Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

He encourages Veterans to stay busy, have a hobby


The government sent John Barbazon’s next of kin two telegrams in 1966. The first regretted to inform them that their son had been killed in action. The second said he was improving.

A member of the 101st Airborne, Barbazon (pictured above) was part of a squad that spent most of their time on the move, up and down mountains – and rarely in the company of other units.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Barbazon’s carved chess pieces.

“We just got orders and kept going from one place to another,” he said, sitting at a workbench in a shop at the back of his four-acre property.

Barbazon isn’t entirely still. He continues to move from one place to the next as he recalls his experience in Vietnam.

“I got shot and I was lying on the ground, my right arm mostly gone. I stick this finger in a sucking chest wound right here to stop the bleeding,” he said, holding up a thick index finger and jamming it into a space just below his right shoulder.

Each time he repeats the motion, the finger hits the same spot, to the same wound.

“I was on the ground,” he continued. “My cousin called out to me, told me to crawl to him. I crawled thirty to forty feet to a medic. I found out later my cousin had died in a car wreck. He wasn’t even there but if I hadn’t seen him call to me, I would have died right there, bled to death.”

Cussed out medic in Cajun

Soon after reaching the medic, he was placed in a body bag being mistaken as having been killed in action. The medics carrying him dropped him.

Later, one of the medics visited Barbazon in the field hospital.

“He (the medic) said that if I had died, I’d have gone to hell because I called him things he’d never heard of, in Cajun. I was cussing him out for dropping me.”

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
“I’ve been a very lucky person.”

Barbazon laughs at the memory now, but he spent a month in the field hospital before being shipped to California, where surgeries saved his arm and leg. Now he walks with a slight limp, but he doesn’t let it do more than slow his walking speed.

Happy and busy

“I hadn’t talked about Vietnam until eight or 10 years ago. I was in Ocala, Florida, at the VA hospital, and I was talking to a doctor I’d been seeing. She said, ‘John, I need you to talk to a friend of mine.’ So she takes me to a psychiatrist. And I’m glad.

“A lot of Veterans need to do this. I found out things I was doing that I was doing in Vietnam, like carrying a knife in my pocket for protection and going to the top row in a movie theater with my back against the wall. I was on guard too much and needed to relax.

“Talking to the psychiatrist was the best thing I’ve done, and I talked to him for about four years. Now I know I was really dysfunctional and didn’t realize it. Veterans today, they need to get out and find out. They need to talk to somebody and they have to listen.

“He told me, you’re not cured. I’m not going to cure you. I’m just going to make you aware of what you’re doing so you can be more relaxed. That’s why I enjoy doing this woodworking and that’s why I say Veterans need to talk to somebody – and they need to get a hobby.”

There’s something they can do

“If they are sitting home disabled, there’s something they can do. I don’t care if it’s going fishing. You’ve got to do something,” Barbazon said.

Barbazon’s sister has the telegrams, and he has a house full of delicately cut artwork that will soon include a dome clock that he’s spent the last six months working on for six hours a day.

“I’m very lucky. I’ve been a lucky person.”

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Watch a WWII tank commander reunite with his Hellcat

A group of tank restorers was working on a World War II Hellcat when they realized that the man who worked that exact Hellcat from Omaha Beach to V-E Day, Don Verle Breinholt, happened to live just a few miles down the road from them.


The restorers rushed to finish their restoration in time for Breinholt and his tank to reunite at a veteran appreciation event.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
An M18 Hellcat sits on display during an event in the Netherlands. (Photo: Dammit, CC BY-SA 2.5 nl)

The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer was one of the fastest and most agile armored vehicles of World War II. It was custom designed to cripple Germany’s Panzer Corps, quickly moving to the heart of the action and firing its 76mm main gun into Nazi armor. It would also dart ahead of an enemy thrust and then lie in wait to launch an ambush.

The Hellcat was so fast that America’s modern and feared Abrams Main Battle Tank, widely praised for its speed, is actually slower than the Hellcat. The Abrams can book it across the battlefield at 45 mph. The Hellcat can swing past it at 53 mph.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
An M18 Hellcat fires its 76mm main gun in Germany in 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

And the ammo on the Hellcat was vicious. While the gun itself was similar to the one on most American medium tanks, Hellcats carried high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds designed to jet molten metal right through German armor.

While Hellcats were lethal, they were also vulnerable. The Hellcats carried minimal armor and could be killed with everything from tank rounds to panzerfausts to heavy machine guns.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

That’s what makes it so amazing that Breinholt made it from Omaha as a gunner to where he met up with the Russians as a vehicle commander without suffering his own life-threatening injury or losing his Hellcat.

You can watch the restoration and learn a lot more about the M18 Hellcat and the modern M1 Abrams in the video below. Breinholt speaks throughout the video, but you can see him meet his old vehicle for the first time since May 1945 at the 46-minute mark:

MIGHTY MONEY

Hilton wants a staff full of US military veterans

Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.

Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.


Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.

This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.

It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.

The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.

“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.

Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.

The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.

These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

To learn more about a job with Hilton, check out Hilton’s job search website – and don’t forget to list your veteran status.

Articles

The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

Veterans

Veterans threaten lawsuit after Memorial Day permit denied, marijuana parade allowed

Staten Island veterans are threatening legal action if New York City officials won’t allow their Memorial Day parade to occur this year. The outcry comes after marijuana advocates were permitted to march earlier this month.

James Haynes III, CEO of United Staten Island Veterans Organization Inc. (USIVO), and his attorney Brendan Lantry appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning to discuss what they called a “sickening” double standard.

This year’s Memorial Day march is supposed to be the USIVO’s 102nd annual parade. The organization applied for a permit with the New York City Police Department and received a denial in early March, with the department citing executive orders Mayor Bill de Blasio gave last year that limited activity because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Staten Island Advance reported.

USIVO was prepared to proceed with a smaller “patriotic convoy,” as it did last year. Then the veterans saw the May 1 Cannabis Parade and Rally, during which weed-loving activists marched through Manhattan carrying a massive (fake) joint.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
James Haynes III, CEO of United Staten Island Veterans Organization Inc., and his attorney Brendan Lantry appear on Fox & Friends on Monday, May 10, 2021. Screenshot.

“I opened up the paper Sunday afternoon … and I see this big joint in the paper,” Haynes said on Fox & Friends.

About 100 people participated in the Cannabis Parade on May 1, including Sen. Charles Schumer and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who both gave speeches, according to the Staten Island Advance. USIVO’s permit application listed an estimated attendance of 1,000 people.

“This is sickening, what the city is doing with our veterans here,” attorney Brendan Lantry said on Fox & Friends. “There’s a clear double standard being applied, and we’re just asking the city not to play politics with our veterans.”

With Memorial Day just around the corner, Lantry said he and his clients set a deadline of noon Monday for the city to “correct course,” or they’ll ask the courts to compel officials to grant the veterans a permit. 

“We’re just asking for the same treatment … the same process that was put in place last week for the Cannabis Parade. That same process should be put in place at least for our veterans,” Lantry said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

Drill sergeants say the funniest things.

“Now I don’t want anybody messin’ around. I don’t want you playin’ any grab ass.”

Grab ass? Who’s playing grab ass at boot camp? The whole idea of it is hilarious.

It’s a trap, though! Do not laugh. DO NOT LAUGH.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Yeah, you’re screwed, little buddy. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

In the first episode of We Are The Mighty’s “No Sh*t There I Was” for go90, Armin Babasoloukian, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, shares his first day as a wide-eyed recruit in the middle of hot and sweaty Oklahoma.

Babasoloukian — aka “Babalou” — tells a story that illustrates how easy it is for trainees to fall into traps set by their drill sergeants…or just actually fall…even when they’re told specifically not to fall (common sense would suggest that you wouldn’t have to tell someone that but…boots amirite?)

A genius moment is when one of the enlistees doesn’t know the difference between an Armenian and a Kardashian.

Maybe genius isn’t the right word?

But hey, when it comes down to it, all military personnel are well aware that our great nation faces threats of all shapes and sizes, whether it’s ISIS, al Qaeda, or Kardashian.

So check out the video and let all those boot camp memories come rolling back.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

Articles

Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.


Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

For US troops, service-connected hearing loss is a big problem

Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.

One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.


For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.

A study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery in 2012 noted that between 2005 and 2009 — the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — nearly three in four combat wounds were the result of “explosive mechanisms.” This fact was reflected in the Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq last month, which resulted in 109 troops sustaining varying degrees of head injuries.

Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.

Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.

Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.

The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.

The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Veterans

There was a time I looked forward to Veterans Day

Coming from a retired Army Noncommissioned Officer who wore a green beret and a drill sergeant hat, it may seem weird, but I don’t look forward to Veterans Day.  However, there was a time that I got excited about this holiday.

Growing up in small town USA certain holidays were big deals, it meant we’d have a parade. Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day brought the community together and honored our nation and its heroes. Not growing up in a military family, my parents made sure we attended these events. I believe it was a large part of my desire to be a soldier from a young age. I would see the old American Legion veterans marching in their uniforms and standing proud through speeches made by local leaders. I’m certain these old veteran’s dedication had an impact on many youth, not just me. 

Nov. 11 was a special day for me when I didn’t understand the cost of freedom and service. I was too young to realize that we were honoring these veterans because they chose to put themselves through hardship on our behalf.  It was more than a cool factor and an aura of professionalism.

Now, I don’t have the same sentiment toward Veterans Day. It’s one of those days that makes me feel uncomfortable. Memorial Day, the official day to remember our fallen, is another one. 

While well-meaning Americans reach out to shake my hand and say thank you for my service, I feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure what they’re thanking me for. Additionally, I don’t feel a need to be thanked for my service. It was my choice to serve and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. Aside from being a father, serving this great nation is the biggest honor I’ve ever had. 

Yes, this may get uncomfortable. With this discomfort we can grow. I wonder what people are thanking me for. For following my dreams? Again, it’s what I always wanted to do. I got to live out my dreams. For signing up when they didn’t? It’s okay, I made my choices and they made theirs, no animosity. The military isn’t for everybody. For making it home when others didn’t? We don’t get to pick and choose who survives. I’m lucky to have served with the most outstanding people on earth who sacrificed their lives so that we may live ours. Are they thanking me because they feel societal pressure to acknowledge my service? I always assume positive intent, but I’m a realist that knows the world isn’t all roses and rainbows. 

The reality is I think of my service every day of the year. Sometimes with a smile and other days with tears for brothers who are no longer with us. I’m proud to have served and not a day will go by that changes that feeling. 

I appreciate the recognition of my service on this special day and I’ll answer like I normally do when I’m thanked. “No need to thank me. It was my privilege to serve and if I had a choice, I’d do it all over again.” However, like a lot of veterans, this day will give me mixed emotions.

Articles

This is how a vet can go from a battlefield to a pit crew

Veterans often wonder what to do when they leave the military. Sometimes finding the right job can be tough, but for some, perhaps motor sports may be an option, if not as a career, then as a way to help recover from the invisible wounds of war.


According to Racer.com and USA Today, a number of efforts to encourage veterans to get involved in various types of auto racing have emerged recently. One is MilitaryToMotorsports.com, a venture from Andretti Autosports. The Andrettis are one of the biggest names in the auto-racing world, and this team has won the Indianapolis 500 four times, captured four IndyCar championships, plus two X-Games Gold Medals.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Auto racing legend Mario Andretti observes flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a visit to the ship as part of the centennial celebration of the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts.

According to the MilitarytoMotorsports.com site, veterans can apply to be anything from a motor transport driver (perfect for folks who drove a HEMTT in their service) to a machinist to hospitality staff to being on a pit crew. In other words, the job you did in the military could have a lot of applications in helping an IndyCar driver win the next Indianapolis 500!

The chairman of Military to Motorsports is Navy veteran David Tilton, whose lengthy career included a tour on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) and a tour with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He retired after a back injury in 2003, and first became involved with Andretti Autosports in 2015.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, May 17 at the 167th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard phtoo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

“I am very excited to be part of the launch of the Military to Motorsports Program with Andretti Autosport,” said Tilton. “This program will give well-deserved military personnel the opportunity to utilize their skills and discipline, gained during their service, as part of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.”

NASCAR is not being left out, as a number of NASCAR drivers and teams have become involved with Hope for the Warriors, a Veterans Service Organization founded in 2006. According to USA Today, the drivers and team invite veterans like ex-Marine Ryan Harshman, a combat-wounded vet, to races.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird at a NASCAR race. (DOD photo)

“NASCAR events can be very organically therapeutic. If you can challenge somebody’s hesitations by putting them in an environment like that where they’re very excited to be there, it helps. They are distracted from the chaos, but the chaos is actually helping to ease the PTSD and the noise issues and so forth,” Hope for the Warriors President Robin Kelleher told USA Today Sports.

Today, Harshman is working at an outdoor store, and remains involved with the charity.

Articles

That time a mild-mannered janitor was actually a WWII hero

It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.


The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
The U.S. Navy tank landing ship LST-1, landing U.S. Army troops on an Italian beach, circa September 1943. (National Archives photo)

After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.

Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.

When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.

He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.

Also read: World War II veteran gets Bronze Star after 73 years

He then manned their own machine gun and mowed down the retreating Germans, allowing his unit to continue the advance.

Crawford was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking

When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.

However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.

Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.

His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Air Force Academy Chapel in the winter (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.

Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.

Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”

More heroism: 3 heroes who became POWs twice

Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”

Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.

The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.

However, the cadets weren’t done.

They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.

After his commencement speech President Reagan gave Crawford a long overdue honor and presented him with the Medal of Honor.

The encounter with Crawford had so touched Moschgat that he would later reflect on the event by writing an article titled “Leadership and the Janitor” for the USO magazine On Patrol.

In the article he details ten important lessons about leadership that he learned from his meeting of Bill Crawford.

Moschgat retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. Crawford lived out his days in Colorado where he was also famous for being one of four Medal of Honor recipients from the small town of Pueblo, CO.

He passed away in 2000 at the age of 81.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 vets who were helped when they needed it the most

Together Rising is a non-profit organization that raises quick funds through “love flash mobs” — time-limited fundraisers where thousands of strangers give a maximum of $25 to meet a particular need in a matter of hours.

From the California and Australia fires to emergency relief in Puerto Rico to COVID-19, Together Rising donates 100% of every personal donation directly to an individual or a cause in need.


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For Veterans Day 2019, Together Rising teamed up with the Kline Veterans Fund and gave back to more than fifty veterans, helping them find housing, buy food, pay bills, make vital repairs to their homes, and get counseling and other services. From elderly and disabled veterans to single mothers, the community came through.

Here are a few of their stories:

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When “A” (names are changed for privacy reasons) was evicted from her rental home with little notice, Together Rising and the Kline Veterans Fund stepped in to help her find a new place to live “so that she could move forward with safety and stability.”

A’s displacement came shortly on the heels of saying goodbye to her service dog, a devastating loss for any pet owner, but one that could be even more troubling for a disabled veteran who relies on her service dog for assistance and companionship.

Small donations were able to help Together Rising transform “heartbreak into action,” one of their mottos.

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“L” lost her husband earlier in 2019 and struggled to care for her 12 year-old son. After receiving a shutoff notice for her power bill, Together Rising contributors stepped in to pay her bill and support her as she sought more affordable housing.

The Kline Fund reported that, after an initial investment, less than three percent of the veterans need additional help. Sometimes we all just need a little support from our community to get back on our feet.

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“S” is a decorated Navy veteran who suffered severe PTSD and depression — not from war, but from surviving a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Her daughter was shot twice and though she survived, S was traumatized; she missed work and lost her job and then was given a five-day eviction notice.

Because her suffering wasn’t service connected, she was ineligible for Veterans Affairs benefits. Within 48 hours, Together Rising and their supporters were able to “hire movers, secure a truck, rent a storage unit for S’s belongings, and settle her into a safe and secure temporary apartment. One week later, [Together Rising] secured a zero-deposit arrangement and paid for two months of rent to allow S time to get back on her feet.

“Incredibly — because of her heroic determination — S secured employment within one month, and is now able to pay her rent and utilities without assistance. She is also working with a mental health counselor.”

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From helping a soldier find a place to live after being homeless to securing transportation for a Lt. Col. starting a new job to paying vehicle registration and finding transitional VA housing for a Marine, these are just a few of the lives touched by a community of support.

Thank you to Together Rising and the Kline Veterans Fund for your commitment to our nation’s veterans.


If you’re a veteran and you find that you could use a little extra support, please reach out to your community or to non-profit organizations like these. We are all in this together.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.


The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.

On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Photo courtesy of VA.

“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”

Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.

Related: Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.

The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”

The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.

Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.

The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.

Also read: New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.

“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.

Vietnam Purple Heart Veteran lets wood do the talking
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”

More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.

Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.

“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.

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