Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Ohio State Senator Frank Hoagland served as a Navy SEAL for 20 years before retiring as a Senior Chief. Although he never wanted to go into politics, he saw it as an opportunity to make a difference.

“I knew what I wanted to do ever since I was five years old. My dad was an Army Green Beret but he wanted me to go to college and become an engineer because he said I had what he called the fix it gene. I joined the Navy in 1981 as a part of the delayed entry program,” Hoagland said. “I ended up with a parasite in my sinuses that almost killed me, it ate a hole through my skull so I retired on January 30, 2003.”

Retirement didn’t last long for Hoagland. He was in Afghanistan just a few days later as the on ground commander for an unnamed governmental agency. After leaving Afghanistan, he worked with the Federal Marshals before signing on with the Department of Defense for nine years. All together, he had over 20 deployments. 

When Hoagland finished his last deployment overseas in 2011, he founded a small business, S.T.A.R.T., Special Tactics Response Training. In 2016 he was elected to the Ohio State Senate to represent southeastern Ohio and is now in his second term. 

Hoagland continued to watch veterans, many who were his friends, struggling. The suicide rates continued to climb. “I don’t care what title you have but I do care about taking care of the men and women who served this great nation.” As a member of the Veteran and Public Safety committee, Hoagland was always looking for ways to improve and support the lives of veterans.

“I’ve had a few of my friends commit suicide and try to commit suicide. Hell, I’ve had my wife sitting in a chair crying her eyes out because we are listening to these guys and waiting to hear that gun go off,” Hoagland said. He and others worked tirelessly to reach their friends and support them after the VA wouldn’t. They didn’t always make it in time. 

“I had another friend who committed suicide and I had to go find him…it reminded me of all of the death that I had seen overseas.” Hoagland shared. Tired of watching veterans die or just remain what he referred to as “drugged out of their minds” by the VA, Hoagland wanted to capture the data of  alternative programs to show the FDA in order to get more effective treatment options for veterans. 

Senator Hoagland at an event. (Facebook)

One of the ways he did that was to secure $6 million in funding for a Veterans Pilot Program utilizing Data-Driven Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) at Ohio State University. Hoagland said he watched in awe as the electromagnetic therapy began to save the lives of veterans. 

In the state of Ohio, Hoagland was deeply familiar with the revolving door of treatment. Watching the traditional approaches failing, he wanted something that would work. When he saw the impact that TMS was having, Hoagland knew he found something. “I wanted a program that we in the military would understand. We are going to save your life and stay on you for the rest of your life,” he explained. 

The TMS therapy essentially repaired broken or damaged cells, leading to things like improved sleep, and reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. There were no medications or painful procedures, just electromagnetic waves stimulating brains to heal themselves. “I was getting calls from veterans wives thanking me for saving their family. We knew we were doing something right,” Hoagland said. 

Then, the university abruptly ended the program without warning and without serving the number of veterans they had committed to. Ohio State University also refused to talk to the senator and barred the staff from the program from communicating with anyone. This would be the third and final time the program would be stopped. But the veterans kept coming, trying to get in. 

A Memorial Day Message from Senator Frank Hoagland from 2018 (YouTube)

“We had a lot of kids lining up to go through this program. During COVID I was inundated with calls from veterans,” Hoagland shared. One of them would go on to commit suicide not long after he was refused entry into the program. In his and others’ view, the university turned their backs on the veteran and it led to his death. 

Despite the devastating setback, Hoagland remains determined to bring this program back and in operation. He’s now secured another $12 million for it through the Ohio state budget. “So, where are we now? We are in the process of writing new policy. We are getting more funding and expanding the program. I not only want to see our men and women in green get this help but our men and women in blue too,” Hoagland said. 

Through his advocacy and legislative efforts, Hoagland hopes to make a difference in the lives of veterans who are struggling with the impacts of their service. It’s his hope that states across the country will take notice of the work they are doing and dive into creating programs of their own to create new opportunities for healing. Lives depend on it.

Articles

Community Solutions is tackling the epidemic of veteran homelessness

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans
photo credit: M1kha


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

Community Solutions is a nonprofit devoted to ending homelessness, and one of its projects, Built for Zero, is committed to eradicating veteran homelessness.

A report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HUD Exchange estimates that there are slightly more than 39,000 homeless veterans (both in shelters and without shelter). While still a significant number, that number has seen huge decreases in the last few years thanks in part to partnerships with programs like Built for Zero.

Built for Zero is an intense national program that helps communities develop and implement drastic plans to address the issue of veteran and chronic homelessness, and “the conditions that create it.” The motivation is two-fold: homelessness costs local economies more money by sustaining shelters and emergency medical care, and that veterans who’ve defended this country shouldn’t be homeless in it.

“Homelessness is a manmade disaster, and it can be solved,” Community Solutions president Rosanne Haggerty wrote in the nonprofit’s 2015 Annual Report.

Built for Zero partners with communities and teaches them how to come up with ways to pool and manage their resources, tapping into previously non-traditional homelessness-fighting resources, like businesses, churches, and even real estate companies in order to address some of the conditions that impact homeless veterans.

Employment, transportation and healthcare are just some of the issues that the project addresses when fighting homelessness.

“Community Solutions works upstream and downstream of the problem by helping communities end homelessness where it happens and improve the conditions of inequality that make it more likely to happen in the future,” Haggerty wrote in the report.

Rather than make homelessness just a crime-fighting task, Built for Zero makes it a community task.

The techniques Built for Zero utilize have been proven to work. Earlier this week, a community in Wisconsin announced that it had eliminated veteran homelessness. To date, Built for Zero has housed over 40,000 homeless veterans, and helped 5 communities to accomplish their goals of eradicating veteran homelessness.

In 2015 alone, Community Solutions raised over $9 million through donations and grants. That money assisted in housing over 20,000 homeless veterans in 75 communities- and it saved tax payers an estimated $150 million doing it.

Check out how you can get involved with Built for Zero and impact veteran homelessness in your community.

Veterans

The 10 best career paths for veterans after leaving the military

Reentering the workforce after serving in the military can be a tough transition for former service members and their families.

Navy Federal reported in 2019 that more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year. One of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find stable, well-paying work that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained while serving in the military.

Christopher Plamp, the CEO of Hire Heroes USA, said his own experiences looking for work after spending 26 years in the Air Force inspired him to begin working at the organization.

“When service members leave the military, they may have a gap in their skills or might have never even had a civilian job before,” he told Business Insider. “They might have never made a resumé, done a behavioral interview, or made a LinkedIn profile before. Hire Heroes helps them through this process, as well as connecting veterans and military spouses with companies that want to hire retired service members and their families.”

In 2019, Navy Federal and Hire Heroes USA asked veterans nationwide what they value most in a civilian career, whether it be location, compensation, flexible hours, or working at a mission-driven organization. Both organizations then worked together to come up with a list of promising career paths for former service members. Business Insider then used Zip Recruiter to find the average annual salaries for each role.

Here are the 10 best career paths for veterans.

Healthcare was ranked as the best career path for veterans.

The healthcare profession allows veterans to use skills they may have learned in the military and channel them into a rewarding, mission-based, and lucrative career. Popular career paths for vets entering the healthcare industry include hospital operations and logistics, registered nursing, medical research, and administration (data, records, hospital functionality).

Average annual salary: $66,413/year

See open roles here >>

One in four veterans works in government or public administration.

Veterans gain valuable leadership skills while serving in the military, which can often translate to a successful career in government or public administration. With plenty of opportunities for career growth and flexible hours, veterans looking to enter this career path should consider applying for jobs in administration, program analysis, and public affairs. 

Average annual salary: $45,647/year

See open roles here >>

Defense contracting involves creating materials that will help aid the various sections of national defense. Whether you’re building weaponry or an aircraft, defense contracting work offers competitive salaries and is directly related to the military. Potential jobs in defense contracting could include becoming an analyst, an intelligence specialist, a contract management specialist, or a quality assurance manager.

Average annual salary: $74,533/year

See open roles here >>

Information technology jobs utilize skills potentially learned in the military and offer competitive compensation.

Information technology jobs are expanding year after year, so veterans may want to consider joining this career. IT jobs provide competitive salaries and a clear path toward career advancement. Popular career paths in the IT field among veterans include project management, systems engineering, cybersecurity, data analysis, and information security analysis. 

Average annual salary: $54,495/year

See open roles here >>

Financial services careers work well for younger vets eager to enter an exciting and lucrative new career.

Financial services jobs are popular among veterans, with more than one in 10 younger vets placed in a job related to finance. Salaries are competitive, and popular career paths can range anywhere from being a financial advisor to a finance manager or accountant.

Average annual salary: $59,139/year

See open roles here >>

Education careers are best suited for veterans who believe in mission-based work.

For veterans who value mission-based work, a career in education may be the perfect fit. Most careers in education do require a college degree, and in 2019, it was reported that 13% of career-holding veterans end up in education-related professions. 

Average annual salary: $41,515/year

See open roles here >>

Law enforcement careers can be comparable to military experience, making it a good career fit for many veterans.

One popular career path among many veterans is law enforcement. Skills and experiences learned in the military make veterans a valuable asset to any law enforcement organization. Possible law enforcement careers for retired military members could include becoming a police officer, a crime scene investigator, an emergency dispatcher, or a corrections officer.

Average annual salary: $56,427/year

See open roles here >>

Retail jobs offer flexible work schedules that may be particularly well suited for veterans.

Veterans working in the retail industry can enjoy working on a team as well as the benefits of flexible hours. Employment in retail is most popular among veterans aged 45 and older, and popular career paths include sales, marketing, and warehouse logistics. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, retail employees have become even more valuable.

Average annual salary: $25,519/year

See open roles here >>

Manufacturing jobs often don’t require formal education, but they still offer career advancement and competitive pay.

The manufacturing industry is a viable career path for veterans without college degrees. While the average annual salary for careers in manufacturing as a whole is only $27,199, entry-level maintenance technicians reportedly make an average of $39,307 per year and manufacturing supervisors make an average of $58,129 per year.

Average annual salary: $27,246/year

See open roles here >>

Transportation or warehousing jobs give vets the opportunity to work with their hands and are well suited to their military experience and skills.

For veterans who prefer a more active, physical career path, working in a warehouse could be the right career choice. Plus, for veterans looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, warehouses are in need of more employees in order to keep up with increased demand for essential goods.

Average annual salary: $26,749/year

See open roles here >>

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran’s Last Patrol honors veterans in hospice. Here’s how you can, too

In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.

“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.


Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.

This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.

The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.

“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.

“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.

This year the goal is 10,000.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.

Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.

Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?

Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to:
Veteran’s Last Patrol
140B Venture Blvd
Spartanburg, SC, 29306

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans


Veterans

7 respected degrees that will shape the future of national defense

This article was sponsored by American Military University.

The world is an ever-changing place and future American policy planners will not only need to keep up with the pace of change, they’ll need to know the past events that shaped the world. 

America’s national security policy relies on an intelligent and skilled workforce that values diverse backgrounds and experiences in areas that are critical to national defense.

With this in mind, few are better suited to bolster national defense than veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. With experience performing in the command-and-control structure of the government’s uniformed services to specialized training and security clearances—many veterans find their post-military calling supporting national defense. 

These 7 degree programs from American Military University (AMU) were designed to help learners be better prepared to support their next mission.

1. International Relations & Global Security

International relations and global security is more than just how countries interact in the context of globalization. It’s also about how past events or conflicts lead to the breaking news of the day. The policies set by governments and nongovernment actors are a reflection of regional values, economies and cultures—creating interdependencies that can lead to war or peace.  

How will the United States navigate its obligations as a global superpower while looking out for its own best interests? What effects will it have on America’s partners or enemies? Who will be impacted by geopolitics in the future? You can learn how to analyze these risks and conflicts, and develop the critical thinking and policies to increase prospects for sustainable peace in hotbed regions. 

2. Intelligence Studies

Strategic, operational and tactical intelligence is harnessed around-the-clock by every military branch. The Department of Defense taps into a vast network of military intelligence servicemembers to inform its command. It’s why a large cadre of veterans transition into the intelligence community after active duty service—and they come from a variety of military backgrounds.

At AMU, students explore intelligence operations, counterintelligence, collection methods and even gamification. The incorporation of social media into intelligence collection provides real-world application, now more than ever. It’s an impactful data source, which the intelligence community continues to refine how it collects and analyzes communications across the proliferation of social platforms.

3. Homeland Security

AMU’s homeland security program was established before 9/11 and continues to prepare national security and public service professionals who want to safeguard the Nation as a first line of defense. But homeland security doesn’t begin and end at the borders, ports or airports. It means securing critical infrastructure, retaining interoperability across agencies, and serving as first-responders when fellow citizens need them the most—after a disaster. 

AMU’s homeland security discipline explores the legal and ethical issues behind why national security policies are in place, finding areas most at risk from foreign threats, and most importantly, having the know-how to protect the people and critical infrastructure that keeps this country running.

4. Public Health

If the Coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the whole planet was unprepared for how bad it could get. And yet, veterans were on the frontlines of this epidemic, from medical staff to logistics, to public health warnings. Public health isn’t just about curing diseases, it’s about addressing the systemic causes of disease and other ailments that plague countries and regions of the world. Public health professionals conduct scientific research and educate populations with the goal of preventing disease and illnesses. 

Public health workers aren’t only doctors and nurses. They have to be capable administrators and managers, well-versed in policy and the law surrounding their field. AMU’s experienced public health experts design their curriculum to help students apply emerging practices to prepare for whatever comes next.

5. Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks are a global threat, but hardening and safeguarding our national data infrastructure begins on U.S. soil. With the growing power of AI and disinformation campaigns, cybersecurity is a mission-critical discipline that deserves your attention. From the battlefield to the boardroom—AMU’s veteran community is actively strengthening the cyber “warrior” for the future.

The university is also part of the accredited American Public University System, which was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The center provides oversight and guidance to enable AMU to craft multidisciplinary cybersecurity education that reflects the trends and strategies used in the field today.

6. Space Studies

Space isn’t just the realm of NASA anymore. With space entrepreneurism exploding—think SpaceX and Blue Origin—the next frontier of space is already here. Add the new U.S. Space Force to the mix and America’s national security apparatus spans Earth’s orbit and includes a wide range of military and federal agencies, private contractors, and multinational corporations working together.

AMU’s space studies program was designed with input by former astronauts, NASA engineers, aerospace leaders, and more. It provides a unique approach that integrates space exploration, aerospace science, astronomy, and policymaking from both federal and space industry perspectives.

For the astronomy purist, AMU built a space observatory atop its Information Technology building, which houses a 650-pound reflective Planewave CDK24 telescope that is fully remote-controlled to capture and share celestial imagery for research and education at a distance.

7. Military History

As the old adage says, “Those who don’t learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” Military history draws many veteran students with an interest in analyzing technological advances or strategic turning points in wars with an eye on learning from history to prevent future conflicts. 

AMU students learn from the towering figures of military history, analyze historical battles and determine how they shaped the future, and explore the past philosophies or war and military strategy. They learn how military spending can advance human development, launches new technologies, and impact societies as a whole. 

America needs skilled, experienced professionals at every level to guide the country forward. Decisions we make in the near future will be informed by the next generation of graduates who have the knowledge and expertise required to make the tough calls. AMU’s mission is to help educate and prepare those leaders to meet that challenge.

This article was sponsored by American Military University.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA enhances mental health treatment with measurement based care

How do we measure mental health?

Mental health treatment can be complicated, and adjustments are often needed to make it as effective as possible. When treatment isn’t meeting the Veteran’s goals or leading to improvement, VA encourages the Veteran and provider to discuss potential reasons and consider modifications or alternative treatments that better meet the patient’s needs.


To help, VA uses standardized questionnaires to measure change along the way. This process, known as measurement-based care (MBC), transforms the way VA delivers mental health care. MBC involves the following steps:

  • The Veteran routinely completes brief questionnaires about their symptoms and progress toward treatment goals.
  • The provider and the Veteran review and talk about the results together, using the questionnaire as a starting point for discussing what’s working in treatment — and what’s not. The provider explains what the findings mean and may offer ideas for changing treatment based on the results.
  • Based on these conversations and considering the Veteran’s perspective, the provider and Veteran work together to select the best treatment options.

Benefits of MBC

Data from MBC questionnaires can signal when treatment isn’t working. It also helps the clinician and Veteran develop a plan to get back on track. MBC helps foster an open dialogue between Veterans and their providers, ensuring that the treatment process is progressing toward each Veteran’s mental health goals. This dialogue may include meaningful conversations about personal goals, collaborative development of treatment plans, assessment of progress over time, and joint decisions about adjustments to the treatment plan. Veterans’ participation in developing their treatment approach has the added benefit of helping them to actively engage in their care.

Change can be challenging

Using MBC can be a pretty big adjustment for many mental health providers. Changing a health care practice is challenging even when the new method is simple, and the MBC approach involves several steps and many considerations. That’s why VA is rolling out MBC in phases, so that along the way we can learn from providers’ experiences the best ways to put MBC into practice.

Members of the VA Center for Integrated Healthcare, the VISN 4 MIRECC and the Behavioral Health QUERI are studying how providers at 10 sites are implementing MBC into their primary care and mental health integration programs. Their goal is to understand what it takes to help providers shift their practice to the MBC approach. Their results will be used to help providers at other VA sites figure out how to adopt MBC.

Coming to a VA location near you

Veterans in VA care may have already had MBC interactions with their providers. For those who have not, MBC is coming to a VA facility near you! VA is continuing to expand measurement-based care across its many medical centers, clinics and other facilities.

To learn more about MBC, download this handout.

For more information about the mental health treatment options offered at your local VA facility, visit the Mental Health Community Points of Contact Locator.

Interested VA providers can check out MBC resources, including handouts and trainings, on our MBC SharePoint page.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taking on veteran suicide, one pair of ‘Ranger panties’ at a time

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.

I was intrigued.


Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.

“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”

But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”

And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.

That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.

So I went for it, Silkies and everything.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.

As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”

“I found my people for the first time,” he added.

Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”

In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.

Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)

I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.

As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.

But it turned out to be everything but that.

No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.

On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.

Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”

The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.

As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!

After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.

If you want to get involved or donate to support the Irreverent Warriors mission, go to their website, www.irreverentwarriors.com.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Shop these 6 veteran-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday

Whether you’re an avid leave-at-three-in-the-morning-and-stand-outside-Walmart-for-hours kind of shopper or more of the hell-no-I’m-not-leaving-my-couch kind, save your money on Black Friday and spend it all the next day: Small Business Saturday. Specifically, spend your money with these 6 veteran-owned businesses for everyone on your holiday shopping list:


Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Death Before Decaf mug

Blue Angel Coffee

For the coffee lover:

Blue Angel not only has awesome coffee, but their merch is some of the best around. Who doesn’t need a mug that says “Coffee because crack is bad for you,” or “Death before decaf,” among other hilarious quips?

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

The Lower 48 in Alder

Dark Horse Wood

For the patriot:

We know you love ‘Merica more than anyone and most of the people in your life do too. Nothing says pride like hanging The Lower 48 in Alder on your wall for all to see. Beautifully handmade by Dark Horse Wood, this gorgeous craftsmanship is a gift that will keep on giving.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Rumi Spice Blend Gift Box

Rumi Spice

For the cook:

The best kind of presents are ones that you can feel good about gifting. Rumi Spice was founded by veterans to connect Afghan farmers with the global food market to lay down a foundation for peace, one flower at a time. “Spice for good” sounds like something we can get behind—and that we can use as stocking stuffers. With Afghan saffron, wild black cumin and spice blends, the artisan chef in your family will appreciate not just the spices, but the meaning behind them as well.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

USMC MRE T-shirt

Military Muscle

For the Marine:

Have that buddy you love to make fun of? Buy him this t-shirt from Military Muscle that has a box of crayons on it labeled USMC MRE (you’re welcome). Plus, you can feel good about it. For every t-shirt purchased, Military Muscle donates one to either someone deployed or a homeless vet.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey

Leadslingers Whiskey

For the bourbon lover:

If you’re looking for a smooth, tasty bourbon, look no further than Leadslingers to make your holiday spirits bright. With a light bourbon flavor born from its single barrel aging process, it’s double distilled and handcrafted in Moore, Oklahoma. It’s got top shelf flavor without the hefty price tag. It “melds sophistication and down home flavors, delivering hints of oak, toffee and vanilla; it’s sure to satisfy even the most distinguishing taster.”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

The Krypteia

Toor Knives

For the outdoorsman:

What’s better than knife hands? An actual knife. Toor Knives gives you mount, engraving and sheath options, allowing you to build a customized knife and a one-of-a-kind gift.

Whether you start your holiday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving or would rather procrastinate until Christmas Eve, you do you… and do veteran-owned too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.


Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.

Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.

“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.

The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veterans who worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASH staff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.

Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?

“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homeless were able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.

Recover, heal, grow

The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.

He’s the proof he inspires in others.

To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.

To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

The ‘crazy Swede’ was a paratrooper who rode his bike to summit Everest

Leave it to military veterans to make one of Earth’s last tests of human endurance that much more difficult. It’s a 6,000-mile bike ride from the town of Jonkoping, Sweden, to the base camp of Mount Everest. Former Swedish paratrooper Goran Kropp knew how far it was as he packed up his bicycle with 200-plus pounds of gear and departed on that trip in 1995.


His first summit of a major mountain came when he climbed the highest peak in Scandinavia with his dad – at just six years old. Although he indulged a rebellious streak as a young man, the experience of that first climb never left him, and he soon found himself in thin air once more.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Kropp grew up as a hard-partying punk rocker but soon joined the Swedish paratroopers. This was the event that would shape Kropp for the rest of his life. He met his climbing partner while in the army and moved from an apartment to a tent pitched in a gravel pit that was close to his barracks. While still in the Swedish military, he would test himself through different climbing endurance challenges. The two paratroopers even made a list of progressively higher mountains.

Until it was time to go climb them.

He soon earned the nickname “The Crazy Swede” and became known for his insane feats. The first major peak he summited was Tajikistan’s Lenin Peak, far below the 8,000-meter “Death Zone” of mountaineering, but still a great place to start. What made his summit of Lenin Peak special is that he set the record for it at the time.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

The hits just kept coming. Kropp was the fourth climber ever to conquer Pakistan’s Muztagh Tower in 1990. He was the first Swede to summit K2, a much deadlier mountain to climb than Everest. One of every ten people who climb Everest will die there. On K2, the fatality rate is more than twice that. Climbers of K2 regularly face life-threatening situations that end their trip before it begins.

On Kropp’s first attempt at a K2 summit in 1993, he stopped to help rescue Slovenian climbers stranded at a high altitude. His ascent on K2 would happen a week after this aborted attempt, but danger didn’t always stop Kropp. That’s why it took him three attempts to summit Everest.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Kropp leaving Sweden for Nepal in 1995.

Kropp left Sweden on his 8,000-mile journey to Nepal in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He wanted to make the ascent without the use of oxygen tanks or assistance ropes. His first attempt saw him struggle to make it to the south summit in waist-deep snow, but his slow pace meant he would be descending in the dark, a risk he was not willing to take. So, he turned around to climb another day.

As Kropp recovered at base camp, a blizzard killed eight trekkers making a descent from the summit, in what became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. It was the deadliest climbing season on Everest to date. Kropp joined the relief efforts as he recovered, but it was during this deadly season that Kropp summited the mountain, without oxygen and without sherpas.

Then, he rode his bike 8,000 miles home to Sweden.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

From Paratrooper to Adventurer.

He climbed five of the world’s fourteen 8,000-plus meter mountains and was the only Swede to summit Everest twice.

In later years, Kropp and his wife skied across the North Pole ice sheet, attempting to reach the North Pole. He had to back out, however, due to a frostbitten thumb. It was on that trek that the press turned against him, claiming he was a poacher for shooting a Polar Bear that was stalking him and his wife during the expedition. As a result, Kropp left Sweden for Seattle.

It was in Washington State that 35-year-old Kropp died an ironic death. After making so many miraculous summits and life-threatening firsts, he died climbing a routine 70-foot rock wall near his home after two safety rigging failures.

Veterans

EOD Memorial event returns

Dressed in the bright whites, deep blues and dense blacks of their service uniforms, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers returned this year to honor and remember their fallen explosive ordnance disposal brethren May 1.

The annual memorial ceremony, in its 52nd year, took place with invited guests at the Kauffman EOD Training Complex here. Last year, the event took place without attendees due to COVID-19.

Even with guests, the ceremony remained small with social distancing and masking protocols. The result created a solemn and intimate atmosphere.

Families of two of EOD technicians were in attendance to see their loved ones recognized and honored.

The schoolhouse’s commander, Navy Capt. Dean Muriano, welcomed the EOD technicians, families and a few community leaders to the ceremony and explained why they return to the memorial on the first Saturday of May each year. This Saturday is designated National EOD Day.

“This day is about paying our respect to 341 men and women already enshrined on this wall and to the two men we add this year,” said Muriano. “Let there be no doubt, the men and women we honor today personified bravery and courage.”

Maj. Gen. Heidi Hoyle, Chief of Ordnance and Army Ordnance School commandant, spoke about each person recognized at this year’s ceremony, but also about the meaning of the wall itself.

“This memorial is more than just names on a wall,” she said. “At the end of the ceremony, it will serve as tribute to the 343 EOD technicians, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country dating back to the formation of the explosive ordnance disposal community during World War II. It recognizes and preserves the legacy of the sacrifices and service of our fallen warriors and their families. We remember.”

Each year, a wreath is placed in front of each branch of service’s list of names before they are read aloud. Each list is completed with the phrase “We remember,” and the names simultaneously saluted by an enlisted and officer EOD member.

The only Coast Guardsman on the wall, Lt. Thomas Crotty, was specifically recognized this year. Crotty, who died in 1942, was buried in a World War II POW cemetery in a grave labeled 312 in the Philippines. His remains were identified returned to the United States in 2019. Crotty was finally laid to rest in New York.

The families of the EOD technicians added to the wall each year receive a folded flag that was flown over the memorial.

The names added this year were: Sgt. James Johnston and Petty Officer 2nd Class James Devenny.

Johnston died in combat in Afghanistan in July 2019. The decision was made to wait to this year to add his name to the wall so his family could be at the ceremony.

Devenny died during an EOD training event at Hunters Point Navy Yard in California in 1944. Devenny participated in the training in preparation for deployment to the Pacific theater.

The ceremony concluded with an honor guard rifle volley and the playing of Taps. Afterward, families and EOD technicians both past and present descended upon the Wall for pictures, to touch the engraved brass name or just remember a fallen hero.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

1 in 10 homeless adults are veterans – here’s how to help during polar vortex

The polar vortex that’s brought blistering temperatures to many parts of the US, especially states in the Midwest, has already claimed at least 11 lives.

This weather event is life-threatening, especially to folks without proper shelter.

There are a little less than 553,000 homeless people in the US, according to a December 2018 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and roughly 224 million people nationwide have been hit with below-freezing temperatures.


Chicago, Illinois, alone has a homeless population of roughly 80,000. Temperatures in Chicago dipped to 21 degrees below zero on Jan. 31, 2019.

Veterans account for a disproportionate number of adult homeless people in the US. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, roughly 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Deadly polar vortex delivers third day of sub-zero cold

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As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.

Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams

Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.

Dialing 211 can also help link people with community services. This service is available to roughly 270 million people, or about 90% of the US population, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters

Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.

Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.

Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.

A homeless veteran in New York.

There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to

Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, which is available 24/7 and is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans can also help you locate local services for veterans. Click here to find an organization in your area.

Donate money to a charity

If you’re able to donate money to a charity for the homeless, a little can go a long way.

Below are over a dozen organizations that were given four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability.

Here are links to their websites:

Avenues for Homeless Youth

Coalition for the Homeless

Healthcare for the Homeless

Homeless Connections

Homeless Empowerment Program

Homeless Prenatal Program

Homeless Solutions, Inc.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless

The Homeless Families Foundation

Transitions Homeless Recovery Center

Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless

Union Station Homeless Services

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.


Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”

Retired Navy SEAL, now senator, continues fight for veterans

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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