EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life - ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’ - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’

Steven and Katie Applegate never saw remote island living as part of their post-military life, but when the former EOD Sergeant turned unexploded ordnance (UXO) contractor saw a minefield of opportunity on Guam, he took it.

The south pacific island of Guam is a United States territory with a military history dating back to 1898. Home to Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base, the 212 square miles of shoreline have seen their fair share of military operations, leaving an estimated 10,000 plus undetonated ordnance in need of care under the exact expertise Steven Applegate possesses.

After retiring from a military career cut short by Guillain-Barré syndrome, Applegate made medical strides and returned to college, eventually taking a management position with Amazon near Ft. Knox, Kentucky. It was there he realized just how different the civilian workplace was, a culture that quickly proved draining and dull.    

Katie Applegate, who shared she had never traveled farther west than Kansas, didn’t immediately pack her bags when her husband took off for his first short-term contract position. “He left in early 2020. The plan was for him to scope out the job and island with trips back and forth.”

As most 2020 stories go, COVID changed their plans, but not all impacts were negative. “We realized the school year was going to be really different, and travel not so likely, so when his contract got extended it was easier to just say yes,” she shared. “The island is now home to our five-year plan.”

guam
The beaches of Guam are pretty idyllic. (Luke Ma, Wikipedia)

Fresh out of a resort-oriented quarantine, Katie Applegate’s first impressions were a bit mixed. Even with a large American population and influence, Guam has its unique quirks. “The roads can be unpredictable, and the grocery shelves are weirdly overstocked with all one item or completely lacking what you’re looking for. So, between the two base commissaries, I’ve learned the art of food shopping,” she explains.   

See why food on Guam is both funky and awesome.

As a veteran couple, coming to Guam outside of military orders meant figuring it out without a sponsor. Luckily for the Applegates, the military community in Guam is still rallying around its own.  

“Maybe it’s the small island bringing us all together, but I definitely still feel accepted by military spouses here,” she explained. “A lot of us (military) are here on contracts, as airline pilot families, active duty or permanent residents so there’s no reason for barriers.”

Steven Applegate explained the drastic difference in workplace satisfaction he’s experiencing here, “At work people get me, we speak the same language. It makes being direct that much easier.”

Contracting after service for organizations like the Department of Defense, often provides veterans with an atmosphere, team and skillset similar to what they did in the military. The Applegates feel fortunate his position on Guam does not come with the typical 3-1 rotation seen in other contacts.

“If you’re willing to travel, and in some cases relocate your family after retirement, this is really a good path,” he explains.

Guam definitely delivers on off-duty recreation opportunities. World-class hiking trails and once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling are keeping this couple plenty occupied and properly social-distanced.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

The military is a breeding ground for excellence. You have to be a cut — or two — above the rest to make it through those doors and the wringer doesn’t stop until you are appropriately Blue, Green, or Marine.


It is no surprise that some of those excellent members turned out to be some of the all-time great athletes. Check out some of the best to ever step on the field of competition before, after, and sometimes during service to their country.

Related: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

7. Bernard James – United States Air Force

James served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2008 as a security forces member, HUA. James would separate from service to eventually attend and play ball for Florida State. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the youngest veteran on this list at 32.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Bernard James in warm-ups. A long way from the front gate. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Elgin Baylor – Army Reserves

Baylor joined U.S. Army Reserves during his Hall of Fame career. At the time, Baylor was one of the premier players in the early days of the NBA. He was called to active duty during the 1962 season, having to bounce from duty to game and back throughout the course of the season. Baylor is a Hall of Fame inductee and a stylistic predecessor to many of today’s players.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Elgin Baylor. He was basically MJ before MJ… seriously. (Image from Alchteron.com)

5. Alejandro Villanueva – Army

Villanueva attended West Point and received a commission in the U.S. Army in 2010. He would initially go undrafted before eventually finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. In the space between, Villanueva served his country as a U.S. Army Ranger and notched a few tours in the Middle East under his belt. His journey has come full circle, as he made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2017.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Alejandro Villanueva post-game with Steelers in 2015. From Army Ranger to NFL O-line. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. Willie Mays – Army

Mays was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He would miss two seasons while serving his country. He would return to the MLB with the San Francisco Giants in 1954 and promptly liter the record books with his name. Mays would go on to make every All-Star game until retirement in 1973.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
A 1951 Bowman of Willie Mays. Just a year before serving in the Korean War. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Nolan Ryan – Army Reserves

Ryan holds the MLB record for strikeouts — nearly 1,000 strikeouts ahead of the number 2 guy — and no-hitters. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1967.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Nolan Ryan after opening up a can of whoop *ss. (Image from BeyondTheBoxScore.com)

2. Randy Couture – Army

Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988. He attained the rank of sergeant before separating to pursue other endeavors. He went on to become an Olympic team alternate three times as a Greco-Roman wrestler before going on to UFC fame.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Former UFC champion Randy Couture spent the afternoon with the Army Marksmanship Unit seeing what the AMU does and getting to know the troops April 17. (Photo from Ft. Benning)

Related: 7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

1. Brandon Vera – United States Air Force

Vera enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1990’s after deciding college wasn’t the route for him. He trained with the Air Force wrestling team before injuring his arm and eventually being medically discharged from service.

Vera went on to rehab himself and make it to the UFC where he has a professional record of 15 and 7.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Brandon Vera landing a front kick during UFC 164. (Image from MMA Mania)

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine Veteran is pioneering a new VA program to help veterans and their families

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Every Marine knows the saying, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body.” It’s the motto that drill instructors use to encourage recruits to dig just a little deeper during boot camp and it’s often repeated when physical training takes a turn from hard to brutally hard. The military, especially the Marines, know that pain is the beginning of resilience, our ability to bounce back from difficult situations and complete the mission. But while some pain often prepares our servicemen and women for strength in war, we are often at a loss for what to do when our families or even children are challenged with pain and stress once we return. So when the VA wanted to start helping veteran families they smartly turned to one of the few and the proud.


Marine Veteran Tess Banko is no stranger to pain. By twenty three years old, she had survived homelessness, a massive back injury (for which she was medically discharged) and the suicide death of her husband, also a Marine. When her world seemed to be coming apart, Tess did the opposite of what most of us would do. Instead of allowing her pain to overwhelm her, she fought back. She dug into her pain both physically and mentally. Along the way, she volunteered to empower and assist others, went to college (she was crowned homecoming queen), and ultimately, found the tools inside to help her (and her family). Tess is the epitome of resilience and now she’s bounced back to take on a new mission.

Today, Tess is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center, a one of a kind partnership between UCLA and the West Los Angeles VA system. Tess and her team are part of the first VA program specifically designed to help not only veterans, but their families. To support their work, the team is relying on cutting edge research from UCLA just a few blocks from the VA campus. UCLA, the university which revolutionized kidney transplants and invented the nicotine patch, is now offering veterans and their families a state of the art resiliency program. Families Over Coming Under Stress (FOCUS) is a resiliency training regimen for individuals, families with children and couples facing adversity or issues like traumatic stress.

With Tess at the helm, she’s not only pioneering a new way of thinking for the VA, she’s also helping others find their path through trauma. Tess sat down with We Are The Mighty to discuss her work, passion and journey into resilience.

WATM: First things first, thank you for everything you do for military families. How do you describe yourself and your work here at VFWC?

Tess: Well it’s really easy to give a title. I’m the executive director of the UCLA/VA. Veteran Family Wellness Center. But really, I’m a social worker and public administrator.

WATM: And a Marine? What made you join the Corps?

Tess: I think it was really a lot of wanting to be part of something that made a difference. When I was younger I used to go to the [El Toro] airshow with my grandfather and that’s the first time I ever laid eyes on a Marine standing there in the uniform. You know guiding people, I mean it was airshow duty. I didn’t know at the time probably how much fun that wasn’t, but they were motivating and just really interacting with the public, and there were are all these exciting machines and demonstrations. So, it really made an impact on me as a little girl. The wider world was calling.

WATM: Did your family have a history of military service?

Tess: I didn’t find out until many years later that my own grandfather was actually in the Army. He never told those stories to the family because I think he was embarrassed. He said that a lot of his friends were being sent off to war but he served two years in a non-combat role, got out and went into aerospace engineering and he was one of the first Mexican-American designers of bomb and missile systems at White Sands, NM. I personally saw the military as one of the only places that you could go as far as your own two feet would take you basically or your hard work that you put into it. That’s one of the reasons why I was excited to join.

WATM: Wow.

Tess: And I like a good challenge. The Marine Corps seemed like a good fit. So I joined [as] an engineer.

WATM: Did you find the challenge you were looking for? Especially as a female Marine in the engineers.

Tess: When I joined it was very idealistic. I wanted to be just one of the guys and I saw myself in that way. I never saw myself in terms of being a woman, only a Marine and that actually caused a lot of problems and disappointment at the time as we have only just begun to move more fully into gender integration among the services. And it was really challenging for me because as I said I never saw myself as anything other than a Marine. I always just wanted to do my job.

WATM: What made you transition out of the Marine Corps?

Tess: I got hurt.

WATM: You got hurt?

Tess: Yes. We were training and I noticed that there was something wrong with my back because my leg had stopped functioning. I was in my early 20’s and the command atmosphere gave this impression that you had to white knuckle it through anything. I was told, ‘There’s no problem, there’s no problem. You just need to keep going.’ It turned out that I had a herniated disc in my back and it was it was crushing the nerve to the point where it began to permanently kill the nerves. I was standing there on the rifle range and I just fell over on my side because my leg finally gave up. They called an ambulance and rushed me into emergency surgery in Japan.

WATM: Did you feel like you had the resiliency skills that prepared you for that experience?

Tess: My life growing up was challenging. My parents were very young when they had children. I was the only person in my immediate family to successfully graduate from high school. My parents had dropped out at 17, which kind of spells disaster for a young couple with four children. And so it was really a life of learning to adapt, moving from place to place, experiencing homelessness as a child, living between motels and being chased by bill collectors. You know all that bad stuff for [a child] but even from a young age I adopted a viewpoint of life that was more curious than anything. It was less ‘Oh my God, why is this happening to me?’ and more ‘huh this interesting.’ It was just a minor shift of perspective. I developed that curiosity and a different way of looking at problems and I think that’s a key part of resilience.

WATM: Did you know what resilience was growing up?

Tess: I did not. I think it was something that I saw modeled by example. My grandmother was a very kind and giving woman, she taught me so much. She always went out of her way to help people in the community even when she seemed in the midst of a lot of uncertainty in life. So, paying that forward, even on active duty I was volunteering in the local community teaching English to Okinawan children. I’ve always been so curious about other people and their lives. It’s a great education.

WATM: And then you lost your husband (also a Marine). How do you process all of that?

Tess: It was a surreal experience having the casualty assistance team knock on the door. I can remember I opened it a crack. It didn’t make sense in my mind what was happening so I opened the door a crack and a Marine stuck his foot to keep me from shutting it. Then I saw the Colonel. And then it finally hit me that it was real. My husband wasn’t coming home. When you’re actively experiencing shock, pain or trauma it’s less thinking about resilience and more survival mode kicking in. It was one second, one minute at a time. The days blurred together. I mean being emotionally injured is much like being physically injured, it can take a long time to wrap your head around. There’s no linear pathway. Also, processing trauma is not just about moving through pain but about overcoming fear. There’s the fear that you as a person or things in your life will never be the same. Sometimes you don’t know what other people are going to think. Usually some of the fear ties back to being afraid that people are going to judge you if you feel broken. And I think that really was hard for me to overcome, but it was necessary. I think that being gentle with yourself is a skill.

WATM: You not only survived but thrived? You went back to college and grad school and now you literally work with Neuroscientists.

Tess: The science behind the brain fascinates me because people that are in pain sometimes seem to think, ‘I’m damaged forever and I’m never gonna be able to do or be anything. There is no coming back from this.’ I understand where you’re at if it’s crossed your mind, I’ve been there too, but there’s so much possibility. We can’t change what happened but our brain is essentially plastic and able to rewire. The body and mind actively try to repair themselves, and we can support our own process through building resilience. There are a lot of tools for that belt, resilience isn’t just a buzzword.

WATM: Is that thesis behind your team’s work at the VFWC?

Tess: Exactly. The center is a place of hope and healing. We teach tangible skills, identifiable tools, for veterans and their families to be able to overcome challenges and build better relationships. The FOCUS model that’s our cornerstone is pretty incredible.

WATM: Is there anybody else out there that’s focusing on families like this?

Tess: Not in this way. From a wellness-based resilience perspective this is the first center of its kind, especially paired with the VA which traditionally only sees individual veterans. They took a huge step to open their doors to couples and families too. When you think about it, though, our families, friends and communities are on the front lines supporting after military service.

WATM: So this is a groundbreaking VA partnership all based in science?

Tess: Yep. That’s why UCLA is such an amazing partner because the VFWC is just blocks away from world class researchers. The Center falls under the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Nathanson Family Resilience Center which focus on resilience for all families, not just veterans. The research behind our programs is about understanding what drives human behavior and growth. Based on that, VFWC programming is tailored to veterans and their families with really firm research and evidence backing it up.

WATM: Classic, intel drives operations model. But you have specific model for your programs as well. What is FOCUS?

Tess: FOCUS is Families Overcoming Under Stress. It’s a holistic model that was co-created between UCLA and Harvard University and currently in use on over 30 active duty military bases around the world. Our center represents the first wider translation of FOCUS from active duty into the veterans community, which are distinctly different populations. It’s a departure from traditional therapy models.

WATM: What can veterans and their families expect when they come to the center?

Tess: When somebody comes into the center in general we start with a consultation that helps us to really guide veterans and family members to the resources that they might be needing. It’s starting where the individual is. We have individual, couples, early childhood, military sexual trauma, and combat veteran adaptations, plus group sessions and special workshops and events. We keep our doors open for veterans and family members regardless of discharge, benefits or when they got out. The building we’re housed in also offers veterans with VA benefits massage, reiki, mindfulness and yoga. There’s even a drum circle and Taichi.

WATM: And children?

Tess: Especially children. Research that was done as far back as the Holocaust indicates that trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. In cases of post-traumatic stress, suicide and even repeated deployments, the effects of secondary trauma is a very real thing. A lot of the times we see families with children who don’t know how to talk to them about certain issues or there’s not a huge understanding of the developmental piece of what’s behind behaviors. Kids aren’t just mini-adults, the human brain is still developing until the age of 25! So, we support both the parents and children to find a closeness and ability to communicate more as they move through the journey.

WATM: That sounds pretty awesome especially for the VA. How would you describe starting the center?

Tess: It’s been a lot of pioneering. Improvising. Being resilient. There are so many people who care in the VA system and a whole lot of need. Offering another avenue for assistance is important to the team here.

WATM: What is your vision for the center and the future of resilience in the VA?

Tess: I would love to see the VA expand the VFWC’s holistic wellness model to include centers in every facility, especially coupled with a research institution. Veterans and their families would really benefit. Both our families, and wider communities for that matter, are really impactful in our individual wellness. One of the great things about the VFWC is our ability to seek additional community resources. It’s a long table and there is no one size fits all for wellness, reintegration, and healing.

WATM: So now you you’ve gone through your own experience gone through two years here. What does resilience mean to you?

Tess: I think the Marine Corps says it really, well you adapt and you overcome. Sometimes it seems like pull-through comes from out of nowhere because we’re born with it, but sometimes life can bring those levels low. Resilience is that wellspring that allows for course correction and being able to bounce back. Resilience to me also means working on saying, “hey something’s wrong here” and being open to assistance. First step for me personally of breaking the cycle was my own acknowledgment of what I was facing. For instance, I couldn’t talk to my family being sexually assaulted on active duty and I now know that’s common to those who have experienced trauma. I simply didn’t have the vocabulary, I had to organize the words in my own mind. We really need each other to get through hard times, so it’s crucial to develop.

WATM: What does 2019 look like for you and VFWC?

Tess: We’re working on piloting a new transition program, TEAM, for those at any point after active service based on the core FOCUS model paired with the ideas of identity ,mission, meaning and purpose. These are four essential elements of transition. Your perception changes along the transition to civilian life just like my perception changed of myself when I got out of the Marine Corps. It really was a rediscovery of who I was, where I was. I had to find a new mission. For me that happened to be serving people, but it could be different for others. It can be challenging to figure these things our while also providing for yourself or a family. We want to offer veterans and their families the resilience tools before they even need them.

WATM: Do you have any advice specifically to the families

Tess: There is no one size fits all to happiness, health and healing. If one thing doesn’t work, move forward. No matter what you face, keep reaching out and moving forward. Families, you are vital to service. You’re heard and seen. You matter.

Marine Veteran Tess Banko is the executive director of the UCLA/VA Veterans Family Wellness Center (VFWC). To learn more about the center’s work or begin your own resilience training please contact familycenter@nfrc.ucla.edu or Phone 310-478-3711, ext 42793.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA offers mental health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.

One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.


Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’

A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.

The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.

You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who

  1. Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
  2. Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.

The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’

In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.

There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.

Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.

You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

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

Veterans

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

In her book, “The League of Wives,” historian Heath Hardage Lee captures the fighting spirit of military spouses who took on the U.S. government to bring their POW husbands home. 

Lee, a civilian historian and museum curator, saw a diary of a family friend, Navy POW wife Phyllis Galanti. Through her papers, Lee unearthed a network of women who formed the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. These women, led by Sybil Stockdale, put pressure on the U.S. government to get their husbands home from Vietnam.

“They have to fight not only the North Vietnamese Communists who are torturing their husbands but their own government, their own military institutions to get justice,” Lee said. 

Many Americans are familiar with the harrowing tales of torture faced by military POWs like Adm. James Stockdale and former presidential candidate John McCain, at the hands of the Northern Vietnamese during their stay in the Hanoi Hilton. What is less known is the revolution that was taking place on the home front.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
POW James Stockdale reunites with family. Image courtesy of the Stockdale Family collection.

Finding a voice

Told from the point of view of these women, “The League of Wives” showcases the tearful goodbyes to learning their husbands had been shot down. At first, the women responded as expected, relying upon the advice from Department of Defense leaders, while leaning on each other for support. As the story progresses, these accidental feminists find their voices and no longer remain quiet. 

According to Lee, what pushed these wives over the edge was the Johnson administration’s refusal to acknowledge that their husbands were being tortured by the Northern Vietnamese. 

“By 1966, they [government] fully knew what was happening,” said Lee. “And by 1967 Sybil [Stockdale] was sending coded letters to her husband, working with the Navy, and discovered they were all being tortured.” 

Path to advocacy

According to Lee, instead of getting these men out of harm’s way, politicians focused on optics-first policies, not people-first. The spouses featured in the book knew their husbands were being tortured. The government’s policy of silence felt like abandonment.

Ultimately, they reached out to the media, which was the only advocacy avenue left to them. By sharing their stories with the world, they found a way to leverage public outrage, and helped to bring an end to the unpopular war in the process.

“When history is happening to you, you really don’t know it,” Lee said when asked if the League knew the long-lasting impact of their advocacy. “Particularly when you are a woman in the ‘60s, when you’re taught you’re invisible. So, none of these ladies really thought at the time they were doing anything but absolutely what they should be doing to get their husbands out.”

“When you are fighting for something that is so precious, you’re willing to do almost anything,” said Louise Mulligan, a POW wife featured in the book.  

Hidden figures no longer

Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon read the book before it was published. Her production company Hello Sunshine intends to make the book into a film, commemorating the lives of Sybil Stockdale and her fellow POW-MIA wives.

Read: Vietnam veteran: “Your country call you to war. You go.”

“From the minute I heard about this inspiring true story, I knew it was a perfect fit for us. I’m excited to … be giving audiences a glimpse at this meaningful moment in American history,” Witherspoon said in a statement.

Preserving their legacy

The book opens in the picturesque southern California town of Coronado. Known as the birthplace of naval aviation, the town was home to Sybil Stockdale and other members of their group. The League of Wives Memorial Project hopes to erect a statue commemorating these women and their role in bringing their spouses home. 

“The League’s efforts ultimately helped facilitate the release of 591 prisoners of war,” said retired war correspondent Brad Willis, creator of the project. “We feel that honoring these courageous and committed women who changed the course of history will serve as an important historical memorial for the Coronado community and its future generations as well.”

More information about the memorial can be found here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/leagueofwives.


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

MIGHTY GAMING

How Call of Duty is returning to help our real-life war heroes

Since 2009, the Call of Duty Endowment has been making strides in helping out the real-life heroes upon which the Call of Duty series is based. Now, the newest installment in the series, Call of Duty: WWII, is once again offering gamers the chance to give back to our nation’s war fighters — and get some really sweet loot in the process.


The deal here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is effective. The developers over at Sledgehammer Games, Inc. are again putting out some cosmetic DLC that offers gamers some nifty swag in exchange for putting some cash towards helping veterans find jobs after they leave the service.

They’ve began this trend with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare when they offered players a sweet red, white, and blue skin for their weapon, giving fans of the series the chance to showcase their commitment to helping veterans. Shortly after the release of Call of Duty: WWII, players once again had a chance to chip in and, in return, receive a helmet with the C.O.D.E. emblem on it.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
My character still rocks the helmet even after I’ve unlocked plenty of others in the game.
(Activision)

This time around, the pack is called the “Fear Not Pack.” It comes with a new Monty uniform, two calling cards, two player emblems, a weapon charm that’s a Scottish Terrier wearing Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses, and a green “Viper” weapon skin.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
(Activision)

You can pick up this new pack for $4.99. Playstation 4 players can snag an exclusive premium, animated theme for an additional $3.99. Or, you can get it all bundled up with last year’s Bravery pack for a grand total of $9.99. Both packs are now available for players to purchase.

No matter what your stance is on buying in-game cosmetics, remember, it’s all for a good cause. All of the proceeds go towards placing veterans in high-paying, high-quality jobs — and things are going well. The Call of Duty Endowment first set out to place 25,000 veterans in great jobs by the end of 2018. Due to an overwhelmingly positive reception and avid participation from the players, they met that goal two years early. They’ve since revised their goal. Now, they want to place 50,000 veterans by the end of 2019 — and you can help.

Check out the video below to learn a little more about the organization and how they’re helping our nation’s vets.

“The continued support from Sledgehammer Games, PlayStation, and Xbox for Call of Duty® in-game items this year is vital to our mission of helping veterans beat unemployment and underemployment as they transition back into civilian life. Via these programs, we have raised more than $3.8 million toward helping veterans into meaningful careers,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment. “We want to thank Call of Duty gamers and our partners for their continued support, without which we could not be have helped more than 6,000 vets.”

ACTIVISION and CALL OF DUTY are trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. All other trademarks and trade names are the properties of their respective owners.

Veterans

7 veteran qualities that civilian employers go crazy over

When it’s time for troops to hang up their uniform for the last time and go pick up that beautiful DD-214, they’re subjected to countless classes on how to adapt in the civilian world and use the strengths they’ve picked up in the military to give themselves a leg up in a competitive civilian marketplace.

Troops who had more POGy jobs in the military may have an easier time making the transition. If you worked in the commo shop, there’s countless IT desks out there you can apply for. Flight-line mechanics can make bank working for airlines. But even combat arms guys aren’t limited to positions as security guards or fast-food workers, no matter how many times the retention NCO tells you so.


The fact is, any good soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman who fit perfectly in the formation comes away from service with valuable skills that employers look for in potential employees. Here are a few qualities that veterans have had drilled into them every day since basic training that help them stand out over most civilian competitors.

 
EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
We’ve mastered the art of “hurry up and wait,” so showing up early and killing idle time is no problem.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

 

The 15-minutes-prior schedule

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re fourteen minutes early, you’re still late. Civilians tend to pull some excuse that explains why it’s definitely not their fault that they’re arriving at 10:05 for a 10 a.m. meeting.

That fifteen-minute buffer works wonders with the way most civilians schedule things. The higher up in an organization you go, the more promptly meetings tend to start. If you’ve been ready for 15 minutes already, nobody will end up waiting on you. You’re set.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
You’ll never find a more open and, uh, “creative” conversation than those held at a deployed smoke pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Blunt honesty

We’ve seen it happen a million times: Someone throws out an awful suggestion and it’s met with agreeable silence. Everyone is too afraid to speak up because their reputation is on the line for speaking out of turn. Then, out of the corner, a veteran speaks up and says, “well that’s dumb. Why the f*ck would we do that?”

If there’s one thing that sets a veteran apart in a board room it’s their ability to avoid being a yes man. It may ruffle the feathers of people who expect everyone to nod along, but at the very least, it moves the meter.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
If you thought vets couldn’t also handle useless and drawn-out PowerPoint presentations, think again!
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alfonso Corral)

 

No aversion to manual labor

Veterans can safely celebrate the fact that when they get a new job, if something comes up that’s not in the job description, it’s not expected of them. That’s right: if you’re now an office drone working some cubicle job, no one will randomly get on your ass for not cleaning the break room.

Sometimes, however, things just need to get done. Using that same example, an entire day could go by in a civilian office and people will simply walk by that messy break room thinking, “it’s not my responsibility.” Most vets, on the other hand, would instinctively clean it up without giving it a second thought.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
The same goes the other way around. Knowing who does the leg work in an organization makes a leader’s work a million times easier.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

 

Acknowledgement of hierarchy

Things are nice and easy when everyone wears their rank on their uniform. You can instantly look at their insignia and recognize where they stand in the chain of command — no questions asked. That simple insignia tells the world what is expected of you, in accordance with your rank.

The civilian workplace doesn’t really have those kinds of markings — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pecking order. Vets just need to know who’s in charge of them and who’s in charge of the people in charge and they’re set.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Sometimes, leading from the front means letting a subordinate take the spotlight. That’s surprisingly rare in the civilian world.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Parks)

 

Willingness to take a leadership position

Everyone wants the bigger job, bigger desk, bigger pay check, but too few people are willing to exit their comfort zone to get it. They’ll whine about that one guy getting an extra zero in his paycheck but slink at any opportunity to prove their worth.

Vets, on the other hand, will usually take it upon themselves to organize their coworkers if they see a lack of leadership and make themselves the face of their team without even realizing it. Willingly taking on that leadership role proves to the company that the vet is serious and values the company. This almost always gives that vet more firepower when it comes time to shoot for a raise.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
The ever-looming glare of a drill sergeant never leaves the back of your mind. Ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

 

Separation of work life and personal life

Keeping what’s going on in your personal life from affecting your work life is a difficult skill to master. It’s a beyond-useful talent to be able to set aside any personal problems when it’s time to get serious and work. The other part of this equation is not letting personal drama bleed into getting the mission done.

Troops and vets have been constantly cattle prodded into moving forward and to quit whining about unrelated stuff. This is second nature.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
There’s no gray area in “until mission complete.” Either it’s impossible or it’ll be done by lunch time.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. David W. Cline)

 

The mission-first mentality

If there’s a single quality that civilian employers can expect from nearly every veteran, it’s that veterans will always be task-oriented. They’ll see a checklist as a thing to complete rather than a thing to dread.

From the moment troops enlist, they’re taught to juggle roughly seven thousand different tasks inherent to military life, in addition to those associated with their given MOS. There’s a job to be done, so let’s get to it.

Veterans

From the jungles of Vietnam to the Academy Awards, William Broyles still has the work ethic of a Marine

Former Marine First Lieutenant William Broyles deployed to Vietnam, served as an infantry platoon commander and earned a Bronze Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star before his illustrious Hollywood career began. Broyles is known for creating the TV show China Beach and for writing such great screenplays as Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard. Broyles also wrote Castaway and Polar Express, both directed by Robert Zemeckis, Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes and Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood. Broyles’ films have won Academy Awards for their merits. 

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Broyles with China Beach star Dana Delaney. Photo courtesy of William Broyles. 

Broyles starts off our interview saying, “I will do anything for the Corps,” which led the interview to take off as quickly and smoothly as an F-4 Phantom. Broyles was born during World War II and his parents were both very young. His mother learned of the Pearl Harbor attack while coming home from a football game with her then-boyfriend. Broyles grew up in a blue-collar factory town outside of Houston, Texas, named Baytown, home to the largest refinery in the world. Most of his friends’ fathers were World War II veterans. He idolized them in their experience of the war. Broyles shared, “It was this sort of mysterious experience they had all had and I kind of inhaled. I didn’t particularly want to repeat it. I was just fascinated by it.” 

He went to a segregated high school, which deeply impacted his world view. He went to Robert E. Lee High School where the marching band wore confederate uniforms and the school’s fight song was Dixie. He saw photographs of Blacks protesting segregation so he began to question his identity and got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. When the Vietnam War started, he went from the Civil Rights Movement to the anti-Vietnam war movement. In January 1968, he was in a basement of the Oxford University where he was a Marshall Scholar at the school, and witnessed a news report on the Battle of Hue in Vietnam that deeply affected him. Broyles shared about the Marine he saw on TV being interviewed about his survival: 

“I thought, ‘Oh my God! That is the same kid I went to high school with….so many of my friends went to Vietnam. Some of them had been wounded and some had been killed. It sunk in on me then that I had this moral clash that I didn’t believe in the war, but also my deferment meant that other kids I knew were going instead and I was taking advantage of that with the privilege I had to avoid it. It was just confusion.” 

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Broyles (left) with Jeff Hiers (radioman) and Tom Tomasiewicz (squad leader) in Vietnam with a 60mm mortar. Photo courtesy of William Broyles.

Broyles had two ethical values that clashed: one, all humans being equal in the sight of God and, two, he thought the Vietnam war was wrong. He joined the Peace Corps, but that was eliminated as a deferment. In October 1968, Broyles got his draft notice. He decided he was going to serve and not try to go to Canada — he thought dodging was morally wrong. He went to multiple different branches in an attempt to find what fit him. The Coast Guard, Air Force and the Reserves were unavailable. He walked by the Marine Corps recruiting office, which didn’t have a line and decided to walk in. The Marine recruiter was reading a novel by Charles Dickens which surprised Broyles. Upon speaking to the recruiter, Broyles was amazed at the Marine’s depth of knowledge and worldliness. The recruiter discussed with Broyles about how the Corps has programs for educated young men and women to serve the Corps with the opportunity for distinction. Broyles joined the Corps right then and there, and showed up to serve on January 2nd, 1969, in a coat and tie “to look presentable.” He recalled his Officer Candidate School (OCS) experience: 

“…of course, we are sitting in there (a hall) and these enlisted guys are very helpful….to fill out this application….we are sitting there, and it is just really quiet. Suddenly these double doors at the back open and we all turn around. The wind blows snow in and we hear, ‘Get the F&$# out of here you maggots you have two minutes.’ So, we all jumped up and I don’t know where my suit is. Lost in the snow.”

Broyles graduated OCS and worked extremely hard to be the number two officer out of the 250 in his class at The Basic School so he could go to the Defense Language Institute to utilize his Masters in English from Oxford. He was assigned to report to Vietnam per his paperwork. His roommate got into the DLI instead of Broyles. Broyles was told by the Colonel of TBS that his leadership was needed in Vietnam with Marines in the fight. He was sent to a three-week Vietnamese language course before heading to Vietnam, which was offered to him by the colonel. He was stationed up close to Da Nang and then he was sent to a small outpost. The camp had been bombed the night before his arrival and was shot up pretty bad. Broyles said, 

“Of those 55 guys I spent six months with, they were 18, 19, 20, 21. I might have had 15 high school graduates and I learned more from them than I did from Oxford. We were so tight. The only question they had about me was not my resume or what I did…they just wanted to know if this guy will get us killed….the war was winding down at that point…it was almost lost…what really comes out is that whole bedrock Marine Corps ethic of brotherhood…as an officer you eat last, you take care of your men’s feet before you take care of yours…. I was the only officer….the whole time we were out I might have seen my company commander….two times. My radio man, a 19-year-old kid from Jersey, totally had an attitude, he saved my ass a couple of times. Totally. I am still in touch with him. A few weeks before we had been hit I went into Da Nang to visit some guys in the Naval Hospital….I saw this window into the Naval Hospital in Da Nang and it looked like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they take the Ark of the Covenant into the warehouse and all you can see is boxes, all you could see was wounded teenagers….to see a concentrated thing… I literally fainted and broke my nose. 

“I came to with this nurse and thought, ‘How can you do this? You volunteered.’ When I came back (from the hospital)… I was on this ridge (in the jungle outside of Da Nang) and I was lying there thinking all night – friends from Oxford or college they are not here… they are going to law school, starting to work at Goldman Sachs, they are becoming doctors or dentists…and here I am in the mud with my guys…my platoon. I had such high hopes for myself and this is the end. You are going to buy it here and all those things you want to do are hopeless. I saw this light streaking across the star….thought it was a shooting star…to cut to the future that experience in the hospital was the basis for the TV show China Beach and that light that went across the sky was Apollo 13 on its way to the moon. So, at that moment when I thought my whole life was over…at that moment of deepest kind of failure and despair…at the same time I couldn’t feel like that because I had all these men, I was responsible for. There was the groundwork for the best things I did in my future.

“If I had been in law school or had been some schmuck at Goldman Sachs, I wouldn’t have met those guys and had that experience and I wouldn’t have learned what I learned in the Marines Corps…the pillars of my life were formed there and as well as my sense of discipline and teamwork and loyalty down. Lots of people have loyalty up, but loyalty down….my commanders were always just guys on the radio…that sense of loyalty down and how we are all in it together and each person counts….to see this kind of love these guys had for each other….they would give their last drop of water in the canteen or their last c-ration or their lives really for each other. It was exactly what I had not wanted….but it is exactly what I needed. It’s what made me who I am….also the best Marine officers I met in Vietnam….were some of the smartest, disciplined, most on task, most focused people I have ever met up to this day. The sense of commitment to your work and to the people who depended on you and to see what you do in your life not as a job but as a calling, that made an impression on me that I have never forgotten.” 

Broyles said the most specific thing he learned from his time in the Corps was if you think you can’t take another step and keep going, you can. Put your foot in front of the next one and keep going. He describes this thought process as a “muscle” that is not easy to teach people. Broyles believes people have to experience it for themselves just like he did, and many others have. He also shared that when in command to lead with body language. “[You have to] project a sense of confidence, not just in yourself but in them. It was key to my leadership learning in magazines, Newsweek, Texas Monthly and TV shows. You don’t learn that in college, you don’t learn that sitting in a classroom.”

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Bill Paxton (left), Kevin Bacon (center) and Tom Hanks (right) in Apollo 13. Photo courtesy of wusa9.com.

Broyles believes showing up on time is simply a great leadership trait to have and he believes people that pull rank in a military setting are “very ineffective.” He said, “If you have to say you are the boss or say you are in command, chances are you are really not.” Broyles felt his Marine experience in Vietnam was more of a horizontal command structure in many ways because it was so collaborative — the decision was passed along to him for final call. He believes to get buy in by leading by example and not ordering others around. He stated, “I could order people around in my platoon, but if I ordered them around too much, I would have gotten a grenade rolled under my hooch and that was it.” 

Broyles learned skills to take care of every specific item. He recalled learning to sew, something he didn’t know how to do before the Corps.  He reflected upon how if he got things wrong with his Master’s in Philosophy, people could tell him he was just “wrong,” but if he got things wrong as a lieutenant in the mountains of Vietnam, he could get people killed. He believes a leader must be aware of the conditions and morale of a team, which he learned in the Corps. 

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
A historic scene from Flags of Our Fathers. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

He loves China Beach, Castaway, Apollo 13, Jarhead and Unfaithful. Castaway was the most collaborative, with so many people at the top of their game.  Broyles feels that as a writer, sometimes the reality of the film falls short based on expectations and who is involved while other times it exceeds expectations. He shared, “You can have a wonderful time and make a bad movie. You can have a miserable time and make a great movie…when you have a great time and make a great movie then you are blessed. You are blessed with your collaborators, Tom Hanks, Bob Zemeckis, Don Burgess our DP, everybody was at the top of their game. China Beach was close to the heart because it was the first one and also used Vietnam…it was that nurse. To try to honor the women that have been ignored and done so much in the war as nurses or support.” Broyles said about Castaway, “…it was my coming home from Vietnam movie.” 

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Tom Hanks and his “co-star” Wilson in Castaway. Photo courtesy of inlander.com. 

He believes you would never know watching it, but it’s about a person living their life normally, and is drafted into a new world that he had no idea about. He had experiences he couldn’t share with other people and then he was brought back to the world. When the person comes back, the world he had left was the same, but the man wasn’t, which is the story of Castaway on one level. As Broyles said, “….my plane didn’t crash like it did in Castaway it just left me in Vietnam.” Broyles describes Hanks’ character as being in one place and his mind is still back on the island, similar to his Vietnam experience and he didn’t want to make a traditional coming home from Vietnam experience. Castaway had similarities to the truths Broyles lived coming home from Vietnam and the Corps. Castaway to him had many similarities to the Marines Corps with people working together in the prime of their careers. He said, 

“I have great learning experiences out of all the ones that have gotten film and still have senses of loss about the ones that haven’t been made…I have gotten 10 made out of 30 scripts I have written….which is like a .333 batting average. That gets me into the Hall of Fame….I feel pretty lucky about that.”

When asked about Apollo 13, Broyles smiled. He was speaking with Jim Lovell when Lovell shared when things started going wrong on the mission it was time to focus on the problem and fix it. Broyles likened this mindset to the Marines when things go wrong it is time to think, adapt and improvise. The astronauts were on their own in many ways and had to work the problem out. Understanding the thought process of the astronauts as engineers helped, “…the tonal quality of the script…there would be no drama in the capsule…the antagonist was not a traditional human being….it was the problem and then outer space.” He wanted to show everyone working for a common goal in Apollo 13. 

For Jarhead,  Broyles put the Vietnam Veteran getting on the bus at the end in the film because of how he felt as a Marine having served in Vietnam. The scene in the film about the Marines watching Apocalypse Now was a recruiting film scene even though it is really an anti-war film. Jarhead was the opportunity to do a Samuel Beckett play into a film. One scene in Jarhead that reflects Broyles’ experiences was when the Swofford character played by Jake Gyllenhaal sees a group of Iraqi soldiers burned to a crisp sitting in a circle — likely where the Iraqis were eating their food rations. Broyles said of that scene, “I am always fascinated with what it is that lets us treat other human beings as less than human…we are raised to not kill.” 

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Skarsgard in Jarhead. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

He returned to Vietnam in 1984 to make peace with his experience. He purposely sought out people he fought against to make peace with those of the NVA and VC. The Vietnamese didn’t rotate home; they were in the fight for seven or eight years. Broyles wanted to meet these men he fought while in Vietnam over tea or food. A point of the film Jarhead was: what is the point of training for war and then not employing your training — which in turn makes the Marines angry for not getting to use their training. Flags of our Fathers is the opposite of Jarhead as it features mythical characters Broyles experienced in his coming of age as a Marine. Those Marines fought the great war and won, he fought in the jungle and didn’t.

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Broyles (right) with General Amos, then Commandant of the Marine Corps and his daughter Susannah Broyles at the awards ceremony for the Marines Corps Heritage Foundation. Photo courtesy of William Broyles. 

Broyles believes we need to find good stories and especially good Marine stories to tell. Hollywood is cyclical as well with the types of stories the film industry wants. We are currently in the longest war we ever fought with Afghanistan which makes people weary. He stated, “People aren’t just going to see a Marine Corps film they are going to go see a great film that features a great story that features Marines. It’s just getting good stories. If you do a really good story and a really good script it will eventually get noticed.”  Broyles is incredibly proud of Texas Monthly, China Beach, Castaway, Apollo 13 and Jarhead, but mainly he is proud of his five children and of “…having raised really good human beings in the meantime.” 

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Broyles with the cast of the TV show “SIX”. Photo courtesy of William Broyles.

A few interesting notes, Broyles has a Marines Corps award named after him titled ‘The Lieutenant William Broyles Award’ and it is given for a distinguished play or screenplay by a playwright or screenwriter dealing with U.S. Marine Corps heritage or Marine Corps life. The award is given yearly through the Marines Corps Heritage Foundation. Broyles’ son David served as a Pararescue Jumper in the Air Force and conducted special operations missions during the War on Terror. David is now a writer in Hollywood and has worked on History’s TV show Six. Broyles also got to hear President Kennedy speak at his college, Rice University, about the plan for the United States to go to the moon. 

Articles

Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.


Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.

“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.

After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.

“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.

Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.

Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.

A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.

“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”

Veterans

Army veteran looks back on service while paying it forward

In 2006, Afghanistan saw one of their most violent years of war. TIME Magazine’s photo of the year wasn’t a celebrity, it was United States troops after battle. Veteran soldier Matt Nauss was there. 

Nauss was adopted after his birth parents lost parental rights due to drugs and abuse. He grew up on a farm, one of five other children. The military was his way of moving forward in life and affording college. “My brother and I, we both joined the Army at the same time. He’s my twin,” he explained. “I was in AIT [Advanced Individual Training] when 9/11 happened.”

That changed everything. “I ended up in Iraq when I was 19 years old,” Nauss said with a laugh. He did get to see the world, though, like he hoped. After being a recruiter a few years, he was assigned to Special Operations Command in Tampa. “Once I was assigned to Special Ops, that was it. I was there for my whole career.” He had the opportunity to travel to 30 different countries.

Matt Nauss

In 2006, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Nauss had no idea what was waiting for him there or that it would follow him for the rest of his life. Jake Tapper wrote a book about the Outposts in Afghanistan and the hell the troops endured. Made into a major motion picture, The Outpost shows you one of the most horrific battles. But long before Outpost Keating and that film’s events viewers see reenacted, Nauss lived through the initial attacks that started it all. 

Two weeks into his Afghanistan deployment, it was on. “We had nothing, sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags. The bugs were destroying us,” he said. “After those initial weeks of quiet and nothing happening we got attacked by almost 360 degrees. 15 RPG’s within 30 seconds and that was just the initial attack. It was about five and a half hours of small arms fire. Two of my soldiers got injured and had to be airlifted out. After that day, we got attacked every single day. It never stopped.”

The TIME picture seen around the world happened after another battle the first month his boots were on the ground. One of the injured soldiers laying in the gator was their platoon’s only medic. Nauss can be seen holding the IV fluids up and caring for those who were injured. “You see that picture? That happened half a dozen times…some stories – they don’t make it to print,” he shared.

The United States Armed Forces suffered seven straight years of high casualties and deaths after that battle. In Afghanistan alone, we’ve lost 2,000 service members since 2006. The cost of war is high and those who survive without physical injury aren’t left unscathed. 

In December of 2013, Nauss decided to leave the Army. “They were going to send me out in the middle of nowhere with a team. I couldn’t do it anymore…I was suffering from PTSD, it took me three or four years to get that from the VA. Regardless of that, I was suffering from it the entire time,” Nauss said. 

When he got out of the Army as a Staff Sergeant, his transition wasn’t good. “I don’t think I made the right choices and I don’t think they prepare you,” Nauss said. He shared that he went on over 50 job interviews with no success, eventually losing a home and facing harsh challenges. There was a bright spot in all of this toughness, though. Jay Peak.

Jay Peak is a mountain located five miles from the Canadian border in Vermont known for challenging ski and snowboarding runs on one of the highest peaks while offering its visitors the magic of a small town. For a veteran like Nauss processing through his PTSD, it brings healing.  “It was a release for me. The peace and quiet with the ability to focus on the outdoors while snowboarding, it was great therapy for me. It detaches you from everything,” he explained. 

Through some networking, Nauss was eventually able to find employment. His efforts grew that company’s revenue to 14 million. A few years later, he was ready to start his own business. An IT in the Army, he knew his way around technology. 

“I started Modern Business Consulting which has transformed into Dolomites Consulting Group,” he said. The company offers business strategy, web design and so much more. Now located in the heart of Downtown Tampa, Florida, it boasts 3500 square feet of cowork or executive office space. He and his veteran business partner didn’t stop there, though. They have another office opening in Jacksonville and later on in 2021, Seattle. 

Matt Nauss

Nauss hopes to bring his opportunities and success to other veterans, offering internships to those transitioning. “I wanted to create DCG for these kids getting out who have skills and jobs that don’t necessarily transition to the civilian sector. They are going to be at a serious disadvantage. They need something to fall back on,” he explained. “DCG is by veterans, for veterans and ran by veterans…you’re in an environment where you can be comfortable, we are all prior military…I actively look for veterans to work with.”

His focus other than his business and close relationships is paying it forward. “I ask companies all the time what they are doing to give back…You are taking from the community, they see that. I am a strong believer in giving back,” Nauss shared. Part of his give back? Bringing the he peace found at Jay Peak to other veterans.

“Why not share this experience with everyone? I went from thinking about just buying a place to alright, let’s make this a project,” he said. Nauss is actively scouting property in the Jay Peak area to develop into a retreat and program for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Although he is forever impacted by his experiences at war, Nauss wouldn’t change anything and tries not to hold onto his past experiences. These days, he’s looking forward to the future and hoping to help other veterans on their path of doing it too. 

To learn more about Dolomites Consulting Group, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

David Goldfein is the leader the military needs right now

Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.

The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’

That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.


When he reached a sobbing widow, he embraced her and talked to her for a while. It was General Goldfein. The post also appeared on Air Force amn/nco/snco.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
I guess he tried to go more incognito in 2018 by wearing civvies, but was still recognized.
(Facebook photo by Cody Stollings)

Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.

For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,

“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”

Bacevich has also noted that those who aren’t serving in the U.S. military are encouraged to support the troops, but no one ever “stipulates how this civic function is to be performed.”

Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’
In case we forgot who is on that council.

In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NAVSO is the veteran service organization for veteran service organizations

Military units are team-oriented by necessity and design, but when troops leave the service, they often find themselves isolated and working by themselves. The team dynamic is gone. Veteran service organizations are much the same way. Even with an incredible mission and the tools to serve veterans, everyone accomplishes more in a collaborative environment. NAVSO, the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, was founded with that in mind.


NAVSO is out to change the landscape for veterans through further developing the veteran service organization marketplace. Whether public or private, any VSO is welcome to join the ranks and collaborate with like-minded organizations with similar goals. The idea is to improve efficiency and effectiveness while fostering innovation by working together.

In bringing together organizations like the Travis Manion Foundation, USAA, the Schultz Family Foundation, and the PsychArmor Institute, NAVSO has connected thousands of American veterans to other organizations dedicated to creating an environment where veterans and their families can live, work, and thrive.

Most importantly, the collaboration between organizations serving veterans can help identify gaps in services needed by vets and their families, then further identify how to address those gaps. NAVSO works to improve the lives of veterans through many different areas including education, employment, housing, healthcare, financial assistance, wounded warriors, and gold star families. It is the only organization working to change the landscape of the services available to veterans in both the public and private sector.

With more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States whose missions are focused on the lives of service members, veterans, and their families, it is increasingly important to build a community in which these organizations can collaborate towards the same goals instead of competing for the same funds. These organizations may simply be unaware of potential partners operating in the same space or may not know about resources available to them outside of their niche area.

EOD veteran drops major bomb on retirement life – ‘Honey, we’re moving to Guam’

NAVSO is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference.

“We’re geography agnostic, size and revenue agnostic, and specific military/veteran/family-serving mission agnostic – our tools and services can take VSOs at different stages of development from start to solvency, from solvency to sustainability, and from sustainability to growth and impact,” says NAVSO CEO Tim Farrell. “NAVSO is all about transforming the veteran-serving space, one organization at a time by helping them find funding faster and serve veterans better.”

Considering NAVSO’s dedication to collaboration, it makes sense that it would want to be a part of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference. The Military Influencer Conference brings together military and veteran professionals who are interested in developing their entrepreneurial acumen and build a better life for themselves and their families. The conference also brings together leading veteran entrepreneurs, startup accelerators, and – of course – veteran service organizations in the business development sector.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, check out MilitaryInfluencer.com for the next conference or just go check out all the VSOs and personalities involved. The Military Influencer Conference is a shining example of how collaboration makes everyone more efficient and effective.

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