West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Each year, USAA and the NFL award one person with the Salute to Service Award. This year, the winner is Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. Cannon leads all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer, Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, PGA TOUR Superstore and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch.

Salute to Service is a year-round effort spearheaded by the NFL and USAA to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. The Salute to Service Award presented by USAA recognizes the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community who have gone above and beyond to honor the military community. 

A United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.

US Army Lieutenant Steve Cannon, who won the Salute to Service award

We Are The Mighty had the chance to sit down with Steve and talk about him winning this award, his military service and his commitment to military service members and veterans in Georgia. 

WATM: This isn’t your first time being recognized. Last year, you were a finalist, too. Other than your prior service, what motivates you to help your fellow veterans and what does winning the Salute to Service award mean to you?

SC: Well, it is personal to me. I lost my brother to PTSD. I serve on the board of TAPS, which is a network of people that takes care of those who are left behind. I also had a West Point classmate, John McHugh, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. I am on the board of the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund which was set up in his honor. So far, we raised over $28 million to help take care of children of the fallen.

It has been 30 years since I have taken off the uniform, but we still have obligations to help those who served. 

WATM: Tell us about the USO tour the Falcons went on (the first NFL team to ever do that). What about that tour do you think really resonated with the military?

Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders talk to U.S. and coalition service members, during a meet and greet in the gym on Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, June 17, 2018. Members of the Atlanta Falcons conducted a tour hosted by the USO to U.S. military camps throughout Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Horace Murray)

SC: It was amazing that we got to do it. Going over there to Iraq, in harm’s way in 110 degree heat and seeing all the soldiers there really was amazing. We took our coach (Dan Quinn), several players and a couple of cheerleaders. It really gave us perspective to see how our troops were over there. 

We were really blown away by how grateful they were to us. They were really happy we came all the way out there, but the gratitude they had toward us for coming was so impressive. I mean, we were the ones who were grateful. Here these men and women are out here protecting us, and they are thanking us for being there? It was really humbling. And, it speaks more to the Falcons franchise. Four out of the last five winners of the Salute to Service award winners were from the Falcons. I am really proud of that. 

WATM: You and the Falcons raised $250,000 to help homeless veterans in Georgia.  As a veteran yourself, what do you tell people about homeless veterans and what advice do you give on how to help them?

It is a big problem here in Atlanta, and I am often troubled that so many can go from serving in the military and they fall through the cracks and go to sleeping under a bridge. When you see veterans under a bridge in the wintertime, you have to do something. 

Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO) is a group that is doing amazing work in Georgia to tackle that problem. They do everything from getting out from under those bridges, giving comfort, helping them find jobs and helping address any mental health concerns. We were proud to partner with them. It’s the right thing to do. 

WATM: Tell us about your time in the service. How did serving in the military shape your career path?

After I graduated from West Point, I was an artillery officer and got to go to Ranger School. But then I ended up being stationed in Europe during the Cold War. I was doing border patrol duty and I was right on the Czechoslovakian border when the Iron Curtain came down. To be right there, at that point in history was pretty amazing. But being a lieutenant, I learned that it was about service to the organization first. I wasn’t going to go anywhere telling people I was the boss and they had to do what I said. I had to serve first and that’s what led me to make the decisions I did. And I still do. The importance of servant leadership is a lesson I will take with me always. I have been a CEO (for both AMB Sports and Mercedes Benz USA before that) and a lot of the decision making steps I make come from the time in service. 

WATM: Last question. You are a West Point guy.  How do you feel now that Army finally has the upper hand on Navy in football? 

SC: [Laughs] It feels good for once. Things are finally correcting themselves like they should. There was that 14-year span where things didn’t go so well, but to win four out of the last five means a lot, especially when talking to Navy guys. A few of them got really high and mighty during their win streak so it’s good to finally have the upper hand. 

The annual Salute to Service Award is presented during Super Bowl week and recognized at the NFL Honors awards show the night before the Super Bowl. Teams submit nominations in October, which are evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment. Steve Cannon will officially receive the award during the NFL Honors broadcast on Saturday night. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cannon’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL Foundation will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cannon’s military charity of choice and Atlanta Falcons’ owner, Arthur M. Blank, will also match with a $25,000 donation from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The other finalists this season for the Salute to Service Award were New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and NFL Legend/San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch. 

Congratulations, Steve!

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Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

Preliminary results of an Army test to see how the service’s M855A1 5.56mm round performs in Marine Corps weapons show that the enhanced performance round causes reliability and durability problems in the Marine M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, service officials say.


The Marine Corps in March added the M27 and the M16A4 rifles to the Army’s ongoing testing of M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after lawmakers questioned why the Army and the Marines use two different types of 5.56mm ammunition.

Also read: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

“One of the reasons we were doing that test was because of congressional language from last year that said ‘you two services need to look at getting to a common round,’ so we heard Congress loud and clear last year,” Col. Michael Manning, program manager for the Marine Corps Infantry Weapon Systems, told Military.com in a Dec. 15 Interview.

Lawmakers again expressed concern this year in the final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act, which includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
A Navy corpsman performs immediate action on the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palm, Calif. | US Marine Corps photo

Congress has approved the provision, but the bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The report must be submitted within 180 days after enactment of the legislation, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

“The 2017 NDAA language doesn’t surprise us; we kind of figured they were going to say that,” Manning said.

Lead-free round

The Army replaced the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 EPR, the result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have said. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials maintain.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
The US Army’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. | US Army photo

The Marine Corps still uses the M855 but since 2009 has also relied heavily upon the MK 318, a 5.56mm round that’s popular in the special operations community.

The Army’s M855A1 test, which involves the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines and the Marine M16A4 and M27, is still ongoing and Marine officials are expecting a final test report in the April-May 2017 timeframe, Manning said.

Preliminary findings of the test show that the Army’s M855A1 round meets all the requirements for a 5.56mm general purpose round in Army weapon systems, “but does not meet the system reliability requirement when fired from the USMC M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jesse Stalder said in a Dec. 16 email.

The Marine Corps began fielding the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads.

The M27, made by Heckler Koch, is a version of the German gun-maker’s HK 416, an M4-style weapon that used a piston gas system instead of the direct gas impingement system found on the M4 and M16A4.

The Marines like it so much that the service is considering making it the next service rifle for infantry battalions in the Corps.

“In testing the Army states there was a reliability issue; that is true,” Chris Woodburn, deputy branch chief for the Marine Corps’ Maneuver Branch that deals with requirements, told Military.com in a Dec. 20 telephone interview.

Reliability refers to mean rounds between stoppages, Woodburn said.

“In this case, it appears the stoppages that we were seeing were primarily magazine-related in terms of how the magazine was feeding the round into the weapon,” he said. “We don’t know that for sure, but it looks that way.”

New magazine

After further testing, Woodburn said the Marines have found a solution in the Magpul PMAG, a highly-reliable polymer magazine that has seen extensive combat use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It appears we have found a magazine that takes care of the reliability issues,” Woodburn said.

Marine Corps Systems Command on Monday released a message which authorizes the PMAG magazine for use in the M27, the M16A4 and M4 carbines, Woodburn said.

“The reason they did that is because when Marines are deploying forward, they are sometimes receiving M855A1, and we need to ensure they have the ability to shoot that round,” Woodburn said.

“In terms of the cause analysis and failure analysis, that has not been done, but what we do know is that the PMAG works,” he said.

Preliminary tests also show that the M855A1 also causes durability problems in the M27, Woodburn said.

“Where it still appears that we still have an issue with it is it appears to degrade the durability,” Woodburn said. “Durability is mean rounds between essential function failures, so you are talking bolt-part failures, barrel failures and the like.

“It is a hotter round and we think, that may be contributing to it, but we won’t know for sure until the testing is complete,” he said.

Previous setback

In 2008, the Marine Corps came out with a requirement for a new 5.56mm round that would penetrate battlefield barriers such as car windshields with our losing performance better than the older M855 round, Marine officials maintain.

The service had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the earlier, bismuth-tin slug design proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The Army quickly redesigned the M855A1 with its current solid copper slug, but the setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology, or SOST, round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo, Marine officials maintain.

The MK 318 and the Army’s M855A1 “were developed years ago; they both were developed for a specific requirement capability separate and aside from each other,” Manning said. “The bottom line is both of these rounds are very good rounds.”

Both the Army and the Marine Corps “would like to get to a common round,” Manning added.

The Army, however, maintains that it is “committed to the M855A1” round and so far has produced more than one billion rounds of the ammunition, Stalder said.

“It provides vastly superior performance across each target set at an extremely affordable cost and eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead that would otherwise be deposited annually onto our training bases,” Stalder said. “More than 1.6B rounds have been produced and reports on combat effectiveness have been overwhelmingly positive.”

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More than a dozen US troops trapped amid Afghanistan firefight

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor


More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.

A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.

“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.

A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.

The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.

The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.

An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.

Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team.  One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.

The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.

There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.

“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.

“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.

The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.

Articles

3 at defense firm admit defrauding US by $6M on Humvee parts

Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.


The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.

The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa Cleveland

“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”

The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.

Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.

The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo

The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.

The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.

Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.

Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.

Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.


It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.

An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.

The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.

Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.

Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.

Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.

Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.

For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic working dog conducted 210 combat missions while deployed

Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.


2012 Hero Dog Awards Tribute – Gabe

youtu.be

Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.

Most military working dogs are purchased from European breeders and raised from birth to work in military units or police agencies. But the U.S. was running short on good dogs, and it has always allowed the occasional stray into the ranks. Gabe was one of those strays.

He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.

The team trained together as a Specialized Search Dog team, a then-new program that focused on entirely detecting IED and IED-making components. Dogs in the SSD program don’t search for drugs. They don’t search for cadavers. They don’t chase.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Gabe visits with actor Betty White.

(U.S. Army)

They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.

And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.

And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.

Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Gabe visiting with children in a school.

(U.S. Army)

But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.

The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.

Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mrs. Missouri 2019 is an Army spouse

Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.

Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.

“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”

Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.

She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.


“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.

Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.

Chelsea George

www.youtube.com

“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”

Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.

“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.

He was 42 years old.

“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”

Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.

“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”

“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.

She was 19 years old.

“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”

George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”

“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Chelsea George.

“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.

George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.

“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”

Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.

Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.

“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”

The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.

“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”

The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.

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

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This is how Team Red, White & Blue supports more than those who served

When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.


It wasn’t easy.

But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.

“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.

It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

 

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
Support Team Red White, Blue by donating today!

Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.

Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.

So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.

“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I  feel like I have a purpose.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award
Flores and his team biked over 100 miles across the Arizona desert in support of Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay. (Photo from Team RWB)

For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.

So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.

And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.

“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”

In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.

“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay, so check out their website to get more information – or text ‘OGR’ to 41444 to learn more and donate! You can track the flag on its journey across America at the OGR Live tracking page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban attacks kill 26 in Afghanistan

Taliban militants have stormed security posts in western Afghanistan, killing 21 police officers and pro-government militia members, officials said on Jan. 7, 2019.

The attacks occurred late on Jan. 6, 2019, at checkpoints in two different parts of Badghis Province, which borders the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, provincial officials said.

Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said 14 police officers and seven members of pro-government militias were killed, while nine were wounded.


Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the Badghis provincial governor, said at least 15 Taliban militants were killed and 10 wounded in the fighting.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said in a statement that militants killed 34 members of the security forces and pro-government militias and seized many weapons and ammunition.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Afghan Border Police at Islam Qala in western Herat Province.

Meanwhile, a roadside bombing has killed five civilians and wounded seven in the country’s eastern Paktika Province, an Afghan official said on Jan. 7, 2019.

Nawroz Ishaq, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the attack occurred in the Jani Khail district.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but provincial official Mohammad Rasoul Adel blamed the Taliban, saying the group had left the bomb in a village square.

Taliban representatives and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet this month to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces and a possible cease-fire.

Officials from the warring sides have met at least three times in recent months to try to agree on a way to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban says it is fighting to oust the Western-backed government and restore strict Islamic law.

The United States and its allies say they want to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international Islamist militants plotting attacks in the West.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 countries where Russian mercenaries are known to operate

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in April 2018, that the US killed hundreds of Russians during a large firefight in Syria in early February 2018.

“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” Pompeo said. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”


The Russians were part of Wagner Group, or Vagner Group, a private mercenary company reportedly contracted by the Syrian government to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

The Wagner Group started getting attention in 2014 when its mercenaries fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, before moving to Syria.

While little is still known about the shadowy mercenary group, they are believed to be operating in at least the following three countries:

1. Syria

1. Syria

There are currently about 2,500 Wagner mercenaries in Syria, according to the BBC, but the figures have varied.

In 2015-2016, Wagner mercenaries moved from Ukraine to Syria, Sergey Sukhankin, an associate expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv, told Business Insider in an email.

The mercenary group was contracted by Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp to capture and secure gas and oil fields by ISIS, reportedly being given 25% of the proceeds, according to the Associated Press.

A Russian journalist who helped break the story about the mercenaries killed by the US military in February died earlier this month after mysteriously falling from a balcony.

2. Sudan

Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan in early January 2018, according to Stratfor.

The Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan “in a conflict against the South Sudan” to back up Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government “militarily and hammer out beneficial conditions for the Russian companies,” Sukhankin said.

The mercenaries are also protecting gold, uranium and diamond mines, Sukhankin said, adding that the latter is the “most essential commodity.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a cozy relationship with al-Bashir. The two leaders met in Moscow in late 2017, where al-Bashir asked Putin for protection from the US.

The Hague has had an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir since 2009 for crimes against humanity.

3. Central African Republic

In early January 2018, Stratfor reported that Wagner mercenaries might soon be sent to CAR, and Sukhankin said that there are now about 370 mercenaries in CAR and Sudan.

Sukhankin said that Wagner mercenaries have the same general mission in CAR — protecting lucrative mines and propping up the government regime.

In December 2017, the UN allowed Russia to begin selling weapons to the CAR, one of the many ways Moscow is trying to influence the continent. The CAR government is trying to combat violence being perpetrated by multiple armed groups along ethnic and religious lines.

“Russian instructors training our armed forces will greatly strengthen their effectiveness in combating plunderers,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera said in early April, according to RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“The Russian private sector is also seeking to invest in the country’s infrastructure and education,” RT reported.

“Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive [in Africa],” Stratfor reported.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

“Potentially, the Balkans if any conflict erupts,” Sukhankin said. “The Russians had sent PMC’s in 1992 to Bosnia. In case something occurs, this might happen once again.”

Wagner mercenaries might also soon be sent to Libya, one Wagner commander told RFERL in March 2018.

“There are many fights ahead,” the commander told RFERL. “Soon it will be in Libya. [Wagner] is already fighting in Sudan.”

Russia has been engaging more and more with Libya since 2016, supporting the faction led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, NATO backs the the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Wagner commanders said that demand for their mercanaries will continue to grow as “war between the Russian Federation and the United States” continues, RFERL reported.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S., U.K. blame Russia for 2019 cyberattack on Georgian websites

TBILISI — The United States and Britain have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for a massive coordinated cyberattack last year that took thousands of Georgian websites offline and even disrupted TV broadcasts.

Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimer Konstantinidi told a news conference in Tbilisi on February 20 that the cyberattack was planned and carried out by Russia.


“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Konstantinidi said.

Meanwhile, the United States and Britain said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.

Sandworm is known as a single group of hackers within the GRU and security experts have linked it to such cyber breaches as the theft of 9 gigabytes of e-mails from the French presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a similar campaign against the Democratic National Committee in the United States in 2016, as well as the malware that hit Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and spread globally.

Britain has also linked the group to two attacks against Ukraine in 2017, including NotPetya and BadRabbit, which affected the nation’s financial and energy sectors as well as the Kyiv Metro and Odesa’s airport.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, adding that Washington would provide assistance to Georgia to help improve the country’s ability to fend off such attacks.

“We also pledge our support to Georgia and its people in enhancing their cybersecurity and countering malicious cyber actors,” Pompeo added.

Russia denied involvement in penetrating Georgian government websites.

“Russia did not plan and is not planning to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs in any way,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Russian news agencies.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.

More than 2,000 state, private, and media websites as well as two private television stations — Imedi and Maestro — were knocked out on October 28. The targeted websites included those of the president’s office and local municipality offices.

In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption “I’ll be back.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

With the rise of cyberattacks, Navy ships are now equipped with defense from hackers.

Russia has fraught relations with its southern neighbor, which is seeking to join Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO, moves that Moscow opposes.

Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized the independence claim of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which comprise 20 percent of its territory.

Russia is one of only a few countries that recognizes the two regions’ independence.

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

MIGHTY FIT

5 ways CrossFit benefits veterans

Have you ever wondered why there’s so much hype surrounding CrossFit? Well, it seems veterans are benefiting from the intense workouts in more ways than one.

Take Air Force Veteran Rachel Escolas for example. She tried out CrossFit for the first time while on deployment in Kandahar in October of 2012. After deployment, she had a burning passion for the sport and eventually became certified as a trainer in 2014 while founding her own CrossFit gym, CBUS Lifting Co.


CrossFit benefits the veteran community in several ways.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Air Force veteran Rachel Escolas powers through the workout of the day at her gym, CBUS Lifting Co.

(CBUS Lifting Co.)

Fitness

It’s no secret that as soon as military personnel are shipped off to boot camp or basic training, fitness becomes heavily incorporated into their lifestyle. Physical activity becomes second nature, and is essential to keeping in the best shape for performing day-to-day duties.

With its dynamic arrangements of barbell work, Olympic lifts, strength training, and more, CrossFit can kick anyone’s a** into shape. CrossFit requires discipline and dedication, qualities that already run deep among every branch of the military. The trainers are like drill sergeants that don’t cuss. They don’t let anyone slack and they keep an eye on proper form, correcting when necessary.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

There’s nothing like sharing the pain of a workout with others.

(CrossFit323)

Camaraderie

Do you remember waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 am to run in formation, in the cold, heat, sleet, or snow? Who would have thought that veterans would grow to miss that nonsense? Behind any grueling physical fitness routine is camaraderie that stems from accomplishing goals collectively, as a team.

When veterans get out of the military, there’s often a gravitation toward working out in a team environment, like the one CrossFit provides. There’s a sense of community that’s built into a CrossFit gym that’s unlike any other. Regular gyms are fine places for lifting and letting off steam, but fostering more than surface-level acquaintances there is a rarity.

Navy veteran and CrossFit trainer Isabel Beutick states, “Crossfit, for me, has kept me in tight circles. I loved the camaraderie I had in the Navy, and that’s the same feeling I get when doing CrossFit. That tight-knit community.”

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Certified CrossFit Trainer and Navy veteran Isabel Beutick, demonstrates how to achieve proper form in an overhead squat.

(CrossFit 323)

Workout modifications

Although there have been major medical advancements throughout the years, an increasing number of veterans come back with combat-related injuries, both physical and mental. It has become evident that, for many, pills are not the solution. Alternative means of healing are helping mend bodies and minds.

CrossFit is not just an outlet for mental stress, there are many attentive trainers out there invested in providing workable modifications to compensate for physical injuries. With the right trainer, there’s nothing stopping a veteran from completing a CrossFit workout, no matter the ailment.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Above, Army Veteran Juan Puentes says, “CrossFit is hard sh*t. It reminds me of all the challenging sh*t I did in the military.”

(CrossFit 323)

Competition

Although CrossFit promotes a team mentality, there’s also an element of competition. To put it lightly, veterans are extremely competitive. Daily workouts are timed and everyone knows who comes in first and last. Now, we’re not saying we should focus on this entirely, but it kindles the fire in veterans to keep pushing.

Throughout your CrossFit experience, trainers keep track of daily goals on a whiteboard or online. This data helps the competitive veteran see their progress and the progress of others and gets them ready to compete in national tournaments.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The ‘Murph,’ dedicated to Navy Seal Michael P. Murphy, is only one of many WOD’s created to honor fallen warriors.

Hero WODs

Hero WODs (workouts of the day) honor fallen service members and provide a way to bridge the civilian-military divide. Most veterans find it complicated to connect with civilian friends, family, and co-workers because they’ve experienced things that are, frankly, hard to explain.

What’s unique about CrossFit’s Hero WODs is that everyone is aware that the workout honors a fallen service member. People truly give it their all on these particular workout days. These workouts create a bond between civilians and veterans that’s truly fascinating to witness.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Researchers find warship wreck near Alaska lost for 75 years

Almost exactly 75 years ago, on Aug. 18, 1943, the USS Abner Read was rocked by a severe explosion.

The blast — which most historians say was likely a Japanese mine — tore the 75-foot stern section of the ship clean off. The stern plummeted to the depths of the ocean, taking the lives of 71 US sailors with it, while other US ships rushed to the rescue.

Though the rest of the USS Abner Read was miraculously saved and towed into port, the original stern was thought to be lost forever — until now.


On July 17, 2018, a team of scientists, divers, and archaeologists partially funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered the missing section of the ship in just under 300 feet of water off the coast of Kiska Island, a part of Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands chain.

Here’s what the expedition to discover the long-lost wreck was like.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The R/V Norseman II at sea near the Aleutians.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A North American B-25 Mitchell Glides over an American destroyer after taking off from Unmak Island for a raid on the Japanese base at Kiska.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

USS Abner Read (DD 526) as seen in Hunters Point, California on June 13, 1943.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The 474-feet long Japanese transport ship Nisan Maru sunk in Kiska Harbor after it was stuck by bombs dropped by the US 11th Air force on June 18, 1942. Two other Japanese ships are visible in the harbor nearby.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

USS Abner Read (DD 526) afire and sinking in Leyte Gulf, Nov. 1, 1944, after being hit by a kamikaze. A second Japanese suicide plane (circled) is attempting to crash another ship; however, this one was shot down short of its target.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

After the stern section of the Abner Read sunk on Aug. 18, 1943, it remained lost on the bottom of the sea for almost 75 years. The ship was eventually repaired and re-entered active service.

In 1944, the Abner Read was sunk off the coast of the Philippines by a Japanese dive bomber, as seen in the image above.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

US soldiers inspect Japanese midget subs left behind after the US retook Kiska Island.

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Team members launch one of the project’s four REMUS 100 autonomous underwater vehicles from R/V Norseman II for a survey of the seafloor.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Team member Matt Breece lowers the project ROV over the side of Research Vessel Norseman II.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

The expedition was part of Project Recover, a collaborative partnership between the University of Delaware, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, Bent Prop, a nonprofit, and US Navy partners to find and document the underwater resting places of American soldiers from World War II.

Source: Project Recover

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Project Recover team members perform maintenance on a REMUS 100 AUV.

(Project Recover)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A dive team deploys to investigate sonar targets collected by the REMUS 100 AUV. The R/V Norseman II sails in the background.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

“The 17 hours of daylight that now occur at this high latitude were both a godsend and a curse as there was ample time to work, but little time to sleep,” Eric Terrill, an oceanographer and the leader of the expedition, said in a mission log.

Source: NOAA

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Project Recover team members Bob Hess and Eric Terrill prepare to launch one of four REMUS 100 AUVs utilized during a survey.

(NOAA Project Recover)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A REMUS 100 AUV glides away from a research boat before diving beneath the surface, where it would spend the next six hours systematically scanning the seafloor.

(Project Recover)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A view from Kiska Island overlooking a cannon, sunken ship, and the Norseman II.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Members of the expedition take time to examine a Japanese mini submarine that remains on Kiska Island.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A 120-millimeter anti-aircraft gun on Kiska Island.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

While beautiful, the island is a frigid, haunting monument to a battle that claimed the lives of almost 5,000 Japanese and American men.

Source: NOAA

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Historical image of the USS Abner Read. The red box indicates that section of the vessel that was blown off and sunk when the vessel struck a mine on Aug. 18, 1943.

(U.S. Navy photo)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Wreckage of the USS Abner Read captured by the project’s remotely operated vehicle.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

The inside of the hull of the USS Abner Read’s stern.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

A giant Pacific octopus now lives on the wreckage.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Wreckage of the USS Abner Read captured by the project’s ROV.

(Kiska: Alaska’s Underwater Battlefield expedition)

West Point grad snags coveted Salute to Service Award

Team members explore the island.

(NOAA Project Recover)

“We take our responsibility to protect these wrecks seriously,” Samuel Cox, the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command said. The USS Abner Read is the “last resting place of American sailors,” he added.

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

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