Since the beginning of time, the dichotomy of love and war are two sides of the same coin. You must have yin to have a yang, an alpha and omega. Most war movies depict what it is like for a spouse to be away from their love who’s fighting half-a-world away. Military service members play romantic interest roles in movies for a reason: they’re lovers and fighters – and they’re the best at both.
Here are 6 reasons military service members are the best lovers:
1. Love letters
Tinder and other apps have changed the way people find someone but they will never change the romanticism of love letters between star-crossed lovers. Love letters from warriors and their beloved are something that technology cannot compete against. When I was in Afghanistan I could only use the satellite phone once a month due to the remote area we operated in. There is something about those private correspondences you share that is difficult to put into words.
It’s borderline magical, like a fairytale. My then-girlfriend used to sign her letters calling me her ‘Knight in shining armor.’ It may be corny, fine. It hits different seeing those words on paper, in the handwriting of your love, with her perfume on the sheets of paper, after literally taking off your armor returning from fighting the enemy.
Love letters are something that you never see in the civilian world which makes them even more impactful. When kindred spirits finally rendezvous, sparks are going to fly, I guarantee it.
2. Military service members are usually in shape
There isn’t much to the science here, military service members are in shape – not by choice – but in shape regardless!
3. Spare no expense
Warriors do not earn a lot compared to their civilian counterparts. If we did it for the money we wouldn’t be who we are. Returning from deployment, troops are known to spare no expense living life to the fullest and will bring you along for the ride. Post Afghanistan; there were cliques that vacationed together with their spouses in the Virgin Islands, others went on skiing trips, or other adventures. Believe me, vacationing with a military service member is nothing to take for granted, these MFs know how to party.
4. Smooth talkers
Military service members can sell water to a fish. It’s hard to not like someone that’s actually a good person. If a troop, especially a Marine, likes you – you’re going to know it. They’re warrior poets, some are rougher around the edges, but they have their own way of communicating that you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
5. Military service members are protective
Rest assured that you won’t end up like Batman’s parents, a military service member is brave. Any clime, any place, we’ll knock anyone out who disrespects someone we love.
6. Endless choices
If intellect isn’t your forte then you have an endless buffet of to choose from. I had one friend from high school I kept in contact with when I was active duty. She asked if I could hook her up with someone, I responded with ‘say no more.’ I asked her preferences and on a leave block she flew down for the holiday weekend. Every detail she mentioned was taken into account and I had a wall of handsome ready for her to pick whomever she wanted. We have 5,000 Marines per company element, one of them is bound to float your boat.
Peer pressure in the military has its fair share pros and cons. While some of our personalities allow us to coast through our professional careers, others have a harder time, lacking some essential social skills and confidence. Conforming to social standards and activities might help them fit in.
Then again, peer pressure probably accounts for the majority of hangovers among active duty service members and veterans.
So check out our list of peer pressure examples that many of us have faced during our time in the military.
Most service members drink like fishes right after they get off duty. If you’re under 21, it doesn’t matter. Alcohol will be pouring into cups or shot glasses throughout the barracks and base housing. There are, however, those select few who choose not to drink what ever reason.
But continuously saying “no, thank you” to a delicious cold one could alienate you.
2. To be better than someone else
Competition is everywhere in the military — that’s the way it works. When promotion time comes around, you have look better than other troops to pick up the next rank. Those who already out rank you will urge you to do whatever it takes to be that guy or gal that moves on to the next pay grade.
It’s a positive form of peer pressure, but it’s there.
3. Looking good for the opposite sex
On active duty, we all wear the uniform. Once we’re off duty, we can wear our regular clothes. Some service members tend to dress better than others, which could earn them more attention from a hottie, leaving everyone else to their lonely selves.
We’re not suggesting you spend your next paycheck on a new wardrobe…but it couldn’t hurt.
4. Getting jacked
Depending on your duty stationed, being in top physical condition can earn you more respect. But if you’re sh*tty at your job and don’t have a brain between your ears, the respect level will lower quickly.
5. Buying something you don’t need
Peer pressure doesn’t just come from your fellow military brothers and sisters. Salesmen can pick you out of a crowd just by looking at your short haircut and that huge a** backpack you’re wearing. They will pitch you the idea that you desperately need whatever it is they’re selling.
Be careful of what you buy or what services you sign up to receive. Those sneaky bastards know you’re getting a guaranteed paycheck at least twice a month. You are gold to them.
If you’re an E-3 or below but you’ve got a car, you are basically a god to the other guys and gals. Your fellow barracks dwellers will say and do just about anything to hang out with someone who can drive them around.
They might not be your real friends, but let’s face it, you need all the friends you can get — especially if you’re staying in on a Friday night when you have a freaking car.
That pressure happens all the time when your service contract is nearing the end.
You’ll meet people, both on social media and in real life, who argue that a solution to a widespread lack of discipline is to start drafting citizens right out of high school to serve in the military in some capacity. Whether you think there really is a discipline problem today or not, the truth remains the same — a draft outside of a wartime is unnecessary and extremely toxic.
The thing people don’t realize is that the United States military thrives on the fact that its members are volunteers. The reason our military is so efficient is because the people who join want to be there. While that may not remain the case for every service member for the entire duration of their contracts, you’ll still find most of them serving with honor until the job’s done.
Here’s why having a draft would ruin that.
Each of these recruits may run the Department of Defense around ,000.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
The cost of training a single service member is pretty high already. Spending tons of money training people who don’t want to be there only to have most of them leave the service as soon as humanly possible is just not worth it. We already have plenty of people who join voluntarily and, in boot camp or somewhere else along the line, decide they made a wrong choice. Suddenly, the tons of money spent training them goes down the drain.
It’s all the people who make it through training and complete their service honorably that justify these losses.
A draft is basically indentured servitude
People who serve today feel like they’re overworked and underpaid. When the government is faced with absorbing tons of money lost due to wasted training expenses, where do you think the cuts will start?
If you felt a sharp pain in your wallet just now, then you already know.
There are people relying on others to do their jobs so they might stay alive.
A draft is dangerous
A problem with forcing people to do a job is that they won’t care about doing it well. When those aloof people play key roles in the infantry, failing to do the job well might be fatal. These people may not care about holding security or staying awake on watch, which can needlessly endanger the lives of all the people who want to do their job the right way.
You’ll have a lot more sh*t bags
There are tons of people who “slip through the cracks” in the military already. They have no business being in the service, but somehow manage to avoid discharge. Forcing people, against their will, to serve is going to increase those numbers.
The volunteers are what make the military great. Let’s not mess that up with dumb ideas.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matt Britton)
An all-volunteer force is much better
As stated before, our military is as good as it is because the people who serve chose to be there. They want to do a good job. Furthermore, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re doing the hard work that not everyone is cut out for. By enacting a draft, we would lose the very thing that makes the military great: pride.
Over the past few years, public awareness of veteran suicide has increased and, more importantly, people are more aware than ever before of the resources available to help struggling veterans and active-duty service members. However, in the past year, we’ve noticed a disturbing new aspect of the problem — there have been a number of recent suicides among high-profile veterans who stood as beacons of hope for others in the suicide prevention movement.
At the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), our Red Team has been reflecting on these losses and their impact on suicide prevention and postvention efforts across the military and veteran community.
The late Pfc. Kevin S. Jacobs, United States Marine Corps infantryman. Pfc. Kevin Jacobs struggled with anxiety, emotional pain, and grief due to his experiences at war. Both he and his brother Bryan Keith Jacobs a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman suffered from PTSD and emotionally began to drift apart. Kevin’s experiences eventually got the best of him, and on Memorial Day, May 28, 2014, Kevin died by suicide. (Guest Photo by Bryan Keith Jacobs, U.S. Navy Veteran)
If any among us believes that suicide is an act of weakness, we should alter our thinking: even the strongest of us — the fierce tribe of warriors who fight our wars — sometimes die by suicide. A man or woman can be a hero to many, noted for his or her uncommon bravery and unconquerable fighting spirit, and still be at risk. Such a man or woman is a true hero.
A second truth is that death by suicide leaves a wake of loss, risk, and regret that is devastating to our community. Many times, I have witnessed and walked with veterans who are cut to the core by this kind of loss. They often say that they “did not see it coming.” In addition to shock and overwhelming grief, they often feel angry that their brother or sister did not reach out to them. Far too often have I heard, “I would have dropped everything to be there if I had only known.”
Soldiers with 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, behavioral health team, host a Cars Against Suicide Car Show Dec. 1, 2017 at Fort Stewart, Ga. The Cars against Suicide event was hosted by 2nd ABCT in an effort to promote awareness and offer resources to help prevent suicide. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Robert Winns)
They also express a deep sense of helplessness, a kind of helplessness that puts them directly at risk for self-destructive actions. And sometimes, when they think of losing a leader among them to suicide, they feel great fear. If this fear had a voice, it might say, “if suicide felt like the only option for a person this strong, what does that mean for me?”
These reactions are the last thing their hero would have wanted them to think and feel.
A family and an entire community can be changed forever based on a decision made in one day of suffocating despair. There is the heroic life lived, but also the death that leaves behind more loss and destruction. How can we make sense of senseless loss?
Based on our work with veterans and military service members over the past ten years, here are 3 things we offer for the community to consider.
3. The tribe is stronger than the power of despair.
To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.
Connection with the tribe is the protective factor that buffers against despair and disconnection, even in the most extreme situations. This bond of trust is stronger than despair and, when the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.
2. Balancing legacy and prevention.
Suicidal thinking arises in the context of a perfect storm of events; there’s never just one precipitating event. Self-destructive acts are most often the result of a combination of overwhelming mental anguish, physical pain, a biochemistry altered by chronically poor sleep, and events that create a perception of acute hopelessness. What are we to do if a perfect storm presents itself to us? Here, we can continue to find meaning and hope from the life of a hero and the things that he or she stood for.
While it is important to honor the life lived, it is equally important to balance that message with education, resources, and support around preventing additional suicides. We must think about the message that he or she carried over many years of life, while also understanding the contributing factors of that single, perfect-storm day. What did the person argue for with all of their energies while they were alive? Can their death be used to support the message that was so important during their life? Did this person advocate for turning to one’s tribe, for trusting in one’s community to supply the strength to fight demons? Was this person able to do for themselves what they encouraged in others?
These are the lessons learned on the look back that balance preventing another loss of life with the heroic life lived.
1. Leaders also need the tribe.
Finally, those who stand as a beacon of hope may have some under-appreciated vulnerabilities. Veterans are often driven to find a next mission and derive a great sense of purpose — sometimes even life-saving purpose — from inspiring others to stay in the fight. However, when veterans become caregivers and public examples of strength, there is an additional pressure that is placed on their shoulders as they hold the hope of their brothers and sisters. Veterans have expressed to us that as soon as they became a caregiver of other veterans, they have felt, in some indescribable way, a door is closed to them in terms of seeking help for themselves.
As we work with veteran and military leaders, we have observed that their first instinct is often to isolate in the hope of “getting it together” when their stress feels overwhelming. It runs against their instincts, developed through training and culture, to turn to their tribe when they themselves need support. This does not mean that they do not believe in the value of help-seeking, but may feel shame and guilt when they need it for themselves.
Maybe these leaders and heroes become like a lighthouse, helping keep other people safe, holding strong against the storm. But what happens when the lighthouse itself becomes enveloped by lashing waves and raging seas? How does it signal distress? Who looks out for the lighthouse and how can we make sure that all can turn towards the tribe of those they love and trust to lend them strength to fight their demons? Leaders also need the tribe.
When we’re aware a perfect storm is brewing, one of the best things we can do is connect the person with their tribe and with resources that can help — whether that person is a peer or a leader.
TAPS offers comprehensive, best-practice postvention support services for suicide loss survivors, including the 24/7 Helpline (1-800-959-TAPS), virtual groups and chats for survivors, and on-the-ground events and gatherings.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Shauna Springer is the Senior Director of TAPS Red Team within the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Dr. Springer is a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a Doctoral degree from the University of Florida. Known to many veterans as “Doc Springer,” she has helped hundreds of warriors reconnect with their tribe, strengthen their most important relationships, and build lives that are driven by their deepest values. TAPS Red Team provides training and consultation related to suicide prevention and postvention to clinicians, military leadership, policymakers, and organizations.
Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.
Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:
• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation
• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)
• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent
• Under the age of 45
The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.
Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.
Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.
To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For one Airman, deciding to switch careers from a law enforcement tradition to serving her country was no easy decision.
Joining the Air Force wasn’t an easy decision for Senior Airman Shayna Dunn, 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron network manager operator, but looking back she feels it was the right one for her.
“My father was a Marine and he met my mother while stationed in Germany,” said Dunn, who grew up in Stafford, Virginia. “By the time I was born, my father was no longer in the military, and was working as a Capital Police officer.”
While in high school, Dunn developed an interest in criminal justice from influences from her father and television.
“I used to watch a lot of criminal justice shows like ‘NCIS’ or ‘Criminal Minds’ and I ended up taking a class in high school and it piqued my interest,” she said.
Dunn attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
After college, Dunn was offered an opportunity to work with the U.S. Secret Service, but while training, an injury caused her to rethink her plans.
“One day while training, I ended up fracturing my wrist and during my recovery I was tasked with more administrative work,” said Dunn. “During this time I had to decide if I wanted to continue down my current path or did I want to do something else. On one hand, I was in a position where I should have been content with this job, however, on the other hand, something internally just didn’t feel right.”
After much deliberation, Dunn decided to resign from the U.S. Secret Service and start on a new path by joining the Air Force.
Breaking the news to her family and friends about her decision wasn’t easy.
“To some, my decision was surprising,” said Dunn. “It took a little while for people to understand where I was coming from, which made it difficult for me because I didn’t want to let anyone down, I didn’t want to let my family down, my friends down.”
Even though it took Dunn a year to make it Basic Military Training, it wasn’t until she arrived that she felt confident with her decision to enlist.
After being assigned to the 690th COS for her first assignment, Dunn earned several awards, made Senior Airman below-the-zone, and met her future husband.
“If I had to describe Shayna, she is humble and caring, always putting others before herself,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Dunn, 690th COS cyber systems operator.
To some, the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome of a decision can be exhausting, but for Shayna, her difficult choice proved to be worthwhile.
In a report issued May 1, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry, or upset.” And, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.
More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.
The responses reflect a growing concern across the military about inappropriate social media behavior. The scandal came to light last month when sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page. The revelation triggered a wide-ranging criminal investigation that now encompasses all the services, and has prompted changes and restrictions in military social media policies.
The latest survey results, however, make it clear that the issue has long been simmering in the military.
Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the results “tell us that this is a problem and we have to start having more conversations about social media behavior.”
The survey was released as part of the annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military. It found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
Defense officials, however, said the anonymous survey done as part of the report showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.
Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Pentagon has used anonymous surveys for several years to track the problem. The survey was sent to more than 735,000 service members between June and October 2016, and more than 150,000 responded.
The two social media questions were asked for the first time in last year’s survey, Galbreath said, because the issue was becoming more of a concern.
According to the data, 1.3 percent of military women said someone took or shared explicit photos of them against their will. When divided according to military service, 2.3 percent of female Marines made that complaint, compared to 1.5 percent of female soldiers, 1.6 percent of female sailors and .5 percent of female airmen.
On the pornography question, 4 percent of military women said someone showed or sent them sexual explicit material that made them upset or angry. Six percent of female Marines had that problem, compared to 5 percent of female sailors, 4.5 percent of female soldiers and 2.1 percent of female airmen. The percentages of men complaining were much smaller overall.
The Marine Corps is the smallest military service, so while the percentages were the largest, the actual numbers of people affected were likely smaller than the other services.
Separately, the data released by the Pentagon on May 1 showed there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
On retaliation, it found that 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” but only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administrative actions, or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Retaliation has been a difficult issue to sort out, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
The anonymous survey, meanwhile, showed a steady decline in the number of service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact, which can be anything from inappropriate touching to rape.
Of the 14,900 people who said they experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
Every Marine alive will talk about their drill instructors from boot camp because they’re they’re the ones who turned them into Marines. But you’ll rarely ever hear about their combat instructors, which is strange considering that the School of Infantry is much more difficult than boot camp.
You meet your combat instructors when you report to Camp Lejeune or Pendleton. The Marines bound for the infantry go to the Infantry Training Battalion and the POGs go to Marine Combat Training. Infantry Marines will, without exception, look back on this training as the worst they’ve experienced — and part of that is because of the instructors.
These are reasons why combat instructors are actually tougher than your drill instructors.
You may want to listen up to what they’re trying to tell you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They’re all combat veterans
Not all drill instructors are combat veterans. In fact, for some, the only Iraq or Afghanistan they saw was in pictures.
This is absolutely not the case with combat instructors. Alpha Company at the west coast SOI in 2013 had an instructor cadre with in which every single one had done multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
They’ll break you off but the key is to not quit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley D. Gomez)
They don’t care about numbers
Drill instructors in boot camp will talk all day about how you can’t quit, but the truth is that you can — and plenty of people do. The fact is, drill instructors are out to keep as many recruits as they can.
Your combat instructors, on the other hand, will actively do everything they can to make your life a living hell to weed out the weaklings. Some slip through the cracks, but not many.
The look in their eyes will tell you everything you need to know.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)
They were all infantry Marines
To teach the next generation of grunts, you have to be one yourself. This makes them a lot scarier than a drill instructor who spent their entire career sitting behind a desk, eating hot meals three times a day. Infantry Marines live a life that revolves around the elimination of the enemy and breaking their things. They spend most of their day at least thinking about how to do this to the best of their ability.
If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll probably make it through training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lukas Kalinauskas)
They aren’t afraid to haze you
This never officially happens, but if you f*ck up at SOI, your combat instructor will make sure you pay for it accordingly. They’re training the next generation of hardened war fighters, so they have to know you can handle a few push-ups with a big rock on your back.
You’ll just feel like you disappointed your dad who didn’t really like you to begin with.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
They never had to use a frog voice
Combat Instructors rarely yell at people and that’s terrifying in its own right. But, when they do, they don’t change their voice to sound more intimidating — they know you’re already afraid of them, so they take advantage of that. They’ll yell at you at a lower volume and dismantle the fiber of your being.
You laughed at it, don’t lie.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
They encourage others to join in on the berating
If a drill instructor is tearing someone apart and the platoon laughs at something they say, everyone might get punished. A combat instructor will use it to add to what they’re telling you. They practically encourage others to join in on the insulting.
At the end of the day, though, they’re trying to make sure you have what it takes to be an infantry Marine. This means you have to prove your physical and mental fortitude.
Every so often Hollywood makes a military movie that’s so compelling in the eyes of the audience that it helps shape how they view the world. War stories in general display how dangerous life can be for those serving on active duty — mostly in the infantry.
But from time-to-time, some minor aspect of these films call out to movie-goers and motivate them to serve.
So we asked several veterans what movies made them want to join the armed forces and here’s what they told us.
It happens every time the Olympics come on. Americans gather to cheer on our athletes in every event because they represent our country. Every now and then — especially when it comes watching Olympics shooting — you hear the same, misguided phrase: “That’s it? I can do that!” Sure, 50 meters with a .22 seems easy enough considering the amount of range time your average infantryman spends shooting at the 300-meter target, but there’s a lot more to it.
Luckily for those cocky soldiers, there’s a program through the MWR that’ll give you a chance to prove you can do it, too: the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. In order to even be considered, a soldier must be in good standing, have completed Advanced Individual Training or the Basic Officer Leader Course, be applying for an Olympic sport, and must reach a high enough national ranking to justify their application. The WCAP is not a developmental program. You have to already be a world-class athlete to even be considered.
Since the program was established in 1948, over 600 soldiers have represented our nation at the Olympics as athletes and coaches and have earned over 140 medals. Much of the training is done at Fort Carson, Colorado. Once there, soldiers can expect to train day-in and day-out for their given event. If you’re chosen, this doesn’t mean you neglect your soldierly duties. Though the training is rigorous, it’s still extracurricular.
For marksmen interested in shooting events, there’s also the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit out of Fort Benning. Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller has represented the United States of America in every Summer Olympics since 2000, earned the Gold Medal in 2008, and still holds the Olympic record for double trap. Even after his appearance at the 2012 London Olympics, Eller deployed to Afghanistan, where he taught marksmanship to both American troops and the Afghan National Army.
To learn more about the qualifications for each individual event, check out the link here.
Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.
Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”
Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.
In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.
The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.
After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.
The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.
Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)
To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.