A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

When the pilot of his Lancaster bomber was struck by shrapnel, Laurie Woods jumped to the controls and piloted the plane home during the closing months of World War II. On March 22, 2021, the World War II veteran died at 98, but not before he’d prepared a heartfelt video for GoFundMe expressing his dying wish. He’d hoped to donate one copy of his many books on Australia’s World War II history to every school in Australia. 

“In my life I have found that the younger generation are the ones who finally become the ruling generations of our country, and I feel that the younger generation right now know more about what we did during the war than what their parents do,” Woods said emotionally in the video released a day after he died. “It would make these children grow up to be proud Australians.” 

Woods enlisted at age 19 in 1942 and flew 35 missions as a bombardier — or “bomb aimer,” as the Australians called it — and backup navigator on Lancaster bombers with the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 460 Squadron. He was one of about 3,300 Australians to participate in the D-Day invasion. 

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
Laurie Woods flew 35 combat missions over Europe, but it was his last mission that was the most extraordinary. Photo courtesy of 460squadronraaf.com.

“We would have anything up to 500 heavy guns firing away at us,” he told the Australian War Memorial in 2019. “And when I say heavy guns, they were using the heaviest shells to get to the height where we were … They were the type of shells that were used for battleship-to-battleship fighting, so it wasn’t a picnic.” 

Of the 49 original aircrew members in his squadron, Woods was one of just eight to survive to October 1944. In honor of his fellow airmen, Woods wrote four books. In Flying Into the Mouth of Hell, he recalled his last and most harrowing mission. 

In a formation of 350 Lancasters, Woods’ aircrew flew a bombing raid over Wanne-Eickel in Germany on Nov. 9, 1944. He had just dropped the final payload of bombs over the target when he heard the pilot, Capt. Ted Owen, scream, “Laurie, Laurie, quick!”

Woods dashed three steps up to the cockpit area and found Owen slumped unconscious over the flight controls. He’d been hit with shrapnel when heavy flak and anti-aircraft fire slammed into his plane. The plane went into a dive, and as the navigator and engineer lifted Owen out of his seat, Woods grabbed the controls to level out the plane.

Owen had always believed a moment like this could come and had tried to prepare his crew. During training flights, he’d put other crew members, including Woods, at the controls, though that had only added up to a meager 10 minutes of flight time for Woods before the Nov. 9 incident.

“I had been in the Boy Scouts and learned from South African scouts, who were visiting Tasmania at the time, how to find direction using only your watch and the sun, so I set course that way before we entered cloud,” Woods said.

The clouds offered a new challenge for the first-time pilot because the wings began to freeze. As they approached England, Woods called to his crew and offered them the opportunity to bail out — he’d go down with the plane. But they all volunteered to stay, and he proceeded toward the runway. Remarkably, the pilot, Owen, despite his wounds, wanted to finish the job and complete the landing. Woods recalled standing behind the pilot, just in case.

“He made a perfect landing, but then half way down the runway he collapsed onto the controls, and I had to stop the motors and put the brakes on to stop us,” Woods said. 

The ambulances were waiting on the runway and saved Owen’s life. Woods was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, received an immediate field commission as a pilot officer, and became only the fourth non-pilot to safely navigate a plane back to England after the pilot was severely wounded. Upon returning home after the war, like many Australian veterans, he felt ignored and forgotten. Many, including Woods, suffered from post-traumatic stress.

Woods hoped that his books would carry forward the legacy he tried to uphold. His GoFundMe page has collected close to $1,000 USD but still remains far below its goal.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95-year-old grandmother makes masks for Veterans with hearing loss

When Meredith Willcox learned some Veterans had issues with comprehension because of COVID-19 masking policies, she did something about it.

Willcox, of Kirksville, Missouri, is the 95-year-old grandmother of a health provider at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital. She used the internet and her sewing skills to make specialized masks to help Veterans with significant hearing loss.


“Hearing aids are wonderful tools,” said Laura Jacobs, an audiologist at Truman VA and Willcox’s granddaughter. “We use them to treat hearing loss in our Veteran patient population.

“The VA offers our Veterans state-of-the-art hearing devices that utilize Bluetooth technology. Our devices are the best of the best in hearing aids. However, even with extremely high-quality aids, some of our Veterans have such significant hearing loss that this technology isn’t enough for them to comprehend speech.”

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

Meredith Willcox, a 95-year-old grandmother from Kirksville, Missouri, displays some of the specialty hand-sewn masks she donated to Truman VA’s Audiology team.

Reading lips impossible with standard mask

Jacobs said that in extreme cases, some Veterans must rely on a combination of hearing aids and visually reading a speaker’s lips to understand conversations. This is extremely important during clinic visits with their providers. However, because clinicians must wear a mask, reading lips has been impossible ― that is, until now.

“After mentioning this issue to my grandmother, she went online and learned how to make masks that incorporate a clear mouth covering,” Jacobs said. “So far, she has made 40 specialized face masks for our clinic. I’ve always known that she was an amazing person. However, for her to take the ball and run with it as she’s done with these masks. Well, let’s just say I’m extremely proud of her!”

In the photo above, Jacobs wears one of her grandmother’s handmade masks while caring for a Veteran with profound hearing loss.

Generous support

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Truman VA has received an outpouring of support from the mid-Missouri community.

“I can’t put into words what it means to have this level of support,” said Patricia Hall, medical center director of Truman VA. “So many have come forward at a time of extreme uncertainty. I believe without a doubt that their generosity and support helped our team get through these dark times.”

“We truly appreciate everyone’s generosity,” said Ron Graves, Chief of Voluntary Services at Truman VA. “I especially want to thank Veterans United Home Loans. They provided daily meals for our front line staff for almost three straight months. They also made sure to use area businesses to help stimulate our local economy. I thought that was an amazing gesture.”

“There are too many individuals to name who have made reusable cloth face masks for our Veterans, visitors and staff,” Graves said. “But just to show you the level of support we’ve received in this area, Quilts of Valor, Central Missouri Mask Makers and Hanes Brands, Inc., together provided us with more than 3,000 donated cloth masks.”

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

Heather Black, LPN, Truman VA’s own Betsy Ross, displays just a few of the 623 masks she’s sewn for Truman VA Veterans, visitors and staff.

Nurse sewed over 600 masks…on her breaks!

Graves said Truman VA staff also should be recognized. Housekeepers, warehouse employees, frontline staff and other support personnel ― all have been important in the fight against COVID-19. However, he acknowledged one individual for going above and beyond in support of her colleagues and the Veterans that receive care at Truman VA.

“Heather Black, a nurse in Specialty Care Clinic, donated 623 hand-sewn masks,” Graves said. “She works full time on-site. She brought her sewing machine to work and makes masks before and after her shifts. Also, during her breaks. How can you not be awed by such dedication?”

“For those individuals who have made masks for us, provided meals or in any other way supported us throughout this global pandemic, we truly appreciate your efforts,” Hall said. “Each one of you has made such a positive impact on our team, and we thank you!”

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


Articles

Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

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


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

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

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

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

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

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

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

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

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

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Everything you need to know about startup accelerators for vet-owned businesses

If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.


Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.

Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.

That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.

Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Veterans

This ‘Church of Patton’ immortalized the General and his Third Army in stained glass

Long before General James Mattis was canonized by his troops as Saint Mattis, patron saint of chaos, another legendary general was quietly immortalized in stained glass. His image atop one of his Third Army tanks shares a scene with one depicting the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon. Referring to it as the “Saint George Window” may make someone question which George is the saint in question – so they call it the Patton Memorial Window.


A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
The full Patton Memorial Window.

For decades, the Patton Family worshipped at the Church of Our Saviour, an episcopalian church in San Gabriel, Calif. The church itself was built in 1867 while the young Patton, born in 1885, was raised in what is now nearby San Marino. The window itself was commissioned by the Patton Family after his 1945 death.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
General Patton leading what is probably the most expletive-laden Sunday School ever.

The main subject is Saint George slaying a dragon but the rest of the window depicts the life and times of the four-star general. According to the Church, Saint George represents the general himself, while the dragon – complete with swastika-covered scales – is the Nazi regime he helped bring down.

Battles where Patton had command are depicted, including Metz, Coblenz, and Bastogne, also appear alongside towns he liberated from the Nazis. Those towns appear in the dragon’s claws.

Even though Patton’s remains are still interred in Europe, a statue of the man – hands on his famous ivory-handled revolvers – stands watch at the entrance to the cemetery, where other members of the Patton family were laid to rest.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
If the dead ever rise, they aren’t coming out of this cemetery.

If you want to make a Patton day of it, you can also visit the nearby Patton Tank Warfare Museum, just around the corner from the church.

MIGHTY MOVIES

U.S. Marine to Hollywood honcho: Ron Meyer discusses life growing up in West L.A. and becoming a Hollywood executive

From the U.S. Marine Corps to the Hollywood mailroom, becoming one of the founders of CAA to being vice chairman at NBCUniversal, Ron Meyer has experienced a lot since growing up in West L.A.


Annenberg Media: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Meyer: My mother and father escaped Nazi Germany in 1939. They both immigrated and met in Los Angeles. They were German Jews; my father was a lady’s dress salesman and my mother worked with him until she had me and my sister. We had a very simple life here in west Los Angeles.

Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

Meyer: They were loving and supportive parents. My father traveled four out of six weeks so he was gone a lot of the time. My mother raised us on a full-time basis. They were great parents and we loved each other unconditionally.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

NBCUNIVERSAL EXECUTIVES — Pictured: Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

Meyer: I created challenges for myself. We didn’t have money so that wasn’t really an issue as none of us in that neighborhood had money. I worked from the age of about 12-years-old where I delivered and sold newspapers. If I saw a shirt that I liked, I had to work to pay for it. I washed cars at every job you could imagine. I did what I had to do. I was in trouble as a kid but I created most of it, so that definitely made it more challenging for my parents to deal with me. I went to three different junior high and high schools. I spent very little time going to school and I was suspended a lot. I don’t think I ever spent a full day in high school. When I was 16, I legally dropped out. That is what led me to the Marine Corps.

Annenberg Media: What made you want to join the Marines and what was your military occupational specialty (MOS)?

Meyer: I used to box and I was told there was a boxing program in the Marines. There was an active draft back then, so I had a draft card at 17. I thought I was a tough guy and the Marine Corps seemed like a good idea. I found out that there was no boxing program after joining. It was a different kind of Corps; corporal punishment was allowed, and you could fight bare knuckles. They could put hands on you, and you could put hands on them. It was a different kind of world back then.

I was a rifleman, which was my main MOS. I worked in the motor pool and as a radio man. I was a driver as well.

Annenberg Media: What values were stressed at home?

Meyer: My parents were good, honest and hardworking people. I was taught an early lesson when we went to someone’s house for a visit. When I came back home, I had four or five quarters in my pocket. When I told my mother and made up some story, she was not having it. She made me go back down, return the quarters and apologize. My parents never tolerated stealing. They taught me my values that never changed throughout my life.

Annenberg Media: What drew you to film and media while growing up?

Meyer: When I was in the Marine Corps, I got the measles and I was quarantined. I had never read a book in my life at that point. My mother sent me two books: “Amboy Dukes” which was about kids in trouble and a book called, “The Flesh Peddlers” by Steven Longstreet about a young guy in the agency business. I thought when I got out, I didn’t want to be this jerk anymore so I went looking for a job in the agency business. I didn’t have any friends or connections in the business, I just knew about it as a viewer. When a movie came out on a Friday, I thought it was finished on Thursday. I had no concept of the process. It seemed like a good way to make a living. Agents were salesmen and my father was a salesman. I was going to be a salesman of some kind so selling talent seemed like a thing to look into, so I went after it.

Annenberg Media: What was it like starting at the Kohner Agency?

Meyer: It was a great experience and I was lucky to get the job. I was a messenger there for six years. It was a fun time to live in L.A. back then. It was hard work and I worked five days-a-week and then was on call on the weekends for Mr. Kohner. It really was the best time of my life. Hollywood was a lot of fun on the Sunset Strip with all the restaurants and bars. It was just great and looking back on the time it was very Andy Hardy-ish.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

Ron Meyer with reporter, Joel Searls at NBCUniversal. (Photo courtesy of: Joel Searls)

Annenberg Media: What leadership lessons in life and from the service have helped you most in your career?

Meyer: The most lasting value comes from what the Marine Corps taught me, teamwork is everything. At CAA it was about teamwork and certainly here at NBCUniversal it is about teamwork. I felt that way at CAA, you were either for us or against us.

We are all in it together. If we succeed, we all succeed and if we fail, we all fail together. You can’t be pointing your finger as a leader. If you trusted the wrong people to do the job, then you must be responsible for it. As a leader you are in it more than anyone else. It is pretty basic: you treat people the way you want to be treated, you tell the best truth you can, you do what you say you are going to do. Once you are a team those are all the fundamentals. You do the best that you can.

Annenberg Media: What are the keywords that you live by?

Meyer: I wish I could say I invented it, but when I was very young, I saw a sign that said, “Assumption is the mother of all f***! ups.” If you assume something you are at risk, I have lived by that forever and I believe that. Don’t assume anyone else is going to take care of the problem or assume you know what someone else is thinking.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tom Hanks and Ron Meyer at the APOLLO 13 premiere. (Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal/Alex Berliner)

Annenberg Media: What are your top three films while you have been at NBCUniversal?

Meyer: The films that I am most proud of being a part of are “Brokeback Mountain,” “United 93” and “Apollo 13.” I am proud of these films and they had a very important significance for me. “Apollo 13” was a perfect movie since we knew how it ended, but you were on the edge of your seat until the very ending. It entertained you and it made you care. “Brokeback Mountain” broke barriers that no one ever imagined before. It was two men falling in love with each other and the beauty of it. I was proud to be part of the studio that made it. “United 93” made you proud to be an American and it told a story of what people are capable of in the worst of circumstances. It was an extraordinary movie and it was the first post 9/11 film. There were no stars in it, and it was what really happened. I saw it with the families of the victims of Flight 93. It deserves to be a classic film and it is important for America. These are the three films that really stand out for me.

This article originally appeared on Annenberg Media. Follow @AnnenbergMedia on Twitter.

Veterans

Amazon delivery service partner program offers veterans a direct route to entrepreneurial opportunity

Two dreams have propelled Josh Johnson during his life: One to enlist in the military and another to own a business.

The 46-year-old former Air Force acquisitions officer from Puyallup, Washington, was inspired to pursue both dreams by male role models as he watched his dad dedicate his early years to the Army. Johnson also learned about his two grandfathers’ military experiences during World War II.

“From a very young age, I was excited about the opportunity to serve my country,” Johnson said.

He realized dream number one from 2000 to 2004, after completing his bachelor’s in business from Central Washington University. While stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Johnson was working with Boeing satellite systems while also earning his master’s in business administration from California State University, Long Beach — a degree paid for by the military.

After he separated from the Air Force and gained 14 more years of experience managing operations, recruiting, and safety for transportation companies, Johnson found himself inching closer to dream number two, thanks to a friend.

Delivering success

“I knew it was exactly what I was meant to do,” Johnson said, referring to an advertisement his friend forwarded to him about Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program.

In his late teens, Johnson had watched his dad build his land surveying services from a one-man shop to a successful business. There have been ups and downs, Johnson says, but his father has always been able to succeed.

“He does it by being a man of the highest integrity and providing great customer service,” Johnson continued. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

With his Air Force experience, Johnson felt confident he could thrive as a DSP owner. What he had learned most during his military training was how to lead a team. He mastered motivating people and helping them reach their full potential. Those skills assisted him in recruiting, organizing, and inspiring employees to put customers’ needs first.

With the DSP opportunity, Johnson saw an interesting way to start a business. Unlike something such as a restaurant or a chain franchise, the upfront investment wasn’t overwhelming. Plus, once he was offered the opportunity to be a part of the DSP program, Johnson was able to participate in a two-week training  and lean on Amazon for support with leasing vehicles, maintaining and repairing his fleet, processing payroll, and accessing regulatory and legal advice if needed.

“I learned that there are so many ways that Amazon provides resources for us,” Johnson said. “I felt grateful to have this opportunity to work with them as they’re growing and doing fantastic things. I tell other veterans that Amazon partners with you to provide the tools and mentorship to help make you successful. If you’re dedicated, and you use the training you got in the military, you can do well.”

Growing trust

 In September 2018, ASLAR Logistics (named after the five Johnson children — Ammon, Shayla, Liam, Aria, and Rylan) opened with its delivery center in Sumner, Washington, about 30 miles south of Seattle. It’s one of 1,500 such small businesses that opened since Amazon started the DSP program in 2018.

In the early days, Johnson had only a few employees , while his wife, Laura, helped — making business decisions and even completing the Amazon driver training program — and managed their household. Now, Johnson oversees a staff of 90 who deliver Amazon orders to homes and businesses in the greater Sumner area.

“We’ve been able to hire truly dedicated and hardworking individuals, and I feel blessed every day to have them on my team,” he said.

Most days start with Johnson  tackling paperwork and prepping for the day. His team starts at mid-morning with a “virtual standup” meeting to keep everyone safe with social distancing and learn of any news and safety protocol updates. “Loadout” happens next, with Johnson often jumping in to load packages. As the drivers start their routes, Johnson’s dispatch team stands by to answer questions, monitor routes, and help troubleshoot.

Johnson is proud to have earned Amazon’s trust, which he says his team has done by working hard, getting packages delivered, and not returning them to the center.

Earning his community’s trust is equally important to Johnson, and he welcomed the opportunity to do so, especially in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The beginning of that time period was like a second, surprise Christmas, with demand surging in March 2020.

“People were so scared to leave their houses, especially the elderly,” Johnson recalled. “We were able to deliver and keep them safe with social distancing and sanitizing. They could order basic necessities of life — cereal, cat food, toilet paper they couldn’t find anywhere else — without the concern of catching the virus. It helped us feel good about what we do.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the Delivery Service Partner program, sign up for more information here. Ready to apply to become a DSP? Start your application here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A combat vet is kitting up to protect florida school

A heavily armed man is patrolling the hallways of a Florida school. His only job? Prevent a mass shooting.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Harold Verdecia, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been hired as the first guardian at the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Verdercia wears body armor and carries a Glock 19X handgun, but it’s his Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle, loaded with exploding rounds, that’s raising eyebrows.


After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting a year ago February 2019, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring all schools to have armed guardians on campus. School districts and charter schools can choose how to arm those guardians, with most choosing 9-millimeter handguns.

MSA Principal Bill Jones outlined to the Herald-Tribune a specific scenario — shooter armed with a rifle, clad in body armor, looking to cause maximum damage — in justifying the unusual move of arming his school’s guardian with a rifle.

Verdercia completed 144 hours of training facilitated by the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office. He also went through extra training to carry the rifle on school grounds.

Palmetto’s Manatee School of the Arts Ramping up more Safety and Security

www.youtube.com

Security experts, however, seem skeptical of Jones’s insistence that a semi-automatic rifle is appropriate for the job. Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief and police management consultant, told the Herald-Tribune that the school would be safer with its rifles locked away and its guardian building relationships with students, not singularly focused on a mass casualty event.

Michael Dorn, president of a company that has performed security assessments of dozens of school systems in Florida, told the New York Times that a long gun is a more dangerous weapon for someone to take from an officer and that it’s harder for an officer to subdue and handcuff a suspect when he’s carrying such a gun.

Jones doesn’t seem to mind the criticism. He’s currently reviewing applications and hopes to hire a second rifle-toting guardian soon.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are the most civic-minded group in America for the 3rd year in a row

It should come as a surprise to no one that the men and women who fought for the United States are the ones who care most about how it’s run — and the people who run it. For the third year in a row, American military veterans are shown to volunteer, assist neighbors, join civic groups, vote, and engage public officials at rates higher than non-veterans.

The finding comes as a result of the 2017 Veterans Civic Health Index, a study conducted in cooperation with Got Your 6, a veteran’s empowerment nonprofit designed to encourage and enable veterans to continue serving in their local communities while fostering greater cultural changes in the United States, and the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally-chartered national service project dedicated to strengthening civic life.


Civic health, defined as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, has been shown to positively impact local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, and has other benefits that strengthen communities. By releasing this annual study, Got Your 6 and its partners aim to eliminate common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

The study found that veterans are what it calls “the strongest pillar of civic health” in the United States and calls on the country to adjust the way it frames veteran reintegration. Consistent with Got Your 6’s mission, the study aims to help in changing the perception of veteran transition from one of a series of challenges to the opening of a potential source of leadership and training.

Significant findings from the study include:

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Voting

73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections versus 57.2 percent of non-veterans.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Service

Veteran volunteers serve an average of 177 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually. Delivering critical services to a community without regard for wages or reward is a vital service to local areas in the United States.

In this, specifically, the female veteran population goes above and beyond the call of duty.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Civic Involvement

In terms of involvement, 11.5 percent of veterans have attended a public meeting in the last year versus 8.3 percent of non-veterans. The rate at which veterans belong to a local or national civic association was significantly higher as well. These groups can have a large collective impact on American communities.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Community Engagement

Some 10.5 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.7 percent of non-veterans. But engagement goes beyond fixing problems, it’s also about stopping them before they start — something veterans are proactive in doing.

More than that, engaging one’s community forms the bonds that can bring people together in good times and in bad. Veterans who transition from the military tends to miss the closeness and brotherhood aspects of their service, leading them to more often reach out within communities.

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

It should also come as no surprise that the youngest generation of veterans (23.4 percent of all veterans are younger than 50) is a diverse one, inclusive of more females (one in six) and ethnic minority groups. The United States, as a whole, is becoming more diverse and the veteran population is a reflection of that diversity.

As a subset of U.S. population (just nine percent of Americans are veterans), vets are more likely to lend a hand to their neighbors and fellow citizens, leading the charge in recovery operations for the multitude of natural disasters that affected the U.S. in 2017.

With these numbers, we can reasonably expect veterans to continue being at the forefront of civic action in American communities. This is the country veterans earned through hard work and, in some cases, sacrifice. The maintenance of the nation understandably means a great deal to this relatively small group of Americans.

If the result of this study predict a trend for the future, the country is in good hands.

For more information, be sure to read the full study.

Veterans

There was a time I looked forward to Veterans Day

Coming from a retired Army Noncommissioned Officer who wore a green beret and a drill sergeant hat, it may seem weird, but I don’t look forward to Veterans Day.  However, there was a time that I got excited about this holiday.

Growing up in small town USA certain holidays were big deals, it meant we’d have a parade. Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day brought the community together and honored our nation and its heroes. Not growing up in a military family, my parents made sure we attended these events. I believe it was a large part of my desire to be a soldier from a young age. I would see the old American Legion veterans marching in their uniforms and standing proud through speeches made by local leaders. I’m certain these old veteran’s dedication had an impact on many youth, not just me. 

Nov. 11 was a special day for me when I didn’t understand the cost of freedom and service. I was too young to realize that we were honoring these veterans because they chose to put themselves through hardship on our behalf.  It was more than a cool factor and an aura of professionalism.

Now, I don’t have the same sentiment toward Veterans Day. It’s one of those days that makes me feel uncomfortable. Memorial Day, the official day to remember our fallen, is another one. 

While well-meaning Americans reach out to shake my hand and say thank you for my service, I feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure what they’re thanking me for. Additionally, I don’t feel a need to be thanked for my service. It was my choice to serve and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. Aside from being a father, serving this great nation is the biggest honor I’ve ever had. 

Yes, this may get uncomfortable. With this discomfort we can grow. I wonder what people are thanking me for. For following my dreams? Again, it’s what I always wanted to do. I got to live out my dreams. For signing up when they didn’t? It’s okay, I made my choices and they made theirs, no animosity. The military isn’t for everybody. For making it home when others didn’t? We don’t get to pick and choose who survives. I’m lucky to have served with the most outstanding people on earth who sacrificed their lives so that we may live ours. Are they thanking me because they feel societal pressure to acknowledge my service? I always assume positive intent, but I’m a realist that knows the world isn’t all roses and rainbows. 

The reality is I think of my service every day of the year. Sometimes with a smile and other days with tears for brothers who are no longer with us. I’m proud to have served and not a day will go by that changes that feeling. 

I appreciate the recognition of my service on this special day and I’ll answer like I normally do when I’m thanked. “No need to thank me. It was my privilege to serve and if I had a choice, I’d do it all over again.” However, like a lot of veterans, this day will give me mixed emotions.

Veterans

4 scary possibilities every veteran faces

Getting out of the military is a great day for most. You’ve been anticipating this day for years and it’s finally here — but now what?

Is it all peaches and cream once you’re on the other side? It might be, but there are some bleak possibilities that many veterans face on the other side of service. Now, we’re not here to frighten you, but these are things you should be aware of.


A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
This is absolutely the number one fear of many veterans, no matter how successful or far removed you are from this reality.
(Photo via Veteran Action Network)

 

1. Homelessness 

Sadly, homelessness is as real a possibility awaiting veterans as a life of prosperity. Homelessness in America is a serious issue — and the homeless population is about 11% veteran, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Of that total, 70% are on drugs, and 50% suffer from some type of psychological ailment.

There are programs in place to help, but you can only offer help to those who seek it, and there’s a general mistrust of these organizations in the veteran community.

Considering that the veteran population accounts for around 1% of the country, the amount of homeless veterans is extremely alarming. If you or anyone you know is homeless or on the verge of homelessness, there is help for you.

2. The mysterious misadventures of the VA

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
The VA can be a tricky beast. This guy came in for a simple check-up.
(Photo by Senior Airman Krystal Walker)

Going to the VA is a key part of post-service life. For many, it’s the only form of health insurance we have in the years immediately following service and is an absolute must if you experienced any adverse or lingering effects of service.

The VA is supposed to help, and for the most part, it does, but navigating the many avenues can be daunting. Hell, knowing where to start can be a task by itself. Setting up an appointment can take months and filing for your proper disability rating can take years… literally.

The best advice for dealing with the VA is patience and perseverance.

3. School daze

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
How it feels trying to fit in with classmates who were in grade school or younger when you joined service.
(The Montecito Picture Company)

 

One of the best things about honorably serving your country is that you get the opportunity to go to school afterward (mostly) on Uncle Sam’s dime. But going back to school isn’t as easy as showing up for class and doing your assignments. Depending on where you land, you might feel like you stand alone as the only adult in an ocean of children.

The fun part comes when you realize that you’re closer in age to your classmates’ parents than your classmates themselves.

4. Unsure wonderland

A non-pilot who flew his stricken Lancaster home in World War II leaves a dying wish
What do I see? Just a bunch of veterans trying to find their way.
(Walt Disney Pictures)

Leaving the military is different for everyone. Some have planned for their exit for years; others never considered a life outside of the military. It isn’t uncommon for veterans to take a few years to get themselves truly together and on track.

Be ready for a period of self-reflection. Figuring out what you actually want to do can take more time than anticipated, and that’s fine. Try not to feel like you need to be at a specific point just because you’re a certain age or you’ve been through certain things. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but as long as you keep moving and searching, you’ll find your way.

Veterans

This vet serves fellow veterans to honor his father’s memory

Honorarium

David Tenenbaum is an Air Force veteran and the founder of Honor Media. Honor Media is a nonprofit production company, digital agency, and consulting firm dedicated to helping veteran organizations tell their stories to clients, donors, and other stakeholders. Tenenbaum’s success is a tribute to the memory of his father. His father is also the reason he joined the military.

Tenenbaum’s father was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after being liberated from Dachau by American GIs. Tenenbaum explains that joining the military was his way, “to repay that favor of what the U.S. did.”

He spent six years in the Air Force. After he separated from the military he had no transition plan. So, he returned to something that he had always enjoyed as a kid: motorcycles.

The company he started provided motorcycles and parts and services to racers and race enthusiasts. It was called Ben Jacob Design. The company was named in honor of Tenenbaum’s father. As he tells it, “Ben in Hebrew is son of. Jacob is my father’s name”.

In retrospect, Tenenbaum admits that what he had attempted to do was build a business out of his hobby. Still, he sank his life savings into it. And sank is the operative word. The business failed.

Having borrowed heavily to start the company and keep it afloat, Tenenbaum saw his credit score plummet. He was living in the company’s shop, trying to pay down its debts, and thinking, “where do I go from here?”

When revenue stopped coming in, he began to dismantle the business piece by piece. He ripped stickers off of motorcycles. He sold his tools. Tenenbaum shut down Ben Jacob Design. It was at that point that he, “went through another transition.”

Tenenbaum was learning what he could do and what he could not do. And he questioned what his own value was as a veteran. He returned home, reconnected with his mother, and began resolving his predicament. Through it all, his veteran identify held steadfast. He could not leave it behind.

Tenenbaum’s inner strength led him to launch Honor Media. He attributes its success to the lessons learned from his failed business. He relies on financial partners, advisors, and a board of directors to make it work. Another key to making it work is service. In essence, Tenenbaum’s greatest lesson is the value of service.

His journey from the military through the private sector into a role working with fellow veterans taught Tenenbaum something important about his value and purpose. That value and purpose is in serving others. In that he discovered the greatest expression of honoring his father.

For more information and useful financial tools visit VCM.com/military.

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

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