Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 4 best online programs from universities you can trust with your GI Bill

Becoming a veteran is one of the most rewarding statuses you can achieve. Serving your country and being the best person you can be is highly respectable. It’s a feeling like no other.


However, when time in the military comes to an end, many veterans are left scratching their heads, wondering what to do next. Fortunately, the intelligence, discipline, and mindset that you develop, train, and perfect while in service makes going to university a very favorable option.

No matter what civilian career path you want to take up next, be it cooking, engineering, or anything in between, attending an online university can help you get there — it’s just a matter of deciding which one is best for you.

To give you a helping hand, here are four of the best online university programs you can join today that have been designed with military-experienced people, such as yourself, in mind.

4. Syracuse University

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Syracuse University’s campus in Syracuse, N.Y.

Onward to Opportunity – Veterans Career Transition Program

One great program, made possible thanks to the efforts of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is the Onward to Opportunity program. Also referred to as the O2O-VCTP, this is a skills-based program that provides military veterans with all kinds of career training, as well as certifications and qualifications, to help you secure the job that you want.

The program offers job placement support for both veterans and their spouses, giving you everything you need to make the best start in this new chapter of your life. The program is available online as well as in a variety of physical locations and includes over 30 recognized career paths, career coaching opportunities, and interview preparation services.

3. Arizona State University

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
The Arizona State campus in Tempe, Ariz.

Military/Veteran Students Program

Marketed as one of the best and highest nationally-ranked military universities, Arizona State University provides comprehensive services that give you everything you need to succeed. In fact, this program was voted as one of the 2017 Best for Vets Colleges by Military Times.

The program has served and catered to over 1,300 service men and women and is renowned for being one of the most committed courses in the United States.

This ASU service offers tuition assistance, multiple and exclusive offers and benefits, transfer services, an easy-to-use online application, and even services where your spouse or partner can enroll and progress their own career.

2. Penn State World Campus

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Old Main on Penn State’s University Park campus.

Military & Veteran Students

Penn State is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, and the Military courses are no exception. The university staff knows what veterans have gone through during their time in the military and strives to proactively express gratitude for service in return.

Once enrolled in the online course, you’ll be able to choose a degree to work toward through the famous World Campus platform. Here, you’ll be able to earn a degree from universally recognized facility. In addition to comprehensive courses, you’ll have full and unrestricted access to a dedicated Academic Military Support Team, a full collection of grants and scholarships, as well as any transfer credits you may be entitled to.

It’s also worth noting that the university is GI Bill- and Yellow Ribbon Program-approved and is ranked number one when it comes to after-course corporate recruiters, meaning you’ll have the finest support when securing a well-paid and highly rewarding job with your newfound education.

1. University of Southern California

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Southern Cal’s campus in Los Angeles.

Online Military Students Program

USC prides itself on transforming your military experience into the foundation of your new career. USC Online offers a comprehensive course that could be everything you’ve been looking for.

The course offers a full range of courses to choose from, including cyber security, GIS, military social work, a master of business program, and many more. The course is renowned for being one of the best in the United States, and you’ll also have access to all the exclusive benefits, such as Spouse education, funding, and admission support.

Mary Walton is an editor at BigAssignments, an Australian writing service. Also, she proofreads content for OXEssays, a British writing service. You can read reviews of such services at Revieweal.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Last week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of a small island in the South China Sea claimed by Communist China. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Other ships, like the Hopper’s sister ship, USS John S. McCain, have made similar runs.


So, you might ask yourself, “why continue running these kinds of routes when they piss off China?” After all, the Hopper was warned off by a Chinese Communist missile frigate and Scarborough Shoal, the island in question, isn’t even inhabited — what’s the point?

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)

Well, part of the reason is to contest China’s claim over pretty much all of the South China Sea. This is a claim that was rejected by an international tribunal in the summer of 2016, although China pulled a Lannister-esque gambit and boycotted the proceedings. China has since built some island bases in the disputed region and uses them to not only support aircraft operations but also houses surface-to-air missiles as well.

So, in addition to disputing the claims of the Chinese in the South China Sea, these near-passes provide an opportunity to get a good look at the electronic emissions and other military capabilities on island bases.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

The United States Navy calls these close passes “freedom of navigation” exercises. The term sounds innocent enough, but similar exercises resulted in brief battles with Libya in 1981, 1986, and 1989, which included the sinking of two Libyan naval vessels and the downing of Su-22 “Fitter” and MiG-23 “Flogger” combat jets by F-14 Tomcats. In one instance in the 1980s, a pair of Soviet frigates bumped the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
The Soviet Krivak I class guided missile frigate BEZZAVETNY (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS YORKTOWN (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Currently, the freedom of navigation exercises have not drawn hostile fire from Chinese Communist forces. However, it has not been unusual for American planes to be buzzed by ChiCom jets, as happened on multiple occasions in 2017, one of which mirrored a secne in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. In 2001, a ChiCom J-8 “Finback” collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance aircraft, which, as a result, had to make an emergency landing.

Articles

How the Air Force plans to make the F-22 Raptor more deadly

Lockheed Martin completed the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline, a company statement said.


“Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor’s Very Low Observable radar cross-section,” Lockheed stated.

The increase in F-22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support, and antenna calibration.

Also, Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that, by 2019, the service will begin upgrading F-22 functionality for the AIM-120D and AIM-9X Air-to-Air missiles as well as enhanced Air-to-Surface target location capabilities. The F-22 currently carries the AIM-9X Block 1 and the current upgrade will enable carriage of AIM-9X Block 2.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
An F-22A Raptor fires an AIM-9M Sidewinder missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers explain that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuse and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

Another part of the weapons upgrade includes engineering the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, designed for all weather day-and-night attacks; it is a “fire and forget” missile with active transmit radar guidance, Raytheon data states. The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing attack range, GPS navigation, inertial measurment units, and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explain.

The AIM-120D also includes improved High-Angle Off-Boresight technology enabling the weapon to destroy targets at a wider range of angles.

Additional upgrades to the stealth fighter, slated for 2021, are designed to better enable digital communications via data links with 4th and 5th generation airplanes.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
USAF photo by Master Sgt. John Gordinier

As the Air Force and Lockheed Martin move forward with weapons envelope expansions and enhancements for the F-22, there is, of course, a commensurate need to upgrade software and its on-board sensors to adjust to emerging future threats, industry developers explained. Ultimately, this effort will lead the Air Force to draft up requirements for new F-22 sensors.

The Air Force is in the early phases of designing new sensors for its stealthy 5th-generation F-22 Raptor as it proceeds with software upgrades, hardware adjustments, new antennas, and data link improvements designed to better enable to connect the F-22 and F-35 sensor packages to one another, industry officials explained.

Sensor interoperability, two-way data links, and other kinds of technical integration between the two 5th-Gen stealth aircraft are considered key to an Air Force combat strategy which intends for the F-22 speed and air-to-air combat supremacy to complement and work in tandem with the F-35’s next-gen sensors, precision-attack technology, computers, and multi-role fighting mission ability.

An essential software adjustment, called “Update 6,” is now being worked on by Lockheed Martin engineers on contract with the Air Force. Work on the software is slated to be finished by 2020, John Cottam, F-22 Program Deputy, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. US Air Force photo

“The F-22 is designed to fly in concert with F-35. Software Update 6 for the F-22 will give the Air Force a chance to link their sensor packages together. Sensors are a key component to its capability. As the F-22 gets its new weapons on board – you are going to need to upgrade the sensors to use the new weapons capability,” Cottam added.

A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22.

“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration, putting antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” Cottam said.

While the F-35 is engineered with dog-fighting abilities, its advanced sensor technology is intended to recognize enemy threats at much further distances – enabling earlier, longer-range attacks to destroy enemies in the air. Such technologies, which include 360-degree sensors known as Northrop Grumman’s Distributed Aperture System and a long range Electro-Optical Targeting System, are designed to give the F-35 an ability to destroy targets at much longer ranges – therefore precluding the need to dogfight.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

Like the F-35, the latest F-22s have radar and data-links, radar warning receivers, and targeting technologies. Being that the F-22 is regarded as the world’s best air-to-air platform, an ability for an F-35 and F-22 to more quickly exchange sensor information, such as targeting data, would produce a potential battlefield advantage, industry developers and Air Force senior leaders have explained.

For example, either of the aircraft could use stealth technology to penetrate enemy airspace and destroy air defense systems. Once a safe air corridor is established for further attacks, an F-22 could maintain or ensure continued air supremacy while an F-35 conducted close-air-support ground attacks or pursued ISR missions with its drone-like video-surveillance technology. Additionally, either platform could identify targets for the other, drawing upon the strengths of each.

Conversely, an F-35 could use its long-range sensors and “sensor fusion” to identify airborne targets which the F-22 may be best suited to attack.

Air Force developers are, quite naturally, acutely aware of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter and Russia’s PAK-FA T-50 stealth aircraft as evidence that the US will need to work vigorously to sustain its technological edge.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alert5.

Along these lines, both the F-22 and F-35 are engineered to draw from “mission data files,” described as on-board libraries storing information on known threats in particular geographical locations. This database is integrated into a radar warning receiver so that aircraft have the earliest possible indication of the threats they are seeing.

Cottam also explained that the House and Senate have directed the Air Force to look at two different potential sensor upgrades for the F-22, an effort the service is now in the conceptual phase of exploring.

“A sensor enhancement program is now being configured. We do not know what that is going to entail because it is not yet funded by the Air Force and we have not seen a requirements documents,” Cottam said. “Threats in the world are always evolving so we need to evolve this plane as well.”

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

MIGHTY FIT

5 perfect fitness jobs for veterans

Do you still love fitness? Are you transitioning out of the military and thinking about what the next steps of your future career will be?

Think about a hobby you love. Can you make your hobby into a job or even just a part-time position for starters?

How about a job in the fitness industry? There are many veterans in the fitness industry, including myself, a tactical fitness writer. But writing is far from the only option in the multibillion-dollar fitness business. From personal trainers, gym owners, strength coaches, supplement affiliates, inventors and program developers to athletes who compete in all types of competitions, there are plenty of fitness-related career paths.


If fitness is part of your life or used to be, consider finding that love again. You might find something inside you that reconnects with the world you left behind when you first joined the military.

Here are some of the many fitness career paths that can help you get moving again, fine-tune your fitness knowledge and skills, and teach people who need your motivation, passion and example.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal)

​1. Group Trainer

One of the easier ways to get involved in training people is to lead a group at an established fitness center. Or you could build your own outdoor fitness boot camp program, especially if the weather permits most of the year. A group training instructor could be as basic as a boot camp fitness class or a learned training program on spin bikes, yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, barre, aquatic fitness or CrossFit. No matter what you pick, these are fun ways not only to teach others, but to get your own workout accomplished with a group of people who need your leadership. It can also be a good supplemental income if you can spare an hour or two a few days a week.

2. Personal Trainer

Like the title suggests, this business model is more personal, and you get to really know and develop training programs for the goals, needs and abilities of a client. Personal training is also better paying than group fitness. You can offer personal training as part of an existing fitness center or set up your own hustle and train people at their own homes or in an outdoor area.

3. Online Fitness Business

If you like to create content for people to read or view, you may find a promising business model with a website store and social media. Whether it is through your own products, articles and videos or using an affiliate model, you can make significant income online with just a little bit of technology skill.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

4. Invent a Fitness Device

Two friends of mine created companies around their inventions. Randy Hetrick of TRX and Alden Mill of Perfect Pushup fame both created products that fit into the fitness industry very nicely and maybe even revolutionized it to some degree.

5. Can You Still Compete?

Many veterans are still going hard-core after service and compete in professional racing and sports from CrossFit Games, to the Olympics and Paralympic Games, to becoming sponsored and professional athletes in the racing world. Moving that athletic fame into social media and internet fitness businesses is a great way to continue training and helping others, as well as earning a living.

Fitness is important for the transitioning veteran. Whether you decide to make fitness part of a way to make extra income, or you just get involved in volunteer coaching in your community, you will find that the physical activity you do and the coaching and teaching you provide are helpful to you and others.

Find the Right veteran Job

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why NATO went to an emergency session in the latest meeting

NATO leaders entered a special emergency session on July 12, 2018, after President Donald Trump was said to have spoken very bluntly about his demands that the countries spend more on defense.

During the summit, Trump broke diplomatic protocol by calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, saying, “Angela, you need to do something about this,” a source told Reuters.

Leaders of Afghanistan and Georgia, non-NATO members, were asked to leave for the emergency session.


Trump singled out Germany on July 11, 2018, when he accused the country of being “totally” controlled by Russia because Russia provides a large share of its oil and natural gas. Merkel fired back that Germany was independent and a strong NATO ally.

“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”

Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.

“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.

Trump’s NATO grudge

Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.

NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.

Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The Philippine president and authoritarian strongman Rodrigo Duterte has threatened war with Canada over a festering trash debacle. That would be an amazing overreach by the bombastic leader, and it would result in one of the most mismatched military engagements in modern history, if the two sides could even manage to hit each other in any real way.


Before we get into why the fight would be so funny, let’s just take a moment to say that there’s almost no chance that a war would break out. The whole argument centers over a mislabeled batch of trash that Canada paid to send to the Philippines. It was supposed to be filled with recyclables, but someone lied on the paperwork and filled it with municipal trash, including food and used diapers, instead.

That meant that it was hazardous waste, and there are all sorts of rules about shipping that stuff. Canada is working with diplomatic staff from the Philippines on how to bring the material back to Canada. But, for obvious reasons, the people on the islands are angry that Canadian trash has sat in the port for years as Canada tried to ship it back.

But the process is underway, Canada has said it will take the trash back, and there would be no good reason to go to war over the trash even if it was destined to stay there. But Duterte is not that logical of a leader, and he threatened war over the issue even though his staff was already working a fix. His military is, to put it mildly, not ready for that conflict.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Philippine Marines storm the shore during an exercise.

(Petty Officer 1st Class Nardel Gervacio)

First, let’s just look at what forces the two countries can bring to bear. Assuming that both countries were to meet at some unassuming, neutral field, Duterte would still struggle to even blacken Canada’s eye.

Canada is not the military power it once was, but it still has serious assets. Its military is comprised of about 94,000 personnel that operate 384 aircraft; about 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces; and 63 ships and boats including 12 frigates, 4 submarines, and 20 patrol vessels.

So, yeah, the top six state National Guards would outnumber them and have similar amounts of modern equipment, but Canada’s military is still nothing to scoff at.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has a larger but much less modern military. Its 305,000 troops operate only 171 aircraft of which zero are modern fighters, 834 armored vehicles and towed artillery pieces, and 39 patrol vessels that work with three frigates, 10 corvettes, and 67 auxiliary vessels.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

So, you don’t want to get in a bar brawl with the Philippine military, but you’d probably be fine in a battle as long as you remembered to bring your airplanes and helicopters.

Canada has pretty good fighters, CF-18 Hornets based on America’s F/A-18 Hornet. So we would expect their unopposed fighter sweeps against Philippine forces to go well, allowing them to progress to hitting artillery pieces pretty quickly.

And Canadian ground forces, while small, are not filled with slouches. Their snipers are some of the best in the world, and their infantry gets the job done.

It sort of seems odd that Duterte thinks this would be a good idea. But, if war between two American allies seems scary to you, even if the closer ally is very likely to win, we have more good news for you.

There is essentially no way that Canada and the Philippines can effectively go to war against each other.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

We’ll grant that the Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini looks cool sailing in an exercise, but if it shows up off your shore, you just remove its batteries and wait it out.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez)

The Philippines are the ones threatening the war, so they would most likely be the ones who would need to project their military across the Pacific.

They, charitably, do not have the ability to deploy significant numbers of their troops across the ocean to Canada, let alone to open a beachhead against Canadian defenders.

And if Canada decided to launch a preemptive strike against the Philippines after Duterte declared war, even it would be hard pressed to do so. Those 63 boats and ships Canada has? None of those are carriers or amphibious assault ships. None of them are designed to project significant force ashore.

And all of this is without getting into the fact that Canada is a member of NATO. No one in NATO really wants to go to war against the Philippines, but, in theory, Canada could invoke Article 5 and call on the rest of the alliance.

Since the world’s most powerful military is part of that alliance, NATO would probably win a larger war against the Philippines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.


But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.

A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.

Tough matchup hits close to home

Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.

Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.

As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.

“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”

After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Sgt. Emily Sweeney (left) is congratulated by her sister, Megan, after qualifying for the 2018 Winter Games in luge women’s singles Dec. 16 at Lake Placid, New York. Emily missed making the 2010 Games in Vancouver after losing to Megan in a race off. Emily Sweeney makes her Olympic debut next month in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.

And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.

“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”

Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.

“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”

Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.

Also Read: This Army athlete was awarded the same Olympic silver medal twice

Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.

Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.

“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”

After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.

An athlete and a soldier

Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.

Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.

Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.

“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”

After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.

Sochi slips away

Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Sgt. Emily Sweeney waves to the crowd at the Lake Placid Olympic Center Dec. 16. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics Dec. 14 and will join fellow Army World Class Athletes Taylor Morris and Matt Mortensen in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.

After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.

And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.

“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.

“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”

She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.

“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”

“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”

The Army gets her rolling

In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.

She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .

After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.

“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”

Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.

“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.

The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.

And that familiar smile came back.

“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”

In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.

“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.

During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.

“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
Sgt. Emily Sweeney receives congratulations after competing in a sprint run race Dec. 16 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics after not making the 2010 and 2014 teams. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

Hitting her stride

The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.

At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.

After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.

But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.

Also Read: These 5 military drills would be amazing Olympic events

When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”

As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

Olympian at last

Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.

Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.

“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.

Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.

 

(The U.S. Army | YouTube)

“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”

She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.

“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”

Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.

A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.

The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.

“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”

Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:

“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.

Next stop: South Korea

When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.

At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.

“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”

Articles

Reaper drones can now be armed with JDAMs

Airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, made history earlier this week by employing the first GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition from an MQ-9 Reaper.


While the JDAM has been around since the late ’90s, the munition has just recently been validated and now proven for real world engagements marking a significant step in the Reapers’ joint warfighter role.

“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, a 26th WPS weapons instructor pilot. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”

While waiting for the aircraft to approach the target area, members of the weapons squadron waited anxiously. After the bombs successfully struck their practice targets in a controlled environment, the entire room cheered.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
The MQ-9 Reaper can be armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser guided bombs. Now the Air Force has added the JDAM to the drone’s arsenal. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

For the past 10 years skilled MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.

“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.

The JDAM being added to the arsenal is another step in furthering the attack capabilities of the MQ-9 Reaper force.

“There’s definitely times when I could’ve used the GBU-38 in combat prior to this,” Scott said.

Not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions, it also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.

“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Incorporating this new munition into the total strike package will give MQ-9 aircrews additional capabilities.

“Our job at the weapons school is to train to the highest standard possible,” Scott said. “We’re going to take the GBU-38 and incorporate it into our advanced scenarios, prove the weapon and integrate with all Air Force assets. What that gives us is the ability to take it downrange and employ in the most demanding circumstances possible.”

The JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.

“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper’s proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018’s general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.


If a majority of California voters who cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislature. Then it would reach the US Congress.

The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences in support for slavery.

Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.

With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous US state. Supporters of the initiative argue that it isn’t fairly represented with two senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD
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According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.

“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Peggy Grande, a representative for the Cal 3 campaign, said in a June 16, 2018 statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”

However, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.

Critics of the initiative say that having three Californias would diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states could change that equation, which worries some Democrats.

Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of California’s population:

  • California: This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito.
  • Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial.
  • Northern California: This would make up 40 counties including those of the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento, the state capital.

This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.

In 2016, an effort called Calexit sought to separate California from the US. The secession movement fell out of the spotlight after its former leader announced he was moving to Russia, though the group is still gathering signatures to qualify a measure for the 2018 ballot.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 wild things enlisted Marines did that can never be repeated

Everyone knows you can’t leave Marines alone to be bored. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and no one plays around more than Devil Dogs. If you don’t believe me, just check out Terminal Lance’s Instagram page for a few minutes. I’ll wait.

While most Marines are content to goof around in the barracks or as a group during some hurry-up-and-wait, there are some examples of Marine Corps behavior that show why you should never leave Uncle Sam’s Most Capable troops alone to their own devices. Even for a minute.


Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)

Made a personal weapon from an aircraft machine gun

While fighting in the World War II Battle of Bougainville, Cpl. Tony Stein picked up a .30 caliber ANM2 Browning machine gun from the wrecked wings of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Since he was a toolmaker before the war, he was able to refashion the aircraft weapon – which fired 1200-1500 rounds per minute – into a personal machine gun. He dubbed it “the Stinger” and later carried it into combat on Iwo Jima.

While there, Stein would clear enemy pillboxes with the Stinger, then carry a wounded Marine back to the beach as he picked up more ammunition. Stein did this eight times, and for his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was later killed by a sniper in the battle for Mount Suribachi – which he only joined after leaving a hospital ship.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Became a Warlord in Somalia

Remember the movie Black Hawk Down, where a group of Army Special Forces operators and Rangers attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in order to regain the stability of Mogadishu? It’s too bad the Army didn’t know that all they had to do was wait until 1996 when his son would rise to power.

His son, Hussein Farah Aidid, was just hanging out as a Marine Corps artilleryman in Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, Calif. As a matter of fact, just a few years after the events of Task Force Ranger depicted in Black Hawk Down, the younger Aidid told his reserve unit he was leaving the country for a while. And he did. He went to Somalia to prepare to take his father’s place in one of the most powerful militias in Mogadishu. When Mohammed Farah Aidid died, his son was declared his successor. The Corporal was now a General.

Read More: This US Marine went to Somalia and became a warlord

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Sgt. Faustin Wirkus’ weekend libo is off the chain.

Became the Voodoo King of Haiti

In 1915, Sgt. Faustin Wirkus was one of many United States Marines sent into Haiti to stabilized the American-backed government from succumbing to a German-backed coup. After four years of duty in the Caribbean, the NCO was sent to La Gonâve, an island that, until he came along, no white man had ever set foot on and lived. This worked out for Wirkus because he had been curious about Gonâve for the entire time he was deployed. His first assignment there was to arrest the locals for practicing voodoo.

The local voodoo queen, Ti Memenne, had a ceremony for Faustin, which he thought was a celebration of some kind. And it was. The locals thought their old king had been reincarnated as a white man. They decided that Faustin was their new old king – and he ruled their island until the President of Haiti forced him to go home to Pennsylvania.

Read On: That time a Marine was crowned king of a voodoo island in Haiti

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Stole an A-4M Skyhawk. From the flightline. 

Howard Foote always wanted to be a fighter pilot. Sadly, when he was joining the Marine Corps, he could not qualify to be a pilot, so he settled for the next best thing: an airplane mechanic. But just because the Marine Corps said he wasn’t allowed to be one of their pilots didn’t mean he would never fly a USMC fighter. One night, the mechanic suited up, hopped in his perfectly-maintained A-4M Skyhawk, and took off into the night.

The Corps, to their credit, didn’t try to intercept Foote as he flew his way around the skies above California. Foote flew the fighter to his hearts’ content and landed safely… into the hands of the waiting police. He was sent to the stockade and served some time before being discharged. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a dishonorable one, so Foote was able to realize his dream of becoming a pilot – this time legally. For NASA.

Read on: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Married a princess.

Lots of Marines fall in love and get married to a local when they’re in the middle of their first assignment. While some aim low and take strippers or lawyers, one enlisted Marine decided that wasn’t enough. His deployment to Bahrain was going to be memorable, so he decided to marry into a local family.

The ruling Al-Khalifa family, that is.

In 1999, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson fell in love with Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa after meeting the princess at a local mall. He helped smuggle her out of Bahrain and into the United States, which is why he later faced a court-martial, not for getting married without the Corps’ consent.

The Corps believes in love.

Read More: That time a US Marine eloped with a Princess from Bahrain

MIGHTY CULTURE

Support for Veterans facing homelessness

Having to stay home for your health is challenging enough. Imagine being told to stay home when you had no home or were worried about losing it. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Tens of thousands of Veterans in the United States live that reality. In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted more than 37,000 Veterans living in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or without any housing at all. Many more Veterans are at imminent risk for losing their housing in the coming months. Precise data is nearly impossible to collect because the population is transient by definition.

We do know that too many Veterans experience homelessness.


Any effort to help these Veterans must address not only their housing but also their mental health. The relationship between homelessness and mental health challenges is complicated, with each potentially impacting the other. For example, mental health issues might prevent a Veteran from holding a job that would allow them to afford stable housing. Similarly, homelessness is considered a traumatic event that can worsen mental health; it’s associated with issues such as increased alcohol use and lower recovery rates from mental illness.

As part of its commitments to improve Veterans’ mental health and relieve housing instability, VHA has developed a guidebook to provide Veterans facing homelessness with information about local resources and options.

“Connecting Veterans With VHA Homeless Programs: A Patient-Centered Booklet to Help Veterans Navigate VHA Resources” isn’t your typical informational resource. It’s a “graphic medicine” booklet, with information presented in graphic novel style, using stories and illustrations to convey important messages that makes the guidance easy to follow.

Because VA facilities vary in scope and size, the printable, 10-page booklet is designed to be customizable. Each facility can include local contact information for asking questions about program eligibility and how to access VHA and community-based services for Veterans who are homeless.

A VHA homelessness program manager said the booklet “gives providers another way to put a tangible reminder in a Veteran’s hand,” showing that VA has something for them.

One Veteran described the booklet as “in-depth and helpful” and noted that “everything is useful if you need the services.”

Why a graphic booklet?

The use of comics in graphic medicine guides has been around for decades. Today’s versions are in the graphic novel style, which gives room for the content writers to tackle more-serious-than-traditional comic books in both their topics and tone.

The combination of storytelling and expressive art can convey complex, layered ideas and information that neither writing nor pictures can achieve alone. With graphic medicine, the comic style can give even bland clinical data a familiar, approachable feel. Plus, its unique appearance stands out among VA waiting room pamphlets and may attract those who either need housing support or know a Veteran who does.

This patient-centered form of communication is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community, in part because it works. A study found that in one hospital’s emergency room, 98% of patients who received their discharge instructions in comic form read them, while only 79% read their traditional discharge instructions.

Experts also say graphic medicine books can have an emotional impact on readers because they often include authors’ personal experience with the issue at hand. In the case of “Connecting Veterans,” members of the book’s advisory committee at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System included Veterans — some with firsthand experience of housing challenges — and professionals from VA’s homelessness programs.

Ray Facundo, a social worker, researcher and Army Veteran, played an integral, hands-on role in developing the booklet. He explained that it was important to include input from other Veterans: “We should never do something for them without them.”

Integrating a range of resources

VHA took the lead in creating the guide because homelessness is associated with health concerns — some that one might expect, such as exposure, untreated injuries or being subjected to violence, as well as a suicide risk that’s 10 times that of the general population.

Even though “Connecting Veterans” is distributed by VHA providers, the booklet combines resources from VA offices that are often viewed as separate entities. The booklet takes a team approach in working toward improving stability and mental well-being through a range of programs and services, including:

Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care and justice- and reentry-related services.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why military weathermen are more important than your local ones

It’s important to know what the weather will be like on any given day. With just a quick check on the internet or your local news, you can determine whether your uniform of the day is going to involve shorts or rain boots. And while knowing the weather back in States is helpful, it’s not like the success of a mission is hanging in the balance.

This is where military weathermen come into play. Whether it’s to determine if conditions are suitable for aircraft or for delicate SEAL operations, military meteorologists play an essential role.


Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Military meteorologists and the National Weather Service often work together.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

There are three types of military meteorologists used by the United States Armed Forces. The first are the most conventional, often found behind the computers at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (for the Navy) and the 557th Weather Wing (for the Air Force). Historically, these are the troops that commanders would rely on to accurately forecast the weather, which would often be the deciding factor of an upcoming battle.

Civilian meteorologists are fantastic — they average a roughly 2 percent margin of error. Military meteorologists, on the other hand, can’t afford such a margin. They use sophisticated techniques and technologies to deliver the most accurate forecasts when massive operations are on the line.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Nope. Screw that.

(NOAA)

The second type of meteorologists are the (slightly) insane pilots that fly directly into the eyes of hurricanes. They’ve been given the apt name of “Hurricane Hunters.” Wind speeds over 100 miles per hour are enough to swat an aircraft out of the sky, but these pilots make due in order to keep the civilians back stateside safe — mostly because no one else is daring enough to take on such an important task.

These courageous airmen fly into the eyes of hurricanes and collect whatever data they can about the approaching storm, including wind speeds, air pressure, and humidity. Getting this sort of information from the direct center of the storm is the only way for the folks back home to accurately determine the hurricane’s trajectory — and any potential damage it may cause.

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Make no mistake. The gray berets are just as operator as the next.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)

Finally, we have the airmen that have rightfully earned the right to call themselves operators. Troops who’ve never encountered the special operations weather technicians of the Air Force may scoff at their “special operations” status, but they’re no joke. These airmen are embedded with the rest of the operators as they sneak into locations with recon teams and collect valuable information for an upcoming assault.

The SOWTs are trained as recon first and weathermen second. They’ve been a part of nearly every major special operation mission since their establishment in the 70s. These guys were the first into Pakistan just before Operation Neptune Spear with the CIA and gave the final thumbs for the operation that ended in Osama Bin Laden’s death.