Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

On August 23, 1977, Sergeant Shirley was performing his military duties as instructed and required when the unthinkable happened. An explosive device detonated prematurely, blowing up in his hands. Jensen was severely injured, losing both forearms, a lung, vision in one eye, and multiple other internal and external injuries. He was 21 years old.

When he awoke after the injury, only one thing was on his mind. Service. 

For as long as he can remember, Jensen Shirley has understood the importance of serving. The son of a military veteran and nephew to five other WWII service members, Jensen had the future mapped out in his eyes before the tassel on his high school graduation cap was moved from right to left. He was joining the Army.

The year was 1973 and the United States was still two years out from ending its long and bitter war with Vietnam. 

“When I was in high school,” Jensen said, “I told my father I was joining the military and he said, ‘By the time you graduate, you’ll still end up going to Vietnam.’ And he asked me what I thought about that. I told him, ‘No one wants to go, but you all served and sacrificed, and now is our time to serve and sacrifice.’”

“It’s not a question of being right or wrong on the war question, or whether we should or shouldn’t have been there — we were already there. We were asked to serve, we were asked to go, and that was it.”


For Jensen, service was in his blood. 

After Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), Jensen attended the Jungle Operations Training Center and successfully passed jungle school, a highly specialized, rigorous, infantry survival course. Jensen was operationally deployed to Panama where he continued his journey as an infantryman and soldier. 

When his overseas deployment was complete, Sergeant Shirley was assigned to Ft. Jackson, SC as a Combat Weapons Instructor on Bastogne Range. 

Here, service and sacrifice would take on new meaning for the young soldier. His catastrophic injury would change the course of his life forever.



For Jensen, it wasn’t enough that he had survived an injury many others had not. Jensen had to find a way to heal, to rehabilitate, and to get back to work. He was Sergeant Jensen Shirley. This was his calling, his life’s work…the future had been mapped out in his mind since the day he graduated from high school. Only, what was that future now?



“I couldn’t even sign the form I didn’t want to be signing.”

Here is a soldier with a deep-rooted commitment to serve who has suffered an unimaginable loss – of his hands and of his physical body, yes – but also of his sense of self. And he stands in front of the Physical Evaluation Board, forever changed, yet pleading for a chance to stay in the military. There’s just nothing they can do; his injuries are too severe. His military career was over.

But Sergeant Shirley – Jensen – did not allow his journey to end in that boardroom. You know by now that he doesn’t back down easily. 

So, if a military career was truly out of the question, Jensen was looking at the next best thing: serving veterans as a clinical counselor. Jensen was going to college.



There was just one small problem. With no hands and no full-time support, how was he supposed to write a paper or complete an exam? Remember, this is the 1970s. There were no resources, no systems, and no processes to help him navigate through this new journey. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wasn’t even signed into law until almost 15 years later, and that left Jensen alone to figure out his own path forward. 

Enter Carol Keller.



Carol Keller helped Jensen transition into his new life, one that he never anticipated would be his, but one that he would make extraordinary.

“Because of her help in getting over that first hurdle, I started believing that I could do it. If somebody could just help me, if they could just open the door and let me in, I would do the rest,” he said.

So, just as he set out to do, Jensen graduated from American University. Then he graduated with a master’s degree from The George Washington University. Then he earned a second master’s from the University of San Francisco, a doctorate of education from the University of San Diego, and a CACREP-accreditation from Walden University. Not bad for someone with injuries deemed “too severe.”

From Sergeant Shirley…

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

…To Dr. Jensen Shirley.



Thanks to some mutual friends, Jensen was eventually connected with William Rider. You might remember that name from a past story of ours. Bill served in Vietnam, experiencing unimaginable trauma. He later formed an organization called American Combat Veterans of War, or ACVOW, to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, sexual assault, or those serving jail time. 

A veteran helping veterans. Sound like anyone else you know?

The two were fast friends. Jensen and Bill spend time each week at the North County Vista jail, providing support and counseling to incarcerated veterans. After one such training session, Bill asked Jensen if he had ever heard of Chive Charities.

“Bill smiled, knowing that I had a heart for serving veterans and volunteering my time, talent and service to giving back,” Jensen told us. “And Bill said, ‘I want to talk with you not just about an organization, but about people like yourself who want to make a difference.’”

Making a difference in the lives of others is what it’s all about. And now, the one who always gives is finally receiving. We’re proud to serve Dr. Shirley in his time of need.



His request of Chive Charities was simple: he needed new kitchen appliances that he could operate with his prosthetics and a 4×4 golf cart with enough power to get to the end of his long and sloped driveway and back up again. 

You better believe he was getting those items.

Thanks to our committed donors and incredible partnership with STRATACACHE, we were able to fund a grant for Jensen with an impact of $17,691. Jensen is the third recipient they’ve directly supported this year (remember Gracyn and Zack?). 

Like Dr. Shirley, STRATACACHE values the importance of serving others and providing help to those in need. At Chive Charities, our mission is to make the world 10% happier – we’re able to stand behind that because of their ongoing commitment and support, and through donors like you. If you haven’t joined us yet, DONATE HERE). 

“Jensen shows the true character of the American soldier. In the face of great adversity, he doesn’t quit. STRATACACHE and Chive Charities are proud to thank him for his service and try to help make his life a little easier,” said Chris Riegel, CEO of STRATACACHE. “Our partnership with Chive Charities allows STRATACACHE to focus on helping the underdog, the outsider, the little guy and those in need in the shadows of our lives challenged with everyday activities we take for granted. Helping Jensen is about making the world 10% better.”

Speaking of helping, Chive On California even stepped up to hand-deliver his new appliances this week, gladly serving someone who has served so many others.



We asked Jensen what this support means to him, and as always, his words are powerful. We’ll let him take it from here:

“The Chive Charities grant has impacted me in a way that is so humbling. First, it lets me know I am not alone. Although many years have passed since my incident, I am still pressing on serving others, one person at a time.”

“Second, life is not about what or why things happen to you; life is about what you do for others when things like this happen. My call has been to serve God, country and others. Now, my call is to serve until the service is done. Thank you, Chive Charities, from the bottom of my heart.”


Serve until the service is done. For rare medical, first responders, or veterans like Jensen, that’s a calling we can get behind. Can you? DONATE HERE.

This story originally appeared on Chive Charities. Visit their website to learn more about their services.

MIGHTY FIT

This Army vet started a supplement company dedicated to education

Before John Klipstein joined the Army, he smoked a pack a day and his PT test run time was roughly 23 minutes — which accounts for the time spent throwing up on the side of the track. The military turned that around. The newly-minted 13B found a love for fitness and pushing his body to the limit. After leaving the military, he developed a line of supplements to help others do the same — safely.


During his first deployment, Klipstein and his friends handled the stress by working out. In his time at the gym, he noticed a lot of soldiers taking a lot of different supplements — some of which could be found on the military’s banned supplement list. Klipstein was interested in why those expensive jugs of pre-workout were confiscated — what exactly their ingredients were.

By the time his second deployment rolled around, he was making his own pre-workout using ingredients he ordered himself. Now that he was in the role of squad leader, it was his job to confiscate banned substances. He used the opportunity to educate his troops on the dangers of those banned ingredients. Sadly, shortly after his deployment ended, an NCO in their unit died during a five-mile run. The cause was cardiac arrest — caused by a pre-workout supplement.

“This happens all the time in the military,” Klipstein says. “Heavy stimulants mixed with extreme heat and intense training can be very dangerous and soldiers end up dying from it.”

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Klipstein and his platoon. He’s the one smiling in the center.
(Courtesy of John Klipstein)

“Sometimes, supplements may be effective but have questionable safety profiles.” says Jennifer Campbell, an Army veteran, Certified Personal Trainer, and Master of Science in Nutrition Education. “Remember Hydroxycut back in the early 2000s? Its active ingredient was Ephedra, which was banned by the FDA in 2004.”

So, when Klipstein started UXO Supplements after leaving the Army, he made it UXO’s mission and vision to provide safe and effective formulas for supplements while educating people on how to use them the right way.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Klipstein in one of many educational videos on the UXO blog.

“With UXO you get clean energy with clinical amounts of researched and proven ingredients” he says. “All products are manufactured in an FDA approved lab, so you will not find any banned substances. In fact, we have all products 3rd-party tested before they hit the shelves to ensure they are safe for our consumers.”

“Knowledge of a supplement’s legality, safety, purity, and effectiveness is critical,” Campbell says. “Unlike food, the FDA does not review supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to market.”

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
UXO has developed a full line of safe supplements.

Klipstein left the Army as an E6 promotable after herniating two discs and banging up his knee but UXO’s other business partner remains in the service, keeping up with the fitness trends that affect the military the most. Even though John Klipstein isn’t rucking up and down mountains and patrolling villages on maneuver missions anymore, he’s still working to keep himself — and his veteran-owned business — in shape and taking care of his brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

“The most important thing about being a vet-owned business is giving back to the veteran community,” Klipstein says. “We do it with a quality product and solid education. We also offer them a 25 percent discount.”

Just use the coupon code MILSUPPS25 at when checking out at UXOSupplements.com. He also invites the military-veteran community to tell him what they think of his products.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Klipstein talks about pros and cons of multivitamins on the UXO blog

Fitness and Nutrition expert Jennifer Campbell also adds that some supplement manufacturers aim to pursue the most inexpensive raw material from suppliers that will pass under the given certificate of analysis to minimize the cost of goods. She backs Klipstein’s insistence on supplement education.

“Do your research,” she says.

John Klipstein isn’t about to let another soldier fall to poor or unethical supplements. He’s happy to post his ingredients — and explain how lesser supplements are trying to be deceptive with their ingredient lists. He, like Campbell, warns of things like “proprietary blends” and implores supplement seekers to find third-party reviewed ingredients in the products they purchase.

UXO products are tasty and provide the energy and recovery they promise. The military discount is great because it makes the products extremely affordable. On top of that, before purchasing, UXO Supplements tells you everything you need to know about the type of product you’re buying as well as the formulation and purpose of the specific item you’re interested in. It’s a great intro to workout supplements, from start to finish.

Klipstein wants all his clients to be healthy, happy, and of course, repeat customers. The UXO Blog says it all.

“There is nothing better than receiving positive feedback from veterans and athletes alike. Our goal is to deliver a great product with an amazing taste. We will never sacrifice our values or our quality to try and make a quick dollar.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

How one of the NFL’s greats honors fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman

It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.

The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.


NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.

As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.

Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.

Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.

The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.

The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.

“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

There are many famous people who served in the United States Military. Some were drafted, some had the choice between jail or service, and some felt the call and volunteered.

From World War II to 9/11 and beyond, these celebrities served their country before they became famous — except for Elvis. Elvis was always a star.

Note: There are some celebrities who are already well known for their military service (like everyone’s favorite Gunny, R. Lee Ermey). You won’t see them on this list, since our goal was to point out celebrities whose military service isn’t as well known.


In no particular order, these are ten awesome celebrities who served in the U.S. Armed Forces:

Rob Riggle Is Golfing For Veterans

www.youtube.com

1. Rob Riggle, United States Marine Corps

Rob Riggle served in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he went through Officer Candidate School. Though he originally had the intention of becoming a pilot, he realized that he wanted to pursue comedy, so he became a Public Affairs Officer instead. After his Active Duty service commitment was complete, he transitioned into the reserves, where he served for 14 more while doing comedy and acting full time.

Riggle served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan during his time in service. Now retired, he continues to help the veteran community through initiatives like his Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic, a veteran-celebrity golf tournament that raises money and awareness for veteran non-profits, like Semper Fi Fund, an organization that assists service members and their families.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Photo by Bob Sandberg)

2. Jackie Robinson, United States Army

Jackie Robinson was drafted to the United States Army in 1942, where he was assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit before applying to Officer Candidate School. His application was delayed due to the color of his skin, but, after protests by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, he was accepted. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in January, 1943.

In August, 1944, he faced court-martial for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, a segregated location known for its racism.

On July 6, 1944, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. Angry from the way he was treated and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait for the MPs in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

He was charged with two accounts of insubordination. His defense would win out, however, and Robinson was freed. He medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle and went on to become the first African American to play Major League Baseball.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

It looks like a mug shot, but that’s an OG CAC picture on the left.

3. Bea Arthur, United States Marine Corps

The late Bea Arthur served as a truck driver in the U.S. Marine Corps. She enlisted into the Women’s Reservists during World War II at the age of 21 under her maiden name, Bernice Frankel. A handwritten letter of hers states,

I was supposed to start work yesterday, but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was join.

She was stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. She was honorably discharged after the war at the rank of Staff Sergeant. She would marry a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, and go on to have a successful career in the arts.

Any fan of Arthur’s incisive Dorothy on Golden Girls won’t be surprised to hear that Arthur’s enlistment interviewer described her as “argumentative” and “officious — but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

4. Bob Ross, United States Air Force

Robert Norman Ross, better known as the friendly painter Bob Ross, enlisted in the Air Force at age 18 and went on to serve for 20 years. While stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Florida-native Ross saw snow and mountains for the first time, which would influence his serene landscape choices as he began his prolific painting career.

It might be surprising to know that while in the Air Force, Ross became a Drill Instructor.

I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.

True to his word, he developed The Joy of Painting, his famous program where he taught others to paint with an uplifting and soft-spoken demeanor that has become famous around the world.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Semper Fi,​

5. Adam Driver, U.S. Marine Corps

Adam Driver, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became an infantry mortarman after the 9/11 attacks. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s (eighty-ones) Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines and was training for his first deployment when he sustained an injury that would result in a medical discharge.

After his service, Driver founded a non-profit organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff, and their families around the world free of charge with the intention of bridging the divide between civilians and the military.

Of his military career, Driver once said, “In the military, you learn the essence of people. You see so many examples of self-sacrifice and moral courage. In the rest of life you don’t get that many opportunities to be sure of your friends.”

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Montel Williams at the premiere of ‘War, Inc.’

(Photo by David Shankbone)

6. Montel Williams, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy

Talk show host Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marines Corps after high school and completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, before going to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twentynine Palms, California. After impressing his superiors with his leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Newport, Rhode Island. He was then accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Upon graduation, he became a cryptologic officer for the United States Navy. He served in Guam before transferring to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian for a year before putting his linguistic skills to use for the National Security Agency. He served aboard submarines for three years before he decided to separate from the military and pursue public and motivational speaking full time.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Elvis Presley inventing ‘Blue Steel’ during his military service in Germany.

7. Elvis Presley, United States Army

After one deferment to complete the film King Creole, Elvis Aron Presley reported for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Hood on March 24, 1958, where he was assigned to the Second Armored Division’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ unit. His induction was a major event that attracted fans and media attention.

After basic, Presley sailed to Europe aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. By March, 1960, Sergeant Presley finished his military commitment and received an honorable discharge from active duty.

Reflecting on his service, Presley once told Armed Forces Radio and Television that he was determined to go to any limits to prove himself — and he did, though his career as an artist was never too far from reach. Shortly after returning to the United States, he shot the film G-I Blues, a musical comedy where Presley played a tank crewman with a singing career.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

8. Jimi Hendrix, United States Army

Jimi Hendrix, one of rock’s greatest guitar players, served a brief, thirteen-month stint with the famed U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles” — just a few years before his epic rise to rockstardom in the late 60s. Hendrix wanted to enlist as a musician but had no formal music training, so he opted for the 101st Airborne Division.

Months after joining the Screaming Eagles, life as a paratrooper began to wear on Hendrix’s morale. He was constantly reprimanded for dereliction of duties.

Jimi just wanted to play his guitar. His days as a paratrooper came to an end on his 26th jump when he broke his ankle.

Hendrix began exploring the Fort Campbell area nightlife before venturing down to nearby Nashville where he began jamming with local bluesmen. It was in that vibrant music scene that he met fellow service member and bassist Billy Cox. In September, 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, Hendrix and Cox formed a band called the King Kasuals, but it was later in New York City where Hendrix would catch the break that would help him become the rockstar he’s remembered as today.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

9. Kurt Vonnegut,  United States Army

Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. In 1944, then-Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work – until the city was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.

Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become one of the most famous PTSD flashback stories and one of the most banned books of all-time.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

10. Kris Kristofferson, U.S. Army

Before he was a recording artist, Kris Kristofferson, under pressure from his family and following in the footsteps of his Air Force General father before him, joined the U.S. Army.

Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.

He chose to separate from the Army to pursue a music career instead, but served in the Tennessee National Guard when he needed to make ends meet. It was during that time when he infamously stole a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s lawn, a bold move that would pay off when Cash, a fellow veteran, recorded Kristofferson’s song and began an epic musical friendship.

In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.

Articles

SEAL, Purple Heart faker gets 4 years in prison

A man who pretended to be a SEAL has now landed in some very hot water stemming from the fish story he peddled for veterans benefits.


According to an August 2016 release from the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Ohio, Kenneth E. Jozwiak of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was charged with unlawfully exhibiting a military discharge certificate, theft of government money, making false statements to federal agents, and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to all of the charges.

“This defendant’s lies about his service are an affront to those who saw combat and those wounded fighting on behalf of our nation,” said Carole S. Rendon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “This defendant did neither, and falsely inflated his service record in an effort to get additional benefits.”

The 67-year-old Jozwiak claimed he had been awarded the Purple Heart on four occasions, and had seen combat as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. The crimes he was indicted on carry a maximum sentence of 36 years in prison combined, but according to a May 18 Justice Department release, Jozwiak will serve four years in federal prison for conning the VA out of $2,289 in 2014.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a Seal team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. (US Navy photo)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benedict S. Gullo prosecuted the case, which was handled by the Cleveland office of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General-Criminal Investigative Division.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 made lying about being awarded military medals a crime. The law was overturned in 2012 by the Supreme Court in United States vs. Alvarez in a 6-3 ruling. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 made lying about a veteran status or awards for to gain benefits to be a crime.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=823&h=e2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82&size=980x&c=1328651676 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D823%26h%3De2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1328651676%22%7D” expand=1]

I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

Articles

7 struggles these veterans know all too well about humping gear

SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.


Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.

1. The veteran grunt

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

2. The motivated Corpsman

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

 

Related: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

5. Packing some major heat

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

6. He’s down to do it all over again

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

7. Ready for just about anything

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

 

What gear did you carry? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam Veteran’s 49-year-old memories of his canine partner

Mick never forgot his best friend from Vietnam – a dog named Hobo.

Kim “Mick” Michalowski still talks about his K-9 partner from 49 years ago, but only had one photo to remember his buddy. That is, until last week, when he reconnected on Facebook with an Air Force friend who sent him photos of Hobo he had kept all these years.


“When I got these photos, it was one of the best days for me,” Michalowski said. “I’m not going to say it was the best day of my life because I have three children, a beautiful wife and grandchildren. But it just uplifted my spirits so much.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Kim “Mick” Michalowski and Hobo in Vietnam.

“You can ask my wife. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk about Hobo in the 46 years we’ve been married. Probably not a day goes by I don’t tell someone about Hobo.”

Pictured above are Kim Michalowski and his wife Yolanda at the dog memorial he helped build in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Michalowski joined the Air Force in 1970.

“We had no way of knowing what would happen or what we would get into. I still remember that last moment, getting on the plane. I was looking back at my dad, thinking I would never see him again. It’s one of the few times I saw my dad cry.”

Jumped at the chance to be a K-9 handler

Michalowski was a security policeman originally stationed at Phu Cat Air Base. He moved to Cam Rhan Bay Air Base, where he jumped at the chance to become a K-9 handler.

Hobo, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled with his new partner.

“It took three and a half days for him to let me come into his kennel. He would jump at the gate, growling and snarling and stuff and would not let me in. I was finally able to get him muzzled and get him out. It took two more days to be able to get him to work with me.

“I still have scars on both my arms where he bit me, one on my left arm and another on my right wrist. One was from playing around and the other was me learning to be more careful.”

They became inseparable after that, patrolling the perimeter of Cam Rhan Bay Air Base.

“We literally spent 11 to 12 hours a day together patrolling. When we got off, it was another four hours taking care of him, checking for ticks, feeding him and making sure he had plenty of water. My shift would end at 0600, but I wouldn’t get back to my bunk until 10 o’clock.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Ted Kozikowski and his K-9 partner, Congo, in Vietnam.

Read his mail to Hobo

“I used to read my letters to my dog. Just having that ability to have someone to reach down and grab around the neck put me at ease. During the day I’d go back to the kennel to play with him.”

Michalowski had some close calls with incoming rounds, but Hobo always made him feel better.

“I always felt safer with Hobo. He was going to do his job and detect something before I would.”

Then it was time to go stateside.

“Up until my dad died, that was the worst day of my life. That dog was special to me. I took him out to the yard to work him around the obstacle course. I just hugged him real tight around the neck. I told him I loved him and was going to miss him.”

Michalowski separated from the Air Force as a sergeant in 1974, then joined the Army Reserve in 1977, retiring as a command sergeant major.

But he never forgot Hobo.

About five years ago, he helped raise money for a K-9 memorial in Menomonee Falls. There, he talked about his partner from so many decades ago. And then he was scrolling through a K-9 Facebook page and saw a familiar face.

That was Ted Kozikowski. “It blew me away,” Kozikowski said. “I remembered him right away. Veterans, we always want to go back to that stability in our life, whether we liked the military or not. It was an anchor of self-discipline and a camaraderie I’ve never experienced in the civilian world.”

Family sent dog biscuits from the states

In Vietnam, they were known as the “Skis” – easier that way when there are two Polish troops in the unit. “I was Ski and Michalowski was Ski 2,” Kozikowski says.

Like his buddy, Ski 2, he had an abiding love for his K-9 partner, Congo.

“That dog was a member of my family. My parents and my brother and sisters loved him too,” Kozikowski said. “My care packages from home went from cookies to dog biscuits. There was not a thing that dog didn’t know about me and my personal life. He knew me better than my family.”

The two have talked back and forth on Facebook, and Ted was happy to share photos of Hobo with his buddy.

“I’m glad to do that. Those dogs meant everything to us,” he said.

Michalowski shares the sentiment. “What do they call that term for dogs in heaven? The rainbow bridge? Hobo, he’ll be waiting for me.”

Michalowski receives his health care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

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


Articles

Buzz kill: States might have legalized pot, but the feds still haven’t

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Marijuana, along with nine other substances, is specifically prohibited under Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and penalties for its use can range from a general discharge to dishonorable discharge (for positive results of a urinalysis) and even imprisonment for possession.


During election week, four states legalized medicinal marijuana use, joining a list of 40 states and the District of Columbia in saying “Mary Jane is a friend of mine — in some form or another.”

The federal government, however, is saying “not if you value your 2nd amendment rights.”

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C.

Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all voted last week to allow medical marijuana use, joining 17 other states who acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis.

Outside of those 29 states, limited medical marijuana use (which generally refers to cannabis extracts) is legal in 15 other states.

The states that don’t allow any type of marijuana use are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.

While the Veterans Administration admits that it hasn’t conducted any studies to determine if medical marijuana can successfully treat PTSD, they do admit that there seems to be anecdotal evidence to support that claim.

Use of “oral CBD [cannabidiol] has been shown to decrease anxiety in those with and without clinical anxiety” the VA notes.

The VA goes on to explain that an ongoing trial of THC, one of the compounds in cannabis, shows the compound to be “safe and well tolerated” among participants with PTSD, and that it results in “decreased hyperarousal symptoms.”

According to an investigation by PBS’s “Frontline,” marijuana’s “danger” label came about predominantly as a result of a smear campaign against immigrants between 1900 and the 1930s.

The network acknowledges a report from the New York Academy of Medicine that states that, despite popular opinion, marijuana does not “induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.” That report has not been refuted by scientific research to date.

In 1972, President Nixon ordered the Shafer Commission to look at decriminalizing marijuana use, and the commission determined that the personal use of it should, in fact be decriminalized.

President Nixon, according to PBS, rejected that recommendation.

To this day, marijuana use and possession is a federal crime, despite being overwhelmingly accepted by nearly all of the country in some form or another.

So why does this matter to the military and veteran community?

It all comes down to federal law. While a majority of the country recognizes the benefits and harmlessness of cannabis, the federal government does not.

In fact, the feds say marijuana users immediately forfeit their Second Amendment rights by consuming cannabis.

On September 7th the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that federal law “prohibits gun purchases by an ‘unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance.’ ”

The court claims that marijuana users “experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgement” and that this impaired judgement leads to “irrational” behavior, despite the findings by both the New York Academy of Medicine and the Shafer Commission to the contrary.

Background checks for firearms purchases require buyers to acknowledge whether they are a “habitual user” of marijuana and other illegal drugs. If they truthfully answer “yes,” they are barred from buying a gun. That means gun buyers in states that legalized marijuana use had better not indulge in the new right.

Will this change any time soon?

To answer that question, one needs to look at how legalization has impacted the finances in the states that have made pot kosher. After-all, money makes the world go ’round.

According to CheatSheet, Oregon banked $3.5 million in its first month of recreational marijuana sales. Washington State hit the jackpot with $70 million its first year, and Colorado rolled a fat one with $135 million in 2015 alone.

That was enough for the U.S. Congress to pause and say “let’s think about this.” Currently sitting in the Senate right now is S.683 , or the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARES).

Introduced by Democrat New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in March 2015, the act moves to transfer marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II drug, protect marijuana dispensaries from being penalized for selling marijuana, and directs the VA to authorize medical providers to “provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in state marijuana programs”, among other things.

To give an idea of what a schedule II drug is, the U.S. Department of Justice lists ADHD medication as a schedule II drug.

So when will marijuana use be decriminalized on a federal level? It’s too soon to tell.

Until then, veterans will have to choose between our pot and our guns.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 best and worst cities for veterans to live in 2018

There are now an estimated 19.6 million American military veterans living in the United States, and that number is only going to rise. While veterans face a lot of the same economic and social pressures as lifelong civilians, we also tend to face a few different issues as we reintegrate into civilian life — and where we live can make as much a difference for us as it does for our children.

It’s an important decision to make, so why not do the research? Luckily, WalletHub did it for us.


The highly-popular personal finance website compared the largest 100 U.S. cities and indexed them for key factors of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. What the latter means is that the cities have important resources and opportunities for veterans. Things like services to aid transition from military life, finding employment with military skills, and opportunities for growth are weighted in the rankings. Also important to study is access to VA facilities and services in these cities.

Related: A new study shows your chances of achieving the ‘American Dream’

You can read all about the methods WalletHub used to grade the cities and see each city’s grade on the WalletHub website. There, you can also see how each is ranked overall versus the 99 other biggest cities in America, along with each city’s rank according to job opportunities, economic factors, veteran quality of life, and veteran health issues.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

1. Austin, Texas

It should come as no surprise that a hip city in Texas came in at number one. Austin makes the top of many lists and a home for veterans is not going to be different. The city is 20th in the health rank for veterans, but overall quality of life is rated very highly.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.

Arizona is another historically military-veteran friendly state. Scottsdale actually beats Austin in many weighted areas, but its overall health ranking is much, much lower, leaving it at number 2 on the list.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

3. Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Air Force doesn’t choose poorly when it comes to quality of life, anyone who’s spent a day on an Air Force installation can attest to that. The home of the Air Force Academy has the highest quality of life of any of America’s top 100 cities, while ranking high on quality of the economy.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

4. Raleigh, N.C.

Job opportunities and the chances of economic growth are high in Raleigh, higher than any other city in the top five. It has some work to do in the health category, as far as veterans’ healthcare needs are concerned, but getting a good job with promotion potential can make the difference for a veteran family.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

5. Gilbert, Ariz. 

There may be many people who are surprised to see a city with a population of just above 208,000 make the top-five list of best places for veterans, but this Phoenix suburb offers great economic growth opportunity and a high quality of life for vets.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

96. Baltimore, Md.

Does ranking in the bottom five mean that Baltimore is a terrible place to live? Not necessarily. It means that of America’s 100 biggest cities, Baltimore has some work to do to attract veterans, especially in terms of quality of life and economic growth opportunities. No one wants to end up in a city that doesn’t grow with them.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

97. Fresno, Calif.

Fresno, with just under a half million people, is not the worst of the worst in any of the four rankings that comprise its overall 97th position. In terms of jobs and the local economy, it’s a better city than the other bottom five, but not by much.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

98. Memphis, Tenn.

It’s surprising to see Memphis make the bottom of the list, but while the economic factors for veterans fare better than other cities on the bottom of the list, jobs, veteran health, and overall quality of life for vets suffer in Memphis.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

99. Newark, N.J.

Newark is actually more toward the middle of the the overall 100 on the list when it comes to veteran health care, but it sits at dead last for veteran jobs and quality of life.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

100. Detroit, Mich. 

Poor Detroit has taken a beating over the past few years. While the Michigan city ranks dead last on the overall list of American cities for veterans to live, it doesn’t take last place in any of the four factors that comprise the list.

And, since it’s a proven fact that a large veteran population can strengthen communities, maybe the Motor City is exactly where we should be headed.

popular

This common health concern hits vets more than anyone — but nobody talks about it

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.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

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.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

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?

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

(U.S. Navy)

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

It happened in a flash and changed Jason Redman’s life forever.


Redman — a lieutenant on a Navy SEAL team — and his assault squad were searching for an Al-Qaeda operative in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 when they were ambushed. Redman’s left elbow nearly exploded when two rounds tore through his arm. As the team retreated for cover, another round tripped through the right side of his face, shattering his jaw and tearing off half his nose as it exited.

Nobody would have questioned Redman had he chose to let that moment ruin his life.

Instead, Redman pushed forward and started several organizations designed to help wounded veterans.

Now, he’s receiving the Red Bandanna Hero Award for his efforts.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
The American Heroes Channel Red Bandanna Hero Award. Logo from AHCTV.com.

Named for Welles Remy Crowther — “The Man in the Red Bandanna” who rescued more than a dozen victims of the World Trade Center attacks — the award pays tribute to the “everyday hero who exemplifies the American Spirit and defines us as a nation,” according to a news release. It is given by the American Heroes Channel and the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, and the winner gets to donate $10,000 to the charity of his or her choice.

Redman will receive the honor during an Oct. 27 ESPN broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State football game. And he will be featured on an American Heroes Channel story about the award on Oct. 28.

“Before I was wounded, I wanted to stay in the Navy for 30 years and become the commander of a SEAL Team,” said Redman, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It’s amazing how life turns on a dime and unfolds right in front of you.”

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Retired Lt. Jason Redman, U.S. Navy SEAL, exits Malmstrom Air Force Base’s auditorium to a standing ovation after his presentation. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt.

Redman is the CEO and founder of Combat Wounded Coalition and Wounded Wear. He also has a speaking and consulting firm called SOF Spoken. With Old Dominion University he is creating the Overcome Academy, which will help military men and women returning to civilian life. All operate under the Combat Wounded Coalition umbrella, which he started with his wife, Erica.

“If anybody should have the light shine on them, it’s him,” said Kevin Gaydosh of O’Brien et al. Advertising in Virginia Beach, which supports Redman on some of his projects. “Talk about an inspiration. We certainly believe in him and what he’s trying to do.

“You have to admire a guy like this.”

Also Read: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

Redman, 42, also has written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” and will appear in an upcoming film about Navy SEALS. He recently had a role in an episode of the Hawaii Five-O television series.

“Some people suffer through a bad event and stay in that spot,” said Redman, who joined the Navy in 1992 and finished SEAL training three years later. “Others push and drive forward by learning and growing.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

“But no, if you told me after I was wounded that I would have a book, a non-profit, that I’d be speaking and acting, I would say no and that you needed an instant drug test.”

Redman barely survived his injuries because of blood loss, and doctors initially thought he would lose his arm because of the injuries to the elbow. Forty surgeries, thousands of stitches, hundreds of staples, and countless hours of rehabilitation helped him regain some normalcy.

But progress was slow.

“Like so many wounded warriors, I was broke,” said the father of three children. “I was used to making things happen, and it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”

Redman admits that he let himself go. He stopped working out and wasn’t eating right. He drank more than he should have. But a visit to the doctor changed all that.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
Retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, right, and retired Navy Lt. Jason Redman, left, pose for a photo following the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Ball in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2014. USMC photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour.

“He told me I would die of a heart attack,” Redman said. “My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, so it was all there.”

“Now I’m pretty much on a fitness quest.”

Back on track, Redman is excited about the award he said belongs to all those he’s trying to help.

“Every morning I wake up I’m thankful I have another day,” said Redman, who retired from the Navy in 2013. “If I die today, because I’m already living on borrowed time, I know that I did it right today.

“Most of us have one shot in this life. I got a second chance.”

Articles

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.

Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.


But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…

Yeah, he became an actor.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way
On the set of Banshee (2016) (Photo from IMDB)

And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.

Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.

“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”

To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.

Service over self: A veteran trailblazer paves the way

Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

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