‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home - We Are The Mighty
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‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

In her book, “The League of Wives,” historian Heath Hardage Lee captures the fighting spirit of military spouses who took on the U.S. government to bring their POW husbands home. 

Lee, a civilian historian and museum curator, saw a diary of a family friend, Navy POW wife Phyllis Galanti. Through her papers, Lee unearthed a network of women who formed the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. These women, led by Sybil Stockdale, put pressure on the U.S. government to get their husbands home from Vietnam.

“They have to fight not only the North Vietnamese Communists who are torturing their husbands but their own government, their own military institutions to get justice,” Lee said. 

Many Americans are familiar with the harrowing tales of torture faced by military POWs like Adm. James Stockdale and former presidential candidate John McCain, at the hands of the Northern Vietnamese during their stay in the Hanoi Hilton. What is less known is the revolution that was taking place on the home front.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
POW James Stockdale reunites with family. Image courtesy of the Stockdale Family collection.

Finding a voice

Told from the point of view of these women, “The League of Wives” showcases the tearful goodbyes to learning their husbands had been shot down. At first, the women responded as expected, relying upon the advice from Department of Defense leaders, while leaning on each other for support. As the story progresses, these accidental feminists find their voices and no longer remain quiet. 

According to Lee, what pushed these wives over the edge was the Johnson administration’s refusal to acknowledge that their husbands were being tortured by the Northern Vietnamese. 

“By 1966, they [government] fully knew what was happening,” said Lee. “And by 1967 Sybil [Stockdale] was sending coded letters to her husband, working with the Navy, and discovered they were all being tortured.” 

Path to advocacy

According to Lee, instead of getting these men out of harm’s way, politicians focused on optics-first policies, not people-first. The spouses featured in the book knew their husbands were being tortured. The government’s policy of silence felt like abandonment.

Ultimately, they reached out to the media, which was the only advocacy avenue left to them. By sharing their stories with the world, they found a way to leverage public outrage, and helped to bring an end to the unpopular war in the process.

“When history is happening to you, you really don’t know it,” Lee said when asked if the League knew the long-lasting impact of their advocacy. “Particularly when you are a woman in the ‘60s, when you’re taught you’re invisible. So, none of these ladies really thought at the time they were doing anything but absolutely what they should be doing to get their husbands out.”

“When you are fighting for something that is so precious, you’re willing to do almost anything,” said Louise Mulligan, a POW wife featured in the book.  

Hidden figures no longer

Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon read the book before it was published. Her production company Hello Sunshine intends to make the book into a film, commemorating the lives of Sybil Stockdale and her fellow POW-MIA wives.

Read: Vietnam veteran: “Your country call you to war. You go.”

“From the minute I heard about this inspiring true story, I knew it was a perfect fit for us. I’m excited to … be giving audiences a glimpse at this meaningful moment in American history,” Witherspoon said in a statement.

Preserving their legacy

The book opens in the picturesque southern California town of Coronado. Known as the birthplace of naval aviation, the town was home to Sybil Stockdale and other members of their group. The League of Wives Memorial Project hopes to erect a statue commemorating these women and their role in bringing their spouses home. 

“The League’s efforts ultimately helped facilitate the release of 591 prisoners of war,” said retired war correspondent Brad Willis, creator of the project. “We feel that honoring these courageous and committed women who changed the course of history will serve as an important historical memorial for the Coronado community and its future generations as well.”

More information about the memorial can be found here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/leagueofwives.


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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA highlights rural Veterans during Mental Health Month

Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.

Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.


Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.

As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:

  • Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
  • Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
  • Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
  • Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.

To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.

Support

If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone

The human costs of war are huge and crippling. The financial costs can be, too.


According to a new estimate by the Costs of War co-director Neta Crawford, US taxpayers have paid nearly $2 trillion in war-related costs on the Iraq war alone.

Newsweek estimated that the total for the Iraq War comes out to an average of roughly $8,000 per taxpayer. The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate that Americans paid an average of $3,907 each for Iraq and Syria to date. And in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined have cost each US taxpayer around $7,623 on average.

The Costs of War Project through Brown University conducts research on the human, economic, and political costs of the post-9/11 wars waged by the US. Stephanie Savell, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Projects, told Insider it’s important for Americans to understand exactly what their taxes are paying for when it comes to war-related expenses.

“As Americans debate the merits of U.S. military presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the name of the U.S. war on terrorism, it’s essential to understand that war costs go far beyond what the DOD has appropriated in Overseas Contingency Operations and reach across many parts of the federal budget,” Savell said.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
Iraqi Freedom

Breaking down the financial costs of the Iraq War

The Pentagon had been allotted approximately 8 billion in “emergency” and “overseas contingency operation” for military operations in Iraq from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019, including operations fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, Savell says the actual costs of the war often exceed that of the Congress-approved budgets.

“When you’re accounting for the cost of war, you can’t only account what the DOD has spent on overseas contingency funds,” Savell told Insider. “You have to look at the other sets of costs including interest on borrowed funds, increased war-related spending, higher pay to retain soldiers, medical and disability care on post-9-11 and war veterans, and more.”

According to their estimates, the cost of the Iraq War to date would be id=”listicle-2645054426″,922 billion in current dollars — this figure includes funding appropriated by the Pentagon explicitly for the war, spending on the country by the State Department, the care of Iraq War veterans and interests on debt incurred for the 16 years of the US military’s involvement in the country.

Crawford says that war-related spending in Iraq has blown past its budget in the 16 years military forces have been in the country, estimating a nearly 2 billion surplus in Iraq alone.

The increases to the Congressionally approved budgets were used to heighten security at bases, for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, to increase pay to retain personnel, and for the healthcare costs of servicemembers.

Aside from the Defense Department costs, the State Department added approximately billion to the total costs of the Iraq War for USAID on Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, 9 billion has been spent on Iraq war veterans receiving medical care, disability, and other compensation.

The US has gone deep into debt to pay for the war. That means it has interest payments.

As expected, that taxpayer dollars are going towards war-related expenses including operations, equipment, and personnel. But a surprising amount of the costs are to pay off the interest on the debt the US has accrued since going to war.

“People also need to know that these wars have been put on a credit card, so we will be paying trillions on war borrowing in interest alone over the next several decades,” Avell told Insider.

Since the US launched its “Global War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan — and later Yemen, Pakistan, and other areas — the US government has completely financed its war efforts borrowing funds. A Cost of War Projects report estimated the US government debts from all post-9/11 war efforts “resulted in cumulative interest payments of 5 billion” on a trillion debt.

The financing method departs from previous international conflicts, where the federal government either raised taxes or issued war bonds to finance war-related expenses. According to Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, tax payments accounted for 30% of the cost of World War I and almost 50% of the cost of World War II.

Borrowing from both domestic and foreign sources, Crawford estimates the US has incurred 4 billion in interest on borrowing to pay for Pentagon and State Department spending in Iraq alone.

While the money spent on the Iraq War may seem staggering, the Costs of War estimates the US has spent over .4 trillion total on all of its “War on Terror” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria.

Defense Department spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told Insider that the Defense Department dedicates id=”listicle-2645054426″.575 trillion for war-related costs, with an average of spending .2 billion per month on all operations for the fiscal year 2019.

Sherwood said that the department’s costs go towards war-related operational costs, such as trainings and communications, support for deployed troops, including food and medical services, and transportation of personnel and equipment.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
Press conference in Al Fadhel

upload.wikimedia.org

The human costs of the Iraq War are even harder to track

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 on the belief that Saddam Hussein had, or was attempting to make, “weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Although the invasion initially had overwhelming support from the American public and the approval of Congress, it is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

189,000 soldiers were killed in direct war deaths and 32,223 injured, Cost of War estimated. Meanwhile, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of service members due to war-related hardships remain difficult to track.

The Costs of War Project believes calculating the total costs of war — economic, political, and human — is important to ensure that Americans can make educated choices about war-related policies.

“War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money,” Cost of War researcher Heidi Peltier wrote.

In 2016 and leading up to 2020, President Donald Trump has campaigned on a promise of pulling American troops out and ending “these ridiculous wars” in the Middle East. However, Trump deployed more troops to the country after an attack on the US embassy in Iraq.

The Pentagon originally requested less than billion of that amount for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria — however, the Crawford believes that budget may be blown after more troops were sent into a war zone that was meant to be winding down.

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

popular

6 reasons Marines go crazy for the M27 automatic rifle

Over the course of the past two wars, Marines learned a lot of lessons and gained a lot of new weapons and equipment to increase their effectiveness on the modern battlefield. But when we started to realize just how outdated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon became, the search for a replacement began.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle did just that for the standard Marine infantry squad, much to the disdain of many Marines until they realized its application fit a larger spectrum than the M249. Every Marine has their favorite gun and once the M27 became more widely used, it wasn’t long before it became a grunt’s best friend and greatest ally.

Once you hear an automatic weapon begin firing bursts, adrenaline and primal instinct start flowing and you get this sudden urge to break things. The M27 offers this experience to infantry Marines everywhere and that can be reason enough for a grunt to fall in love with it — but the love they have for the IAR goes beyond the feeling of automatic fire.

Here are the main reasons the M27 gets so much love:


‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

It’s just a fun weapon to shoot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

They’re fully automatic

Of course this is #1, Marines love weapons that fire on full auto or ones that cause explosions. It’s the chaos and destructive power that will get them motivated to break the enemy’s stuff.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

It’s hard to miss with an M27.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re accurate

The M27 is insanely precise and when its shooter has mastered the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, it creates a dangerous duo. An automatic weapon is only as good as the rifleman holding it. Let that Marine also be an expert in ammo conservation and they’ve become one of the most effective players on the board. 

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

The weight makes it easier to maneuver and shoulder-firing isn’t a problem, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Holly Pernell)

They’re light-weight

As opposed to the M249 SAW’s 17 pounds unloaded, the M27 comes in 8 pounds lighter when it’s loaded. Unfortunately, you’ll make up that weight with the amount of ammo you’ll have to carry but at least the weapon’s weight isn’t a problem.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

You’ll be surprised at how clean it is even after it’s fired 800 rounds.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

An automatic rifle that’s easy to clean

The M27 features a gas-operated short-stroke piston which means the carbon residue is mostly outside of the chamber which means most of the clean-up is done on the inside of the hand guards.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

They can even be fired from helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Breanna L. Weisenberger

Versatility

In the case of urban combat, size matters. The shorter barrel, the easier your life will be. Maneuverability is key and being able to fit yourself and your weapon in tight quarters helps a lot. Also considering the fact that it can fire on semi-automatic and is a closed-bolt system, this weapon can be the first through the door.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

Just look at that design.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re beautiful

Let’s be honest, the Heckler Koch design just looks good in your hands and when an automatic gun is both pleasing to the eyes and functionally sound, it’s good for the soul.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DoD tests cyber warriors in deployment-like conditions

Exercise Patriot Warrior featured airmen, sailors, and soldiers practicing their cyber defense skills in highly challenging environments.


“We have to stay ready at all times to defend our networks at home and abroad,” said Air Force Senior Airmen Christopher Hillen, an exercise participant. “This exercise is so important, once we get deployed and experience different situations we’re going to lean on the training we received here and apply it to real world situations.”

One part of Patriot Warrior enabled Air Force and Army personnel to interact and train together in realistic scenarios providing both services with a unique perspective on the exercise and future missions.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

Staff Sgt. Michael Bigee and Airman Steven Hilton, 265th Combat Communications Squadron cyber operations specialists, work on systems at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 12, 2015.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrea Salazar)

Challenging Scenarios

“These scenarios provide our soldiers and also the airmen with a very realistic outlook on what both entities could expect in the real world,” said Army Maj. Robert Bell, 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade operations and plans officer. “Everyone learns great lessons in trainings like this, it develops different skills that each other has learned and also builds confidence in our airmen and soldiers.

The exercise was comprised of joint forces from around the country to showcase deployment capabilities and was hosted here. The exercise hosted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel from 22 different bases.

“Working with other services is an invaluable experience for our Airmen and their development as cyber operators,” said Air Force Maj. Bennett Reid, director of operations.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

Airmen and Soldiers gather during Exercise Patriot Warrior for cyber defense training on Aug. 8, 2018 at Fort McCoy, Wisc. Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint partners in the combat support training exercise.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

Cyber Combat Support Training

“With this being the first time that we’ve integrated with the Army in a cyber combat support training exercise, it allowed us to see areas in which we aren’t as strong and fix the issue as team,” Reid said. “We got to work with a network we’d never seen before, and we had to learn how to get plugged into our weapon system which we had to learn but it helped us understand how to operate other networks outside of our comfort zone.”

Exercises like Patriot Warrior provide critical contingency oriented skills for all members who participate, but there is also a bigger picture in mind.

“The way the fight is won nowadays is through cyberspace,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christian Coleman, a reservist from the 911th Communications Squadron cyberspace operations controller and member of the Cyber Mission Defense Team.

“All branches continue to evolve as the battlefield changes and now the World Wide Web is where we have to maintain dominance,” Coleman added.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Jon Stewart urges congress to support burn pit veterans

“Welcome to another exciting episode of when is America gonna start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?” asked Jon Stewart in a press conference in September. He went on to remind the crowd that he’d spent the previous fifteen years trying to get Congress to support 9/11 first responders who were sick as a result of their heroism that day.

“When it was done, we thought it was done, but it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack of 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from. And they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress,” he declared.

The speech came with announced legislation that would deliver care for veterans who suffered from health problems directly related to burn pits, open air fires that were commonly used to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, “the legislation would declare certain illnesses among combat veterans as linked to toxic burn pits, removing barriers of proof of exposure that advocates have said are too high.”

As of Sept. 11, 2020, the VA claimed that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.” 

The VA does, however, acknowledge the following:

“Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes. The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.”
According to the Washington Post, U.S. contractors and military veterans destroy enormous amounts of waste, including vehicle parts, lithium-ion batteries, solvents, and amputated limbs, by soaking them in jet fuel and burning them in open-air pits, “some larger than a football field.”

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. Military uniform items turned in must be burned to ensure they cannot be used by opposing forces. Airman Gavalis is deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

In his speech, Stewart pointed out the similarities between the contamination on 9/11 and the burn pits overseas — especially the use of jet fuel as an accelerant. “Jet fuel as the accelerant at Ground Zero and jet fuel as the accelerant in these burn pits. So our veterans lived twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything. And now they’re being told, ‘Hey man, is that stuff bad for ya? I don’t know. We don’t have the science.’ It’s bullsh**. It’s bullsh**. It’s about the money.”

Hundreds of thousands of veterans are left to advocate on their own, Stewart explained, which is why he and a team of lawmakers have stepped up to demand that Congress go on record and be held accountable for their decisions in this matter.

The legislation was proposed to Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.). The measure would grant presumption of exposure to veterans with certain conditions and who served in one of 33 countries where troops were deployed after the 9/11 attacks, Gillibrand said.

The VA opened a burn pit registry which allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. Over 200,000 participants have already completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An Oscar-winning filmmaker directed the Marines’ latest commercial; here’s how the pandemic might amplify its message

For its latest recruiting commercial, the Marine Corps got an Oscar-winning filmmaker to draw a dramatic contrast between the often-isolating online world and the Corps’ pitch to Generation Z that service in its ranks offers a path toward a life of “belonging, community, and purpose.”

Wally Pfister, who won an Academy Award for his cinematography on Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller, Inception, directed “Battle to Belong,” the Corps’ latest recruiting commercial.


Battle to Belong: U.S. Marine Corps Commercial

www.youtube.com

The ad’s protagonist, played by Marine Staff Sgt. Jordan Viches, a correctional specialist stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, is shown walking down a near-future street while being bombarded with digital marketing, notifications, and alerts. Frustrated, he breaks through the electronic assault and emerges training to become a Marine.

Pfister told Military.com the inspiration behind the style in the opening scenes was based on science fiction films such as Steven Spielberg’s 2018 Ready Player One, which portrays a dystopic future where human beings spend much of their lives escaping reality in a virtual world called “the Oasis.”

“‘Battle to Belong’ takes a bold step to showcase how America’s youth can be caught up in a world that creates a confusing, and sometimes suffocating, digital hum as the new normal,” said Lt. Col. Christian Devine, national director of marketing and communication strategy, Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “The campaign is designed to provoke reaction from a generation of youth who are often disillusioned by the very technology and types of social connectivity that were supposed to bring us closer together.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing more and more human interaction into the virtual realm, the Corps’ message may resonate even more with its increasingly isolated target audience.

“Many high schools and colleges are returning to school via remote learning, which further challenges Marine recruiters who value the relationships they normally build with students and educators on campus,” said Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, communication strategy chief at Marine Corps Recruiting Command. “At its height, the COVID pandemic had a dramatic effect on our ability to prospect and it continues to limit our ability to do some of the in-person activities so important to our success.”

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

Marines and sailors with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a live fire range during a pre-deployment training exercise at MAGTF Training Command/Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms, California, Nov. 11, 2018. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck.

Kronenberg said the Corps’ contracted advertising agency, Wunderman Thompson, regularly conducts research to gain insight on how the Marines’ brand is resonating with its target demographic of young people and influencers.

“We validated that young people of recruitable age hunger for belonging and self-transcendence and participation in a common moral cause or struggle,” he said.

“Like generations before, these youth are seeking identities that will define them,” Devine said. “They crave belonging, community, and purpose.”

The partnership between Wunderman Thompson and the Marine Corps goes back more than 74 years, according to Kronenberg, and the agency was again awarded the Corps’ business after a contract recompete last year.

“We value the team’s creative acumen and deep understanding of the Marine Corps’ ethos and brand identity,” Kronenberg said.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

US Marine Corps Sgt. Sean Nash provides cover fire during the Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Jan. 28, 2020. ITX is a month-long training event that prepares Marines for deployment. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jack C. Howell.

The new commercial features original music from legendary composer and Academy Award and Grammy Award winner Hans Zimmer, and Marine Corps musicians performed Zimmer’s music for the spot.

“The Marine Corps makes three promises to the American people: Win Battles, Make Marines, and Develop Quality Citizens,” Kronenberg said. “We consider each of those promises to be chapters of what we call the Longer Marine Corps Story.”

“Battle to Belong” is the third installment in the Longer Marine Corps Story. “Battle Up” focused on developing quality citizens, and “A Nation’s Call” showed the Corps’ winning battles.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why NORAD began keeping an eye out for Santa Claus

The United States Armed Forces, for all of its serious and mission-oriented mannerisms, has always gone out of its way to keep the magic alive around Christmas time. The Marines have Gunny Claus and Toys for Tots, the Army has celebrated with fun runs and lavish feasts, and the Navy, presumably, just drinks plenty of eggnog.

Meanwhile, the men and women of NORAD, a joint effort between the United States Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force, monitor the movements of Santa Claus so all the good boys and girls can know when he’s coming.

This yearly tradition is beloved by many, but it all started because of a simple typo and a good-spirited colonel.


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I mean, how else would the kids know to get a hold of Santa?

(NORAD)

In the winter of 1955, Sears ran an advertisement in the Colorado Springs local paper encouraging people to call Santa Claus directly. The hope was that kids would call in and ask for a toy and Santa would tell them they could find it at their local Sears.

Problem was, no one ever got a hold of Santa. The number listed in the advertisement was off by one number, and it directed thousands of kids to call the extremely sensitive red phone of Col. Harry Shoup at the Combat Alert Center of NORAD.

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This is what the NORAD command center has looked like ever since.

(NORAD Public Affairs, Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braym)

His number was only ever given to four-star generals and to the Pentagon. This was at the height of the Cold War, and this phone was only ever meant to ring if the Russians were expected to attack North America. And yet, it was ringing non-stop with requests for toys. He suspected that something was amiss when he received his first phone call asking, “is this Santa Claus?”

Shoup was a little annoyed and, apparently, made the child cry. Feeling guilty, he played along in hopes of getting to the bottom of what had happened. He asked the kid to put his mother on the phone, who was understandably upset at the thought of Santa making her child cry. She told him that the number was in a Sears ad. As a result, Shoup assigned lower-ranking airmen to answer the phone until he could take it down.

As troops do, they poked fun at Col. Shoup for his mistake. They placed Santa-themed decor all around the command center, just to egg him on. At the center of the room was a giant glass map that tracked all air traffic in North America, and on Christmas Eve, there was a crudely drawn Santa on his sleigh in one of the corners — just to drive the joke home further.

He asked his troops, “what is that?” They replied, “Colonel, we’re sorry. We were just making a joke. Do you want us to take that down?” In a his-heart-grew-three-sizes-that-day kind of moment, Col. Shoup smiled, walked over to the radio and said,

“This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.”

On the other ends of the radio, other military personnel and air traffic controllers weren’t in on the joke, but understood immediately. Because they, too, were working Christmas Eve night, they wanted in on some of the holiday spirit and continued asking for updates on Santa’s location.

The children still trying to call Santa would also be told of his whereabouts. The junior airmen would reply to the kids with a cheery, “he’s not in at the moment, he’s currently over Nebraska” or wherever Col. Shoup indicated he was.

Year after year, kids continued calling NORAD to get updates on Santa’s location and every year NORAD played along – presumably with a different phone number than the red phone on the commander’s desk. As time went on, NORAD began keeping tabs on Santa through their website and social media.

Veterans

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

As I leaned in to shake retired Col. Dave Severance’s hand, the small white shapes polka-dotting his navy-blue tie came into clear relief as the iconic image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. When we met in 2002, Severance was in his 80s and serving as the reviewing officer for a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Severance’s style choice that day was fitting. To him, the men immortalized on his tie were more than heroes from the past. The Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi in the midst of one of the Corps’ bloodiest battles were Severance’s men.

Severance enlisted in the Marines in 1938 and attended recruit training in San Diego. He volunteered for and completed airborne training, and in 1942, the young, college-educated sergeant was commissioned a second lieutenant.

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Capt. Dave Severance on Camp Pendleton in 1944. Archive photo.

In 1943, Lt. Severance deployed to the Pacific theater with the Paramarines and saw combat for the first time in the jungles of Bougainville Island. During the battle for Bougainville, Severance proved himself in combat, leading his cutoff platoon out of a Japanese ambush with minimal casualties.

He never made a combat jump before the Marine paratrooper units were disbanded in 1944, but in April of that year, Severance was promoted to captain and given command of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment.

On Feb. 19, 1945, Severance and the men of Company E landed on the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima, having no idea the mark they would leave in the hearts and minds of future generations of Americans.

“We didn’t think much about it for a long time,” Severance told me in 2002. “It took a long time to see the impact of that day unfold.”

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Retired Col. Dave E. Severance participates in a plaque ceremony honoring his service at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. Severance’s men raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi Feb. 23, 1945. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

That day was Feb. 23, 1945. At 10:20 a.m., one of Severance’s platoons reached the summit of Mount Suribachi and raised a small American flag.

“All the ships at sea started their sirens going, and troops were yelling and cheering,” Severance told San Diego’s NBC 7 during a 2015 interview. “You definitely could see that it is an American flag.”

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From the crest of Mount Suribachi, the Stars and Stripes wave in triumph over Iwo Jima after Marines fought their way inch by inch up its steep lava-encrusted slopes. Public domain image.

Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal landed on the beach shortly after the first flag went up, and Forrestal asked to have the flag as a memento.

“My battalion commander got that word, and he was heard to say, ‘Hell no! He can’t have our flag! We put it up there, and we’re going to keep it,” Severance said in a mini-documentary for the National WWII Museum.

Severance’s commander sent a lieutenant down to the beach to get another flag, and the lieutenant came back with the larger, second flag the Marines raised that day. The small task that turned out to be an incredibly significant undertaking fell to a group of Marines who had been chosen to deliver batteries and string wire to the summit.

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At the top of the mountain, the Marines constructed a larger flagpole with an additional piece of pipe, tied the large flag to it, and wrote themselves into the history books.

When he heard the second flag was going up, The Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took his position at the summit and snapped his famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.

Sgt. Bill Guneaust, a Marine combat photographer, was also there to capture the moment with his movie camera.

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Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. Public domain photo.

Despite all the attention the raising of the flag received that day, none of the Company E Marines suspected their actions would receive so much recognition in the years to come.

“It really wasn’t a big deal at the time,” Severance told me. “It wasn’t until 1949 when The Sands of Iwo Jima came out — I realized the impact that moment and battle had on the nation.”

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US Marines assigned to Marine Barracks Washington perform during a sunset parade June 12, 2012, at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. Sunset parades are held at the memorial every Tuesday during the summer months. Photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Green/US Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, inspired by Rosenthal’s picture, was dedicated near Arlington, Virginia, in 1955, on the Marine Corps birthday, further embedding the event in the annals of American history.

Company E fought at Iwo Jima for 36 days, and 80% of Severance’s men were either killed or wounded in action there.

“We didn’t lose any more or less than any of the other units in the battalion,” he said.

Severance was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on Iwo Jima. His award citation tells the story:

When his company was ordered to launch an attack on a heavily defended ridge south of Nishi Village, Captain Severance skillfully directed the assault against this strong enemy position despite stubborn resistance and courageously led his unit in the accomplishment of its mission. Once the objective was gained, he tenaciously held the position which formed a salient in the line. When the enemy made a fanatic effort to dislodge the company with a concentrated barrage of mortar, machine gun and rifle fire, Captain Severance marshaled his men and held the ridge until the friendly units on his flanks were able to advance and regain contact along the entire front.

In 1946, Severance attended flight training and became a Marine aviator. During the Korean War, he flew 69 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

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Col. Dave E. Severance received this plaque highlighting his accomplishments as an infantry company commander and aviator, at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

Severance retired from the Marine Corps in 1968 while serving as assistant director of personnel, headquarters, Marine Corps.

In June 1996, Severance carried the Olympic torch from the Arlington National Cemetery to the steps of the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Neil McDonough portrayed Severance in Flags of Our Fathers — the Clint Eastwood film that depicts the epic battle at Iwo Jima.

Today, Severance is 102 years old and lives in La Jolla, California.

On his 100th birthday, he told NBC 7 his secret to long life: “I look back, and I didn’t die. As a matter of fact I didn’t even get hit. I came close a couple of times. I made it through three wars.”

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Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, right, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, and the Western Recruiting Region, and Severance speak to each other after wishing each other a happy Marine Corps birthday in La Jolla, Calif., Nov. 10, 2020. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

Severance also said his wife, who died four years ago, had something to do with his long life well lived.

“I had a wife that took care of me day and night,” he told NBC 7.

When I was a young Marine corporal stationed at MCRD San Diego in 2002, Severance told me he doesn’t understand why people are in awe when they discover his link to that unforgettable moment on Mount Suribachi.

“Sometimes people ask for my autograph, and I don’t understand why,” he said.

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Severance participates in a plaque ceremony honoring his service at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty.

A letter the commandant of the Marine Corps sent Severance in 2019 offered a simple explanation. “You played a crucial role in shaping the warrior ethos of our Corps,” it read.

That is undoubtedly true, and it echoes what a young Marine NCO said about Severance when he visited the depot in 2002.

“The man made history,” said then Cpl. Michael Musick, administrative clerk, Headquarters Company. “Marines in Japan take tours of Iwo Jima and take sand from the island as a souvenir. We put up statues on our desks and pictures in our offices, commemorating our heroes. He is one of those heroes.”

Semper Fi, Col. Severance.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military-veteran community is changing in the coming years

At the start of the new millennium, the United States military was a very different organization. But then, so too was the United States as a country. In the past 20 years, the military has experienced an incredible shift in not only demographics, but also in the way it is formed. This trend will only continue.


A Pew Research Center study of the Department of Defense analyzed all of the data released by the U.S. military on its demographic makeup and found some key facts about how the U.S. military and the men and women who served in it has changed.

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The Army is still the biggest, and the other branches are shrinking

In 2015, the Army was more than a third of the total active-duty force of the United States military. The Air Force and Navy were about a quarter of the force each, with the Marines and Coast Guard comprising 14 percent and 3 percent, respectively. These days, the Navy and Air Force have seen a sizable shrinkage in terms of how big they are in comparison to Big Army. The Marine Corps has also shrunk, although not to the same extent.

The Coast Guard, however, has grown.

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The profile of the American veteran will shift significantly

Right now, 91 percent of veterans are male, but by 2045, the share of female veterans is expected to double while the actual number of female veterans will increase to more than 2.2 million. The number of male veterans is predicted to drop by half, to 9.8 million in 2045. These groups will also become more ethnically diverse as the older generations of veterans die. The share of Hispanic vets is expected to double, and the expected share of African-American veterans will increase to 16 percent.

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Fewer Americans are veterans and that number will only drop

As of 2015, seven percent of the American population were veterans, down from 18 percent in 1980. With it came a drop in the number of active-duty military personnel, and the numbers keep on dropping. In 2045, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates the number of veterans will drop by 40 percent of its current population, as Gulf War vets become the dominant era, and Vietnam veterans start to die off.

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More women are joining – and more are in command

The number of women in the U.S. military is rapidly changing. According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army, and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. More than one in five commissioned officers were women in 2017, a number that is projected to rise, a far cry from women being just five percent of officers in 1975.

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The U.S. military is getting smaller – troops are seeing more action

One in five veterans today served after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result of being a smaller force than the U.S. military of the Cold War Era, which includes the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts of the time, Members of the post-9/11 military generation were more likely to have deployed and served in combat. They are also more likely to have experienced some kind of traumatic incident.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This free retreat gives military spouses a chance to interact with the Love Language expert

Deployments are a staple of military life. But often, military spouses and significant others are left to go-it-alone, especially if they do not live near a military installation. This year, two women are looking to change that with an online retreat headlined by huge names in the military community and outside of it, including keynote speakers Dr. Gary Chapman and Jacey Eckhart.

Joanna Guldin-Noll, a veteran’s spouse and writer behind popular military spouse lifestyle blog Jo, My Gosh!, and Becky Hoy, a military spouse and creator of deployment subscription box Brave Crate, believe that good can come from deployments when approached with intentionality.


“We want to create a place where military spouses and significant others can access resources, best practices, and camaraderie to help them prepare for deployment,” Hoy said.

Held November 8-10 and completely online, PILLAR gathers more than 20 military spouses and experts for a three-day event. Among the line-up of speakers and panelists is Dr. Gary Chapman, bestselling and world-renown author of The Five Love Languages series. Using an interview-style format, Chapman and Hoy will discuss relationships, the military and how to make the Five Love Languages work during deployment. Chapman will answer questions sourced directly from PILLAR attendees.

Including the needs and wants of attendees is important to the duo. “The idea of a wife pining over her husband for a year and doing nothing but waiting while he’s away just isn’t the lived reality of military spouses,” Guldin-Noll said. “Military spouses are finding opportunity in deployment. We are honoring that by incorporating a diversity of voices, military branches, backgrounds and experiences into the retreat.”

Sessions include actionable financial information provided by the retreat’s presenting sponsor, USAA, yoga instruction from Bernadette Soler, and how to ask for and accept help from therapist E.J. Smith. While the retreat will have a schedule, attendees will be able to view sessions and access resources whenever they are able. The flexibility is a nod to the very real demands of military families during deployment as well as the hope to make the retreat as accessible as possible, regardless of where attendees live.

“Military family life can be viewed as being so difficult, but when we reprogram our mindset, we can see there is so much joy to be found along the military life journey,” Jessica Bertsch said, a PILLAR speaker who has experienced multiple deployments. “PILLAR is taking a hard topic like deployment and bringing hope and solutions for military spouses.” The president of Powerhouse Planning and Coast Guard spouse will speak on finding joy in deployment.

PILLAR is free to military spouses and significant others. Registration is open at pillardeploymentretreat.com until November 8; however, if you want to submit a Five Love Languages question, you’ll need to sign-up before September 10 — the deadline for question submissions.

Veterans

VA adapting to meet women Veterans’ needs

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.

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

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