Ohio is home for Hillary O’Connor Mueri. She was born in Parma and moved to Painesville at three years old. She’s a graduate of Ohio State University and entered the Navy as a Buckeye ROTC midshipman in 1996.
To her, it made perfect sense to run for Congress at home, in Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. And she believes she has the perfect resume for it.
“This is where I’m from,” she told Military.com. “This is where I call home. My parents still live in the house I grew up in.”
Hillary O’Connor Mueri
But running in her home district also opens her up to intense media scrutiny in front of her lifelong friends and family. With the election still nine months away, she’s already seen her opponent and his allies come out hard against her in local media. Like many veterans, she presses on, confident in her abilities. She never thought this would be easy, she says.
“Growing up, I always thought that politics was something wealthy people did. So it was never, you know, an ambition of mine,” she explains. “And I think we really need to change that narrative. We need to make the House for the people again, to make this something that everyone can aspire to.”
That aspiration is just one reason Mueri, a lawyer and former naval flight officer, decided to run for Congress. She felt a desire to serve early in her adult life, while studying aviation engineering. She wanted to use her love for all things aircraft to serve her country, especially after realizing she’d rather be flying planes than building them, she says.
Her grandfathers were both in the Navy, but they died before she was born. Still, the tradition of service, and the Navy in particular, resonated with Mueri. For her, landing on aircraft carriers meant she could always fly on the cutting edge of aviation technology.
“Tomcats forever. First love,” she says. “All the other aircraft have amazing characteristics, but there’s something about the F-14 that’s just gonna stick with me.”
Her career took her to train in Pensacola and to the carrier Theodore Roosevelt. In 2003, she flew Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance missions supporting ground troops in northern Iraq from the Roosevelt. She later became an instructor at what was then the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s (now known as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center) Strike school at Nevada’s Naval Air Station Fallon.
She left the Navy in 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant after getting engaged to her future husband, Simon Mueri. When he was transferred to San Diego, she went too. While there, she struggled with finding meaningful work as a civilian and decided to go to law school. Graduating in 2010, she was hired by the prestigious firm of Perkins Coie in Los Angeles.
Eventually, it was time to move home to be near her family in Ohio. But running for office wasn’t her first thought. She saw an ad for Emily’s List, a reproductive rights organization that supports women running for office. There was something about the idea of running that stuck with Mueri the same way the Tomcat did.
“Watching how chaotic our government has gotten, how it turned from service and lawmaking into partisan bickering, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” she said. “In the military, we talk about the Constitution and how service is so valuable. I want to bring that back to the House. The House of Representatives is the people’s house, and I want to be able to affect real change for everyday people.”
Part of that dedication to service is why she thinks more veterans should run for office. She believes veterans have a “country first, mission first” outlook that drives them from day to day, regardless of political party.
“It’s about identifying what needs to get done and getting it done,” she said. “So you learn how to work as a team and ignore the distinctions between you. I think having more veterans with that perspective focused on the greater good, instead of about the petty day-to-day things, we’re going to be able to really accomplish a lot that is solely for the benefit of the country.”
But it isn’t easy. Running for office is almost a 24/7 job, with nearly limitless pulls on the candidate’s attention. Being a veteran is also good preparation for those problems, she says. The 24/7 mentality is strong with most military members, and the demands of military life are great practice for balancing priorities. What most veterans probably aren’t prepared for is suddenly being in the spotlight.
“Suddenly, you have to realize that there will be a larger amount of attention paid to what you do, as opposed to going about your everyday life,” Mueri said. “That takes some getting used to.”
In her situation, allegations were made by the Ohio Republican Party that, while she was transitioning to civilian life and moving from Nevada to California in 2008, she requested an absentee ballot from the state of Ohio and voted in two primary elections.
“You’re very exposed,” she said. “It’s shocking to see that sort of thing sprung on you. In the end, you have to let it roll off your back and keep moving forward as long as you have the truth on your side. And I do, so I just have to carry on being myself.”
One of the strange perks to quarantine is the seemingly normal interaction the world is having with celebrities. Folks who are used to being on tour, in studios all the time and on shows, are now just as bored as the rest of us.
Sure, they might be less bored in their 7,000 square foot home than we are in our “more humble” abodes, and maybe the walls don’t feel like they’re closing in on them because they can stroll their seemingly endless grounds or swim in their infinity pool, but you get the point.
For today’s viewing pleasure, it’s none other than the legend himself, Neil Diamond, strumming his guitar with his dog by his fireplace and rewriting the lyrics to the classic, “Sweet Caroline.”
Neil Diamond changes lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” in coronavirus PSA
Neil Diamond changes lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” in coronavirus PSA
Neil Diamond is doing his part to promote steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – and he found a creative way to do it.
In case you couldn’t love Diamond any more, here’s a fun fact for you: He’s a military brat. According to IMDb:
Neil Leslie Diamond was born in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York City, on January 24, 1941. His father, Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond, was a dry-goods merchant. Both he and wife Rose were Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Diamond family temporarily relocated to Cheyenne, Wyoming, because of Kieve Diamond’s military service during World War II. During their time in Wyoming, Neil fell in love with “singing cowboy” movies on matinée showings at the local cinema. After the end of World War II, Neil and his parents returned to Brooklyn. He was given a acoustic guitar for a birthday gift, which began his interest in music. At age 15 Neil wrote his first song, which he titled “Here Them Bells”.
At Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School, Neil sang in the 100-member fixed chorus, with classmate Barbra Streisand, although the two would not formally meet until over 20 years later. Neil and a friend, Jack Packer, formed a duo singing group called Neil Jack, and they sang at Long Island’s Little Neck Country Club and recorded a single for Shell Records. The record failed to sell, however, and the duo soon broke up.
In 1958 Neil entered New York University’s pre-med program to become a doctor, on a fencing scholarship. Medicine did not catch his interest as much as music did, though, and he dropped out at the end of his junior year, only 10 credits shy of graduation. He Diamond went to work for Sunbeam Music on Manhattan’s famous Tin Pan Alley. Making a week, he worked at tailoring songs to the needs and abilities of the company’s B-grade performers. Finding the work unrewarding, Neil soon quit. Renting a storage room in a printer’s shop located above the famed Birdland nightclub on Broadway, Neil began to live there and installed a piano and a pay telephone, and set about writing his songs his own way.
A chance encounter with the songwriting/record producing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich led to a contract with Bang Records. In 1966 he recorded his first album, featuring hit singles such as “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry”. That same year Diamond appeared twice on Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand (1952) TV musical variety show. Also, The Monkees recorded several songs to which he wrote the music, including “I’m a Believer” which was a hit in 1967. A number of TV appearances followed, including singing gigs on The Mike Douglas Show (1961), The Merv Griffin Show (1962) and een a dramatic part as a rock singer on an episode of Mannix (1967). Filling a musical void that existed between Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, Diamond found wide acceptance among the young and old with his songs, but endured criticism that his music was too middle-of-the-road.
Diamond split with Bang Records in 1969, and signed a contract with California’s Uni label, for which he recorded his first gold records. In 1970 he introduced British rock star Elton John in his first Stateside appearance at Hollywood’s Troubador nightclub. In December 1971 Diamond signed a -million contract with Columbia Records, which led to more recording contracts and live concert appearances. In 1972 Diamond took a 40-month break from touring, during which he agreed to score the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973). Although Diamond’s soundtrack for that film earned him a Grammy Award, it was a box-office failure. Despite having worked with an acting coach since 1968, and talk of a five-picture acting contract with Universal Studios, Diamond remained inhibited by shyness of being in front of a camera. He turned down acting roles in every movie contract he was offered (among them was Bob Fosse‘s Lenny (1974) and Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver (1976)). However, he did appear as himself with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young in the 1978 documentary The Last Waltz (1978). He appeared at the 1977 Academy Awards where he presented Barbra Streisand the Oscar for Best Song.
In the summer of 1976, on the eve of three Las Vegas shows, Diamond’s house in Bel Air was raided by the police because they received an anonymous tip that there were drugs and weapons stored there. The police found less than an ounce of marijuana. To have the arrest expunged from his recored, Diamond agreed to a six-month drug aversion program. In 1977 he starred in two TV specials for NBC. He had a cancer scare in 1979, when a tumor was found on his spine and had to be surgically removed, which confined him to a wheelchair for three months. During his recuperation he was given the script for the lead role in a planned remake of the early sound film The Jazz Singer (1927). Signing a id=”listicle-2645805266″-million contract to appear as the son of a Jewish cantor trying to succeed in the music industry, Diamond was cast opposite the legendary Laurence Olivier and Broadway actress Lucie Arnaz. Despite the almost universally negative reviews of the film, it grossed three times its budget when released late in 1980. In 1981 Diamond’s hit single, “America”, which was part of the film’s soundtrack, was used on news broadcasts to underscore the return of the American hostages from Iran.
Aware of his lack of acting talent, Diamond never acted in movie roles again, aside from making appearances as himself. A movie fan, he collaborated on writing the scores of many different soundtracks, which can be heard in such films as Cactus Flower (1969), Pulp Fiction (1994), Beautiful Girls (1996), Donnie Brasco (1997), Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and many more. He continues to occasionally perform in concerts and write a vast catalog of music which is recored by both him and other artists.
Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s “pin-up” outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America’s wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the “Greatest Generation” fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they’d do the same for the post-9/11 military.
Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.
And she has.
Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.
This year, she’s back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.
“We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds,” Elise says. “The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It’s going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it.”
The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.
“We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition,” says Elise. “Their total combined service is 162 years.”
Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.
A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise’s vision and is enthusiastic about the organization’s cause.
“I’m comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail,” Bell says. “To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who’s that girl they managed to uncover?”
The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of “Terminal Lance” fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.
“She’s really this incredible Army veteran that’s doing some pretty big time things, so we’re very lucky to have her,” Elise says. “She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger.”
“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.
Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.
FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.
FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The North’s missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.
1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton
In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.
Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.
The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.
2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe
Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.
3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year
During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.
4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un
After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the conservative caffeine connoisseur:
~ Small batch, roast-to-order coffee that might as well be shot from guns~
Black Rifle Coffee Company is a deeply veteran-owned, veteran-oriented business.
Military service, American conservatism, and an unapologetic love of liberty make up the philosophical bedrock upon which founder, Evan Hafer, built his in-your-face gourmet coffee upstart.
If you’ve ever taken a virtual stroll through Black Rifle’s youtube marketing videos (frequently featuring co-owner and 2nd Amendment Pom Pom Waver @mat_best_official), then you know that these guys really, really treasure circadian rhythm shattering coffee.
Hafer served as a Green Beret during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as a stint as a contractor for the CIA in subsequent tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, all while nurturing an abiding fascination with the fine art of roasting coffee. Much as he prized his time as an operator, when it came time to transition, he was ready for the adventure of running a small business exactly according to his rules.
“I transition out…in a way that’s probably unusual to a lot of people, because, I’ll just turn the page on it, meaning, like, I love and respect my time in the military–it’s taught me a lot, but at the same time…it doesn’t hold me back.”
His solution to the problem of leading a new life as an vetrepreneur is to bring with him as much of his past warrior life as is germaine to his new mission. The combat humor, the belief in veteran power, the faith that hard work will pay off in the end…these qualities and more make up the arsenal that Black Rifle Coffee carries on its steady march forward.
Like the best of them, they remember where they came from.
“War is something that, it’s like, it’s always there. I think for most veterans…you don’t ever leave it. You don’t leave it.”
BM3 Taylor Schulte poses with the Kimball’s unicorn swim floatie, which will be displayed at the U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London, Connecticut. (Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Museum)
In the video, it can be seen drifting at sea, a rainbow-bright mythological Equus cast aside as swimmers from the Coast Guard cutter Kimball clambered out of the water and away from an uninvited shark.
Despite calls for the swim watch to “sink the unicorn,” the giant inflatable darling of the Kimball’s now-infamous Aug. 26 swim call was retrieved from the Pacific Ocean and will have a new home at the U.S. Coast Guard Museum in New London, Connecticut.
Museum staff posted a photo Thursday of their latest acquisition, which will join the museum’s collection of mascots. The Kimball’s unicorn swim floatie will be displayed alongside such objects as a lighthouse keeper’s Salty Rabbit and Capt. Cluck, the mascot of the service’s aviation forces.
Unicorn Made Famous by Shark Incident Floats into History at Coast Guard Museum
According to Museum Curator Jennifer Gaudio, the collection helps document Coasties’ off-duty time, and the inflatable unicorn, which has been signed by the Kimball crew, is the rare artifact clearly associated with recreation time — a swim call interrupted by a shark in Oceania this year.
“We like to find objects that represent an event but it’s often difficult to find one that is so recognizable,” Gaudio said. “When I saw the video, I reached out to the other curator and the chief historian to see if it was something we wanted.”
The Kimball crew was taking an afternoon swim break Aug. 26 during Pacific operations when an 8-foot visitor — either a longfin mako or pelagic thresher — showed up to join the fun.
Not knowing the shark’s intentions as it swam toward crew members, the designated shark watch, Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron, opened fire between the fish and the Coasties to deter the creature from getting closer.
Cintron fired bursts into the water at least three times, giving the swimmers time to reach the ship or the ship’s small boat.
The only injury to a crew member was a scrape to a knee, obtained as the Coastie climbed to safety.
But if the inanimate unicorn had feelings, it would have been devastated by the treatment it received that day. After landing a safe spot on the ship’s response boat, the floatie was tossed overboard to make room for the humans and subjected to the dual indignities of being discarded and hearing crew members tell Cintron to shoot it.
What a relief it must have been when it was lifted out of the water for return to the ship. And now, to live in a museum.
“I wasn’t sure we had room. We are still in a 4,000-square-foot space. And it’s big. Much bigger than I expected,” Gaudio said.
The U.S. Coast Guard Museum is housed in a portion of the library at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Construction of a National Coast Guard Museum was slated to begin this year in downtown New London, but the project has been delayed by other initiatives in the area, according to National Coast Guard Museum Association officials.
The museum is expected to house much of the collection from the current Coast Guard Museum, and the unicorn is likely to make the move when the new facility is built, Gaudio said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.
Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.
The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.
This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”
Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.
By now, there’s a playbook for capitalizing on gamer nostalgia. Take a classic console — the original Nintendo, the Super NES, the first PlayStation, the Atari VCS — and make a miniaturized, modern version with HDMI output and preloaded games. Then, sell it at a price much lower than that of the latest generation of consoles. For long-suffering Sega fans, the wait is finally coming to an end, as the company is finally borrowing the playbook and releasing an updated version of its classic console, the Sega Genesis.
The Sega Genesis Mini, as the new device is known looks, like a shrunk-down version of the original, beloved console. It will come with two wired controllers with a standard D-pad on the left and Genesis-standard three-button control pad on the right.
The Genesis Mini is an HDMI-equipped version of the classic console that comes preloaded with 40 different games. (Buy now)
The system comes preloaded with 40 different games, a generous number that means it won’t be easy to get bored with this thing. The included titles are being announced in four waves of ten, and the first batch has us excited. Sonic the Hedgehog is thankfully included because there wouldn’t be much point to a Genesis reboot without it.
Other titles include the Dracula-themed platformer Castlevania: Bloodlines, groundbreaking independent title Gunstar Heroes, the bizarre and captivating Toe Jam Earl, as far as we know the only funk-themed video game out there. There’s a ton of variety in this wave, and we’re excited to see the rest of the titles as they’re released between now and Sept. 29, 2019, when the console hits the market.
One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes. For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.
Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.
For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.
In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.
As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.
“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.
“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”
Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.
On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”
Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it. Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.
Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.
Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.
“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.
“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome! It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”
Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.
After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?
When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.
At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.
“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”
At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.
With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”
Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.
During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.
“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it. More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission. It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”
While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.
“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”
Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.
“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”
The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.
“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.
Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.
Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.
At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned. She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.
With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.
Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.
It was that fun. (images via Giphy)
7. Getting jacked
When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.
1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)
8. Movie night
Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.
And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really. (images via Giphy)
Propper, a relative newcomer to the body armor market, has – thankfully – recorded its first save.
Deputy Michael Hockett, Troup County (GA) Sheriffs Office, was struck by gunfire while in the line of duty back in January. Deputy Hockett responded to a residence to perform a welfare check (reportedly at the request of the resident’s father) and was subsequently engaged with gunfire by that resident. Matthew Edmondson shot at Deputy Hockett, then barricaded himself in the house. He eventually surrendered to SWAT personnel, was treated for a gunshot wound from Deputy Hockett’s return fire, and was formally charged.
Deputy Hockett was treated and released for what were described as “minor injuries.”
“We are proud to be part of the reason Deputy Michael Hockett of the Troup County (GA) Sheriff’s Office is alive today. The innovative design of the 4PV concealed armor prevented the projectile from reaching the deputy better than a traditional 2-panel design that leaves the sides vulnerable.”
We were unable to source any additional information about the fight, so can do no more than report what you’ve read and seen here, but we’re glad Deputy Hockett is okay and happy we’re affiliated with a company that helps save lives on the sharp end.