Now that the conventions are over and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the official presidential nominees for their respective parties, how will the incoming Commander-in-Chief handle the turmoil around the world? Will America be led down the path of imminent war, or will the new president avoid these chaotic scenarios?
Join us for part two of the potential wars that could break out in the next four years.
This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.
The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.
Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?
The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.
But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?
“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”
If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?
There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.
Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)
There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.
For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.
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.
“If you think of the first 18 minutes or so of ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” Dye said, “This will be that but airborne. This will be guys coming out of those aircraft and sky full of tracers.”
Dye wrote the script for “No Better Place to Die” from a story he’d studied during his active duty days. He felt the story perfectly exemplifies what Americans troops can do when they come together after everything goes wrong.
It’s about the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers during the D-Day invasion and their contribution to winning the war. If it weren’t for these troops, the German’s may have pushed the allied beach invasion back out to sea, according to Dye.
While the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant, Dye has reserved the director’s seat for himself.
“Given what I’ve done in my 30-year career the only way this going to get done right — the only way this is going to blow people right out of their seats — is if I direct it because I know how,” Dye said. “I know how to do this cool.”
As for hiring veterans, Dye is looking to fill on and off camera roles to make a filmmaking statement.
“My absolute promise is that I’m going to make this movie with as many veterans in front of the camera and behind the camera as I can find,” Dye said. “That’s the way I’m going to do it. I’m hoping that it will serve as a showcase to Hollywood. It will show them the talent that’s out there and what these folks can do. What they bring to the table and how motivated they can be, and I want to demonstrate that.”
Before Dale Dye was making some of our favorite military movies, he was fighting America’s wars overseas, eventually retiring as a Marine Corps captain. Having been around infantrymen all his life, he knew we were badly represented on film. The majority are intelligent, creative, and full of heart.
He felt the image of the dumb boot blindly following orders was a grave disservice to those brave service members who had risked and often gave their lives so that our nation could survive and prosper. So he looked for the best medium available to reach the hearts and minds of the public to spread his message — film and television.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks once again with Jimmy Blackmon, the author of Pale Horse, a book about his time commanding an Army aviation task force with the 101st Airborne Division at the height of combat in the Afghan War.
The book is set in the very valleys where the 9/11 attacks were conceived and where 10 Medals of Honor were earned.
These are the stories of the pilots behind the lethal Apache helicopters who strike fear into the heart of their enemies as they work with medevac crews who risk their lives to save their fellow troops.
Jimmy was also in the area when Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl decided to go for a stroll in Afghanistan.
In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:
[1:45] Jimmy humorously explains why he decided to join the military.
[5:50] How growing up in Georgia prepared Jimmy for a career in the Army.
[7:55] This is how playing Cowboys and Indians as a child helps develop skills for combat operations.
[11:45] Jimmy compares his life as an enlisted soldier to growing up in Georgia.
[13:45] The difference between situational awareness and situational curiosity.
[15:05] The combat rules of flying vs. the combat rules on the ground.
[17:15] The most challenging aspect of war according to a pilot.
[24:30] How pilots develop skills to read the enemies’ intention from high above.
[27:50] How the enemy uses their terrain and weather to combat allied forces.
[30:10] Jimmy’s coolest memory from the battle at Observation Post Bari Alai.
[35:00] What Jimmy’s been doing since exiting the military.
New York Times bestselling author Sebastian Junger dropped by We Are The Mighty to discuss his latest book “Tribe.”
Here’s what the publisher says about the book:
Through combining history, psychology, and anthropology, “Tribe” explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. It explains the irony that—for many veterans as well as civilians—war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. “Tribe” explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today’s divided world.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, the crew speaks once again with standup comedian-turned-actor Tone Bell.
Tone isn’t a veteran, but as always, there’s a connection. On the Netflix show Disjointed, he plays a veteran who served on three Iraq combat deployments and now deals with the everyday struggles of a combat veteran.
To play the role, Tone studied multiple levels of PTS, the process of veteran transition, and the culture of cannabis, all while bringing his comedic charm to the character. These hot topics would send the average actor running toward the next potential part, but this comedian believes this role only made him a better thespian.
“You just want to get it right,” Tone Bell says. “You want people to appreciate it and not go ‘bullshit’ that’s not the way it happened.”
Tone Bell as “Carter” doing what he does best — exhales the comedy. (Netflix)
Since Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record of getting the veteran characters right, veterans tend to become very harsh in our criticism — something they feel entitled to do.
“It [the role of Carter] took a toll on me as a person in my day-to-day life,” Bell admits.
Since Disjointed Part: 1 debuted on Netflix, Tone received copious amounts of support from the veteran community for finally portraying a veteran the right way and not going over-the-top with his performance.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we once again speak to General Merrill A. McPeak, who served as former Air Force Chief of Staff, National Security Council, a military adviser to the Secretary of Defense, and to the President.
The General currently has three books out,Below The Zone, Roles and Missions, and Hangar Flying, about his time being ringside during one of the most tumultuous moments in recent history: the Vietnam War, where Gen. McPeak was an attack pilot and high-speed forward air controller.
During his impressive career as a fighter pilot, the general logged in more than 6,000 hours of flight time, including a period where he was a solo pilot with the elite Thunderbirds.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Mitch Burrow, a funny burly-guy who went from being a Marine to becoming a stand-up comedian.
When we join the military all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we have sort of an idea of what we want to do with our lives — but we change our minds dozens of times before landing a career that we hopefully love.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
So why did Mitch decide to jump on stage and be a comedian after getting out of the Marines?
“I love stand up comedy, so I was like you know what? If this is working at a party or a social group, let me try it on stage,” Mitch humorously recalls. “So I drove down to San Diego to the Comedy Store in La Jolla and had three shots of tequila, and I drank a couple of Budweisers then I got on stage. I’ve been told it went pretty good.”
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss what role we’d like to serve in during any war.
Many veterans today are so intrigued by military history, they’ve considered what war they feel like they missed out on. Although when (hypothetically) given the opportunity to change from their real life MOS to whatever occupation they wanted, the podcast crew surprisingly decided to stick to their original area of expertise.
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.
When Doc Todd left the Navy after spending three years as a corpsman, he didn’t have any transition assistance or training. He lost friends. He lost Marines. After separating from the military, he saw even more of his Marines take their own lives through substance abuse and suicide. It’s wasn’t the ending he had expected when he joined.
He joined the Navy in 2007 after spending four years in sales and restaurant jobs. He wanted to experience some meaningful growth in his life and be part of something bigger than himself. That – to him – meant joining the U.S. Navy. Doc ended up spending the bulk of his time with Marines in “America’s Battalion,” 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. In 2009, he and his Marines were in Afghanistan in Operation Khanjar, the largest aerial insertion of Marine troops since the Vietnam War.
Though he experienced his own struggles upon leaving the military, he didn’t turn to music as a means of coping. He actually waited until he had the strength to better express himself instead.
“Honestly, from an artistic perspective, I didn’t know who I was yet. Or who I was becoming,” Doc says. “I found it very difficult to make a statement musically when I didn’t know what to say.”
When Doc picked himself up was when he was finally able to realize his purpose was helping others. Like a true corpsman, he never wanted to stop looking out for others. He saw too many overdoses, too many suicides. He decides to enter the veteran’s space, but to do it in his own way.
In June 2017, his album Combat Medicine dropped to widespread acclaim and national praise, not to mention a flood of personal stories from those who listened to it and felt the message.
Doc is currently working on a release titled “The Shadow Game EP,” on Runaway Train Records.
Mandatory Fun guest: Doc Todd is combat veteran who proudly served our country as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman (combat medic) in the United States Navy. Since Doc’s honorable discharge in 2009, Doc moved to Atlanta and worked at restaurants and a premier hospital, while he pursed his college education on the G.I. Bill. Doc graduated from Georgia State University magna cum laude with an undergraduate degree in studying Economics and Public Policy in 2014. He then joined Northwestern Mutual where he began to build a financial management practice, before pursuing his music.
Doc resides in Atlanta with his wife Abby, two young daughters Savannah and Audrey, and dog Memphis, who Doc rescued shortly after coming home from war.
Christian Lowe: Executive Editor at We Are The Mighty
Christian is a veteran reporter and digital editor with nearly 20 years of experience covering the U.S. military at home and abroad. He deployed six times to Iraq and Afghanistan as an embedded reporter and has covered all the services in the conflict zone, on base and in halls of Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. Christian worked previously at Army Times and Military.com as well as a stint in the firearms industry as Editor in Chief of Shooting Sports Retailer and Tactical Retailer magazines. He’s a competitor in IDPA, USPSA and 3-Gun Nation.