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.
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.”
After meeting Comeau, Pin-Ups for Vets’ Elise knew she wanted to do something to show her appreciation.
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.
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.”
The Battle Creek VA Alive and Running VA5K for Veteran Suicide Prevention Awareness kicked off in a different fashion this year. Instead of having hundreds of participants together at once, the kick-off was done on Facebook live. The runners and walkers will be doing their part virtually to help raise awareness.
While it may be too late to register for a T-shirt and medal, it is not too late to do your part. Everyone can still participate virtually by walking, running or sharing information to raise awareness for Veteran Suicide Prevention.
Packets were distributed on Sept. 19, which would have been the normal day of the event.
“While this is not how we pictured our 8th Annual Alive and Running VA5K… we are so grateful we can come together like this to support our Veterans and Service Members while raising awareness for suicide prevention,” said Lindsey Cord, suicide prevention coordinator.
In the photo above, suicide prevention coordinator Mathew Raad presents a VA5k bib and medal to Jennifer Quinn.
You can participate until October 3
Even if you weren’t able to register for this event, you can still participate with us and go run, walk or ride 5K until Oct. 3. Tag our Facebook page and Hashtag #BeThere #AliveandRunningVA5k.
“Our team is focused on the community health approach to suicide prevention.” said Michelle Martin, medical center director. “Together, we can all Be There for Veterans. We appreciate the help of individuals, groups or organizations who help us raise awareness on this important topic.”
The Alive and Running VA5K is another way that the community can be involved. The event organizers hope to return to an in-person event next year but did not want to lose momentum on this important topic. Suicide is preventable. Together, we can all make a difference.
This week I was given an incredible statistic: Just 20 years ago, VA served a little more than 150,000 women Veterans. This was before 9/11, an event that prompted so many American men and women to enlist and defend their country.
Today, VA is serving more than 740,000 women Veterans. That’s more than four times as many women coming to VA for the health care and benefits they earned through their service.
This dramatic growth is a welcome sign that opportunities are opening up for women in the armed forces more than ever before. It also represents a challenge for VA, which needs to evolve to meet the needs of these women patriots.
The good news is that thanks to your hard work, VA is meeting this challenge by making sure we have the capacity to care for every woman who walks through our doors.
We have at least two women’s health care providers at each of our health care facilities who provide gynecology, maternity, specialty care and mental health services for women. We are using our modernized electronic health record to more closely track breast and reproductive care in order to produce better health care outcomes for women. We are also reducing and eliminating gender disparities in areas like chronic disease management and prevention.
As a result, our latest outpatient surveys show that 83.8% of women trust the care they receive at VA. That trust reflects your ongoing commitment to making sure VA serves anyone who served this nation.
There is another kind of trust we need to instill at VA: trust that women will be treated with the respect they have earned. But we are making important progress here as well.
As soon as he took the job in 2018, Secretary Wilkie understood the importance of making sure all our women Veterans feel safe and comfortable here. VA has made it clear that this not a boy’s club, and that there is no tolerance for sexual harassment, assault or any other behavior that creates a hostile environment for women.
We have backed up that policy with action that has been supported by VA staff across the country. We have trained staff on our collective responsibility to serve women Veterans, stressed the importance of taking sexual harassment incidents seriously, committed resources aimed at preventing these incidents from happening, and pushed for the thorough investigation of these incidents when they do occur.
In 2019, VA established a Harassment and Assault Policy and Reporting Task Force to strengthen efforts to crack down on assault and harassment, and boost reporting procedures. Many of you participated in 2019’s Stand Up to Stop Harassment Now campaign, which encouraged patients, staff, visitors and volunteers to intervene whenever possible and report harassment to supervisors.
This year, I personally oversaw a council of experts within VA to ensure our efforts to keep women Veterans safe were strategically aligned and as strong as possible. VA also launched a database on sexual assault incident reporting that will help VA track and analyze sexual assault and harassment, and give us the information we need to target our efforts to reduce these incidents further.
And our Center for Women Veterans has amplified these messages to Veterans and staff through its “I Am Not Invisible” campaigns, new employee orientation sessions, outreach sessions with minority women Veterans, and more widely on social media.
When someone puts on the uniform, it doesn’t matter if they’re a man or a woman. What matters is that that person loves this country so much they are compelled to defend it, and that should compel us to do our very best to give them the respect and compassion they have earned when they arrive at VA.
I’m proud to be working with so many at VA who share this goal, and I thank you for getting us closer to it every day.
While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.
Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.
As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.
After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.
Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.
Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.
More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.
I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.
Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.
Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.
“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.
While Black-Americans have been helping America win wars since the Revolutionary War, they have not historically been recognized for their heroism at the same rate as their white counterparts.
These 8 heroes received Medals of Honor for their actions decades after the battles:
1. Sgt. Henry Johnson
One WWI soldier was not bestowed his Medal of Honor until nearly a century later.Sgt. Henry Johnson, assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, came under heavy enemy fire on May 15, 1918, from a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest. Despite being wounded Johnson used grenades, a rifle, a knife, and his bare hands to hold off the German attack.
2. 2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker
2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker took part in a company attack in Apr. 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. He personally destroyed four German positions that were pinning down his unit and then covered the evacuation of wounded personnel. The next night, Baker led an advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire to capture a division objective.
3. Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr.
Sgt. Edward A. Carter was riding on a tank on Mar. 23, 1945 near Speyer, Germany when enemy anti-tank and rifle fire began flying in. Carter voluntarily led a three-man team against the position. He was wounded five times and an enemy squad attempted to capture him, but he killed six Germans and captured two.
4. 1st Lt. John R. Fox
Near Sommocolonia, Italy on Dec. 26, 1944, 1st Lt. John R. Fox was directing defensive artillery fire to slow a German advance. He adjusted the fire closer and closer to his position until finally ordering it onto his own building as the Nazis drew closer. Later, Fox’s body was found with approximately 100 dead German soldiers around him.
5. Pfc. Willy F. James, Jr.
On Apr. 7, 1945, Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. scouted a vital bridgehead while pinned down, then returned to his unit he assisted in developing a plan of maneuver to take the bridge. He led a squad, designating targets as he advanced, until he was killed by enemy fire while trying to aid his fatally wounded platoon leader.
6. Sgt. Ruben Rivers
Sgt. Ruben Rivers was a tank platoon sergeant in World War II. On Nov. 16, 1944, he was leading a tank assault when he struck a mine and was severely injured in the leg. He refused to be medically evacuated and led another tank in to save his platoon.
On Nov. 19, Rivers’ wound was infected but he led another tank in a company assault despite his wounds. When an enemy anti-tank unit began firing from concealed positions, the rest of the company withdrew. Rivers spotted the Germans began returning fire alongside another tank. The rest of the company made it out but Rivers’ tank was destroyed, killing him and wounded the rest of the crew.
7. 1st Lt. Charles Thomas
Near Climbach, France on Dec. 14, 1944, 1st Lt. Charles Thomas’s armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery and small arms fire. Although wounded by the burst of fire, Thomas, assisted the crew in dismounting before he took additional enemy fire in his chest, legs, and left arm.
Thomas directed his two antitank guns begin returning fire. Realizing he could no longer remain in command, Thomas stayed long enough to brief his subordinate officer on the enemy disposition. Only after he was certain the other officer was in control did he permit himself to be evacuated.
8. Pvt. George Watson
Pvt. George Watson was on board a ship near New Guinea on Mar. 8 when it was hit by enemy bombers. The order to abandon ship was given but Watson did not head to safety. Instead he began assisting soldiers who could not swim to a raft. Because of this, he was eventually pulled under the surface of the water by the suction from the sinking ship.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
Seven decades ago, Army 1st Lt. Ralph Puckett knew his outnumbered Ranger Company had to defend a hill in northern Korea against hundreds of determined Chinese infantry.
In below-freezing temperatures, Puckett led the men of the 8th Ranger Company to repel five enemy assaults against their perimeter on Hill 205. He was wounded three times but still managed to call in artillery on the enemy shortly after the position was overrun.
For his bravery on Nov. 25-26, 1950, President Joe Biden will upgrade the 94-year-old retired colonel’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.
Biden called Puckett at home in Columbus, Georgia, on Friday to tell him of his decision to approve the award, John Lock, a retired Army officer who began petitioning the service in 2003 for reconsideration of Puckett’s actions, told the Post. Lock confirmed this to Military.com Monday.Advertisement
Puckett led his 51 Rangers and 9 South Korean soldiers across 800 yards of frozen rice paddies to seize the enemy-held “Hill 205” on Nov. 25, he described in an oral history project on witnesstowar.org.
“We came under mortar and machine gun fire as soon as we jumped off the tanks which had carried us from behind [another] hill out onto the rice paddy,” Puckett recalled.
During this operation, he “deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire” so his men could spot the weapons’ locations, according to Puckett’s Distinguished Service Cross citation.
Once the company seized the hill, the unit immediately prepared to defend against enemy counterattack from any direction.
“We always defended 360 degrees because we were always alone,” Puckett said in the oral history. “Tonight was to be no different; the closest U.S. Army unit was over a mile away, so we’ve got to look after ourselves.
“We were hit by a mortar barrage and automatic weapons fire and, shortly thereafter, a shower of hand grenades,” he said. “I called in artillery, got artillery … and that stopped the assault.”
The Rangers took casualties, including Puckett, who was wounded in his right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through “four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back,” according to his citation.
Puckett’s Rangers put up a stiff fight, but he also credited the artillery support they received.
“It saved our necks. … We were getting more and more pressure; we had more and more people wounded,” Puckett said.
At roughly 2:30 a.m. Nov. 26, the Chinese bugles again blasted through the darkness.
“I ran back to my foxhole and called for artillery, but the artillery officer said, ‘I can’t give it to you,'” Puckett said. “They were firing another mission. I said, ‘We have got to have it. … We are under great pressure. We are crumbling. We are being overrun.'”
Puckett was hit a third time and could no longer move.
Realizing that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind, according to the citation.
“Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety,” it adds.
At the bottom of the hill, three tanks had come up but could not attack the enemy on the steep incline, Puckett recalled.
“I called for an artillery concentration with … white phosphorus and high explosive on top of the hill,” said Puckett, who was then loaded on the tanks and taken for medical care.
Following the Korean War, Puckett served for two years in the U.S. Army Infantry School Ranger Department. He would go on to earn a second Distinguished Service Cross while serving in the Vietnam War. His other decorations and awards include two Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Commendation Medal, 10 Air Medals, and five Purple Hearts, according to his Association of the United States Army bio.
Over the years, Puckett, who retired in 1971, also became a respected mentor and “honorary colonel” for the 75th Ranger Regiment, according to the Post.
Puckett’s wife, Jean, told the paper that she hopes Puckett, who has health problems, will be able to receive the Medal of Honor.
“He is not the one who has been pushing it. It has been John and our immediate family, who want him to be able to receive it personally if he is going to be awarded that medal,” she told the Post, describing how her husband “felt the Distinguished Service Cross was honor enough.”
During the oral history, Puckett said he is still amazed that his small unit was able to stand against such a large force that night in Korea.
“How did that very small group do so well against what was officially estimated to be several hundred enemy soldiers?” Puckett asked. “They were highly skilled and physically, mentally, morally tough. Good training is the basis for success; without it, you’re not going to make it.”
Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.
Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.
Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.
Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.
As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.
Matt Perry wouldn’t be the first active-duty Sailor to make the jump to NASCAR, but he would be the first to make his debut by crowdfunding it.
The south Georgia native has been bombing around dirt and asphalt since the tender age of six. As a teen, he became an amateur drifter, making his way around the region while drag racing in the dirt of northern Florida. When he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming a fourth-generation service member.
His passion for motorsports never went away, though. He competes in AutoCross while training for the big time at places like Willow Springs International Raceway and Irwindale Speedway.
Perry’s first stock car race came in September 2017, when he competed in the Whelen All-American Series at Meridian Speedway. He made history by becoming the first enlisted U.S. Navy Sailor to compete in NASCAR. He finished in the top ten as a NASCAR rookie.
Matt Perry is now looking to enter the 2018 season racing Super Late Models as well as Modifieds in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and he strives to make the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. But he needs helps — an enlisted sailor doesn’t make a lot of money.
“It has been an incredible journey to make it into NASCAR,” Perry says. “But sadly, the cost to race is too high for me to manage it by myself. I have a lifelong dream to make this a full career and won’t stop until we, as a team, have reached my goal.”
You’ve probably come across the term “Veterans preference” at some point during your job search. But what does that mean exactly — and how can it help you land a job at VA?
Veterans preference means that, as a Veteran, you may move ahead of non-Veterans in the federal hiring process. Veterans who qualify for disability receive greater preference.
“Approximately 40% of our employees hold Veteran status, so we’re really proud of that fact and we encourage Veterans to apply,” said Dave Aragon, VA recruitment consultant, in a video on applying to VA.
However, Veterans preference is not a guarantee you’ll be hired. There are other groups — like military spouses and returning Peace Corps volunteers — who also receive preference for federal jobs. In addition, some jobs are open only to current federal employees.
Getting in the door
Because there are so many applicants – including other Veterans, for VA jobs – make sure you apply for jobs that are the best match for your skills.
“There are millions of Veterans in the U.S. and many of them want to work at VA, so there is a lot of competition for these jobs. You have the best chance of success if you apply for a job for which you are highly qualified,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA recruitment marketing.
If most or all of your work experience is in the military, you may not feel you are highly qualified right out of the gate.
“One difficult thing for Veterans is to convert valuable military skills into those valued in the private sector as well,” Sherrard wrote in a blog post. “I encourage everyone to take the same winning steps and attitude that made us successful as warriors and apply them into our daily lives and our job searches.”
With a combination of a military health background and Veterans preference, there are a number of positions at VA for which you could meet the requirements straight out of the military.
Learn about these civilian careers — like intermediate care technicians (ICTs) or nursing assistants — through our Transitioning Military Personnel initiative. This program connects former service members with civilian careers at VA, the nation’s largest integrated health care organization.
But what if you don’t have military health experience? Consider applying for support service positions, such as housekeeper, transportation clerk or engineering technician. Veterans preference commonly gives you a boost in applying for one of these jobs.
We offer several scholarships that can help you begin or continue your health care education without piling up debt, as well as the VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) that pays your full salary and up to ,117 toward the cost of higher education.
Some VA medical centers pay for courses from nearby colleges and universities, while the VA Talent Management System provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and training. Mentoring and on-the-job training are also baked into our DNA.
Work at VA
Interested in a future helping your fellow Veterans? Use your Veteran status to secure a VA career.
American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.
Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.
When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.
Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.
Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.
After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.
In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.
Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.
Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.
In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.
Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.
After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.
Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.
Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.
At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.
While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”
Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”
At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.
Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.
Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.
Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.
Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.
There are many famous people who served in the United States Military. Some were drafted, some had the choice between jail or service, and some felt the call and volunteered.
From World War II to 9/11 and beyond, these celebrities served their country before they became famous — except for Elvis. Elvis was always a star.
Note: There are some celebrities who are already well known for their military service (like everyone’s favorite Gunny, R. Lee Ermey). You won’t see them on this list, since our goal was to point out celebrities whose military service isn’t as well known.
In no particular order, these are ten awesome celebrities who served in the U.S. Armed Forces:
Rob Riggle served in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he went through Officer Candidate School. Though he originally had the intention of becoming a pilot, he realized that he wanted to pursue comedy, so he became a Public Affairs Officer instead. After his Active Duty service commitment was complete, he transitioned into the reserves, where he served for 14 more while doing comedy and acting full time.
Riggle served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan during his time in service. Now retired, he continues to help the veteran community through initiatives like his Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic, a veteran-celebrity golf tournament that raises money and awareness for veteran non-profits, like Semper Fi Fund, an organization that assists service members and their families.
Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
(Photo by Bob Sandberg)
2. Jackie Robinson, United States Army
Jackie Robinson was drafted to the United States Army in 1942, where he was assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit before applying to Officer Candidate School. His application was delayed due to the color of his skin, but, after protests by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, he was accepted. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in January, 1943.
In August, 1944, he faced court-martial for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, a segregated location known for its racism.
On July 6, 1944, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. Angry from the way he was treated and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait for the MPs in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.
He was charged with two accounts of insubordination. His defense would win out, however, and Robinson was freed. He medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle and went on to become the first African American to play Major League Baseball.
It looks like a mug shot, but that’s an OG CAC picture on the left.
3. Bea Arthur, United States Marine Corps
The late Bea Arthur served as a truck driver in the U.S. Marine Corps. She enlisted into the Women’s Reservists during World War II at the age of 21 under her maiden name, Bernice Frankel. A handwritten letter of hers states,
“I was supposed to start work yesterday, but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was join.”
She was stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. She was honorably discharged after the war at the rank of Staff Sergeant. She would marry a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, and go on to have a successful career in the arts.
Any fan of Arthur’s incisive Dorothy on Golden Girls won’t be surprised to hear that Arthur’s enlistment interviewer described her as “argumentative” and “officious — but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”
4. Bob Ross, United States Air Force
Robert Norman Ross, better known as the friendly painter Bob Ross, enlisted in the Air Force at age 18 and went on to serve for 20 years. While stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Florida-native Ross saw snow and mountains for the first time, which would influence his serene landscape choices as he began his prolific painting career.
It might be surprising to know that while in the Air Force, Ross became a Drill Instructor.
“I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.”
True to his word, he developed The Joy of Painting, his famous program where he taught others to paint with an uplifting and soft-spoken demeanor that has become famous around the world.
5. Adam Driver, U.S. Marine Corps
Adam Driver, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became an infantry mortarman after the 9/11 attacks. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s (eighty-ones) Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines and was training for his first deployment when he sustained an injury that would result in a medical discharge.
After his service, Driver founded a non-profit organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff, and their families around the world free of charge with the intention of bridging the divide between civilians and the military.
Of his military career, Driver once said, “In the military, you learn the essence of people. You see so many examples of self-sacrifice and moral courage. In the rest of life you don’t get that many opportunities to be sure of your friends.”
6. Montel Williams, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy
Talk show host Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marines Corps after high school and completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, before going to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twentynine Palms, California. After impressing his superiors with his leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Newport, Rhode Island. He was then accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Upon graduation, he became a cryptologic officer for the United States Navy. He served in Guam before transferring to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian for a year before putting his linguistic skills to use for the National Security Agency. He served aboard submarines for three years before he decided to separate from the military and pursue public and motivational speaking full time.
Elvis Presley inventing ‘Blue Steel’ during his military service in Germany.
7. Elvis Presley, United States Army
After one deferment to complete the film King Creole, Elvis Aron Presley reported for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Hood on March 24, 1958, where he was assigned to the Second Armored Division’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ unit. His induction was a major event that attracted fans and media attention.
After basic, Presley sailed to Europe aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. By March, 1960, Sergeant Presley finished his military commitment and received an honorable discharge from active duty.
Reflecting on his service, Presley once told Armed Forces Radio and Television that he was determined to go to any limits to prove himself — and he did, though his career as an artist was never too far from reach. Shortly after returning to the United States, he shot the film G-I Blues, a musical comedy where Presley played a tank crewman with a singing career.
8. Jimi Hendrix, United States Army
Jimi Hendrix, one of rock’s greatest guitar players, served a brief, thirteen-month stint with the famed U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles” — just a few years before his epic rise to rockstardom in the late 60s. Hendrix wanted to enlist as a musician but had no formal music training, so he opted for the 101st Airborne Division.
Months after joining the Screaming Eagles, life as a paratrooper began to wear on Hendrix’s morale. He was constantly reprimanded for dereliction of duties.
Jimi just wanted to play his guitar. His days as a paratrooper came to an end on his 26th jump when he broke his ankle.
Hendrix began exploring the Fort Campbell area nightlife before venturing down to nearby Nashville where he began jamming with local bluesmen. It was in that vibrant music scene that he met fellow service member and bassist Billy Cox. In September, 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, Hendrix and Cox formed a band called the King Kasuals, but it was later in New York City where Hendrix would catch the break that would help him become the rockstar he’s remembered as today.
9. Kurt Vonnegut, United States Army
Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. In 1944, then-Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work – until the city was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.
Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become one of the most famous PTSD flashback stories and one of the most banned books of all-time.
Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.
He chose to separate from the Army to pursue a music career instead, but served in the Tennessee National Guard when he needed to make ends meet. It was during that time when he infamously stole a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s lawn, a bold move that would pay off when Cash, a fellow veteran, recorded Kristofferson’s song and began an epic musical friendship.
In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.