Norman Jones, Juan Reyes, Yvette Marie Wilson, Guill Garcia, and Matt Bellina all once fought for our country. Now they are fighting for their lives because of a terminal disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
They are not alone. If you served in the military, you are much more likely to develop ALS. The numbers are stunning–1 in 6 ALS patients have served in the military. It doesn’t matter which branch you come from, or if you served in combat–and we have no idea why.
ALS is a disease that attacks cells in the body that control movement. It makes the brain stop talking to the muscles, causing increased paralysis over time. Ultimately, ALS patients become prisoners within their own bodies, unable to eat, breathe, or move on their own. In every case, ALS is fatal.
The disease can affect anyone, and 90 percent of patients have no family history, so when Jones, Reyes, Wilson, Garcia, and Bellina were all told they had ALS they were blindsided. Anyone who has ever put on the uniform knows that, when you serve, your family serves, too. You can’t do it alone. Fighting ALS is the same. They knew that as their condition progressed and they began to lose control of their bodies, the support from the people around them would have to grow.
No one needs to tell a veteran that you don’t stop serving just because you take off the uniform–once in the military, always in the military. Tapping into their sisters and brothers in arms, these five veterans are activating their community not only for their own personal support but for the bigger fight — to build an army of advocates that can change how the ALS story ends.
One of the biggest hurdles faced in the fight against ALS is awareness. Earlier this year an I AM ALS/Ipsos poll uncovered that, even in the aftermath of 2014’s viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, awareness about the disease remains very low. The majority of Americans, including members of the military, still know nothing about ALS.
Instead of retreating after receiving devastating news, these advocates banded together with veterans from across the ALS community to launch a campaign with the patient-led, patient-centric organization I AM ALS to raise awareness about the thousands of men and women who serve or have served our country affected by ALS every year.
I AM ALS, founded by ALS patient Brian Wallach and his wife, Sandra Abrevaya, was born out of a similar desire to change the future for all ALS patients by activating people and building a movement that empowers and mobilizes patients to lead the fight for cures. Since its launch in January 2019, I AM ALS has already built a community of 25,000 people including patients, advocates, organizations and scientists to deliver critical and innovative resources.
They are fighting for patients every day, including the veterans community. The organization is leading an advocacy effort that this year resulted in the House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Committees voting to double Department of Defense funding for ALS research from million to million. These funds will help us finally understand why those who serve are so much more likely to be afflicted by ALS, and understanding is a giant step towards finding a cure.
This is an incredible win for all ALS patients. Especially given that recent acceleration of research has ensured that it is no longer a question of if, but when there will be a significant treatment breakthrough that brings a cure within reach.
Even with the recent successes, there is still a necessary urgency to expand and accelerate this progress. ALS patients typically live two to five years after diagnosis, so time is always of the essence. Your help is needed to support members of the military community fighting this disease today.
We need you in this battle because it will only be won if we work as one.
You can start pitching in today by joining with these brave men and women to spread the word about ALS. If you have a story about a teammate affected by ALS, reach out and let us know. These may sound like small actions, but spreading the word is a fundamental step towards finding a cure. Share this video using #VetsFightALS, talk to your colleagues and neighbors, and get engaged at iamals.org/action. We need you in this fight.
The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.
To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.
1. Wendall A. Phillips
Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.
While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.
He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.
Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.
Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.
Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.
After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.
Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.
According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.
Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.
2. Felix J. McCool
When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.
McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.
Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.
But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.
While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.
McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.
He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.
But there was worse to come.
McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.
After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.
He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.
McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.
McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.
McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.
McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.
According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.
He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.
3. Richard Keirn
Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.
Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.
In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.
According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.
In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.
“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”
Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.
S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”
“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.
“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”
Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)
The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.
The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.
Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.
But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.
“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”
Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.
“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”
“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”
Becoming a veteran is one of the most rewarding statuses you can achieve. Serving your country and being the best person you can be is highly respectable. It’s a feeling like no other.
However, when time in the military comes to an end, many veterans are left scratching their heads, wondering what to do next. Fortunately, the intelligence, discipline, and mindset that you develop, train, and perfect while in service makes going to university a very favorable option.
No matter what civilian career path you want to take up next, be it cooking, engineering, or anything in between, attending an online university can help you get there — it’s just a matter of deciding which one is best for you.
To give you a helping hand, here are four of the best online university programs you can join today that have been designed with military-experienced people, such as yourself, in mind.
One great program, made possible thanks to the efforts of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is the Onward to Opportunity program. Also referred to as the O2O-VCTP, this is a skills-based program that provides military veterans with all kinds of career training, as well as certifications and qualifications, to help you secure the job that you want.
The program offers job placement support for both veterans and their spouses, giving you everything you need to make the best start in this new chapter of your life. The program is available online as well as in a variety of physical locations and includes over 30 recognized career paths, career coaching opportunities, and interview preparation services.
Marketed as one of the best and highest nationally-ranked military universities, Arizona State University provides comprehensive services that give you everything you need to succeed. In fact, this program was voted as one of the 2017 Best for Vets Colleges by Military Times.
The program has served and catered to over 1,300 service men and women and is renowned for being one of the most committed courses in the United States.
This ASU service offers tuition assistance, multiple and exclusive offers and benefits, transfer services, an easy-to-use online application, and even services where your spouse or partner can enroll and progress their own career.
Penn State is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, and the Military courses are no exception. The university staff knows what veterans have gone through during their time in the military and strives to proactively express gratitude for service in return.
Once enrolled in the online course, you’ll be able to choose a degree to work toward through the famous World Campus platform. Here, you’ll be able to earn a degree from universally recognized facility. In addition to comprehensive courses, you’ll have full and unrestricted access to a dedicated Academic Military Support Team, a full collection of grants and scholarships, as well as any transfer credits you may be entitled to.
It’s also worth noting that the university is GI Bill- and Yellow Ribbon Program-approved and is ranked number one when it comes to after-course corporate recruiters, meaning you’ll have the finest support when securing a well-paid and highly rewarding job with your newfound education.
USC prides itself on transforming your military experience into the foundation of your new career. USC Online offers a comprehensive course that could be everything you’ve been looking for.
The course offers a full range of courses to choose from, including cyber security, GIS, military social work, a master of business program, and many more. The course is renowned for being one of the best in the United States, and you’ll also have access to all the exclusive benefits, such as Spouse education, funding, and admission support.
Mary Walton is an editor at BigAssignments, an Australian writing service. Also, she proofreads content for OXEssays, a British writing service. You can read reviews of such services at Revieweal.
A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.
According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.
The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.
“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”
The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”
This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.
A total of 259 Veterans registered to compete, including 81 women Veterans. The Veterans represented 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 61 VA medical centers. Veterans received a total of 100 gold, 75 silver and 69 bronze medals across eight age categories
Veterans competed in gender, wheelchair, visually impaired and recumbent cycling categories.
VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.
Pictured above with her bicycle is OEF/OIF Veteran, Air Force Veteran and nurse Therese Kern. Kern represented the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner at VA.
Here’s a great video about the games including the opening and a terrific slide show of previous participants from all the states. (Montage photos and videos are from 2019: pre-COVID, pre-masks.)
Welcome to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 National Veterans Golden Age Games at HOME
Feedback from Veterans has been overwhelmingly positive and many expressed their gratitude. Here are some comments:
“Though we were all at home in 2020, I can truly say I had the time of my life and enjoyed every day of the fitness challenge and 20k cycling event. I would love to be able to participate in 2021 alongside all the other cyclists in the 20k cycling event,” said David Warren. He was a first-time participant who represented the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
“Thanks to the national staff for finding a way to allow us to compete this year. Can’t wait to see my medals in person, and to get my T-shirt. Congrats to all the athletes that medaled and to those who competed! I had a blast. On top of getting in better shape after having to walk or ride bike every day for 30 days!! I also lost some weight,” said Coast Guard Veteran Nadine Lewis. She represented the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System.
“I wanted to say thanks for putting the at-home competition together and for giving us an opportunity to compete in the virtual challenge,” said Lenny McNair. He is an Army Veteran who represented the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Competition and reflection
Korean War and Army Veteran Phillip Joseph Dimenno, 88, served as a rifleman with the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Regiment. Joseph represented the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He took gold in the powerwalk and wastebasket basketball and silver in javelin, discus and shot put.
Here’s a video interview of Joseph from several years ago as he returned to Korea.
The military is a tough act to follow and finding the right job takes effort and focus. And just like life in the fleet, having a battle buddy or a wingman to help get it right is important. So to get you thinking right, here are 13 tips from transition experts, recruiters whose job is to get you a job.
1. Approach the job like long-term relationship, not a rebound
The question I most often am asked is “How much am I going to make?”. That question is a natural reaction because people are nervous when transitioning, but statistically many leave their first transition job within nine months because they jumped at the first dollar amount that met their requirements. To avoid this, you need to be thinking long-term. Look deeper than the paycheck and ask about a company’s growth potential. Research their culture and values. Where you start within a company is not where you’re going to finish.
Don’t self-select out of job descriptions that say you must have corporate experience or degree. Look for ways to circumvent or meet those requirements. The military is one of the largest corporations in America, and you worked for it. If a job requires a master’s degree, start pursing your masters and indicate that on your resume.
LinkedIn offers premium membership to veterans so you can find geo-specific job opportunities and obtain certifications. You can find a list of veteran friendly companies on Hiring our Heroes’ website.
— Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Hiring our Heroes, Senior Director for Events and Programs
2. Use your spouse as an asset
Greatest assets a transitioning service member has is their military spouse. So when they are in their final stages of transition, if we are empowering spouses with jobs and employment, it allows the service member to be more selective in their selection and oftentimes a spouse has flexibility – if they need to move ahead to wherever they have decided to retire (from the military) to, they have that option and flexibility.
Military, military spouses and veterans can sign up for a free account at Hiring Our Heroes for resume building tools, job listings, and more.
— Elizabeth O’Brien, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Director of Military Spouse Program
3. Leverage your military status
Be confident. Military applicants hold a stronger position in the hiring process than ever before. You’re a valuable asset. There are companies that offer mentorship programs for transitioning servicemen and women. They are prepared to assist you in you fine-tuning your resume and can help you tell your story in civilian terms. Start identifying those companies six months before you transition, they will want to see a first draft of your resume, so be ready for that.
Military, military spouses and veterans looking for a job in the transportation industry can check out Trucking Track.
— Stan Hampton, VP Driver Personnel, J.B. Hunt Transport
(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)
4. Tailor your resume for each submission
A common mistake that veterans make is they will generate a generic resume that applies to everything and they use they same resume for every job they apply for. Instead, take your time, read the job description and really highlight your skills as it relates to that role that they are applying to.
— Michael A. Alexander, Military Recruiting and Engagement Lead, Comcast NBCUniversal
Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)
5. Answer interview questions like a S.T.A.R.
Most organizations tend to use behavioral based interview questions. When answering your interviewer’s questions, try to use the ‘S.T.A.R.’ format: Situation, Task, Action and Result. This will help differentiate yourself from other candidates.
— Afsheen Saatchi, Military Recruiter, Starbucks
(Click here to find career opportunities at Starbucks.)
6. Spouses, own the gap in your resume
I encourage military spouses to indicate somewhere on their resume that they are a military spouse. Some are nervous to do that because they think companies may discriminate against them, but I tell them – you don’t want to work for a company with that kind of culture anyway. There are companies that do look out for military spouse resumes, and will overlook those gaps and take their volunteer experience into consideration.
— Lauren Bacon, Hilton Worldwide, Manager of Military Programs
(Check this site to find military spouse friendly companies: MSEP Jobs.)
7. Look for a company that provides a path
You need a process that allows you to transition and progress. Many companies are inviting veterans to apply, but make sure they are able to do more than just hire you. When you’re speaking with company representatives be looking for them to provide a path for you – a detailed timeline that provides a clear sequence to a meaningful career. Avoid companies that are unable or unwilling to do this.
— Dave Harrison, Military Program Management, J. B. Hunt Transport
(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)
8. Find a career coach
As a recruiter, many approach me a job fairs and say: “Here’s my resume, what do you have?” Transition is a time where military service members have a choice to make. They can work for the government or get defense contracting job, or move to an entirely different industry, at which point they don’t have the expertise to move into a lateral position. It’s good to have a career coach, they can rely on their MOS, and can also reach out to others who have transitioned and begin a dialogue.
Here’s an online resource for transitioning military and veterans to find an industry-specific virtual mentor: ACP AdvisorNet
— Abie Chong, Military and Veteran Recruiter, Hilton Worldwide
9. Start the application process a year before you get out
Understand no employer will wait for you, but the more you apply, the more practice you get, and the more confident you will become. You may even get a few pre-screening interviews, do them for practice, it will take out the nerves out of the whole ordeal. Applying for jobs sooner than later will also help you gather information on what skills are needed in the field you’re looking to transition to, and will give you ideas on how to fine-tune your resume.
Jonathan Morales, Production Standards Training Specialist, Lufthansa Technik
(Click here to find career opportunities within Lufthansa Technik.)
10. Explore industries you may never have considered
Expose yourself to different industries, because you may have a preconception about a particular industry and when you delve into it, you may be surprised on how many different career paths and jobs there are. For instance, running a hotel is like running an Army base where all different departments that come together to make it operational. Military personnel can really translate what they do currently into any operations position when they transition. It’s all logistics.
— Melissa Stirling, Director of Military Programs, Hilton Worldwide
11. Lead with your leadership experience
Think beyond your MOS, AFSC, or whatever. Whether you’re getting out after two years or a thirty-five year career, be able to break down how you lead and how you manage. For example, if you’re a cook, explain what you do in that role because recruiters who don’t have military experience may not know what that job really entails – you handle food safety, quality control, acquisitions, and leadership management of a time-pressed, no-fail team. Military are able to plan and analyze future threats and opportunities, showcase that on your resume and talk about it in interviews.
— Dave Gualin, Director, Military Veteran Affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal
(Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)
12. Focus on companies that have committed to hiring veterans
There are companies who have committed to hiring a certain number of veterans a year, so make sure your service is in the objective (top section) of your resume so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
— Grant Johnston, VP Business Development, Airsteams Renewables, Inc.
(Click here to find career opportunities at Airstreams Renewables.)
13. Take the time today to plan for tomorrow
You 16 hours or more a day, but planning for your transition is essential in ensuring your success. As you get closer to retirement from the service, let your friends and family know that you’re looking, they can be a great asset for you. Set a timer for thirty minutes a day to focus on what you’re going to do when you get out of the military. Purpose to apply for one job a day.
Jeff Duff, President, Airstreams Renewables, Inc.
14. Remember, you’re not alone
There are resources out there for all the challenges you face during your transition and beyond. Find them and don’t be afraid to call on them. For example, the American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran’s organization and has a presence in each community with over 14,000 posts across the country. If you’re about to transition into a new community, find the post nearest to where you will be and let them know you’re coming. They are there to help. We are more than a banquet hall, we are a community resource.
— Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion
(Click here to find career opportunities and other resources through the American Legion.)
After an intense four-day manhunt, authorities tracked down the two suspects (brothers) who they believed were behind the deadly terrorist attack (one died during a shootout) that shocked the world.
Fast-forward to four years later and something special happened. Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, a Marine who lost his left leg during an IED attack in Afghanistan, completed the 26.2-mile run while holding an American flag signed by many service members he was deployed with.
Although Sanchez’s injuries sidelined him, he battled his way back to not only strengthen his mind but his body.
After gaining national attention for the patriotic act, this decorated warrior has become an instant inspiration to those with and without physical disabilities.
You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.
The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.
He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”
Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.
Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.
All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.
“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.
“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.
The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?
Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.
Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.
Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.
He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.
Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”
That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.
(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.
You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.
I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.
He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.
I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic. Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.
Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.
He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.
“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”
It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.
The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.
On August 23, 1977, Sergeant Shirley was performing his military duties as instructed and required when the unthinkable happened. An explosive device detonated prematurely, blowing up in his hands. Jensen was severely injured, losing both forearms, a lung, vision in one eye, and multiple other internal and external injuries. He was 21 years old.
When he awoke after the injury, only one thing was on his mind. Service.
For as long as he can remember, Jensen Shirley has understood the importance of serving. The son of a military veteran and nephew to five other WWII service members, Jensen had the future mapped out in his eyes before the tassel on his high school graduation cap was moved from right to left. He was joining the Army.
The year was 1973 and the United States was still two years out from ending its long and bitter war with Vietnam.
“When I was in high school,” Jensen said, “I told my father I was joining the military and he said, ‘By the time you graduate, you’ll still end up going to Vietnam.’ And he asked me what I thought about that. I told him, ‘No one wants to go, but you all served and sacrificed, and now is our time to serve and sacrifice.’”
“It’s not a question of being right or wrong on the war question, or whether we should or shouldn’t have been there — we were already there. We were asked to serve, we were asked to go, and that was it.”
For Jensen, service was in his blood.
After Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training (AIT), Jensen attended the Jungle Operations Training Center and successfully passed jungle school, a highly specialized, rigorous, infantry survival course. Jensen was operationally deployed to Panama where he continued his journey as an infantryman and soldier.
When his overseas deployment was complete, Sergeant Shirley was assigned to Ft. Jackson, SC as a Combat Weapons Instructor on Bastogne Range.
Here, service and sacrifice would take on new meaning for the young soldier. His catastrophic injury would change the course of his life forever.
For Jensen, it wasn’t enough that he had survived an injury many others had not. Jensen had to find a way to heal, to rehabilitate, and to get back to work. He was Sergeant Jensen Shirley.
This was his calling, his life’s work…the future had been mapped out in his mind since the day he graduated from high school. Only, what was that future now?
“I couldn’t even sign the form I didn’t want to be signing.”
Here is a soldier with a deep-rooted commitment to serve who has suffered an unimaginable loss – of his hands and of his physical body, yes – but also of his sense of self. And he stands in front of the Physical Evaluation Board, forever changed, yet pleading for a chance to stay in the military. There’s just nothing they can do; his injuries are too severe. His military career was over.
But Sergeant Shirley – Jensen – did not allow his journey to end in that boardroom. You know by now that he doesn’t back down easily.
So, if a military career was truly out of the question, Jensen was looking at the next best thing: serving veterans as a clinical counselor. Jensen was going to college.
There was just one small problem. With no hands and no full-time support, how was he supposed to write a paper or complete an exam? Remember, this is the 1970s. There were no resources, no systems, and no processes to help him navigate through this new journey. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wasn’t even signed into law until almost 15 years later, and that left Jensen alone to figure out his own path forward.
Enter Carol Keller.
Carol Keller helped Jensen transition into his new life, one that he never anticipated would be his, but one that he would make extraordinary.
“Because of her help in getting over that first hurdle, I started believing that I could do it. If somebody could just help me, if they could just open the door and let me in, I would do the rest,” he said.
So, just as he set out to do, Jensen graduated from American University. Then he graduated with a master’s degree from The George Washington University. Then he earned a second master’s from the University of San Francisco, a doctorate of education from the University of San Diego, and a CACREP-accreditation from Walden University. Not bad for someone with injuries deemed “too severe.”
From Sergeant Shirley…
…To Dr. Jensen Shirley.
Thanks to some mutual friends, Jensen was eventually connected with William Rider. Bill served in Vietnam, experiencing unimaginable trauma. He later formed an organization called American Combat Veterans of War, or ACVOW, to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, sexual assault, or those serving jail time.
The two were fast friends. Jensen and Bill spend time each week at the North County Vista jail, providing support and counseling to incarcerated veterans. After one such training session, Bill asked Jensen if he had ever heard of Chive Charities.
“Bill smiled, knowing that I had a heart for serving veterans and volunteering my time, talent and service to giving back,” Jensen told us. “And Bill said, ‘I want to talk with you not just about an organization, but about people like yourself who want to make a difference.’”
Making a difference in the lives of others is what it’s all about. And now, the one who always gives is finally receiving. Chive Charities was proud to serve Dr. Shirley in his time of need.
His request of Chive Charities was simple: he needed new kitchen appliances that he could operate with his prosthetics and a 4×4 golf cart with enough power to get to the end of his long and sloped driveway and back up again.
Thanks to Chive Charities and their community of committed donors, they were able to fund a grant for Jensen with an impact of $17,691.
Chive Charities asked Jensen what this support means to him, and as always, his words are powerful. We’ll let him take it from here:
“The Chive Charities’ grant has impacted me in a way that is so humbling. First, it lets me know I am not alone. Although many years have passed since my incident, I am still pressing on serving others, one person at a time.”
“Second, life is not about what or why things happen to you; life is about what you do for others when things like this happen. My call has been to serve God, country and others. Now, my call is to serve until the service is done. Thank you, Chive Charities, from the bottom of my heart.”
Serve until the service is done. For rare medical, first responders, or veterans like Jensen, that’s a calling Chive Charities can get behind. Can you? DONATE HERE.
Chive Charities is committed to supporting the veteran community. Like We Are the Mighty, serving those who serve is core to who they are. If you or someone you know could benefit from one of Chive Charities’ life-changing grants, CLICK HERE to learn more + apply.
FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.
And he would know.
Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.
“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.
Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.
While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.
“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”
Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.
“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”
Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.
In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.
The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.
“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.
Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”
Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.
As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.
Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.
“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.
“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”
Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.
“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”
Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said
“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”
Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.
“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”
He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.
“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”
Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.
That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.
“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”
Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.
Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.
“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”
Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.