The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it's awesome - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome

Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre here.


Inspired by the Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, Britain’s Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014.

The prince, who was on hand at the opening ceremony, flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan during his military service.

“Invictus is all about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship, and refused to be defined by their injuries,” he said last night. “Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey to recovery. Above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women, injured or not, provide about the importance of service and duty.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Britain’s Prince Harry speaks during the opening ceremony for the 2017 Invictus Games at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. The prince established the Invictus Games in 2014. DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg.

“We made a great start in London in 2014,” he continued. “We took it to the next level in Orlando last year, and over the next week, in this year, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world.”

More than 550 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from 17 nations will compete in 12 sporting events at the Invictus Games, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair basketball. The games run through Sept. 30.

“[There are] more competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families, and more people watching at home than ever before,” Harry said. “With the people in this arena tonight and those watching across Canada and around the world, we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. In the days ahead, I know that many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you’re ready for some fierce competition. I hope you’re ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you’re ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you’re ready to see role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you’re ready to see lives change in front of your eyes.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Retired US Marine Corps Sgt. Anthony McDaniel celebrates with retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Amsted after winning the wheelchair basketball championship against the United Kingdom at Invictus Games, Orlando, Fla., May 12, 2016. USAF Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts.

Camaraderie Among Athletes

Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, co-captain of the US team, said he thinks his squad will be strongest in rugby, track and field, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and swimming. The camaraderie among the athletes from the respective service branches and other countries has been good, he added.

“I visited with someone from the Netherlands for about 20 minutes this morning,” said Sears, who said his favorite sport is wheelchair racing on the track. “Everybody’s getting along, laughing, and having a smile on their face.”

His mother, Judy Pullin, said she is proud of her son and his team.

“I’m very proud of Ivan. I’m going to be the bragging momma here. He medaled four times here last year. He medaled four golds, and it was just amazing. I was definitely crying,” she said. “These are all athletes. Yes, they may have a disability. They may have something physical or an invisible wound, but you’ve just got to be proud of them.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, US team captain, carries the American flag as her team enters the opening ceremony for the 2017 Invictus Games at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. At right is team co-captain Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears. DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg.

Medically retired Cpl. Melanie Harris of the Canadian armed forces, who is competing in compound archery and sitting volleyball, joked that the Canadian motto is, “I’m not sorry.”

“Canadians are known for being sorry but not sorry; however I want them to know they’re always welcome back here,” she said with a laugh. Harris said Canada’s wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball will be among the Canadian team’s best events.

“It’s going to be a great competition,” she said. “We’re going to do great. We will bring some gold home. We don’t mind sharing, too, but whoever wins wins, [and] we’re going to fight for it.”

Harris said her teammates have been taking care of each other and are like family. “We’re all there for each other,” she added.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Vice Chief of Staff of the Airforce Gen. Stephen W. Wilson talks with Staff. Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez-Arellano at York Lions Stadium (YOR), Toronto, Canada, Sept. 24, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Luksan.

Medically retired Lance Cpl. Dennis Resell of Denmark’s special operations forces is competing in archery and sitting volleyball. He said he has confidence in his team as well. “We’re going to do great. You can’t beat the Vikings,” he said. “Team Denmark’s biggest strengths are definitely our team spirit and our brotherhood.”

Resell said he enjoys the camaraderie among the athletes and had been looking forward to the opening ceremony. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “Walking in there, people cheering — it’s going to be great.”

The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces from Ottawa and the Royal Regiment Band from Quebec performed as the 550-plus competitors from the 17 participating countries entered the arena. Thailey Roberge of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Elliot Miville-Deschenes of Montreal represented the youth of Canada and hosted the opening ceremonies. They sang “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, and then “Under One Sky” to celebrate the Invictus Games Flag Tour.

As Laura Wright sang the official 2017 Invictus Games song, “Invincible,” more than 200 members of the Canadian Military Wives National Choir joined her. Canadian Rangers marched in bearing the Invictus Games flag and raised it high.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Team Canada lights the 2017 Invictus Games torch during opening ceremonies in Toronto, Canada Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom.

Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan performed “I Will Remember You” and then spoke of the Lighting of the Flame ceremony, which began in Kabul, Afghanistan. The flame passed from Afghan security forces veteran Maj. Ahmad Shahh to retired Canadian Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, official ambassador of the Toronto Games.

Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 organizing committee, said the committee is leveraging most of the infrastructure used in the Pan American Games here in 2015.

“We will be up in Scarborough for swimming. Tomorrow, we will be up at York University at their brand new stadium for athletics. The old Maple Leaf Gardens will be a massive hub of activity. We drained the reflective pool at the Nathan Phillips Square to host wheelchair tennis. We’re hosting archery at Fort York, and we’re using Hyde Park for cycling,” Burns said. “This city is going to be lit up over the next eight days. There isn’t anywhere you’re going to be able to turn and not see a banner or sign or sport competition or the competitors throughout the city enjoying themselves.”

He said the closing ceremony and almost every ticketed sporting competition has sold out.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Michael Burns, Invictus Games Toronto chief executive officer, speaks during the 2017 Invictus Games opening ceremony in Toronto, Canada Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom.

“Over the next eight days, you will be moved; you will be inspired. You will be entertained. You will see things on the playing field you have never seen before,” he said. “These games aren’t about the finish line. These games are all about making it to the starting line. The men and women who will be competing in these games — talk to any one of them — they’ll tell you that they have been injured as a result of their service. Any one of them has been tested many, many times by faith throughout their careers, and yet they remain undefeated, undiminished, proudly and distinctly unconquered.”

Words of Encouragement

First Lady Melania Trump met with the US team before the ceremony.

“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” she said to the roughly 100 athletes. “I want to wish you good luck, though I know you won’t need it in these games. Take that fighting spirit that I know you have and bring home the gold.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
First Lady Melania Trump holds a T-shirt in support the United States competitors surrounding her before the opening ceremony for the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered encouragement to the Invictus Games athletes. “You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win,” he said. “Through your athleticism, through your drive and your competitive spirit, you are showing the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength.”

Actor Mike Myers, Invictus Games 2017 ambassador, said he supports the Invictus Games because they provide the adaptive athletes the ability for rehabilitation, personal achievement and recovery through the power of sports.

“I come from a military family,” he said. “My mother, who passed away in March, was in the Royal Air Force. She’s one of those ladies you see in World War II movies. She would move the fighters toward the incoming Luftwaffe bandits — that’s what my mom would do.

“My father was a royal engineer in the British army and built bridges, cleared minefields,” he continued. “He often recited the unofficial motto of the Royal Engineers: ‘We do the impossible immediately. Miracles take a little longer.’ Mostly, my father spoke about the unbreakable brotherhood of those who served. He remembered the name of every single British soldier he served with, and for every name, [he had] a hilarious story.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Television and movie personality Mike Myers reacts emotionally during a news conference associated with the opening of the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 23, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Myers said he’s grateful for those who have and continue to serve.

“Those that serve our country deserve our utmost respect, and all the [veterans] in the Invictus Games have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude from the bottom of my heart,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Thank you very much. What I do for a living is silly, and without brave people who keep us safe, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The Invictus competitors represent the very best of the human spirit, and I know my mother and father would have wanted me to support that spirit, the competitors and the thousands of wounded warriors around the world. I want to thank all the competitors in the Invictus Games, all of the soldiers currently serving and all of the family members and caregivers. The caregivers are the unsung heroes of service to this country and to all countries. Thank you for your service.”

Helping in Recovery

Harry said he created Invictus to help veterans in their recovery. “In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic,” he said, “I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light and show us all that we have a role to play, that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbors and communities. That’s why we created Invictus — not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
US Marine Lance Corporal retired Sarah Rudder competes in the Invictus Games 200 meter dash event at York Lions Stadium (YOR), Toronto, Canada, Sept. 24, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Luksan.

As the prince closed the ceremony, he spoke directly to the competitors. “For the next week, we entrust you with the Invictus spirit. You have all come such a long way,” he said. “Some of you have cheated death and have come back stronger than before. Some of you have overcome emotional challenges that, until very recent years, would have seen you written off and ignored. And now you are here, on the world stage, flags on your chest, representing your countries again, supporting your teammates, and looking up into these stands and into the eyes of your families and friends.

“You are all winners,” Harry said to the competitors. “Please don’t forget to love every second of it. Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support and don’t forget you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let’s get started.”

Military Life

10 career fields for military spouses that aren’t direct sales

As a military spouse, it can feel overwhelming to try to have a career of your own, and even then, its tough to find one you want that meshes well with the military lifestyle.


Recently I came across an article We Are The Mighty syndicated a few years ago: The 10 coolest jobs for military spouses. The list was filled with things like “be a babysitter!” and “be a dog groomer!” among other things.

I understood the premise behind the article: careers that are mobile. But overall, it was a list of starter jobs that — when you’re in your mid 30s and trying to have a serious career — don’t exactly scream “I am a professional!”

Adulting is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re constantly moving, constantly having to search for a new job, and constantly juggling the responsibilities of parenthood and spousehood and…you get the point.

This made me wonder if typical spouses generally just settle into jobs like babysitting and dog grooming and selling mascara, so I went to a group of military spouses who’ve managed to have successful careers and successful marriages, and I asked them to tell me what they do.

The following careers are all careers that current and former Military Spouses of the Year have, and it just goes to show that being a military spouse does not have to mean you’re doomed to sell makeup or babysit for the rest of your service member’s career (that is, if you don’t want to).

*Note: there isn’t anything wrong with direct sales. In fact, I’ve done direct sales, and a lot of spouses do, because it is extremely mobile. The purpose of this list is to think outside of the “military spouse” box.

Entrepreneur:

  • Brittany Boccher owns an apparel company called Mason Chix
  • Lakesha Cole owns a brick and mortar children’s boutique called SheSwank in Jacksonville, NC
  • Valerie Billau founded a kids consignment shop, which she sold after three years when her husband took orders elsewhere
  • Melissa Nauss owns Stars and Stripes Doulas

Sports:

  • Andrea Barreiro is an agent for professional athletes.
  • Heather Smith is a tennis coach.
  • Ellie OB coached college basketball for 12 years

Physical and Mental Health care:

  • Lisa Uzzle is the director of healthcare operations at a medical facility
  • Melissa Nauss is a certified doula
  • Alexandra Eva is a nurse practitioner who hosts clinics in rural areas of third world countries that don’t have much access to medical care. She has worked in Uganda, South Sudan, DRC, and Mozambique, among others
  • Paula Barrette is a licensed optometrist, though due to the difference in each state’s current licensing laws, she often finds herself volunteering as an optometrist at military clinics rather than getting paid
  • Dr. Ingred Herrera-Yee is a clinical psychologist for the Department of Defense, and the founder of a network for military spouses in the mental health field
  • Amber Rose Odom works as an administrator in a dental office
  • Michelle Lemieux is a registered nurse for adolescent psychiatry
  • Zinnia Narvaez is a medical assistant, and practices OB/GYN at a community health center
  • Stephanie Geraghty became a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) in order to provide better care for her son, who has special needs. In some states, the state will pay for up to a certain number of hours per day of in home nursing care, and in Geraghty’s state, immediate family members qualify to provide the care. Geraghty put herself through the schooling and passed the board, and now officially works for her son

Executive:

  • Anna Blanch Rabe is the CEO of a communications company that specializes in service non-profit organizations with high quality communications content, strategic planning, and business advice. She started her professional career as an attorney, but current licensing issues prevent her from practicing in most states her service member gets orders to
  • Erica McMannes is the CEO of an outsourcing and virtual staffing agency for military spouses
  • Amy Hanson is the executive assistant to the Vice President of a “billion dollar company”
  • Lisa Wantuck is the Director of National Sales for an IT staffing company
  • Elizabeth Groover is an executive management specialist for a chemical and biological firm

Non-Profit:

  • Kori Yates and Cassandra Bratcher founded non-profit organizations that involve military spouses
  • Maria Mola is the development director for a non-profit that focuses on providing 24 month transitional housing for homeless veterans and families and formerly incarcerated veterans
  • Erin Ensley, along with her daughter, make and send teddy bears for the Epilepsy Foundation
  • Amy Scick is the Director of Community Relations for a non-profit that focuses on military spouse employment
  • Leslie Brians is a graphic designer and creative director for a military spouse focuses non-profit
  • Mindy Patterson works with an agency that is addressing the need for assisted living for people who don’t qualify for it through other various government programs

Cyber:

  • Jessica Del Pizzo is an account manager for a cyber security firm
  • Alex Brown works in cybersecurity, and notes that analysts, remote support, network security design, consultants, and even administrative database managers are excellent remote positions, and with the need for cybersecurity specialists, most places are willing to work with remote employees

Education and child focused:

  • Jennifer Delacruz is a special education teacher, who also writes children’s books about special education
  • Elizabeth Lowe is a personal in home one-to-one therapy caregiver to a child with severe special needs
  • Brittany Raines is in foster parenting licensing
  • Rebekah Speck is a “parent navigator” for a state run program that provides families of disabled children with an advocate to help them address things like IEPs, etc
  • Courtney Lynn is a 3rd grade teacher

Administrative:

  • Christina Laycock is an accountant
  • Stacy Faris is a business administrator
  • Grace Sanchez is a bookkeeper
  • Kelli Kraehmer is an account manager for a large wireless company
  • Kennita Williams is a legal aid for a DoD Staff Judge Advocate
  • Ashley Ella is an agricultural appraiser
  • Hannah Weatherford is a braille transcriptionist

Independent Consulting and Freelance:

  • Loree Bee is a life coach
  • April Alan is a freelance writer and independent blogger
  • Susan Reynolds insists her official title is “badass”. She is an advocate, a freelance writer, and the hostess of SpouseSpouts
  • Tara Glenn is a freelance writer when she’s not working for the Navy

Others:

  • Tesha Jackson and her children paint, sew, crochet, and knit — among other things — and they sell those projects through Jackson’s website
  • Ann Woyma is a veterinarian
  • Kelly Stillwagon is a paranormal investigator, and when she and her husband are stateside, they run classes on how to become investigators
  • Brian Alvarado is a real estate executive, and the Vice President of Marketing for a real estate brokerage in San Diego
  • Hope Griffin is a pastor, and an author of Christian books
  • Vivian Vralstad is a medical writer for a pharmaceutical company, but she began her STEM career as a neuroscientist
Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of July 22nd

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


Air Force:

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing lowers its landing gears in preparation for landing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 21, 2017. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack during combat operations.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney

Four F-18 Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, fly over Klamath Falls returing to Kingsley Field after a morning of air-to-air combat training with a variety of other fighter jets from around the country during Sentry Eagle 2017. Sentry Eagle is an air-to-air combat exercise bringing a variety of different fighter jets from around the country to train and work together. This year’s line-up includes the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcons, F-18 Hornets, and the F-35 Lighting. Along with the training exercise the 173rd Fighter Wing is hosting a free open house for the public with static displays and other events on Saturday the 21st.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Van Mourik

Army:

Illuminating projectiles, each weighing close to 100 pounds, are staged by Pfc. Juan Valenzuela and others from the California Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment July 21 at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. About 1,500 of these and similar rounds were to be expended by the end of the 144th’s annual training.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Army National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza

U.S. Soldiers, assigned to the 1-26 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), participate in a simulated force on force exercise during the Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 17.2 at Fort Bliss, Tx, July 20, 2017.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Courtesy Photo

Navy:

Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Sean Martin heaves a line around with the First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Levingston Lewis

The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) prepares to moor at Broadway Pier to provide public tours July 22-23. Giffords is the newest Independence variant littoral combat ship and one of seven LCSs homeported in San Diego.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Phil Ladouceur

Marine Corps:

A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Platoon 3052, Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, holds a M16A4 rifle during a final drill evaluation at Peatross parade deck on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., July 19, 2017. The recruits are scored for final drill according to execution of movements, confidence, attention to detail, and discipline.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Colby Cooper

U.S. Marines load into a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to be transported onto the USS Somerset (LPD 25) as part of UNITAS 2017 in Ancon, Peru, July 19, 2017.UNITAS is an annual, multi-national exercise that focuses on strengthening existing regional partnerships and encourages establishing new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise during multinational training operations.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Mesa

Coast Guard:

A U.S. Coast Guardsman jumps into Lake Goodrich during a water survival demonstration at the 2017 National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glenn Jean, W.Va. July 21, 2017. More than 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors are expected to attend the 2017 National Jamboree. Approximately 1,400 military members from the Department of Defense and the US Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter aircrew conducts maintenance on a MH-60 windshield at Forward Operating Location Kotzebue, July 20, 2017. FOL Kotzebue houses two MH-60 helicopters and their aircrews in support of Operation Arctic Shield.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Brian Dykens

 

Military Life

The ultra-rare Marine Corps uniform accessory you may never see

From the point of view of an airman who (in the right town) could be mistaken for a Coastie while wearing my dress blues, I have to say: Marine Dress uniforms have no equal. I totally get why people join the Marines just for the dress blues.


After a few years in the military and a few years in military-oriented media, I thought I had seen every uniform there was. That’s when I saw this guy:

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Why is this Marine dressed like a magician?

This was surprising to me because I continually make fun of the movie Basic for depicting Samuel L. Jackson’s Army character wearing a cape. But I wasn’t the only one who was perplexed by this. In 2016, a Quora user asked Marines what that cape was.

For those not in the know, the Marines in the top photo are “pretty much wearing the same mess dress uniform” and the cape is a somewhat antiquated, but still on the books, accessory: the Boat Cloak.

Boat Cloaks are a made-to-order item that can cost upward of $1,000 at the NEX/MCX. One former Master Gunnery Sergeant recalled seeing one worn by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 at a Marine Corps ball. The Master Guns described the look as “magnificent.”

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Army capes: not magnificent. Also, not a thing.

It’s difficult to find exact regulations for the Boat Cloak, but it looks like there are different versions for the Senior NCOs and Officers. As of 1937, it was still a required item for officers.

Get your Boat Cloak at the Marine Shop for $650.00. If you wear one to any mess dress-level function, please send photos to We Are The Mighty.

Articles

These athletes are gearing up for the Warrior Games

Sergeant Ryan Major’s life changed forever in a flash and a bang in November 2006.


While deployed in Iraq, the infantry soldier from Baltimore stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs and several fingers on both hands.

Major, now retired, was one of about 70 wounded soldiers and veterans from across the Army who gathered at Fort Bliss the first week of April to compete in the Army Trials.

The event, which was held at Fort Bliss for the third straight year, is used to determine the Army’s team at the upcoming Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event for wounded, injured and ill service members of all branches. This year, the Warrior Games will be held in Chicago June 30 to July 8.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
Army Trials for 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (Dept. of Defense News photo by EJ Hersom)

Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.

“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.

Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.

“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.

Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.

During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.

They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.

Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games Bicycling. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom)

Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.

Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.

“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”

Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.

Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.

Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.

“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”

Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.

He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.

Also read: Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

Retired Staff Sgt. Isaac Rios was shot multiple times and was hit by a mortar round during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many veterans, leaving the service and going back to civilian life is a culture shock and even downright scary, Rios said.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Warrior Games. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

Sports, however, helped to give him a new way of looking at life, said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native who represented Fort Bragg, N.C.

“You can’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Rios said.

Sgt. 1st Class Julio Cesar Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass, battles depression and an arthritic hip.

Participating in sports, like archery, gives you something to do and something else to focus on besides the darkness clouding your mind, said Rodriguez, who represented Fort Gordon, Ga.

“It taught me to remove those negative, dark items out of my mind and focus on the present and my way forward in the future,” he said.
Military Life

Why airmen call Chief Master Sergeant Wright ‘Enlisted Jesus’

Kaleth Wright is the incumbent Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He is the 18th CMSAF and only the second person of color to hold the rank. In the 27 years preceding his appointment, Chief Master Sgt. Wright (obviously) lead an illustrious career. But in late November of 2016, something miraculous happened.

One day, in a manger, a legend was born. It was nearly Thanksgiving in the cold, far-away land of the District of Columbia when the story of the man who come to be known as “Enlisted Jesus” first took root. On the following Valentine’s Day, Chief Master Sgt. Wright took the helm and, almost instantly, began to rain down blessings upon the world’s greatest airpower.

There are countless reasons airmen shower Enlisted Jesus in praise, but here are three very real, very specific justifications for his quickly-spreading moniker.


The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome

Come o’ ye little children

Enlisted Professional Military Education overhaul

Rumor has it that one of the first items on the agenda of Enlisted Jesus was to free up the time and energy of his airmen so that they could better serve this great nation. His first, well-known, crack at freeing up that time? EPME 21.

The new system did not get rid of the requirement, but it did get rid of the Time-in-Service bit that automatically signed up service members according to how long they’ve been in uniform, regardless of rank, and too often stripped them of the chance to attend EPME courses in-resident.

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Have you heard of his goodness?

(Air Force Nation)

EPR? Not for E-3 and below!

One of the most dreaded moments in many an airman’s career is Enlisted Performance Review time! Even if you’ve been blessed with a sharp supervisor and have recorded all of your accomplishments meticulously, it’s still going to give you a spike in cortisol. They get easier to do as time goes along, but those first few can be downright scary.

For the supervisor — especially the young supervisor — this time is a fiery trial of skill and fortitude. You have your supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who’s getting sh*t from the 1st Sgt, up your ass to get this done on time, even if you’re early.

Now put together a new supervisor and a green troop. What does this combination yield come EPR? A stressed out, ineffective set of airmen.

Enlisted Jesus decided to kill that noise by removing the requirement for anyone who is promotion-eligible.

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But first, let us take a selfie

(Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force’s Instagram)

OCPs

No, Enlisted Jesus likely didn’t make the call to bring the OCP and move away from that sage grey, tiger stripe getup so many of us loathe. Hell, he probably didn’t even have too much of say in that decision at all.

He has, however, been very vocal in support of them and is largely seen as the face and force behind them finally becoming the official duty uniform of the Air Force.

Articles

This SEAL was shot 27 times before walking himself to the medevac

Deploying to a war zone is a risky proposition, even for the most highly trained commandos like SEALs. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, retired Senior Chief Mike Day and his team set out on the crucial mission to locate a high-level al Qaeda terrorist cell in Anbar province.


Related: This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

While running point on the raid, Day was the first to enter a small room defended by three terrorists who opened fire.

Related video:

He managed to take one of them down as he started taking rounds himself. He kept firing, and dropped another terrorist who detonated a grenade as he went down.

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Dazed and confused, the skilled operator switched to his sidearm and started re-engaging the insurgents, killing the rest. Day had been shot a total 27 times, 16 found his legs, arms, and abdomen. The last 11 lodged into his body armor.

Nevertheless, Day remained in the fight and cleared the rest of the house before walking himself to the medevac helicopter located close by.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
“I was shot both legs, both arms, my abdomen. I mean you throw a finger on me, anything but my head I got shot there” — Day stated. (Source: CBN News/ Screenshot)

Day lost 55 pounds during his two weeks in the hospital, and it eventually took him about two years to recover from his wounds.

After serving in the Navy for over 20 years, Day now serves as a wounded warrior advocate for the special operations community.

Military Life

6 tips to get you ready for your next tattoo

Service members and veterans of all ages love to document their military experiences and life milestones through tattoos. It’s a solid way to remember all the cool things you did while wearing the uniform.

For many, the art of the tattoo is the perfect balance between self-expression and reflection, but some people don’t have the greatest experience when they sit in the artist’s chair for one reason or another. We’ve got a few tips to make sure you’re a happy camper as you walk out of that next long ink session.


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Hold off on the alcohol

It’s no secret that veterans and active duty personnel like to enjoy alcoholic beverages from time to time. But it’s simply not a good idea to hit the bars prior to getting a tattoo — and not just because it’ll cloud your judgement. Alcohol is an anti-coagulant. If you’ve had too much, the tattoo artist is going to have to contend with you bleeding everywhere as they try to precisely settle ink into the skin.

So, consider getting a drink to celebrate your new tattoo — after it’s done.

Get a good night’s rest

Depending on the size and complexity, tattoos can take hours to complete. Not only that, but you may be sitting or laying in an uncomfortable position as the artist does their work. This can cause certain body parts to fatigue quickly, which is only made worse if you’re not well rested — both mentally and physically.

Get a solid night of sleep. Your tattoo artist will thank you afterward for not continually flopping around trying to get comfy.

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Eat some carbs

Like we said earlier, the tattoo process can take some time to complete and it puts a level of stress on your body. The person getting tattooed will lose some blood and, if it’s your first time, there’s a small chance you might pass out during the session.

The majority of tattoo artists recommend that you scarf down a good amount of carbohydrates to help give your body the energy it needs to withstand the tattooing process.

Take a shower

Most people find it aggravating to stand next to a smelly person while in line at the grocery store. Now, imagine how a tattoo artist feels when they have spend hours inking a stinky someone. Do yourself a favor and clean up before getting tatted up.

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Stay away from putting on lotions

Some people like to rub lotion onto their skin after a shower to help moisturize. Usually, that’s a great idea. Moist, well-kept skin is easiest to work with, but you should avoid applying that lotion on the day you’re scheduled for new ink. The slick surface may interfere with the tattoo machine.

Wear loose clothing

If you don’t want to remove your shirt or pants in order to expose the body part you want to get tattooed, then consider wearing baggy clothing. You don’t want anything to interfere with the tattoo process — and you also don’t want to have to hold your sleeve or pant leg for hours on end.

Lists

5 leadership skills all service members should learn

From a troop’s first day in the military to their last, they’ll pick up various leadership traits that will (hopefully) propel them into a positive, productive future. Although most of us won’t ever know what it’s like to lead a whole platoon or battalion, we’re often thrown into temporary leadership roles as we take boots under our wings, showing them how sh*t gets done while fostering a level of respect.

Leadership can be taught during training, but it’s not truly understood until you’re in the field. The following skills are the cornerstones of leadership.


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Refrain from micro-managing

We’ve all experienced first-hand how infuriating it is when someone constantly feels the need to put in their two cents — just because they can. Many young leaders, eager to meaningfully contribute, will feel compelled to change something to their liking, even if it won’t help better complete the mission at hand.

It’s an important to know when you should back away.

Show one, do one, teach one

It’s up to the military’s leaders to impart their knowledge onto junior troops. As essential part of the military is training troops to win battles. When a troop doesn’t know how to pass a certain test, it’s up to their leader to teach them.

The winning strategy here is, “show one, do one, teach one.” The leader will first show a troop how to do something, that troop will then do it for themselves, and then, finally, that troop will go teach another how to complete the task.

They say that teaching is the best way to learn — this method benefits both a leader and his troops.

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Lead from the front

All too often, we see orders get passed down by people who wouldn’t dare complete the task themselves. These so-called leaders tell you, “good luck,” and then show up in the end to take all the credit.

Don’t do this. Instead, lead from the front. Help with the dangerous missions you helped plan.

Know your team’s strength and weakness

When you walk onto the battlefield, either literally or metaphorically, it’s important to know what each individual in the team is best at in the event something pops off. We’ve encountered leaders who don’t know elbows from as*holes when it comes to their squad.

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Individual success is a team accomplishment

We’d all like to be appreciated for our hard work, but victories are rarely due to a single act. Recognize that the military is a team environment. Each member plays an important role in achieving victory. Taking all the credit for a group’s hard work only makes you look dumb.

Articles

This Marine better watch his footing in the new thriller ‘Mine’

After an assassination gone wrong, a Marine sniper, played by Armie Hammer, is stranded in a dry oasis after stepping on one of at least 33 million mines that occupy the desert region.


In this psychological thriller, Mike will have to battle himself, his enemies, and all the dangerous elements of his environment without lifting a foot until help arrives — 52 hours away.

Mine blasts its way into theaters and On Demand April 2017.

Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of December 16th

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


Air Force:

Firefighters begin creating fire lines to combat the wildfire in Custer State Park, S.D., Dec. 13, 2017. Ellsworth Airmen worked with more than 330 firefighters from four surrounding states to combat the wildfire covering 55 square miles of the park.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

U.S. Air Force Airmen sit on the back of a C-130 cargo aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2017, Dec. 15, 2017, at Mariloa Atoll, Chuuk. Over the course of 12 days, crews will airdrop donated food, supplies, educational materials, and tools to 56 islanders throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis)

Army:

Pfc. Brandon DeFlippo, a Rolla, Mo. native and a tank systems maintainer with 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, performs maintenance on a Bradley fighting vehicle during training in Adazi, Latvia Dec. 9, 2017.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Regiment Cavalry bound forward and find cover behind a berm as support fire is being provided by another team during a live fire exercise at the Guadnek training range in Orzysz, Poland, Dec. 14, 2017. These Soldiers are a part of the unique, multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.

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(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Navy:

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Key West (SSN 722) returns to its homeport of Guam following a four-month forward-operating period in the Western Pacific. Key West is one of four forward-deployed submarines homeported in Apra Harbor, Guam.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist Submarines Seaman Jonathan Perez)

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the Atlantic Ocean at night. Ford is underway conducting test and evaluation operations.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard)

Marine Corps:

Gunny Claus poses with children after the 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV) holiday concert at the base theater, on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 9, 2017. The program included a variety of traditional and modern Christmas and holiday music performed by the full concert band, jazz ensemble, party band, and soloists.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

U.S. Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, observe a beach after a simulated amphibious breach in support of exercise Steel Knight 2018 at San Clemente Island, Calif., Dec. 9, 2017. Steel Knight is a 1st Marine Division led exercise enabling Marines and Sailors to operate in a realistic environment developing necessary skill sets to maintain a fully capable Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Rhita Daniel)

Coast Guard:

Members of the Hurricane Maria ESF-10 Puerto Rico response examine a vessel wrecked by Hurricane Maria, Fajardo Puerto Rico, Dec. 13, 2017. The ESF-10 is offering no-cost options for removing vessels stranded by Hurricane Maria; affected boat owners are asked to call the Vessel Owner Outreach Hotline at (786) 521-3900.

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

A Coast Guard boat crew aboard the Triumph II, a 52-foot Motor Life Boat from Coast Guard Cape Disappointment, conducting a tow off the Pacific Northwest coast, Dec. 10, 2017. The Triumph II is one of only four 52-MLBs in the Coast Guard and is specially designed for the deep water bars of the Pacific Northwest.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it’s awesome
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Fishler

Articles

10 things that will change the way you look at grunt officers




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Grunt officers get a bad wrap when they arrive to their first unit. Like any newbie, “Butter Bars” — military slang for 2nd Lieutenants — have to earn the respect of their men despite their rank.

Related: These legendary military officers were brilliant (and certainly crazy)

But it doesn’t stop there, there’s added pressure from the other officers higher in the chain. When Chase Millsap a veteran officer of both the Army and Marine Corps infantry got to his first unit, he received a warning call from the other Os.

 

“There wasn’t even like a welcome to the unit,” said Millsap. “It was like, ‘you are a liability, you are going to screw this up for the rest of us. If you think you have a question, don’t ask it.’ ”

 

It was a well timed warning and every new officer needs that grounding advice. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure coming out of the infantry officers course and these guys are ready to fight — “they are gung-ho,” according to Millsap.

 

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast Tim and I ask Millsap everything we ever wanted to know about Grunt officers.
Here are 10 questions we asked:
  1. How do you get into the Naval Academy? How do you get your congressman to vouch for you?
  2. What are some popular tattoos with grunt officers? Do you guys also get moto tattoos?
  3. What kinds of nicknames do officers give each other?
  4. Do experienced officers mess with new officers? Do you haze each other? Spill the dirt.
  5. How did you know when you’ve earned the respect from the men you lead?
  6. Do officers make stupid purchases after deployment?
  7. What is it with officers and safety briefs?
  8. Do officers get extra attention from the enlisted troops at the base gate?
  9. Do officers rely on the intelligence of the Lance Corporal Underground — the E4 Mafia?
  10. What’s the Lieutenant Protection Association (LPA)? Is that like the officer version of the E4 Mafia?

Hosted by:

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

  • Twitter: @tkirk35

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

  • Twitter/Instagram: @orvelinvalle

Guest:

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

  • Twitter/Instagram: @cmillsap05

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Goal Line
  • Heavy Drivers
Military Life

The pros and cons of being a military spouse

The title of “Military Spouse” is a descriptor that those married to service members wear proudly — and with good reason. There is a sense of pride in being married to someone who has dedicated their life and career to defending our great nation.


Military life affects the entire family to varying degrees and finding others who can relate to what you are going through is important. So, it makes sense to identify as a “Military Spouse” and be an active part of that community.

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We’re a family and it’s beautiful. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Calvin Shamoon)

But is there a downside?

Maybe.

My husband recently retired from the military after 20 years in the Marine Corps. We were ready for this transition. We knew exactly where we wanted to retire, we had friends and family in the area, and, having already lived in the location in the past, we had a few roots already planted.

I was a very active part of the military-spouse community and, over time, I became very well-versed in making friends and adapting to living in certain areas for only a few years at a time. Even today, we still find ourselves gravitating towards military families when it comes to social gatherings.

But 18 months into this “retirement” phase of our lives together, I am feeling a little bit lost.

It’s not that I’m getting the itch to move — I have jokingly told my husband that I just want to be buried in the backyard because I am not moving again. But I do feel a loss of identity when it comes to friendships.

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No one gets the military community like the military-spouse community. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. John Healy)

Making friends with folks who have lived in one area their entire lives is a bit challenging. It’s not because they’re not open to being friends with a newcomer, it’s because I find myself so far out of my comfort zone. The zone where, no matter what, another military spouse and I instantly had at least one thing in common upon first meeting. So I struggle to create long-lasting, meaningful friendships (that are so valuable to my mental health) in a community of people who have been around each other their entire adult lives.

Was there something I wish I had done differently while my husband was on active duty? I’m not sure. I don’t regret the many incredible, life-long friends I made, even if they are spread out across the world. I don’t regret being active in the military-spouse community because I learned so much and grew as a person.

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Military spouses of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 visit local children at the Life is Beautiful Daycare Center in Ishikawa, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonah Baase)

But I do wish that I had spent more time making connections with those outside of the community. I had “civilian family” friends, sure, but it feels like a life skill I could have spent more time honing.

Just like active duty service, transition out of military service impacts the entire family. There are many aspects of the transition to be considered, but one that I really wish I had realized was being careful of putting so much stock in my identity as a military spouse, especially when it comes to the friends I made.

I don’t wish that I had spent less time with military friends, I don’t wish that I had shied away from participating in the community, but I do wish I had spent more time thinking of life after my husband’s military service in regards to my own identity.

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