Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation's highest honor - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Of the roughly 2.5 million service members who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade, just 16 have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.


It’s not an award most aspire to. The criteria for receiving it are incredibly stringent, requiring significant risk to life and limb in direct combat and a display of “personal bravery or self-sacrifice so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.”

But for some service members put into extreme circumstances, the daily grind can give way to moments of incredible bravery that warrants them the nation’s highest award. We’ve collected them here (in alphabetical order).

Cpl. Kyle Carpenter

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo: The White House

 

On Nov. 21, 2010, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter was providing security alongside his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio on a rooftop at a combat outpost the Marines had established the previous day. It wasn’t long before the shooting started, forcing both to lie on their backs to avoid getting hit.

An hour later, Taliban bullets began getting closer to the compound, and under that cover fire, insurgents launched three grenades inside at the Marines. One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near a post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to both Marines.

“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

An extensive investigation found that Carpenter had actually jumped on the grenade, absorbing the majority of the explosion. “The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” his award summary reads.

Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. 

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Carpenter said. “We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”

Award Presented: June 19,2014

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo: US Army

 

On Oct. 3, 2009, Carter was one of 54 members of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment defending Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan Province. Shortly before 6 a.m., the remote base was rocked with blistering enemy machine gun and rocket fire. More than 400 fighters were attempting to overrun the base.

Then-Specialist Carter sprinted across open ground to join his fellow soldiers on the perimeter, then ran back again to gather up necessary supplies despite withering enemy fire. Later, Carter noticed his fellow soldier Specialist Stephan L. Mace was wounded.

Stripes has more:

While Larson provided cover fire from within a nearby Humvee, Carter stanched Mace’s bleeding and placed a tourniquet on his shattered leg.

He realized he couldn’t carry Mace while he had his weapon. He returned to the Humvee and told Larson his plan. Larson got out of the Humvee and provided cover fire while Carter returned to Mace, picked him up and carried him through the hail of bullets back to the Humvee, and went back to firing.

During the 12-hour long battle, Carter continued to give medical aid to Mace, engage the enemy, and communicate with his fellow soldiers to retake the base. According to the Army’s official narrative of the battle, “Carter’s remarkable acts of heroism and skill, which were vital to the defense of COP Keating, exemplify what it means to be an American hero.”

Award Presented: Aug. 26, 2013

Cpl. Jason Dunham

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

While his unit was engaged in a major firefight in Iraq along the Syrian border on Apr. 14, 2004, Dunham and his team stopped several vehicles to search them for weapons.

As he approached one of the vehicles, the driver lunged at Dunham’s throat and they fought in a hand-to-hand battle. Wrestling on the ground, Dunham then yelled to his Marines, “No, no watch his hand.”

The insurgent then dropped a grenade with the pin pulled. Dunham jumped on top of it, placing his helmet between his body and the grenade in an effort to brunt the explosion.

“He knew what he was doing,” Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, who was in Dunham’s company, told Marine Corps News. “He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade.”

He saved the lives of at least two Marines, and was mortally wounded in the blast.

Award Presented (posthumously): Jan. 11, 2007

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Oct. 25, 2007, Giunta’s platoon was on patrol in Afghanistan’s deadly Korengal Valley when they were hit with a fierce L-shaped ambush from fighters only 10 meters away.

The 10 to 15 enemy fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades, machine-guns, and AK-47s, which immediately wounded two soldiers. With his team pinned down, Giunta left a covered position to give first aid to his wounded squad leader. He was shot twice — one hit the rocket launcher on his back, and the other hit him in the chest of his bulletproof vest.

Once he recovered from the shots, he got up and bounded towards the enemy in order to push them back. When he noticed two Taliban fighters dragging away one of the wounded soldiers, he chased after them, killing one and forcing the other to flee.

“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero,” Giunta later told The Christian Science Monitor. “So if you think that’s a hero – as long as you include everyone with me.”

Award Presented: Nov. 16, 2010

Pfc. Ross McGinnis

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo Credit: US Army

 

As McGinnis’ platoon was driving through Adhamiyah, Iraq on Dec. 4, 2006, an insurgent on a rooftop tossed a fragmentation grenade into his Humvee.

McGinnis, who was in the gun turret behind the .50 cal, could have jumped out of the hatch and escaped the blast. Instead, he screamed, “grenade” to warn his fellow soldiers as he tried to grab it to toss away, but he missed.

From Command Posts:

He stood as if he were going to leap out of the top of the Humvee, but instead he dropped down from his fighting position into the truck. Newland thought McGinnis was trying to escape the grenade. But he wasn’t. McGinnis had realized that his teammates hadn’t spotted it, and so he was chasing it. Newland couldn’t move quickly enough to get out of the truck with its combat-locked doors, and none of the guys quite understood what was going on because McGinnis hadn’t dived out.

The soldiers watched as McGinnis threw himself on the grenade and took the blast. He gave his life to save the four men inside the vehicle.

Award Presented (posthumously): Jun. 2, 2008

Sgt. Dakota Meyer

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Sep. 8, 2009, Meyer was providing rear security as the four other members of his team (along with Afghan troops) headed on foot into the village of Ganjgal, Afghanistan to meet with village elders.

It turned out to be a trap, and they were ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns firing from high ground.

Listening on the radio to his team — who was now cut off — Meyer disobeyed orders to remain in place and manned a .50 caliber machine gun on a gun truck heading into the village. Despite being wounded and braving intense enemy fire, Meyer went in and picked up wounded Afghans and brought them to safety four times. On his fifth trip, he dismounted and recovered the bodies of his four-man team, who Meyer had been trying to save throughout the battle.

“I was a failure,” Meyer later told CNN. “My guys died. That was my whole team.”

Award Presented: Sep. 11, 2011

Staff Sgt. Robert Miller

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Jan. 25, 2008, Miller’s Special Forces team was on a reconnaissance patrol near the Pakistani border when they came under attack. The first attack was quelled after calling for close air support, but soon after, insurgents opened up with heavy machine guns.

Miller’s team captain was seriously wounded early in the battle. Completely disregarding his own safety, he ran into the hail of bullets from over 100 enemy fighters to give his team an opportunity to escape to covered positions.

Even after being shot in his upper torso, he ignored the wound and ran over open ground, ultimately killing at least 10 insurgents and wounding dozens more, according to his award citation.

“Five members of his patrol had been wounded, but his team had survived,” President Barack Obama said at the award presentation. “And one of his teammates surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob, ‘I would not be alive today if not for his ultimate sacrifice.'”

Award Presented (posthumously): Oct. 6, 2010

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

While providing sniper overwatch in Ramadi, Iraq on Sep. 29, 2006, Monsoor and his SEAL Team eliminated insurgents that were planning a coordinated attack.

As the enemy activity ratcheted up, Monsoor took up a rooftop position to watch for more insurgents. Then a grenade bounced off his chest and landed at his feet.

From The Washington Post:

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.

Award Presented (posthumously): Apr. 8, 2008

Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Jun. 21, 2006, Monti’s unit established a small base on a ridge above a valley in northeastern Afghanistan to support troops below.

Later that evening, a group of at least 60 insurgents established two firing positions only 50 yards away and opened up on the team of only 16 soldiers.

“We were taking so much fire we couldn’t make out where the mortars landed. It was coming in so close that … you could hear it right over your head, just like whizzing through,” Private First Class Derek James told Stars Stripes. “They were so close at one point you could hear their voices.

With soldiers killed and wounded, Monti called in artillery and close air support. But one of his soldiers was hit and cut off from the rest of the men.

Monti left the cover of rocks and moved through open ground and gunfire to try and rescue Specialist Brian Bradbury, saying, “that’s my guy. I am going to get him.”

He tried twice to make it to his wounded comrade, but intense enemy fire pushed him back. With his men laying down covering fire, he went once more, almost making it before being shot himself.

Award Presented (posthumously): Sep. 17, 2009

Lt. Michael Murphy

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

While leading his Navy SEAL team on Jun. 28, 2005 to infiltrate and provide reconnaissance on a Taliban leader, Murphy and the three other members of his team came under withering gunfire from 30 to 40 enemy fighters.

The fierce gunfight pitted the SEALs against insurgents on the high ground, and they desperately called for support as all four operators were hit by gunshots.

When his radioman fell mortally wounded, and with the radio not able to get a clear signal, Murphy disregarded the enemy fire and went out into the open to transmit back to his base and call for support.

From his Summary of Action:

He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in.

“I was cursing at him from where I was,” Hospital Corpsman Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the battle, later told The New York Times. “I was saying, ‘What are you doing?’ Then I realized that he was making a call. But then he started getting hit. He finished the call, picked up his rifle and started fighting again. But he was overrun.”

Award Presented (posthumously): Oct. 23, 2007

Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

After his platoon of Army Rangers jumped out of helicopters in Paktia Province, Afghanistan to look for a high-value Taliban target on May 26, 2008, they came under serious attack.

Spotting a nearby compound, Petry led his soldiers in clearing the courtyard which had three Taliban fighters inside. Despite being hit in both legs by gunfire, Petry pushed in and led his soldiers to cover and assess other wounded soldiers.

Only a short time later, both of his soldiers were wounded by a grenade thrown at them by one of the fighters, and then another landed nearby. That’s when Petry decided he would throw it back.

“It was almost instinct; off training,” Petry told the Army News Service. “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”

Saving the lives of two soldiers, the grenade exploded just as he was throwing it, taking off his right hand. He then calmly placed a tourniquet on his arm as other soldiers neutralized the threat from the Taliban.

Award Presented: Jul. 12, 2011

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On July 13, 2008, Taliban fighters attacked a small outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan in an attempt to overrun it, and almost immediately, a number of soldiers were wounded or killed in a blistering volley of rocket-propelled grenade fire.

“It was just a barrage of RPGs, and it was very disorienting,” Pitts told the Army Times. The first volley left Pitts’ lower body peppered with shrapnel, forcing him to crawl to areas where he could return fire. “I’d blind fire, spraying along the rock, and once I thought I had laid down enough suppressive fire, I’d pop up and try to take out whatever I could.”

From Business Insider:

Crucially, Pitts maintained radio contact between the OP and the command post as the battle progressed, warning of enemy movements. After fighting for over an hour despite being critical wounded, Pitts was medically evacuated.

Were Pitts not present at the Battle of Wanat, the outcome would have been significantly different.

Award Presented: Jul. 24, 2014

Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

With only 53 U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, the early morning of Oct. 3, 2009 was quite different than what they had endured before.

Over 300 Taliban fighters were attacking from all sides with the goal of overrunning the remote base. But Romesha wasn’t going to let that happen. “We weren’t going to be beat that day,” he later said.

As fighters breached the perimeter of the camp, Romesha calmly rallied his men to repel the assault even after he was wounded. He personally played “peek-a-boo” with an enemy sniper, took out an enemy machine-gun position, and called in airstrikes that killed at least 30 Taliban fighters.

From The New York Times:

His bravery, Mr. Obama said, helped prevent the outpost from being overrun by Taliban fighters. He was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a generator he was hiding behind. Eight American service members were killed in the October 2009 battle, one of the most intense of the war.

Award Presented: Feb. 11, 2013

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On April 4, 2003, after his unit briefly battled and captured several Iraqi fighters near the Baghdad International Airport, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith instructed his men to build an impromptu holding area for the prisoners in a nearby walled compound.

A short time later, his troops were violently attacked by a larger force. Smith rallied his men to organize a hasty defense, then braved hostile fire to engage the enemy with grenades and anti-tank weapons.

He then ran through blistering gunfire to man the .50 caliber machine gun on top of an armored personnel carrier to keep the enemy from overrunning the position, completely disregarding his own safety to protect his soldiers.

Smith was mortally wounded during the attack, but he helped defeat the attacking force which had more than 50 enemy soldiers killed, according to his award citation.

Award Presented (posthumously): April 4, 2005

Capt. Will Swenson

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Sept. 8, 2009 while assigned as a trainer and mentor to the Afghan border police, Capt. Will Swenson’s team was ambushed by a force of more than 50 Taliban fighters. With no reinforcements and repeated denials for fire support, Swenson repeatedly risked his own life to search for members of the team who were cut off.

From the U.S. Army:

With complete disregard for his own safety, Swenson voluntarily led a team into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on three occasions to recover the wounded and search for missing team members.

Returning to the kill zone a fourth time in a Humvee, he exited the vehicle, evaded a hail of bullets and shells to recover three fallen Marines and a Navy corpsman, working alongside then-Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who on Sept. 15, 2011, received the Medal of Honor for his own actions in the battle.

“This award was earned with a team, a team of our finest: Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side,” Swenson told reporters after his award ceremony. “And now that team includes Gold Star families who lost their fathers, sons and husbands that day. This medal represents them. It represents us.”

Award Presented: Oct. 15, 2013

Sgt. Kyle White

 

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

 

On Nov. 8, 2007, Kyle White repeatedly ran through intense enemy gunfire to get to wounded troops, called in steady reports and air support to beat back Taliban fighters, and directed medical evacuations for the dead and wounded, Army Times reports.

“An RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit right behind my head and knocked me unconscious … it was just lights out … when I woke up, I was face-down on a rock,” White told Army News Service, recalling that as he came to, an enemy round fragmented near his head and sent a shower of broken rock chips and debris into the side of his face. “I didn’t feel pain at all, just numb like when you go to the dentist.”

With chaos all around him, White realized that 10 of those with his 14-man team embedded with Afghan soldiers had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff. As one of four soldiers left above (and closest to enemy fire), White tended to a wounded soldier for some time before seeing a Marine on the team lying wounded out in the open.

White then ran through blistering enemy fire to reach wounded Marine Sgt. Philip Bocks, but unfortunately his injuries were mortal. “I worked on him until he was no longer with us.” Remarkably, White was never hit by enemy fire during the 16-hour battle, although his pack, weapon, and equipment were hit multiple times.

As night fell, White — now suffering from two concussions — directed Afghan Army soldiers to set up a defensive perimeter as he kept a badly-wounded Spec. Kain Schilling from falling asleep and marked a landing zone so helicopters could land and bring the soldiers out.

Award Presented: May. 13, 2014

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 veteran entrepreneurs you need to check out this Veterans Day

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”


This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.

But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.

(Doc Spartan)

Dale King, Doc Spartan

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.

That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.

So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.

(Marjorie Eastman)

Marjorie Eastman, Bicycle Deck of Cards

Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.

She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.

Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.

(Bison Union)

Bert Kuntz, Bison Union

You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.

These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”

Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

(Military Influencer Conference)

Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference

Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.

The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.

The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.

(Uncanna)

Coby Cochran, UnCanna

Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.

Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.

According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”

We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.

Articles

This Marine knows the meaning of service

David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).


Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”

“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”

Also read: ‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’

He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Semper Fi. (Photo courtesy of the VA)

Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”

And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”

As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.

Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”

Veterans

Understanding how veterans utilize GI Bill benefits to earn a Master’s education

This article was sponsored by American Military University.

Getting a master’s degree is a big decision. It’s an intense curriculum, focused on one area of expertise. Essentially, it’s deciding what skills and behaviors you want to master in your career.

For most people, figuring out where and what to study—whether online or in the classroom—and how to fund your master’s, requires sound research. For veterans, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill is the primary benefit used to pay for higher education, including a master’s degree or certificate.

Established in 1944 – first as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act – the G.I. Bill has been the longstanding resource to bridge veterans with higher education, which has been instrumental in helping them as they transition from the military. According to the VA, more than 773,000 Veterans and family members have utilized the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill for education since it was implemented in 2009.

American Military University (AMU) was founded by a veteran in 1991, and has built flexible and affordable online programs and student support services to help veterans and servicemembers complete their education so they’re prepared and qualified for their post-military mission. For veterans, the G.I. Bill has been an important and well-earned benefit by helping them advance their education while limiting their exposure to student debt. 

Know your benefits

Honorably-discharged veterans who have served 90 days of aggregate duty after Sept. 10, 2001, or are still active duty military, are eligible for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for 36 months. The benefits can be applied to tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses.

The amount of funding you’ll receive depends on how much time that you spent on active duty since Sept. 10, 2001. Those who spent three years or more on active duty will qualify for 100% of the benefit, while allowances vary for veterans with less than three years of service. 

How to get started with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill

The first step to using your G.I. Bill benefit to apply toward your master’s degree is, of course, to choose a school and degree. AMU enables you to choose your program, apply online with no application fees or entrance exams, and once registered—start courses monthly. If you’re using your G.I. Bill benefits, they can help you understand all of your options as prescribed by the VA.

The GI Bill can help veterans earn Master's degrees
The GI Bill Comparison Tool simplifies your search.

The VA offers their intuitive GI Bill® Comparison Tool to help you evaluate programs and compare how your benefits can be used at U.S. schools by entering the school name or your zip code.

When you’re ready to utilize your education benefit, visit the Veterans Affairs G.I. Bill website and apply for benefits. First time applicants will fill out the VA Form 22-1990. Returning students will use the 22-1995. Once you have a certificate of eligibility from the VA, you’ll need to send that and the completed VA benefits form to the school. Ask your school for the proper office address. The VA states that it takes 30 days average time to process an education claim.

The next step is to register for classes. This step varies greatly by school, so be sure to keep an eye out for when registration begins. At AMU, courses start monthly and are online so they can fit your busy schedule, especially if you’re a working professional or juggling family or other responsibilities.

The school will help you verify your enrollment with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once you’ve taking all the necessary steps, the VA will fund tuition directly to your school. It’s important to work with your school to re-verify your enrollment, when needed, to ensure that your benefits continue.

Yellow Ribbon Program

the yellow ribbon program can help vets earn a master's degree
Department of Defense, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program 

AMU qualifies as a participating university in the Chapter 33 – Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Yellow Ribbon Program. This means that AMU agrees to make additional funds available for your education program without an additional charge to your G.I. Bill entitlement. Learn more about American Military University, its more than 200 online degree and certificate programs, and your G.I. Bill options.

Transfer Credit Friendly

AMU is less complicated and transfer credit friendly. Previously earned credits and even your career background may accelerate degree completion at any degree level. If you have any academic credits from other universities, professional training or military service—don’t leave previously earned credits on the table. AMU provides you with a dedicated, helpful team and our $0 transfer credit evaluation (TCE) service. Even as a prospective student, you can request a free preliminary transfer credit review.

This article was sponsored by American Military University.

Featured: A student graduating from American Military University. (AMU, Facebook)

Veterans

This vet is a shining example of the importance of believing in yourself

Don’t let anybody tell you, “you can’t do it.”

The kitchen puts Coast Guard veteran, Lamont Brown, at ease. It’s the place of early childhood memories and where he contemplates his next moves. It reminds him just how loved he was. That’s why he’s always been interested in cooking. It’s a way to hold on to his childhood memories.

Born into a big family in El Paso, Texas (at one point, there were 13 people in the house) Brown remembers how his mother would work tirelessly to help feed so many kids. But when he was just 8 years old, his father passed away.

The void that created led him on a slow slide downward. He ran with the wrong crowd down the wrong path. His teenage years were a blur of drugs and petty crimes. By adulthood, he couldn’t hold down a job and owed more than $10,000 in fines he could not pay.

One day, after not seeing his sister for four years, she knocked on his door.

She was in the Army at the time and Brown remembers the look of disgust on her face. Her searing words burned clear through him.

“Do something with your life!”

He did. He joined the Coast Guard.

Brown shipped out to boot camp the week before his 28th birthday. When he arrived in New Jersey, he realized that he was some 10 years older than the “bunch of kids” in his class. He felt isolated and alone. But his situation would change.

On one of his patrols, the cook needed to be relieved. The crew nominated Brown to replace him. In the kitchen, Brown found himself. The place brought back childhood memories that helped him reason and work through his problems. He knew he would open a restaurant after leaving the Coast Guard.

Sharing that dream with a shipmate didn’t produce the response he expected.

“You’re gonna become a drunk and a failure within two years!”

His immediate supervisor was no more encouraging. He told Brown he’d never pull it off. So, Brown did what any would-be restauranteur would do. He ignored the dress down.

Today, Maya’s is a neighborhood restaurant on the North Shore of Oahu. Brown named it after his daughter to further fuel his passion and to make sure he lives up to the standard he wants to teach her.

While the Coast Guard provided the means for Brown to open his restaurant, it didn’t provide him any financial training to help him understand a budget or to run a business. Without a network of investors to help finance Maya’s, Brown borrowed against his home.

His biggest financial hurdle was going 18 months without a paycheck. Still, the lessons his mother taught about stretching a dollar…complimented by a wife who supported his dream…have help Maya’s to embody Brown’s heritage and past. The menu is complete with the foods he ate as a kid; his mother’s recipes, with some refinements.

Maya’s sustains itself by supporting local farmers. When COVID hit, the neighborhood came out to support the restaurant. Today business is better than it ever.

Brown’s role as a restauranteur brings him instant gratification. When the food goes out he watches his guests smile as they eat. That’s why he cooks.

And he explains transitioning like this. “When you get out, you get to start all over again. Take the good of the military and put that into your next chapter. And never let anybody tell you, you can’t do it.”

Articles

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.


The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.

Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.

Also read: These 5 vets discuss the ups and downs of the VA

In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”

While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.

“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”

The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.

Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.

Meanwhile, the VA is stepping up efforts to root out bad employees.

The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”

Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.

In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.

AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Articles

The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”

“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.

“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”

Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.

The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.

Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.

But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.

“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”

Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.

“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA listed as top employer of veterans

Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, recently singled out seven top employers of veterans and their families, and it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made the list, along with Booz Allen, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and others.

A total of 123,608 veterans — more than 30 percent of the workforce — work at VA, according to the latest federal government data. Glassdoor said veterans choose VA careers for its generous employee benefits, such as tuition assistance and loan repayment. A physician quoted in the article commended VA for its “great mission, incredible benefits (and) good work/life balance.”


Through the Transitioning Military Program, VA also has well-paying careers specifically for veterans with healthcare skills. Veterans of healthcare fields successfully work as health technicians, Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs), mental health providers, nurses, physicians, and support staff in other healthcare occupations.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
(Department of Veterans Affairs)

ICTs, for instance, are former basic medical technicians, combat medic specialists, basic hospital corpsmen or basic health services technicians applying their skills to care for fellow veterans. (Meet ICTs Ryan White, Anthony Juarez, and other VA employees.)

Choose VA today 

Other benefits of a VA healthcare career include 36 to 49 days paid time off per year, depending on the leave tier, and the ability to apply military service time to a civil service pension, participate in a 401(k) with up to 5 percent in employer contributions and gain access to a range of exceptional health insurance plans for individuals and families.

Are you transitioning from the military? See if a career with VA is the right choice for you.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 common VA interview questions and how to prepare for them

Landing a job interview is one of the most exciting and potentially nerve-wracking parts of job hunting. While it’s thrilling to move on in the selection process, it can also feel like a lot is riding on one conversation.

Preparation is key to soothing those pre-interview jitters. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel relaxed and confident so the conversation can flow naturally.


Too bad you can’t get a sneak peek inside the interviewer’s head and learn the questions ahead of time!

Or… can you?

No mind-reading abilities required! We asked two of VA’s national recruiters, Hillary Garcia and Timothy Blakney, for information on VA’s interview process. Here are the six most common VA interview questions and tips on how to prepare for them.

Question: How have you developed and maintained productive working relations with others, even though you may have had differing points of view?

Tip: Come armed with an example or three. In this case, you’ll want to discuss how you worked as a member of a team, including the role you played and how the group interacted.

Question: Tell us about a time where you worked independently without close supervision or support.

Tip: At VA, you’ll sometimes need to make a decision on the fly, so an independent streak is a good thing. Play up your self-directedness. Also, when you describe past examples, don’t forget to mention the result and how your efforts made it possible.

Question: Describe a time when you went above and beyond your job requirements. What motivated you to put forth the extra effort? What was the result of your effort?

Tip: Many interview questions at VA have several parts, like this one. Consider bringing a notebook to jot down notes as questions are being asked so you answer them in full.

Question: Describe a situation where you have not communicated well with a co-worker, supervisor, management official or union official. What was the situation? How did you correct it? What was the outcome?

Tip: Communication abilities are often front and center in a VA interview, so be sure to think about your skills in this area ahead of time. You’ll probably be asked about a professional area of improvement or a time you could have changed how you responded. Answering this type of question thoughtfully demonstrates that you can reflect on and work to perfect your professional roles.

Question: Compare what you know about the job you are interviewing for with your own knowledge and skill. In what areas do you feel you already excel? What areas do you feel you will need to develop?

Tip: Make sure you read over the job announcement closely, especially the duties and specialized experience sections. Then review your own resume and previous experiences, paying particularly close attention to anything that makes you unique.

Question: Tell us about a time you briefed a supervisor or senior management official about bad news and/or results they did not like, along with recommending a different course of action. How did you persuade them to move in a new direction? What were the results?

Tip: Interviewers often ask questions about how you handled a difficult situation, and this can be a tricky one to navigate. You’ll want to think of a tactful example that demonstrates those vital communication abilities, as well as problem-solving and strategic thinking skills. If this was a negative experience, try to give it a positive spin by treating it as a learning opportunity.

Work at VA

Now that you’re feeling ready for a potential interview, a rewarding VA career is just a few steps away!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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


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

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

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

1. Austin, Texas

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

3. Colorado Springs, Colo.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

4. Raleigh, N.C.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

5. Gilbert, Ariz. 

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

96. Baltimore, Md.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

97. Fresno, Calif.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

98. Memphis, Tenn.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

99. Newark, N.J.

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

100. Detroit, Mich. 

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

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

Articles

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

Drill sergeants say the funniest things.

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

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

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Yeah, you’re screwed, little buddy. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

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

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

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

Maybe genius isn’t the right word?

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

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

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

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

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

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

Articles

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

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

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


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

Yeah, he became an actor.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
On the set of Banshee (2016) (Photo from IMDB)

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

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

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

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

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

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

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

Articles

3 heroes who became POWs twice

There is no easy time to be a prisoner of war.


The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.

To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
The United States Code of Conduct is memorized by service members to act as a touchstone and a guide if captured. (Department of Defense)

1. Wendall A. Phillips

Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.

While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.

He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.

Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.

Also read: Bob Hoover stole a Nazi plane to escape from a POW camp

Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.

Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.

After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.

Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, April 16, 1945. (Imperial War Museum Photo)

According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.

Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.

2. Felix J. McCool

When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.

McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.

Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.

Medal of Honor: Meet 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
POWs in the Pacific Theater endured horrific conditions. Pictured here are men on the Bataan Death March with their hands bound behind their backs; later this would be labeled as a Japanese War Crime. (U.S. National Archives)

But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.

While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.  

McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.

He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.

But there was worse to come.

McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.

After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.

He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.

McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.

McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.

Related: The day we saved 2,147 prisoners from Los Baños Prison

McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.

McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.

According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.

He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.

3. Richard Keirn

Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.

Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.

Then on July 24, 1965, North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles engaged and shot down an American aircraft for the first time. That aircraft was piloted by Capt. Richard Keirn.

Keirn ejected from his stricken aircraft and would spend nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam.

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Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Keirn, like many of his fellow POWs, made every effort to resist the North Vietnamese. For his actions as a POW, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit.

Keirn was released from captivity with many other downed airmen as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973.

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