Most of the news about combat trauma and PTS(D) is bad. Those of us who slogged through nasty deployments are often seen as ticking time bombs. Civilians tend to throw out a “Thank you for your service!” before scurrying away.
Mattis knows that the public emphasizes the negative experiences. Many people are tempted to think of combat vets as broken or suffering. What they ignore, he says, is that we come back stronger than when we left. We are challenged by war, forced to grow and adapt, and return as a more kick-ass version of ourselves.
Combat vets are survivors. The mindset and skills we pick up in war are incredibly valuable no matter what we choose to do after taking off the uniform.
Badass skill #1: We are better able to multitask, especially in chaotic environments.
This is a no-brainer. It’s the foundation of every infantryman’s “shoot, move, communicate” skillset. Where else are you expected to maintain awareness of your environment while simultaneously communicating with other units and assets in an area?
Badass skill #2: We have higher tolerances for stress.
There are a lot of people who think they lead stressful lives. Traffic, emails, complaining kids; all these things can seem like stress until you deploy for 7 to 12 months at a time. We may get annoyed by life, sure, but who doesn’t? The difference is that combat vets function better when things get really nasty, not collapse under the strain.
Badass skill #3: We aren’t intimidated by difficult work.
It’s hard to find something more challenging than combat. There is the grueling months of the work-up, the separation from friends and family, and then the slow and steady grind of the actual deployment. Many of us repeat this cycle again, and again, and again. After that you can be pretty confident that life isn’t going to throw anything at you that you can’t handle.
Badass skill #4: We can adapt to new tools and technologies.
Despite what a lot of people think about military technology, we get to use some pretty cool stuff. More than that, the gear is constantly changing, sometimes even during deployment. We have to be adaptable – willing to learn on the fly. Quick on-the-job training is incredibly valuable for many jobs.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
Bet you think you’re a good driver. No one can knife across three lanes of traffic and make an exit doing 73 mph like you can, hoss. You even throw around the occasional courtesy wave.
Former Army Engineer and “Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis fancied himself above average in the driving department until he met Jim Wilkey at Bobby Orr Motorsports, where the two-tour Vietnam Vet proceeded to hand our host his ass.
A former Navy Seabee, Wilkey is now one of Hollywood’s most highly-regarded stunt drivers, flipping cars and drifting in such modest cinematic offerings as “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
When he’s not rolling on “action,” Wilkey teaches the art of stunt driving to amateur road warrior wannabes on his home track in Camarillo, CA.
Watch as Wilkey puts Ryan through a day’s worth of paces and Ryan makes an unwise decision to challenge the master in a timed stunt lap, in the video embedded at the top.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.
The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.
“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”
Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.
“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.
With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.
Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”
“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”
The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.
“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”
Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”
“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.
“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”
Strength in Recovery
As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.
“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”
Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.
“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”
Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.
“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”
Encouragement for Others
Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.
“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”
Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.
“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”
For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.
A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.
The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.
“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”
Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.
“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”
1977 was a big year for Chicago’s Walter Payton. After two years in the NFL, he was the league’s leading rusher and was selected to play in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. His on-the-field performance turned the struggling Bears franchise around, but his off-the-field performance would earn him the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, an honor that would later bear his name.
Throughout his 13-year career, Payton was an exceptional member of his team, the example by which all team members should follow – in any kind of group, setting, or sport. He only missed one game in that entire span and, despite being the league’s premier running back, he was able to do anything the team asked of him, throwing eight touchdown passes and even setting a game rushing record with a 101-degree fever.
“Heck, he wanted to kick,” Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka told ESPN. “We wouldn’t let him kick.”
“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.
But it wasn’t his football performance that prompted the NFL to name its prestigious award after him. What he did in his spare time left a legacy of humanitarianism and generosity that prompts NFL players to use their high earnings to good works within their local communities to this day.
As a young black man in Mississippi, Payton helped integrate his local high school and its football team. From there, he would go on to play at tiny Jackson State University, but his determination at running back caught the NFL’s eye, earning him his spot in the 1975 NFL draft. He didn’t make waves in his first season with the Bears, but he would soon be one Chicago’s — and professional football’s — most legendary athletes.
He founded the Walter Connie Payton Foundation to give back to the city that gave him so much. Though Payton died of a rare liver disorder that led to bile duct cancer, his legacy lives on through his foundation.
Walter Payton with beneficiaries of his foundation’s support.
What began as an effort to help Chicago’s children now includes Chicago’s homeless veteran population. The foundation works with the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community in providing veterans with everything they need to live with dignity and pride.
Concord Place Assisted Living is a 55-and-older community, but homeless veterans can live there thanks to Walter and Connie Payton’s foundation. The new homes include food, health care, and physical activities. It keeps them off the cold streets of Chicago while offering them a chance to build new lives. The project is so close to the foundation’s heart that 100 percent of donations for vets will go to the project.
The foundation is now run by Payton’s widow, Connie, to whom he was married for 23 years.
“I had no idea how many veterans had no place to go,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They serve us knowing there might be a chance that they’ll never come home. … I wanted to find a way to do something to help.”
They turned the entire 15th floor of the assisted living community into veteran housing. A mere ,500 funds a room for a vet, complete with bed, TV, food, health care – the works. Once the 15th floor was filled, they started on the 14th. The foundation continues to fund the rooms using its other charitable works.
“[Walter] was a kind, genuine person, and the foundation was important to him,” Payton said. “We always felt that when you’ve been blessed, why not learn to give back to other people and bless them, and hopefully someday they can bless someone else.“
Walter and Connie Payton Foundation President Connie Payton oversee the renovation of the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community.
(WLS ABC 7 Chicago)
Today, the NFL’s Man of the Year Award is named for Payton, honoring players who display Walter Payton-level excellence in every aspect of their lives. The award for 2017 went to the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, an outstanding defender who raised million for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The frontrunners for the 2018 award are the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Robbie Gould of the San Francisco 49ers.
During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I’ll never forget,” Allen said of his time visiting troops. “We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines.” Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America’s wounded.
Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he’s listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn’t what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.
“Football is what I do, it’s not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people’s lives — can last forever,”he told SB Nation. “We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do.”
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.
(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)
When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, “Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.”
Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.
NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)
“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”
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.
Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.
Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.
If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.
“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”
James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.
Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.
He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.
“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”
In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the men and women who fought for the United States are the ones who care most about how it’s run — and the people who run it. For the third year in a row, American military veterans are shown to volunteer, assist neighbors, join civic groups, vote, and engage public officials at rates higher than non-veterans.
The finding comes as a result of the 2017 Veterans Civic Health Index, a study conducted in cooperation with Got Your 6, a veteran’s empowerment nonprofit designed to encourage and enable veterans to continue serving in their local communities while fostering greater cultural changes in the United States, and the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally-chartered national service project dedicated to strengthening civic life.
Civic health, defined as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, has been shown to positively impact local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, and has other benefits that strengthen communities. By releasing this annual study, Got Your 6 and its partners aim to eliminate common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.
The study found that veterans are what it calls “the strongest pillar of civic health” in the United States and calls on the country to adjust the way it frames veteran reintegration. Consistent with Got Your 6’s mission, the study aims to help in changing the perception of veteran transition from one of a series of challenges to the opening of a potential source of leadership and training.
Significant findings from the study include:
(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)
73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections versus 57.2 percent of non-veterans.
(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)
Veteran volunteers serve an average of 177 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually. Delivering critical services to a community without regard for wages or reward is a vital service to local areas in the United States.
In this, specifically, the female veteran population goes above and beyond the call of duty.
(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)
In terms of involvement, 11.5 percent of veterans have attended a public meeting in the last year versus 8.3 percent of non-veterans. The rate at which veterans belong to a local or national civic association was significantly higher as well. These groups can have a large collective impact on American communities.
(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)
Some 10.5 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.7 percent of non-veterans. But engagement goes beyond fixing problems, it’s also about stopping them before they start — something veterans are proactive in doing.
More than that, engaging one’s community forms the bonds that can bring people together in good times and in bad. Veterans who transition from the military tends to miss the closeness and brotherhood aspects of their service, leading them to more often reach out within communities.
(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)
It should also come as no surprise that the youngest generation of veterans (23.4 percent of all veterans are younger than 50) is a diverse one, inclusive of more females (one in six) and ethnic minority groups. The United States, as a whole, is becoming more diverse and the veteran population is a reflection of that diversity.
As a subset of U.S. population (just nine percent of Americans are veterans), vets are more likely to lend a hand to their neighbors and fellow citizens, leading the charge in recovery operations for the multitude of natural disasters that affected the U.S. in 2017.
With these numbers, we can reasonably expect veterans to continue being at the forefront of civic action in American communities. This is the country veterans earned through hard work and, in some cases, sacrifice. The maintenance of the nation understandably means a great deal to this relatively small group of Americans.
If the result of this study predict a trend for the future, the country is in good hands.
While on active duty, service to country and others is given but once the uniform comes off it can be much harder to find meaning and impactful way to help others. Members of the organizations listed below don’t have that problem. There are many nonprofits that support active-duty, veterans and their families and we have identified five organizations that are finding new and innovative ways to help our community.
Here are 5 organizations that should be on your radar in 2020.
Located on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, CA, the Veteran Family Wellness Center is a partnership between the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center and the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. It offers family-focused services to all veterans and their families, no matter what, whether that means helping couples reconnect or guiding families to reach their goals as they navigate the unique situations of veteran life.
Whatever a veteran’s or family situation, they have the resources to take care of them and assist them in overcoming their circumstances, providing the tools they need to move forward. Plus, by bringing in the rest of the family—whether it’s kids who are caught up in the difficulty of transition (going from the military brat lifestyle back to civilian can be tough too!) or a spouse taking on a caregiver role—VFWC is able to create the best environment for vets and their families.
And their team is a combination of veterans and skilled counseling personnel, so they bring a unique knowledge of both difficulties veteran families can face as well as how to improve them. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can even request a free Lyft ride to visit the center.
Specific to the Army, the Green Beret Foundation assists the Green Beret community and its families, giving them support during transition, injury, or difficulties sustained from numerous deployments. When a Green Beret is injured, the Foundation is there to support him monetarily, physically, and emotionally, and they stay there through his recovery and beyond.
Additionally, they are there to assist their families as well, which they consider to be the foundation of the community. This ranges from supporting Gold Star families, to the wives and caregivers of surviving Green Berets, to offering scholarships to their dependents. And once a Green Beret chooses to transition from active duty, the Green Beret Foundation is there to offer personalized assistance, understanding that no two Green Berets are alike.
Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White visiting with elementary school students.
The nonprofit arm of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Foundation focuses on educating the American public about the meaning of the Medal: courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, integrity, and commitment. Those who receive the Medal of Honor embody these values, and the Foundation is committed to making sure those they served understand what they did to wear it.
It’s an important task for other reasons; the history surrounding the actions of Medal of Honor recipients is a significant part of American history, and the Medal of Honor Foundation works to make sure none of it is lost, capturing these stories in writing and through interviews with the recipients. They also bring recipients to speak at elementary schools, teaching the next generation of Americans about the values that the Medal represents. This captured history is then exhibited at kiosks in museums around the country so that no one has to travel too far to learn about these values and actions.
A Force Blue volunteer carries a piece of coral for conservation.
On the surface, Force Blue is about helping veterans through marine conservation, but just like diving, there’s a lot more below the surface. When Special Operations vets transition out of service, they can find themselves without a purpose—their missions are over. Force Blue gives them a new mission, which creates a different sense or purpose; former combat divers can now put their toolset in that area to use in the area of underwater conservation.
A common complaint from veterans is losing their feeling of service, but Force Blue transforms service into an atmosphere of “caring, cooperation and positive change with the power to restore lives and restore the planet.” In addition, they’ve also offered response services after hurricanes. Plus, diving in paradise—their missions involve coral reefs and sea turtle populations, in locations like the Cayman Islands and the Gulf Coast—is therapeutic all by itself.
The Darby Project
Like Green Berets, Army Rangers are a unique and tightknit community of service members, and the Darby Project—named for the first commander of the newly formed 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942, Colonel William O. Darby. The Darby Project maintains the principles that Colonel Darby established within the Battalion: high standards and discipline, which the Darby Project strives to uphold within its own services.
These services supports Rangers all the way through their transition to veteran life. Their primary focus is facilitating Rangers creating civilian lifestyles filled with hope and purpose, which they achieve through fitness programs and other events, as well as maintaining their sense of community among one another. Since a primary aspect of being an Army Ranger is leadership within the military, the Darby Project empowers Ranger veterans to lead within their communities as civilians as well.
Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit originally started by World War I vets and civic leaders in the 1920s, is looking to help veterans and volunteers meet up so that America’s former service members can get the help they’ve earned and volunteers can find opportunities to be helpful.
Many veterans have projects around the house that might be challenging for them to complete, especially if they were disabled during their service. So, DAV has built a new online platform to allow veterans, their caregivers, and friends of veterans to sign up and list projects where the veterans or caregivers could use some help.
Volunteers can peruse the list and find opportunities in their local areas. The listings include everything from clearing snow off of driveways to garage painting to meal prep and camaraderie. Chances are, someone needs something that you can help with. The tool is new many vets are still discovering it, so feel free to check back if you don’t see anything local immediately.
2. Help veterans voice their needs through social media and online platforms
As a matter of fact, if you know a veteran who could use some help, you can create a listing for them on the service, and the tool makes it easy to share the listing through Facebook, Twitter, or email.
Listings can cover any need that doesn’t require a specific license or certification for safety, and the pre-made general categories cover a lot of territory as well. These can include asking for help teaching less tech-savvy veterans learn to work their phones, helping mobility-challenged vets grocery shop or do meal prep, or even conducting veteran remembrance projects.
Student Conservation Association members assist with recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
(National Park Service)
3. Recruit your kids and other young people (and potentially get them scholarships)
Youth may be wasted on the young, but sometimes you can get those whipper-snappers to volunteer their time and youth to help others. As an added benefit, those helping out may be eligible for the potential rewards for altruism, like merit badges or college scholarships.
And volunteering on platforms like the DAV’s new platform makes it easy to track volunteer hours. DAV even offers scholarships for students who have volunteered to help veterans, whether the student found those opportunities on volunteerforveterans.org or elsewhere.
Darlene Neubert, Step Saver carts driver of Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepares to go out to WHASC’s parking areas to pick up patients. Around the military and veteran community, volunteers can make a big difference in terms of what medical care patients can receive.
(U.S. Air Force Daniel J. Calderón)
4. Donate your own time (and maybe your wheels)
Of course, the youth have some limitations, like the fact that many of them can’t drive. So, it may be necessary to donate your own time and potentially your car’s time, especially if you find a veteran who needs to get some help getting to or from their medical appointments.
DAV and Ford got a fleet of vans set up to help veterans who live relatively close to VA medical centers, but these vans need volunteer drivers. And vets do live outside of the areas these vans can service, so there’s a good chance that vets in your area need help getting to appointments or to places like the grocery store.
5. Share this video
The video at top, clearly, is all about helping people find out about opportunities to help veterans in their local areas, especially through DAV programs.
But as a savvy WATM reader, you’re likely the kind of person who already thinks about veterans a lot (and there’s a decent chance you’re a veteran yourself). So, help get the word out by sharing this video, and we can recruit more volunteers to help veterans in need.
It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.
Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:
5. Things could always get worse.
Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.
Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.
4. Cleanliness regardless.
If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.
In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.
3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.
In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.
The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.
2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.
Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong withburning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve monthsis called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”
With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.
1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.
Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.
Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.
The same people who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States with their own lives on land, sea, or air are needed to do the same with their post-military skills – in cyberspace.Cybersecurity is not just a needed career field, it’s one that is understaffed in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that demand for information security professionals over the next decade will be very high, with employment projected to grow 31 percent between now and 2029*.
But getting into this career field isn’t easy. If the military didn’t train someone on information technology skills, they will need the skills necessary to potentially join the ranks of cyber warriors. The good news is that there are many options available to help start this journey.
Demands on the lives and careers of military members can make attending a brick and mortar school somewhat difficult, but there are many accredited online schools that can help make educational goals more accessible. One of those schools is Trident at American Intercontinental University.
Trident offers an associate degree program in Cybersecurity and for those who want to take their learning further, they can continue their education at Trident with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with an emphasis on cybersecurity.
They can even step up to a master’s level education with programs in Homeland Security and Information Technology Management. Students can use military Tuition Assistance, if applicable, and the school also offers grants for military service members** at all degree levels.
Military members shouldn’t wait until transition assistance classes start and there’s only six months of service left on their enlistment. Now could be the time to start preparing to pursue your educational options.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Information Security Analysts, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (visited September 30, 2020). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
**University grants or scholarships are based on established criteria as published in the University’s Catalog or on its website and are awarded after verification that the conditions of eligibility have been met.
Trident cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement.