Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

It’s possible for Veterans speaking about their experiences — and working toward self-forgiveness — to heal their emotional wounds.

A Veteran’s Health Administration initiative is facilitating this process. The Atlanta VA Health Care System Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) collaborates with VITAS Healthcare, a palliative care and hospice services company, to offer healing and hope for Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges.

This collaboration is an effort of We Honor Veterans. The program, part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, is in collaboration with VA. We Honor Veterans helps care for Veterans at the end of life.

VITAS, part of We Honor Veterans, is a partner agency within the Atlanta VCP.


VCPs are coalitions that bring community entities together to foster Veterans’ access to care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Each VCP in the United States is part of the national VCP initiative. There are 41 VCPs as of December 2019.

The VCP initiative is a joint project of VHA’s Offices of Community Engagement (OCE), Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health and Caregiver Support.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

Veteran Service Organizations can help.

Requesting a change in OTH discharge

A Veteran with an OTH military discharge is ineligible for most VA benefits. This can cause significant obstacles as they approach the end of life.

Larry Robert is a chaplain who provides supportive counseling to Veterans in this position. He also is the bereavement services manager and Veteran liaison for VITAS. VITAS helps Veterans talk through their reasons for OTH military discharges. It helps them file a request for a change in their discharge status with the Department of Defense (DoD).

Robert also helps Veterans understand their benefit options. The most important part of this process, he said, is encouraging Veterans to tell their stories. An OTH discharge may be a result of a Veteran not having the proper support for a mental health issue, for example.

“They are trying to forgive themselves and they’re making peace with something that brought them a lot of pain.”

Veteran Service Organizations can help

Veterans — even those not in hospice care — and caregivers or loved ones of Veterans should be aware of the process of requesting a change to their discharge status, as well as the palliative care services of We Honor Veterans.

Veterans should apply for a change in their discharge status and enroll for benefits when they’re well. They should have a Veteran service officer work with them on this process. A representative from one of the Veteran Service Organizations listed at the link above could also help fill out paperwork for a correction of their military record

Even if their status and record is not changed, Robert explained, the process of this work is transformative for many Veterans.

“It adds a voice to their pain. It makes it real. They’re able to then see their pain and discuss it. In becoming real, it becomes something than can be overcome.”

OCE supports the VCP initiative and partnerships throughout VHA. For more information on OCE’s work, visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi killed in combat

A son of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in battle in the Syrian province of Homs, IS’s propaganda agency Amaq announced.

Hudhayfah al-Badri was killed in an “operation against the Nussayriyyah and the Russians at the thermal power station in Homs,” the group said in a statement late on July 3, 2018, showing a photo of a young man holding an assault rifle.



Nussayriyyah is IS’s term for the Alawite religious minority sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

IS maintains only a small presence in Syria after being targeted for elimination by Syrian and Russian forces as well as U.S.-backed rebel forces in the last year. It is now estimated to control no more than 3 percent of Syria’s territory.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

President Bashar al-Assad

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they believe IS leader Baghdadi remains alive in Syria near the Iraqi border.

Baghdadi, who is originally from Iraq, has been dubbed the “most wanted man on the planet,” with the United States offering a million reward for his capture. He had four children with his first wife and a son with his second wife.

In September, 2017, the last voice message attributed to Baghdadi called on his followers worldwide to “resist” their enemies.

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

Articles

Navy personnel chief to sailors: you have a voice in ratings overhaul

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on Sept. 16, 2016, in the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Christopher Gaines


Vice Adm. Robert Burke is the chief of naval personnel. He assumed the role in May and is responsible for the planning and programming of all manpower, personnel, training and education resources for the U.S. Navy. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

There has been a lot of discussion since we announced the Navy’s rating modernization plan on Sept. 29. I’ve been following the conversation closely, and it’s clear that many were surprised by this announcement.

While there is rarely a right or perfect time to roll out a plan as significant and ambitious as this rating modernization effort, I firmly believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so. Throughout our rich, 241-year history, the U.S. Navy’s consistent advantage has come from its Sailors. You are our asymmetric advantage in an increasingly complex world — you are our prized possession, our secret weapon. In recognition of that, we continuously work to ensure that we develop and deploy our Sailors in the most modern and effective system possible. This is just our latest effort to modernize our personnel system — one of hundreds we’ve made in the past.

The objectives of this effort are simple: flexibility, flexibility and flexibility. First, we will provide flexibility in what a Sailor can do in our Navy, by enabling career moves between occupations to ensure continued advancement opportunity and upward mobility as the needs of a rapidly adapting Navy change. Second, we will provide flexibility in assignment choice — a Sailor with the right mix of plug-and-play skills will have more choices for ship type, home port, timing, sea/shore rotation, even special and incentive pays! Finally, we will provide you more flexibility after you leave the Navy, by providing civilian credentialing opportunities — in other words, giving you credit in the civilian job market for your Navy education and experience.

This effort will take us several years to complete, and we will include you in the process as we work through it — we’re just getting started and you will be involved as we go. Many questions remain unanswered, and we’ll get to them — together. There will be fleet involvement throughout.

Here’s the rough breakdown of the project, as we see it today:

— Phase 1 (now through September 2017) — redefine career fields and map out cross-occupation opportunities. Identify career groupings to define those rating moves that can be done, and that also translate to civilian occupational certifications.

— Phase 2 (now through September 2018, will run parallel with Phase 1) — examine the best way forward for how we best align our processes for:

  • Recruiting and initial job classification;
  • Planning for accessions — the numbers and mix of skills for folks we recruit;
  • Advancements — how do we define what is required for advancement if you are capable of several skill sets? Do we eliminate advancement exams altogether?
  • Detailing processes;
  • Pay processes — to include things like SRB, Assignment Incentive Pay, etc.; and
  • Reenlistment rules.

— Phase 3 (now through September 2018) — updating underlying policy documents, instructions, things like applicable BUPERSINST, OPNAVINST, and the Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards Manual. This will include changes to how we handle things like Evaluations and Awards.

— Phase 4 (began last year, expect to go through September 2019) — identify and put in place the underlying IT systems. This is probably the most complex and game changing aspect of the project.

— Phase 5 (September 2017 through September 2018) — redesign the Navy rating badges. The idea is to hold off on this until we settle on the right definition of career fields, to better inform the conversation on the way ahead in this area.

— Phase 6 (September 2019 and beyond) — continuous improvement, further integration with all Sailor 2025 initiatives.

I am committed to ensuring you have a voice in the way ahead. Toward that end, I am aggressively expanding the membership and avenues of communication into the Navy-wide working group that has been assembled to tackle this project. As we go forward, your feedback matters and we want to hear from you during each phase of the transformation. You can expect lots of discussion on this as we learn and adapt the plan to make it deliver on the objectives. Have conversations with your Senior Enlisted Leaders, who are armed with how to move those conversations forward. You also have a direct line to me in order to make sure your ideas are heard — send them to NavyRatingMod@gmail.com.

We are proud members of numerous different tribes within the Navy — our occupations, warfare specialties, ships and squadrons — we must always remember that there is one Sailor’s Creed and we are one NAVY TEAM supporting and defending our Nation. This modernization will make us more capable as individuals and a Navy.

Articles

These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

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  Nepal, a tiny Himalayan country country bordering India and Chinese Tibet, was one of many countries invaded by the British Empire. But the British were never able to colonize tiny Nepal. The reason the largest Empire in history couldn’t completely subdue a small mountain country? Gurkhas.

Gurkhas have long been known as the world’s fiercest and most skilled warriors, earning the respect (and often fear) of friend and foe alike. Even the British, who decided that trying to fight more Gurkhas wasn’t worth the effort, wanted the Gurkhas on their team, and Nepalese warriors have been fighting for the crown ever since.

1. Afghan Ambush

The Gurkhas have been fighting with the United Kingdom for 200 years. Today’s war in Afghanistan is no exception.

In 2008, a team of Gurkha warriors were crossing an open area when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters. One of their own Yubraj Rai, was shot and wounded. Like many armies, the Gurkhas don’t leave men behind.

In the face of overwhelming enemy fire, Captain Gajendera Angdembe, Rifleman Dhan Gurung, and Manju Gurung carried their buddy across 325 feet of open ground. One of them even used a dual wield with his rifle to return enough fire for the group to get out of there.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Rifleman Dhan Gurung returned fire using two rifles at the same time.

2. WWII Burma

In 1944, Agansing Rai, a Gurkha fighting the Japanese in Burma, came across a ridge as his platoon moved through the countryside.  The ridge was designed to be protected from any combination of armor and infantry. Leading up to the ridge was an open field and on the ridge were dug-in Japanese defenders, hiding in dense Jungle.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Agansing Rai was award the Victoria Cross for his actions and leadership that day.

Rai led his platoon against the heavy machine guns and a number of 37mm anti-tank emplacements, knocking them all out while taking some serious casualties. A ridge designed to stop tanks and infantry couldn’t stop a small Gurkha force.

3. A Commander Joins His Gurkhas

Colonel Peter Jones was fighting in Tunisia with his Gurkha battalion in 1943. As his frenzied men charged the Nazi German-manned machine guns at Enfidaville, Jones started taking out the positions with a Bren gun.

The Gurkhas charged the Nazis with their Kukri knives and fought them in hand-to-hand combat. They killed 44 Nazis, breaking the German lines and causing them to flee before advancing further.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Yeah, I’d flee too.

4.The Cold War Turns Hot in Borneo

Indonesia, supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union, was opposed to the creation of Malaysia by the Western powers, especially the United Kingdom. So Gurkhas patrolling the island jungles were ready for anything the Communists were willing to throw at them — especially the Gurkhas.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Gurkha troops patrolling the dense Borneo jungles circa 1965.

Captain Rambahadur Limbu was in enemy territory when he and his unit met an enemy advance. He repelled them using only grenades, then went back into friendly territory to alert his superiors about the advance.

With one of his friends dead and the other wounded, Limbu went into the enemy-controlled area of the battlefield, back and forth across 100 yards of no man’s land — twice — to pull out the wounded and retrieve his dead friend.

Learn more about these ferocious fighters in the video at the top.

Watch More Elite Forces:

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This is how Rome’s Praetorian Guard held so much power

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons vets who never served together still make great friends

It’s a bitter-sweet day when troops leave the service. It’s fantastic because one book closes and another opens. Yet saying goodbye to the gang you served with is hard. Vets always keep in contact with their guys, but it’s not the same when they’re half way around the country.


Instead, vets have to make new friends in the civilian world. Sure, we make friends with people who’ve never met a veteran before, but we will almost always spot another vet and spark some sort of friendship.

They get our jokes

Put just plain and simply, vets generally have a pretty messed-up sense of humor. The jokes that used to reduce everyone to tears now get gasps and accusations that we’re monsters.

There’s also years of inside jokes that are service wide that civilians just wouldn’t get.

They can relate to our pain

No one leaves the service without having their body aged rapidly. Your “fresh out the dealership” body now has a few dings in it before heading to college.

Civilian classmates just don’t get how lucky they are to have pristine knees and lower back.

They side-eye weakness with us

Military service has taught us to depend on one another in a life or death situation. If you can’t lift something like a sandbag on your own, your weakness will endanger others. If you can’t run a minimum of two miles without tiring, your weakness will endanger others.

The people we meet in the civilian world never got that memo. Together, we’ll cull the herd the best way we know how as veterans — through ridicule. Something only other vets appreciate.

They can keep partying at our level

If there is one constant across all branches, it’s that we all know how to spend our weekends doing crazy, over-the-top things with little to no repercussion.

Civilians just can’t hang with us after we’ve downed a bottle of Jack and they’re sipping shots.

They share our “ride or die” mentality

Veterans don’t really care about pesky things like “norms” if one of our own gets slighted in any way. Some civilian starts talking trash at a bar? Vets are the first to thrown down. Some piece of garbage lays a hand on one of our own? Vets’ fists will be bloodier.

All jokes aside about scuffing up some tool, this doesn’t just lend itself as an outlet for unbridled rage. Back in the service, we all swore to watch each other’s backs on an emotional level too. Your vet friend will always answer the call at three AM if you just can’t sleep.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman went from Afghan interpreter to the USAF

Imagine having to conceal your identity in order to feel safe and protect the ones you love. Changing the route you take to work, wearing disguises so you won’t be recognized, or reducing the amount of vacation you take because you know it’s safer to be at work than not.


For many of us, this way of life would seem farfetched or unrealistic, but for one Airman, this was his reality. Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad, 60th Aerial Port Squadron, transportation Journeyman, used to be an Afghan national working as a head interpreter with U.S. forces at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan. As the head interpreter, Javad was relied upon for his expertise, which meant he was on all the important missions.

Also read: This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

“I would go out on missions and it was like I was actually in the Army,” said Javad. “I would go weeks without a shower, I would carry 100-150 pound bags of ammo, sleep on the ground, walk all day, climb mountains, and jump out of helicopters.”

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo, Feb. 28, 2018. Javad was a linguist for U.S. forces while living in Afghanistan and fled to the United States in 2014.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

Despite the constant diligence to remain obscured, in 2013, the locals somehow figured out Javad was working with U.S. forces.

“Once they knew who I was, my family and I were no longer safe,” said Javad. “My life was threatened by the insurgents, my wife was accused of helping infidels and was threatened with kidnapping. I knew after that, I couldn’t work here anymore.”

Thus began a courageous and remarkable journey that led Javad to America and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Javad was born in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. His family fled to Iran because the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan made it too dangerous to stay.

“We left in 1989 when I was two during the Soviet-Afghan War because it was too dangerous for my family to stay,” said Javad “We came to Iran under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so we were discriminated against.”

There were not many educational opportunities for Javad growing up in Iran because of his refugee status. His parents decided to return to Afghanistan in 2004 since it was safer.

Related: 3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

“We came back to Afghanistan so I could seek higher education because neither of my parents had that opportunity,” said Javad. “They wanted that option for me. I got my education, my bachelors and a double major in chemistry and biology.”

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo with his wife Sara, and three children Sana, Yusef, and Benyamin, March 6, 2018.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

After completing his education, Javad still found it difficult to find meaningful work.

“Afghanistan had a new government and it was corrupted,” said Javad. “It was difficult to get jobs unless you knew the right people.”

Javad had taken classes on computers, language, and received a certification in accounting. This helped him find a job where he could now provide for his family.

“After graduating college, I worked for an accounting firm,” said Javad. “After a year and a half, I was promoted to general manager.”

Unfortunately, after a horrific motorcycle accident kept him in the hospital for six months, Javad lost his job as a general manager with the accounting firm.

“I knew that without knowing anyone in the government, I was going to have to start from the bottom again,” said Javad. “The only other option I had was to become a linguist with U.S. forces.”

The day Javad applied for the linguist position, over 200 others were attempting the same.

“There’s a written and verbal skills test, interview, and security background check,” said Javad. “Only 10 of us made it through those stages. Once you get through that, there’s another few months of security screening with the Central Intelligence Agency and medical exams.”

Javad’s first assignment was with the USAF at FOB Shindand.

More: 5 more of the greatest military heroes you’ve never heard of

“I was assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center for the Air Force,” said Javad. “I was translating all the daily, weekly, and monthly security reports.”

While assigned there Javad met Senior Master Sgt. Michael Simon II, who was serving on a 365-day deployment as a Mi-17 crew chief air advisor.

“Javad was assigned to the FOB as an interpreter, translating from Dari or Pashto to English,” said Simon. “We worked together on several occasions in support of the Afghan Air Force training and advising missions.”

What Javad didn’t know at the time was that Simon would play an instrumental role years later as he transitioned from Afghanistan to America. During his time at FOB Shindand, the USAF was replaced by the Army, and his duties and responsibilities changed significantly.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses with some keepsakes he collected during his time as a linguist with U.S. forces, March. 6, 2018. (Photo by Louis Briscese)

“We were given the option to resign or accept new roles,” said Javad. “Sure enough, within a month, I was riding in convoys outside the wire. Things were a lot different now.”

Javad spent three years at FOB Shindand and witnessed some horrific things.

“I saw Army soldiers get shot and killed. I saw Afghan civilians get shot and killed,” said Javad. “I was the head interpreter and was always going out with Battalion commanders and other high-ranking officials.”

Despite the difficulties of his job and awful experiences he witnessed, Javad felt something for the first time.

More reading: A former slave and two-time Olympian just became an Airman

“I was a local,” said Javad. “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but they never treated me like a stranger. They trusted me, they worked with me. That was a feeling I’d never had in my life before until I worked there.”

After his identity was disclosed and Javad knew he was no longer safe in Afghanistan, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa so he could come to America. This wasn’t an easy decision because Javad was living as an upper middle-class citizen in Afghanistan.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses for a photo outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

“I was a homeowner with lots of land,” said Javad. “I owned a car and motorcycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell anything because no one would buy anything built with the money from America. I was choosing between my belongings or my life.”

In the summer of 2014, Javad took his pregnant wife with only the belongings they could fit in a suitcase, the $800 they received for selling their wedding bands and traveled to the United States to begin a new life.

“When we arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we had nothing,” said Javad. “I needed a sponsor for my SIV and Simon agreed. With the help of Simon, we were able to sustain some sort of normalcy until we could get on our feet.”

Simon got donations from his church and the local refugee service in Colorado Springs. Lutheran Refugee Service lined up a starter apartment with basic furnishings.

“My sister had coordinated with a group of close friends and churches to get a lot of items needed outside of the basics already provided,” said Simon. “Then the rest was up to Javad and his determination to succeed.”

Despite having an education, Javad found it hard to find work.

“I had to find a job because I barely could afford a month’s rent,” said Javad. “Nobody would give me a job because I didn’t have a history of work in the U.S.”

After meeting a family who had a local business, Javad found some temporary work, but more importantly, a life-long friend.

“They ended up being like family to us,” said Javad. “They called me son and they were the only ones who came to my graduation at basic training.”

Working in a warehouse didn’t bring in a lot of money for Javad and he struggled to make ends meet.

More: This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“For the first four months, I didn’t have a car,” said Javad. “I had to walk four miles one way, work eight hours, and walk another four miles back, in the winter, in Colorado Springs.”

After a year in the U.S., Javad felt that serving in the armed forces may provide a better life for him and his family.

“I worked four years with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and had a little sense of what life was like in the military,” said Javad. “I know there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make when serving your country, but in the end, I wanted to give back to the country that helped me a lot.”

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan speaks with a local national outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

Javad decided to enlist in the USAF and entered basic training in February 2016.

“I wanted to be part of a really big picture,” said Javad. “I did it mainly because the U.S. military saved my life and I wanted to do my part.”

The decision to join the USAF did not surprise Simon because his commitment, dedication and hard work align with the USAF core values.

For Javad, to start from scratch with just a suitcase and dedicate his efforts to providing for his family is the true American dream,” said Simon. “Now he’s a member of the 1 percent club who voluntarily choose to serve this great nation. To say I’m proud of Javad would be an understatement.”

A week before graduating basic training, Javad received an unexpected gift.

“I was notified that I was officially a U.S. citizen,” said Javad. “I was overwhelmed with pride. When I saw the flag being raised at graduation and we saluted, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I finally had a flag I could be proud of.”

After basic training and technical school, Javad arrived at his first duty station here at Travis Air Force Base, California. He’s enjoyed the people, mission, and the area.

“My unit treats me like any other Airman,” said Javad. “They don’t see me as a person from Afghanistan, they see me as an Airman.”

Javad has yet to deploy since joining the USAF but said he would like to return to Afghanistan as an Airman and citizen of the U.S.

“I would be happy to deploy to Afghanistan because I know the mission over there is important,” said Javad. “I would love a special duty assignment as a linguist and use my language skills to help my fellow Airmen.”

Javad’s short-term goal is to help his parents get to the U.S.

Related: This Pearl Harbor survivor was buried in the ship he escaped from

“My parents had to escape Afghanistan and flee to another country,” said Javad. “I feel responsible because I come from a culture where your kids are your retirement, so now they are struggling until I can find a way to bring them to America.”

Once Javad secures his family in the U.S., he plans on achieving his long-term goal which is to become an officer in the USAF.

“I couldn’t become an officer when I enlisted even though I had the education because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Javad. “Now that I have my citizenship, I will pursue officer training school and get my commission.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

WATCH: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace skydived into the Daytona 500 with the Air Force

The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.

Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.


The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.

One way was a little skydiving.

The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.

Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.

After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”

Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.

Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC

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Now let’s get to the beautiful machine Wallace is driving.

Rain postponed the race after the 20th lap on Sunday until Monday, but the weather wasn’t the only thing that stopped the show.

Dale Earnhardt had his black #3, Jeff Gordon had his #24 rainbow car, and Richard Petty had the #43 STP with its iconic paint job.

Wallace will be racing the #43 too, but with a serious Air Force twist.

You know that A-10 Warthog? The one that makes that beautiful sound?

The paint job on Wallace’s #43 honors that plane.

While the pictures look great, to see it in motion shows the true beauty of this magnificent racing machine.

pic.twitter.com/YNIZlSQTbs

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Wallace added a few personal touches honoring recently deceased driver John Andretti and the victims of the recent helicopter crash in LA including one of his heroes, Kobe Bryant.

Awesome job to the Air Force, Richard Petty Racing, and Bubba!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled veterans eligible for free National Park Service Lifetime Access Pass

Spring flowers are blooming, the summer travel season quickly approaches and veterans are joining the 330-million yearly visitors enjoying U.S. National Parks.

Many veterans, with a service connected disability rating, are entering Federal parks for free with the Lifetime National Parks Access Pass from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Good for entry into 400+ National Parks and over 2,000 recreation sites across the country, the Lifetime Access Pass is another way a grateful nation says thank you for the service and sacrifices of veterans with disabilities.


The Access Pass admits disabled veterans and any passengers in their vehicle (non-commercial) at per-vehicle fee areas; and, the pass owner plus three additional adults where per-person fees are charged. In addition to free entry at participating parks, the Access Pass includes discounts on expanded amenity fees; such as camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

(Photo by Emily Ogden)

Veterans who have a VA disability rating, (10 percent or higher) are eligible for the Lifetime Access Pass — with two ways to apply.

First, disabled veterans can apply in person at a participating federal recreation site. Simply present photo identification (Drivers license, State ID, Passport) and documentation proving a permanent disability (VA awards letter, VA ID with service connected annotation, VA summary of benefits, or receipt of Social Security disability income). That’s It. The pass is free and issued at the time of entry.

Second, if applying by mail, send a completed packet and processing fee to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The packet should include:

Pass delivery expected 10-12 weeks after receipt.

Make sure to have photo ID available when using your Lifetime Access Pass and enjoy the majestic scenery and abundant recreational opportunities our National Parks provide.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia explode on the battlefield and around the world

For decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region is mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an ethnic Armenian majority population. Despite the formal cessation of hostilities in 1994 after a two-year war over the region, clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continue to erupt along the border.


Following a week-long series of military exercises in the disputed region at the end of May, skirmishes broke out on July 12 which left four Azerbaijani soldiers dead and several wounded on both sides. The South Caucasus neighbors blamed each other for the outbreak of violence. While Azerbaijani and Armenian government representatives threatened deadly consequences should the conflict escalate, the international community weighed in.

Turkey, a historic enemy of Armenia, expressed strong support for Azerbaijan in the conflict. Moscow, an ally to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over the fighting and warned that further escalation could undermine the security of the region. The United States condemned the violence and urged for the de-escalation of hostilities via direct communication links.

Hopes of a return to the ceasefire were dashed as both sides continued to exchange rocket and artillery fire along the border on July 13. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense posted a video showing Azerbaijani artillery destroying an Armenian military base. Later in the day, both sides reported damage to civilian houses.

Hostilities escalated further on July 14 as both sides employed UAVs for aerial strikes. Armenian-made UAVs were used in combat for the first time. “[They] showed brilliant results,” said former Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defense Artsrun Hovhannisyan. “It seems high-ranking officers became victims of their strike.” Later in the day, Azerbaijan confirmed the deaths of Major General Popad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzoev as well as five other servicemen.


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Translation: Nightly punitive actions.

On July 15, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense shared four videos of Armenian bases and vehicles being destroyed by Azerbaijani artillery fire. In response, Hovhannisyan shared a video of shelled Armenian houses and blamed Azerbaijan for attacking civilian villages. As of the writing of this article, exchanges of fire along the border between the two countries continues.

To date, Armenia has confirmed five of their soldiers killed, one as recently as July 23, and a further 36 wounded. Azerbaijan has confirmed 11 of their soldiers killed, including the aforementioned Major General and Colonel.

The outbreak of violence between the two countries has prompted protests by ethnic Azeris and Armenians around the world. On July 17, a protest outside the Armenian embassy in London turned violent. Carrying their national flags and chanting slogans, Azeris and Armenians exchanged insults before the demonstrations devolved into physical altercations, forcing the intervention of law enforcement.

On July 19, about 500 Armenians from around France congregated in Paris to protest in front of the Azerbaijani embassy. To prevent a repeat of the violence in London, the organizers did not publicize the event in advance and communicated via telephone. Without approval for the demonstration, the protesters were dispersed by police before long.

Protests have been taking place around the world and the United States is no exception. In Los Angeles, which has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, a protest on July 21 near the Azerbaijan Consulate General in Brentwood turned violent. Fistfights broke out leaving demonstrators on both sides and one LAPD officer injured.

July 23 saw an escalation of violence in Europe. In Germany, an official government vehicle was set on fire outside of the Armenian Embassy in Berlin. In Ukraine, an Armenian owned coffee shop was burned down. A video of the fire surfaced online along with a narration that translates to, “This is an Armenian coffee shop in Kiev. This is a gift to Armenians from the Azerbaijanis. Accept it.” In Russia, violence has come in the form of street attacks. At least two Armenian men have been beaten by Azeris. The Russian Special Purpose Police Unit known as OMON has taken an undisclosed number of Azeris into custody for the attacks.

As the fighting in the Caucasus region spills over across the globe, the United States response remains hopeful of de-escalation and a return to a ceasefire. However, with violence surging, more experienced military veterans may need to dust off their old maps and MDMP slides from the GAAT scenario.

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An overview GAAT map (US Army Combined Arms Center)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Blue Water’ Navy veterans are fighting for Agent Orange benefits

On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

A lawsuit that Wells and a team of appellant attorneys had argued Dec. 7, 2018, before a full panel of judges on the appeals court had resulted in a stunning 9-2 victory for roughly 70,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.


For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.

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Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.

Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.

Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.

Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.

Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.

In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”

Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.

For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.

Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.

With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.

Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.

The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.

“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.

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Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.

Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.

Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”

By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.

Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.

Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.

“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.

Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”

Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.

“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Army jobs that civilians get all wrong

Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.

Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:


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This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)

Infantry

It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.

Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.

Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.

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Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)

Chaplain’s assistant

People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”

See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.

Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.

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That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)

Watercraft operator

Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.

Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.

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These are military police. That is not a radar gun.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)

Military police

Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.

They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.

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Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)

Truck driver

Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.

There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.

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An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

Fuelers

Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.

Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.

It’s more intense than you think.

Articles

13 memes showing how it feels to get your DD-214

For the uninitiated, the DD-214 is the Department of Defense form issued when a military service member retires, separates, or is otherwise discharged from active-duty service.

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Sometimes the wait seems like forever.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

When it’s so close to your hands, some units try to convince you to reenlist.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

But you’ve done your job and it’s time to move on.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

You might “drop your pack” a little while waiting for that day.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

You’ll never forget the day you first lay eyes on it …

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

… Looking at that glorious golden ticket.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

And then you become a civilian, which comes with its own set of problems.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

Not everyone handles it well.

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

But you won’t be deterred:

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

But even so, this is true for all branches:

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

NOW CHECK OUT: Amazing WWII photographs you’ve never seen before 

MIGHTY MONEY

Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

Earlier this month, the Army’s top general in charge of supplying units with troops blamed a lack of readiness on limited time for training, adding that lack of funding isn’t the biggest challenge.


Head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert Abrams said the lack of training stems from lawmakers making policy that commits the service to engagements around the world without an eye toward keeping the force healthy and trained up.

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U.S. Soldiers of Rider Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade record information while conducting a brief during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 11, 2016. The exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

Abrams explained that soldiers were expected to deploy more and have less time home because of downsizing.

“Our goal has always been … one month gone, two months back,” Abrams said, adding that the Army is currently experiencing a ratio of “deploy-to-dwell” that trends closer to one month gone, one month back.

“Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remains at a very high level while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force,” Abrams told an audience at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Our number one constraint for training is time available.”

Recent budget cuts have forced the Army to reduce its total active duty soldiers to 450,000 while still meeting its obligations worldwide. As a result, the operational tempo for soldiers is higher and more demanding — ultimately requiring soldiers to train more, for longer periods of time, in addition to more and longer deployments, Army officials say.

“The impact of non-standard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined arms maneuver,” Abrams said.

Because soldiers are experiencing a minimal deploy-to-dwell time, there isn’t enough time for soldiers to maintain the training the Army requires.

“We struggle today to maintain and meet Department of the Army standards in our critical combat fleets,” Abrams explained before highlighting unmet requirements within the Army’s aviation and ground fleets. He was quick to explain that in aviation in particular, the problems do not lie with the aviators. The problem stems, instead, with plans to restructure the way the Army finances those fleets, impacting training requirements, upkeep on aircraft, and overall readiness of aviators.

While Abrams was very careful not to blame funding shortfalls for the readiness issues facing the Army, he did not hesitate to blame the readiness of the National Guard in particular on lack of money.

“We’ve dug ourselves this hole because of funding,” Abrams said.

Despite the tough times, Abrams said the Army has made tremendous strides in the last year in terms of readiness and overall capabilities.

“Last year at this exact forum, one of underlying themes was that as an army in terms of our joint war-fighting capabilities, we were pretty rusty,” he said. “I’m happy to report today that we have made progress in our ability.”