Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

Benjamin Breckheimer was a teenager when he watched 9/11 unfold. Like many other young Americans, the images spurred him into action. Right after high school, he enlisted in the Army as an operating room specialist.

The operating room is where Breckheimer served his comrades and met his closest mentor. As fate would have it, Breckheimer would end up on the operating table himself. Breckheimer received serious damages to his body after an improvised explosive device went off under the Stryker he was driving.


The road to recovery was a long one. Hopeless and angry at the world, Breckheimer’s life spiraled out of control to the point of suicidal thoughts. However, with the help of his family, mentor, and a strong support network, Breckheimer was able to get back on his feet.

To get better physically and also to challenge himself and others, Breckheimer started climbing. As time went on, his ascents grew to higher altitudes. To free himself from weight of the past , Breckheimer threw his problems off some of the highest peaks in the world. He is currently on track to be the first ever wounded combat veteran to climb the Seven Summits.

Local Purple Heart recipient earns new honor

www.youtube.com

Breckheimer is now partnered with American300. American300 subject matter resiliency experts spend quality time with service members, offering not only their personal stories, but a knowing ear and shoulder heavy in experience. Working with military leadership, American300 tours place mentors in areas of operation repeatedly over the span of several years. Each return visit features different mentors who shed a light on making the impossible… possible.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.

    Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.

    The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    That time the US and its allies destroyed the entire Iraqi Navy

    In the opening days of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, ships and aircraft from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, intercepted the Iraqi Navy as it tried to flee into Iran. The resulting battle in the waters between the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Bubiyan Island was one of the most lopsided naval engagements in history, and the Iraqi Navy essentially ceased to exist.


    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Desert Storm did not go well for Iraq.

    Operation Desert Storm kicked off in earnest on Jan. 17, 1991 as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces refused to leave Kuwait, the neighbor it invaded just a few months earlier. When the deadline to leave passed, Coalition forces took action. One of those actions involved massive naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the face of this overwhelming opposition, Iraq’s Navy decided to follow the example of Iraq’s Air Force.

    They would immediately gear up, head out, and attempt to escape to Iran and away from certain death. Unlike the Air Force, the Navy never quite made it.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Iraq’s Air Force: Property of Iran.

    Allied naval forces were actually the first to respond to Iraqi aggression. A joint American-Kuwaiti task force captured Iraqi oil platforms, took prisoners on outlying Iraqi islands, and intercepted an Iraqi attempt to reinforce its amphibious invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji – those reinforcements never arrived. Instead, the ships they were on were annihilated by Coalition ships.

    Any remaining Iraqi Navy ships tried to escape to Iranian territorial waters in a mad dash to not die a fiery, terrible death. They were counting on the idea that small, fast, and highly maneuverable missile craft could make littoral waters too dangerous for heavy oceangoing ships.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Back when Battleships weren’t museums.

    In the end, upwards of 140 Iraqi ships were either destroyed by Coalition forces or fled into the hands of the Iranian Navy. American and British ships, British Lynx helicopters, and Canadian CF-18 Hornets made short work of the aging flotilla, in what became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”

    The only shot Iraq’s navy was able to fire in return was a Silkworm missile battery, from a land-based launcher, at the American battleship USS Missouri. The missile was destroyed by a Sea Dart missile from the UK’s HMS Gloucester, rendering it as effective as the rest of Iraq’s Navy.

    Articles

    A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

    Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


    One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

    (Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

    For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

    But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

    This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

    Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

    Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

    This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

    That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

    This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

    Articles

    This is why the Pentagon just dispatched its top general to Korea

    The top US general is on the Korean Peninsula as annual US and South Korean military exercises risk further increasing tensions with North Korea.


    US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said his visit to the region this week is aimed at reassuring allies South Korea and Japan, while building the military-to-military relationship with China in order to prevent miscalculations.

    He met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo August 14 in Seoul, and travels to China August 14 and Japan later in the week.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated in a Wall Street Journal opinion article posted late August 13 that the US goal is the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that it is up to North Korea to show its willingness to engage in good-faith negotiations.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Mattis (left) and Tillerson (right). DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

    “North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity, and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty, and isolation,” Mattis and Tillerson said. They also highlighted a need for China to use its “decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea.”

    Meanwhile, senior US national security officials said August 13 a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent, but the possibility of war has increased.

    CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday North Korea’s push to develop a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, “… is a very serious threat and the administration is going to treat it as such.”

    President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, on ABC’s This Week program said “…We are not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

    Dunford said the military’s “primary focus” is supporting the administration’s diplomatic and economic campaign to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, while preparing military options in the event that campaign fails.

    “We’re all looking to get out of this situation without a war,” Dunford said, even as he stressed Pyongyang possessing nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and its regional allies is “unacceptable.”

    “As a military leader, I’ve got to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails,” he added.

    But some experts do not agree that Pyongyang’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable option. Richard Bush, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, said the Trump administration has “made a big mistake” by determining that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States is something to fight over.

    “The bigger danger or focus should be ensuring that North Korea doesn’t use those capabilities,” Bush told VOA.

    Dunford arrived at Osan Air Base plans to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In and his South Korean military counterpart on Monday before traveling to China and Japan later in the week.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

    New military exercises to start

    Annual exercises between the US and South Korean militaries, dubbed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, begin later this month. North Korea has always condemned these exercises, and some experts fear these war games could increase hostilities from Pyongyang while irking Beijing, a key influencer of North Korea.

    “If you have the current tensions and pile on top of that these exercises, it’s going to make for a much worse situation,” Joel Wit, who helped negotiate the 1994 US-North Korea nuclear deal that delayed North Korea’s nuclear program for almost a decade, told VOA.

    A senior official with US Pacific Command, which overseas military activity in the region, said China will almost certainly propose to Dunford that the US and South Korea stop these exercises. However, the Trump administration would not agree to that proposal because it considers the exercises necessary for readiness in the event of an attack, the official added.

    In the past, China has been reluctant to deny resources to North Korea in order to pressure Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions. But in the last few weeks, China has appeared to take measures to keep its bad-behaving neighbor in check.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    A Trident II ICBM launching. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

    Last week, China voted alongside a unanimous UN Security Council to impose strict new sanctions on Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. Estimates say the new sanctions could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.

    And on July 11, China’s Global Times Newspaper warned that China will not come to North Korea’s aid if it launches missiles threatening American soil and would only intervene if the United States strikes North Korea first.

    Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst at RAND Corporation, noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping has held eight summit meetings with the South Korean president but none with the young North Korean leader, which he said “clearly suggests” that Xi “thinks Kim Jong Un is a lightweight and really not important.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

    ‘Locked and loaded’

    The chairman’s visit comes just two days after US President Donald Trump warned in a tweet that military solutions were “locked and loaded” should North Korea act unwisely. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path,” Trump tweeted.

    North Korean state media announced the country is drawing up plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam, as the US military continued preparations for a potential military response.

    The United States has carried our several B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet flights from Guam to the peninsula, with the last one carried out about a week ago. Japanese and South Korean jets have escorted the bombers at times.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

    The United States also has deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea that can shoot down short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Two of the system’s six launchers are fully operational, and President Moon has ordered consultations on the possibility of deploying the final four interceptors, which are already in-country. THAAD’s ability to take out missile threats has proven 15 for 15 in tests conducted since 2005, when the system began operational testing.

    THAAD is also deployed on Guam, along with Aegis ships that have Standard Missile 3 interceptors used to destroy medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

    The US mainland is defended from intercontinental ballistic missiles by ground-based interceptors located at Fort Greely, Alaska.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    Trump asked the actual war fighters about Afghanistan

    Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.


    When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.

    Mattis rolled his eyes.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.

    “I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.

    On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.

    (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

    Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”

    “We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”

    So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.

    “I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”

    Articles

    Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

    The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.


    The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

    The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.

    Related: Commandant on nude photo scandal: ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?’

    The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Main

    The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.

    An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.

    “We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.

    Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity

    Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.

    “Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.

    Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, is expected to brief Congress on scandal next week. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

    Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.

    For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”

    On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”

    One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.

    Also Read: Chinese troops have been spotted in Afghanistan

    “Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.

    Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.

    One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.

    In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.

    “This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.

    Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.

    “Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.

    Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”

    Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated.  Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”

    The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.

    ‘Hope we can find more on this gem’

    The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.

    “Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.

    Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.

    “Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink

    One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”

    The thread carried on for months.

    “Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”

    In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.

    On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.

    “Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer
    Screenshot

    The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.

    Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.

    In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”

    The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.

    “She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.

    Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.

    “Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”

    Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.

    In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.

    “What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.

    In 2012, an Army sergeant who helped to train and mentor cadets was discovered to have secretly filmed more than a dozen women in the bathroom and shower areas at West Point. The soldier pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison.

    A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.

    “Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”

    ‘This has to be treated harshly’

    The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.

    A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.

    “I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”

    Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.

    “This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.

    “These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”

    The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.

    Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.

    Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.

    “I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”

    “If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    General mandates daily routine after seeing sloppy, unshaven Marines

    After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.

    The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.

    “In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”


    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)

    2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.

    The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.

    Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.

    “There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

    He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.

    From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.

    Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)

    “Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”

    First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.

    “Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”

    It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.

    (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)

    “Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”

    While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.

    In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.

    “Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.

    Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.

    Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    The mission to accelerate veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs

    Want your veteran owned business to succeed—fast?


    Check out Patriot Boot Camp with their next event in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 16-18, 2018.

    The program welcomes 50 veteran and mil-spouse entrepreneurs from around the country—and offers an intense 3 day education, mentoring, and networking experience designed to help their businesses succeed.

    Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) was started by Taylor McLemore as a volunteer effort to help veterans and mil-spouses gain access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers. It was built to help them innovate and build impactful technology businesses.

    Also read: Officers and enlistees confess the best and worst about each other

    Charlotte Creech, a veteran spouse, and the CEO of Patriot Boot Camp, discusses the impact of the program for entrepreneurs.

    “I am continually impressed by the determination and mission-focus of the entrepreneurs that come through Patriot Boot Camp, as well as the magnitude of the problems they aim to solve.”

    Creech adds that most veteran and military spouse founders don’t merely set out to build a business; rather, they work to make the world a better place and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of what motivates them to succeed and to follow their progress along the entrepreneurial journey.

    “What makes the program so powerful, is when we combine these talented, mission-driven entrepreneurs with a community of peers and mentors that are dedicated to helping them achieve their business milestones and goals. By the end of the event, we all leave with new insights and new network contacts that will help us advance and overcome the challenges of startup life.”

    The core, three-day program is modeled after the popular Techstars accelerator and continues to leverage the Techstars network to empower and advance military/veteran and spouse founders.

    Since its first program in 2012, nine Patriot Boot Camp alumni have been accepted into the Techstars accelerator programs, with many others gaining acceptance to prominent accelerators including Y Combinator and Vet-Tech.

    Related: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

    Four of PBC’s alumni have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, and five have had successful exits via acquisition.

    Creech adds: “It’s inspiring to see these alumni achieve great business outcomes, but what’s really powerful about the PBC program and network is that our high-performing alumni continue to come back to PBC as mentors and guest speakers to share their lessons learned and coach new entrepreneurs to success.”

    The boot camp works as follows:

    The Patriot Boot Camp staff facilitate the planning and execution of the program where they organize external guest speakers and mentors to provide the educational content and workshops.

    Each PBC program is entirely unique because the speakers vary in each 3 day intensive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend multiple programs to continue learning as the needs of their business change over time.

    If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this year’s Patriot Boot Camp, visit http://patriotbootcamp.org.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded ‘marsquake’

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

    The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

    “InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”


    The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

    First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA’s InSight

    www.youtube.com

    “The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

    NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

    InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

    Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

    Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

    “We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background.

    (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

    Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

    SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

    “We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

    JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

    A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

    Listen to audio of this likely marsquake at: https://youtu.be/DLBP-5KoSCc

    For more information about InSight, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    A heroic JROTC student protected classmates in the Florida school shooting

    On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old former student and one-time Army Junior ROTC member Nikolas Cruz sent students scrambling in terror when he opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz, who killed 17 people before he was arrested, reportedly was obsessed with guns and aspired to join the military.


    But he wasn’t the only JROTC student who sprang into action that day.

    After 17-year-old Douglas High student, Colton Haab heard the first shots, he and his fellow JROTC members shepherded between 60 and 70 students into a JROTC classroom and shielded them with Kevlar sheets, normally used as backdrops for the military students’ civilian marksmanship training.

    “We took those sheets and put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen … behind a solid object, and the Kevlar would slow a bullet down,” Haab told CNN. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely [take] it from a catastrophic to a life-saving” incident.

    What was he thinking about in those uncertain moments? “I’m thinking about how I’m going to make sure everyone goes home to their parents safely,” he added. “I was destined to get home.”

     

    First established in 1973, the Broward County Public High School system’s JROTC program boasts an average enrollment of 7,650 students in 28 of its 34 schools annually, mostly in Army and Navy programs.

    But, like many JROTC programs, its focus is primarily on moral and ethical character-building: According to the BCPHS JROTC site, over 90% of its four-year members attend college, even though only 5% end up joining the U.S. armed forces.

    Also read: US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

    Fellow JROTC members at Douglas High described the shooter as obviously troubled with a history of behavioral issues.

    “When you are in JROTC, you follow a set of rules, you live by them, and you think that you’re a good person,” former JROTC classmate Jillian Davis told the Treasure Coast Palm Beach Post. “You’d think that anyone in this community would follow and abide by these rules.”

    The shooter may have failed to embrace the tenets of JROTC, but at least Haab didn’t: In interviews, he described his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep his classmates safe.

    Related: 7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

    “We grabbed two pieces of two-by-four, a fire extinguisher and a chair,” Haab told Reuters. “We were going to try to stop him with whatever we had.”

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Bolton refused to press Putin on anything about Ukraine

    White House national security adviser John Bolton says that he has discussed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, told CBS’s Face The Nation that “President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.”

    Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to hold their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.


    On June 29, 2018, Trump declined to rule out recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington’s longstanding opposition to the annexation were true, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.”

    This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    See the military’s awesome tribute to Stan Lee

    As a child, Maj. Scotty Autin loved reading Marvel comic books. One of his favorite characters was Gambit, a fictional quick-handed, card-playing thief from New Orleans.

    “Considering I’m from Louisiana, I was always drawn to Gambit,” said Autin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “I read all the comics that featured him and watched the X-Men animated series just to see him. I remember as a 10-year-old, I would practice throwing playing cards just to be like him.”


    So when Autin was invited to participate in “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” Jan. 30, 2019, at The Creative Life, or TCL, Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Prior and active-duty military service members with the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, Los Angeles; 311th Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserves, Los Angeles; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; the 300th Army Band, Los Angeles; American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, California; and American Legion Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, pose for a picture prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    The event was a memorial tribute to Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics, who died in November 2018.

    But it wasn’t just because Autin grew up reading Marvel comic books that made participating in the ceremony so important to him; it also was a way to honor Lee’s service to the nation as a fellow Army veteran.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Crowds start to gather Jan. 30, 2019, in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    Lee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. While in the service, he started out as a lineman, before the Army realized his writing skills and moved him into technical writing for training manuals, films and posters with a group that included the likes of Oscar-winner Frank Capra and Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel, where he served as the editor and co-creator for decades.

    He was proud of his military service, said Lee’s longtime friend, Karen Kraft, an award-winning television producer, Army veteran and the chairwoman of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, or VME, Board of Directors.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    An artist sketches a drawing of Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee with actor, producer and director Kevin Smith during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    “He was very proud to have enlisted and was hoping to serve overseas, but his skill set was quickly discovered as a writer, illustrator and storyteller,” Kraft said.

    Lee’s appreciation for his military service carried over to his civilian role at Marvel Comics, where it can be seen in the patriotic themes of “Captain America,” she said.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Paul Lilley, an Army veteran, actor, producer and member of Veterans in Media and Entertainment, center, helps fold a flag to present to “Agents of Mayhem” “Legion M” and “POW! Entertainment!” during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    Organizers of the event, which included VME, wanted to ensure that piece of Lee’s life wasn’t lost during the tribute ceremony. So they organized a color guard. A bugler was brought in to play, “Taps.” An Army band was asked to perform. Autin brought American flags he had flown in Iraq on Veterans Day to present to Lee’s daughter, J.C., and the sponsors of the event. American Legion’s Post No. 43, Hollywood, and Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, got on board to help with a wreath-laying ceremony.

    First encounter with Lee

    Growing up in Rochester, New York, Kraft was drawn to the comic book creations of Lee.

    She and her older brothers would go to the comic book store once a month, where she soon fell in love with Marvel Comics — the artwork, the words, the lettering, the coloring.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Jimmy Weldon, World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, takes in all of the activities prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    “No two comic books are the same,” she said. “It so captivates you that you don’t realize you’re reading a comic book. Your mind is filling in the gaps between the boxes and the pages because you’re so enthralled by it. That’s a power; that’s a storytelling magic.”

    Kraft first met Lee at a comic book convention when she was young. After the convention and at the recommendation of her mother, Kraft wrote Lee a “thank you” letter, and he wrote a “thank you” letter back. From there, the two kept in touch, she said.

    Later, when Kraft worked for the Discovery Channel, she interviewed Lee and other comic book talents for the documentary, “Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City.” The documentary entailed traveling around New York City to the locations that inspired Lee and other comic book artists.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    A military service member salutes the U.S. flag during the playing of “Taps” at “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    After she left Discovery Channel, Kraft worked with Lee on various projects. Their initial chance encounter and continued correspondence developed into a decades-long friendship.

    In Kraft’s eyes, Lee had his own superpower — the ability to connect with people.

    “Stan was marvelous in the use of his vocabulary and the way he created these characters you can relate to,” she said. “He created this entire world with all of these different artists … Every character he created is a co-creation. That’s also pretty stunning — including all of these people and inspiring all of that creativity from artists and writers.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Jere Romano, post commander of the American Legion No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, left, along with his wife, Martha, place a wreath by a cement plaque of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee’s signature.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    Lee was known for a process called the “Marvel Method,” a creative assembly-line style he used in comic book-making. Lee would write in the captions, another artist would sketch the scene, another would color it and a different artist would finish the lettering. Some credit Lee’s process to his Army experience, where everyone had a job, or Military Occupational Specialty.

    Throughout the years, Kraft said, Lee always opened his home and office to her and allowed her to bring veterans over to visit, where he would share his World War II stories. The two both joined the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, together and Lee became an advisory board member of VME.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Members of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment present a U.S. flag to a Legion M representative during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    “He would talk to veterans about his military service … he loved to share his story,” she said. “His superpower is people. He’s extremely generous, very open with his time, very kind, very funny and very positive. And, he was very proud of his military service. We bonded over that.”

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Crowds of people gather in the TCL Chinese Theatre Courtyard in Hollywood during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    Kraft recalled one time when Lee spoke to about 300 military veterans with VME.

    “I remember in the last meeting, he was very emotional when he said to the veterans in the audience, ‘You’re the real heroes in my world,'” she said. “It was very, very touching.”

    A legion of fans

    The tribute to Lee at the TCL Chinese Theatre was nothing short of honoring his legacy of bringing very diverse groups together. Directors, producers, military service members and veterans, artists, writers, comic book fans and celebrities packed the theatre courtyard on the day of the event.

    The diversity of the crowd didn’t surprise Kraft, who said Lee made everyone feel like they were a part of his family.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    A cosplayer dressed as Spiderman holds a single red rose while listening to friends and fellow colleagues of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee pay tribute to him during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    On a small stage on the left-hand side of the courtyard, a military color guard posted the flags, while a bugler played “Taps” in the background. Army band members played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Those who worked closely with Lee approached the microphone one-by-one to give testimonials of how he impacted their careers and their lives, including actor, director and producer Kevin Smith. A wreath was placed near a stone plaque engraved with Lee’s signature. Folded flags encased in wooden boxes were presented to the sponsors of the event, which included Agents of Mayhem, Legion M and POW! Entertainment. A flag was later presented to Lee’s daughter on the Red Carpet.

    Following the courtyard tribute, celebrities, military members and others walked the Red Carpet leading inside the theatre, where celebrity panelists and others also paid tribute to Lee.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Actor, producer, writer and director Kevin Smith addresses the crowd to pay tribute to his friend, Stan Lee, during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    The diversity of the crowd, the presenters and the celebrities at the event spoke to Lee’s impact and reach across not only generations, but ethnic and social lines, Autin said.

    “During the ceremony, I stood next to a gentleman who was about my age,” he said. “I was in my military dress uniform, and he was dressed as Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four). To the outside observer, that had no context of the situation, the sight would have looked like it was straight from a Marvel movie script. However, to us, we were both there to honor a man in our own way. The man that had an impact on us individually, as well as our entire generation.”

    Lee loved a crowd and would have loved the ceremony and all of the military representation, Kraft said. He would have snapped off a smart salute to all of the men and women in their dress blues, said a quick-witted phrase, and there would be lots of hugging and smiles.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    From left to right, actors Titus Welliver, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Duke, along with a guest, pose for a picture on the Red Carpet during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    “I’m proud that he touched so many lives and inspired so many people to come together,” Kraft said. “People with very different passions, but yet they all share this passion for super heroes — people pushing themselves beyond what they think possible to do what’s right and to be good in this world.”

    Finding solace

    For Kraft, looking up into the Hollywood Hills, it’s hard to imagine Lee not being there anymore, but she finds solace in his legacy and what he taught her — the power and importance of storytelling to human nature.

    Borne the Battle: Army veteran Benjamin Breckheimer

    Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, reflects in the background of a wreath honoring the late Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

    (Photo by Dena ODell)

    “Every culture cherishes its legends, its myths, it’s identity through storytelling,” she said. “Storytelling done truly well really uplifts you … It helps carry you through tough times; it pushes you to do bigger and bolder things. His signature was ‘Excelsior,’ which in Latin means ‘upward to greater glory.’ It means keep pushing yourself, keep moving on, keep trying.”

    “I think that’s the power of these superheroes that Stan Lee created,” Autin added. “They each speak to us directly for different reasons, they each show us that it’s OK to be flawed or struggling, but also push us to lean on our strengths and help others.”

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

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