How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit - We Are The Mighty
Podcast

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with Army veteran, national speaker, and acclaimed author of the 2017 Independent Publishing Award-winning book The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11Marjorie K. Eastman.

Eastman is also an accomplished executive and operational professional with over 20-years experience in leading people and various organizations.

Her award-winning book began as a personal memoir for her son. Eastman’s goal was to capture the lessons and inspirations she learned serving beside men and women who represent the very best of what it means to be American — the 1% of the population in the military.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11. (Source: marjoriekeastman.com)

She respectfully identifies this group as the Frontline Generation and notes that it is an untapped reservoir of leaders who have been strengthened by their Post 9/11 service.

Christmas Lights All Year

“Can someone please tell me why in the hell this big-ass box is still cluttering the entryway to the CP?”

It was early in the morning, and I was standing in the front part of my company’s command post (CP), staring at a box that was just over six feet tall (a height I can quickly surmise since I am six feet tall). This designated area was meant for my soldiers, as it was an “orderly mess” of numerous bins, all of which were overflowing with freebies from countless care packages. At any hour of the day, soldiers could stop by and grab extra soap, snacks, toothbrushes—you name it. While deployed, my unit received an abundance of care packages that were crammed with just about anything and everything—and the CP was beginning to be littered with boxes, especially since we were approaching the month of December.

It was Sergeant Marco Vasquez who popped his head over his computer, my quiet, stellar NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) sergeant who was also my driver on several convoys. He probably was swearing underneath his breath that he was the unlucky one, the only person in the office to answer my cranky question. My headquarters team caught on quickly that I was the most unpleasant after my morning beatings from Battalion, where I had to give my company’s daily battlefield update briefs, and on top of that, I was currently embroiled in an unnecessary battle over my company’s combat patch ceremony.

“Yes, ma’am. I think First Sergeant said it was a care package that was simply addressed to HHC.” Top walked into the CP at that moment, a to-go breakfast plate in hand, not missing a beat. “Good morning, ma’am. Yes, we still need to open it and see if we can identify the individual it belongs to, or if it is just a care package meant for the company.”

I instantly had a flashback of those damn duffels and tough boxes that were left at the reserve center back in Texas—for years! To put it lightly, I was annoyed that it had already sat there for several days. So I grabbed the box, which was leaning against the wall, and I laid it on the ground. With one quick slice along the taped seam from my Benchmade knife, the smell of a fresh evergreen tree burst from the box and engulfed the room.

“What in the hell?” I wondered out loud. With Top and Sergeant Vasquez peering over my shoulder, I unwrapped a live, six-foot-tall Douglas fir Christmas tree. The more and more I breathed in that glorious smell—an absolutely foreign fragrance on Bagram Airfield—I was overcome with joy and peace. I turned around to see that this tree was also having the same effect on Top and Vasquez—both had sloppy grins ear-to-ear.

Once we stood it up, and began to loosen the boughs, a card dropped to the floor. I picked it up, and read, “To the Soldiers of HHC, enjoy this reminder of home during the Christmas season. Take care, (signed) Charles Eastman.” My husband had sent the live Christmas tree, the piece of home, and gifted it to my soldiers. He was wise enough to include a tree stand, tree skirt, and numerous strings of Christmas lights.

Charles knew all too well what it felt like to be deployed over the holidays, considering he had spent the past two Christmases in Iraq. This was our third consecutive Christmas in which one of us was serving in combat; outside of our family and close friends, not many people knew this. Thus, his gesture meant so much more . . .

To read more, you can purchase a copy of The Frontline Generation online at Amazon, Barnes Noble, or signed and personalized copies available at www.thefrontlinegeneration.com.

Related: How the US Air Force tricked CSAF McPeak into staying in the military

In this episode, we talk on a wide range of topics, including:

  • [2:00] The reason why this acclaimed author decided to join the military.
  • [7:25] Eastman explains how she received her direct Army officer commissioning.
  • [11:50] What gave Eastman the motivation to move forward and write her now acclaimed book.
  • [16:10] The story behind why Eastman smiled at a drill sergeant during boot camp
  • [20:30] What helps define a strong female presence in a leadership position.
  • [25:00] What veteran stories Eastman loves to tell during her public speaking events.
  • [31:15] The complete explain behind the story “Yes, man. No, man.”

To continue following Eastman’s public appearances and other work, be sure check out her website: marjoriekeastman.com

Also Read: These veterans may be the future of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

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

Podcast

This is how the US will respond when World War III erupts


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With the conflicts in the Middle East and America’s tumultuous relationships with Russia and China, it’s not hard to imagine the final chapter in the World War trilogy. While fighting a conflict on the World War scale won’t be fun, there’s sure to be plenty of fireworks. Luckily, America and NATO-affiliated countries have prepared for such a scenario.

In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast, we discuss which American forces will be the first on the scene when World War III erupts.

Related: If the modern American military conducted the 1944 D-Day landings

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

Music licensed by Jingle Punks:

  • Let’s Get Saxy
  • Goal Line
  • Method

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit

Podcast

The best qualities about veteran entrepreneurs that investors love


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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks once again with fellow veterans Mike Lui and Buck Jordan from RMR Laboratories, an over-the-counter cannabis pharmaceutical company about the best qualities investors love in veteran entrepreneurs.

RMR Laboratories produces cannabinoid oil that’s applied as a topical cream to relieve pain and other medical ailments.

Due to our unique military experiences, veterans have so much more to offer the world than they’re given credit for, and those traits are closely examined by potential investors.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit

Related: How post-9/11 vets are bringing new life to the American Legion

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [1:55] Mike’s unique career path from college, through the military, and into the cannabinoid industry.
  • [4:13] Buck tells us how about his military service and what businesses he’s helped build from the ground up.
  • [7:03] We get a solid explanation of what the business term “quick exit” means and how we can get in front of other venture capitalists for investments.
  • [9:25] They answer the tough question: How do you know if you are ready for a VC?
  • [12:30] How being deployed helped Mike’s business sense flourish.
  • [16:10] What key aspects investors look for in startup companies.
  • [18:25] What factors the military instills in veterans that potential investors highly respect.
  • [20:00] The different types of investors you should know about.
  • [24:14] What projects/ideas VCs are interested in investing into
  • [29:00] What traits and characteristics veterans have that investors love the most.

Also Read: These are the best military movies by service branch

For more information about RMR Laboratories and/or investment opportunities click here.

Mike served in the Army for eight years and deployed to Iraq, where he led teams that helped rebuild the country by setting up its first democratic elections.

Buck served also served in the Army, but as an officer and Black Hawk pilot. After exiting from his military service, he began working as a venture capitalist and now is an RMR Laboratory investor.

Hosted By:

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
Podcast

These are the Hollywood actors who train our troops for combat


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Role players are an essential element for troops preparing to travel overseas and face-off with the enemy. They provide a cultural boost by immersing troops in the violent world they’re about to deploy to.

They submerge themselves into training scenarios like mock firefights, ambushes, and suicide bombings — all for the benefit of troops heading to combat.

Some role players themselves are refugees turned Hollywood actors.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
A Marine subdues a role player while practicing search procedures.

Related: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake talks with Kelvin Garvanne about his life as an Arabic/Iraqi role player for U.S. ground troops heading into combat.

For the last nine years, Garvanne has provided Islamic culture and language training to military and civilian personnel deploying overseas.

“A role player is basically there to interact with the battalion’s training,” Garvanne explains. “There are different levels on how you can interact. We were all characterized as ‘meat puppets’ which were basically folks who were just there to do whatever was told of us to do. “

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
These role players have a friendly interaction with a U.S. Marine.

These mock firefights consist of loud gunfire (blanks), firework explosions and a Hollywood makeup team to create realistic blood and guts.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Cpl. Adam N. Meier, a role player, beaten and taken hostage during anti-terrorism training exercise. (Source II MEF)

Also Read: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

 

Guest: Kelvin Garvanne, Consultant Human Factor Analysis

Kelvin Garvanne attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He is an Emmy award creative artist who is fascinated by the world and enjoys investigating the context of national and world events.

Mr. Garvanne is a native New Yorker who has lived in Washington D.C., Bogota, Colombia, Madrid, Spain, and Los Angeles, CA. He has traveled through several countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Panama, Mexico, and Haiti. For the last nine years, he provided Islamic culture and Iraqi and Pashto language training to military and civilian personnel deploying overseas.

Mr. Garvanne continues to develop opportunities to advise and train military and civilians positioned in careers involving global service. He also develops creative projects to expose the human condition.

For more about Kelvin Garvanne:

Hosted By:

Podcast

How to stay fit and not get fat after you get out of the military


In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell on what veterans can do during their busy day to stay in shape — especially when going to morning PT isn’t an option.

“Veterans have a 70 percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public,” Jennifer Campbell says.

The reason for this statistic is due to the dramatic change in a veteran’s daily habit. The majority of the veteran community have been known to cease fire on their work out plans, which creates a negativity jolt the body’s system.

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [2:00] The daily regiment of a fitness instructor to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still staying “loose.”
  • [2:40] Information about “Merging Vets & Players,” the growing fitness organization that connects troops and professional athletes.
  • [4:50] Some positive traits of working out versus taking certain medications.
  • [6:20] What “Overtraining Syndrome” consists of and how to avoid it.
  • [10:00] How structured dieting and workouts are necessary for those looking to get into the fitness industry.
  • [11:40] How to properly test your genetic makeup.
  • [13:25] If you want to cheat on your diet — a.k.a. cheat days — here’s how to do it the right way.
  • [18:20] What you can learn about yourself from your genetic markers.
  • [19:20] Important tips how to stay in shape while working in an office space setting.
  • [23:20] Some dietary buzz words that freak everyone out.
  • [30:25] How we can stay looking young using our new health and fitness tools.
  • [34:45] What type of alcohol we should be drinking if you’re trying to stay in shape.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran

This episode originally ran in November 2017.

Podcast

That time Sen. Mitch McConnell was fooled by ‘Duffel Blog’

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You might think that, somewhere along the way, someone in the staff of a senior senator from Kentucky would have figured out what Duffel Blog really was. Instead, in 2012, a concerned constituent actually had the Senator’s office send a formal letter to the Pentagon concerning Duffel Blog’s report of the VA extending benefits to Guantanamo Bay detainees.


What Duffel Blog is, on its face, is a satirical news website that covers the military. At the very least, we all laugh. We laugh at the brave Airman who sent his steak back at the DFAC and the Army wife who re-enlisted her husband indefinitely using a general power of attorney. We laugh because the stories’ absurdities are grounded in the reality of military culture.

Duffel Blog and its writers are more than brilliant. What it does at its best is play the role of court jester – delivering hard truths hidden inside jokes. In the case of Senator McConnell’s office sending a letter of concern to the Pentagon over a Duffel Blog piece, the site was hammering the VA, equating using its services to punishing accused terrorists in one of the most notorious prisons in the world.

We laugh, but they’re talking about the VA we all use – and we laugh because there’s truth to the premise.

Paul Szoldra is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Duffel Blog, former Military and Defense Editor at Business Insider, and was instrumental in the creation of We Are The Mighty. He’s now a columnist at Task & Purpose.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Szoldra speaks the the Got Your 6 Storytellers event in Los Angeles, Calif.
(Television Academy)

Speaking truth to power is not difficult for Szoldra, even when the power he speaks to is one that is so revered by the American people that it’s nearly untouchable by most other media. We live in an age where criticizing politicians is the order of the day, but criticizing the military can be a career-ending endeavor. You don’t have to be a veteran to criticize military leadership, but it helps.

“If you go back on the timeline far enough, you’ll find a lot of bullsh*t,” Szoldra says, referring specifically to comments made by generals about the now 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. “And I have no problem calling it out, highlighting it where need be.”

Szoldra doesn’t like that the top leadership of the U.S. military exists in what he calls a “bubble” and can get away with a lot because of American support for its fighting men and women — those fighting the war on the ground. Szoldra, who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant in 2010, was one of those lower-enlisted who fought the war. When he writes, he writes from that perspective.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Szoldra as a Marine in Afghanistan
(Paul Szoldra)

“If we’re talking about sending troops into Syria… I wonder what does that feel like to the grunt on the ground,” Szoldra says. “I don’t really care too much about the general and how he’s going to deal with the strategy, I wonder about the 20-something lance corporal that I used to be trying to find IEDs with their feet.”

His work is thoughtful and, at times, intense, but always well-founded. Szoldra also does a semi-regular podcast with Terminal Lance creator, Max Uriarte, where they have honest discussion about similar topics. Those discussions often take more of a cultural turn and it feels more like you’re listening to Marine grunts wax on about the way things are changing – because that’s exactly what it is, with just as much honesty as you’d come to expect from Paul Szoldra and his ongoing body of work.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Szoldra and Max Uriarte record their podcast.
(After Action with Max and Paul)

If you liked Szoldra on the show, read his work on Task & Purpose, give After Action with Max and Paul a listen, and get the latest from Duffel Blog. If you aren’t interested in the latest and just want the greatest, pick up Mission Accomplished: The Very Best of Duffel Blog, Volume One at Amazon.

And for a (potentially) limited time, you can get the Duffel Blog party game “WTF, Over? The Duffel Box” by donating to the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

Resources Mentioned

3 Key Points

  • The very best of Duffel Blog
  • The times Duffel Blog articles were mistaken for real news
  • Duffel Blog’s new party game

Sponsors

  • Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Articles

This is how ‘Got Your Six’ works with movie makers to get it right


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The mission of Got Your Six is to normalize the depiction of veterans on film and television and dispel common myths about the veteran population. Together with partners in the entertainment industry, business, and politics, it casts a wide net of influence and social change.

In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast, Got Your Six executive director Bill Rausch and WATM’s Logan Nye discuss the depiction of veterans in mainstream entertainment.

Related: Here are the Got Your Six chief’s lessons from his first 100 days

Hosted by:

  • Logan Nye: Army veteran and associate editor
  • Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and podcast producer

Guest:

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Bill Rausch photo courtesy of Got Your Six.

Bill Rausch is a former Army Major with over 10 years of service, including 17 months in Iraq serving under Gen.s Casey and Petraeus while assigned to the Information Operations Task Force. Prior to joining GY6, Bill was Political Director at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America where he oversaw policy and advocacy campaigns.

More about Bill Rausch’s experience on his Got Your Six profile page.

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [01:30] Got Your Six’s mission.
  • [02:15] How and why Got Your Six got involved in the entertainment industry.
  • [03:15] How Got Your Six helps movie makers tell the veteran experience.
  • [07:40] How Got Your Six works with business and politics.
  • [10:40] What Got Your Six certified means in the entertainment industry.
  • [13:00] Why Got Your Six is less interested in military standards and more interested in telling the veteran experience.
  • [15:15] Why military families are just as important as the service member.
  • [19:50] What it’s like working with celebrities.
  • [21:20] How Melissa Fitzgerald helps veterans and military families.
  • [22:45] How combat veteran J.W. Cortes (best known for his recurring role in Gotham) is giving back to the veteran community.
  • [23:40] Upcoming Got Your Six projects.
  • [27:40] Bill Rausch’s favorite military transition movie: The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946.

Music licensed by Jingle Punks:

  • Drum March 90-JP
  • Heavy Drivers-JP
Articles

Catching up with triple amputee Bryan Anderson


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Bryan Anderson is an Iraq War veteran turned model, actor, motivational speaker, book author, and more. He achieved all of these noteworthy accomplishments while dealing with life as a triple amputee.

Bryan enlisted in the Army in early 2001 and shipped out to his duty station on September 11, 2001. He served two tours in Iraq as an MP (Military Police) Sergeant before being injured by an IED that resulted in the loss of both legs and his left hand. He was awarded a Purple Heart and spent over a year rehabilitating at Walter Reed Hospital.

Bryan’s story has received extensive media coverage including features in Esquire Magazine and articles in major publications, such as LA Times, New York Times, and Chicago Sun. He appeared in the HBO documentary, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq with the late James Gandolfini, CSI: NY, The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke, and American Sniper with Bradley Cooper.

As you’ll hear in this special edition of the WATM podcast, Bryan’s energy is contagious.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

• [00:00] Bryan Anderson website

• [02:05] Quantum Rehab

• [05:17] iLevel Power Chairs

• [07:25] Bryan Style

• [07:40] Bryan Anderson YouTube channel

• [11:15] This former SEAL Team 6 members is climbing Everest for vets

• [12:20] This Marine could be the first combat-wounded veteran to climb Everest

• [20:50] Watch these 5 vets admit what branch they’d pick if they joined again

• [22:10] Fort Hood is the black hole of the Army: The 7 funniest Yelp reviews for military bases

• [25:30] Bryan Anderson’s film career

• [31:50] Meeting Gary Sinise and working for his foundation

• [37:45] Gary Sinise Foundation 

• [40:20] Building houses for fellow vets with Gary Sinise

Music license by Jingle Punks

  • Looking In-JP
  • Heavy Drivers
Podcast

The wars that could break out in the next 4 years


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The incoming Commander-in-Chief has a full plate of foreign and domestic issues come January 20th. His or her first term is filled with potential flare-ups around the world. Some include the usual suspects, like Iran and Russia but also some newcomers.

In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast, our veteran hosts discuss the potential wars our next Commander-in-Chief will have to avoid or engage.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

Music licensed by Jingle Punks:

  • False Bitch-JP
  • Heavy Drivers-JP
Articles

5 military perks that will help you win at service life


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We did not join the military for the fabulous pay — if money were the only motivator, we’d all go somewhere else.

Related: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:

“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.

Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the slave who survived the Alamo

The attack on the Alamo in 1836 was not a 13-day siege and slaughter as often portrayed in film and television. Don’t get me wrong – the defenders of the mission-turned-fortress were killed en masse as Mexican troops stormed the structure. It’s just that not everyone inside the Alamo died that day.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Maybe standing in the open wearing the brightest clothes isn’t the best idea.

That’s how we came to know of Joe — just Joe, any other names he had are lost to history now. Joe was the slave of William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo during Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s siege of the Texian fort. But no one knows exactly how Joe got there. No matter how he ended up there, he was one of many slaves and free blacks who fought or died at the Alamo.

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Joe was a stalwart defender alongside Travis and other Texians. When the din of the fighting died down and the Mexicans firmly controlled the fort, Joe was shot and bayoneted, only to be saved by a Mexican field officer. Because Joe could speak Spanish, he was able to be interrogated afterward.


All that is known about Joe after the Alamo is that he was questioned by Santa Anna and then later questioned by the Texas Cabinet. A little more than a year later,
Joe escaped to Mexico on two stolen horses.

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
One supposed photo of Joe, the slave and survivor of the Alamo.

That’s where attorney-turned-author Lewis Cook picked up the story. His first book, called
Joe’s Alamo: Unsung, is a fiction-based-on-history account of what came next, after the Alamo, and after Joe escaped.

Cook was waiting to go to medical school when he discovered Joe’s story and was compelled to write about the Alamo. Cook discovered the Alamo was more than a bunch of white, male landowners fighting for Texas. The fort was full of women, minorities of many color, and followers of many religions. So, he set out to tell the story of the Alamo, a story that, he believes, belongs to all of us through the diversity of its defenders.

In his book, Cook tells a different story from what is commonly told in textbooks, film, and TV shows. It includes recently discovered facts about William Travis, Susana Dickinson, Davy Crockett, and Joe himself.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsor

Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

About Mandatory Fun

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Podcast

Combat poetry reveals what life is like on the Afghan front lines

Justin Eggen had some things stuck in his head for a long time during — but especially after — his two deployments to Afghanistan. These thoughts became poems and short stories that reflected his feelings and personal experience as a Marine in Marjah and in Afghanistan’s Sangin Valley. Like so many writing combat poetry, they are Eggen’s way of handling the overwhelming series of emotions from and memories of his time there.


In this episode of Mandatory Fun, We Are The Mighty’s Blake Stilwell talks to Justin Eggen on what it was like to write poetry as a Marine Corps combat veteran — and why every U.S. troop needs some creative outlet for thoughts and feelings like his.

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“When I was younger I wrote a bit of poetry,” Eggen says. “And I realized this is a good outlet for releasing a lot of pent up memories and aggression.”

That was then, this is now.

Eggen wrote up a few poems for “shits and giggles” after he returned from his deployments with the Corps, but the response was better than he ever imagined. He sent it to people who said he needed to share his combat poetry with the world.

Initially, however, he wasn’t apt to publish his works and share them with the world. At first, it was just a way to release the mental anguish. Eggen didn’t really take poetry or writing seriously, especially as a way to cope with what he describes as his mind “still living over in Afghanistan.”

“Ten years ago, I didn’t even think I would deploy to Afghanistan,” Eggen says, describing the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan while he was entering the Marine Corps. “When I joined, Afghanistan wasn’t even in people’s minds. Our Drill instructor said if we’re lucky, we’d go to Iraq.”

But don’t expect Justin Eggen’s combat poetry to look like anything a stereotypical beret-wearing beatnik might write. Eggen was a .50-cal machine gunner on a route clearance platoon, searching for IEDs in the roads around his area of responsibility.

 

How a single Christmas tree brought the spirit of the holidays to a deployed unit
Eggen at PB Alcatraz, Sangin 2011.

 

The enemy was like a ghost: They were very good at making IEDs that were hard to detect because they were composed of very few metal elements. His second book, which is currently being written, will be about fighting such a ghostly enemy.

His first book is about the struggle of having your mind stuck back over there.

“A huge part of being home after the Marine Corps is trying to face what happened,” he says. “You get blown up and you’re never the same, regardless of if you’re in a vehicle or on foot. You hit an IED and that rattles you to an extent and you’re changed for the rest of your life. I have friends who are not the same. I am not the same person.”

For Eggen, writing down a lot of what happened, especially as combat poetry, is a powerful thing. Not just for him but for anyone who is struggling emotionally or mentally from a traumatic experience in their life.

He enjoys his work a lot and even enjoys reading them. Each one tells its own little tale. While the longer stories and poems are deeper to him, he also revives the ancient art of the warrior writing haiku. They’re just as deep, but short and sweet and he loves the challenge of writing them.

“You get 17 syllables to portray a story,” he explains. “if you can build something that makes people think in 17 syllables, that’s a huge challenge. That’s what Japanese warriors used to do after battle, write haikus. That was the first version of “combat poetry.” That’s how they dealt with a battle. So that’s what I did for three weeks straight, counting syllables on my fingers.” 

For more of Justin Eggen, catch the rest of the show and then check out his book of poetry and short stories, Outside the Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems and Short Stories on Amazon.

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