This is how the 'missing man formation' honors fallen pilots - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

The first time I witnessed a ‘missing man formation’ was at the funeral of my grandfather, who flew the B-25 Mitchell during World War II. After his service in the Army Air Corps, he became a commercial pilot for TWA and then ventured into private flight. He died in an airplane crash at the age of 74 and my family gathered with his aviation community at Santa Paula Airport for his memorial.

At the ceremony, we looked to the sky as a group of planes from the Condor Squadron flew overhead. One of the planes banked away, leaving an empty space in the formation.

The symbolism was not lost on me.


This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing conduct a missing man formation flyover during the POW/MIA ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne)

It’s a powerful visual, and a traditional salute to military aviators.

The “missing man formation” has evolved throughout history, but today, there are two main variations.

The first is the one held at my grandfather’s memorial: a group of planes roars low overhead, then one pulls up spectacularly from the rest, leaving his or her space in the formation empty to represent the fallen pilot.

In the second, the flight takes off entirely without the missing pilot — this formation is less common. Depending on the flight, the pilot’s actual space where he would have flown may be left empty; otherwise, it is most common for the ‘missing man’ to fly the second element leader’s position, whether in a finger-four formation (a “V” with the left leg longer than the right) or, as the Thunderbirds perform it in the video below, a six-aircraft flight.

Also read: Here’s what every fighter pilot remembers about their first mission

The “missing man formation” has always held a special place in my heart, perhaps because flight, for me, feels synonymous with freedom. The notion that a pilot might slip “the surly bonds of earth” for the final time is one that brings me comfort, and therefore saying goodbye to those who love the “vastness of the sky” in this way is a bittersweet moment.

Watch the video below to see a “missing man formation” in action:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL’s most generous legend gives homeless veterans a new life

1977 was a big year for Chicago’s Walter Payton. After two years in the NFL, he was the league’s leading rusher and was selected to play in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. His on-the-field performance turned the struggling Bears franchise around, but his off-the-field performance would earn him the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, an honor that would later bear his name.


Throughout his 13-year career, Payton was an exceptional member of his team, the example by which all team members should follow – in any kind of group, setting, or sport. He only missed one game in that entire span and, despite being the league’s premier running back, he was able to do anything the team asked of him, throwing eight touchdown passes and even setting a game rushing record with a 101-degree fever.

Heck, he wanted to kick,” Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka told ESPN. “We wouldn’t let him kick.”
This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.

(NFL)

But it wasn’t his football performance that prompted the NFL to name its prestigious award after him. What he did in his spare time left a legacy of humanitarianism and generosity that prompts NFL players to use their high earnings to good works within their local communities to this day.

As a young black man in Mississippi, Payton helped integrate his local high school and its football team. From there, he would go on to play at tiny Jackson State University, but his determination at running back caught the NFL’s eye, earning him his spot in the 1975 NFL draft. He didn’t make waves in his first season with the Bears, but he would soon be one Chicago’s — and professional football’s — most legendary athletes.

He founded the Walter Connie Payton Foundation to give back to the city that gave him so much. Though Payton died of a rare liver disorder that led to bile duct cancer, his legacy lives on through his foundation.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Walter Payton with beneficiaries of his foundation’s support.

What began as an effort to help Chicago’s children now includes Chicago’s homeless veteran population. The foundation works with the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community in providing veterans with everything they need to live with dignity and pride.

Concord Place Assisted Living is a 55-and-older community, but homeless veterans can live there thanks to Walter and Connie Payton’s foundation. The new homes include food, health care, and physical activities. It keeps them off the cold streets of Chicago while offering them a chance to build new lives. The project is so close to the foundation’s heart that 100 percent of donations for vets will go to the project.

The foundation is now run by Payton’s widow, Connie, to whom he was married for 23 years.

I had no idea how many veterans had no place to go,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They serve us knowing there might be a chance that they’ll never come home. … I wanted to find a way to do something to help.”

They turned the entire 15th floor of the assisted living community into veteran housing. A mere ,500 funds a room for a vet, complete with bed, TV, food, health care – the works. Once the 15th floor was filled, they started on the 14th. The foundation continues to fund the rooms using its other charitable works.

[Walter] was a kind, genuine person, and the foundation was important to him,” Payton said. “We always felt that when you’ve been blessed, why not learn to give back to other people and bless them, and hopefully someday they can bless someone else.
This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Walter and Connie Payton Foundation President Connie Payton oversee the renovation of the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community.

(WLS ABC 7 Chicago)

Today, the NFL’s Man of the Year Award is named for Payton, honoring players who display Walter Payton-level excellence in every aspect of their lives. The award for 2017 went to the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, an outstanding defender who raised million for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The frontrunners for the 2018 award are the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Robbie Gould of the San Francisco 49ers.

Veterans

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Michael Whittaker joined the military in July 1982 through the delayed entry program. He served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years, including 16 active and eight years in the Ready Reserve. Today, he lives with Multiple Sclerosis.

Michael Whittaker while serving in the US Navy
Michael Whittaker while serving in the US Navy

The following was written by Whitaker:

I remember a moment where an enemy was in sight during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and my fingers became numb. It felt like I had frostbite. I reported what happened to the physician, but he couldn’t find anything wrong. When I returned to the US, I had a series of tests and they figured it out. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2006.

When I was diagnosed with MS, I knew nothing about the disease. While I was extremely active before I had MS, my activities diminished as MS started to change my body. Before MS, I felt there were no barriers to what I could do.

Getting Diagnosed with MS

With MS, I found myself having a pity party and I stopped participating in the things I loved. It didn’t help that I pushed my family and friends away following my diagnosis. Everyone seemed to have a suggestion on what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I didn’t want to hear people’s home remedies, that they “understood” what I was going through, or that I could still do so much even though I had MS. It wasn’t until I became affiliated with VA’s spinal cord injury program that my outlook started to improve.

Getting Help

I joined an MS support group where I could talk about what I was feeling and experiencing. MS symptoms are different for everyone, but members of the group understand and can relate to how I feel. They understood not just about living with MS, but about serving in the military and dealing with the PTSD I was diagnosed with. Talking with others helped me to look at things as achievable.

Veteran Michael Whittaker competes in VA Adaptive Sports Tee Tournament.
Veteran Michael Whittaker competes in VA Adaptive Sports Tee Tournament.

I found that I didn’t have excuses not to do things, I just had to do them differently. I discovered adaptive sports through VA: riding a bike, golfing, air gun shooting and sailing were now things that I could do again. I even took some cooking classes at my local VA. In September 2019, I attended the National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, with about 400 other Veterans. It was amazing to see so many Veterans together, competing in sports and making the most out of life.

While my diagnosis of MS was difficult to accept, I’ve now educated myself about the disease and feel prepared to take on anything that comes my way. Whenever I tell my providers that I can’t do something, they don’t accept the excuses. They help me to break down barriers that MS has caused, or that I’ve created myself. Everyone is dealing with changes and difficulties in life, and I’ve learned that adapting is the best way to move forward.

Accepting the Challenges and Changes

I’ve also learned the importance of communicating, not just with family, friends and my healthcare team, but with others going through the same thing. MS has changed me. There are days that I miss my military lifestyle, but I’ve learned that I’m not that guy anymore and that’s okay. Life changes us. I feel I can lift my head high now because of all the amazing staff, nurses and doctors at the Long Beach, CA VA medical facility who have helped me.

Visit VA’s website https://www.va.gov/ms/ for information on Multiple Sclerosis (MS), VA services, benefits and MS resources.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A once-homeless Navy veteran is in the Maxim Cover Girl contest to help vets and at-risk youth

Janae Sergio came into the idea of joining the military a little differently than the rest of us. Homeless since the age of 15, she happened to meet a Navy recruiter through a friend. Being a sailor was not something she ever saw herself doing, but the decision changed her life. Now she’s looking to help others avoid similar situations.

For Sergio, it’s not just about winning a Maxim cover contest, it’s the next step in helping at-risk youth find a better path — and you can help her advance to the next rounds by voting for her on the Maxim Cover Girl contest site.


These days, Janae has a full life, working for the federal government and managing a $5 billion budget for U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet maintenance. She has a husband and two children. Her life sounds a lot like many veterans’ lives, and it is. All that changed a little bit when she became Insta-famous, the kind of fame achieved through having many, many followers on Instagram.

Her fame came as a total shock. She was only on the app to make sure it was safe for her daughter. The next thing Janae Sergio knows, she has 30,000-plus followers and is gaining more every day. When she found out about the Maxim Cover Girl contest, it seemed very far from possible.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Janae and the Sergio family at their home in Hawai’i.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

“Some of these girls, they dedicate their lives to their physical appearance and I haven’t had that option,” she says. “I’ve been busy working. So I was like, you know what, let me just put my name in the hat and see what happens… and it’s been like this huge whirlwind.”
This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Sergio began her adult life at a little bit more of a disadvantage than most of us. Between the ages of 15 and 18, she lived on the streets of Los Angeles. She credits her Christian faith with keeping her from the all-too-common trappings of many women forced to survive the streets. She never fell into drugs or prostitution to survive. She turned to the strict, structured life of homeless shelters.

“At the time, I didn’t realize it, but there were a few people on the streets who were homeless as well, who felt kind of protective of me because I was just this tiny little, naive, pretty girl,” Sergio says. “You’re just trying to live day to day and you don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know whether the situations you’re in are good or bad, you’re just trying to survive.”
This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

One day, it all changed. Through a friend, she met a Navy recruiter. A few of her friends had joined, but she wasn’t really the type of girl, so she thought, to join the Navy. Still, it ended up capturing her attention for the same reasons as many others; a new career, the possibility for travel, and, of course, that reliable paycheck. But she didn’t even have a high school diploma yet. When she decided to join, she was able to make her case to the Navy, who accepted her. She could get her diploma later.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Janae Sergio took to the Navy very well. Basic Training life wasn’t so bad for her. She was used to a rigid living structure after three years of homeless shelters— only in the Navy, she didn’t have to cook for herself. She spent eight years in the Navy, joining in 2000 and sticking around for the post-9/11 era.

She’s worked very hard all her life, often doing more than one thing at a timein order to make the best of the situations she’s in. While she was in the service, notonly did shereceiveher diploma,she also earned a Bachelor’s in Business Management. She got married, had a baby, and lived the life of a sailor, deploying to sea twice in her career.

“I feel like once you have been at the bottom, rock bottom, you know what it’s like to be there and you don’t ever want to go back there,” she says. “You know what I mean?”

Then, one day, she accidentally became an Instagram model.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The thing for Sergio is that she can’t just be a visible person with a huge following and not do something responsible with that kind of fame. She now coaches service members who achieve similar Insta-fame and wants to use her popularity to do good things. That’s why the Maxim Cover Girl contest is important to her.

“It’s not so much about the photo or the magazine,” Sergio says. “I’m actually still a little nervous about that. The Maxim contest has this thing called “Warrior Votes,” where you vote for a small payment. That donation goes to the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. I wasn’t a homeless veteran but I was homeless and then the Navy changed my life. So I thought, what better thing for me to get involved with so that I could share my story on a grand level and really inspire people in the masses.”
This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The Maxim cover competition also comes with a ,000 prize which Sergio plans to put to good use as well. First, another issue close to her heart is helping at-risk youth in Hawai’i, giving part of that prize to a local organization called Hale Kipa. Second on her mind is, of course, helping veterans and their families through some of the hardest times of their lives. For that, she wants to donate to the Fisher House Foundation, who provide housing and food to loved ones of military and veterans to stay close to their wounded or sick troop as he or she recovers.

“I always encourage people, if they want to give back to the homeless, to do it in their community. So I found [an organization] that was local,” she says. “And the Fisher Houses are a really cool cause that gives families an opportunity to stay together during treatment. And so I love that.”

You can vote for Janae while helping homeless veterans find housing through the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. When she wins, you can feel good about being part of an effort to get young Hawaiian children off the streets and keep a roof over the heads of the families of America’s wounded warriors.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 veteran qualities that civilian employers go crazy over

When it’s time for troops to hang up their uniform for the last time and go pick up that beautiful DD-214, they’re subjected to countless classes on how to adapt in the civilian world and use the strengths they’ve picked up in the military to give themselves a leg up in a competitive civilian marketplace.

Troops who had more POGy jobs in the military may have an easier time making the transition. If you worked in the commo shop, there’s countless IT desks out there you can apply for. Flight-line mechanics can make bank working for airlines. But even combat arms guys aren’t limited to positions as security guards or fast-food workers, no matter how many times the retention NCO tells you so.


The fact is, any good soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman who fit perfectly in the formation comes away from service with valuable skills that employers look for in potential employees. Here are a few qualities that veterans have had drilled into them every day since basic training that help them stand out over most civilian competitors.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

We’ve mastered the art of “hurry up and wait,” so showing up early and killing idle time is no problem.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The 15-minutes-prior schedule

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re fourteen minutes early, you’re still late. Civilians tend to pull some excuse that explains why it’s definitely not their fault that they’re arriving at 10:05 for a 10 a.m. meeting.

That fifteen-minute buffer works wonders with the way most civilians schedule things. The higher up in an organization you go, the more promptly meetings tend to start. If you’ve been ready for 15 minutes already, nobody will end up waiting on you. You’re set.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

You’ll never find a more open and, uh, “creative” conversation than those held at a deployed smoke pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Blunt honesty

We’ve seen it happen a million times: Someone throws out an awful suggestion and it’s met with agreeable silence. Everyone is too afraid to speak up because their reputation is on the line for speaking out of turn. Then, out of the corner, a veteran speaks up and says, “well that’s dumb. Why the f*ck would we do that?”

If there’s one thing that sets a veteran apart in a board room it’s their ability to avoid being a yes man. It may ruffle the feathers of people who expect everyone to nod along, but at the very least, it moves the meter.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

If you thought vets couldn’t also handle useless and drawn-out PowerPoint presentations, think again!

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alfonso Corral)

No aversion to manual labor

Veterans can safely celebrate the fact that when they get a new job, if something comes up that’s not in the job description, it’s not expected of them. That’s right: if you’re now an office drone working some cubicle job, no one will randomly get on your ass for not cleaning the break room.

Sometimes, however, things just need to get done. Using that same example, an entire day could go by in a civilian office and people will simply walk by that messy break room thinking, “it’s not my responsibility.” Most vets, on the other hand, would instinctively clean it up without giving it a second thought.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

The same goes the other way around. Knowing who does the leg work in an organization makes a leader’s work a million times easier.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Acknowledgement of hierarchy

Things are nice and easy when everyone wears their rank on their uniform. You can instantly look at their insignia and recognize where they stand in the chain of command — no questions asked. That simple insignia tells the world what is expected of you, in accordance with your rank.

The civilian workplace doesn’t really have those kinds of markings — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pecking order. Vets just need to know who’s in charge of them and who’s in charge of the people in charge and they’re set.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Sometimes, leading from the front means letting a subordinate take the spotlight. That’s surprisingly rare in the civilian world.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Parks)

Willingness to take a leadership position

Everyone wants the bigger job, bigger desk, bigger pay check, but too few people are willing to exit their comfort zone to get it. They’ll whine about that one guy getting an extra zero in his paycheck but slink at any opportunity to prove their worth.

Vets, on the other hand, will usually take it upon themselves to organize their coworkers if they see a lack of leadership and make themselves the face of their team without even realizing it. Willingly taking on that leadership role proves to the company that the vet is serious and values the company. This almost always gives that vet more firepower when it comes time to shoot for a raise.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

The ever-looming glare of a drill sergeant never leaves the back of your mind. Ever.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Separation of work life and personal life

Keeping what’s going on in your personal life from affecting your work life is a difficult skill to master. It’s a beyond-useful talent to be able to set aside any personal problems when it’s time to get serious and work. The other part of this equation is not letting personal drama bleed into getting the mission done.

Troops and vets have been constantly cattle prodded into moving forward and to quit whining about unrelated stuff. This is second nature.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

There’s no gray area in “until mission complete.” Either it’s impossible or it’ll be done by lunch time.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. David W. Cline)

The mission-first mentality

If there’s a single quality that civilian employers can expect from nearly every veteran, it’s that veterans will always be task-oriented. They’ll see a checklist as a thing to complete rather than a thing to dread.

From the moment troops enlist, they’re taught to juggle roughly seven thousand different tasks inherent to military life, in addition to those associated with their given MOS. There’s a job to be done, so let’s get to it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These old school vets work to help the next generation with PTSD

Monty Hutson knows a little something about post-traumatic stress. Hutson served in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne, and while he was in, he studied language patterns and hypnosis in order to better communicate with others. By the time he got out, he was starting to develop his own method of helping veterans deal with the psychological demands of military service. Now, with his non-profit, For Veterans Sake, he is able to take his efforts even further for a new generation of veterans.


The newest division of For Veterans Sake is its service dog division. It’s well-known to many by now that man’s best friend is one of the veteran’s most powerful guides on the road to post-traumatic stress recovery. Monty Hutson not only recognized this too, he added it to his non-profit.

For Veterans Sake pairs a veteran up with a dog, then specially trains the animal to respond to the unique needs of the veteran. The vet will train the service dog, who will be able to recognize the scent of a veteran who is being triggered and often responds to the veteran’s need before the vet even knows what’s happening. Best of all, For Veterans Sake uses many, many dogs from shelters and kennels, giving the animal a purpose and a much-needed and much-appreciated pal for life.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

Hutson and his service dog.

Monty Hutson is uniquely poised to help our nation’s newest generation of veterans with not just PTS, but what he calls “the Military Condition” – a unique and demanding lifestyle that starts with your recruiter and continues through our time in service. For this and PTS, he developed a unique treatment called Neuro-Traumatic Resourcing (Non-Therapeutic). For Veterans Sake is founded on dealing with both PTS and the Military Condition and helping veterans improve their quality of life.

The help (of dogs) Hutson and For Veterans Sake offer American veterans is free of charge. But his organization, like every non-profit, runs on donations. Check out what Monty Hutson is doing for his fellow vets and maybe drop by his donation page and send him what you can spare. Remember, you’re also rescuing dogs – how can you go wrong?

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing Microsoft training is the key to the ultimate post-military tech career

The military of today looks very different from the military of parents or grandparents. Many of us veterans will go into high-tech training on things like satellites, avionics, or even automated weapons. Military careers with a technical background are a great starting point for a post-military career.


“Veterans and transitioning service members are an amazing talent pool,” says General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Military Affairs at Microsoft. “You have a group of amazing young men and women who have served their country, put their organization above themselves, and come with unique skills and sense of discipline.”

“From a great career in the military, we want them to have the opportunity to go into another great career in the technology industry,” Cortez says.

But what if you didn’t happen to work in a technical field?

Much of the warfighting capability of U.S. armed forces still depend on door-kickers and trigger-pullers. A noble job, but it doesn’t always have a civilian equivalent. And then there are the military careers we take for granted: the plumbers, boatswain’s mates, and undesignated airmen (and others) that may not want to continue those careers after serving.

We live in the information age, in a digital word, where tech jobs are the holy grail of well-paying careers. Sometimes it seems like getting to work in tech after the military means coding your own app and moving to Silicon Valley.

Or maybe check out what Microsoft is doing for the military-veteran community.

Edgar Sanchez joined the Army at 32 and while he was at the base education office, he learned about Microsoft Software Systems Academy, or MSSA. The program is an intense 18-week training course that gives aspiring vets a background in Information Technology systems.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

In a world full of shady dealers who will tell you anything to get a piece of your GI Bill benefits, isn’t the idea of Microsoft directly teaching you things like cloud application development, server cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, and database business intelligence administration a bit comforting?

Best of all, finishing the course gets you a job interview at Microsoft. But don’t worry if you don’t get that job. More than 240 companies have hired MSSA graduates. The program has a 94 percent employment rate.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Sanchez describes his transition from the U.S Army to a civilian career. (YouTube screenshot)

“Why not bring the technology industry’s skills gap and thousands of transitioning service members together?” Cortez asks. “Why not fill this need in technology by training people that are interested, that are leaving active duty, and preparing them for those jobs?”

A thought that would be comforting when it’s time to think about leaving the military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

The military is a breeding ground for excellence. You have to be a cut — or two — above the rest to make it through those doors and the wringer doesn’t stop until you are appropriately Blue, Green, or Marine.


It is no surprise that some of those excellent members turned out to be some of the all-time great athletes. Check out some of the best to ever step on the field of competition before, after, and sometimes during service to their country.

Related: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

7. Bernard James – United States Air Force

James served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2008 as a security forces member, HUA. James would separate from service to eventually attend and play ball for Florida State. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the youngest veteran on this list at 32.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Bernard James in warm-ups. A long way from the front gate. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Elgin Baylor – Army Reserves

Baylor joined U.S. Army Reserves during his Hall of Fame career. At the time, Baylor was one of the premier players in the early days of the NBA. He was called to active duty during the 1962 season, having to bounce from duty to game and back throughout the course of the season. Baylor is a Hall of Fame inductee and a stylistic predecessor to many of today’s players.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Elgin Baylor. He was basically MJ before MJ… seriously. (Image from Alchteron.com)

5. Alejandro Villanueva – Army

Villanueva attended West Point and received a commission in the U.S. Army in 2010. He would initially go undrafted before eventually finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. In the space between, Villanueva served his country as a U.S. Army Ranger and notched a few tours in the Middle East under his belt. His journey has come full circle, as he made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2017.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Alejandro Villanueva post-game with Steelers in 2015. From Army Ranger to NFL O-line. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. Willie Mays – Army

Mays was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He would miss two seasons while serving his country. He would return to the MLB with the San Francisco Giants in 1954 and promptly liter the record books with his name. Mays would go on to make every All-Star game until retirement in 1973.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
A 1951 Bowman of Willie Mays. Just a year before serving in the Korean War. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Nolan Ryan – Army Reserves

Ryan holds the MLB record for strikeouts — nearly 1,000 strikeouts ahead of the number 2 guy — and no-hitters. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1967.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Nolan Ryan after opening up a can of whoop *ss. (Image from BeyondTheBoxScore.com)

2. Randy Couture – Army

Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988. He attained the rank of sergeant before separating to pursue other endeavors. He went on to become an Olympic team alternate three times as a Greco-Roman wrestler before going on to UFC fame.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Former UFC champion Randy Couture spent the afternoon with the Army Marksmanship Unit seeing what the AMU does and getting to know the troops April 17. (Photo from Ft. Benning)

Related: 7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

1. Brandon Vera – United States Air Force

Vera enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1990’s after deciding college wasn’t the route for him. He trained with the Air Force wrestling team before injuring his arm and eventually being medically discharged from service.

Vera went on to rehab himself and make it to the UFC where he has a professional record of 15 and 7.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Brandon Vera landing a front kick during UFC 164. (Image from MMA Mania)

Articles

A personal memorial to a lost friend and SEAL on this Veterans Day

The world knew Rob Guzzo as an elite SEAL; a  wonderful father; a talented actor; an ambitious student; and a skilled athlete.


But to me, he was all these things and so much more.

Unfortunately the world lost Rob Nov. 12, 2012 — a man who  succumbed to the wounds that many do not see but are often more painful than those that bleed and scar.

Even in the midst of his pain, Rob made others happy. It was hard to know Rob’s struggle because you likely wouldn’t see it unless you knew him well or caught him in a moment he was talking about it.

But this is how I remember Rob Guzzo, and the man I had the honor to get to know and have in my life.

Rob made everyone smile.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
(Courtesy Rob Guzzo Facebook memorial page)

Rob was the guy who was always smiling. Whether he was dressing up as a Teletubby, Irishman, or making a singing lessons video, Rob did anything to get a smile out of those around him. You simply couldn’t be around Rob and not smile. He would do goofy things to make people laugh and have a little fun.

Rob was a go-getter and driven.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots

This is a given, since we all know being a SEAL is no easy feat. Not only was Rob a SEAL, but he was in school to get his masters in addition to pursuing an acting career. He took his craft of acting seriously, and it was obvious he had the talent to soar. Rob was an inspiration to those around him, setting the example to go after your dreams.

Rob was an animal lover.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
(Photo courtesy Guzzo family)

He loved his dog Sammi. He treated this dog like a princess. The depth of his love could be seen in the way he cared for Sammi and how he treated her.

He was protective of those he loved.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
(Photo courtesy Rob Guzzo memorial Facebook page)

Rob would make sure I was OK if anyone bothered me, even if it was something that wasn’t a big deal. He did the same for others around him. He would make sure those he cared about were ok, even when he wasn’t.  

He was loving and sensitive more than he let on.

Rob had a wonderful, giving heart. Sometimes he put up emotional barriers, so the full extend of his loving and sensitive side wasn’t always seen. But it’s who he was. When he did open up, he was one of the most loving and emotionally aware people I knew. It was an honor to get to know the deeper side of Rob, and I will always cherish that I got to see how deep he truly was.

Rob loved his family.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Rob with his daughter Jena Mae. (Photo courtesy Guzzo family)

Rob spoke about his mom often, and when his daughter, Jena Mae, was born, it was obvious he loved this beautiful little girl that was his twin. He also loved his military family, and you could tell in the way he talked about Marc Lee that he would have given anything for his family.

He made the world brighter.

Whether Rob was out partying, on set, with people he didn’t know or his best friends and family, he was a ray of light. No matter what Rob did, he was a ray of sunshine. His smile and personality lit up any room or environment.

The world might have lost Rob Guzzo, but it didn’t lose his memory.

These are just a few things I remember and cherish about Rob. He forever impacted my life, and he is impacting many others through his story. He is still giving back even after he has left this Earth.

Let Rob’s passing remind us that even when our brothers and sisters bring us so much sunshine, they may be fighting battles we do not see. Check on each other — even in the times that seem great.

You might not know when your buddy is drowning, and one small act of friendship and brotherhood can be the thing that saves them.

Rob’s story will be featured on “The Warfighters,” a marathon event airing Veterans Day on the History Channel. Tune in to honor this amazing man and learn more about who he was.

Rob was beyond a SEAL, and his impact will go well beyond the time we got to have him here with us.

You can also honor Rob Guzzo through a donation for The Rob Guzzo Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Plaque.

Donna Callaway is an Associate Producer and on-camera host at We Are The Mighty. She served in the Marine Corps as a logistician.

Articles

7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Veterans preference can help boost your VA application

You’ve probably come across the term “Veterans preference” at some point during your job search. But what does that mean exactly — and how can it help you land a job at VA?

Veterans preference means that, as a Veteran, you may move ahead of non-Veterans in the federal hiring process. Veterans who qualify for disability receive greater preference.

“Approximately 40% of our employees hold Veteran status, so we’re really proud of that fact and we encourage Veterans to apply,” said Dave Aragon, VA recruitment consultant, in a video on applying to VA.

However, Veterans preference is not a guarantee you’ll be hired. There are other groups — like military spouses and returning Peace Corps volunteers — who also receive preference for federal jobs. In addition, some jobs are open only to current federal employees.


Getting in the door

Because there are so many applicants – including other Veterans, for VA jobs – make sure you apply for jobs that are the best match for your skills.

“There are millions of Veterans in the U.S. and many of them want to work at VA, so there is a lot of competition for these jobs. You have the best chance of success if you apply for a job for which you are highly qualified,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA recruitment marketing.

If most or all of your work experience is in the military, you may not feel you are highly qualified right out of the gate.

“One difficult thing for Veterans is to convert valuable military skills into those valued in the private sector as well,” Sherrard wrote in a blog post. “I encourage everyone to take the same winning steps and attitude that made us successful as warriors and apply them into our daily lives and our job searches.”

With a combination of a military health background and Veterans preference, there are a number of positions at VA for which you could meet the requirements straight out of the military.

Learn about these civilian careers — like intermediate care technicians (ICTs) or nursing assistants — through our Transitioning Military Personnel initiative. This program connects former service members with civilian careers at VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care organization.

But what if you don’t have military health experience? Consider applying for support service positions, such as housekeeper, transportation clerk or engineering technician. Veterans preference commonly gives you a boost in applying for one of these jobs.

Continue your education

Once you’re in the door, we’ll help you acquire the skills and training that you need to grow in any direction you want.

We offer several scholarships that can help you begin or continue your health care education without piling up debt, as well as the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) that pays your full salary and up to ,117 toward the cost of higher education.

Some VA medical centers pay for courses from nearby colleges and universities, while the VA Talent Management System provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and training. Mentoring and on-the-job training are also baked into our DNA.

Work at VA

Interested in a future helping your fellow Veterans? Use your Veteran status to secure a VA career.

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

Articles

VP welcomes Honor Flight vets to the White House

Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.


The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.

The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, hosted the approximately 200 guests today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.

The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.

The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.

Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.

Debt of Honor and Gratitude

The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.

“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.

“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Call of Duty has a nonprofit that helps veterans in a big way

Call of Duty is one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises in the world. Starting with World War II scenarios, this video game franchise has honored those who fought for freedom and against evil-doers for over a decade.


What you may not have known is that there is also a Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to support non-profits that are effective at helping the real-life heroes who have served make the transition from military life to civilian life. Yesterday, that endowment gave three such charities its Seal of Distinction, and announced plans to expand its recognition to charities in the United Kingdom.

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Founder/Co-Chairman of the Call of Duty Endowment. (Call of Duty Endowment photo)

The first charity recognized by the Endowment was Goodwill Southern California. In 2016, they placed 752 veterans in civilian jobs at a cost of $1,022 per placement, while still providing job placement, work experience, education, and training.

Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region was also honored by the Endowment for their Military and Veteran Services team’s ability to place 208 veterans into jobs at a cost of $1,076 per placement. This charity provides “individualized, holistic plans to help each participant succeed with the goal of achieving career placement, retention, and long-term financial education and stability.”

This is how the ‘missing man formation’ honors fallen pilots
(Image of Call of Duty Modern Warfare remastered. Video Game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision)

The third charity honored was Houston-based NextOp, Inc. Since its founding in March 2015, it has placed over 1,000 vets at a cost of $1,599 per placement. This charity specializes in placing “middle-enlisted military leaders” into industrial careers in the Houston region.

The charities supported by the Call of Duty Endowment have a strong record of delivering results. According to the endowment’s web site, the average cost per placement is less than $619, while the federal government spends almost $3,100. The average salary for the vets placed by charities supported by the endowment is $57,000, compared to just over $30,000 for those placed via government programs. The endowment has placed over 37,000 veterans into jobs since 2009.

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