If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.
Really? Let’s back up.
Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.
The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.
What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.
Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.
To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:
While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.
There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:
Reliving the trauma
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”
The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.
Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.
The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.
Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.
Just a year ago, Christian Montijo was a different man. In fact, he was almost twice the man he is today.
He figured he weighed a little more than 350 pounds. But it was more of a guess, since his scale only went up to that number.
Overweight and realizing his unhealthy habits, the 28-year-old banker from Kissimmee, Florida, set a goal to transform himself. And, if he could, revive his dream of joining the Army.
“I would wake up tired,” he said Tuesday. “I’d be sitting down watching TV and my wife would be, ‘are you OK because you’re breathing really heavy?’ So I decided that I had to make a change.”
The father of two started to eat healthier and drink water instead of several bottles of soda each day. He began to walk after work, then that turned into a jog and eventually a 2-mile run.
He also worked on his situps and pushups as the pounds shed off.
Christian Montijo before the weight loss.
“Last year at this time if you told me that ‘I’d give you a million dollars to do one pushup,’ I could not have done it,” he said. “Honestly, I would go down but I couldn’t go up to save my life.”
A new man
Over the past year, his daily routine allowed him to lose about 160 pounds.
“It’s night and day. I’m a whole new person,” he said. “I wake up with energy, I sleep through the night. I can run now and be fine, and I can keep up with my kids.”
His new frame also met the Army’s weight standards. Coming from a military family, Montijo aspired to be a soldier since high school.
Now eligible, he searched for a job that fit his interest in either technology, communications or intelligence. He then came across 25S, a satellite communications systems operator-maintainer.
Christian Montijo after the weight loss.
“It had two things that I wanted: communications and technology,” he said. “It was a two-for-one pretty much.”
In January, he plans to ship out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.
A positive example
Before signing his enlistment papers, Montijo credited his recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Ayala, for motivating him when he was still overweight.
Ayala stayed in touch with Montijo since the summer to answer his questions and help map out his goals.
“I wasn’t really expecting that type of engagement that he had with me,” Montijo said.
But for Ayala, he said Montijo’s positive attitude got himself into shape and prepared for the strenuous training to come.
“He’s more than ready, because he’s continuing to lose weight,” Ayala said. “All the working out he has done has been on his own.”
If Montijo is able to carry that same outlook into the Army, Ayala said he wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly jumps up in rank.
“I explained to him that if you have this type of drive to accomplishing his goal, you’re going to pass me up a lot faster in rank,” he said. “The sky’s the limit on the stuff you can accomplish while you’re in the Army.”
Ayala also likes to use him as an example when potential recruits get discouraged about being overweight.
“They look at me all dismayed that their bubble has been popped about joining,” he said of when he informs them about the weight standards.
The recruiter then goes over to his computer and shows them his desktop screen, where he displays Montijo’s before and after photos.
“They’re like ‘wow’ and I even had a couple people say, ‘well if he can do it, I can do it,'” he said.
It’s easy to exhibit mental toughness when you know exactly where the fire is coming from, for example, hostile territory or the far side of the range. It’s a lot harder when you’re not sure if your coworkers, a rival company, or the customer standing across from you is your enemy or your ally.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Navy Vet Dr. Seth Hickerson, the CEO of A Boost Above. They specialize in Leadership and Mental Toughness Training. It’s a little different than you may have experienced in the military though…
We talked about mental toughness, education, loneliness, breathing, domestic terrorism, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So hold onto your butts as you jump into this all too familiar rabbit hole.
How is Boost’s mission to defend the nation against domestic terrorism?
Me and my team are Vets…and we signed an oath to support and defend the United States against ALL enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we believe there are domestic institutions that do not have the best interest of our citizens in mind. Rather they are focused on controlling, manipulating, conditioning people to perpetuate hyper-capitalism and elite ideologies…so we wanted to create a company that provides awareness, education, and more importantly, training to help our citizens live their best lives.
We want people to be healthy, happy, and whole…
In our world out there today, it’s all about psychological warfare, and sadly most of our citizens are completely unarmed…so they are in a losing battle. We want to equip them.
The root cause is simple. We are still utilizing antiquated systems and institutions that were designed during the industrial revolution to produce workers instead of thinkers. The world and society has changed exponentially, but we still push people through “systems,” control media, Perpetuate the illusion of “the American dream” all in an attempt to control the masses while also extracting as much money from them as possible before they die…right before they can cash out their 401ks.
Some of the U.S. Army’s Boost trained Medics.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How can Boost help address the loneliness problem that’s running rampant lately?
First by educating and raising awareness as to why we have a loneliness epidemic. Technology is the main culprit…the devices we are using to “connect” us are actually isolating us. We are devolving as a species….Humans are meant to be tribal, communal, social.
We need to interact…face to face…not online.
Also, technology provides people an opportunity to constantly compare themselves to others. But what they are comparing themselves to are illusions. Not reality.
News media perpetuates this by utilizing fear-based sensationalism…they use stimulus content that makes people fearful, racist, divided, and not want to leave their house.
Social media uses fantasy-based sensationalism….the content on there is FANTASY, but people believe it is real. “Why can’t I have the nice car, vacation, job, family,” Why can’t I look like that, cook like that etc. So it makes them feel less than, feel inadequate.
These are just a few things that perpetuate loneliness.
It takes TRAINING to overcome this stuff…and that’s where we come in.
The civilian world may look cuter and nicer than the military but there’s just as much suck that needs to be embraced.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How specifically can Boost be used to help service members transition out of the military more effectively?
The biggest challenge Vets face when transitioning to civilian life is the loss of identity.
Only Less than 1% of our population serves in the military. It is a tight, highly trained fraternity, brotherhood. We think, act, and behave differently.
It is difficult to transition from the warrior mindset to the civilian one.
In my opinion, the ball gets dropped because we don’t do a good job of educating and prepping Vets before this transition happens. Then when they struggle, get depressed, lose confidence etc…we stick them in the “mental illness model” and expect them to sit on couches, treat them like they are broken, and have them “talk about things” with some egg-head who has never served.
Vets need training….we are mission-oriented…always will be…we need tasks and something to work towards…we don’t need talking…we need training.
Boost is training…not therapy.
Dr. H and cohorts spreading techniques that help vets transition out of the military more successfully.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
Can you give a quick rundown of BAMO, why it works, and why everyone should be using the breath to help regulate themselves?
Since we are Vets…we LOVE acronyms. BAMO is one of the first techniques we teach people. It stands for Breathe And Move On. The two most powerful things in a person’s lives are their thoughts and their breath…and most people have NO idea how to control either.
BAMO is a breathing technique we teach that basically shows you how to “flip the switch” from sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic “aka the parachute”….it is what calms you down.
When someone gets scared due to a stimulus that they have perceived as a threat it activates the sympathetic nervous systems and engages the flight, flight or freeze…rapid heart rate, blood restricts only to essential organs, fear/worry mindset, sweating, trembling, breathing rapidly…it’s very hard to perform when this is happening…so you need a quick way to flip the switch to the parasympathetic nervous system…to calm your ass down..even if it’s just for a few seconds so you can execute the task at hand.
We use the 4×4 breathing technique…a simple breathing technique that you have to PRACTICE…four seconds in through the nose, breathing into the belly, then four second exhale through the mouth…..COUNTING to four in your head on the inhale and exhale (hard to think/worry about anything else) when you are counting in your head. The trick is to practice this breathing technique often throughout the day when you AREN’T SCARED or WORRIED…so that your body can adjust to it and then automate it once any negative stimulus comes your way…that’s when you are on the next level.
Dr. H and Boost sponsor all kinds of events that help make their community stronger in their free time.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
At Boost we are very aware of the alarming suicide problem as it pertains to our military Veterans, and we understand they need access to more tools.
We have served on many deployments and multiple combat operations at all levels…from grunts to upper echelon (SEALs and Rangers). We are also PhD’s in Human Performance, Psychology, and Educational Leadership.
Most importantly, we are Vets that want to help Vets.
Vets need to see what they are doing as training…not therapy. The current model promotes and perpetuates a sense of brokenness. And it’s usually led by someone that has “not been there.”
Vets are warriors. They need to be treated accordingly and given the tools in a way that makes sense to them and makes them proud to be doing the training.
So that’s our approach and philosophy.
We believe that by providing a modern and fun, measurable, accessible training systems utilizing technology is imperative. Our unique methodology (mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training, cognitive fitness training, and spec ops training) can give each and every veteran the tools they need to thrive. No insurance, no appointments, no coaches, no BS…and deployable anywhere anytime.
Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.
Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.
He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”
The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.
Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”
Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.
Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.
Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”
Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.
Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.
Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.
“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”
Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.
“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.
Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.
She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.
“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”
Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates
—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.
—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.
—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Several American servicemen have been killed and injured June 10 after coming under fire in a ‘green-on-blue’ attack in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon has announced.
“Three US soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan today,” the Pentagon said in a statement, adding, that another serviceman was wounded and is now receiving medical treatment.
The three serviceman were identified as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29 of Barstow, California; and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina. The soldiers were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.
Earlier on June 10, Attahullah Khogyani, a provincial spokesman in Nangarhar province, said that two other soldiers were also injured in the attack, which was carried out by an Afghan soldier in the Achin district, where US and Afghan forces are carrying out joint operations against Taliban and Islamic State militants.
“Today at around noon an Afghan commando opened fire on US troops in Achin district, killing two American soldiers. The soldier was also killed in the return fire,” Khogyani told AFP.
A Taliban spokesman claimed the shooter was a part of the militant group and had killed four Americans and injured several more, but this has yet to be confirmed by government sources. The Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province, where the attack took place, is also thought to be a stronghold of IS.
“The cause of the shooting is not clear. An investigation has already begun,” Khogyani said, according to Reuters.
This type of incident, known as a ‘green-on-blue’ attack, is not uncommon in Afghanistan. In March, three American soldiers were wounded by an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand province.
Members of the Afghan security forces, including the army and police, are often undisciplined, corrupt and/or have conflicting loyalties, which leaves these institutions vulnerable to infiltration by the Taliban and other militant groups. In the past, the Afghan government has been heavily criticized for its poor vetting process to weed out unsuitable or dangerous candidates.
The attack comes soon after a case of friendly fire against Afghan forces. On June 10, Afghan officials also confirmed that three policemen had been killed and two others wounded when a US aircraft opened fire during an operation in Helmand Province.
“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the ABP [ Afghan Border Police] members affected by this unfortunate incident,” read a statement from the US military, as quoted by Reuters.
Afghan and American officials are investigating the incident.
Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board. Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.
The idea is at once simple and complex. Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.
“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said. “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”
Mitchell’s process is simple. “I don’t know any of these people,” he said. “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total. They reach out to me online. I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit. And I show up at their house. I don’t usually ask questions.”
The subjects decide on the composition of the essay. “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said. “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.
“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”
The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror. In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.
“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said. “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better. Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.
“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said. “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”
Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.
“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said. “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it. He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want. You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”
And how did the result impact Dowling? “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said. “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”
Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.” “But I’m a student,” he added. “I like to learn.”
After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.
“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said. “Just like any community. The military is no different. That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this. Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community. They’re still people.”
For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.
To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.
PBS’s multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna. The 30th annual broadcast of the concertairs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.
A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists.
The 2019 anniversary edition of the concert will feature Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood — brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert and Joe Mantegna.
Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen — Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) — who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Other features include the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion — featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott and A Gold Star Widow’s Journey — portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz.
For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow — Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) — beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.
The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson; multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley; multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly (additional performers to be announced). The 2019 National Memorial Day Concert will share Lambert’s story of bravery and pay tribute to heroes who sacrificed and died in service to our nation and the world.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Brittany DeBarros is waging the kind of vehement public protest via Twitter against the Defense Department and US government that’s commonplace in the Trump-era — except that DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve assigned to the Army’s Psychological Operations Command.
According to DeBarros’ Twitter account, she has been called up on two-week assignment since July 14, 2018, but each day since then DeBarros has posted tweets criticizing “the horror being carried out by our war machine for profit,” with the Army moving to investigate the officer’s remarks.
The “Dept. of ‘Defense’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide,” DeBarros notes in one tweet. “The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.”
“Defense corporations made contributions to 496 of 525 Congress members in 2018,” DeBarros said in her most recent tweet, posted on July 20, 2018, the seventh day of her assignment. Defense contractors are prolific political donors, though many of their contributions come from their political-action committees, owners, employees, or employees’ immediate families.
DeBarros, however, has stopped short of directly criticizing President Trump during her July 2018 protest; using “contemptuous words” against the president is a violation of military law.
During the speech, DeBarros said she was a combat veteran who identified as a woman, Latina, white, black, and queer, and that as a person “existing at the intersection of these identities, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.”
“For decades, we have been lulled into complacency and inattention as our drones have obliterated weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, ordinary homes, and ordinary people,” DeBarros said.
“We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly 0 billion annually we spend on defense. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponized,” DeBarros added. “From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percent of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace, is it any wonder that our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones, and our neighbors treated like combatants?”
DeBarros’ protest has gained the attention of the Army, which confirmed her assignment to Army Times and said it was looking into her statements.
Officials at US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command “are aware of the situation surrounding Cpt. Brittany DeBarros,” Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Crofoot told Army Times. “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this time.”
Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are permitted to make political statements in public while they have civilian status but doing so is not allowed while they are on active orders. DeBarros did not reply to Facebook messages sent by Army Times, nor did she respond to a Twitter message sent by Business Insider on July 23, 2018.
DeBarros’ June 2018 speech came just a few days after the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone.
Rapone — an Afghanistan combat veteran and a 2016 West Point graduate — posted pictures of himself at his West Point graduation in a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face and with a sign reading, “Communism will win,” inside his hat.
The photos provoked backlash, including a call for an investigation by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, which prompted West Point to say Rapone’s actions “in no way reflect the values” of West Point or the Army.
Rapone enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a Ranger in Afghanistan but became disillusioned with the military soon after joining, he said in June 2018 on an episode of What a Hell of a Way to Die, a left-wing podcast hosted by two combat veterans.
“By the time I deployed, I encountered most people who had no real interest in why we were fighting and [were] more so interested in just the next time they could go out and kill brown people and just [terrorize] the Afghan population,” Rapone said.
“To this day, we had this nebulous idea of going after the Haqqani network, and I’m sure they’re not great dudes, but it’s like, are they really threatening the United States of America?” Rapone said. “And isn’t it the United States that caused Afghanistan to turn into [a] hellscape?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.
Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.
No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM
We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.
Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.
Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.
The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.
Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.
“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.
Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.
Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.
On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.
The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.
“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”
He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.
Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.
Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.
“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.
Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.
“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”
In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”
Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:
— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”
— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”
— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”
From Guam in the Pacific to Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, the U.S. Coast Guard patrols and protects the world’s largest exclusive economic zone, covering nine time zones.
It is one of the five military branches, a member of the intelligence community, a first-responder and humanitarian service, and a law-enforcement and regulatory agency that defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways.
On an average day, the Coast Guard’s more than 56,000 personnel — operating on 243 Cutters, 201 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and more than 1,600 boats — carry out 45 search-and-rescue cases, save 10 lives, seize 874 pounds of cocaine, perform 24 security boardings, screen 360 merchant vessels, do 105 maritime inspections, and assist the movement of $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities in and around the U.S.
Below, you can see photos from a year in the life of the Coast Guard — where no day is ordinary:
27. The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships on Jan. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
26. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Bacone from Maritime Safety and Security Team New York conducts a security sweep with his canine, Ruthie, during a Jan. 19 dinner cruise in Washington, D.C.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
25. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward-deployed in Cold Bay, Alaska, surveys the area around the fishing vessel Predator prior to hoisting three people off near Akutan Harbor on Feb. 13.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
24. U.S. Coast Guard ice-rescue team members training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington on Feb. 17.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison)
23. Boomer, the mascot of Coast Guard Station Crisfield, Maryland, sitting on the deck of a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium on Feb. 28. Boomer was rescued from a shelter and reported to Station Crisfield as the mascot in Dec. 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala)
22. A small boat crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless prepares to get underway to pick up Mexican navy sailors for a partnership meeting in the Gulf of Mexico on March 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams)
21. Coast Guard crew members prepare for a live-fire exercise during a Firearms Training and Evaluation-Pistol course at the Dexter Small Arms Firing Range at Coast Guard Base Honolulu on March 28.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
20. Coast Guard Cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area on April 6.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)
19. Sgt. 1st Class Chris Richards of the Connecticut National Guard along with U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Jewell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Hayden of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak prepare a sling that will be used to hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts on May 9. The buoy broke free of its mooring off the coast of Maine during a winter storm and eventually washed ashore near Chatham.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
18. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oak scrapes mussels off a buoy and shovels them back into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast on May 10.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
17. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton unloads about 18.5 tons of cocaine — worth $498 million — seized in 20 separate incidents in international waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, at Port Everglades, Florida on May 18.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
16. A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City on May 29.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)
15. Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyman Dickinson, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, is lowered into the water from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a joint search-and-rescue exercise with the Mexican navy off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico on June 7.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman)
14. Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard members watch a member of the U.S. Coast Guard demonstrate a maneuver during a maritime law-enforcement training session for Exercise Tradewinds 2017 in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 7.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Marine Seaman Michael Turner)
13. Steven Celestine, a member of the Commonwealth of Dominica Coast Guard, practices law-enforcement techniques during Exercise Tradewinds 2017 at the Barbados Coast Guard Base in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 9.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)
12. Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Rogers, from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego 91109, shows Naval Sea Cadets the MSST’s armory during a tour of the MSST facilities on June 22.
11. Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Stepien, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Eastport, navigates the northern coast of Maine in 29-foot rescue boat on July 26.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
10. Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Nguyen, a health-service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, gives IV training to a joint Coast Guard-Navy dive team and Healy crew members while underway off the coast of Alaska on July 27.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning)
9. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailed into some foggy weather in Casco Bay during its arrival in Portland, Maine on Aug. 4. The arrival coincided with Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier)
8. Overhead view of Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on Aug. 11. The ALC is staffed by about 1,350 Coast Guard members and civilians who maintain aircraft from 25 different Coast Guard air stations.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau)
7. Coast Guard members offload MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Florida on Sept. 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
6. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Elm restores aids to navigation buoys in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Elliott)
5. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson Ernst uses a line-throwing gun to help pass the tow line to 65-foot fishing trawler Black Beauty, off the coast of New Hampshire on Nov. 11.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
4. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Rodriguez, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and Sung Jun Lee, from the Korean coast guard, hoist Oscar the dummy during a vertical-surface and self-rappelling exercise at Makapu’u Lighthouse, Oahu on Nov. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
3. Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Hale, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, demonstrates a rescue procedure to representatives from the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command during the US/China Disaster Management Exchange held at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon on Nov. 16.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read)
2. Crew members from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Florida, take part in survival swim training on Dec. 8.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
1. Coast Guard Lt. Jodie Knox, Sector Lake Michigan, and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Wood, Pacific Strike Team, monitor the lifting of the Sailing Vessel Citadel near Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on Dec. 15.