Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Michael Whittaker joined the military in July 1982 through the delayed entry program. He served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years, including 16 active and eight years in the Ready Reserve. Today, he lives with Multiple Sclerosis.

Michael Whittaker while serving in the US Navy
Michael Whittaker while serving in the US Navy

The following was written by Whitaker:

I remember a moment where an enemy was in sight during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and my fingers became numb. It felt like I had frostbite. I reported what happened to the physician, but he couldn’t find anything wrong. When I returned to the US, I had a series of tests and they figured it out. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2006.

When I was diagnosed with MS, I knew nothing about the disease. While I was extremely active before I had MS, my activities diminished as MS started to change my body. Before MS, I felt there were no barriers to what I could do.

Getting Diagnosed with MS

With MS, I found myself having a pity party and I stopped participating in the things I loved. It didn’t help that I pushed my family and friends away following my diagnosis. Everyone seemed to have a suggestion on what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I didn’t want to hear people’s home remedies, that they “understood” what I was going through, or that I could still do so much even though I had MS. It wasn’t until I became affiliated with VA’s spinal cord injury program that my outlook started to improve.

Getting Help

I joined an MS support group where I could talk about what I was feeling and experiencing. MS symptoms are different for everyone, but members of the group understand and can relate to how I feel. They understood not just about living with MS, but about serving in the military and dealing with the PTSD I was diagnosed with. Talking with others helped me to look at things as achievable.

Veteran Michael Whittaker competes in VA Adaptive Sports Tee Tournament.
Veteran Michael Whittaker competes in VA Adaptive Sports Tee Tournament.

I found that I didn’t have excuses not to do things, I just had to do them differently. I discovered adaptive sports through VA: riding a bike, golfing, air gun shooting and sailing were now things that I could do again. I even took some cooking classes at my local VA. In September 2019, I attended the National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, with about 400 other Veterans. It was amazing to see so many Veterans together, competing in sports and making the most out of life.

While my diagnosis of MS was difficult to accept, I’ve now educated myself about the disease and feel prepared to take on anything that comes my way. Whenever I tell my providers that I can’t do something, they don’t accept the excuses. They help me to break down barriers that MS has caused, or that I’ve created myself. Everyone is dealing with changes and difficulties in life, and I’ve learned that adapting is the best way to move forward.

Accepting the Challenges and Changes

I’ve also learned the importance of communicating, not just with family, friends and my healthcare team, but with others going through the same thing. MS has changed me. There are days that I miss my military lifestyle, but I’ve learned that I’m not that guy anymore and that’s okay. Life changes us. I feel I can lift my head high now because of all the amazing staff, nurses and doctors at the Long Beach, CA VA medical facility who have helped me.

Visit VA’s website https://www.va.gov/ms/ for information on Multiple Sclerosis (MS), VA services, benefits and MS resources.

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

Veterans

Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Not everyone can call themselves a Veteran or knows how it feels to serve his country.


But for those who have, you’ve officially earned the veteran card. Congrats brother, you made it!

Not the so-called “veteran card” isn’t technically referring to the ID card the Department of Veterans Affairs issues you when you register — although you could use that too.

It’s the earned benefits you get when your non-serving compatriots respect the sacrifices you’ve made for your country, then decides to hook you up.

If you’re wondering where you can maybe cash in on these earned royalties, then check these out.

1. Dive Bars…

…especially with ones that have American flags decorating the walls. Dive bars aren’t usually a franchised company and commonly have that homey feeling that treats its customers more personally. What better way to be rewarded than a cold beer on the house?

That’s not such a bad idea.

2. Mom and Pop Shops

You know the businesses that greet you as soon as you walk in and are usually family run, right? With roughly 28 million small businesses located throughout the U.S., and making up approximately 44 percent of the nation’s payroll small businesses thrive on repeat local business.

With 22 million veterans that still call America home, keeping us happy and returning is big business for those little shops.

3. The Police

No one is saying to use this as your only line of defense if you catch a case, but it couldn’t hurt. A lot of policemen patrolling the streets are veterans themselves, so finding a little common ground could humanize you in their eyes.

 

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

4.  Employers

Plaster the fact that you served on your resume. Add in all the juicy key words like leadership, dedication and goal orientated. You may not have earned the Medal of Honor, but most civilians think having a National Defense ribbon and a Global War on Terrorism sounds pretty badass.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

 

5. Strip Clubs

Here’s a fun fact. Strippers are just like you and me! Except they probably get paid more.

We’re not saying you should go, but if you do, the closer the location to a military base, the better. Having been all over, I’ve heard you can enjoy discounts on the cover charge, shots and drinks specials, and reserved tables.

 

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

 

WATM author Tim Kirkpatrick entered the Navy in 2007 as a Hospital Corpsman and deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in the fall of 2010.  Tim now has degrees in both Film Production and Screenwriting. tim0kirkpatrick@gmail.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two vets went into a combat zone to make this film

In 2017, two vets went into an active war zone to document testimonies from survivors of the Yazidi genocide begun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in August 2014.


They were lucky to get out alive.

According to the United Nations, “ISIL committed the crime of genocide by seeking to destroy the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, forcible displacement, the transfer of children, and measures intended to prohibit the birth of Yazidi children.”

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
Director Andrew Kabbe in the white cowboy hat center. Two American actors sitting on the rock: J. Teddy Garces (left) and Josh Drennen (right)

Navy diver Andrew Kabbe and Air Force pararescueman David Shumock were in the Kurdish region of Iraq working in refugee camps when they were approached by a Yazidi tribal council.

The Yazidi people were desperate to tell their story and they were funding a feature film that depicted the early events of the genocide.

They needed help.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
A testament to the tension in the area, the crew carried food and weapons at all times. (Photo by: J Teddy Garces)

After careful deliberation — and a few false starts — Kabbe and Shumock committed to the project.

Kabbe decided to write and direct the film, while security fell unto Shumock, who had been in the region during the events of 2014 and not only had experience fighting ISIL, but had strong Peshmerga connections that would allow the crew to shoot in what was functionally a red zone.

“Without him we would have been lost,” Kabbe told We Are The Mighty.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
David Shumock keeps a watchful eye on set. (Photo by J. Teddy Garces)

Much of the crew consisted of Yazidi volunteers who had been forced to live in refugee camps, as well as Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Muslims. They came from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the US, England and even Poland. There were three main languages on the set: Kurdish, Farsi and English. Arabic was spoken as well. Two translators were required to communicate to the entire crew.

But the growing need to tell the story of what the Yazidi people continue to endure took over.

And now the film is near completion, but the crew needs help to complete it. Check out their page to learn more about the project and how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to their efforts.


Articles

Here’s how medical aid stations handle mass casualty situations

When you’re forward deployed fighting the enemy, people are going to get hurt— it’s the nature of the job. One aspect our military excels at is reaching its severely wounded troops with medical treatment quickly.


A mass casualty situation, however, is a problem. A mass casualty situation means any amount of injured patients that exceeds the number of resources available.

For example, if five soldiers become wounded on the battlefield and there is only one medic or corpsmen on deck, and they’re unable to treat their victims quick enough, that’s a mass casualty or “mass-cas.”

It happens more than you think.

The real problem is the medical aid stations (or battalion aid stations) only have so many personnel on deck and can’t take care of everyone at the same time — that’s when it’s time to call for back-up.

Boom!

An IED just went off a few miles away from the medical aid station. The medic or corpsman on deck is unhurt but now has to spring into action and rapidly start checking the wounded to account for the worst injuries. After they check their patients, the R.O., or Radio Operator, will call up a medevac, sending vital information to the aid station about the incoming troops.

Related: 5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
The interior of an aid station. Hopefully a place you’ll never have to visit.

Medical aid stations work like a well-oiled machine, and the staff members know their exact roles.

Typically, an aid station consists of a few doctors, a few nurses, and a few medics or Corpsmen. Once the wounded enter the medical station, their life status is quickly re-determined. Although the medic did this earlier in the field, the aid station will reassess using the same process of triage, as the patient’s status could have changed during transport.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
Mass casualty triage cards

The color that’s issued reflects the order in which the patient is seen. Treatment can be especially challenging because medical stations are temporary facilities and they don’t always have the most advanced technology; most get their power from gas-powered generators.

Also Read: This is how medical evacuations have evolved over the last 145 years

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
U.S. Army soldiers litter transport a simulated injured patient to the Charlie medical tent during Joint Readiness Training in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

In the event the casualty needs to move to an upper echelon of care, a helicopter will be called up to transport them to a more capable hospital. This could also have happened while in the field. Since time is the biggest factor, getting the wounded to the closest aid station is key.

Based on the triage label color issued by the medical staff, that evacuation could take minutes or up to 24 hours. So you may have to sit tight if you’re just nursing a broken arm.

Veterans

VA pathologist created scoring system that predicts aggressiveness of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers among male VA patients. The disease is usually found in its early stages and often grows slowly. Most men live with the cancer for decades without symptoms and die of other causes even without early surgery. But some cases of prostate cancer metastasize and lead to death.

Millions of men have gotten a “Gleason score,” which is used almost universally to predict the aggressiveness of prostate cancer.

Dr. Donald Gleason, who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, devised the scoring system in the 1960s while working at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. The Gleason score has long been considered the most reliable indicator of the potential for prostate cancer to grow and spread. It helps provide a prognosis and guide treatment and is a reference standard in clinical trials testing new therapies.

`Every prostate cancer patient knows his Gleason score’

“Every prostate cancer patient knows his Gleason score,” Dr. Bruce Roth, a professor of medicine and urological surgery at Vanderbilt University and an official of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told The New York Times following Gleason’s death at age 88 in 2008. “It is remarkable that the Gleason score remains the standard test despite the millions of dollars spent on trying to develop molecular tests to displace it.”

To find a Gleason score, doctors take a biopsy of a patient’s prostate and look at the cells under a microscope. The pattern of cancer cells is ranked from 1 to 5. A score of 1 means cells resemble a normal prostate, with areas of cancer cells small and closely packed. Higher scores mean the cancer cells are more widespread and signal a worse prognosis.

Total scores range from 2 to 10.

  • Scores of 2-4 are usually considered benign or slow growing.
  • Those of 5-7 are the most common and are highly treatable.
  • Scores of 8-10 show an advanced stage of cancer and are unlikely to be cured.

Chief of pathology at Minneapolis VA

Born in 1920 in Iowa, Gleason earned his medical degree in 1944 in the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of Minnesota. He completed his internship at the University of Maryland Hospital and joined the Army Medical Corps in 1945, serving as a psychiatrist, transport surgeon, dermatologist, and venereal disease clinician before being discharged in 1947. He then pursued a pathology residency in a combined VA-university program in Minneapolis. After spending two years in France, he returned to Minnesota and passed his anatomic and clinical pathology boards in 1952. He served as chief of pathology at the Minneapolis VA Hospital from 1954 to 1975.

In 1962, Dr. George Mellinger, the hospital’s chief of urology, asked Gleason to develop a standard pathological testing system for prostate cancer. The American Urological Association (AUA) described the creation of the Gleason score:

Used for prostate cancer treatment around the world

“As chief of [pathology], Dr. Gleason joined the VA Cooperative Urological Research Group study of prostate cancer. With them, he devised a grading system based on the increasing disorganization of the histologic structure [microscopic anatomy] of the prostate cancers. The histologic grades were illustrated with photomicrographs and Dr. Gleason’s drawings, which were easily recognized by other pathologists. The histologic grades correlated with the varying degrees of clinical malignancy of the cancers. Because the Gleason grading system was easily learned from the drawings, it has been accepted and applied to the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer around the world.”

Gleason retired from VA in 1976 and spent 10 years as a staff pathologist in the Fairview Hospital system in Minneapolis, before his final retirement in 1986, according to the AUA. The American Urological Association awarded him its prestigious Presidential Citation in 2002.

More Information

Click here to read about other VA researchers who served.

Click here to learn more about VA research.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 signs that a veteran’s story is ‘totally legit’

Since ancient times, warriors have gathered around the fire to recall battles fought with comrades over flagons of strong ale. Today, we keep this same tradition — except the storytelling usually happens in a smoke pit or dingy bar.

If you’ve been part of one of these age-old circles, then you know there’s a specific set of mannerisms that’s shared by service members, from NCOs to junior enlisted. The way veterans tell their stories is a time-honored tradition that’s more important than the little details therein — and whether those details are true or not. Not every piece of a veteran’s tale is guaranteed to be accurate, but the following attributes will tell you that it’s legit enough.


Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Just hear them out. Either out of politeness or apathy — your choice.

Beginning the story with “No sh*t, there I was…”

No good story begins without this phrase. It draws the reader in and prepares them to accept the implausible. How else are you going to believe their story about their reasonably flimsy military vehicle rolling over?

It’s become so much of an on-running trope in veteran storytelling that it’s basically our version of “once upon a time.”

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

But sometimes, you just have to tell the new guy that everything they just signed up for f*cking sucks.

Going into extreme (and pointless) detail

Whenever a veteran begins story time for a civilian, they’ll recall the little details about where they were deployed, like the heat and the smell.

Now, we’re not saying these facts are completely irrelevant, but the stage-setting can get a bit gratuitous.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

If your story is about your time as a boot, everyone will just believe you… likely because your story is too boring to fact check.

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Constantly reminding the listener that they can look it up

The military has paperwork for literally everything. Let’s say you’re telling the story of how you were the platoon guidon bearer back in basic training. If you tried hard enough, you could probably find a document somewhere to back that statement up.

As outlandish as some claims may be, nobody is actually to put in the work to fact-check a story — especially when you’re just drinking beers at the bar.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Maybe it was because I was boring, but I never understood why people felt the need to go overboard with hiding people in the trunk. Just say, “they left their ID in the barracks.”

(Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)

Citing someone that may or may not exist as a source

Among troops and veterans, it’s easy for most of us forget that people also have first names. This is why so many of our stories refer to someone named of ‘Johnson,’ ‘Brown,’ or ‘Smith.’ It’s up to you whether you want to believe this person actually exists.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

If they start getting into the stories that will make grandma blush, fewer nudges are required.

(U.S. Army photo)

Tapping the listener’s arm if they lose interest

Military stories tend to drag on forever. Now, this isn’t because they’re boring, but rather because the storyteller vividly remembers nearly every detail.

Sometimes, those telling the story feel the need to check in on the listener to make they’re absorbing it all. Most vets do with this a little nudge.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Basically how it works.

(Comic by Broken and Unreadable)

Filling in the blanks with “because, you know… Army”

It’s hard to nail down every minute detail of military culture, like how 15 minute priors really work.

Some things can only be explained with a hand wave and a simple, “because, you know, that’s how it was in the service.”

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Or they could just be full of sh*t. But who cares? If it’s a fun story, it’s a fun story.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Finishing the story in a way that fosters one-upsmanship

Veterans’ stories aren’t intended to over-glorify past actions — even if that’s how it sounds to listeners. Generations upon generations of squads have told military stories as a way of a team-building, not as a way for one person to win a non-existent p*ssing contest.

Whether the storyteller knows it or not, they often finish up a tale by signaling to the listener that it’s now their turn to tell an even better story. Just like their squad leader did for them all those years ago.

Articles

VP welcomes Honor Flight vets to the White House

Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.


The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.

The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, hosted the approximately 200 guests today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.

The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.

The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.

Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.

Debt of Honor and Gratitude

The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.

“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.

“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”

Articles

15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“Women have served in the defense of this land for years before our United States was born. They have contributed their talents, skills and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond,” said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, chief of staff of the Army, 1991-1995.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS
Depicted from left, Civil War nurse Clara Barton, Susie King Taylor and Dr. Mary Walker. On the right is WAC founder Col. Oveta Culp Hobby and later WAC Deputy Director Col. Bettie J. Morden. Moving toward the front is Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender and Brig Gen. Sheridan Cadoria. In front is today’s Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West. (Photo Credit: Peggy Frierson)


1. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783)

Mary Ludwig McCauley gained the nickname of “Molly Pitcher” in 1778 by carrying water to the men on the Revolutionary battlefield in Monmouth, New Jersey. She replaced her husband, Capt. John Hays, when he collapsed at his cannon. Since then, many women who carried water to men on the battlefield were called “Molly Pitchers.”

2. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse (1861 – 1865)

Clara Barton witnessed immense suffering on the Civil War battlefield and did much to alleviate it. She was on the scene ministering to those most in need, taking care of the wounded, dead, and dying.

Barton became a “professional angel” after the war. She lectured and worked on humanitarian causes relentlessly, and went on to become the first president of the American Association of the Red Cross. At the age of 77, she was still in the field taking care of Soldiers in military hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

3. Susie King Taylor, Civil War (1861-1865)

Born a slave in Georgia in 1848, Susie Baker, who later became known as Susie King Taylor, gained her freedom in April 1862. Baker was initially appointed laundress of the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, re-organized from the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Due to her nursing skills and her ability to read and write, her responsibilities with the regiment began to multiply. More than a few African-American women may have provided service as the Union Army began forming regiments of all black men. After the war, Taylor helped to organize a branch of the Women’s Relief Corps.

4. Dr. Mary Walker, Union Army contract surgeon (1861-1865)

Dr. Mary Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855 and later earned a second degree in 1862 from Hygeia Therapeutic College in New York. During the Civil War, she worked at first as a volunteer in Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Later she worked as a contract physician for the 52nd Ohio Infantry Regiment. Walker is the only woman ever granted the Medal of Honor.

5. Mary Catherine O’Rourke, Telephone operator and interpreter (1917-1918)

Mary Catherine O’ Rourke was one of 450 “Hello Girls” who served in the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit during World War I. They were bilingual female switchboard operators recruited by Gen. John J. Pershing to improve communications on the Western Front.

The Signal Corps women were given the same status as nurses, and had 10 extra regulations placed on them to preserve their “status as women.” They had the rank of lieutenant, but had to buy their own uniforms.

Mary Catherine O’Rourke was in the fourth group of these women who shipped off to France during World War I. She studied French with instructors from the University of Grenoble. She was assigned to Paris and served as interpreter for Gen. John J. Pershing during months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.

6. Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, First WAC director (1942-1945)

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby was called upon to serve as the chief, Women’s Interest Section, Bureau of Public Affairs for the War Department. She served in this position for one year before becoming the first woman sworn into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC in 1942 and appointed as its director. The WAAC was converted to the Women’s Army Corps in July 1943 and Hobby was appointed to the rank of colonel in the Army of the United States as she continued to serve as director of the WAC.

After setting the stage for the creation of the WAC, Hobby built the corps to the strength of over 100,000 by April 1944. She established procedures and policies for recruitment, training, administration, discipline, assignment, and discharge for the WAC. She surmounted difficulties in arranging for the training, clothing, assignments, recognition, and acceptance of women in the Army. Hobby made it possible for women to serve in over 400 non-combat military jobs at posts throughout the United States, and in every overseas theater.

Hobby was later called upon by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1953-1955.

7. Col. Bettie J. Morden, WAC deputy director, 1971

Bettie J. Morden had a long, distinguished career in the Army that took many turns. She enlisted in the WAAC on Oct. 14, 1942. She receiving basic and administrative training at the First WAAC Training Center, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She served throughout World War II at the Third WAAC Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as an administrative noncommissioned officer of the Publications Office. Morden later served as a first sergeant with Headquarters Company on the South Post. After the war ended, Morden was discharged in November 1945.

In September 1949, she entered the WAC, U.S. Army Reserve, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1950. In November 1966, she was assigned as executive officer, Office of the Director, WAC, at the Pentagon and was promoted to full colonel on June 9, 1970. She assumed the position of acting deputy director, WAC, on Feb 1, 1971. She retired on Dec. 31, 1972, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

In July 1973, Morden was elected president of the WAC Foundation, now the U.S. Army Women’s Museum Foundation, a private organization formed initially in 1969 to support the museum. Morden resigned from the presidency in June 2001.

8. Jacqueline Cochran, Pioneer female aviator (Pre-World War II to 1970)

After developing a successful line of cosmetics, Jacqueline Cochran took flying lesson in the 1930s so that she could use her travel and sales time more efficiently. She eventually became a test pilot. She helped design the first oxygen mask and became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one. She set three speed records and a world altitude record of 33,000 feet — all before 1940.

She was the first woman to fly a heavy bomber over the Atlantic. She volunteered for duty as a combat pilot in the European Theater during World War II, but her offer was rejected. She trained American women as transport pilots in England for the Air Transport Auxiliary of the Royal Air Force.

Upon return to the United States, she oversaw flight training for women and the merging of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in July 1943. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 for her service in World War II.

After the war, she was commissioned in 1948. She became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet in 1953 and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964. She retired from the Air Force Reserve as a colonel in 1970.

9. Brig. Gen. Clara L. Adams-Ender, Army Nurse Corps (1961-1993)

In 1967, Brig. Gen. Adams-Ender became the first female in the Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She was also the first woman to earn a master’s of military arts and science degree .at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

On Sept. 1, 1987, she was promoted to brigadier general and appointed the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1991, she was selected to be commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and served in this capacity as well as that of deputy commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington until her retirement in 1993.

10. Command Sgt. Maj. Yzetta L. Nelson, First woman command sergeant major (1944-1970)

Yzetta L. Nelson joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1944. In 1966, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant major. On March 30, 1968, she became the first WAC promoted to the new rank of command sergeant major. She continued to serve in the WAC until her retirement in 1970.

11. Brig. Gen. Sherian G. Cadoria, First African-American female general (1961-1990)

Promoted to brigadier general in 1985, Sherian G. Cadoria was the highest-ranking black woman in the Army until she retired in 1990. She entered the Army in 1961, with a direct commission as a first lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. In the 1970s, she transferred to the Military Police Corps.

12. Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson, First black female sentinel at Tomb of Unknowns

Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson became the first African-American woman to earn the prestigious Tomb Guard Badge and become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Jan. 22, 1997.

Born in 1974 in Montgomery, Alabama, Wilson joined the Army in February 1993. She was a military police officer assigned to the MP Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). She completed testing and a rigorous eight-month trial period and became part of the Honor Guard Company of The Old Guard.

14. Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, First command sergeant major of Army Reserve

In September 2003, Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones was selected by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, Army Reserve chief, to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve. She was the first woman to serve in that position and the first to be chosen as the senior NCO in any of the Army’s components. For some time, she was also the highest-ranking African-American in any of the military services.

Jones entered the Army in 1982. She attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. She was the first woman to serve as class president at the United States Sergeants Major Academy.

15. Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Surgeon general of the U.S. Army

Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West is the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command.

West is a graduate of the United States Military Academy with a bachelor of science in engineering. She earned a doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in the District of Columbia.

Her last assignment was as the Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon. In that capacity, she served as the chief medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and coordinated all health services issues to include operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness.

(Editor’s note: The above 15 are just a sampling of the many women who have contributed to shaping the U.S. Army.)

Articles

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

When things get squirrely, military vets have several advantages over career civilians. Vets, of course, have the benefit of combat and tactical training, but they’ve also learned to develop a formidable mental game.


Former Green Beret Mike Glover used this notion as inspiration and a jumping off point when he founded Fieldcraft Survival, his school for disaster preparedness.

With 18 years of deep operational experience, certifications out the wazoo (just check his founder’s bio), and a doomsday sense of humor that would make Mad Max proud, Glover is uniquely qualified to teach civilians to keep their heads and preserve their lives as the worst case scenario unfolds.

“At Fieldcraft, our whole basic motto is we’re teaching mindset over hard skills.”

Things, of course, got extra squirrely when Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis dropped in for a visit.

Accepting life’s changes: A veteran living with MS

Glover hustled Curtis right into training, first in the classroom to reinforce the importance of developing a strong mental game and then in the field, where the two ran through the O.P.S. Course, which stands for Observe, Prepare, Survive.

And just as the word “challenge” was leaving Curtis’ mouth a distant cry of distress told our heroes it was time to oil up for action.

What happened next pretty much sums up the whole series.

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These are the faces of true bravery. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Glover teaches this wannabe Martin Riggs the real meaning of the word “squirrely”, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 celebrity veterans who went AWOL

There are few acts more shameful for a member of the military than deserting their unit, and going AWOL is the first step in that decision. We Are The Mighty has covered what can happen to a deserter before, and it’s not a fate any servicemember should willingly bring upon him or herself.


That still didn’t stop these 8 famous veterans from going Absent Without Leave, and they all faced the consequences.

8. Humphrey Bogart

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Humphrey Bogart is an iconic Academy Award winning actor, but prior to his acting career, Bogie served in the United States Navy during the tail end of World War I. While most of the other cases on this list were clearly some level of intentional, in Bogart’s case, going AWOL seemed to be a complete accident.

The full story is unknown, but what’s on public record is that Bogart missed a connection to the USS Santa Olivia while in Europe, leading to him officially officially declared AWOL. He immediately turned himself in only to face a 3-day prison sentence.

It seems the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, as he was honorably discharged in 1919.

7. Steve McQueen

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Screenshot of Steve McQueen in film The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

Steve McQueen got his reputation as a tough guy and a rebel, and while going AWOL is no joke, it’s easy to picture him smiling and laughing while he did so. Legend has it the young Marine took a few extra days (or weeks) off while visiting his girlfriend on Weekend Leave.

When the King of Cool finally returned to his post, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig for his insubordination. McQueen served his sentence and eventually returned to duty, ultimately using the benefits of the GI Bill to sponsor his acting education.

6. Jerry Garcia

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Garcia in the 1970s.

Some vets will probably be pissed to learn some of these celebs almost deserted, but could anyone be surprised to learn about Jerry Garcia? The Grateful Dead singer/guitarist/songwriter was one of the faces of the 60s countercultural movement, but before becoming a rock legend, he served in the United States Army upon his mother’s insistence.

Unsurprisingly, Garcia never took the Army particularly seriously, regularly missing roll call and going AWOL on several occasions. Ultimately he was generally discharged after less than a year of service.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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So much potential…

The only foreigner on the list, Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, where a year of military service was mandatory for teenage males. Even as a young man, the future Governor was far more focused on bodybuilding, and chose to go AWOL to hone his craft.

Also read: 15 celebrities we’d love to see in boot camp

Appropriately, the Terminator star secretly climbed over a wall to attend a competition, and wound up imprisoned in a military stockade for seven days for his crime.

4. Sinbad

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All Sinbad ever wanted to do was play basketball, which is a pretty misguided reason to join the Air Force, but it didn’t stop the comedian from doing just that. After he failed to make the Air Force basketball team, Sinbad says he repeatedly went AWOL under the assumption the military either wouldn’t notice or would dishonorably discharge him, relieving him of his duty.

The Air Force never did, however, and eventually Sinbad stopped going AWOL and started appearing in Air Force Talent Shows, beginning his career in standup.

3. Nate Dogg

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Nate Dogg was a rapper and G-funk singer popular for his collaborations with Warren G and Dr. Dre, amongst other rap superstars. When he was only 16, Nate Dogg dropped out of high school intending to join the United States Marine Corps. The “Regulate” singer served as an ammunitions specialist for three years before going AWOL and being dishonorably discharged.

2. C.J. Ramone

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C.J. Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Burning Down the House, a documentary about famous New York City rock and roll venue CBGB. (Image by David Shankbone)

The other celebrities on this list came to fame after they were discharged, but the final bassist of the legendary rock band the Ramones went AWOL in order to become famous. Serving in the Marine Corps, Ramone claims he was nearing his discharge, taking extended unapproved leaves to jam with the Ramones while they searched for a new bassist.

More: The 6 best WWE ‘Tribute to the Troops’ matches

After realizing he would get the gig, Ramone turned himself in and asked what he had to do to be discharged and allowed to play with the band. For going AWOL, Ramone had to serve five weeks in jail — but to his surprise, Johnny Ramone called him to tell him he still had a job if he wanted it.

1. Randy Orton

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This is how Randy Orton stands at attention. (Image by Ken Penn)

Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE from Charleston SC, known professionally for his short temper and rebellious attitude. They say the best characters stem from real life, and Orton’s rebelliousness started as a member of the USMC, where he went AWOL twice, serving 38 days in jail.

Orton also disobeyed orders from a commanding officer and was dishonorably discharged. His poor record of service lead to controversy when WWE announced Orton would star in The Marine 3, a casting choice that got scrapped when his poor military record became public.

Veterans

7 veteran qualities that civilian employers go crazy over

When it’s time for troops to hang up their uniform for the last time and go pick up that beautiful DD-214, they’re subjected to countless classes on how to adapt in the civilian world and use the strengths they’ve picked up in the military to give themselves a leg up in a competitive civilian marketplace.

Troops who had more POGy jobs in the military may have an easier time making the transition. If you worked in the commo shop, there’s countless IT desks out there you can apply for. Flight-line mechanics can make bank working for airlines. But even combat arms guys aren’t limited to positions as security guards or fast-food workers, no matter how many times the retention NCO tells you so.


The fact is, any good soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman who fit perfectly in the formation comes away from service with valuable skills that employers look for in potential employees. Here are a few qualities that veterans have had drilled into them every day since basic training that help them stand out over most civilian competitors.

 
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We’ve mastered the art of “hurry up and wait,” so showing up early and killing idle time is no problem.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

 

The 15-minutes-prior schedule

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re fourteen minutes early, you’re still late. Civilians tend to pull some excuse that explains why it’s definitely not their fault that they’re arriving at 10:05 for a 10 a.m. meeting.

That fifteen-minute buffer works wonders with the way most civilians schedule things. The higher up in an organization you go, the more promptly meetings tend to start. If you’ve been ready for 15 minutes already, nobody will end up waiting on you. You’re set.

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You’ll never find a more open and, uh, “creative” conversation than those held at a deployed smoke pit.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Blunt honesty

We’ve seen it happen a million times: Someone throws out an awful suggestion and it’s met with agreeable silence. Everyone is too afraid to speak up because their reputation is on the line for speaking out of turn. Then, out of the corner, a veteran speaks up and says, “well that’s dumb. Why the f*ck would we do that?”

If there’s one thing that sets a veteran apart in a board room it’s their ability to avoid being a yes man. It may ruffle the feathers of people who expect everyone to nod along, but at the very least, it moves the meter.

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If you thought vets couldn’t also handle useless and drawn-out PowerPoint presentations, think again!
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alfonso Corral)

 

No aversion to manual labor

Veterans can safely celebrate the fact that when they get a new job, if something comes up that’s not in the job description, it’s not expected of them. That’s right: if you’re now an office drone working some cubicle job, no one will randomly get on your ass for not cleaning the break room.

Sometimes, however, things just need to get done. Using that same example, an entire day could go by in a civilian office and people will simply walk by that messy break room thinking, “it’s not my responsibility.” Most vets, on the other hand, would instinctively clean it up without giving it a second thought.

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The same goes the other way around. Knowing who does the leg work in an organization makes a leader’s work a million times easier.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

 

Acknowledgement of hierarchy

Things are nice and easy when everyone wears their rank on their uniform. You can instantly look at their insignia and recognize where they stand in the chain of command — no questions asked. That simple insignia tells the world what is expected of you, in accordance with your rank.

The civilian workplace doesn’t really have those kinds of markings — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pecking order. Vets just need to know who’s in charge of them and who’s in charge of the people in charge and they’re set.

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Sometimes, leading from the front means letting a subordinate take the spotlight. That’s surprisingly rare in the civilian world.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Parks)

 

Willingness to take a leadership position

Everyone wants the bigger job, bigger desk, bigger pay check, but too few people are willing to exit their comfort zone to get it. They’ll whine about that one guy getting an extra zero in his paycheck but slink at any opportunity to prove their worth.

Vets, on the other hand, will usually take it upon themselves to organize their coworkers if they see a lack of leadership and make themselves the face of their team without even realizing it. Willingly taking on that leadership role proves to the company that the vet is serious and values the company. This almost always gives that vet more firepower when it comes time to shoot for a raise.

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The ever-looming glare of a drill sergeant never leaves the back of your mind. Ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

 

Separation of work life and personal life

Keeping what’s going on in your personal life from affecting your work life is a difficult skill to master. It’s a beyond-useful talent to be able to set aside any personal problems when it’s time to get serious and work. The other part of this equation is not letting personal drama bleed into getting the mission done.

Troops and vets have been constantly cattle prodded into moving forward and to quit whining about unrelated stuff. This is second nature.

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There’s no gray area in “until mission complete.” Either it’s impossible or it’ll be done by lunch time.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. David W. Cline)

 

The mission-first mentality

If there’s a single quality that civilian employers can expect from nearly every veteran, it’s that veterans will always be task-oriented. They’ll see a checklist as a thing to complete rather than a thing to dread.

From the moment troops enlist, they’re taught to juggle roughly seven thousand different tasks inherent to military life, in addition to those associated with their given MOS. There’s a job to be done, so let’s get to it.

Articles

World War II Combat Cameraman and Hollywood animation legend dies

He is widely known as a Hollywood animation legend who worked at the studios that created Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But Hal Geer also flew 86 combat missions as a combat cameraman in World War II.


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B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Geer died Jan. 26 at the age of 100. According to IMDB, his credits included the movies “Daffy Duck: Fantastic Island,” “Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero,” and “The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special” as well as over twenty short cartoons.

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Nose art Hal Geer would have loved. Bugs Bunny nose art from an FB-111 with the 380th Bombardment Wing. In World War II, the 380th used B-24 Liberators, and Geer worked on a number of cartoons featuring the wascally wabbit. (USAF photo)

Geer’s World War II service took him over the China-Burma-India Theater, flying in Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and North American B-25 medium bombers assigned to the 14th Air Force under Major General Claire Chennault, who founded the legendary Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group.

According to a 2007 report in the Ventura County Recorder, Geer made the documentary film “China Crisis” while serving. Geer told the Recorder that this World War II film was the one he was the most proud of.

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In a 2005 interview with China Youth Daily, Geer discussed more about his time with the 14th Air Force. “China Crisis” discussed how the United States supported the 14th Air Force, getting supplies over what was called “The Hump.”

Today, it’s better known as the Himalaya Mountains. The film also covered the Japanese Army’s 1944 offensive in China (which doesn’t get as much press when compared to how America advanced in the Pacific that year). Thirteen combat cameramen shot over 300 hours of footage to make a film that was less than an hour long. Five cameramen were killed in action.

“China Crisis” had been slated to be shown along as part of a 1946 War Bonds drive. That drive would not take place, as Japan surrendered in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps, someday, DOD will find a way to make that film, and many others, available online for Americans to view.

Articles

Apollo 11 astronaut and Air Force General Michael Collins passes away at 90

American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.

Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.

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West Point Cadet Michael Collins (U.S. Army)

When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.

Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.

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Michael Collins as an Air Force pilot (U.S. Air Force)

Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.

After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.

In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.

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ARPS Class III graduates (L-R) Front row: Ed Givens, Tommie Benefield, Charlie Bassett, Greg Neubeck & Mike Collins. Back row: Al Atwell, Neil Garland, Jim Roman, Al Uhalt and Joe Engle. Missing: Ernst Volgenau (U.S. Air Force)

Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.

Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.

In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.

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Gemini 10 prime crew portrait (NASA)

Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.

After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.

Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.

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Collins goes through the checklist in the command module simulator (NASA)

Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.

At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.

While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”

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The Apollo 11 mission patch designed by Collins (NASA)

Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”

At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.

Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.

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The Apollo 11 crew (L-R) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin (NASA)

Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.

Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.

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Collins’ Command Module Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)

Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.

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Collins meets with President Trump in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (The White House)
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