As the United States approaches two months in quarantine, people from all walks of life are starting to feel the effects of social distancing and continued isolation. Retired Air Force Lt. General Stanley E. Clarke III, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Kelly Reynolds, decided to change that narrative.
With an ice cream truck.
Reynolds shared that the family lives in a strong community committed to always supporting each other. Things like kids writing sweet words in chalk on the sidewalks and adults creating fun scavenger hunt games have been the norm during their quarantine. After listening to her mother describe neighborhood ice cream trucks to her 6-year-old son one day, she had an idea. “I turned to my mother and said we should take ice cream to everyone, that it would be so much fun,” said Reynolds.
The idea expanded to creating an actual ice cream truck using Clarke’s old Chevy Apache to distribute the sweet treats. All the grandchildren jumped in to help. Together, the family quickly went to work creating handmade signs and colorful decorations for the truck. They even fashioned a special tube for distribution so they could safely hand out ice cream while still practicing social distancing. Then they waited for a sunny day, spread the word and hit the road.
The excitement on the faces of all surprised by the ice cream truck was contagious. “It was like an infection of joy being spread. To be a part of it was so much fun and to know that what we did had an impact was incredible,” said Reynolds. She explained that their family resides in a quiet neighborhood in Kentucky, which is filled with medical personnel. Knowing that their surrounding community is battling the pandemic on the front lines made their idea to give back even more special and important to them.
Clarke agreed and shared that he was personally inspired by a group of military spouses who founded the GivingTuesdayMilitary movement. Three women, who were named “Spouse of the Year” for their respective branches, launched an initiative to inspire over one million intentional acts of kindness. Clarke is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Armed Forces Insurance, which owns the Military Spouse of the Year award program.
“This is exchanging ice cream for smiles because how many people are smiling out there, particularly during a crisis? How cool is that?” he said. Clarke said he feels that doing things like this can really make a difference, especially now. Reynolds expanded on that to explain that people really don’t need to do anything extravagant or big, but that it was the little things that truly matter.
Studies have shown that social isolation can eventually lead to poor health outcomes. The rapid progression of COVID-19 has forced states to implement social distancing and stay at home orders to save lives. Communities around the country are finding ways to come together to engage with each other safely while also inspiring hope with kindness. General Clarke and his family are one example, and they truly hope to inspire others to do the same.
“Find a small way to spread kindness and joy and just do it. It will impact people,” Reynolds said. She feels that these are the kinds of things that need to be seen on social media. Messages of kindness and hope to lift people during a time of fear. “The biggest impacts we can have on people are the ones we don’t even know we are creating,” she shared.
This family’s story of kindness is having an impact. Word is quickly spreading about their homemade family ice cream truck. Several leaders of military bases loved it so much that they talking about starting their own ice cream truck caravans. This demonstrates how one act can have a ripple effect, with no end in sight.
If you’re reading this, it means you’ve survived 2020. And if you’ve survived 2020, it means you’re well aware that life can get pretty dang dark. It’s all too tempting to become cynical and jaded, but at the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that light and love are still quietly present. Small miracles are found all around us. They’re found when kind strangers lend a hand. When a beloved pet makes it home safe. When a life is nearly lost, but decides it’s not quite finished. Too old to believe in miracles? Well, keep reading, because all of the heartwarming, unexplainable stories below are true.
1. When Christmas arrives by balloon.
In 2011, Rosa Cardenas de Reyes’s husband had been unemployed for some time. The family couldn’t afford presents for Christmas, so Rosa fell back on an old tradition; sending notes to Santa by balloon! She helped her five year old daughter, Helen, write a letter, attached it to two helium balloons, and set it free. More than 500 miles later, the note was delivered to a ranch in Northern California. The owner of the ranch, Lane Sanderson, discovered the letter with his son, had the note translated, and got to work.
His wife and daughter shopped for clothes and a doll, wrapped them up, and sent them to the Reye’s family. Helen was thrilled, and Rosa was moved to tears. In an interview with the Auburn Reporter, she said, “I was very much surprised. It is like a miracle happened, a Christmas miracle.”
2. When lost dogs come home.
The idea of losing a dog is enough to still the heart of any pet owner. Ashley Power was unfortunate enough to experience the nightmare herself. Her beloved dog, Frankie, disappeared one day in Spruce Grove, Alberta. After five months of searching and posting flyers, she anticipated the worst had happened. Then, she got a phone call. It was the Langley Animal Protection Society. They had found Frankie in Abbotsford, BC, over 600 miles away! Power couldn’t afford to fly him home, so LAPS enlisted the aid of a truck driver who was thrilled to reunite the pup with his favorite human.
3. When a hatbox serves as an adoption agency.
The year was 1931. It was Christmas Eve in Superior, Arizona and Ed and Julia Stewart were on their way home when their car sputtered to a stop in the middle of nowhere. As Ed tried to get the engine running again, Julia ambled around the desert highway. Then, she saw something that seemed out of place in the bleak landscape. It was a hatbox. She called her husband over, and when they looked in the box, they found a newborn baby girl.
Ed rushed to fix the car, and the couple rushed the baby to the police station. She was perfectly healthy, and 17 different couples volunteered to adopt her. Eventually, she was adopted by Faith Morrow. She lived a long and happy life, eventually tracing her roots and unraveling some of the mystery behind her Christmas Eve hatbox adventure.
4. When Christmas lights keep hope alive.
Laura Rice of West Michigan was unconscious and relying on life support when her favorite season came around: Christmas time. Doctors advised her family that the odds of her ever waking up were slim. Her husband, Michael, had faith. He put up the Christmas lights on their house and sat by her side, vowing not to take down the lights until she opened her eyes. A month went by, then two. It was after New Year’s when she woke up with no explanation, moved by her husband’s unwavering hope. She was expected to make a full recovery. That was four years ago, so hopefully the Rice family is putting up the lights again for Christmas 2020. This time, together.
5. When a heart decides to beat again.
Gemma Bothelo was just four years old when she got the flu. She had a low-grade fever on December 13th, but just a few days later her condition rapidly deteriorated. She was rushed to the hospital pale and losing circulation to her fingers and toes. Shortly after she arrived, she went into cardiac arrest.
The doctors performed CPR, advising her parents to prepare for the worst. After a nail-biting 45 minutes, Gemma’s heart began to beat again. Doctors admitted that the world of medicine can’t explain everything, but her parents consider her recovery a true Christmas miracle.
6. When walking shouldn’t be possible, but it is.
In 2008, 7-year-old Marko Dutschak developed a cyst on his back. While it was technically benign, the cyst obliterated the majority of his spinal cord, rendering him paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors gave him a slim chance of ever walking again, but Marko had other plans. Just a week before Christmas, he hopped out of his wheelchair and walked out on the balcony of his hospital room for some fresh air. The neurosurgeon on his case, Hans Georg Eder, was blown away by the child’s recovery, saying, “In medical terms we don’t talk of miracles, but the boy’s recovery was not medically expected and is really a sensation. The cyst had completely surrounded the spinal cord, which was as thin as a thread inside it.”
7. When a family gets to spend the holidays at home.
Worrying about losing your home is just about the hardest thing a family can endure. After a series of tragedies, Daniel and Ebony Sampson were facing foreclosure just before Christmas. First, Ebony survived a car accident as a teen that killed both of her parents. She inherited the house, got married, and had two children, when her husband lost his job. Then, Ebony discovered she had a third child on the way. They needed $10,000 to bring their mortgage current, and had little hope of coming up with the funds in time to save their beloved home.
That’s when her friend, Jaki Grier, stepped in. She shared the Sampsons’s story on her blog along with a donation link. One by one, donations began rolling in. Just five days later, a total of $11,032 had been donated by total strangers. Some of the donors were struggling themselves, but they wanted to help anyway. The Sampson family home was saved.
8. When a car crash saves Christmas.
Kim Kerswell was already stressed beyond belief. The single mom of two was rushing to grab last-minute gifts for her kids when she rear-ended a stranger named Sherene Borr. Most drivers are understandably livid when someone crashes into their car, but Sherene had her priorities straight as a stick. The women chatted as they exchanged insurance information, and Kim admitted that she was struggling to make ends meet. She could afford her insurance deductible or presents for her kids, not both. Sherene had been raised by a single mom herself and decided that kids missing out on Christmas was unacceptable. She dismissed the damage to her car and offered to buy presents for the Kerswell family. The two women became friends, and Kim vowed to one day pay it forward to another family in need.
9. When a massive pileup turns out pretty okay.
The holiday season is full of cheer, but it’s also full of accidents. The combination of traffic, winter weather, and partying often takes a lethal turn. On Christmas Day, 2012 in Oklahoma City at nearly 3 am, freezing rain turned the highway into a hazardous slip n’ slide. Cars and trucks spun out of control, quickly spiraling into an ugly 21-car pileup. Police and paramedics rushed to the scene, expecting to treat dozens of serious injuries. When they arrived, they were shocked. Not a single person was hurt. How is that even possible?!
10. When a stranded driver channels Elsa’s ice powers.
Donna Molna really shouldn’t be here. On her way to the store one Christmas near her home in snowy Canada, she was trapped in a blizzard and lost her way. Her car ended up stuck in a field, and she was stranded there with no warm clothing or supplies. Three days later, she was found lying in a snowdrift, buried under 23 inches of snow. By all measures, she should have died from exposure, yet she didn’t. She was hypothermic and had a bit of frostbite, but she was very much alive. That’s about the equivalent of jumping out of a plane without a parachute and walking away with a scraped knee.
11. When a mother and child die, and then return home safe and sound.
In December, 2009, Colorado local Tracy Hermanstorfer was excitedly expecting a baby boy. But on Christmas Eve when she finally went into labor, everything went wrong. Tracy became unresponsive and stopped breathing. Assuming they had lost her, doctors focused on saving the baby. Tragically, after delivering him via C-section, the newborn was limp and lifeless. Doctors considered it a stillbirth and handed the baby to Tracy’s husband, Mike.
He held the child in his arms, thinking he had just lost his wife and baby in the same hour, when the unexplainable happened. The baby began to breathe. Seconds later, after four minutes without taking a breath, Tracy did too. The doctors couldn’t explain how the pair recovered from the brink of death, but recover they did. Tracy and Mike drove home safe and sound with their healthy baby boy, Coltyn.
You found a place! Time to get your stuff out of storage and find out what broke during the PCS. You’re not sure how your dresser was shattered into five million pieces, but who cares? You’re too excited.
But lying awake with your bum ear ringing (and/or your knees throbbing, back hurting, your amygdala telling you you’re about to be eaten by a bear in the comfort of your own bed), you’re beginning to question the wisdom of that decision. Ok, maybe it’s time to file a claim.
You call in reinforcements in the form of a VSO. For the low, low price of zero dollars and your medical records, they’ll take care of it for you. Score! Asking for help isn’t that bad. You should do it more often.
You realize you haven’t talked to any of your old military friends in months, so you text a buddy who separated around the same time. As it turns out, they’re dealing with the same stuff. You communicate through memes, which is surprisingly cathartic. You’re not alone!
Everybody from your therapist to your partner to your Facebook ads seems to think you’ll feel better if you start exercising again. You attempt an old PT workout, but it’s not the same when nobody is yelling at you. Time to try something new.
At some point, you begin to realize that your military service will always be a part of who you are (a huge part), but it’s not your entire identity forever. You have an opportunity to use your skills and experience to benefit your community, to learn new skills and have new experiences, and to write your next chapter. It’s actually pretty exciting.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.
“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”
USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”
Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.
“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”
According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.
“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.
As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.
The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.
Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.
Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.
Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.
“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.
Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”
Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.
Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.
Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.
Joining Team RWB is easy
Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.
Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.
Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.
“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”
Take the 1776 Challenge
Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.
Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.
Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.
Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.
“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”
Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”
Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel
Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.
“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”
Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.
Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel
Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.
Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.
“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”
After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.
“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”
Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.
“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”
Prepping for quarantine like …
Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.
“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.
Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.
“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”
Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.
The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.
Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”
1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte
A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.
When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.
Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.
2. “War” by Sebastian Junger
What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.
Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.
Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”
3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright
In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.
The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.
Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.
Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.
4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore
The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.
The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.
Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.
(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)
5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan
The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.
General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.
There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.
Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.
6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins
The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.
What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.
Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.
David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.
7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett
In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.
Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.
A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.
When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.
If the United States Army and the United States Air Force were to describe their relationship status on Facebook, they’d likely select “it’s complicated.” Seventy years ago, they went through a divorce. The Air Force became its own branch of United States Armed Forces and, with it, took (most of) the fixed-wing aircraft, leaving the Army with some helicopters and a lot of hard feelings.
The thing is, despite growing pains, the Air Force and Army still needed to work together. The Korean War helped things along a bit — the Air Force maintained control of the skies and backed up the Army. Since then, the two services have had a relationship filled with ups and downs. All the while, the two branches have done what they can to work together in harmony — one of the ways they enhance cooperation is through a spin-off of Exercise Red Flag, known as Green Flag.
The F-15E Strike Eagle is the heavy multi-role fighter in the Air Force inventory.
The purpose of Green Flag exercises is to help the Army and Air Force work together to learn how to best fight together and win a war while the stakes are relatively low. “Relatively” is a key word here, as there is still a measure of risk involved.
While the fate of nations does not rest on Green Flag, lives are certainly on the line. As author Tom Clancy once recounted,an OH-58 Kiowa crashed during the Green Flag he observed with the 366th Wing as he was writing Fighter Wing — killing the two-man crew on board. While flying to Nellis, an Army AH-64A Apache also went down. Thankfully, its crew survived to be rescued by a HH-60G Pave Hawk.
In the Green Flag held in June 2018, F-15Es practiced close-air support – a mission usually carried out by A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes.
According to an Air Force release, the June 2018 Green Flag featured F-15E Strike Eagles of the 391st Fighter Squadron practicing close-air support. While this mission is usually handled by A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, there are only 13 squadrons operating this plane. The 219 F-15E Strike Eagles — each with a crew of two, a pilot and weapon systems operator — are the go-to assets for backing up troops on the ground when the A-10 is not available.
Seventy years since the Air Force-Army divorce, the two services now manage to get along for the sake of the country.
When the Air Force and Army work together in concert to dominate both air and ground, wars are won. During Green Flag exercises, the two services put a messy divorce aside and practice working in concert for the sake of our country.
Being a platoon medic is one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs in the military. You are expected to go above and beyond to render care to the sick and wounded troops — under some insane environmental conditions.
Through selfless sacrifices, platoon medics create a special, lifelong bond with the brave infantryman they have the pleasure of serving alongside. Being called “Doc” by the men that trust you with their lives is an absolute privilege, but it isn’t without its drawbacks. Although the occupation has tons of upsides, these 4 downsides are tough to swallow.
Here’s some Motrin for you, and don’t forget to change your socks.
Photos by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard
You never know how much gear to bring
Medical gear can weigh a freakin’ ton. Many docs in the field carry bandages of various sizes, several bags of I.V. solution, and a few sterile surgical instruments with them as they trek through the enemy’s backyard. The problem is, there’s no surefire way to predict how much of everything you’ll need to cover your troops — especially in the event of a mass-causality situation.
Showing weakness shakes confidence
Although medics and corpsmen are only human, it’s not okay for any of them to get sick or injured. You’ll come down with something eventually, and when you do, it sucks to see the rest of the boys lose a little confidence in themselves knowing their favorite “pecker checker” is going to be out of the fight for a while.
Most grunts only want their doc to work on them, not a stranger.
“Getting some ice cream” is a phrase grunts use as a nice way to reference one of their brothers- or sisters-in-arms needing to be medevaced to a hospital.
“He’ll be okay, Cpl. Jackson just left for some ice cream.”
This term became very popular after Forrest Gump offered Lt. Dan a cone while they recovered in an American hospital in Vietnam.
HM3 Christopher Hogans treats a dog bite on a local Afghan man’s hand during a security patrol in Khowst Province, Afghanistan. The Marines and sailors of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines is conducting security and stabilization operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. James L. Yarboro)
Treating the enemy
Corpsmen are required, by The Gevena Convention, to treat everyone — even the bad guys — if they’re brought before them. You knew it was part of the job when you took the corpsman’s oath, but it stings to help the guy who might try to hurt you and your men later.
Benjamin Breckheimer was a teenager when he watched 9/11 unfold. Like many other young Americans, the images spurred him into action. Right after high school, he enlisted in the Army as an operating room specialist.
The operating room is where Breckheimer served his comrades and met his closest mentor. As fate would have it, Breckheimer would end up on the operating table himself. Breckheimer received serious damages to his body after an improvised explosive device went off under the Stryker he was driving.
The road to recovery was a long one. Hopeless and angry at the world, Breckheimer’s life spiraled out of control to the point of suicidal thoughts. However, with the help of his family, mentor, and a strong support network, Breckheimer was able to get back on his feet.
To get better physically and also to challenge himself and others, Breckheimer started climbing. As time went on, his ascents grew to higher altitudes. To free himself from weight of the past , Breckheimer threw his problems off some of the highest peaks in the world. He is currently on track to be the first ever wounded combat veteran to climb the Seven Summits.
Breckheimer is now partnered with American300. American300 subject matter resiliency experts spend quality time with service members, offering not only their personal stories, but a knowing ear and shoulder heavy in experience. Working with military leadership, American300 tours place mentors in areas of operation repeatedly over the span of several years. Each return visit features different mentors who shed a light on making the impossible… possible.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
For many people, music is a form of therapy. A song can help you get through tough times, great times, or just get you through the day. So we’ve put together the ultimate list of music playlists that are perfect for those in the military. Whether you’re child just left for basic training, your spouse deployed, or you’re just looking for some great patriotic music – here are some of the perfect military song playlists.
In Honor of Our Fallen Protectors – Memorial Day Tribute
Memorial Day is often times misinterpreted as a celebratory holiday, but for many it’s a very solemn day filled with heavy hearts. While Memorial Day marks the unofficial to summer and a season of fun, this is a great military song playlist to remind us all the importance of Memorial Day and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
Country Music 101: The Military
If you love country music and you love the USA, then both of these playlists are for you. Both playlists feature a mix of oldies and new songs that are sure to bring out the red, white, and blue in you.
4th of July Party
Summer is practically here which means outdoor bbqs, late night bonfires, and enjoying the outdoors. This playlist is perfect for a laid back relaxed day in the sun with a mix all of different genres from pop, country, alternative, and rock.
Looking for the perfect playlist to hit the gym with? Whether you’re preparing for military basic training or looking to keep up your physical fitness this playlist is sure to get you in the mindset for ultimate strength building. This playlist features rock and alternative music.
Letters From Home
Writing letters to someone at basic training? This military song playlist will give you all the feels as you write letters to your recruit.
Basic Training Graduation
Graduation ceremonies might be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to pass on celebrating your new service member’s accomplishment. This playlist is the perfect mix of songs to get you in the celebration mood.
Looking for more playlists? Spotify is a great place to browse.