Why it's important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

The exposure of troops to burn pits and open-air sewage pits is a black eye on the Global War on Terrorism. While troops were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a quick and easy solution to getting rid of garbage and sewage was to simply set it on fire. Years later, this has resulted in wide-spread health issues that affect many of our veterans.

The use of burn pits and the subsequent failure to address them as a serious issue has been likened to the struggles that Vietnam vets faced with Agent Orange in countless headlines. And, frankly, there is truth to this comparison.


 

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
It shouldn’t take this much hassle to prove that breathing burning garbage, chemicals, literal human sh*t for twelve months is harmful to our lungs.

(photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

Agent Orange was a powerful herbicidal chemical used to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. Countless veterans suffered from leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and various cancers as a direct result of being exposed to Agent Orange. It took until 1991, eighteen years after U.S. involvement in Vietnam, for the Agent Orange Act to pass. It took eighteen years for veterans to be declared eligible for medical treatment for issues resulting from exposure to a known toxic chemical.

History is repeating itself with the veterans of the post-9/11 generation who are walking in frighteningly similar footsteps. The IAVA has been making strong headway in getting burn pits and open-air sewage pits recognized as hazardous to troops’ health. But full recognition requires proof and an accurate count of exactly how many veterans this practice has effected.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
We cannot make the same mistake with our veterans again.

(U.S. Air Force Photo)

This is where the VA’s Burn Pit Registry comes in.

If you’ve been affected by burn pits or open-air sewage pits, it is of the utmost importance that you — and every veteran who has been affected — make your voice heard. At the time of writing, over 144,000 veterans (not even 1/20th of the number of veterans who’ve been to Iraq or Afghanistan) have completed their registry questionnaire.

The questionnaire will take around 40 minutes to complete and it’s very thorough in documenting every base, FOB, COP, and anywhere else you’ve deployed. If you took R&R, you’ll even have to document your one-week stay at Ali Al Salem before getting back into the details about your deployment.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
It should be noted that, despite its name,u00a0the Burn Pit Registry also covers open-air sewage pits.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)

Even if you were just slightly affected for a little bit (let’s say you took a jog around the Sh*t Pond at Kandahar Airfield), you should register. If you were asked only once to burn garbage, you should register. If you dealt with these hazards on a daily basis, you should definitely register.

This is much bigger than any individual. Every questionnaire filled out is one step closer to getting our brothers and sisters the medical treatment that they need. While only the affected veteran can fill out the form, anyone can help by spreading awareness of the Registry and its significance.

You can sign up here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Montel Williams seeks veterans for home makeovers

Saying thank you for your service is not enough, according to veteran and talk show icon Montel Williams. But he does have a few ideas on other ways to show gratitude for military service.

He’s teamed up with WWE to find the next veteran for a home makeover that will be featured on Lifetime TV’s “Military Makeover with Montel.”


“We take these veterans and we literally make their home over from top to bottom,” Williams said during a phone interview. “We do, not just a facelift, but everything, from the floors, the ceilings to you name it, to make sure the veteran has what we call a forever home once we get done.”

Since 2015 the show has worked with one veteran family per quarter to makeover their home within 10 days, with 20 homes completed to date. Most episodes, Williams said, have featured families who have been in the midst of transitioning from military to civilian life. A few have featured veterans who have already left the military, but Williams adds any deserving veteran family will be considered as long as they own their own home.

He’s personally been involved in making over six homes, having taken over the show after the death of Military Makeover’s previous host Lee Ermey.

Williams said the reactions on the show have been great, not just from the service members, but from everyone in the community. The show uses volunteers and donations from local vendors to renovate the homes.

“Everybody is uplifted,” Williams said.

Hosting a home makeover show is also a good way to show appreciation for a group Williams describes as underappreciated.

“I think it’s a really good way to do more than say ‘thank you for your service,'” Williams said.

Williams is a 22-year veteran who served in the Marine Corps and Navy before starting his television career. Like many veterans, he’s come to see the phrase ‘thank you for your service’ as hollow and meaningless.

“I’ve been saying this for over a year. When people say ‘thank you for your service’ it’s lip service or a passing phrase, like you say ‘good morning’ to people when you walk by and don’t even wait for a person’s response,” he said.

In addition to his own service, Williams is a longtime veterans’ advocate. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House — a charity providing lodging near DOD and VA facilities for the families of those receiving care. He also works with an organization that help veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and has an upcoming project designed for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Williams launched a new national campaign to makeover the home of a veteran. (Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.)

Williams said he believes the current coronavirus pandemic has put showing genuine gratitude to veterans even further from the forefront of people’s minds.

“Right now, while we’re suffering through this COVID-19 pandemic, every day of the week people applaud our first responders. When they think about people on the frontline, they think about doctors, nurses and first responders to this virus here on U.S. soil,” Williams said. “We have ships and submarines and aircraft carriers and airplanes and deployed forward bases where people don’t have the same luxury of being able to social distance. These guys are out there every single day putting their lives on the line for us.”

While not everyone has the resources of a television legend, Williams insists there are things average people can do to show their appreciation to veterans.

“You don’t have to makeover a veteran’s home to contribute to a veteran’s life,” Williams said. He said providing meals, volunteering to babysit or mowing an injured veteran’s lawn are great ways for people to show their appreciation.

“Why not go out and do a gesture, not just of being a good neighbor, but deliberately doing something to help out our veterans?” Williams asked. “Remember that there’s a military family on every block in every community across this country. Reach out and do a little bit more than just say ‘thank you for your service.'”

Another way people can show appreciation is by going to Tag A Hero and nominating a veteran for a home makeover before May 31.

Williams has joined forces with WWE star Lacey Evans, a Marine veteran, to gain awareness for the new national campaign, but they are in need of more nominations.

“Lacey Evans, who is one of their stars, has become one of our team members on Military Makeover. She convinced [WWE] to reach out to their viewers to nominate veterans in their community,” Williams said.

The application submission deadline for the latest campaign is May 31st. On July 13, Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans will appear on Facebook and Instagram announcing the home makeover recipient.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WW2 veteran recalls guarding Nazi POWs and the Dachau concentration camp

Jack Shamblin was a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1945 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He soon became part of the occupation forces at an airbase near Frankfurt, Germany.


As a base MP and guard for German prisoners at Keslterbach, the young Oklahoman would learn deep lessons about the duality of man and the destruction of war. Walking along streets with buildings in rubble, and through the Dachau concentration camp, he shuddered at the atrocities.

“What got me, was that steel building they gassed them in … told them people they were going to delouse them, and then shot that poison gas in there … you could see the scratch marks on that steel door,” Shamblin said. “How could people be that evil and wicked? But they were … That got me.”

As a guard, Shamblin would get to know several German POWs during his nine months in Germany. He said he felt that many of the German people were good, and unaware of the horrors taking place around them. But they knew the Americans were coming to end the war.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

“I talked to a lot of the POWs, and one of them said ‘I look up in the sky when the Air Force was bombing Germany … and everywhere you look the sky was full.’ He said ‘I knew then the war was over with.’ I thought about that … They paid a high price, Germany did, but they’ve built the country back now so it’s one of the richest nations in the world.”

At his home near Roland with his wife of 69 years, Lily, the 90-year-old veteran looks back on his life with gratitude for being born in the United States and becoming a member of the Cherokee Nation through his mother’s lineage.

Also read: These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

Shamblin and several other members of the Cherokee Nation were recently flown to Washington, D.C., as part of the fourth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight. In addition to several fellow World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans, joining him on the Warrior Flight was his grandson, Zack Wheeler, to visit the grave of a war hero at Arlington National Cemetery.

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, Zack Wheeler’s brother and Jack Shamblin’s grandson, was killed in combat Oct. 22, 2015, during an operation in Hawijah, Iraq, with Kurdish allies to storm a prison and save about 70 prisoners being held by Islamic State fighters. Authorities felt the prisoners were in jeopardy of imminent execution, and it was thought many of them were crucial for Iraqi operation intelligence. The heavily decorated U.S. Delta Force soldier was 39 when he was shot, becoming the first U.S. military casualty in Iraq since 2011. His fourth son, David Paul Wheeler, had just been born that summer.

Speaking to media prior to the service in 2015, Zack Wheeler said his brother exemplified bravery and he considered him the “best soldier in the world.” Many his family felt he was “Superman.” His grandfather fondly recalls taking the Wheeler brothers fishing, and what he can only explain as “supernatural” event the Saturday morning after Josh Wheeler was killed. Shamblin said he was taping a news feature on Wheeler when something happened.

“Seven o’clock in the morning I heard the front door slam … and in my TV you could see somebody go upstairs. I saw this soldier in camouflage walk up that step. I thought, ‘Who in the world would be coming Saturday morning, a soldier, to see me?'” Shamblin said.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
Sgt. Titus Fields, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery during May 24, 2013 (U.S. Army Photo)

He turned off the TV, walked upstairs and looked all the way through the house. He asked his wife, who was sitting in a chair reading, if she saw someone. She hadn’t seen anyone.

“Then I got shook. I figured it was Josh,” Shamblin said. “I’ve heard about people coming back and visiting them … I thought about that a whole lot.”

Shamblin, who retired from Georgia-Pacific Dixie Plant after 42 years, comes from a long line of men and women who have served in the military. Just two and three generations behind him were Civil War veterans — grandfather Andrew Jackson Shamblin, a Confederate captured at the Battle of Vicksburg, and great-grandfather Capt. James Womack, a Confederate chaplain.

Ted Shamblin, Jack’s older brother, as well as three cousins, were in World War II. One of this three daughters was an Army helicopter technician serving in South Korea. In all, Jack and Lily Shamblin have 25 great grandchildren and a great-great grandchild on the way.

“It’s amazing what we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Lily Shamblin said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This proposed legislation could make it easier for troops to receive care packages

While deployed, there’s always a bit of joy that buzzes around the squad when a care package arrives. Troops gather around their squad leader as they disperse the sweets, trinkets, and amenities given by the charitable folks back home. It’s not uncommon for battle-hardened warfighters to genuinely crack an enormous smile when they receive something that reminds them of home.

Recently, certain regulations consolidated the shipping rates for packages being sent to an Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) mailing address — which only put added financial strain on those kind-willed folks sending packages. The costs can also really add up for charities who send mass quantities of care packages. Ultiltaemy, this means fewer care packages being sent to the troops still fighting overseas today.

There is a glimmer of hope. U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s First District recently introduced the “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” or H.R. 400, that aims to greatly reduce the costs and spread more cheer among the troops.


Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

The secret to make a bunch of grown badasses smile like children? Girl Scout cookies…

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

All shipping rates for packages that crossed different shipping zones drastically increased January, 2018. While a package going to Michigan from California saw an increase of .60, any package sent from Smalltown, USA, to troops stationed in the Middle East had to pay nearly double.

Logistically speaking, the care package left the hands of postal employees long before they were dispersed at mail call. Any package sent would arrive at a postal gateway before being given to military personnel to complete its journey to a remote destination. The added costs are mostly meaningless seeing as the package is delivered by US military personnel once it leaves the US.

Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey’s Third District tried last year to reverse these increases with a similar bit of legislation — Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, or H.R.6231. He aimed to curtail the costs and make it much cheaper to send troops a care package. This legislation would have listed any package to (or from) an APO/FPO/DPO address as Zone 1/2, making the weight of the package a non-factor in shipping costs so long as the contents fit inside a flat-rate box. This bill, unfortunately, did not succeed and MacArthur was unsuccessful in his reelection campaign.

The cost to send care packages remains unreasonably high, and organizations like the Operation Yellow Ribbon of South Jersey have had to reduce the number of packages sent purely because of the financial red tape.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Because our troops are still out there, and they need your support.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Now the torch to raise the morale of troops has been passed to fellow New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross, a chair on the 115th Congressional Committee of Armed Services.

He’s proposed “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” which aims to cut the red tape and make the price of sending a care package comparable to the cost of sending a letter.

This bill will positively affect the lives of the countless troops still in harm’s way. Please contact your representative and let them know that you support “Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2019”, or H.R. 400.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA partners with Dole Foundation, Red Cross to help Veteran caregivers

VA is teaming up with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) and the American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) to provide one-year, free, premium LinkedIn subscriptions to Veteran caregivers. Donated by LinkedIn, the free premium subscriptions help Veteran caregivers get noticed by recruiters, build out a network, stay in the know on new jobs that fit their skills, and apply for new opportunities.


In addition, LinkedIn offers a free year of unlimited access to over 15,000 business, creative and technology courses. The courses are all taught by industry experts through the LinkedIn Learning platform. Veterans may also request a free one-year premium subscription here: www.linkedin.com/military.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Caregivers support one of VA’s key priorities

VA values its long-standing relationships with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the American Red Cross. Together, we work to strengthen and bridge the gaps in services and resources in the community for caregivers.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation will soon share this offering with their military and Veteran caregiver community. Over the coming weeks, the Dole Foundation will be sharing this with the Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community, an online platform that connects thousands of military caregivers to a network of peer support and other resources.

The American Red Cross MVCN welcomes Veteran caregivers to join their Employment and Workplace Support Group if they are interested.

Specifically for the Veteran community, LinkedIn has created two learning paths.

  • Transition from Military to Civilian Employment: This learning path will help youis designed to navigate your job searches, helping you while building youra professional identity, assists in preopreparing prepare for interviews, negotiatinge salariesy, and even get promotionsed once you’ve after been hired.
  • Transition from Military to Student Life: Covering everything from ACT/SAT/GRE test prep to essay writing, study skills, time management tips, and how to land an internship, this learning path propels Veteransshould set you on a course to success – graduation and beyond.

To make the most of LinkedIn, use these resources:

  • LinkedIn for Veterans: This course provides a “LinkedIn 101” tutorial for everything from selecting and uploading the right picture to searching and applying for jobs.
  • Translating Your Military Skills to Civilian Employment: This course will help Veteransyou understand the civilian hiring process and empower you to demonstrate your best self to potential employers.
  • Finding Your Purpose After Active Duty: This course is all about the intangibles of transition – understanding the Veteran’syour value to civilian employers, dealing with the uncertainty of transition, and wrestling with some of the challenges inherent in this process.

LinkedIn is exited to support the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) who has teamed up with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network to offer Premium to family members of wounded veterans. These parents, spouses, and children of returning service members often disrupt their career paths to take on the important role of a caregiver.” Sarah Roberts, Head of Military and Veterans Programs, LinkedIn.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is excited to share this new, free offering with their military and Veteran caregiver community. Over the coming weeks, the Dole Foundation will be sharing this with the Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community, an online platform that connects thousands of military caregivers to a network of peer support and other resources. This offering is also available to military and Veteran caregivers who request to join Hidden Heroes in the coming weeks!

“We’re very excited to team up with LinkedIn and the VA on this very exciting offering,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Finding flexible employment has always been a challenge for the military caregivers we serve, and in the midst of COVID-19, this continues to be a top need for caregivers. We are excited to make this offering available to our community and continue to find ways we can creatively support military families during this difficult time.”

The American Red Cross MVCN welcomes Veteran caregivers of all eras to join their custom, secure, caregiver– only Network. The MVCN is delighted to host Sarah Roberts, Head of Military and Veteran Programs at LinkedIn to demonstrate how LinkedIn can support caregiver employment. Caregivers interested in a free Premium LinkedIn Subscription are encouraged to join the Employment and Workplace Support group where the ongoing issues of caregiver employment are shared.

Other resources from our partners:

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.


Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.

My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.

But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.

Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.

Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.

And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.

My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.

My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.

I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.

From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.

I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.

After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.

She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.

Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.

My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.

Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?

The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.

In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Department of Defense

In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.

I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.

And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.

I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.

I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.

Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”


Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.

Wait times are down, study shows

This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.

Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.

The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.

“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.

Choose VA to prioritize patient care

Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.

Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.

It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.

Choose VA today

Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.

Read more about the JAMA wait time study.
Explore a VA career as an emergency room physician.
Apply for an open position near you.
Learn how to Choose VA at www.VAcareers.va.gov.
Follow our Choose VA blog series:

Articles

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

U.S. Navy Surface Warfare officer, Jesse Iwuji, is a rising star in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. A veteran of two Arabian Gulf deployments, Jesse spends his time on land meticulously building each element of his pro racing career.


And of course, the bedrock of pro racing is the ability to move a ton of steel around a track at bone-rattling velocity.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
“Jesse, let me know when it’s safe to unpucker.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

As he related to Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis when they met up at the Meridian Speedway in Boise, Idaho, success in life is all about finding the thing you’re passionate about and then making a firm decision to go and get it.

In Iwuji’s experience, hot pursuit starts with putting one foot in front of the other. He finished the 2016 season ranked Top 10 overall in points and entered the 2017 season newly partnered with three time NFL Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman as his car owner for Patriot Motorsports Group.

Curtis, of course, couldn’t wait for his chance to get behind the wheel.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
“How about now?” “Just drive the car, man.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Iwuji pushes the K&N Pro Series stock car to it’s outer limits while Curtis makes the lamest joke in military history in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

Military Life

8 Things your civilian resume needs to have right now

Jumping from the military into a civilian role and vacancy is a huge change to make in your life and, of course, there’s a lot of differences that need to be taken into account. To succeed in this unforgiving job-seekers world, you need to be prepared and you need to have the right mindset and drive.


Even for someone who wasn’t in the military, finding a job can be stressful enough which is why it’s, even more overwhelming for veterans.

So, to ensure things go as easy as possible and you have everything you need to succeed, here are eight essential things you need to put into your resume to make sure it stands out from the crowd and secures you that all-important interview.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
This won’t be necessary.

1. Define the Objective

One of the most important things to remember when creating your civilian resume is that you need a clear goal/objective to be defined. You need to know exactly what job you’re applying for before you even start writing.

“If you already have a resume written, you’ll need to edit it or every job application or vacancy that you apply for. Be sure to put the job clear in your mind, so you know exactly what kind of language to use and what style you need to be writing in,” shares Paul Taylor, a resume editor for Paper Fellows.

2. What Can You Do For Me?

When writing your civilian resume, you need to make sure that you’re speaking to the employer who is reading your resume and answering all the questions they asked, or slipped into, the job advertisement.

You need to be answering the questions and stating who are you and what you can bring to the table for this vacancy. Why are you the person they need for this job? For this, you’ll need to research the company and the job description, but this can be done easily using the internet.

3. Assuming No Military Knowledge

Not everybody is going to understand military terminology, and it’s important that you remember that when writing your resume. When it comes to listing out roles, individual titles, awards, training programs and anything else military-related, make sure that you put it all into layman’s terms.

4. Highlight Your Experience

During your time in the military, chances are you’ve spent a lot of time building up your skills, having lots of experiences and completing many achievements. All these achievements, even if you’ve won any awards, need to be highlighted in your resume.

This is what your employer is looking out for so make sure you put it near the top, so it’s the first aspect of you that they see.

5. Use Online Tools

When writing your resume, you need to make sure that it’s free from errors and mistakes which could cost you the interview. Of course, not everybody is writer so here is a list of tools you can use to make things easier;

  • To Vs Too – An online blog you can use to brush up on your knowledge of how to use grammar properly.
  • State of Writing – An online blog that’s full of resources on everything about writing professionally.
  • Easy Word Count – A tool for actively tracking and monitoring the word count of your resume.
  • Cite It In – An online tool you can use to manage and properly format your citations, quotes and references.
  • Grammarix – An online tool for improving and enhancing your knowledge of grammar for your resume.

6. Never Downplay Your Military History

When it comes to the fact that you’ve been in the military, make sure you never play it down and highlight it throughout your resume; be proud of what you’ve done. There are a ton of employers out there who wholeheartedly recognize the benefits and skillsets that come with hiring veterans – so make sure you’re clear about it.

7. Avoid Gory Details

If you’re a veteran who found themselves in live and active combat situations, it’s important you remember to leave out the details, such as accounts and experiences.

Of course you can state what roles you played – especially if you were managing a team – but a lot of what you could say might make your employer very squeamish.

8. Test Improve Your Resume

Once you’ve written the perfect resume, try sending it out to a few places and see if you hear back from them. If you hear nothing back within a week or two, be sure to edit your resume and make changes before sending it off to other places.

Continue to edit and improve your resume, and you’ll be amazed at how many interviews you can secure for yourself.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

Checklist:

To summarise, these are the things you need to put in your resume right now;

  • Defining your goal
  • Answer the job description
  • Rewrite resume in layman’s terms
  • Share your experience
  • Use online tools for help
  • Never shy away from your history
  • Edit out the details
  • Analyze and enhance

Mary Walton is a writer whose work on resume writing has appeared in the Huffington Post and elsewhere. She helps with resume editing and proofreading at Resumention. Mary contributes to online education by helping PhD students with dissertation writing, and she blogs at Simple Grad.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Sailor needs your help to make his NASCAR dreams happen

Matt Perry wouldn’t be the first active-duty Sailor to make the jump to NASCAR, but he would be the first to make his debut by crowdfunding it.


The south Georgia native has been bombing around dirt and asphalt since the tender age of six. As a teen, he became an amateur drifter, making his way around the region while drag racing in the dirt of northern Florida. When he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming a fourth-generation service member.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
Perry after joining the Navy.

His passion for motorsports never went away, though. He competes in AutoCross while training for the big time at places like Willow Springs International Raceway and Irwindale Speedway.

Perry’s first stock car race came in September 2017, when he competed in the Whelen All-American Series at Meridian Speedway. He made history by becoming the first enlisted U.S. Navy Sailor to compete in NASCAR. He finished in the top ten as a NASCAR rookie.

Matt Perry is now looking to enter the 2018 season racing Super Late Models as well as Modifieds in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and he strives to make the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. But he needs helps — an enlisted sailor doesn’t make a lot of money.

“It has been an incredible journey to make it into NASCAR,” Perry says. “But sadly, the cost to race is too high for me to manage it by myself. I have a lifelong dream to make this a full career and won’t stop until we, as a team, have reached my goal.”

If you want to help Matt Perry reach his dream of being a NASCAR driver, check out his fundraising effort. You can also find him and Live Free Racing on Facebook and Instagram.

Veterans

Are you ready to take your career in Homeland Security to the next level?

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

You spent your whole military career trying to make sure the terrorists didn’t win and our common values were safeguarded. Now, you can continue that passion and utilize your experience by pursuing a career in Homeland Security. With a flexible online master’s degree from Penn State World Campus in Homeland Security, you can leverage the skills you’ve already learned with insight from research and technical skills that can help you land a job with intelligence analysis, information security, infrastructure protection, public safety, emergency management and much more. 

Homeland Security at a glance

Created due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a core founding mission: to protect American citizens from terrorism at home and abroad. Other missions have grown to be included, such as cybersecurity, emergency management or disaster resilience. When you pursue a career in homeland security, you might find yourself working within DHS’s many components, like customs and border protection, to transportation security, cybersecurity or immigration. In addition, the many other public and private sector partners in the homeland security enterprise beyond the federal department of DHS offer a plethora of career opportunities for those who served America’s security in prior military careers.  

By enrolling in the  Homeland Security master’s degree program, you’re not only going to receive the top-rated education Penn State is known for, you’re also demonstrating to future employers that you’re determined about your professional goals. You’ll gain an understanding of the origin and organization of the homeland security enterprise in the U.S., its public and private sector partners, and learn about relevant legislation, policies, strategies, plans and frameworks, as well as applied methods of analysis in a variety of threat domains. 

Many of the competencies you need to be successful in a homeland security career field closely relate to skills you’ve acquired during your military service career. No matter your role there, you most likely have some experience gathering and interpreting intelligence to assess threats, develop responses and inform organizational policy. These are the three critical skills that successful graduates of homeland security programs build on. As you move forward with your degree program, you’ll also learn how to promote community relations and develop cultural awareness by facilitating partnerships at the community level. 

Possible Careers

Penn State’s Homeland Security master’s degree program includes seven specializations and nine graduate certificates, so you’re able to specifically tailor your academic outcomes to your future professional goals. The rigorous curriculum helps leaders to advance still further. A partnership of nine Penn State colleges, the Penn State Homeland Security portfolio is one of the country’s most respected and comprehensive programs in the field. 

Uniquely positioned, Penn State’s Homeland Security master’s degree allows you to tailor your education to match your current and future career goals in serving America’s safety and security. Within this unified degree program, you can pursue an education in the base program that provides deep expert knowledge and skills for the homeland security enterprise, including emergency management and public safety. Alternatively, work on a domain specialization such as agricultural biosecurity, counterterrorism, cyber threat analytics, geospatial intelligence, information security or public health preparedness.

Each of these avenues will help you prepare for careers in a wide array of professional fields. Some exemplary career opportunities for our program’s graduates include upper-level positions in various government agencies, in emergency and crisis management, business continuity, infrastructure protection, intelligence analysis, law enforcement or physical security.

Why choose Penn State 

Penn State World Campus provides military members, veterans and military families with the flexibility of a 100% asynchronous online program and the prestige of an established university. The World Campus recognizes the unique and specific needs of our military students. You can expect a high-quality program taught by world-class Penn State faculty in a collaborative learning environment. They offer a military-focused staff to support your needs and have the experience and training to help advise you on every step of your educational journey, from understanding GI Bill benefits to helping you find grants and scholarships. 

When you become a student at Penn State World Campus, you join a community of more than 3,000 military and veteran students. When you’re ready to find out more, click here

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s oldest veteran gives you the secrets to life at 112

Richard Arvin Overton was already 35 years old when he fought at Pearl Harbor. Now, 73 years after the end of World War II and his service in the Pacific Theater, the 112-year-old is alive and kicking. Today, the City of Austin and its Mayor, Steve Adler, even came out to wish America’s oldest veteran a happy birthday.

Find out how to live your life like Richard Overton lived his.


Overton is still completely independent — he lives on his own, walks where he wants (albeit with the aid of a cane), and drives where he needs to go. He enjoys cigars, good whiskey, and dating his “lady friend.”

That also happens to be Richard Overton’s big, anti-aging secret, which he shared over a few drinks with We Are The Mighty’s Orvelin Valle during the celebration.

“The secret to life,” Overton says, “is Scotch and cigars.”

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin,u00a0joins WWII veteran Richard Overton and his neighbors at Overton’s home as they celebrateu00a0his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

You’ll never catch Overton without a pocket full of cigars and, while you might think they’re hazardous to his health and well-being, it seems they’re doing more good than harm. He passes every medical test the doctors (and the DMV) can throw his way.

Although he drives himself because he thinks too many people around his neighborhood drive crazily, he isn’t afraid of anything, even at his advanced age. He even remarked that he feels completely comfortable sleeping with his doors unlocked at night.

“You see a soldier with a gun,” he once told National Geographic (while holding his issued M1 Garand rifle), “you don’t see him turn around and come back this way.”

But that stress-free life starts with a good cigar or twelve. He often smokes a dozen or more per day. He doesn’t inhale, though, saying there’s no point.

Why it’s important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry
Richard Overton getting a light for his cigar on his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

“Forget about swallowing it,” Overton says. “There’s no taste to it. It just makes you cough.”

Not inhaling his cigars is what he calls “the healthy way.” This lifestyle also includes a diet of milk, fish, corn, and soup. But the 112-year-old vet also starts his day with about four cups of coffee and ends each by eating butter-pecan ice cream.

And, sometimes, he adds whisky to the mix

He doesn’t spend his money on buying things he doesn’t need and he definitely doesn’t use credit cards. He’s been driving the same truck for decades, which he paid for with cash. Still, it’s a far cry from his first car – a Ford Model T.

To live like America’s oldest veteran, just live a stress-free life. Start with the simple pleasures, like ice cream, whisky, and cigars. If you don’t take his advice, that’s fine. As he says, “that’s your bad luck.”

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