3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

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Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

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Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 5 most and least patriotic states in America

No state is more patriotic than New Hampshire, with its early voting primary and “Live Free or Die” attitude. At least, that’s what a new WalletHub study on the most patriotic states in America says.

The ranking is not based on the sheer firepower of any state or city’s July 4th celebrations, sadly.

Because in that case, San Diego 2012 had the most patriotism of ALL TIME.


San Diego Fireworks 2012, LOUD and up close

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The data-crunching personal finance site took data points from all 50 states, using what it calls “13 key indicators of patriotism.” The indicators include military-related markers, like average number of enlistees, veteran population, active-duty population and reservists. Those make up the “military engagement” part of the calculation

The site also included other forms of patriotism, like voting, volunteering, civic participation and the emphasis schools put on civic education. These factors (and others) make up the “civic engagement” part of WalletHub’s calculation.

Without further ado, here are America’s most and least patriotic states.

The Most Patriotic

1. New Hampshire

We talked about this. The granite state is as hard-core patriotic as they come. True to the foundations of the United States, New Hampshire once threatened to secede from the Union in protest of what it saw as the federal government’s overreach in taxation and personal freedoms. In 2016.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

U.S. Army artillerymen conduct a sling-load operation during Operation Granite Viper at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015. The artillerymen are assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Benjamin Moreau)

2. Wyoming

If it seems like the least populous states tend to be at the top of the “most patriotic” list, you aren’t wrong. As of January 2020, Wyoming was No. 50 in terms of population in America, but still produced the ninth most troops as a percentage of population — and the fifth most veterans.

3. Idaho

The 39th most populous state is the third most patriotic, according to WalletHub. No small potatoes.

4. Alaska

The home of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, along with dozens of separate units from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, Alaska boasts thousands of military personnel. It also boasts the most military veterans per capita and the second most number of military enlistees. The Great North also invites veterans to come get a share of oil profits.

5. Maryland

Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is the fifth most patriotic state on the list. Unlike some of the other states at the top of the list, Maryland is full of people, the 19th most populous state in the Union. It also produces the fifth most Peace Corps volunteers.

The Least Patriotic

To name the states that are “least patriotic” isn’t to say that they aren’t patriotic at all or that the people who live there don’t love their country. It simply means that they aren’t as active in the 13 areas WalletHub measured as a barometer of patriotism.

46. West Virginia

West Virginia sits atop the bell curve when it comes to military engagement but is close to the very bottom when it comes to voting in presidential elections. Maybe the mountains have something to do with it!

47. Texas

Don’t @ me, Texas. I didn’t come up with this study or its metrics. But while Texas sits at No. 11 for its military engagement (because of course it does, it’s Texas), its weighted civic engagement rating is all the way down at No. 49. If Troy Aikman told you to go vote, would you do it?

48. California

Despite being home to the U.S. Navy’s base in San Diego, the Marine Corps‘ base at Camp Pendleton, and a slew of other military bases, the sheer number of people in California makes it difficult for the state to rise to the top of the list of veterans per capita. The Golden State also has one of lowest numbers of volunteers per capita.

Maybe if we put a drug legalization referendum on the ballot, California’s voter participation will skyrocket.

49. New York

The Empire State has the fewest veterans per capita, which is hardly surprising, given how many people are in New York — and New York City, especially. The state also ranks below California on the volunteerism spectrum. It seems unfair to the rest of New York State, to be weighed down by the City, but the home of the 10th Mountain Division sits solidly at No. 49.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Statues aren’t part of the ranking. (The White House)

50. New Jersey

The state that saw George Washington cross the Delaware to MDK German mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas is now one of the states with the fewest veterans per capita, as the 11th most populous state. It’s also sitting at the bottom of the “military engagement” spectrum and somewhere near the bottom of the “civic engagement” spectrum.

Find out where your home state sits on the list of most patriotic states by visiting WalletHub and learning how it came up with the rankings. Once more, before I hand out my email address and Twitter handle, I’m not calling your home state “unpatriotic.” I’m just the messenger, reminding you to go vote.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

LinkedIn or CheckedOut: How to live your best life after service

Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.


Consider the following in your calculus:

  • Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
  • Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
  • Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”

As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.

Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.

What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?

I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.

In September 2018, I enrolled in a six-month program at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, R.I. that ended with a one-month internship and American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certifications as a Marine Electrician, Diesel Mechanic, and Systems Technician. I wrote about how beneficial that was for me as a veteran while I was serving as a student ambassador at the school. But as I approached the end of the program, I realized I had only deferred my dilemma. I still had to figure out my life after the military.
3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.

My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.

But, it wasn’t.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.

Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.

How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.

It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.

A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.

Work, pay taxes, then die.

As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”

I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?

I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.

We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.

Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 7 edition)

Up in the morning with the rising sun? Running all day ’til the day is done? Well, get to it then. Oh, wait. Hold up for a sec. Before you hit it check these link out:


  • Nothing saps morale like the fear of not getting paid. See what Obama said about your next paycheck in our bud Leo Shane’s report here.
  • The Philippines is ramping up military spending in the face of a growing threat from China. Check out why WESTPAC cruises will continue and more  in this Reuters report.
  • More on biker gangs recruiting military veterans — this time in Colorado — in this Denver Post story here.
  • Colombian generals serve at the pleasure of the president too . . . and he was displeased with the brass’ role in indiscriminately killing civilians. See how many got fired here.
  • Leo also has the lowdown on military retirement reform. How soon will your monthly check be affected? Read this.

And here’s the Killer Video of the Day, a new feature to TFBSATMRN (acronym for this post . . . duh) from the boys developing THE MIGHTY MUSIC channel, a forthcoming WATM vertical coming soon(ish) to your favorite military website. Dig this one from our favorite album so far this summer:

Now look at this: A 78-year-old German man was hiding a full-size tank in his basement 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force medical team saves heart attack victim on flight

A reserve aeromedical evacuation crew from the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron with the 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was flying to support patient transport missions out of Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland when they came together to save the life of a man suspected of having a heart attack Sept. 19, 2018.

About 45 minutes into the commercial flight from Dallas to Maryland a 74-year-old man sitting next to Staff Sgt. April Hinojos, 433rd AES aeromedical evacuation technician, complained to his wife that he felt faint.

Hinojos heard this and asked the man some questions to gauge how he was feeling. She said the man’s eyelids started to flutter, and he stopped responding. Hinojos immediately got assistance moving him to the floor and evaluating his condition.


“He didn’t have a pulse, so we immediately started (chest) compressions,” said Hinojos.

The man’s wife started yelling for a doctor.

“I had just started the movie and through my headphones I hear someone screaming for help,” said Maj. Carolyn Stateczny, flight nurse.

She said she thought, “Screaming for a doctor means something is going on.”

The pilot came over the intercom, and asked if any medical personnel were on the plane.

The rest of the aeromedical evacuation crew, which was scattered throughout the plane, started working their way to Hinojos and the man.

The flight attendants assisted Stateczny by collecting the plane’s medical supplies for the medical crew. Stateczny then got the automated external defibrillator from the flight attendants and prepared it for use. Capt. Justin Stein, flight nurse, attempted to start the man on intravenous fluids, but was unable, because his blood vessels were constricted due to the suspected heart attack.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Tech. Sgts. Robert Kirk and Edgar Ramirez, both aeromedical evacuation technicians, worked on the man’s airway and provided oxygen. 1st Lt. Laura Maldonado, a flight nurse, assisted the rest of the crew by working with the flight attendants and providing supplies as needed.

At this point, the crew was unsure if the man was going to recover.

“I’ve been a nurse for sixteen years; in my expertise, I thought he was dead,” Stateczny said. “He was completely grayish, his lips were blue, and his eyes had rolled to the back of his head. He was not responding at all. He had no pulse.”

The man’s wife was very distraught throughout the ordeal, so the crew requested that she be moved to the rear of the plane, so they could gather the man’s medical information from her.

Stateczny requested that the plane land so the man could get required medical attention.

After getting the automated external defibrillator pads on the man, Stateczny said he moaned, developed a pulse and started to show signs of recovery. They continued with oxygen and kept trying to start an IV.

“He slowly started arousing,” said Statezcny. “It took some time, and he could tell us his name. He started getting some color, and then asked ‘What’s going on?'” The man thought he had just passed out.

The plane diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas, where emergency medical services were waiting to take over patient care.

The aeromedical evacuation squadron members serve in a variety of careers such as nurses, medical technicians, administrative specialists and more. The 433rd AES is ready to fill the need when events like natural disasters, war or routine medical transportation by air is required. AES crews typically consist of five people, two nurses and three medical technicians. The crew carries with them the necessary equipment to turn any cargo aircraft in the Air Force into a flying ambulance almost instantly.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the US military

Plenty of professional athletes have served in the military, but an even smaller number have seen real combat or performed heroic deeds while in uniform. These are five examples:


1. Medal of Honor recipient Jack Lummus told the field doctor “the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today” before he died.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

 

He had a promising career ahead of him in the NFL with the New York Giants, but Jack Lummus answered the call to serve his nation during World War II. Even before his rookie season with the Giants, Lummus tried to drop out of school at Baylor to join the Army Air Corps as a pilot, but he failed.

He later joined the Giants and played in nine games, including the championship game against the Chicago Bears. The Giants lost the game 37-9, and afterward, Lummus joined the Marine Corps Reserve and worked his way up to second lieutenant, according to The Washington Times.

The Times has more:

In the book, “Iwo Jima,” author Richard F. Newcomb detailed the heroics of the former NFL rookie end, who led a unit in battle against the enemy despite suffering injuries from grenade blasts. As he led his troops against enemy positions, “suddenly he was at the center of a powerful explosion, obscured by flying rock and dirt. As it cleared, his men saw him rising as if in a hole. A land mine had blown off both his legs that had carried him to football honors at Baylor.

Lummus was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. Before he died, he told the field doctor, “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today,” according to NBC Sports.

2. NFL player and team coach Tom Landry flew 30 combat missions in a B-17 bomber during World War II.

Tom Landry is considered one of the greatest professional football coaches in NFL history, but before his innovative contributions to the world of football, he was a co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress. After playing football in the 1942 season, he joined the Army Air Forces and was later assigned to the 8th Air Force.

Landry served in 30 combat missions in the skies over Europe and also survived a crash landing, according to NBC Sports.

3. Bob Feller was the first Major League baseball player to volunteer for active duty, just two days after the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Cleveland Indians All-Star pitcher Bob Feller began the trend of professional players giving up their careers in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec.7, 1941. Just two days after the attack, Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

“I was on my way to meet with the general manager of the Cleveland Indians to sign my 1942 contract the day of Pearl Harbor,” he told ESPN. “It was about noon; I had the radio on in the car and had just crossed the river into Quad Cities when I got the news. That was it.”

Feller served on the USS Alabama until 1945 when he was discharged as a Chief Petty Officer. He saw combat in the Pacific, most notably during what he told ESPN was the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

“We shot down over 470 Japanese airplanes in one day [June 19, 1944]. And that was the end of the Japanese Naval Air Force.”

4. Baseball legend Ted Williams gave up four years of his major league career while serving as a Marine pilot in World War II and Korea.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Ted Williams had already cemented his place in baseball lore with the “finest rookie year in baseball history” in 1939, but it wouldn’t be long before the legendary hitter did his duty in the military. After the 1942 season, Williams joined the Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant, but by the time his flight training was finished, much of the air combat was over as well.

He spent much of his time during World War II training for war, and then training others, but he would later be called back to serve in Korea. It was there while serving with the 1st Marine Air Wing that Williams would have a number of brushes with death.

“Once, he was on fire and had to belly land the plane back in,” his friend and fellow pilot John Glenn told MLB.com. “He slid it in on the belly. It came up the runway about 1,500 feet before he was able to jump out and run off the wingtip. Another time he was hit in the wingtip tank when I was flying with him. So he was a very active combat pilot, and he was an excellent pilot and I give him a lot of credit.”

Williams returned to baseball once again in 1953 — this time to a hero’s welcome. But he maintained an attitude of modesty.

“Everybody tries to make a hero out of me over the Korean thing. I was no hero,” Williams wrote in his biography. “There were maybe 75 pilots in our two squadrons and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did. But I liked flying. It was the second-best thing that ever happened to me. If I hadn’t had baseball to come back to, I might have gone on as a Marine pilot.”

5. Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative NFL career to become a U.S. Army Ranger.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Having been selected in the 1998 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals, Pat Tillman was three years into a lucrative career in pro football when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He finished the 2001 season and then enlisted in the U.S. Army with his younger brother Kevin, according to Biography.

“At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed,” he told a reporter a day after the attacks, according to The Pat Tillman Foundation. “A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”

Both Pat and his brother deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2004 as Rangers with the 75th Ranger Regiment. During an ambush in a canyon on the evening of April 22, 2004, Tillman was killed by friendly-fire after his unit mistook an Afghan soldier near him as an insurgent and opened fire, according to ESPN.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Theresa Bowman

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Theresa Bowman was born in the Philippines and grew up as a Navy brat. Theresa began her music career very early. At age four she began to play piano, and by junior high, she demonstrated great vocal talent. Eventually, Theresa branched out musically and developed an interest in stringed instruments.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
Theresa Bowman (US Air Force)

In high school she picked up both cello and ukulele. Fortunately, her ukulele is small enough to accompany her on deployment, so she has had the opportunity to practice and write music from anywhere. In 2008, she joined the Air Force, serving as an Air Battle Manager on the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System. She continued to perform on active duty, and has since separated from the Air Force. Theresa recorded “Your Lullaby” on Operation Encore’s first album, the first song she ever wrote and completed.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
MIGHTY MOVIES

5 lessons we can all learn from Marine Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley

In what is widely considered the best role of his acting career, legendary film and television star Louis Gossett Jr. plays Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, a hardcore drill instructor, in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
(Paramount Pictures)

Gossett Jr.’s portrayal of a no-nonsense DI in the film earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. If you watch his performance, you’ll quickly see why Oscar came calling. The character is crude and tough on the group of would-be pilots attending a 13-week Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School where he serves as the primary instructor.

Like many great actors who have donned the campaign hat on the silver screen, as DI Foley, Louis Gossett Jr. imparts knowledge on how to survive the daily challenges of life in his own unique way.

Here’s what we can all learn from Gossett Jr.’s Oscar-worthy performance.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

(Paramount Pictures)

Humble yourself

Some of the best and most memorable lines of the film come in the early scenes when new recruits line up to hear Gunnery Sergeant Foley talk about what they should expect in the next 13 weeks of training. Foley knocks each person down a couple of pegs by making them understand they are, in fact, not special.

When Foley asks one of the recruits named Della Serra if he was a “college boy,” the character quickly lists his academic accolades, saying he graduated in mathematics with honors.

Della Serra gets a rude awakening from Foley when the Marine shows him his cane with notches on it. Each notch represents each “college puke” who has dropped on request during his time in the program. Foley suggests Della Serra may be one of those notches and then tells the group that half of them will not make it through the training.

In this powerful scene, DI Foley lets all the recruits know that his authority outweighs their individualism.

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Have good character

Although Mayo has all the skills and physical traits to pass the course, Foley consistently questions Mayo’s strenght of character. Officer Candidate Mayo is an arrogant and self-centered individual only looking out for himself. He’s also quite the hustler, selling inspection-ready boots and belt buckles to his fellow recruits to make a quick buck.

After discovering Mayo’s little racket, Foley gives him a chance to straighten up his act during a weekend-long smoke session. Foley breaks Mayo down physically and emotionally. It’s during this sequence that the audience is treated to the film’s famous scene in which Gere’s character screams, “I got nowhere else to go!” This is the turning point. From here on out, we see a change in Mayo’s character and attitude.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

(Paramount Pictures)

The importance of teamwork

Mayo’s change of attitude is clear when instead of trying to achieve an individual obstacle course record, he goes back to encourage one of his fellow classmates, a young lady named Seeger, as she struggles to get over a 12-foot wall. Thanks to Foley, Mayo learns the true value of teamwork.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

(Paramount Pictures)

Quitting is not the answer

Tensions between the two main characters rise yet again toward the end of the movie. Following the death of his friend, Mayo wants to speak with Foley in private.

After Foley dismisses his request, telling him to get back to work, Mayo gives his DOR. Instead of accepting his resignation, Foley asks to meet Mayo a nearby hanger — where they fight it out. After fists fly, Foley tells Mayo that if he still wants to quit, he can. By that point, Foley knows the recruit has come too far to quit now.

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Respect

At the end of the movie, the officer candidates earn the rank of ensign. Per tradition, each new officer receives his or her first salute from the instructor and, in turn, each officer hands Foley a silver dollar. When Mayo hands Foley his coin, the Marine places it in his right pocket instead of his left. This act symbolizes respect for Mayo as an exceptional candidate.

“I won’t ever forget you, sergeant,” Mayo says after the salute. You can see Foley start to choke up just a bit when he replies, “I know.” The mutual respect between the two is evident.

Although it’s only a movie, many veterans may have encountered someone in real life who reminds them of DI Foley.

Tell us who made an impact on your life during your time in the military in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coach Wooden’s Advice for 2021

When Coach John Wooden arrived at UCLA in 1948, the athletic department promised him they would eventually get him a nice gym. But until then, he had to share a poorly lit, unventilated facility with the wrestling team, the cheerleaders, and the gymnastics team, often with everyone practicing at the same exact time. This existence was Wooden’s reality for 16 years.  

I’m sure during those first years at UCLA, the administration continued to promise that construction on the new facility was right around the corner. Wooden could have been tempted to hold off on pushing his basketball program until the perfect gym was completed. Yet, it was in that ragged facility he shared with the other teams that he built the winning team for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1964 and 1965. Reflecting on his team’s success he wrote, “You could have written a long list of excuses why UCLA shouldn’t have been able to develop a good basketball team….you must take what is available and make the very most of it.”

Coach Wooden’s lesson is the one we need for 2021. How many of us put life on hold in 2020 when the Coronavirus changed our reality to wait for that time when things were back to “normal?” We put off activities like getting in shape or connecting with friends and family because we were waiting for the return of the familiar. Those of us who fell into this hopeful state wasted the time and resources we had available to just maintain the status quo. It’s almost been a year since the world changed. What do you have to show for your new normal?

In 2021, let’s heed the coach’s wisdom and make the most of the resources at our fingertips. Start that project you’ve been putting off. Begin that hobby you bought all the parts and pieces for back in March but never started. Do body weight exercises while you wait for your gym to re-open. Call that family member you weren’t able to visit over the holidays or focus on that relationship that took a hit while you were both stuck at home all the time. Whatever it is, don’t make any more excuses. Focus on action. Remove from your vocabulary the phrase, “When things return to normal, I’m going to…” 

Finally, I would like to leave you with a passage that was written down 2000 years before Coach Wooden set foot in that run-down gym at UCLA. It was written by the Roman philosopher Seneca in a treatise titled, On the Shortness of Life. He said, “Life is divided into three periods, past, present, and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, and the past is certain.” In other words, the only thing we can affect is the present so don’t let another year go by without taking action on whatever it is in your life that you’re putting off for a post-COVID world.

In 12 months we are going to do what we inevitably do before a new year. We’re going to reflect. Let’s look back on 2021 and know that we made the most of it; that we didn’t wait for a new gym. Instead, we found opportunities within our individual realities and we seized them. Let this be our new normal. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first US casualty of the Gulf War was a downed pilot

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher was flying his F/A-18 Hornet 100 miles west of Baghdad on Jan. 17, 1991. It was just minutes into the first night of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led coalition’s offensive to expel the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Speicher’s plane was shot down that night – but by what?

He was the first American combat casualty in the war.


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Speicher was listed as missing in action, presumed taken prisoner by the Iraqi Army, after being briefly listed as killed. The Pentagon didn’t actually know. The military didn’t even really know how Speicher’s Hornet had been taken down. The Navy’s initial conclusion was that Speicher was taken down by a land-based surface-to-air missile and maintained that throughout the next decade. But other American pilots operating in the area that night reported the presence of an Iraqi MiG-25.

That Foxbat’s pilot was Lt. Zuhair Dawoud, who managed to evade a large formation of attacking American planes, singling out Speicher’s Hornet and firing a R-40D missile that exploded directly beneath Speicher’s cockpit. With the plane shredded, Speicher bailed out as Dawoud turned to find another target. Speicher did not survive long.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines patrol the Haditha Triad in Iraq’s Anbar Province. It was the 3/3 Marines who found Speicher’s remains.

The pilots in the air that night knew Speicher was taken down by the MiG-25 Foxbat. His aircraft crashed 48 miles south of Qadessiya, where the wreckage remained. According to War Is Boring, the Hornet’s digital recorder was recovered from Iraq in 1995 and confirmed the missile hit. The CIA would not confirm Speicher’s death until 2001, and even then his body had still not been recovered.

Even after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military was not able to determine Speicher’s fate. Eventually, they found that he was never captured by the Iraqis but rather was buried by Bedouins who found his body after the shootdown. Marines occupying Anbar Province in 2008 found his remains and sent them back to the U.S. They were positively identified by his jawbone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is the only country that believes its Iranian nuke intel

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has “no credible” evidence Iran was working on developing a nuclear “explosive device” after 2009 and that the UN’s nuclear watchdog considered the issue “closed” after it was presented in a report in December 2015.

The 2015 report “stated that the agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009. Based on the director-general’s report, the board of governors declared that its consideration of this issue was closed,” the IAEA said in a statement on May 1, 2018.


“In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all safeguards-relevant information available to it. However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information,” it added.

The IAEA statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 30, 2018, that Israel had documents that showed new “proof” of an Iranian nuclear-weapons plan that could be activated at any time.

Under an agreement in 2015 with world leaders, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to ease concerns it could be put to use in developing bomb material. In return, Tehran won relief from most international sanctions.

Since then, UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.

European states have dismissed the significance of documents, while the United States welcomed them as evidence of Iranian “lies.”

Iran has accused Netanyahu of being an “infamous liar” over the allegations, which come as the United States is considering whether to pull out of an atomic accord with Tehran, which has always rejected allegations that it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was solely for civilian purposes.

“The documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear-weapons program for years” while it was denying it was pursuing such weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on April 30, 2018, as he returned to Washington from a trip to Europe and the Middle East.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“What this means is [Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers] was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies,” Pompeo said, adding that the trove of documents Israel said it obtained on Iran’s so-called Project Amad to develop nuclear weapons before 2004 contain “new information.”

“The Iranians have consistently taken the position that they’ve never had a program like this. This will belie any notion that there wasn’t a program,” Pompeo said.

Netanyahu made his dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the May 12, 2018 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether he will withdraw from the deal, which requires Iran to curb some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Reuters reported on May 1, 2018, that according to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu informed Trump about the evidence during a meeting in Washington on March 5, 2018, and that the U.S. president agreed Israel would publish the information before the May 12, 2018 deadline.

The White House on May 1, 2018, said the United States “certainly supported” efforts by Netanyahu to release intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

In a May 1, 2018 interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he did not seek war with Iran, but it was Tehran “that’s changing the rules in the region.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement on May 1, 2018, that accusations Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions were “worn-out, useless, and shameful” and came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits.”

“How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, adding that the Israeli claims were “ridiculous” and “a rehash of old allegations.”

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(Photo by Carlos Rodríguez)

‘This shows why deal needed’

European powers also said they were not impressed by the nearly 55,000 documents that Netanyahu claimed would prove that Iran once planned to develop the equivalent of “five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”

“We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions,” a British government spokesman said, adding that that was why the nuclear agreement contained a regime to inspect suspected Iranian nuclear sites that is “one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords.”

“It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” the British spokesman said.

Britain, France, and Germany are the three European powers that signed the deal, along with Russia, China, and the United States.

European officials said the documents provided by Israel contained no evidence that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons after the 2015 deal was signed, so they indirectly confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.

France’s Foreign Ministry said on May 1, 2018, that the Israeli information could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities, as the information proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained.

A German government spokesman said Berlin will analyze the materials provided by Israel, but added that the documents demonstrate why the nuclear deal with its mandatory inspections must be maintained.

“It is clear that the international community had doubts that Iran was carrying out an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” the spokesman said. “It was for this reason the nuclear accord was signed in 2015.”

Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 30, 2018, who afterward said in a statement issued by the Kremlin that the nuclear deal remains of “paramount importance to international stability and security, and must be strictly observed by all its signatories,” the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The White House welcomed the Israeli announcement, saying that Tel Aviv had uncovered “new and compelling details” about Tehran’s efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”

“The United States has long known Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear-weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said.

The jousting over the Israeli announcement came as Trump repeated his strong opposition to the deal, which he called a “horrible agreement.”

“In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” Trump said at the White House. “That is not acceptable.”

Many observers have concluded that Trump will move to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal on May 12, 2018.

Trump did not say on April 30, 2018, what he will do, but he rejected a suggestion that walking away from the Iran deal would send a bad signal to North Korea as it negotiates with Washington over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“I think it sends the right message” to Pyongyang, Trump said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just posted a $4.5 billion black ops project

The Air Force’s Special Access Programs is the highest level of top secret USAF funding – and it just put out a juicy new request for proposals. The service wants to spend $4.5 billion and hire 1,000 employees to develop a program that would “provide physical security and cybersecurity services to safeguard its most sensitive information.”


3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Billions spent just to counter all the Chinese people who have computers. Probably.

Sure, the price tag doesn’t really compare to some of the other Air Force programs out there. The F-35 program cost a whopping id=”listicle-2638759949″.5 trillion over more than a decade. The penetrating counter air program, the F-35 successor, would cost more than three times that. So the Air Force is no stranger to spending tons of cash on secret weapons. This time, the secret is much less public than ever before.

Air Force Special Access Programs were once referred to as the USAF’s “black programs,” clandestine development budgets that few in government were totally informed about and had little Congressional oversight due to the classified nature of their work. This latest program, Security Support Services, falls within that budget.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

There is so much money flying around in this photo.

For those who know what working in government programs entails, the job descriptions for the potential hires alone can tell us a lot about the sensitive nature of their impending work. Employees for the new program would have to have an active TS/SCI security clearance (one of the highest in government) with a polygraph examination. Taking a lie detector test is just one of many added security measures that not every Federal employee with a clearance has to do.

But they’ll have to take it to work on USAF Security Support Services. Other duties will include: implement comprehensive security protocols to protect advanced technology programs throughout their life cycles, counterintelligence analysis, training, and investigations, and network monitoring and incident detection, response and remediation.

The Air Force’s final request for proposals will be released on Aug. 8, 2019, – and that’s all anyone needs to know.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Becoming the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” does not happen overnight. It takes decades of dedication by men and women around the United States. From July 19 to July 22, 2019, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan visited the men and women at the 45th Space Wing and attended the 50th anniversary event of NASA’s historic Apollo 11.

Since former President John F. Kennedy’s revered “moon speech,” the race to establish dominance in space has been apparent. When the U.S. first put man on the moon July 20, 1969, the world held its breath.

Now, 50 years later, Donovan – along with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, NASA employees and thousands watching across the world – looked back on this historic moment at the Apollo 11 anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center.


“I was 10 years old, and my mom let me stay up late to watch the landing on television,” Donovan said, recalling the moment he watched the first man walk on the moon. “I remember the previous Christmas, I received and built the Apollo Saturn V model moon rocket. The moon landing captured the imagination of everyone, young and old. It was really an amazing time. It’s hard to believe that was 50 years ago.”

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

(NASA)

Visiting the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” reminded Donovan of how he felt during that time, as he met airmen — both at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — who contribute to the leaps and bounds the Air Force makes each day with its space capabilities.

The airmen of the 45th Space Wing are focused on 100% mission success while delivering assured access to space for the warfighter and the nation. Donovan met with some of these airmen at Space Launch Complex-37 on July 19, 2019, to receive a brief on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket and learn how the airmen play a role in the space mission.

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” Kennedy said during his 1962 speech at Rice University, Houston.

Donovan agrees.

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan shakes hands with 45th Operations Group Airman July 19, 2019, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

“These airmen and the space mission are absolutely critical,” Donovan said. “Over the years, whether it be a global positioning system, communications or intelligence and reconnaissance mission; our foothold in space is critical. It’s so critical that our adversaries have noticed that and gone to school on the American way of war. From that, we now look forward to the development of the United States Space Force.”

The role of 45th Space Wing Airmen will change significantly because they’ll be some of the first individuals moved into the new service, Donovan said. I wish I could go back and do it all over again as to be on the ground floor of such a historical event as standing up a sixth service. I think it’s very exciting – the role that our airmen are going to play.

As U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force come to fruition in the years to come, there is much excitement from the airmen of the 45th SW, the Air Force and the United States as a whole.

“One of the things that excites me the most for the future is the synergy that we have between the government and the space launch industry,” Donovan said. “Through different space pioneers, we’re able to lower the cost of space launch and pack more capabilities into a smaller package. Just imagine the possibilities that will come from that. I’m excited to see, in the years to come, our space capabilities taken to the next level for the nation.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.