VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA reaches out to Silicon Valley for help with veteran suicide

VA is partnering with four technology organizations — CaringBridge, IBM, Objective Zero Foundation, and RallyPoint — that share VA’s commitment to preventing veteran suicide. These organizations are working with VA to promote social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources using mobile applications and online platforms.

“Partnerships are a vital component of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which we are implementing at the national, state, and local levels,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention, for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans nationwide and across the globe, reaching even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care. To do that, we are working closely with dozens of important partners across sectors to expand our reach beyond VA facility walls, to deliver care and support to at-risk veterans wherever they live, work, and thrive.”


As identified in the national strategy, engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. While each of our technology partners offers their own unique services, they all use technology to help service members and veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

CaringBridge

CaringBridge is a global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during any health journey through the use of free personal websites. A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, veterans, their caregivers and families during any health journey including mental health and substance use. While enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge also allows its users to conduct personal fundraisers. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ to directly focus on the needs of Service members, veterans, caregivers and their families is now available.

IBM

IBM and VA launched a collaborative suicide prevention program to develop an innovative mobile application currently under development titled GRIT (Getting Results In Transition). GRIT demonstrates how the real-time and consistent collection of personalized data can help service members and veterans understand and strengthen their emotional well-being and resiliency — particularly during the transition from active duty to civilian life. GRIT allows users to create a digital self and gain personal insight into their personality baseline, provides access to a digital assistant powered by IBM Watson, helps to build a squad of social connection and offers employment matching and fulfillment capabilities using IBM Watson Employment Manager among other resources to support the transition out of the military.

Objective Zero Foundation

Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. The Objective Zero mobile application connects service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to peer support through videoconferencing, voice calls, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Volunteer ambassadors sign up for the application, receive training including VA’s own A.V.E. training “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite,”— course to then be on the receiving end of those in need of connecting. Objective Zero aims to be more upstream than the Veterans Crisis Line and allows service members, veterans their families and caregivers to both volunteer and connect to others when they need it most. You can download the free Objective Zero mobile application at https://www.objectivezero.org/app.

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RallyPoint

RallyPoint is a social networking company designed to gather service members and veterans connect with each other, discuss military life, share information and exchange stories. The platform is now open for families, caregivers and federal employees of service members and veterans. Users can build out their own professional network, share resources, connect with other members of the military and veterans in a safe, secure social media environment. Career opportunities and resources, active community discussions and increasing social connectedness with over 1 million users is free, ready and available at www.rallypoint.com/.

“VA will not stop working to prevent veteran suicide, but we can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “VA’s partnerships in the technology sector enhance social connectedness and expand the reach of VA’s suicide prevention resources through these technology platforms. We are working with partners in the technology space and other sectors to ensure we reach all Veterans with lifesaving resources and support.”

The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that all veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it — regardless of their discharge status. To learn about the resources available for veterans and how you can #BeThere as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner, or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Articles

13 best military memes for the week of Dec. 23

Look, if you’re not on Christmas block leave or libo or whatever your branch calls it by now, then you’re probably not going on it.


Let’s all just sit together with the funny military memes and try not to imagine what all those people with Christmas trees and matching pajamas are doing right now.

1. It’s the only dessert made up of 50 percent sadness (via Coast Guard Memes).

The culinary specialists really know how to make it feel like home.

2. Gotta hit the ground running (via Air Force Memes Humor).

Welcome to the Air Force, with a vengeance.

3. That yellow bird is tired of your cadence calls (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

First, the mice. Then, the Corps!

ALSO READ: This C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier will make you rethink physics

4. Stay low on your pushups and avoid burpees (via The Salty Soldier).

Hopefully, the tall fellow will take the hit and absorb most of the blast.

5. Dig deep, everyone (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

The Air Force wants to at least get a laugh when you hurt their feelings.

6. Saving more Lincoln’s than a private box seat (via Sh-t My Recruiter Said).

Just in time for Christmas, too.

7. Congrats on your restored ratings, Navy!

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Now, we are all one with the Rates.

8. Don’t necessarily want to fight another nation, but it would be super nice to have clear target identification (via Pop smoke).

9. Remember to do some pushups between desserts over holiday leave (via The Salty Soldier).

Plus five burpees per present on Christmas morning.

10. If you think throwing up double birds when PCSing is fun, just wait till you ETS (via Lost in the Sauce).

This one goes out to my first brigade CSM.

11. When you’re not about that Rack City life (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Not sure I can come up with 956 names.

12. In their defense, the table looks super stable (via Military World).

I hope they were getting ready for a safety powerpoint.

13. Oooh, how will you survive?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

Does the Air Force only use two fingers for their knife hands? It’s like a stiletto hand or something.

Secret bonus meme 1: My Coast Guard contacts have assured me that this is brilliant (via Coast Guard Memes).

Secret bonus meme 2: Really, guys? This is literally an entire football field. Including the end zones (via Maintainer Humor).

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy finds smoking gun that points to Iran in latest tanker attack

The US is accusing Iran of carrying out attacks on two tankers just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway through which more than 30% of the world’s seaborne crude oil passes, and the US Navy has reportedly discovered an unexploded mine that may very well be evidence of Iran’s culpability in June 13, 2019’s attacks.

The USS Bainbridge, a US warship deployed to the Middle East, spotted a limpet mine on the side of one of the two tankers hit on June 13, 2019, CNN reported, citing a US defense official. Another defense official confirmed the discovery to Fox News, telling reporters that “it’s highly likely Iran is responsible.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said June 13, 2019, that Iran was responsible for the attacks, an announcment that briefly spiked US West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures up to $52.88 per barrel, or 3.4% from the day’s start.


He did not provide specific evidence for the accusations but said US conclusions were “based on the level of expertise for the execution, and recent attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

The limpet mine spotted by the US Navy was reportedly discovered on the Kokuka Courageous, one of two tankers targeted. Twenty-one sailors rescued from the damaged ship are aboard the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that was operating nearby and called in to assist.

A limpet mine is an explosive with a detonator that can be attached to the hull of a ship using magnets, and Iranian forces are believed to have used these weapons in an attack on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May. While the US has blamed Iran for the attacks, Tehran, Iran’s capital, has repeatedly denied any involvement.

The UAE determined an unnamed “state actor” was behind the tanker attacks and concluded “it was highly likely that limpet mines were deployed.”

There has been some debate about who was behind the latest attacks, with one official telling ABC News that “we’re not pointing to Iran, but we’re not ruling anything out at this time.” Another official asked the media outlet, “Who else could it be?”

U.S. Blames Iran for Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman

www.youtube.com

Iran used mines heavily during the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who may have been briefed on the situation, was quick to pin the blame on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, telling reporters: “I saw some press accounts today sort of saying it’s not clear who did it. Well, it wasn’t the Belgians. It wasn’t the Swiss. I mean, it was them. They’re the ones that did it. We’ve been warning about it.”

In early May 2019, the US began deploying military assets to the Middle East as a deterrence force in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was planning attacks on US interests. The US has so far sent a carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a missile-defense battery, and a number of other capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

VA video series receives Emmy Award

A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.

The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.

The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).


The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.

Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans

www.youtube.com

Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”

In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.

The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.

“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.

According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.

Watch the Emmy Award-winning story above or on VA’s YouTube channel.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Super Bowl is getting the most awesome Air Force flyover ever

Fans tuning in to watch Super Bowl LII, where the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will face off to determine who is the best in the NFL, will also see a bit of history during the pre-game ceremonies. For the first time, the Air Force Heritage Flight, including a North American P-51 Mustang, will conduct the traditional flyover.


A North American P-51 takes off from Iwo Jima, in the Bonin Islands. From this hard-won base our fighters escorted the B-29’s on bombing missions to Japan, and also attacked the Empire on their own. (USAF photo)

According to an Air Force release, the P-51 will be joined by two Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt close-air support planes and a Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. This is not unusual for the Heritage Flight, which routinely flies older aircraft alongside those currently serving.

Two A-10 Thunderbolts will also take part in the flyover. (USAF photo)

The Super Bowl flight is a first for the Air Force’s Heritage Flight, which honors the sacrifices made by those who have served, assists in recruiting and retention efforts, and displays the evolution of air power over the years. The P-51 will be flown by Steve Hinton (not to be confused with his son, Steven Hinton, who set a new speed record in a modified P-51 last year). The flyover will be broadcast live on NBC from multiple cameras, including one mounted on the P-51.

A F-16 will also participate in the Super Bowl LII flyover. (USAF photo)

The P-51 Mustang entered service with the Air Force in 1942. It had a top speed of 437 miles per hour and a maximum range of 851 miles. It was armed with six M2 .50-caliber machine guns and could also carry bombs. After dominating the skies in World War II, the P-51 served as a ground-attack plane in the Korean War. It also saw action in the Soccer War of 1969. A version of the P-51 almost entered service with the Air Force in the 1980s as a close-air support/counter-insurgency aircraft, called the Enforcer.

We can’t wait to see this historic plane take to the skies once more!

Editorial Note: This article previously stated that Steve Hinton set a speed record in a modified P-51, but it has been corrected to reflect that it was his son, Steven Hinton, who set the record. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 9th

There’s no other way to put it. This week was full of horrific events and terrible news.

Yet, in the midst of all the bad that happened this week, there were some rays of goodness. Because that’s what memes are supposed to be about – making a joke and putting a smile on someone’s face after a sh*tty day.


As the saying of the Army’s short-lived resiliency training that my chaplain really awkwardly tried to make a thing goes: Let’s hunt the good stuff.

There are many children still here today because of the quick-thinking PFC Glendon Oakley. An all-veteran A Cappella group called Voices of Service performed a breathtaking rendition of See You Again on America’s Got Talent and made it to the live rounds. Across the country, many unclaimed veterans – deceased veterans without contactable next of kin – are having their brothers and sisters-in-arms attend their funerals.

The world’s too full of fighting and bickering over mundane BS. I’ll let someone else tell you that everything is on fire, but I say we just take a breather and remember that there is still some good in the world. Anyways, here are some memes.

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

(Meme via Uninformed Veteran)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

(Meme via Not CID)

(Meme by Call for Fire)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Articles

The Philippine military has wiped out an ISIS training camp

ISIS-linked militants in the Southern Philippines have conducted a series of violent clashes with government forces, killing at least 7 soldiers but suffering the loss of over a dozen fighters.


Philippine Marines train on automatic weapons in classes from the US Marine Corps. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn

The militants come from at least three separate groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. One of the smaller groups launched an attack on a small army outpost on Mindinao, an island in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Army repelled the attack and then countered, killing 12 militants but losing six of their own soldiers.

The counterattack was aimed at an ISIS training camp. ISIS flags have been flying at camps on Mindinao for months, but it’s not clear if these are new camps or just new flags.

In fighting with other ISIS-aligned groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Philippine Forces lost another soldier but killed an unknown number of militants.

The group Abu Sayyaf was routed in Dec. 2015 when 300 Philippine soldiers with artillery and air support attacked the main camps and killed their leader, Najib Hussein. But, they’ve continued to attack government positions throughout the south.

“[Islamic State] influence is growing stronger and it is expanding,” Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research told AFP.

Despite Philippine forces finding ISIS flags, bandanas, and other items on the battlefield, other experts assert that the Philippine groups’ allegiance to ISIS is just a ploy for the Islamic State’s money and weapons.

“It really has nothing to do with ideology,” Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College, told reporters. “This is all about resources.”

The groups involved in the worst of the fighting have existed for years longer than ISIS, and their violence has been going on for years.

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This 89-year-old World War II vet is riding cross-country on a Harley in remembrance of fallen GIs


While many a fraction of E. Bruce Heilman’s age would be looking to pump the breaks, this 89-year-old USMC vet is still going full throttle — literally. In fact, while you’re reading this, there’s a good chance he is rolling along an open highway riding his Ultra Classic Electra Glide Patriot Edition Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Heilman was born and raised on a farm in Smithfield, Kentucky. At age 17, he left high school for boot camp in 1944, there he became the highest scorer on the Rifle Range in his platoon and one of the top three out of 600.

“I was the youngest and the smallest,” he said once in an interview. “But I had the best eye.”

His skills landed him in the Radio Gunnery School in Memphis’s  Naval Air Training Center while many members of his platoon were fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Shortly thereafter, he would arrive at the shores of Okinawa. His bio on the website Spirit of ’45 describes that day:

He had his steak and egg breakfast, went down the rope ladder into a landing boat, and landed on the beach with all of the anticipation of a first time green Marine anxious to get into battle, but uncertain as to the outcome.

He would come out alive.

He managed to walk away from that brutal battle responsible for 82,000 casualties of all kinds. His unit also evaded a planned invasion of Japan (the war ended), and Heilman even survived an airplane accident over Iwo Jima while transporting intelligence personnel months after the war.

The WWII veteran went on to become an esteemed leader in education – he has served as president of several American colleges and universities and is now Chancellor of the University of Richmond. In 2008, he published the book: An Interruption that Lasted a Lifetime: My First Eighty Years.

While he has been awarded many medals that are indeed a testament to his own courage (Asiatic Pacific Medal with Battle Star, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Japanese Occupation Medal, Badge of Honor of the Republic), he has gone great lengths, literally, in his own unique way, to commemorate the courage of those who did not make it back. In a distinctive humility not uncommon among the dwindling population of the ‘Greatest Generation’ Heilman said: “We all expected to die there. Some gave all, they are the heroes.”

Now he rides to honor those heroes. In 2015, he logged over 6,000 miles riding his Harley across the United States to salute those brave souls he fought beside in Okinawa.

On April 30th, Dr. Heilman began another self-funded cross-country trip.  This time, his mission is to raise public awareness about the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He is riding in honor of the 2,000 who died that day, and will travel through several states that had namesakes in the Harbor that were hit by bombs and torpedoes and lost crew members during the attack.

While he travels far and wide, it is clear what his heart truly holds close: his fallen brothers in arms. At the writing of this article, he has traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He will wrap up his tour on Memorial Day in Washington, DC.

He has been self-funding this tour. To help him defray costs, you can donate to Spirit of ’45 – indicate “Heilman’s Harley Ride” in the designation box.

You can catch Heilman and his Harley at the following places between now and Memorial Day:

May 8 – San Pedro, CA (USS Iowa)

May 9 – Silicon Valley, CA

May 10 – Santa Clara, CA

May 11 – Oakland, CA (USS Potomac)

May 12 – Sacramento, CA (Floor of the California assembly)

May 13 – Elko, NV

May 14 – Salt Lake City, UT

May 15 – Rawlins, WY

May 16 – North Platte, NE

May 17 – Omaha, NE

May 18 – Des Moines, IA

May 19 – Rest day

May 20 –  Des Moines, IA (Meeting with Governor Terry Branstad)

May 21 – Indianapolis, IN (American Legion National Headquarters)

May 22 – Cincinnati, OH

May 23 – Charleston, WV (Meeting with Woody Wilson)

May 25 – Richmond, VA (Virginia Veteran’s Memorial)

May 27 – Fairfax, VA (American Legion Gold Star Families BBQ)

May 28 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 29 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 30 – Washington, DC (Spirit of ’45 Memorial Day of Service and Parade)

(For more details on exact locations and photos from prior stops, visit Spirit of 45.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 67 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

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

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

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


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

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

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

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

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

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This soldier’s wild-looking ghillie suit makes him a deadly force

Snipers have to be able to disappear on the battlefield in a way that other troops do not, and the ghillie suit is a key part of what makes these elite warfighters masters of concealment.

“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard, previously explained.

“Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position,”he added.

A ghillie suit is a kind of camouflaged uniform that snipers use to disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow. US Army Staff Sgt. David Smith, an instructor at the service’s sniper school, recently showed off a ghillie suit that he put together from scratch using jute twine and other materials.


Ghillie bottoms have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back of it where jute and other materials can be attached to break up the outline of the groin area.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

A view of the ghillie bottoms from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Ghillie tops, like the bottoms, also have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back and shoulders where jute can be attached to break up the outline of the shoulders and the space beneath the arms.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

A view of the ghillie top from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

The Ghille tops and bottoms have been reinforced in the front with extra material in order to allow for longer wear of the suit with less damage to the natural material under it and to allow for individual movements like the low crawl.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

The head gear, which can be a boonie hat, ball cap, or some other head covering, has webbing or net material sewn in so that the sniper can attach jute or vegetation to it in order to break up the natural outline of a wearer’s head and shoulders.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Snipers concealed in grass by their ghillie suits.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

When it all comes together, snipers become undetectable sharpshooters with ability to provide overwatch, scout enemy positions, or eliminate threats at great distances. “No one knows you’re there. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, previously told Insider.

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

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What is the big deal about Kwajalein?

According to a report by UPI, an LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile was taken from Minot Air Force Base and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base to test America’s land-based deterrence force.


The missile landed at the remote Pacific base of Kwajalein Atoll. Now, the United States has used these islands for atomic tests and as a place for missiles to land for years.

But Kwajalein has a bit more significance to the U.S. than most other atolls out there. You see, it was one of the many islands American forces had to take from Japan during World War II – and thus, it is consecrated ground.

Diagram of the American plans to attack the Marshall Islands. (USMC graphic)

During World War I, Japan had taken the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and Caroline Islands from Germany. According to an official Marine Corps history of the 4th Marine Division, the islands were soon fortified with bunkers, air strips, a lot of firepower, and very fierce troops.

In Nov., 1943, the United States had taken Tarawa in the Gilberts – and paid a heavy price. According to Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, published by the Center for Military History, 3,301 Marines were killed, wounded, or missing after the effort to take Tarawa. Kwajalein was expected to be even tougher, prompting legendary commanders like Raymond Spruance, Richmond K. Turner, and Holland Smith to oppose hitting Kwajalein at all.

Troops of the 24th Marines near the beach on Namur, thankful for having made it safely ashore, are now awaiting the inevitable word to resume the attack. (USMC photo)

Admiral Nimitz overruled their objections, and Kwajalein it was. Taking into account the lessons of Tarawa, this time, the United States brought overwhelming force. The major targets were Roi Island, Namur Island, and Kwajalein Island. For almost two months, air strikes were launched, including some with B-24 Liberators and others by carriers, on the Marshalls.

When the attack on Kwajalein came, it still took time, but only 142 American military personnel were killed in attacking Kwajalein Island proper.  Another 190 died while taking the islands of Roi and Namur. Total casualties in those assaults – dead, wounded, and missing – were 1,726.

Map of the Reagan Test Site. (DOD graphic)

After World War II, most of the American forces left, but Kwajalein today serves as part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.  332 Americans paid the ultimate price to take it 73 years ago. Today, it helps America develop systems that can save hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of lives.

MIGHTY MONEY

18 million veterans now have a new benefit

Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.


“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

You still need to go get your hair fixed in person, though.

“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”

Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life

Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.

“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”

Also Read: New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.

To verify eligibility and begin shopping, Veterans can visit ShopMyExchange.com.