These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later

While Black-Americans have been helping America win wars since the Revolutionary War, they have not historically been recognized for their heroism at the same rate as their white counterparts.


These 8 heroes received Medals of Honor for their actions decades after the battles:

1. Sgt. Henry Johnson

 

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: US Army

One WWI soldier was not bestowed his Medal of Honor until nearly a century later. Sgt. Henry Johnson, assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, came under heavy enemy fire on May 15, 1918, from a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest. Despite being wounded Johnson used grenades, a rifle, a knife, and his bare hands to hold off the German attack.

2. 2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Soldiers with the 92nd Infantry, 1st Lt. Vernon Baker’s unit, pursue the German Army through Italy. Photo: US Army

2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker took part in a company attack in Apr. 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. He personally destroyed four German positions that were pinning down his unit and then covered the evacuation of wounded personnel. The next night, Baker led an advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire to capture a division objective.

3. Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: US Army

Sgt. Edward A. Carter was riding on a tank on Mar. 23, 1945 near Speyer, Germany when enemy anti-tank and rifle fire began flying in. Carter voluntarily led a three-man team against the position. He was wounded five times and an enemy squad attempted to capture him, but he killed six Germans and captured two.

4. 1st Lt. John R. Fox

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: US Government Archives

Near Sommocolonia, Italy on Dec. 26, 1944, 1st Lt. John R. Fox was directing defensive artillery fire to slow a German advance. He adjusted the fire closer and closer to his position until finally ordering it onto his own building as the Nazis drew closer. Later, Fox’s body was found with approximately 100 dead German soldiers around him.

5. Pfc. Willy F. James, Jr.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: Wikipedia/Wammes Waggel CC BY-SA 3.0

On Apr. 7, 1945, Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. scouted a vital bridgehead while pinned down, then returned to his unit he assisted in developing a plan of maneuver to take the bridge. He led a squad, designating targets as he advanced, until he was killed by enemy fire while trying to aid his fatally wounded platoon leader.

6. Sgt. Ruben Rivers

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: German Wikimedia Commons

Sgt. Ruben Rivers was a tank platoon sergeant in World War II. On Nov. 16, 1944, he was leading a tank assault when he struck a mine and was severely injured in the leg. He refused to be medically evacuated and led another tank in to save his platoon.

On Nov. 19, Rivers’ wound was infected but he led another tank in a company assault despite his wounds. When an enemy anti-tank unit began firing from concealed positions, the rest of the company withdrew. Rivers spotted the Germans began returning fire alongside another tank. The rest of the company made it out but Rivers’ tank was destroyed, killing him and wounded the rest of the crew.

7. 1st Lt. Charles Thomas

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: US Army

 

Near Climbach, France on Dec. 14, 1944, 1st Lt. Charles Thomas’s armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery and small arms fire. Although wounded by the burst of fire, Thomas, assisted the crew in dismounting before he took additional enemy fire in his chest, legs, and left arm.

Thomas directed his two antitank guns begin returning fire. Realizing he could no longer remain in command, Thomas stayed long enough to brief his subordinate officer on the enemy disposition. Only after he was certain the other officer was in control did he permit himself to be evacuated.

8. Pvt. George Watson

 

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Photo: US Navy

Pvt. George Watson was on board a ship near New Guinea on Mar. 8 when it was hit by enemy bombers. The order to abandon ship was given but Watson did not head to safety. Instead he began assisting soldiers who could not swim to a raft. Because of this, he was eventually pulled under the surface of the water by the suction from the sinking ship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Veteran earns her college degree at 62

Army Veteran Kathleen Cashaw will celebrate her 62nd birthday this summer. She is also celebrating this summer for another reason – earning her college degree. With the support from Butler VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Cashaw has achieved her goal of completing her Associates of Arts Degree as a medical assistant at Butler Community College.

“The Vocational Rehabilitation staff at Butler VA always gave me encouragement. I had doubts about completing the degree, but the VA staff always directed me to the positive of completing the program rather than the negative thoughts that I was having. Like being too old. I knew I had potential. I knew that it was in myself.”


Vocational Rehabilitation at Butler VA assists Veterans to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable jobs. Employment services such as job training, employment-seeking skills, resume development, and other work-readiness assistance is available for Veterans to achieve their employment goals.

“I cannot thank the staff in Vocational Rehabilitation enough. They were instrumental in my success and I have been given confidence to continue my education for a Bachelor of Science degree, my ultimate ‘Bucket List.”

“Messed” up but moved on

Middle child of a hard-working illiterate father and a strict mother who instilled the importance of education, Cashaw did what neither her parents nor her two siblings ever did: Enroll in college. But her degree pursuits at Tuskegee University and Howard University began and ended within a year.

“I messed up in college.”

She enlisted in the Army and in 1986 joined the Mississippi National Guard. She also took jobs in customer service and in making ice cream machines in one factory and automotive parts in another.

“My father didn’t think I would ever go back to college,” Cashaw said. A disabled Veteran, she volunteered at Butler VA while making the dean’s list and the president’s list at Butler Community College. “For my age, I completed it. Finally.”

Vocational Rehabilitation: “If you want to succeed, you will.”

Kathleen encourages other Veterans to reach out to Vocational Rehabilitation for support and assistance. Her other advice: “You are never too old to pursue your dreams. If you really want to succeed you will. It takes hard work, but never succumb to the negative, look for the positive.”

Her education has changed her life. “It has made me more confident. “Now, there are things that I can do.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 veteran non-profit organizations you need to check out for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is the global day of giving following Thanksgiving and the increasingly popular shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the time of year when individuals and companies focus on giving.


This year, it falls on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation is taking things up a notch by matching up to $2 million in donations raised on Facebook for U.S. nonprofits (the matching starts at 8AM Eastern — so set your alarms and hit donate early!). Facebook is joining in by waiving its fees for donations made to nonprofits on Facebook this #GivingTuesday.

(Also, the hashtag is a thing, in case you can’t tell; the whole point is to spread the word — and the charitable giving.)

For details on how to donate to your favorite organizations, click here.

Want to know some of our favorite organizations? We thought so. In no particular order:

8. GWOT Memorial Foundation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPv0wM63PoM
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is THE Congressionally designated nonprofit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, U.S. service members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.

Here’s their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/gwotmf/

7. Semper Fi Fund

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Former Lance Cpl. Ben Maenza smiles as he and his team blaze down a Camp Pendleton road during the Ride for Hereos t fundraising cycling trip for the Semper Fi Fund, Aug. 9. The trip from Florida to California took nearly 3,000 miles to accomplish. The cyclists have earned more than $75,000 for the Semper Fi Fund. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Damien Gutierrez)

Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. They deliver the resources they need during recovery and transition back to their communities, working to ensure no one is left behind.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/semperfifund/

6. The Mission Continues

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Volunteers rehabilitate a donated church building into a technology training and resource center for veterans allowing them a place to transition from military into civilian life. The new facility will provide veterans with instruction and skills training to preparing them for employment. The campaign launched by Home Depot and the Mission Continues, was created to enhance the lives of U.S. military veterans and to highlight the needs and opportunities they face. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. They deploy veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themissioncontinues/

5. Team Rubicon

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok.(Team Rubicon photo)

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/teamrubicon/

4. Pin-Ups for Vets

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
2nd Lt. Paganetti and Allison Paganetti in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising Calendar.

Pin-Ups For Vets raises funds to improve Veterans’ healthcare, donates funds to VA hospitals for medical equipment and program expansion, improves quality of life for ill Veterans across the United States through personal bedside visits to deliver gifts, promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans with clothing and calendar gifts delivered to shelters, boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing, and boosts morale for deployed troops through delivery of care packages.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pinupsforvets/

3. The Sam Simon Foundation

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
The Sam Simon Foundation launched its Service Dog program in response to the growing need of veterans coping with PTSD as a result of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. A Service Dog is not a cure for PTSD, but whose skills and companionship can be an aid for managing the symptoms and promoting well-being.

The Sam Simon Foundation provides Service Dogs trained for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Other tasks they may train for include assistance with hearing loss, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and moderate physical limitations due to injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SamSimonFoundationAssistanceDogs/

2. Operation Supply Drop

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Operation Supply Drop presented donated video games for Marines at the Central Area Recreation Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mark Watola)

Operation Supply Drop addresses Mental Health, Homelessness, and Employment for Veterans and their families accompanied by a global structure encouraging community service and commitment towards one another.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreOSD/

1. Fisher House

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Mike Helle and Chris Cannedy, local Biloxi business employees, decorate the Fisher House for Christmas Dec. 12, 2013, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Every year a local business volunteers to decorate the house. The Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Fisher Houses provide military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FisherHouse/ 

Veterans

Road to Victory – Maternal Bond

Commitment and a nurturing character help build strong families and businesses.

Before Flossie Hall co-founded and became the Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, she had one of the hardest jobs in the world: being a mother of four and an active duty Navy spouse. As a military wife, Hall has lived at 10 addresses over the last 14 years. For much of that time, she also had to be a solo parent.

“Plan something and the military laughs,” Hall quipped. She continued, “Business is the same way.”

After successfully navigating the financial challenges that come with new deployments, new homes and newborns (remember, she and her husband have four children), Hall has dedicated herself to the business of helping other military families.

AMSE is an entrepreneurship program built by military spouses, exclusively for military spouses. It is a digital organization that teaches military spouses around the world how to start their own businesses.

Military spouses are perfectly suited to be entrepreneurs because, according to Hall, “Entrepreneurs have to curve and swerve every single day.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Hall was the first person in her family to attain academic success. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. And then, the first to attend and graduate from college.

Hall started at a community college and had to navigate financial aid on her own. She recalls signing paperwork as she learned about the cost of a college education. She accumulated a significant amount of debt to finance her education.

Today, Hall has a child in college whose education expenses weren’t budgeted for because she and her husband were very young parents. As a result, they learned the value of proper financial planning.

The Halls’ three younger children will also likely attend college. This time around, Hall and her husband are prepared. They opened college savings accounts that will help their kids pay for college.

Specifically, they started 529 accounts to help finance the children’s college educations. The special savings accounts have allowed the Halls to save long term for this specific financial planning objective. A 529 college savings plan is a great option to save for college because it is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle designed to fund specific education expenses.

The specific tax advantages are that earnings in a 529 plan account are allowed to grow over time free from federally income taxes. Then, when money is ultimately taken out of the account to pay qualified education expenses, there is no income tax on withdrawals.

Qualified education expenses include outlays such as tuition, books and potentially room and board. While a 529 plan account offers income tax breaks, contributions are not deductible.

There are many different 529 plans from which to choose. They are offered by each of the states and many educational institutions. And neither the account holder nor the beneficiary are required to reside in the state offering the plan. However, some plans may offer specific advantages to in-state residents.

Still, the fact that there are no residency restrictions means that there is ample opportunity to shop around in order to find the plan that best suits the needs of the beneficiary. Here are a few things to keep in mind when comparing plans:

  1. Every state offers at least one type of plan.

Plans fall into one of two categories: Prepaid Tuition Plans or College Savings Plans. Prepaid tuition plans lock in the current tuition rate that typically must be used at the specific institution. A college savings plan can be used at any school.

  1. Some plans allow others to contribute.

Most 529 plans allow people other than the account holder to make contributions to the beneficiary’s account. This is a great option for grandparents or other family members to contribute to a child’s future education. Instead of giving a child toys, friends and family can contribute to the student’s college fund.

  1. The account holder owns and controls the account.

Named beneficiaries of 529 plans have no legal right to funds in the accounts. This is the case whether they are minor children or adults over the age of majority. It is also a way to assure the money will be used for its intended purpose. The account holder may withdraw money. The beneficiary may not. But if withdrawals are not used for qualified educational expenses, earnings will incur taxes and penalties.

  1. Gift tax exclusion may apply.

529 plan contributions fall under annual and lifetime gift tax exclusions. The annual limit is currently $15,000 per beneficiary per contributor. This also means a married couple filing jointly can contribute up to $30,000 per child per account.

  1. Consider a UGift® account.

UGift provides a way to invite family and friends to contribute to a child’s 529 account. UGift is a secure, free-to-use online service that allows others to transfer funds directly into your child’s 529 plan account. Because there are no fees, the entirety of those gifts gets deposited.

Because there are many options, there isn’t one 529 plan that satisfies every family’s unique needs. To determine the right fit, it makes sense to compare investment options, fees and other factors specific to your situation.

The best way to save for college is to start early and to add funds consistently. A 529 college savings plan account is specifically designed for educational expenses and can be a great way to finance future education expenses. For more financial tools and tips visit VCM.com/military.

Veterans

100-Year-Old Veteran loves VA telehealth

Proves age is not a barrier to telehealth


People often think that new technologies are for the young. But a 100-year old Veteran in Florida has proven otherwise. Dr. Joseph Belshe, a World War II Veteran Air Force medical officer, has used VA telehealth technology for almost two years to receive care from VA.

Belshe incorporated telehealth into his care thanks to Kimberly Braswell, a nurse practitioner in the cardiology unit at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. As a part of his cardiac care, Belshe meets with Braswell for routine appointments to review diagnostics related to his medication.

Belshe gets diagnostic tests done at his local primary care annex. The provider uploads the test results to Belshe’s VA Electronic Health Record so Braswell can review it. He then meets with Braswell through VA Video Connect, a VA app that enables Veterans and their VA providers to conduct secure, real-time video visits through a smartphone, computer or tablet.

“So convenient… really quite simple”

Through his VA-issued iPad, Belshe receives email reminders about his upcoming telehealth appointments. On the day of an appointment, he receives an email with a link to open his appointment on VA Video Connect.

“VA has made it so convenient for me. It is really quite simple,” he said.

VA Video Connect has also eliminated the need for Belshe to make 80-mile round trips from his home in Lakeland to Tampa for his appointments with Braswell. Of that added convenience, Belshe said, “My time is important to me. So the ability to avoid fighting traffic, I love it.”

Telehealth appointments have become important to everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Belshe was using VA Video Connect for about a year before the pandemic started.

Reliability adds a layer of confidence

“Dr. Belshe is really an early adopter,” said Braswell. “While many people had to adjust their normal routines for social distancing, he was able to continue on the same schedule. I think that reliability added a layer of confidence and peace of mind for him, knowing that his medications and care wouldn’t be interrupted.”

Braswell says her day is always a little brighter when she meets with Belshe. She sees many Veterans through VA Video Connect. And they appreciate the opportunity to connect through video rather than a phone call. “Age is not a barrier to accessing virtual care.”

Belshe agreed. “Being able to have that face-to-face visualization and speak directly has been enjoyable. I think more Veterans should try it even if they don’t have experience with technology.”

For more information on VA telehealth, visit the VA Telehealth Services website and read VA’s Connecting Veterans to Telehealth Care fact sheet.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

VP welcomes Honor Flight vets to the White House

Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.


The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.

The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, hosted the approximately 200 guests today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.

The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.

The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.

Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.

Debt of Honor and Gratitude

The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.

“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.

“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled veterans eligible for free National Park Service Lifetime Access Pass

Spring flowers are blooming, the summer travel season quickly approaches and veterans are joining the 330-million yearly visitors enjoying U.S. National Parks.

Many veterans, with a service connected disability rating, are entering Federal parks for free with the Lifetime National Parks Access Pass from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Good for entry into 400+ National Parks and over 2,000 recreation sites across the country, the Lifetime Access Pass is another way a grateful nation says thank you for the service and sacrifices of veterans with disabilities.


The Access Pass admits disabled veterans and any passengers in their vehicle (non-commercial) at per-vehicle fee areas; and, the pass owner plus three additional adults where per-person fees are charged. In addition to free entry at participating parks, the Access Pass includes discounts on expanded amenity fees; such as camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later

(Photo by Emily Ogden)

Veterans who have a VA disability rating, (10 percent or higher) are eligible for the Lifetime Access Pass — with two ways to apply.

First, disabled veterans can apply in person at a participating federal recreation site. Simply present photo identification (Drivers license, State ID, Passport) and documentation proving a permanent disability (VA awards letter, VA ID with service connected annotation, VA summary of benefits, or receipt of Social Security disability income). That’s It. The pass is free and issued at the time of entry.

Second, if applying by mail, send a completed packet and processing fee to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The packet should include:

Pass delivery expected 10-12 weeks after receipt.

Make sure to have photo ID available when using your Lifetime Access Pass and enjoy the majestic scenery and abundant recreational opportunities our National Parks provide.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.

Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.

After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said. 

Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”

They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues. 

Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”

With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”

Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said. 

Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter. 

To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.

Articles

Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

Veterans

VA medical, pharmacy copayments cancelled through Sept. 30, 2021

Due to American Rescue Plan, copayments paid April 6, 2020, to present will be refunded


In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and President Joe Biden signed it into law. As a result, all copayments for medical care and pharmacy services provided during the period of April 6, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, are canceled, along with any fees or interest.

VA wants you to know that supporting your financial well-being is one of our top priorities.

Key facts on how the ARP will impact Veterans:

  • Cancel copayments for medical care and pharmacy services incurred on and after April 6, 2020.
  • No assessment of copayments for medical care and pharmacy through Sept. 30, 2021.
  • VA is working quickly to process those cancellations and refund Veterans who have been making payments on their accounts for medical services received during this period.
  • Continue to send statements for information only through Sept. 30, 2021. These statements keep Veterans informed of their balance, which will be due when collections resume in October 2021.
  • The mailing of patient statements and collection of copayments for health care and prescriptions will resume on Oct. 1, 2021.

Your VA health care continues

There will be no change in the quality and availability of VA health care during this time. You can schedule appointments and communicate with your providers in the same manner you have been.

If you are concerned about copayments you owe for health care and pharmacy provided prior to April 6, 2020, you an apply for a debt relief program.

For more information on financial relief, Veterans can visit https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/Financial_Hardship.asp or call the Health Resource Center at 866-400-1238, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

VA will work with all Veterans who apply for debt relief to determine the best possible solution.

For information on charges owed for care and prescriptions prior to April 6, 2020, debt relief options and/or account number information, Veterans can call the VHA Health Resource Center at 1-866-400-1238.

Resources for Veterans

Non-health debts and overpayments

This blog post excludes separate and exclusive information on non-health benefits debts and overpayments, which are handled by the Debt Management Center (DMC). This blog post duplicates that post, but excludes DMC content, focusing only on fees, copayments and debts on medical care and pharmacy services.


VHA Office of Community Care – Revenue Operations contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Veterans

Virtual reality technology brings joy and peace to veterans

Long before the pandemic began impacting visiting resident veterans in VA homes, a sense of isolation and being forgotten was ever-present. One virtual reality company is working hard to change that.

Chris Brickler is the CEO of MyndVR, which aims to lift the isolation of older adults in nursing homes and improve their lives. By creating settings where veterans can relive cherished memories or create new ones, they are on the cusp of leading research that is seeing health benefits to virtual reality for these older adults. For Brickler though, this technology is personal.

“Someone like myself that has come from a military family background, [I have a] deep respect for the service provided. When I hear my grandfather’s stories of World War II — those will live with me for the rest of my life,” Brickler explained.

Part of what MyndVR hopes to accomplish is to create that engagement piece, especially in the face of so much isolation from the world.

“My theory is that as people age their 4 walls get smaller. If there is anything that we can do as a company and society to keep those walls expanding instead of shrinking, VR seems like a cool way to do it because we can bring the world with infinite possibilities to these folks,” Brinkler said. 

Research has indicated that virtual reality is beneficial for dementia patients as well as those suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. While the use of VR technology is still relatively new, it is promising. MyndVR’s website shares that the company has found a reduction in stress and anxiety and stimulation of memory and cognition. The best part of it all is the smiles it puts on the faces of those who use it.  

MyndVR began its work with veterans’ homes in 2017 with the Long Island State Veterans Home. It was there that they launched their veteran’s initiative.

“When you take a war veteran on a magical airplane ride taking off the USS Roosevelt in the Atlantic Ocean … It’s mind-blowing,” Brinkler shared. 

The company also uses a lot of music with their technology. Brinkler shared that research has demonstrated the positive impact music has on parts of the brain, even in the midst of deteriorating dementia.

“We’ve taken a night scene from the 1950s and reenacted and allowed a time teleportation for the viewer to go back to a table with a cocktail and a band playing songs from 60 years ago. We can now bring that with the music therapy aspect and socialization to them. It’s a really immersive way to inspire and help from a therapy point of view,” he explained. 

As the pandemic hit, an already bleak reality for many nursing homes got ever bleaker as they were forced to stop leaving their rooms completely. And this Veterans Day, many of the nation’s heroes are still stuck in isolation. 

“When COVID hit, it amplified everything we do,” Brinkler said.

The company also uses a lot of music with their technology. Brinkler shared that research has demonstrated the positive impact music has on parts of the brain, even in the midst of deteriorating dementia.

The company went into overdrive to create a safe way to bring MyndVR into veteran’s rooms so that they could have some joy amid increasing isolation and fear due to the pandemic.  

With research indicating that seniors are at the most risk from the COVID-19 virus, safety protocols to protect them will most likely stay in place for some time. It is with this in mind that MyndVR is working hard to get this technology into every veteran’s home possible to provide joy and escape for those who need and deserve it the most. 

With many veterans unable to physically leave and go anywhere due to their health restrictions and now the ongoing pandemic, this technology brings the world to them instead. Scenes of Paris, flying and musicals are just the tip of the spear for what MyndVR can create in experiences for America’s heroes and aging population. 

“What I want people to know is that we are deeply committed to the health of our seniors and so many of them are veterans. We’ve created an entire channel in our company called Project Hero,” Brinkler shared.

“Building content for this audience to help in that overall healing modality is our deep commitment to veterans and their families.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

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

Midwest – Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas

West – California, Arizona, Texas

Mountain – South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma

Carrying the load
Screen capture from Veterans Affairs video on Youtube

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.

Cemetery guidelines

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.

The list of national cemeteries participating is at https://www.cem.va.gov/docs/National_Cemeteries_along_CTL_Relay_in_2021.pdf.


-Feature image: U.S. Army Photo by Rachel Larue

Veterans

A Cold War Marine shows the impact of building a community of veterans

Tempe, Arizona boasts a unique housing complex for mixed income families. Called “Valor on 8th,” its 50 units were specially designed as a place for U.S. military veterans and their families to live in affordable housing in one of America’s fastest-growing urban areas.  

One alumnus of Valor on 8th is Ro Gonzalez. A Marine Corps veteran, he appreciated what the city did for veterans. He spent a lot of time working for a veteran-oriented non-profit before striking out on his own. Gonzalez founded the Valors Veterans Community AZ in 2018, and has since helped 6,000 Arizona veterans.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Arizona, it hit veterans and their families in the Phoenix area hard and Gonzalez had trouble meeting the needs of his community. When he applied for an Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, Valor on 8th was ready to help. 

“Our motto is connecting veterans with veterans and resources,” Gonzalez told We Are The Mighty. “That’s what we do, we connect veterans with other veterans through a lot of social events, but we also help with education, employment, homelessness and veteran transition all over Arizona.”

Gonzalez is an old-school Marine who served during the Cold War, from 1987 to 1991. His priority, in his own words, is taking care of his veteran brothers and sisters. And because he and Valors Veterans Community AZ is mostly self-funded through his day job and his morning paper route, he’s limited in what he can do.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have help at all. The people of Valor on 8th just volunteer their time and effort.

“Nobody is on payroll,” Gonzalez says. “All our funds come from in-kind donations, my credit card, wherever we can get dollars from. A hundred percent of it goes right back to the veterans.”

Through his hard work and the work of his volunteers, he’s been able to expand his operation, starting a new chapter in Tucson and looking to hire a veterans benefits navigator. His local focus and small donations make it possible for Valors Veterans Community AZ to be more responsive to the needs of veterans in Arizona. 

“We’re more grassroots, more local, one-on-one, more personable,” he says. “It isn’t just about clicks and donations, our thing is to get our veterans involved in the community. If we help them out, they don’t have to pay us back monetarily. We prefer for you to come out and volunteer with us so you can see the impact volunteering in the community has.” 

With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the hardest-hit areas of Arizona was the veteran community in the Navajo Nation. Gonzalez and his organizations used the Evan Williams’ COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant to come to their aid.

“They were hit hard by COVID, because they have such a large elderly population,” he says. “We hooked them up with gallons of sanitizers, along with other PPE, diapers, laundry soap, food, water, you name it. Altogether, we donated more than $10,000 worth of items.” 

Veteran service organizations like Valor on 8th are supported by these grants through the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund, established by Evan Williams in 2020. As an American-made and owned company, it’s important for Evan Williams Bourbon to give back to those who serve.

Evan Williams

Ro Gonzalez and Valors Veterans Community AZ wants every veteran and every veteran family member to reach out when they need help. Gonzalez acknowledges his own problems as a veteran (he suffered a traumatic brain injury during service), but says that he does what he has to do to take care of it, just like any other problem.

“The number one thing is, if you’re struggling, there’s no shame in asking for help,” he says. “Every once in a while, no matter what you’re going through, you just need a little guidance. We’re happy to help.”

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