INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

When we envisioned our first publication for this blog, we never dreamed we would be interviewing one of our own founders for it. Or, that the topic would be her diagnosis and recovery of COVID-19. Despite the initial anxiety and concern over her positive test, she chose joy. Every day.

Samantha Gomolka is a Physician Assistant for a dermatology office in Buffalo, New York. Her state is arguably the hardest hit with COVID-19 and although schools and businesses were shut down, she continued to work and treat patients. “It was my biggest fear…. That if my family got sick, it would be because I brought it home. It was a heavy weight to carry,” she said.


INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

www.inspireupfoundation.org

Gomolka shared that she researched the signs and symptoms heavily, watching closely for fever or any shortness of breath. When she started with a cough and headache, she didn’t initially think it could be COVID-19. A few days later, the fever and body aches came. “In that moment, you are kind of stuck between the place of fear and disbelief,” she said. Gomolka said she just knew she had it. She quarantined herself in a guest bedroom, praying she wouldn’t pass it to anyone else in her family. A call to the public health department gave her the verbal instructions of self quarantine and presumption of COVID-19 based on symptoms, but there was no test available to her due to being considered low risk, and lack of other comorbid conditions.

Gomolka wouldn’t get one, until she ended up in the emergency room.

“Getting up from the bed to walk into the kitchen is not usually challenging. With this, there was an air hunger. It became a conscious effort to breathe in and out all day long. The feeling that I could never get enough air was making me live right under the threshold of panic,” she shared. Gomolka finally went to the emergency room when breathing became even more difficult and was placed on oxygen for hours. It was there she received her Chest X-ray, CT scan and COVID test, which revealed she did in fact have the virus. Then her husband, who had just returned from a long deployment overseas, started getting sick too.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Their family was quickly and officially served with mandated home quarantine paperwork by their local sheriff’s office, unable to leave their home at all. Contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family — her biggest fear — could have caused despair. Instead, she found the beauty in it.

“It comes down to perspective….. to find the opportunities for beauty. You have to choose joy,” she shared. Gomolka shared that having time slow down for her family was a blessing. Relationships were strengthened and hearts were lifted. What could have been a time of anxiousness was an opportunity to reconnect and spend time in a space of gratefulness.

Gomolka also shared that initially she hesitated in going public with their diagnosis, wondering if people would respond in a negative way. The result was completely opposite of that. “We had an entire community, local and virtual of people who just rallied around us and lifted my family up,” she said.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

She shared stories of receiving aid from the Green Beret Foundation, needed medications on her doorstep, warm meals and groceries were provided, gift cards for expenses, activities for her children, and even coffee creamer. All of this during a time that could have easily slipped their family into a dark space, was nothing but light. Gomolka shared that her family feels like they could never repay the true value of these gifts. Instead, they plan to pay it forward.

“We are trying to figure out how we make that kind of difference in someone else’s life and come to their aid in a way that makes impactful change,” she said. One of the ways she’s going to do this, is to immediately go back to work treating patients with emergent conditions and skin cancer. She and her husband also signed up with the New York Blood Center, the American Red Cross, and Upstate University Hospital with the National Plasma Antibody project, hoping they can give their plasma for use in critically ill COVID19 patients. They also plan to try to complete errands and shopping for members of their community who are immunocompromised or elderly.

“We are always going to encounter challenges, but how do you respond to them? Find the good,” she said. She continued on saying that this experience has broadened her definition of what a hero is. “As a military family we tend to think of heroes as someone in a camouflage uniform, but that has changed for me,” she said. Gomolka explained that now, her version of a hero are the people who run towards danger while the rest of us “hunker down”. The grocery store workers, health care professionals, and deliverymen — to name a few.

When asked what she would tell those reading this article, she smiled and shared that although she knows her diagnosis and experience is not the same as others, she wants people to know that together we can make it through anything. She implored people to “pause, and take it all in and find the beauty”.

This article originally appeared on InspireUp Foundation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the most amazing sniper you’ve never heard of

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The sniper is a lethal combination of patience, discipline, and accuracy. They wait, still and silent, for the perfect moment to strike from afar, eliminating key targets and providing invaluable information to troops on the ground.

While a few snipers in history have had their names enshrined in fame (or infamy, depending on which side of their scope your allegiances lay), the marksman that holds the record for longest-distance confirmed kill is one you’ve never heard of.


In 2017, a sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 (their equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6) shattered the distance record once held by British sniper Craig Harrison. The Canadian deadeye, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, managed to down an IS militant from a staggering 3,540 meters away. For those metrically challenged among us, that’s 11,614 feet — or nearly 2.2 miles — or over 32 football fields, end-to-end, including end zones. The target was so far away that the bullet traveled for a full 10 seconds (at 792mph) before reaching its target.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Yes, we counted.

As if this incredible feat of marksmanship wasn’t impressive enough, according to MilitaryTimes, this kill helped prevent an ongoing ISIS assault on Iraqi Security Forces. This shot exemplifies the importance of the sniper — instead of using bombs or other weaponry that may result in collateral losses, the Canadian weapons specialist was able to lodge a single bullet into just the right spot to stop an assault in its tracks.

So, how’d he do it? Let’s take a look at a few key elements involved.

First, the equipment. It’s reported that the sharpshooter was using a McMillan TAC-50, a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. According to the manufacturer, this rifle has an effective range of 1,800 meters — just over half the distance of the kill. According to reports, the rifle was loaded with 750-grain Hornady rounds, which must be incredibly efficient rounds to keep from wobbling off course at such an immense distance.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Canadian Forces MacMillan Tac-50

More impressive than the equipment, however, is the technique demonstrated by both shooter and spotter. In order to make an accurate shot over that gigantic stretch of land, they had to keep in mind several key factors, including how much the bullet might “drop” over its trip, how much wind might push it off course, and even the speed of the earth’s rotation at the given latitude. To further complicate things, you need to think about atmospheric conditions at the time of shoot — barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can all affect the bullet’s course. Even the tiniest change can have drastic effects over such a great distance.

At the end of the day, this amazing feat was the junction between incredible mathematics, impeccable coordination between spotter and shooter, and a steady, well-trained hand. We’d like to render a crisp hand salute to you Canadian BAMFs (but not while outside the wire, because you never know who’s watching).

For more marksmanship action, be sure to watch Sniper: Assassin’s End, the eighth installment in the epic Sniper series, available now on Blu-Ray and digital formats!

Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16

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Check out the trailer for ‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’

Special Ops Sniper Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins) is set-up as the primary suspect for the murder of a foreign dignitary on the eve of signing a high…

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 gift ideas for your commander for the holidays

They’re not our moms or our dads, but they are just as tired of our tomfoolery. Commanders put up with our clowning while taking the brunt of responsibility from Leadership for the squadron and let’s remember: all sh*t rolls downhill. Thanks to the Commander, probably a little less rolled down to us. This holiday season, let’s show our Commanders our appreciation for driving them to the brink of insanity on a weekly, if not hourly, basis.

Ibuprofen: for the headaches.

Antacid: for the heartburn.

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Ear Plugs: for when they have to sit through yet another meeting about the length of your sideburns. You could also swipe some of these guys from the front desk on your way out to the flightline.

Scotch: single malt is best, though more economical alternatives will also do the trick in case SNACKO funds are running low. Pay your SNACKO bills people. Commander deserves the good stuff.

Spoofer Email Address: to deflect orders from higher ups to requisition volunteers for Wing-wide mandatory fun. Can’t reply to an email you never get.

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GPS Tile: to track that one guy in your squadron who can’t make it back in time before curfew. Which was created because of him in the first place after a night in Songan… or Iwakuni…or Sigonella…or Phuket…or Dubai…or Yuma… or….

Backpack leash: for TDYs. You know who you are.

Backpack GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Giant A** Umbrella: We all have our commanders to thank for the protection they provide from the ongoing storm of sh*t that rains down from the Good Idea Fairies known as Leadership.

A Giant A** Butterfly Net: Alternatively, to keep the hare-brained shenanigan butterflies from fluttering around the squadron up to Leadership.

Flowers: for their spouses. No doubt the hours they’ve spent worrying about us have taken their attention away from their family. Their real kids probably did not drink a bottle of Fireball and then get handcuffed on the curb for peeing in the bushes near a Saddle Ranch, and yet the Commander has to answer that call at 2am. We’re sorry. And it wasn’t our fault. It was only a security guard anyway, not the real police.

A Laser Pointer – because herding cats is hard and they deserve to have their fun.

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Ramped-up counternarcotics op has denied drug traffickers $2.5 billion, Navy says

Ordinarily, patrolling the waters near Central and South America for drug traffickers is a job largely left to the U.S. Coast Guard. But since April 1 of this year, the U.S. Navy has surged assets to the region to assist with the mission — and helped reel in more than $2.5 billion worth of contraband to date.

The operation has gotten presidential attention and is ongoing, with the Navy destroyer Pinckney publicizing a recent major bust this week. The Pinckney, homeported in San Diego, executed a seizure with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment July 24, seizing more than 120 kilograms, or 265 pounds, of suspected cocaine from a single ship. In total, the haul was worth some $4.5 million.


“While on routine patrol, approximately 200 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica, a helicopter assigned to the ‘Wolf Pack’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 75 located the vessel and Pinckney soon arrived on scene,” Navy officials said in a release. “After coordination with the Government of Colombia and Colombian Navy, the vessel was searched and six suspected drug smugglers detained. The mariners are now in Government of Colombia custody.”

The crew of the Pinckney also secured medical evacuation for one detainee for whom treatment was deemed necessary for survival.

Heads of U.S. Southern Command have long expressed their wish for more U.S. Navy assets in the region to stop a drug trade tied to tens of thousands of U.S. deaths every year. Under the enhanced counternarcotics mission, those ships and aircraft are in place, at least for now.

Top officials say the billion drug trade, which thrives in unstable regions, has taken advantage of the added instability of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the end of March, we have employed, in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships than normal for drug interdiction,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a July 10 news conference from Doral, Florida. “These additional assets include four Navy destroyers, five Coast Guard cutters, and eight aircraft. Currently, nearly a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships and over 15 aircraft from across the interagency are supporting our efforts, in addition to security forces deployed to the region.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet, Cmdr. Katherine Meadows, said in a statement to Military.com that additional Defense Department capabilities added in the ramp-up include a continuous rotation of Navy destroyers and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; Navy littoral combat ships; P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft; Air Force E-3 AWAC and E-8 JSTARS aircraft for reconnaissance; and an Army Security Forces Assistance Brigade company for advisory support. The Coast Guard has also increased its cutter and helicopter presence, and 22 partner nations have aided the effort.

“All of our ships have an embarked [Coast Guard] Law Enforcement Detachment onboard,” Meadows said. “The Navy supports the detection, while the Coast Guard has the authorities to seize narcotics and detain illicit trafficking suspects.”

To date, she said, the Navy has participated in the seizure of 16,396 kilograms of cocaine — more than 36,000 pounds — and 16,601 marijuana. The overall enhanced mission has “disrupted or seized” more than 38,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 98 metric tons of cocaine, she said.

“The operation has denied transnational criminal organizations more than .5 billion in criminal profits from the smuggling of narcotics that kill thousands of people every year and cause substantial human suffering in the U.S. and around the world,” she added.

That’s up from under billion on July 10.

Meadows did not provide comparison figures for the same period last year, but Esper said the U.S. military had been able to increase targeting of known drug operations by 60%. And at the Doral news conference, SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller said drug “disruptions” had increased by 15%.

“And 60 percent more targeting is a big deal for us because that means we can put more assets on more targets. And the enemy has seen that,” Faller said. “We’ve gotten information from our intelligence agencies that says the enemy has watched that and they’re waiting, and they’re stockpiling and they’re trying to change their tactics.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time you know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day

A few years ago, there was a viral Facebook post about a woman getting a haircut before Memorial Day weekend. She had lost her husband in a Navy helicopter crash months prior. He died on deployment, never having met their youngest son. So, when the smiling receptionist wished her a “Happy Memorial Day” after she had buried her spouse, the words cut extra deep.

Before you tag every veteran and service member on Facebook and wish them a Happy Memorial Day, remember that, in this community, Memorial Day means something much, much bigger than the start of summer. The day feels fraught with memories of those we’ve lost, mixed with gratitude for the times we’ve had.

While it is true that every day is Memorial Day for the families of the fallen, they aren’t asking that you stay inside and wallow.


But we do owe it to them to pause. Reflect. Remember. Honor.

Gold Star wife Krista Simpson Anderson, who lost her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Harrison Simpson, in Afghanistan in 2013, said, “I get upset when people scold others for enjoying the weekend or having BBQs. What do you think our service members did before they died? Mike sure did enjoy his family and friends. What better way to honor them than to be surrounded by family and friends living. But we are also so grateful for your pause and reflection as you celebrate our heroes and the lives that they lived.”

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Krista Anderson and her sons pose for a photo in 2014.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Butler)

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are different holidays with unique purposes — and unique ways to honor each.

How to honor Veterans Day

Veterans Day is the day to tag all your people, posting photos with your brother in uniform or the selfie with your bestie before he or she deployed. Veterans Day celebrates the living who served our country. Offer veterans a discount at your business. Call your favorite vet on the phone and thank him or her for their service. Attend a parade. Celebrate a veteran.

How to honor Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring every single man and woman who has died for our freedoms — men and women who were mommies and daddies, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, patriots, incredible Americans and really, really great friends.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

The United States Marine Band on Memorial Day.

(Photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)

You want to honor and celebrate patriotism and the military this Memorial Day? Then you have to honor the complicated feelings surrounding it. Express your knowledge that this day is about remembrance.

Attend a memorial service at a national cemetery. Run or walk a mile to benefit the non-profit Krista Anderson started in memory of her husband, and then pledge your mile for wear blue: run to remember.

Talk to your kids about sacrifice, about service and about what this three-day weekend really means. Observe the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. Monday with a minute of silence.

And then, like Krista said, live.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 unexpected parenting lessons from ‘Ghostbusters’

Whether it’s Halloween or just a Tuesday night in July, there’s never a bad time to watch one of the greatest movies of all time: Ghostbusters. In 1984, this sci-fi-comedy changed not only the way we thought about films, but also the way we thought about making jokes about slime. Ghostbusters made us feel funky, taught us that bustin’ can make you feel good, and most of all, that nobody ever made them like this.

But, unexpectedly, the original Ivan Reitman-directed 1984 film — starring Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Dan Ackroyd, and Annie Potts — also imparted some sneaky life-lessons, that, when looked at from a certain way, are actually parenting lessons in disguise. Yes, Ghostbusters 2 famously had a plotline involving a baby in it, but you actually don’t even need to leave the confines of the first movie to find the best-hidden parenting lessons in Ghostbusters.


Here are six lessons from Ghostbusters that will help every parent have the tools and the talent to deal with all types of ghoulish personalities your children might take on. In Ghostbusters you choose the form of the destroyer, but parents know that we’ve already chosen the form of our destroyer: it’s our kids.

Onto the list!

6. “Slow down. Chew your food.”

When Venkman mentions he wants to take some of the petty cash to take Dana to dinner, Ray tells him that the Chinese food they’re eating represents “the last of the petty cash.” Venkman responds by saying, “Slow down. Chew your food.” The parenting lesson here is obvious: Remind children to chew their food, but also, make sure you have enough money set aside for date night, otherwise, shit’s gonna get depressing.

5. “I’ve worked in the private sector — they expect results.”

In an early scene, just after the Ghostbusters lose their grant from Columbia University, Ray accuses Venkman of having no real-world experience relative to running a small business. “You’ve never been out of college,” he rants. “You don’t know what it’s like out there. I’ve worked in the private sector, they expect results.” Basically, what Ray is saying about going into business for yourself is exactly like parenting. You have no idea what it’s like until you’ve done it, and your children kind of just expect you to know what to do.

4. “If there’s a steady paycheck, I’ll believe anything you say.”

When Winston applies for a job with the Ghostbusters, Janine rattles-off several pseudo-science concepts to gauge whether or not Winston is ‘buster-material. Winston doesn’t care about any of this stuff, but he also needs the job. This is a super important lesson for parents trying to figure out their career after children turn everything upside down. Don’t be too proud to take a weird job, even if everyone you work with thinks UFO abductions are real and the theory of Atlantis is totally legit. Just make sure the conspiracy theories your co-workers enjoy are fun.

3. “What about the Twinkie?”

When thing parents realize when their kids start to speak is that their communication skills are not as good as they thought. Basically, as far as your kids are concerned, you’re speaking like Ray or Egon, using complex language they don’t understand. But, then there’s this excellent analogy from Egon: “Let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie thirty-five feet long weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

This is great! Use food analogies to describe complex things! Everyone gets it!

2. “Don’t cross the streams!”

We all know this one. Egon tells Ray and Venkman to avoid crossing the proton streams because crossing the streams “would be bad.” The explanation doesn’t really make sense. We never really know why in the fake science of Ghostbusters that crossing the streams is bad. It doesn’t matter. Some things just need to be rules even if your children (or, in this case, Venkman) don’t understand them.

1. “When somebody asks you if you are a god, you say YES!”

You don’t always need to be literal when you’re a parent to young children. And if they are asking you questions about your own authority, it’s best to probably just default to making them think you’re all-powerful. In other words, discipline starts with the illusion that the buck stops somewhere. It’s probably a bad idea to tell your children that you are an actual god (unless you are, and in that case, hello Zul!) but, it probably doesn’t hurt to show confidence whenever possible. Ray’s mistake with Gozer wasn’t so much that he admitted he wasn’t a god, it was that he was kind of a putz about it.

Tell the truth, but if your children ask you if you are the one in charge, you say YES!!

Here’s where you can stream all versions of Ghostbusters.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Things I wish I knew before becoming a MilSpouse

It’s now been a couple of years since my husband retired from 31 years of active military service. I was along for the ride from the beginning, as I met him mere months after he arrived at his first duty station.

We were so young when we married (19 and 22), and I had no idea what I was getting myself into — no, I really didn’t. I hear so many military spouses say the same, even if they grew up in a military family. Being the spouse of a service member is such a unique experience. In the past two years, I think I’ve gained some hindsight and perspective in looking back at those decades of military life, and I’m thinking about what I wish I’d known, what I’d do differently, what surprised me, and what I’m glad for.


Whether you’re a brand new milspouse or nearly at the end of your journey too, see if any of this resonates with you. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.

What I wish I’d known

1. Not to underestimate the effect military life would have on our family.

While by this point in the military spouse world it’s been drilled into us how important it is to create our own identity, pursue our own dreams and passions, that we’re not just military spouses (all good things, of course), it does no good to pretend military life won’t have an impact on the spouse and family. It will have an effect, whether it’s where you’re living, how much you see your spouse, if your kids will change schools numerous times, or the rest of the family stays put while the military member moves. It isn’t just another job, one that can be picked up and put down at will. It’s a completely different way of life.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

U.S. Army Sgt.1st Class Danny J. Hocker, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is embraced by his family during a welcome home ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, Oct. 23, 2008.

(US Army Photo by SPC Pastora Y. Hall)

2. To not look back with rose colored glasses.

Whether location, friends, a church, or community, lingering too long on the things I loved from past assignments did not serve me well in the early days at a new base. While it’s important to grieve and take stock before moving on, at times, dwelling on what was carved out a hollow space within me that refused to be filled with the new. This led to prolonged times of loneliness and disillusion that I think might have been shorter if I hadn’t played the comparison game.

3. To take care of myself.

I think younger spouses these days may have a better handle on this than I did, but I had to learn the hard way that the world would not stop spinning on its axis if I took a nap, planned a walk alone, or said a firm no to the latest volunteering opportunity so that I could make self-care a priority more often.

4. Friendships won’t look the same, and that’s ok.

Back to comparisons. It just stinks to say goodbye to the best friend you’ve ever had and be forced to start over again. Sometimes it’s easier to just…not. It’s exhausting to lay the groundwork for friendships and community connections, knowing it’s temporary anyway. But I wish I could tell young me that making room for others, whether they resemble any friend you’ve ever had or would even look for, is important and can also be surprising.

5. Don’t wait for people to make the first move or make me feel welcome.

There’s no sense in standing to the side and expect people to bring the welcome wagon to you,because you’re the new one after all. Sometimes you have to be brave first.

6. Not worry so much about how our kids would turn out.

I spent a lot of needless worry on this one. A lot. This is not to say that military life isn’t hard on kids–it is. But I had way too many sleepless nights on this. Of course, making sure my military kids had the resources they needed was important and I’m glad I gave attention to that. Heck, maybe they did turn out as functioning adults because I worried so much? We’ll go with that thought.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

(US Army photo)

7. To make space for my husband again at the inevitable end of military life.

I’ll be honest–I wish I had done this better. While you’re in the thick of military life, it’s hard to believe it won’t always be like this. And while I gave lip service to how glad I’d be when he’d be home again regularly, no longer deploying, and become a regular part of the household after literally years of separation, the transition to civilian life was a little bumpier than I’d expected. I’d so carefully groomed my independent side for years (I had to, to survive), that creating space for him and for us as a couple was a much bigger adjustment than I’d expected.

What surprised me

1. How glad I am for the hard times.

They changed me, my perspective, and how I relate to others. It sounds cliche, but I wouldn’t have grown or appreciate life like I do now without the losses and pain that walked hand in hand with years of military life. I’m not sure I would have learned that lesson so well otherwise.

Reunited

2. The utter relief that came with the end of his military service.

The knowledge that we wouldn’t ever have to move again unless we choose to, that I won’t be holding down the fort as my husband deploys or leaves for training, or that military life will no longer define every detail of our existence struck me the day the words “you are relieved from active duty” were spoken at my husband’s retirement ceremony. I didn’t realize how heavy that weight was until it was gone.

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Capt. Joe Faraone reunites with his wife, Suk, Jan. 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

3. What I’d miss.

The instant camaraderie, the shared experiences with other military families can’t be understood unless you’ve been there. The unique language, the dark sense of humor that comes with the “deployment curse,” the understanding of what we all go through is hard to replicate. Hearing the notes of reveille played basewide to start the day, the National Anthem at the end of the duty day, and the heartbreaking sound of Taps each night — the sadness of which will forever make tears gather in my eyes–those are some ‘little things’ I still miss. The travel, the adventure, the not knowing what would be around the next corner? Yes, I miss that, too.

4. How strong I am. How strong we all are.

One reason I stay involved in my work with military spouses is because it’s now part of me. Military families are a special breed. Military spouses have my heart, and will forever. I have witnessed families go through unspeakable things, times that would crush a normal person, and come out stronger and also willing to reach out and help others going through the same thing. Whether it’s creating a non-profit to make life easier for other military families, embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and start a pop-up business at a desolate duty station, or simply rolling out of bed each morning to tote kids to school and themselves to work while their spouse serves hundreds of miles away….you inspire me every day.

My husband retired after 31 years in the Air Force. Shortly after, I stumbled across this poem and felt it was written just for him…for us.

The Last Parade

Let the bugle blow

Let the march be played

With the forming of the troops

For my last parade.

The years of war and the years of waiting

Obedience to orders, unhesitating

Years in the states, and the years overseas

All woven in a web of memories.

A lifetime of service passes in review

As many good friends and exotic places too

In the waning sunlight begin to fade

With the martial music of my last parade.

My last salute to the service and base

Now someone else will take my place

To the sharp young airmen marching away

I gladly pass the orders of the day.

Though uncertain of what my future may hold

Still, if needed-before I grow too old

I’ll keep my saber sharp, my powder dry

Lest I be recalled to duty by and by.

So let the bugle blow

Fire the evening gun

Slowly lower the colors

My retirement has begun.

-Author Unknown

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 questions with former operator Kyle Lamb

Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).

Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.


Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:

INSPIRED by love: Community rallies around military family with COVID-19

Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?

Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.

Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?

I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.

Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.

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Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

What was your plan when you retired from the military?

I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.

Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.

You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?

I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.

So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

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Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.

Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.

Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?

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Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?

My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.

Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.

BRCC Presents: Kyle Lamb

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You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?

Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.

Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.

You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.

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Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?

The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.

But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.

Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?

You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this soldier became the first enlisted female Army ranger

As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.

Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.

But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.

“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”


In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.

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Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”

Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.

Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.

“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”

Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.

“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”

She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.

“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”

Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.

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A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”

After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.

“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.

Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.

Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.

The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.

Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.

“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Amazon is tackling the veteran unemployment problem

By 2021, Amazon has pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. military veterans across all of its operations. More than that, they are also dedicated to hiring veterans reservists, spouses, and family members – regardless of rank or military specialty. These “Amazon Warriors” as the company calls them, come to Amazon through a number of programs, each focused on a different aspect of veterans’ lives. This includes wounded warriors, active and transitioning veterans, student vets, and more.


You can catch Amazon and its employees active in all area of veteran culture, from the Old Glory Relay to RED Fridays and even doing 22 pushups every day. Amazon even partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs to create certification programs for vets with no costs.

One of Amazon’s best programs is an employment plan for wounded vets designed to fill skill gaps due to service-related wounds, injuries, and illnesses. Through education, advocacy, and training for wounded warriors, this one-of-a-kind program seeks America’s wounded vets to show the world the possibilities and potential these prior-service workers still have.

Amazon also launched the Amazon Military Leaders Program in an effort to find innovative, experienced talent to transition from military service and into the senior leadership at Amazon. It just makes sense – in order to fill the most necessary roles at the top of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies, Amazon wants to look for those people who volunteered for some of the most dangerous and critical jobs out there.

This company also goes above and beyond for National Guardsmen and Reservists who are activated or called away to training. Not only does the company ensure the member has job when they come back, as required by law, Amazon seeks to place the employee in a role they would have worked if they had never left their Amazon job at all. What’s more, if the pay the military member receives from serving is significantly less than their Amazon pay, Amazon will make up the difference.

“There are veterans and active duty service members from the Guard and Reserve at every level of the company,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon Web Services’ Vice-President of Talent Acquisition, who also happens to be a former Army officer. “That population, that community, makes it really easy for us to not only do the right thing but also do what we say we will do.”

When Amazon isn’t hiring veterans and preparing service members for their post-military careers, they are supporting other organizations with the same intent, mission, and drive. Amazon is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day business development and networking event that brings together non-profit startup accelerators geared toward vet-owned businesses, successful veteran entrepreneurs, and like-minded veterans who are looking to change their lives by starting their own enterprises.

To learn more about what Amazon is doing for veterans in terms of training and employment, check out Amazon’s military page. To learn more about the Military Influencer Conference, check out the speakers list, or find a Military Influencer Conference close to you, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com and take a look around. It could be the first step to an entrepreneurial career.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.

Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.


When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.

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Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.

Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.


Don’t forget the gifts

If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.

Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.

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Packing

Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.

Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.

Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.

Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.

Driving

No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.

Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.

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(live.staticflickr.com)

Other Helpful Apps:

Waze is a navigation app that alerts you to upcoming traffic and offers alternate route suggestions.

Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas nearby.

iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.

Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.

And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.

The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.

ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.

Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.

And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.

Flying

It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.

Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.

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If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.

Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.

But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.

Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.

You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways for celebrating Cinco de Solo

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.


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img.rawpixel.com

Determine your taco style

Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.

Do the salsa 

We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.

Should you cut the cheese?

Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.

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Friends don’t let friends…

Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.

Step up your game bro

The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.

Make it weird

If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.

Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.