How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

This post is sponsored by Microsoft Software and Systems Academy.

After graduating high school, Richard Lee wanted to join the military. As the American-born son of Korean parents, service to country was instilled in him from a very young age.

“I could see the opportunities that my parents had in America,” Lee told We Are The Mighty. “This gave me the aspiration to join the military to serve my country: the United States of America.” In May 2009, Lee joined the U.S. Army as an Aircraft Powerplant Repairer.

Lee’s military experience is extensive. For 11 years, he worked on Apache, Blackhawk, Chinook and Kiowa helicopters — a job he loved. As he progressed in rank and became a supervisor, he loved every minute of his service.

“Watching an aircraft fly after you’ve completely disassembled and reassembled both engines is an awesome feeling,” he said.

Lee would have continued his Army career, but the universe had other plans. Even though he was eligible for promotion to Sergeant First Class, his family needed him more than the Army did. It was time to get out.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Lee with family.

As he entered into civilian life, Lee wanted to find a career that would leverage the skills he learned in the Army, while also mirroring the team environment he’d come to love as a soldier. After extensively researching options, Lee found Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA). MSSA gave him the chance to experience the camaraderie he knew in the Army, while pursuing a new future for himself.

MSSA is an intensive 17-week program designed to train transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members and Reservists for the technology sector’s most in-demand jobs of the future.

MSSA is a remote certification program that provides veterans with the training and professional development skills they need for careers in software engineering, cloud application development, server and cloud administration and more — all funded by Microsoft — at no cost to the veteran. At the end of training, graduates have myriad opportunities to meet with Microsoft or some of its more than 750 hiring partner companies, all leaders in the tech sector.

“MSSA doesn’t only teach technical skills, but helps veterans understand how to use their military experience to let companies know what they are capable of,” Lee said. “I was lucky enough to pick up the technical aspects quickly but leaned on MSSA and my classmates to get better at communicating my strengths and my military experience.”

The Army helped him learn to lead and motivate the people who worked for him, even under the high-pressure world of aviation maintenance. Although Lee felt the Army prepared him for a transition to civilian life, MSSA prepared him for a career in the tech sector. “MSSA put together a solid curriculum to train veterans with no technical background to create a full stack application from concept to deployment,” Lee said.

Today, after 11 years as a helicopter technician, Richard Lee is a cloud network engineer who’s been working at Microsoft since January 2021.

Like many of the 200,000 veterans who leave the military each year, Lee’s separation became much smoother when he found his calling in the tech world. And, when he learned about Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, he knew he’d have the tools to succeed in the field.

Beyond the technical curriculum and soft skills, the camaraderie gained made the program even more worthwhile. Many veterans feel a loss of camaraderie when they leave the service. With MSSA’s focus on teamwork, transitioning service members feel as though they once again belong to a unit with a common goal: mastering course content. “Another unexpected side effect of MSSA was the camaraderie that took place when you gather a group of veterans to work together.” Lee said. “During class, and even after class, my cohort got together on Discord and Microsoft Teams to work together and help each other out with technical skills, interviewing skills and shared companies that were currently hiring.”

Lee would (and has!) recommended the training to every veteran he knows. He says it’s the best way to not only receive the training required in a short amount of time, but also get the  hands-on learning that can only be acquired on the job.

Best of all, the experience and camaraderie he loved about the Army and his MSSA classmates carries through to Microsoft.

“I am extremely grateful to have received the opportunity to work at Microsoft in a team that I couldn’t have imagined existed,” Lee said. “They are all so driven to produce the best experience for customers, as well as extremely open to helping me learn how to do this job better. I feel very lucky to have joined a team where these values are displayed daily.” For more on Microsoft’s transition resources, their Tech Transition Toolkit offers some great tips on how you can get a head-start toward a fulfilling, rewarding career in tech.

This post is sponsored by Microsoft Software and Systems Academy.

MIGHTY MONEY

Small nonprofits that make a big difference: The Military Health Project

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Jacob Angel speaks to guests at the Veterans Day Reception in San Francisco on Nov 11, 2016.


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.

Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.

“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”

The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.

“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”

In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.

Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.

Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.

“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.

The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.

“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.

The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.

The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.

“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”

Articles

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music

Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”


A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.

He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.

We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.

“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”

We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.

Check out his interview here, and then hit up the Battle Mix for your own dose of inspiration:

(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)

The Grey Battle Mix (you’re welcome):

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How vet-owned Sword & Plough is repurposing military gear for a mission of peace

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the Bright-eyed Hope Machine in your squadron:

~ a bag from the brand that’s turning military surplus into vet success 
How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

Emily and Betsy Nuñez — sisters and co-founders of Sword Plough — represent the kind of entrepreneurial venn diagram that a truly bipartisan American government would engineer in a lab to ensure a Better Tomorrow.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Sisters, on a bit of a mission…

Growing up at West Point with their father, a 30-year Army veteran, Emily and Betsy were inculcated from an early age with the military life. Emily was one of only three students at Middlebury College in ROTC and would go on to serve on active duty as an intelligence officer with 10th Special Forces Group.

She would also be one of the first women to attend Ranger School.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

At the same time, she and Betsy were laying the groundwork for a classic millennial start-up, a sustainable bags and accessories company dedicated to repurposing materials and people for the betterment of all. Since 2013, they’ve been operating at the energetic epicenter of 21st century feminism, social entrepreneurship, sustainable business modelling and post-9/11 veteran affairs.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

But if there’s one anecdote from the early days of Sword Plough that, above all others, may have foretold the relentless success the company has enjoyed since its founding, it’s this one, from Emily:

Well, just before launching on Kickstarter, we did another business plan competition…at the Harvard Business School, their Pitch for Change Competition. And I got leave from the Army to attend the contest. It was just an amazing experience. We pitched to the audience and the judges and we won first place and the Audience Choice Award, which was just incredible. [But] we almost actually didn’t even have the chance to do the pitch because there was a blizzard that weekend [in Boston] and we were having a really hard time finding a cab…so we ended up hitching a ride with a snow plow…

Uh…hold please. I grew up in New England. Snow plows stop for no one. How did you pull that off?

I sprinted up to him. I was wearing high heels and a dress and I just told him…”We only have 20 minutes to get to Harvard Business School to pitch our idea to repurpose military surplus into bags and to work with veteran American manufacturers and donate part of our profits to veteran organizations!” [H]e waved us in and gave us a ride. It was a pretty lucky moment…

Was luck really the deciding factor? I doubt it. Faced with such a hyper-specific onslaught of enthusiasm, purpose, brains, and brass, what snow plow man — no matter how grizzled — could say no? Who among us would be so gripped with frozen-hearted pessimism that he’d turn such a pitch aside? It’s unimaginable.

The Nuñez sisters have created a recipe that is impossible to deny. Their products are excellent, unique, and sustainable. Their company is staffed by veterans at every level. Their profits are charitably apportioned. Their eyes are on the horizon and their mission is to serve.

**Now till midnight on Tuesday, November 28th, Sword Plough is offering 20% off sitewide with the discount code BLACKFRIDAY**

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company  dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

Articles

Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.


Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.

“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.

After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.

“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.

Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.

Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.

A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.

“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

The ‘crazy Swede’ was a paratrooper who rode his bike to summit Everest

Leave it to military veterans to make one of Earth’s last tests of human endurance that much more difficult. It’s a 6,000-mile bike ride from the town of Jonkoping, Sweden, to the base camp of Mount Everest. Former Swedish paratrooper Goran Kropp knew how far it was as he packed up his bicycle with 200-plus pounds of gear and departed on that trip in 1995.


His first summit of a major mountain came when he climbed the highest peak in Scandinavia with his dad – at just six years old. Although he indulged a rebellious streak as a young man, the experience of that first climb never left him, and he soon found himself in thin air once more.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

Kropp grew up as a hard-partying punk rocker but soon joined the Swedish paratroopers. This was the event that would shape Kropp for the rest of his life. He met his climbing partner while in the army and moved from an apartment to a tent pitched in a gravel pit that was close to his barracks. While still in the Swedish military, he would test himself through different climbing endurance challenges. The two paratroopers even made a list of progressively higher mountains.

Until it was time to go climb them.

He soon earned the nickname “The Crazy Swede” and became known for his insane feats. The first major peak he summited was Tajikistan’s Lenin Peak, far below the 8,000-meter “Death Zone” of mountaineering, but still a great place to start. What made his summit of Lenin Peak special is that he set the record for it at the time.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

The hits just kept coming. Kropp was the fourth climber ever to conquer Pakistan’s Muztagh Tower in 1990. He was the first Swede to summit K2, a much deadlier mountain to climb than Everest. One of every ten people who climb Everest will die there. On K2, the fatality rate is more than twice that. Climbers of K2 regularly face life-threatening situations that end their trip before it begins.

On Kropp’s first attempt at a K2 summit in 1993, he stopped to help rescue Slovenian climbers stranded at a high altitude. His ascent on K2 would happen a week after this aborted attempt, but danger didn’t always stop Kropp. That’s why it took him three attempts to summit Everest.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

Kropp leaving Sweden for Nepal in 1995.

Kropp left Sweden on his 8,000-mile journey to Nepal in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He wanted to make the ascent without the use of oxygen tanks or assistance ropes. His first attempt saw him struggle to make it to the south summit in waist-deep snow, but his slow pace meant he would be descending in the dark, a risk he was not willing to take. So, he turned around to climb another day.

As Kropp recovered at base camp, a blizzard killed eight trekkers making a descent from the summit, in what became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. It was the deadliest climbing season on Everest to date. Kropp joined the relief efforts as he recovered, but it was during this deadly season that Kropp summited the mountain, without oxygen and without sherpas.

Then, he rode his bike 8,000 miles home to Sweden.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

From Paratrooper to Adventurer.

He climbed five of the world’s fourteen 8,000-plus meter mountains and was the only Swede to summit Everest twice.

In later years, Kropp and his wife skied across the North Pole ice sheet, attempting to reach the North Pole. He had to back out, however, due to a frostbitten thumb. It was on that trek that the press turned against him, claiming he was a poacher for shooting a Polar Bear that was stalking him and his wife during the expedition. As a result, Kropp left Sweden for Seattle.

It was in Washington State that 35-year-old Kropp died an ironic death. After making so many miraculous summits and life-threatening firsts, he died climbing a routine 70-foot rock wall near his home after two safety rigging failures.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Updates to Post-9/11 Gi Bill transfers are coming

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.

The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:


  • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

  • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
  • Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.

For more information, go to https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

This team of 5 vet entrepreneurs wants to make your next hotel stay safer

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector


Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.

“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.

“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.

With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
TripSafe CEO and Air Force vet Derek Blumke (right) with co-founder and technology advisor, Marine Corps vet Brian Alden. (Photo: Derek Blumke)

So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space.  Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).

The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.

“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”

 

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNTLCZ6XoV4
To learn more about TripSafe, please visit www.tripsafesecure.com.

And go here to contribute to TripSafe’s Indiegogo page.

Articles

This girl invited the PJ who saved her during Katrina to a high school dance

On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


And for a decade after that, they lost touch.

At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Left: Master Sgt. Mike Maroney embraces 3-year-old LeShay Brown after rescuing her and her family from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Right: Mahroney and 13-year-old Brown reunite after a 10-year search by Maroney to find the girl who’s smile and hug helped him through the difficulties of the rescue effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First class Veronica Pierce/Warner Brothers photo/Erica Parise)

The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.

The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.

In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.

Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Master Sgt. Mike Maroney (middle), LaShay Brown (left) and Diane Perkins pose together for a photo during a reunion in Waveland, Mississippi. (USAF photo)

“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.

LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

Articles

The difference between Air Force and Army hair expectations

Civilians might think of military hair regulations as one standard look (see: jarhead), but there’s actually some variance among the branches. The “high and tight” sported by soldiers and Marines is much too short for your average airman.

Just ask Air Force captain Mark Harper.


In 2005, Harper deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq as Officer In Charge of the Joint Combat Camera team. Though he deployed with the Air Force, it was a joint environment, so Harper found himself reporting to an Army colonel and supervising about 40 grunts.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

The first day he reported to Army HQ, those soldiers jumped on the chance to give him a hard time about his hair (which is probably a good thing — you only haze the people you like, right? Right?).

“I learned my schedule was intense and I wouldn’t be able to get someone else to cut it, but I wasn’t going to endure this mockery again, so I thought, ‘How hard can this be? I’m just going to cut it myself…'”

He lucked out — the Post Exchange sold Wahl clippers.

That night at 0200 he finally found some spare time to cut his hair.

Also read: These are the rules NATO allies have about growing beards

With no practical experience selecting clipper guards, Harper wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing, but the Wahl gear was pretty intuitive and he even managed to fade it on the sides.

“So I officially did it. I cut my own hair.”

He then walked proudly into the Air Force tent.

Check out the video below to see their reaction:

www.youtube.com

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

Veterans

A Cold War Marine shows the impact of building a community of veterans

Tempe, Arizona boasts a unique housing complex for mixed income families. Called “Valor on 8th,” its 50 units were specially designed as a place for U.S. military veterans and their families to live in affordable housing in one of America’s fastest-growing urban areas.  

One alumnus of Valor on 8th is Ro Gonzalez. A Marine Corps veteran, he appreciated what the city did for veterans. He spent a lot of time working for a veteran-oriented non-profit before striking out on his own. Gonzalez founded the Valors Veterans Community AZ in 2018, and has since helped 6,000 Arizona veterans.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Arizona, it hit veterans and their families in the Phoenix area hard and Gonzalez had trouble meeting the needs of his community. When he applied for an Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, Valor on 8th was ready to help. 

“Our motto is connecting veterans with veterans and resources,” Gonzalez told We Are The Mighty. “That’s what we do, we connect veterans with other veterans through a lot of social events, but we also help with education, employment, homelessness and veteran transition all over Arizona.”

Gonzalez is an old-school Marine who served during the Cold War, from 1987 to 1991. His priority, in his own words, is taking care of his veteran brothers and sisters. And because he and Valors Veterans Community AZ is mostly self-funded through his day job and his morning paper route, he’s limited in what he can do.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have help at all. The people of Valor on 8th just volunteer their time and effort.

“Nobody is on payroll,” Gonzalez says. “All our funds come from in-kind donations, my credit card, wherever we can get dollars from. A hundred percent of it goes right back to the veterans.”

Through his hard work and the work of his volunteers, he’s been able to expand his operation, starting a new chapter in Tucson and looking to hire a veterans benefits navigator. His local focus and small donations make it possible for Valors Veterans Community AZ to be more responsive to the needs of veterans in Arizona. 

“We’re more grassroots, more local, one-on-one, more personable,” he says. “It isn’t just about clicks and donations, our thing is to get our veterans involved in the community. If we help them out, they don’t have to pay us back monetarily. We prefer for you to come out and volunteer with us so you can see the impact volunteering in the community has.” 

With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the hardest-hit areas of Arizona was the veteran community in the Navajo Nation. Gonzalez and his organizations used the Evan Williams’ COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant to come to their aid.

“They were hit hard by COVID, because they have such a large elderly population,” he says. “We hooked them up with gallons of sanitizers, along with other PPE, diapers, laundry soap, food, water, you name it. Altogether, we donated more than $10,000 worth of items.” 

Veteran service organizations like Valor on 8th are supported by these grants through the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund, established by Evan Williams in 2020. As an American-made and owned company, it’s important for Evan Williams Bourbon to give back to those who serve.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Evan Williams

Ro Gonzalez and Valors Veterans Community AZ wants every veteran and every veteran family member to reach out when they need help. Gonzalez acknowledges his own problems as a veteran (he suffered a traumatic brain injury during service), but says that he does what he has to do to take care of it, just like any other problem.

“The number one thing is, if you’re struggling, there’s no shame in asking for help,” he says. “Every once in a while, no matter what you’re going through, you just need a little guidance. We’re happy to help.”

Articles

America’s oldest living general turned 107 in 2021

When retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Goldsworthy joined the United States military, there was no independent Air Force. He was joining to get a commission in the Army infantry. Little did he know he would serve during the Air Force’s most important moments, under one of its legends: Curtis LeMay. 

Goldsworthy reflected on his life and career on his 107th birthday, April 6, 2021. To celebrate, he rode in a parade driven by the Southern California Patriot Guard Riders.

“I get asked all the time, ‘What did you do to live so long?’ I tell them I think it’s just God’s will. Sometimes I wonder whether he’s rewarding me or punishing me,” he jokingly told WCAX News.

The centenarian also says his secret to a long life is to drink a shot of vodka every night before bed. That’s just how the old timers roll – and no one is more “old timer” than Harry Goldsworthy. He and a friend joined the military in 1936 near their hometown in Washington state. Within three years, he found himself at Texas’ Kelly Field, learning to fly single-engine aircraft.

After the outbreak of World War II, Goldsworthy cut his teeth hunting German U-boats in the Caribbean Sea, using B-18 Bolo bombers, specially fitted to hunt submarines. It was his job to keep them from being able to surface. 

In 1945, he was relocated to the South Pacific theater, where he was flying combat missions in support of Allied operations in the Philippines, Balikpapan and Borneo. He was forced to bail out on his last combat mission. Over the island of Luzon, his B-25 Mitchell bomber took heavy fire from the ground.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
A USMC B-25 in flight in 1944 (DoD photo)

Goldsworthy landed safely in the jungles, and even kept part of the parachute that saved his life. The war eventually ended and Goldsworthy opted to stay in the newly-created U.S. Air Force. His work as a unit commander at every level was worthy of recognition – he was eventually awarded the Legion of Merit for his staff officer work. 

He would soon find himself in the Pentagon, where he would help shape the new service, ushering in the era of jet-powered flight. Far from the skies above Japan, Korea or Vietnam, Goldsworthy tackled the Air Force’s biggest logistical problems, including transportation, supplies and foreign sales.

He was also instrumental in building the silos for yet-to-be-constructed nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during the Cold War. It was Goldsworthy who made haste, with which Atlas, Minuteman, and Titan ICBMs capable of launch, countered the Soviet Union’s first-strike capability. 

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
In a ceremony at Malmstrom AFB, Colonel Harry E. Goldsworthy, SATAF commander, accepts a symbol of the first completed Minuteman operational silo from Army Area Engineer Colonel Arthur H. Lahlum, Nov. 13, 1961. (U.S. Air Force)

In his 33-year career, the retired general also flew more than 30 different Air Force aircraft, many of them instrumental to the Air Force’s air power achievements overseas, including the B-52 Stratofortress and F-105 Thunderchief. He even drew up specs for the F-15 Fighter. 

Goldsworthy first retired from the military as a Lt. Gen, in 1973 before going to work for Boeing. At 107, he is believed to be the oldest living general. He told Military.com that the fighter aircraft they have today, such as the F-35 Thunderbolt II, are so advanced and technical, he’s not sure he’d be able to fly one of them. 

There is a Goldsworthy at the stick of the latest generation of fighters, however. One of his great-nephews is an F-35 pilot. 


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

PTSD treatment helps veteran 48 years after firefights

“A few years ago I heard about the treatment from my friend in Washington state. I went on the computer and I checked a few things out, and I thought, ‘Why not? It’s time that you do something.'”

For Jerry, that time came 48 years after he had returned from Vietnam…


“Bullets are flying everyplace…”

“It was quite an experience coming back from ‘Nam, and I could tell I had changed an awful lot. And I think the biggest thing in my behavior was the fact that I was so jumpy. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m in the middle of Vietnam, and bullets are flying everyplace, and my bed is ringing wet.”

“What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. And Jerry didn’t want to jeopardize his career in the military by speaking up. He went on to finish two tours in Korea, then was stationed in Germany where he met his future wife and started a family. “I just felt that if I said there’s something wrong with me the Army wouldn’t need me.”

Instead of asking for help, Jerry buried himself in his work. “I was working around the clock. I was trying to control my mind, and I was trying to block it. I was in control most of the time.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector

But he also lost control. Stupid mistakes felt intolerable, and they could easily set him off. “I can talk like a sailor, and in talking like a sailor, I could take your head off and put it in your lap, and you’d never know it.”

Loose cannon

These types of outbursts affected his work-life. He later learned that his colleagues didn’t like to be around him because he was too unpredictable, too volatile. One called him a loose cannon, another told him years later that people were afraid of him. “What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Time passed. Jerry’s two sons grew into men. And more recently, his beloved wife became ill and passed away. For all those years Jerry had wanted to ask for help, but he didn’t know where to go. He couldn’t trust anyone.

Then one day a friend told him about the treatments at the VA. Treatments for PTSD. Eager to get help, but still skeptical, Jerry went in for an appointment.

“She was just that good.”

“I’ll tell you right now, as I sit here, when I walked in that room and saw that petite little thing sitting there, I said there is no way in hell this young lady has any clue about what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, and she can’t help me. I feel like an ass now but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. It didn’t take long. Within 30 minutes I knew I wanted to come back for my next appointment. I could have probably stayed there the rest of the week and talked to her. She was just that good. She was ready for me. I wasn’t ready for her, but she made me ready. She was good.”

Jerry finished his therapy, an evidence-based therapy called Prolonged Exposure, in nine weeks.

“I felt that the treatment helped me in the fact that I can control myself a lot better. I control my anger. I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before. I still have moments where I don’t know, something snaps or something build’s up or whatever [but] I accept life a lot easier. I’m more tolerant of people.”

“I’ll just say it this way. It takes a lot to piss me off. I’m so proud of that.”

Here’s a five-minute video of Jerry sharing his story.

Read more about Veterans’ experience with PTSD Therapy Here.

To hear more Veteran’s talk about their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment, visit AboutFace.

For more information on PTSD visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/. This site offers resources such as:

PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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