Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery - We Are The Mighty
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Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

Air Force will unveil Culpeper National Cemetery shoot Memorial Day


Following the success of a Memorial Day video in 2020, the Air Force Band was back at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia April 26 to shoot a video for Memorial Day 2021.

The band returned to the site to pay respect and film a tribute to those who lost their lives in war.

“First off, it’s just utterly beautiful out here,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Brest, the producer and editor. “It’s a great place to pay respects and see the cemetery.”

Playing the hymn “Going Home,” the band brought in a bagpiper and elements from the Ceremonial Brass for the video shoot. Using a jib, the band shot multiple passes among the grave markers of buried service members. The band releases the video prior to Memorial Day.

The finished, two-minute video includes a video message from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., said Brest, trumpet section leader for Ceremonial Brass. He hopes the band’s video will help people to remember the fallen.

“I think it helps bring a really strong message of support,” Brest said. “Right now, especially with as trying as the times are in the world, it’s nice to see something that is kind of getting back to a feeling of where we were before and really bring people back together.”

Brest said Air Force Band members always feel the solemness of playing in a cemetery. They frequently play in Arlington National Cemetery.

“The weight is always there,” he said. “It really feels like when you come to work here that you can’t help but really just give it everything that you have and want to really express what all this means.”

The band’s visit is a fitting tribute for Memorial Day and teaches people about the National Cemetery Administration, or NCA, mission, said Jason Hogan, Culpeper National Cemetery director.

“It almost acts like an outreach event for the NCA to bring awareness of not only Culpeper National Cemetery, but the other 154 national cemeteries throughout the country,” Hogan said.

Watch last year’s video

Last year’s video, also shot in Culpeper, featured Tech. Sgt. Jason Covey playing Taps.

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

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America’s oldest living veteran is asking for your help

The oldest living veteran in the United States is asking for America’s help.


Army veteran Richard Overton is now in need of 24-hour home care that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide. So his family started a GoFundMe campaign late last month to cover the cost of in-home care, which is being provided by Senior Helpers.

“Though my cousin is still sharp as a tack at 110-years-old, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to care for himself,” Volma Overton said in a statement. “It eases my mind to know he will have 24/7 care while living in the home he built for himself over 70 years ago.”

Related: DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

Overton gained notoriety back in 2013 after he told a reporter about his key to staying active and remaining in good health: Whiskey and cigars.

“He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee,” The Houston Chronicle wrote. “The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.'”

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
January 3: Medal of Honor recipient retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry walks onto the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio with World War II veteran Richard Overton in San Antonio. Petry, awarded the Medal of Honor last year for efforts in Afghanistan, and Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran at 108 years old, delivered the game ball at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. | US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

In addition to his somewhat unorthodox habits, Overton said he stayed busy throughout the day by trimming trees and helping with horses, while noting that he never watches television, according to Fox.

Born May 11, 1906, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran in the US. He served in the South Pacific during World War II before selling furniture in Austin after discharge, and later worked in the state Treasurer’s Office.

As the campaign page notes, Overton has earned a number of accolades since he first hit the headlines. He met with President Obama in 2013, and in the years since, has appeared as the guest of honor at sporting events and been featured as “America’s Oldest Cigar Smoker” in Cigar Aficionado magazine.

You can check out the GoFundMe campaign page here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


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

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

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

But the public can help change this.

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

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

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

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

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

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

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

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Here’s what you need to know about chaplains

Army chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.


Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin presents a quilt to Spc. Zowie Sprague during a battlefield circulation visit in Taji, Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. The quilt was hand-made by a family from a small town in Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cesar E. Leon)

The Army’s Chaplain Corps provides counseling for soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief, or psychological trauma. Army chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted soldier known as a chaplain assistant.
Together, they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team.

Related: What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care,” said Army Maj. James S. Kim, the chaplain for the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

“Caregiver” is a term that can be given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.

“I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with,” Kim said. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling.”

Compassion Fatigue

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Army Chaplain. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF)

UMT’s are empathetic to soldiers’ personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue.

UMT’s need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their soldiers.

Also read: The surprising link between spirituality and performance

“It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can’t do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith,” said Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, the chaplain assistant for the 1st Sustainment Command UMT.

The Army Chaplain Corps provides responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support provided can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression.

Chaplains have been an integral part of the armed forces since 1775, when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army.

Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations.

They also provide soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and provide counseling and moral support for soldiers in need.

Articles

This Army mother and son duo deployed together

One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.


But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.

Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe, senior brigade physician assistant, and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, a behavioral health technician, both assigned to the Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, are deployed for nine months to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah R. Kilpatrick)

Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.

“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”

As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.

Educational Opportunities

That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”

After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.

Related: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.

“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

What started out as just a potential option won his heart, Wideman said, and now he plans on taking classes and completing the prerequisites to submit a packet for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, as his mother did.

Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.

Important Mission

“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”

Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”

Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.

Also read: Watch Jimmy Fallon and The Rock beautifully reunite a military family

“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”

But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.

“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”

Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.

“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.

Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.

Drive, Motivation, Discipline

Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.

“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”

Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.

“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.

“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”

popular

4 times Prince Harry showed why he’s the ultimate veteran

There has never been a special relationship quite like the one between the United States and the United Kingdom. If we want to feel good about the future of that alliance, we should look no further than Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, also known as Harry Wales, slayer of bodies in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.


He’s seen war and death, both on the ground and in the air. And he’s not just going to sit around, acting like a royal, and pretend it didn’t happen. Harry takes on the spirit of many post-9/11 era veterans here in America and over in the United Kingdom: He’s still looking out for his brothers- and sisters-in-arms while celebrating and remembering his time in uniform.

And rocking an amazing separation beard.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

“C’mon, POGs. Chow is this way.”

1. He wasn’t about to let his groundpounders go fight the war without him.

While his father and brother before him also joined the military, neither of them sought out a tour in Afghanistan (or anywhere else) to join the troops they lead in the British military. Harry, the Duke of Sussex is an accomplished officer, JTAC, and Apache pilot and it was while working as a JTAC that he once fought off a Taliban assault alongside British Gurkhas, manning a .50-cal to do so. But he almost didn’t get to go. Fearing his presence would make other troops a target in his vicinity, the Ministry of Defence almost kept him out of Afghanistan altogether. That did not sit well with the Prince.

“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now… The last thing I want to do is have my soldiers away to Iraq or wherever like that and for me to be held back home.”

Hell yeah, Prince Harry. And he didn’t go to some cushy desk job either. He was sent to Camp Bastion, the only camp in Helmand that was overrun by heavily armed Taliban fighters.

This also means that if he’s in a position to speak up for the troops, the men and women of the UK’s armed forces know they have someone who’s been there and done that speaking up for them.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

2. Because f*ck this interview, there’s sh*t going down.

For anyone who thought his deployment was a publicity stunt, think again. With the cameras rolling, he got the word that he was needed… and didn’t even excuse himself before running off, presumably to kick someone’s ass.

That should tell you how dedicated to a fight the British Army is once they’re committed. Prove me wrong.

3. He really, really cares about fighting troops. All of them.

In 2013, Prince Harry visited the Warrior Games, the adaptive sports competition held by the U.S. military to rally and support its wounded warriors. While there, he saw 80,000 people come out to watch the troops compete against each other.

He took the idea home and created the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for service men and women from 13 different countries. Listen to him explain the day that changed his life for ever, the day that inspired him to do something for military veterans, in his own words.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

You think he landed Meghan Markle just because he’s a Prince? I guarantee she won’t let him shave that beard.

4. He sports an awesome veteran’s beard.

Put aside the fact, for a moment, that he resembles a British version of Chuck Norris. Prince Harry sports a beard that he maintains both in and out of uniform, despite British Army dress regulations. Don’t like it? Go ahead and tell the Prince how to dress. We’ll wait.

And if you think it’s just a phase he’s going through, remember that he was sporting that beard at his wedding. Which was also in uniform. And broadcast worldwide.

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Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

Articles

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

Bet you think you’re a good driver. No one can knife across three lanes of traffic and make an exit doing 73 mph like you can, hoss. You even throw around the occasional courtesy wave.


Former Army Engineer and “Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis fancied himself above average in the driving department until he met Jim Wilkey at Bobby Orr Motorsports, where the two-tour Vietnam Vet proceeded to hand our host his ass.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
The authentic look of a man being taken to school. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

A former Navy Seabee, Wilkey is now one of Hollywood’s most highly-regarded stunt drivers, flipping cars and drifting in such modest cinematic offerings as “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

When he’s not rolling on “action,” Wilkey teaches the art of stunt driving to amateur road warrior wannabes on his home track in Camarillo, CA.

Watch as Wilkey puts Ryan through a day’s worth of paces and Ryan makes an unwise decision to challenge the master in a timed stunt lap, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

Articles

5 things to know about Air Force Secretary nominee Heather Wilson

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, President Donald Trump today announced that former New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather Wilson is his pick to serve as Secretary of the Air Force.


“Heather Wilson is going to make an outstanding Secretary of the Air Force,” Trump said in a release. “Her distinguished military service, high level of knowledge and success in so many different fields gives me great confidence that she will lead our nation’s Air Force with the greatest competence and integrity.”

Here are a few things to know about her:

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Official portrait of Congresswoman Heather Wilson. (US House of Representatives)

1. She is the President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Wilson took the post in June 2013 after two failed senate races. According to a release from the school, it was listed among the most veteran-friendly schools throughout her tenure as president of that institution.

2. She was a Rhodes Scholar

According to her official biography at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Heather Wilson’s graduate studies were at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. She earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D from the institution in 1985.

3. She would be the first Air Force Academy Graduate to serve as SECAF

According to the Air Force Times, Wilson is the first graduate of the United States Air Force Academy to be nominated for this position. Wilson was among the first women to attend the Air Force Academy and received her commission in 1982. She served for seven years mostly as a defense planner to NATO and the U.K. She separated as a captain and became an advisor to the National Security Council under President George H. W. Bush.

4. She is an instrument-rated private pilot

Congresswoman Wilson’s official bio at the home page of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology reveals she is an instrument-rated private pilot. We don’t know if that means she gets to fly any of the Air Force’s planes, though. We hope it does.

5. She served just over 10 years in Congress

Wilson first won a special election in 1998 to replace a congressman who lost a battle with cancer. According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, she served until 2009, when she stepped down after losing a senate primary the previous year. She served on the Energy and Commerce and Select Intelligence Committees, according to the 2008 Congressional Directory, and also served on the House Armed Services Committee.

“America and our vital national interests continue to be threatened,” Wilson said in a statement after her nomination. “I will do my best, working with our men and women in the military, to strengthen American air and space power to keep the country safe.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

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

Articles

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

Honoring the fallen: Band shoots video in national cemetery
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

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