The sacrifices that the men and women of the armed forces make for the sake of national defense are unique and great. To support these brave men and women, companies develop cutting-edge technologies in order to facilitate the success of the no-fail mission that service members undertake. Many of these companies continue to support veterans after they leave active service by employing them and supporting continued service in the Reserves and National Guard. Victory Capital Management has recognized these companies with the launch of two ETFs.
Victory Capital is a diversified global asset firm with $131.1 billion in assets under management as of October 31, 2020. They entered the ETF business in 2015. Since then, the firm has grown its VictoryShares platform to 23 ETFs.
Earlier this month, Victory Capital launched the VictoryShares Top Veteran Employers ETF (VTRN). VTRN seeks to provide investment results that track the performance of the Veterans Select Index which is designed to capture the performance of publicly traded companies that have high rates of employing veterans and members of the Reserves and National Guard. Additionally, Victory Capital is allocating a portion of the fees from VTRN to its financial readiness initiative in support of the military community. “We are committed to addressing the unique financial goals of the military community,” said Mannik Dhillon, CFA, CAIA, President, VictoryShares and Solutions.
Simultaneously, Victory Capital also launched the VictoryShares Protect America ETF (SHLD) which tracks an index that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify companies that contribute greatly to national defense. Many of these companies have defense contracts with DoD, DHS, and NASA. Companies can also be included for their contribution to the advancements of the aerospace and defense industries. SHLD aims to provide investment results that track the performance of the Nasdaq Yewno Aerospace & Defense Index.
To celebrate the launch of these two ETFs and Veterans Day, Victory Capital virtually rang the Nasdaq closing bell on November 11, 2020. “We wish our Veterans and service members a happy Veterans Day,” Dhillon said. “Thank you for your service.”
UAP recently sat down with U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet, a MARSOC Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman (SOIDC) and veteran of the Marine Reconnaissance community as a Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman (SARC).
Gilmet was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is married to Mindy Gilmet and they have three beautiful young children. Gilmet enlisted in the Navy on 3 September, 2002, and his personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and three Combat Action Ribbons.
Enjoy this exclusive interview with Chief Gilmet, a trained lifesaver and Special Operations medic.
Why did you join the military and what led you to eventually pursue being a SARC and SOIDC?
I was in my senior year of high school – about halfway through. I had already applied for college. I got accepted to Western Michigan University. Then one day there was a Navy recruiter at the school, and I talked to him a little bit and then went to the recruiting station. I’ve always been interested in medicine because my mom is in the medical field.
The recruiter told me about Navy Corpsmen and about how the military can help pay for college. Paying for college was actually one of my fears at the time. I had slacked off a lot my senior year, and I didn’t want to just go there and waste all of my money and my parents’ money.
So, I signed up that day and I went home and told my parents about it. They were kind of stunned, but either way, the whole premise was to come in, get money for college, go to college, and then eventually maybe become a doctor.
After I joined, I realized I didn’t know a lot about the military at all. When I was in basic training, our equivalent of a drill instructor talked about Corpsmen and how they can go work with Marines. I had no idea before that. I asked him what it was like and he said, “it’s a living hell” (laughs).
And for some reason that just caught my attention and that’s what I wanted to do. That really changed my outlook on what I wanted to do as far as my career. I really enjoyed being on the combat side of medicine and doing things along that line of work, although that wouldn’t come until a little later.
I was around 24 years old when I was about ready to get out of the Navy. I had already started my final physical, and something inside me was just telling me, there’s more that you need to do. And I just didn’t want to look back on my life and be disappointed that I didn’t take the opportunity to try to become a Recon Corpsman.
So, I stopped the process of getting out and reenlisted. In February of 2009 I began the Recon Corpsman pipeline and that’s how I got on the path to where I am today.
In your experience, what was the most difficult military school – or aspect of your training as a SARC or SOIDC – that most people wouldn’t be aware of?
I actually really enjoyed all the schools to become a Recon Corpsman. I enjoyed all of them. I feel like I did pretty well in most of them, but the one I struggled with a great deal was actually dive school. You know, to be able to do PT (physical training) and workout on land, it’s totally different than being in the water.
A lot of people don’t realize that it’s so physically and mentally demanding. I struggled with that a good amount. But I was able to push through and obviously finish it, but that was definitely the most difficult portion of the training for me.
What part of your training came most naturally to you, and why do you think that was?
I think it would be the combat medicine portion of the medical courses that we go to. I believe most Corpsmen who attend that course excel in that area because we have already learned the basics of that stuff earlier on. We have a good base before we attended the special operations medical course.
I already had some real-world experience too – I spent three years in the infantry and done a few deployments – so I felt confident in my skills. I’m more of a hands-on learner anyways.
It’s interesting that the first part of that training is all didactic learning, which is very strenuous in how much information they give you in a short amount of time. A lot of people, I think just struggle with that. Not necessarily their ability to learn the knowledge, but their ability to retain a lot of knowledge in a very short amount of time and then remember that for a test it’s very, very difficult. But I always appreciated and enjoyed the hands-on portion of medicine.
What are some of the traditions or history from the Navy Corpsman community that more people should know about?
One thing that’s interesting about Navy Corpsman history is that there are more Corpsmen who have received the Medal of Honor than any other job in the Navy. And, you know, that has to do with the fact that we are on the ground, fighting alongside Marines.
I think that’s something that’s interesting that people don’t really know about. There are at least 23 recipients that I am aware of, and that of course includes several Corpsmen who went on to join the Navy SEAL community at some point in their careers.
History and traditions are definitely a big thing in the Navy, especially for Chief Petty Officers. Chiefs are tasked by the Chief of Naval Operations to maintain and teach our history and heritage to junior sailors. Even before I became a Chief, naval history was just something I liked anyways. And I take that responsibility very seriously because it is important to know our history and where we come from and the things that people have done before us. It lays a good foundation of principles for us, as sailors.
One notable Medal of Honor recipient was a Corpsman (Hospitalman) named John Kilmer. He was from the Korean War era. At one point in my career, I was stationed in Texas, and we did Recon Corpsman screeners for reserve Corpsmen that wanted to try to get into that pipeline. On the last night of it, during the final exercise, we would always complete it by going to a local cemetery in the middle of the night where John Kilmer was buried.
I would read his Medal of Honor citation out loud to the group and it was actually very emotional. Every time we did that, we just went through this, you know, long two days of land navigation, running around and getting yelled at, and having to do all these physically demanding things. And then we would always point out while at Kilmer’s gravesite that, while what each participant just went through was difficult, they should think about what John Kilmer had to go through, how he lost his life.
It was just a powerful way, I think, to finish the exercise. It was this tiny, tiny headstone. Nothing elaborate or anything. You literally would not see it unless you stumbled across it by accident or knew exactly where it was. Just this tiny little gravestone on the ground, but it was so powerful.
Is there a moment or accomplishment that you’re most proud of in your military career?
For me, it was becoming a Recon Corpsman. I wanted it really bad. That was probably the most satisfying moment in my career.
There are only about three hundred SARCs in the Navy/Marine Corps, and it was just a difficult process.
What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
Well, I think I’m a good dad (laughs). I’m not perfect – that’s for damn sure – but I like to think that I’ve done okay with that in spite of the challenging circumstances involved with being in the military.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
It would have to be woodworking – whether it be making wooden American flags or furniture – and stuff like that. Mixology would be another one.
For me personally, when it comes to a hobby, I like to do things that will take my mind off of everything else going on in my life and just be able to focus on the now. For me it is carpentry and mixology.
A few months ago, I made some new mobile woodworking benches in my garage and bought some new tools and stuff like that. I love it.
The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the “Three Servicemen” Vietnam statue, and the “Vietnam Women’s Memorial” are just a few examples of how our great country has commemorated our nation’s fallen heroes through art.
These monuments represent self-sacrifice and the outstanding pride of being an American.
Unfortunately, when a service member falls in combat, their memory is all their family and friends will have left of them. But for Cliff Leonard, a Marine veteran, his mission is to honor his fallen brothers as he creates their images into realistic sculptures free of charge for the grieving families.
In his younger years, Leonard attended the Georgia Military College before joining the Marine Corps, serving for two years including a tour of duty in Vietnam. He started flexing his artistic skills some years later and allowed his talent to develop.
After Leonard joined a small group called the “Semper Fidelis Society of Jacksonville,” his new team managed to contact a fallen Marine’s grandparents. He received a few photographs from them and decided to put his unique crafting skills to work.
“I have a lot of honor and respect for everybody that served.” — Cliff Leonard
Spending nearly 70 hours creating each sculpture, Leonard carefully carves out the finest details his fingers will allow, making each piece a real work of art. The Jacksonville native searches online for the names of his fallen Marine and Navy Corpsmen brothers and funds each piece out of his own pocket.
Check out the video below to see how Cliff Leonard brings his fallen brother’s memories back to life through art for yourself.
Military service is a great option for anyone looking to kick start their career. Anyone coming into the military – officer or enlisted – can pick up transferable skills that can be utilized in today’s workforce. More than that, the military provides opportunities to help its personnel pursue a degree as they serve, even if it is outside their military specialty. When you combine that opportunity with access to a quality online university, there are no limits on where you can take your education.
Here are a few examples of programs Trident University International, a 100 percent online university, offers to support educational goals so you can work towards your goals as you serve.
With Trident, students can earn an Associate degree in Cybersecurity or take the next step toward a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Cybersecurity.
2. Bachelor of Science in Leadership
While serving, there’s no confusion as to who your commanding officer is — but as you’ll quickly learn, “boss” isn’t always synonymous with “leader.” Leadership is an art and a science, and just like any discipline, it’s something that requires study, practice and motivation to master.
With Trident’s Bachelor of Science in Leadership (BSL) program, you’ll build on your military experience, studying how to effectively translate your military knowledge into civilian business leadership principles. You’ll also explore how to effectively deal with change within organizations inside and outside of the military, critically think your way through challenging situations, and finely hone your communication skills. No matter where your career may take you, an education in the science of leadership can be a great asset.
3. Bachelor of Science in Health Administration
Trident’s Bachelor of Science in Health Administration program is designed to develop skills necessary to use and evaluate data while working to develop analytical skills needed by healthcare administrators. Typically, those in the service have a strong desire to help those in need. A Bachelor of Science in Health Administration can help you continue down that path as you play a key role in getting aid to the right people.
This 100 percent online program is designed to help candidates develop a strong knowledge base in health administration, including health systems, ethics, finance, and policy. In addition to flexibility and affordability, Trident has another key differentiator: EdActive™ Learning. This approach is unique in that the learning outcomes help students prepare for the workplace by enhancing their ability to think, to learn, and to solve problems.
4. Master of Science in Homeland Security
We are a nation at war, and we have been for nearly 20 years now. Since 9/11, the U.S. had to quickly learn new ways to prepare for, respond to and mitigate domestic crises, terrorist-based events and natural disasters.
Now you can, study these skills too. You’ve committed to protecting our country through your oath to serve. Trident offers an opportunity to continue that service and to learn more about how we protect our continuity of government with homeland security course offerings that closely align with the Department of Homeland Security mission objectives.
Veterans interested in continuing their career paths in Homeland Security can find a quality educational program at Trident.
No matter which road you plan to take after your time in uniform, it’s never too early to start. Trident’s EdActive learning approach helps you prepare to think critically, just like in real-life situations. Program levels span from associate to doctoral, and better yet, some degree programs are stackable. Learn more about Trident’s 100 percent online programs and how they tailor their offerings to fit the military community.
Trident University International cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Trident is part of the American InterContinental University System, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org).
Harley-Davidson, long a big supporter of U.S. veterans, announced that it is extending free training at its riding academy through next year for members of the military.
The program is now available to active-duty, retired, reservists and veterans. The free training was first offered earlier this year prior to Armed Forces Day aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston, S.C.
“Thousands of members of the military have learned to ride through the program so far,” Christian Walters, Harley Davidson’s managing director and an Army Special Operations Aviation officer, said in a statement this month. “We’re proud to extend this opportunity in 2016 so even more military personnel can enjoy the very freedom they protect.”
Never ridden before? No problem. As the company says “Great riders aren’t born. They’re made.”
The New Rider Course is designed to get newbies comfortable on a bike and ensure they have got the skills to get the license and start riding. The course features Harley-Davidson certified coaches who will provide expert guidance.
If a riding academy is not available in your particular area, then you can attend another certified motorcycle safety program and Harley-Davidson will reimburse you.
Deployed outside the US? Not a problem. If you’re currently abroad, then submit the form by December 31, 2016. The company will send you a voucher for free motorcycle safety training that can be used when you return home. It will be good through 2017.
The free training is part of the company’s wide ranging support for veterans. To date, Harley-Davidson has donated more than $1 million to support those who serve through fundraising initiatives, the Harley-Davidson Foundation and the Operation Personal Freedom MotorClothes collection.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.
During election week, four states legalized medicinal marijuana use, joining a list of 40 states and the District of Columbia in saying “Mary Jane is a friend of mine — in some form or another.”
The federal government, however, is saying “not if you value your 2nd amendment rights.”
Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C.
Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all voted last week to allow medical marijuana use, joining 17 other states who acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis.
Outside of those 29 states, limited medical marijuana use (which generally refers to cannabis extracts) is legal in 15 other states.
The states that don’t allow any type of marijuana use are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.
While the Veterans Administration admits that it hasn’t conducted any studies to determine if medical marijuana can successfully treat PTSD, they do admit that there seems to be anecdotal evidence to support that claim.
Use of “oral CBD [cannabidiol] has been shown to decrease anxiety in those with and without clinical anxiety” the VA notes.
The VA goes on to explain that an ongoing trial of THC, one of the compounds in cannabis, shows the compound to be “safe and well tolerated” among participants with PTSD, and that it results in “decreased hyperarousal symptoms.”
According to an investigation by PBS’s “Frontline,” marijuana’s “danger” label came about predominantly as a result of a smear campaign against immigrants between 1900 and the 1930s.
The network acknowledges a report from the New York Academy of Medicine that states that, despite popular opinion, marijuana does not “induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.” That report has not been refuted by scientific research to date.
In 1972, President Nixon ordered the Shafer Commission to look at decriminalizing marijuana use, and the commission determined that the personal use of it should, in fact be decriminalized.
President Nixon, according to PBS, rejected that recommendation.
To this day, marijuana use and possession is a federal crime, despite being overwhelmingly accepted by nearly all of the country in some form or another.
So why does this matter to the military and veteran community?
It all comes down to federal law. While a majority of the country recognizes the benefits and harmlessness of cannabis, the federal government does not.
In fact, the feds say marijuana users immediately forfeit their Second Amendment rights by consuming cannabis.
On September 7th the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that federal law “prohibits gun purchases by an ‘unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance.’ ”
The court claims that marijuana users “experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgement” and that this impaired judgement leads to “irrational” behavior, despite the findings by both the New York Academy of Medicine and the Shafer Commission to the contrary.
Background checks for firearms purchases require buyers to acknowledge whether they are a “habitual user” of marijuana and other illegal drugs. If they truthfully answer “yes,” they are barred from buying a gun. That means gun buyers in states that legalized marijuana use had better not indulge in the new right.
Will this change any time soon?
To answer that question, one needs to look at how legalization has impacted the finances in the states that have made pot kosher. After-all, money makes the world go ’round.
According to CheatSheet, Oregon banked $3.5 million in its first month of recreational marijuana sales. Washington State hit the jackpot with $70 million its first year, and Colorado rolled a fat one with $135 million in 2015 alone.
That was enough for the U.S. Congress to pause and say “let’s think about this.” Currently sitting in the Senate right now is S.683 , or the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARES).
Introduced by Democrat New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in March 2015, the act moves to transfer marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II drug, protect marijuana dispensaries from being penalized for selling marijuana, and directs the VA to authorize medical providers to “provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in state marijuana programs”, among other things.
To give an idea of what a schedule II drug is, the U.S. Department of Justice lists ADHD medication as a schedule II drug.
So when will marijuana use be decriminalized on a federal level? It’s too soon to tell.
Until then, veterans will have to choose between our pot and our guns.
This week’s Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran David Tenenbaum, the creator of Honor Media and Heroes Linked.
From a young age, Tenenbaum wanted to help others in need. Inspired by his father, a Holocaust survivor liberated by US forces, he grew up with the stories of seeing good people standing against great injustice. Like the men who freed his father, he wanted to follow in their footsteps, to do good for others.
His journey began in 2001, at Officer Candidate School a month before 9/11.
Tenenbaum served in the Air Force for six years as an Aircraft Instructor Navigator, leading stateside and overseas operations for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. He left the service during a downsizing period to begin a new journey, but the Great Recession made it a rough transition.
Moving to Los Angeles, Tenenbaum pursued a new profession direction: media production. He created Honor Media, a nonprofit that supports other Veteran nonprofits with media production, distribution, photography and social media support. He is also the director of Heroes Linked, an online platform that pairs Veterans with mentors to help them get to the next step in their post-military journey.
The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.
Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.
Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.
GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”
The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.
GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.
In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”
Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.
As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.
By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).
Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”
In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”
One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.
As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:
I recommend that . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.
Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.
After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.
Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.
The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.
Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).
One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.
William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.
Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.
Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Mitch Burrow, a funny burly-guy who went from being a Marine to becoming a stand-up comedian.
When we join the military all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we have sort of an idea of what we want to do with our lives — but we change our minds dozens of times before landing a career that we hopefully love.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
So why did Mitch decide to jump on stage and be a comedian after getting out of the Marines?
“I love stand up comedy, so I was like you know what? If this is working at a party or a social group, let me try it on stage,” Mitch humorously recalls. “So I drove down to San Diego to the Comedy Store in La Jolla and had three shots of tequila, and I drank a couple of Budweisers then I got on stage. I’ve been told it went pretty good.”
Everyone knows about John Glenn, either as an astronaut or politician (he was a United States Senator from 1975 to 1999).
Few know, however, that John Glenn had a lengthy combat career as a Marine aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with three gold stars and two oak leaf clusters and 18 Air Medals.
After Pearl Harbor, Glenn first tried to sign up with the Army Air Force – but instead ended up as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He transitioned to the Marine Corps, though, and was sent to the South Pacific.
The first plane he flew after graduating training, though, was a far cry from a fighter or a rocket – it was the R4D, the Navy’s version of the classic C-47 Skytrain, according to Paul Kuppenberg’s 2003 biography of Glenn.
Glenn wouldn’t be a trash-hauler forever, though.
Soon, he was flying the F4U Corsair, and took part in combat missions around the Marshall Islands — notably attacking anti-aircraft batteries on Maloelap Atoll.
After a stateside assignment, he was later assigned to VMF-218 in China, where he flew some patrols.
Between World War II and Korea, Glenn was both a flight instructor and a student at the Amphibious Warfare School. When the Korean War broke out, Glenn sought a combat assignment.
According to AcePilots.com, he would serve two tours in Korea — the first with VMF-311, flying the F9F Panther. One famous squadron mate – and wingman – was Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
Glenn often had his plane shot up, on one occasion bringing it back with 250 holes in it. He’d been hit five times in World War II, each time nursing his damaged plane home, according to Light This Candle, a 2005 biography of Alan Shepard.
Glenn’s second tour was with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing. Glenn would get his only three confirmed kills, MiG-15s, in a grand total of 27 missions.
After the Korean War, Glenn became a test pilot, making a mark in Project Bullet, using a F8U-1P Crusader (the Navy’s pre-1962 designation for the RF-8A version of the Crusader) to cross the United States faster than the speed of sound – despite the fact he had to slow three times to refuel.
In 1959, Glenn was assigned to NASA, and from there, he went into space – and history. But his combat career is something that also deserves to be remembered.
Deemed “the last true national hero,” Glenn passed away in 2016 at age 95.
It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.
Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:
5. Things could always get worse.
Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.
Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.
4. Cleanliness regardless.
If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.
In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.
3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.
In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.
The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.
2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.
Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong withburning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve monthsis called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”
With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.
1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.
Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.
Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.
The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.
But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.
This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!
Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek
Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.
Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.
On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:
“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.
And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.
And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.
Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.
And be alive.”
It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.
Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse
Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.
If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.
The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.
The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!
Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville
Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.
We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.
He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.
If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.
Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13
Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.
With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.
With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas
Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.
You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.
But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.
If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!
Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.
“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”
Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.
“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”
The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.
“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”
“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”