The Marine Corps’ history is a culmination of Marines pushing forward in the face of certain death. Victory comes at steep price paid for in the form of our own blood and treasure. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured one such moment that defined the perseverance of American might. His Pulitzer Prize winning photo of six Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi showed the Marines of World War II during their finest hour.
There were two flag raisings at Iwo Jima which sparked controversy until recently in 2019. The Marine Corps set things right with the help of private historians and the FBI to definitively answer the question of who was in the photo.
First flag raising
1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier
1st Lt. Schreier retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel in 1957. He served in the Korean War and a recipient of the Navy Cross. He passed away on June 3, 1971 at the age of 54.
Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas
Sgt. Thomas was killed in action on March 3, 1945 while using a radio and coordinating his troops fighting the enemy.
Sgt. Henry O. Hansen Jr.
Sgt. Hansen was killed in action on March 1, 1945 during the intense fighting for Iwo Jima.
Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg
Cpl. Lindberg sustains a bullet wound to the arm on March 1, 1945 and is MEDEVAC’d from the island. He became an electrician after the war and he raised a family with his wife. He dedicated his life to raising awareness of the first flag raising until his passing at age 86 on June 26, 2007.
Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John H. Bradley (identified 2016)
‘Doc’ Bradley was one of the original flag raisers misidentified in the second flag raising. The record was corrected in 2016 that it was Pfc. Harold Schultz instead. He passed away in 1994. His son, James Bradley, wrote the best seller ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ in 2000.
Pvt. Philip L. Ward (identified 2016)
Pvt. Ward was another Marine mistaken to not have been in the first picture but he was. Ward passed away on December 28, 2005 at the age of 79 in McAllen, Texas. The Marine Corps amended the mistake after his death and recognized his part in the historic moment.
Second flag raising
Cpl. Ira Hayes
Cpl. Hayes sold war bonds to keep American troops well equipped for the remainder of the war. Plagued by PTSD after the war, he struggled with alcoholism. He had several run-ins with the law and regarded his celebrity status with distain. He also played himself in a 1949 movie by John Wayne. Unfortunately, he died of exposure and alcohol poisoning on the night of January 23, 1955 after getting into drunken brawl at the age of 32.
Cpl. Harold Schultz (identified in June 2016)
Cpl. Schultz worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in 1981. Schultz never spoke much about the war until he told his stepdaughter Dezreen Macdowell before his death. In an interview with Time, she said she told him he was a hero. He responded with ‘No, not really, I was a Marine.’ He passed away on May 16, 1995.
Sgt. Michael Strank
Sgt. Strank was killed in action on March 1, 1945 by Japanese artillery while assaulting the northern part of Iwo Jima.
Pfc. Franklin Sousley (identified 2014)
Pfc. Sousley was killed in action taking Kitano Point on Iwo Jima on March 21, 1945.
Cpl. Harold Keller (identified in 2019)
Cpl. Keller never spoke about the war or the flag raising to his family or anyone else. Private historian Brent Westemeyer, the Marine Corps, and the FBI revealed the truth in 2019.
Cpl. Harlon Block
Cpl. Block was killed in action leading an assault on Nishi Ridge on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945.
Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.
Chester W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral of the U.S. Navy & Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.
Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.
According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.
“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.
Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).
Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.
So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.
He’s making a gear list. He’s checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s boot or grunt. Gunny Clause is coming on base. So stand at ease, kiddos.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he’s a Devil Dog. First appearing in WWI Marine encampments throughout the Forests of Argonne in France, Gunny Claus’ new mission is to be there for the kids of Marines in harms way.
Each year, he comes throughout the month of December leading up to his big day. Gunny Claus’ “No Kid Left Behind at Christmas” mission has brought him to nearly every Marine Base, USO, and Veteran Hospital where you’ll find Marines and their children. To date, the 1st Reindeer Division out of Marine Corps Base North Pole have met with well over 100,000 children since 2002.
(We have a soft spot in our hearts for Marine Santas at We Are The Mighty.)
The details of his shall-we-call-them “Dress Reds” are very significant as well. Each stripe on his sleeve represents every four years Marines have been in a major conflict since WWI. On his chest are the victory medals for every conflict Marines have fought on Christmas.
“Being a part of something so small made it worth it to me because the family members and the kids need a little more,” said Gunny to the Camp Legune Globe. “Just being able to be a part of that, making sure that the kids get a present and get a chance to see Gunny Claus, seeing their smiles especially if their family member is deployed, we want to be able to give that to them as well.”
Gunny Claus works very closely with another yule-tide Marine tradition, the Toys for Tots.
For more information on him, the 1st Reindeer Division, or his schedule, please visit www.gunnyclaus.org
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Therrel Shane Childers, who was the first combat death in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Therrel “Shane” Childers was born in 1972. Childers was from Harrison County, Mississippi. He was from a military family. Childers’ father served in the Navy for 22 years, his brother also served in the Navy for eight and a half years and several extended family members have served or are currently serving. Childers knew from a young age what he wanted to do when he grew up. In a Newsweek article from April 2003, Joseph Childers, his father, recalls the time he was stationed in Iran and took his 5-year-old son to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: “He saw those Marines in their dress blues guarding the embassy, and he wanted to be one himself.” When Childers graduated from high school in 1990, he joined the Marines.
In 1991, Childers served during Desert Storm. After the war, he served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and then on security duty at the American Consulate located in Geneva, Switzerland, and the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He later earned a slot at The Citadel in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. The program allows selected enlisted Marines without a bachelor’s degree to earn a degree and a commission. Childers attended college during active duty, and he majored in French. Childers completed the program in 2001.
After training at Quantico, Virginia, he served as second platoon commander of A Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment and deployed to Kuwait in February 2003. The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003. On March 21, 2003, Childers led his unit on a mission to secure an oil facility in southern Iraq. A passing civilian vehicle opened up with a burst of automatic fire and killed him.
Childers was the first American killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 30 years old. Childers posthumously received a Purple Heart and promoted to first lieutenant.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
The world is an ever-changing place and future American policy planners will not only need to keep up with the pace of change, they’ll need to know the past events that shaped the world.
America’s national security policy relies on an intelligent and skilled workforce that values diverse backgrounds and experiences in areas that are critical to national defense.
With this in mind, few are better suited to bolster national defense than veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. With experience performing in the command-and-control structure of the government’s uniformed services to specialized training and security clearances—many veterans find their post-military calling supporting national defense.
International relations and global security is more than just how countries interact in the context of globalization. It’s also about how past events or conflicts lead to the breaking news of the day. The policies set by governments and nongovernment actors are a reflection of regional values, economies and cultures—creating interdependencies that can lead to war or peace.
How will the United States navigate its obligations as a global superpower while looking out for its own best interests? What effects will it have on America’s partners or enemies? Who will be impacted by geopolitics in the future? You can learn how to analyze these risks and conflicts, and develop the critical thinking and policies to increase prospects for sustainable peace in hotbed regions.
Strategic, operational and tactical intelligence is harnessed around-the-clock by every military branch. The Department of Defense taps into a vast network of military intelligence servicemembers to inform its command. It’s why a large cadre of veterans transition into the intelligence community after active duty service—and they come from a variety of military backgrounds.
At AMU, students explore intelligence operations, counterintelligence, collection methods and even gamification. The incorporation of social media into intelligence collection provides real-world application, now more than ever. It’s an impactful data source, which the intelligence community continues to refine how it collects and analyzes communications across the proliferation of social platforms.
AMU’s homeland security program was established before 9/11 and continues to prepare national security and public service professionals who want to safeguard the Nation as a first line of defense. But homeland security doesn’t begin and end at the borders, ports or airports. It means securing critical infrastructure, retaining interoperability across agencies, and serving as first-responders when fellow citizens need them the most—after a disaster.
AMU’s homeland security discipline explores the legal and ethical issues behind why national security policies are in place, finding areas most at risk from foreign threats, and most importantly, having the know-how to protect the people and critical infrastructure that keeps this country running.
If the Coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the whole planet was unprepared for how bad it could get. And yet, veterans were on the frontlines of this epidemic, from medical staff to logistics, to public health warnings. Public health isn’t just about curing diseases, it’s about addressing the systemic causes of disease and other ailments that plague countries and regions of the world. Public health professionals conduct scientific research and educate populations with the goal of preventing disease and illnesses.
Public health workers aren’t only doctors and nurses. They have to be capable administrators and managers, well-versed in policy and the law surrounding their field. AMU’s experienced public health experts design their curriculum to help students apply emerging practices to prepare for whatever comes next.
Cyberattacks are a global threat, but hardening and safeguarding our national data infrastructure begins on U.S. soil. With the growing power of AI and disinformation campaigns, cybersecurity is a mission-critical discipline that deserves your attention. From the battlefield to the boardroom—AMU’s veteran community is actively strengthening the cyber “warrior” for the future.
The university is also part of the accredited American Public University System, which was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The center provides oversight and guidance to enable AMU to craft multidisciplinary cybersecurity education that reflects the trends and strategies used in the field today.
Space isn’t just the realm of NASA anymore. With space entrepreneurism exploding—think SpaceX and Blue Origin—the next frontier of space is already here. Add the new U.S. Space Force to the mix and America’s national security apparatus spans Earth’s orbit and includes a wide range of military and federal agencies, private contractors, and multinational corporations working together.
AMU’s space studies program was designed with input by former astronauts, NASA engineers, aerospace leaders, and more. It provides a unique approach that integrates space exploration, aerospace science, astronomy, and policymaking from both federal and space industry perspectives.
For the astronomy purist, AMU built a space observatory atop its Information Technology building, which houses a 650-pound reflective Planewave CDK24 telescope that is fully remote-controlled to capture and share celestial imagery for research and education at a distance.
As the old adage says, “Those who don’t learn from history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” Military history draws many veteran students with an interest in analyzing technological advances or strategic turning points in wars with an eye on learning from history to prevent future conflicts.
AMU students learn from the towering figures of military history, analyze historical battles and determine how they shaped the future, and explore the past philosophies or war and military strategy. They learn how military spending can advance human development, launches new technologies, and impact societies as a whole.
America needs skilled, experienced professionals at every level to guide the country forward. Decisions we make in the near future will be informed by the next generation of graduates who have the knowledge and expertise required to make the tough calls. AMU’s mission is to help educate and prepare those leaders to meet that challenge.
For most airmen going on leave for the holidays, the time off means an escape from their everyday Air Force career. After all, when is someone going to need a loadmaster at the liquor store (unless there’s a huge bourbon shortage at an egg nog festival and Costco is planning a relief drop from a C-17)?
An Air Force pilot on a United Airlines flight, however, is another story.
Like a scene out of a movie, Captain Mike Gongol was on a flight to see his extended family in Denver from Des Moines in 2013 when the B1-B Lancer pilot noticed the Boeing 737’s engine begin to idle — something only another pilot would realize. When the plane began to descend and drift to the right, he knew something was up.
He was right. A nurse on board the flight, Linda Alweiss, entered the cockpit, and found the pilot slumped over in his seat.
The rest of the plane knew something was up when a flight attendant asked the passengers if there was a doctor aboard the plane. They were asked to remain seated as the crew ran up to first class with a medical kit. When the attendants again addressed the passengers, they asked if there were any “non-revenue pilots” aboard the plane.
Gongol realized the pilot was probably the patient – and his Air Force specialty was needed. The first officer must have been the only other pilot aboard. He “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”
“He was sick and mumbling and was just incoherent,” the nurse told KTLA.
A Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a very different craft from a Boeing 737. Differences in weight, crew, engine number and thrust, top speeds and ceilings are all significant factors. The moment Gongol entered the cockpit, he and the first officer sized one another up – he opted to support her as her first officer.
The Air Force captain decided to let her take the lead. He backed up her checklists, used the radio, and kept an eye out for anything going wrong.
“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be,” Gongol told Air Force Space Command. It was only when they moved to land in Omaha that Gongol took the lead. The first officer had never landed in Omaha, but Capt. Gongol knew the airfield well, landing there many times in training. Still, he talked her through it.
The pilot, as well as the other 157 people aboard the flight, survived the trip.
Attaining the DD-214 is a dream come true for some service members. For the first time in years one has unrestricted freedom. No more can someone deny your vacation days or send you to the brig for smoking a plant. You’ve fought hard to earn your freedom. America is jam-packed with so much freedom that its hard to decide where to begin at 1st Civilian Division. Here’s a hip pocket class on how to go full civilian after getting out.
1. Find yourself
You gave the military the best years of your life and it shows. A recently separated troop will talk endlessly about the service, stories of other troops and will ramble on about their adventures. It’s natural. However, civilians will not be able to relate. The first year of separation you will get to know all kinds of people. In the military you’re surrounded by troops who are guided by a strong moral compass, in the civilian world, that is not the case. Finding a new group to grow with and trust will take time.
Take your time to discover things about yourself by doing things you’ve always wanted. Scratching a few items off your bucket list is a good way to get the ball rolling and you’ll have new things to talk about with civilians. Some troops dye their hair, wake and bake, go to college, get a pet, start a business, etc. There are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You have the freedom to succeed, but buyer beware, you also now have the freedom to fail. Enjoy the world you helped protect but watch your six, too. Joining a veteran organization such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or Veterans of Foreign Wars can help ease the transition by speaking with other veterans.
2. Grow a beard
We all did it. Some of us grow a lion’s mane and other grow patches. Let ‘er rip! There is a massive online community for beards and civilians love them too.
3. Now that you’re a civilian, give the gym a break
Exercise is key to living a healthy life but now you can civilian it. In the service, physical fitness is mandatory. The stakes aren’t as high anymore. You can work out a few days a week, go ham and body build, or trash the whole routine. You’re the battalion commander of your life. I do a very light exercise routine a few days a week. When I was in the infantry, we would work out twice a day, five days a week. I’m done.
4. Get an unauthorized tattoo
You can get sleeves or your legs done now. Another benefit to becoming a civilian is you do not have to photograph your tattoos and hand them over to Uncle Sam. Don’t do anything crazy like getting a face tattoo for obvious reasons.
5. Take part in civilian fads and challenges
Give life a chance and participate in the fun everyone is having. Yes, fads and challenges are corny but when you do them with friends and family they’re fun. They are a great way to create new memories and you’ll have the videos and photos to look at years down the line. Even if you’re not into those sort of things its also a good way to keep tabs on your children from doing something dangerous – like the Tide Pod fiasco.
6. Register with the VA healthcare system
One very important step to becoming a civilian is to register with the VA Healthcare. It is an invaluable resource and its free. Over the years the VA has been improving the quality of care it renders veterans. In an emergency you can always visit the Emergency Room and enroll after the fact but its best to not put this off. The VA offers services such as disability ratings, a primary care doctor, eye exams, ER and urgent care, pharmacies and so much more. Civilians with pre-existing conditions pay an arm an a leg for what you’re eligible for. Take what is yours, you earned it.
Holiday traditions and family get-togethers are a source of comfort for many. But the holidays can also act as anniversaries of unpleasant events or remind us of difficult changes that have happened in the last year. Veterans may also have memories of being deployed over a holiday during their service and could experience challenges with returning to civilian norms.
For Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, the holidays can be even more difficult to manage. While there are often bright spots, the unique struggles that trauma survivors can face as the year ends can often overshadow the joy of the season.
Helping you manage over the holiday season
If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.
There are ways to cope and manage these feelings and stressful events. Here are some tips from our clinicians that can help you manage your symptoms over this holiday season:
Don’t overschedule. Leave time for yourself.
Make a plan to get things done. Set small, doable goals.
When stressed, remind yourself what has helped in the past.
Talk to your family member about what they need to feel comfortable during the holidays. If your loved one needs services, call Coaching into Care for advice on talking to them about treatment.
Keep important resources at hand, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The holiday season can be difficult for people with PTSD, but there are healthy ways to cope and manage stress and have positive mental health throughout the holidays.
“I was fortunate. My cancer was in the early stages and surgery offered me a cure. The prep was not that bad. The sedation made me wonder, ‘Is that all there is to it?’ The moral of my story is if I had waited until I had symptoms, it would have been too late.”
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer. The yearly death toll from colorectal cancer in America exceeds the total number of American combat deaths during the entire Vietnam War.
The Veterans Health Administration recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults age 50 through 75.
The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults age 76 through 85 should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.
Six out of ten deaths could be prevented
In the past decade, colorectal cancer has emerged as one of the most preventable common cancers. If all men and women age 50 and older were screened regularly, six out of ten deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Screening is typically recommended for all between the ages of 50 and 75 years. VA diagnoses some 4,000 new cases of the disease each year in veterans.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It’s as common in women as it is in men. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth called a polyp. If polyps are found and removed before they turn into cancer, many colorectal cancers can be prevented.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: A perfect time for veterans to get screened.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions led to a halt in any activity outside the home in March. On Sept. 24, Georgia’s Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization founded by GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown, announced it is reopening for on-site veteran programming, Warrior Week and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes).
This year has been especially difficult for many veterans, specifically those that are experiencing mental health issues. Camp Southern Ground was focused on re-opening so they can continue to provide the services many veterans need.
“The impact this year has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans cannot be understated,” Camp Southern Ground said in a statement on its website.
Camp Southern Ground’s CEO Mike Dobbs shared in a press release that the camp “remained connected with our veterans through virtual programming, but we know the importance of building community and support face-to-face.” Camp Southern Ground’s motto is “where goodness grows” and that is their mission. The goal of their veteran programming is to provide and build supportive networks for transitioning post-9/11 veterans.
About Camp Southern Ground
Warrior Week is a 12-month workforce and wellness program that begins with six days at camp. The camp week focuses on identifying strengths through team-building exercises, training sessions with world-class instructors about Clifton Strengths (90% Fortune 500 Companies use this, read: marketable assessment) and Enneagram assessments that prepare the attendees for the transition from military life. Team efforts of shared meals, ropes exercises and other events help build the veteran community outside of their immediate units in the military. The goal of the program is to help transitioning veterans build an action plan for their life after service after determining their strengths and purpose for their life to transform what they do as a career but also personally.
One veteran’s testimony shared “This program provided me what I needed to understand what my experiences, feelings, and reactions are. Now I am aware of my strengths and know how to capitalize on these strengths to help me focus on my career and wellbeing. I know now what I need to do moving forward. I cannot say thank you enough for helping navigate out of the fog.”
Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.
Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.
This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.
Former Chairman, CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Parade Magazine, author of five books and three plays, Walter Anderson served in 1965 as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam. What follows is a glimpse into his time in the Corps and how his training and experiences in the Marines led to his life’s successes.
In this continuing series which will feature former and retired Marines and their contributions to entertainment, We Are The Mighty asks Anderson to discuss how his past led to the present and the learning points along the way. And, of course, what he is most proud of.
Walter Anderson’s impact and influence has been felt in magazine and newspaper media as well as through his books: Meant To Be, The Confidence Course, Courage Is A Three-Letter Word, The Greatest Risk of All and Read with Me. He has written three plays: Talkin’ Stuff, a one-man show he performed at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, Almost Home, which was produced Off-Broadway in New York City, and The Trial of Donna Caine, which opened at the George Street Playhouse (NJ).The plays have their roots in the Corps and in Anderson’s own experience as a Marine.
Anderson grew up in a tenement in Mount Vernon, New York, at the edge of the Bronx. His father was a violent alcoholic, his brother a boxer and his sister a street-gang leader. But a teacher who lived across the street believed in him. With her encouragement, he was accepted into a parochial school but he was later expelled. Undaunted, the teacher had Walter placed on scholarship in a private school in which he did remarkably well.
Nevertheless, Anderson quit public high school two years later and joined the Corps at 16. He was not allowed to enter boot camp at Parris Island until a few days after his 17th birthday. His reasons for joining were, “I needed to feel pride in something. Whenever someone mentioned the Marines, it was with respect. I wanted to feel that respect. What I didn’t anticipate was the Marine Corps’ focus on education, which would become so important to me. I was moldable for sure and I had an ability to learn rapidly, he recalled. “Graduating boot camp was my defining moment, though. I was called a US Marine.”
After he completed infantry training at Camp Lejeune, he was ordered to the 8th Engineer Battalion where he was assigned to be a combat engineer. But it wasn’t long before he was chosen to be a student at the electronics school at the San Diego Recruit Depot. Despite not having the requisite math and science education, he graduated Number 7 out of 24 and, since he was in the top third, he was promoted to lance corporal. Anderson said, “It was a profound moment. For the first time in my adult life someone said, ‘I believe in you.’ A Marine would understand the power of that experience.” In the Corps he learned, “Leadership is the ability to inspire in others an eager willingness to contribute. I learned how to take responsibility for my behavior and my life. All that matters is performance in the Marine Corps. You are judged by what you do.”
While in Vietnam, “One night in October 1965, we were attacked by the North Vietnamese Army at Marble Mountain in East Da Nang, a helicopter strip where MAG-26 was located. The Viet Cong seemed to know everything about our camp. We were attacked with satchel charges in the copters at first. Thankfully, we were able to repel the NVA and VC. Soon after the attack I saw a young Vietnamese teen lying dead. Damn, I thought. Then a Marine was carried by me on a stretcher with half of his face blown off and in that moment all I cared about was the Marine.” He continues, “The next morning I found a typewriter in the rubble and, still agitated, I wrote a short piece that I called Just What Is Vietnam. I sent it home and forgot about it. But it appeared on the front page of a local newspaper and I got mail from scores of people for several weeks.”
Anderson worked his way into the media and print business post his time in the Corps. He sought a job as a reporter once he left active duty. He was given an opportunity by an editor who was a World War II veteran. He worked at the paper full-time and attended college full-time. He shared, “I told the editor who hired me that I would work for bus fare, if he would just let me prove myself. I was named night city editor within a year and six years later, after a variety of assignments, I became editor and general manager of the newspaper on which I began my career.”
Anderson believes the most important messaging he learned in the Corps is how to communicate with clarity, authority and substance. It’s clear he also profoundly values discipline and integrity, which he said is to be honest with yourself as well as with others. He said he learned in the Corps how and when to question authority: “The Marines taught me that honest and constructive feedback on leadership performance is invaluable. If people overheard Marines carry on after an operation or exercise, they would think we failed the challenge. But in reality, we encourage criticism so that we can improve.”
One of Walter Anderson’s most significant memories on leadership while in Vietnam is, “We were on a small run at the base. Afterwards we were concocting a lunch of c-rations poured into helmets, laughing, cursing loudly exaggerating. You’d have thought it was Thanksgiving. But not 50 yards away were a group of soldiers. They were sitting there quietly, so quietly, and they were either eating alone or in small groups. I went over to see if there was a problem. Perhaps they had suffered a tragedy, I thought. The NCO in charge told me all was fine. The soldiers themselves were no different from us, just young guys trying to get through the day. But that unit deserved more inspired leadership, somebody giving those soldiers at least something to laugh about. In boot camp we heard the cliché “every day a holiday, every meal a feast.” Truth be told that line is never more important than when reality is anything but joyous. Our unit was closely-knit because of good leadership, from the C.O. to team leaders.” Anderson offered his insights on obstacles, “The Marines call their obstacle course The Confidence Course because its purpose isn’t to stop you but rather to teach you that you gain confidence by overcoming obstacles.”
We asked Anderson about his plays: “Almost Home is based on the stormy relationship I had with my father. Joe Lisi, a fine actor who is also a fellow Marine, played the character based on my father. When the main character, Johnny Barnett, comes home from Vietnam, can Johnny and his father resolve the tension between them? Will they finally get to know each other? The Trial of Donna Caine has nine characters. It is about the trial of a young female drill instructor. It was inspired by the Ribbon Creek incident of 1956.
The Trial of Donna Caine was financially successful, which is not always the case when a play is produced. It received mainly encouraging reviews. Word-of-mouth from the audiences inspired more people to attend. The play seemed to hold people’s attention, which always makes a difference. Writing plays is both more rewarding and more challenging for me than any other type of writing.” He persuaded a sergeant major, who himself had been a Drill Instructor, to come aboard to inspire the actors for The Trial of Donna Caine. He recalls, “It was a lot of fun to see their faces when the sergeant major went into his Drill Instructor routine. Believe me, he had the full and undivided attention of the cast.”
He recognizes, “We need more Marines in entertainment.” He believes Marines can always improve their interaction and communications within the media and entertainment space. Senior officers might want to take a cue from senior enlisted on being more personable and less defensive when they deal with the press. He shared, “Especially effective and successful Commandants like General Chuck Krulak and General Jim Jones, though markedly different men, both had an excellent ability to deal with the media.” He further elaborated, “I suspect in a hundred years, long after I’m gone, the Marine Corps will still be thriving. And that will be assured if my fellow Marines hone their ability to speak with the press. Again, witness Krulak and Jones.” Walter shared his wisdom on how to get Marine stories told in Hollywood: “First, you need a really good and gripping story. And if you can get a notable actor interested in the project you may well get your project produced.”
Anderson has decades of experience in dealing with teams and personalities across the full spectrum. He made Parade magazine more successful than it had been before and brought in key leaders and world-class talent to build the brand. He has much in the way of professional advice to offer:
“There are seven choices we make every day:
“Appearance: You paint the portrait others see. You select the clothes you wear, how clean and healthy-looking you choose to be.”
“Language: No one on earth is more expert than you at finishing your sentences. You pick your words, finish your sentences and express yourself in gestures.”
“Behavior: Disappointment, loss and tragedy occur in every human life. No one escapes. But such pain does not determine our character or the quality of our lives. What does determine our character and the quality of our lives is how we respond to disappointment, loss and tragedy and that is a choice.”
“People: Whom do you choose to talk with? Whom do you allow to give you advice, comfort, friendship? Whom do you allow in,” ?
“Information: Which messages do you choose to receive? Most of us live in a blizzard of words, sounds and pictures. What do you allow in?
“Places: How do the places where you spend most of your time affect the quality of your life? Do they help you to feel fulfilled? While the world outside strives mightily to influence us, it is we ourselves who choose who, what, and why. And we also choose when.”
“Time: You choose when to take action.”
He shared his support for fellow veterans: “Whenever I had an opportunity to hire a veteran I have. They are proven and they are appreciative of where they are in their lives. I want people with the most talent, of course, and that includes veterans. I admit, if he or she is a vet, he or she has a leg up with me.”
Finally, he gives insight on what he said was his biggest challenge, dealing with anger: “It took quite awhile but I learned that anger is merely energy. We choose what we’ll do with our anger. We can displace it, that is to hurt someone or break something, or we can sublimate it, that is to do something creative, perhaps help someone or maybe fix a chair or write a poem. I believe all creative acts are inspired by anger, burning frustration about something. Again, it’s a choice: we can displace our anger, do something destructive, or we can sublimate it, do something constructive.”