Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.
Well. It seems this “acclimatize the troops to Iraq” heat wave is sweeping the globe and I think it’s a very proper time to mention the silver bullet is very much real and that sick, sadistic medic in your unit has been dying to test it out.
For those of you who aren’t up to speed, it’s a shiny thumb-sized thermometer that is brought out specifically for heat casualties and is, well, inserted rectally. Why they do this is beyond me. I would assume the standard under-the-tongue thermometers would work just fine, but I’m not a medic. Although, I guess that one doesn’t terrify the troops into drinking plenty of water for the ruck march.
So go ahead, high speed. Try drinking all night and wake up to a Monster energy drink for this run. See what happens. I guarantee you that you won’t make this same mistake twice.
To the rest of you smart enough to know how to properly identify pee charts and drink water accordingly, here’s some memes.
Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.
One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?
Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.
Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.
But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.
Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.
The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]
Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.
As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.
Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).
There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.
Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.
But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.
Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?
Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.
Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.
Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.
Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.
The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s Armistice Day, November 11th, in the nation’s capital. It is a brisk day at Arlington National Cemetery. Dignitaries stand silently on the third anniversary of the ending of World War I, watching as a single white casket is lowered into a marbled tomb. In attendance is President Calvin Coolidge, former President Woodrow Wilson, Supreme Court Justice (as well as former President) William Howard Taft, Chief Plenty Coups, and hundreds of dedicated United States servicemen. As the casket settles on its final resting place in the tomb, upon a thin layer of French soil, three salvos are fired. A bugler plays taps and, with the final note, comes a 21 gun salute. The smoke clears and eyes dry as the Unknown Soldier from World War I is laid to rest; the first unknown soldier to be officially honored in this manner in American history.
The United States’ allies in World War I, France and Britain, were the first countries to practice the concept of burying an “unknown soldier.” World War I was, at the time, the most destructive global war in human history. A staggering 37 million people (about 1 in 48) were killed, wounded, captured, or missing in action across both sides in what was called “The War to End All Wars.” (Interestingly, around this same time, the Spanish Flu killed between 50-100 million people and infected around a half a billion around the globe, roughly 1 in 4 humans.)
Even before the end of the war, the idea of finding a way to properly commemorate the lost, missing, or unable-to-be-identified French soldiers who died fighting for their country was conceived. Around November 1916, a full two years before the war ended, the city of Rennes in France performed a ceremony to honor those local citizens who were lost and unable to be found. Upon hearing of this ceremony, three years later, France’s Prime Minister approved a tomb dedicated to France’s unknown soldier to be installed in Paris. He originally proposed that the tomb be placed in the Pantheon, with other French historical figures like Victor Hugo and Voltaire (the latter of which made his fortune by rigging the lottery). However, veterans organizations wanted a location that was reserved solely for the Unknown Solider. They agreed upon a tomb under the Arc de Triomphe, originally completed in 1836 to commemorate other lost French military members.
The tomb of the unknown soldier, Paris, France. (Photo by Jérome BLUM)
With the help of a 21-year-old French baker turned “valiant” soldier named August Thin, a representative unknown soldier was settled upon. On November 11, 1920, his casket was pulled down the streets of Paris, before settling under the Arc de Triomphe, where he was laid to rest. To this day, the tomb is still there with a torch by its side, rekindled every night at 6:30 PM.
That same day, two hundred eighty-five miles away in London, Great Britain was holding a similar ceremony. “The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior,” as it is called in London, is housed at Westminster Abbey. It is the only tombstone in the Abbey that it is forbidden to walk upon, and bears this inscription, “Beneath this stone rest the body of a British warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day 11 Nov: 1920.”
Many countries worldwide adopted this symbol of commemoration, including the United States of America. In December 1920, Congressmen Hamilton Fish Jr. of New York introduced in Congress a resolution that asked for a return of an unknown American soldier from France for proper ceremonial burial in a to-be-constructed tomb at the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery. The measure was approved a few months later for a “simple structure” that would eventually serve as a basis for a more elaborate monument. Originally set for Memorial Day in 1921, the date was pushed back when it was noted that many of the unknown soldiers in France were being investigated and may be identified, rendering them no longer qualified to be the unknown soldier. The date was then changed to Armistice Day, 1921.
An important qualification to be selected as the “unknown soldier” is, of course, that the soldier is truly unknown, for they are meant to symbolize any soldier. Thus, there could be no ID on the body, no personal records of the deceased, no family identifications, and no information anywhere at all about who this person was. It also meant that certain precautions needed to be taken to make sure the selected would never be identified. For example, in France, when eight bodies were exhumed from eight different battlefields, they mixed up the coffins to make sure no one knew who came from where.
When August Thin, the young soldier who was given the honor of selecting the Unknown Soldier, walked around the caskets and delicately placed flowers upon one of them, he legitimately had no idea who he was choosing. In Britain, six bodies were chosen from six different battlefields. Not told of any order to the bodies, Brigadier L.J. Wyatt closed his eyes and walked among the coffins. Silently, his hand rested on one — the Unknown Warrior.
In America, the process was even more ceremonious. Four unknown Americans were exhumed from their French cemeteries, taken to Germany, and then switched from case to case, so not even the pallbearers knew which casket they were carrying. The honor of choosing exactly which casket was then given to Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany. Placing one rose on top of the chosen casket, the Unknown Soldier was selected and sent to the U.S. on the ship Olympia. Later, that rose would be buried with the casket.
Arriving on the shores of America, the casket was taken to the Capitol, where it was laid out under the rotunda. President Warren G. Harding and the first lady, Florence, paid their respects, with Mrs. Harding laying a wreath she made herself upon the casket. After visits from many notables and military, a vigil was kept overnight. The next day, the rotunda was opened up for public viewing. It was reported that nearly 100,000 people came to commemorate the Unknown Soldier.
Around 10 AM on Nov. 11, the funeral procession began, passing by the White House, the Key Bridge, and the construction of the Lincoln Memorial (which would be finished six months later). Arriving at Arlington National Cemetery and the Memorial Amphitheater, the ceremony began rather quickly. In fact, it was reported that the President, who was traveling by car, got stuck in a traffic jam on the way there and would have been late if it wasn’t for his driver’s quick decision to cut through a field.
The beginning of the ceremony featured the singing of the National Anthem, a bugler, and two minutes of silence. Then, President Harding spoke, paying tribute to the Unknown Soldier and asking for the end to all wars. He then placed a Medal of Honor upon the casket. Congressman Fish followed with laying a wreath at the tomb. Next, Chief Plenty Coups, Chief of the Crow Nation, laid his war bonnet and coup stick. Finally, the casket was lowered into the crypt as the saluting battery fired three shots. Taps was played with a 21 gun salute at the end. The ceremony for America’s first Unknown Soldier was finished.
Many elements for this ceremony were repeated in 1956, when President Eisenhower made arrangements for unknown soldiers to be selected from World War II and the Korean War. In 1984, President Reagan presided over the ceremony for the Unknown Soldier for the Vietnam War. Acting as next in kin, he accepted the flag presented at the end of the ceremony. In 1998, a mini-controversy occurred when, through DNA testing, it was discovered that the remains of the Unknown Soldier from Vietnam was Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. Due to this, it was decided that the crypt that once held his remains would remain vacant with only this inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”
Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in America is under ceremonious guard 24/7, with the changing of the guard happening up to 48 times a day. It is truly one America’s most somber, affecting, and patriotic memorials.
Joe Mantegna and writer, Danny Ramm stop by The Mighty studio to talk about the process writing, directing and starring in the hit show’s story arc and other personal connections they have to the military.
Well, the Army’s secret is out – specifically its secret operation in the U.S. capital that has Blackhawk helicopters flying American troops around the Washington, D.C. area. The accidental leaker is, surprisingly, the United States Army and its bureaucracy. What the purpose of the mission is isn’t readily apparent, but the method of moving from one location to another sure is a great way to beat the beltway traffic.
It seems the once-classified operation made its way into the light after the Army requested the movement of some id=”listicle-2639564128″.55 million from Congress to move aircraft, maintainers, and aircrews in support of what the Army called an “emerging mission” in Washington, D.C. The project is a part of the Army’s greater effort to reappropriate funds to other, more important programs than the ones currently funded in its budget for the fiscal year 2019.
The Army told Bloomberg Defense that the duration of the mission is “undetermined,” but declined to discuss where the focus of the mission would be, be it either a potential political target, like the White House, or protecting a populated civilian area.
The request says the Army would not be able to meet its training requirements in the National Capital Region without the transfer of funds to this “new” training mission, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year. On top of the movement of personnel and equipment, the funding request includes money for a sensitive compartmented information facility, funding for 10 UH-60s and enough money to support those aircraft for four months. The mission is set to be based from Davison Army Airfield, Va.
The “Army Secret Op in D.C. Area saga” was first broken by Bloomberg reporter Anthony Capaccio.
The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.
Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.
It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.
In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”
Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.
The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”
But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.
While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.
Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.
“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”
You may have seen them standing outside convenience stores, those guys dressed in camo that vaguely resembles a uniform. They have signs saying claiming they are charities that help veterans. Are they legit?
Well, not all of them are.
The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and regulators from offices in every state, DC, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor”.
The action was a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members.
“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and service members.”
Two charities face federal charges
(Flickr photo by Keith Cooper)
Help the Vets
Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.
The defendants were charged with violating federal and state laws related to their actions. According to the FTC’s complaint, HTV did not help disabled veterans, and 95 percent of every donation was spent on fundraising, administrative expenses, and Paulson’s salary and benefits.
Operating under names such as American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Emergency Blood Bank, Vets Fighting Breast Cancer, and Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, HTV falsely claimed to fund medical care, a suicide prevention program, retreats for veterans recuperating from stress, and veterans fighting breast cancer.
In addition to the ban on soliciting charitable contributions, the proposed settlement order bans Paulson from charity management and oversight of charitable assets. To ensure that donors to HTV are not victimized again, HTV and Paulson must destroy all donor lists and notify their fundraisers to do so.
The order imposes a judgment of .4 million, which represents consumers’ donations from 2014 through 2017, when HTV stopped operating. The judgment will be partially suspended when the defendants have paid a charitable contribution to one or more legitimate veterans charities recommended by the states and approved by the court. Paulson must pay id=”listicle-2591219370″.75 million – more than double what he was paid by HTV – and HTV must pay all of its remaining funds, ,000.
(Photo by Steven L. Shepard)
Veterans of America
The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit.
The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans charities and were tax deductible.
In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.
At the FTC’s request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Peterson from making unlawful robocalls or engaging in misrepresentations about charitable donations while the FTC’s enforcement action is proceeding.
State enforcement actions
States also identified and charged several charities and fundraisers who sought donations online and via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores. These groups falsely promised to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members.
Some actions charged veterans charities with using deceptive prize promotion solicitations. Others targeted non-charities that falsely claimed that donations would be tax deductible. Some cases focused on veterans charities engaged in flagrant self-dealing to benefit individuals running the charity, and some alleged that fundraisers made misrepresentations on behalf of veterans charities or stole money solicited for a veterans charity.
Nationwide education campaign
As a result of these actions, the FTC and its state partners are launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely.
The FTC has new educational materials, including a video on how to research charities, and two new infographics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Navy Corpsman Victoria Lord endured a difficult childhood in foster care before finding a home in the military. Deployed on a hospital ship during the Iraq War, Lord was profoundly moved and inspired by the strength and sacrifices of her fellow sailors.
One of Lord’s favorite tattoos is Hello Kitty wearing Navy Dress Blues.
“She kinda represents me,” explains Lord, “I put her in Blues for the Navy because they taught me so much about family.”
Lord’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword.American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.
It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.
1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People
The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.
This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.
The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.
You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.
If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.
Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.
2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind
Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.
By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.
Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.
Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.
When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.
As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?
Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.
3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning
Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.
To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.
Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.
Breaking into Hollywood is hard. We all know that behind every working writer, director or actor there is a lot of hard work, failure and luck. I should know; my path to booking the role of Gilly, an Afghan war veteran on FX’s Mayans, came from actually going to war and being lucky enough to survive.
In Gilly, I’ve tried to channel the pure joy that veterans feel when they are part of a pack, either in uniform or riding motorcycles. There is also the fierce loyalty to one another that can turn into a heated argument or a hug. But at the end of the day, there is reality.
(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)
My reality as I was writing this was to stop to answer a call. It was a call I didn’t want to receive. I was being notified that one of my friends – a Marine combat veteran – had committed suicide. In an instant, his story was over. He wanted to be an actor. We were making plans to meet up in Los Angeles, so I could help him network and find his way into film and television. He had so much more to give this world… but now he’s gone. This Memorial Day, I will remember him, but more importantly, I will channel the hurt inside into my craft.
War and homecoming are some of the greatest highs and lows of the human experience. The thrill of combat, the isolation of coming home as an outsider and the pain of losing a friend are the basis for characters that would impress Miesner, Chekhov and even Stanislavski. So the question I ask myself this Memorial Day is, why aren’t more veterans working in Hollywood?
I can’t tell you why, but what I can tell you is that veterans working in the entertainment industry have the potential to change the way the world sees those who serve and to create some of the most iconic moments of our generation. Thankfully, history is on my side. Audie Murphy, a decorated WWII veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor came to Hollywood and starred in over 40 films. His films, such as to Hell and Back, helped a nation come to terms after a massive world war. What most people don’t know is that James Cagney (yes that one) is the one who invited Murphy to Hollywood.
Seventy five years later, I am asking the Hollywood system to invite other veterans to join their ranks, as equals, just like I was embraced by the showrunners, cast and crew of the Mayans. In doing so, we have an opportunity to not only create amazing content but also harness some of the most captivating characters of our generation. Sadly, where we stand and who we are as veterans is not shown in the best light. That needs to change, and I intend to be a beacon for that change.
The common stereotype of combat veterans focuses on struggles with drinking, drugs, post-traumatic stress and even suicide while trying to find a sense of normalcy in society. Although there is truth in these experiences and I will never discount those who are hurting, it is a severe misrepresentation of who we are as a whole. The veteran community is filled with success stories — beautiful stories of courage, strength, and determination.
It wasn’t long ago when every gang member in a movie was portrayed as Hispanic or African American. Asians were depicted as liquor store owners who spoke broken English. Since that time, there has been a beautiful shift in the portrayal of other diversity groups, However, we still have a long way to go with regard to the portrayal of combat veterans.
(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)
If there were more inspirational films with an honest narrative, would that have saved my friend? Would he have gravitated toward that inspiration and pulled himself from the darkness?
If we genuinely want to make a positive impact in the veteran community, we have to change the narrative! We have to tell stories about the ones who faced the hardships and adversity but continued to fight for their own success. We have to be more than they give us permission to be or expect us to be.
To my knowledge, out of the over 2.5 Million Americans who have deployed since 9/11, I am currently the only Iraq and Afghan war combat veteran to hold a recurring role on television series. I’m not sure why that is because there are so many talented veteran storytellers and actors out there. I don’t credit my success to any extensive training or some unbelievable skillset. It’s more of being at the “right place at the right time with the right look.” But since I am here, I’ve had the opportunity to see how Hollywood portrays us, and I am not exactly proud of how we are being represented.
What would make me proud is to see a massive influx of veterans working in the entertainment industry. Whether they’re onscreen or behind it, I want us to tell our own stories. And I want those stories to be genuine, successful and make us better people.
The world needs to know that we are more than just boots and weapons. The world needs to know that we have lives, families, accomplishments and goals long past the physical wars we fought.
If we want to see this change, we have to lead by example and become that change. Seeing the potential in ourselves and building up our brothers and sisters is literally a matter of life or death.
We see a lot of FLIR footage showing bad guys blowing up, but what really goes into schwacking ISIS on a regular and persistent basis? Here’s a quick look at the life of a bomb from birth to boom.
1. After the bomb is manufactured it is trucked to a military ammo depot.
2. When the aircraft carrier is ready to go to sea, it loads some of the ordnance — tailored for the planned mission — pierside.
3. The rest of it is loaded closer to the war zone using underway replenishment.
4. As the aviators plan the strikes in the carrier’s intelligence center, the “ordies” in the magazine many decks below build the bombs they’ve requested, adding the appropriate fin kits and fuses to the bodies of the weapons.
5. Once built, the bombs are wheeled to the ordnance elevator and taken up to the hangar bay.
6. The bombs are inventoried and then taken to the flight deck and staged behind the carrier’s island.
7. As launch time approaches, squadron ordies wheel the ordnance to their jets.
8. Bombs are uploaded onto the airplane’s weapons racks using good ol’ fashioned muscle power.
9. Aircrew check with the ordies to make sure everything’s good-to-go before cranking the jets up for launch.
10. Once the jet is positioned on the catapult for launch, pilots show their hands above the canopy rail while ordies pull the arming pins.
Ordie pulls the pin arming a laser Maverick hanging from an F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Navy)