s how the relay is set up:

  • Powerlifting: This is the first station and any of the five team members can participate. The higher the weight, the more points the team receives, but they only have two minutes.
  • Shot put grenades: After powerlifting, the team makes their way to the second station. Like in a traditional shot put, the further the distance, the more points. But if the athlete gets this shot put in one of the bunkers, they will get double points for that distance.
  • Laser tag shooting: Again, speed is a factor. “I’m going to make the shooters race over,” Colón says. “They’re going to be out of breath, they’re going to be shaky. It’s about trigger control and breath control. You might be racking up points by hitting the target, but taking longer and getting points deducted there. What are you willing to risk?”
  • Sled pool: “This could be the most grueling part if the best decisions aren’t made,” Colón said. Like an adaptive version of a crossfit exercise, one person must pull a certain amount of weights from Point A to Point B. “There’s a smart way to do this,” Colón said. “Team captains should think outside the box.”
  • Rock climbing: The final leg of the relay will add the “shock and awe,” Colón said. The last person on the team will be staged and ready to go, but can’t climb until the person on the sled pull makes it up the hill to the final station.

The team with the highest overall points — not necessarily the fastest time — will win the relay.

“People are intimidated by what they can and can’t do, but just like the military, if everybody could do everything, everybody would have a patch. For the relay, it’s easier if you read the rules, and intelligently think about it. Think about the best place for all your team members,” Colón said.

Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

“The team captain needs to read my rules very, very carefully because I purposely wrote the rules to trick people,” he added. “It’s one of those things like the military, where you’re only as good as your intel. You have to be adaptive when you are doing missions. You can’t always go by the textbook.”

However it’s played, Reese Levasseur, a Marine Corps veteran from the Palo Alto VA Medical Center, said he’s ready.

“The funny thing is, I’ve been practicing the sled pull for training at our local adaptive gym, so I’m ready for this,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and being a Marine, we’re just super competitive in nature.”

But if super competitive doesn’t equal best score, he’s OK with that, too.

“Hopefully I’m not the one who screws it up too bad,” he laughed. “I’m laid back, but we’re all about enjoying ourselves out there. We hope to be top dogs, but it’s more about being together and doing things in a chair instead of sitting on a couch at home.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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