This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Navy Veteran and New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr. He discusses his dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL and author. Through his enthusiasm for reading and on military-science novels, Carr’s dreams became a reality.
Carr’s two career goals were inspired by two people. The first person was his grandfather, a Marine who fought and died during World War II. The second person was his mother, a librarian who instilled in him a love of reading. It was this love that helped him on his path to reading about and eventually joining Navy SEAL teams.
During his Navy SEAL career, Carr led special operations teams as a team leader, platoon commander, troop commander, task unit commander, operations officer and executive officer. In the interview, he shares how his military experience and travels allowed him to develop and share realistic stories for his novels.
Additionally, he shares his mindset about his military transition, tips for entering the publishing world and how combining all his previous experiences led him to publish three political thrillers. His fourth novel is scheduled to be released in April.
In addition, he supports Veterans through his own unique merchandise, where 100% of the profits go to Veteran-related charities. He is also an ambassador for theRescue 22 Foundation. A SEAL teammate who trained a service dog for Jack’s special needs child introduced him to the foundation.
Finally, he shared the story and business behind Chris Pratt optioning his book for an upcoming series on Amazon Prime.
During PTSD Awareness Month, explore rewarding VA careers that help Veterans take charge of their mental health and pursue fuller lives.
Mental health is a cornerstone of medical care at VA. We’re committed to treating the whole patient – helping Veterans across the country heal their minds as well as their bodies.
With the expertise of numerous professionals – including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and crisis line operators – we provide crucial mental health services that millions of Veterans rely on.
“Veterans face unique challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. Our mental health experts are there to help them achieve balance and wholeness,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.
PTSD affects seven out of every 100 Americans at some point in their lives and is often seen in Veterans who have gone through war, dangerous peacekeeping operations or other trauma.
Created in 1989, our National Center for PTSD is a world leader in research and education. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating PTSD, the center rapidly translates research into practice to deliver the latest, cutting-edge mental health care to Veterans.
Experienced, licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, clinical social workers or master’s level clinicians can be part of this groundbreaking work with a career as a PTSD therapist. Fellowships and internships are also available.
With a career at the National Center for PTSD, you can help trauma survivors feel safe in the world and live happy, productive lives.
Helping Veterans in crisis
Compassionate, qualified responders have helped millions of Veterans and their family members through the Veterans Crisis Line since it launched in 2007. The call center stands ready around the clock to take calls and texts from Veterans and active military personnel needing confidential assistance.
Our Veterans Crisis Line responders answer calls, texts and chats from Veterans, active-duty personnel, and their friends and family members. They help diffuse situations that put Veterans’ lives at risk, provide assessments and evaluate potential for suicide or homicide.
“This team is a lifeline to Veterans and military personnel in need,” Sherrard said.
Mental health careers
Beyond the PTSD center and the Veterans Crisis Line, there are rewarding careers in mental health throughout VA.
“It’s been said that the richest people are the ones who have lives filled with great meaning, and I just can’t imagine a job that pays more than this one,” said Joel Schmidt, a VA psychologist of nearly three decades who currently serves as associate director of advanced fellowships in the VHA Office of Academic Affiliations.
Whether you’re a psychologist, a social worker or in another mental health care field, you can help coordinate care that empowers Veterans and helps them reclaim their mental and emotional freedom.
You’ll have limitless room to grow and excel in your career with access to a huge variety of care environments, the chance to conduct research and the support to pursue further education.
Work at VA
Take a lead role in helping Veterans who have experienced trauma or suffer from PTSD. Explore a career at VA today.
Have you ever had one of those lightbulb moments that flips your perspective upside down? I had one of those exactly five years ago while training to be a copilot on the mighty CH-53E at MCAS New River, NC. I still remember talking to my dad on the phone after the oncoming duty-stander reported late at night and turned over the watch with me. “I don’t care if the market crashes!” I proclaimed into the phone.
That was a powerful statement to say out loud and it felt especially good saying it to my dad, who was very conservative financially. Our family lived like royalty when my family lived in Ukraine for the better part of two decades, but coming back to the United States created all sorts of financial turmoil.
Of course, the somewhat hot-headed remark begged the question, “Well, why the hell don’t you?”
”Because we’ve been thinking about real estate investing all wrong,” I continued. “We shouldn’t rely on an unpredictable market to control our return on investment. I don’t care about appreciation anymore, I care about monthly income, or cash flow. From now on, we are going to look for properties that put money in our pockets every dang month.
You could almost hear the audible click over the phone line. A light bulb had just gone off.
The phone conversation continued for another hour or so before we finally hung up and decided to talk about real estate some more the next day.
Let me take a quick step back and make sure we are all on the same page here. The epiphany moment I had five years ago – I was so passionately trying to pass on to my dad over the phone – was simple, yet incredibly powerful. What I realized was what my family valued more even than a large heap of cash in my savings account was a consistent stream of income. To put it bluntly, I wanted to create streams of mini pensions through multiple rental properties to pay for all our regular expenses and then some. I wanted this because I wanted to be financially free.
Why did I ever think that buying a house and waiting for it to appreciate was the right way to invest? If that was the case, another 2008 real estate crash would surely ruin everything.
Realizing there was a different way to invest in real estate was almost nauseating because of how mad it made me for not understanding or learning about it earlier in life. My next thought was, “Why doesn’t EVERY eligible service member use their VA Loan then?” After all, as long as the rent was high enough to cover the mortgage, a dependable property manager, reasonable maintenance expenses, some reserves and still have some cash to spare (read: cash flow), this should be a no brainer. Right?!
Maybe it is because a lot of veterans are really turned off by the thought of a VA Loan — they think it’s a huge liability or just a boring thing to talk about, but nine times out of 10 it typically boils down to access to education and trusted professionals to help someone get their foot in the door. The reality is, it’s not just a few veterans . . . There are millions of veterans who have yet to use this incredible wealth-building benefit. In the military, we get used to working in fire teams and squads and it just makes sense for us to want a trusted team of Real Estate agents and Lenders that are all investment-minded and have a military background to work with. The secret weapon that a lot of these investment-minded agents and lenders have, is the understanding of what to look for when it comes to Military House Hacking (check this book out to learn more) and how to run the numbers quickly and efficiently when trying to filter out the homes with no future cashflow potential. Remember, the objective isn’t potential appreciation (that’s just a cherry on top!). The objective is to create a stream of income when it’s time to rent out your home.
About a year after that phone call with my dad, I partnered on my first rental home and first apartment complex. My life and the lives of my parents and siblings had changed forever. We were on track to create financial freedom and legacy wealth for generations to come WITHOUT worrying about the market crashing down on us. Sure, everything has its risks, but there was a particular comfort that came with the more education I immersed myself into. It seemed as though real estate was more transparent and without the smoke and mirrors. Still, it was a lot of information and not necessarily easy, but it felt so real and doable that I knew I was hooked for life. It was around that time, that I decided I had to start sharing these principles and little-known strategies with other military members and their families.
Carry The Load is partnering with VA’s national cemeteries to honor and remember America’s heroes during Memorial May, the third year in a row.
Carry The Load provides an active way to honor and remember the fallen. During visits across the nation, people can join to hike or bike alongside members. This connects Americans to the sacrifices made by military members, Veterans, first responders and their families. Participants many times carry a paper affixed to their back or backpack, highlighting a fallen hero. This shows who they honor by “carrying the load.”
The Carry The Load team stopped at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia May 10. The group was part of the East Coast relay team that started in West Point, New York. One of the team members was Andrew DeLeon, a Marine Corps Veteran who is a current Air Force Reservist and firefighter in Dallas, Texas. He said the relay hits home because he’s lost teammates both in the military and as a firefighter.
“Our mission is to raise awareness across America to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day,” DeLeon said. “We are honored to be here at one of the national cemeteries. I, along with my fellow teammates, are just trying to pay back, even if it’s just a small piece of appreciation for those that laid down their lives.”
The Culpeper National Cemetery director, an Army Veteran, said the partnership is mutually beneficial by honoring the fallen.
“Carry The Load events enhance the true meaning of the National Cemetery Administration by bringing even more awareness to the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes,” Jason Hogan said. “Seeing a giant American flag through Culpeper and being a Veteran myself, it gives me a great sense of pride of the millions of people who have sacrificed for this great nation.”
Want to participate?
The partnership started April 29 and runs through Memorial Day weekend. Carry The Load marchers will visit 43 national cemeteries in all.
Carry The Load invites people to hike or bike alongside them. Upcoming dates include national cemeteries in the following states:
East – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas
Mountain – South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma
In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, people wishing to participate in different legs of the Carry The Load march should register in advance at www.carrytheload.org.
Upon registering, participants can participate several ways. People can host a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a City Rally, or take part virtually throughout the 32-day event.
The event ends May 31 in Dallas, Texas.
While visiting any VA national cemetery, participants should wear face masks and exercise social distancing. Gatherings at national cemeteries will also be subject to size limits.
Then-Army Air Forces pilot Warren Halstead flew missions daily out of Coulommiers, France, during World War II. On May 8, 1945, he was at his duty station, on break from dropping supplies and transporting wounded to hospitals in England. The news came in: the war in Europe was over. Seventy-six years later, the retired Air Force colonel still remembers the mixed emotions of Victory in Europe, or V-E, Day.
“My thoughts were just that I did my part to help bring about this day,” Halstead said. “Also, remember, the war was still full on in the Pacific in Japan, so our thoughts were that we were still at war, so V-E Day, although it was important, it was not the end of WWII.”
For the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native, the war had a memorable beginning. His first combat mission came 11 months prior on June 6, 1944, during D-Day.
“Just a few days before D-Day, (Gen. Dwight) Eisenhower visited the Airborne units and pilots designated to drop the paratroopers on D-Day,” Halstead said. “It was very impressive that the commander of all of the Allied Forces wanted to give some words of encouragement before our big mission on D-Day. He knew many of us would not return from our mission. It meant a lot to us to hear words of encouragement from him.”
Halstead’s unit arrived at a training location in Ramsbury, England, in February. They trained constantly from then until June 6. Their training to drop paratroopers consisted of night flying and flying in formation. They also trained on towing gliders stateside before arriving in England.
On D-Day, the 23-year-old piloted his C-47 into the skies in the early hours before daylight. The weather was good upon takeoff, but there were scattered clouds when they arrived in Normandy.
“You could see all of the tracers from the munitions being fired at us from the enemy on the ground,” Halstead said. “They all seemed to be coming right into the cockpit, however, our plane was not hit on that day.”
His mission was to drop the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers no matter what. Flying in groups of three within a larger formation, he safely dropped the paratroopers. The next day, he towed one glider with troops and equipment to Saint Mare Eglise.
He also flew in Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge, getting hit during both operations. Halstead also flew in Operation Varsity in March 1945. This was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day in one location. He towed two gliders of the 17th Airborne Division at one time across the Rhine River. The enemy shot the rudder of his plane just after he released the gliders. They safely landed.
Following the war, he used the GI Bill to attend the University of Tulsa where he graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Zoology. The Air Force recalled him to active duty during Korea, where he received a Distinguished Flying Cross during a mission flying a B-26 bomber. He retired in 1973, but continued to fly civilian aircraft. He has over 15,000 hours of flying time as a pilot.
Visiting years later
Halstead said visiting those countries he fought over decades later brought several emotions.
“I helped them overcome the terrible regimes they were under,” he said. “I am very happy that these countries are thriving today.”
He said thirty years after the war when he was still on active duty, he took his family to visit Germany.
“The country was thriving then,” he said. “The German economy was thriving, and the Germans were all extremely welcoming to the Americans.”
Halstead hopes Americans mark the day honoring Veterans.
“I think the remembrances that the WWII Memorial Foundation conducts at the WWII Memorial are excellent ways to honor our Veterans,” he said. “Additionally, the recognition ceremonies by the various U.S. military services as well as at Arlington Cemetery are very poignant reminders of the sacrifices we as a nation made for world freedom and democracy.”
Halstead’s daughter said listening to stories from the dwindling World War II Veteran population is important.
“Many Veterans, such as my father, do not talk a lot about their experiences,” Gail Capp said. “Just be there for them and be available and ready to listen when they do want to open up. Finally, go to their reunions. You will hear many stories there.”
Help capture history
More than 16 million men and women served during World War II. Today, there’s less than 390,000 still alive.
The National WWII Museum strives to preserve the legacy and lessons of World War II through the stories of those who experienced the war. They accept Oral Histories and memoirs that people have conducted or printed themselves.
Submit written World War II memoirs or stories for the Museum Library by mail to:
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 Veterans Health Administration staff have volunteered for more than 3,700 deployments to support Veterans and civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country.
Volunteers deploy through VA’s Disaster Emergency Personnel System (DEMPS), VA’s main program for deploying clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster elsewhere in the country. The all-volunteer assignments vary in skillsets, geographic locations and length of time for the support.
Many volunteers deploy multiple times
Sophia Didley, a nurse manager at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland, has deployed three times through DEMPS.
Didley, a 24-year Air Force Veteran, went to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. More recently, she deployed to assist with the COVID-19 response at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, a state Veterans home. She also deployed to the Waters Edge Healthcare Rehabilitation Center, a private rehabilitation facility, both in New Jersey.
Didley describes the DEMPS experience as similar to the military in the sense that you are volunteering at any given moment to go anywhere in the world, or in the case of DEMPS, the country.
These VA employees put aside their fears, leave their homes and families, and volunteer where they are needed most – to support their colleagues while caring for Veterans sick with COVID-19.
No truer definition of paying back Veterans for their service
“Most of the time your family is proud of you and fearful at the same time,” Didley said. “My friends were my cheerleaders. I was proud to be helping with this pandemic.”
To date, VA personnel have deployed to more than 49 states and territories to support VA medical centers with surges of COVID-19 cases and to provide support to state and community nursing homes.
VA staff are currently deployed to facilities and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional response coordination centers across Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Ruth Ortiz, a respiratory therapist at the Gainesville VA Medical Center in Florida, has also been on three DEMPS deployments – all three in this year alone. At the beginning of the year she went to Puerto Rico for earthquake relief. Later in the year she traveled to New Orleans and then San Antonio for COVID-19 relief.
“You’re not really sure what you’re walking into when you get there,” Ortiz said. “Once you are presented to the department where you’re going to work, you’re given your assignment and you’re oriented and basically you hit the ground running. For New Orleans and San Antonio, I was working in their COVID ICU. So that was a very new and challenging experience for me.
“The DEMPS program is a very rewarding program. It is going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a very rewarding challenge. You’re going to use your skills and your knowledge in any type of critical care setting you might come into. It is just an amazing experience to be a part of.”
VA’s Fourth Mission – assisting the nation
Since its inception in 1997, the DEMPS program continues a long history of service and support. It has grown in scope and complexity. DEMPS volunteers deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also deployed to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For a period of four months in 2017, DEMPS deployed more than 1,200 staff in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
The state and community support is provided as part of VA’s Fourth Mission to assist the nation in times of emergencies and disasters. During the pandemic, VA has supported states with direct patient clinical care, testing, education and training. We have provided more than 908,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and other resources. As part of Fourth Mission humanitarian support, VA has also admitted 376 non-Veteran citizens for COVID-19 care at VA medical centers.
VA is leading the way in telehealth innovation so Veterans can access care when and where they need it. Telehealth makes it easier for Veterans to connect with their VA care team from the home, clinic, hospital and other convenient locations.
When is telehealth right for a Veteran? Perhaps the Veteran lives far away from the closest VA Medical Center and would prefer to save on gas and the hassle of navigating traffic. Or they may feel safer or just more comfortable having their appointment from home.
Here are nine ways Veterans across the country are using telehealth as part of their VA care plan:
1. Primary care
Routine appointments with a primary care physician can often be conducted virtually. Video visits enable the VA provider to see the Veteran just as if they were in the exam room. And some Veterans can relay information such as heart rate and blood pressure from home monitoring devices.
With these telehealth technologies, Veterans can receive physicals and screenings – for conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and depression – from any location with an internet connection.
2. Follow-up visits
While the first visit after sustaining an injury or infection might require a trip to the clinic, the follow-up appointments might not. Many VA providers can conduct virtual follow-up visits to assess progress or suggest changes to treatment – all while the Veteran stays home to rest and recover.
3. Management of chronic health conditions
VA providers can monitor and treat high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic illnesses through telehealth, which gives them a more accurate picture of a Veteran’s health.
More Veterans are using telehealth to meet with their health care provider.
VA providers and Veterans can discuss test results and subsequent recommendations through video visits rather than phone calls. Connecting face-to-face over video – even when miles apart – can help Veterans actively engage in their treatment plans and help providers know when Veterans need additional support.
With telehealth, Veterans can get help with common issues such as allergies, colds and flu. They can also use video visits to show VA providers skin issues. Those issues include rashes and moles and receive their recommendations on the spot.
With any of these common issues, the provider may diagnose and prescribe a treatment right away. They may also recommend remote patient monitoring, which is also conducted conveniently through telehealth.
6. Mental health care
Using telehealth technologies, VA mental health providers can screen and treat Veterans for anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. By combining real-time, interactive video visits with therapists and free VA mental health apps, telehealth connects Veterans to the mental health resources they need.
7. Nutrition education
Food choices can affect health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. By connecting with nutritionists through videoconferencing, Veterans and their families can receive personalized nutrition education and counseling and make changes to improve their health.
8. General rehabilitation
Physical and occupational therapists can treat Veterans using telehealth technology and VA Video Connect. These tools let them stay safely at home. Please read about how a retired colonel with numerous injuries and chronic pain was so impressed with the telephysical therapy that he wrote a glowing letter to his medical center’s director.
9. Group visits
VA Video Connect and other telehealth technologies enable groups of people to receive care together. Group video visits are typical in mental health care, nutrition education, rehabilitation and general health education. Some Veterans, especially those living in remote areas, turn to these group sessions to reduce social isolation.
And VA chaplains often hold video visits to connect sick Veterans with family members living in different locations.
Ask your provider if telehealth is a good fit
Remember, Veterans should always consult their VA provider to see if telehealth is a good fit for their health care needs. Some telehealth programs may not be available in all locations.
To learn about telehealth options in your area, visit telehealth.va.gov and reach out to your health care team at your local VA Medical Center.
There’s no better place to learn about and remember the service of fellow soldiers and Veterans than at one of the many memorials, military museums and other historic locations found across the United States. AARP has developed comprehensive guides to 10 key sites from Pearl Harbor to Boston.
These sites offer visitors thoughtful, moving portrayals of the sacrifices Veterans made throughout American history. Be sure to take a look before you plan your next trip to one of these great destinations.
William “Bill” Clevenger, an Army veteran from the 25th Infantry, served in just about every MOS from a rifleman to a combat photographer. He was enjoying his retirement with his wife of nearly 50 years when a visit to his primary care physician at the VA changed everything. After listening to his lungs, his doctor was concerned. He ordered a biopsy immediately. While the procedure itself was painful and unpleasant, it paled in comparison to what came next: a lung cancer diagnosis.
With metastatic lung cancer in not one, but both lungs, he was referred to Dr. Pakaj Gupta, an oncologist at the Long Beach VA. There, the battle began.
When it comes to lung cancer, standard chemotherapy treatments have had historically poor results. Even when chemo does help, it rarely works for long. The cancer becomes resistant to the treatment and the patient relapses. Because of this, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US. With 5000 veterans diagnosed each year — 15 each day, the VA has been working on innovative lung cancer treatments to offer patients better outcomes and a more hopeful outlook.
Bill’s oncologist prescribed a 3rd generation oral anti-cancer treatment specifically designed for the type of mutation causing his cancer. While it’s rarely curable, Bill’s treatment was able to stop his cancer from progressing further, allowing him to share a major milestone with his wife: their 50th wedding anniversary.
The VHA serves to provide comprehensive, whole body healthcare, and improving the prognosis of veterans with lung cancer is one of their toughest missions yet. Lung cancer screenings are key, reducing mortality rates by at least 20%. Through a combination of early diagnosis, immunotherapy and targeted therapy, veterans with cancer today are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Read more about the VA’s latest cancer initiatives here.
The Veterans Health Administration has been serving veterans for 75 years. Today, the VHA provides healthcare and support to nine million veterans every year. Unfortunately, there are thousands of vets across the country who struggle with homelessness and mental health issues that prevent them from seeking the care they desperately need. One of the VHA’s latest programs, VMET, aims to help not only the veterans who seek support, but also those who can’t.
The VMET pilot program, or Veteran Mental Evaluations Teams, was designed by fellow vets who understand the unique needs of veterans in crises. People living with post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions that impact their mental wellness are at elevated risk for developing substance addictions. For some, this leads to housing issues or run-ins with the law.
The VMET program pairs Shannon Teague, a licensed VMET social worker, with Cpl Tyrone “T-Bone” Anderson, a police officer who recently retired from the Long Beach Police Department. Both of them are Marine Corps veterans. They work in tandem to reconnect with veterans who have slipped through the cracks in the system.
The melding of the clinical world and the police world bridges a significant divide. When the pair receives a call from a local police department or hospital about a veteran in crisis, they take action. First, Teague reviews their mental health history while T-Bone reviews any past criminal record; for safety, and to better understand how the person in crisis may feel about past encounters with law enforcement.
Then, they reach out to the veteran personally. They’re not always an instant hit, but with a little patience and understanding they’re able to make a huge difference. So far, they’ve answered over 2,500 calls for service, including that of Marine veteran Larry Nelson. When he met Teague and T-Bone, he was struggling with homelessness. Watch the video below to learn more about the VMET program and see how far Larry has come with their help. Veterans helping veterans makes all the difference. The Veterans Mental Evaluations Team program may soon be helping vets across the entire nation. For more info, visit www.va.gov.