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

Why this new program is the smartest thing the VA has done recently

Let’s be completely honest: Getting veterans the help they need is a tricky task. What works for one person may not work for another. Simply telling veterans they have the option to seek help if they need it is important, yes, but it’s not going to pull those who are blind to their own struggles out of the shadows.

There are many veterans who can personally attest to the successes and benefits of the fine mental health professionals within the Veterans Administration. There are others, however, who end up opt for heart-breaking alternatives to talking about their feelings with a stranger. There’s no easy solution to getting help to those who don’t seek it and there’s no magic wand out there that can wish away the pain that our veteran community suffers daily.

But the first step is always going to be opening up about the pain.


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

As a community, we’re trained to never, ever be a burden on anyone else while also being willing to move Heaven and Earth if it means saving our comrade. At its heart, that’s what Operation Resilience is about.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

A new pilot program within the Veterans Health Administration called “Operation Resilience” aims to get veterans who’ve been lost since exiting the service to open up to the people who understand their struggles most: their comrades.

The idea behind Operation Resilience is simple. The VA has partnered with an advocacy group, The Independence Fund, to create events that bring veterans who served in a unit together again. Of course, one of the topics on the agenda at these events is a group therapy session, but it’s much deeper than that.

Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the department’s suicide prevention efforts, said in a statement that of the roughly 20 veterans who commit suicide a day, most have little-to-no contact with official VA programs. Finding at least one avenue of approach where someone is willing to talk is the key.

Having those who were there with a troubled veteran during the moments that still haunt them can help on countless levels. And surrounding it all with an event that’s legitimately appealing to veterans makes it a hard opportunity to pass up. When you frame event as a chance for veterans to, let’s say, go drinking at some all-expenses-paid ski resort or something — who could say no?

The group dynamic of the event also plays into the stubbornness of most veterans who have a disdain for seeking help. Now, it’s not just about helping yourself, it’s about helping your brothers- and sisters-in-arms — even if they are the one most in need of help.

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

There’s no one on this planet that veterans would rather talk about what’s on their mind than with their fellow veterans.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

The details of the events are still being worked out, but the pilot event will be with Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division this coming April.

It looks like the VA has caught onto the human element of what brings a group of combat veterans together. If, at the end of the day, a single veteran is able to be pulled out of the hole because their guys came together and got them to talk, well that’s a victory in my book.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

Articles

Medal of Honor recipient who held off 9 German attacks has died

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Medal of Honor recipient Wilburn K. Ross died on May 9, 2017. According to a press release, Ross, who was working in a shipyard before he was drafted, was 94 years old and is survived by six children.


According to his Medal of Honor citation, Ross’s company — assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division — had taken heavy casualties in combat with elite German troops near St. Jacques, France, on Oct. 30, 1944 – losing over 60 percent of the troops. Ross then set his machine gun 10 yards ahead of the other Americans and used it to hold off German forces for eight attacks – receiving less and less help as the other troops ran out of ammunition.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Division in Nuremburg. (US Army photo)

Ross, too, was running low. After the eighth attack, Ross was also out of ammunition. As American troops prepared for a last stand, salvation came in the form of a resupply of ammunition. Ross was able to use that ammunition to defeat the ninth and final German attack.

A profile of Ross on a VA loan site adds some more background. Ross was a dead shot, practicing a trick shot that involved using a .22 rifle to light a match. He later described how he had selected his position beforehand. He also related that he had no idea that a dead soldier he’d been shooting over wasn’t dead at all – it was an Army lieutenant who was alive, and who reported Ross’s actions.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
The Medal of Honor

Ross would be presented the Medal of Honor on April 14, 1945. During his service in World War II and in the Korean War, he’d be wounded four times. He served in the Army until 1964, when he retired  as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he settled down in DuPont, Washington, where he raised his kids. A park in that town was named in his honor, and includes a monument that displays his Medal of Honor citation on a plaque.

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

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

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

Articles

Veteran couple opens a distillery with military ties

Near Fort Bragg, North Carolina sits BHAWK — that’s short for Brad Halling American Whisky Ko. It’s a whiskey distillery brought to life by its namesake, Brad, and his wife, Jessica, in their goal to honor veterans from Southern Pines, NC. Veterans themselves, the pair knows what it means to serve. 

They also know what it means to sacrifice — Brad lost his left leg from the knee down in the now-famous “Blackhawk Down” incident in Somalia. Though the injury left him ineligible to remain on active duty, he dodged Army medical boards, fought for his position, and ended up retiring as a sergeant major, prosthetic leg and all. 

Now he and his wife are taking their history of service and sacrifice to a new level: making whiskey.

“Our brands will honor [veterans] as well as private citizens with demonstrated selfless service,” Jessica said in an interview with “The Pilot.”

They also added that the decision to offer whiskey went back to its versatility, and its deep ties to Americanism. 

“It is a vehicle to express so many different things,” Brad said. “The joy of promotion, the heartache of loss, the celebration of a change of command.” 

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

One feature to remind the public about the sacrifices of armed forces include the Gratitude Room, a living museum where guests will first enter. Their plan is to tell the story of various labels that are offered at the time, whether that be of a single soldier, unit or beyond, telling the intricate details behind the label’s name. Then, as they swap out for a new flavor, the Gratitude Room will also change to reflect the new piece of history. 

One thing that won’t change, they said, is the American Whiskey Company’s emblem, an eagle feather that represents fallen soldiers, as well as “quiet professionals” who have provided their dedication to the U.S. The hand-drawn image shows a simple, fallen feather, as a simple nod to patriotism and those who sacrificed along the way. 

As veterans themselves, the couple had long kicked around the idea of brewing as a business, but as laws began to change in North Carolina, they decided it was the right time to open up the distillery they had always dreamed of. 

Both joined the military while still in high school, taking on the responsibility at a young age. Jessica served in the U.S. Army until she retired from the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. She then began working as a local lawyer in North Carolina. As for Brad, he’s retired from special forces and still works on post as a civilian. He also works as a certified prosthetist. 

The distillery, which is still being built, is slated to host a medium-sized distillery plant, a cocktail bar, restaurant, retail space, a restaurant, and an outdoor stage. They will brew and sell their own concoctions of high-end whiskey variations, as well as spirits. Eventually, they plan to add bourbon, vodkas, gin and more. 

For more information on BHAWK or to follow their process, follow them on Instagram @hallingwhiskey 

Images courtesy of Halling Whiskey’s Instagram

Veterans

VA medical, pharmacy copayments cancelled through Sept. 30, 2021

Due to American Rescue Plan, copayments paid April 6, 2020, to present will be refunded


In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and President Joe Biden signed it into law. As a result, all copayments for medical care and pharmacy services provided during the period of April 6, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, are canceled, along with any fees or interest.

VA wants you to know that supporting your financial well-being is one of our top priorities.

Key facts on how the ARP will impact Veterans:

  • Cancel copayments for medical care and pharmacy services incurred on and after April 6, 2020.
  • No assessment of copayments for medical care and pharmacy through Sept. 30, 2021.
  • VA is working quickly to process those cancellations and refund Veterans who have been making payments on their accounts for medical services received during this period.
  • Continue to send statements for information only through Sept. 30, 2021. These statements keep Veterans informed of their balance, which will be due when collections resume in October 2021.
  • The mailing of patient statements and collection of copayments for health care and prescriptions will resume on Oct. 1, 2021.

Your VA health care continues

There will be no change in the quality and availability of VA health care during this time. You can schedule appointments and communicate with your providers in the same manner you have been.

If you are concerned about copayments you owe for health care and pharmacy provided prior to April 6, 2020, you an apply for a debt relief program.

For more information on financial relief, Veterans can visit https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/Financial_Hardship.asp or call the Health Resource Center at 866-400-1238, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

VA will work with all Veterans who apply for debt relief to determine the best possible solution.

For information on charges owed for care and prescriptions prior to April 6, 2020, debt relief options and/or account number information, Veterans can call the VHA Health Resource Center at 1-866-400-1238.

Resources for Veterans

Non-health debts and overpayments

This blog post excludes separate and exclusive information on non-health benefits debts and overpayments, which are handled by the Debt Management Center (DMC). This blog post duplicates that post, but excludes DMC content, focusing only on fees, copayments and debts on medical care and pharmacy services.


VHA Office of Community Care – Revenue Operations contributed to this story.

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

Articles

7 struggles these veterans know all too well about humping gear

SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.


Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.

1. The veteran grunt

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

2. The motivated Corpsman

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

3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…

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

 

Related: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner

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

5. Packing some major heat

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

6. He’s down to do it all over again

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

7. Ready for just about anything

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

 

What gear did you carry? Comment below.

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.

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

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.

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

Army veteran Joe Quinn makes the move to Headstrong

Joe Quinn, a West Point graduate and the current Director of Leadership Development for Team Red, White Blue (RWB), has been hand-selected as in the incoming Executive Director for Headstrong, a non-profit organization that provides post-9/11 military veterans with free mental health care. He’ll begin his new role on Jan. 1, 2018.


Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
Team RWB swag during the Old Glory Relay.

U.S. Marine Zach Iscol, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Headstrong Project (and a previous veteran-to-watch on WATM’s Mighty 25) personally attested to Quinn’s character in the announcement made to the Headstrong team:

Despite graduating from West Point, Joe has had an exemplary and impressive career. He deployed twice to Iraq, served as an advisor to General Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance team’s in Afghanistan, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. As the Director of Leadership Development at Team RWB, a leading Veteran Service Organization, he has managed their growth to a major national organization and personally developed nearly 2,000 community leaders.

Also read: Team Red, White Blue is running the American flag 4,216 miles across the United States

No stranger to service-after-service (Team RWB enriches the lives of vets by connecting them to their community through various activities), Quinn’s own letter to the Team RWB family was filled with sentiment, purpose, and praise for his team:
Beginning January 1st, I’ll be the next Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, an organization that heals the hidden wounds of war through stigma-free, bureaucracy-free, cost-free, evidence-based treatments. At Headstrong, we are going to lead a vast movement across the country that heals the hidden wounds of war to help prevent veteran suicide. This is only the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.
Quinn is a highly respected member of the veteran community, and one who knows the space and is connected to the vets he serves. He’s someone to watch out for in the coming year and we can’t wait to see what good he’ll do for veterans next!
MIGHTY TRENDING

A Night Stalker vet created a custom tactical clamp for moving out in a hurry

David Burnett was a U.S. Army Special Operations Crew Chief with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. You might know it better as the “Night Stalkers.” He even wrote a book about his time with the Night Stalkers. His latest project isn’t about the Army, however. It’s for the Army, for the military. It’s an invention borne of necessity – as all great inventions are – and could save lives.

In short, David Burnett wants you out of his helicopter as soon as possible.


While he was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, troops would board his Chinook for the ride, normally hanging their go bags and other gear inside with carabiners and bungee cord. These are the usual, practical things with which American troops deploy to combat zones. While sitting in a brightly-lit flightline with the cabin lights on, this was no big deal. But U.S. troops, especially special operators, don’t fly to the enemy with the cabin lights on. They’re usually flying in at night, blacked out. It was in those situations David Burnett realized he and his Chinook were spending a lot more time on the ground than they wanted.

The good guys were having trouble releasing their stowed gear. It was still connected to the aircraft. All the old methods of fixing their gear didn’t offer quick-release functionality. David Burnett decided he was going to do something about that.

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

The Tac Clamp was born.

Burnett’s creation isn’t just a metal clamp. It can be hooked and fastened for quick release, or it can be placed on a tactical track for movement in a ready room, a hangar, arms room, or even the back of an aircraft. With the push of a button, the Tac Clamp will release its iron grip and let the special operator free to bring the fight to the enemy – and it works. It works really well. Burnett’s clamp has been submitted to aircrews at MacDill Air Force Base for review and is currently being field-tested by Navy Search and Rescue teams.

“I deployed with the 160th five times as a crew chief, and I saw this problem constantly on the aircraft and on vehicles too,” Burnett says. ” The reason was because all of these outdated methods they were using don’t offer quick release and is not very intuitive. This is something you clamp inside the aircraft but is not exclusive to the aircraft. If they were doing a ground assault and they can hook the Tac Clamp in their gear and just push a button to release it.”

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

​Burnett even created a Tac Clamp for aerial photography.

Currently, Burnett is working on getting one of the military branches to accept the Tac Clamp for consideration for small-business contracting programs. He currently has two proposals submitted, one for the Air Force and two for the Army. It’s been a long road for Burnett, but he hasn’t given up. What he’s offering is something he’s seen a need for in the military, one that could potentially save American lives. He’s already getting feedback on his aluminum clamp from troops in the field.

“Troops tell me they need a small version, made of hard plastic, one they can attach to their kit,” says Burnett, who enjoys the innovation. “All branches of service, they’re realizing they can streamline innovation process by allowing small businesses to propose their technologies and get new products and innovative technologies fielded within 18 months.”

Veterans

Everything about this monument is far more symbolic than most notice

There are many memorials scattered throughout this beautiful land of ours, dedicated to the sacrifice and honor shown by our men and women in uniform. At these monuments, crowds gather from all over the country to pay their respects on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

But there’s a memorial, located in Anthem, Arizona, that is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing — the Anthem Veterans Memorial. It’s truly a spectacular sight and it makes an annual appearance on social media. Every year, at around 11:11 AM on the 11th of November, the light shines through it perfectly, spotlighting an image of the Great Seal of the United States of America.

It’s a beautiful and breathtaking thing to see, surely, but with so much attention on that single, annual moment, many intricacies fall to the wayside. In actuality, every tiny, little detail of the site is symbolic — here’s how.


Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
The Army pillar is 17 ft tall, the shadow on the ground reaches 7ft off the base of the monument, and the Coast Guard pillar is 6 ft tall — because 17-7-6.
​(Anthem Community Council)

Located just north of Phoenix, Arizona, the Anthem Veterans Memorial was first envisioned in 2009 and finished in 2011. It was created by Renee Palmer-Jones, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Retired) Ron Tucker, and James Martin to give the city a way to honor the veterans within their community.

The memorial consists of five pillars, each bearing the insignia of a branch of the Armed Forces, stacked in order of Department of Defense precedence: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The pillars are made of white marble, arranged on red brick, and stand against the backdrop of the blue Arizona sky — the colors of Old Glory.

Once a year, when the light shines just right, the pillars cast a combined shadow that perfectly encircles the Seal of the United States, symbolizing how the joint effort of our armed forces support this great nation.

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver
You can still see it fairly well in mid-November, but it’s only going to be spot-on perfect on Veterans Day.
(Anthem Community Council)

Surrounding the Great Seal are 1750 red paver bricks — over 750 of these pavers bear the names of the servicemen and women who have supported our nation. On the outside of the pavers are two rows of bricks called the “Soldier Rows,” which symbolize the unbreakable defense our troops offer.

The knowledge of math, geometry, and astronomy required to get the monument right was intense. Construction began in June, 2010, which meant there was only one single moment (November 11, 2010) to make sure everything was just right before it was officially unveiled on November 11th, 2011. On any given year, the perfect circle will happen at 11:11:11 AM, give or take 12 seconds.

Each year, on Veterans Day, crowds will gather, unblinkingly, waiting for that perfect moment, honoring those who fight or have fought for our nation.

Veterans

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

If you have professional goals of influencing people and impacting your organization at its highest level, you owe it to yourself to learn about organizational leadership. Everyone has had to deal with a toxic leader who didn’t understand how to communicate, motivate and create change. Not only does ineffective leadership directly affects the morale of an environment, but it directly impacts the esprit de corps. That means that a toxic leader not only sabotages their own chances of success but everyone else around them too.

As a member of the military community, you know firsthand how vital it is to have strong leaders who understand how to communicate with people. The essential skills and mindsets of the world’s strongest leaders all have four things in common.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader can solve problems and make decisions quickly and for the best benefit of the organization. These leaders know how to communicate and listen critically. They also understand the benefit of team building and peer development, including developing leadership potential in others. All good leaders have an eye toward the future, on the lookout for new opportunities and new chances at innovation.

Organizational leadership is the management approach to setting goals for an entire organization while motivating individuals to meet those goals. As a member of the military community, this is part of your everyday life. Whether you’re active duty, a veteran, or a military spouse, you know that goal setting and motivation are equal parts in what it takes to become successful.

Where are leaders found?

Leaders are everywhere – from company CEOs to unit non-commissioned officers to teachers in classrooms, department heads and even head coaches. All of these people share a commonality – they’re organized into a unit for some end. The leader is the person who’s responsible for directing or guiding that group. The best leaders are those who can structure the inputs of others to produce organizational outputs. Translation: a good leader values the members of their team, listens to advice and then make decisions based on sound judgment.

Members in the military community aren’t strangers to leadership, but it takes more than wearing a uniform to become a good leader. You have to be people-oriented to be a successful leader, and for that, you need to have the right training.

How does a degree in Organizational Leadership help?

Earning a degree in Organizational Leadership will help you develop the skills that employers look for most. As a member of the military community, you already know that teamwork, sound judgment, having the ability to solve complex problems and using decision-making skills are part and parcel of any good leader. Studying Organizational Leadership at Penn State allows you to broaden those skills to include how to use evidence appropriately, exercise influence, and use conflict management and communication skills.

Take a deep dive into both the managerial and supervisory behavior of successful leaders from around the world to gain insight into the layered nature of what it means to lead from the top. Our Organizational Leadership program is designed specifically for the military community to help you develop the skills you need to lead from the top.

When you enroll in our World Campus Organizational Leadership program, you have the opportunity to explore what it means to be a leader from both a social-scientific perspective and an operational perspective. Developing foundational knowledge from both sides of the house allows you to expand on your current leadership skills and broaden your professional horizons.

Build your leadership skills with an online degree and never have to worry about finding a way to fit campus time into your schedule. As a valued member of America’s military community, we know that you have a choice when it comes to how you pursue your education. That’s why Penn State is pleased to offer our Organizational Leadership bachelor’s degree program entirely online. We offer both a BS and a BA to best meet your needs.

Penn State is nationally recognized for our wide array of online bachelor’s degrees. We offer a diverse curriculum with foundational courses in communication, economics and labor and employment relations to help you develop the operational leadership skills you need to take your career to the next level.

We’ve been helping members of the military community achieve their educational dreams since 1865. To date, our Penn State World Campus includes more than 5,000 military student learners. Penn State is a proud and active member of the Council on College and Military Educators, and has been recognized through several military-specific awards and rankings.

Whether you’re ready to transition back to civilian life or just looking to advance your education, our Organizational Leadership program offers exactly what you need. Find out more here.

This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.

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