On Veterans Day 2017, U.S. Army veteran David Brown was walking around an area of Arlington National Cemetery that was far removed from the holiday crowd of tourists and volunteers. He came across an older man walking alone among the tombstones in Section 60 – where those killed in action in the Global War on Terror are laid to rest.
The man was Secretary of Defense (and retired Marine Corps General) James Mattis.
There were no cameras or news reporters walking with the retired general. He was dressed respectfully in a black tie and jacket, walking through the rows of graves. As Brown put it, “Defense Secretary James Mattis spent his Veterans Day with the recent fallen.”
Brown then watched Mattis as he spoke with others visiting Section 60. Mattis listened to the stories of those visiting their lost loved ones. And overheard an exchange between the general and a Gold Star Father.
“An old man visiting his Marine son’s grave told Mattis that he was his boy’s hero; the Warrior Monk smiled sadly and said that the old man’s son was one of his.”
Brown snapped a selfie with the secretary and posted it to his Facebook page. The comments on the photo were full of stories of personal encounters with Mattis and love for the general and his long history of supporting American troops.
Comments ranged from “General Mattis is a national treasure and we are very lucky that he remains in service to the United States of America,” to “THAT IS F**KING COOL AS SH*T BRO!!!” – a testament to the wide respect the General earned in both his time in the Marine Corps to his service as SECDEF.
Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.
1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm
On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.
2. Wearing red poppies
You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.
The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.
3. Flag raising procedures
Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.
When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.
4. The origin of the holiday
Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.
But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.
At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.
Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.
However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.
Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.
But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.
“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”
Green Berets standing proud. (U.S. Army photo)
This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.
“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.
Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”
“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.
The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.
The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.
“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”
They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.
In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”
Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.
The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.
As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.
The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.
Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.
The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.
“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.
They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.
“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”
The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.
“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.
Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.
“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”
Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.
Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.
“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.
Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)
That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.
At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.
In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.
“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.
Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.
“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”
Check out Patriot Boot Camp with their next event in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 16-18, 2018.
The program welcomes 50 veteran and mil-spouse entrepreneurs from around the country—and offers an intense 3 day education, mentoring, and networking experience designed to help their businesses succeed.
Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) was started by Taylor McLemore as a volunteer effort to help veterans and mil-spouses gain access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers. It was built to help them innovate and build impactful technology businesses.
Charlotte Creech, a veteran spouse, and the CEO of Patriot Boot Camp, discusses the impact of the program for entrepreneurs.
“I am continually impressed by the determination and mission-focus of the entrepreneurs that come through Patriot Boot Camp, as well as the magnitude of the problems they aim to solve.”
Creech adds that most veteran and military spouse founders don’t merely set out to build a business; rather, they work to make the world a better place and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of what motivates them to succeed and to follow their progress along the entrepreneurial journey.
“What makes the program so powerful, is when we combine these talented, mission-driven entrepreneurs with a community of peers and mentors that are dedicated to helping them achieve their business milestones and goals. By the end of the event, we all leave with new insights and new network contacts that will help us advance and overcome the challenges of startup life.”
The core, three-day program is modeled after the popular Techstars accelerator and continues to leverage the Techstars network to empower and advance military/veteran and spouse founders.
Since its first program in 2012, nine Patriot Boot Camp alumni have been accepted into the Techstars accelerator programs, with many others gaining acceptance to prominent accelerators including Y Combinator and Vet-Tech.
Four of PBC’s alumni have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, and five have had successful exits via acquisition.
Creech adds: “It’s inspiring to see these alumni achieve great business outcomes, but what’s really powerful about the PBC program and network is that our high-performing alumni continue to come back to PBC as mentors and guest speakers to share their lessons learned and coach new entrepreneurs to success.”
The boot camp works as follows:
The Patriot Boot Camp staff facilitate the planning and execution of the program where they organize external guest speakers and mentors to provide the educational content and workshops.
Each PBC program is entirely unique because the speakers vary in each 3 day intensive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend multiple programs to continue learning as the needs of their business change over time.
If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this year’s Patriot Boot Camp, visit http://patriotbootcamp.org.
By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.
Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.
“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.
Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.
In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.
He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.
The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.
“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”
There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.
The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.
“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”
The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”
He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.
“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”
Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.
“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”
And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.
“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”
After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.
He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.
“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”
By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.
“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”
He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.
Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.
Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”
At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”
And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.
“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”
And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.
“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”
Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.
“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”
Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.
“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”
A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.
James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.
“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”
The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.
Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”
One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.
Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”
James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.
In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.
Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”
The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.
“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.
Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.
In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.
Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.
After losing his arm and leg in battle, a Hawaiian soldier being treated at the Naval Medical Center San Diego told his doctors that more than anything else, he wanted to surf again.
Navy Seaman Emily Wallace reacts to a moment free from her severe pain during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. The medically appointed surf therapy helps her to manage her pain and provides her with a reprieve from chronic pain without medications. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Almost 10 years later, the hospital’s surfing clinic staff has assisted more than 1,500 wounded, ill and injured service members from all service branches in their recovery through surfing.
“I remember at the time, I told him we’re going to go surfing but I had no idea how we’re going to go, with him missing an arm and a leg,” said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist with the Health and Wellness department at the medical center, also known as “Balboa.”
Michalewicz-Kragh said she looked for ideas on the internet and eventually called a Brazilian above-the-knee amputee who came to San Diego and assisted Michalewicz-Kragh in training the soldier for five weeks.
The patient started surfing. “And as a result of him going surfing, many other wounded warriors have gone surfing, and it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.
Today, adaptive surfing is more mainstream, with its third world championship taking place in December in La Jolla, California. Michalewicz-Kragh said when the clinic first started using surfing therapy, she only thought of the physical benefits, such as the cardio ability and strengthening the posterior muscles.
“We ended up realizing the benefit surfing has for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues,” she added. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
Finding Fitness, Friends
Surfing is like a medication, and all the side effects are good, Michalewicz-Kragh said. “A person may come here to surf but they end up finding a community,” she explained. “The side effects will be that his fitness level will be better, his cardiovascular ability improves, he gets stronger, and he meets a lot of people. The community integration aspect is really important, so there are many benefits to surfing.”
She said patients don’t need to know how to surf before showing up and they can attend the swim clinic beforehand. “Our goal for the patients as they come to the program is to find out how they can make their life better by surfing and to have the ability to surf and become a better surfer,” she said. “You will not be Kelly Slater after six weeks, and not after 12, but you will have the tools to know how to practice and learn how to surf on your own safely and independently.”
Before surfing, patients can also take yoga classes at the beach, thanks to Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, the Navy medical center’s preventive medicine department head.
“I always check with them at the beginning of class as they check in, where they’re hurting, so I can make sure they focus the class on things that will be beneficial to any particular needs they may have and then ask them afterward,” Christensen said. “I’ve had feedback from some patients who say that this is the only thing they’ve found that helps them feel better, and some who say, ‘I hated yoga, but now I love it,’ so that’s encouraging. It’s a great setting. It’s not me; it’s the beach.”
Christensen said programs such as the surfing clinic are important for wounded warriors. “It gives them hope and confidence, which will help them with their depression if they have it,” she said. “It’s giving them hope that they can get better, confidence in their abilities to do so, and then ability and new skills and new talents.”
The patients can go through the six-week program twice to learn surfing, and those who transition out of the military and stay in the local area can continue with the program. About 50 surfers — retired firefighters, police officers and military, along with the Del Mar lifeguards — volunteer to work with the patients in the surf therapy clinic.
Former Air Force Sgt. Warren James, a Vietnam veteran, has been volunteering for the past two years. “I’m really good at teaching the beginners,” the former avionics technician said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I can see it’s very effective for the patients.”
James, who repaired radios and radar equipment on F-4, C-130 and C-40 aircraft during his military service, said he enjoys volunteering with service members and fellow veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes. They have injuries, and I didn’t really get injured, so I feel for them,” he said. “I saw a lot of bad things, and I don’t say much about it, but it’s really good to be able to talk to somebody else about it. I know how they feel … I didn’t have PTSD, but I can sense when they do, and it’s really comforting to help them and know that it’s helping me, too.”
Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Surfing clinic participants gain confidence as they make progress in the surfing clinic, he said. “If they had a physical injury, they recover quicker,” he added. “They take less medication. It’s just a really good program.”
Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Toran Gaal, a bilateral amputee who lives in Valley Center, California, said surfing brings him closer to those he lost in combat. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2011.
“To be in a place like the ocean, it allows me to be closer to those people and feel like I’m lifted up,” Gaal said. “I feel like I’m around them when I’m out there. I feel like they’re around me, watching over me, making sure I’m safe. The ocean allows me to feel close to them, as well as gain relationships with some of the volunteers to be happy.”
The surfing clinic is about surfing and reintegration into the community, Gaal said. “It’s not just about gaining independence and going out and surfing. It’s about reintegration and transitioning,” he said.
Gaal said he and his wife, Lisa, have become friends and family with Bob Bishop, one of the volunteers, with whom they have regular lunches at Bishop’s home.
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
“It’s just a sense of family for me, and my wife knows that. She knows that when I’m around these people, I come back happier because I enjoy being in their presence and the negativity is not there. They’re all positive influences,” Gaal said.
Marine Corps Cpl. Leighton Anderson, a Gardena, California, native who was injured during an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash in 2016, said he enjoys the surfing clinic as well.
“I always wanted to learn how to surf, since I’m from California,” Anderson said. “I tried it three times in my life and never did it. I was like, ‘Let me try it through here,’ and then after that, I was hooked. It was pretty sweet. I love it. Everybody’s really nice and supportive.”
Anderson said surfing helps him physically and mentally.
“I had so many barriers, because once I was injured, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I might hurt myself.’ I have a little PTSD, and I didn’t think I would enjoy anything. Once I tried it, I broke down a lot of barriers I had mentally and physically. I had weak tendons in my hand and foot, but with surfing they’re starting to get better. And mentally, it makes me happy. It’s just something everybody should take on.”
“Surfing therapy is amazing,” James said. “The program works, because it keeps them not thinking what they would normally would be thinking when they’re at a medical appointment. But here, we just talk about other things, and that’s why it works.
“It’s different,” he added. “I definitely suggest getting in the water, even if you have no experience at all. Just come to the beach.”
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the day the world rejoices, the skies part and veterans are offered countless freebies. This year, retailers across the country are offering deep discounts on everything from car washes to televisions. Make sure you double check the official site information and specific rules before heading out to claim your discount. You’ll need to bring your CAC, be in uniform or have proof of your veteran status to get the discounts. Some promotions include fine print that indicate participating locations only, so call ahead or reach out on social media first.
Dining discounts available all November
Eat’n Park All active and former United States military personnel will receive a special 10% discount for the entire month of November.
Golden Corral From November 1 – November 30, 2020, all active and former military members can pick up a free “thank you meal” promotional card that’s good for one free lunch or dinner buffet and beverage. The promotional card can be used Monday – Thursday after 11am from November 1 – May 31, 2021. One promotional card per person.
McCormick and Schmick’s Free Entree Veterans and Gold Star families (parents and spouses) can enjoy a half priced lunch or dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s on Sunday, November 8th, 2020.
Texas de Brazil Veterans receive 25% off dinner Monday, November 9 through Thursday, November 12.
Tucanos Free Churrasco Meal with the purchase of another Churrasco meal or a ½ price meal available for veterans dining solo). Plus, post a selfie at Tucano’s and get a free dessert certificate. Mon., Nov. 9 through Wed., Nov. 11.
Dining discounts available on Wednesday, November 11, 2020
54th Street Grill & Bar Free entree up to $12 on Veterans Day (Wed 11-11-20) for Veterans + Active Duty who dine inside 54th Street. #54supportsvets
7-Eleven Get a free coffee or Big Gulp on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Veterans Day. Download the 7-Eleven app and sign in or register.
Ahipoke Bowl On Nov. 11, veterans and active-duty military receive 50% off poke bowls. Dine-in or take out.
Applebee’s Veterans and Active Duty Military can select a free meal from a limited menu on veterans Day. Provide proof of service required.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Military personnel and their families receive 20% off on food and retail purchases.
Buffalo Wild Wings Free Wings Veterans and active duty military who dine-in at their local B-Dubs can receive a free one order of boneless wings and a side of fries.
Calhoun’s All veterans and active duty military members can enjoy a free meal.
California Pizza Kitchen On Veterans Day, all veterans or active duty military personnel will be able to select a free entree from a special Veterans Day menu including pizza, salads and pasta. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service.
Cantina Laredo Veterans and active duty military can receive a complimentary meal on Wed., Nov. 11.
Cattlemens Steakhouse Cattlemens Steakhouse offers current and former military members a complimentary 8 oz. Sirloin Steak dinner.
CentraArchy Restaurants CentraArchy Restaurants are showing their gratitude by honoring veterans and active duty military service members with 50% off an entrée.
Chicken Salad Chick Chicken Salad Chick is offering a free Chick Special and regular size drink to any veteran or active-duty military personnel who visits.
Chili’s Grill & Bar All veterans and active duty military personnel can choose a complimentary meal from a select menu on Veterans Day 2020.
Cicis Pizza Free adult buffet with valid active duty or retired military ID on 11/11/20.
Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant Receive a free slice of pie for all Veterans and Active Duty Military with proof of service plus buy one get one free entree for breakfast, lunch or dinner on Veterans Day.
Colton’s Steak House Veterans eat free from 11am-4pm. Free entree valid for all active, former, or retired military when ordering from Veterans Day menu.
Connors Steak & Seafood Connors Steak & Seafood locations in TN, AL, and FL are offering 50% off any dine-in lunch or dinner entree to all active duty and retired service members with military ID or in uniform.
Cotton Patch Cafe Veterans and active duty may enjoy a free Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken Fried Chicken on veterans Day.
Country Cookin All active, reserve, retired, and honorably discharged members of the U.S. military are invited to dine and receive a free salad bar or $5 off any entree.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store During Military Family Appreciation Month Cracker Barrel will offer in-store specials on Veterans Day for military veterans and promotions throughout November to support military families in partnership with Operation Homefront. On 11/11, veterans can receive a free slice of Double Fudge Coca-Cola Cake with their meal.
Denny’s All active, non-active or retired military personnel at all participating Denny’s restaurants nationwide will receive a free Build Your Own Grand Slam breakfast on Wednesday, Nov. 11, from 5 a.m. to noon. Diners must show ID to receive this offer.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Free Pulled Pork Classic Sandwich this Veterans Day. To redeem in-store, veterans and current military personnel must present a military ID or valid proof of service.
Drake’s Veterans and active duty military will receive a complimentary meal at participating locations.
Dunkin’ Donuts On November 11, Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free donut at Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants nationwide, no purchase necessary.
Einstein Bros. Bagels On 11/11/20 veterans and active-duty military get a free hot or iced medium coffee.
Famous Dave’s On Nov. 11 in honor of veterans Day all former and current military personnel will receive a free two meat Combo. Dine-in or To-Go.
Farmer Boys Wednesday, Nov. 11 veterans and active duty military with valid proof of service get a free big cheese cheeseburger.
Firebirds Complimentary meals to active duty military and veterans on Veterans Day.
Friendly’s Free Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner Friendly’s is treating veterans and active military, with a valid military ID or honorable discharge card, to a free All-American meal for lunch or dinner, which consists of the All-American Burger, served with a side of fries and a drink. The burger can be upgraded to a cheeseburger for free.
Glory Days Grill Free appetizer or a regular order of boneless or grilled boneless wings.
Gold Star Chili Enjoy a free 3-way and drink on Veterans Day. For all who served.
Green Mill Restaurant and Bar Veterans and Active Duty Military will receive a free lunch or dinner dine-in meal at participating locations. Must show proof of service, and beverages and gratuity are not included in free meal.
Hamburger Stand All veterans and active duty with a valid military ID receive a free hamburger, regular fries, and a small Pepsi.
hopdoddy burger bar Free Classic Burger with Cheese for veterans on 11/11/20. Redeemable for in-store dining or to-go orders placed by phone.
Houlihan’s Receive a free entrée from a select menu with proof of veteran status or active service in the military.
Huddle House Huddle House is offering a free MVP Breakfast Platter to all active military members and veterans with proper I.D.
Huey Magoo’s Treat a veteran or active military member with proper I.D. to a free meal for one when you purchase a meal for one and two beverages on Veterans Day.
Hy-Vee Free Breakfast Enjoy a free curbside pickup breakfast for veterans and active military members November 11, 2020 from 6 – 10 a.m.
IHOP All active duty and Veterans are invited to come in and enjoy Free Red, White, & Blue Pancakes on Monday, November 11, from 7 am to 7 pm.
J Christopher’s Wednesday, November 11th, those who served receive a free meal.
Joe’s Crab Shack On November 11th, all veterans can enjoy 20% off. Valid for parties up to 4.
Juice It Up! This Veterans Day all veterans and active military will receive a free 20oz Classic Smoothie.
Kolache Factory Enjoy one free kolache (any kind) and one cup of freshly brewed Katz coffee (any size). All veteran and active military with government-issued military photo ID or DD 214.
Kwikfill November 11th veterans receive free coffee at Kwik Fill locations.
Lamar’s Donuts Free donut and a 12oz coffee for all veterans and active military on Veterans Day.
Little Caesars Pizza On Wednesday, November 11, from 11am to 2pm, veterans and active military members can receive a free Lunch Combo, which features four slices of Little Caesars popular Detroit-style DEEP!DEEP!™ Dish pizza, paired with a 20-ounce Pepsi product.
Logan’s Roadhouse On Nov. 11, all active duty and retired U.S. military personnel are invited to enjoy a free meal from the American Roadhouse menu in honor of Veterans Day. This offer is available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at all Logan’s Roadhouse restaurants nationwide.
Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que On Veterans Day (Nov. 11), active and former military can enjoy a complimentary dessert, and a 20% discount with proof of service. Veterans receive 20% off the entire month of November for ‘Military Family Month.’
Luna Grill Luna is offering a “Buy One, Get One Free” deal from Wed., November 11 through Fri., November 13 to any active duty or veteran member of the armed forces at all locations.
Macaroni Grill This Veterans Day, 11/11, all veterans and active military receive a free Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs + Spaghetti with military ID.
Max & Erma’s On Veterans Day, participating Max & Erma’s locations are celebrating veterans and active military personnel with a free cheeseburger, endless fries, fountain drink and a chocolate chip cookie.
McCormick & Schmick’s Veterans of the Military, National Guard, Gold Star Parents and Gold Star Spouses can enjoy a half priced entrée off a select menu on Sunday, November 8, 2020.
Menchie’s Free Frozen Yogurt On Veterans Day, all Veterans and military personnel with a military ID or proof of service will receive a free six ounce frozen yogurt any time of day on Veterans Day 11.11. Show a valid ID or be in uniform to receive.
Mission BBQ Veterans and active duty will receive a free sandwich on Veterans Day, 11/11/20.
MOD Pizza Sign to receive a buy-one get-one free MOD-size pizza or salad with military ID by November 8 and MOD will send you a coupon on November 9 to redeem on #VeteransDay.
Mountain Mike’s Enjoy 15% off any large pizza this Veterans Day. (coupon code: 178130)
Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub On 11/11 from 11am – 5pm, Veterans and active military can receive a free entrée from a special Veterans Day menu with the purchase of any other entrée. Dine-in only.
O’Charley’s All active and retired military service members are invited to enjoy a free meal from O’Charley’s. Restaurant participation may vary by location. O’Charley’s also offers military discount of 10 percent off all year long.
Perry’s Steakhouses Free pork chop dinner to U.S. active military and veterans with the purchase of a dinner entree.
Petro Stopping Centers All active duty military, veterans and reservists with proof of service can enjoy a complimentary meal from a select menu at any participating Country Pride or Iron Skillet restaurant nationwide.
Pie Five Pizza On Veterans Day get a free personal pizza at participating locations. Dine-in only.
Pilot Flying J/U.S. Pilot All active-duty and retired military veterans get a free breakfast including a coffee, Monday through Sunday, Nov. 9-15. The offer is available via the app.
Quaker Steak & Lube All military veteran, active duty and reservist service members receive free or discounted meals (up to $15) plus a free non-alcoholic beverage at participating locations on 11/11/20.
Rapid Fire Pizza Veterans and active duty military get a free dessert pizza or Cheezy Bread with purchase of an entree on Veterans Day this Wednesday, November 11th.
Red Lobster On Wednesday, November 11th to thank Veterans, active duty military and reservists, Red Lobster will offer a free appetizer or dessert from their select Veterans Day menu. To receive offer, show a valid military ID.
Red Robin All Veterans and Active Duty Military get a free dine-in Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries. For 2020, to reduce crowding, this offer is available Nov. 12 – Nov. 30.
Rock & Brews Rock & Brews is offering all active duty military, veterans, and first responders a free pulled pork sandwich or strawberry fields salad on veterans Day at participating locations nationwide.
TA Stopping Centers All active duty military, veterans and reservists with proof of service can enjoy a complimentary meal from a select menu that includes a beverage on Wed., Nov. 11, 2020, at any participating Country Pride or Iron Skillet restaurant nationwide.
Taco John’s On Wednesday, Nov. 11, all active, reserve, retired and honorably discharged members of the U.S. military can get a free small Beef #1 Combo Meal who redeem the offer in the Taco John’s App.
Tap House Grill On Veterans Day, all active, inactive and retired military personnel can get a free meal and a Sam Adams pint while supplies last.
TCBY First 6oz are free for veterans and active military on 11-11-20.
Texas Roadhouse is handing out vouchers for a free meal to all Veterans and Active Duty military from 11 am to 2 pm on Veterans Day. Vouchers will be distributed in the parking lots at Texas Roadhouse locations.
Torchy’s Tacos On Nov. 11, veterans and active military can enjoy a complimentary taco and beverage from a select Veterans Day menu.
Twin Peaks In honor of veterans Day, all veterans, active duty military and reservists can eat for free from a select menu on Wednesday, November 11th.
Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill 11/11/20 military members (past and present) can enjoy a free entree or individual pizza.
Wendy’s Wendy’s nationwide are offering a free small breakfast combo with valid military ID. No purchase necessary.
Wienerschnitzel On Veterans Day, 11/11, Wienerschnitzel is offering a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a small Pepsi to Veterans and Active Duty Servicemembers. Bring your military ID or dress in a uniform.
Yard House Veterans and active duty military will receive a complimentary appetizer on November 11 with valid military ID. Offer is valid for dine in only.
Ziggi’s Coffee Veterans get a free 16 oz drink on November 11, 2020 at all Ziggi’s Coffee locations.
buybuy BABY — Veterans, active-duty military and spouses get 25% off their entire purchase in-store and online, November 11 to 14.
Columbia Sportswear — Military personnel receive 20% off at all Columbia brand and outlet stores on November 11.
David’s Bridal — Active and retired military members and their immediate families (and fiancés) get an additional 10% off the entire in-store purchase from November 9 through 11. Not valid online.
Rack Room Shoes — Military personnel and their dependents get a 20% discount off the entire purchase on November 11.
Army & Air Force Exchange Service — On November 11, MILITARY STAR card holders will receive various deals, including 10 cents off every gallon of fuel purchased at Exchange Expresses, double rewards points on online and in-store Exchange purchases, $10 off Exchange mall concession or kiosk purchases of $25 or more and 15% off food orders at participating Exchange restaurants. Beyond MILITARY STAR card-exclusive offers, Exchange Expresses and participating restaurants will be serving free coffee on November 11. Exchange Redbox video rental locations will also offer two movies for the price of one November 6 through 13.
Big Lots — In honor of Veterans Day, Big Lots announced they are offering a year-round 10% “Always On” discount for active military personnel and veterans who are members of the company’s Big Rewards program.
While Kill Cliff normally offers a 15 percent discount, on Veterans Day they’re extending it to 30 percent off for veterans. Many of their products purchased result in 100% of proceeds donated to specific military charities.
Target — Active-duty military personnel, veterans and their families get a 10% military discount between November 1 and 11. After eligibility has been verified online, an exclusive, one-time use 10% Target Circle offer will be available to use in-store or online.
Health and Fitness
Academy Sports + Outdoors – Military receive 10% off their entire purchase through Nov. 11. This deal is available in stores and online.
Great Clips – Retired and active service members can receive a free haircut or a card, which is redeemable through Dec. 11, for a free haircut. Nonmilitary customers who get their hair cut on Nov. 11 will also receive a card, redeemable for a free cut, to give to a service member.
Sport Clips – Some locations will offer free haircuts to veterans and active-duty service members and will donate $1 for every haircut provided that day to the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Help a Hero Scholarship fund.
Office Depot/OfficeMax – Veterans, active-duty military, retirees, reservists and their dependents get 25% off eligible purchases in stores when they present valid military ID or military dependent ID. This offer runs Nov. 11 to Nov. 13. Some items are excluded, including gift cards, appliances, certain consumer electronics, certain brands and other restricted items.
Samsung – From Nov. 6 to Nov. 11, active-duty military members and veterans can register on Samsung’s site for special deals, including an extra 10% off smartphones, tablets, wearables, mobile accessories and PCs.
Staples – Active-duty military personnel, reservists, retired or disabled veterans and their immediate families get a 25% discount November 8 through 14.
Mattress Firm – From November 11 through 17, veterans and active-duty military members can take advantage of Mattress Firm’s Black Friday Sale and receive an additional 10% off their entire purchase, for total savings up to 60% off.
Sleep Number – Military members can verify their identity on Sleep Number’s site to get a promo code they can use for an extra $100 off smart beds and adjustable bases through Nov. 16.
Home Depot — Home Depot offers a 10% discount to all veterans on November 11. Home Depot offers a 10% discount year round to active duty and retirees.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations
Pilot/Flying J – From Nov. 9 to Nov. 15, Pilot and Flying J locations will offer veterans a free coffee (any size) and one free breakfast item. Redeem this offer through the Pilot Flying J app.
Publix – Veterans, active military members and their families can get 10% off groceries on Nov. 11. Some items are excluded, including tobacco, gift cards, alcohol and lottery tickets. You must present a valid military ID to get this offer.
Walgreens — Veterans, military and their families get a 20% discount on eligible regular priced items, November 11 through 15. This in-store offer is only valid in Walgreens or Duane Reade stores.
Travel and Recreation Discounts
9/11 Memorial and Museum — Veterans will receive free Museum admission as well as half-price tickets for three family members from November 7 to 18.
Akron Zoo — Veterans, past and current, receive free admission and immediate family members receive 50% off admission November 7 through 11 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
B&Bs for Vets — The innkeepers participating in the 2020 B&Bs for Vets program will offer a minimum of one room for one night and totally free. Most innkeepers will give their free rooms away on November 10, but offers vary.
Birmingham Zoo — Veterans, active and retired military and their dependents receive free admission from November 11 until 15.
Caesars Entertainment — Veterans and active-duty military who book future travel on Caesars.com from November 4 to 15 get up to 40% off.
Capital Wheel — On November 11, active and retired service members ride free. Accompanying family members are eligible for the military discount. Onsite only.
Cincinnati Zoo — All members of the military will receive free admission on November 11. The offer also allows military personnel to purchase up to six half-price admission tickets for members of their immediate family.
Colonial Williamsburg — Military families can receive a free admission ticket during Veterans Day weekend.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium — Military personnel, both past and present, and their immediate family get free admission on November 11 with military ID or proof of service.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum — On November 11, active-duty and retired armed services members get free admission (including up to three immediate family members), and a 10% discount at Circa: The Museum Store and the Hatch Show Print retail store. Advanced reservations are highly recommended.
Harley-Davidson Museum — Active military, veterans and their families get free admission on November 11 and 12.
Jefferson Lines — Veterans and active military members get free tickets anytime between November 1 through 11. Free tickets are available for travel departing on November 11 through November 26 for both one-way and round-trip tickets. Veterans and active military members are welcome to return on a different date for round-trip tickets anytime through December 31.
La Quinta by Wyndham — Eligible military members get 12% off the Best Available Rate at participating La Quinta by Wyndham hotels. Plus, Wyndham Rewards members receive 500 bonus points for qualified stays booked by December 7 and completed by December 8, 2020.
Montgomery Zoo — Veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their dependent family members receive a 50% discount on regular daytime admission to the Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum November 8 through 14.
Monticello — Veterans get complimentary admission November 11. Admission is for the Monticello Self-Guided Pass.
Montpelier — Veterans get a free “Highlights of Montpelier” tour and Museum Shop discount, November 7 and 8.
Mount Vernon — All active-duty, former, or retired military personnel are admitted for free on November 11.
Pro Football Hall of Fame — Veterans and active military plus a guest get free museum admission and parking from November 1 through 15. A 20% off discount in the HOF Store will also be offered in November.
San Antonio Zoo — Active-duty, retired, veteran members of the military, National Guard and Reserves get free admission throughout November. Plus, up to four immediate family members can receive 50% off single day tickets on date of visit.
Sanderling Resort — Current and former military receive discounted rates of $129 per night from November 11, 2020 through March 19, 2021 with an additional 20% off all food, spa and retail.
Sedgwick County Zoo — All military personnel, veterans and their immediate families get complimentary admission on November 11.
Super 8 by Wyndham — Active and retired military members, veterans and their families can enjoy 15% off the Best Available Rate at participating Super 8 by Wyndham hotels. Plus, Wyndham Rewards members receive 500 bonus points for qualified stays booked by December 7 and completed by December 8, 2020.
True REST Float Spa — Veterans and active-duty military get a free 60-minute float on the 11th of every month, including November 11. For Veterans Day, True REST is also providing appointments to veterans only on November 11.
Woodland Park Zoo — Active, retired, and veteran military personnel and their spouses get free admission on November 11.
World of Coca-Cola — Active duty, reserves and retirees get free admission year-round, and from November 2 to 12 members of the Armed Forces may purchase up to four general admission tickets at half-price for their friends and family. Tickets must be purchased online.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts — Active and retired military members, veterans, and their families save up to 15%, plus receive 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points for qualified stays booked by December 7 and completed by December 8, 2020.
Zoo Atlanta — Veterans, active-duty, retired and reserve members get free admission and $4 off general admission for up to six accompanying guests on November 11.
Delta Sonic Car Wash — Veterans and active-duty military save $25 on any oil change service throughout November.
Enterprise Car Sales — Active-duty military members, veterans and their dependents who purchase a used vehicle from Enterprise Car Sales are eligible to receive $300 off their vehicle purchase, November 1 through 30.
GM — GM offers special savings for the military November 3 through 30. Grace for Vets — Car washes from around the world who join this program offer free car washes to veterans and service members on November 11.
Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.
Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.
“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”
Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.
In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.
Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.
Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.
“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.
People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.
“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”
From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.
“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”
After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.
Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.
But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.
“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”
In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.
Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.
“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”
He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.
The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.
“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”
Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.
“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”
Gary Villalobos left his civilian life to join the United States Army. By 2005, he found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq, as Sgt. First Class Villalobos. It was there he learned the true meaning of fear — and what it takes to overcome that fear to try and save one of his own.
“What I think about when I think about my four deployments in Iraq, I’m glad I was part of it,” Villalobos says. “I took part in something greater than myself, something significant. But most importantly, you know what I think about is the hundreds of people, the hundreds of soldiers that I connected with at a different level. Shared hardships really bring people together.”
(Courtesy Gary Villalobos)
Now-Master Sgt. Gary Villalobos came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1970, moving into a small shack near the beach behind his grandmother’s house in California. By the time he graduated from high school, he had a job that wasn’t going anywhere. It was just after the 1991 Gulf War and young Gary watched as that war’s heroes were greeted triumphantly upon their return to the U.S.
So, he went to an Army recruiter. Twelve years later, the United States invaded Iraq and, in 2005, Villalobos was in Tal Afar for only a month before he found himself directing Iraqi soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry to take on an insurgent group and capture their leaders.
Villalobos and Army officer Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe took 14 Iraqi Army troops on a patrol to capture those leaders, stepping into an alleyway — an alleyway that was also an ambush killzone.
The Army officer took the full brunt of at least four AK-47s, not one shot hitting above his waist. .
Villalobos tried to suppress their fire but the incoming sounded like it was coming from all sides. Gunfire poured in on Villalobos and the patrol as he tried to make sense of the ambush. He suddenly realized he had an edge and chucked his only grenade as hard as he could into the ambush. The firing stopped and he was able to pull his officer out.
The enemy melted away.
Back to FOB Sykes, Villalobos learned Col. Crowe didn’t make it.
Crowe and Villalobos went on numerous patrols together and became quite close. They went on nearly every mission together. Crowe was a native of Upstate New York and was a talented carpenter in his civilian life.
“He treated me with dignity and respect,” Villalobos says. “Part of the reason I feel guilty is because I was not in the front, where I should have been. He should have been in the rear, or at least the middle… but not point man.”
Villalobos was awarded the Silver Star for making sure he pulled Crowe out of the ambush. To him, it’s the most important award, representing the sacrifice that Colonel Crowe made.
“I don’t see it as something I earned… I just wanted to get Colonel Crowe out of there,” he says.
When America’s big business lends its support to the men and women in uniform, it’s usually about giving a good, old-fashioned military discount. While military members and veterans alike love and appreciate getting a deal as a nod to their service, it’s always a surprise when someone goes the extra mile. Be it someone on the staff, a kind business owner, or a company policy, the appreciation given to service members and their families is always appreciated in return.
But what Super 8 by Wyndham does for military members and their families is more. Yes, right now, they’re offering a twenty-percent military discount and 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points through December 10th to military members and their families, but they always go the extra mile for service members who are miles away from their homes.
This is one of those ideas that undoubtedly sprang from a big-hearted employee. The Super 8 in Adrian, Mich. had an employee by the name of Juice Majewski — a veteran. Majewski was the chain’s maintenance manager and his boss, Jennifer Six, came from a family of military veterans. Six honored his service by creating a veterans-only spot in the Adrian Super 8’s parking lot. When corporate leaders saw the initiative, they decided to take the idea nationally. Now, every Super 8 in North America features preferred parking for vets.
The Human Hug Project
Super 8 is a proud partner of the Human Hug Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of raising awareness for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Members of the Human Hug Project visit VA facilities across the nation in order to spread love and awareness for veterans and their families.
Founder Ian Michael is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gino Greganti is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Erin Greganti is a Marine Corps wife who knows exactly what service members’ families go through when a loved one returns home from war. Super 8 helps the HHP by providing places to stay as they make their way across the U.S. to visit all of the VA’s healthcare facilities.
Recently, Super 8 by Wyndham designed a one-of-a-kind Jeep to showcase the latest and greatest amenities found in their newly revamped guest rooms. From the built-in coffee maker to the upholstery that looks like one of the comfortable beds you’d find in a Super 8, this monster of a vehicle is a hotel room in a car.
Super 8’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels Resorts, supports those who are working hard to make a living by using veteran-owned supplier companies.
From maintenance companies to security services to bedding manufacturers, it takes a full complement of amenities and facilities to make guests comfortable — Wyndham knows that by working with veteran-owned businesses, they’ll constantly achieve their mission of giving you a fantastic place to rest.
So next time you hit the road, whether it’s to visit an on-base family member or a spontaneous road trip, know that Super 8 is there to support you all the way.