Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY STORIES

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.

I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.

I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.

I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.


It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.

In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.

In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’

I was blown away.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.

The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.

A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.

Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.

I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.

I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.

As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.

When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.

On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’

On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.

He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.

He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’

You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.

‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’

I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.

I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.

I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’

I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’

I can still hear his scream.

Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.

1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.

I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.

The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.

As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.

Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)

I never lost hope.

‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.

Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.

There he was.

My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.

All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’

On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.

I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.

I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.

The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.

I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.

One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’

Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.

This was it.

I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.

But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’

They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’

We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.

It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.

As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.

I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.

‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.

‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.

‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’

‘But I will miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too.’

It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.

My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.

On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.

There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.

I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.

There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.

Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.

Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’

I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.

When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.

In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.

I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.

Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.

One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.

So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.

I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?

Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.

I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.

I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.

I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.

We were worth it.

He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.

Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.

I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.

Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.

Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.

Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.

Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.

We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.

Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.

Honor Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and other heroes this Memorial Day by participating in The Unquiet Professional’s Virtual Memorial Day Mile. Join their Facebook group here.

Articles

The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.


Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.

The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.

The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.

As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.

“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.

It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.

In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Kailua Business Owner and Mom Wins $15k Grant in National Pitch Contest

Kailua business owner Kate Reimann won the Female Founder Veteran Small Business Award at the virtual Women Veterans Summit presented by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services on Friday, June 19. She takes home the grand prize, a $15,000 grant for her business, Rogue Wave.


Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

A military spouse and mom of two, Reimann is the founder and CEO of Rogue Wave, making compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. The idea struck while she and her family lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and became fully formed after they moved to Kailua, Hawaii, where she registered her business and began 3D printing prototypes. Her husband, a colonel in the US Air Force, is stationed at Hickam AFB.

Reimann’s five-minute pitch was viewed and voted on by over 150 virtual attendees and judges nation-wide. The pitch competition was part of a two-month endeavor, which began with a 60 second video submission in April. Over 100 female veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs submitted, and Reimann was chosen as one of 12 semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists had 2 weeks to secure the top 3 finalist position based on popular votes.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Reimann moved from the bottom three to the top three within the two-week voting period for a shot at the grand prize ,000 grant, sponsored by StreetShares Foundation and the Sam Adams Boston Brewing Company. Reimann gave her pitch at 5 am Hawaii time (11 am EST) in her living room, lit by lamplight, before the sun came up.

“It was such an honor to make it to the final three and truly humbling to know that people really believe in the Rogue Wave mission. I’m humbled and so, so excited for the future of this business,” Reimann said.

The pitch centered on the destructive nature of conventional oil-based plastics and the need to re-envision our materials economy. Reimann intends to use the funds to promote the compostable beach toys and raise awareness on plant-based alternatives.

“The other two founders have really strong – and really important – businesses. But I think the results show that people are ready for alternatives and recognize the urgency of our situation – we need an alternative materials economy now.”

Rogue Wave has started manufacturing and is taking pre-orders.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Rogue Wave makes certified compostable beach toys using plastic made from plants, not petroleum. Founder, Kate Reimann, military spouse and mom of two, was inspired to make better products using better materials after a day at the beach with her family – and she’s not stopping at the beach.

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For more information, please contact Kate Reimann at aloha@roguewavetoys.com or visit www.roguewavetoys.com

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

North Korea is reportedly preparing missiles and rockets by the hundreds to parade around Pyongyang the day before the South Korean Winter Olympics kicks off in an attempt “to scare the hell out of the Americans.”


“Hundreds of missiles and rockets” will be on display, according to CNN’s Will Ripley. Ripley reports this will include “many dozens” of Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the type North Korea most recently tested that experts assess could hit the entire continental US with a large nuclear warhead.

South Korean media reports that launchers that stretch 250 meters and 50 meters have already been spotted at Mirim Airport in Pyongyang.

Ripley, who frequently travels to North Korea, cited diplomatic sources “with deep knowledge of North Korea’s intentions” as saying they would show off the missiles to “scare the hell out of” US citizens as the two countries’ leaders exchange nuclear threats.

But as is often the case with North Korea, the bark may be worse than the bite. Ripley notes that foreign media has been banned from the parade, meaning only North Korean imagery will come out of the event.

Also read: What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

This gives North Korea ample opportunity to doctor the images, as they often do. North Korea’s dozens of ICBMs may be faked, made of different materials, and almost certainly not coupled with actual nuclear warheads.

North Korea has made considerable efforts to capitalize on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as a propaganda coup, going as far as to rewrite their own history as the pretense for moving its usual military parade from April to February, when Pyongyang is bitterly cold.

Related: A failed North Korean missile crashed in its own city this year

Ripley reports that North Korea may conduct additional missile tests in the near future. If they do, the country runs a higher-than-ever-before risk of incurring the US’s military wrath, as talk of strikes on North Korea has reportedly reached a fever pitch in Trump’s inner circle.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This might be the best Ranger panties ad ever made

For the first time ever, I find myself seriously considering buying Ranger panties. And not just buying them; wearing them to all sorts of events. These are about to be the centerpiece (and possibly only piece) of my Valentine’s Day outfit. And it’s all thanks to this ad from Dog Company of some battalion or another:


Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Look at it. Really look at it. It’s got puns, it’s got rhymes, it’s got suggestive language, it’s got a joke at the expense of cavalry scouts (thanks for securing our routes, sorry about all the jokes).

It even suggests that Ranger panties are perfect for signing into the unit when you get to Dog Company, which, come on, if you’re not checking to see if they have openings for your MOS already, you’re doing it wrong. My old MOS, unfortunately, does not appear in any infantry MTOEs, so I have to long after these shorts from afar.

But not Dog Company. No, these guys apparently get to throw on their Ranger panties, smack their significant other on the Ranger panty-clad butt, and then charge into battle against communists with guns firing and thighs open to the air, absorbing the sun’s rays and warmth while the commies are absorbing the bullets.

When they’re done with that, they get to have a short meeting with first sergeant, still in the Ranger panties and ostensibly still covered in the gore of their enemies, before going to a wedding or two and a few children’s parties.

The clown isn’t going to be the scariest thing at that party. Thank Valhalla for that.

We’re still not sure which infantryman found a keyboard and typed up this beautiful masterpiece. The fact that they found a keyboard indicates maybe an XO, but the fact that the final advertisement is quality indicates a specialist or corporal.

Maybe it was a team-up? Regardless, grab a pair if you happen to be in Dog Company (all proceeds benefit the FRG!). If you’re not, just get your panties from Ranger Joe’s or your own FRG or whatever. We can’t help you.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

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

Articles

That time a guy jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet with no chute — and survived

On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.


Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.

His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”

In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.

When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.

“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”

So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.

The RAF Museum picks up the story:

He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.

Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.

He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.

“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.

The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”

Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 received three upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2017.


The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.

“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). This upgraded version of the Cobra is not yet available to the fleet. The helicopter features a larger engine and has two more blades than the Cobra’s original two, giving it more power and maneuverability. Wasp is conducting test flight operations and was chosen as the platform to evaluate the Limits and capabilities of newer models of Aircraft. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

More Firepower

The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.

“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”

Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Also Read: This is why the H-1 Huey has a special place in US military history

“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”

The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.

“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/USMC

Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.

“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”

Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.

“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

YouTube videos tracking Notre Dame cathedral fire mistakingly show 9/11 details

A YouTube feature designed to stop the spread of misinformation became a major source of confusion on April 15. Multiple YouTube viewers tracking the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reported that live streams and news videos were displaying an information panel related to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

YouTube’s algorithm automatically determines when a subject is trending news and attaches an information panel automatically. The information panel feature is available only in the US and South Korea, and it is meant to provide news from verified sources and counter videos that share conspiracy theories and false narratives.

There have been no reports of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire being a terrorist attack, so it’s unclear why YouTube would link the two events.


This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:

Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?

We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.


We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?

But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.

Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.

But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.

What to expect if your service member is killed:

Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.

These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.

You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.

The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)

You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.

If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.

What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.

What if your service member is wounded?

The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:

You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.

If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.

You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.

What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?

Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?

That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)

Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:

The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.

You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:

Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,

On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.

On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.

Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.

The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.

You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.

Also read: This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA’s next big project is an airplane-deployed drone swarm

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency plans to demonstrate an ability to launch and recover small drones from an Air Force C-130 aircraft as part of its continued development of the Gremlins program — a technical effort designed to deploy groups of small drones carrying 60-pound sensor payloads up to ranges of 300 nautical miles.


The program is expected to culminate in an air launch and recovery demonstration in 2019.

The drones are intended to perform a range of missions, such as testing enemy air defenses and conducting ISR missions for an hour on station before returning to an Air Force C-130, developers said. A key concept of the program is extending the mission range of aircraft, while allowing manned crews to operate at safer distances.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
The AC-130J Ghostrider will provide close air support, special operations armed airborne reconnaissance, and ordnance delivery to precise targets in support of ground forces. (Courtesy photo)

Gremlins moves beyond existing state-of-the-art programs able, which are able to launch, but not recover, swarms of mini-drones. The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, an initiative aimed at harnessing near-term emerging technologies for operational use, demonstrated an ability to launch small drones from the flare dispenser of an F-16. While able to blanket areas with ISR and perform significant mission-enhancing functions, they are expendable and not available for re-use.

“For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well,” said DARPA in a statement.

Read More: Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Gremlins could well be described as a technological leap in manned-unmanned teaming beyond state-of-the-art technology, as it enables drones to launch, perform missions and then return to a host aircraft. As algorithms for increased levels of autonomy advance, aircraft will be able to control drones from the cockpit with a pilot in a command and control role, service experts have explained.

At the moment, Army helicopters can used “manned-unmanned” teaming to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones, and the Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias has told Warrior that F-35 and F-22 fighter jets may soon have the technical ability to navigate multiple drones from the air. The idea is to use unmanned aircraft to perform ISR missions, delivery weapons or test high-risk air defenses or enemy formations without putting pilots in harm’s way. This day is fast approaching, given the pace of current progress developing algorithms enabling higher levels of autonomy, Zacharias has explained.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
(GIF created from DARPAtv YouTube)

As of earlier this year, DARPA has continued its contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Dynetics to move Gremlins into the next phase of development, an effort which involves testing and a Preliminary Design Review.

The Gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses provides significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, a General Atomics statement said.

“We see the potential for using this technology on our own Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper® to offer our customers new mission capabilities,” David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI, said in a written statement.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic music video from Mat Best is everything you miss about active duty

Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.


You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.

Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

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Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.

Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.

But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.

And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.

And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.

Articles

How the military uses video games to get better at killing

Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.


Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.

The system doesn’t use wires or tethers to power the suits or transmit data, so participants can move like they would in the real world.

Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
The Dismounted Solder Training System allows soldiers to train as a squad. Photo: US Army Maj. Penny Zamora

Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.

One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.

The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson
Soldiers train in the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 April 6, 2015 in before heading to live-fire training at Saber Junction 15. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Barrieau

The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.

While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.

And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.

Until then, there’s always video games.

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