World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

The fundraiser he started continues today

John Cornelius believed we should always honor our Veterans for their commitment and sacrifices. Cornelius was an Army WWII Veteran who earned two Bronze Stars. He began a fundraiser over 15 years ago for hospitalized Veterans of Northern Arizona when he was 87 years old.

That fundraiser continues to this day.

He raised $7,600 the first year, over $23,000 the second year and more than $30,000 the third year.

“Through the years, the money has been donated to our health care system. As a result, we’ve been able to purchase items for inpatient Veterans to help make their lives more comfortable,” said Paul Flack, voluntary service assistant, Northern Arizona VA Health Care System.

Gifts for inpatient Veterans’ birthdays

“Some of the items purchased are welcome kits, newspapers, prepaid phone cards, flowers, get well cards and special items that can be used for Veterans birthdays,” Flack said.

John Cornelius
Cornelius points out battle map from his service in World War II.

Cornelius (center) is pictured above in 2016 with Jake Weber and Wendy Hepner. Weber owned a local IGA grocery store; Hepner is a former hospital associate director.

Multiple news articles have published through the years about Cornelius and his contributions to help fellow Veterans. At the time of his passing on April 5, 2017, just a few days shy of his 99th birthday, he had raised more than $200,000 for Veterans.

Cornelius started the John Cornelius Raffle for Hospitalized Veterans of Northern Arizona. The charity is dedicated to raising money to support Northern Arizona Veterans.

“Honored to have known John”

The annual raffle begins every year on Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Remembrance). The 2020 raffle brought in $13,000 to the Prescott VA Medical Center.

“Our health care system is honored to have known John and had the opportunity to work with him and his cause,” said Carol Lynn Powell, a volunteer at Northern Arizona VA Health Care System. “We are honored to see the results of his efforts continue to live on for so many years.”

It’s unusual to find someone as charitable as Cornelius. He started fundraising at age 87 and made it a priority until his passing at age 98.

To say that Cornelius has been successful in his efforts is an understatement. “We have seen the benefits of his efforts live on with the donations made to our medical center in his honor,” said Flack.

A former VA Secretary stated in a February 2016 letter written to Cornelius before his passing: “You are indeed a great American hero. You have touched so many through your service to our nation and your devotion to our community.”

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

Veterans

Transitioning? Microsoft can help.

This article is sponsored by Microsoft Software and Systems Academy.

Every year, an estimated 200,000 veterans leave the military for new civilian lives. For many of them, getting a job is the first and most important step. As they look to new civilian careers, many veterans find it challenging to directly apply the skills attained in service to their new civilian careers — making underemployment just as big a problem as unemployment.

Underemployed military veterans are either not making enough money to sustain themselves or are holding jobs for which they are overqualified. Either way, underemployment can lead to job hopping, trouble getting hired elsewhere, and even depression.

Microsoft, one of the world’s most respected and well-established companies, has invested in a solution to veteran underemployment: Microsoft Software and Systems Academy. MSSA offers transitioning service members the training and guidance to pivot their skillset and become credentialed for the technical jobs of the future.

“Microsoft believes its role as an industry leader is to enable veterans to see computer science and STEM careers as a viable path when transitioning to civilian life in the public or private sector,” Chris Cortez, Microsoft’s Vice President of Military Affairs, said. “MSSA also helps Microsoft and other IT leaders attract capable, driven and diverse talent with solid, transferable skills.”

MSSA’s intensive 17-week program trains and certifies veterans in job skills the tech sector will need for years to come, such as software engineer, cloud application developer and server and cloud administrator – all without spending years in a traditional four-year degree program.

Veterans from all military branches and backgrounds have successfully graduated from MSSA and entered civilian life as professionals in the exciting tech industry. Employers find they bring a range of professional development skills to the table that new college grads don’t necessarily have.

“Service members and veterans are exactly the type of talent the industry needs to evolve the face of IT,” Cortez said. “They are trained to quickly assess, analyze and fix a situation with the resources at hand—all while working with a diverse group of people as a team.”

As of February 2021, it’s even easier for service members to integrate the training into their busy lives, and without using their GI Bill benefits. Microsoft has moved MSSA to an entirely virtual format, and is fully funding the offering, at no cost to the service member.

The program has a 94% graduation rate, and after the training course is completed graduates have the opportunity to interview for a job with Microsoft or any of its 750+ hiring partners in the tech sector. 

Best of all, it’s a challenging career field with major growth potential. Goodbye, underemployment; hello long-term career path.

Program participants often say they change significantly over the course of the program. “In the beginning, there is concern and uncertainty about the future. Toward the end, there is a sense of confidence,” Cortez said. “They are comfortable applying to and working for tech giants like Microsoft, AWS and Google.”

With its Military Affairs team and MSSA, Microsoft is changing the industry’s perception of what a technology worker looks like, all while helping American military veterans enter civilian living with meaningful, well-paid employment in an exciting field. To learn more about the MSSA program, visit their website.

This article is sponsored by Microsoft Software and Systems Academy.

Articles

The vet who ran the Boston Marathon on one leg is a fitness beast

Just before 3 pm on April 15, 2013, two pressure cookers loaded with shrapnel and other harsh items placed in backpacks exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.


Three innocent people were killed, and more than 260 were wounded, quickly turning a patriotic day into a bloody mess of confusion and chaos that made world news.

Related: Navy SEAL: Here’s how to stay fit when you have no time to workout

After an intense four-day manhunt, authorities tracked down the two suspects (brothers) who they believed were behind the deadly terrorist attack (one died during a shootout) that shocked the world.

Fast-forward to four years later and something special happened. Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, a Marine who lost his left leg during an IED attack in Afghanistan, completed the 26.2-mile run while holding an American flag signed by many service members he was deployed with.

Although Sanchez’s injuries sidelined him, he battled his way back to not only strengthen his mind but his body.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
Retired Marine Jose Luis Sanchez carries the U.S. flag while participating in Boston Marathon in Brookline, Mass., April 17, 2017. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Steven C. Eaton/DoD)

After gaining national attention for the patriotic act, this decorated warrior has become an instant inspiration to those with and without physical disabilities.

Also Read: 7 military fitness tricks for working out without a lot of fancy gear

Check out Muscle Madness‘ video below to see this is Marine’s impressive physical endurance for yourself.

(Muscle Madness, YouTube)
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Congress considers 3.1% military pay raise

A House Appropriations subcommittee on May 15, 2019, approved a fiscal 2020 defense funding bill that would cover the cost of a 3.1% military pay raise.

The bill, introduced May 14, 2019, by the House Appropriations Committee, would provide $690.2 billion for the Defense Department — $8 billion below President Donald Trump’s budget request, but $15.8 billion above the fiscal 2019 DoD budget. The $690.2 billion includes $68.1 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds, or OCO.

Under the legislation, active-duty end-strength would be trimmed: The proposal supports 1,337,500 troops, 600 fewer than are currently serving and 2,000 fewer than the administration’s request. It also would cut the reserve component by 16,900, the amount requested by the Pentagon.


On other personnel issues, the bill would provide .7 million to upgrade child care facilities on installations and direct the services to come up with “innovative ideas” to solve the shortage of quality child care services.

It also would provide 0 million for medical research programs directed by Congress and furnish 7 million for sexual-assault prevention and response, an increase of million above the administration’s request.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

Soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter to head out and execute missions across the Combined Joint Operations Area- Afghanistan.

(US Army photo)

“The subcommittee has sought throughout this legislative process to keep in mind the morale and quality of life of all our service members and their families. I believe we have taken tangible steps in this bill to refocus much-deserved attention on their issues of concern,” said Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Indiana, who chairs the subcommittee.

Several programs would be bolstered if the legislation passes as written — unlikely, given that it is one of four bills that ultimately guide future defense spending. However, large sections of it are expected to be included in the final measure, usually an amalgam that includes similar legislation from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate and House Armed Services Committees also weigh in with legislation that directs policy issues.

Programs that may see increases next year include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The proposed House bill would fund 90 F-35s, or a dozen more than the Pentagon’s request. It also would fund 73 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; 14 V-22 Osprey aircraft and 16 C-130J aircraft, four more of each than the services asked for; and nine P-8A Poseidons, three more than requested.

The bill would fund 11 ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two SSN-774 attack submarines, one FFG frigate, a Ford-class aircraft carrier, two fleet oilers and two towing, salvage and rescue ships.

It also would pay for cannon and weapon stations for 86 Strykers and upgrade 165 M1A2 Abrams tanks.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

US Army M1A2 Abrams tank.

“The bill ensures that our service members are trained and equipped to do their jobs safely and effectively and that they are prepared for future military needs,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, said in a statement May 15, 2019.

The proposed bill places a number of restrictions on the defense budget, including limiting how the executive branch and the Defense Department can move money in accounts. It limits the amount to id=”listicle-2637320945″.5 billion, down from .5 billion.

The change is a direct response to the Trump administration’s efforts to transfer money to fund a fence or wall along the southern border.

The bill also places an emphasis on environmental cleanup of military bases and former military sites, providing id=”listicle-2637320945″.26 billion — 8 million more than requested — for restoration, removal of unsafe property and debris, and hazardous waste disposal.

This includes million to study and assess the extent of contamination from chemicals used in firefighting foam and stain-resistant materials called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The USS Intrepid will muster its old crew for its 75th anniversary

The USS Intrepid is now permanently moored in New York City, where she’s been a museum ship since 1982. But her career stretches way back to World War II, where she was one of 24 Essex-class carriers built to fight the Japanese.


World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
USS Intrepid burning after taking two Japanese kamikaze strikes.

Since then, she’s supported operations in the Atlantic Ocean, the Vietnam War, the Mercury and Gemini Space Programs, the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, NATO operations, and — as a museum ship — an FBI operations center for responding to the September 11th attacks on New York City.

A lot of men and women have graced the decks of the “Fighting I.” Now, the Intrepid is calling them all back. Below is an announcement video of former crew members, calling their fellow shipmates back to the ship.

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Aug. 16, 2018 will mark the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of the Intrepid, now home to the Intrepid Sea, Air, Space Museum in New York City.  To mark the occasion, the Intrepid Museum is putting out a coast-to-coast “all call” for former crew members to reunite for its 75th Commissioning Anniversary Celebration Weekend from Thursday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Aug.19, 2018 aboard the vessel.

For some, this will be the first time they’ve been aboard their ship since they left the service.

Intrepid was actually scheduled to be scrapped after its decommissioning in the 1970s, but a campaign, led by wealthy NYC real estate developers (and devotees of the U.S. Armed Forces) Larry and Zachary Fisher (who also founded the Fisher House Foundation), raised millions to refurbish the ship and establish the Intrepid Sea, Air, Space Museum.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
The Intrepid moving to New York City.

The museum is a non-profit, educational institution that also features the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets, and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming, and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors are taken on a journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery.

To learn more about this weekend and for registration information, former crew members and their family members can visit www.intrepidmuseum.org/75 or email fcm@intrepidmuseum.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran’s Last Patrol honors veterans in hospice. Here’s how you can, too

In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.

“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.


World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.

This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.

The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.

“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.

“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.

This year the goal is 10,000.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.

Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.

Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?

Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to:
Veteran’s Last Patrol
140B Venture Blvd
Spartanburg, SC, 29306

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support


Articles

This is what happens when celebrity Lidia Bastianich cooks for WATM’s vets

Over the holidays, the Emmy award-winning TV host and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich prepared a world-class cuisine for the troops aboard the USS George Washington.


But leading to the holiday festivities, she traveled the country meeting veterans and learning their incredible service stories.

Related: Back in the day a soldier’s chow came in a can

“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.

One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.

For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.

Here’s a short clip from our visit with Lidia:

Lidia Bastianich, YouTube

Watch the full hour-long documentary special on PBS to see how Lidia pays homage to the men and women of our military and the sacrifices they make. 

Articles

WH recommends vets ‘set aside’ bitterness over Pearl Harbor attack

News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.


Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.

During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should “set aside their own personal bitterness” over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.

Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister,” Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.

“There may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
USS Arizona (US Navy photo)

Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to “mourn the souls of the victims” of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.

Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.

It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.

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Get a free Root Beer Float from A&W to benefit DAV today

A&W restaurants are again giving away their famous Root Beer Floats on National Root Beer Float Day, Monday, August 6. The celebration is a way to say “thank you” to guests and to raise money for Disabled American Veterans. From 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., participating restaurants will serve free small Root Beer Floats, no purchase necessary. Guests will be encouraged to make a donation to DAV.

There are more than 630 A&W Restaurants in the U.S. and this is A&W’s sixth annual National Root Beer Float Day celebration — the second it has partnered with DAV.


World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

AW and DAV hope to raise 0,000 for the organization, which serves more than one million veterans annually. Donations also can be made online at www.rootbeerfloatday.com. The 0,000 AW raised for DAV in 2017 provided an estimated ,000,000 in direct benefits to veterans.

“AW has a longstanding relationship with America’s Armed Services,” said AW CEO Kevin Bazner, who noted that AW Root Beer was introduced at a parade honoring returning World War I veterans in 1919. “The needs of our veterans continue to grow, which is why it is so important that we use a fun event like National Root Beer Float Day to also raise funds for DAV and to call attention to veterans’ issues.”

Since it started to celebrate National Root Beer Float Day, AW has raised more than 0,000 for veterans groups. “We are grateful to AW for supporting our ill and injured veterans through National Root Beer Float Day, donating 0,000 last year to DAV,” said Marc Burgess, DAV National Adjutant and CEO. “As both AW and DAV approach their centennial anniversaries, we are proud to join together again this year to support our true American heroes for their decades of service and sacrifices to keep us free.”

Use#RootBeerFloatDay or visit www.rootbeerfloatday.com for more information.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oregon Veterans Home pleads for video messages to bring hope to residents in lockdown

The veterans currently living in the Lebanon Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon have walked through tough times. The majority of them are over 70 years old and around one third of them over 90. Many of them saw combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even World War II. They made it home from those wars only to have another show up at their doorstep at what should be a quiet time in their lives: COVID-19.

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


The Lebanon Veterans Home houses more than 145 veterans and some of their spouses. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the home, which has been wreaking havoc on the world. On Sunday March 22, 2020, a veteran of the home died from the disease. He was in his 90s and served this country with honor.

While the residents of the home continue to reel from the death of one of their friends and neighbors, the fight for their well-being is just beginning. The entire facility is now in complete lockdown with no visitors allowed. The residents are also now barred from doing group activities or even eating together anymore. In a sense, they are quarantined to their rooms. This is a traumatic change for these veterans and is causing a negative impact to their mental health.

The intensity of the response to combating COVID-19 for these veterans is due to all of them being considered high risk with their age and medical conditions. Although warranted to prevent the spread of this disease, the veterans are suffering in their isolation.

But the public can help change this.

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vimeo.com

Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs spoke with We Are The Mighty to ask our readers for their help by submitting messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude via homemade videos. The veterans home has a closed-circuit TV that they can showcase the videos on. These videos would go a long way to let these veterans know they aren’t alone and they can make it through this tough season.

“The Lebanon Veterans’ Home is an amazing place,” Francke said, “and it’s all because of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and the incredible residents who live there. The men and women there are unbelievable. They’re our nation’s heroes, and yet, they ask for nothing. Instead, they do what they can to brighten your day. Around the Home, I know it’s become something of a rallying cry: ‘They fought for us, now we fight for them.’ I know there are a lot of people all around the community, the state and even the country who are pulling for them, and we just thought this would be one really cool way for everyone to show it.

Francke asked that people send 30-45 seconds of positive videos with big smiles and clear voices offering messages of support, encouragement and hope. These can easily be done on a cell phone and do not require any production.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

These videos would take but a moment out of your day to make a veteran smile and bring hope to their hearts. This is a great project for kids to do while they’re in virtual learning. Many of the veterans have grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’re unable to see, and it’s a great way to teach your kids about history, service and selflessness.

These veterans sacrificed so much for America, help show them they haven’t been forgotten and that they can make it through this.

Videos should be submitted to: odvainformation@odva.state.or.us

Articles

These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.


Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.

“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a Tunnel Rat, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.

By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.

The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Also Read: American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
Sgt. Ronald A. Payne searches a Vietnamese tunnel armed with only a flashlight and a pistol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.

With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.

After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.

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…

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support

…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 TRENDING

Call of Duty has a nonprofit that helps veterans in a big way

Call of Duty is one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises in the world. Starting with World War II scenarios, this video game franchise has honored those who fought for freedom and against evil-doers for over a decade.


What you may not have known is that there is also a Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to support non-profits that are effective at helping the real-life heroes who have served make the transition from military life to civilian life. Yesterday, that endowment gave three such charities its Seal of Distinction, and announced plans to expand its recognition to charities in the United Kingdom.

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Founder/Co-Chairman of the Call of Duty Endowment. (Call of Duty Endowment photo)

The first charity recognized by the Endowment was Goodwill Southern California. In 2016, they placed 752 veterans in civilian jobs at a cost of $1,022 per placement, while still providing job placement, work experience, education, and training.

Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region was also honored by the Endowment for their Military and Veteran Services team’s ability to place 208 veterans into jobs at a cost of $1,076 per placement. This charity provides “individualized, holistic plans to help each participant succeed with the goal of achieving career placement, retention, and long-term financial education and stability.”

World War II Veteran left legacy of Veteran support
(Image of Call of Duty Modern Warfare remastered. Video Game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision)

The third charity honored was Houston-based NextOp, Inc. Since its founding in March 2015, it has placed over 1,000 vets at a cost of $1,599 per placement. This charity specializes in placing “middle-enlisted military leaders” into industrial careers in the Houston region.

The charities supported by the Call of Duty Endowment have a strong record of delivering results. According to the endowment’s web site, the average cost per placement is less than $619, while the federal government spends almost $3,100. The average salary for the vets placed by charities supported by the endowment is $57,000, compared to just over $30,000 for those placed via government programs. The endowment has placed over 37,000 veterans into jobs since 2009.

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