Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program - We Are The Mighty
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Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.


Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.

It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.

His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.

“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”

As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.

That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.

“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.

Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.

“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.

He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.

“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.

Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.

Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.

Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.

The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.

Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.

When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.

Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.

But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a  senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”

But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”

It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Photo: Courtesy of Santiago Leon

“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through  VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.

Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”

Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.

“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”

Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may soon have its first female special operator

One woman remains in training to become a battlefield Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) specialist, one of several special operations jobs in the Air Force, the head of Air Education and Training Command said September 19th.


“We have one female that’s in the course right now,” AETC commander Gen. Darryl Roberson said during a Facebook Live interview Tuesday with Military.com.

Roberson didn’t identify the airman, who joined the program Aug. 14 after Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, according to Air Force Times.

Roberson said four other women have entered Air Force special operations training since then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter reversed long-standing U.S. military traditions in late 2015, when he announced that all military occupational specialties would open to women.

Those other trainees have left the program for various reasons, the general said.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Photo: US Air Force Racheal E. Watson

One woman who began SpecOps training in August dropped out that same month. One TACP retrainee ended up removing herself from training due to a leg injury last year; a combat rescue officer candidate passed the physical test but never completed the selection program application; and another non-prior service TACP candidate couldn’t meet entry standards following BMT.

Roberson said he is hopeful more women will seek out some of the toughest jobs the service has to offer.

Also read: These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

“Come and join us!” he said during an interview on Sept. 19. “We can help you get through it.”

The general this spring introduced a new initiative, the Continuum of Learning, which aims to streamline training for airmen just beginning their Air Force careers.

“We’re working really hard for battlefield airmen. It’s our hardest specialty area; it’s our biggest attrition rate area,” Roberson said. “We have to figure out better ways to train and get these airmen through the program. Several of the ways we’re doing this is through the Continuum of Learning [initiative].”

“We just instituted a brand-new course — the Battlefield Airmen Prep Course, a preparatory course that once you finish BMT … we’re going to put you in this training program that is six weeks long. And it’s going to prepare you to start the original course of initial entry,” he said.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Senior Airman Brooke Seler, 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE structural journeyman, stands covered in concrete after a night of work July 27, 2017, in Southwest Asia. Seler is one of four female Airmen in the squadron who are helping build the future living sustainment area for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Damon Kasberg)

Following the prep course, airmen head to the indoctrination course, both of which are under the Battlefield Airman Training Group, also at JBSA-Lackland, Marilyn Holliday, a spokeswoman for AETC, said last month. “Both of these groups are part of the 37th Training Wing” at Lackland.

Roberson said airmen must trust the process.

“It’s to get you ready better than we’ve ever done before, so when you start the [special operations training] course, your chances of success are much higher,” he said.

Women in the Fight: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said he is confident women will soon count themselves among the service’s commandos.

“It’s going to happen, and we are ready in this command for it to happen,” he said during a briefing with reporters. “It’s going to be a huge non-event when it does happen.”

Webb said he isn’t sure when, exactly, or whether some special operations fields may see more female recruits than others. But he drew a comparison to the 1990s, when female pilots started flying service aircraft and many advanced into leadership positions.

“It’s maturing at a pace that you’d expect,” he said.

So far, six women have expressed interest in applying for special operations positions, including three for TAC-P, two for combat control officer and one for pararescue jumper (PJ), according to Command Master Sgt. Greg Smith.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Maj. Jennifer Orton, a combat search and rescue (CSAR) pilot with the 39th Rescue Squadron here, flies the HC-130P/N King fixed-wing aerial refueling aircraft on missions for the 920th Rescue Wing. Orton recently discovered that according to the 39th RSQ she holds the title of being their first female Air Force Reserve fixed-wing CSAR pilot. (U.S. Photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)

Of those, two followed through, but one suffered a foot injury during initial training and another wasn’t ultimately selected, Smith said.

“For recruitment, it is open, it is there,” he said. “Assessment, that is always our hardest part. We graduate less than 1 percent of males that go through, so you can expect probably 1 percent of females that go through will do that. We will get there. We are enthusiatsically waiting and wanting this to happen.

“If you watch ‘American Ninja Warrior’ today, I’ll tell you right now we need to go hang out there with recruitment because half of them could kick the crap out of half of us,” he added, referring to the NBC series on obstacle course competitions. “Those are the ones we want in special tactics today.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain just buried 3 soldiers from World War I

The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.


Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.

Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.

So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.

“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”

“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”

The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.

France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.

More photos from the ceremony can be found at the United Kingdom government website.

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7 tips to make your free Veterans Day food more epic

On Veteran’s Day, America’s bastions of consumer consumables give back to the defenders of The Republic by conspicuously offering copious amounts of free food. They know the target audience well – no one loves a discount like service members and veterans.


Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
A pie-eating contest on the USS Maryland, 1922.

So here’s your chance to get out of the house, go dutch with one of the barracks rats, or just take Veteran’s Day for all its worth. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your limited time.

1. Get every last calorie out of it with a “max out meal” on the 10th.

There are a lot of restaurants giving away free stuff. You’ll never be able to make the most of it if you have full meals the day before. At least a day before you start eating is when you have what competitive eaters call the “max out meal.” You are essentially expanding your stomach as much as possible and allowing that food to get through your system in time for Veteran’s Day. This is your last solid food until you arrive at Denny’s at 0030, so keep the water and coffee handy.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
This diet won Michael Phelps 22 gold medals. Think how it could work for you.

Another tip: I did an intense workout the morning I attempted a 72-oz steak and ended up having room for dessert. Try that and you’ll be ready to go all Shock n’ Awe at the Shoney’s on the 11th.

2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Design a battle plan for this. Some places open early, some are open later. Come up with a scheme that maximizes your food intake while limiting the time spent in line. The line might move fast at Wienerschnitzel – pick up your chili dogs on the way to Famous Dave’s and save them for later.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
That’s not D-Day. They’re seeing how far Max Erma’s is from the Bonefish Grill.

If someone offers breakfast all day, counterprogram: have breakfast for a mid-rats snack! Also, Bob Evans will give you free pancakes for signing up for their email newsletter, why waste the time in line on Veteran’s Day when you could be getting French Toast at Friendly’s?

3. Avoid Carbs. That’s how they f*ck you.

As satisfying as those IHOP Red, White, and Blue Pancakes might be, they fill you up too much, too fast. This is why you shouldn’t eat the curly fries that come with Hooter’s unlimited wings night – they’re a distraction (the unlimited wings are not an option for Hooters’ Veteran’s Day menu, by the way. Sorry).

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Also, fats are good before the workout you’ll have… tomorrow.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Try taking the buns off your All-American Burger, avoid the tortillas with the Chevy’s fajitas, and wait a day to get the Chocolate Wave cake from Red Lobster… they’ll let you have it for free on the 12th.

4. Use your medal citation as proof of service.

Some places – like Applebee’s and On the Border Mexican Grill– allow veterans to self-identify using their medal citations. What could be more awesome than dragging out the padded green plastic cover of your ARCOM medal? Not only are you a veteran, now your actions reflect great credit on yourself and the United States Army.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Some medal citations earn free meals year-round and country-wide, along with drinks, hugs, and sometimes the waitress’ phone number. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. David M. Sharp)

5. Shorten the line by hiring an actor.

If there’s one thing post-9/11 veterans love more than free stuff, it’s recording stolen valor videos. Pay someone to walk by  the restaurant wearing a poorly-designed uniform combination from a local thrift store, and you’re guaranteed to cut that long line in half. Pro tip: this may not work at Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, or anywhere else dominated by Vietnam-era veterans. Those guys care more about the food. People used to dress all kinds of stupid in the 60s and 70s.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

6. Hit up the places you can’t afford.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
(FXX)

If you’re hitting up Golden Corral and the Sizzler on the reg because a steak house is just out of your price range, Veteran’s Day is the day to take off your IR flag hat and Ranger Up shirt and slap on a collared shirt to take your battle to McCormick and Schmick’s, Bar Louie, and/or one of CentraArchy’s nicer steakhouses. Running shoes are still perfectly acceptable attire if two of these restaurants are within jogging distance of one another.

7. Deploy to the local Olive Garden.

The VA taught you how to wait all day just to be disappointed. You know how to entertain yourself while waiting around for hours on end. If running around isn’t your thing, the Olive Garden is giving away a Veteran’s Day meal plus unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Bring a laptop to binge watch your favorite show while camping at a booth on FOB Garden all day.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.


Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.

The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.

But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

Behenna after his 2014 parole.

It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.

After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.

But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.

The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

Articles

This is who would win a dogfight between Russia and Israel

Russia recently summoned Israel’s ambassador to deliver a message: The days of launching air strikes in Syria are over.


According to a Reuters report, the Russians were hopping mad over a recent Israeli air strike in Syria they said was targeting an illegal arms shipment to Hezbollah. The Russians say the strike aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Russian Su-35 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Israeli strike was also notable in that an Arrow missile shot down a Russian-built SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile. But what would happen if the Russians decided to challenge the Israeli Air Force?

At present, Russia has a limited number of aircraft in the region, centered around the Su-24 Fencer strike plane and versions of the Flanker (including the Su-30, Su-34, and Su-35).

The Russians may be small in numbers, but it backs up the Syrian Air Force, which has a substantial number of MiGs – mostly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers, along with about 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums of varying models. Likewise. Russia has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but many of the air defenses on the ground are Syrian, and older model missiles.

In essence, the Russian deployment was corseting the Syrians.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli Air Force is primarily centered on the F-16 Fighting Falcon – FlightGlobal.com reports that Israel has 77 F-16C and 48 F-16D Fighting Falcons on inventory, plus about 100 F-16I Sufa fighters.

Israel also has about 80 F-15A/B/C/D/I fighters as well, according to the Institute for National Security Studies. Many of these planes have been customized with Israeli electronics – and the engineers of Tel Aviv are masters of electronic warfare.

So, what would happen if Russia tried to stop an Israeli raid to take out some new weapons for Hezbollah? Keep in mind that the Russian deployment to Syria included a craptastic carrier and at least two splash landings.

And that’s just the follies they couldn’t keep from the press.

On the other hand, the Israelis, while they have made their mistakes in the past, are probably the best military force in the region. They also have a huge quantitative edge in modern fighters.

In essence, the early rounds would likely go the Israelis’ way. The big question would be how much Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to risk after the initial dogfight.

If Putin goes all-in, the Israelis could be in a world of hurt.

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Young Chesty Puller dreamed of being a soldier

That’s right, Marine Corps legend and one of America’s greatest fighters from any branch Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a true American Iron Man, spent his childhood dreaming of being a soldier.


Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Yeah, this guy was almost a soldier. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Army guys, before you go too nuts with this information, keep in mind that Puller ended up joining the Marine Corps because he was inspired by the Marines’ legendary performance at the Battle of Belleau Wood and because the Corps gave him a chance at leading troops in World War I before it was over.

Yeah, Chesty changed his service branch preferences for the most Puller reason ever: he thought the Marines would let him draw more blood, sooner.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
There was a lot of blood to be had in Belleau Wood. (U.S. Marine Corps museum)

Puller grew up as a tough kid and the descendant of soldiers who fought in the Civil War. His grandfather and many other relatives fought for the Confederacy while a great uncle commanded a Union division.

His grandfather was a major who had died riding with Jeb Stuart at Kelly’s Ford. Confederate Maj. John W. Puller had been riding with Maj. Gen. Tomas Rosser when a cannon ball took much of his abdomen out. He continued riding a short distance despite his wounds but died on the battlefield.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
A Harper’s Weekly illustration of the Battle of Kelly’s Ford where Maj. John Puller was killed by cannon fire. (Illustration: Public Domain)

The young Lewis Puller grew up on the stories of his grandfather and other prominent Confederate soldiers in the town, and it fueled a deep interest in the military for him. At the time, the Marine Corps was a smaller branch that had fulfilled mostly minor roles on both sides of the Civil War, meaning that there were few war stories from them for Puller to hear.

He even tried to join the Richmond Blues, a light infantry militia, during the U.S. expedition to capture Pancho Villa, but was turned away due to his age.

Those stories and Puller’s love of the outdoors naturally led him to the Virginia Military Institute, a college which, at the time, sent most of its candidates to Army service (now, cadets can choose from any of the four Department of Defense branches).

At the institute, Puller was disappointed by the nature of training. He wanted more time in the woods and working with weapons, but the school’s rifles had been taken by the Army for use in World War I. After only a year of training, Puller told his cousin Col. George Derbyshire, the commandant of cadets of the school, that he would not be returning to VMI the following year.

As Burke Davis relates in his book Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller, Derbyshire tried to get Puller to stay but Puller was thirsty for combat:

“I hope you’re coming back next year, Lewis.”

“No, sir. I’m going to enlist in the Marines.”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m not old enough to get a commission in the Army, and I can get one in the Marines right away. I don’t want the war to end without me. I’m going with the rifles. If they need them, they need me, too.”

His decision came as the Battle of Belleau Wood was wrapping up, a fight which greatly enhanced the Marine Corps’ reputation in the military world. Puller went to Richmond, Virginia, and enlisted in the Marine Corps on June 27, 1918, the day after his 20th birthday and the end of the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t make it to Europe in time for World War I. Instead, he was assigned to train other Marines and achieved his commission as a second lieutenant just before the Marine Corps drew down to a peacetime force, putting many commissioned officers on the inactive list, including Puller.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Puller being award a Navy Cross by Gen. Oliver PP. Smith in Nicaragua, ca. 1931. (Photo: Public Domain)

But Puller resigned his commission to return to active service and went to Haiti and Nicaragua where he performed well enough to regain his butterbar and claw his way up the ranks, allowing him to make his outsized impact on World War II and the Korean War.

Many of the details from this story come from Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller by Burke Davis. It’s available in print or as an ebook.

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This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

From May 26 to Jun. 4, 1940, one of the largest evacuations in human history saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops and gave the Allies the strength to continue resisting Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.


The operation was more successful than the planners’ wildest dreams, partially because of the skill and bravery of boat crews and troops but also because of horrible decisions by the German high command.

The days leading up to the evacuation were characterized by one of the most effective German Blitzkriegs. British, Belgian, and French forces were falling back across France and a thrust by Germany through the Ardennes successfully cut the Allied force in half. By May 19, Britain was looking for ways to get its expeditionary force back across the channel.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
Troops line up on the beaches in hopes of rescue at Dunkirk. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A failed counterattack on May 21 sealed France’s fate but Germany’s advances made it appear impossible to stage a large evacuation. The Germans crossed the canals near Dunkirk by May 24 and were about to capture Dunkirk, the last port the British could feasibly use. Luckily, Hitler ordered his Panzers to stop advancing and to even fall back a short distance to the canals.

Hitler’s reasoning is a source of debate, but two main factors are thought to have been uppermost in his mind.

First, Hermann Goering may have been successful in his attempts to convince the fuhrer that the Luftwaffe could kill the troops on the beaches of Dunkirk . Also, there was a chance that Hitler believed that Britain was more likely to surrender if it hadn’t been embarrassed and didn’t have the slaughter of approximately 200,000 of its own troops to rally around.

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program
French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Hitler, Britain sent nearly the entirety of the Royal Air Force, including planes from the defensive-in-nature British Metropolitan Air Force, to cover Operation Dynamo. Working with French and British navy ships in the waters below, they were able to establish a weak air superiority over the beaches and parts of the channel, limiting the chances for the Luftwaffe to attack.

On May 25, King George VI declared a national day of prayer and attended a special service at Westminster Abbey. The next day, Operation Dynamo kicked off. Almost 400,000 British, Belgian, and French troops lined up in the water and on the beaches in hopes of rescue. Senior commanders were skeptical that they could get even 25 percent of them to safety.

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British troops walk through the water to waiting ships. Photo: Imperial War Museum

In a perimeter around Dunkirk, British and French units prepared to fight delaying actions, often to the last man, to give their buddies a chance to retreat. On May 26, these troops were sorely tested. The Belgian King Leopold, whose troops were cut off in small pockets and being quickly overwhelmed, surrendered to the Nazis and Hitler allowed the Panzers to attack Dunkirk.

As the tanks crashed against the defenders, the Royal Air Force and other planes desperately fought to keep the Nazis away from the ships. The Royal Navy was attempting to evacuate as many men as possible, but found itself unable to keep up.

British leaders finally announced to the public how desperate the situation on the beaches was. Dunkirk was burning to the ground and troops were being bombed on the sand and strafed as they stood neck-deep in the water. The public responded valiantly, cobbling together hundreds of privately-owned vessels to form a flotilla of “Little Ships” that became a symbol of British perseverance.

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Troops rescued from Dunkirk celebrate on their way to safety. Photo: Public Domain

The action drug on for days as six destroyers, eight personnel ships, and about 200 small craft were sunk and tens of thousands of men were killed or captured. But, 338,000 troops were rescued, approximately 140,000 from the British Expeditionary Force and 198,000 from the Polish, French, and Belgian armies. Forty-thousand were lost, either captured or killed.

In Britain, “Dunkirk Spirit” became a symbol of national pride, an embodiment of how Britons could come together to face down any foe and overcome any challenge. Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, saying that Britain would fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, and in the streets.

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The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” tells the story of a Coast Guard motorboat crew dispatched into an Atlantic storm after two 500-foot tankers break apart in 1952.


The crew is led by Boatswain’s Mate Bernard Webber, played by Chris Pine. Webber is second string, the junior ranking boatswain assigned to Chatham lifeboat station in Massachusetts.

The senior boatswain leads the rescue effort to the first tanker reported broken in the storm, the Fort Mercer. So when a Coast Guard plane spots the broken Pendleton, it falls to Webber and a few volunteers to attempt to rescue the 33 survivors in a small motorboat.

The movie does a good job of showing the perils of a rescue at sea in a severe winter storm. The waves crash onto a deadly sandbar with ominous booms, the boat is flipped in the waves, and the compass is ripped from the boat by a severe wave crash.

Crossing the sandbar was one of the most dangerous parts of the mission. Attempts to cross it could have easily destroyed the boat and left the crew drowning in the icy waters.

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Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

These details and others come from the factual book the movie is based on, and they’re brought to life by Craig Gillespie, the film’s director who spent his young life near the ocean.

“I grew up on the water in Australia, and I have a lot of respect for the ocean,” Gillespie told We Are The Mighty. “I sailed, I grew up surfing.

“When there’s a huge swell, you can hear it a mile and a half from the ocean, and it’s scary,” he said.

While the movie depicts the events on the boat and the Pendleton largely right, it takes more liberties with the story of Webber’s girlfriend, Miriam. During the real rescue, Miriam and Bernard were already married and Miriam was too ill to comprehend when told of Bernard’s mission.

But the movie Miriam is healthy and attempts to aid Bernard from the shore. She first argues with his commanding officer. When that doesn’t help, she seeks ways of ensuring that Bernard, if he’s successful in the rescue, will be able to make it home without a compass or any visible stars to follow.

Actress Holliday Grainger shaped her portrayal of Miriam after speaking to the Webber family and spending time at Chatham lifeboat station that the Coast Guard still operates.

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Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

She said that Miriam’s journey in the movie is about learning what it takes to be a Coast Guard wife.

“He will always be in danger,” Grainger told We Are The Mighty when discussing Miriam’s attitude toward Bernard, “and if she wants to be with him, she has to live with that, because he does it for the greater good. He can’t always put their family first. He has to put others lives first.”

“The Finest Hours” deftly weaves Bernard and Miriam’s stories, breaking up the chaos at sea with the tension on the coast.

“The Finest Hours” opens in theaters nationwide on Jan. 29.

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Cold War weaponry and modern military hardware: Inside the ISIS arsenal

In January the U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. and coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria destroyed some 184 Humvees, 58 tanks and nearly 700 other vehicles. The number of ISIS military vehicles destroyed may seem significant, but is really just a drop in the bucket compared to the militants’ overall firepower.


While specific numbers are difficult to come by, reports suggest that ISIS has a huge fleet of vehicles – including tanks – its possession. Last year, for example, the jihadists captured 2,300 Humvees from Iraqi forces when they captured the city of Mosul, some of which were then converted to armored vehicles.

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Photo: Youtube.com

Unlike traditional nation states ISIS doesn’t produce tanks or other weapons in factories, and unlike past insurgent forces that were supported by a nation state ISIS isn’t being armed or equipped by a major power either. Yet the group’s fleet of vehicles continues to grow. In May ISIS captured U.S.-built equipment, including M1A1 tanks after the group took control of the town of Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. The militants’ haul reportedly included about 100 wheeled vehicles and dozens of tracked vehicles.

There should be concern that ISIS has become so well armed, experts warn. In addition to modern military hardware, militants have also captured Cold War-era weaponry from Syrian forces. The nation was supported throughout the Cold War by the Soviet Union and built up vast quantities of Warsaw Pact armaments. Today those weapons – everything from AK-47 assault rifles to T-72 main battle tanks – are being utilized by all sides in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

“Syrian rebel groups probably make the most extensive use of heavy equipment at the moment, thanks largely to battlefield successes,” Jeremy Binnie, Middle East/Africa Editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, told FoxNews.com. “But that is also a product of the Syrian military’s vast inventory of Soviet-era weapons and equipment, (as well as) its inability to destroy this materiel after it has been captured.”

Many of these Syrian rebels likely served in the military at some point and this may provide them with the knowledge to operate and, more importantly, maintain the equipment.

There is a growing concern that these weapons have allowed groups to operate more like an actual army than merely as insurgents. This has enabled them to take and actually hold ground. ISIS has not only tanks but towed field guns and artillery pieces, which allow the group to conduct shelling against Iraqi military targets from a great distance; as well as fixed anti-aircraft guns and even shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons. Each of these presents serious problems. While the fixed anti-aircraft guns threaten coalition aircraft, shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons could take down a commercial airliner.

“Rocket-fired grenades and shoulder-launched missiles have long been available in black markets in the Middle East and Africa, but this higher-end stuff is coming from other sources,” Seth Jones, director of international security and defense policy center at the RAND Corp. told FoxNews.com. “This really shows that conventional weapons are a reason for concern. In many ways we’re largely past the stage of nuclear proliferation unless it was provided by a state, and that isn’t likely to happen. However, these anti-aircraft weapon systems of all sizes are still a reason for concern.”

Armored vehicles are increasingly a problem as well, and one factor is that tanks – especially Soviet era ones – aren’t that difficult to maintain and are difficult to destroy.

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Photo: Flickr

“Modest investment in an old tank can become a successful weapons platform,” David Willey, curator of The Tank Museum in the U.K., told FoxNews.com. “Today’s modern anti-tank weapons now cost as much as what an old tank costs on the black market, so it makes destroying a tank an expensive proposition.”

The cost factor is largely because western doctrine in destroying a tank is far different to the likely tactics of a rebel force. “There is the cost of flying a combat aircraft and its weapons system,” Robert Farley, assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, told FoxNews.com.

Rebel groups might just as easily use a gasoline bomb – much like the Finnish-devised “Molotov Cocktail” of World War II – or other IED (improvised explosive device) added Farley. It may be rare that such improvised weapons could truly take out a tank but it would certainly put the crew at risk, especially if they are not locked inside the tank.

ISIS and other rebel groups, have largely, not attempted their own aerial sorties, despite the fact that combat aircraft from Iraq and Syria have also been captured.

“There are number of reasons why ISIS hasn’t taken to the sky, even as there are reports that they do have people who could fly,” Farley told FoxNews.com. “In the case of Iraq there are Sunni pilots who are likely fighting with ISIS, and the group even likely has maintenance crews who could prepare the planes for flight.”

However, there are logistics to overcome, including the lack of proper fuel, not to mention spare parts. There is also the fact that a single plane can only do so much.

“You drive a tank down the road, and if it breaks you still have a tank that you can repair and the crew, which can still fight,” Farley added. “If you put a vintage Soviet Mig21 in the air and it crashes it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The final equation for why ISIS aircraft remains grounded is likely a psychological, according to Farley, “ISIS knows that there are American fighter jocks who want nothing more than to put an ISIS flag on the cockpit and have a combat air kill. It is quick death for anyone who gets into an ISIS plane.”

In fact, ISIS is just one of several group that have built up powerful arsenals that include weapons that were typically only fielded by major powers.

“The extent to which non-government forces use heavy weapons typically depends on the level of external support they receive, the local availability of such equipment, and their ability to maintain it,” Binnie told FoxNews.com. “The Polisario Front [in Western Sahara] has numerous Soviet-era armored vehicles thanks to Algerian support rather than victories over the Moroccan military.”

Other nations such as Libya and Iran have been the alleged suppliers of weapons to groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi large quantities of weapons have flown out of Libya and across the region. This included not only Gaddafi’s vast caches of convention weapons but also small arms and other weapons intended to be used by the Libyan rebels. Now some of these weapons are reportedly in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked militants and other radicalized groups.

“It is certainly unhelpful to the west that a range of rebel groups in Africa, the Middle East and as far away as South East Asia have acquired everything from small arms to tanks,” added Rand Corp.’s Jones. “It has facilitated their ability to achieve their objectives and there isn’t enough emphasis that this access to weapons has given rise to rebel groups.”

Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabaab and other groups certainly could have gotten weapons on the black market, but the lack of stable governments in Libya and Syria have made it easier for these groups to get armed – and with weapons past insurgents might have only dreamt of possessing.

“The collapse of the Libyan military in 2011 has allowed many of the militias in that country to obtain heavy equipment,” added Binnie. “The same is true in Iraq after the military collapse in 2014, although the ISIS struggles to keep that equipment operational due to coalition airstrikes and probably a lack of spares and familiarity with U.S. equipment.”

While the ISIS arsenal remains an ongoing concern for the U.S. and its allies in Operation Inherent Resolve, other shadows of the Cold War remain visible in the Middle East. The Pentagon, for example, has been warily eyeing a Russian military buildup in Syria as Moscow protects its interests in the civil-war ravaged country.

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This article originally appeared at Fox News. Copyright 2015. Like Fox News on Facebook.

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Here’s the trailer for “Dunkirk,” the first war film from the guy who directed “The Dark Knight”

Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops.


Related: This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.

“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.

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The coolest military tech coming in 2016

America’s troops have cool gear coming their way in 2016. Here’s a look at some of it:


1. The first Ford-Class supercarrier will take to the seas

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Aidan P. Campbell

The PCU Ford will join the fleet in 2016. It will be the largest and most expensive warship to ever float and features a number of technological improvements over its predecessors. Electromagnetic catapults allow it to more quickly launch aircraft and it has better generators for powering sensors, weapons, and other necessary systems.

2. Soldiers will get an app for calling in artillery strikes

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Photo: Network Integration Evaluation Katie Cain

Nett Warrior, a tablet-based computer system to allow soldiers to keep track of one another on the battlefield, will be getting an app that will allow soldiers to more quickly and accurately call for artillery strikes.

3. Black Hornet drones will reach Army units

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Photo: Richard Watt/MOD via Wikipedia

These mini-drones weigh about 18 grams but pack both standard and thermal cameras for reconnoitering enemy positions. U.S. Special Forces tested the drones in 2015 and the British have used them since 2013. PEO-Soldier, the Army office that acquires this kind of gear, is looking to field an unknown number of the drones in 2016.

4. The Navy is getting two new attack submarines

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Casey Hopkins

The submarine fleet will welcome two new Virginia-class fast attack subs, the USS Colorado (SSN 788) and the USS Washington (SSN 787). While new Virginia-class subs typically feature the latest and greatest tech in submarine warfare, everything from improved sensors to better acoustic camouflage, the specifics are classified for obvious reasons.

5. New night-vision goggles will let troops see thermal signatures better

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Photo by: US Army Spc. William Lockwood

The Army’s newest night-vision goggles will be fielded to soldiers in 2016. They provide improved thermal detection over a wider area and will be able to communicate with future weapon sights so soldiers can always see the impact point of their weapon, even when firing from the hip or through smoke.

Unfortunately, the weapon sights they work with won’t be ready until at least 2019.

6. New machetes will help prepare the Army for a war in the Pacific

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Austin Berner

While new machetes may not be as sexy as drones and submarines, the U.S. Army is part of the pivot to the Pacific and that means preparing for jungle warfare. The Army PEO-Soldier is looking for new machetes with a double-edged blade. One side would be for chopping through vines and the other for sawing through branches.

The Army will also be looking at new materials for uniform items, especially boots, in the coming years for operations in the Pacific.

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The Army wants a new light tank to fill gaps on the battlefield

The United States Army is on the hunt for what they call, “Mobile Protected Firepower” — or, to put it in layman’s terms, the Army wants a light tank. For military buffs, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s been a big gap in capabilities since the M551 Sheridan was retired in 1996.


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The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo by U.S. Army)

According to a report by the Army Times, the Army is now looking to rectify that gap in capabilities. The M1A2 Abrams tank brings tons of firepower and armored protection, but it can’t be dropped. You need a C-5 or C-17 to bring it to an airfield, and then it has to drive to the battlefield. Not good when you need the firepower right away.

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As part of the Mobile Protected Firepower program, the Army is looking for a vehicle that weighs no more than 32 tons. The size of the main gun, however, is still up for determination — it could be a 57mm gun, a 105mm gun like the one on the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System, or a 120mm gun like that on the Abrams.

Previously, the Army had been looking at the M8 Buford Armored Gun System as a replacement for the M551 in the early 1990s. The Buford has three levels of armor protection, a 105mm main gun, and has the ability to hold 30 rounds for the main gun — two thirds more than the Stryker Mobile Gun System.

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The XM8 Armored Gun System. (US Army photo)

The Buford, named for a Union cavalry general in World War II, was cancelled by the Clinton Administration in 1997 to pay for other programs. In the 1980s, a light tank called the Stingray, equipped with a 105mm main gun and 32 rounds, was developed by Cadillac-Gage. The Thai Army ordered 106 in the 1980s.

It could be very interesting to see if the Army’s choice in the Mobile Protected Firepower system will end up replacing the Stingray — and supplying other American allies. However, the first light tanks will not arrive until 2025, and even then, there will only be 54. Just enough, perhaps, to supply the 82nd Airborne Division with the tank battalion they once had.