Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

Sgt. Matt Abbate once said being a Marine was the only thing he had ever been good at.

More than good, most recall the scout sniper as a legend. His fellow Marines refer to him as “a physical animal and natural leader with a killer instinct and devilish grin,” the “perfect Marine … built like a brick shithouse,” and a person who could “instantly touch someone’s life.” Maj. Thomas Schueman, who was a platoon commander in the company he supported, describes Abbate as a “modern-day Achilles.” 

Abbate belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (3/5), which was sent to the Taliban hotbed of the Sangin district, located along a belt of verdant opium fields in southern Afghanistan’s arid Helmand province, in fall 2010.

For months, 3/5 took a highly kinetic fight to their entrenched, emboldened, and deadly enemy. By April 2011, the battalion had pushed the Taliban back, and elements of civil society returned to the district.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Abbate identifies a target in Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. Photo courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

Progress came at the devastating expense of 25 Marines dead and more than 180 wounded. Among the 25 was Abbate, who died Dec. 2, 2010.

To honor Abbate’s legacy, an all-volunteer team of civilians and veterans, including over half a dozen Marines from 3/5’s Sangin deployment, is creating a virtual and physical community where every veteran can find purpose and connection. 

Schueman, who may be better known by his @kill.z0n3 Instagram handle, is the president of Patrol Base Abbate, which he founded in November 2020. In an interview with Coffee or Die Magazine, he explained how the 501(c)(3) nonprofit will fill veterans’ need for connection, and how the memory of Abbate inspires what he expects will become the nation’s largest veteran organization. 

A NEED FOR SOMETHING NEW

After Schueman returned from his Sangin deployment in 2011, he “noticed a lot of [his] Marines were struggling with transition” to civilian life. He only began understanding those difficulties himself while studying veteran trauma narratives at Georgetown University in 2018.

By 2020, the idea for PB Abbate was underway, inspired by the work of Dr. Jonathan Shay, a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist who found veterans undergo the most healing when they are in community with one another. 

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
“[Veterans] can say ‘this belongs to me,’” Schueman says of Patrol Base Abbate. Photo courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

During the same year, Schueman lost one Marine from 3/5, and two Marines from his time as a company commander, to suicide. As he looked into available resources for veterans, Schueman discovered “there was a ton of really great stuff for our special forces, or our wounded,” but “not so much … for people who just served.” 

Suicide, however, was an issue that affected veterans regardless of whether they saw combat, or experienced trauma. A time when they particularly needed support was during transition, when veterans were five times more likely to consider suicide.

Veterans were missing their community, Schueman believed, and PB Abbate would become a place where all veterans and transitioning service members could build the connections and strong bonds of trust they experienced during their service.

THE PB ABBATE MODEL

First, Schueman wanted veterans to have a physical space they could “claim as [their] own.” That space is the patrol base, a sparse cabin on a plot of land donated by a 3/5 veteran in rugged and picturesque Thompson Falls, Montana.

A place for veterans to “rest and refit,” PB Abbate will host small groups of veterans who sign up for the organization’s online, interest-based clubs. At four initial retreats during summer 2021, veterans chosen by random lottery will build up the patrol base and delve into their interests with support from subject matter experts.

Because PB Abbate cannot physically host every member, it was important to create an online component, where Schueman said, “veterans [can] connect any time, day or night, no matter where” they are.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
The cabin where PB Abbate retreat attendees will gather. If you’re chosen for a retreat, the team advises that you come prepared to “fill a sandbag.” Photo courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

On message boards within the PB Abbate website, veterans can join a fight, gun, strength, or book club to discuss their favorite pursuits. The book club, for instance, is currently reading Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

The final component of PB Abbate is a series of countrywide local and regional chapters, with initial hubs in Texas and New York. While he hopes these chapters will be platforms for social bonding, Schueman also expects PB Abbate members to serve their communities to “shift the narrative around veterans as people who are waiting for handouts, who are victims, when instead we are people of action who continue to serve.”

With several hundred veterans currently involved, PB Abbate expects to see growth in coming months as the group forms relationships with local veteran organizations around the country and propels its message throughout the community with the help of veteran social media influencers. As quickly as standard operating procedures and capable leaders are identified, the organization will expand to additional cities and regions and increase the number of online clubs it offers.

PB Abbate’s clubs, retreats, and regional chapters are free of cost, and open to all veterans. No matter how you served, Schueman emphasized, “You rate our services. You rate this community.”

Schueman said the organization is “already fulfilling its mission” by bringing a powerful sense of “healing and restoration and connection and community” to the 3/5 Marines involved.

In their actions, Abbate’s humble, relentless spirit lives on.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Sgt. Matt Abbate in Sangin, left. On the top right, Abbate’s Rules of War: “1. Young warriors die. 2. You cannot change Rule #1. 3. Someone must walk the point.” On the bottom right, from Abbate’s gunfighting commandments: “Nothing matters more than thy brethren to thy left and right … thou shall protect no matter what.” Photos courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

FOLLOWING SGT. MATT ABBATE

Matt Abbate is remembered for his spirited retellings of “hellasick” gunfights. He is infamous for the “gunfighting commandments” and “rules of war” he scrawled on the walls of a Sangin patrol base. 

On the battlefield, Abbate was fearless. On Oct. 14, 2010, Taliban gunfire drew a patrol into a Sangin minefield where improvised explosive devices wounded four Marines, including the patrol leader. Abbate took charge, exposing himself to enemy gunfire, and directed fellow Marines’ fire while sweeping the minefield to secure a landing zone for an incoming medical evacuation helicopter. For his actions, Abbate was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

Never stingy with his extraordinary skills, Abbate was quick to mentor and help other Marines.

“It didn’t matter who you were,” Schueman said, Abbate would “give you time.” Like its namesake, PB Abbate will “recognize the value in everybody.”

As the team builds an organization befitting his legacy, in Big Sky Country, the spirit of Matt Abbate is a bright, blazing beacon for all veterans looking to rediscover their purpose and get back to the fight.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the ways to lose the “once a Marine, always a Marine” status

You see and hear this term all the time: “former Marine.” And, wherever you see it, you’ll also see Marines telling you (and everyone else) why we hate it. Sure, there are a few folks out there who agree with it, but those of us who hold the title near and dear to our hearts will tell you a different story.

In my opinion, there’s a damned good reason for the expression, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Others disagree.


To be fair, this is not a mentality exclusive to Marines. Just because you “get out” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marine, soldier, airman, coast guardsman, etc. You don’t just instantly forget everything you’ve learned and experienced over the past few years once you get your DD-214. Joining the military makes you a part of a fraternity and you’ll find that you resonate better with other veterans than you do with people from any other walk of life for one simple reason: You became a part of something much larger than yourself.

Your membership was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears, along with the countless hours you spent dedicated to the cause. To say a veteran is an “ex-” anything is highly inaccurate.

However, there are certain qualities (mostly conscious choices) that define a former Marine. These are just a few of those qualities:

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

Maybe you just need some new Drill Instructors…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Severe lack of discipline

It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your discipline slide when you get out — in fact, a lot of us are guilty of this. But at some point, we pick it back up and we reintegrate it into our lives. To allow this discipline to drop off entirely is most definitely a conscious choice — one that can lead to the discontinuation of other hard-earned qualities.

Forgotten core values

No matter which branch you join, you’ll first learn the core values and then you’ll embody them. Those values shape your personal code and you live by them while you’re in the military. When you get out, if you aren’t still using them to find some direction in life, you’ve earn the “ex” in front of your title.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

Just remember what you learned.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Lack of leadership

Almost everyone comes out of the military with some type of leadership capabilities. Something you hear often in the military is, “in the absence of leadership, be a leader.” This applies heavily to civilian life because there’s often severe absence of leadership. If you get out of the military without learning how to take control from time to time, you likely didn’t learn much else.

Lack of punctuality

We’re all guilty of being late to something at some point. It just happens, it’s the way of life. But, those who learned anything from time in service will remember the factors that played into that tardiness, both self-inflicted and external, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re choosing to be late because you just don’t care — you’ve given up your title.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

If you define yourself as an “ex-Marine,” by all means.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

A conscious decision to no longer be a Marine

There’s a common belief among those who served that states you should always work to justify the fact that you’ve earned the right to be called a Marine (or solider, or airmen, etc). You should continuously employ the values learned in service in forming your civilian life.

There is, however, another side to this — and it’s simple. If you decide you’re no longer fitting of that title because you’ve grown a beard or whatever other, arbitrary reason, then you aren’t.

Many of us still believe in our titles and we’re willing to continue to honor it. It’s a lifetime effort and, if you’re not willing to make the commitment, nobody else will make it for you.

popular

This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.


The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Killer Chick and her hog. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.

With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.

She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.

Also read: This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.

She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).

She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Yeah. She flew this thing. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.

Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…

Related: 6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.

“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”

Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.

“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”

In honor of her heroic feat, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal awarded in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

Articles

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

U.S. Navy Surface Warfare officer, Jesse Iwuji, is a rising star in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. A veteran of two Arabian Gulf deployments, Jesse spends his time on land meticulously building each element of his pro racing career.


And of course, the bedrock of pro racing is the ability to move a ton of steel around a track at bone-rattling velocity.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
“Jesse, let me know when it’s safe to unpucker.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

As he related to Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis when they met up at the Meridian Speedway in Boise, Idaho, success in life is all about finding the thing you’re passionate about and then making a firm decision to go and get it.

In Iwuji’s experience, hot pursuit starts with putting one foot in front of the other. He finished the 2016 season ranked Top 10 overall in points and entered the 2017 season newly partnered with three time NFL Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman as his car owner for Patriot Motorsports Group.

Curtis, of course, couldn’t wait for his chance to get behind the wheel.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
“How about now?” “Just drive the car, man.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Iwuji pushes the K&N Pro Series stock car to it’s outer limits while Curtis makes the lamest joke in military history in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

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

This Army vet is crazy motivated

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

Articles

2 more female soldiers have completed Army Ranger School

Two female Infantry officers have completed U.S. Army Ranger School and are scheduled to be awarded the coveted tabs during their graduation ceremony on March 31 at Victory Pond, a Fort Benning spokesman confirmed.


The Army did not release the names of the women, who will be among 119 soldiers to receive their tabs in March. The Army did confirm that they were both graduates of the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course.

“The Maneuver Center of Excellence focuses on training leaders every day through an array of professional military education and first-class functional training that results in increased readiness in the operation of the Army,” said Ben Garrett, Fort Benning spokesman. “We provide our soldiers with the necessary tools, doctrine, and skill set so they are successful once they arrive at their units. This success is built on the quality of our instructions, professionalism of our instructors, and the maintaining of standards in everything we do. The Ranger Course is an example of that commitment to excellence.”

They are the first women to complete the Army’s most demanding combat training school in almost 17 months.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Capt. Kristen Griest and then 1st Lt. Shaye Haver earned their tabs on Aug. 21, 2015, becoming the first women to graduate from school, which is conducted in four phases, the first two at Fort Benning, then in the north Georgia mountains and the Florida panhandle swamps. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster graduated in October 2015.

Griest, Haver, and Jaster were among 19 women who started the course in April 2015 at Camp Rogers on Fort Benning. Previously, Ranger School had been open only to men. After Haver and Griest graduated, the school was opened to all soldiers — male or female — who qualified to attend.

It is important moment and will lead to a time when there are now men and women, but just Ranger School students, said Jaster.

“Capable women are raising their hands to attend Ranger School,” she said. “Once they make it through RAP (Ranger Assessment Phase) week, I do not see why the graduation percentages would be any lower than males who attend the same preparatory events.”

The opening of Ranger School to all soldiers came about the same time then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.

In October 2016, 10 women graduated from the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. They graduated with 156 men. The expectation for those who graduate from IBOLC is to attend Ranger School, which can be completed in about 60 days if a soldier goes straight through without having to repeat a phase.

“The April 2015 Integrated Ranger School class might have been the only time women would be allowed into that course — no one knew for sure,” Jaster said. “Therefore, every female soldier who wanted to try, thought she could, and met the basic criteria for attendance…threw their hat in the ring. Therefore, there was a mass push in April 2015. People who are attending Ranger School now knew the opportunity was open and could attend when it was right for them.”

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

That changes the game, Jaster said.

“For the newest graduates, they were still in training,” Jaster said. “With time, this will just be part of Ranger School. As women branch combat arms or are assigned to combat units, they will train for, attend, and then graduate from Ranger School.”

That will make the Army better, Jaster said.

“I cannot speak for Kris and Shaye, but I know that Ranger School prepares leaders for combat roles,” she said. “It’s a test of capacity and capability. Each female graduation is currently a singular and significant event. But, each female graduate went through the same grueling school as each male graduate. Integration success is when we stop counting the women and focus on the quality of military leader the school produces.”

Griest and Haver, now a captain, both have transferred branches since Ranger School graduation and are assigned as Infantry officers with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

Veterans

Helping Veterans with therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions

Kinesiotherapy (KT) is a rehab profession that provides therapeutic exercise and holistic interventions to improve well-being and functional abilities. It has been used to help Veterans on an ongoing basis since WWII. Today, VA is the single largest employer of kinesiotherapists (KTs), treating more than 100,000 Veterans in Fiscal Year 2019.

During recent challenges, KTs quickly shifted necessary outpatient evaluations and treatments to virtual care. This ensured Veterans’ safety while also providing specialized rehabilitation for inpatient Veterans requiring extended physical reconditioning.

KTs across the VA health care system today are educated and specialty trained at the undergraduate and graduate level. They support the complex needs of the Veteran population by focusing on skilled rehabilitation, improved function and quality of life.

Todd Keanan, registered kinesiotherapist and certified driver rehabilitation specialist, uses VA Video Connect (VVC) virtual technology to evaluate Veterans living in Jacksonville to recommend adaptive driving equipment for a new vehicle. It saves Veterans costly travel time. (2019 photo)

Their unique holistic approach involves the Veteran as well as their family and caregivers. They emphasize the psychological, as well as physical, benefits of therapeutic exercise within acute, post-acute, outpatient and home-based rehabilitation services. They also provide health and wellness coaching, disease prevention and comprehensive whole health practices.

In use since World War II

KT first was used during WWII when KTs implemented whole health therapy to accelerate the return of soldiers to active duty within physical reconditioning units established by the U.S. Armed Forces.

Pictured above, Abraham Hancock, registered KT and certified driver rehabilitation specialist at the Tampa VA, oversees the KT driver rehabilitation clinic’s simulator. It provides the Veteran and the clinician feedback before progressing to on-the-road instruction with adaptive driving equipment. (2019 photo)

Determination for appropriateness for driver rehabilitation evaluations utilizing VA Video Connect (VVC) technology is always made on case-by-case basis. When the Veteran is well known to the therapist from previous on-road assessments and the Veteran’s Primary Care Physician has documented medical clearance with no cognitive, visual or physical changes that would require a face to face evaluation, the Veteran is a good candidate for VVC.

Observing drivers with Video Connect

Using VVC, Keanan can observe Veterans transfer safely into their vehicles. He sees them stow their wheelchairs and demonstrate basic operational controls (such as making turns and using gas/brake) in a parked position.

The Veteran does not have to come in-person to the VA hospital for the KT Driver Rehabilitation Clinic outpatient appointment to make recommendations for the same adaptive equipment to be placed in a new vehicle. This also applies to the final fittings and inspections once the adaptive equipment was installed.

VA celebrates the profession of Kinesiotherapy and the KTs who are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our service members and Veterans.

For more information on VA KT, please visit www.rehab.va.gov/KT/ and inquire about KT services within your local VA facility Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s oldest veteran gives you the secrets to life at 112

Richard Arvin Overton was already 35 years old when he fought at Pearl Harbor. Now, 73 years after the end of World War II and his service in the Pacific Theater, the 112-year-old is alive and kicking. Today, the City of Austin and its Mayor, Steve Adler, even came out to wish America’s oldest veteran a happy birthday.

Find out how to live your life like Richard Overton lived his.


Overton is still completely independent — he lives on his own, walks where he wants (albeit with the aid of a cane), and drives where he needs to go. He enjoys cigars, good whiskey, and dating his “lady friend.”

That also happens to be Richard Overton’s big, anti-aging secret, which he shared over a few drinks with We Are The Mighty’s Orvelin Valle during the celebration.

“The secret to life,” Overton says, “is Scotch and cigars.”

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin,u00a0joins WWII veteran Richard Overton and his neighbors at Overton’s home as they celebrateu00a0his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

You’ll never catch Overton without a pocket full of cigars and, while you might think they’re hazardous to his health and well-being, it seems they’re doing more good than harm. He passes every medical test the doctors (and the DMV) can throw his way.

Although he drives himself because he thinks too many people around his neighborhood drive crazily, he isn’t afraid of anything, even at his advanced age. He even remarked that he feels completely comfortable sleeping with his doors unlocked at night.

“You see a soldier with a gun,” he once told National Geographic (while holding his issued M1 Garand rifle), “you don’t see him turn around and come back this way.”

But that stress-free life starts with a good cigar or twelve. He often smokes a dozen or more per day. He doesn’t inhale, though, saying there’s no point.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
Richard Overton getting a light for his cigar on his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

“Forget about swallowing it,” Overton says. “There’s no taste to it. It just makes you cough.”

Not inhaling his cigars is what he calls “the healthy way.” This lifestyle also includes a diet of milk, fish, corn, and soup. But the 112-year-old vet also starts his day with about four cups of coffee and ends each by eating butter-pecan ice cream.

And, sometimes, he adds whisky to the mix

He doesn’t spend his money on buying things he doesn’t need and he definitely doesn’t use credit cards. He’s been driving the same truck for decades, which he paid for with cash. Still, it’s a far cry from his first car – a Ford Model T.

To live like America’s oldest veteran, just live a stress-free life. Start with the simple pleasures, like ice cream, whisky, and cigars. If you don’t take his advice, that’s fine. As he says, “that’s your bad luck.”

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.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
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.”

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
(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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Five decades after being shot in Vietnam and almost losing his leg, former Army Spc. John Fogle will make good on a promise he made to the surgeons at the 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam who saved his life.


Before he was transported to a general hospital in Japan, Fogle told his surgeons he would drop them a line and let them know how he was doing. He never did write, but instead, in May, he will fulfill his promise of reconnecting — in person.

Fogle was injured in combat on July 25, 1969. Although over time he forgot their names, he never forgot the doctors who saved him and when he learned of a reunion planned for the surviving members of the 22nd Surgical Hospital staff, Fogle decided to seek them out in hopes of inviting them to the event.

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

Vietnam Vascular Registry

One of his first stops in his search was the Vietnam Vascular Registry, developed by Dr. Norman Rich, chair emeritus of the surgery department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

In 1966, the Vietnam Vascular Registry was developed by Rich at the Walter Reed General Hospital based on cases he had seen while serving in Vietnam along with hundreds of other cases added by colleagues. The registry documented and analyzed blood vessel injuries in Vietnam, resulting in documentation of more than 10,000 injuries from about 7,500 American casualties in Southeast Asia. Each patient entered into the registry was assigned a consecutive number and given a vascular registry card stating the registry’s purpose.

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Army Spc. John Fogle recovers at the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake, Japan, in 1969 from wounds he received in Vietnam. (Courtesy photo by John Fogle)

Rich has maintained the registry for more than 50 years. If stretched out completely, the entire registry itself would be about 114 linear feet, he noted. In 2016, the registry was digitized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, making it much easier to search and find records from vascular patients seen during Vietnam. The originals were sent to the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis.

Fogle had held onto his registry card, sent by Rich from the Vietnam Vascular Registry, for more than 50 years. Once he connected with Rich, he was able to reference his assigned registry card number, making it relatively easy for Rich to access his medical records from the 22nd Surgical Hospital. The records provided the names of Fogle’s doctors, among them Dr. Monroe Levine, who assisted in the surgery on his right leg and arm.

‘They performed miracles’

Fogle has foggy memories of the day he was injured, so over the years, it was hard for him to remember the names of those doctors who first operated on him in the 22nd Surgical Hospital. However, he will never forget being shot while flying in an observation helicopter.

Related: How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

He was on the lookout for signs of enemy activity, as the crew chief, and as they flew over a canyon, they surprised the Viet Cong, who began firing at their helicopter. Fogle was shot three times down his right side, leaving him with a severed femoral artery and a compound fracture in his femur. He remained conscious, though, and continued firing back to suppress the enemy’s fire and protect his crew, which included the pilot, who sat just two feet away. They were able to get out of there quickly and landed safely, arriving at the 22nd Surgical Hospital which was only 12 miles away. Fogle’s actions later earned him an Air Medal.

About 10 minutes after he had been shot, Fogle was being pulled into the 22nd Surgical Hospital, which he recalls had four fully equipped operating rooms, totally air-conditioned. The unit’s mission was to help stabilize the wounded before transporting them to the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake in Japan.

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The 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam, marked with a red cross, where Army Spc. John Fogle was first treated in 1969. (Courtesy photo by Terry Caskey)

“They performed miracles in there,” Fogle said. At the time, he said, his leg was a big “question mark.” Surgeons in that unit prepared him for transport to Japan, and told him he “wasn’t out of the woods just yet.” He made it to the general hospital, where he underwent more surgeries. His recovery, over the years, was smooth and he has not had any other major issues.

“I was very fortunate,” Fogle added. “I could’ve easily lost my leg.”

He added that many surgeries were performed at the 22nd Surgical Hospital, over a long period of time, so it would have been hard for the doctors to remember each patient. In looking through his records obtained through the registry, Fogle said he learned that Levine had seen four other patients that same day.

“That’s why these notes [in my records] are so important,” he said.

Reconnecting

After learning Levine’s full name, it didn’t take long for Fogle to find that the doctor is still practicing medicine in Colorado. The two connected over the phone, and are now looking forward to meeting again, after all these years, at the reunion, which will take place in Florida. Fogle sent his records to Levine to look through, hoping to help jog his memory before they meet in May, 2018.

More: A Vietnam vet’s daughter wrote this funny, heartfelt obituary for her dad

Fogle considers himself very lucky. After leaving the military, he’s really only had to limit himself to certain sports and activities because he did suffer muscle loss, which throws off his balance to this day. He was able to go back to school after his military service and became an electrical engineer. A few years ago, he retired after a fulfilling, 38-year career.

Had it not been for the work of Levine, as well as the others in that unit and throughout his care and recovery, Fogle might not be where he is today.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him again in person,” Fogle said.

Rich was pleased to hear Fogle reconnected with one of the surgeons who saved his leg.

“This is what makes it valuable,” he said, referring to the extensive Vietnam Vascular Registry. “It is really reassuring that what we were doing has merit.”

Articles

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…

Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy, Whiskey in the Jar

Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
You… ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
…complete me. ( Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.

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Men of the 10th Mountain Division. Not a cocktail in sight.

Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.

Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.

Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.

The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.

The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

Veterans

This airman called in dozens of ‘danger-close’ airstrikes – killing 27

The mission was supposed to be standard: move into enemy territory and capture or kill marked Taliban leaders in the middle of the night in the Kunduz Province.


But for a team of 12 Army Special Forces soldiers, 43 Afghan Army commandos, and one Air Force combat controller, all hell was about to break loose. Soon after the sun had risen on Nov. 2, 2016, the coalition team had already engaged the enemy through various curtains of intense ambushes and gunfire — with four allied troops injured.

During the barrage of gunfire, Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, began engaging the enemy right back.

Related: How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

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Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. (Source: Air Force)

While taking multiple casualties, Hunter put his exceptional combat training to good use, calling in a total of 31 airstrikes from AH-64 Apaches and AC-130 gunships onto the enemies’ elevate position — killing 27.

Some of the airstrikes landed within just meters of Hunter’s position. Hunter then coordinated with the quick reaction force and medical evacuation helicopters to export the wounded. But Hunter’s fight wasn’t over with just yet.

Also Read: How these few Marines held the line at the Chosin Reservoir

He heard a familiar voice calling for help desperately. As he looked to investigate the sound, he noticed one of his teammates was injured and pinned down approximately 30-meters away.

With disregard for his own life, Hunter leaped over a wall and dashed toward his injured teammate. Once there, he quickly scrabbled the wound and pulled him to safety.

Reportedly, the engagement lasted around eight hours, and for Hunter’s heroic efforts he’ll receive the Air Force Cross.

Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


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Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

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(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

Patrol Base Abbate: This nonprofit offers a space for every veteran
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”