Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

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.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

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.
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Damages for the sailors killed on the USS Cole goes to the Supreme Court

In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.

On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop


At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.

Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
(FBI)

Osama bin Laden spent five years in Sudan after moving there from Afghanistan in 1991. He invested heavily in Sudan’s infrastructure before he was expelled in 1996. Sudan says it was his expulsion from Sudan that turned him into the world’s most wanted terrorist and, before that, he was little more than a businessman.

The judge awarded $8 million to the families through the Death on the High Seas Act, much of which was taken from Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. That act did not allow compensation for mental anguish.

In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Two flightline personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, pay their last respects to the five sailors killed in an apparent attack on the USS Cole as they are escorted from the C-17 Globemaster III that arrived from Yemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)

By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”

Veterans

#VeteranOfTheDay Marine Veteran Therrel Shane Childers

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Therrel Shane Childers, who was the first combat death in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Therrel “Shane” Childers was born in 1972. Childers was from Harrison County, Mississippi. He was from a military family. Childers’ father served in the Navy for 22 years, his brother also served in the Navy for eight and a half years and several extended family members have served or are currently serving. Childers knew from a young age what he wanted to do when he grew up. In a Newsweek article from April 2003, Joseph Childers, his father, recalls the time he was stationed in Iran and took his 5-year-old son to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: “He saw those Marines in their dress blues guarding the embassy, and he wanted to be one himself.” When Childers graduated from high school in 1990, he joined the Marines.

In 1991, Childers served during Desert Storm. After the war, he served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and then on security duty at the American Consulate located in Geneva, Switzerland, and the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He later earned a slot at The Citadel in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. The program allows selected enlisted Marines without a bachelor’s degree to earn a degree and a commission. Childers attended college during active duty, and he majored in French. Childers completed the program in 2001.

After training at Quantico, Virginia, he served as second platoon commander of A Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and deployed to Kuwait in February 2003. The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003. On March 21, 2003, Childers led his unit on a mission to secure an oil facility in southern Iraq. A passing civilian vehicle opened up with a burst of automatic fire and killed him.

Childers was the first American killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 30 years old. Childers posthumously received a Purple Heart and promoted to first lieutenant.

We honor his service.


Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.


Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

Veterans

A sailor uses the GI Bill and bootstraps a charity for vets

Andre Andrews is a Navy veteran who served on a mine countermeasures (minesweeper) ship stationed in Bahrain. The mission could produce sleepless nights and Andre remembers going to bed worrying about, “being blown up by a mine.”

His experience in the Navy informed his recognition that he was serving a mission greater than himself. Coupled with his civilian experiences, this became the springboard for giving back to his fellow veterans and community. First, he had to overcome some hurdles.

Andrews left the Navy in 2005 and sought new experiences. He moved to California, even though he had no contacts and no resources. Unfortunately, he was not financially prepared for the transition from military to civilian life.

The Navy didn’t teach him about finances and he discovered that income isn’t guaranteed in the civilian world. Andrews couldn’t find an apartment. To save money, he took a full-time job and lived in his car.

After many months, Andre used his Montgomery GI Bill to attend Film School. He found the American Legion around this same time. That changed his life.

Through the American Legion, Andrews met many World War II and Korean War veterans. They inspired him and helped him see how America is greater than his military experience. This is when he founded Warriors Road.

Warriors Road is a nonprofit organization that provides equine therapy to veterans and first responders. Equine therapy offers a range of treatments using horses to promote physical and mental health. Andrews says the horses help participants heal, just as the American Legion helped him heal.

“It doesn’t matter how hard it is for you or how many hurdles you think you went through, you can still get over it. You can still make it happen,” says Andrews. Warriors Road was established to help make that happen for veterans and first responders.

Warriors Road is a natural extension of Andrews’ life experiences. His love for horses comes from his father and grandfather, both of whom were horsemen. Horses provide an outlet for healing, something that was difficult for Andrews to find when he transitioned out of the military.

Andrews leveraged his experiences – during and after military life – to give something back. And the first step of his journey was taking advantage of the GI Bill.

Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped provide veterans and their families the financial assistance they need to cover some or all of the cost of education. And it can be used for more than college. Examples include:

Vocational or Technical Training

In addition to community college and four-year degrees programs, the GI Bill can be used for vocational training to become a chef, graphic designer, computer technician, or network administrator (among others).

1) Non-college Degree Programs

Training to become a truck driver, emergency medical technician (EMT), or barber are included in the GI Bill. The amount of money available depends on the program and the type of school attended.

2) On-The-Job Training and Apprenticeship Programs

The GI Bill also covers the cost of the first six months of housing for veterans in an approved on-the-job training or apprenticeship program. Benefits are reduced on a sliding scale after the first six months. Restrictions apply.

3) National Testing Programs

These include the SAT, CLEP, AP, and LSAT. The GI Bill will reimburse cost of approved national tests. This includes registration fees, fees for specialized tests, and administrative fees. There is no limit on how many times you can take a given test. Other tests required for certification and recertification are also covered.

4) Tutoring

When necessary, tutoring required to complete an approved program may also be covered under the GI Bill.

5) Flight Training

Benefits can also be used for flight training. Reimbursement may vary based on which GI Bill (Post-9/11 or Montgomery) benefits are used and what type of flight training sought.

For more information and useful financial tools visit Victory Capital.

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital. Follow @VCMtweets on Twitter.

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The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

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These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.


Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.

“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a Tunnel Rat, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.

By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.

The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Also Read: American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
Sgt. Ronald A. Payne searches a Vietnamese tunnel armed with only a flashlight and a pistol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.

With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.

After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the best ways to destroy that post-service loneliness

When you first get that precious, beautiful DD-214, it feels like good things are coming. You’re invincible. You just completed your military service and you’re ready to enjoy the sweet taste of civilian freedom. One thing you might not expect, though, is that you get lonely. Like, really lonely — and it’s the worst feeling.

After some introspection, you’ll realize it’s because all of your best friends are hundreds (or thousands) of miles away, scattered across this beautiful country, doing their own thing. You know, deep down, that the civilian friends you make will probably never compare to the brothers and sisters you just left.

So, how do you remedy that? How can you start to feel like you belong? Here are a few ideas to look into if you want to make some awesome new friends:


Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

Prove to everyone that you’re not just another crayon-eating doofus.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland)

Go to school

You spent years dealing with sh*tty chains of command and you’ve listened to too many people tell you that you’re going to exit the service only to be a hobo. Well, now’s your chance to prove ’em wrong. You earned your G.I. Bill, now go to school.

There, you’ll meet plenty of potential friends and, despite what your fellow service members have you believing, it’s a better place to find a significant than your local exotic dancing joint.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

You spent almost every morning working out in the military anyways, right?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

Join a CrossFit gym

If school isn’t your thing, check out your local CrossFit gym. The exercise routines are the main course, but most have a type of community attached. Start working out there and you’ll get to know most of the others. Chances are you’ll meet another veteran while you’re at it.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

You also get to refine your fighting skills.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter)

Join a martial arts dojo

It’s easy; just pick a school you’re interested in and make the commitment. There are plenty of veterans out there who do this across all sorts of different styles, so you’ve got a good chance of meeting one or two.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

You can also volunteer at a place run by veterans, like a decommissioned war ship.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton)

Join your local veteran organization

These things exist for the very purpose of bringing veterans together. If you miss the brotherhood, check one out. You’ll notice pretty quickly that it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, everyone had that same sh*tbag NCO.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

These are kind of like their own veteran’s organization.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)

Join a motorcycle club

Few other areas of life mimic the brotherhood of the military like an MC. If you’re into motorcycles and leather and surrounding yourself with great people, look for one or, hell, start your own. Just, you know, be mindful of the law.

Veterans

Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: All-time great


Lawrence “Yogi” Berra was a baseball legend, astute businessman, World War II Veteran and posthumously awarded recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Lawrence “Yogi” Berra is well-known for his long and successful playing career with the New York Yankees, his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and his roller-coaster post-player career as a coach and manager. Not as well-known was his service as a Navy gunner during World War II.

Born Lorenzo Pietro Berra in May 1925, Berra grew up in St. Louis. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help his family financially. Berra played baseball as a teenager in American Legion Baseball, which was when he was given the nickname, “Yogi.” A friend thought Berra resembled a Hindu yogi because of the way he folded his arms and legs when waiting to bat.

During his teenage years, Berra tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals. They offered Berra a contract and signing bonus of $250. But that was half the $500 bonus they offered his friend, Joe Garagiola. He turned down the Cardinals and went back to his job at a shoe factory. The next year, he tried out for the Yankees. In November 1942, the team offered Berra a contract and a $500 signing bonus to play with the Norfolk Tars, a Yankees affiliate. He accepted.

In May 1943, just as Berra turned 18, he got word from Uncle Sam to take a pre-induction physical. He passed the physical and was allowed a deferment to finish the baseball season. Berra initially opted for the Army but was persuaded to join the Navy in hopes to be on a naval baseball team. Although Berra joined the Navy, his deployment prevented him from playing on the team.

Berra was sent to Bainbridge, Maryland, for basic training in 1943. In January 1944, he attended amphibious training in Norfolk, Virginia. Upon completion, Berra deployed to Europe, where he began training for the coming landings in Normandy, France. He was assigned as a gunner’s mate to USS Bayfield, an attack transport. During the D-Day landings, Berra was stationed on a rocket boat. He then departed from the Bayfield to help protect the waves of infantry by providing suppressive fire. Berra fired machine guns and rocket launchers, pounding hostile German bunkers.

In July 1944, Berra participated in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. Berra and his comrades were sweeping the beaches with intense fire. Their gunning was directed at a former beach resort the Germans were using as a machine gun bunker. While shooting at this emplacement, Berra was struck in the left hand by an enemy bullet. He did not report the injury, as he was afraid his mother would worry if she found out. However, upon his return home, he reported his injury and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Berra was stationed in Tunisia after his participation in Operation Dragoon. In January 1945, he was sent back to the United States and stationed at the Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut. Berra was placed on Welfare and Recreation and subsequently played baseball for the Navy. He was discharged in May 1946 as a seaman second class.

Berra went on to have a legendary career with the Yankees. In his 19 years as a pro player, Berra won 10 World Series championships, the most ever for a single player, made 18 All-Star appearances and was American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times. When Berra retired as a player, he became the manager for the Yankees in 1964. He led the team to the World Series that year but was fired when they lost. The next season, he became a coach for the Mets and then manager in 1972, until he was fired three years later. He then went back to the Yankees as a coach and, in 1984, he was manager again, only to be fired the next year.

Berra became famous for his malapropisms, which was when he would misuse a word or phrase. These were also known as “Yogi-isms,” with one of them being, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” Berra was an astute businessman and a popular product spokesman.

Berra died in September 2015. He was 90. Two months later, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We honor his service.


Writer: Michael Veronda

Editors: Cassidy Reid, Katie Wang, Julia Pack and Christopher Wilson

Researchers: Alexys Santiago and Alexandria Davenport

Graphics: Helena Strohmier

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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These are the best military photos for the week of August 26th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Cristina J. Allen

The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney

Army:

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Army Photos by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo

Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Navy:

USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson

Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck

Coast Guard:

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans

Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Sandy Hook

MIGHTY TRENDING

Disabled vets and retirees will get the biggest raise in 7 years

Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.

It is the biggest Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) increase in seven years, equaling as much as $369 a month for those at the top of the retirement pay charts.


Each year military retirement pay, Survivor Benefit Plan Annuities, VA Compensation and Pensions, and Social Security benefits are adjusted for the rate of inflation.

Retirement pay increase

Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.

Veterans campaign to end ALS, a disease they are twice as likely to develop

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)

Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.

VA disability increase

Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.

Other federal retirees and beneficiaries

Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.

For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.

Largest COLA bump in years

This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.

The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.

In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.

Keep up with military pay updates

Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper head shot

On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.


He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.

“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”

Related: This is how a military death can affect generations of families

Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.

“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.

The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.

He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.

He now shares his wisdom and life-saving resiliency lessons he learned in the Corps with all Americans via his “Veteran Calendar” and uses a portion of the proceeds to support the Semper Fi Fund, The Medal of Honor Foundation, and The PenFed Foundation.

Watch Constantine tell his incredible story in this TED Talk video:

Justin Constantine, YouTube
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