Not feeling “in the mood” when your partner is trying to get you there. Erectile dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction.
There are a lot of ways to describe it, but there’s no denying what it is. For many men, sexuality is tied to masculinity — it’s a part of a man’s identity — and not getting there can shake a returning veteran’s confidence at every level.
Despite all of the pharmaceutical ads that make the issue seem like it’s an “old man’s problem,” it hits younger veterans — even those in their 20s — at an alarming rate. It might not make the best dinnertime conversation, but there’s no shame in it. It’s a very real problem for veterans of all ages and it’s something that you shouldn’t avoid discussing with your significant other — or a healthcare professional, at the very least.
This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.
The loss of confidence in one major aspect could be the catalyst in sending veteran spiraling downwards.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Mauricio Campino)
There are two primary causes of erectile dysfunction: There’s the physiological component that affects blood circulation, preventing it from reaching the right spots at the right moment. This aspect is most common among older men, men who maintain sedentary lifestyles, and those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices — like smoking two packs a day, eating fast food five times a week, and generally avoiding exercise. A gym membership or walking the dog an extra lap around the block can do wonders for that, but that’s a conversation best held between you and a medical professional.
The problem that hits many returning veterans is rooted in psychological trauma — and it’s an often-neglected side effect of post-traumatic stress. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, right? Nobody wants to think about sex when their mind is still back in the war.
And, well, if your mind is here… it’s not in the bedroom.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)
Follow our logic here for a little more understanding: If you’re a veteran, think back to your days at boot camp or basic training. Chances are high that you didn’t sport wood a single time during the entire nine weeks. While there, you probably caught wind of some BS rumor about saltpeter being put in the drinking water to prevent it from happening, but the logical side of your brain knew that it was because of the stress you were enduring.
Take that same stress and amplify it by the daily struggles that veterans who live with post-traumatic stress deal with. Of course, the severity of the situation varies. It ranges from just having the occasional “bad night” that a veteran would rather just sleep off to replaying a single tragic moment over and over, like some kind of broken record from Hell.
It’s becoming a little easier to understand how common this issue really is among veterans, right?
Whatever your case, not getting your private to stand at the position of attention really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Have an open dialogue with your significant other. Ask for their patience, their understanding, and their help in getting you to relax — foreplay is a two-way street, after all.
If you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s actually an extremely common thing brought up at the VA and there are plenty of treatment options out there.
If you’re interested in clinically tested medication, you can try the solutions offered by hims for just for the first month. hims will connect you with US-based, licensed doctors online so that you can find the right solution for you from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
And remember, there actually is a rating for ED that can only be brought up by talking to a medical professional.
This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.
It’s no secret that the only reason North Korea managed to survive so long after the fall of the Soviet Union is because of China’s patronage. There are a number of possible reasons it’s in China’s best interest to prop up the Hermit Kingdom. Long story short: China will intervene for North Korea just as it did in 1950.
The DPRK is a buffer zone between Communist China and the pro-Western ally in South Korea. More than that, the sudden fall of the Kim regime would essentially open the 880-mile border between the two to roving parties of North Korean refugees, suddenly freed, looking for a future.
The highest estimates indicate some 30 million internally-displaced persons – refugees in their own country – would suddenly be looking for a better life. Beyond the human toll, the cost of the reunification of the Korean Peninsula could be as high as $3 trillion, as one expert told the Independent.
China is certainly not going to share that cost. Nor will it take in refugees. The people of China are not fans of North Korea either. They resent the North Korean nuclear tests and the effect it has on China’s foreign policy – and its relationship with the United States.
Chinese people take to Quora to answer the same question over and over, “How do Chinese people feel about North Korea?” Time and tie again, the answer is that they are “sympathetic” to the people of the DPRK (though sometimes they use the word “pity”) because the country reminds them of when China was underdeveloped. In general, however, they mock Kim Jong-Un “mercilessly.”
The North Korean leader is believed to be losing trust in his relationship with the Chinese, and acts out in an effort to embarrass Beijing. In return, there is less trust in China for the leadership in Pyongyang. But as for the United States, the Chinese have less trust in President Trump.
Despite all this, the 1961 Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty is still in effect, and is renewed automatically every 20 years. Article 2 of the treaty states that the two nations will jointly oppose any country or coalition that might attack either nation. The treaty is valid until 2021. But it also stipulates that both sides are to “safeguard peace and security.”
Some former Chinese military officers believe North Korea’s nuclear proliferation is a violation of that treaty and China is no longer on the hook to defend the Kim Regime. Many Chinese intellectuals believe the North Korean state is no longer their partner in arms, but more of a liability.
“Many in China don’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons are, first, threatening to China,” Chinese scholar Shen Zhihua – an expert on the Korean War – told the New Yorker. “We must see clearly that China and North Korea are no longer brothers-in-arms, and in the short term there’s no possibility of an improvement in Chinese-North Korean relations.”
But the state’s view remains the same. Just after the Kim regime threatened to attack the U.S. island of Guam, the Global Times, a state-run newspaper said China will “firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned.”
Essentially, the Communist Party mouthpiece is saying that China will intervene if the United States escalates the conflict to a shooting war. However, if North Korea starts the war, China will remain neutral.
“The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region.”
On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany announced the discovery of a series of mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers who had been arrested and then executed by the Soviet Army. Seventy-five years later, the Katyn massacre is still a sensitive issue between Poland and Russia.
The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.
But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.
In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.
According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)
What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.
As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”
After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.
A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.
A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.
As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.
The Lockheed SR-71 was an awesome plane. It could go fast, it could go high, and it was very hard to detect on radar. The problem was, the United States didn’t build that many of them — a grand total of 32 planes were built. The SR-71 was retired in 1990 by George H. W. Bush but was brought back, briefly, in the ’90s before being sent out to pasture for good.
But there have been rumors of a replacement — something called the “Aurora.” This rumored replacement appeared in a 1985 budget line item in the same category as the U-2 Dragon Lady and the SR-71. The name stuck as the speculated successor to the SR-71, which the Air Force seemed all too happy to retire.
In 2006, Aviation Week editor, Bill Sweetman, declared he’d found budgetary evidence that the Aurora had been operating, saying,
My investigations continue to turn up evidence that suggests current activity. For example, having spent years sifting through military budgets, tracking untraceable dollars and code names, I learned how to sort out where money was going. This year, when I looked at the Air Force operations budget in detail, I found a $9-billion black hole that seems a perfect fit for a project like Aurora.
But there is another successor — one that doesn’t require a crew. This is the SR-72, and it may be twice as fast as the Mach 3 Blackbird. The Mach 6 drone is said to be able to reach some of the same heights as the SR-71. What’s unique about this unmanned aircraft is that it will carry two types of engines. There will be a normal jet engine to get the plane up to Mach 3 and a ramjet to push it to its top speed.
The SR-72 may be slated to enter service in 2030, but Popular Mechanics reported that Lockheed had announced progress on the project. More tellingly, that same publication reported that a demonstrator was seen at the Skunk Works plant. America’s super-fast eye in the sky may be here sooner than expected.
Learn more about this new plane in the video below:
The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.
Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.
The theft also caused the dismissal of 91st Security Forces Group commander Col. Jason Beers, who was moved from Minot to his new job as Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s installations division. With AFSOC being based primarily in Florida, I think we can call that an overall win for the Colonel but unfortunately Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago was also fired as the unit superintendent.
Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.
Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.
We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.
Can’t go wrong with any of these choices
9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.
Near the top of every Marine’s gift list
Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.
Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.
Please, check on your friends this time of year
An ear and a shoulder
Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.
If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.
Get ready for two minutes and fifty-six seconds of glory because the latest trailer from the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise just dropped. This is why The Rock wakes up at 4:00 to work out while the rest of us sleep like lazy jerks. Hobbs & Shaw looks like it will be completely ridiculous — and that’s why it’s going to be perfection.
Hobbs Shaw will be the 9th film in the Fast Furious franchise and just like its predecessors, it’s completely bonkers. But it knows that it’s bonkers — and that’s why it’s brilliant.
The franchise started out in 2001 with street racing, thieves, and an undercover cop (played by the late and very much missed Paul Walker), and since then it has exploded into a billion franchise that burns physics like NOS. In the latest film, they’re upping the ante and throwing in super powers.
No complaints here.
“I am human evolutionary change. Bullet proof. Super human,” purrs Idris Elba, the self-proclaimed “bad guy” of the film. According to The Rock, Elba plays a “cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist [who] gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever,” and former nemeses Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must team up together to stop him.
Even though they hate each other but actually share similar ideals. So silly.
Vanessa Kirby plays a rogue M16 agent in there somewhere, too, and I’ll be watching with my Bechdel checklist…
This is the party I signed up for.
Johnson has made a career out of over-the-top roles that he absolutely pulls off. He’s not making dark action flicks — he’s making films designed to give the viewer some fun. Hobbs Shaw looks like it will be no exception. The creative team doubled down on action thriller endorphins by playing up that ol’ “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trope — and they did it because it works.
The trailer reveals a peek at what we can expect from the film: car chases, explosions, destroyed buildings, and dudes who have spent a lotta hours in the gym beating each other up.
And a girl. Somewhere. Getting captured it looks like. So probably also rescued. She better have some of her own agency is what I’m saying. We can talk about it later, writing duo Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson…
Ultimately, my bet is that the trailer is advertising the exact film it represents: an action-packed, fun-filled, no brainer experience, which is perfect.
World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…
Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.
In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.
The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.
When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.
Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.
Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.
Two sailors partnered with Meals On Wheels (MOW) Mesa County to deliver meals to local clients in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area during Western Slope Navy Week, July 23, 2019.
The mission of MOW is to promote the independence, health, and well being of the elderly through quality nutritional services. This is the first time Navy Outreach has partnered with the organization during a Navy Week.
“We were really glad to have the sailors here to help us, and a lot of the clients were looking forward to the interactions,” said Amanda Debock, program manager. “We gave them a route that had a large amount of veterans and they were especially excited to have their meals delivered by active duty sailors.”
MOW Mesa County provides affordable lunchtime meals to seniors age 60 and older in Mesa County. Today, the program prepares and serves more than 120,000 meals annually and 500 or more per day.
Lt. Jacob Cook and Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Giovanni Dagostino, both assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, rode along with volunteer Steve Kendrick to deliver lunch to 19 clients.
“I have never volunteered with Meals on Wheels myself,” said Cook. “This experience has been really great just to go out and see what they do as an organization and to meet the people in this community that they serve and take care of.”
Seven clients included in the route were Navy, Army or Air Force Veterans that served during Word War II, the war in Vietnam and throughout various other periods.
“I was surprised how excited some of the veterans were when we showed up at the door,” said Kendrick. “We had one vet that was almost in tears when he saw the sailors come to the door in uniform. A lot of them just acted like [the sailors] were just part of their family. It seemed like it was a very special event for everyone.”
Started in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens, Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been serving nutritious meals to seniors for 49 years.
The Navy Week program brings sailors, equipment, and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand the Navy the nation needs.
Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since it became independent 28 years ago. But every application had been blocked by neighboring Greece because of a regional dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Greece agreed to stop blocking Macedonia if it formally renamed itself the Republic of North Macedonia. Lawmakers in both countries in June 2018 agreed to the deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which is due to take effect soon.
Permanent representatives of the 29 members of NATO signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia in Brussels.
Greece objected to the name Macedonia — which the country adopted in 1991 when Yugoslavia collapsed — because Macedonia is also the name of a region of Greece. Politicians in Greece argued that the name suggested the country had ambitions to one day rule Greek Macedonia as well.
Any country could technically veto it. But that’s unlikely, as the only one to object had been Greece until the Prespa Agreement:Macedonia would change its name, and in return Greece would stop blocking its NATO membership.
If the other 29 members ratify the accession, Macedonia would then pass its own ratification legislation, at which point it would become a NATO member.
In what is widely considered the best role of his acting career, legendary film and television star Louis Gossett Jr. plays Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, a hardcore drill instructor, in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.
Gossett Jr.’s portrayal of a no-nonsense DI in the film earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. If you watch his performance, you’ll quickly see why Oscar came calling. The character is crude and tough on the group of would-be pilots attending a 13-week Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School where he serves as the primary instructor.
Like many great actors who have donned the campaign hat on the silver screen, as DI Foley, Louis Gossett Jr. imparts knowledge on how to survive the daily challenges of life in his own unique way.
Here’s what we can all learn from Gossett Jr.’s Oscar-worthy performance.
Some of the best and most memorable lines of the film come in the early scenes when new recruits line up to hear Gunnery Sergeant Foley talk about what they should expect in the next 13 weeks of training. Foley knocks each person down a couple of pegs by making them understand they are, in fact, not special.
When Foley asks one of the recruits named Della Serra if he was a “college boy,” the character quickly lists his academic accolades, saying he graduated in mathematics with honors.
Della Serra gets a rude awakening from Foley when the Marine shows him his cane with notches on it. Each notch represents each “college puke” who has dropped on request during his time in the program. Foley suggests Della Serra may be one of those notches and then tells the group that half of them will not make it through the training.
In this powerful scene, DI Foley lets all the recruits know that his authority outweighs their individualism.
Although Mayo has all the skills and physical traits to pass the course, Foley consistently questions Mayo’s strenght of character. Officer Candidate Mayo is an arrogant and self-centered individual only looking out for himself. He’s also quite the hustler, selling inspection-ready boots and belt buckles to his fellow recruits to make a quick buck.
After discovering Mayo’s little racket, Foley gives him a chance to straighten up his act during a weekend-long smoke session. Foley breaks Mayo down physically and emotionally. It’s during this sequence that the audience is treated to the film’s famous scene in which Gere’s character screams, “I got nowhere else to go!” This is the turning point. From here on out, we see a change in Mayo’s character and attitude.
The importance of teamwork
Mayo’s change of attitude is clear when instead of trying to achieve an individual obstacle course record, he goes back to encourage one of his fellow classmates, a young lady named Seeger, as she struggles to get over a 12-foot wall. Thanks to Foley, Mayo learns the true value of teamwork.
Quitting is not the answer
Tensions between the two main characters rise yet again toward the end of the movie. Following the death of his friend, Mayo wants to speak with Foley in private.
After Foley dismisses his request, telling him to get back to work, Mayo gives his DOR. Instead of accepting his resignation, Foley asks to meet Mayo a nearby hanger — where they fight it out. After fists fly, Foley tells Mayo that if he still wants to quit, he can. By that point, Foley knows the recruit has come too far to quit now.
At the end of the movie, the officer candidates earn the rank of ensign. Per tradition, each new officer receives his or her first salute from the instructor and, in turn, each officer hands Foley a silver dollar. When Mayo hands Foley his coin, the Marine places it in his right pocket instead of his left. This act symbolizes respect for Mayo as an exceptional candidate.
“I won’t ever forget you, sergeant,” Mayo says after the salute. You can see Foley start to choke up just a bit when he replies, “I know.” The mutual respect between the two is evident.
Although it’s only a movie, many veterans may have encountered someone in real life who reminds them of DI Foley.
Tell us who made an impact on your life during your time in the military in the comments.
Marine Lt. Robert Kelly, Marine Lt. Travis Manion, and Navy SEAL Brendan Looney. All three were killed in service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military has a very prescribed, formal process for telling Gold Star families about the loss of their service member. Two to three members of that branch of the military will receive word that they need to notify a family of a casualty. They carefully double and triple check the information. They ensure each other’s uniforms are perfect. And then they knock at the door.
Travis and Ryan Manion, brother and sister. Travis was a Marine Corps officer killed in Iraq during a firefight where he moved forward to draw enemy fire. His mother created a foundation named for him, and his sister now serves as that foundation’s president.
(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)
Three women who received those knocks are sharing their stories of sudden loss in a new book, The Knock at the Door. One lost her brother in combat, and two lost husbands. Two of their loved ones died in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq. But the stories these women tell apply far outside of the military. They hope their stories will help others grapple with grief, whether it comes from the loss of a job, a cancer diagnosis, or a knock at the door.
Ryan Manion is one of the authors and the President of the Travis Manion Foundation. The foundation is named for her brother, a Marine first lieutenant who died in Al Anbar, Iraq, in 2007 while drawing fire from wounded members of his unit.
Ryan, and indeed, all three of the book authors, experienced some break in the prescribed casualty notification processes. In Ryan’s case, she rushed home after getting a call from her family. One uniformed Marine was there with a family friend who had served in the Marines with Ryan’s father. The family friend, a retired lieutenant colonel, had helped tell the family. Ryan’s father told her.
My dad stared at me with a blank look. Then in a very measured tone, he said, “Travis was killed.”
The uniformed Marine had struggled under the strain. He was sitting in his car, cradling his head against the steering wheel. It’s the home visit no service member wants to make.
Ryan grieved as she and her family made preparations to bury Travis. She wouldn’t take off an old, red Marine Corps sweater until it was time to greet his body at Dover. Even then, she carried it with her. When they held the funeral, she connected with Travis one last time by rubbing his head.
I knew that, after the last person knelt down to say a prayer in front of Travis, the funeral director was going to close that casket forever, and that would be it. I’d never see my brother’s face again. I rubbed his head one last time and felt my heart sinking as my father gently pulled me away.
But the book isn’t about the women’s losses. Or at least, it’s not just about that. It’s mostly about how they faced living again without their loved ones. And one of the great lessons that Ryan shares comes after the deaths of her brother and mother. As she attempted to do better things in her life in their memory, she was saddened whenever she came up short.
But she learned a vital lesson in that time, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” You can heal from falling short. You don’t have to wear it forever.
Amy Looney Heffernan and Brendan Looney. Brendan was a Navy SEAL killed in a helicopter crash.
(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)
A close friend of Travis tragically died just a few years later in 2010. Brendan Looney was a Navy SEAL deployed to Afghanistan who had almost completed his tour when he was killed in a helicopter crash. The Navy couldn’t initially get a hold of his wife, Amy Looney Heffernan. A receptionist for her company sent the Navy officers to a company conference and had Amy meet them there.
And so Amy learned of her husband’s death in a hotel room. Her sister-in-law took lead on logistics, helping do everything from scheduling the big events to getting items for Amy to wear at the funeral, especially a big pair of sunglasses to hide her tears.
As Amy said the night before the funeral:
I might be crying my eyes out, but the last thing I need is people looking at me like I’m some naive, pathetic little girl. If people start fawning all over me with pity, it’s just going to piss me off. I know what I signed up for and so did Brendan. I just don’t want people to feel sorry for me, you know?
But Amy struggled in the weeks after, neglecting the dogs that she and Brendan had shared, refusing to eat, spending hours on the couch, neglecting herself. She describes a routine of “Ambien, pajamas, and a dark room,” before she forced herself to get better for herself, for Brendan, and for her poor dogs.
Amy’s recovery was challenging, but she eventually describes how she packed for a mountain excursion in Peru designed to help her and other Gold Star family members remember their loved ones while challenging themselves.
Amy and Ryan knew each other through their loved ones; Brendan had actually spoken at Travis’s funeral, and Travis was moved from his family plot to Arlington National Cemetery after Amy asked for the friends to be buried together, fulfilling Travis’s original wishes.
Ryan described the process of moving Travis in just three days so he could rest next to Brendan. The secretary of the Army had to sign off on the move, but the family tried to keep the proceedings quiet so the focus would remain on memorializing Brendan. But some Marines got word of the transfer and held a quiet assembly to honor Travis.
“We just kind of told our close friends and family that we were reintering Travis on that Friday,” Amy said. “And we’ve actually, the Marines from Quantico, one of them was friends with Travis at the time. He was an instructor there. And one of the [Officer Candidate School] housing buildings is named Manion Hall. And so he ended up finding out, and I remember we showed up at Arlington and there was like 200 Marines in dress blues standing at full attention. Which was a pretty incredible sight to see.”
Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly stands with his wife Heather. Robert would later die in an IED strike in Afghanistan. His wife has co-authored a new book about grief.
(Courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)
But while Amy and Ryan knew each other, their co-author Heather Kelly was unknown to them until her husband was buried just a few rows away at Arlington. Marine Lt. Robert Kelly, a son of a prominent general, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Heather received her casualty notification five hours early as the Marine Corps leaders wanted to make sure she found out at the same time as her father-in-law, and they had moved his alert forward so that he would learn from a friend instead of the list of casualties he would see in the morning.
Heather turned to black humor to get through the funeral process. She and her brother-in-law created a running joke about her riding into the funeral on an elephant to properly honor Robert, a joke that came about after a funeral director tried to upsell the family on a decorative guest book.
Heather continued the joke in front of some Marines, and they ran with it:
They were eager to fulfill the wishes of a fallen hero’s family, and God bless them, they actually half-seriously discussed getting me to the Washington Zoo. I think they may have even placed a phone call to the zoo to arrange for me to pet an elephant, which they figured would be a close second to leasing one for the day. Ah, Marines. No better friends in the world, no worse enemies.
Heather met the other two women after Amy wrote an op-ed about remembering her husband not only as “a warrior for freedom” but also an “ambassador of kindness.”
Now, all three women work through the Travis Manion Foundation to foster kindness and a dedication to service in the next generation and to help veterans and Gold Star families find continued purpose and opportunities to serve in their community. Their book, The Knock at the Door, came out November 5.