Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial


The virtual First Colors event paid homage to World War I Veterans and opened the National World War I Memorial on April 16.

Hosted by actor Gary Sinise, the ceremony featured remarks from several guests, including President Joe Biden.

“Let’s remember all that was sacrificed, all that was sanctified, by proud, brave Americans who served in World War I,” Biden said. He added that the war transformed America into a country willing to send military members into harm’s way.

“In some ways, the Great War shifted America’s thinking about ourselves and redefined our place in the world,” he said. “We grappled with what we stood for, what we’re willing to fight and die for to defend, principles of freedom and democracy. We confronted a terrible cost of war in an age of new and deadly technologies. But the commitment and valor of the American women and men who stepped up to serve, whether here at home or on the front lines in Europe, was the same spirt that’s always defined American service members.”

World War I was a national call to service. More than 4.7 million men and women served and 116,516 died.

“In just six months of decisive combat, more would die than in a decade of war in Korea and Vietnam combined, with a higher casualty rate than World War II,” Sinise said.

Army Gen. John J. Pershing led the U.S. troops during World War I, and at the event, his granddaughter, Sandi Pershing, said the memorial will honor Veterans who have long passed. She mentioned that Frank Buckles was the last surviving U.S. Doughboy, passing in 2011 at the age of 110, and that while cameras focused in on her grandfather and people like George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur, many did not.

“I’m so happy that we’re going to get this built to recognize all the people who nobody has paid any attention to,” Pershing said. “That was just such an altruistic group of people.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the memorial is a testament to the American people.

“It is our duty to remember what they fought for and why they fought,” Army Gen. Mark Milley added.The Harlem Hellfighters of World War I.

The Harlem Hellfighters of World War I.

About the memorial

At the core of the memorial stands the 58-foot, 38-figure bronze sculpture, A SOLDIER’S JOURNEY. The sculpture – by sculptor Sabin Howard – tells the story of America’s participation in WWI through the eyes of a father who leaves his family to go to war.

Behind the sculpture is the Peace Fountain. Inscribed on the wall with its cascading water is a quote by Archibald MacLeish reminding visitors to remember their sacrifice:

WHETHER OUR LIVES AND OUR DEATHS WERE FOR PEACE AND A NEW HOPE OR FOR NOTHING WE CANNOT SAY; IT IS YOU WHO MUST SAY THIS. THEY SAY: WE LEAVE YOU OUR DEATHS. GIVE THEM THEIR MEANING. WE WERE YOUNG, THEY SAY. WE HAVE DIED. REMEMBER US.

The bronze sculpture A SOLDIER’S JOURNEY is positioned above the waters of a basin and an island-like viewing platform. In the center of that platform is another quarter-inch-deep water scrim.

The conceptual center of the National WWI Memorial is what is known as the Belvedere, an overlook that provides a commanding view of the memorial elements, from the Pershing statue to the Soldier’s Journey sculpture and the flagstaff proudly flying the colors. With a distinctive WWI Victory medal at its center, this area also provides a gently sloping accessibility ramp down to the lower plaza.In addition to all the tributes, the memorial will also have a field of poppies. Following World War I’s end, poppies started growing on the battlefields. The poppy is now an international symbol to recognize those who died in service.

About the flag

In the northeast corner of the park, the flagstaff stands upon a berm inscribed with a quote by President Woodrow Wilson:

NEVER BEFORE HAVE MEN CROSSED THE SEAS TO A FOREIGN LAND TO FIGHT FOR A CAUSE WHICH THEY DID NOT PRETEND WAS PECULIARLY THEIR OWN, BUT KNEW WAS THE CAUSE OF HUMANITY AND OF MANKIND.

The flag first flew over the U.S. Capitol April 6, 2017, commemorating the 100 year anniversary of when the U.S. entered the war. The American Battle Monuments Commission then flew the flag at nine World War I cemeteries in Europe. Those sites include Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, the burial site for American aviators who volunteered even before America declared war. Another site was Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, on the legendary battlefield of Belleau Wood. This site was one of the hardest-fought American victories in the war. Finally, representing the coming home of nearly 2 million soldiers who returned from Europe, the flag returned to the United States to fly at the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

Learn more

World War I created millions of conscripted Veterans, improved benefits.

National World War I Memorial honors 4.7 million Veterans.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

WWII veteran to return to Normandy after 75 years

Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.

Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”


He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.

However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.

Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.

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

Articles

Trump’s federal hiring freeze could impact veterans who’ve already been offered a job

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
President Donald J. Trump arrives at the Inaugural Parade during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, 2017.


In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.

A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.

So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.

We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.

“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”

We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.

Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”

Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.

Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.

At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.

The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.

This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.

That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.

The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.

This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

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The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.

It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.

It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.

“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes a moment to breath while his service dog Romeo assesses the situation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.

He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.

His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.

“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”

Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia

In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.

“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”

For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.

In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.

“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.

While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.

When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey the damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of the facility on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at 2:55 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 25, 1996.

He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.

His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.

“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”

Balad Air Base, Iraq

Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.

While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.

“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.

While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.

“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.

“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.

Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.

When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.

“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.

“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”

Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.

PTSD, the daily struggle

“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”

In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”

In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.

“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.

To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.

“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”

On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.

“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.

“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL’s most generous legend gives homeless veterans a new life

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.”
Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.

(NFL)

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.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

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.
Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

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.

Articles

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

Veterans

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by a myriad of traumatic events like car crashes and losing a baby during childbirth. However, combat has brought PTSD to the forefront of modern medicine. Known before as shell shock, the National Institute of Health estimates that over 500,000 veterans suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, the VA shows that 52 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD experiences nightmares that occur fairly often. This is in stark contrast to the 3 percent of the general public who have been diagnosed with PTSD and experience frequent nightmares. The son of one veteran decided to do something about it.

Tyler Skluzacek remembers his father as fun and outgoing before his combat tour in Iraq. When his father, Patrick, returned in 2007, Tyler said that his father had changed. Patrick was haunted by nightmares of commanding a convoy in Fallujah. He would sweat and thrash violently in his sleep. The nightmares were so terrible, that Patrick feared even closing his eyes. To help him fall asleep, he turned to alcohol and medication. This negatively affected his life in every aspect. “[I] pretty much lost everything,” he said. “My house, everything, my job, everything went.”

In 2015, Tyler was a senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN when he learned about a computer hackathon in Washington, D.C. The event brought developers from across the country together to develop prototypes in order to solve a specific problem. That year, the event focused on developing a mobile app to help people suffering from PTSD. Personally motivated to take on the challenge, Tyler saved up the money and bought a ticket out to D.C.

Tyler put together a team of developers to program a specialized smartwatch. The device would detect the onset of a nightmare by monitoring the wearer’s heart rate and movement. The concept was inspired by service dogs who are trained to recognize the signs of a nightmare and nudge or lick their human awake. Tyler said that the trick was to provide “just enough stimulus to pull them out of the deep REM cycle and allow the sleep to continue unaffected.”

Tyler continued to develop the software for his device by testing it on his father. Though Patrick agreed, early trials were very rocky. The watch would sometimes scare Patrick awake and, because he wore in full-time, Tyler received some surprising data. One time, while using an air hammer, the smartwatch indicated that Patrick’s heart rate was over 6,000 beats per minute. “I was terrified,” Tyler recalled. “Watching someone’s data 24/7, I feel like is a lot like having a baby. I don’t have a baby. But you’re suddenly very concerned at all hours.” However, with determination and some fine-tuning, Tyler perfected the software.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
The app is compatible with Apple Watches (NightWare)

By learning the sleep patterns of the user, the algorithm customizes a treatment to interrupt nightmares more appropriately and efficiently. “It was night and day when I put that watch on and it started working,” Patrick said. “The vibrations were little miracles.” After years of suffering from PTSD-induced nightmares, Patrick has found relief thanks to his son. He has since remarried and is working as a mechanic again. Though not cured of his nightmares, Patrick has control over his life.

Tyler’s invention is set to help more people like his father cope with their own PTSD. The software was purchased by an investor who started a company called NightWare. In November 2020, the FDA approved the app to treat PTSD-related nightmare disorders. The app is compatible with Apple Watches and is currently undergoing clinical trials through the Veterans Health Administration and the DoD Military Health System.

Veterans

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

There’s something about a conference. Maybe it’s the swag. Maybe it’s the sessions. Maybe it’s the thrill of ordering new business cards and finally meeting your online heroes in real life. Likely, it’s some combination of them all. At a good conference, you can’t walk into the main space without hearing the excitement. But when you walk into a great conference, not only do you hear it, you can feel it.

This year, the one conference that has to be on your radar and your calendar is the Military Influencer Conference in Orlando, Florida, from September 23-25. After the inaugural conference brought together over 300 veteran and military spouse influencers in Dallas last year, this year’s MIC promises to not only match last year’s magic, but to top it.

Here are our top 5 reasons you can’t miss MIC Orlando:


Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Military Influence Conference founder, Curtez Riggs, speaks at MIC 2017.

The mission

As most incredible things begin, the Military Influencer Conference started with one person and a vision. Founder Curtez Riggs wanted to connect the different corners of the military space, from the business owners to the bloggers, the freelancers to the designers, inclusive of veterans and military spouses. He knew the passion behind the entrepreneurs and the savvy of the content creators, and the power in bringing them together. And so he did. The result in Dallas was an extraordinary exchange of ideas with promise only to build, and MIC Orlando will do just that. Attendees will learn how to grow their business, no matter what stage it’s in, and how to incorporate giving back to our community into their business model.

The expertise

Often times at a conference, you’ll see one or two headliners and then sessions that warrant more of a coffee break than continued interest. That is anything but the case for MIC Orlando. While keynotes like Jim Koch of Sam Adams, our own David Gale, and Janine Boldrin of Military Spouse Magazine should be enough to draw you in, there is a tremendous depth of expertise in the panel sessions. With tactical takeaways like how to develop e-courses, social media strategies, financing your business, launching a freelance career and so much more, you’ll be learning from and interacting with the best of the best. It’s rare to have such breadth of experience in your network, let alone within arm’s reach. From the MIC website:

With more than 21 educational sessions and a wide range of dynamic, inspiring speakers, this event gives digital entrepreneurs an unprecedented opportunity to find the resources and connections needed to grow your online business. Time and time again, you’ll be introduced to bold new ideas and proven strategies for both short and long-term growth.
Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

The opportunities

Sure, you’ll meet so many incredible people, but if that isn’t reason enough, MIC Orlando could forever change your business. StreetShares, who has partnered with Sam Adams Brewing the America Dream, will be announcing three Veterans Small Business Awards, for a total of ,000. There will be a live pitch competition where succinctly explaining your business model could garner investments, and an opportunity for service organizations to have a roundtable with The Veterans Trust. We don’t want to put the pressure on you and say these are “once-in-a-lifetime” chances, but, well… let’s call a spade a spade: these are once-in-a-lifetime chances.

The network

Some of the best takeaways from a conference aren’t in what you learn, but in who you meet. MIC Orlando has some of the biggest names in the military space, and not only are those folks attending, they’re there to connect, to collaborate, to network. That’s right: they want to meet you! Don’t miss the opportunity to share a drink and your dreams with some of the most prominent influencers, who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing and how they can help elevate you.

In addition to the impressive speakers and fellow attendees, the sponsors of MIC Orlando are second to none. With companies like USAA, Comcast, Military By Owner, GovX, Amazon, Crosby Marketing, Military Fresh Network and Life Flip Media sponsoring the event, you’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to talk about partnerships, branding, and so much more.

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(Rosen Shingle Creek)

The location

Honestly, we’d attend MIC 2018 no matter where it was being held after last year’s experience, but the fact that it’s at a world-renowned resort certainly doesn’t hurt. We’re guessing a lot of collaborations will happen over drinks at the pool, on the golf course, and at one of the resort’s many lounges or restaurants. With pristine grounds, extravagant amenities and beautiful accommodations, the Rosen Shingle Creek is reason enough to go. Add on the incredible benefits of MIC Orlando, and it becomes a “can’t miss.”

We know you won’t regret buying your ticket to MIC Orlando, but you might regret if you don’t. You’re worth the investment. We can’t wait to see you in Florida.

Lists

This event is helping military influencers take over the world

The Military Influencer Conference, held in Dallas, Texas, from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, was organized by recently retired Army 1st Sergeant Curtez Riggs, who dreamed of designing a conference that merged entrepreneurship, military spouse networking, and the blogging community into what would ultimately become the Military Influencer Conference.


The event was supported by major sponsors, including USAA and National Geographic, which helped contribute to its massive success.

We Are The Mighty was there and we were blown away by how great the event was — but don’t take our word for it. Here are 18 sources who will back that up:

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
Military Influencer Conference 2017.

1. a spouse ful™

Lakesha Cole, entrepreneur, blogger, and military spouse, explains how the Military Influencer Conference “reset the standard moving forward” for all other military oriented conferences. Diversity and the ability to network are just two of the things Cole found to be game changers for future conferences.

2. The Hive and Co.

Shiang-Li and Miranda from The Hive and Co. were motivated to find different content than they normally see at conferences. Their thoughts on whether you should attend the conference next year? “You won’t be disappointed.”

3. Operation Supply Drop

The team from Operation Supply Drop noted that hundreds of years of military service and tens of millions of dollars in revenue were represented in the 35 speakers presenting in 21 different sessions.

4. Jennifer Pilcher, MA- Strategic Military Communications, LLC, MilitaryOneClick

Pilcher’s in depth focus on TNT, or Trust, Need, and Transparency, explains how Military Influencer Conference founder Curtez Riggs was able to put together this explosive conference in only months. A little help from Philip Taylor — (PT Money and founder of FitCon) — and a whole lot of elbow grease, and Riggs set the whole place on fire.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
Fred Wellman, Lakesha Cole, and Paul Szoldra deliver the final panel at the Military Influencers Conference. (Image A Spouse Ful)

5. Vet2BizLife, LLC

Dan Dwyer, owner of Vet2BizLife, LLC, recognized the passion, motivation, and ambition of the attendees at the Military Influencer Conference, and he has 10 tips on how to keep that ambition moving forward after the fact. His 10 tips will help you solidify “an action plan that you’ll be able to execute once you’re recovered, reinvigorated, and ready.”

6. MilitaryByOwner

Founders Dave and Sharon Gran both had two very interesting things to say about the Military Influencer Conference. Sharon: “The Military Influencer Conference is the only conference around for military spouses, veterans, and active duty members who blog, write, speak or own businesses in the military space to come together and learn from each other.” Dave: “The conference is not only a venue to hear the stories and advice from successful entrepreneurs, but an opportunity to network and build relationships.”

7. Her Money Moves

Christine, owner of Her Money Moves, is here to tell you WHY you should attend next year’s conference, even if you’re a nobody and brand new to this entire thing called military life.

8. Medium

Retired Air Force veteran and founder of the Unconventional Veteran Bernard Edwards praised the Military Influencer Conference in its hands on approach and ability to relate to the typical veteran (who is, apparently, not a general or a pilot).

9. Countdowns and Cupcakes

Blogger Rachel McQuiston writes about her four biggest takeaways from the Military Influencer Conference. She writes of her fellow attendees “these are my people.”

10. Consilium

Global business advisor Ed Marsh outlines what made the Military Influencer Conference different from most conferences, and how that difference is what made the entire experience worth him waiving his normal speaking fees and travel costs. Calling the attendees “Quiet Professionals,” Marsh notes that “there was the quiet confidence of a group that knows they’ll win. They may not yet be sure how, and may not even yet be clear on what challenge they’re facing — but experience tells them that their grit, determination, doggedness, ingenuity, and flexibility will enable them to prevail.”

11. GreenZone Hero

Founder of GreenZone Hero John Krotec writes “I can’t ever recall experiencing anything like it at any of the professional conferences that I’ve attended throughout my thirty-plus year business career. Honestly, it was electric.” His observations of the Military Influencer Conference are a must read.

12. The Fortitude Coach

Nicole Bowe-Rahming, aka “The Fortitude Coach,” notes that the Military Influencer Conference elicited moments of “aha!” and humility, as well as a need to get back to the harmony between being an entrepreneur and an influencer. Her biggest “aha” moment? When Daniel Alarik, CEO and founder of Grunt Style, said “You can’t, but WE can.”

13. Anna Blanch Rabe

Anna Blanch Rabe, an Army veteran who’s worn so many hats she could open her own hat store, attended the Military Influencer Conference against her will after spending 4 months touring the country. She wrote of her concerns with attending the event: “I would regret not spending extra days in Washington D.C. with my husband after the Marine Corps Marathon.” Rabe soon found she was mistaken.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
The 2018 Military Influencer Conference will be in Orlando, Florida, from Sept. 23 – 25, which logically means we all unofficially meet up at Disney World after, right guys? (Image A Spouse Ful)

14. Stacey Peters

Freelancer Stacey Peters notes that at first she felt awkward, unsure of herself, and how she “was wrong — dead wrong.”

15. Erica McMannes

MadSkills co-founder Erica McMannes discusses three things that you missed if you missed this year’s Military Influencer Conference: how to perfect your pitch, the way the military spouse community was embraced as part of the group rather than just married to it, and how important validation is.

16. Adventures of a Natural Family

Air Force veteran and current military spouse Alana Wilson digs in to what it means to be a military influencer, and how impressed she was with the over-all community. She writes “My biggest takeaway is that I sit back in awe of the military community. Even after being in this community for 14 years now, I have a whole new wave of appreciation for the kind of people that make up this group. These people are some of the most creative, loyal, hard working, no-quite, all grit, give you the shirt off their back type of people.”

17. The Seasoned Spouse

Lizann Lightfoot, the founder of The Seasoned Spouse, writes about the 8 big lessons she took away from the Military Influencer Conference. Among them? “Never underestimate the power of a dream.”

18. ScoutComms

According to Fred Wellman, “It was hard to predict how the first MIC would go. It was clear something special was in the making, based on the incredible list of speakers and sponsors taking the leap of faith on a first-time event.”

And special it was. He listed big takeaways from the event, including the fact that sixty percent of the attendees were military spouses, proving what we’ve known for a long time: our families are a vital part of our military experiences and capabilities.

Featured Image via milblogging.com. From left to right: Glenn D BantonEric MitchellMichael KellyBernard EdwardsCurtez RiggsMatthew Griffin, Eli Crane, Abe Minkara and Adam Whitten of Marc Cuban Companies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a former platoon leader seeks to look out for all veterans

Editor’s Note: Christopher Molaro is the Co-Founder/CEO of NeuroFlow. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

I wish I could’ve saved my soldiers.

I was 22 years old when I became a platoon leader overseeing and taking care of 40 soldiers in combat in 2010. At the time, I had only done one tour — 12 months — in Iraq. But many of my soldiers had served four or five tours and had seen much more than I had.

Our job was to drive up and down the International Highway, which connected Kuwait to Iraq, and build relationships with local Iraqi police and sheiks. But we also had to check for improvised explosives, or IEDs.


We didn’t get all of them. In one case, before heading out on a mission, a U.S. envoy truck came careening into our base, half blown to hell and torn to shreds. In the back: three dead bodies. We had missed an IED.

There’s a lot of guilt in seeing something like that, and it can lead to a major symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder called survivor’s remorse. There is a wear on the brain and the body that goes into being in the military, especially for those deployed.

But were you ever to suggest talking to a therapist, you’d be hard-pressed to find many service members who would take you up on it. In the military, getting mental health treatment is viewed as a weakness — which, besides the negative stigma, is just plain wrong. There were soldiers who’d give therapy a try, only to leave after a single session and say, “I don’t feel better. I need to get back to the unit. I need to help out. This is an hour out of my time when I could be spending that with my family.”

And within a few years, there were people in my unit who had attempted suicide. It’s been seven years since I left Iraq, and in that time we’ve lost two people who were in my unit, one of whom I directly oversaw.

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Chris Molaro (left) served in Iraq as a liaison to local police and sheiks.
(Photo courtesy of Chris Molaro)

As a platoon leader, I viewed it as my responsibility to take care of our soldiers beyond getting the mission done. But with the news of the suicides came a sense that I had failed as their leader. It was my responsibility to take care of these guys, just like they took care of us.

After I retired from the military in 2015, I went to business school in Philadelphia. It had become my mission to find out how I could make our soldiers know that therapy could actually work for them, if only they would stick with it. Just as you wouldn’t return to your normal, daily routine after breaking an arm and undergoing one session with a physical therapist, neither should you expect to be fully recuperated after one session with a mental health professional.

But, I soon realized, to get soldiers into therapy and keep them there, they needed to see — physically, with their own eyes — the progress they were making.

I read up on research that showed how you can use EEG technology, which measures electrical activity in the brain, to also measure one’s emotions. That was when a light bulb just went off, like, “Holy shit, you could make mental health as black and white as a broken arm.”

That meant therapists could measure and track the progress of patients, objectively. And by doing so, they could fight that negative stigma and give people more hope.

So I developed NeuroFlow. The idea is simple: Give therapists a technology that uses basic and affordable medical supplies, like EEGs or heart rate monitors, to examine the health of their clients. That way, patients could see how their heart races — literally — in real time as they talk about something traumatic. And then, over the course of their sessions, they would be able to see their heart rate slow down and return to a more relaxed state as they healed.

This is my new mission: helping the veteran community. With 20 vets killing themselves in the U.S. every day, there is still a lot of work to be done. So I can’t quite say my mission is complete … yet.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell. Follow @NationSwell on Twitter.

Articles

America’s oldest living veteran is asking for your help

The oldest living veteran in the United States is asking for America’s help.


Army veteran Richard Overton is now in need of 24-hour home care that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide. So his family started a GoFundMe campaign late last month to cover the cost of in-home care, which is being provided by Senior Helpers.

“Though my cousin is still sharp as a tack at 110-years-old, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to care for himself,” Volma Overton said in a statement. “It eases my mind to know he will have 24/7 care while living in the home he built for himself over 70 years ago.”

Related: DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

Overton gained notoriety back in 2013 after he told a reporter about his key to staying active and remaining in good health: Whiskey and cigars.

“He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee,” The Houston Chronicle wrote. “The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.'”

“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial
January 3: Medal of Honor recipient retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry walks onto the field of the Alamodome in San Antonio with World War II veteran Richard Overton in San Antonio. Petry, awarded the Medal of Honor last year for efforts in Afghanistan, and Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran at 108 years old, delivered the game ball at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. | US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

In addition to his somewhat unorthodox habits, Overton said he stayed busy throughout the day by trimming trees and helping with horses, while noting that he never watches television, according to Fox.

Born May 11, 1906, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran in the US. He served in the South Pacific during World War II before selling furniture in Austin after discharge, and later worked in the state Treasurer’s Office.

As the campaign page notes, Overton has earned a number of accolades since he first hit the headlines. He met with President Obama in 2013, and in the years since, has appeared as the guest of honor at sporting events and been featured as “America’s Oldest Cigar Smoker” in Cigar Aficionado magazine.

You can check out the GoFundMe campaign page here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A once-homeless Navy veteran is in the Maxim Cover Girl contest to help vets and at-risk youth

Janae Sergio came into the idea of joining the military a little differently than the rest of us. Homeless since the age of 15, she happened to meet a Navy recruiter through a friend. Being a sailor was not something she ever saw herself doing, but the decision changed her life. Now she’s looking to help others avoid similar situations.

For Sergio, it’s not just about winning a Maxim cover contest, it’s the next step in helping at-risk youth find a better path — and you can help her advance to the next rounds by voting for her on the Maxim Cover Girl contest site.


These days, Janae has a full life, working for the federal government and managing a $5 billion budget for U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet maintenance. She has a husband and two children. Her life sounds a lot like many veterans’ lives, and it is. All that changed a little bit when she became Insta-famous, the kind of fame achieved through having many, many followers on Instagram.

Her fame came as a total shock. She was only on the app to make sure it was safe for her daughter. The next thing Janae Sergio knows, she has 30,000-plus followers and is gaining more every day. When she found out about the Maxim Cover Girl contest, it seemed very far from possible.

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Janae and the Sergio family at their home in Hawai’i.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

“Some of these girls, they dedicate their lives to their physical appearance and I haven’t had that option,” she says. “I’ve been busy working. So I was like, you know what, let me just put my name in the hat and see what happens… and it’s been like this huge whirlwind.”
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Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Sergio began her adult life at a little bit more of a disadvantage than most of us. Between the ages of 15 and 18, she lived on the streets of Los Angeles. She credits her Christian faith with keeping her from the all-too-common trappings of many women forced to survive the streets. She never fell into drugs or prostitution to survive. She turned to the strict, structured life of homeless shelters.

“At the time, I didn’t realize it, but there were a few people on the streets who were homeless as well, who felt kind of protective of me because I was just this tiny little, naive, pretty girl,” Sergio says. “You’re just trying to live day to day and you don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know whether the situations you’re in are good or bad, you’re just trying to survive.”
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Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

One day, it all changed. Through a friend, she met a Navy recruiter. A few of her friends had joined, but she wasn’t really the type of girl, so she thought, to join the Navy. Still, it ended up capturing her attention for the same reasons as many others; a new career, the possibility for travel, and, of course, that reliable paycheck. But she didn’t even have a high school diploma yet. When she decided to join, she was able to make her case to the Navy, who accepted her. She could get her diploma later.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

Janae Sergio took to the Navy very well. Basic Training life wasn’t so bad for her. She was used to a rigid living structure after three years of homeless shelters— only in the Navy, she didn’t have to cook for herself. She spent eight years in the Navy, joining in 2000 and sticking around for the post-9/11 era.

She’s worked very hard all her life, often doing more than one thing at a timein order to make the best of the situations she’s in. While she was in the service, notonly did shereceiveher diploma,she also earned a Bachelor’s in Business Management. She got married, had a baby, and lived the life of a sailor, deploying to sea twice in her career.

“I feel like once you have been at the bottom, rock bottom, you know what it’s like to be there and you don’t ever want to go back there,” she says. “You know what I mean?”

Then, one day, she accidentally became an Instagram model.

Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The thing for Sergio is that she can’t just be a visible person with a huge following and not do something responsible with that kind of fame. She now coaches service members who achieve similar Insta-fame and wants to use her popularity to do good things. That’s why the Maxim Cover Girl contest is important to her.

“It’s not so much about the photo or the magazine,” Sergio says. “I’m actually still a little nervous about that. The Maxim contest has this thing called “Warrior Votes,” where you vote for a small payment. That donation goes to the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. I wasn’t a homeless veteran but I was homeless and then the Navy changed my life. So I thought, what better thing for me to get involved with so that I could share my story on a grand level and really inspire people in the masses.”
Virtual event honors WWI Veterans, opens National WWI Memorial

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

(Courtesy of Janae Sergio)

The Maxim cover competition also comes with a ,000 prize which Sergio plans to put to good use as well. First, another issue close to her heart is helping at-risk youth in Hawai’i, giving part of that prize to a local organization called Hale Kipa. Second on her mind is, of course, helping veterans and their families through some of the hardest times of their lives. For that, she wants to donate to the Fisher House Foundation, who provide housing and food to loved ones of military and veterans to stay close to their wounded or sick troop as he or she recovers.

“I always encourage people, if they want to give back to the homeless, to do it in their community. So I found [an organization] that was local,” she says. “And the Fisher Houses are a really cool cause that gives families an opportunity to stay together during treatment. And so I love that.”

You can vote for Janae while helping homeless veterans find housing through the Jared Allen Home for Wounded Warriors. When she wins, you can feel good about being part of an effort to get young Hawaiian children off the streets and keep a roof over the heads of the families of America’s wounded warriors.

Vote for Janae Sergio at Maxim’s Cover Girl Contest.

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