If you’ve watched the HBO Miniseries Band of Brothers, you can understand why it’s one of the most critically acclaimed TV series out there. The series mixes amazing storytelling with fantastic cinematography and special effects. But there’s something else this series brings to audience — an authentic glimpse into the life of an American Soldier during WWII.
When one of us veterans watches Band of Brothers or its counterpart, The Pacific, we’re reminded of the lifestyle that brought us so much pride. It feels like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (who also worked together on Saving Private Ryan) took a lot more time than most Hollywood types to really nail their portrayal of life in the service.
But outside of giving veterans a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling, Band of Brothers teaches civilians about major things we learn while serving.
Carwood “Lip” Lipton was one of the many examples of great leadership.
The show, in large part, centers around a theme of what it takes to be a good leader. You’ll see plenty examples of great leadership — and enough bad examples to make you wonder why certain characters held that in the first place. A few things you learn about leadership from the series include knowing your subordinates, caring more about their well-being than your career, and being confident enough in yourself to make choices in the face of adversity.
It’s the little things, honestly.
The importance of troop morale
Throughout the show, you’ll see the soldiers of Easy Company ride the highest highs and sink to the lowest lows. When tragedy strikes, you see it in the posture and action of each and every soldier.
This show, better than most, shows how important it is for a leader to understand that the morale of their troops is a big deal.
These guys did their job, no matter what stood in their way.
The soldiers of Easy Company are undoubtedly courageous, but this series doesn’t make them out to be superheroes. Instead, it depicts them as your average Joe who volunteered to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You constantly see the fear on their faces — but you also see them act in spite of it, and that is courage.
They even took time to humanize one of the German soldiers.
Towards the end of the series, you start to see how the soldiers of Easy Company begin to question the overall purpose of the war. Of course, this question is unshakably answered when they come across a concentration camp.
But the theme that show explores beautifully is that, at the end of the day, war is about humans fighting humans.
Beyond that, you see how soldiers dealt with the loss of their brothers.
Dealing with loss
The series doesn’t shy away from showing the pain of the tremendous losses experienced in war. Not just among warfighters, but among civilians and their homes. They take an entire episode to establish the relationship between the medic, Eugene Roe, and a civilian nurse who volunteered to help — only to have her die in the end.
“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement to KREM in Washington.
German SS soldiers relax on their vehicle. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)
Unfortunately for the Russian soldiers, their generals followed Soviet military doctrine nearly to the letter, and the Germans had grown used to their tactics. Anticipating a Soviet bombardment, the German generals had pulled most of their men back from the first defensive lines and reduced the number of men in the second lines.
So a Soviet bombardment with three times as many shells as there were defending troops managed to obliterate one line of trenches, damage another, but kill very few of the defending troops. It also left German mortars, machine guns, tanks, and artillery emplacements.
The Soviets continued the battle with a rolling barrage that did begin softening the German army positions. But, by that point, Soviet tanks and infantry were struggling to get through the soft ground around the Ober River which had been flooded and turned to marshlands.
The German weapons which had survived the artillery bombardment were able to inflict heavy losses on the attacking Soviet columns.
A memorial to the Soviet troops who fought at Seelow Heights now stands at the location of the battle. (Photo: H. der Löwe CC BY-SA 3.0)
Despite the heavy losses, the Red Army took the Seelow Heights on April 19, 1945, and launched its final drive to Berlin. Soviet troops surrounded the city and forced their way in. German leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30 and Germany surrendered on May 8.
Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. Everyone knows that they have their own office in the battalion building and troops are generally aware that their door is intentionally left open, figuratively and often literally, but that’s about the extent of most troops’ interactions with them.
While it is true that one of their primary purposes is to provide religious aid to their troops, they offer the troops of their battalion much more.
Chaplains also provide services for the fallen, in whatever faith the troop held in life.
As odd as it may sound for troops who sport religious symbols on their uniforms, chaplains aren’t supposed to prioritize their own faith over any other. Simply put, a chaplain who is of a particular denomination must be well-versed in many religions so they can provide support to those of other faiths. For example, it’s not uncommon for a Christian chaplain to be knowledgeable on how to welcome a Shabbat for troops of Jewish faith.
Chaplains can accommodate the religious needs of troops but they aren’t allowed to proselytize (attempt to convert) any troop. When it comes to getting troops to attend services, they’re not allowed to do much outside of making a service schedule known. These restrictions on converting are essential to maintaining trust between troops and chaplain. A trust that must exist for chaplains to perform their other role: being the battalion’s first stop for mental, emotional, and moral support.
Entirely from personal experience, chaplains (or more likely, their assistants) seem to be the only ones in the unit who know how to make a decent cup of coffee. But if that’s what it takes to get someone who needs to talk in the door, it’s a good thing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Herrick)
Just as with a civilian religious leader, the unit’s chaplain is covered under clergy-penitent privilege. This means that anything that a troop tells the chaplain will be kept in confidence between the two (unless the information exchanged presents a clear and immediate danger). Chaplains are also not allowed to turn anyone away, so a troop could, theoretically, step into a chaplain’s office and rant to their heart’s content — and the chaplain will listen to every word.
Chaplains are there to assist with crises of faith, relationship issues, problems at work, and even things that could be legally held against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. More recently, chaplains have played an essential role in suicide prevention, too.
But if you wanted to talk religion with them, they’ll definitely have some advice for you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert)
No matter how bad things get, the chaplain will always be there. In fact, they aren’t allowed to stop you from talking to them, even if you’re going on for hours. They can offer aid and support for many matters, but they aren’t allowed to openly discuss your issues with anyone — no matter the circumstances. And they can quietly steer the troop toward proper help, if a troop so desires.
They offer this to every troop in the unit, all without a mention of religion.
This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.
How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position
Sign up for HillVets Insider
HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
Get on a job list
Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to add you to his job lists.
Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
Questions to ask yourself—
What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.
Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!
Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
You Got an Interview!
Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!
You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!
Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.
Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases.
The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.
For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.
For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.
The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.
The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.
Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.
The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.
The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.
Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.
Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.
Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.
The Marine Corps’ last Mounted Color Guard, housed at the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, launches into the year 2017 and its 50th year of service.
“In 1966, Lt. Col. Robert Lindsley came to MCLB Barstow (after serving in) Vietnam,” explained Sgt. Terry Barker, MCG stableman.
“At that time a lot of the dependent children from base would take horses from the stables and ride them out in town in parades. Rather than the kids riding in the parades, Lindsley decided that we needed to have the Marines riding with the horses, so in 1967 he stood up the official Marine Mounted Color Guard here.”
The stables were renamed to honor Lindsley as the founder of the MMCG during a ceremony held on base in April of 2010.
Lindsley, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born into a military family then joined the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine in December 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1950, he was commissioned and after several assignments, he was stationed at MCLB Barstow where he was assigned to the Center Stables Committee, which later became the Mounted Color Guard.
Though there were multiple MCGs initially, MCLB Barstow is now home to the last remaining MCG throughout the Marine Corps. They travel far and wide to participate in events from coast to coast.
“Depending on budget and scheduling, we might be in events from California to Louisiana, Florida to D.C., Tennessee to Oregon,” Barker said.
“We cover the four corners of this country.”
There are some events that they never miss, such as the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif. every January. In that event, the MMCG always leads the parade and is the only unit to hold the American Flag. As a recruiting tool, the MCG reaches areas of the country where the Marine Corps is not otherwise represented.
“We have big bases in California, North Carolina and Okinawa,” Barker said. “There are states in the mid-west where there are no Marine Corps bases, active or reserve. So, when we participate in rodeos, parades, or monument dedications, we are quite possibly the only Marines in the entire state. Everybody sees Marines on television, or in the news, but they rarely get to stand next to them, shake their hand and talk to them. That’s what we get to do.”
The horses and Marines train together daily, and always travel together.
“We have a truck and trailer, and wherever they go, we go,” Barker said. The Marines often go so far as to sleep in the truck and trailer, rather than reserving hotel rooms, in order to save money and stay as close as they can to the horses to ensure safety.
“Another benefit is we can get them ready earlier,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG Stableman. “Also we have to stay with our horses if they are not in a stables area.”
All of the travel can be difficult, but Cummins said it’s nothing like a deployment.
“For me, my wife is pretty conditioned to it,” he said. “It’s the kids that make it hard sometimes. They don’t know why you have to go.”
It helps to come back and get into a regular routine with family, as well as the horses.
“Our daily regimen (at the stables) depends on what’s going on, as far as events,” Barker explained. “We get here at 7 a.m. and feed and water the horses, and muck the stalls out. As Marines, we still have jobs to do as well, plus ground work, saddle training, and ranch maintenance.”
“For our maintenance training and farrier work we have Terry Holliday, a contractor,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG stableman. “Each Marine is assigned to two horses to work with daily, and if any Marines are out, we cover their horses, too.”
Much has changed over the years, to include the procurement and initial training practices for the horses. In the early stages, Lindsley went to Utah with $600 to purchase horses for use with the MCG Marines.
“The horses we use today are all obtained through the Horse and Burro Program out of Carson City, Nevada,” explained Barker. “From there, they go through an inmate rehabilitation program, where the inmates get the horses to where they are green-broke, which means you can approach them, touch them, and touch their feet and so forth.”
Some of the Marines assigned to the MCG, such as Barker and Cummins, as well as two other riders, Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, and Lance Cpl. Alicia Frost, have prior experience riding and working with horses. However, most of the riders assigned to the MCG, such as Sgt. Moises Machuca and Sgt. Miguel Felix who are both currently with the team, did not have any experience with horses prior to their arrival. It is Holliday’s task to train the Marines to ride the horses effectively. The Marines learn basics first, such as the use of saddles, rein work, the various types of bridles and their functions, as well as how to make contact with the animals.
“They may come to the MCG without experience, but these are Marines and they’re the best of the best, so they do this like they do everything else,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Atkinson, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mounted Color Guard. “They work hard and become the best. It’s an honor to represent the Marine Corps in such a manner.”
When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.
Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.
“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”
Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.
Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.
“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”
The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.
“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”
After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.
Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.
“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”
Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.
While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.
“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”
Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.
“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”
Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.
“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”
Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.
Bonnie Carroll, the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House on November 24. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Carroll founded TAPS after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, TAPS provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of a military family member. The organization’s programs like Good Grief camps and National Military Survivor seminars have brought effective comfort and care to families of the fallen since 1994, most acutely in the years since 9-11.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Carroll told WATM immediately following the ceremony. “It’s a recognition of American respect and reverence for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they loved and left behind.”
Sixteen others were recognized by President Obama during the event including entertainers James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Barbara Streisand, baseball legend Willie Mays, lawmakers Shirley Chisholm and Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, composer Stephen Sondheim, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
“It was wonderful to meet [the other awardees],” Carroll said. “Gloria Estefan lost her dad in the Army, so she’s kind of a TAPS kid. And Steven Spielberg was telling me about a project he’s working on to bring awareness to those dealing post traumatic stress and veteran suicide. So this was a tremendous opportunity to meet those who’ve made a difference in the county and also take our work forward.”
Carroll is also a retired major in the Air Force Reserve. She serves on the Defense Health Board and co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.
“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
For more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go here.
Most of the discoveries have been gruesome — in multiple cases, Japanese authorities have said they found skulls and decaying corpses.
Not a new phenomenon
North Korean vessels have been showing up in Japan for years.
Eighty such ships drifted ashore in Japan in 2013, 65 in 2014, 45 in 2015, and 66 in 2016, said Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of political science and economics at Japan’s Seigakuin University, citing Japan Coast Guard statistics.
But at least 76 vessels have shown up on Japanese shores since the beginning of this year, and 28 in November alone, The New York Times reported.
These appearances usually occur more frequently toward the end of the year, when bad weather proves most dangerous to seafarers using old boats and equipment, The Times said.
So, why is this happening?
Life in North Korea is ‘grim and desperate’
The rising number of ghost ships in Japan indicates the dire food scarcity facing North Korea, some experts say.
Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan, told Business Insider that “the ghost ships are a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.”
“They signal both desperation and the limits of ‘juche,'” he added, using the word for an ideology developed by Kim Il Sung that justifies state policies despite famine and economic difficulties within the country.
To make matters worse, North Korea suffered a severe drought earlier this year that dramatically damaged the country’s food production and is likely to result in further food shortages, the United Nations said in July.
While the extent of the crop damage remains unclear, the UN said the areas accounting for two-thirds of North Korea’s cereal production had been severely affected.
Earlier this year, doctors treating a North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea found that he had a large number of parasites in his stomach, suggesting a widespread health crisis in the North, The Washington Post reported.
Seo Yu-suk, a research manager at the North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, told Reuters that “North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages.”
Kingston added, “These rickety vessels are unsuitable for the rough seas of the Sea of Japan in autumn, and one imagines that far more are capsizing that we will never know about.”
Or are they a sign of a booming North Korean economy?
Not all experts agree with the above assessment, however.
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch, told Business Insider that it was “unclear to what degree it’s directly related to food shortages, per se.”
“If fishers are ordered out for longer periods of time, with bigger demands on the catch they bring back — and with less gasoline with them than they need, due to the sanctions and shortages — that is certainly a connection of sorts,” he said. He added,
It is also possible that to make the same level of revenue through selling seafood domestically — which seems to be the best option, given that they cannot export their products to China through formal ways due to current sanctions on seafood imports from North Korea — they would simply need to make bigger catches.
It’s unclear, however, how much the sanctions have affected North Korea’s food situation or economy.
“Though the economy overall is under pressure from sanctions, food prices have not gone up to the degree that some may have expected, which suggests that there isn’t any acute scarcity as of now,” Katzeff Silberstein said.
He added, “On the other hand, there have been anecdotal reports of food scarcity increasing, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country, near the border to China, where agriculture is not at all as widely spread as in the southern regions.”
Miyamoto, the Seigakuin University professor, said the rise in North Korean fishing vessels found in Japan was indicative of a booming North Korean economy — because seafood is a luxury item.
“Many North Korean vessels are in the Sea of Japan because North Korea has promoted fishery policy since 2013,” he told Business Insider.
“They are fishermen [trying] to earn money,” he added. “Now North Korean economics, which adopted free-market partly, have grown and generated a wealthy class. A wealthy class demands not caloric food, but healthy food. So seafood, which are healthy, is popular in North Korea.”
He continued, “It is evidence not that the North Korean economy is deteriorating, but that the North Korean economy is growing … Hungry people demand not seafood, which are low-calorie, but cereal and meat, which are high-calorie.”
He also told CNN the “ghost ship” phenomenon increased “after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military.”
“They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing,” Miyamoto said. “It will continue.”
The increased appearance of the vessels has reignited fears among some Japanese citizens who remain haunted by the spate of kidnappings carried out by North Korea that occurred along Japan’s west coast in the 1970s and ’80s.
The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.
Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.
“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command
The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.
Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.
“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”
When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.
The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.
Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”
Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.
The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.
“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”
“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.
“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”
In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.
His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.
After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.
Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.
“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”
Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.
“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”