For Megan Dursky, a registered nurse working in pediatrics in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, keeping perspective during COVID-19 has helped her perform to the best of her capabilities.
“When I do get scared – I think about how I would hope my child/nephew/niece would be taken care of when they are ill,” Dursky said. “What sort of treatment would I want for them? I then try to provide that for my patients.”
Megan and her husband, Trevor. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
Dursky, whose husband Trevor serves in the Iowa National Guard, shares that when she first heard about the novel coronavirus, it seemed far away.
“Like many Americans, I did not think it would affect me personally, especially since I live in a rural area of the United States. I brushed it off for the most part and went about my normal routines of life. As I started to hear about how it was affecting Italy and began reading and seeing pictures of healthcare providers there — I started feeling uneasy — fearful of the unknown or what was to come.”
Almost immediately, Dursky began noticing changes in her day-to-day protocols at work.
“Things began to change in my workplace on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis,” she shared. “Some of us wore paper masks while conducting patient care — others thought this was maybe a little over the top. We began to have daily, sometimes twice daily huddles to discuss new guidelines/procedures to implement. My work inbox began to fill with COVID-19 updates and our patients’ families began calling with questions regarding the outbreak. Things really sunk in when positive COVID-19 cases began to pop up locally in our communities and further PPE and protocols were put into place. By this point, our office was in the process of establishing a specialized clinic to receive patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms.”
Dursky, left, in PPE. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
While the threat of insufficient PPE looms and seeing stress on her co-worker’s faces happens more regularly, Dursky admits that working with families has sustained her in such an emotional and uncertain time.
“My favorite part of being a nurse is connecting with my patients and their families,” she said. “A high point for me is being able to educate them on ways to protect their families, keeping them as healthy as they can be during this difficult time. Providing reassurance that we will be available in the clinic to take their calls and questions; even as other services of the community are shutting down.”
While the nature of her job is to reassure the community, the thought of work coming home with her is never far from Dursky’s mind.
Megan and Trevor Dursky with their family. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
“I’m fearful of contracting the virus myself and bringing it home to my family,” she shared. “Trying to serve patients while protecting those closest to me in my home. Every time you grab a door handle and then rub your forehead without thinking only moments later, have you just made a potentially life-changing mistake?”
Through it all, she says that nurses are truly there for patients.
“Without you — we would not be essential,” she said. “A smile from my patient can clear the day’s troubles from my mind and make everything we do worthwhile.”
We Are The Mighty will be featuring different heroes on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19. From health care workers to teachers, kind neighbors, grocery store employees and other mission essential personnel, if you know someone going above and beyond, please email us to feature them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For quite some time I have joked that God thinks I am hard of hearing and that He needs to scream at me to get a message. Case in point, this year I picked rest as my word of the year. I thought I needed to figure out how to slow down, enjoy the moment, not over-commit myself to so much. Somewhere around late February, after I’d committed to yet another summer camp teaching position, it must have become apparent to God that I was not following through on my word of the year. So, what does He do? He shut down EVERYTHING to make sure I have to rest and slow down. All I could do after getting the call that I would be switching to digital teaching and be at home, alone, for an undetermined amount of time was look up at the heavens and laugh. Well played, God.
All joking aside, when the pandemic and quarantine first began, I was a little nervous. Not only am I really bad at slowing down (hence the neon sign from God to do so), but I am also not great at being alone a lot. I was just starting to feel like I had my feet back under me after the divorce and had almost mastered cooking for one again. But I wasn’t quite prepared to be in my own company, and my own head, all day. I am by nature a very social person. I teach. I have 85 kids a day to educate and interact with. During my planning period I am usually visiting with other teachers and walking laps around the school to get my steps in. I am active in my church and on a coed softball team that is more family than just team. I had finally started to tiptoe into dating. And all the sudden, all of that had to stop. It was not a good feeling.
As I looked at my friends that have spouses and kids, I could joke that I was thankful my only company was a dog that doesn’t talk, but truly, I was lonely and struggling. I didn’t feel like I could say that because we were quarantining for a good purpose. It was a safety-for-all thing that I understood. My anxiety and mental health issues didn’t want to get on the same page with me though. I was envious of those that had a spouse to interact with when I was home alone with no human contact for weeks on end. I was trying to pretend like it was great being able to eat popcorn for dinner in my undies since there was no one to judge me on my behavior. I let my friends vent about how lucky I was not to have kids, so I didn’t have to educate and entertain at the same time. I could put on the happy face and lighthearted social media posts with the best of them. At least for a while.
About a month into quarantine I had a phone appointment with my mental health doctor and finally everything spilled out. How isolated I felt. How lonely I was. How scared I would get some days at the idea of going to the store even though I wanted to get out of the house and feel normal for a moment or two. I was able to babble and cry and express how hard it was to be alone with my thoughts all the time. I was sure she was going to tell me I was overreacting and that when this was all over, I’d feel foolish for making such a big deal about things. I mean, I was feeling pretty crazy!
Lucky for me she is a better shrink than I am a patient!
She told me that if I wasn’t feeling out of sorts, she would be far more worried about me. She reminded me that this is an abnormal situation that no one was prepared to take on and that anyone who wasn’t getting a little emotional about the upheaval of their life would be an anomaly. She reminded me that dealing with anxiety was already a hard enough challenge for me, so it was completely understandable that my brain may be going into overdrive about even the smallest things right now trying to find what I consider normalcy in the chaos. And she reminded me that I’m not alone. I may be lonely, but I have a network of family, friends, colleagues, and mental health professionals that are just a call away when things get to be too much to handle.
Once my brain was able to process all of the things we talked about I was finally able to open up to my friends about my struggles and it was amazing to me how many of them felt the same way. I know I’m not the only one out there struggling. So many of us are alone for one reason or another. Maybe your spouse is deployed during this crazy time and you are not just alone, but now unsure when homecoming will ever come. Maybe you’re an essential worker that is camping out at work to protect your family from germs you could potentially bring home. Maybe you’re in the post-divorce phase where you’re trying to figure out who you are on your own again. Whatever the reason, you may be lonely, but know you are not alone. Reach out to your friends, your family, your coworkers that you trust. Let them know you are struggling. You will be surprised by how many of them might understand better than expected what it means to be all on your own during such a scary time. And if talking with them is not enough, there are so many mental health resources available to you now. Take advantage of them and let a professional walk you through the chaos until you feel a bit more grounded. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need that help. Trust me on that.
Mental Health America – Provides resources for finding local mental health professional, digital outreach, and care specific to your living situation.
Veterans Crisis Line – Call 1-800-273-8255 press 1, or text 838255, to get help from someone trained to help the veteran community.
Crisis Text Line – Text 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The website also has articles and advice for those just looking for coping techniques but that do not want to talk to someone yet.
The decade-long month of March 2020 brought many swift changes and confusion to the financial industry, especially mortgages. Just a few short weeks ago, mortgage rates dropped to a 50-year all time low. The market was flooded with refinance applications as homeowners across the country were scrambling to capitalize on the opportunity to save up to several hundred dollars of their hard-earned money every month. Refinance applications were pouring in at a pace 168% higher than last year, forecasted to well exceed one trillion dollars. While this sounds great on a consumer level, it’s what happens behind the scenes that caused these rock-bottom rates to disappear almost as fast as they emerged.
At the dawn of the Coronavirus threat in February, many were concerned about what would happen with the economy. In a protective measure, investors began selling stocks in exchange for purchasing government bonds due to their track record for being more stable. The influx of bond purchasing drove up the price which, in turn, affected the mortgage rates. Refinance applications were pouring in at levels that companies simply could not support, and the law of supply and demand kicks in.
Lenders are forced to slightly raise rates to slow down applications until new loans are closed and sold in the secondary market, giving the lenders the money to start the process all over again. Consider it the mortgage market’s own version of “flattening the curve” to give some stability to all working parties behind the scenes taking care of all moving parts required to close these loans.
When coronavirus strengthened its force, economists realized that the impact could be so severe that it could cause a large number of people to not be able to afford their mortgage payments. Unemployment numbers were being predicted to exceed those of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Companies and people were concerned about liquidity so now stocks and bonds were being offloaded in exchange for cash. This perfect storm meant rates would go even higher.
High mortgage rates in hard economic times are no good at all, and the government knows this all too well. The Federal Reserve swoops in with a bailout, including their promise to buy billions of dollars in mortgage backed securities – daily. This, in theory, should restore confidence in investors to put their money back into the bond market. But, this volatile market means a risk of even more refinances of recently closed loans, before the servicers have a chance to break even on their cost. Rates now have to build in insulation from massive losses servicing is incurring. It is like a roller coaster ride for all involved, but there IS end in sight.
The good news is that all signs point to low rates in the future. The Federal Reserve is going to continue purchasing mortgage backed securities. Mortgage companies are going to close up the deals currently on the books to free more capital to write more loans. The economy struggling to recover will keep rates at affordable levels so we don’t come to a grinding halt. This is great news considering the majority of our active duty families are at a stop-movement. The forced patience will likely pay dividends in the long run in saved interest.
For those of us that don’t like to sit on idle hands, there are steps you can take now. Start interviewing lenders and make sure you find one that is a good fit. Fill out the application and start sending in supporting documents so you can take advantage of low rates as soon as the time is right. We in the real estate and financial sectors are essential workers because “home” is something no one should be without. While all parties involved have modifications in place, rest easy knowing that it WILL get better and we are here to help.
As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.
General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.
“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video. “And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.
Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters
“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically. “We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
As New York faces its highest death rates so far from the coronavirus, the New York National Guard has stepped in to help collect dead bodies around New York City.
Around 150 National Guard soldiers are assisting New York City’s medical examiner in collecting bodies.
“National Guard personnel are working with members of the Medical Examiner’s Office to assist in the dignified removal of human remains when required,” the National Guard said in a statement.
“There are approximately 150 New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assisting with this mission,” it said. “The National Guard Soldiers are joined by 49 Soldiers assigned to the active Army’s 54th Quartermaster Company, now providing staff assistance to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”
New York state is experiencing its highest death rates so far from the coronavirus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that the day prior, at least 799 people died in the state from the coronavirus.
NEW must read story from @pbmelendez and @MichaelDalynyc
w/ a striking photo, taken earlier this week, of the National Guard loading bodies into an Enterprise rental vanhttps://www.thedailybeast.com/nycs-coronavirus-death-toll-expected-to-surge-as-officials-include-deaths-at-home?ref=home …
James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.
As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.
There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.
In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.
Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.
The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.
The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.
The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.
The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.
So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?
Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.
Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.
Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.
The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.
Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.
The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.
Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.
A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.
We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.
For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.
The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.
Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.
One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.
In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.
Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:
Go on a walk
Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.
Have a picnic
You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.
Go on a scavenger hunt
These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.
Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.
Bust out the old fashioned games
Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.
However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.
Go for a drive
Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.
Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.
Sit and talk
Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.
Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.
The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”
Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.
All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”
What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.
If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.
How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”
In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.
To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.
For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.
Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.
Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.
“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.
Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.
Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.
Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.
Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.
Broggi jumped into action.
“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.
Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.
“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.
He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.
Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.
“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.
They just got creative.
“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.
Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.
“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.
One workout at a time.
To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.
We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.
Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291
Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.
BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.
The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.
Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.
Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.
As interviewer David Begnaud said, “The world is looking for some good news right now.”
This interview with 87-year-old Marine veteran Frank Eller who contracted COVID-19 on a cruise is it. Eller has emphysema, heart disease and all sorts of underlying medical conditions, but also the USMC in his blood.
Facebook photo/Frank Eller
Eller was feeling pretty rough a few days into a two week cruise when he finally went to the medical center on the third day of symptoms at his wife’s insistence. Barely able to breathe, Eller got a chest x-ray which revealed his lungs were filled with infection. The doctor started antibiotics and he was evacuated by the United States Coast Guard to a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was finally administered a test for COVID-19.
Eller spent 25 years with the Marines and as you can see, is tough as nails with a great sense of humor and an awesome family.
87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico
Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was awarded the Silver Star on March 17, 2021 — his 89th birthday — for actions that took place when he was a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment nearly 70 years ago. In September 1951 Naimo, a rifleman in “Howe” Company, found himself in the midst of bitter fighting along the 38th parallel, fighting for “the Punch Bowl.” High casualties among Naimo’s company meant his heroism was nearly lost to history.
The year 1950 had seen maneuver warfare up and down the Korean Peninsula with the Communist North sweeping aside allied resistance in June 1950 until the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter. Gen. Douglas MacArthur regained allied initiative with a brilliant counteroffensive landing Marines at Inchon in September 1950.
With Marines spearheading an Allied sweep North to the Yalu River, MacArthur all but guaranteed victory by the end of 1950 by declaring troops would be “Home by Christmas.” China entering the war in November 1950 once again changed the balance, leading to the fabled “Battle of the Chosin Reservoir” and a mass retreat south by Allied forces on the peninsula. By the summer of 1951, they were increasingly locked in stalemate with the front lines settling along the 38th parallel.
June 1951 began with armistice talks, but they began to fall apart by the end of summer. In August 1951, in an effort to drive the North Koreans and Chinese back to the negotiating table, Naimo, along with some 30,000 other members of the Allied task force, found themselves attacking a mountainous region on the far eastern part of the 38th parallel in what would become known as The Battle of the Punch Bowl.
The operation lasted from Aug. 31 until Sept. 21, 1951, and featured frequent and vicious engagements in mountainous terrain resulting in at least 5,000 Chinese and North Korean dead. On the Allied side, 69 Americans and 122 South Koreans would be killed in action and more than 1,000 Allied troops wounded.
On the morning of Sept. 14, 1951, Naimo and his fellow members of Howe Company were digging into a key ridge atop the Punchbowl, with Naimo’s platoon occupying the far left flank of Howe Company’s position. Suddenly, the Chinese Army began to drop well-aimed and concentrated mortar fire on the Marines, effectively suppressing the company.
With a mortar scoring a direct hit on the position adjacent to his, and critically wounding two Marines, cries for help rang out. Naimo immediately rushed from his position to the aid of his fellow Marines. Picking up the first wounded Marine and rushing back out into the barrage, Naimo proceeded to carry him toward the aid station when another round detonated — this time wounding Naimo and knocking him to the ground. Undaunted, Naimo picked up his fellow Marine and pressed on, reaching the aid station.
“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction. It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine,” said Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, US Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, who awarded the Silver Star on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Going against the will of corpsmen and others at the aid station, Naimo ignored his own injuries and again rushed to the aid of another wounded Marine, bringing him to the aid station as well.
It was at this point in the engagement that Chinese forces began transitioning from indirect “prep” fire into a ground attack on Howe Company’s position. Observing Chinese soldiers advancing up the hill, Naimo once again ignored his own wounds and sprang into action. He jumped into a fighting position and began firing his weapon and throwing grenades into the ranks of the advancing enemy. Naimo continued to do this until he was nearly out of ammunition and the Chinese assault broke on Howe Company’s rocky ridge.
“I earned this for something I was trained to do,” Naimo said.
While immediately recognized for heroism by his platoon commander, Naimo waited 70 years before being awarded — two days after this engagement, and before he could submit the paperwork, Naimo’s platoon commander was killed in action.
On his 89th birthday, Naimo, surrounded by family and friends rather than Marines, was presented the nation’s third highest award for valor.
“It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance,” Polidoro said.
As we approach multiple weeks of doing our part to “flatten the curve”, we may find ourselves working as diligently as possible (perhaps from home) while addressing the educational needs of children as well as caring for our households and other loved ones. Support systems girding everyday life such as childcare and close in-person contact with extended family members and friends have been altered, requiring novel ways of creating and maintaining community (hello Zoom Pictionary!).
During challenging times, connecting with our resilience and perhaps working to encourage it in others is more important than ever.
So, what can we do to find and keep our footing in these extraordinary times? There are many answers—perhaps as many as there are people. There simply is no one-size-fits all approach. A core component in strengthening our wellness muscles lies in increasing our awareness of change. Awareness allows us to recognize the impacts of changes to our foundations of normalcy.
How do you check in with yourself, your family and other loved ones during these stressful times? You may be finding yourself and others more short-tempered, worried anxious, or perhaps even feeling depressed. Alternatively, you may be finding this time as a welcome respite of closeness and an opportunity to re-organize and reflect.
There’s ultimately no wrong answer to how you’re feeling during this unprecedented time in history. In fact, it’s more likely that we each run the gamut of thoughts and feelings from day to day, even hour to hour. Developing increased awareness, vocabulary and encouraging dialogue with others surrounding thoughts and feelings can help us feel more connected and supported even when we might have the instinct to push feelings down to make it through the day.
Resilience is a spectrum! Some days we simply may not feel as resilient as others, and that’s ok. Some days we just need a rest or to employ some of our best mechanisms for self-care interspersed with the myriad of to-do’s.
For some, self-care is physical activity or even a good book. Music can both calm, and even stimulate when we need energy. Switching off the news for a bit can be a salve. Others might take pen to paper or feel called to paint. Even a socially-distant walk in fresh air, being aware of our breath or finding a few quiet moments during the day regardless of where we are can be powerful allies in moving through the now. There are also currently a plethora of free relaxation and mindfulness apps for your phone (check out Breathe to Relax, and Headspace is now FREE for all LA County residents).
Ultimately, give yourself permission to do the best you can and reach out when you need to for support and resources. Practice empathy with yourself and others. After all, while we watch and wait as the days unfold, we’re making it through this together!
The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email email@example.com