Lawrence “Yogi” Berra was a baseball legend, astute businessman, World War II Veteran and posthumously awarded recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lawrence “Yogi” Berra is well-known for his long and successful playing career with the New York Yankees, his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and his roller-coaster post-player career as a coach and manager. Not as well-known was his service as a Navy gunner during World War II.
Born Lorenzo Pietro Berra in May 1925, Berra grew up in St. Louis. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help his family financially. Berra played baseball as a teenager in American Legion Baseball, which was when he was given the nickname, “Yogi.” A friend thought Berra resembled a Hindu yogi because of the way he folded his arms and legs when waiting to bat.
During his teenage years, Berra tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals. They offered Berra a contract and signing bonus of $250. But that was half the $500 bonus they offered his friend, Joe Garagiola. He turned down the Cardinals and went back to his job at a shoe factory. The next year, he tried out for the Yankees. In November 1942, the team offered Berra a contract and a $500 signing bonus to play with the Norfolk Tars, a Yankees affiliate. He accepted.
In May 1943, just as Berra turned 18, he got word from Uncle Sam to take a pre-induction physical. He passed the physical and was allowed a deferment to finish the baseball season. Berra initially opted for the Army but was persuaded to join the Navy in hopes to be on a naval baseball team. Although Berra joined the Navy, his deployment prevented him from playing on the team.
Berra was sent to Bainbridge, Maryland, for basic training in 1943. In January 1944, he attended amphibious training in Norfolk, Virginia. Upon completion, Berra deployed to Europe, where he began training for the coming landings in Normandy, France. He was assigned as a gunner’s mate to USS Bayfield, an attack transport. During the D-Day landings, Berra was stationed on a rocket boat. He then departed from the Bayfield to help protect the waves of infantry by providing suppressive fire. Berra fired machine guns and rocket launchers, pounding hostile German bunkers.
In July 1944, Berra participated in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. Berra and his comrades were sweeping the beaches with intense fire. Their gunning was directed at a former beach resort the Germans were using as a machine gun bunker. While shooting at this emplacement, Berra was struck in the left hand by an enemy bullet. He did not report the injury, as he was afraid his mother would worry if she found out. However, upon his return home, he reported his injury and was awarded a Purple Heart.
Berra was stationed in Tunisia after his participation in Operation Dragoon. In January 1945, he was sent back to the United States and stationed at the Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut. Berra was placed on Welfare and Recreation and subsequently played baseball for the Navy. He was discharged in May 1946 as a seaman second class.
Berra went on to have a legendary career with the Yankees. In his 19 years as a pro player, Berra won 10 World Series championships, the most ever for a single player, made 18 All-Star appearances and was American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times. When Berra retired as a player, he became the manager for the Yankees in 1964. He led the team to the World Series that year but was fired when they lost. The next season, he became a coach for the Mets and then manager in 1972, until he was fired three years later. He then went back to the Yankees as a coach and, in 1984, he was manager again, only to be fired the next year.
Berra became famous for his malapropisms, which was when he would misuse a word or phrase. These were also known as “Yogi-isms,” with one of them being, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.” Berra was an astute businessman and a popular product spokesman.
Berra died in September 2015. He was 90. Two months later, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
We honor his service.
Writer: Michael Veronda
Editors: Cassidy Reid, Katie Wang, Julia Pack and Christopher Wilson
Researchers: Alexys Santiago and Alexandria Davenport
30 million vaccinations is a big job – and VA can handle it
About six million enrolled Veterans use VA health care, and VA has successfully given at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than two million of those Veterans, with more getting vaccinated every day.
But there’s still more to do: VA will vaccinate every Veteran and spouse and caregiver.
In recognition of our success, Congress passed and the President signed the SAVE LIVES Act. This act gives VA the job of delivering vaccine to all Veterans in America – whether they’re enrolled in VA health care or not – as well as their spouses and their caregivers.
Within 48 hours after the President signed that bill, we began testing our existing vaccination delivery systems in order to determine how long it will take us to get about 30 million additional people enrolled and vaccinated. In two days of testing, we safely and successfully vaccinated 1,000 Veterans, spouses and caregivers who would not normally be eligible for a VA vaccination. That vaccination rate will only increase as we expand our capacity and take delivery of more and more doses of vaccine.
It’s a big job, but we can handle it
As we do that, I’d like to ask you for a bit of patience. It’s a huge task, but VA health care can handle it, as we have handled every new challenge during this pandemic. We just need a bit of time to make sure that Veterans, spouses and caregivers who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination can sign up and get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
We will continue to update you as we move ahead. Thank you for trusting us with your care and with your vaccination.
Dr. Richard Stone is the acting secretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration. He is a retired Army major general and Veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He was born and raised in Michigan and is a proud alumnus of the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.
“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.
“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.
With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.
So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space. Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).
The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.
“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
Let’s be completely honest: Getting veterans the help they need is a tricky task. What works for one person may not work for another. Simply telling veterans they have the option to seek help if they need it is important, yes, but it’s not going to pull those who are blind to their own struggles out of the shadows.
There are many veterans who can personally attest to the successes and benefits of the fine mental health professionals within the Veterans Administration. There are others, however, who end up opt for heart-breaking alternatives to talking about their feelings with a stranger. There’s no easy solution to getting help to those who don’t seek it and there’s no magic wand out there that can wish away the pain that our veteran community suffers daily.
But the first step is always going to be opening up about the pain.
As a community, we’re trained to never, ever be a burden on anyone else while also being willing to move Heaven and Earth if it means saving our comrade. At its heart, that’s what Operation Resilience is about.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)
A new pilot program within the Veterans Health Administration called “Operation Resilience” aims to get veterans who’ve been lost since exiting the service to open up to the people who understand their struggles most: their comrades.
The idea behind Operation Resilience is simple. The VA has partnered with an advocacy group, The Independence Fund, to create events that bring veterans who served in a unit together again. Of course, one of the topics on the agenda at these events is a group therapy session, but it’s much deeper than that.
Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the department’s suicide prevention efforts, said in a statement that of the roughly 20 veterans who commit suicide a day, most have little-to-no contact with official VA programs. Finding at least one avenue of approach where someone is willing to talk is the key.
Having those who were there with a troubled veteran during the moments that still haunt them can help on countless levels. And surrounding it all with an event that’s legitimately appealing to veterans makes it a hard opportunity to pass up. When you frame event as a chance for veterans to, let’s say, go drinking at some all-expenses-paid ski resort or something — who could say no?
The group dynamic of the event also plays into the stubbornness of most veterans who have a disdain for seeking help. Now, it’s not just about helping yourself, it’s about helping your brothers- and sisters-in-arms — even if they are the one most in need of help.
There’s no one on this planet that veterans would rather talk about what’s on their mind than with their fellow veterans.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)
The details of the events are still being worked out, but the pilot event will be with Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division this coming April.
It looks like the VA has caught onto the human element of what brings a group of combat veterans together. If, at the end of the day, a single veteran is able to be pulled out of the hole because their guys came together and got them to talk, well that’s a victory in my book.
Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.
So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.
To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.
This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.
Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…
Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.
While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”
If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.
Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.
What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.
If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.
(National Veterans Art Museum)
Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.
If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.
What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?
They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.
(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)
Amusement parks and casinos
Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.
Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.
Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.
Your favorite bar
When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.
This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.
Veterans denied basic mental health care service benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of an “other than honorable” discharge may soon be able to receive the care they need.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran.
“Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said in a release. “That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of war.
“The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” he said.
The legislation, H.R. 918, would require the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and services deemed necessary, including for those at risk of suicide and or of harming others, regardless of whether the individual has an “other than honorable” discharge.
Currently, individuals who have such discharges, known as “bad paper,” are not eligible for veteran benefits beyond some emergency mental health services. Veterans who received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge would still be ineligible to access the services.
“It’s important that we give all of our combat veterans, irrespective of the discharges they receive, access to mental health care through the Veterans [Affairs Department],” Coffman told Military.com during an interview in February, when he reintroduced the bill.
He is the only House member to serve in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the time, Coffman said of the “bad-paper” separations, “I question the nature of the discharges in the first place, and I’m exploring that.”
The bill applies to those with other-than-honorable discharges who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities; piloted unmanned aircraft; or experienced a military sexual trauma.
The VA secretary can sign off on outside care if specific care at a VA facility is clinically inadvisable; or if the VA is unable to provide necessary mental health care due to geographic location barriers.
H.R. 918 also requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” determination process, triggering reviews of the “character of discharge” for potential eligibility of VA benefits.
High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a grassroots organization training veterans to become leaders and activists in their local communities, has advocated for the move.
“There are some veterans out there who’ve been waiting for this day for decades — but there’s still a fight ahead of us,” said High Ground founder and chairman Kristofer Goldsmith.
“Until the Senate passes this bill, and the president signs it — some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans, who served between Vietnam and today’s Forever Wars, are being denied the holistic care that they deserve from the VA,” he said in an email.
Goldsmith continued, “Today, the House recognized that the United States has failed to care for hundreds of thousands of veterans in the way that they deserve — veterans who were administratively discharged and stripped of a lifetime of essential benefits without the right to due process.
“But the problem isn’t yet fixed. Until Congress holds hearings dedicated to looking at the problem of bad-paper discharges, we won’t have all available solutions on the table,” he said.
Rob Riggle is no stranger to We Are the Mighty — and it’s no secret that we’re big fans of his. But it’s not just the fact that he’s a hilarious, self-made comedian with a background of service with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, it’s also because he’s a genuine, charitable guy.
This year, he’s back at it once again. Beginning June 1, Riggle is hosting yet another Big Slick Celebrity Weekend to raise money for Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy. Last year, Riggle and his supporting cast of celebrities from all walks of life helped raise over $1.7 million dollars for the award-winning hospital.
It all started in 2010 when Riggle called on two other alumni of Shawnee Mission South High School: Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis. Over the course of 9 short weeks, the three put together a weekend chock full of events to raise money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Dubbed the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, their very first run earned over $120,000 for the hospital.
(Big Slick Celebrity Weekend)
Since then, things have gotten bigger and better than ever. The three called on other celebrities, including Will Ferrel, Weird Al Yankovic, Olivia Wilde, James Van Der Beek, and many more, to come help grow the event to make an even bigger impact — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
This year, the crew has plenty of fun in store. It all starts on the afternoon of Friday, June 1 when celebrities take the field to play a game of softball. After that, players from the Major League step in — the Oakland Athletics are taking on the Kansas City Royals. Each ticket to the MLB game sold includes a $5 donation to Big Slick.
Then, the following day, the festivities continue as celebs hit the lanes for a bowling tournament. Finally, Saturday night is capped off with a party and auction where they’ll put up some great items, all sold to the benefit of Children’s Mercy.
Children’s Mercy has been repeatedly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.” They’ve been helping treat the sick and supporting medical research since 1897 and, with your help, they can keep offering the very best in care to kids across both Kansas and Missouri.
To learn more about the Big Slick Celebrity Weekend 2018, check out their website. To get a glimpse into the fun-filled weekend, check out this clip from last year’s event!
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.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.
The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.
USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson
Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.
Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a 26-year-old Army veteran, civil rights activist, and deacon at his Marion, Alabama, church. In February, 1965, Jackson took part in a peaceful nighttime demonstration to protest for his right to vote. As the congregation left the church to march to the local jail just a half block away, a wall of local policer officers and state troopers was waiting for them. As soon as they arrived, someone turned off the streetlights.
In the aftermath of the melee that followed, Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot in the stomach by a state trooper. He died eight days later. His death was the catalyst for Martin Luther King to lead the march from Selma to Montgomery, and set in motion a chain of events, one that includes the infamous “Bloody Sunday” incident on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, that would change American culture forever.
By 1964, Jackson had become an ordained deacon of the St. James Baptist Church of Marion. At this point in his life, he had already joined the Army and saw service in Vietnam. After a short stint in Indiana, he returned to his hometown of Marion where he watched as his 80-year-old grandfather was turned away while trying to register to vote. He eventually joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help fight for his civil rights.
Three years later, he died in that fight.
On the night of Feb. 18, 1965, there were 500 or so people filing out of Marion’s Zion United Methodist Church to make their way to the local jail where a civil rights activist was being held by local police. The SCLC was a nonviolent group, and the demonstrators planned to sing freedom songs as they marched to the jailhouse. They never made it that far. The wall of police officers — state, county, and local — began to tear into the crowd as soon as the lights went out.
They weren’t alone. Angry onlookers joined the crowd, attacking anyone in their path, including other onlookers, journalists, and even patrons of a nearby cafe. It was Mack’s Café just off the city square where state troopers started tearing the place apart, hitting customers and marchers. Lee’s grandfather, Cager, was clubbed, as was his mother, Viola. When Jimmie tried to help his mother to her feet, he was shot in the stomach by Alabama State Trooper James Fowler.
Lee languished in the hospital for eight days, eventually succumbing to his wound. Fowler was not initially charged with any crime, nor was he questioned about Lee. What happened next changed the country forever.
The SCLC decided they would march from Selma, Ala. to the capital at Montgomery to protest the death of Lee and the inequality of life in Alabama, to display their desire to vote, and to demonstrate the need for a Voting Rights Act to pass in Congress. In three attempts over 18 days, protestors attempted to march the 54-mile walk from Selma to Montgomery. The first attempt became infamous after it was attacked by police after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
One of the organizers became famous for a photo of her beaten body lying wounded on the bridge.
The second and third marches were joined by other activist groups and sympathizers from all over the United States who were horrified by the violence inflicted by the state troopers. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King, the second group of marchers turned around before fully crossing the bridge, so as not to violate a court order. The 2,500 people assembled said a prayer before turning back.
The third time, the procession was led by Dr. King with the First Amendment blessing of a federal judge. President Lyndon Johnson federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered the soldiers to protect the marchers. They did and the procession made it all the way to the a camp site outside of Montgomery, adding more and more marchers along the way.
By the time they reached the state capitol building, the march was 25,000 strong. By August, 1965, President Johnson was signing the Voting Rights Act into law. Fowler, the trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, was finally convicted of manslaughter for the shooting in 2011.
“The cannabis industry needs more veterans, not just because they’re high quality people but because they can get sh*t done.” – Dan Tobon, founder and board member of American Fiber
James Brobyn and Dan Tobon are two veterans with a passion for hiring and helping veterans through their company, American Fiber Co.
Brobyn, CEO of American Fiber Co. served with the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years with multiple combat deployments and is a Purple Heart recipient. As enlisted, he worked on hueys before commissioning as a mobile infantry officer. James is the former Executive Director of the Travis Manion Foundation, rated 4-Stars by Charity Navigator. He also has experience as the Co-Founder of CauseEngine, which provides on-demand capacity building for the Modern Nonprofit. He attained a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy and M.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in NGO and Non-profit leadership.
Tobon is a founder and board member of American Fiber. U.S. Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq. As an 11B, from mounted reconnaissance to light recon, to full-blown sniper reconnaissance for the last five years of his career. He is also the CEO of iVIK Holdings Ltd., an international cannabinoid company. His experience in the cannabis industry stems from his experience as the former CEO & COO of Franklin Labs, a licensed PA producer; Operations and Regulatory Consultant for CannaPharmacy. A successful entrepreneur, his business experience includes several tech start-ups. He also served as an attorney with Latham & Watkins in London and holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois, and J.D. from University of Chicago Law School.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. Although found in many other plants, CBD occurs in higher concentrations in the Cannabis Sativa L. (hemp) plant. CBD is just one of the over 113 cannabinoids found in hemp and is known for its therapeutic and healing properties, but without the THC mind-altering effects or “high” for the person using it.
WATM: How did you come up with this business idea?
Dan: James and I actually met back in Philadelphia back in 2013-2014. My wife took a fellowship at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia so we moved from Chicago. At the time I was the CEO of a company called Starchup. We are currently one of the largest mobile app providers in the laundry delivery space. James and I were part of the first cohort of BunkerLabs Philadelphia chapter. It was a group of about six veterans, all entrepreneurs. James was working on his company at the time, CauseEngine, and we just started paling around with similar interests. We have very similar personalities as go-getters and self-starters. We both took on a mentorship role for the other veteran entrepreneurs at BunkerLabs. After a year, year and half, of knowing each other, Pennsylvania was going to go medically legal. We realized we had both been tapped as prospective applicants for the Pennsylvania medical marijuana licensing initiative. We talked about how much we believed in cannabis, not just CBD, but cannabis in general and the benefits to the veteran community.
My brother happened to be a pain management doctor and saw firsthand the [negative] effects that opioids were having on his patients. He took a very strong interest in cannabis for pain management. Seeing my friends coming back from Iraq, some resorted to prescription medication or alcohol to deal with some of their issues. They faired poorly compared to the veterans who leaned more toward CBD and other cannabinoids. My personal experience is from a back injury in Iraq. I went through treatment, physical therapy, VA, private, all that stuff. Cannabis was a much better solution for me personally. I got back from Iraq and went to law school two months later. Cannabis was really the only thing that helped me concentrate on a first-rate education and improve my quality of life.
I became the CEO of a company called Franklin Labs after winning one of the licenses in Pennsylvania. I knew James had a strong interest in the industry, so, I asked him to join the company as the CEO of their Delaware operations. James took over and ran with it. Subsequently, we both left that company and started our own series of companies called American Fiber and iVIK. iVIK is an international cannabis company — it’s one of the companies we source our CBD from. It’s part of an operation out of Colombia called NuSierra. James, another partner, and I were the initial founders of American Fiber, which James is now the CEO and runs.
That’s where the Ambassador and Valorcraft brands are being launched. The use of cannabis is a strong proponent for the treatment of PTSD, chronic pain, back pain and other afflictions our generation of veterans deal with. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve been raising money for early-stage ventures and have launched a couple of successful companies. I met James and he had a shockingly similar profile as me. We found we shared a lot of the same beliefs in regard to cannabis and CBD. It’s been a dream working together because we’ve done a lot of really cool stuff in the space and we’re really excited for the future of these companies.
James: I think one of the cool things here, especially for the readers of We Are The Mighty, is Dan and I found each other through Bunker Labs. Without these local organizations connecting veterans that is not going to happen. To me, if you take the advocacy and all the work we do, the most important thing we can do is get veterans together and working with each other. Dan and I share values on how we want to approach business, same work ethic, and it seems to make a lot of sense to go after it. The opportunity to interact and work with other veterans – creates these other opportunities.
A lot of vets who have been deployed, especially grunts that have been in combat, are perfect to be entrepreneurs in cannabis. The best entrepreneur training is to stick some dudes in a little town in Iraq and say, ‘figure it out.’ There is literally no other better entrepreneurial training better than that. When I worked with Dan and the other partners I realized, ‘holy sh*t, these guys are really smart.’ All these smart people working together is going to make me smarter and better. Everyone has a similar background where no one settled. Everyone is looking to improve, innovate. Push the envelope, work with each other, collaborate and drive teams to succeed.
Cannabis is a very hard business. Navigating it requires great partners and laser focus otherwise it won’t work. We hire a lot of vets, spouses, and families because we share a lot of the same viewpoints we do. Initiative-based decision making is the value veterans bring to the community.
WATM: America is moving closer to nationwide, federal legalization of cannabis products. What myth would you like to dispel regarding the stigma of CBD products?
Dan: That’s a good question.
James: There’s a lot.
James: I think it is very well accepted. In my experience, people see it and generally accept it. There is a misconception around its efficacy, what it does, people can feel like it’s snake oil on the medicinal side. Some people think it’s just an awful drug on the other side. The more I learned about the plant and the endocannabinoid system that is in everyone’s body. They just found the endocannabinoid system like 15 years ago – literally scientists have recently discovered that cannabinoids connect with different receptors in our bodies. That’s where the anti-inflammatory piece comes from [regarding] cannabinoids. That’s why it is specifically so hard to dial in what cannabinoids do what because different cannabinoids react differently to the endocannabinoid system in our body that produces the positive, medicinal effects. That and euphoria. In a lot of ways, it is an incredibly complex, incredibly useful plant on so many levels. Honestly, whether you make rope with it or turn it into a T-shirt or help a kid with his epilepsy. I’ve seen all those things in real life.
Dan: I think the biggest stigma is misplaced. When we were kids, people from our generation were told ‘pharmaceuticals are good but other drugs are bad,’ without any real discussion about the benefits that could be had that have been around for thousands of years. I think we are moving past the stigmatization as more and more people from our generation use these drugs to medicate. One of the things we are fighting is that this is not a placebo. There are real effects that this plant has and real benefits if it is used responsibly. What we really need to do now is call for more scientific research into these molecules to make sure we’re getting the greatest benefit out of them with safety and efficacy. If anything is going to destigmatize the use of this plant it’s going to be learning about it, to have real scientific research done on it. It is truly a shame that veterans are losing benefits in the VA because they are choosing to self-medicate with something that is less harmful than the drugs they’re being given – and it works.
WATM: How do CBD products help veterans?
Dan: When I got back from Iraq I had an adverse reaction to something called Strattera because of my PTSD and inability to concentrate. I wasn’t getting more than four hours of sleep a night. It was wrecking me. I was going to start grad school in one of the most competitive schools in the world and I literally could not shut my eyes without vehicles exploding. When they put me on that drug, Strattera, I couldn’t sleep for four days straight. It got to the point where I almost had a psychotic episode. Luckily, the people around me noticed I was a little more twitchy than normal. It turned out the psychiatrist had been wrong. The person I was interacting with had zero experience with PTSD patients. That drug is specifically cited to have adverse effects with people going through type of episode. That’s when my brother approached me and said, ‘you should try something a little less intense. Maybe take some gummies I brought from Colorado and see if you can get some sleep.’
I slept like a f**king baby.
I slept almost 24 hours after not having slept for four days. Granted, I was coming down from Strattera and being exhausted contributed to sleeping for that long. That was my introduction using this type of medicine as a medicine to self-care. I was taking a huge risk. Possession of an ounce of cannabis was a felony in the state of Illinois at that time. It was crazy that as a decorated veteran that I couldn’t find a way to be treated with the normal tools were available to the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. Also that I had to do something illegal to find a medication to help me deal with the issues I was dealing with at the time. The U.S. has come a long way since 2006 in terms of legalization, but I still think we have a ways to go to get the people at the VA healthcare system realize there is a lot of potential to do a lot of good. We have to be responsible with what products people are using, researching efficacy, and safety which is the stage we are at now.
If veterans want to come to you for their medical needs, how would they go about that?
James: Well, don’t come to Dan and I personally because we’re not doctors!
I think it is one of the challenges. We own some dispensaries in Michigan, we’re opening new ones in Delaware, we have access in Nevada. There are two different ways to get medicine, let’s focus on CBD, the state based regulatory systems are what they are. Dan’s oil at NuSierra, one of the easiest ways we recommend to most people is how your body reacts to cannabis. A lot of it is personal, we need to do more research into therapeutics so people take them and have an exact result. [The industry] is years from that. [The industry] needs to spend money and do it. Dialing into your medication, such as for sleep, the CBD we import from Colombia is USDA certified organic from NuSierra. We place it in glass bottles, it’s mixed with coconut oil to make it easier to digest. If you got to AmbassadorCBD.com you can dive through that eCommerce site and you’ll get our USDA organic oil straight from the mountains of Colombia, crafted by another veteran, straight to your door. Field grown, single origin, beautiful.
That’s the way you want to try CBD right now, honestly.
Look for the highest quality product you can get as someone new to CBD. Start from the top and dial it in from there. You want quality, clean products. We’re super transparent and above board but that’s not everybody. Customers can get access to testing and quality assurance information. It helps people narrow down what their CBD dosage is. For example, I take 3ml a day, so, three droplets in my smoothie in the morning and I’m good to go. I take it every day, it helps me stay even all day, stay focused. That’s what I found has been most successful for me. A lot of people use it in the evening for sleep. Everyone is a little different but taking the leap like,‘I want to give this a try,’ will change your life. We also work with SierraDelta, a non-profit organization that provides working dogs to vets. They’re actually one of the best non profits out there from what I could tell. As we deploy our ValorCraft brand is both a medical marijuana cannabis flower product but it is also going to be a veteran focused CBD line of products. One of our first initiatives is ValorCraft/SierraDelta co-branded products, one focused on the vet and one focused on his dog.
Basically the consumers would buy it for themselves and something like $5 or other portion of the proceeds would go to SierraDelta directly. We give back part of our sales, we already do in Michigan, that’s very valuable. As we get our operations up an running, we encourage and retain veterans as high quality people. Living by our values by supporting veterans. We don’t want to be like other companies who say they’re going to give a percentage of their proceeds and never do it.
We’re going to do it by giving them money based off of every sale. We want to help vets by putting our month where our mouth is by supporting great charities like SierraDelta. Near term one of the most important things we have coming up is launching our AmbassadorCBD line. We’re very excited about having people trying high quality, imported CBD oil from Jamaica and Colombia. Especially the NuSierra line, which is the only USDA 100% certified organic oil coming in from anywhere overseas – we’re the only people that can import it. We have a lot of exciting stuff going on.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of We Are The Mighty?
James: When it comes to the cannabis [industry] I say take the risk and jump in. It’s an awesome industry. Professionally, how people are trained, the industry needs you.
I want to hire veterans because they’re bad ass. Not because somebody feels bad for them. No! You get some meateaters sitting at the table, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done. You’re going to do it and you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. You can trust that they’re going to deliver because they told you they were going to do it. That’s the advantage of hiring vets [as a vet] because you have this common starting place. They still have to earn their spot but if I have a former grunt platoon sergeant or 0369 that doesn’t know how to get out after it, I’m going to know pretty quick. There are a lot more of the guys who do know how to get out after it and get it done responsibly with high integrity. Tons of opportunity there.
Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.
These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.
Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.
If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.
But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)
In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.
This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.
The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)
The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.
To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.
If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.