Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.

Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.

Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.

“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.


According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”

Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”

That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.

Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.

“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.

Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Dr. Heather Shangold.

Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”

Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”

Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

DO NOT use this as a survival hack

Peter R. Asks: If I had to, what parts of my body are healthiest to eat and offer the most caloric benefit? Essentially, what parts of me should I eat first to maximize my survival chances in some extreme situation? Would eating feces be of any benefit?

While of course how long one could survive without food and water varies dramatically based on exact scenario, on the more pressing issue of water, it would appear that if someone stopped consuming this life sustaining liquid at all (including not getting any from food), their death would generally occur within a maximum of about 14 days. This grim figure has been gleaned from data collected from the notes of terminally ill or end of life patients in hospitals who forgo artificial sustenance and their bodies are slowly allowed to die. In many of these cases, the individual is either bedridden or in a coma, meaning their caloric and water needs are potentially minimized, so this seems a good rough upper limit.


Unfortunately for our thoroughly average 5 ft. 9 inch, 195.5 pound everyman named Jeff, who is about to find himself in rather dire straits, death for him is likely to occur much faster. Beyond the fact that he’s likely to be more active than a person in a coma, these figures don’t necessarily immediately apply to him because of something known as adaptive thermogenesis. Adaptive thermogenesis is the term used to describe a unique quirk of physiology, which is often colloquially referred to as “starvation mode”. In a massively overly simplistic nutshell sure to trigger more than one medical professional out there, when the body is put on a restrictive diet for a significant length of time, it adapts to function less optimally, but at least still function, lowering the sustenance requirements it needs in a variety of fascinating ways that would take an entire video of its own to cover.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Giphy

Since terminally ill people and people in comas are typically already in this state when their sustenance is completely cut off, their bodies will, in some cases at least, likely survive longer than poor Jeff who, if he was randomly cut off from sustenance without warning in a survival situation would probably not make it more than about 3-4 days.

Of course, Jeff could last longer if he ate something because many foods contain quite a lot of water, his most pressing need. While body parts are among those food items that are jam-packed with H20, that liquid was already in Jeff anyway. So there is going to be no benefit to consuming his own body part in this situation, unless of course the limb just happened to have gotten lopped off outside of his control and he wants to recoup what he can from the lost appendage.

But let’s say that Jeff has an unlimited supply of water. Now he just needs some food, which the human body is literally made up of. Thus, Jeff targets those sweet, sweet calories within himself.

How many calories? Figures on this can vary wildly based on the individual in question as you might expect, but for a ballpark average for such an everyman as Jeff, he probably has about 80,000 calories in him, at least, according to figures compiled by one Dr. James Cole at the University of Brighton.

As for the legs, again with the caveat that this can vary wildly based on a specific individual, for a ballpark average, each leg contains around 7,000-8,000 calories (enough to sustain Jeff comfortably for around three and a half days).

If Jeff got really desperate he could cut off one of his arms which would net him an additional 2,000 or so calories. Another day of comfortable eating.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Giphy

Since he needs that other arm to perform surgeries, cook, eat, etc., let’s say Jeff, who is also now an expert surgeon, also removes a lung, a kidney, 70% of his liver, his gallbladder, his appendix, spleen and his testicles (all things that can removed from the body without killing you if done properly). We stopped just short of calculating the caloric value of a human penis because, come on, we have to leave Jeff something to do the rest of the day while he awaits rescue.

Based on available figures from the aforementioned British professor and, where needed, supplementing his calorie content numbers with animals with comparable organs to our own, this would all provide roughly 3,000 or so calories, give or take.

Finally, if Jeff took the bones from his severed limbs and boiled them in water, he could create something akin to bone broth, which contains about 130 calories per litre. It turns out that you can make about a gallon of bone broth with around 7 pounds of bones.

Your skeleton makes up about 15% of your total body weight and your legs and a single arm constitute just shy of 40% of your total weight. Taking Jeff’s weight which we’ve already established as being 195.5 pounds, Jeff’s legs and arm would provide around 12 pounds of bone, or enough to make a gallon and a half of bone broth. This amounts to in the ballpark of 900 calories.

Being resourceful, Jeff isn’t going to stop at limbs, organs, and bone, though. After all, a byproduct of eating produces another food source- feces. Unfortunately, there’s no study that has been done that we could find telling us definitively the calorific content of human poop. That said, from limited studies we did find on human poop’s nutritional makeup, and from many more done on mice feces, it would appear on average feces contains about 10% of the calories eaten previously, with the caveat that this does vary based on a variety of factors- work with us here people. If you want a better number for the calories in human feces when that human is eating human legs, arms, and organs, you feel free to Google to your heart’s content. We’re already a little uncomfortable with how our search history looks after this one.

In any event, if Jeff consumed in the ballpark of the 2000-2500 calories per day to maintain his original physique before he found himself in his little predicament, his poop may contain as many as 250 calories. Contrary to popular belief, his poop would also be reasonably safe to eat provided he kept it fairly sanitary after squeezing it out — the five second rule isn’t really a thing. A dropped turd is most definitely going to pick up some icky things from the floor.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Giphy

So, doing the math, if Jeff literally cut off or removed every extraneous part of his body save for a single arm, then ate his excrement, he could conceivably find himself with a total of around 20,000-22,000 or so calories, or around 10 days of comfortable sustenance. And, hey, with the loss of each extra body part, there’s fewer calories needed to support the remaining, meaning Jeff’s going to be able to stretch things out even further in this little fantasy land we’ve created.

Of course, in a real life scenario, slicing yourself up would by definition do severe damage to your body, expose yourself to infection, result in a loss of blood and hence reduce your hydration level, and just generally place a lot more demands on your body to keep on keeping on- when traumatically injured, your nutritional needs actually go up.

And, in the end, your body already had you covered.

You see, it turns out beyond attempting to get more efficient about caloric usage naturally if you stop giving the body enough to function optimally, the human body is also amazingly efficient at using stored sustenance in your various bits, particularly fat, muscle, and, to a lesser extent, bone. Sure, at the end of it, Jeff’s body fat percentage might be on the lean side and his lifts on the bench press may be vastly reduced from their former no doubt beast-mode levels. But he’ll be alive and whole anyway.

Thus, as with so many of life’s problems, the solution was inside himself all along… including the feces and urine which could potentially give a very slight benefit the first time if he wanted to muscle them down.

So to sum up the answer to the question posed by our new favorite reader, while certainly your body contains a lot of useful calories should you consume them directly, it turns out it’s already really good at more or less eating itself without you needing to cut anything off. That said, should you be stranded with a pleasantly plump companion in such a survival scenario, you might want to go check out our article- Do People Who Resort to Cannibalism in Survival Situations Get in Trouble? Knowledge is power people.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

This is the grim novel John Kelly reads when he gets a promotion

Shortly after he became an officer in the Marines, John Kelly met a captain who told him that he should approach his new position as “a real professional.”


“A doctor who doesn’t read peer articles and stay attuned to the developments in his field is not the kind of doctor you would want to go to, and the same is true for officers in the Marine Corps,” the captain told him.

Kelly recounted the story in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” a collection of essays from four-star generals about their favorite books. We first read his essay in an excerpt run by Foreign Policy.

“He got me going on reading, specifically focused on military things, and I just never stopped,” Kelly said.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

The Wall Street Journal reported August 4 that Kelly picked up C.S. Forester’s 1936 novel “The General” after accepting the role of chief of staff, just as he did after accepting the role of DHS chief six months prior — and just as he did every time he was promoted during and after his military career, since he was 25 (he is now 67).

It’s essentially a parable about the dangers of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking. Kelly went through it again to remind himself “of what to avoid as a leader,” the Journal reported.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Image from Harper Collins Publishers.

“The General” tells the fictional story of General Sir Herbert Curzon, a leader in the British Army during World War I. Curzon is an unremarkable man who attained his position of power largely through luck and the failings of the superiors who preceded him. He is eventually put in charge of 100,000 men during WWI, where he leads many of them to their death and loses his leg in the process. Despite his failings as a leader, he is lauded in his retirement as a military hero.

When Kelly read the book as a young officer, he thought of his captain’s words on leadership.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

Describing Curzon, Kelly wrote in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” “He is a brave guy, a dedicated guy, a noble guy, but a guy who in the end has become a corps commander — a three-star general — and when presented with an overwhelming German attack couldn’t figure out how to deal with it because he’d never developed himself intellectually.”

Every time Kelly has read the book, he wrote, he’s noted where he was at that point in his life, and how the novel’s lesson resonates with him.

He wrote that, “depending on as you get older and higher in rank, it’s a different book every time you read it. When a lieutenant reads that book it’s different from when a lieutenant general reads it. … So it’s just kind of a fun thing I’ve done over the years and with this book in particular just to remind me of the critical importance of thinking.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Today is ‘Gold Star Spouses Day.’ Here are 5 things to know.

Gold Star Spouses Day has its origins way back to World War I. The families of servicemen would fly banners and hang them in their windows. These banners had a blue star to represent a service member in uniform. But, if their loved one was killed in action, the color of the star was changed from blue to gold, thus notifying the community the ultimate price that family had paid for their country.

1. The Gold Star lapel pin was created in 1947

Following the popularity of the banners, in 1947, Congress approved the design for the official Gold Star lapel pin/button. This was introduced to represent service members who had died in combat. The pin takes the form of a gold star on a purple background.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

2. The military bestows the Gold Star upon families 

During the funeral service of the fallen military member, senior officers present the Gold Star Pin in addition to the national colors to the spouse or next of kin as a mark of respect for their sacrifice.

3. Gold Star Wives/Spouses Day began in 2010

In 2010, the first Gold Star Wives Day was observed. Two years later the Senate passed a resolution that codified Gold Star Wives Day, which was set to be observed April 5th each year. To make it more inclusive this was changed later and renamed Gold Star Spouses Day.

4. Gold Star Spouses Day raises awareness

Gold Star Spouses Day brings awareness of the sacrifices and grief these spouses have faced in the name of their country. However, possibly more importantly, it brings awareness for the Gold Star survivors themselves of the large network of resources and assistance that is available to them. A few examples of the resources available to these spouses are: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), scholarship resources which include the Pat Tillman Scholarship and the Fisher House Foundation Scholarship for Military Children, in addition to the Army’s Survivor Outreach Services (SOS).

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

5. Gold Star Spouses Day is observed in many ways

While Gold Star Spouses Day is not a national holiday, there are many installations that have their own programs to observe this day. Many of the installation observances focus on the military fitness and lifestyle. For instance, there are quite a few remembrance 5Ks which are run on April 5. There are also remembrance efforts seen online and on social media. One such effort is the Facebook campaign which urges Gold Star families to share photos and memories of their fallen loved ones.

While Gold Star Spouses Day is one day set aside each April to acknowledge the sacrifices of these military family members, their grief and loss is something that should be remembered each and every day. These special families have lost a loved one in the name of freedom, in the name of the United States. Their family member willingly fought, served and gave that ultimate sacrifice. This is something that should never be overlooked or forgotten, rather is something that should be acknowledged every day. Without these tragic losses, Americans would not have the freedoms they hold so dear, nor would America be the proud country that it has always been. It is only through the willingness to give everything that Americans have the ability to hold onto the patriotic pride that is so important.

This Gold Star Spouses Day, and every day, take the time to remember these families that have given so much. Never take for granted the freedoms America has been given and fought for. Keep these sacrifices in mind each day, and be grateful for the men and women who are so willing to pay that ultimate price for their country. Whether you take to social media or see one at your local military installation, thank a Gold Star Spouse today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.


The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.

But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
(North Korea State Media)

What North Koreans really think of Kim Jong Un

The Washington Post’s Anna Fitfield talked to 25 North Koreans around Asia about life under Kim Jong Un, the country’s dictatorial leader since 2011, and revealed a pro-market current to everyday life that threatens to undercut the regime.

“Increasingly, North Koreans are not fleeing their totalitarian state because they are hungry,” wrote Fitfield. “Now, they are leaving because they are disillusioned.”

North Korea: 7 nasty ways Kim Jong Un executes people

Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.

Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.

“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”

With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.

2016 survey of 36 North Koreans found that all of them thought the country provided goods sufficient for a good life. Only one of the 36 said they did not make jokes at the government’s expense behind closed doors.

“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”

‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.

As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.

Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.

Thae said that although Kim Jong Un would stamp out protests in the street with tanks, outside information and soft power could bring down the regime.

“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”

Welcome to the free market, North Korea

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea, November 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.

“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”

But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.

Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.

Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.

The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.

Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Major of the Army turns to Instagram to improve command climate, meme pages respond

As 2020 came to an end, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston reached out on Instagram for help improving leadership and morale going forward.

“Seeing a lot of pages on here that don’t seem to think we are talking to or actually caring about our Soldiers. Here are the core tenets of This Is My Squad – have been since Spring 2019. These are what we’re asking JR Leaders to do. I’m open to the feedback on what we’re missing … you can be part of the solution.”

The post attracted hundreds of comments, many of them from popular military meme pages.

“When we look at how soldiers get information, I have to meet them where they are,” Grinston told Coffee or Die Magazine through email. “The internet flattens communication in a way we’ve never seen before. Official communication channels are still important, but social media offers another venue to hear what is important to Soldiers.”

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Responses to Grinston’s experiment ranged from positive and productive to comical and cynical.

“The issues in the Army today aren’t from the squad level,” a retired senior NCO wrote in one comment. “Hold Bn and Brigade level leaders accountable. That will inspire and empower squads and teams. Not a slide on just being a good dude.”

The wildly popular meme page tiktokbootz wrote, “Why is tiktok making not included here.”

“Next time,” Grinston responded.

As the conversation continued through the weekend and spilled over into follow-up posts, several topics stood out in the comments: destigmatizing behavioral health, improving leadership and morale, and suicide prevention.

“This weekend, I took a big gamble and called the milMeme community to the carpet,” Grinston wrote in a follow-up post Jan. 2. “What they brought was possibly one of the best command climate surveys you’ll get all year. If you’re in charge of Soldiers, you owe it to yourself to take a look through the comments and apply it to your formation.”

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

One commenter said the “alarming rate of suicides” at his unit were being “swept under the rug.”

“Leaders that actually care, can’t fix the issues,” he wrote. “They have their hands tied or are blocked out by caustic leadership […] that only care about the mission. The OP tempo is so constant and without pause that soldiers in the formation turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Any of your Junior NCO’s or E6’s that attempt to call it out openly are blacklisted and their progression halted. It’s what continues to force your good leaders out. They realize they cannot fix the formation […] That is why they turn here. There is, across Instagram, a fantastic source of leadership that comes here to vent. These men and women are who we need to stay in.”

The soldier behind the Hunter Seven Foundation Instagram page told Coffee or Die Magazine that the Army has a serious suicide problem that requires Grinston and Army leaders to “take command from the front and lead by example.” He said the conversations happening on Instagram are often more valuable than traditional surveys and communications about improving command climate and leadership.

“In the annual January briefings, we’ll hear all about ‘safety this and that’ and ‘say no to drugs’ and suicide awareness,” he said. “And then a month later during workup, your command turns a blind eye to your drinking problem and serious steroid use and doesn’t want to hear about your divorce and two kids and nightmares. And if the command does hear about it, they’ll yank you from your team. So yeah, this is extremely valuable.”

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston speaks at media briefing at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2020. Photo by Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense.

One commenter suggested implementing a system by which leaders could be rated by their subordinates and that input be included in performance reports.

“The Army likes to talk about servant leadership, but when it’s time for leaders to get their grade, the very people who they are in charge of don’t have any input,” Patrolbasehero wrote. “I think it would help the culture of leaders continually looking up without realizing what (their Soldiers) they are standing on.”

Another post said soldiers should be able to seek behavioral health services and not be vilified for it.

“You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence until you break,” it said. “Leadership HAS to be better.”

In one follow-up post promoting the value of behavioral health services, Grinston posted, “Things can’t change until the stigma does. When you’re ready to talk, reach out. It’s a very small step, but the link in the bio will get you to a counselor for free. If you’re a leader and you think this makes your people weaker, go ahead and DM me.”

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

The Hunter Seven Foundation page commented, “THATS WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT SMA! Creating change, curving the stigma from the top down.”

“I think this type of engagement is valuable because there’s no repercussions because it’s anonymous,” the soldier behind Hunter Seven’s page said. “No one wants to be the guy known for calling bullshit. Sadly, the command climate frowns upon that. So if literal meme pages need to bog down the sergeant major of the Army’s account to get a response, I mean, strength in numbers. I know a lot of the guys behind these meme pages that have been interacting with the SMA, and they are solid men — operators who have really been there and done that. Most are senior NCOs or E-6 or E-7. Our NCO backbone is jammed between a rock and a wall.”

Grinston said he prefers to go out and talk to soldiers in person, but between the COVID-19 environment and time constraints, social media gives him more ways to listen and interact.

“I think the volume of messages we received showed that people were willing to share,” Grinston said. “There were a number of valid concerns they’d like addressed, and we’re working to address actionable items and identify where leadership may be able to provide support.”    

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston and New Zealand Army Sgt. Thomas Grant, New Zealand soldier of the year, sit on a panel July 10 in Auckland, New Zealand. Grant interviewed Grinston on professional development, personal insights and life advice. Photo by Staff Sgt. Monik Phan.

The follow-up post Grinston shared Jan. 2 was a screen grab of a comment from an active-duty senior NCO:

“WE NEED SUPPORT AND EMPOWERMENT […] I am charging all SGMs out there to truly dig into their formations and reengage back to their commanders to FIGHT for the very best of what the soldiers and people deserve. Be a voice for those at the bottom, FIGHT for them until you’re blue in the face and have ALL your 1SGs standing behind you to take up the filibuster.”

Grinston expressed his full support for the comment. “Our Soldiers are speaking,” he wrote. “LEADERS, the ball is in our court.”

He told Coffee or Die the overwhelming response he received on Instagram shows that social media is a valuable space to engage with soldiers and that leaders should be present on digital platforms.

“Soldiers want to see their leaders advocating and fighting for them,” he said. “And those first sergeants and command sergeants major have to be able to give NCOs time and space to operate and then have their backs when they take an action. I hope that being present and engaging people to hear from them will go a long way to show that Army leaders do care and are working to address legitimate concerns. I’m listening and taking action where I can, and leaders at every level, from team leader to the Sergeant Major of the Army owe that to our Soldiers.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

As Iraqi forces close in on the Islamic State’s final patches of territory, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given the once-powerful terror group an ultimatum: Surrender or die.


“Daesh members have to choose between death and surrender,” Abadi said, using a derogatory term for ISIS.

ISIS has suffered severe territorial losses and bell weather defeats in the past month, as a US-led bombing campaign and US-backed and trained forces ground the group down to its last legs.

Related: Here’s how much ground ISIS has lost

At a Department of Defense briefing on Oct. 24, the top US general, Joseph Dunford, said that at ISIS’s height, “we saw as many as 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 different countries.”

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Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

At the same briefing, Brett McGurk the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, said the flow of foreign fighters had nearly stopped, and the group’s funding is at its “lowest level ever.”

McGurk pointed to ISIS’ own propaganda, which “about a year ago” stopped advising foreign fighters to come to Syria as the group was losing badly on the ground.

ISIS used to hold significant cities and oilfields in Iraq and Syria, but recent US-backed offensives have relegated them to a section of desert along the Iraqi-Syrian border, effectively trapping them.

Initially, after declaring the “caliphate,” or territory under ISIS’ ultra-hardline Islamic control in 2014, ISIS fighters proved potent on the battlefield rolling back Iraqi security forces. But after a US-led intervention that ultimately gained support from 75 countries, the terror group has nearly imploded.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey
ISIS fighters have been surrendering en masse after the fall of Raqqa.

The group carried out high profile attacks abroad, notably killing civilians in public places in London, Paris, and Brussels, but acting Department of Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke credits the US-led offensive keeping them on the run with preventing further attacks.

But after around 70,000 ISIS fighters have been killed, the group once bent on dying for its cause has begun to surrender en masse.

McGurk reported that ISIS surrendered in “large numbers” after the fall of its Syrian capital of Raqqa.

On Oct. 26, the Red Cross reported that it had gained access to the families of ISIS fighters in territories they once ruled.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Syracuse University just changed military education forever

For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.

Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.


In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.

With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.

It’s no wonder Military Times voted Syracuse the number one private school for veterans.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Syracuse University’s 2019 Veterans Commencement Graduates.

Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.

Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese government rejects allegations that its face masks were defective, tells countries to ‘double check’ instructions

The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”


“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”

The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.

Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.

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“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”

Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.

European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”

“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”

Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.

The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why grunts should keep a journal

Grunts may not pass literacy tests with flying colors, but it definitely isn’t any indication they’re not intelligent creatures. The infantry is full of different types of people with different ideologies and perspectives. Collectively, we can even develop philosophies based on our experience with the job. But what some of us don’t think about is recording the thoughts and ideas that bounce around inside our heads.

Keeping a journal is more than just a method of remembering events that go on in your life. Writing down your thoughts and ideas could actually help you develop your mental strength as a warrior. Additionally, there are other benefits that come with doing this, beyond just keeping track of the one thing your First Sergeant did today that really pissed you off.

Here’s why grunts should keep a journal:


Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

It might help to write about a day like this.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Burton)

A tool to fight stress

You may just want to chain smoke some cigarettes and trash talk your command with your friends, and that may work. But conversations can be cut short, and you may not even say 100% of what you’re thinking. Writing down your thoughts as they are, without a filter, can help relieve you of the stress you’re feeling on day 12 of a 10-day field op.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

You felt a certain way about this. Why not write it down?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan

Recording your thoughts

You may not feel like sharing everything that goes on in your head with your friends. That’s okay. Write it down. This may be useful if you have a good idea regarding tactics or standard operating procedure that you feel you may not remember later. This is like taking notes but in a way that ties into the rest of your thoughts and feelings.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

If you miss some shots on the range, you should record it to look at later so you can figure out how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)

Tracking your growth

At the end of the day, it helps to go over the events in your head and think about the positives and negatives. Additionally, writing these things down and writing your thoughts on how to improve yourself can help you track your personal growth. Even something like recording your physical fitness test results can help you see what you can improve on.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Even the worst memories are worth recording.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Amaia Unanue)

Memory improvement

Writing things down is always a good idea when you have to remember them later on. But doing something as simple as writing down the day’s events and your thoughts on them can help you keep your memory sharp which is a valuable skill no matter where you go.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Maybe the next time you’ll remember how you solved that problem.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

Improve problem-solving skills

While writing your thoughts and feelings about the day’s events, you may find that there was a problem you couldn’t solve earlier, but while writing it down, you discovered the solution. It’s like thinking back on an argument and thinking of the perfect response that didn’t occur to you in the moment.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Saddam Hussein buried Iraq’s air force in the desert

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 looking for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, American troops found a lot of bizarre things – toilets and guns made of gold, a Koran written in blood and Saddam’s romance novel. While they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, they did manage to find some weapons. Specifically, they found aircraft buried in the sand next to a perfectly good airfield.


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Iraqi Freedom

One day in 2003, American forces near al-Taqqadum Air Base in Iraq began pulling scores of Mig-25 Foxbat fighters and SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers out of the sand. The aircraft were missing wings but, for the most part, remained fairly well-kept despite being in the sand for who-knows-how-long. If Saddam wasn’t giving inoperable planes a good burial, one wonders why he would intentionally put his planes in the ground.

The answer starts with the fact that the Iraqi Air Force sucked at defending Iraqi airspace.

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But they were suuuuuuper good at bolting to other countries to escape the enemy.

In the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until the late 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force could reasonably hold its own against the superior U.S.- bought aircraft flown by the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time. But Iranian fighter pilots were very, very good and Iraqi pilots usually had to flee the skies before the onslaught of Iranian F-14 Tomcats. Against other Middle Eastern powers, however, Saddam Hussein’s air power could actually make a difference in the fighting – but that’s just against Middle Eastern countries. The United States was another matter.

Iraqi pilots were ready to go defend their homeland from the U.S.-led invasion, but the Iraqi dictator would have none of it. He knew what American technology could do to his aircraft, especially now that the U.S. was flying the F-22. They would get torn to shreds. He also remembered what his pilots did in the first Gulf War when sent to defend the homeland. They flew their fighters to the relative safety of Iran rather than face annihilation, and Iran never gave them back.

Saddam wanted his air force. So he decided to keep them all safe.

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

(US Air Force)

At al-Taqqadum and al-Asad air bases, the dictator ordered that his most advanced fighters be stripped and buried in the sand near the airfields. In retrospect, this was probably a good decision for the aircraft. Whatever was left unburied was quickly and forcibly dismantled by the U.S. Air Force on the ground during the invasion. In trying to fight off the Coalition of the Willing, Iraq’s air forces all but disappeared.

Saddam hoped that by saving the aircraft in the sand, he could prevent their destruction and when he was ready (because he assumed he would still be in power after all was said and done), he could unbury them and use their advanced status to terrify his enemies and neighbors.

That, of course, didn’t happen.

Articles

Stampeding wild boars kill ISIS fighters

A stampede of wild boars mauled to death three waiting in ambush Sunday in Iraq, Kurdish said Tuesday.


The mangled bodies were discovered by refugees fleeing territory controlled by the about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk, said Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti- forces.

responded by going on a spree of the area’s wild boars, said Brigadier Azad Jelal, the deputy head of the Kurdish intelligence service.

The were preparing an ambush of local tribesmen, al-Assi said. Five other were injured.

“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” he said.

Al-Assi said the executed 25 people attempting to flee three days before the boars .

Anti-jihadist tribesmen retreated to the Hamrin mountains when seized the nearby town of Hawija in 2014.