For a birthday present for his son years ago, Charles Smith bought a basketball arcade-style game where the hoop moves forward and backward, increasing the degree of difficulty. Every game ended the same way — with Jalen Smith losing, then crying — a fact riddled with irony now that Jalen was a first-round draft pick for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
When his father, a retired chief petty officer in the Navy, received a phone call informing him that Jalen was boarding a plane en route to starting his professional career, Jalen didn’t shed a tear.
The same could not be said for Charles.
“I know all the hard work he put into it,’’ the elder Smith said.
The Phoenix Suns drafted Jalen, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward, with the 10th overall pick in November. He played two seasons at the University of Maryland and won’t turn 21 until March. Jalen (3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds per game) has appeared in four of the Suns’ 16 games at the time of reporting.
His father’s military service rubbed off on Jalen.
“[It made me] more responsible for myself, more accountable and made sure that I respect elders and I am living the life that he raised me to live,’’ Jalen said.
Charles, 47, entered the Navy out of high school.
He has fond memories of watching Army-Navy football games with his uncle, Arthur Lee Smith, a master chief petty officer in the Navy, as a child. Charles was captivated about the stories that his uncle told about his service.
Charles served 23 years, and as he moved from station to station, his wife, Orletha, and two children remained on the East Coast.
“There’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to give your maximum effort,’’ Jalen said of the biggest lesson that he learned from his father. “That’s something I kept with me my whole life.’’
When the elder Smith was away, Jalen helped around the house. He made sure the doors were locked. He did not go to bed until his mother and younger sister were tucked away for the night.
Even when his father returned home, Jalen took his duties seriously.
“I was like, ‘No, daddy’s home now so you can go back to being Jalen the little kid,’’’ said Charles, now an engineering inspector. “He took on big responsibilities at a very young age.’’
One way the Smiths bonded was through basketball.
Charles, who is 6 feet tall, was a huge fan of former Maryland standouts Len Bias and Keith Gatlin. He played a little in high school but mainly was a rec-league player. Once they graduated from pop-a-shot games, the Smiths took their one-on-one battles to the court.
“I could beat him eight, nine times, and he’d still want to play again,’’ Charles said. “His will to win and finally to beat me, there was no telling him he wasn’t eventually going to do that.’’
Jalen finally prevailed when he was a sophomore in high school.
They split four games that day. Charles recalled that Jalen should have won them all, except he coaxed his son to shoot outside more instead of working the ball closer to the hoop, where Jalen’s height was a distinct advantage.
“After that, I played him one more time,’’ Charles said.
On that occasion, Charles’ wife bet him $100 that he couldn’t score a point off their son. A point? Charles managed that but never received the money.
Now he has a lot more as he sees Jalen happy and living out a lifetime goal.
“It’s been a new adventure,’’ Jalen said. “It was my first time being on the West Coast, getting accustomed to a whole new area and a whole new team that I never met before. It’s a very interesting thing, and I know it’s going to take time to get fully accustomed to everything.
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
Cyber security is a booming industry with a plethora of opportunities for veterans. Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer for USAA Gary McAlum is trying to pair the two.
Prior to joining the USAA team, McAlum completed 25 years in the US Air Force. He entered the Air Force in 1983 as a Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force ROTC program at The Citadel, Charleston, SC.
Throughout his career, McAlum worked in a variety of staff and leadership positions in the information technology career field. He’s done multiple deployments and his accolades are many. Perhaps most impressive? Gary was inducted into the Air Force Cyberspace Operations Hall of Fame in 2016. Now, he’s championing getting more veterans into the cyber security field. WATM had the chance to sit down with McAlum to find out more about why veterans are a good fit for this field… and why this field is a perfect fit for veterans.
WATM: USAA is ranked by Forbes as the 6th best employer for veterans. Why are veterans in such high demand for employment in the Cyber Security field?
First of all, we’re a company that is focused on serving veterans and the veteran community. We have a commitment to hiring military veterans and their spouses. I spent 45 years in the Air Force and that has made me very knowledgeable about bringing that talent into USAA. Our Cyber Security Team is a very diverse team, we have people who come from other entities from various companies. We have people who we bring in from internship programs but veterans also bring a lot of good qualities to the Cyber Security Team.
We hire anyone who served in Cyber Security in the military because it is a skillset that is highly desirable. There are other qualities that vets have that served them for a lifetime that work great for us too.
There are three things veterans bring that are of great interest to us:
One, they already understand that they’re coming into a purpose driven company like USAA. It resonates with them that they serve the veteran community in Cyber Security. We’re in the trust and confidence business, so, that’s a natural fit from a culture perspective.
Two, every veteran I know is team oriented. They come in and adapt to the environment they work well with the team and that’s important for Cyber Security. It’s a team sport.
Finally, I think, which they don’t often think of – they bring speed to the company. I spent my entire career moving around every two to three years between assignments. They have to learn new organization, new processes, perhaps a new mission area to become very knowledgeable quickly.
When they come to an environment like USAA they’re going to be focused on picking it up quickly. Which is value added. Those are three qualities among many that should attract and hire veterans.
WATM: What about veterans or active duty who have a different Military Occupational Specialty than Cyber Security, what certifications can they attain that will help them transition into this career path?
We do get veterans who have done something totally different, although it’s not a lot. They sort of took a backroad way to get into Cyber Security.
Some people for example, they get out, separate, or retire and use their G.I. Bill to get a technology degree with a focus on Cyber Security.
To any veteran who is starting from scratch, I would say get a technical degree and technical training and really understand technology, networks and how they’re built and implemented.
I really do think there is a technical foundation you need to have.
It’s not impossible.
Usually people who come in after doing something else adapt quickly and professionally after they get the foundation training that they need.
Once we get that, plus any experience would help, but a certification by itself is nice but it’s only part of the journey to get there.
WATM: What kind of mentorship training do you offer for veterans who are close to separating?
Almost every veteran that I know that has gotten out they’re committed to paying back. What I mean by that is helping other veterans make the transition. Whether it’s separating after a four-year tour or, like me, 20+ year career – I’ve spent my last ten years, after getting out, helping Senior NCOs and Officers transition out.
I do think that military veterans, regardless of going into Cyber Security, or anything – retirement is easy. All the processes, the pay and paperwork is going to sort itself out. It’s a big machine. All of that is going to come your way, the one day magically it’s your last day, and you’re going to retire.
Retirement is easy, transition is hard.
What I really mean is, you have to think about what’s next? What am I good at? There are all sorts of other variables: where am I going to live? What is my personal situation? Family issues? Am I looking for a job or a career? When I work with transitioning members we take all of that into consideration.
When we talk about a job, it’s sort of the last thing you go through. We focus on, especially after 25+ years, once you start over – you startover. We talk about the need to reinvent yourself in a world that you haven’t been in for a long period of time. It’s more about the actual transition than the magical process of just retiring in my mind.
WATM: Since USAA is one of the best employers for veterans, especially in this field, what can veterans expect from USAA?
We’re committed to hiring veterans.
We aim to make sure that at least 25% of our workforce is a veteran, spouse, or a family member. We’re committed to bringing them into our company and we’re committed to lots of external organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Hiring Our Heroes Program which helps train and place service members who are transitioning out of the military.
That’s really important.
We participate with the military and their training programs and education within the industry. We host some active duty military members here. Sometimes they get out and we look at the opportunity to bring them back.
Our culture at USAA is focused on embracing the veteran and helping him be successful in corporate America at USAA. WATM: USAA was listed on November 9th, 2020 on Forbes’ list of best employers for veterans. See for yourselves that the juice is worth the squeeze.
MST is an online platform that takes learning how to use computer software to a new level. The company uses a combination of technology and face-to-face teacher time to teach practical, functional, business-centric Microsoft Office software skills. That makes this is the ideal platform for transitioning service members, military spouses and military caregivers to learn. Students can choose how and when they learn. MST currently offers courses on Excel and has plans to introduce additional software to the curriculum, such as Microsoft PowerPoint.
For over three decades, software has continued to increase in popularity and usefulness. That’s no better illustrated than with the popularity of Excel. Over 750 million people use Microsoft Excel to make life easier and grow businesses and organizations’ profitability.
Why is knowing how to use Excel important?
A robust understanding of Microsoft Excel applies to just about everyone. From organizing data in easy-to-navigate charts, many industries rely on Excel in some way or another. At this point in our digital world, Excel is basically an industry standard. From sales to finance to engineers, Excel functions have practical uses every day.
Excel can also help you boost productivity – if you know how to use it. For transitioning service members and those reentering the job market, creating spreadsheets might be a cornerstone to a new career. Mastering Excel means you might become a key asset in your new team.
Microsoft first launched Microsoft Excel in 1985. MST was established in 2019 and began offering Microsoft Excel software courses almost immediately after its launch. Since then, MST has effectively equipped people from most parts of the world with skills and knowledge to use Excel for the best results.
No one ever said learning Excel is fun, but MST does its best to make it simple and effective. Post-course surveys conducted by MST illustrate that the company is committed to constantly improving both its courses and student work performance. The practical, functional, and business-centric skills acquired at MST can help you improve your productivity. For transitioning service members, expanding the range of opportunities accessible to you makes MST an easy choice.
Founder Steve Bradbury told WATM why MST is such a great fit for the military community: “While the military provides exceptional training in so many areas that are applicable to future careers, the reality is not every service member leaves active duty with effective business productivity skills. Microsoft Excel (and PowerPoint) continue to be the gold standard in most business environments. My Software Tutor provides practical, functional hands-on training. Learners come away with a solid foundation of real-world skills.
Bradbury continued, “eLearning can be defined as asynchronous or synchronous. In the first scenario, learners study independently. It’s you and the computer (watch a video, take a test). For many others, optimal learning was established in a classroom with a live instructor. In our courses, they get to ask questions and interact with other students. We believe this is a far more effective way to learn. It’s the core experience we provide with My Software Tutor.
“If you ask people what their most challenging subject is to learn,” Bradbury explained, “many would likely say either math or technology. Now imagine how many would agree if you combined the two? My Software Tutor tackles this challenge head on. We bring calm, patience and humor to every course. Read some of the kind words we’ve received from learners. That’s why our motto is ‘we turn on your learning lightbulb.'”
Active duty military and veterans receive a 25% discount for all courses. No promo code is needed!
U.S. Navy Hospital corpsmen are part of a tradition that predates the American Navy itself. In the age of sail, corpsmen (then called loblolly boys) helped the ship’s surgeon stay on his feet with sand and kept the cauterizing irons hot. The role has evolved over the decades, and the name of the corpsman’s rating evolved along with it. The loblolly boy became the nurse, who became the bayman, who became the surgeon’s steward, then the apothecary, hospital apprentice, hospital steward, pharmacist’s mate, until after World War II, when the modern corpsman (as we know it) was born.
Update: This story was corrected to reflect that Byers was a Special Operations Combat Medic.
The corpsman is part medic, part nurse, part pharmacist, who serves in the Navy and on its ships, but also deploys with Marines. A corpsman’s importance in combat is unrivaled and requires the skill and courage of any grunt. 2,012 corpsmen were killed in action in the history of the U.S., with 42 of those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their work earned the recognition of twenty ships named for them and more than 600 medals for valor, including twenty-two Medals of Honor. Here are the stories of twenty-two of the Navy’s bravest:
1. Hospital Apprentice Robert H. Stanley
Stanley volunteered to carry and deliver sensitive messages between the American and British forces while under heavy gunfire during the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, China.
2. Hospital Apprentice First Class William Zuiderveld
Zuiderveld was known as “Doc” to his company of armed Navy sailors (nicknamed “Bluejackets”) during the seizure of Vera Cruz. During an ambush, one of the men was shot in the head and Zuiderveld answered the call for a “corpsman.” Rushing to their aid, he purposely exposed himself to enemy fire to reach his wounded comrades.
3. Hospital Apprentice Fred H. McGuire
During the Philippine Insurrection, McGuire began running low on ammunition, causing him fight off the fierce enemy forces with only his rifle’s butt stock until relief arrived. Finally free to treat the wounded, McGuire attended to several Americans who otherwise would have died.
4. Hospital Steward William S. Shacklette
After the deadly boiler explosion on the USS Bennington and suffering from 3rd-degree burns over much of his body, Shacklette risked his life to assist dozens of sailors off the ship and to safety.
5. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Balch
Fighting alongside his Marines from the 6th Regiment during the Battle of Belleau Wood, Balch exposed himself to high-explosive fire to secure the wounded. He worked tirelessly for his save his patience’s lives.
6 . Hospital Apprentice First Class David E. Hayden
Crossing into a hail of heavy machine-gun fire in an open field during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Hayden administered lifesaving treatment to a wounded Marine. Hayden was wounded but saved the Marine’s life by carrying the man to safety.
7. Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Eugene Bush
Stationed with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in action against the Japanese on Okinawa, Bush took shrapnel from three enemy grenades. Despite the losing one eye, he was able to do his job and while tending to his wounded platoon commander. While holding the plasma bottle he was giving the Marine officer, he unloaded first his pistol and then the officer’s carbine into an oncoming wave of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese retreated and Bush ensured his wounded were evacuated before administering to his own wounds.
8. Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class William D. Halyburton
Serving in a rifle company with the 5th Marines on Okinawa, Halyburton noticed his company was suddenly pinned down. Moving forward towards the enemy, he reached a wounded Marine and unselfishly shielded the man using his body to shield incoming Japanese gunfire. He continued with his medical treatment until he collapsed from his wounds, sacrificing himself for the wounded Marine.
9. Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred F. Lester
Crawling towards a casualty under a barrage of hostile gunfire and bleeding badly from gunshot wounds, Lester successfully pulled a wounded Marine to safety and instructed two of his squad members how to treat the Marine. Realizing his own wounds were fatal, he instructed two others on how to treat their wounded comrades. Soon after, Lester succumbed to his injuries but saved dozens of lives during his tour.
10. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis J. Pierce
Pierce earned his Medal of Honor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. With his rifle blasting, he courageously unveiled himself to draw off enemy attackers while he directed litter teams to carry off wounded Marines towards the medical aid station. He again drew fire while trying to treat a wounded troop and killed another Japanese soldier in the process. He ran across 200 meters of open ground to pick up a wounded Marine and carry him back across the same open 200 meters. Francis rendered the care of several severely wounded men while during the campaign.
11. Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen
Under the command of 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines at Iwo Jima, Wahlen was positioned adjacent to a platoon that had come under fire and began taking mass casualties. Dashing more than 600 yards to render medical care on fourteen Marines before returning to his platoon unharmed.
12. Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams
Under intense enemy fire, Williams dragged a wounded Marine on his hands and knees, using his body to shield the man as managed to apply battle dressings to the wounded. Shot in both the abdomen and groin, Williams was stunned, but unwilling to give up, recovered and completed to treat the wounded Marine before addressing his injuries.
13. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Willis
Injured by shrapnel and refusing to seek medical attention, Willis advanced up to the front lines under heavy mortar and sniper fire where he saved an injured Marine laying in a crater. Willis administered plasma to the patient as the Japanese intensified their attack throwing grenades. Willis returned the frags launching back towards the enemy. After surviving several attempts, one grenade exploded in his hand killing him instantly. The Marine survived.
14. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward C. Benfold
Benfold was killed in action in Korea while trying to help two Marines in a crater at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His company was battered by an enemy artillery barrage and the charged by a battalion-sized unit. Benfold ran from position to position to help his injured comrades. When he came upon the two Marines in a crater, he saw two grenades thrown in as two enemy soldiers rushed the position. Benfold picked up the grenades and charged at the two attackers, pushing the grenades into their chests. He was mortally wounded in the subsequent explosion.
15. Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette
While attending to a wounded man during the Korean War, an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of William, who immediately threw himself on the man, absorbing the blast with his body. Now experiencing extreme shock, he continued to administer medical care to his wounded brother before patching up himself.
16. Hospitalman Richard D. Dewert
As a fire team became pinned down by an overwhelming source of gunfire, Dewert darted into the fray on four different occasions. He carried out the wounded from the front lines even after suffering a gunshot wound to his shoulder. His courageous acts and refusal to quit allowed his brothers to survive their life-threatening injuries.
17. Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond
After sustaining a vicious attack from hostile mortars and artillery by enemy troops, Hammond maneuvered through rough terrain and curtains of gunfire, aiding his Marines along the way. He skillfully directed several medical evacuations for his casualties before a round mortar fire struck within mere feet of him.
18. Hospitalman John E. Kilmer
During the Korean War attack on Bunker Hill, Kilmer suffered from multiple fragment wounds but still traveled from one position to another, tending to the care of the injured. Although he was mortally wounded, he successfully spearheaded many medical evacuations. As mortar shells rained down around him, Kilmer rushed to a critically wounded Marine. Shielding the man from the incoming shrapnel, Kilmer was struck by enemy fire. He’s credited with saving many lives.
19. Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard
Upon returning from rendering care on two heat casualties, his platoon came under a determined ambush from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Noticing an injured Marine, Ballard dashed to the man’s aid, treating his wounds. He directed four Marines to form a litter team to evacuate the almost dead Marine when he spotted an incoming enemy grenade. Ballard threw himself on the explosive device, protecting his brothers. The grenade failed to detonate. He stood back up and continued the fight, treating the other Marine casualties.
20. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron
While patrolling through a rice patty, Caron’s squad began taking small arms fire. Seeing his comrades sustain mortal wounds, he raced to each one of them and delivered medical attention to at least four Marines while suffering from two gunshot wounds. The injury didn’t stop Caron, he continued onward, putting the well-being of his Marines above his own.
21. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram
During an intense battle against dozens of NVA troops, Ingram’s platoon began to thin out. Danger close, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the weathered terrain to reach a downed Marine as a round ripped through his hand. Hearing the desperate calls for a corpsman, Ingram collected himself and gathered ammunition from the dead. As he moved on from patient to patient, he resupplied his squad members as he passed by. Continuing to move forward, Ingram endured several gunshot wounds but continued to aid his wounded brothers. For nearly eight hours, he blocked out severe pain as he pushed forward to save his Marines.
22. Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray
During the early hours of the morning near Phu Loc 6, a battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the position Ray’s squad occupied. The initial attack caused numerous casualties. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, tending to his wounded Marines. Protecting his own, Ray killed one enemy soldier and wounded a second. Although mortally wounded, he held off the enemy until running out of ammunition. While treating his last patient, Ray jumped on a wounded Marine as a nearby grenade exploded, saving the Marine’s life.
23. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers
Then-Chief Edward Byers was trained as a Special Operations Combat Medic at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before going through SEAL training in 2002. As part of a hostage rescue force in Afghanistan, he assaulted an enemy sentry while rushing into a small room filled with heavily armed enemy fighters. He assaulted, tackled and fought the insurgents in hand-to-hand combat and then threw himself on the hostage to shield them from small arms fire. While shielding the hostage, Byers subdued others with his bare hands. The 36-year-old is still serving on active duty after 11 deployments. He is the most decorated living Navy SEAL.
On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And for a decade after that, they lost touch.
At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”
The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.
The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.
In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.
Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.
“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.
LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.
“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”
The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.
No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.
Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.
As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.
Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.
The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.
“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”
Andrew found that support system in Gunner.
To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.
When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.
Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.
The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.
That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.
“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.
Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”
Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.
Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.
“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”
Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.
Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.
As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.
On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”
For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.
Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.
Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.
According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.
Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.
His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.
During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.
“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.
After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.
“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.
For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.
A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.
The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.
“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”
Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.
“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”
A meditation company with an iTunes app is offering free downloads to veterans. Meditation Studios has developed 200 meditation tracks that can be downloaded through their app in the iTunes store.
Through a recent partnership with Give Back, the company created the Veterans Collection, a unique series of meditations that are designed to help veterans improve their focus, relieve stress, and encourage better sleep.
In a statement to We Are the Mighty, Meditation Studios said:
Please enjoy these complimentary meditations from Meditation Studio App. For more from this collection, download the app. The guided meditations in the Veterans collection will help to improve focus, relieve stress, encourage better sleep and generally bring more peace of mind. The mind can be a great source of distress when it’s out of control. When we can relax, pause or slow the mind down, it becomes a source of consolation and peace.
As we learn to meditate, we learn to recognize emotions, thoughts and sensations without reacting to them. It helps us to respond more thoughtfully, without impulse or overreaction. This can be very comforting, giving veterans more control over the thoughts and emotions that accompany a return from deployment.
The downloads are available through the app, or through SoundCloud. The app, which is $3.99 and has high ratings, features unlimited access to all of the company’s meditations and courses; population and situation specific mediations; step-by-step “courses” with instruction on proper meditation; meditations in various lengths to fit into busy schedules; a section for tracking progress, scheduling meditations, and an in-app calendar.
An uncontrolled study published in Military Medicine in June, 2011 found that meditation among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat veterans with moderately severe post traumatic stress “may have helped to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and improve quality of life in veterans of OEF/OIF with combat-related PTSD.”
A similar study by the Army in 2013 determined that meditation could have a positive impact on PTSD, and noted that more research was needed.
The VA notes that meditation, when combined with other treatments, may “improve outcomes” of treatment.
Getting out of the military is a great day for most. You’ve been anticipating this day for years and it’s finally here — but now what?
Is it all peaches and cream once you’re on the other side? It might be, but there are some bleak possibilities that many veterans face on the other side of service. Now, we’re not here to frighten you, but these are things you should be aware of.
Sadly, homelessness is as real a possibility awaiting veterans as a life of prosperity. Homelessness in America is a serious issue — and the homeless population is about 11% veteran, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Of that total, 70% are on drugs, and 50% suffer from some type of psychological ailment.
There are programs in place to help, but you can only offer help to those who seek it, and there’s a general mistrust of these organizations in the veteran community.
Considering that the veteran population accounts for around 1% of the country, the amount of homeless veterans is extremely alarming. If you or anyone you know is homeless or on the verge of homelessness, there is help for you.
2. The mysterious misadventures of the VA
Going to the VA is a key part of post-service life. For many, it’s the only form of health insurance we have in the years immediately following service and is an absolute must if you experienced any adverse or lingering effects of service.
The VA is supposed to help, and for the most part, it does, but navigating the many avenues can be daunting. Hell, knowing where to start can be a task by itself. Setting up an appointment can take months and filing for your proper disability rating can take years… literally.
The best advice for dealing with the VA is patience and perseverance.
3. School daze
One of the best things about honorably serving your country is that you get the opportunity to go to school afterward (mostly) on Uncle Sam’s dime. But going back to school isn’t as easy as showing up for class and doing your assignments. Depending on where you land, you might feel like you stand alone as the only adult in an ocean of children.
The fun part comes when you realize that you’re closer in age to your classmates’ parents than your classmates themselves.
4. Unsure wonderland
Leaving the military is different for everyone. Some have planned for their exit for years; others never considered a life outside of the military. It isn’t uncommon for veterans to take a few years to get themselves truly together and on track.
Be ready for a period of self-reflection. Figuring out what you actually want to do can take more time than anticipated, and that’s fine. Try not to feel like you need to be at a specific point just because you’re a certain age or you’ve been through certain things. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but as long as you keep moving and searching, you’ll find your way.
One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.
Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.
Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.
Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.
As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.