This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Army occupational therapist Maj. Erik Johnson will use anything that works to help wounded warriors. One of the big problems he faces is how to get his patients involved in their own therapy.


Therapists have historically used activities like working with leather and copper tooling to engage patients, but that doesn’t appeal to soldiers from the Xbox generation. Johnson, a gamer and former Army rehabilitation patient himself, found a way to incorporate games into therapy.

 

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Army Maj. Erik Johnson plays video games with patients at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo: courtesy Maj. Erik Johnson

“If I threw, you know, macrame in front of a soldier he might laugh at me,” Johnson said in an interview with WATM. “But if I threw him at a video game, he’d be like, ‘Yeah man. I love this dude. Hell, I’m gonna go like do everything I can to optimize my treatment.'”

The games used in therapy are carefully curated by Johnson who identifies what needs each could fulfill. DJ Hero and Big Brain Academy, for instance, are good for soldiers who have suffered brain traumas.

“One of the biggest things with concussions is that you have what we call executive dysfunction or basically, a big issue with cognition,” Johnson said. “So like, your memory is not as good as it was. Or you have issues with problem solving. Or maybe you have issues with delayed response with your brain thinking to your hands moving.”

So, Johnson can put soldiers recovering from a concussion or another brain injury in front of DJ Hero, which requires that the player keep to a rhythm, watch symbols on a screen, and anticipate the actions of others.

Big Brain Academy allows players to work on memory, statistics, analysis, math. And, it allows them to measure their progress.

“And the thing with Big Brain Academy is that it kept a record of everything you did,” said Johnson. “So, if you built a profile, and you’re like, ‘Okay, yesterday was the very first time I worked on this, I was terrible. Today I’m a little bit better and in a week I’m doing fantastic.’ Even if that’s not standardized, you can still see them improving.”

Big Brain Academy payed off big for Johnson and the soldiers under his care when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 to set up a brain injury program inside a deployed brigade combat team. Stuck on an austere forward operating base, a simple game that could be set up in a hooch was a good tool to help soldiers recovering from a concussion or TBI.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

When Johnson got back to the states, systems like the Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii allowed him to target physical therapies with video games as well. For amputees who lost one or both legs, cardio is an issue.

“Our lower extremity amputees have a big issue with cardio. They haven’t been able to run, and they start gaining weight and running is a lot more challenging for them. How are we going to engage them in a good cardio regimen?

“One of the things we noticed was we could put them on Wii Boxing and set them up on a therapy ball and they have to balance on the therapy ball which would strengthen their core and then also, they are doing a lot of engagement with  their upper extremities. And, anybody that has played any kind of Wii sport-type game that takes a lot of that effort knows that real quickly it gives you a good workout.”

Amputee patients also got help from Ken Jones, an engineer who runs Warfighter Engaged and builds custom controllers for amputees.

“He’ll modify game controllers or systems so that anybody could play on them,” Johnson said. “Let’s say you lose your left hand, well, he’s going to bring all those buttons on your Xbox controller over to the right side.”

Jones even made a custom controller for a quadruple amputee.

“Just by like pushing switches and big toggles and different elements like that, he basically made it to where anybody could engage in therapy. Well, I call it therapy, they call it gaming.”

Building a gaming center for wounded warriors isn’t easy. Luckily, Johnson got help from Operation Supply Drop, a charity that engages veterans and deployed service members through video games.

Glen Banton, the CEO of OSD, met Johnson and asked for his wish list, everything Johnson would need to create the perfect setup for treating wounded warriors with video games.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
In Operation Supply Drop’s largest single donation, they gave six video game consoles and plenty of other gear to Brooke Army Medical Center. Photo courtesy Operation Supply Drop

“So I started to do a lot more writing down, research on games. I would want this particular game for this application. I would want this for this application. And I started going down this list of different games that would do different things.” 

“So Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and blew me away,” Johnson said. “I mean, like way more than I had asked for, way more than anticipated. My office is full of gaming stuff right now that I’m now trying to build an entire huge gaming center within out therapy gym so that it’s actually almost a piece of medical equipment, that is its intended use. Before, we had roving televisions and we’d throw a system on it. Now it’s like, I’m going to actually have a specified space where we go and do therapeutic gaming.”

Of course, not all of Johnson’s patients are video gamers. But for the ones that are, they have a therapist who not only wants to engage them with their chosen hobby, but has an awesome suite of tools to do it with.

Military Life

18 photos that show the intensity of keeping warships supplied at sea

“UNREP” (short for “underway replenishment”) is the term used to describe the transfer of fuel, food, ammunition, repair or replacement parts, people and mail from supply ships to combatants like frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers.


Simply put, UNREP keeps Navy ships at sea. It’s a dangerous and intense evolution.

UNREP begins by raising the Romeo flag. On the control ship, it means, “I am ready for your approach.” On the approaching ship, it means, “I am commencing.”

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

One of the most challenging aspects of UNREP is matching the speed of the control ship and steering into position.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Once the ships are on a parallel course, a shotline is sent for the phone and distance (PD) line, which is marked by flags every 20 feet. Once the shotline is fired, sailors on the supply ship catch it like a wedding bouquet.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

After the shotline is received, line handlers must haul in the messenger line, which is much heavier.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

After the wires and hoses are connected, the teams on deck and in the pump room are ready to begin the transfer of cargo and fuel.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Sailors in the pump room monitor fuel levels…

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

… while pallets of food, mail, and supplies are transferred topside.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

At the same time sailors man the .50 cals, ever-vigilant for threats.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Thousands of pounds of fuel and cargo are transferred between the ships while maintaining the same speed and distance apart.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

The exchange can be dangerous for both sides…

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Sailors have to watch out for rogue waves.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Helicopters can also be used for resupply …

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

They call this process “VERTREP,” short for “vertical replenishment.”

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Resupplying the ship is an all-hands task. In this photo, sailors and Marines on an amphibious ship form a human chain to transfer packages.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Sometimes ships will tag-team a supply ship to save time. In this photo, two missile destroyers — an Arleigh Burke class and a Ticonderoga class — are attached to the USNS Lenthall (T-AO 189).

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

Sometimes an UNREP could go well into evening…

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

… and package distribution could go on for hours after the ships have disconnected.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

But, the long hours and hard work pay off when you receive a care package from home; it’s like Christmas.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Photo: US Navy

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 67 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Mar. 18

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team deputes their 2017 routine during the 81st Training Group drill down at the Levitow Training Support Facility drill pad March 10, 2017, on Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The team comes to Keesler every year for five weeks to develop a new routine that they will use throughout the year.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. David J. Murphy

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, takes off March 10, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The B-1B’s are deployed to Andersen as part of U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence operations. This forward deployed presence demonstrates continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Most importantly, these bomber rotations provide Pacific Air Forces and USPACOM commanders an extended deterrence capability.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo

ARMY:

U.S. Army Spc. Vincent Ventarola, assigned to Cobra Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, pulls the lanyard on a M777 Howitzer during Exercise Dynamic Front II at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 9, 2017. Dynamic Front is an artillery operability exercise and focuses on developing solutions within the theater level fires system by executing multi-echelon fires and testing interoperability at the tactical level. It includes nearly 1,400 participants from nine NATO nations.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach

Two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from 12th Combat Aviation Brigade conduct environmental qualifications and sling-load training with M777 howitzers, Jan. 18, 2017, outside Grafenwoehr, Germany. Aircrews practice flying in whiteout conditions areas with heavy snow fall and wind.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Armyphoto by Capt. Jaymon Bell

NAVY:

EAST CHINA SEA (March 16, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jesse Harris, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), braces himself as an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, takes off during an air assault exercise. Bonhomme Richard is on a routine patrol operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance warfighting readiness and posture forward as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jesse Marquez Magallanes

SUEZ CANAL (March 10, 2017) Sailors gather on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to view the Friendship Bridge as the ship transits the Suez Canal. George H.W. Bush and its carrier strike group are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael B. Zingaro

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryce Meeker, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, scouts out the terrain during Exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017. Forest Light is designed to maintain readiness of Japan Ground Self-Defense and deployed U.S. Marine Corps forces to ensure an effective and rapid response to any contingency in the region.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra

The U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performs during the Battle Color Ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, March 2, 2017. The ceremony was held to celebrate Marine Corps history using music, marching and precision drill.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Oliver Cach

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard and NOAA responders confer during whale disentanglement operations off Maui March 11, 2017. The services received a report of an entangled humpback whale off Maui prompting a two-day response to remove a large electrical cable from the mouth of the whale.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Lester

The crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 rescue helicopter rescued overdue kayaker Josh Kaufman (center) during the morning of March 17, 2017, after being stranded on the uninhabited island of Desecheo, approximately 13 nautical miles off Rincon, Puerto Rico. Kaufman, 25, a resident of Fla. was visiting his family in Puerto Rico, when he was reported being overdue to the Coast Guard from a kayak trip in Rincon March 16, 2017.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you definitively rank challenge coins

Challenge coins have a special place in the hearts of many. Enlisted troops keep them as souvenirs to commemorate a specific moment while officers display them at every opportunity to build clout. It’s like a hardened war-fighter’s version of collecting trading cards.


But not all challenge coins are created equally. This is especially important when it comes to the military’s drinking game. If two troops or vets are in a bar and someone calls, “coin check,” whoever doesn’t have one must buy the drinks. If you want to take it to the next level (or if everyone pulls a coin), have the person with the worst coin buy while the troop with the best coin chooses what the group is drinking.

There isn’t a clearly defined ranking system, but here’s the generally accepted hierarchy if you want to call someone out.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Think of these are having a pair of twos in a game of poker.

(Coinsfornothing.com)

8. Any store-bought coin

At the very bottom are the “at-least-I-have-it” coins. There’s no challenge involved in getting these coins. There’s nothing unique about them and they cost a couple of bucks at the Exchange.

They often have just an installation marking, regimental crest, or a generic rank on them. But, hey, they’re better than nothing.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

It only counts if it was given on a military installation, at any military event, or from a military-related company.

(Gregory Ripps)

7. Promotional coins

An obvious but effective marketing gimmick popular among companies who’ve done their homework is to make a branded military challenge coin. Companies will often give these to troops and vets on a whim and it’s more about spreading brand recognition than displaying individual achievement.

Nonetheless, they’re usually pretty nice and we rank them slightly higher than a store-bought coin because you have to be at the right place at the right time to get one.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Some commanders put plenty of thought into their coins. See the exceptions below.

(Photo by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle)

6. Unit coins

This is the category under which most coins fall. Each unit commander can commission their own coin to be made with the unit insignia alongside the names of the senior enlisted and hand them to deserving troops.

Determining where each coin falls within this level is easy. Battalion coins beat company coins. Brigade coins beat battalion. Divisional coins beat brigade. Branch coins may beat divisional coins if and only if they weren’t just bought at a store and were actually given at the Pentagon level.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Some are generic, some are spectacular — hence why they’re in the middle of the list.

(Photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulvada Torres)

5. General officer coins

Each general officer has a coin made specifically for them. Fun side note: Officers who have coins made almost always pay out-of-pocket to have something to give to troops. Since generals have a nicer paycheck than captains, their coins are nicer and more prestigious.

To get a general officer coin, you have to do something outstanding enough to warrant a nice coin. This could be in addition to an official military decoration or officers may just feel like handing them out like candy. It depends on the general officer.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

And a coin from that school’s commandant is higher than just attending that school.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Eugene Christ)

4. School coins

Many military schools also hand a nice challenge coin to each graduate along with their diploma. The troop worked hard to get through it and the diploma will oftentimes end up forgotten in an “I-love-me” book.

School coins rank as high as they do because it takes far more effort to get one than just giving a proper salute to a general.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Impressing the most impressive men in military history at least gets you a beer.

3. Medal of Honor recipient coins

Not all, but many Medal of Honor recipients also have challenge coins that they can give to troops and vets.

Just shaking hands with one of America’s greatest is impressive enough. Getting a coin from one of them means that you will always choose the drink during a coin check.

There are also two exceptions to this ranking system that should also be taken into account should there ever be a tie or an appeal. A really cool unit coin can still beat a school coin if everyone in the group can agree that it meets these two criteria:

• Best design

If the coin is well-crafted and you can tell that the designer put plenty of heart into making such an outstanding coin, that person gets the boost.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
I’m personally a sucker for bottle opener coins, so if I had to pick… you know where my vote is going.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

• Best backstory

Every coin should have a story to tell. If your story is something lame like, “I met this person and they gave me a coin,” you don’t lose points but it certainly doesn’t earn you any.

If the coin has some major significance, then you’re clearly the winner.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Being a soldier in the 101st and receiving a coin from the commanding general is great. Being a Marine and receiving one from him is far more impressive.
(Photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy)

Articles

This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

The short answer? Twelve years of good conduct.


In the Navy, there are many different ways to reward a sailor for their excellent work performance, like a promotion in rank or special liberty (time off). On the contrary, there are also several ways to discipline a sailor, for instance using non-judicial punished or Captain’s Mast.

A service member falling asleep on watch, destruction of government property or theft are just some the reasons why a sailor would get sent to stand in front of their commanding officer for disciplinary action.

If a sailor is found guilty of a violation, the 12-years of good service starts over. Punishments for violations can range from restriction to discharge, depending on the severity of the offense.

Related: These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer

Also Read: Yes, sergeant, actually that new academy cadet does outrank you

To rate the gold stripes, the sailor must complete 12-years straight of good service with no breaks starting on the first day they wake up in boot camp — not the day they entered basic training.

If the sailor does take a break from service, the period pauses until they return.

So if you notice a sailor wearing three or four service stripes on their sleeve (each stripe means four years of service) and they aren’t yellow, chances are they’ve been in trouble at least once

Military Life

Why the Army should reconsider turning down Detroit

The Army is mulling over where they can set up the Army Future Command. One of the locations that’s been on the tips of everyone’s tongues is none other than the Motor City — until recently. There are countless benefits that the city of Detroit stands to gain, but the Army would benefit far more if they gave them a second look.


So, why turn down Detroit? The primary reason that Detroit was removed from contention is because of the “livability scale.” As a Michigan native, I can assure you those claims are blown out of proportion. Yes, there are bad neighborhoods in Detroit, but the area most suited for the Future Command would be the really-nice suburb of Warren.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
‘Motown’ doesn’t just referu00a0to the cars made in Detroit.
(U.S. Army TARDEC Photo)

There’s historical precedent here. This suburb was once home to the Detroit Arsenal, where the Army manufactured its tanks until 1996. It’s still currently home to the Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command. The Army chose to this location for two separate installations throughout history for the same reason they’re now eyeing the outskirts of Washington D.C.: it has an infrastructure capable of handling many people.

When many cities around the United States were created, the infrastructure had to evolve around them. Most cities east of the Mississippi River struggled to restructure themselves around a new need to support everyone’s cars — except Detroit. In recent years, the infrastructure has taken hits — there’s no denying that — but the city has been recovering far faster than anyone cares to admit.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
This is the I-75 heading towards Detroit on an average day. Traffic jams aren’t really a thing here.
(Photo by Sean Marshall)

Choosing Detroit as the center for the Futures Command also affords it many opportunities to work hand-in-hand with TACOM. The tanks and vehicles that are going to be used in combat are literally just down the street. Logistically, this means you can get a good gauge of where the Army is at with a quick meeting at your local Tim Hortons.

Another factor that disqualified Detroit (an excuse first employed by Amazon and seemingly copied by the Army) is the educational credentials of the potential workforce. To counter this, I show you the nearby city — one of Forbes’ Most Livable Cities — Ann Arbor. It’s home of also one of Forbes’ best Public Colleges, the University of Michigan. The workforce is available and highly educated, with 75.2 percent of the population holding a degree and a whopping 10.3 percent with doctorates.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Ann Arbor is essentially the small town you see in every TV show. Except everyone you run into is probably a doctor.
(Courtesy Photo)

Detroit and the surrounding regions are making a strong comeback. The goal of Future Command is to detail how the Army will advance it’s technology into the coming decades. There really is no better place to look towards than the city that is leading the way.

Military Life

7 things you didn’t think about before you went off to boot camp

You signed up for the military, and now you’re on that bus headed toward training to be the best Marine, airman, sailor, coastie, or soldier you can be — you think you’ve got things all figured out.


News flash: you don’t.

With all the things traveling through your brain like high school graduation and finding a way to leave the nest, it’s likely you failed to think about these important aspects of your new military life.

Related: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

So check out seven things you didn’t think about before you went off to boot camp:

7. Getting a haircut — do show up in regs; don’t go crazy

We mention this tip for a couple of reasons, and we’re not suggesting you show up with a buzz cut. You lower the chances of getting picked on by the drill sergeant if your haircut doesn’t stand out from the rest of the recruits.

Secondly, your scalp will thank you after the PX barber only spends mere seconds shaving your head with dull clippers.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
This airman trainee should have read this article before going to boot camp.

6. Showing up in better shape

All military branches partake in some sort of physical activity — some more than others. That said, you’re going to have to pass a timed run and other requirements (or wind up getting held back from graduation) — not to mention a sh*t-ton of push-ups and runs in formation.

Military PT can be pretty freakin’ tough so train hard while you can.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Don’t be like Gomer. (Source: WB)

5. Modifying your sleeping habits

Boot camp is specially designed to add massive amounts of structure to your life. This means you’re going to eat, sleep, and work every day at the same time. If you adapt your sleeping habits before hitting your open squad bay, those first early morning wake-ups might not be so freaking bad after all.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

4. What you could have studied prior to arrival

You’re going to learn a crapload of new material during your multi-week stay in boot camp. Consider memorizing those general orders or different military terminology if you’re looking to make your recruit life that much easier.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Study!

3. You’re not as funny as you think you are

After you hit boot camp, you’re going to be living with people from different parts of the country that may not understand your humor. If you ever make a “humorous” remark to one of your drill instructors, prepare to do some push-ups.

How many you ask? All of them.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Every recuirt loves their DI.

2. Researching the other branches before deciding on one

Many teens make the mistake of joining the first branch that comes to mind, but it’s too late to switch after you ship off. So do your research before signing on the dotted line if you have a shred of doubt.

That is all.

You messed up and joined the Army. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

1. What clothes you show up in

Chances are you’re going to be in your civilian clothes for the first few days of boot camp. You’re going to sweat and get a little dirty during that time.

So note to self, wear something that’s comfy and helps you blend in with the rest of the recruits.

Maybe a little. (Images via Giphy)
Military Life

Why it’s okay to hate your duty station

Some military families love to PCS. The sense of adventure that comes with moving to another duty station every few years is exciting to them. Even when they receive orders to a location not on the top of their wish list, they find a way to embrace the suck and learn to love their new home until military orders move them once again.


Being positive about the process is an important coping skill, but what happens if you find yourself really unhappy? What if you just can’t shake truly hating your duty station?

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Minot. Am I right? (Image via Parks and Recreation)

It’s okay.

Seriously.

My husband’s final duty station was at an Army base in Arizona. As a Florida native, and as someone who loves the south and being close to the beach, I tried to embrace the new high desert landscape. I firmly believed it was best to make the most of where we were. But in reality, I loathed being stationed there. It was extremely dry, the temps were super hot in the summer (dry heat or not, 110 is miserable) and we got snow in the winter.

Also read: These are the 10 best duty stations for beer lovers

I missed all of the tall trees, greenery, and water I was accustomed to. We were also 2-3 days drive from our family. That had always been a difficult aspect of military life for me, but we had been blessed with orders within a days drive in the past, which made it bearable.

I was miserable.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
True story. (Image via giphy)

And I felt like a spoiled brat. My husband was home and out of the fleet. Friends at other duty stations were saying goodbye to their spouses for yet another deployment, and mine was home every night. How dare I be so miserable because the beach was not close by. 

And then I realized that me feeling guilty and forcing myself to pretend it wasn’t so bad, was making it worse. There is nothing wrong with having a preference when it comes to where you live. I wasn’t being a spoiled brat because I desperately missed the area I called “home,” but I did need to survive it without being completely miserable or making those around me the same.

Related: If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’

So I accepted that I was never going to love the place.

Instead, I focused on the people. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be good people. We joined a Cross Fit gym, I sang with a local community choir and we made an effort to get to know our neighbors. 

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
It’s called friendship and I won’t be judged. (Image via giphy)

I focused on the opportunities. We traveled to southern California, the Grand Canyon, and other places we would probably not have the opportunity to visit after retirement. We visited interesting local spots like Bisbee and Tombstone frequently.

I focused on the future. With retirement just a few years away, we started to pay off debt in anticipation of buying our first home. We started to dream about what our lives would look like when we were able to plant permanent roots in an area we both loved.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
You gotta start somewhere. (Image via giphy)

And we survived. Acknowledging that Arizona was not my favorite has made me appreciate  our forever home location even more. In the summer when we have 100% humidity, I am reminded how miserable that dry heat was for me. In the winter when it drops to 20 for a few days, I am reminded how I hated all that snow. And when I am at the beach, I appreciate it’s beauty in a way I didn’t before.

It could be worse: The worst duty assignments for every branch of the military

Hating your duty station? Embrace it. Focus on the people, opportunities, and the future.

It’s okay. I promise.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Soon. Soon. (Image via Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Military Life

6 things platoon medics absolutely hate

Navy Corpsmen and Army medics are some of the best medical professionals in the world who go above and beyond to render care to sick and wounded troops in the line of duty.

Although the armed forces’ “docs” have earned tons of combat decorations throughout their proud history, not every part of the job feels valorous or glamorous. In fact, many docs must accomplish tasks they absolutely hate in order to do their job well. Here are just a few of unpleasant functions the job requires.


Taking care of a bad guy

The Geneva Convention requires that docs care for wounded bad guys, regardless of how they were injured. It’s no fun knowing you’re helping a guy who just might take a pot shot at you later.

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Not being in the safety vehicle during a mandatory hike

Realistically, there aren’t many troops out there who look forward to a mandatory conditioning hike.

Several miles into the excursion, when your feet are beyond swollen, you’ll start to curse (in your mind) when you see the smiling faces of personnel in the safety vehicles. They’re just chilling.

Sick-call commandos

We dislike those weak-minded troops who show up and waste the medical staff’s time. The truth is, so-called “sick-call commandos” fake illness to get out of responsibilities, taking time away from other people who need to see the doctor because they’re actually ill or injured.

No one like these guys.

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A troop showing up to sick call 5 minutes after its secured, but we still have to treat them

Monday through Thursday, having a sick or injured troop come in late isn’t a big deal. However, imagine it’s 1700 on a sunny Friday evening and someone who could technically wait until Monday morning shows up for treatment — not cool.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors

Having to ‘bore punch’ a patient

If you’re not familiar what a “bore punch” is, you’ll want to ask the kids to leave the room before we tell you. Okay, they’re gone? Cool.

Bore punching is when the doc uses a giant cotton swab to take a sample from inside a male patient’s urethra to test for bacteria. It’s unpleasant for both parties.

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(Universal Pictures)

When a Navy Corpsman gets called a ‘medic’

There’s a perpetual debate on the differences between Corpsmen and medics. The truth is, they’re very much alike aside from the branches under which they serve. That, and Corpsmen are way more decorated… and sexy.

That said, they hate being called a “medics” instead of the proper term, which is “Corpsman.” “Doc” works, too.

Articles

Here’s how ‘Taps’ got its name

Everyone who has attended a military function or visited a base has heard the “Taps” melody fill the air.


Traditionally performed live on a bugle or trumpet, “Taps” is one of the more popular songs, and one that tends to quiet spectators as they solemnly bow their heads.

But few people know the history behind the song or the patriotic meaning behind the lyrics.

Related: This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Chief Musician Guy L. Gregg, plays taps during a Memorial Day service at Brookwood American Cemetery.
(Photo by MC2 Jennifer L. Jaqua/Released)



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According to the VA, present-day “Taps” is believed to be a rendition of the French bugle signal, “Tap Toe” which stems from a Dutch word that means to shut or “tap” a keg. The most noted revision we know today was created by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the American Civil War to alert soldiers to discontinue their drinking and remind them to return to garrison.

In July of 1862, Butterfield thought the original French version “L’Extinction des feux” was too formal and began to hum an adaption to his aide, who then transcribed the music to paper and assigned Oliver W. Norton, the brigade bugler, to play the notes written.

It wasn’t until 12 years later when Butterfield’s musical creation was made the Army’s officially bugle call. By 1891, the Army infantry regulated that “Taps” be played at all military funeral ceremonies moving forward.

Today, the historic song is played during flag ceremonies, military funerals, and at dusk as the sun lowers into the horizon during “lights out.”

Lyrics

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.
While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

Articles

6 ways the military upgrades your personal style

When young men and women join the military, they soon realize that there’s not a lot of room for personal style — you’re going to end up looking like everybody else.


That’s very true because you have joined a club that wears the same trousers and blouses as the person next to you.

Since you’re now wearing a uniform that you technically didn’t pick out, you may feel that you like your ability to be “you” is gone forever — but that’s not true.

Related: This is why sailors have 13 buttons on their trousers

So check out our list of how the military upgrades your personal style.

1. Physical training

It’s not every service member’s goal to go out and win the Mr. Olympia body building contest — we get it. But since we get physically tested nearly on a daily basis depending on your occupation, we tend to build a little muscle here and there.

Plus, members of the opposite sex tend to like a guy or gal that’s in shape — just saying.

We guess she liked that. (Image via Giphy)

2. Dental

Although the military doesn’t provide service members cosmetic dental work, getting your cavities filled for free is a much better option than walking around with a big a** hole in your #2 mural.

They declare war on cavities. (Image via Giphy)

3. Dress uniform

Since women love a man in uniform, all service members are in luck because you have to wear one practically every single day. Having a dress uniform ready to go in your closet can also save you a bunch of money from having to rent or buy a tux for your upcoming wedding.

See, it’s all in the uniform. (Image via Giphy)

4. Housing

Many of us join the military to escape an unsatisfying life back home. Most of the newbies will end up living in the barracks their first few years in the service until they get married or promoted. In recent years, the government has spent a lot of dinero to improve base housing.

This is a huge step up from when you were sharing a room with your little brother back home.

Base housing in the Air Force. (Image via Giphy)

5. Vision

If you have crappy vision heading into the military, you’re going to end up wearing BCGs at least through boot camp. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can upgrade your spectacles once you graduate and even put in a request to get a Lasik procedure through your chain of command.

Not bad right?

Not that type of vision. (Image via Giphy)

Also Read: This is why ACUs have buttons on their pants and a zipper on the blouse

6. Reliable paychecks

We don’t make millions, but we do get paid on time every 1st and 15th of the month (unless you get in trouble). For many newbies, that on-time payment system is the ultimate upgrade.

No, you shut up. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why wearing uniforms to a high school graduation is a boot move

It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.

Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.


This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
They went to infantry training the next day, which means they only came back to graduate high school and show off their new uniform.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.

Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.

The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
They just wanted uniformity. You know, like that thing the military is known for.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)

Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.

If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.

This Army therapist uses video games to help wounded warriors
Be like this guy. He’s doing everything the right way
(Photo by Sgt. Dwight A. Henderson)

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