This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets "cowboy up" - We Are The Mighty
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This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Photos courtesy Semper Fi Fund


For Marine Corporal Alex Monaghan, who retired from the Corps in 2009 after four years as a rifleman during which he deployed twice (once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan), the phrase “boots on the ground” has taken on a far different meaning than those words typically suggest.

That’s because Alex is the first graduate of a brand-new Semper Fi Fund program: Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members learn valuable skills that they could one day leverage to start a business.

In Alex’s case, that skill is making high-quality cowboy boots.

It all began when Alex was considering going on “one of these horse stints,” as he describes it, as part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. While filling out the paperwork, there was a question at the bottom asking, “Are you interested in learning any of these skills?” Among the skills listed were knife-making, silver-engraving, roping … and making cowboy boots.

“It was weird that it was on there,” Alex recalls. “I always wanted to design my own boots. It’s a two-week program in St. Jo, Texas. The days are long—12 hours a day, six days a week—and there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You get a pair of customized boots when you’re done.”

The time may have been short, but Alex was learning from the best: The boot-making program is run by Carlton T. Chappell, a third-generation award-winning bootmaker who started in leathercraft in 1964 and has been recognized as one of the very best bootmakers in the world.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
“It’s pretty neat,” Alex says. “You can’t learn everything in two weeks—Carl is in his 70s or 80s now, and he’s still learning new techniques every day–but it’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn, a new skill to master.”

While making a quality pair of cowboy boots is intricate and artistic work, Alex felt he had something of a head start over his half-dozen or so classmates.

“I did tattoo work for a couple of years,” he explains. “As far as working with machines and stuff, you have this huge thing on the table—you still have to draw out your sketch pattern and sew it up. I felt as if I had some advantage, because I’d been doing something similar to it.”

After finishing the two-week seminar, Alex went on to serve a month-long apprenticeship in Vernon, Texas, with award-winning bootmaker Dew Westover. Dew spent 20 years as a working cowboy, attended Carl’s seminar in 2002 and opened his own boot shop in 2004.

Alex made two pair of boots during his apprenticeship, and now he’s studying business at Texas AM as part of an entrepreneurship for veterans program.

Looking back over the years since he’s left active duty, Alex has seen a number of ups and downs in his own life, but he credits the Semper Fi Fund with helping him get out and get active—and he encourages his fellow veterans to do the same.

“If there are vets who are thinking about these sorts of programs, and they’re itchy or worried about it, I say just give it a try.”

“A lot of vets create a bubble and don’t go out in public,” Alex continues. “I think it’s a great experience—you have buddies to hang out with, you’re pushing yourself to do things that your anxiety or PTSD is preventing you from doing. I do these things, it pushes me to get out and go on the road and deal with people.”

“I would encourage more vets to get out there and find something they enjoy. Whether it’s bike riding or horseback riding or whatever—I’m sure the Semper Fi Fund has something for them.”

To learn more about Alex, the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program and how these types of programs assist our nation’s veterans visit Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program.

 Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember whose who serve.

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Scott Eastwood thinks It’s time you start buying goods that are Made Here, in America

We’ve all seen the labels on our clothes, our cars and everything in between. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes it’s cheaper (and easier) to buy products that aren’t made here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.

Actor Scott Eastwood (The Outpost, Fury) and his business partner, serial entrepreneur Dane Chapin, are on a mission to change that story. Along the way, they’re highlighting some amazing American workers, companies and veterans.

“Supporting the American worker is not a political issue. It’s just what we should do,” Chapin said in an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty. Chapin’s latest venture? Partnering with actor Scott Eastwood to cofound Made Here, a company dedicated to selling American-made goods.

“Made Here exists to celebrate the excellence of the American worker by exclusively partnering with American manufacturers to make, market and license the best goods this country has to offer,” Chapin explained. Eastwood echoed his comments, adding, “The feeling of pride in our country that we share is something that is expressed in our products.”

And just like its incredible mission, Made Here has one hell of a story.


A commitment to service is more than a nice sentiment or a long-lost ideal for Chapin and Eastwood. For both men, it’s personal. Chapin’s father served in the Army and spent much of his time helping injured veterans before he passed away. Chapin continues to honor that legacy in his work and in personal projects, such as supporting the Encinitas VFW. Eastwood’s father (you might have heard of him – Clint?) was scheduled to deploy to Korea when he was in a plane crash, returning from a visit with his parents. The plane went down in the ocean en route from Seattle to Eastwood’s then duty station, Fort Ord. The Independent Journal from Oct. 1, 1951, reported:

Two servicemen, who battled a thick gray fog and a strong surf for almost an hour last night following a plane landing in the ocean near the Marin shore, are returning to their service units today uninjured.
Army Pvt. Clinton Eastwood, who wandered into the RCA radio station at Point Reyes after struggling in the ocean, told radio operators he and the pilot were forced to land their AD-2 bomber in the ocean and left on life rafts.”

While that grit and resilience is certainly what Clint is known for, perhaps lesser known is that he instilled those qualities in his son. Scott is bringing that same passion and determination to Made Here.

Made Here Brand

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“When Dane approached me about this idea a few years ago, I was automatically and immediately all in,” Eastwood shared. “For hundreds of years, ‘American-made’ has been synonymous with high quality,” he said. “It’s all the hard-working folks across the country that make our brand possible. I want to honor the iconic heritage of American manufacturing and let people know it’s very much alive and well.”

The company did a soft launch last month on their website and are ecstatic to be partnering with Amazon to launch a Made Here store front later this month. While Made Here is currently limited to apparel, Eastwood and Chapin have hopes to expand their product line as they move forward. “We’d love nothing more than to showcase all types of products,” Chapin said. “And the more veteran-owned and military-spouse owned businesses we can highlight, the better. We can never repay the debt of service we owe our veterans and military families, but American workers and manufacturers are what make our country the best in the world. We want people to know what they’re buying and feel good about their purchases, and what a benefit to be supporting those who have served us.”

While Made Here in and of itself is incredible, equally impressive is their “In a Day” series they launched, showcasing what Americans can accomplish in just 24 hours. Eastwood and Chapin couldn’t think of a better place to start than 24 hours on the USS Nimitz. “I couldn’t believe how down to earth, humble and hard-working those people were,” Eastwood said. Chapin added, “We joked about how they’re all working ‘half-days,’ recognizing that their 12 hour half-day is more than most people do in a full day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

IN A DAY | AIRCRAFT CARRIER – Scott Eastwood and the Made Here team aboard the USS Nimitz

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Made Here is here to stay and WATM couldn’t be more excited to cheer this company on as it promotes American workers and American ideals. “At a time when the country is so divided,” Chapin said, “we can all get behind supporting one another and buying goods that are Made Here.”

Articles

These stunning photos show supermodel Kate Upton doing some PT with Marines

The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.


Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Model Kate Upton was put through her paces to help the Corps promote a local event. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Marine Corps fitness instructors bang out some squats with supermodel Kate Upton. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.

“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Time to ruck up Miss Upton! (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Few things can truly lift a deployed troop’s spirits like hearing the words, “Hey you, you got mail” before having a big ol’ box plopped on their lap. It doesn’t matter what’s inside — just the fact that someone remembered them while they were away makes things better. Some troops are lucky enough to have family members who send out weekly boxes of momma’s cookies, but even those without a constant support network get love from churches, schools, and youth groups.

In the earlier years of the Global War on Terrorism, everybody sent care packages. There was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t putting something together to send abroad, whether it was for a cousin, a friend, a friend’s cousin — whoever. That same war still lingers today and troops are still struck with the same homesickness.

Care packages are the classic cure to homesickness and, even today, they remain the best remedy.


This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Don’t get me wrong. They will still fight each other over a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

Some of the older items that were frequently put in care packages for troops, like socks, bars of soaps, and candies that (hopefully) won’t melt after being left in the desert sun for hours, are still appreciated today. Any time troops get sent handwritten notes and children’s drawings, they’ll feel obligated to write back — but things have changed since the beginning of the war.

Fewer troops are in direct combat roles and, thankfully, deployments have gotten shorter. Today, troops are less likely to be put directly in harm’s way for over twelve months at a time, but they’re still not home. What this means is that necessities that may have once helped forward-deployed troops remember what a shower feels like are now stockpiled in the chaplain’s office.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Everyone learns how to play spades while deployed. Why not give your loved one a nicer deck of cards to play with?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Living conditions while deployed have changed a lot since 2001. Today, it’s far less common to see grunts crammed in a hastily made hut. Showers are definitely more abundant and troops have access to places where they can buy their own hygiene goods. That’s not to say that every single American GI is living a life of luxury, but the general level of “suckiness” has been reduced.

In short, this means that troops aren’t hurting for baby wipes like they used to. They’re still helpful to troops who leave the wire, but they’ll more than likely just be used so a troop can skip showering for a day. What troops need now are things for the mind, not the body. Books, movies, and games help pass the time. Without electricity, troops will always pull out a deck of cards and get a game of Spades going.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

The joys of having money and pretty much nothing to spend it on…

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by: Sgt. Frances Johnson)

The leaps and bounds in technology have also changed the definition of hot-ticket care-package items. Troops no longer need to wait in long lines and hope that there’s still enough time on their pre-paid card to call home. Bases have been getting better and more expansive WiFi networks through the USO, which now allows troops to simply use their smartphone to call home while off-duty.

This boost in technology also does a lot of heavylifting on the part of AAFES, the service that sells regular goods to troops. Instead of hoping that they might have a new pair of running shoes or a fresh hard-drive for storing movies in this month’s package from home, they can just order stuff off Amazon.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Military cooks always try to shove the healthy options down our throats. What we really want is some junk food that reminds us of being back home.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

Which brings us back to what troops of today actually want and need. Anything given by a family member with sentimental value is always going to hit home. As corny as it sounds, troops will still put photos of their family and loved ones up on display, just as they have since photography was invented.

Any comfy fleece blankets will be used instead of the Uncle Sam-issued sleeping systems. I’ve personally known troops to keep those cheapo blankets they give out on international flights and use them for twelve months instead of the issued gear.

Sweets are always going to be enjoyed and shared — especially the homemade goods. It doesn’t matter if it was their own momma who made the cookies or someone else’s momma, they’ll be devoured.

It’s kind of a taboo thing to say, but troops will always ask for it, so it’s worth mentioning. If you know that the deployed troop smokes or dips, they could really use some actual stuff instead of the maybe-poisonous, maybe-just-awful tobacco products the locals sell.

It might seem like ancient history to some, but troops are still deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. That war has drawn on long enough that the needs of deployed troops have changed, but homesickness (and its remedy) remains the same.

Articles

7 best viral videos from troops overseas

Troops overseas are generally expected to keep their heads down and do their jobs. But every once in a while, some military leaders decide to let their Joes and Jills take a break from work and put together some of the hilarious videos they see on the internet.


Typically, this includes a bunch of troops dancing and singing along to a popular pop song. There’s also the occasional motivational speech (such as number 2 on this list where U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Brian Walgren gave a paraphrased speech from Col. John Glenn) that goes viral.

Just a warning, most of these viral videos include adult language.

In no particular order, here are seven of the bests viral videos from troops overseas:

1. U.S. troops perfectly recreate Miami Dolphin cheerleaders lip syncing to “Call Me Maybe”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H96-TwrwY7M

2. Gunnery Sgt. Brian Walgren motivates Marines before they assault Marjah

3. Marines in Iraq sing “Hakuna Matata” before the gym

4. Marines sing (part of) “Build me Up, Buttercup”

5. Paratroopers lip sync “Telephone”

6. A bunch of Marines coming home sing “Sweet Caroline” to their flight attendant named Caroline

7. Navy and Marine medical unit performs “Gangnam Style” dance

Articles

These vets brew Semper Fi PA and Jet Noise

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”


Army National Guard Veteran, Tom Wilder, and Army Reserves Veteran, Neil McCannon, set out to build an empire of home-brewed beer in their hometown of Virginia Beach, VA in 2012. After successfully crowd funding their endeavor via Kickstarter, Tom and Neil were delighted to open their doors for business roughly 18 months ago, making them among the first veteran-owned breweries by vets, for vets.

What makes them special is the idea behind their brewery and how frequently they give back to their own community.

“For Young Veterans Brewing Company brewing is about love,” Tom said. “Since our first batch, we have been delighted by the artistry of the process and the creativity of recipe development and perfection. We are captivated by the detail and scientific precision required during the production and maturation processes. Mostly though, we love the joy we provide with our distinctive, high quality beer.”

Tom and Neil began experimenting after a stint as roommates.

“We lived together in a house together with like six other people in our twenties,” Neil said. “We had a home brew kit brought over and we made it together; it was a brown ale and it turned out well. If it hadn’t turned out better than we expected, I don’t think we would have continued.”

“The military has played a pivotal role in both our lives, shaping us as men and as citizens. Combined with our love of craft beer and experience in home-brewing these last five years, our idea took shape and we are ready to begin our new careers as small business owners and as brewers.” — Neil McCannon

This set them apart from most home brewers because they began experimenting shortly after their third batch whereas many will brew from standard kits.

“When you first start home brewing, they supply you with basically everything you need to brew beer,” Tom said. “After the third one we basically said screw the kit and began experimenting on our own, becoming addicted to brewing.”

In opening the brewery, the name was the easy part. Tom and Neil are natives of the area and both served in the military.

“To us, Young Veterans is where we’re from,” Neil explained. “We’re vets and we wanted to open our own business. We’re making a call to where we’re from, and the name was the easy answer. We do have a lot of focus on veterans charities and the military because it meant a lot to us. It was something [the military] we wanted to keep in our lives.”

“We were really worried that someone was going to steal our idea because we were YVBC about two years before we opened,” Tom said. “It would have been easy for someone to come in with a decent amount money and say, ‘Nice name’ and take off with it. We’re lucky that didn’t happen. We were very much among the first of veteran-themed breweries to pop up and shortly after we opened, Veterans Brewing popped up in Chicago, who is a high-volume, money making contract brewery. It puts pressure on us to stand out.”

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Originally, the two were looking to start a grandiose brewery with a large concert space and a tap room, but after considering the options they had in regard to venue size, budget and production, Tom and Neil opened a small brewery near Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach, completing their transition from home brewers to brewery owners.

Tom explained that in order to get their feet on the ground Neil attended the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich and obtained an International Degree in Brewing Science last year to further their goal and his knowledge as a brewer and Tom gained experience working in multiple facets of a distributing company.”

Today, they can barely keep up with the foot traffic from their 40/60 military to civilian customer base and are looking to expand. They recently found that they’ll be sharing the area with a veterans service group just up the street. Several of YVBC’s craft beers have become a staple in the Hampton Roads community, even traveling to other venues for “steal the taps” events in the area. The tap room features a membership club called ‘Canteen Command’ with military themed swag and a personalized mug that allows members to drink unreleased brews before they debut to the general public.

The duo is known for a variety of incredible brews with catchy names and nostalgic labels like “Pineapple Grenade,” “Jet Noise,” “Semper F.I.P.A.,” “Night Vision,” “New Recruit,” “DD-214,” and “Big Red Rye.” For more information about Tom, Neil and the gang at YVBC, they can be found at yvbc.com or on Instagram: @YVBC.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.

And check out American Veteran Magazine at amvets.magloft.com.

 

Now: 6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used 

Articles

Meet the wounded Iraq war veteran being honored by ESPN

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”


Next month, as Hollywood and professional athletes gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the year in sports, U.S. Army Veteran and VA employee Danielle Green will be honored at the 2015 ESPYS with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.

“As a teammate and soldier, Pat believed we should always strive to be part of something bigger than ourselves while empowering those around us,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Danielle has been unwavering in her aspiration to lift others suffering from the physical and mental injuries of war. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to continue the new tradition of the Tillman Award, honoring Danielle for her service as a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”

Green, who is now a supervisor readjustment counseling therapist at the South Vet Center located in South Bend, IN., said she was honored to receive the award and be a part of Tillman’s legacy of selfless service.

“It means so much,” she said. “You see so many negative stories revolving around suicide, PTSD and VA employees, but everyday my team and I work with Veterans who truly believe they are broken. We show them how much they have to offer, how they can heal and get them the help they need.”

Green has seen her share of adversity. In 2004, a little more than a year after leaving her job as a schoolteacher to enlist as a military police, she found herself on the rooftop of an Iraqi Police station in the center of Baghdad.

She recalls the heat and the uneasy feeling she had when the normally lively neighborhood turned quiet. Suddenly a coordinated RPG attack on the station from surrounding buildings left her bleeding out and in shock.

“I didn’t realize I was missing my left arm,” she said. “I just remember being angry at the fact that I was going to die in Iraq.”

She credits the quick response of her team and their proximity to the Green Zone to her survival. She believed her quiet prayers, asking for a second chance to live and tell her story, didn’t hurt either.

“I learned to really value life that day,” Green said. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

In the course of a few days, she went from a hot rooftop in Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. For eight months the former Notre Dame Basketball standout worked with physicians, nurses and occupational/physical therapists to recover from her injuries. The southpaw’s loss of her dominant arm forced her to relearn daily tasks like writing, but through it all she continued to follow her dreams and found inspiration in those medical professionals around her. They never let her quit on herself, and while there was doubt and fear of what her life would be like after she was discharged from Walter Reed and the Army, she kept charting a path toward service.

After going back to school for her masters in counseling, and a short stint as an assistant athletic director at a college, Green found an opportunity to harness all of her experiences and assist fellow Veterans who were transitioning out of the military. By 2010, she had gone from being a patient to a catalyst for change for those seeking help at her local Vet Center.

“There was some doubt and self pity,” she said. “I’d sometime look down at my arm and wonder what the purpose of it all was … But now I realize the importance of what I can do for my peers. It’s challenging and rewarding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

More from VAntage Point

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2014. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force vet reunites with daughter for the first time in 36 years

Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.

She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.

“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”


The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.

Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.

When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.

“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”

Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.

“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”

“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.

“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.

“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”

Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”

“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”

Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.

Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.

“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.

“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”

Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”

Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.

And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.

“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’

“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”

Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.

“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”

She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.

Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.

In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.

“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”


Reunion at the Games . . .

www.facebook.com

This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…

Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”

Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”

The two e-mailed back and forth all day.

Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.

“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!

Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.

“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”

They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.

“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”

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

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6 of the most badass US military test pilots of all time

Military test pilots are a rare breed, undertaking the responsibility of flying new aircraft to their design limits . . . and then beyond.  In his classic book The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe puts it this way:


A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even–ultimately, God willing, one day–that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men’s eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself.

Here are six of those who over their test pilot careers proved they were badasses with ample amounts of the Right Stuff:

1. Jimmy Doolittle

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Jimmy Doolittle felt the test pilot itch very early in his life. At age 15, he built a glider, jumped off a cliff, and crashed. He stuck the pieces back together and tried again. The second crash was worse, and when he came to rest there was nothing left to salvage.

In 1922, Doolittle made a solo crossing of the continental United States in a de Havilland DH-4 in under 24 hours. Two years later, he performed the first outside loop in a Curtiss Hawk. In 1929, he flew from takeoff to landing while referring only to instruments — a feat The New York Times called “the greatest single step in safety.”

During World War II Doolittle was sent off to train crews for a mysterious mission, and he ended up leading the entire effort. On April 18, 1942, 15 B-25s launched from the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo. Most ditched off the Chinese coast or crashed; other crew members had bailed out, including Doolittle. Though he was crushed by what he called his “failure,” Doolittle was awarded the title Brigadier General and a Congressional Medal of Honor, which, he confided to General Henry “Hap” Arnold, he would spend the rest of his life earning.

2. Bob Hoover

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

After his Spitfire was shot down by a Focke-Wulf 190 over the Mediterranean in 1944, Hoover was captured and spent 16 months in the Stalag Luft 1 prison in Barth, Germany. He eventually escaped, stole a Fw 190 (which, of course, he had never piloted), and flew to safety in Holland.

After the war Hoover signed up to serve as an Army Air Forces test pilot, flying captured German and Japanese aircraft. He befriended Chuck Yeager and eventually became Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program. He flew chase in a Lockheed P-80 when Yeager first exceeded Mach 1.

Hoover moved on to North American Aviation, where he test-flew the T-28 Trojan, FJ-2 Fury, AJ-1 Savage, F-86 Sabre, and F-100 Super Sabre, and in the mid-1950s he began flying North American aircraft, both civil and military, at airshows. Jimmy Doolittle called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.”

3. Chuck Yeager

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

As a young Army Air Forces pilot in training, Yeager had to overcome airsickness before he went on to down 12 German fighters, including a Messerschmitt 262, the first jet fighter. After the war, still in the AAF, he trained as a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, where he got to fly the United States’ first jet fighter, the Bell P-59.

Yeager then went to Muroc Field in California, where Larry Bell introduced him and fellow test pilot Bob Hoover to the Bell XS-1. On October 14, 1947, ignoring the pain of two cracked ribs, Yeager reached Mach 1.07. “There was no ride ever in the world like that one!” he later wrote. The aircraft accelerated so rapidly that when the landing gear was retracted, an actuating rod snapped and the wing flaps blew off.

He test piloted the Douglas X-3, Northrop X-4, and Bell X-5, as well as the prototype for the Boeing B-47 swept-wing jet bomber. And on one December day in 1953, he tried to coax an X-1A to Mach 2.3 to break Scott Crossfield’s Mach 2 record attained in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. At 80,000 feet and Mach 2.4, the nose yawed, a wing rose, and the X-1A went out of control. He managed to recover the airplane at 25,000 feet.

Yeager was sent to Okinawa in 1954 to test a Soviet MiG-15 that a North Korean had used to defect. When he stopped test-flying that year, he had logged 10,000 hours in 180 types of military aircraft.

4. Scott Crossfield

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

In 1950 former Navy fighter pilot Scott Crossfield was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and sent to Edwards Air Force Base in California to fly the world’s hottest X-planes, including the X-1, the tail-less Northrop X-4, the Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and D-558-II Skyrocket, the Convair XF-92A and the Bell X-5. He made 100 rocket-plane flights in all.

On November 20, 1953, he took the D-558-II to Mach 2.04, becoming the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound.

He gained a reputation as a pilot whose flights were jinxed: On his first X-4 flight, he lost both engines; in the Skyrocket, he flamed out; the windshield iced over in the X-1. After a deadstick landing in a North American F-100, he lost hydraulic pressure and the Super Sabre slammed into a hangar wall, which caused Chuck Yeager to proclaim: “The sonic wall was mine; the hangar wall was Crossfield’s.”

In 1955, he quit NACA and started flying the sinister-looking X-15. Crossfield made the first eight flights of the X-15, learning its idiosyncrasies, and logged another six after NASA and Air Force pilots joined the program.

On his fourth X-15 flight, the fuselage buckled right behind the cockpit on landing. But his most serious mishap happened on the ground while testing the XLR-99 engine in June 1960.

“I put the throttle in the stowed position and pressed the reset switch,” Crossfield wrote in his autobiography Always Another Dawn. “It was like pushing the plunger on a dynamite detonator. X-15 number three blew up with incredible force.” Fire engines rushed to extinguish the blaze, and Crossfield was extracted from the cockpit.

“The only casualty was the crease in my trousers,” he told reporters. “The firemen got them wet when they sprayed the airplane with water. I pictured the headline: ‘Space Ship Explodes; Pilot Wets Pants.'”

5. Neil Armstrong

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

Neil Armstrong’s path to being the first man on the moon was a somewhat circuitous one. He entered Navy flight training right out of high school and wound up flying 78 missions over Korea. He left active duty at age 22 and went to college at Purdue where he earned an engineering degree that, in turn, landed him a job as an experimental research test pilot stationed at Edward Air Force Base.

Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 from November 1960 to July 1962, reaching a top altitude of 207,500 feet and a top speed of Mach 5.74. He left the Dryden Flight Research Center with a total of 2,400 flying hours. During his test pilot career, he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft.

Then the real work began. In 1958, he was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Man In Space Soonest program. In November 1960, Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane under development by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force, and on March 15, 1962, he was selected by the U.S. Air Force as one of seven pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.

In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for the second group of NASA astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited about the prospects of both the Apollo program and of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Armstrong’s astronaut application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline. Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed. 

Astronaut Deke Slayton called Armstrong on September 13, 1962, and asked whether he would be interested in joining the NASA Astronaut Corps as part of what the press dubbed “the New Nine”; without hesitation, Armstrong said yes, which made him the first (technically) civilian astronaut.

Armstrong was ultimately given the nod to lead the Apollo 11 mission because he was generally regarded as the guy with the most analytical mind and coolest under pressure among the astronauts.

(Source: Wikipedia)

6. John Glenn

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

John Glenn is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, but before he was one of the Mercury 7 he was a test pilot. Then-Major Glenn flew an F8U-1P Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California nonstop to NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York at a record speed of 725.55 mph. The flight, which involved Glenn refueling from airborne tankers at waypoints across the country — the only times he pulled the power out of afterburner (besides his final approach to landing) — lasted just three hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds, and that beat the previous record holder (an F-100F Super Sabre) by 15 minutes.

The purpose of the Project Bullet was to prove that the Pratt Whitney J-57 engine could tolerate an extended period at combat power – full afterburner – without damage. After the flight, Pratt Whitney engineers disassembled the J-57 and, based on their examination, determined that the engine could perform in extended combat situations. Accordingly, all power limitations on J-57s were lifted from that day forward.

(An interesting side note is that the Crusader that Glenn used for Project Bullet was reclaimed from the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB and made into a Navy RF-8G reconnaissance aircraft.  Following a photo mission over North Vietnam in December of 1972, the jet was lost while trying to land aboard the USS Oriskany operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. The pilot ejected and survived.)

(Source: Flying Leathernecks)

Now: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch SWCC operators jump out of a C-17 with their boats

The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.

The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.


SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.

SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.

The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.

Check out the video of the training exercise here:

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The US has a crazy way of killing tanks without killing the crew

In 1999, U.S. military planners had to solve a tricky problem: How do you stop a ruthless dictator from breaking the rules without resorting to ruthless tactics yourself?


Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was ignoring “no-fly zones” established to keep him from attacking Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his own country. American and allied air forces were able to force Iraqi jets to stay on the ground, but Hussein ordered his anti-air units to antagonize the U.S. fighters from civilian areas. He also stationed other units in areas they weren’t allowed to be in, but made sure they were surrounded by civilians as well.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”
Photo: Wikipedia/Flightsoffancy

To hit the targets without causing collateral damage, the U.S. turned to “concrete bombs.” The bombs were training aids repurposed to destroy actual targets. Weighing 500, 1,000, or 2,000 pounds, they wouldn’t explode when they struck an enemy vehicle but would transfer their kinetic energy into it. This would destroy even large vehicles like tanks without harming people nearby. If the crew was lucky, they might even survive a bomb that struck outside of the crew area of a vehicle.

France used the bombs in 2011, dropping concrete bombs during the liberation of Libya. Concrete bombs are still used by America in both training and real world missions. To see a simulated concrete bomb destroy a car, check out the National Geographic video below.

NOW: This crazy rifle grenade allows soldiers to blow through the Taliban’s front door

OR: This classic spy plane can’t land safely without a car driving behind it at 140 mph

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Taliban have special forces and the tech to match it

In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.


This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.

Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.

The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.

No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.

This Marine Corporal is helping his fellow vets “cowboy up”

How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?

“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”

Videos released by the Taliban depict their fighters training with even more advanced American weapons technology, including the FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle, AN/PEQ 5 visible lasers, and more. The SCAR is only used by the U.S. Special Operations Command, so seeing a Taliban insurgent carrying one came as a surprise to those in the know.

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US Special Operations troops are bringing the fight to ISIS in Libya

For the first time, U.S. and Libyan officials have confirmed that U.S. Special Operations were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.


Due to the fact that the mission was not yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.

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A US Special Forces sniper training at Twentynine Palms, CA. | United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.

This decision from the Pentagon comes on the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Post reports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.

In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the U.S.’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.

“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.

Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.

Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.