The Hollywood dream is a realm of cutthroat deals, alliances and family dynasties stretching to the industry’s humble beginnings. Veterans never shy away from a challenge. However, even the bravest need back up navigating the waters of the entertainment industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a one-year mentorship program designed to provide guidance to military veterans embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. They provide resources and tools that nurture their passion to become successful. This is how you can apply to The Veterans Writing Project and make your voice heard.
How does the program work?
The WGF’s Veteran’s Writing Project selects from a pool of applicants and pairs them with a mentor who is successful in the entertainment industry. It starts with a weekend-long retreat followed by monthly workshops and special events. You can rest assured that the mentor is an active member of the Writers Guild of America, one of the most prestigious entertainment unions.
How to apply
Before embarking on a mission, military members are given a lengthy five-paragraph order with a 40 minute mission brief. Luckily, we’re civilians now and we can speak in layman’s terms. Here are the five W’s:
U.S. military veterans and active duty service members that are 21+ years old and a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident are eligible to apply. Although experience is a plus, it is not a requirement. The most important thing a veteran should have is a passion for screenwriting and a commitment to completing one screen play or TV pilot during the program. Around 50 veterans are accepted into the program per year.
What you need to apply is a resume, a brief personal statement consisting of 500 words or less, a copy of your DD-214 with your social security number redacted, a writing sample no greater than 10 pages in length, and some sample loglines. Loglines, for the uninitiated, is a sentence or two that describe the idea of your story.
The deadline to apply is Friday, March 26, 2021 at 11:59 PST.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, current sessions are hosts via zoom but the program will resume in-person meetings when social distancing guidelines are lifted. The in-person sessions will take place at the WGF’s Shavelson-Webb Library in Los Angeles, CA. The program is free but those selected who reside outside of the Los Angeles will need to cover their own expenses related to transportation and lodging. Take this into account if you are active duty and need to request leave to attend the program during the in-person meetings.
The program has nurtured writers since its founding in 1966. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is associated with the Writers Guild of America West. The WGF’s mission is to promote the history of screenwriting. Veterans are natural story tellers and the WGF can be the compass to navigate your career as a screenwriter and represent our community on the world stage. Veterans fight for the freedom of speech, yet so many are left voiceless. Apply and be the leader our brother and sisters need.
This 200th episode of Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran Aerial Johnson, better known by her wrestling name “Big Swole,” Aerial shares her time in the military and how she transitioned into civilian life to eventually became a professional wrestler.
Johnson joined the Air Force in 2008 to be a fire truck mechanic. She was stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. On April 3, 2008, on a day she and her family would come to call her “second birthday,” Johnson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after being told she had half an hour to live. She survived a round of emergency surgery and was told that she would never be able to have children or engage in high-impact sports. However, Johnson didn’t let her diagnosis stop her from doing what she wanted to do. When her Crohn’s disease worsened, she had to leave Air Force in 2010 but she didn’t stop to pursue other dreams.
Hull returned to her hometown of Clearwater, Florida, where she started interacting with a local community of professional wrestlers. She became an independent wrestler herself, and after a few years she signed with All Elite Wrestling and has appeared on both AEW Dark and AEW Dynamite.
In this episode, Hull discusses how she overcame the struggles of Crohn’s disease and embraced the lessons she learned in the military to develop the “Swole mentality” of giving everything her all. She is a reminder to people everywhere that with discipline, anything is possible.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating medical condition. It limits the function of movement and control in the body. As a result, having an SCI can lead to reduced aerobic fitness, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This is due to autonomic dysfunction, muscle wasting, increased regional and total body fat mass, and relative inactivity.
The Central Virginia VA Health Care System has unique expertise treating Veterans with these injuries.
The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs has awarded a grant for .7 million to the Central Virginia VA Health Care System and Virginia Commonwealth University. In turn, these researchers will study spinal epidural stimulation in people with spinal cord injuries. The grant is the first of its kind at a VA medical center.
VA research teams will collaborate on using spinal epidural stimulation treatment with a robotic suit. Hopefully, the result will be an improved quality of life for those suffering with spinal cord injuries. Researchers currently use VA’s robotic exoskeleton suits to improve SCI patients’ mobility and outlook for their prognosis.
New breakthrough can help people stand, step and walk
“A new, scientific breakthrough can help people stand, step and even walk again,” said Dr. Ashraf Gorgey. Gorgey is director of research for the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit and principal investigator for this clinical trial. “It’s called lumbosacral epidural stimulation, or ES. Our research team has used the ‘ES Robot Suit’ for three months in one person with tetraplegia. The patient showed remarkable improvements in motor control. We aim to implant 20 Veterans who have a spinal cord injury with electrodes in their spine.”
Gorgey says they aim to enhance muscle volitional control. Dr. Robert Trainer supports the program by implanting the device. Muscle volitional control includes the ability to perform sit-to-stand activity, overground stepping and limit secondary complications in persons. This may include other benefits similar to improvement in the cardiovascular system and bladder functions. These are common side effects for SCI patients.
The study will measure the effectiveness of resistance training for Veterans using exoskeletal-assisted walking and ES. It will look for improvements in motor recovery, cardio-metabolic health and bladder control.
“The clinical trial will be conducted and completed entirely at CVHCS in Richmond,” Gorgey said.
The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.
But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.
This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!
Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek
Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.
Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.
On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:
“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.
And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.
And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.
Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.
And be alive.”
It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.
Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse
Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.
If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.
The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.
The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!
Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville
Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.
We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.
He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.
If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.
Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13
Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.
With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.
With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas
Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.
You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.
But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.
If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!
Two dreams have propelled Josh Johnson during his life: One to enlist in the military and another to own a business.
The 46-year-old former Air Force acquisitions officer from Puyallup, Washington, was inspired to pursue both dreams by male role models as he watched his dad dedicate his early years to the Army. Johnson also learned about his two grandfathers’ military experiences during World War II.
“From a very young age, I was excited about the opportunity to serve my country,” Johnson said.
He realized dream number one from 2000 to 2004, after completing his bachelor’s in business from Central Washington University. While stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Johnson was working with Boeing satellite systems while also earning his master’s in business administration from California State University, Long Beach — a degree paid for by the military.
After he separated from the Air Force and gained 14 more years of experience managing operations, recruiting, and safety for transportation companies, Johnson found himself inching closer to dream number two, thanks to a friend.
“I knew it was exactly what I was meant to do,” Johnson said, referring to an advertisement his friend forwarded to him about Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program.
In his late teens, Johnson had watched his dad build his land surveying services from a one-man shop to a successful business. There have been ups and downs, Johnson says, but his father has always been able to succeed.
“He does it by being a man of the highest integrity and providing great customer service,” Johnson continued. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
With his Air Force experience, Johnson felt confident he could thrive as a DSP owner. What he had learned most during his military training was how to lead a team. He mastered motivating people and helping them reach their full potential. Those skills assisted him in recruiting, organizing, and inspiring employees to put customers’ needs first.
With the DSP opportunity, Johnson saw an interesting way to start a business. Unlike something such as a restaurant or a chain franchise, the upfront investment wasn’t overwhelming. Plus, once he was offered the opportunity to be a part of the DSP program, Johnson was able to participate in a two-week training and lean on Amazon for support with leasing vehicles, maintaining and repairing his fleet, processing payroll, and accessing regulatory and legal advice if needed.
“I learned that there are so many ways that Amazon provides resources for us,” Johnson said. “I felt grateful to have this opportunity to work with them as they’re growing and doing fantastic things. I tell other veterans that Amazon partners with you to provide the tools and mentorship to help make you successful. If you’re dedicated, and you use the training you got in the military, you can do well.”
In September 2018, ASLAR Logistics (named after the five Johnson children — Ammon, Shayla, Liam, Aria, and Rylan) opened with its delivery center in Sumner, Washington, about 30 miles south of Seattle. It’s one of 1,500 such small businesses that opened since Amazon started the DSP program in 2018.
In the early days, Johnson had only a few employees , while his wife, Laura, helped — making business decisions and even completing the Amazon driver training program — and managed their household. Now, Johnson oversees a staff of 90 who deliver Amazon orders to homes and businesses in the greater Sumner area.
“We’ve been able to hire truly dedicated and hardworking individuals, and I feel blessed every day to have them on my team,” he said.
Most days start with Johnson tackling paperwork and prepping for the day. His team starts at mid-morning with a “virtual standup” meeting to keep everyone safe with social distancing and learn of any news and safety protocol updates. “Loadout” happens next, with Johnson often jumping in to load packages. As the drivers start their routes, Johnson’s dispatch team stands by to answer questions, monitor routes, and help troubleshoot.
Johnson is proud to have earned Amazon’s trust, which he says his team has done by working hard, getting packages delivered, and not returning them to the center.
Earning his community’s trust is equally important to Johnson, and he welcomed the opportunity to do so, especially in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The beginning of that time period was like a second, surprise Christmas, with demand surging in March 2020.
“People were so scared to leave their houses, especially the elderly,” Johnson recalled. “We were able to deliver and keep them safe with social distancing and sanitizing. They could order basic necessities of life — cereal, cat food, toilet paper they couldn’t find anywhere else — without the concern of catching the virus. It helped us feel good about what we do.”
“We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for,” he said. “We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country.”
Suicide prevention, benefits
Wilkie also talked about the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.
The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.
“We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time,” the secretary said.
Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back “on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day.”
The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits “that are long overdue.”
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the grill master or pit mistress:
~ a pack of spice rubs from the kitchen of a Vietnam vetrepreneur ~
“One of the beauties of being a human being is that you have the ability to adapt.”
Gene (Cappy) Holmon is a force at a farmer’s market. I’d know. All it took him was five minutes talking to my wife about his local Los Angeles line of dry rub spices and she came straight home and put me in a headlock until I promised to include Cappy’s Dry Rub in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide.
And she doesn’t really like meat. But she’s sure got a thing for Cappy.
I caught up with Holmon this week and got the 411 on how an Army veteran who was disabled during the Tet Offensive in 1968 first transitioned to a busy career as a FedEx Distribution Hub Director before pivoting to become the Meat Spice King of Los Angeles. Brace yourself. It involves losing an arm.
Holmon had been in Vietnam about 6 months when he was injured in combat, suffering damage from both AK-47 rounds and what he assumes was an RPG. Medics amputated his right arm above the elbow in a field hospital before sending him to Japan for recovery.
“…I was pretty depressed…I think it was probably three days before I actually looked to see if my arm was still there…I was in an amputee ward and I saw a lot of guys, you know, like me but with both legs gone…or both legs and an arm or something like that and at that point I said, well, hey, I’m not that bad off…At that point I just decided to get better.”
Holman returned home to San Francisco and studied business management at USF on the G.I. Bill. Then he returned to his previous employer, UPS. He quickly rose through the ranks to Division Manager of UPS Hub Operations for all of Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Nevada. That’s when FedEx poached him to help implement their new Super Hub Distribution Center in Memphis.
And as he tracked across the American South for business, he sampled the many flavors of sauce, spice and smoke upon which Southern culinary tradition pins its most heartfelt pride.
By the time he retired, Holmon was experimenting with his own blends of dry rub spices, perfecting his grill skills, and winning praise for his cooking at family events. When California Cottage Law went into effect in 2013, Holmon’s wife Paulette urged him to offer his blends to the public and Cappy’s was born. But because Cottage Law permitting initially limits sales to direct-to-consumer, Holman found that he’d have to adapt from being the distribution genius behind the scenes to being a grassroots-level, Face-of-the-Brand at farmer’s markets and local boutique grocery stores.
It can’t have been too hard. Insider knowledge: Cappy is a peach. As soon as you meet him, you’re sipping the paprika-flavored Kool-Aid.
Cappy’s has since expanded to online sales, which is where we wholeheartedly recommend that you go to order yourself one or several of his blends in time for Holiday cooking. Cappy’s Dry Rubs are great on meats, obviously, but check out how well they crossover to fruits and vegetables. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
David Burnett was a U.S. Army Special Operations Crew Chief with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. You might know it better as the “Night Stalkers.” He even wrote a book about his time with the Night Stalkers. His latest project isn’t about the Army, however. It’s for the Army, for the military. It’s an invention borne of necessity – as all great inventions are – and could save lives.
In short, David Burnett wants you out of his helicopter as soon as possible.
While he was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, troops would board his Chinook for the ride, normally hanging their go bags and other gear inside with carabiners and bungee cord. These are the usual, practical things with which American troops deploy to combat zones. While sitting in a brightly-lit flightline with the cabin lights on, this was no big deal. But U.S. troops, especially special operators, don’t fly to the enemy with the cabin lights on. They’re usually flying in at night, blacked out. It was in those situations David Burnett realized he and his Chinook were spending a lot more time on the ground than they wanted.
The good guys were having trouble releasing their stowed gear. It was still connected to the aircraft. All the old methods of fixing their gear didn’t offer quick-release functionality. David Burnett decided he was going to do something about that.
The Tac Clamp was born.
Burnett’s creation isn’t just a metal clamp. It can be hooked and fastened for quick release, or it can be placed on a tactical track for movement in a ready room, a hangar, arms room, or even the back of an aircraft. With the push of a button, the Tac Clamp will release its iron grip and let the special operator free to bring the fight to the enemy – and it works. It works really well. Burnett’s clamp has been submitted to aircrews at MacDill Air Force Base for review and is currently being field-tested by Navy Search and Rescue teams.
“I deployed with the 160th five times as a crew chief, and I saw this problem constantly on the aircraft and on vehicles too,” Burnett says. ” The reason was because all of these outdated methods they were using don’t offer quick release and is not very intuitive. This is something you clamp inside the aircraft but is not exclusive to the aircraft. If they were doing a ground assault and they can hook the Tac Clamp in their gear and just push a button to release it.”
Burnett even created a Tac Clamp for aerial photography.
Currently, Burnett is working on getting one of the military branches to accept the Tac Clamp for consideration for small-business contracting programs. He currently has two proposals submitted, one for the Air Force and two for the Army. It’s been a long road for Burnett, but he hasn’t given up. What he’s offering is something he’s seen a need for in the military, one that could potentially save American lives. He’s already getting feedback on his aluminum clamp from troops in the field.
“Troops tell me they need a small version, made of hard plastic, one they can attach to their kit,” says Burnett, who enjoys the innovation. “All branches of service, they’re realizing they can streamline innovation process by allowing small businesses to propose their technologies and get new products and innovative technologies fielded within 18 months.”
Social workers at VA are a vital part of the team, pulling together treatment plans and providing comprehensive, personalized care to Veterans
Social workers are an integral part of mental health care teams at VA.
These versatile professionals seem to do it all, pulling together treatment plans and providing comprehensive, personalized care to Veterans.
Did you know that VA is the largest employer of social workers in the nation? It’s true. And this month, we’re turning the spotlight on this rewarding career as part of our monthly effort to recognize a different critical-need occupation in celebration of VHA’s 75th anniversary.
In her final year of graduate school, Elizabeth accepted a social work internship at VA. She’s now been a social worker here for more than a decade.
“By happenstance, I got into VA and I have never felt limited here,” said Kleeman. “The opportunities that we have, creativity and positions that you can take, the services that you can offer and the training that you can get are state of the art.”
She supervises the suicide prevention and Veterans justice outreach teams. These teams of social workers provide the VAMC with suicide prevention expertise and serve as liaisons between the legal system and VA.
“There is just so much you can do in the social work realm that is unique to this particular discipline,” she said.
As a VA social worker, you’ll be essential to our mission of helping Veterans and their families heal. Your role on a mental health care team is extensive and dynamic, including responsibilities such as:
Developing specialized treatment plans that consider social, environmental, psychological and economic factors.
Providing clinical and case management for Veterans dealing with PTSD, substance abuse, bereavement and more.
Managing crisis intervention and high-risk screenings.
Delivering family education and providing educational materials.
Acting as a patient advocate.
Developing discharge plans and coordinating outpatient care.
“We are often consultants to the other disciplines on what impacts people’s well-being and their experience – like their marriage, their past, their childhood, their current family, their work, etc. Social justice is truly what drives us; this helps the entire team function because it calls out the blind spots,” Kleeman said.
Social workers across VA serve in a variety of settings, including primary care clinics, specialty clinics, hospitals and emergency departments, and mental health and rehabilitation units.
With more than 1,200 VA facilities across the nation, you’re sure to find a social work role that suits your skills and expertise.
Work at VA
Consider becoming part of the social work team at VA, where you can play a vital role in improving Veterans’ lives.
The Super Bowl is where the stakes are highest in the world of professional football.
But for some who have played in that big game, they have staked far more than whether or not they help hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy — they’ve served in the military, signing “a blank check to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including my life,” to paraphrase a popular quote.
Here are some of the more famous names (and not-so-famous) names who served in the military and played in the Super Bowl:
1. Hall of Fame OLB Kevin Greene
While Greene is not well known, he is one of the NFL’s all-time great pass rushers, and played in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also served in the Alabama Army National Guard, according to a 1986 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, getting paratrooper wings and also at times commanding a tank platoon.
In the 2017 season, he will coach linebackers for the New York Jets.
According to NFL.com, Greene totaled 160 sacks and five interceptions over 15 seasons.
2. New England Patriots LS Joe Cardona
Cardona will be playing in Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots, serving as a long snapper. He did the same with the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team – starting as a freshman and for all four years.
A 2015 DoD feature on military-NFL ties reports he serves on active duty, and has assignments with the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport and with the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).
3. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach
Prior to Pat Tillman, Roger Staubach was probably the most famous person who had his feet in both the military and National Football League. He played 11 years in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing 153 TD passes according to NFL.com. He played in four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls VI and XII.
Perhaps best known for his Super Bowl XXI heroics as a member of the New York Giants, including a 6-yard TD catch, McConkey wasn’t drafted by an NFL team when he graduated from the Naval Academy.
His naval service included time as a helicopter pilot, but he decided to go for his dream of playing pro football. A 2013 Buffalo News article revealed that it was a family connection to New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck (whose father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy) that launched McConkey’s NFL career.
A 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t hurt, either. Over his six-season professional football career, NFL.com notes that McConkey had 67 receptions for 1,113 yards and two TDs for the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and one other team.
5. Retired DT Chad Hennings
Though Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he also was very well known as an Air Force pilot flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane, according to GoAirForceFalcons.com. According to NFL.com, Hennings had 27.5 sacks over his nine-season NFL career.
6. Retired RB Rocky Bleier
Rocky Bleier was overshadowed in the Steelers’ backfield that won four Super Bowls by NFL Hall of Fame legends Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.
One reason may have been the fact that in December, 1968, he was drafted by the Army and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. According to a 1969 AP report printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleier was wounded on Aug. 20 of that year — shot in the thigh and hit by grenade fragments, losing part of his right foot.
According to NFL.com, Bleier only played six games in 1971 after missing all of 1970. He would rush for 3,865 yards and 23 TDs, while catching 136 passes for 1,294 yards and two more TDs.
Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday in Iowa, thanks to the tireless efforts of a woman who treats every urn as if it contains the remains of her own family.
Funeral director Lanae Strovers has been working on the upcoming ceremony for more than two years, but her passion and reputation for honoring veterans goes back much further in her career at Hamilton’s Funeral Home.
Having been put on bed rest for three months because of surgery, Strovers was looking for a way to keep busy when she discovered Hamilton’s had about 300 urns sitting in storage. She made it her mission to follow up with families to see whether they could claim the urns or still needed them stored.
After the arduous process of tracking down relatives or guardians for all the urns, Strover said the funeral home ended up with the remains of three unclaimed veterans and organized a service for them.
“Since then, people are aware that Hamilton’s makes sure veterans get buried whether they have family or not,” Strovers said. “Local law enforcement has turned in urns, and storage unit owners have turned some in to us, which is an amazing thing because they know that we will hold the ceremony when it’s necessary.”
Strovers was adopted as a child and only recently learned anything about her biological family. Her background made her look at unclaimed remains differently.
“I felt that every person was a possible brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, or family member to me,” she said. “It’s not just a box with cremated remains in it. It’s someone’s family member. For whatever reason, they got separated — that’s not our place to judge those stories at all, but to be respectful that it’s someone’s loved one.”
One of the veterans to be honored Friday is Robert Glen Baumgardner, who served in the Army during the Korean War. He died in 2000. Burglars stole his urn from his sister’s house in 2020 after she died. Police later discovered it in the middle of an intersection and took it to the funeral home.
World War II Army veteran Calvin Dean Sours died in May 2012 at age 93. His urn was later found in the office of an administrator who had failed to bury him.
Knowing that a person’s remains could be forgotten on a shelf doesn’t sit right with Strovers. While the ultimate goal is reuniting remains with the person’s family, giving the person a proper send-off is the next best option.
Friday’s ceremony – the third Strovers has organized – will begin with a 12:30 p.m. service at Hamilton’s in West Des Moines, Iowa. Law enforcement personnel, Patriot Guard Riders, and Iowa combat veterans will lead a procession to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, where Iowa-based country singer Cody Hicks will perform the national anthem. Military honors will be rendered, and local representatives and notable community members will receive the flags on behalf of each veteran.
Rich Shipley, assistant state captain of the Iowa Patriot Guard Riders and a Marine Corps veteran, said the riders would be there to ensure the veterans would be “laid to rest with as many brothers present as possible.”
“Our nation’s heroes should never be unclaimed, discarded, or interred with no family present,” Shipley wrote in an email to Coffee or Die Magazine.
“It’s really a great community event where tons of people come together to honor these veterans,” Strovers said. She strongly encourages the public to attend, especially families with children.
“To teach those kids respect for people who served our country is huge,” Strovers said. “And just to see so many people coming to pay respects to people they never knew simply because they served our country is a pretty amazing thing.”
Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.
According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.
“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.
Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).
Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.
So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.
There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.
The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.
Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.
Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.
Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.
“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.
The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.