Pin-Ups for Vets 'brings out the bombshell' in a military caregiver - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets did it again.


Her non-profit organization helps hospitalized veterans, sends gifts to deployed troops, and supports the spouses and families of service members.

Recently, that support went to Melissa Comeau, an advocate for military caregivers and wife of U.S. Marine and Purple Heart recipient Stephen Comeau.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Melissa and Stephen share a tender moment together. (From Melissa’s book, Sleeping With the War)

As a full-time caregiver to her husband, Comeau had little time to focus on her own wellbeing. So Elise decided it was time for a little pick-me-up in the form of a full-fledged makeover in classic Pin-Up style.

“When I first met Melissa, I could tell she was very special, and I wanted to do something to show our appreciation to the caregiver of one of our Marines,” Elise told We Are The Mighty.

When Comeau’s husband Stephen left for his fourth combat deployment, she prepared herself for the worst — but it never occurred to her to prepare for him to come home with a brain injury.

When he returned, Stephen was diagnosed with multiple combat injuries including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease.

Together, Melissa and Stephen researched his diagnoses and soon discovered that there is a significant difference between being a supportive wife and being a caregiver.

“I didn’t know I was a caregiver. I just thought of myself as his wife, doing what anyone would do,” Comeau explained. “But once I learned about that word, it opened up a new world.”

Comeau became a fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which helps strengthen and empower American military caregivers, and now works at the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, helping people identify as caregivers sooner and providing them with peer-to-peer support and assistance.

After meeting Comeau, Pin-Ups for Vets’ Elise knew she wanted to do something to show her appreciation.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

So Elise delivered a pin-up makeover for Comeau — complete with classic hair and make-up styling by Ana Vergara, vintage-inspired dresses by Voodoo Vixen, and a professional photoshoot by Jason Holmes of Retro Dolls.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Bombshell, indeed! (Photo by Jason Holmes)

Elise couldn’t wait to reveal Comeau’s pin-up look.

“It was a special moment when Melissa first saw herself in the mirror,” Elise said. “How we appear affects our confidence and this makeover brought out Melissa’s inner bombshell. I could see the shift towards happiness and excitement in that moment.”

According to Comeau, it’s tough to look after yourself when you’re focused on caring for others. As a mentor, she teaches, “If you take care of yourself, it makes you better for everyone. It all starts with you — and if you don’t nurture yourself, you’ll burn out.”

That’s why Elise was inspired to reach out to Comeau.

“I always want to bring awareness and attention to military families and the sacrifices they make,” Elise said. “Our military would be impossible without support from loved ones and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WW2 veteran recalls guarding Nazi POWs and the Dachau concentration camp

Jack Shamblin was a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1945 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He soon became part of the occupation forces at an airbase near Frankfurt, Germany.


As a base MP and guard for German prisoners at Keslterbach, the young Oklahoman would learn deep lessons about the duality of man and the destruction of war. Walking along streets with buildings in rubble, and through the Dachau concentration camp, he shuddered at the atrocities.

“What got me, was that steel building they gassed them in … told them people they were going to delouse them, and then shot that poison gas in there … you could see the scratch marks on that steel door,” Shamblin said. “How could people be that evil and wicked? But they were … That got me.”

As a guard, Shamblin would get to know several German POWs during his nine months in Germany. He said he felt that many of the German people were good, and unaware of the horrors taking place around them. But they knew the Americans were coming to end the war.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

“I talked to a lot of the POWs, and one of them said ‘I look up in the sky when the Air Force was bombing Germany … and everywhere you look the sky was full.’ He said ‘I knew then the war was over with.’ I thought about that … They paid a high price, Germany did, but they’ve built the country back now so it’s one of the richest nations in the world.”

At his home near Roland with his wife of 69 years, Lily, the 90-year-old veteran looks back on his life with gratitude for being born in the United States and becoming a member of the Cherokee Nation through his mother’s lineage.

Also read: These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

Shamblin and several other members of the Cherokee Nation were recently flown to Washington, D.C., as part of the fourth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight. In addition to several fellow World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans, joining him on the Warrior Flight was his grandson, Zack Wheeler, to visit the grave of a war hero at Arlington National Cemetery.

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, Zack Wheeler’s brother and Jack Shamblin’s grandson, was killed in combat Oct. 22, 2015, during an operation in Hawijah, Iraq, with Kurdish allies to storm a prison and save about 70 prisoners being held by Islamic State fighters. Authorities felt the prisoners were in jeopardy of imminent execution, and it was thought many of them were crucial for Iraqi operation intelligence. The heavily decorated U.S. Delta Force soldier was 39 when he was shot, becoming the first U.S. military casualty in Iraq since 2011. His fourth son, David Paul Wheeler, had just been born that summer.

Speaking to media prior to the service in 2015, Zack Wheeler said his brother exemplified bravery and he considered him the “best soldier in the world.” Many his family felt he was “Superman.” His grandfather fondly recalls taking the Wheeler brothers fishing, and what he can only explain as “supernatural” event the Saturday morning after Josh Wheeler was killed. Shamblin said he was taping a news feature on Wheeler when something happened.

“Seven o’clock in the morning I heard the front door slam … and in my TV you could see somebody go upstairs. I saw this soldier in camouflage walk up that step. I thought, ‘Who in the world would be coming Saturday morning, a soldier, to see me?'” Shamblin said.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Sgt. Titus Fields, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places an American flag in front of a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery during May 24, 2013 (U.S. Army Photo)

He turned off the TV, walked upstairs and looked all the way through the house. He asked his wife, who was sitting in a chair reading, if she saw someone. She hadn’t seen anyone.

“Then I got shook. I figured it was Josh,” Shamblin said. “I’ve heard about people coming back and visiting them … I thought about that a whole lot.”

Shamblin, who retired from Georgia-Pacific Dixie Plant after 42 years, comes from a long line of men and women who have served in the military. Just two and three generations behind him were Civil War veterans — grandfather Andrew Jackson Shamblin, a Confederate captured at the Battle of Vicksburg, and great-grandfather Capt. James Womack, a Confederate chaplain.

Ted Shamblin, Jack’s older brother, as well as three cousins, were in World War II. One of this three daughters was an Army helicopter technician serving in South Korea. In all, Jack and Lily Shamblin have 25 great grandchildren and a great-great grandchild on the way.

“It’s amazing what we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Lily Shamblin said.

Articles

These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.


Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.

“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a Tunnel Rat, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.

By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.

The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Also Read: American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Sgt. Ronald A. Payne searches a Vietnamese tunnel armed with only a flashlight and a pistol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.

With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.

After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What Chinese veterans of Korea think about their war

The Korean War is strange anomaly in the history of American wars, especially of the 20th Century. So much consideration is reserved for wars and the people who fought them in today’s culture that it makes the term “the forgotten war” seem like an impossibility. But that’s what we face with Korean War veterans.

Theirs is a very insular generation of veterans. Those who don’t share an experience in World War II or Vietnam because they only fought in Korea, they can only find an ever-dwindling number of fellow Korean War veterans.


Because of this, they have a very detailed memory and analysis of not just their part in the war, but of the entire war itself, so conversations tend to be lively between them. And, if you have a question, you will find a thoughtful answer. They’ve discussed every aspect of the war quite a bit.

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Some Korean War veterans, like the “Chosin Few” seen here, form alumni groups of single battles.

So it makes sense that whenever I talk to Korean War veterans, there’s one thing they all say they want to do: talk to veterans who were fighting on the other side of the fiercest battles. Whenever old adversaries get together, the talk generally comes to heal the emotional wounds of both parties, whether it’s between Americans and Germans, Japanese, or Vietnamese counterparts.

“They were fighting under the same orders I had,” Marine Corps veteran Joe Owen said when he told me about North Korean troops just days before his death in 2015. Owen was a lieutenant at the Chosin Reservoir. “They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them… I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

But Korean War veterans will likely never get this experience.

North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. It is extremely difficult to get in as an outsider, especially as a U.S. military veteran. North Korea did not fare well during the Korean War. Despite its early success, the North was pretty much ravaged and bombed away for three years and today’s North Koreans remember the war very differently than the rest of the world. An American Korean War veteran visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang would either have to be extremely diplomatic or agree to a vow of silence as he walked through.

Chinese veterans of the war are a different matter. China is a much more open, and relatively progressive country. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army sent upwards of a million Chinese to North Korea during the war, with many of the surviving veterans still alive, like Zhang Yuzeng. Zhang told Voice of America News that even though the two were allies, North Koreans generally acted independently and the two forces couldn’t understand each other.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
“There were few [North Koreans],” he said. “[They were] badly equipped and were not as good at fighting…”The North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped.”

To the Chinese fighters, they were protecting their country from American Imperialism, a protection they firmly believed was necessary. CNN interviewed a Chinese veteran of Korea at his retirement home in Henan Province. He proudly wears his Chinese Army dress uniform. He told CNN it was necessary to help the Korean people during the war.

“The people of Korea were suffering,” Duan said.”Seeing the people of Korea farming the land and being killed by enemy planes … what were they to do if they could not farm? The planes would just come and bomb them to death. We had to help protect the people of Korea.”

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

A United States Marine stands guard over captured North Koreans just after the Inchon Landing.

Now Read: 8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

Zhang Kuiyuan joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army at age 18 and was sent to Korea. He drove a supply truck to the front lines and also mentioned the lack of cooperation. They were not even to speak to or form relationships with the locals.

“We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he said. Duan Keke remarked that North Korean people today probably have no idea what sacrifices were made by the Chinese fighting man on their behalf, since they were not allowed to communicate on a personal level. He laments that the Koreans only know what their government wants them to know.

What the Chinese and American Korean War veterans have in common is that their war, decades old, remains “forgotten” – especially by the youth of their respective countries.

“Young people? Of course they don’t know,” says You Jie Xiang, a former infantry soldier who was assigned to guard American POWs. “These wars took place decades ago. All the young people have no idea.”

Like Joe Owen, the salty former lieutenant who commanded Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, these Chinese veterans harbor no ill will toward their former adversaries. They call Americans a “peaceful people” who “did not want a war in Korea.”

“War is death,” the old Chinese vets agree, nodding to each other.

Articles

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran amputee was denied a Six Flags ride — but here’s why

Retired Marine Johnny “Joey” Jones, who lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while deployed, was asked to exit a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia; since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets and sparked a heated conversation.

The Washington Post reported that Jones was “concerned with the way the park’s policy was presented to him” and that “the policy is too restrictive to accommodate people with disabilities.”

But there’s a good reason for roller coaster parks to be restrictive.


In 2011, U.S. Army Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer was ejected from a ride in a New York theme park and died.

Hackemer had been wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead that caused the loss of his left leg and most of his right. He, like Jones, wore prosthetic limbs. After an investigation, a reportedly seven-figure settlement was reached between the lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and Hackemer’s family.

Jones didn’t see the handicapped sign for the ride when he climbed in with his 8 year-old son — but the ride operator noticed Jones’ prosthetics. Jones told The Washington Post that he wasn’t upset about being asked to leave the ride, but rather that the employees didn’t seem trained to properly accommodate his condition.

According to Fox News, Six Flags issued an apology:

“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” Six Flags said in a statement to Fox News. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act. Our policies are customized by ride and developed for the safety of all our guests. Our policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure we continue to accommodate the needs of our guests while simultaneously maintaining a safe environment for everyone.”

Nonetheless, Jones took to Twitter to call out the park:

twitter.com

In a follow-up Tweet, Jones maintained that this ride didn’t truly appear to have a safety policy as much as a liability policy, which is where his argument truly appears to stem from.

twitter.com

He’s advocating for fellow amputees and individuals with handicaps so they can feel included — rather than excluded — as they continue to live their lives.

MIGHTY TRENDING

David Goldfein is the leader the military needs right now

Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.

The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.


When he reached a sobbing widow, he embraced her and talked to her for a while. It was General Goldfein. The post also appeared on Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
I guess he tried to go more incognito in 2018 by wearing civvies, but was still recognized.
(Facebook photo by Cody Stollings)

Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.

For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,

“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”

Bacevich has also noted that those who aren’t serving in the U.S. military are encouraged to support the troops, but no one ever “stipulates how this civic function is to be performed.”

Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
In case we forgot who is on that council.

In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.

It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.

Veterans

Camp Southern Ground reopens to in-person camps

This Veterans Day we are celebrating the unique experiences that veterans face both during their military service and after their military service. Read more of our Veterans Day pieces here

The COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions led to a halt in any activity outside the home in March. On Sept. 24, Georgia’s Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization founded by GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown, announced it is reopening for on-site veteran programming, Warrior Week and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes). 

This year has been especially difficult for many veterans, specifically those that are experiencing mental health issues. Camp Southern Ground was focused on re-opening so they can continue to provide the services many veterans need.

“The impact this year has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans cannot be understated,” Camp Southern Ground said in a statement on its website.

Camp Southern Ground’s CEO Mike Dobbs shared in a press release that the camp “remained connected with our veterans through virtual programming, but we know the importance of building community and support face-to-face.” Camp Southern Ground’s motto is “where goodness grows” and that is their mission. The goal of their veteran programming is to provide and build supportive networks for transitioning post-9/11 veterans. 

About Camp Southern Ground

Warrior Week

Warrior Week is a 12-month workforce and wellness program that begins with six days at camp. The camp week focuses on identifying strengths through team-building exercises, training sessions with world-class instructors about Clifton Strengths (90% Fortune 500 Companies use this, read: marketable assessment) and Enneagram assessments that prepare the attendees for the transition from military life. Team efforts of shared meals, ropes exercises and other events help build the veteran community outside of their immediate units in the military. The goal of the program is to help transitioning veterans build an action plan for their life after service after determining their strengths and purpose for their life to transform what they do as a career but also personally.  

One veteran’s testimony shared “This program provided me what I needed to understand what my experiences, feelings, and reactions are. Now I am aware of my strengths and know how to capitalize on these strengths to help me focus on my career and wellbeing. I know now what I need to do moving forward. I cannot say thank you enough for helping navigate out of the fog.”

Upcoming Warrior Weeks are posted here. Post-9/11 veterans can begin their application online. Any questions about the camp can be emailed to warriorweek@campsouthernground.org.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

The hardest part about starting a business is finding the seed capital to get the ball rolling. Like the first step of a thousand-mile journey, it’s the hardest and most important. For many veterans, owning their own business is the way to financial freedom. There’s a reason entrepreneurs call seed capital “friends and family money.” Now veterans don’t need to go around asking loved ones for the money – one bank is willing to jump start your idea.


To find out why, just take a look a the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program. Besides the fact that PenFed serves the military-veteran community as a consumer base, it just makes sense for the PenFed Foundation to support veterans who are looking to start their own businesses. The numbers speak for themselves. While the number of vets who actually pursue entrepreneurship is relatively small compared to the number of separating military members, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interest, it might just mean there’s a lack of capital to get started.

Simply put, veterans need money and knowhow. They already have the work ethic. The numbers back that fact up too.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg will speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

Entrepreneurs who are business owners tend to out-earn entrepreneurs who are not veterans. Vets are also a much more diverse subgroup of Americans in terms of age, ethnicity, disability, and experience. There’s nothing a vet can’t do when faced with a big job full of hard work. But like many entrepreneurs, veterans or not, many lack the startup funds to get the ball rolling. That’s where the PenFed Foundation’s VEIP comes in.

The VEIP aims to develop and grow vet-owned startups with seed capital for all the reasons listed above but the most important reason to support these entrepreneurs is because vets become knowledge bases for other vets looking to start their own businesses. Not only that, veterans who own businesses are 30 percent more likely to hire veterans themselves.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Charlynda Scales, vet and founder of Mutt’s Sauce is speaking at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

The PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that is committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. Its mission is to provide service members, veterans, and their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to build a strong financial future.The Foundation changes lives through financial education.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Veterans

This Marine creates amazing sculptures to remember fallen heroes — free of charge

The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the “Three Servicemen” Vietnam statue, and the “Vietnam Women’s Memorial” are just a few examples of how our great country has commemorated our nation’s fallen heroes through art.


These monuments represent self-sacrifice and the outstanding pride of being an American.

Unfortunately, when a service member falls in combat, their memory is all their family and friends will have left of them. But for Cliff Leonard, a Marine veteran, his mission is to honor his fallen brothers as he creates their images into realistic sculptures free of charge for the grieving families.

Related: This is why General John Kelly could comfort families of fallen troops

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
The Three Soldiers statue in Washington D.C. (Source: Flickr)

In his younger years, Leonard attended the Georgia Military College before joining the Marine Corps, serving for two years including a tour of duty in Vietnam. He started flexing his artistic skills some years later and allowed his talent to develop.

After Leonard joined a small group called the “Semper Fidelis Society of Jacksonville,” his new team managed to contact a fallen Marine’s grandparents. He received a few photographs from them and decided to put his unique crafting skills to work.

“I have a lot of honor and respect for everybody that served.” — Cliff Leonard

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
HM3 (FMF) Julian Woods. (Source: Cliff Leonard)

Also Read: This is how the Patriot Guard escorted a fallen Marine home

Spending nearly 70 hours creating each sculpture, Leonard carefully carves out the finest details his fingers will allow, making each piece a real work of art. The Jacksonville native searches online for the names of his fallen Marine and Navy Corpsmen brothers and funds each piece out of his own pocket.

Check out the video below to see how Cliff Leonard brings his fallen brother’s memories back to life through art for yourself.

YouTube, Cliff Leonard
Articles

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

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


And for a decade after that, they lost touch.

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

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

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Left: Master Sgt. Mike Maroney embraces 3-year-old LeShay Brown after rescuing her and her family from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Right: Mahroney and 13-year-old Brown reunite after a 10-year search by Maroney to find the girl who’s smile and hug helped him through the difficulties of the rescue effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First class Veronica Pierce/Warner Brothers photo/Erica Parise)

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

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

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

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

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Master Sgt. Mike Maroney (middle), LaShay Brown (left) and Diane Perkins pose together for a photo during a reunion in Waveland, Mississippi. (USAF photo)

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

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

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

Articles

6 ways the Army was the perfect primer for ‘Batman’

The whole world mourned June 9 at the news that Adam West, the Army veteran and actor who brought “Batman” to the silver screen, had died at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer.


Adam West was born, and drafted into the Army, as William West. In the military, he was in charge of standing up TV stations at San Luis Obispo, California, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. But if it seems odd that the star of a farcical show like the 1966 version of “Batman” got his start in the Army, it was actually the perfect way to prepare for such a ridiculous show.

Here are six reasons why:

1. Renaming everything to some arbitrary standard like “bat cuffs,” “bat time,” and “bat channel,” makes sense for anyone who has had to relearn names for Velcro, Duck Tape, and zipper

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Batman and Robin stand with their utility belts. (Photo: Greenway Productions, Public Domain)

Batman wore a bat belt that contained bat pills and bat cuffs which came in handy for the show that played twice a week at the same bat time, same bat channel. While all of that seems like nonsense to civilians, soldiers are used to fastening “hook and loop fasteners,” taping items down with “100 mph tape,” and securing their blouses with “slide fasteners and tab thongs.”

Those are ridiculous ways of referring to Velcro, Duck Tape, and zippers, which are all brand names that the Army can’t use in official doctrine. So young Billy West would have gotten used to using the Army names. It was probably easy to start calling everything “bat” later in life.

2. Dealing with a group of ne’er-do-wells like the “Batman” villains is old hat for anyone who has dealt with an Army squad

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
The villains of the 1966 Batman film. From left to right, the Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, and Joker. (Photo: Greenway Production, Public Domain)

Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman, Archer, and other crazy villains were always hatching insane schemes in the Batman TV show. But, once again, the Army would’ve prepared the future Bruce Wayne for this.

Soldiers decide to get high with spice and bath salts? Yup, sounds about right. Troops smuggling liquor overseas by pouring it into Listerine bottles and mixing in food coloring? Seen it. Enlisted hijinks are basically Silver Age Batman ridiculous, just without the fancy gadgets and costumes.

3. Having to mentor a grown adult while treating them like a child is how all specialists deal with new privates

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
(Photo: flickr/BATMAN)

One of the more awkward truths about the Batman is that Robin, the Boy Wonder, was actually a 21-year-old man when the show began. The grown adult Adam West had to act like mentoring another grown man while treating him like a child wasn’t sort of weird.

But again, the Army is perfect preparation for this. After all, most specialists have only been in the military for a few years and they can be assigned responsibility of a private first class who has been in the Army a couple of years. So, 24-year-old  supervising 20-year-olds.

4. Spending all of your time with an attractive lady without giving in is easy for any NCO who had to ignore their co-ed lieutenant’s good looks

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Adam West’s Batman and Catwoman almost kiss. (Photo: YouTube/InnuMaccaband)

One of Batman’s greatest villains was Catwoman, who definitely had a thing going on with Batman. But Batman refused to give in to it (though he almost kissed her once, and a later incarnation of Batman ran off to Europe with her).

But any specialist or sergeant who has pulled overnight duty with an even moderately attractive officer knows what it’s like to weigh the consequences of “fraternization” over and over. Chances are, young and attractive Billy West had to say no to a few female sergeants and officers, or at least find the right place to give in without getting caught.

5. Only in the military and “Batman” can the little stuff be crucial during an emergency

This is a small one, but most organizations will let little things go during an emergency. But Batman doesn’t accept any of that crap from Robin. Proper grammar is important, and Batman corrects Robin even as Catwoman tries to get away on a rocket.

You know, just like a sergeant major yelling about gloves during a firefight or reflective belts during literally anything.

6. Working within made-up rules is easy for anyone who has dealt with UCMJ and Rules of Engagement

Batman runs into some pretty stupid bureaucratic problems during the show, like that time the Riddler sues Batman (while using riddles to explain his scheme, because of course he did) for false imprisonment and assault.

While the details of the case seem insane, Billy West probably sat through the Uniform Code of Military Justice briefing where soldiers are told they technically can’t engage in anything other than “missionary”-style sex because of Article 125.

Really think anyone who was briefed on Article 125 will be thrown for a loop by Gotham’s insane judges?

Mighty Moments

This Stunning Video Shows Why Flying An F-16 Fighter Jet Is Pure Joy

A YouTube video of Thunderbirds lead pilot Maj. Blaine “Deuce” Jones taking an F-16 for a joyride was just published, and it’s awesome.


The short, called “Fly Amongst The Solo Thunder – USAF Thunderbirds” begins with Jones and crew chief Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ayivorh running through their preflight checklist to the perfect electronic dance music track.

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The canopy goes down, the crew chief salutes, and the plane takes off.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Once Jones goes airborne, the earth quickly shrinks as he climbs to a nosebleed altitude. The GoPro camera behind the pilot will make you appreciate the view.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Like ducks flying south for the winter, Jones and the other Thunderbirds fly in formation.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

But, unlike ducks, these birds feed in the air.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

And do maneuvers no feathered creature could ever do.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

The entire video feels like a music video featuring the Air Force. Check it out:

NOW: Here’s What It’s Like Flying An F/A-18 Fighter Jet

OR: 32 Terms Only Airmen Will Understand