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.

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.

Articles

This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Veterans Moving Forward: More veterans requesting service dogs amid pandemic

If you love working with dogs and like service opportunities, consider supporting and volunteering with Veterans Moving Forward!

Veterans Moving Forward provides service and emotional support dogs to veterans dealing with mental and/or physical challenges at no cost.


DONATE

VMF relies entirely on donations, grants and fund raising for funding our operations and programs. Your financial support is greatly appreciated! TEXT dogs4vets to 707070 or visit vetsfwd.org!

VOLUNTEER

We need and seek volunteers who are committed, compassionate and want to make a difference in the lives of veterans.

APPLY

Apply for a Veterans Moving Forward Service Dog by completing and submitting (per instructions on the application form) our Service Dog Application.

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

Meet Ashley:


Ashley is named after Army 1LT Ashley White.

1st Lt. Ashley White was killed during combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on October 22, 2011 when the assault force she was supporting triggered an improvised explosive device. Ashley was assigned to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina National Guard, Goldsboro, NC and served as a member of a Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. As a Cultural Support Team Member on her first deployment to Afghanistan, White selflessly served. Ashley’s actions exemplify the highest commitment to duty, honor, and country. In every instance she served with distinction in support of the Task Force and our great nation.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Veterans

Retired Navy officer touts life-changing alternative treatment for wounded veterans

Retired Navy Lieutenant Curt Kline had been suffering from the after-effects of childhood and service-related trauma for years. A revolutionary new technology is curing his worst symptoms.  

Enlisting in the Navy in 1994 was an easy decision for Kline, although he really wanted to join the Marine Corps. His mother wouldn’t sign for him unless he changed his branch of service, so the Navy was it. “I was 17 and was in my senior year. It was my fourth high school and I knew I didn’t have a lot of opportunities with college,” he shared. He wasn’t a military brat, either. “We were just poor…we moved around quite a bit.”

From that young teenager emerged a dedicated sailor. Kline was eventually commissioned as an officer not long after he was made Chief. He would go on to train potential SEALs out of the Great Lakes. Later on he was sent to Japan, again. It was there  he’d witness the terrible earthquake and tsunami of 2011. “You could see the flat ground moving like the ocean waves,” he said. Over 15,000 people died and he was close to retirement when he realized the event was causing deeper problems for him than he’d realized.

In 2017 he planned out how he was going to end his life. He had everything he needed and the place was decided. At the last moment, he decided to go to the hospital in a last ditch effort to get help. They saved his life. 

His trauma went back further than his time in the Navy, though. When he was five years old, his mother left his father when she caught him giving marijuana to Kline. Although he’d stay away from alcohol and drugs, he soon realized he’d become anchored to something else. “My drug of choice was the Navy. It was a distraction from all the things I grew up struggling to understand and process,” he explained. 

When Kline retired after 25 years of service, the pandemic hit. He was without his anchor and isolated, a combination which led to a terrible chain of events. The decline led to a deterioration in his marriage to Catalina, a Marine Corps veteran. Finally, after struggling with depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts for over eight months, he knew he needed help. 

Kline went through TRICARE and the VA for support, but it seemed as though everyone was too busy or didn’t know what to do. “I did find help with Head Strong. Their mission is to provide therapy without any barriers to treatment,” he explained. “That helped tremendously, giving me the foothold to take the next step.”

The Ohio Veterans NOW program is studying the effects of TMS on depression symptoms.

His path ahead wasn’t anything he could have imagined. Kline stumbled upon a social media post discussing a new FDA trial at Ohio State University with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on veterans. Named Veterans Neuromodulation Operation Wellness (NOW), it was a study that was sponsored and funded by Ohio’s state senator in Bill 166. Senator Frank Hoagland is a former Navy SEAL himself and remains dedicated to serving veterans. 

As soon as the trail was open to candidates, Kline made a phone call to see if he could get on the trial. Only a week later, he traveled to Ohio to begin the program. “Basically, it takes your brain waves and starts to even them out with magnetic pulses,” he explained. 

The human brain is 85 percent water, allowing the TMS pulses to have an almost recharging effect on the mitochondria. This is an area of the brain that creates the energy for cells, around 90 percent of what our body’s cells need to survive. What many outside of the scientific community may not realize is that trauma itself causes our mitochondria not to function properly. Studies have found reduced mitochondria in combat veterans and those suffering from severe PTSD. By recharging the mitochondria, the TMS technology has the potential to eradicate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

The CloudTMS machine is reported to help alleviate depressive symptoms without medication. (CloudTMS, Twitter)

The therapy begins by recording the baseline of brain activity for the patient using electroencephalogram (EEG) readings. This shows the doctor what parts of your brain are operating well and which ones aren’t. From there the CloudTMS™ machine coordinates an individualized plan for magnetic pulses into the brain. 

“After about three weeks of treatment I noticed that I started to sleep more than a couple of hours a time…for me that was a huge difference. One of the things that medication never did for me with my depression was help my motivation,” Kline said. He described his depression as a fog that covered him, making it hard to move. The treatment lifted that fog and reduced the consistent feelings of anxiety he’d been battling. His wife soon joined the program as well and had similar success.

Although Kline is continuing completing his 30 sessions of treatment, the program was paused. This led to confusion on his part because the study was fully funded for two years but appeared to have been stalled due to internal issues. When Kline received the phone call on March 5, 2021 that the study had been stopped indefinitely, it didn’t sit right. 

Through his own research, Kline believes it was stopped because something this impactful has the potential to shift veteran care away from pharmaceuticals. He implores the VA and veteran allies to continue to push for alternative therapies and move away from the drugs that are making many veterans unrecognizable or causing addiction. 

Jacob Burns was a struggling Air Force veteran when he applied for the program after it had paused. Shortly after being denied entry, he drove his truck into a tree and killed himself. He was only 35 years old. Although Kline isn’t blaming the pause on Burns’ suicide exactly, he wonders if getting help rather than being turned away could have changed things.

Kline is now back home in Virginia and working for the first time since retiring from the Navy. He’s continuing to progress every day and is endlessly grateful to the Veterans NOW program and supporters he met along the way. It’s his hope that through continued media coverage of the veteran TMS study, the already funded veterans program will restart and continue healing veterans. 

As we continue to lose more and more veterans to suicide each day, the time to act on viable solutions is now.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 veteran non-profit organizations you need to check out for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is the global day of giving following Thanksgiving and the increasingly popular shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the time of year when individuals and companies focus on giving.


This year, it falls on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation is taking things up a notch by matching up to $2 million in donations raised on Facebook for U.S. nonprofits (the matching starts at 8AM Eastern — so set your alarms and hit donate early!). Facebook is joining in by waiving its fees for donations made to nonprofits on Facebook this #GivingTuesday.

(Also, the hashtag is a thing, in case you can’t tell; the whole point is to spread the word — and the charitable giving.)

For details on how to donate to your favorite organizations, click here.

Want to know some of our favorite organizations? We thought so. In no particular order:

8. GWOT Memorial Foundation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPv0wM63PoM
The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is THE Congressionally designated nonprofit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor our fallen warriors, U.S. service members, their families, and all those who supported our nation’s longest war.

Here’s their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/gwotmf/

7. Semper Fi Fund

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Former Lance Cpl. Ben Maenza smiles as he and his team blaze down a Camp Pendleton road during the Ride for Hereos t fundraising cycling trip for the Semper Fi Fund, Aug. 9. The trip from Florida to California took nearly 3,000 miles to accomplish. The cyclists have earned more than $75,000 for the Semper Fi Fund. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Damien Gutierrez)

Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. They deliver the resources they need during recovery and transition back to their communities, working to ensure no one is left behind.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/semperfifund/

6. The Mission Continues

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Volunteers rehabilitate a donated church building into a technology training and resource center for veterans allowing them a place to transition from military into civilian life. The new facility will provide veterans with instruction and skills training to preparing them for employment. The campaign launched by Home Depot and the Mission Continues, was created to enhance the lives of U.S. military veterans and to highlight the needs and opportunities they face. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. They deploy veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their actions will inspire future generations to serve.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themissioncontinues/

5. Team Rubicon

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok.(Team Rubicon photo)

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/teamrubicon/

4. Pin-Ups for Vets

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
2nd Lt. Paganetti and Allison Paganetti in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising Calendar.

Pin-Ups For Vets raises funds to improve Veterans’ healthcare, donates funds to VA hospitals for medical equipment and program expansion, improves quality of life for ill Veterans across the United States through personal bedside visits to deliver gifts, promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans with clothing and calendar gifts delivered to shelters, boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing, and boosts morale for deployed troops through delivery of care packages.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pinupsforvets/

3. The Sam Simon Foundation

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
The Sam Simon Foundation launched its Service Dog program in response to the growing need of veterans coping with PTSD as a result of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict. A Service Dog is not a cure for PTSD, but whose skills and companionship can be an aid for managing the symptoms and promoting well-being.

The Sam Simon Foundation provides Service Dogs trained for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Other tasks they may train for include assistance with hearing loss, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and moderate physical limitations due to injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SamSimonFoundationAssistanceDogs/

2. Operation Supply Drop

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Operation Supply Drop presented donated video games for Marines at the Central Area Recreation Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mark Watola)

Operation Supply Drop addresses Mental Health, Homelessness, and Employment for Veterans and their families accompanied by a global structure encouraging community service and commitment towards one another.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreOSD/

1. Fisher House

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Mike Helle and Chris Cannedy, local Biloxi business employees, decorate the Fisher House for Christmas Dec. 12, 2013, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Every year a local business volunteers to decorate the house. The Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Fisher Houses provide military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FisherHouse/ 

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

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

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

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

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

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

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 6 veterans never stop serving

In 1783, a Welsh immigrant named Evan Williams founded Kentucky’s first commercial distillery and began producing Bourbon whiskey. Today, Evan Williams Bourbon continues his legacy, and remains synonymous with smooth taste, strong character, and American pride.

That’s why Evan Williams started their American-Made Heroes Program, which celebrates military heroes by sharing veterans’ stories of service to their country and community. After reviewing thousands of entries, Evan Williams selected six new American-Made Heroes.


TYLER CRANE, SERGEANT 1ST CLASS – U.S. ARMY
Charity: Veteran Excursions to Sea

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

U.S. Army Ranger Tyler Crane led platoons on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before an IED blast cut his military career short. Forced to reconsider his path, he made it his mission to improve the lives of fellow veterans in and around Port Charlotte, Florida.

Tyler started the non-profit organization Veteran Excursions To Sea (V.E.T.S.), which works with military families and a dedicated group of local guides to promote “healing through reeling.”

He takes veterans and their families on fishing charters to encourage camaraderie, fun, and relaxation. “It’s just good therapy,” Tyler says. “There’s nothing like spending a day on the water.”

DR. ARCHIE COOK JR., MAJOR – U.S. AIR FORCE
Charity: Veterans Empowering Veterans

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

Dr. Archie Cook Jr. graduated from the Dental program at the University of North Carolina with help from the Air Force ROTC. After completion of service, he opened his own private practice. At his clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans.

Archie also packs and distributes lunches to the homeless and volunteers with Veterans Empowering Veterans: an organization that provides basic services to help disenfranchised veterans get back on their feet. “If you’ve dedicated part of your life to serving our country,” he says, “you should at least have a hot meal and a roof over your head.”

CHRISTOPHER BAITY – VETERAN U.S. MARINE CORPS
Charity: Semper K9 Assistance Dogs

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

Christopher Baity specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master during his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed three tours in Iraq, canvassing combat zones with his canine team to detect enemy explosives. After completion of service, Chris and his wife Amanda founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization that turns rescue dogs into service dogs.

Chris trains each animal to provide companionship and emotional support to military veterans and their families, addressing a range of physical and psychiatric needs including PTSD and mobility challenges. “I continually try to learn the techniques and options being offered to disabled veterans,” he says. Since 2014, Chris has graduated over thirty dog teams.

AMANDA RUNYON, HOSPITAL CORPSMAN 2ND CLASS – U.S. NAVY
Charity: Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 8681

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

Amanda Runyon learned the value of community service early on while volunteering at local health clinics. Raised in a family with a proud military tradition, she became the first woman in her family to enlist. As a Hospital Corpsman, Amanda provided medical care to Sailors and Marines. She was assigned to intensive care overseas, treating American service men and women suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After nine years of active duty, Amanda returned to her hometown of Spring Hill, Florida, where she continues to serve as a Registered Nurse in the school district. She also volunteers her time to activities in the surrounding community.

MICHAEL STINSON, CHIEF HOSPITAL CORPSMAN – U.S. NAVY
Charity: U.S.O. of Wisconsin

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Photo by TJ Lambert, Stages Photography

Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Michael “Doc” Stinson deployed several times as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. After 23 years of service, Michael retired and became a police officer with the Harbor Patrol in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Michael is an active member of the American Legion and serves as Treasurer of the Nam Knights Tundra Chapter: a motorcycle club honoring the sacrifices of military veterans and police officers. They raise funds and awareness for local causes and organizations, including HighGround Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that pays tribute to the heroism of all American veterans.

MICHAEL SIEGEL, SERGEANT MAJOR – U.S. ARMY (RET.)
Charity: U.S.O. Club at Fort Leonard Wood

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

Sergeant Major (Ret.) Michael Siegel enlisted in the US Army at 17 and served for the next 25 years. Then and now, his mission in life is to lead soldiers, teach soldiers, and guide soldiers to be the best they can be.

Since his retirement, Michael continues to serve his community. He leads by example, volunteering with several youth organizations and fundraising for local charities. Today, he is the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood, where he helps educate and position soldiers for successful careers after their military service.

Learn more about each of these incredible veterans and the work they’re doing in their communities at American-MadeHeroes.com.

Veterans

Navy SEAL community loses another legend: Bob ‘The Eagle” Gallagher

In March of 1968, SEAL Team TWO Detachment Alpha had been operating in the area of My Tho, in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, since the previous year. The commander of 7th platoon, Pete Peterson, along with assistant platoon commander Ron Yeaw, led SEAL operations out of My Tho, targeting Viet Cong forces in the area. The platoon’s senior enlisted man was SEAL Senior Chief Robert T. Gallagher, who Peterson described recently — on the occasion of Gallagher’s passing away this month at the age of 83 — as SEAL Team TWO’s gold standard as far as how to be a warrior in those early days of the SEAL teams.

According to the citation that accompanied Gallagher’s award of the Navy Cross — the nation’s second-highest award for valor — on March 13th of that year, Gallagher distinguished himself while acting as the Assistant Patrol Leader for a night combat patrol of 7th platoon SEALs. The patrol infiltrated at least two miles into a Viet Cong battalion-sized base camp area and located a barracks building housing approximately 30 armed Viet Cong insurgents. Gallagher and two other SEALs, while attempting to infiltrate the barracks, were discovered by a sentry, and the whole patrol became engaged in a fierce running firefight with the superior force.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Mekong Delta, Vietnam – SEAL team members move in on their target, an enemy bunker complex on Tan Dinh Island, during Operation Bold Dragon III. March 26, 1968 (National Archives)

During the battle, both SEAL officers Peterson and Yeaw were wounded, as was the platoon’s Vietnamese combat guide and interpreter, Minh. Gallagher took command of the entire force, and though suffering a number of his own wounds, including in both legs, managed to lead the patrol a half-mile through enemy territory, with wounded SEALs in tow, to an open area that would facilitate helicopter support. Gallagher then repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while coordinating helicopter attack and evacuation assets.

Wounded yet again, Gallagher continued to lead the patrol, and through his actions, facilitated their safe extraction, including all of the wounded members, each of whom survived the operation.

Platoon Commander Peterson is one of those who survived that operation, and who also wrote the citation for Gallagher’s Navy Cross, and who is still with us today. He recently recounted how Gallagher was approached about the award many years later, and the possibility of it being upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

According to Peterson, Gallagher responded by saying that “if I was not deserving of a Medal of Honor then, nothing is different now.”

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Navy SEAL Bob Gallagher, second from right, stands with members of SEAL Team TWO in My Tho, Vietnam. (SealTwo.org)

Peterson went on to recount how Gallagher, after he felt he had recovered sufficiently from his wounds received that night in the Mekong Delta, snuck out of the Naval hospital in Yokosuka, stole a navy chaplain’s uniform, and hopped a flight back to My Tho to rejoin the platoon. Gallagher would serve five total combat tours in Vietnam, according to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, and was also awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and five Purple Hearts for his actions there.

Gallagher was also a part of one of the SEAL Teams’ first Mobile Training Teams, in 1962; an early manifestation of what would later come to be known as the Foreign Internal Defense (FID) mission. In that role, as a Chief Petty Officer, he helped train the Turkish navy’s very first frogmen, and according to multiple of Gallagher’s former teammates, the man remains revered within the Turkish SEAL community to this day. They call him the “Father of the Turkish UDT,” according to one former teammate.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Navy SEAL Bob Gallagher

Rick Woolard, a former ST-2 teammate of Gallagher, and later Commanding Officer of the team, described how Gallagher acquired his nickname, “The Eagle.” According to Woolard, Gallagher’s gaze was piercing, and behind his eyes was a fierce intensity. Gallagher himself told Woolard that it was because he had unusually sharp vision, both day and night, but Woolard was sure it was more than just that.

As the SEAL community continues to lose its last few remaining Vietnam-era heroes, it is worth paying special tribute to this icon of SEAL Team TWO, and the Teams writ large. Along with Rudy Boesch, few other men stand as one of the earliest legends of the then-new unit of SEAL Team Two “devils with green faces.” Fair winds and following seas, shipmate.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper head shot

On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.


He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.

“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”

Related: This is how a military death can affect generations of families

Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.

“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.

The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.

He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.

He now shares his wisdom and life-saving resiliency lessons he learned in the Corps with all Americans via his “Veteran Calendar” and uses a portion of the proceeds to support the Semper Fi Fund, The Medal of Honor Foundation, and The PenFed Foundation.

Watch Constantine tell his incredible story in this TED Talk video:

Justin Constantine, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Jon Stewart urges congress to support burn pit veterans

“Welcome to another exciting episode of when is America gonna start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?” asked Jon Stewart in a press conference in September. He went on to remind the crowd that he’d spent the previous fifteen years trying to get Congress to support 9/11 first responders who were sick as a result of their heroism that day.

“When it was done, we thought it was done, but it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack of 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from. And they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress,” he declared.

The speech came with announced legislation that would deliver care for veterans who suffered from health problems directly related to burn pits, open air fires that were commonly used to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, “the legislation would declare certain illnesses among combat veterans as linked to toxic burn pits, removing barriers of proof of exposure that advocates have said are too high.”

As of Sept. 11, 2020, the VA claimed that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.” 

The VA does, however, acknowledge the following:

“Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes. The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.”
According to the Washington Post, U.S. contractors and military veterans destroy enormous amounts of waste, including vehicle parts, lithium-ion batteries, solvents, and amputated limbs, by soaking them in jet fuel and burning them in open-air pits, “some larger than a football field.”

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. Military uniform items turned in must be burned to ensure they cannot be used by opposing forces. Airman Gavalis is deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

In his speech, Stewart pointed out the similarities between the contamination on 9/11 and the burn pits overseas — especially the use of jet fuel as an accelerant. “Jet fuel as the accelerant at Ground Zero and jet fuel as the accelerant in these burn pits. So our veterans lived twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything. And now they’re being told, ‘Hey man, is that stuff bad for ya? I don’t know. We don’t have the science.’ It’s bullsh**. It’s bullsh**. It’s about the money.”

Hundreds of thousands of veterans are left to advocate on their own, Stewart explained, which is why he and a team of lawmakers have stepped up to demand that Congress go on record and be held accountable for their decisions in this matter.

The legislation was proposed to Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.). The measure would grant presumption of exposure to veterans with certain conditions and who served in one of 33 countries where troops were deployed after the 9/11 attacks, Gillibrand said.

The VA opened a burn pit registry which allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. Over 200,000 participants have already completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

“When was the last time you actually met the animal you ate for dinner?”

Jon Darling, a former Army Ranger and scion of a long line of farmers and restaurateurs, now runs one of the most humane livestock farms in South Carolina, where he strives to be a shepherd to the sheep he raises and to the people who eat them.


When Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Darling’s farm, he found himself in a world where things are done with purpose and uncommon care.

Though his family had always been in the food business, Darling turned to a new brotherhood after the attacks on September 11th: the Army. When he got out, he looked for peace in other places, and found it the moment he stepped on a farm.

Working with other people in that way gave him the same feeling of fraternity that being in the military did, and his interactions with the animals he raises brings him a calm sense of satisfaction as he delivers meat to restaurants with a humane guarantee.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Darling raises his sheep to live free and happy lives, and professes to feeling no fundamental conflict when it comes time for him to bring one of those lives to an end.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
(Meals Ready to Eat screenshot)

Unlike factory farming operations, which treat animals as commodities and people as thoughtless consumers, farms like Darling’s are working to reconnect people to an awareness of the sacrifice that keeps us humans at the top of the food chain. Through quiet leadership and outreach in the form of regular community dinners that center around the slaughter, preparation, and enjoyment of one of his lambs, Darling is reawakening the people he serves to the circle of life on Planet Earth.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
A gathering of conscientious diners at Darling Farm. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Darling’s community appreciates the work he does, and agrees that the animal that dies for a meal should be celebrated. That’s why they join him for meals at his farm; to celebrate the animal that nourishes them. They attribute his ability to listen, rather than just to act, to his military service.

Small farming is both Darling’s family legacy and his way of healing—but his neighbors add that his style of farming is also therapeutic for the community, and society. Knowing the animal rather than only viewing it as meat makes a difference in the level of respect given to the earth. Darling points out that his method is healthier for the animals as well as the land he uses to farm them.

Here’s hoping that sharing his story and life’s work with Dannehl and Meals Ready to Eat will help spread the good word far and wide.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Have some respect, you baaahhhd boy. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

Veterans

The Mother Teresa of recreation therapy has retired


Joyce Casey is all smiles while trying out adaptive skis at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

recreation therapy

Mom. Big sister. Teacher. Therapist. Psychologist. Friend.

Those are some of the ways Milwaukee VA recreation therapist Joyce Casey has been described.

But Dr. Ken Lee, head of the Spinal Cord Injury Center, probably had the best description: “She’s the Mother Teresa of recreation therapy,” Lee said.

But Mother Teresa has retired.

Casey, 62, who has been at the Milwaukee VA for 15 years, called it quits Feb. 26. The 62-year-old and her husband are set to become Wisconsin snowbirds starting in March.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “It’s like a family here, and I’ll miss Veterans and all the fun times we had.”

Casey broke a lot of ground at the Milwaukee VA, gaining national prominence in the push to get paralyzed Veterans up and moving through adaptive sports. She pushed them to try just about everything, from fishing to downhill skiing.

And the Veterans are glad she did.

“She’s the greatest recreation therapist I’ve met,” said Noah Currier, the founder of OscarMike, the Veteran apparel company that supports adaptive sports.

“Over a decade of being involved in the VA system and wheelchair games, I’ve met recreation therapists all over the country,” he said. “Everyone knows Joyce, and her team always does the best.”

Currier’s story – injured in a freak truck accident in the U.S. after surviving the first forays of the Gulf War, he was on the verge of suicide before discovering adaptive sports  – shows how Casey set him and many other bitter and despondent paralyzed Veterans on the road to a better life.

Joyce Casey helps a Veteran outside the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA.

“I might have been a young punk when I met her, and she did a great job of dealing with me,” Currier said. “She struck that perfect balance of patience and impatience, making me accountable and also making me excited to do things in adaptive sports.

“I’m a totally different person now. When I met her, I wasn’t involved in adaptive sports at all, and now I run an organization devoted to it. She connected me with a great group of people to help push me along the way.”

“She has touched so many Veterans’ lives,” said Erinn Kulba, a fellow recreation therapist in SCI. “You can see Veterans light up when they are around her. She’s the reason they have the ability to maintain the quality of life they want.”

Casey knew early on that helping people was one of her strong points.

During school, she spent summers working at a swimming pool where she taught swim lessons to kids and adults who had a fear of water or other problems.

“She’s been like a mom to me. She takes you under her wing, and she gets you to feel like you’re a normal person, and you learn to do things differently.”

— Veteran Randy Riek

“I would always take the heavy hitters. That didn’t bother me,” she said.

One of her jobs at the camp was providing leisure-time programming for the campers, which included organizing a talent show.

“It was just really cool,” she said. “One thing just kind of led to another, and rec therapy just seemed like a good fit.”

That led her to the University of Iowa and its recreation therapy program. While in college, she spent time in a program that helped children and young adults with self-care and also assisted at a camp for boys who stuttered.

She interned in Omaha, Neb., and worked at a number of hospitals in Nebraska, Texas and Virginia before coming to Milwaukee in 2006.

At that time, SCI was on the 10th floor of the hospital, which was not ideal.

“I hated it,” she said. “I was just dropped off on the 10th floor and had to figure it out. I didn’t even know what a handcycle was.”

But by talking with Veterans and corresponding with other recreation therapists across the country, she soon figured it out.

recreation therapy
Joyce Casey walks with a Veteran in the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center.

BraveHearts, a therapeutic horse-riding program, was her first foray for the Veterans, but others soon followed, including Guitars 4 Vets and Team River Runner.

Before long, Casey’s Veterans were involved in all manner of adaptive sports.

Those involved became a team, and the positive reactions reverberated through the community of paralyzed Vets. As more Vets became involved, they encouraged others. The outings became commonplace.

“There was a big influx (of paralyzed Veterans) at the time, from the Iraq and Afghanistan generation, and we were a difficult group to deal with,” Currier said. “She did a great job. She was more like a friend. We all looked up to her, and the way she dealt with us was pretty spectacular.”

Fellow Veteran Terrence “T-Bone” Green agreed.

“You have to have good communication skills with the guys, and she would talk to you like a big sister, a mom, a friend – sometimes a psychologist,” he said. “She knew how to talk with people.”

“She’s been like a mom to me,” said Veteran Randy Riek. “She takes you under her wing, and she gets you to feel like you’re a normal person, and you learn to do things differently.”

Blazing a trail

Casey found a kindred spirit in Lee, also a believer in adaptive sports.

“We clicked from the very get-go,” he said. “She could read my mind. Whatever needed to be done, she got it done, and it was done right.

“The Vets really benefited from her, and she started a lot of stuff at the national level. She started a movement.”

“When I think about how this program really took off, I feel like the stars were aligned,” Casey said. “Dr. Lee was very supportive and very instrumental.”

Before long, a new facility was built for SCI, which gave the recreation therapy program more resources in addition to the groups and organizations Casey connected with in the community.

“My job was just connecting the dots between the Veterans, the community and whatever that Veteran liked to do, whether it was golf, fishing or trapshooting,” she said.

Those outpatient programs blended with the work other therapists do with inpatients, because the goal of therapy is to get patients out of the hospital and back in their homes.

But keeping the Veterans active once the return home is key, Casey said.

“A big part of what we do is seeing that rehab process out in the community, so that when they get discharged, they get involved in some sort of activity, rather than go home and put on weight or make some unhealthy lifestyle choices,” she said.

Making the hard look easy

Recreation therapy is easily misunderstood, Casey said, because it looks like people out having fun. But the outings require meticulous planning, help from volunteers, and a variety of special equipment and transportation.

In addition to the logistics, the therapists have to meet the physical and mental needs of the Veterans, many of whom are doing something well outside their comfort zone.

“She has brought such awareness to spinal cord and adaptive sports. Everyone knows her as being the therapist who gets Vets up and on the move after their injuries.”

— Milwaukee VA Recreation Therapist Erinn Kulba

“You really need to know your equipment and the level of injury of your Veterans because you want to set them up to have a successful experience,” she said.

“There’s a learning curve for the Veterans… but when they get it figured out, it’s amazing. That spark comes back, and they find that little flame in their soul to pursue something that gives them enjoyment… It’s priceless.”

Kulba said Casey has taken scores of interns under her wing, and many have flourished as recreation therapists. In fact Casey is the reason Kulba became a recreation therapist.

“I volunteered in SCI 11 years ago, and after meeting the team, I decided to pursue my master’s so I could do what she does,” Kulba said.

“She has brought such awareness to spinal cord and adaptive sports. Everyone knows her as being the therapist who gets Vets up and on the move after their injuries.”

Sidelined

The COVID-19 pandemic effectively quashed all the outings the adaptive sports Veterans enjoy.

It hurt Casey as well – being cooped up in a building is not her strong suit. And she admitted the past year helped push her toward retirement.

“I can’t just sit around. I can’t,” she said. “We’ve done some virtual stuff… but it’s not the same.”

Riek agreed.

“It’s been so hard to not be able to come in and do things,” he said. “We used to tie flies, do woodworking, play bocce ball, go bowling.”

That programming will come back eventually, but Casey said the restart may be difficult.

“It’s going to take quite a bit of work, energy and creativity,” she said. “It’s doable, but it will be different, and it will take some time.”

Kulba lauded Casey for being innovative during the lockdown, using virtual interactions to keep Veterans engaged.

And she said the groundwork Casey has laid will endure.

“That will carry on well beyond my years and anyone else’s,” she said. “She has established such a strong, strong program.”

If the Veterans had their way, Casey wouldn’t be going anywhere.

“We’re going to kidnap her and chain her to the deck,” Green joked. “If they can clone her, then it’s fine. But she will leave some really big shoes to fill – bigger than Shaq’s.

“She’s a saint. Joyce is the pin that holds everything together. It hurts that she’s leaving. The bottom line is you cannot replace Joyce.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Currier said. “I’m happy she gets to retire, but nobody can replace her.”

Her colleagues feel the same.

“I’m so sad to see her go,” Lee said. “She is truly the heartbeat of recreation therapy.”

To view a slideshow tribute to Casey, click here.

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

Articles

World War II vet gets awesome 99th birthday present

Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was wounded in action. But he never lost a love for aviation, also serving in the Air Force and as an airplane mechanic in his civilian life.


How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard (Youtube screenshot)

So, for his 99th birthday, one friend decided to pick up the former Marine’s spirits after Leonard became a widower and moved to the Phoenix area, Fox10Phoenix.com reported.

What was selected for that task was another World War II veteran — a restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.

How this Army veteran went from helicopter repair to the tech sector
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In a day and age where we lose 492 World War II veterans a day, according to the National World War II Museum, those few remaining are a link to the heroic history of that conflict.

The same can be said for the planes. In this case, one World War II vet was able to give another one a brief pick-me up.

Here is Fox10Phoenix’s report on Staff Sgt. Leonard’s flight:

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