U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists

“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.

Dunford and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spoke to Pentagon reporters during a break.


This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.

Combating violent extremism

Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.

There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”

The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.

The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.

The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.

Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.

Stabilization, sustainment effort

McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”

He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.

Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

AI experts want to get their tech to troops in the field

Two Defense Department artificial-intelligence experts testified on Capitol Hill Dec.11, 2018, on DOD’s efforts to transform delivery of capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence to the nation’s warfighters.

Lisa Porter, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, testified at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.


The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 directed the defense secretary to conduct a comprehensive national review of advances in AI relevant to the needs of the military services. Section 238 directed the secretary to craft a strategic plan to develop, mature, adopt and transition AI technologies into operational use.

“Today we are experiencing an explosion of interest in a subfield of AI called machine learning, where algorithms have become remarkably good at classification and prediction tasks when they can be trained on very large amounts of data,” Porter told the House panel. Today’s AI capabilities offer potential solutions to many defense-specific problems, such as object identification in drone video or satellite imagery and detection of cyber threats on networks, she said.

Deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Lisa Porter.

However, she added, several issues must be addressed to effectively apply AI to national security mission problems.

“First, objective evaluation of performance requires the use of quantitative metrics that are relevant to the specific use case,” she said. “In other words, AI systems that have been optimized for commercial applications may not yield effective outcomes in military applications.”

Challenges, vulnerabilities

DOD is working to address such challenges and vulnerabilities in multiple ways, she said, most of which will leverage the complementary roles of the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the department’s research and engineering enterprise.

Second, Porter said, existing AI systems need enormous amounts of training data, and the preparation of that data in a format that the algorithms can use, in turn, requires a large amount of human labor.

“AI systems that have been trained on one type of data typically do not perform well on data that are different from the training data,” she noted.

The JAIC’s focus on scaling and integration will drive innovation in data curation techniques, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will pursue algorithms that can be “robustly trained with much less data,” Porter said.

“The high-performance computing modernization program is designing new systems that will provide ample processing power for AI applications on the battlefield,” she added.

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.

Countering adversarial AI is one of the key focus areas of DARPA’s “AI Next” campaign, she emphasized. “Ultimately, as we look to the future, we anticipate a focus on developing AI systems that have the ability to reason as humans do, at least to some extent,” Porter said. “Such a capability would greatly amplify the utility of AI, enabling AI systems to become true partners with their human counterparts in problem solving. It is important that we continue to pursue cutting-edge research in AI, especially given the significant investments our adversaries are making.”

Three themes of JAIC effort

Deasy detailed the JAIC and highlighted three themes of its effort.

“The first is delivering AI-enabled capabilities at speed,” he said. “JAIC is collaborating now with teams across DOD to systematically identify, prioritize and select mission needs, and then rapidly execute a sequence across functional use cases that demonstrate value and spur momentum.”

The second theme is all about scale, he said.

“JAIC’s early projects serve a dual purpose: to deliver new capabilities to end users, as well as to incrementally develop the common foundation that is essential for scaling AI’s impact across DoD,” he explained. “This means [the use of] shared data, reusable tools, libraries, standards, and AI cloud and edge services that helped jumpstart new projects.”

The third theme is building the initial JAIC team.

“It’s all about talent,” he said. “And this will be representative across all the services and all components. Today, we have assembled a force of nearly 30 individuals. Going forward, it is essential that JAIC attract and cultivate a select group of mission-driven, world-class AI talent, including pulling these experts into service from industry.”

In November 2018, before more than 600 representatives of 380 companies, academic institutions and government organizations at DOD’s AI Industry Day, Deasy said, he announced that the department had achieved a significant milestone: “JAIC is now up and running and open for business.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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

Articles

Admiral fired for watching porn didn’t realize how many hours he’d been at it


Two months ago Rear Admiral Richard Williams was found guilty of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman after evidence showed that he’d spent numerous hours viewing porn on a government computer during a training exercise aboard a Navy ship.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Williams implied during testimony that he didn’t start off with the intention of viewing porn but that he was drawn there by pop-up advertisements. “It started as pop-ups, but then I navigated,” Williams told investigators.

Data gathered during a routine computer sweep conducted by the Navy Information Operations Command showed that during the six days Williams was aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the summer of 2015 he watched four hours of porn. Later, in December, he was on the ship for five days and watched in five hours of porn.

When confronted with those stats Williams replied, “I didn’t know it was this much.”

Williams was serving as the commander of Carrier Strike Group 15 at the time of his infractions. He earned his commission in 1984 after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology and served as a surface warfare officer for much of his career.

Along with being removed from his post, Williams was also issued a punitive letter of reprimand, an extra level of discipline that indicates the Navy considers moral crimes more egregious than professional errors like running a ship aground or causing a collision at sea.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How one of the NFL’s greats honors fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman

It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.

The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.


NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.

As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.

Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.

Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.

The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.

Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.

The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.

“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch live: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship is docking 4 astronauts to the International Space Station

Update: The spaceship docked with the International Space Station at 11:01 p.m. ET on Monday.

SpaceX rocketed four astronauts into Earth’s orbit on Sunday, kicking off its most ambitious spaceflight yet for NASA.

The mission, called Crew-1, is set to bring Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, to the International Space Station. They’re scheduled to stay there for six months, constituting the longest human spaceflight in NASA history.

The astronauts launched aboard a Crew Dragon spaceship on Sunday evening. Once in orbit, the crew changed out of their spacesuits into more comfortable clothes, ate dinner, and settled down for a night’s rest.

All in all, they’re set to spend 27 hours inside the Crew Dragon capsule, which the astronauts have named Resilience, before the ship fully lines up with and docks to a port on the station. The docking operation requires a complex set of maneuvers, and the Crew-1 launch won’t be considered complete until it’s done. If the spaceship can’t dock, it may have to turn around, plummet through Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute into the ocean so NASA and SpaceX can recover the astronauts.

crew dragon iss docking demo2 spacex
The Crew Dragon docks to the International Space Station, May 31, 2020. 

If docking succeeds, though, Crew-1 will become the first operational mission to come out of a decade-long effort to restore NASA’s human spaceflight capabilities. Through its Commercial Crew Program, the space agency has funded the development of private, astronaut-ready launch systems from SpaceX and Boeing. NASA has spent more than $6 billion on the program, according to The Planetary Society.

SpaceX on Tuesday became the first company to receive NASA’s human-spaceflight certification for a commercial system, and Crew-1 marks its first “operational” mission. The company proved its human-launch abilities this summer when it successfully rocketed NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS and back in a test flight called Demo-2.

Now, the four astronauts on the Resilience spaceship are awake and monitoring the docking operation.

“We’re not done yet,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, told reporters two hours after the launch. “That spacecraft’s out there with those four precious crew members on [it], and we’re going to get them safely to the International Space Station tomorrow.”

NASA TV is broadcasting live video of the docking on its stream below:

NASA plans to continue broadcasting through about 2 a.m. ET, after the agency expects Crew-1 astronauts to float inside the ISS, greet each other, and wrap up a traditional docking ceremony. 

How a 13-ton spaceship precision maneuvers into an ISS port

The flight is programmed to be automatic, but the crew will keep tabs on the process. If anything goes wrong, the astronauts can manually control the spacecraft.

“They won’t have to push any buttons or fire any thrusters, Dragon is doing this all on its own — it’s completely autonomous,” Leah Cheshier, a NASA communications specialist, said during NASA TV and SpaceX’s joint broadcast on Monday night. “The crew is just monitoring when you see them looking at their screens.”

spacex crew dragon endeavour astronauts touch screen nasa astronauts bob behnken doug hurley
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley prepare to depart the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on August 1, 2020. 

Early in the docking process, Resilience stopped about 400 meters below the space station, later swing up and in front of the facility. The capsule then began a series of automated maneuvers to close in on the ISS. First, it began slowly pulling up to a point about 220 meters ahead of the station’s Node 2 forward port.

Assuming all goes well, the spaceship’s autopilot will continue inching it toward the football-field-size, orbiting laboratory and line up its docking system with the adapter on the port.https://gfycat.com/ifr/QuerulousThickHamster

Crew Dragon’s automated and manual docking systems have both been tested. During Demo-2, Behnken and Hurley turned off the auto-pilot to and controlled the vehicle. Demo-2 was a test flight, after all, and part of it was making sure the backup systems worked.

“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast after the docking, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though this was as expected.

If there are no issues, and the new Crew Dragon firmly secures itself to the ISS in the same way the last ship did, the station’s adapter will slowly fill with air, allow the astronauts inside to open their hatches, and then greet each other with zero-gravity hugs.

Kate Rubins, the NASA astronaut currently on the ISS, will be waiting to greet them.

“I have some great friends flying on that vehicle, so I’m going to be pretty happy to open the hatch and welcome them to the space station,” she told Business Insider.

Nasa kate rubins voting astronaut
NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins. 

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will also welcome Crew-1 to the space station.

The Crew Dragon will remain attached to the ISS for the astronauts’ entire stay there. The Resilience capsule has a new set of solar panels that are much more durable than the ones that flew with Behnken and Hurley. Those previous solar panels would have begun to degrade in the harsh radiation of space after just 110 days (that mission only lasted two months). Resilience, however, is certified to weather 210 days — nearly seven months — in space.

This may not be the only docking in the Crew-1 mission

spacex crew dragon endeavour docked international space station iss july 1 2020 iss063e034054
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spaceship photographed by astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy while performing a spacewalk on July 1, 2020. 

In another major upgrade, Resilience is programmed with the ability to move itself to another of the four ports on the US section of the ISS, in order to make room for other incoming spaceships.

“It’s getting a little crowded in space. And that’s a really good thing,” NASA astronaut Suni Williams said in a Friday briefing.

Williams is set to fly on the first operational mission of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner — that company’s spaceship for astronauts, which was funded and designed through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as well. The Starliner is set to reattempt an uncrewed test flight to the space station in 2021, since the first test failed. That might require the Crew Dragon to move to a different port.

To relocate the spaceship, the crew will climb back in and run new software that should maneuver the Crew Dragon away from its original docking point, the Forward Port, and re-dock to the station’s Zenith Port.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

VET Tv’s ‘A Grunt’s Life’ will be a cult-classic among troops and vets

It’s hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There’s a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I’m referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They’re expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam – but it’s toned down for a wider audience.

Then you have VET Tv’s Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt’s Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck… It’s really f*cking good.


With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said…

There’s also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You’ll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.

(VetTV)

First thing’s first. A Grunt’s Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it’s a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.

The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who’s ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you’ll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You’ll see plenty of dicks, but that’s kind of how deployments are…

There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.

This film was done so well that you can’t even tell A Grunt’s Life was actually 185 times cheaper to make than Jarhead 2.

(VetTV)

One thing that I can’t stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!

The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what’s on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.

The film is crude. It’s so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It’s not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn’t affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.

And that’s alright. This film isn’t made for everyone. It’s made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.

I give it 5.56 Stars.

You can watch the trailer below.

Lists

HillVets’ 100 Most Influential And Impactful Veterans, Service Members, And Supporters

 


In the fall of 2014, HillVets requested nominations for their first annual HillVets 100 award.  The HillVets 100 highlights the most influential and impactful veterans, service members and supporters from 2014.  Nominations poured in and HillVets compiled a list encompassing individuals from many diverse sectors and areas, including those in the arts, politics, business, philanthropy, and personal achievements.

Though different in their pursuits and contributions, the commonalities we found in the men and women listed as the HillVets 100 were their mission and purpose of giving back to those that have sacrificed so much for our nation.  “As an organization that emphasizes networking and empowerment, we thought it would be a great way to create synergy with the amazing work that veterans and supporters are doing across numerous sectors. Imagine the great things that would happen if we get all of these men and women in the same room. We intend to shortly,” said HillVets Co-Founder Justin Brown.

HillVets 100 provided a chance to recognize those who have continued answering the call to serve, and it is a chance to gather and celebrate the successes of so many of our fellow veterans.  Abigail Gage, HillVets Director of Operations and Outreach said, “We wish the list could’ve been longer. The selection process was a challenge. The project as a whole was more demanding then we had expected, but it was worth it.” HillVets had an open nomination period. Final selections and summaries were created by a panel of 13 HillVets 100 Committee members; a special thanks to them for their very diligent efforts.

Medal of Honor Category

The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, bestowed for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. These veterans and service members’ actions bring veterans and service members into the forefront of the national conscious, and we are thankful for them.

Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins, United States Army

Sergeant First Class Adkins was a Medal of Honor recipient in 2014 for his combat operations at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam from 9 March 1966 to 12 March 1966.  Sgt. 1st Class Adkins manned a mortar position while running through exploding mortar rounds and dragging several of his comrades to safety.  When the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades while sustaining injuries.  Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism in close combat against a superior hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.

Colonel (Ret.) Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., United States Marine Corps

Colonel (Ret.) Harvey Curtiss Barnum, Jr. was born in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was a natural leader, serving as president of his freshman and senior high school classes.  He commissioned into the United States Marine Corps officer, and deployed to the Vietnam War, where he earned Medal of Honor. After retiring from the Marine Corps, He continued to serve the military community as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs, then as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). He has also served as a president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Corporal (Ret.) Kyle William Carpenter, United States Marine Corps

Corporal Carpenter was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2009.  During a 2010 deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan he threw himself in front of a grenade to protect a fellow Marine.  For these actions, he received the Medal of Honor on June 19, 2014.  Medically retired, he is pursuing a degree at the University of South Carolina.

Sergeant Santiago Jesus Erevia, United States Army

Sgt. Santiago Erevia was born in Nordheim, Texas, and volunteered for the United States Army at 22 years old.  He deployed to the Vietnam War, where he served as a radio-telephone operator.  His conduct during a search-and-clear mission eventually resulted in his receiving the Medal of Honor in 2014.

Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris, United States Army

SFC Melvin Morris was born and grew up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  He enlisted into the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and then went on active duty.  He became one of the first Green Berets in 1961 and volunteered for two tours during the Vietnam War.  For his actions in Vietnam, Morris received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a March 18, 2014 ceremony at the White House.

Master Sergeant Leroy Arthur Petry, United States Army

MSG Petry was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, enlisting in the Army after high school.  He was training to become a Ranger on September 11th, 2001.  MSG Petry deployed eight times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 2008 while deployed to Paktia Province, Afghanistan.  Severely wounded during these actions, Petry lost his right arm below the elbow, but returned to service with a prosthetic, deploying to Afghanistan for another tour.

Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, United States Army

Ryan Pitts was born in Lowell, Massachusetts.  He enlisted in the Army, deploying to Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2008, where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a forward observer.   He was medically discharged from the Army in 2009.  He now lives in Nashua, New Hampshire with his wife and son.  He works in business development.

Sergeant Kyle J. White, United States Army

Sergeant White was born in Seattle, Washington.  He enlisted in the army in 2006, and deployed to Aranas, Afghanistan where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a platoon radio-telephone operator. After departing from active-duty, White pursued degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, afterward working as an investment analyst with the Royal Bank of Canada.

Individual Accomplishment Category

These individuals are some of the most exemplary representatives of the veteran community, able to bridge the gap between the veteran and civilian population by educating and increasing the understanding between them.  These individuals work to make the veteran experience a reality, and have dedicated their careers to pursuing their goals, achieving great success and recognition in all of their endeavors.

Phil Klay, Author of Redeployment

Phil Klay was awarded with the National Book Award of 2014 for his writing of Redeployment. Though this is a work of fiction, the characters Klay develops are based on the real experiences of this Marine veteran. This work shows the array of emotions and the individuals who make up the Marine Corps.

But perhaps even more important to the veteran community is the picture Klay paints of Marines transitioning from their military service back into the country within their communities. His narrative stays focused on the experience of war and how it can change a person’s perspective. Redeployment shares what it’s like to return to a country full of people who have never experienced the camaraderie, carnage, happy moments and sad times of the U.S. Marine Corps. If you have not read it, do so.

Dr. Nichole Pardo, OB/GYN, Foxhall ObGyn Associates

 In March of 2014, Army Veteran Dr. Pardo inspired DC area veterans by taking the cover of the Washingtonian Magazine as a Top Doctor in the DC area; the second time she has made the list.

As a recipient of a Health Professions Scholarship from the US Army during medical school, Dr. Pardo completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.  Following residency training in 2002, Dr. Pardo was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning to Washington, DC she attained her board certification in obstetrics and gynecology and spent the next 4 years working as an attending obstetrician-gynecologist at both Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. During this time she was actively engaged in the residency-training program and served as the Chief of the Gynecology Division at Walter Reed. She joined Foxhall ObGyn Associates in 2007 following her nine-year medical career in the US Army.

Mike Viti, Hiking for Heroes

Viti vini vici, Mike Viti walked over 7,000 kilometers during most of 2014 to honor those who have died in the line of duty. For each kilometer, he writes a name on a flag that he carries with him, each the name of a fallen service member.  Going 26 kilometers or more a day, he has 14 flags filled with names. Media outlets noticed and took a moment to remind people of the 13 years of war in the Middle East and those Americans who have paid the ultimate price for armed conflict. Local and national media took notice when Mr. Viti felt compelled to raise awareness because he noticed how easy it seemed for many Americans to ignore the war.  Viti is inspiring more veterans to take action to remind people of the cost of war, and he is just getting started. He plans to create more projects based on demanding challenges to continue to bring awareness for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Janine Davidson, Senior Policy Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Dr. Davidson is an Air Force veteran whose post military career has kept her at the vanguard of defense issues. This former combat pilot has received recognition from both the federal government and from the academic world for her work. Her regular blog on defense policy has added to public awareness and the conversation about the true cost of war.  While Dr. Davidson’s focus is primarily on contemporary and emerging defense issues, her focus has helped add perspective for the troops on the ground and other geopolitical defense issues.  In addition to her regular blog posts, this year her articles were published in The Hill, USA Today, and Defense One to name but a few.

The Arts Category

Those selected in this category have been successful in the art and entertainment sectors.  From producing and directing movies that portray the lives of veterans and military service members, to developing programs that allow veterans to enhance their skills and talents, these individuals have pushed the envelope in the industry and have made headway for up and coming veteran artists, actors and entertainers.

B.R. McDonald, Founder and President, Veteran Artist Program

As the founder and President of the Veteran Artist Program, B.R. McDonald has fostered and promoted veteran artists across the nation, successfully bringing thousands of veterans to new careers in visual arts, filmmaking, writing and other performing arts. Mr. McDonald and the VAP is most recognized for pioneering the Pentagon’s first ever, all-veteran artist exhibit, and for its production of The Telling Project, which aims to bring a deeper connection between communities and the veteran experience.  Mr. McDonald has ensured that VAP is one of the fastest growing leaders in bridging the gap between the military and the arts.

Mike Dowling, Producer, Actor, Writer, We Are The Mighty

Mike Dowling served on active duty in the Marine Corps from 2001-2005 and as a mobilized reservist from 2008-2010. He is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran turned actor, author, technical consultant, public speaker, and veteran advocate.

He has also earned notice for his book: “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between A Marine and His Military Working Dog,” which is a memoir of his time in the military working as a dog handler in the Marine Corps. In addition to being cofounder of VFT he remains highly active in the veteran community working with wounded warriors and on various veteran related non-profits. Mike currently works at We Are The Mighty — the military community’s entertainment and lifestyle brand — based in Hollywood, California.

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, Director, Producer, Writer

Kyle Hausmann-Stokes is an award winning director and writer based in Los Angeles. Following graduation from the production track at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Kyle founded a production company (Blue Three) through which he has produced a variety of commercial, web, and video content for national television and multi-million dollar ad campaigns.   Kyle served 5 years in the US Army’s Airborne Infantry, is a combat veteran of Iraq (Bronze Star), and is one of todays few professional young directors able to bring direct, personal experience and perspective to military/veteran-related projects.

Folleh Tamba, Producer and Director, Documentary Film Maker

Mr. Tamba is a Marine Reserve NCO with a passion for the arts and entertainment.  He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq.  Folleh Tamba has showcased his talent and is working for the interests of the veteran’s community through the GI Film Festival and with the release of his two documentaries.

One of these documentaries: Triangle of Death, was picked up by AE An interesting aspect of Mr. Tamba’s life is his past – he grew up in Liberia, immigrated to America, attended film school and joined the Marine Corps where he fought with honor for his adopted country.

Tim Mike Rauch, Directors

The Rauch Brothers create cartoons, shorts, and animations to bring stories to life in a unique and impactful way.  In 2014, they dedicated a large portion of their work to developing three shorts for the project: StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiatives, which had the aim to tell the stories of post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families to others.  These pieces of animation told various stories of the war through different perspectives – one about a survivor Marine and another about the relationship between a member of the US military and two Iraqi citizens.

Through their unique broadcasts and animations, The Rauch Brothers have been successful in bringing a better understanding to the lives of the men and women who have served.  The Rauch Brothers’ animations are award winning and their creations have been featured on NPR and PBS.

Montel Williams, Talk Show Host, The Montel Williams Show

Montel Williams has a storied career as a US veteran and long-time service member.  He is a US Marine and has worked for the veteran’s community for many years.  He is recognized as an avid and tireless supporter of veterans’ issues.  Most recently, Mr. Williams displayed his commitment to the community by speaking out against the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, and encouraging a VA Surge of healthcare professionals.

Businesses That Support Veterans Category

The businesses in this category have dedicated a significant portion of their work to ensure that veterans, military service members, and their families have a number of diverse resources and opportunities available to them.  These companies recognize the challenges that veterans face during the transition into civilian life, and as such, have created impactful and purposeful programs that provide a benefit to the veteran community.  The individuals selected for this category are those that led the charge for these companies in 2014, promoting veteran-specific initiatives that aim to highlight the skills, leadership and experiences of the veteran community.

Marillyn Hewson, CEO, President and Chairman, Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin demonstrates a continued commitment to veterans, service members and military families by following the tenants of their core value: “We never forget who we’re working for.”  This phrase has defined the way that Lockheed Martin demonstrates the importance of giving back to the community and supporting the men and women that have sacrificed so much for our nation.

From numerous hiring programs and initiatives that help transition veterans to civilian life to providing rehabilitation programs for wounded warriors, Lockheed Martin is a solid supporter of ensuring that Veterans receive the honor and gratitude that they are owed.  Ms. Hewson has maintained the company’s commitment to this charge, and remains to be an influential individual; she was recognized Forbe’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” in 2014.

James McNerney, CEO and Chairman, Boeing

Boeing has made huge strides in helping service men and women achieve success after their time in the military.  Through their Wounded Warrior Hiring Program, Boeing has addressed many of the challenges that veterans and military families face in the job market.  Boeing has hired over 25,000 veterans, and has solidified their commitment to this effort by offering mentoring, career counseling, and networking opportunities.  The company continues to engage with programs that highlight service by developing partnerships with other companies and non-profit entities that have initiatives that support the veteran community.

Wes Bush, CEO, President and Chairman, Northup Grumman

Northup Grumman has made a difference in hundreds of transitioning veterans, service members and their families’ lives through their Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) initiative.  The program provides support for those who have been injured in the war.

By committing resources and recruitment initiatives to hiring veterans, Northup Grumman has become a force in veteran hiring.  As CEO and President, Mr. Bush has led the charge to instill the values of service and giving back to the community throughout the mission of the company.

Jamie Dimon, CEO, President and Chairman, J.P. Morgan Chase

J.P. Morgan Chase recognizes the sacrifices that military members, veterans and their families undergo by offering employment, housing and educational programs to these individuals.  As the CEO and President, Jamie Dimon ensures that the company is committed to understanding the challenges that many veterans face during the transition to civilian life.  J.P. Morgan Chase is dedicated to helping individual service members and their families find success in their careers and in their plans for the future.  In 2014, J.P. Morgan Chase pledged to invest an additional $20 million towards programs and initiatives to build upon the $25 million the company has already provided to military and veteran-based organizations since 2011.

Dr. Timothy P. Novelli, President and Founder, The Patriot Project

The Patriot Project offers free chiropractic care to veterans, military service members and their families.  Dr. Novelli began this grass-roots organization in 2012 in North Canton, Ohio, and the project has since spread across the country.  The project began when Dr. Novelli recognized that although chiropractic care is included in veterans’ health benefits, it was not easily accessible.  There are now over 800 chiropractors that currently that take part in The Patriot Project.  Dr. Novelli has set a high goal, however – to have active participation from the majority of chiropractic physicians in the United States, putting chiropractic care in all VA hospitals across the nation.  Dr. Novelli has made a huge impact for veterans, and continues to work in advocating for veterans’ access to various health care services.

Businesses Focused on Veterans Category

The individuals in this category are the leaders and founders of businesses created with veterans in mind.  They offer services and provide resources and solutions that benefit veterans and military service members.  The companies’ efforts work to strengthen the community by directly supporting veterans through unique and diverse initiatives.  This category includes the more traditional and long-standing supporters of veterans, to the newer, veteran-founded businesses, both of which are focused on bringing relevant tools and resources to the veteran community.

Josue Robles, CEO and President, USAA

Josue “Joe” Robles is President and Chief Executive Officer of USAA, one of America’s leading financial services companies. The association has been serving military families since 1922 and has become well known for what it offers to its 9.4 million members.  In 2014, USAA continued expanding their mission to the military community by offering free guidance and tools that were catered to supporting veterans in their careers and post-military lives.  They increased their promotion of veterans’ hiring programs and partnered with other industries to ensure that available jobs were filled by worthy and experienced veterans.

Cutler Dawson, CEO and President, Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is a well-known supporter of the veteran community and specializes in banking and mortgage services for its members.  Underneath Mr. Dawson’s leadership, the Navy Federal Credit Union recommitted to their mission of helping young veterans by strengthening the company’s student loan repayment program, which will benefit new enlistees. Mr. Dawson has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Navy Federal Credit Union since December 2004. Previously, Mr. Dawson served as a Navy Federal volunteer official for five years until March 2004, after completing a 34-year career in the United States Navy. He served as Chief Financial Officer of the Navy and a principal advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations.

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder, ScoutComms

Fred Wellman is CEO of ScoutComms and provides senior level counsel, strategic communications, public relations, social media, media relations and government affairs advice to the company’s clients. He applies his over 25 years of military, government, commercial and non-profit experience to helping clients operate successfully.

Mr. Wellman supports a number of veteran oriented non-profit organizations and efforts. Prior to founding ScoutComms, he was the Vice President of a strategic communications firm in Washington D.C. exclusively focused on the aerospace and defense sector providing management of all of the company’s operations and client services.

Chris Taylor, CEO and Founder, Novitas Group

The Novitas Group’s mission is “helping veterans translate military experience to the civilian sector.” Their highly successful “Vet Connector” is a revolutionary job tool that connects a veteran’s military skills with available jobs in the market. As the Founder and CEO, Mr. Taylor has ensured that the company’s success always benefits members of the military, veterans and their families.

Prior to the Novitas Group, Mr. Taylor spent 14 years in the US Marine Corps.  He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council, and a member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Afghanistan. He is also an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Zach Iscol, Founder and CEO, hirepurpose

Mr. Iscol is a combat decorated Marine Officer, Iraq veteran and entrepreneur.  Hirepurpose was developed to address the gaps that exist in the transition from military service to civilian life.  Developed by veterans, hirepurpose dives deep into a military service member’s story and life goals in order to help the individuals achieve their purpose and find the right opportunity.  Hirepurpose focuses on “matching the right talent with the right opportunities so everyone wins.”

Before founding hirepurpose, Mr. Iscol served as the first officer in charge of Recruiting, Screening, Assessment, and Selection (RSAS) for the US Marine Corps Forces – Special Operations Command.  He is also the Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, a non-profit organization that provides cost-free mental health care treatment to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD and TBI.

James Schenck, President and CEO, Pentagon Federal Credit Union

PenFed President and CEO James Schenck rose through the ranks to become PenFed’s CEO in March of 2014. An Army officer, graduate of the United States Military Academy, and UH60 Blackhawk pilot, it is safe to say that Schenck understands the needs of the service members, veterans, and families that make up the majority of Pen Feds customers.  Additionally, the company launched the Military Heroes Fund to provide wounded service members with services that the Defense Department cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions.

In his new capacity, Mr. Schenck has maintained Pen Fed’s commitment to the hiring of veterans and the support of military families. In 2014, on numerous instances Pen Fed highlighted, notably and to include Schenck, the hiring of veterans to numerous senior level positions within the organization.  Schneck earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and taught economics and finance at West Point. He served on the Army Staff in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, overseeing the Army’s OPTEMPO Budget. His final tour was as special assistant to the Secretary of the Army.

Capitol Hill Staff Category

These individuals are at the helm of forming the policy and legislation for our Nation. Working on Capitol Hill gives a great deal of responsibility and power needed to address many of the problems and challenges that veterans, and our nation, face on a day-to-day basis.  The influence that these few have in bringing legitimate change to the veteran community is unparalleled, and their ability to understand the issues and facilitate necessary debate and discussion is recognized and appreciated.

Steve Robertson, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

In the 113th Congress Robertson oversaw the agenda of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during one of the most pressing eras in recent memory. With the VA under fire, he was the lead on formulating a political response to address the issues facing the VA healthcare system.  Robertson had large influence on what would move forward in conference and what legislation would be considered from the House.

Robertson was Senator Sander’s senior legislative assistant prior to his Chairmanship of SVAC. He also has worked as director, deputy director and assistant director of the National Legislative Commission at the American Legion. Robertson retired after 20 years of military service: 12 years active-duty USAF and 8 years in the DC Army National Guard.

Mike Brinck, Deputy Staff Director, House Veterans Affairs Committee

Mr. Brinck, a former Naval helicopter pilot, is second in command of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under Chairman Jeff Miller. During Mr. Brinck’s tenure, Chairman Miller has lead the way on numerous hearings and investigations surrounding the wait time scandals at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.  Brinck, the former Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has been with the committee since 1994 and is well respected by staff from both sides of the aisle, as well as among the many veterans and military service organizations involved with veteran issues.  Brinck hails from Iowa and has a B.A. from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, and is a graduate of the Naval War College.

Doug Coutts, Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton

Coutts is an Army Veteran that served with Senator Cotton in the infantry, and is now providing the lead role in his office.  During Coutts’ time serving as the Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton has become extremely influential, beginning his career as a member of the House of Representatives, and is now a member of the Senate.  Mr. Coutts also served as Cotton’s campaign manager, and will continue to play a critical role in an office that consists of and impacts a number of OIF veterans.  Coutts taught U.S. History and Government at Orange County Public Schools prior to joining the Army in June of 2003. He received an MBA from American University.

Darren Dick, Republican Staff Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

With homeland security, terrorist attacks, and the growing realm of government intelligence, Navy Reservist Darren Dick played an outsized role in providing oversight of the Nation’s intelligence apparatus. His role will likely only continue to grow in the 114th Congress.

Darren Dick served as the Deputy Staff Director for the House Intelligence Committee from January 2011 to July 2013.  He is a veteran of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence where he served as Counsel for the Committee and also as Deputy Staff Director. He was previously Senior Manager and Counsel for Government Relations and Public Policy at the EMC Corporation. Darren spent three years in the office of U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) as principal advisor to the Senator on national security issues. Prior to his work for Senator Roberts, he worked as a litigation attorney in Overland Park, KS. From 1992-1996 Darren worked as the Military Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).  He is an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves and holds a Masters Degree in National Security Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

Richard Kessler, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Dr. Kessler, an Army Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, was the lead US Senate staffer overseeing America’s intelligence apparatus.  This essentially placed him between House Republicans and the President in consideration of legislation of interest; a position that Senate Democrats will not enjoy in the forthcoming Congress. Nonetheless, it seems that Kessler will continue to be an influential voice on Capitol Hill considering his impressive background and accomplishments.

Dr. Kessler also served as the Democratic Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee where he was appointed in 2008. Prior to his work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. Kessler served as Staff Director and Democratic Staff Director for numerous committees and subcommittees.  As a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1970-1973, Dr. Kessler served in Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, and two battle stars.

Foundations Category

The tireless work of the foundations listed in this category play an important role in strengthening and empowering the veteran community. These foundations provide direct support to the community through the development of employment initiatives, by providing funding for research on veteran-specific health issues, and by bringing relevant dialogue and educational opportunities to the general public in order to increase the overall understanding of veterans and the military community.

Eric Eversole, Vice President and Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes, US Chamber of Commerce

Hiring Our Heroes is a grassroots initiative that helps veterans, service members and military spouses find employment across the United States.  Hiring Our Heroes is committed to promoting events that will allow the military community to engage with both public and private partners, connecting businesses with future employees.  With more than 800 hiring fairs, they have set a goal to make employment commitments to 500,000 veterans and spouses.

He first entered military service in 1994 as an enlisted security specialist in the Indiana Air National Guard. Eversole later accepted a commission in the United States Navy JAG Corps in 1998 and served on active duty until 2001, when he transferred to the Navy Reserve.  Mr. Eversole is also the founder of the Military Voter Protection Project (MVP Project)—a program dedicated to promoting and protecting the voting rights of active duty military members and their spouses.

David Hiller, President and CEO, Robert McCormick Foundation

In 2014, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation gave over $12 Million in grants to benefit veteran initiatives and education through their well-known Veterans Program.

The Veterans Program is “committed to investing in, learning from, and implementing models of support to enable veterans to become assets in their local and national communities.”  The impactful model deployed by the foundation encompasses plans and programs that make a difference in the daily lives of veterans by investing programs that benefit veteran employment, health and reintegration into a civilian lifestyle. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has been integral in ensuring that veterans are provided with the resources that they need and opportunities that recognize the service that they have provided to the United States.

Howard Schultz, Founder, Schultz Family Foundation

In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation announced their commitment to honoring the nation’s veterans through their Onward Veterans program.  Onward Veterans is an initiative that empowers post-9/11 veterans and recognizes their skill sets, work ethic and leadership skills by providing opportunities that utilize these abilities to make our nation better and stronger.  This program also focuses on providing funding for research of PTSD and TBI.

The foundation recently released a book:  For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us about Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice, which allows the civilian population to engage with the military community and veterans.  By raising awareness of the sacrifices made by these individuals and increasing an understanding across the broader public, the Shultz Family Foundation works to bring the service member experience closer to home.

Debra Jacobs, President and CEO, The Patterson Foundation

The Patterson Foundation’s Legacy of Valor Campaign is a military initiative that aims to highlight the contributions given by military service men and women.  The campaign consists of more than 100 community partnerships and organizations and has the purpose of facilitating events that will benefit and honor veterans and their families.  Thus far, the Legacy of Valor Campaign has raised more than $270,000 for non-profits and engaged in more than 200 community events and activities that honored veterans.  Most notably, they worked with VA to create Patriot Plaza, a 2,800-seat ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery that honors veterans, inspires patriotism and embraces freedom. These are only a few of their accomplishments.  The campaign hopes that their support of hundreds of grassroots projects will inspire patriotism, and educate communities about the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families.

Deborah Bial, Founder and President, The Posse Foundation

The Posse Foundation celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2014, continuing its commitment to recognizing scholars around the nation. In 2014, The Posse Foundation expanded its Veterans Program, which supports and helps individuals in achieving his or her goals of receiving Bachelor’s degrees from highly ranked U.S. universities and colleges. The group’s ability to build a community of veterans around educational goals and opportunities makes The Posse Foundation undeniably noteworthy.

Boasting a graduation rate of over 90%, The Posse Foundation has gone above and beyond to ensure that veterans are receiving the best education and experiencing success in reaching their life and career goals. As founder and president, Deborah Bial is an expert in the field of education and leadership development. Her expertise has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States.

Government — Career Employees Category

The individuals in this category have dedicated their lives to public service.  In light of the most recent scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the following have given countless hours to bring pragmatic solutions to the most relevant problems, in addition to the positive work that they already do for the veteran community on a day-to-day basis.  This category honors those that devote their lives to serving the interests of veterans, and their work is appreciated and recognized by many in the community.

Steven W. Young, Medical Center Director, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

In the wake of the challenges of the Phoenix VA Medical Center crisis, Steve Young was called in to lead as the interim Medical Center Director.  Young continues to be one of VA’s go to leaders in difficult situations, particularly in the Western United States.

He was appointed Director of the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System on June 21, 2009.  In this position, he is responsible for executive leadership of the health care system that includes the George E. Wahlen VA  Medical Center and clinics located in Utah, Idaho and Nevada.

Holly Petraeus, Assistant Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of Servicemember Affairs

Holly Petreaus is the Assistant Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, a government office dedicated to protecting service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls.

From taking on predatory lenders focused on service members, to making sure that educational institutions are not taking advantage of veterans and their families, Holly Petreaus spent 2014 trying to make the world a better place for troops, veterans, and their spouses.

Dr. Sam Foote and the VA Whistleblowers

Dr. Sam Foote was the initial whistleblower whose actions led to a large-scale shake up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to include the resignation of Secretary Shinseki and numerous other top VA officials. An emphasis on patient wait-times goals, poor oversight and scheduling practices all led to systematic failure of veterans across the nation.  Mr. Foote’s and other whistleblower actions led to the uncovering of these failed systems that resulted in increased Congressional funding aimed at increasing clinical space for veterans, increasing the number of VA physicians to provide care, and providing temporary authorization to receive private care in the event VA cannot provide it or if the veteran does not have easy access to a VA facility.

James Ridgeway, Chief Counsel, Board of Veterans’ Appeals

James Ridgway is the Chief Counsel for Policy and Procedure at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.  As a military brat, and one of the most respected veteran benefit attorneys in the nation, Ridgeway continues to be a leader in benefits law. He clerked for the Hon. Kenneth Kramer, an original member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and was the senior law clerk to the Hon. Alan G. Lance, Sr. for nearly eight years. In between his periods with the CAVC, Professor Ridgway was an assistant state attorney in Chicago for five years. While in Chicago, he taught appellate advocacy at the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.  He is also a Professor of Law at George Washington University.

Mr. Ridgway was the president of the CAVC’s bar association for 2012-13. As part of the Board of Governor’s for the bar association, he published the quarterly Veterans Law Journal, helped found the National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition (NVLMCC), and presents an Introduction to Veterans Law at law schools across the country.

Government – Political Appointees Category

Those that are called to serve carry the responsibility and honor of developing and implementing the President’s agenda.  This is no easy task, and the following individuals were integral in making tough decisions, all with the aim of bringing the right solutions and policies to benefit the veteran and military community.  The Department of Veterans Affairs were hit with a number of scandals this year, and these individuals took charge of their positions, doing everything possible to make right some of the most immediate problems and prominent challenges for veterans and service members.

Chuck Hagel, Former Secretary of Defense

Chuck Hagel, the 24th Secretary of Defense, is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense.  As a young man, Secretary Hagel volunteered for Vietnam, serving as an infantryman.  Wounded during the conflict, his decorations include two Purple Hearts.

Secretary Hagel has been advocating for the veteran community since 1981, when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. When elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Secretary Hagel continued to protect veterans’ rights, adding a focus on international security to his portfolio.  He was also one of the leading Republican Senators that advocated along side Senator Jim Webb for passage of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Secretary Hagel has also served as Co-Chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and a member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board.

Eric K. Shinseki, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The year 2014 will probably not be fondly remembered by the highly decorated Vietnam veteran and former Secretary of the Army. After five years as Secretary, President Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in light of a scandal involving veterans receiving substandard access to care at the Phoenix VA Hospital and the mischaracterization of VA’s performance measures related to access.  Despite these challenges, the top three priorities of Secretary Shinseki during his tenure were: increased access to VA healthcare and benefits, ending veteran homelessness by 2015, and eliminating the VA backlog with no claim pending for longer than 125 days. Moving forward it will be interesting to watch how VA under the leadership of Secretary McDonald, reorient their goals.

Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Sloan Gibson was appointed to be Deputy Secretary following the departure of Deputy Secretary Scott Gould in 2014. Appointed in February, he had little time to prepare for the VA scandal that rocked VA in May. By the end of the month he was the acting Secretary after Shinseki’s resignation and was a national media focal point as numerous whistleblowers and other VA’s hospitals were found to be fudging their patient wait times. Sloan found himself testifying before Congress and working with VA to formulate an immediate emergency response to veterans that were in need of consistent and accountable healthcare.  Prior to his appointment, Sloan was the CEO of USO and a graduate of the 1975 class of West Point.

Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

When the Phoenix scandal led to Shinseki’s resignation in May 2014, an effective replacement was necessary.  Many in the veteran world wondered who would fill the tough shoes of the highly respected Shinseki. The President’s selection, who was the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter Gamble Company (PG), has intrigued many.  The implication has been that McDonald, a successful businessman, will be able to bring about positive customer-oriented change to VA.

Secretary McDonald is a graduate of the 1975 class from the United States Military Academy. He received his MBA from the University of Utah.

Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs

From the claims backlog, Post 9/11 GI Bill, and VA’s home loan program, General Allison Hickey is the face of VA benefits and services. The claims backlog took a backseat in the VA public limelight to the VA’s recent healthcare crisis. Recent numbers also suggest that Hickey has been effective in leading VA to dramatic reductions of VA claims; though not without controversy.

Nonetheless, General Hickey continues to be a dominant force over the 56 regional offices that give billions in benefits to veterans across the country. She created a strategy that took the VA out of a paper-based system and into an electronic claims processing system. Most seem to be in agreement that there has been substantial improvement in timeliness and the delivery of services. 2015 will be a year to watch General Hickey as VA has suggested for numerous years that they would eliminate the VA backlog.  General Hickey is a 1980 graduate of the first Air Force Academy class to include women.  She retired with the rank of Brigadier General as the Director of the Air Force’s Future Total Force office at the Pentagon.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden

The First and Second Ladies understand that behind every service member there is a supportive spouse and family that is making sacrifices and serving our country.  To support them, the dynamic duo launched an effort entitled Joining Forces: Taking Action to Serve America’s Military Families. In President Obama’s State of the Union he suggested Joining Forces has resulted in 700,000 jobs for veterans and their spouses.

A strong and robust military depends on its people, and its people depend on their families.  Ensuring the strength of our military families fortifies the morale of our soldiers, and strengthens their ability to protect and defend our nation.

Maura Sullivan, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs

In October 2014, Maura Sullivan became the face of VA’s communications as the Assistant Secretary for Public Intergovernmental Affairs.

Following the challenging scandal that rocked the VA in May, Maura’s role is integral to rebuilding trust and transparency with the veterans and families VA serves.  Sullivan was a Marine Captain and served in Fallujah in 2005. She came to VA via Pepsi Co. where she was a part of their executive team.  She also was previously appointed to the Commission of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She is a graduate of Northwestern (B.A), and Harvard (MBA, MPA).

Military Category

These military men and women have successfully led the United States Armed Forces during a very challenging and difficult time in our country’s military history.  Being involved in numerous wars and conflicts for more than a decade, these individuals have shaped the debate surrounding the duty and the call to serve. With the Middle East continuing to be a volatile environment for our troops, and politicians continuously posturing on positions that take the fight to the enemy, we can only expect that our military will continue to see high ops tempos.

General Martin E. “Marty” Dempsey, U.S. Army

Gen. Martin Dempsey took his unique Jersey City, NJ flavored Irish American wit with him from the West Point Class of 1974, to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs.  In a show of his multi-force command demeanor and diplomatic prowess, General Dempsey proved his admirable qualities when he ordered military schools to make sure they were not including anti-Islamic themes in training courses.

Martin Dempsey received his commission as an Army Armor Officer in 1974 when he graduated from West Point.  Through his continuing 41-year career and rise to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs, Gen. Dempsey has served in a plethora of joint force, and multinational command elements.  His highest level personal decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze oak leaf cluster), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with three bronze oak leaf clusters), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), Bronze Star (with Valor device and bronze oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), along with the JSCM, ACM, and numerous AAMs.

General Raymond T. “Ray” Odierno, U.S. Army

Gen. Odierno, currently serving as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army understands the importance of a strong and well-trained military force.  In 2014, he spoke candidly about the need for leadership development in the Army, despite budget cuts and public disapproval of the continuing war.  General Odierno continues to embody the tenants and traditions of what it means to serve.  He works to bridge the gap between military and civilian life, and create the environment for a greater understanding between the two cultures.

Ray Odierno received his commission in 1976, upon graduation from West Point.  He also received an MS in Nuclear Effects Engineering from NC State, an MA in National Security and Strategy from the Naval War College, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters again from NC State.  Gen. Odierno most recently served as Commanding Gen. MNF-Iraq. His numerous decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 1 silver Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), ACM, and AAM.

Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster, U.S. Army

General McMaster is currently strategizing and helping win America’s future wars as the Director of Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures, of US Army Training and Doctrine Command.  McMaster is known for his pragmatic and no nonsense attitude; on numerous occasions he has spoken out against mistakes made in the war, solidifying his place as a leader of change. He has pinned on three stars in less than six years, and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

HR McMaster received his Commission as a US Army Armor Officer after graduating West Point in 1984.  He has earned numerous decorations during his career, including a Silver Star for his actions in 1991 as Captain commanding Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting, where the nine tanks under his command destroyed over eighty Iraqi Republican Guard tanks and other vehicles without loss.

Sergeant Major Michael P. “Mike” Barrett, U.S. Marine Corps

Michael P. “Mike” Barrett enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and has risen to be 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  On April 11, 2014, Barrett surprised Congress on the topic of pay when he said, “Marines don’t run around asking about compensation, retirement, modernization…”  “That’s not on their mind.  As I talk to thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next.”

Sergeant Major Barrett hails from Youngstown, NY, where he enlisted into the Corps at the age of 17 on March 16, 1981.  During his 30 plus year rise from Infantry recruit at Parris Island, to 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on June 9, 2011, he has held numerous duty positions, including; Scout Sniper, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Valor Device for engaging enemy mortar positions with his Barrett M82 sniper rifle in early 1991 during the first Gulf War.   His leadership under fire also earned him two Bronze Stars with Valor Device during his 2005 and 2007 deployments to Iraq with the 2/7 Marines.

Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle, U.S. Navy

Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle had been termed Shaitan Ar-Ramadi, “The Devil of Ramadi”, by those he took aim at, and “Legend” by those whom he protected.  After his tragic death in 2013, solidifying his full devotion to protecting Marines from the turmoil of war, Bradley Cooper portrayed Kyle in the film version of his book, “American Sniper,” which has brought his story and the challenge of service into high magnification.  With 160 confirmed kills, “America’s deadliest sniper” was known as saying, his targets were, “already dead. I was just making sure [they] didn’t take any Marines with [them]”.

Kyle was born in 1974 in Odessa, TX to Deby Lynn (Mercer) and Wayne Kenneth Kyle.   After overcoming medical complications with his arm during his attempted enlistment into the Marines, he was invited by the Navy to attend BUDS, and became a Navy Seal in 1999.  Chris served through four combat tours to Iraq where he earned two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

Media Category

The media plays an integral part of our political process.  In 2014, the following individuals led the way on reporting on VA and the veteran experience.  Through their stories, the media has held public and government officials accountable for their actions and promises.  The media has also enlightened the public on veterans’ issues and increased their understanding of the sacrifices made by those that chose to serve.

Rick Maze, Editor-in-Chief, Association of the United States Army

Mr. Maze has been a major presence on Capitol Hill for most of his career as a regular contributor on C-Span, recognized for his writing on defense and veterans’ issues.  He currently serves as the Editor in Chief of the Association of the United States Army.  He has reported on military, defense and veterans affairs for 35 years, and is a nationally recognized expert on these issues.

Many were sad to see Maze’s departure from Gannett, Military Times, as he was rightly credited as the lead beat writer on veterans’ issues for numerous years.

Leo Shane, Reporter, Military Times

Leo Shane is an award-winning Military and Veterans Affairs reporter whose work has drawn national recognition from policy leaders, media peers, and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of who rely on his insight as an objective voice on issues affecting their lives.

He has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2004, covering Capitol Hill and the White House.  His beats include legislation affecting military policy and veterans’ issues.  His work also includes overseas coverage of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chile and Ecuador.  He has become a prominent voice on veterans’ issues, chronicling troops’ transition back to civilian life and the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jon Stewart, Host, The Daily Show

The man, the myth, the legend. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted that a satirist would be considered a bona fide newsman in America? During Stewart’s tenure, The Daily Show went from a barely veiled homage of SNL’s Weekend Update, to investigating and reporting on real news. They have pushed the envelope on many controversial, yet relevant stories.

The Daily Show spent a fair amount of time on Veterans’ issues in 2014, as did a lot of news makers, in the wake of some of the controversy surrounding VA’s handling of patient wait times, but the Daily Show has a history of keeping a watchful eye on veterans’ issues. With so many topics which are not exactly ripe for comedic material, Stuart walks the fine line to highlight important issues and generate interest.

Jacqueline Klimas, Reporter, The Washington Times

Jacqueline Klimas is an award-winning reporter in Washington, D.C.  As a Capitol Hill reporter for The Washington Times, she covers veteran’s issues, defense legislation, sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and how technology is changing elections.  Ms. Klimas was on top of all of the major veterans stories in 2014, which highlighted controversial issues and provided a high volume of stories that shaped the narrative and paved the way for passage of the Veterans’ Access Choice and Accountability Act.

Richard Jones, Executive Vice President Chief Veteran OfficerCBS

Richard M. Jones serves as Executive Vice President, General Tax Counsel, and Chief Veteran Officer with CBS. Prior to his role at CBS, Mr. Jones was a noncommissioned officer for the Army…oh yeah, he was also an Army Ranger.  As Chief Veteran Officer, Mr. Jones is personally responsible for seeing that veteran’ issues are kept at the forefront of CBS’s news watch.  Jones works closely with veterans’ organizations and keeps vigilant in ensuring veterans’ needs are receiving the attention they deserve.

He serves on the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACTVETEO) at the Department of Labor. He also sits on the boards of the Wounded Warrior Project, The Institute for Veterans and Military

Families (IVMF) at Syracuse, The Uniforms Services Justice and Advocacy Group, the Eastern Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, the Aaron Grider Foundation and is an advisor to Veterans Advantage and Act Today! (Autism Care Treatment) for Military Families.

Most Successful Veteran Entrepreneurs Category

These veterans have taken success to a new level.  Their drive, ambition and savvy have allowed them to create extremely successful careers and gain domination within their individual business markets.  These individuals started serving their country when they joined their respective military branches many years ago, and since then, have continued to serve our nation with the services that their business provide.

Richard Kinder, CEO, Kinder Morgan

Richard Kinder is a veteran of both the Vietnam War and the energy industry.  The former Army Captain was Enron’s President at a time when the company was considered a bastion of integrity, and he left before the company’s challenges.  Mr. Kinder emerged as one of the co-founders of Kinder Morgan, now the 4th largest energy company in the country.  Forbes listed him among the richest Americans of 2014, and he is poised to remain on that list for some time.

Kinder’s leadership style has been described as meticulous, and he holds his management team to high standards. His nature has also led to a positive and strong workforce environment, and Kinder Morgan was recognized as one of Americas Most Admired Companies by Fortune magazine in 2007.

Jack Taylor, Founder, Enterprise Rent-a-Car

Before Jack Taylor launched what would become the Enterprise car rental company 1962, he was a Navy Fighter Pilot in World War II serving on the USS Enterprise. Enterprise remains family owned and operated, but Mr. Taylor’s military values remain present, and the company takes pride in its military heritage. The company welcomes veterans and their family members into their ranks and offers a Management Training Program, which teaches participants how to run a successful business.  In addition, Enterprise has been involved with philanthropy for over half a century. This has led to over $200 million going to thousands of local nonprofits focused on community improvement, education and environmental stewardship.

Rich DeVos, Co-Founder, Amway

Rich Davos is one of the cofounders of Amway and the owner of the Orlando Magic.  A World War II veteran who served in the Army Air Corps, the 88 year old is still attending his team’s games regularly.

The American businessman has also authored two books, Compassionate Capitalism and Hope from My Heart: Ten Lessons For Life. The latter was written after a successful heart transplant operation in 1997. He also coauthored a book about his career titled Believe.

John Paul DeJoria, Businessman and Philanthropist, Patron / Paul Mitchell

John Paul DeJoria may be better recognized as a cofounder of the Paul Mitchell brand, but the entrepreneur has a diverse range of holdings including the Patron Spirits Company and the House of Blues.

What many may not realize is that DeJoria is also a Navy veteran. His trek into the Navy would sound familiar to many of today’s service members. As a first generation American, DeJoria began earning money to support his family at the age of nine by selling Christmas cards and newspapers.  During high school, he joined the Navy at 17, serving on the USS Hornet. The Navy recently honored DeJoria with the Lone Star Sailor Award in recognition of his success as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a pillar of the business community.

Sumner Redstone, Founder, Viacom

Sumner Redstone is the media magnate behind CBS Corporation and Viacom. The Boston native graduated from Harvard in 1944, and served as a lieutenant in US Army during World War II. Besides building a media empire, Redstone is also an author and philanthropist.  It is estimated that Sumner Redstone has donated over $150 million, nearly 1.7 percent of his net worth to various philanthropic causes. In 2014 alone, Redstone donated $10 million to Harvard Law School for public-interest fellowships. The donation was the largest ever to the law school in support of public service.

 Non-Profit Innovators Category

The men and women in this category have turned their own first-hand veteran experiences into successful and well-known non-profit enterprises, all of which have the mission of helping service members as well as those within their local communities.  These individuals understand the importance of building a strong community and recognize the constant challenges that many veterans and their families face.  As such, they have dedicated their life’s work to ensuring that they bring positive and impactful change to those around them, as well as offering relevant opportunities for veterans to find a way to continue their call to serve.

Jake Wood, Founder, Team Rubicon

Jake and Team Rubicon have taken the veterans’ world by storm. What better way to continue using your military skills than redeploying to help when a natural disaster strikes? Since 2010, Team Rubicon has grown immensely, and they even received their own infomercial on the National Mall during HBO’s Concert for Valor. If that doesn’t make you want to tread into hurricanes and earthquakes… what will? In 2014 it was business as usual for Team Rubicon, with hurricane operations in the Philippines, and in assisting in the aftermath of mid-west tornados and flooding across the Nation.

Wood honorably served four years in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2008. He graduated Scout-Sniper School at the top of his class and in 2007 he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for actions in Iraq. Jake serves on numerous national veteran committees and speaks around the country about veteran issues and social entrepreneurship. In October, Crown will publish Jake’s first book, Take Command. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a double major, where he also played football.

Mike Erwin, Founder, Team RWB

Across the nation, veterans, their families, and their supporters are donning red Team RWB shirts. The man to blame: Mike Erwin.  Erwin, a Major in the US Army, earned a MS in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He also teaches psychology and leadership at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Team RWB’s fast growing nature seems to be based on a growing trend whereby veterans are interested in coming together and looking for ways to bridge commonalities in a social and empowering manner. Team RWB seems to be at the forefront of this and saw dynamic growth in 2014.  From running to rock climbing to other fun and physical activities, veterans are getting out, getting active, and having a strong association with Team RWB in the process.

Chris Marvin, Managing Director, Got Your 6

Got Your 6, under the leadership of Chris Marvin, has made huge headway and come out strong in 2014.  From media campaigns to working with their partners on the Concert of Valor, Got Your 6 has been busy “normalizing the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population.” We are looking forward to see what 2015 brings for veterans on their behalf.

Marvin, a US Army Officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, served for more than seven years and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Air Medal. After being severely wounded in combat in Afghanistan, Marvin volunteered as an advocate for other wounded veterans, most prominently as the Director of the Fellowship Program for The Mission Continues.  He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Seth Lynn, Founder, Veterans Campaign

After receiving his Commission from the US Naval Academy in 2002, Seth went on the serve for 6 years as a Marine Corps Ground Officer.   He then went on to earn a MPA in International Affairs from Princeton University, and after came to DC where he founded Second Service and Veterans Campaign, both of which are aimed at teaching Veterans how to run successful campaigns.  Mr. Lynn understood that Veterans were experienced in leadership and teamwork and that they are the ones that could bring solutions and partnerships to Capitol Hill.

In 2012, Seth published In the Shadow of Greatness, discussing his military service and how it inspired him to start his nonprofit organizations.  After 4 years of existence, Veterans Campaign, in 2014, has become a prominent catapult in helping Veterans fulfill their call to service in political office.

Taryn Davis, Founder and Executive Director, American Widow Project

The death of Davis’s husband to a roadside bomb in 2007 led her to create the American Widow Project.  The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization providing peer-to-peer support to a new generation of military widows grieving the loss of spouses in the United States Armed Forces.

After her husband’s death, Taryn began traveling around the country to hear other women’s stories of love, tragedy and survival. In hearing their accounts, she hoped to learn more about the title that been had given to her – that of a military widow.  Inspired by the willpower and strength of the women “in her shoes” she has found that true love is eternal, that the lessons and things her husband said and did still runs through her veins, and mostly that she is not alone.

Chris Brown, Founder and Director, Growing Veterans

Chris Brown has been taking the farming world by storm. What launched as an idea among fellow veterans to learn more about farming, nutrition, and the chemicals that pervade our food supply, Mr. Brown has successfully turned into this group of veterans that are determined to help their fellow vets experience a positive transition. Growing Veterans, moving into its second year, is looking to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and the relationships with each other. Their organization is part educational, part community, and part agricultural movement.  We are looking forward to eating the outcome!

Father Rick Curry, Founder, Dog Tag Bakery

Dog Tag Bakery is a small business run by veterans.  Father Curry founded Dog Tag Bakery as a training ground for veterans, giving them a hands-on experience with the tools and resources needed for operating and managing a business.   This unique business model has partnered with Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies to offer training offers courses specific to participating veterans’ goals including: accounting, management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, and business policy.  The storefront includes a state of the art bakery and kitchen, as well as classroom space to ensure that veterans learn about every aspect of owning and operating a successful business.

Steven Nardizzi, Founder and CEO, Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded Warrior Project continues to make an impact in a growing number of projects and events that benefit veterans. One thing is for certain – Wounded Warrior Project knows what the broader community of veterans wants and needs, and has created overarching and long-term strategies to achieve their goals and benefit the veteran community. Wounded Warrior Project offers a number of programs focused at assisting veterans, as well as advocating for veterans’ issues to Congress and the Administration.  Mr. Nardizzi helped found the Wounded Warrior Project in 2003. If the past is any indicator, expect to see more dynamic partnerships and effective programming in 2015.

 Non-Profit Traditional Category

This category honors some of the longest standing, non-profit supporters of the veteran community.  The continuously show dedicated and committed efforts to bring veteran and service members’ interests to the forefront of national dialogue, which has made them highly influential and powerful forces in enhancing veterans’ needs.  The individuals listed below represent the leadership of these organizations, those who reinstated the commitment to veterans in 2014, and who ensured that the veterans’ issues remained prevalent in public discourse.

Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion

The American Legion and Verna Jones, quickly found themselves among veteran and public conversations during the VA Healthcare Scandal. The Legion was the first traditional Veteran Service Organization to call for the resignation of highly respected Secretary Shinseki.  Ms. Jones was called upon to organize Veteran Crisis Command Centers in Phoenix and numerous other cities to assist veterans in receiving healthcare, benefits, and other services.  In November, Ms. Jones was appointed to become the first African-American female Executive Director of the American Legion.

Garry Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans

Garry Augustine survived a severe injury sustained by a mine attack in 1970. Since then he has dedicated himself to assisting veterans in numerous capacities. As the Executive Director of the DAV, Mr. Augustine is one of the most respected voices on Capitol Hill. Under his leadership, the DAV has earned a reputation of being approachable, pragmatic, and knowledgeable.

In 2014, he and his team led the way on advance appropriations to ensuring that the VA was properly funded.  He also worked tirelessly to get more funding in light of the VA healthcare scandal, and in looking to create a fully developed appeals process.

Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Paul Rieckhoff continues to dominate the airwaves as the “go-to” expert for a number of veteran related topics of the day. In 2014, his team was oriented towards highlighting mental healthcare issues via the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care.

Through Rieckhoff’s efforts, his organization has a sizable team of lobbyists and advocates in Washington, D.C. that continue to focus on finding government solutions to the many challenges faced by America’s veterans.

Bob Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars

With 13 years as the Executive Director of the VFW, Wallace is easily the longest tenured Executive Director of the “big three” veteran service organizations: DAV, Legion, VFW. As a combat wounded Vietnam Veteran, Wallace is well known and respected on Capitol Hill, and among the veteran community.

In 2014, his team was largely focused on the challenges presented by the VA scandal that broke in May 2014, as well as on receiving advance appropriations for all VA funded programs to continue improvements to VA claims and appeals processes.

Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, President and CEO, Military Officers Association of America

Admiral Ryan’s actions continue to lead MOAA to higher plateaus. Largely respected as one of the top military service organizations (MSO), MOAA continues to build its impact and image under Ryan’s leadership. In 2014, MOAA announced that they would take on assisting veterans with their disability benefits. Additionally, they continue to play a key role in the fight to maintain service members’ benefits and pay.

Expect to see Admiral Ryan leading the way in the discussions surrounding the morale and readiness of the uniformed services in 2015, the need for increased pay, the quality and accessibility of healthcare for veterans, and the maintenance of benefits for service members, veterans, and their families.

Congressmen Category

In 2014, these Representatives were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves.  During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.

Representative Jeff Miller

As Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Miller took VA leadership to task as news broke that the Phoenix VA Medical Center had been inappropriately reporting wait times for veteran’s medical appointments.   Additionally, Miller played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.

United States Representative Jeff Miller also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a former Florida State Representative who attended the University of Florida. Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in his district. He was a strong supporter and proponent of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

Representative Mike Thompson

Congressman Thompson, a Vietnam Veteran turned vintner, is Co-Chair of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Thompson took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Rep. Don Young established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship.  The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the door in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both sides of the aisle.  The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015. Additionally, Representative Thompson continues to fight for his local veterans leading the way on bringing positive change to the Oakland VA Regional Office; one of the worst in the nation. He has also been a strong proponent of Post 9/11 G.I Bill, the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and TBI/PTSD issues.

In 1990, Thompson was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the California State Senate. He served in combat with the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant/platoon leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade where he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. He was also an instructor at the Army’s Airborne School.

Thompson is a small vineyard owner and was the maintenance supervisor for the Beringer Winery. He has taught Public Administration and State Government at San Francisco State University and California State University, Chico. He received his Masters of Public Administration from California State University, Chico.

Representative Don Young

Congressman Don Young is the second longest tenured veteran in Congress, second only to Charlie Rangel.  Rep. Young is the co-founder of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Young took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Representative Mike Thompson, established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship.  The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both side of the aisle. The fellows received extensive legislative and on job training. The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015.

Congressman Don Young was re-elected to the 114th Congress in 2014 to serve his 22nd term as Alaska’s only Representative to the United States House of Representatives.  First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young is today the 1st ranking Republican member and the 3rd ranking overall member of the House of Representatives.

Representative Buck McKeon

In 2014, McKeon chaired the powerful House Armed Services Committee during continued operations in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and other contingencies across the world. Under his leadership the House renamed the FY2015 NDAA to the Buck McKeon Act that would authorize $600 billion in appropriations. The bill successfully kept the Air Force’s fleet of A-10’s in operation despite best efforts to retire them to save operational funds.

McKeon, a graduate of BYU, retired at the end of the 113th Congress. We suspect he will be spending a great deal of time with his 31 grandchildren.

Representative Dina Titus

Representative Titus actions led to the most controversial Veterans Affairs Committee vote in the 113th Congress. In a Full Committee mark-up she offered legislation that would allow same sex married couples to receive benefits and healthcare from VA. The vote was split on party lines with one Republican voting in favor of the measure. Additionally, she has focused on reducing the claims and appeals backlog, increasing veteran access to National Cemeteries in states that don’t have them, and increasing GI Bill benefits for those pursuing STEM degrees.

Titus, a Georgia native of Greek descent, first came to Nevada as professor of political science at UNLV. She also served in the Nevada Senate.

Senators Category

In 2014, these U.S. Senators were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves.  During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.

Senator Tom Cotton

A 2015 dark horse, Cotton had fellow OIF veterans shaking our head in amazement that he had pulled off the win. Cotton enters the 114th Congress as the first Senator to be an OIF generation combat veteran. At 37 he is also the youngest Senator. He continues to employ veterans at a high rate, realizing the leadership skills they bring and that likely contributed to his being the youngest Senate member on Capitol Hill…take note Congress!

An OIF/OEF vet, Cotton attended Harvard (B.A. and J.D.) and was a platoon leader for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star.

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain continues to offer his own brand of foreign policy and national security. With nearly 33 years of congressional experience in the House and Senate, and a few presidential runs under his belt, McCain continues to be a “go to” for the press on issues such as ISIS, Afghanistan, and other National Security focused issues. He holds the record for Meet the Press appearances for an individual in office.

McCain, a former U.S. Naval aviator who attained the rank of Captain, was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. He was a POW in the notorious Hanoi Hilton for five and a half years prior to his release. He is highly respected and is a recipient of the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

Senator Bernie Sanders

As Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders found himself as the gatekeeper between law affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs and a Republican controlled house. As the VA scandals in Phoenix reached the level of a national crisis, Sander’s found himself looking for pragmatic middle-ground as both the public and the nation’s veterans called for immediate action. Sanders played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.

Senator Carl Levin

Senator Levin has served as Democratic ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee since 1997, and served as Chairman during the 113th Congress.  After his 6th term representing Michigan as the state’s longest serving Senator, Levin delivered his farewell address on Dec. 12, 2014, and leaves behind a truly bipartisan legacy.  His time in the Senate was addressed with accolades by numerous members from across the aisle such as, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking about Levin. “He’s put the country ahead of any partisan politics….working with him on detainees, investigating Abu Ghraib. He has just been a rock-solid chairman of the Armed Services Committee.”

Senator Richard Burr

Senator Burr currently serves the state of North Carolina in his 2nd Senate term as Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee.  Prior to being elected to the Senate, he served North Carolina through five terms in the House. His advocacy for our men and women in the military and their families, and for the growing population of veterans across North Carolina, has earned him a seat on the West Point Board of Visitors.

He carries a great American legacy with him as 12th cousin of Aaron Burr, the former Vice-President, Senator, lawyer, and Continental Army officer known most for defeating Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel.

Small and Mid-Size Businesses

The veteran community has only grown stronger with the development and progress of these businesses.  These small and mid-size businesses are either founded by veterans, or founded with veterans in mind, and they offer insight into the leadership and entrepreneurial talent that exists within the veteran community.  As these individual businesses continue to grow, it will mean more opportunities for veterans and supporters to establish themselves within the local community as successful business men and women.

Dawn Halfaker, Founder and CEO, Halfaker and Associates

Ms. Halfaker continues to take the world by storm. “Have a vision. Follow your passion. The money will come,” she says. A West Point Grad, she is the founder and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, a successful, award winning professional services and technology solutions firm founded in 2006. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Halfaker and Associates operates worldwide providing cutting-edge, innovative solutions in information technology for government organizations on issues of national and global significance. Under Dawn’s leadership, the Company has achieved extraordinary success and growth and which is fueled by the Company’s vision of “Continuing to Serve.”  She is also a Board Member of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Robert Bleier, CEO, Rocky Bleier

As the spokesman of NAVOBA (National Veteran Owned Business Association), Robert “Rocky” Bleier, CEO of Rocky Bleier, Inc. is an accomplished Veteran, who began his service when he was drafted for the Vietnam War.  He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service.  He moved on to be an extremely successful athlete, mentor and businessman.  He is a four-time Super Bowl winner with the Steelers in the 1970s.

Bleier found his calling through motivational speaking.  His focus has been to communicate to the broader veteran community, ensuring that veterans understand the importance of sharing and spreading their individual stories and experiences. He is a managing partner of RBVetCo., which works on various VA contracts.

Joseph Kopser and Craig Cummings, Founders, RideScout

When two Army veterans team up, watch out. RideScout originated from imagine this….DC traffic! The idea: what is the quickest way to get from point A to point B utilizing real time data on various available transportation options?  Their revolutionary (and genius) tool allows people to search and compare various ground transportation options in real time. RideScout shows a user’s transit, taxi, ride share, car share, bike share, carpool, walking, biking, driving and parking in one view, with transit arrivals and traffic integration.

Word on the street is that they have struck a deal and have or are selling the company to a higher bidder. We will be keeping an eye on these Army Vets and imagine they have more to come!

Top Lobbyist and Influencers Category

The job of lobbying for veterans’ interests brings a diverse selection of individuals for this category.  The range of veteran and service member issues is wide and offers a number of perspectives when trying to understand the most relevant problems for multiple generations of veterans.  From Vietnam to the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the individuals listed below represent the most impactful lobbyists and influencers from 2014, those that worked relentlessly to bring positive change to the veteran community.

Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government, Vietnam Veterans of America

Rick Weidman continues to be one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. As a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and its primary spokesperson in Washington, D.C., Mr. Weidman has long advocated for a host of issues for veterans across the board to include Agent Orange, access to quality mental health care, and employment and small business issues. His efforts have resulted in significant positive results for veterans over numerous decades.   Weidman served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam War, including service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.

Joe Violante, Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans

Joe Violante, a Vietnam veteran, was appointed National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in July 1997. Since that time Mr. Violante has become one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. He leads a pragmatic, solution-oriented team and has gone after many tough issues. His team continues to lead the way on advance appropriations to ensure that the VA is properly funded.

A New Jersey native, Mr. Violante joined the Marine Corps in 1969 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines and Battalion Landing Team 2/4 in Southeast Asia. He was discharged in 1972 with the rank of Sergeant. He attended the University of New Mexico, received a Bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and earned his law degree from the San Fernando Valley College of Law in California. Mr. Violante was a practicing attorney in California before moving to Washington D.C. to work as a Staff Attorney at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals in 1985.

Alex Nicholson, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Alexander Nicholson serves as the Legislative Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). In a short period of time, Nicholson has quickly established himself as one of the leading veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. Armed with IAVA’s strong media presence and strategy, Alex has reinvigorated positive relationships with lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill in an effort to garner positive outcomes on behalf of veterans.

In 2014, his efforts largely focused on introduction and passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act that aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care.  Prior to joining IAVA, Mr. Nicholson founded and led the advocacy group Servicemembers United.

Mr. Nicholson holds a Bachelors degree in international affairs from the University of South Carolina, a Masters degree in public administration from the University of North Georgia, and is currently completing the dissertation on his Ph.D. in political science from the University of South Carolina.

William Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America

As the Vice President of Government Affairs for SVA, Will Hubbard has led the way on veterans’ educational issues on Capitol Hill. With an increased number of veterans departing the military and looking to use their educational benefits, SVA’s role has grown across the nation.

Previously, Will spent several years serving government agencies to include the Department of the Navy, Department of State, and the State of Indiana Department of Revenue.  Prior to his career in consulting, he co-founded a successful startup business in the snack food industry, which continues to prosper in the greater Chicago area. He has served SVA at both the chapter and national levels.

Ray Kelley, Legislative Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars

In 2014, Mr. Kelley led the way on Capitol Hill for America’s oldest major Veteran Service Organization – the VFW. He and his team focused on veteran’s issues across all sectors, but were particularly focused on healthcare in light of the recent Phoenix scandal.  He also played a critical role in the creation of the Independent Budget, which is intended to inform and educate the public and lawmakers about the most pressing issues affecting VA and veterans.

Formerly the National Legislative Director for AMVETS, Kelley’s credentials as an advocate for America’s veterans are well established. Prior to that, he served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Indiana University, East, Kelley served for three years in the Army Reserve where he conducted over 250 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Service Women’s Action Network

Bhagwati continues to lead the way on Military Sexual Trauma (MST) reform on Capitol Hill.  MST, which has seen continued interest in the media and public, was a large topic of debate in the 113th Congress. Bhagwati was the lead advocate on numerous pieces of legislation that would increase benefits for veterans who have been the victims of MST, while pushing DoD to reform policies to prevent sexual assault in the military and punish those that partake in assaults.

A former Captain and Company Commander, Anu served as a Marine officer from 1999-2004 and was the second woman to complete the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainer school, earning a black belt in close combat techniques. A regular contributor to the media, Anu has been featured on Piers Morgan Tonight, The Situation Room, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, NPR, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek and is also featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War.

Veteran Foundations Category

The individuals in this category have led the charge in promoting veteran-specific initiatives and providing support and funding to improve the quality of veteran and military service members’ lives.  These organizations are dedicated to ensuring that the valor and sacrifices made by the men and women in our military are recognized and honored.  These foundations’ efforts have worked to bring a number of benefits to veterans, and their commitment to these efforts has increased the overall strength of the veteran and supporter community.

Bob and Lee Woodruff, Founders, Bob Woodruff Foundation

Bob and Lee Woodruff continue to impact the veteran community with their great deeds. Emphasizing rehabilitation and recovery, education and employment, and quality of life, the foundation has provided millions of dollars to entities that are fulfilling these outcomes on behalf of veterans.

In 2014 the foundation provided funds to help veterans to transition into farming, to educating nurses that assist veterans, and to provide programs that reintegrate veterans through a number of physical activities.  In 2006, Bob Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb while reporting for ABC. Since then, he has become a huge advocate on behalf of veterans, service members and those that support them.

Lee Woodruff, as the wife of Bob, has been by his side throughout his recovery. This tragedy that she detailed in her book In an Instant has been the spark that has led to a huge amount of goodwill and assistance to those that serve our Nation.

Marie Tillman, Co-Founder, Tillman Foundation

The number of Tillman Foundation scholars continues to rise, and their accomplishments do not fail to amaze both the veteran community and its supporters.  Founded following the death of Pat Tillman, the foundation has changed over the years into an entity that assists veterans in realizing their dreams through educational scholarships.

Marie Tillman has led the way in turning tragedy into a legacy, one that continues to honor Pat’s life, as well as honoring Marie as a survivor, who has found an impactful purpose in enriching the lives of veterans through education.

Kenneth Fisher, Vice Chairman, Fisher House Foundation, Inc.

Ken Fisher continues his family tradition of providing an amazing “home away from home” when veterans and service members are receiving treatment at facilities across the nation. In 2014, sixty-four Fisher Houses served more than 25,000 families in 2014.

When he is not helping service members and their families, Kenneth Fisher is a senior partner at Fisher Brothers, based in New York City, and is part of the third generation of leadership, overseeing the leasing, management and marketing of more than five million square feet of class-A commercial space in Midtown Manhattan covering the Park, 6th and 3rd Avenue corridors and 1.5 million square feet in Washington DC.

Michael Focareto, Founder and CEO, Veteran Tickets Foundation

A U.S. Navy veteran with a long lineage of military service, Focareto found inspiration in helping disabled veterans attend socially interactive events. In 2014, the Veterans Ticket Foundation gave away nearly a half-million tickets. Focareto views social events as a great way to bring veterans families together, while also allowing veterans to socially reintegrate.

 

About HillVets

HillVets is a bipartisan organization focused on empowering veterans through networking, education and community service. HillVets strives to increase the number of veterans working in government and in business in the Washington DC area. Through various initiatives and events HillVets works to promote and connect veterans to each other and to the broader community. Learn more at: www.HillVets.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Marine special operator became the Corps’ top ‘tactical’ athlete — twice

Sergeant Ethan Mawhinney, a Pittsburgh native and a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner with US Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, successfully defended his championship title at the Marine Corps’ third annual HITT Tactical Athlete Competition at Camp Pendleton, CA, Aug. 28th through 31st, 2017.


The competition brings together the top male and female Marines from each Marine Corps installation in a demanding competition of military functional fitness and to promote the advanced dynamics found in the High Intensity Tactical Training program. The HITT program is comprised of seven foundational movements: squat, press, lunge, plank, rotate, pull and push for a full-body, functional workout.

Mawhinney participated in the first competition in 2015, only a few months after completing the HITT Level 1 Instructor Course. He was still new to the HITT program and didn’t know what to expect when arriving at the competition. He attributed his sixth place finish to his lack of knowledge and proper preparation.

USMC Sgt. Ethan Mawhinney, a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner with US Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, powers through a Tactical Water Challenge. Photo credit to MCCS Camp Pendleton.

“I wasn’t really prepared for what the competition consisted of,” said Mawhinney. “I was still pretty new and didn’t have the knowledge to really succeed in the competition yet.”

Unsatisfied with the results, Mawhinney used his knowledge of the competition and HITT program to overhaul his workout routine and prepare for the 2016 competition. He did three-a-day workouts consisting of sprints and distance running along with HITT workouts, seeking to break himself down before building his body back up.

While some competitors only start preparing a few months prior to the event, Mawhinney starts preparing after a short break of one to two weeks following the previous competition. Around June, Mawhinney said he ramped up his workout routine and focused on workouts meant to get ready for the competition.

He took first place in 2016, proving his hard work had paid off. Despite the win, Mawhinney felt the pressure of a narrow point gap between his final standing and that of the second place finisher.

USMC Sgt. Michael Eckert, quality control chief of motor transport company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, flips a tire during physical training. UMSC photo by Sgt. Jessica Quezada.

After the 2016 competition, Mawhinney checked into MARSOC where he leaned on the physical trainers at the MARSOC Performance and Resiliency program to help fine tune his workout program. The PERRES trainers helped him adjust his training to consist of more explosive workouts, emphasizing heavy lifting versus faster, light-weight lifting, and calisthenics.

“I worked a lot on explosiveness – little things like short, 15-yard sprints, for training take-off speed,” said Mawhinney.

His workouts also consisted of drills involving box jumps, modified explosive push-ups, and Olympic-style lifting. Mawhinney significantly trained his anaerobic threshold to increase his stamina for events. He stated that the typical human threshold tends to be around two minutes, but the events at the competition are around four to six minutes.

Because the scoring system is based off the time it takes to complete an event, Mawhinney said he didn’t want to lose points by pacing himself throughout the events. Instead, he focused his energy into one daily workout after noticing an increase in injuries resulting from the intense frequency of workouts the previous year. His revamped program featured longer, more intense and harder workouts versus the shorter, easier ones from previous years. Mawhinney added in a second daily workout during the final stretch before the competition.

USMC Sgt. Ethan Mawhinney, a Marine Air Ground Task Force planner with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, competes in an 880-meter Tactical Hill Climb. Photo by MCCS Camp Pendleton.

“The biggest thing we changed with this year’s workouts was increasing his speed and power versus volume,” said Alli Clauss, a MARSOC PERRES strength and conditioning coach. “Every workout we did had a point behind it.”

Mawhinney came in 1st place again in this year’s competition, maintaining his title as Male Division Champion for the 2017 HITT Tactical Athlete Competition. Mawhinney represented Camp Lejeune against 16 male competitors; the female division featured 15 athletes.

“[Looking back at my performance] there wasn’t any one thing that I thought I really wanted to work on,” said Mawhinney after this year’s competition. “I just want to get better at everything for next year.”

A Marine performs pushups with a pack during the 2nd Annual Tactical Athlete Championship. USMC photo by Pfc. Liah Kitchen.

Along with increasing physical fitness, Mawhinney said the competition and the discipline required to train for such an event really bring together some of the best and physically fit Marines. One of the biggest enjoyments for him was the atmosphere provided by those Marines. Mawhinney commented that for him it’s not about lifting and working out to look good, but to be the best Marine he can be- an opportunity provided by the Tactical Athlete Competition.

“I’ve heard it said that we should work out for two reasons: to make ourselves better at killing the enemy and to make ourselves harder for the enemy to kill,” said Mawhinney. “I think that really matches with what the HITT program does in having that tactical athlete mindset. You’re lifting and running or whatever workout you choose – to make yourself better and this competition gives you an opportunity to work towards that goal – being harder to kill and better at killing.”

popular

How many crewmembers do these tanks really need?

When main battle tanks like the T-55, M48/M60 Patton, and Leopard 1 emerged, they usually had a crew of four: the tank commander, the gunner, the loader, and the driver. But all of that changed when the Soviet Union introduced the T-64 main battle tank.


The T-64 was designed with a mechanical device to put the shells in the gun — called an auto-loader — that effectively made the role of “loader” obsolete. Since then, every Soviet and Russian tank that has entered service has operated with a crew of three. Their main gun is now one giant semi-automatic – much like a M1911, only it fires a shell roughly five inches in diameter instead of a .45 ACP bullet. So, which crew arrangement works best? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of a four-man crew

For starters, having a four-man crew spreads out basic maintenance tasks. Tanks, like any other piece of complex machinery, need care and attention to continue to operate smoothly. The extra crewman also helps the others get more rest by providing an extra pair of eyes for standing watch – a little extra shuteye can be a lifesaver. Third, a 19-year-old grunt is easier to take care of than a mechanical loading device. Finally, the loader, if needed, can bring an extra machine gun to the fight

United States Army Abrams tanks on the move during an exercise in South Korea. (DOD)

Pros of a three-man crew

The biggest advantage of a three-man crew is that it enables you to build a somewhat smaller tank. A smaller tank is, theoretically, harder to hit. There are also some logistical benefits — the same number of rations can sustain a smaller crew longer. The bean-counters in the rear are also happy — auto-loaders do not need to be paid or equipped.

Left front view of a convoy of Soviet T-72 main battle tanks. (DOD)

Cons of a four-man crew

As you can imagine, to operate with a crew of four, tanks will have to be larger. Also, as a human being, the loader is in need of food, water, and other necessities. In the unfortunate event that the loader is injured or killed, suddenly, a three-man crew must do a four-man job.

Lance Cpl. William Laffoon, tank crewman with Tank platoon Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, braces himself after firing a 120mm round from a M1A1 Abrams battle tank during a live-fire range in Djibouti. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

Cons of a three-man crew

Let’s lay this out here: If the mechanical loading device breaks, that tank is out of action. To make matters worse, a smaller crew has fewer hands to maintain a lot more stuff – including the auto-loader. If the loader malfunctions, someone with a critically important job is going to have to divert attention.

The tanks being compact also means that the entire thing goes sky-high with a single hit.

The T-72 is the tank with an auto-loader that has had the most extensive combat record. (DOD)

There is perhaps one test that can determine which system works best: actual combat experience. The T-72 main battle tank and variants — all operated by a driver, gunner, tank commander, and auto-loader — have seen a lot of action, often against Western, four-man-crew tank designs.

Typically, the T-72s lose out. Perhaps that has something to say about which approach is better.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA asks for more veterans to sign up for Burn Pit Registry

An overall goal of scientific research on groups such as veterans is generalizability — the measure of how well the research findings and conclusions from a sample population can be extended to the larger population.

It is always dependent on studying an ideal number of participants and the “correct” number of individuals representing relevant groups from the larger population such as race, gender or age.

In setting the eligibility criteria for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, VA researchers used generalizability as an important consideration.

Simply put, they want as many veterans and active-duty service members who had deployed to specific locations to join the registry. Participants could have been exposed to burn pits or not. They could be experiencing symptoms or not. Or, they could receive care from VA or not.


Helping to improve the care of your fellow veterans

For researchers, everyone eligible to join the registry has a unique experience critical in establishing empirical evidence. By signing up and answering brief questions about their health, veterans and active-duty service members are helping researchers understand the potential effects of exposure to burn pits and ultimately helping improve the care of their fellow veterans.

It is estimated that 3 million veterans and active-duty service members are eligible to join the registry. However, just over 173,000 have joined as of April 1, 2019, and 10 out of 100 have had the free, medical evaluation, which is important to confirm the self-reported data in the registry.

See what questions are asked

In hopes of encouraging more participation in the registry, VA is sharing a partial list of registry data collected from June 2014 through December 2018. This snapshot will give you a sense of the type of questions on the questionnaire as well as how the data is reported when shared with researchers and VA staff.

As a reminder, the registry is open to active-duty service members and most Veterans who deployed after 1990 to Southwest Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Africa, among other places.

Check your eligibility and sign up.

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

Jobs

This is how military linguists get fluent in just 64 weeks

The job title “military linguist” sounds pretty impressive, right? It should, since linguists work around the world to translate highly classified documents and connect with troops and allied forces.

You don’t have to know anything but English to go into that career, either. That’s where the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center comes in. It’s one of the world’s foremost language schools that can make you fluent quickly, whether you’re learning Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or Mandarin Chinese.


The DLIFLC teaches 17 foreign languages in Monterey, California. Most enlisted students take its immersion courses to go into military intelligence jobs, while federal employees from other agencies, such as the FBI and National Security Agency, also go there.

It’s no cake walk

The courses are intense. They’re six to seven hours a day (NOT including homework), five days a week, and they last for 64 weeks over three semesters.

“Usually starting from the second month of their study, the teachers – we already use almost all of the target language in the classroom,” said Zhenshuai Liu, one of the DLI’s many native Chinese-language instructors.

Utah Army National Guard Pfc. Logan Jensen and Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Rutledge are two of the school’s current students. Both loved language and culture going into it, but neither knew a word of Mandarin. Rutledge said he was nearly panicked when his class began having days without using any English.

A student works with a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School on calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You definitely realize how much you do and don’t know all at the same time,” he said. “They do it in such a way that it’s manageable … but you’re definitely out of your comfort zone.”

Air Force Tech Sgt. Benjamin Walton, the school’s chief military language instructor, knows all about that. Walton was a DLI student a decade ago. He was trained in Chinese, too.

“It kicked my butt, but I was able to survive it,” he said. “None of the students are prepared for the amounts of information and the pace of the course and what they’re going to have to go through when they come here.”

That’s not a knock on the students, though, who are very bright.

“Students who coasted through high school and those who even may have coasted through college – they really didn’t have to study much,” Walton said. “They all come here … and think they’re going to jump into this and ace it, despite our repeated warnings.”

Students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center play Chinese games as they immerse themselves in the culture during the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

But they’re still fast learners. Liu said DLI students only need about one week to learn basic syllables and phonetic sequences to the level of greeting people.

“In a civilian school, this can usually take one semester,” Liu said.

Jensen and Rutledge were about a third of the way through the course when we spoke, and they were learning 25-30 words a day, as well as how to distinguish them – an often confusing task.

“A lot of them sound alike. So, you could say one thing, and depending on the context or tone you say it in, it could have up to five different meanings,” said Jensen, who spent the first few months drinking a lot of coffee and doing pushups to stay awake. “You’re spending so much brain power just trying to understand what you need to do.”

The keys to learning

Liu said the key is to link your interests with the language so you can stay motivated and keep up with the pace. The school incorporates extracurricular activities such as cooking days, storytelling of legendary warriors and heroes, and there are immersion trips to places like a local Chinese market to get the students to appreciate the culture.

A Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center instructors shows Chinese language students a tea-tasking ceremony as a way to immerse them in the culture.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

“You have to be interested in it in order for it to be successful,” Rutledge said.

And that’s not guaranteed. In general, the success rate for students at DLI is 75 percent. Some can’t keep up academically, while others fail out due to disciplinary reasons. Walton said the students who make it to the end of the Chinese course have one of the highest passing rates – 95 percent – which makes students’ “ah-ha moments” so satisfying.

“To actually be able to get through to somebody – that’s the reason why we [instructors] came back here … to try to impart our wisdom to the students now,” Walton said.

Most of the students who do succeed reach the college level of understanding within a year and a half, which requires a lot of studying. Some students listen to the language in the shower, while others review flashcards whenever they have the chance. Liu calls them “super students.”

“They don’t only take care of their study, they actually have military duty after class hours. They have to go to training and pass all the tests,” he said.

If the students do well, they get the chance to go to Taiwan or mainland China to do a month of immersive language study.

A student at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Asian School practices calligraphy of Chinese letters as part of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb. 15, 2018.
(Army photo by Patrick Bray)

Jensen and Rutledge still have a way to go before they finish the course. But they’re getting there.

“In some ways, the grammar is similar, even sometimes easier,” Rutledge said. “Sometimes you can express rather complex ideas in very few words or written characters.”

One thing’s for sure: it takes a lot of focus, especially as a military student.

“If you slip up on a test or opt to go out and have drinks with friends instead of study, that can really come back to bite you,” Rutledge said, who will be a cryptologic language analyst when he’s finished at DLI. He isn’t sure if he’ll stay in the military long term, but either way, he’d like to be a translator or do international business, both of which will make the course worth it.

The DLI’s headquarters is in California, but it has the ability to instruct another 65 languages through its Washington, D.C., branch. There are also several language training detachments at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.