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AT EASE! Veterans Magazine Summer 2023

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PUBLISHERDevil Doc PublishingEDITORChristine WalkerASSISTANT EDITORVL StevensonSTAFF WRITERSShelby LakeEric McNailStuart SaxVL StevensonChristine WalkerFEATURE WRITERSDaniel DancerChristina MortelCristie RemmelPaul SullivanSALES STAFFEric McNailJennifer McNailChristine WalkerLAYOUT & DESIGNChristine WalkerCONTRIBUTING WRITERS:Doug BauerSonja BerryChuck ChadwickGy.Sgt. Jesse EsterlyAmy ForsytheTim GrutiziusMarc HooverSgt.Maj. G. LealJeff McKellopCorena MitchellOperation Deep DiveTMShannon RobinsonEric SowersHarold VachalAdam WalkerRob YounceFIND US AT:TheATEASEmagazine.comCopyright 2021-2023 © AT EASE! Veterans Magazine and Devil Doc Publishing All Rights Reserved.AT EASE! Veterans Magazine, a subsidiary of Devil Doc Publishing, reserves all rights connected to all copyright and proprietary property contained in our official publication, website(s), social media accounts, videography, email marketing, branding and printed materials. This includes, but is not limited to, authoritative and/or written content, photographs, graphics and infographics, ad design, artwork including official company logos in design, color, and format and video(s). Any use of the above aforementioned in whole or in part may not be used for any reason without the express written consent of Devil Doc Publishing. The subject matter and opinions of Contributing, Feature and Staff writers are their own and are covered under their First Amendment Rights.A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITORA MESSAGE FROM THE EDITORChristine WalkerSummer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 3Lessons LearnedThis issue has been rife with lessons and evaluations, as a publication; and on a personal level for myself and some of our writers. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to look in the mirror and examine our mistakes and failures. In doing so, however, it’s important that we do not wallow in that place, but instead take corrective action to right the ship, if you will. I for one, am a “wallower.” I am pretty good at taking a raw look into the mirror and recognizing my shortcomings, but I also tend to make mountains out of molehills, lament that I can’t be everything to everybody, and analyze everything to death! Then come the messy emotions of guilt, shame, or feeling like an outright failure, but outwardly wearing my little mask that says “Everything is Great!”However, this time is different. This time, I’ve taken immediate corrective measures. And the rst thing is to admit when I am wrong. Case in point; last issue I announced that we would start charging for the eMagazine. And for those who purchased it, we thank you. It made good business sense on paper, but since we’ve published our Spring 2023 issue, there has been a nagging feeling that it just wasn’t the right decision for our publication. Since the beginning, the mission of AT EASE! Veterans Magazine is to ‘tell our stories’ and to be a resource for Veterans. Our goal is to inspire Veterans from all war eras to share their own stories, give a national platform to Veteran organizations that are making a tangible difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and be an avenue for Veteran-owned businesses to advertise in an affordable print medium, reaching thousands of our Veteran readers. Going forward, our eMagazine will revert to being free of charge for our digital readers. Although, I would like to encourage you to subscribe to our print edition. It is high quality, luxury, coffee table magazine that you can pick up or put down at your leisure. I hope you have a wonderful Summer, COVER PHOTO: US Army (USA) Lieutenant General (LTG) Robert B. Flowers, the Commanding General for the USA Corps of Engineers, tours the facilities at the Kabul Military Training Compound, during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM | Base: Kabul | Scene Major Command Shown: Northeast | Scene Camera Operator: CPL Jeremy Colvin, USA | Release Status: Released to Public

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Table of ContentsTable of ContentsMessage from the Editor 3Operation Deep DiveTM 6Women Veterans Recognition Day 8'Last Out' Review 10Combat Felt Like Home 18DD-214 & VA Certificate of Eligibility 21DD-214 & Beyond 22Heal*arious 30'Mortaritaville' - Week Two 32Liberation of Dachau 34On Air with Stuart Sax 38'I Remember When...' 39Lost in Translation 41Where Angels Gathered: Part II 44From My Point of View: Finding Your Ikigai 47V2VG: Retiring the Colors 48Two Wolf: A New Mission 52Voice for the Voiceless, Part VI 54A Short Fuse & Right Hook 56How the Hell Did We Get Here 58We Remember: Sgt. Daniel Perez 60 TAPS 61Book Review: A Sacred Duty 62Are Our Youth Lost? 63Best Workouts for a Busy Schedule 64Mind, Body, & Soul: Rebuilding the Mind, Body, & Spirit 6626 Veteran Podcasts 70Crossword: 'Summer' Scavenger Hunt 72Bird Down! 73Amber Waves 74Coming Up in Our Next Issue 761313EVERY VETERAN HAS A STORY TO TELL25253434LTG FLOWERSLTG FLOWERS'A BETTER LEADER''A BETTER LEADER'LTG FLOWERSLTG FLOWERS'A BETTER LEADER''A BETTER LEADER'4 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023LIBERATION LIBERATION OF DACHAUOF DACHAUSO WHY THE QR CODES? It is simply a way for us to utilize technology and help make your reading experience more interactive. IT’S EASY!1. Open your phone’s QR Reader or Camera.2. Hold it over the QR Code3. A drop down link will appear, just tap it and it will take you to the extra content/website.424250506868NOT ON OUR WATCH!If you are a Vet struggling with thoughts of suicide, know that you are NOT ALONE! You are loved and there is no shame in reaching out for help! VETERANS CRISIS HOTLINE988Press 1 For Immediate HelpAMERICAN AMERICAN PATRIOTISMPATRIOTISM

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SOMETIMES BEING IN THE WORST POSITION PUTS YOU IN THE BEST POSITION If you've ever questioned how you would make it from one day to the next-or one meal to the next-this book is for you!MATT SAPAULA SHARES HIS JOURNEY OF FAITH FROM MARINE CORPS TO MILLIONAIRE...SOMETIMES BEING IN THE WORST POSITION PUTS YOU IN THE BEST POSITION If you've ever questioned how you would make it from one day to the next-or one meal to the next-this book is for you!MATT SAPAULA SHARES HIS JOURNEY OF FAITH FROM MARINE CORPS TO MILLIONAIRE...AVAILABLE ON Follow Matt: @MoneySmartGuy on AS IRON SHARPENS IRON,SO A PERSON SHARPENS THE COUNTENANCE OF HIS FRIEND.PROVERBS 27:17

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6 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023DoD data focused on male and female FSMs between the ages of 18-64. This population provides the greatest detail of the military service experience and is validated by DoD.3OpDD™ used the denition of SIM cited by the CDC and NIH as accidents or undetermined deaths aligned with self-harm/suicidal behavior, which have been attributed predominantly to overdose deaths.MAJOR FINDINGSStates undercount FSMs deaths at a combined error rate of 25%• States undercounted FSMs status 18% of the time and counted non-FSMs as FSMs 7% of the time.OpDD™ identied a 37% greater suicide rate than reported by VA for years 2014-2018. The difference in the data is likely due to under-counting of FSMs deaths and the greater specicity of the decedent’s demographics, military experience, and death details available to OpDD™.OpDDTM identied that the number of suicides represented in the eight states (18% of US veterans), are 1.37 times greater than reported by the VA from 2014-2018. If these eight states and age adjustment represented a national rate:OPERATION DEEP DIVE™ SUMMARY OF INTERIM REPORTEXECUTIVE SUMMARYOperation Deep Dive™ (OpDDTM), a former service member (FSM)1 suicide and self-injury mortality (SIM)2 study encompassing eight states and ve years of death data corroborated by the Department of Defense (DoD), indicates that FSMs take their own lives each year at a rate approximately 2.4 times greater than previously reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). OpDD™ data analytics was able to identify FSMs with the greatest probability of taking their own life. This interim report highlights the need to expand data sets to include additional states and the VA, and jointly identify suicide and SIM prevention efforts for FSMs. The implications of the data for prevention analysis and prevention application raise awareness to help prevent FSMs from taking their lives because “Together, We Can Do Better.”ABOUT OPERATION DEEP DIVETMAmerica’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) has contracted with the University of Alabama to obtain state data. In phase two, AWP has contracted with Duke University to analyze state-provided death data, coordinate with DoD to corroborate military afliation, and identify commonalities of the person, military service, and their death. This rst phase of OpDD™ was funded by Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.OpDD™ has examined ve years of FSM and civilian death data from eight states: Alabama, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon.In our Spring 2022 PTSD feature, we wrote an article on the Veteran suicide rates based on the VA's 2021 annual report. In reading the fine print of that report, we found that they were utilizing their 2019 data, essentially making the 2021 report void. In October, I saw a news article, explaining that the Suicide rates among Veterans was much higher than previously reported. This data came from Operation Deep DiveTM, of America's Warrior Partnership. I reached out to the lead investigator and through that conversation, we created a partnership to follow their ongoing study and share that information with our readership, as it continues to become available.Christine Walker | Editor in ChiefAll data and graphics are used with the express permission of America's Warrior Partnership and Operation Deep DiveTM. NEW STUDY FINDS VETERAN SUICIDE FAR EXCEEDS VA REPORTS

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 7• Approximately 24 FSMs die per day by suicide (determined by coroner or medical examiner) compared to the VA’s 2014-2018 average of 17.7 veteran suicides per day.• Approximately 20 FSMs die per day by Self-Injury Mortality (SIM)– previously listed as accidents/undetermined – over 80% are coded as overdose deaths.• If these eight states collectively represented the national rate, the combined death rate would be at least 44 FSMs per day which is 2.4 times higher than the VA suicide rate.OpDDTM analysis identied military service experience characteristics to rene the identication of FSMs with the highest probability of taking their lives.• The longer someone has served in the military, the lower their probability of taking their own life is 2% for every year served.• Those who served in the military for less than three years were at greatest risk for suicide/SIM.• Receiving a demotion during military service increased the FSM’s odds of dying by suicide/SIM by 56%.• FSMs from the Coast Guard were most likely to die from suicide/SIM, followed by Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force.OpDDTM analysis exposed lifestyle experiences to rene the identication of FSMs with the highest probability of taking their own lives.• In general, gender and race diversity were not associated with increased odds of suicide/SIM. Most FSM suicides and SIM were male and white.• Local and state communities differed for at-risk demographics and specic areas of concern depending on the characterization of FSMs in the community.• Living with a partner decreased the odds of suicide/SIM by nearly 40%.• Data indicate that FSMs are at a higher risk of dying from suicide/SIM or natural causes such as heart disease or cancer before age 64 than those who never served in the military.RECOMMENDATIONS• SIM must be included in any analysis of FSM and veteran death.• Improvements are needed at the local, state, and national levels regarding death reporting:o Data standardization and the use of ICD codes regarding suicide and SIM would improve insights.o Coroners and Medical Examiners need better funding with standardized tools and approaches for accounting for FSM deaths.o DoD and the VA should make available a tool for coroners/medical examiners to validate military service as a part of the death record.• VA must share data to ll in important gaps in OpDDTM datao Incorporating other sources of data, such as VA health care and benets, will improve the success of prevention approaches.o Integrating identied state death data with military service data enables the nation, states, and counties to develop impactful/measurable suicide/SIM prevention approaches.• States must make death data available, with proper controls, for research purposeso More state data are needed for OpDDTM. By participating in OpDDTM it will help the states and counties reduce FSM death.• This can be used to effectively identify those at higher risk. Increased participation by states will provide further details and data accuracy to assist in greater specicity of those most at-risk.One-size-ts-one approach is needed to prevent premature non-natural death. Former service member suicide and SIM methods of death differ signicantly from state to state and from community to community.• Prevention strategies must begin at the community level by holistically focusing on housing, meaningful employment, nancial security, relationships, purpose, physical health, and mental well-being. Solely focusing on the mechanism of death does not address the root cause of suicide/SIM.NEXT STEPS FOR OPERATION DEEP DIVETM• AWP moved OpDD™ to Duke University in order to expand the data set over the next four years and develop strategies that can be used at the national, state, and county levels to prevent FSM deaths.• Increase the number of states sharing data and participating in OpDD™• Incorporate US Department of Veterans Affairs data into OpDD™• With a larger data set, further analyze the cause of death in relationship to:o Years of military serviceo Time since discharge from military serviceo Characterization of dischargeo Military Service, Specialty, and Unit of Assignmento Military deployment historyo Incidents occurring during military service (e.g., MST, trauma, or exposure)o Protective factors of those who transition in the National Guard or Reserve prior to deatho Services received from the Department of Veterans Affairso Community services available• Work with government and non-government stakeholders to use OpDD™ ndings to help prevent FSM suicide/SIM.For more information regarding study design, methodology, data, and limitations, please refer to the Methodology Report.TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OPERATION DEEP DIVETM, SCAN THE QR CODE >> OR VISITAMERICASWARRIORPARTNERSHIP.ORG/DEEP-DIVE

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8 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023What is Women's Veterans Day? It commemorates June 12, 1948, when Congress passed legislation approving Women to serve full time Active Duty in the Military. Prior to this, women only served on an 'as needed' basis. It also opened the door for new MOS/Rates for women ultimately leading up to women serving in combat, approved in 1994. I am a 16-year Veteran, I was discharged from the Army in March of 2011. My husband and I were stationed in Fort Dix, NJ. My husband was in his nal year before retirement so of course we stayed in New Jersey and had planned on making it our forever home. When I got out, I assumed my transition would be easy, but it was nothing short of a challenging time in my life. I couldn’t nd a job nor get an interview; I was having medical issues that I didn’t understand and in hindsight was probably a bit depressed (VERY DEPRESSED). It was the summer of either 2011 or 2012 I wasn’t sure at rst, but I was lying in bed watching television which is all I ever did when the news came on. There was ONE man ruck marching from New York to Dallas for his fallen comrades and the scaries made by so many, the news interviewed him, followed him, and encouraged us watching to come and walk with him. He spoke about his fellow comrades and who he was carrying; this was an unexpected blessing. I jumped in my car to go nd him and walk with him as he was close to my home. I just wanted to talk to him and learn more about this organization that ended in Dallas, my hometown. I searched for about 2 hours before I gave up and went home. My husband retired from the Army on September 11, 2012, and we relocated back to Dallas in April 2013. I thought it would be easier to get a job and start a career in Dallas, but little did I know PTSD had become a strong part of my life and I was suffering, as well as my family. Through my kids and not being a good mom, I realized something was wrong with me and I needed to get help. I needed to x myself so I could be a good mom, but I didn’t know or understand what was wrong with me. I had become isolated, but went to school full time and was planning to become part of the 22 to give my family a good life, because I felt worthless, and they would be better off without me around. I was about 6 days away from ending my life when I was invited to the Attitudes and Attire® Boots to Heels® program which I initially said no to, but over the weekend something in my heart changed my mind and I attended to workshop.My life has forever been changed. I would soon start interning at Equest with Jeff Hensley and 6 months later I became the Program Director of Boots to Heels® at Attitudes and Attire®. That is what started my strong spirit of volunteering and giving back to the community and landing right there at Carry The Load (CTL) in May of 2018. When I rst heard Lyn Berman speak of CTL I went to my desk to research this CTL that Lyn is so passionate about and realized it was the same organization that I saw on the news in NJ yet here I am about to go volunteer with them and walk with them. It was like my life had come full circle and just seeing everything they do I was elated. That day back in 2012 gave me hope I wasn’t yet aware I needed, and it helped me hold on until I was able to get the help I needed. And now here I am every day dedicating my life to helping and providing hope for my fellow Veterans. Corena Mitchell serves as the Program Director for 'Boots to Heels' with Attitudes & Attire in Dallas, TX. To find out more, visit MitchellFOREVER CHANGED!FOREVER CHANGED!

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 91. Don’t expect anyone to hold the door for you at the Military Entrance Processing Station. It’s a good reminder at the introduction of service that independent, feminist chicks are more than capable of opening doors by themselves; therefore, forfeit all rights to common courtesy.2. Work twice as hard as your male counterparts, except half of the recognition.This is necessary to prove that you are not a burden to the team. If you achieve too much recognition or achievement, everyone will know that you are giving out free handies to the ofcers. 3. Be in prime physical condition, ready for deployment 6 months after delivery. You are a war-ghting machine rst and foremost. If the military wanted you to be a mother, you would have been issued a child.4. Be prepared to be cut-off mid-sentence.You are a girl; you can’t possibly know what you are talking about. 5. Do not stand up for yourself under any circumstances.This is the ultimate act of deance and a dead giveaway that it’s “that time of the month”. You will never again be trusted to control your emotions. 6. Tiptoe around your superior who asked you out using a dating app. Remember he is the victim in this scenario. Rejecting him will damage his ego; therefore, you shall be ostracized for the rest of the assignment (deservingly so). 7. Don’t worry about bleeding through, you’re wearing camouage. Everyone will know that you are experiencing “girl issues” if you get up in the middle of a meeting. Besides, the military doctor assured you that losing pints of blood is completely normal. You could have saved that appointment for someone who really needed it. 8. Be sure you always have a male assigned to your team. Dah, who else is going to validate and take credit for your work? 9. Don’t ever brag about achieving a high score on your Physical Training (PT) test. If they hadn’t lowered the tness standards for you because of your inferior strength, you would never pass your PT test. 10. Remember your privilege. Be sure to profusely thank the nice Veterans Affairs Ofcer when he calls you out in the middle of a room full of men, “Now you ladies get your own Women’s Health Clinic in the VA hospitals. Men don’t get their own clinic. Do you feel sufciently looked after now?” Or you could take it a step further and apologize to him for having a Vagina. 11. And for fuck’s sake, don’t ever, EVER cry.Lest you be a disgrace to your entire gender. 12. Ignore everything I just said. You must learn to tune out the noise. Many people will tell you that you will fail. Believe in yourself always and support your fellow sisters-in-arms. You are 14% (females in the US Military) of the 1% (US population in the US Military). You are a BADASS! How-To Conduct Yourself as a Female in the US MilitaryMake no mistake, we love our brothers in arms! But on occasion, as females who serve or have served, we all have run into situations that have a tendency to flip on our internal bitch switch. Gents, we recommend turning the page NOW. Ladies... enjoy the snark! By Shelby Lake

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I had been seeing a few photos and other reviews about the play on social media so I jumped at the chance to see the play LAST OUT: Elegy of a Green Beret when it came to the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, near San Diego, and was completely blown away by the authenticity, lighting, sound effects and choreography. The premise of the play centers around the experience of a Green Beret reecting on his own mortality and multiple combat deployments while simultaneously juggling marriage and raising a family. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann (Ret.), a combat veteran of Afghanistan, wrote the play and assembled a talented cast and crew to create an experience most veterans can relate to after our country supported nearly 20 years of sustained combat operations.Last Out delivers on its promise to give the audience a powerful and moving experience that you won’t nd anywhere else. The production is in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation based in Los Angeles and is rooted in a similar theater production from a previous generation. “Nearly 40 years ago, I had the good fortune of directing the Vietnam War drama Tracers at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago,” said award-winning actor Gary Sinise. “With Vietnam veterans in my own family, it was a personal mission for me to honor them with a great production, to let them, and all veterans, know that their service to our country was appreciated and that their sacrices would never be forgotten.” Mann wrote the modern-day equivalent to Tracers after getting inspiration from reading Sinise’s book “Grateful American.” Based on the stories of the men and women he served with, it is a powerful play with an all-veteran and military-family cast and crew, and “as the Founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, I am honored to present Last Out under our Foundation’s Community and Education pillar.” Sinise added.People often ask Mann “where did you get the inspiration for writing a play about the war?” He explains the motivation for the play came from his friend, mentor and former NFL superstar Bo Eason. “Bo picked me up off the oor at the lowest point in my life. He showed me how to use storytelling to heal myself and then to heal my brothers and sisters in the military community,” Mann added. Mann and his team have been traveling the country and creating a loyal community of active duty military, veterans, rst-responders, and family members of those seeking healing and closure from nearly 20 years of combat operations. “We’re on a similar mission with the Gary Sinise Foundation today to help our post 9-11 generation of warriors and others know that they are not forgotten and to move from moral injury to moral recovery,” Mann explained. According to the Last Out website, the storyline is not an autobiography, but based on true stories of the men and women Mann served with…many of them who were lost in combat. Last Out is a universal and timeless story to honor those who served in war and the families left behind. Stories, even the painful ones, heal the heart, our brains, our communities, and our nation. Last Out is one of those stories – a story of love, honor, and letting go. Last Out is produced by the 501c3 non-prot, The Hero’s Journey. Learn more about the play, storytelling workshops and other support: Out is coming to these cities: Sioux Falls, South Dakota - July 28-29 Franklin, Tennessee - Aug. 25-26 Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Sept. 22-23 Topeka, Kansas - Oct. 20-21 Amy Forsythe is an award-winning military journalist who served ve combat tours supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and has been on assignment for several other overseas missions. Amy started her career as a U.S. Marine combat correspondent in 1993 and currently serves as Public Affairs Ofcer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Her imagery taken while covering military operations around the world has been featured in numerous international and national media outlets through the years and continues to be used for historical purposes. Amy recently published a book titled ‘Heroes Live Here’ which showcases the history of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and she was recently inducted to the Women’s Museum of California 2023 Hall of Fame for the Historian category. By Amy ForsytheLAST OUT: Elegy of a Green Beret Delivers on Authenticity and Hits Home for Many Veterans(L) Col. Scott Mann & Gary Sinese (Courtesy Photo) | (M) Cast & Crew (Photo: Jake Rush) | (R) Inside Playbill (Photo: Amy Forsythe)About the Show: U.S. Army Green Beret Danny Patton is a modern-day warrior ghting battles that range from Af-ghanistan to his own living room. As the corrosive gears of war begin to rip apart his family, his integrity, and his soul, Danny is thrust into his nal, eternal mission. On the other side, with Valhalla beckoning, he discovers that combat can be fueled by vengeance or by love… it just depends which price you are willing to pay. (Photo by Jake Rush)10 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 11• Helicopter Tours of Broken Bow Lake, Mountain Fork River and Surrounding Areas• Skydiving• Private Charters COMING SOON! • Special Events like Weddings, Proposals, Gender Reveals or Corporate Retreats.• Hog Hunts via Our Sister Company SKY HUNTER OUTFITTERSSKY HUNTER OUTFITTERSUNPLUG &TAKE TO THE SKY WITH SEMPER FLY HELICOPERS SEMPER FLY HELICOPERS & MEET THE TEAM:* Brandi Rector - USMC Gunner & Helo Mechanic, Pilot & Owner* Kaci Keim - Chief WO, Oklahoma National Guard & Pilot* Corrina Gardner - Ret. US Navy Senior Chief, Hospital Corpsman | Pilot* Michelle Katz - Civilian, Pilot* Michael Sanford - Ret. USMC Gunny, Gunner & Helo Mechanic, Owner* Logan Russel - Ret. Chief WO, Oklahoma National Guard & Pilot2907 NW AIRPORT RD. | IDABEL, OK 74745 | (580) 915-9080SEMPERFLYHELICOPTERS.COMOPERATING OUT OF HOCHATOWN, OKLAHOMA USMC FEMALE VETERAN-OWNEDSKYHUNTER OUTFITTERSSKYHUNTER OUTFITTERS!Follow Us : @ SemperFlyHelicopters & @SkyhunterOutfittersBrandi KaciCorrina

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12 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023The qualities of a great man are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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14 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023In the course of Military history, there are exceptional men and women who, through opportunity and personal character rise to the occasion to do extraordinary things. Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers is without question, one of these men. FOLLOWING IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPSBorn and raised in a military family, Robert’s father served as an infantryman in the United States Army, and as such, he moved around quite a bit during Robert’s formative years. By high school, the Flowers family was based in Germany and Robert attended the Heidelberg American High School in Heidelberg, Germany. It’s here where he met his high school sweetheart, the love of his life, and his future wife. Before shipping off to school, Robert told his father that he wanted to follow in his footsteps and become an infantryman, but his father resisted that idea and told his son, “You need to learn a trade.” After high school, Robert moved back to the United States, to attend college at the Virginia Military Institute. “I was the very rst in my family to attend college” he proudly states. Robert attended VMI through an ROTC Scholarship and says of his time, “It’s a great place to be from, but a hard place to be while you’re there.” While attending VMI as an ROTC Cadet in the late 1960s, there were only three options for an Army Commission: Infantry, Armor, or Artillery. At the time, the Engineer Corps was not an option; Robert was Branch Trained in Artillery, and his Professor of Military Science expected him to accept a commission as an artillery ofcer. Robert instead requested a commission into the Engineer Corps which was immediately denied. Not one to be easily dismissed or dissuaded, the young Cadet went to his VMI faculty advisor, an Army National Guardsman. The advisor heard him out, saw that he had majored in Civil Engineering, and simply said, “Let me see what I can do.” Robert laughs as he recalls, “He did his magic!” It wasn’t long after that Robert received the ofcial letter welcoming him to the Corps of Engineers (Sappers), and upon graduation, he was pinned with a castle as opposed to crossed cannons. It is of note, that Robert did not initially intend on making a career out of the military. In fact, before joining the Army, he had worked for DuPont and had every intention of returning after his four-year ROTC obligation was completed. Fortunately for Combat Engineers everywhere, Army life seduced Robert. DuPont called as his four-year obligation was winding down and inquired if Robert would be coming back to work. Much to his surprise, he declined. The DuPont Corporation, to their credit, was incredibly supportive of this decision.LESSONS IN LEADERSHIPWhen asked if any soldiers stood out to him as a model of leadership or someone he would consider to be a mentor in the course of his career in the Army, General Flowers never forgot the “Great gift,” SSG Chavez gave him early on in his career. “He was my very rst platoon SGT and he pulled me aside one day and he said, ‘Lieutenant, you are a good ofcer, but you can be great if you’d just stop talking about you and me and start talking about, we.’ You know, at rst, I was pretty taken aback, but then I realized what a great gift SSG Chavez had given me. He was teaching me how to interact with the men in a better way, how to be a better leader.” General Flowers recalled.The other soldiers that the General mentioned by name as exemplary mentors include Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Thayer, as well as his Commander Bob “Barbwire” Howard who, he says, “was a tough boss, but who taught me a lot.” General Flowers also spoke very highly of Lieutenant General ‘Smokin Joe’ Joseph Ballard who, General Flowers says, “Taught me that you can truly care for and mentor someone who doesn’t look like you.” And, of LTG Ballard he also says, “He made me a much better ofcer.” Lastly, he mentions General John Abrams of 2ID, General Eric Shinseki, General Peter Shoemaker, and General John ‘Jack’ Keane who was also his next-door neighbor in the early 2000s while stationed at the Pentagon.COMBAT OPERATIONSGeneral Flowers deployed often and to many locations throughout the years. Including Southeast Asia (Thailand) in the early 70s, Bosnia/Kosovo, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 90-91, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the early 2000s. General Flowers was also very involved in domestic response to the September 11th, 2001, terror attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.General Flowers went on to share the story about his deployment to Somalia. They were deployed on less than a week’s notice just before Christmas. It was a humanitarian mission to get the food, water, and medical supplies owing again. Not an easy proposition considering the rampant corruption and political climate that nation was subject to in the early 90s. He recalls how dusty the area was and when he arrived with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the countryside was littered with the bodies of both animals and humans left to the elements. It was a tough sight to see for a young Army Colonel, “It was the worst experience of my Army career,” he said atly.The terror attacks of 9/11 changed everything for Americans, and even more so for the military. General Flowers recalls that day, like many of us do, with crystal clear clarity. At the time, he had an ofce in the Pentagon, but as divine providence would have it, on that particular morning he was giving a brieng to the Leaders Emeritus of the Corps of Engineers in an ofce in downtown Washington. D.C. “I remember an aid coming in and handing me an index card in US Army (USA) Lieutenant General (LTG) Robert B. Flowers, the Commanding General for the USA Corps of Engineers, tours the Presidential Palace, near Kabul, Afghanistan, during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM | Scene Camera Operator: CPL Jeremy Colvin, USA | Public Domain

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Summer 2023| AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 15the middle of my brieng. It simply stated that an aircraft had struck one of the Twin Towers in New York and I recall thinking that it was a terrible accident, but nothing more. However, when I was notied of the second strike, I knew it was no accident. I stopped the brieng right then and told everyone what occurred and said, ‘We’ve got work to do!’”However, his wife, who lived over at Fort McNair, could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon and could not get through to her husband. She didn’t know if the General was in his ofce when the Pentagon was struck. During the ensuing hustle and bustle of the day, “My aid eventually asked me if I had called my wife, and my response was, ‘Oops,’” he said sheepishly. But that oversight was xed immediately, and he is miraculously alive to this day to talk about it. The next day, General Flowers was on a ight to New York accompanied by FEMA Director Joe Alba and Senators Clinton & Schumer to work on a domestic reconstruction response. Interestingly to note, theirs was the only civilian aircraft in the sky over the United States on September 12th.WHAT IS A SAPPER1When AT EASE! Veterans Magazine was rst approached about doing an article about the ‘Sapper Competition’ for the 2022 summer issue, immediately images of brawny men in red plaid shirts and tree trunks came to mind, besides the obvious question, ‘What the hell is a Sapper?”Despite a little friendly ribbing, the Army Sappers are no joke! According to the US Army’s website, “A sapper or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties; typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing mineelds, demolitions, eld defenses, general construction, and building, as well as road and aireld construction and repair. They are also trained to serve as infantry when needed in both defensive and offensive operations and are fully involved in modern counter-insurgency operations.”2The Sapper program was originally established by the Continental Congress at the bequest of Louis Duportail in 1778. The French-born Engineer, Duportail brought valuable knowledge of combat 1 The Sapper Competition; AT EASE! Veterans Magazine Iss6 – Spring 20222 and was appointed as Commandant of the Continental Army Corps of Engineers during the Revolutionary War. It is easy to see where they got their name. Sapper or the French Sappé in its original medieval translation is ‘spadework’ or ‘trench.’ The modern translation means ‘to undermine’ taken, interestingly enough, from its military engineering origins. Since their induction in 2004, Sappers are an elite group of Combat Engineers that make up the third tab in the US Army’s Special Forces that include Rangers, Airborne & Sappers. To earn the insignia, both Ofcers and Enlisted must rst complete the Sapper Leader Course. “The Sapper Leader Course is a demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army. This course is also designed to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop-leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient), and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense eld training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”3According to Daniel Ochoa, a former Sapper instructor and now Membership Coordinator for the Sapper Association, “When you go to Sapper school, usually only 35 to 40% of the students will graduate. It is a tough course.”THE SAPPER ‘TAB’ STORYIn 1999, General Flowers was in his ofce when a young Army Sergeant Major came into his ofce, shut the door gently, and asked if he could speak to the general privately. General Flowers naturally agreed and the SGM said, “Sir, I need you to do something for me.” As a young Army Private in Vietnam, the Sergeant Major and another Sapper companion were attached to an infantry battalion. They happened to be assigned to the perimeter and they came under attack by a sizeable element of the NVA (North Vietnamese Army), forcing them to defend their positions throughout the night. The next morning, the Company Commander came by and handed out the highly sought-after Combat Infantry Badge to everyone who survived. Unfortunately, the next day the CC had to come 3 reluctantly take the CIBs back from the two Sappers because their MOS was not Infantry. “You have to make this right sir,” the SGM pleaded. As he said this, he lifted the lapel of his uniform, and sewn under the lapel, hidden from sight, was a red and white Sapper Tab. He, and others, had been doing this, unofcially because Sappers had no recognition from the ‘Big Army,’ as it’s called, for their accomplishments. General Flowers vowed to make it right. When the day came that he was able to put forward a recognition tab for Sappers, he immediately did so. It was kicked back right away, and he was told, “The army has enough badges,” but he would not be dissuaded and tried once more. General Flowers explained to Senior leadership that the Sapper course, being nearly a month long, was one of the most demanding courses the Army had to offer at that time. Candidates who received a score of fty percent or higher in the course received a Certicate Achievement Rate. Candidates who did not meet the qualifying score instead received a letter stating they attended the Sapper course.It took ve years, but General Flowers’ persistence paid off and in 2004 the Sapper Tab was created to recognize those soldiers who completed the course with a passing rate. Even more impressive, the Sapper Tab was granted retroactive status; so, Sappers who had previously passed the course were granted the tab designation as well. Honoring the Sappers who have worked so hard to specialize in their eld of work. It’s not an easy tab to earn, and they wear it proudly, as they should.General Flowers, true to the Sapper creed ‘ESSAYONS,’ made it right. SAPPERS IN ACTIONThe General said of Sappers, “They need to be willing to do the things others are not willing to do.” Such as wading waist-deep in stagnant sewers, xing and maintaining high voltage lines on a decaying infrastructure, and even developing the “tunnel rat” role in Vietnam. Sappers are also out in front of the infantry spear, clearing and preparing the way, making the lanes of attack available for the ‘grunts.’ “A Sapper has to know their business,” General

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16 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Flowers said as a matter of fact. If they don’t, the business of war ghting would be very different indeed.General Flowers, a legendary storyteller, spoke about wars past and shared about the vital role Sappers played during the American Revolutionary War. They were vital in taking down British General Cornwallis at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. The Sappers, using only hand axes and leather aprons, cleared the wooden palisades that allowed the Continental Army to attack the British fortications at Yorktown. When told to stand down and not to attack, because they had no rearms, the Sappers balked. They attacked with their hand axes anyway; another example of Sappers doing what must be done.In WWII the Sappers helped to blow the obstacles and fortications on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of occupied France. The lessons they learned, led directly to their efforts in the Korean War and their shaping of the battleelds there. Likewise in Vietnam, the Sappers pivoted and developed the technique for a hasty landing zone (LZ), by stringing Det Cord (detonation cord) to trees and blowing them down in one fell swoop, allowing helicopters to land safely. Sappers developed the Tunnel Rat program using small-statured soldiers who would enter the NVA/VC (North Vietnamese Army/ Viet Cong) tunnels with virtually nothing but a sidearm, gas mask, and a satchel charge used to clear the tunnels. It was extremely dangerous and stressful, and denitely not a job for the claustrophobic or faint of heart.General Flowers shared his own experiences and recalls that while deployed to Bosnia/Kosovo the initial, primary issue the Engineers had to contend with was having troops cross the Sava River. At the time they only had one operational bridge and it was simply not designed to withstand thousands of troops and transport vehicles. The engineers had to locate a second bridge immediately, and one was found in the city of Brcko, in the Brcko District of Bosnia. The bridge had been blown but was salvageable. Sappers went to work reinforcing the structure of the bridge and then running a steel bailey across the driving surface that allowed it to be used as a secondary method of crossing the Sava.During the lead up to the new millennium in 2000, the 249th Engineer Battalion staged massive generators in downtown New York City, just in case the power grid went down. Fortunately, as it turned out the generators were not needed. The day after 9/11, President Bush wanted the New York Stock Exchange to be functional as soon as possible. General Flowers recalls an engineer answering a question from a White House staffer, asking if they would have the power back on within forty-eight hours. “Hell yes,” was the simple reply. Many of the generators set in place for Y2K remained in the city and did not sustain damage when the towers fell. The 249th got to work and collaborated with Con Electric of New York to get the generators in place and powered up. On September 12th, The New York Stock Exchange was back up and running in less than 36 hours. In Afghanistan, Sappers had an entirely different challenge to contend with. As a land-locked nation, all supplies had to be transported by truck or own in. There were two main airelds, one was located at Kandahar and the other at Bagram. Initially, only the 92nd Engineer Battalion was in-country, and it was split between the two airports. The eld at Kandahar was the most dilapidated and thus needed to be repaired immediately. The Sappers were literally harvesting the taxiway, moving chunks of the runway to puzzle patch a usable stretch for the heavy military aircraft to land and bring in 2003, Sappers in Iraq were challenged with repairing and replacing the sabotaged Iraqi electrical grid as well as getting the city sewer systems functional again. This was, as General Flowers put it, “graduate-level work.” However, new technology allowed them a reach-back ability to their Sapper brethren who were no longer serving or who were deployed to other areas. They dubbed it Tele-Engineering; it was a lifesaver and allowed them to conduct their work via video conferencing with other Sappers who had more experience while sharing their knowledge and expertise with boots on the ground in Iraq. “Do what must be done, to make it happen,” General Flowers said.On a lighter note, General Flowers shared that the Sappers Navy counterparts are the Seabees. Of which, he said that he was made an honorary Seabee, “The Seabees hold a very special place in my heart.” Sappers and their Seabee brethren must be a “Jack of all trades” to shape and structure the battleeld and will continue to do so now and into the future. THE SAPPER COMPETITIONAccording to the Sapper Association website: “The Best Sapper Competition began in 2005 to showcase and determine the most physical and mental duo of Sappers. It is a three-day competition open for two Person teams of Army or Marine Engineer MOS competitors in the grades of E4 and above. A team must consist of at least one member who is a graduate of the Sapper Leader Course. Any unit desiring an exception to the established eligibility must submit exceptions through the Engineer Regimental Command Sergeant Major.The competition’s concept is to not 18th Century Artist rendering of the Stony Point Battle | Public Domain

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only determine the next “Best Sapper” team but to challenge and test the service members’ knowledge, physical prowess, and mental fortitude.The competition showcases the most elite Soldiers in combat engineering from duty stations around the world. “Warrior Athletes”!The United States Sapper Association aims to bring more resources in support of the Sapper Leader Course and execution of the Robert B. Flowers Best Sapper Competition annually through the support of sponsors, donors, past, present, and future Sapper Leaders. The intent of the Association is not only to magnify the importance of the Sapper Leader Course but also to award teams placing in the top ve. Sappers are the cutting edge of the country’s sword, together we can sharpen our blade and unite to maintain our legacy and preserve our history.”4General Flowers is humbled to have the Best Sapper Competition, held at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, run in his honor each year. General Flowers is now happily retired in the Mid-Atlantic with his high school sweetheart. Sappers yesterday, today, and tomorrow can rest easy knowing that ofcers like General Robert Flowers went 4 bat for them and obtained for all of them the recognition they so deserve. However, it is due directly to their commitment to excellence that the Army moves forward, despite the challenges the modern battleeld poses. The Sappers will continue to tackle every single challenge that comes their way with ESSAYON, “Let us try.” Mind you, it is not a request, but a command. LTG Flowers speaking at the Awards Ceremony for the Sapper Competition | Photo Credit: Martel GoldmanPictured from left to right are former BSC Winners with LTG Flowers. LTC Joseph Byrne's, Alaimoana Paunga, LTG (R) Flowers and LTC John Chambers | Photo Credit: Martel GoldmanFor More Information, visit: SAPPERSFIRST.ORG

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18 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023When people return from war, particularly those who actively participated in combat, there is something different about them. No doubt much of it can be attributed to post-traumatic stress, though many are reluctant to accept that diagnosis thinking it comes with a “damaged goods” or “victim” label. Men who willingly chose to take up arms and meet the enemy, who felt that it was a calling, will never see themselves as victims. Nonetheless, they recognize in themselves something unsettled and unanswered.War is hell. It is not glamorous and the glory which appeals to young men quickly turns them into old men. The young men return disillusioned, angry, bitter, and aged beyond their years. They do not regret having fought. For a certain kind of man, the one thing worse than war is for there to be a war and to not be a part of it. When that man comes home one thing he hesitates to tell is that he misses it. He misses combat because combat felt like home.What can this be? What can this mean? He can neither explain the feeling nor deny its truth. Is it madness? He is not a “killer” in the sense of a psychopath who enjoys inicting pain. Yet, he has the capacity for violence if not the appetite. He feels great enmity towards his nation’s foes, but not hatred. So, what is it? Why does he miss combat, why does he yearn to return to it, even knowing the great loss and pain it caused?I have experienced this in my own life, and as an avid reader have seen those warriors in preceding generations express the same sentiment. I conclude it is because we felt the most alive when we were so close to death. We felt the closest to others when we shared danger and hardship when common purpose cemented us one to another. It was the last place where we felt like we really belonged.As one navigates life upon the return from combat he often engages in recklessness. Risky behavior that dees reason but brings a “rush” is commonplace. It is hard to settle down to a nine-to-ve job when the responsibilities you once had meant the difference between life and death. The veteran looks upon his country’s social landscape with bitterness as people clash over race, political ideology, and other petty differences. When he was in combat, he fought and bled with men from every ethnicity, socio-economic, and educational background imaginable. Their differences were interesting but irrelevant. Their sameness bonded them, their shared values and purpose. Things made sense then. This is why combat felt like home and home feels like, well…alien.A man needs a home. A place where he belongs, where he is a part of something greater than himself, where he has purpose, and where relationships are real. Combat gave him that, but in its wake…what to do?Some remedy this by staying in uniform. There will be another war someday, somewhere. By becoming a “lifer” one can remain immersed in the culture and prepare the next generation for the next ght while remaining among “your own people”. Those who return to “Hometown USA” have a greater struggle. Only by maintaining relationships with their brothers in the veteran community can they navigate life as their hair turns gray.The experience of combat should be appreciated, but not longed for. The cost was too high. Instead, the veteran should apply the principles where he now lives. Invest in relationships and people beyond the casual surface level. Find something with purpose, partnering with others, and mentor them. As you tell stories of those with whom you fought you honor their memory and, in a fashion, they live on. Their stories embody principles of sacrice, courage, and love. They serve as an example and an inspiration to the next generation.Instead of seeking danger, thrill, or manufacturing conict to replicate the feeling of combat (where you felt the most alive), seek relationships with others. Just as you looked up to the old man who fought in yesterday’s war, some young men now look up to you. What will they nd? An unstable, bitter, and thirsty man? Or will they nd one who takes the time to share his story, teach them, and encourage them to be their best selves?The Marine Corps says it has three main purposes. To make Marines, to win battles, and to return to America better citizens. A citizen belongs to a community. You as the combat veteran have the obligation to be a better citizen. You are a leader. You have the power to serve as a unifying example as you remind people when the chips were down it did not matter what color, creed, or background a man came from. You fought for one another and each thought of the other before himself. You got through combat that way and you can help others get through life through these same principles.You are privileged to have served in combat, not every warrior gets called to battle. Do not carry bitterness forward. It is worth repeating, though combat felt like home, it is because when you were that close to death, you felt the most alive and connected to those around you. This life we have is short. Now that we are back here in “the good life” or “the world” we don’t often reect on its brevity until disease, accident, or disaster land on our doorstep. So, for the few remaining days we have been gifted, let us invest in people. Though we cannot fully replicate what we felt in combat, we can at least bring what was good of it here…and make it home. The brothers whom we lost wanted us to make it home, so now we must make home here.Adam Walker served as a Marine infantryman for twenty-five years, retiring as a Master Gunnery Sergeant with three tours in Iraq and a Purple Heart. You can read more of his work on his blog: takeitontheleftfoot.comCOMBAT FELT LIKE 'HOME'By Adam Walker

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20 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Fall 2022Veteran OwnedBi-MonthlyFREE to ReadPowerful Interviews With YourFavorite Business LeadersNeed a SHIFT in Life? shiftlifedesign.comCheck out Shift AdvancedLife Design Magazine!

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 21DD-214 & VA CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITYDD-214 & VA CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITYThe VA Home Loan Benet is a phenomenal benet offered by the Department of Veteran Affairs that more veterans need to be aware of. This benet allows eligible service members and veterans to purchase a home with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance, saving them thousands of dollars in homeownership. Not all lenders are well-versed in helping with this loan so it is important to nd a lender who can navigate the process.The rst step in the home-buying process is getting preapproved for a loan. The lender will take a loan application and request a few documents to show assets and income. They will also need a VA Certicate of Eligibility (COE). This document is issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs and veries a veteran’s eligibility for a VA home loan. This document conrms that the veteran meets the service requirements for a VA loan and outlines the loan amount that the veteran is eligible for. Veterans can obtain their COE online through the VA’s eBenets portal, or by submitting a request by mail. Your VA-approved lender can also request this document directly from the VA on your behalf.In case of a name change while in service or any other issues in obtaining your COE, the lender may request a veteran’s DD-214. This is also known as the Certicate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and is issued to veterans when they leave the military. This document contains important information about a veteran’s military service, including dates of service, discharge status, and any awards or medals received. Veterans can obtain a copy of their DD-214 from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), either online or by mail.In addition to the DD-214 and VA Certicate of Eligibility, there are other requirements that veterans must meet to be eligible for a VA home loan. Veterans must have served for a certain length of time, depending on when they served, and must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The property being purchased must also meet certain requirements, such as being in good condition and located in an eligible area. Veterans should obtain these documents as soon as possible and familiarize themselves with the requirements for a VA loan to take advantage of this valuable benet.The COE is also needed for a cash-out renance as well as a VA Interest Rate Reduction Renance Loan (IRRRL). The cash-out renance loan is designed to help eligible service members and veterans access their home’s equity for purposes like paying off debts or funding home improvements. The IRRRL loan is a streamlined process to simply reduce the interest rate of an existing VA loan. Veterans need to keep their DD-214 and COE safe and accessible. These documents can provide important information about their military service and eligibility for a VA home loan. Veterans should also be aware of loan limits, funding fees, and renancing options when considering a VA home loan. I will cover these in upcoming articles. If you have any questions about your VA Home Loan Benet, please do not hesitate to reach out.Rob Younce, USNA ‘93Military Mortgage AdvisorOVM Financial with Annie MacNMLS# 1521082Phone: 757-605-0513Email: ryounce@annie-mac.comWebsite:***

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SHORT-TERM RENTALS IN A SMALL TEXAS TOWNSHORT-TERM RENTALS IN A SMALL TEXAS TOWNWritten by: Christina Mortelwe would not have known about these issues, she said.The committee’s initial research found twenty-ve properties in Belton listed as short-term rentals. This information was found on multiple platforms including VRBO and Airbnb websites.As the review committee made progress on a draft ordinance, the Planning and Zoning Director recommended to the City Council that a Public Comment Session be conducted to hear from the residents and gain input from the community. A public hearing was held on Jan 10, 2023. According to the City Council minutes, nine residents came to the hearing, eight of whom spoke out against STR’s stringent regulations; and one resident asked for more rules and neighborhood monitoring. Locals spoke out against the steep cost of the proposed city STR permit application fee of $1,000, the 500-foot mandatory distance between STRs in an area, and not acknowledging the differences between non-owner occupied and owner-occupied STR properties. Owners also mentioned they had upgraded their homes, continued to maintain the property regularly, and that the revenue generated covered these costs. They voiced that the STR was mostly a breakeven or slightly protable endeavor. O’Banion recalled one owner who said it best, “if they get one bad review, they are pretty much done.” It was comments like these that made the Council postpone the action on STRs until the Review Committee could meet again, and further consider all public comments, ensuring equity and transparency in the process. Committee recommendations and new ordinance language were scheduled to be presented the following month. Although the STRs are regarded by residents as a neighborhood nuisance, a real issue is the availability of affordable housing in residential areas. In metropolitan cities, this is a major problem as single-family homes dwindle in numbers as investors buy up homes and turn them into short-term rentals. Dallas must end Airbnb nightmare ( These rentals often go unmonitored by the property owner and residents complain that the homes are used for drug parties, gangs, and sex trafcking. Likewise, Belton is also experiencing a shortage of single-family homes and cannot meet current and future demand. O’Banion said this is why the city must be very good stewards of land availability for housing and the Council continues 22 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Like many communities across the US, Belton, TX has seen its short-term rental businesses quietly grow as travel resumed after the Covid-19 pandemic. Located conveniently off Interstate 35 Hwy and between the cities of Austin and Waco, the city of 20,000 residents has a lake for boating, a small private university, and quaint stores that draw visitors in and keep that small town feel that many crave. The Belton rental scene brings tourists, families, and dollars into the city. And why is this a problem?In April 2022, the Belton City Council received three complaints about short-term rentals (STR) operating in residentially zoned areas. Trafc congestion, overparking, safety, trash accumulation, and strangers in the neighborhood were all concerns voiced by residents. The properties in question are non-owner-occupied homes listed on Airbnb, VRBO, and other platforms. Like many small towns in Texas, STRs go unregulated, but in Belton, city leaders held a work session within a few weeks to study the problem and get moving on viable solutions. A short-term rental Ordinance Review Committee was formed in the Summer of 2022, tasked to understand the scope of the problem, address property owner complaints, and determine how to monitor and regulate this under-the-radar phenomenon of short-term rentals. At the time of the complaints, the council had no idea how many properties were operating as an STR. Thus began the mission of the Ordinance committee to nd the properties and report back to the city. Stephanie O’Banion, Belton City Council Member and former Belton Chamber of Commerce President was selected to be one of the six-member Ordinance Review Committee members. A near-lifetime resident and public servant, Stephanie knows Belton well. Meeting biweekly for months, she and committee members looked to neighboring towns, to see what ordinances had been established. The surrounding communities of Killeen, Temple, Harker Heights, and Copperas Cove had either no regulations or were in the same boat as Belton, and working on it, said Stephanie. “I think everyone is struggling. It is a new surge in the short-term rental business in our towns. Communities may not even be aware of the rise of short-term rentals and related challenges. If it were not for the handful of complaints we received, HOW ONE TOWN ADDRESSES THIS GROWING BUSINESS PHENOMENON

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Christina Mortel is a US Army Desert Storm veteran and serves as a Small Business Advisor at Texas Women’s University - Center for Women Entrepreneurs. She is owner of Get Write to Business LLC. Do you have a start up story? Connect with Christina closely monitor community growth and affordability.After considering public comments and committee recommendations, the city council took a balanced approach. It put all mechanisms to work for the community, including zoning, licensing, and existing ordinances that already address trash and street parking. The ordinance committee recommended a $50 permit application fee with an annual renewal and the collection of 13% hotel occupancy tax as required by the state. The city worked with the rental platforms to have funds collected and sent to the city directly, removing the burdensome responsibility from the homeowner. The committee kept the 500 ft zoning rule for STRs to monitor density in neighborhoods and in the downtown area and agreed to waive annual inspections as platforms were already mandating safety compliance through inspections. Lastly, the new ordinance mandates an emergency contact be provided who can respond within one hour to tenant or City concerns. The new Ordinance will take effect in June 2023. Randalyn Bailey, Belton resident, and owner of two short-term rentals, agrees that these measures to monitor and manage the number of rentals are good for the community. She is delighted to see the city will work directly with platforms to collect hotel occupancy taxes, removing that responsibility from the homeowner. Randalyn said that she receives most of her bookings on the Airbnb website and has had steady business since opening in June 2021. “During the winter months, it is slower, and we have 50% occupancy – which is actually good to have. During summer, it is usually 60-90% booked”. As it relates to the 500-foot zoning rule, Randalyn adds, “Other STRs are not competition because each property is unique, and each has different levels of capacity.” She did not see the need for the zoning rule.O’Banion noted that the city wants to work closer with STR owners. One initiative is to help promote City tourism by listing STRs on the city website. “There is a lot of tourism being generated in our community. The Belton Expo Center and the University of Mary Hardin Baylor generate a substantial number of overnight stays. We want to work with everyone who has a space for a traveler so we can help promote our community.” Belton City Council believes it is taking a balanced approach to short-term rentals by managing density, the collection of required hotel tax, safety, and owner accountability. It has given itself 24 – 36 months to assess the feasibility of the Ordinance and conduct a sunset review, which will include follow-up on neighborhood experiences. By the end of 2024, the city may have enough data to determine if this is a successful program for STRs and the community. “We work together to put things in place that protect our citizens, our neighborhoods, and our businesses. I think this is a fair and balanced approach to what we have implemented, and we have given ourselves some time to see how it works,” O’Banion said.

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blackhawkbooks.comblackhawkbooks.comFIND OUT MORE: ... As a VA therapist I witness this phenomenon on a daily basis, and I am so very proud of this veteran and author for nding his courage to stay alive, funnel his anger and use it to conquer massive challenges, and retrieve his true self. Being a witness to this story serves as a reminder to me to always stay in a state of compassion when veterans are angry and frustrated with a bureaucratic entity that parallels early trauma by way of neglect, low validation, creating bigger hurdles than necessary, etc... and nearly every one of them has a similar story of abuse and neglect and work very hard to avoid telling their stories. ~ M. Wren (See full review on PIERCING!SOUL PIERCING!2442 Steps To Crazy is a raw, heart wrenching true story of brutality, trauma, perseverance, and unyielding hope through faith. Life is worth ghting for in this chilling real life adventure of one man’s journey toward adulthood. Events so unbelievable, you wont be able to forget the life lessons as it sticks with you like a haunting tug deep in your soul. In the end, you’ll understand what it means to take that next step and ...“Keep the Faith - Keep Moving Forward.”FOLLOW THE AUTHOR; Navy-Veteran D. Paul Fleming on FB

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EVERY VETERAN HAS A STORY TO TELLUSA Written by: Eric SowersUSA Written by: Eric SowersUSMC, USN & USAF Written by: Shannon RobinsonUSMC, USN & USAF Written by: Shannon RobinsonSummer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 25

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26 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023On September 11, 2001, standing on the eld in the middle of football practice, 14-year-old Danny Perez was informed about the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and The Pentagon. Bolstered by a sense of duty, that afternoon, this 14-year-old kid went to the recruiting ofces of the Army, Airforce, and Marine Corps. Perez walked into each ofce, declaring he was ready to sign up! Obviously, he wasn’t taken seriously, but something at the Marine Corps recruiting ofce was about to change Danny’s life forever. Recruiting ofcer, Staff Sergeant Jones, admired his commitment, but he laughed and said “You’re a little too young, kid.” “Then coach me,” Danny replied. That exchange turned into three years of training and preparation with Jones. At 17, Danny took the oath and joined the US Marine Corps. The clever kid, now a United States Marine, had fullled the promise he made to himself on that fateful day in 2001. Perez’s rst deployment was to Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. He had received his rst meritorious promotion at engineer school; as soon as he got to Iraq, he managed to piss everyone off when he received his second meritorious promotion to Corporal. As an Engineer Equipment Ofcer, Perez led eight other marines at the ight line, loading and unloading supplies into Helos that were transported out to other bases in the region.His rst deployment, everything was business as usual, from antagonizing the reservists, organizing the ght rings for the base’s pet camel spider, and the occasional sandstorm. “You’d just see a wall of sand coming towards you” and have about an hour and a half to get everything done before it hit. Between their duties and the elements, they found ways to entertain themselves.Then there were the Black-Out days. Black-Outs were the worst because the base would go dark with electricity and power shut off. Behind the scenes, every soldier stood at attention while casket after casket was wheeled before them, each one draped in the American ag, and somberly loaded onto the C-130. Black-Outs meant their brothers and sisters in arms paid the ultimate price. Perez deployed on two tours to Iraq with a stint in S. Korea separating them. In Korea, his duty was to strengthen the South Korean Army to intimidate North Korea. Perez was in charge of 30 soldiers and trained the Korean Marines how to ”clear house,” sometimes letting his eagerness get the best of him and the “spirit of the law” take over. Throwing a ash-bang through a wall or kicking a trainee in the chest, Danny quickly gained a dubious reputation for acting out of instinct and not the letter of the law. Danny was stationed in Ramadi, just West of Baghdad for his second deployment during the 2009 elections in Iraq. After his rst deployment, having been so affected by the ritual of the Black Out days, Perez volunteered himself for every mission that came up. As a Platoon Sergeant, he ran convoys, swept IED clean-up, rebuilt base barriers, and eventually worked private security for an Iraqi Security company. Perez and ve other marines in his command patrolled the site daily. “You weren’t supposed to,” but he said they became friends with the company owner. Danny recalled the feast they ate together at the end of the mission. It was a brief moment of comfort and normalcy.“And after that is when everything went to shit.”There was a month and a half long mission that required two welders. Perez trained for three weeks, hopping from base to base (including Saddam’s palace in Kapabul) to do smaller welding gigs before going to stay in Baharia with the main welder, Cpl. Beyer. Early every morning, Perez and Beyer traveled into Karma to patrol the streets and measure culvert openings where IEDs would usually be hidden. Then, they’d travel back to Baharia, weld grates for the culverts, and return to Karma at night with the grates to close off the culverts.The last time he went out, he exited the truck, took off his helmet and body armor, and that’s when the sniper re surrounded him. “Whatever terrorist sniper it was, he was a terrible shot” Perez recalls as rounds kept missing him while he welded the grate shut. By the end of the mission, Danny was drained and the damage done by his two tours kept him in that shadow place; he had enough.However, with an unfullled death wish hanging over his head, Danny joined the reserves with the hope of going on tour again. He spent ten months in the reserves, and on the day he was promoted to Sergeant, Perez was discharged. Danny volunteered for Devil Dog Nation and DFW Devil Dogs, answering calls on a helpline, but his arduous adjustment back into civilian life was just beginning. After months of self-medication, stress, and heartbreak, Danny said “I hit rock bottom and thankfully, rock bottom didn’t kill me.” He suffered a psychological breakdown and ended up in the hospital. He spent almost a month at the VA Hospital in Dallas, and soon he transferred to the VA Hospital in Bonham for almost a year-long rehab program. He met with a counselor and had to complete journaling entries to work through his PTSD. Looking back at his experience there, he says the camaraderie with other veterans is what impacted him the most. When asked what he did to cope with his PTSD, Danny smiled and walked to his kitchen saying “come here for a second.” Following him, he pulled out a bag of 20 different prescriptions. For the time being, this is Danny’s new way of life. But this, by no means, is the end of Danny’s story.The once innocent and precocious 14-year old boy dead-set on serving his country, to the war-weary Veteran trying to cope daily with the visions inside his head, both versions will write the next chapter of healing and slowly settle into his new normal as one who survived to tell not only his story, but the stories of those who didn’t come back.“A PROMISE MAdE, A PROMISE KEPT”The Story of Daniel Perez - USMC – E5 Sergeant

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 27Upp approached the pit, another 107mm rocket howled and illuminated the darkening sky as he shouted for Arnone to get down.Amidst the ricocheting of bullets and explosions Alex locked eyes with Sergeant Upp and for a fraction of a moment felt like it was the last thing he was going to see. Sgt Upp was honest, really tough, and was thick skinned. He always led from the front and never hesitated under re. Arnone recalled, “There was no one I’d rather go to war with than him. He made you feel like by being with him you had a better chance of making it home.” Though Sgt Up had survived the encounter, the 107mm rocket had severely wounded Lieutenant Hall. Though the aid station was able to get his heart going again, he was lost during the medivac. This was the rst American KIA PFC Arnone witnessed. After 45 minutes of battle and 75 mortars launched, Arnone’s efforts were directly attributed to repelling the enemy attack and he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor. Departing the military after 5 years and 2 combat tours, Sergeant Arnone had become more of a man than most have had the opportunity to become. His irreplaceable experiences had bonded him with those he served with for life. Though he would no longer serve as a soldier, the Army values he lived would serve him in the coming trials of tting into a country that cannot understand what he had been through. “I knew who I was, what I had done, and what I had to offer.” Sowers: We talked a lot about your darkest hour, and so I wanted to end contrasting with what the brightest or best experience you had in your service?Arnone: There is a lot of bad with silver linings. On my second deployment I brought all the soldiers home safe to their families. Knowing they were home safe was the best feeling I could ever have. “COURAGE & vALOR”The Story Sgt. of Alex Arnone - USA – AfghanistanA 107-millimeter rocket with a lethal radius of 12.5 meters landing 5 meters in front of you could be the last thing you see. Alex Arnone served from 2006-2011 in the 173rd Airborne Brigade with two combat tours in Eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. Over the course of his deployments, he would see positive societal changes that his unit helped to facilitate, and the reprisals of Taliban ghters who returned from their safe havens in Pakistan. Regardless of the state of today’s Afghanistan, warriors like Arnone did not hide when their bodies were 6 inches from becoming 6 feet deep. They courageously did what their comrades needed them to do to survive in the fray of battle. They painstakingly left their loved ones to support America’s plan for a more stable and democratic Afghanistan. They did their best upon returning home to not let the scars of war prevent them from continuing as soldiers. Born on September 11th, Alex marked his 16th birthday watching the 2001 terrorist attacks unfold from his high school classroom. Viewing the wars that followed from his couch at home, he said to his Army veteran father, “Dad, I need to be part of this.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Arnone’s newfound discipline and strength became more than the call to defend his nation. Becoming a soldier was his ticket to nding who he truly was and to developing into a formidable man. When Private First Class Arnone was deployed to Chowkay Valley in 2007, the soldier he had become would encounter his darkest hour. The surrounding mountains began to cast their shadow as the sun slipped behind them. As PFC Arnone stood next to a bunker the slight howl of a 107mm rocket as immersed in the deafening explosion 20 meters away. Grabbing his gear and sprinting for the mortar pit, machine gun re, RPGs and 107mm rockets continued to rain down on the Vehicle Patrol Base. Reaching the mortar pit, a 107mm rocket impacted 5 meters from his position knocking him to the ground, collapsing the ammo storage bunker, and damaging the mortar bipod legs.Arnone swiftly began digging out another soldier that survived and was buried in the damaged bunker. Taking command of the soldiers in the area, PFC Arnone coordinated the of the ammo and repair of the mortar system while under heavy re. Quickly Arnone and his team began launching 120mm mortars onto enemy positions in the offensive that had them surrounded. The majority of enemy re focused on his position as rounds impacted all around him. As Sergeant

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28 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a conversation with George Burke, you’re in for a treat. Born in 1923 in Monaca, Pennsylvania, George grew up all boy. He played football in the street with his neighborhood friends, learned how to make homemade pasta from his mother, and fermented wine with his father; during high school, he caddied at the local golf course and managed the basketball team. However, young and full of eager potential, George always wanted to be a pilot. Right after he graduated high school in 1941, George and his friend Franklin were admitted into the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government organization that offered opportunities for below poverty families. They traveled to a camp in Virginia where they received their uniforms, and soon the two were off to survey Shenandoah National Park. They bunked in a small log cabin (it was perfect training for the military, George recalls) and withstood the biting cold, dealing with snakes and moonshiners as they needed to. He made $30 a day and sent $25 back to his parents.December 7th, 1941. George remembers listening to the radio and learning about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon, he was discharged from the CCC and went down to Eglin Air Force Base as a surveyor with an engineering company. He fondly remembers watching pilots y out over the Gulf of Mexico for target practice. In the past, you had to have a college degree to be a pilot. Then, the requirement was lowered to two years of college. In the Fall of 1942, the requirements had been changed again to passing a series of exams. At that time, George was sent to work in Florence, South Carolina, where he noticed an ad in the newspaper offering the exam application for aviation cadet training. He applied, was approved, and reported to Fort Jackson. George and over 100 other hopeful candidates tested eight hours a day for three days. After three more days of anticipation, the reported back for results. George and only two others had passed the exams. In December of 1942, he was an aviation cadet.George was immediately called to active duty, and for the next several months he traveled to Miami Beach, Florida, Toledo, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and Maxwell Field, Alabama. Every new place they went, they trained drills and physical exercises. He was selected for pilot training, and soon George was sent to an Airforce Field near Florence, South Carolina. As he describes it, it was a large dirt eld with “the appearance of World War I.” A biplane with two open cockpits was the rst plane George learned to y. He learned several aerobatic maneuvers loops, chandelles, spin recovers, and eventually “lazy eights.” Next, the cadets moved on to basic ying in a single engine, low wing, closed cockpit airplane treacherously nicknamed the “cadet killer.” Day one, a cadet was killed. Day two, an instructor and cadet were killed. Fortunately, George was not one of the casualties, and he rened his training on the AT-6 over the next two months. After training, the unit received their overseas equipment and shipped off to Guam. George remembers looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge as they passed underneath it. He knew he wouldn’t see that sight again for a while.There was a squadron of recon B-29s located 90 miles North of Manila at Clark Air Force Base. George volunteered to y for one year and take photos of everything in the Pacic. He had a ulterior motive, though; there were also AT-6s he could y between missions. George completed several solo ights over Manila Harbor and Corregidor Island. He ran mail to Manila and even received his commercial pilot’s license when FAA instructors came to base and offered pilot’s exams. George was discharged into the inactive reserves in the spring of 1947. He soon enrolled in an Industrial Engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1949, a year before graduation, George met Gloria. He would drive her to singing gigs, and the couple would spend long nights talking in the bar together afterwards. Both Catholics, children of Italian immigrants, and native Pennsylvanians, the pair started going steady.After graduation in 1950, George was called back into active duty. The new B-36 Bombers were coming off the assembly line, and there weren’t enough crew members to y them. “Six prop engines, four jet engines, and capable of carrying a nuclear bomb.” It could y at 50,000 feet, much higher than the Russian planes. Also known as the “Peacemaker,” these planes were built for the Cold War. With two years of training and preparing for a potential Russian attack ahead of him, George and Gloria made some phone calls, coordinated with a Catholic chaplain, and were married at the chapel on base. Their marriage lasted sixty-six years.At Carswell Air Force Base in Ft. Worth, Texas, George’s training as an Aircraft Performance Engineer came in handy as the B-36 wasn’t the most reliable plane to y on yet. Engines often caught re and there were several crashes, so George was kept busy correcting inight maintenance problems. Only 383 B-36s were built; they went out of service in 1959, and none of them are yable.Alongside B-36 training, George underwent extreme survival training to prepare for the possibility of being captured in the desolate Russian environment. He remembers being dropped off at Pike’s Peak in February. Their goal was to traverse 50 miles through the Rocky Mountains, “cross the border,” and avoid being captured by the “Soviets.” George broke ice for water, turned his parachute into a tent, and lived off of pemmican bars. Fortunately, he managed to survive and cross the border undetected. However, those who were captured were “placed in an enemy stockade to undergo interrogations and tough physical exercises.” He never had to be interrogated, but he observed those who did and was glad he missed out on the experience. Tired and trained, he returned home after a month. “Gloria’s rst words were ‘Get rid of the mustache and beard’.” The 50s were a busy time for George. After his two years of recall service were up in 1953, he worked as an industrial engineer for Chance Vought Aircraft Company. He received his Master of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Southern Methodist University, and he and Gloria had four children.He continued working as an Industrial Engineer until he retired. He negotiated major military contracts with the Pentagon, negotiated contracts for the Boeing 747, and even attended a seminar about the government with a lecture from Vice President Ford.George retired in 1983, and currently lives in Carrollton, TX, near his daughter Elaine. A man of deep faith and loyalty, George embodies the enduring spirit that America is built on. “WILd BLUE YONdER!”The Story of George Burke - USAF – WWII

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 29Yeomen Chief Petty Ofcer Robin D. Hamilton comes from the small town of Danville, Virginia. She isn’t from the richest of families, and after graduating from Rockingham County Senior High School, Robin wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She completed the ASVAB and mulled over several ideas for her future, including the Air Force and becoming a State Trooper. However, when a mentor of a hers, a State Trooper, was killed, she decided she didn’t want to pursue that route. Exploring her options, she went out with some high school friends that summer and decided to enroll at Rockingham County Community College in Wentworth, NC.“My rst year was horric,” she stated. She had a realization that college was nothing like high school. It got to the point that her mom and step-dad had to sit her down and talk to her about getting serious. She pulled herself together and ended up graduating with her Associate Degree in Business Administration in 1983. “If I start something, I’m going to nish it.” It was because of one of her friends from college that Robin joined the Navy. “Suddenly, it got serious,” Robin said. She realized a life working retail wouldn’t fulll her potential. So, she enlisted in the Navy’s Sea and Air Mariner Program on April 9, 1984. She attended Bootcamp at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida, and because of her interest in communication, Robin went on to Cryptologic Technician Administration “A” School in Pensacola, graduating as the Honor Graduate. This gave her a top-secret clearance and the skills to gather information to help troops in the air and on the ground do their jobs. During the events of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Robin says her unit wasn’t called into active duty; however, she played a supporting role during the War, earning her rst National Defense Service Medal. She was named Junior Sailor of the Quarter and of the Year in 1993. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from High Point University in 1997.Then, the fateful date September 11th, 2001, called Robin into active duty. 21 days after the 9/11 attacks, Hamilton was called to emergency orders to Camp Park and Pearl Harbor, HI for 45 days. She couldn’t say anything about her work there, but Robin remarked that the Global War on Terrorism changed the game for warfare. She then had to quickly reenlist on January 9, 2002, to ship off to Menwith Hill Station with the Royal Air Force in Harrogate, England. Once there, she worked as a Communication Technician in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Global War on Terrorism. She said the buildings looked like 17 enormous golf balls where you could listen to everything going on all over the world. Robin remembers working the second shift from 3 – 11. At her desk, she was listening in both ears, scanning the airwaves for anything exceptional, out of the ordinary, or important for intel. Suddenly, she heard the faintest “Mayday! Mayday!” out of one ear. “I could hardly hear it,” she described, so she ddled with the frequency to try and get a clearer sound. She called her supervisor to listen. Nobody else heard it. For over an hour, Robin listened and didn’t hear anything. Robin begged to go in an hour early for her next shift to see what happened to her mysterious Mayday. As it turns out, it was an American ejecting from a plane, and because Robin had his longitude and latitude, he was rescued. When asked how that impacted her, Robin said honestly “I never thought about it. I was just doing my job.” Although, she says that she would give anything to meet him one day.On September 11, 2002, Hamilton received orders to report to Washington, DC to work for the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Communications, Command, Control and Intelligence in the Pentagon.Initially, she did not want to work in the Pentagon because she thought it would be like the non-stop activity she witnessed at the NSA. However, the Pentagon ended up being one of the best times of Robin’s life. She lived in Rosland, Virginia and didn’t have to travel far for work. She got tickets to everything and saw several shows, games, and events in the city. Every day at work she would drive her golf cart along the long hallways for various administrative duties, and every day she would make a point to stop by the rebuild site from the September 11th terror attack. She said the rebuild was one of the most beautiful things she witnessed, and she loved seeing it come together while she worked there. “Every day was amazing at the Pentagon.” In 2010, she was transferred to the Volunteer Training Unit as the Senior Enlisted Leader and later that year was promoted to Ofcer-in-Charge. On 9 April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Hamilton stepped in as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader for NOSC Greensboro, lling a gap until the Active Duty SEL could arrive. She didn’t have a handbook or any kind of guide to run the reserves during a pandemic, but she didn’t hesitate. “Sure, I can do it!” she agreed. She worked every day of the pandemic.One way Chief Hamilton honors her fellow servicemen and women is as a Lead member of the Funeral Honors Team performing almost 200 funerals a year, covering Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. She considers this one of the highest honors of her career. Over the course of her Navy service, Chief Hamilton has learned to take the good with the bad. “From bootcamp to long deployments, sailors conquer them all through hard work, continuous sacrice, and dedication.” One thing Robin continuously asked herself throughout her career is “how did I get here?” A little girl from North Carolina, she never imagined that her life would take the circuitous route that it did. All because of an offhand recommendation and a persistent recruiter, Robin’s life in the Navy has been an adventure. Chief Hamilton currently resides in High Point, North Carolina. She retired from Bristol-Myers Squibb after 29 years of service as a Quality Lead. She will be retiring from the Navy on April 9, 2022—38 years to the day of her enlistment. “SACRIFICE & dEdICTION”The Story of CPO Robin Hamilton - USN – Desert StormStory edited for length. To read Chief Hamilton's full story, published in the Winter2021 edition, check out our eMagazine online.

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30 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023HEAL*ARIOUS: How Humor Improves Psychological PerformanceThere is no one better at nding the funny in a grim situation than the Veteran community. The laughter that propelled us through the best and the worst of our service unites us as much as it infatuates and alarms our civilian loved ones. How many times throughout your service did you sit and listen to buddy banter and think, “I wish people could hear this,” or, “I wish people knew how absolutely ridiculous and hilarious this situation is,” or,“ people need to know how exactly how much this sucks right now in explicit detail so they can feel and smell my pain.” That’s why Army LTC (Ret.) Robin Phoenix Johnson founded HEAL*ARIOUS to heal people, organizations, and communities through the applied and therapeutic use of humor. It improves psychological performance and complements traditional mental health therapy. This innovative approach has been hitting the Veteran community in all the feels and funnies across the country with no signs of slowing down. After 26 years of military service and ve deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Robin discovered her new mission in improving people, organizations, and communities with humor. In her post-military life, diving into stand-up comedy helped her ease the pains of transitioning to civilian life and PTSD. She realized that if comedy could help her with this difcult life change that so many Veterans struggle with, it could also help others. Now, she is a Level III Certied Humor Professional with the Association for Applied & Therapeutic Humor and a nationally touring stand-up comedian and motivational speaker. Robin believes humor can help others and that applying it for improved mental health will ultimately reduce Veteran suicide. “Everyone wants to laugh. Signing up for a HEAL*ARIOUS workshop is less intimidating than signing up for therapy or asking for help. It gives powerful cognitive restructuring tools that allow the participant to feel more positive about their situation”. Given the state of mental health and suicide rates among America’s Veterans, we see more and more programs and organizations stepping up to help. There’s no blanket solution to x every individual Veteran’s struggles. So as we continue to try every therapeutic method conceivable, why not call upon a tried and true method to get through the suck? Let’s laugh. The programming complements traditional therapy with a comedic spin. The protocols were developed by a team of mental health clinicians collaborating with comedian facilitators. HEAL*ARIOUS was piloted for 36 weeks at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, SC, and has been used to help over 6,000 Veterans and rst responders to date. HEAL*ARIOUS offers several programs implementing therapeutic humor to increase psychological performance. We fully support Veterans attending traditional therapy and taking HEAL*ARIOUS JUDGESROBIN PHOENIX JOHNSONWritten by Marc Hoover - U.S. Army Veteran

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 31prescribed medications. However, we know that taking those steps can be intimidating and might not always be for everyone. HEAL*ARIOUS offers other fun ways to break away from some overwhelmingly common mental health conditions amongst Veterans, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse. HEAL*ARIOUS does this in conjunction with traditional therapy through laughter. The best part is that it can be offered live or virtual. The organization has found extraordinary success in reaching geographically isolated Veterans in particular. To date, the largest participation is by Veterans with limited access to transportation or who live in rural areas with limited access to care.Programming is customizable, but the base offerings include:Humor for Whole Health This course empowers and equips participants to control situations better and release stress through laughter. They will learn how to use humor and stand-up comedy techniques to improve their whole health with cognitive restructuring. We’ve lived in the barracks. We know ya’ll got jokes! Humor writing and stand-up techniques help us put the right words to the right emotions while building our condence with a hilarious product to be proud of. Virtual Comedy BingoThis program creates an opportunity for participants to laugh and enjoy the positive biological benets of humor. In a spin-off of traditional BINGO, a comedian will tell jokes, and participants will listen for the words on their BINGO card. Laughter is the Best Medicine Motivational Talk Research has shown that humor and laughter directly after a stressful situation reduce stress hormones and create lasting, positive feelings. Muscles relax, breathing changes, and the brain releases endorphins, natural painkillers, and happiness boosters. This funny motivational talk will teach you how to laugh off difcult times and, as a result, turn the negative impacts of stress into the positive biological benets of humor. Best Medicine Brigade Comedy Showcases:HEAL*ARIOUS partners with Best Medicine Brigade comedians to provide entertainment for live and virtual events. Sometimes we just need a good night of belly laughs to remind us that everything’s going to be alright. At a Best Medicine Brigade Comedy Showcase, you will hear stories and perspectives you relate to, reminding you that you’re not alone. Here you’ll laugh with folks you can embrace the suck with as a lovingly dysfunctional family. The shows’ content is PG-13 or cleaner, so they are fun for the whole family. OPERATION HEAL*ARIOUS COMEDY COMPETITION:Currently, OPERATION HEAL*ARIOUS is underway! This “American Idol” - style comedy showcase kicks off the search for America’s funniest Veterans and military spouses. The tour is also raising money for HEAL*ARIOUS, a 501c3 non-prot. The tour launched on April 1st in Columbus, OH at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, followed by a stop in Arlington, VA on May 4th.Future stops include:June 4th-Tacoma, WAJuly 15th-San Antonio, TXJuly 29th-Fayetteville, NCSeptember 10th-Newport News, VASeptember 15th-Killeen, TXNov 5th- Finale-Hollywood (Post 43)Submissions for competitors are still open at for details on how to submit your audition or purchase tickets. Whether you just want a good laugh, want to support some up-and-coming Veteran/Military spouse comics, or want to try an alternative means of taking care of your mental health, HEAL*ARIOUS wants to help. TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HEAL*ARIOUS, VISIT HEALARIOUS.ORG

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32 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023I’d been in Iraq for a couple of weeks when the initial shock of being deployed had begun to wear off.The day started like any other, aside from waking up to insurgents storming the base. I was jolted awake by a man shouting in an Arabic dialect. I had no idea what he was saying, or how he had taken over the loud voice. I imagined him repeating; “Surrender yourselves indels! We have your base surrounded!” I thought to myself, “What am I going to do? I don’t have a gun or any way to protect myself. Maybe I can hide under my bed until they go away.” My eyes searched the dark CHU to nd my bearings. The clock on the nightstand was the only source of light. 6 a.m. After a long, panic-stricken moment, it hit me. The clock! The alarm had sounded, set to Rasheed Radio, a live talk show.“Wow, Shelby, just wow.”Once the threat of imminent danger was out of the way, my attention was diverted to my screaming bladder. I’d win the gold if ‘holding pee’ was an Olympic sport. Going to the latrine at night was no easy feat; I had to completely gear up (PT uniform, shoes & socks, and 20ib vest & helmet), trek three hundred yards in pitch black through a sea of CHUs, and dodge camel spiders & sand ies. The guys had it lucky. Rumor was they just emptied their bladders into bottles. I got up, kissed my daughter’s picture, and set forth to the Cadillac to relieve myself and take a cold shower. Afterward, I headed to work. Outside, the sun was working in overdrive to permeate through the burn pit induced haze that consumed the base.My role in ghting the war on terrorism was to prevent war-ghters from becoming sick. Fun fact: World War II was the rst US war in which combat killed more soldiers than disease.WEEK TWOby Shelby LakeMortaritavilleDefense Visual Information Distribution Service

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 33I was a Staff Sergeant/E5, Public Health technician assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Medical Group, Balad Air Base, Iraq. We worked at the Air Force Clinic – a dusty, dilapidated building with stacked sandbags covering the outside windows. The clinic supported the deployed Air Force population with standard out-patient care, averaging about seven hundred visits per month. Some of my specic duties included overseeing disease and outbreak surveillance, performing sanitation inspections of food and public facilities, educating Airmen about disease prevention, and performing sexually transmitted illness (STI) screening and interviews. You might be thinking, “STIs, how’s that possible, what about General Order Number 1 that prohibited cohabitating, residing, or spending the night with members of the opposite sex within any building or living quarters?” All I can say is, use your imagination; what happens TDY doesn’t always stay TDY.Toward the end of the workday, a couple of my co-workers invited me to go to the large dining facility (DFAC 1) across base. I was still working on a project, so I opted out and told them to go on without me, that I’d just go to the smaller one (DFAC 2) across the street once I was nished. I debated just grabbing a Meal-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) from the clinic stockpile because the insurgents mortared around mealtime; likely aiming for the large congregation of US service members gathering to eat. Unfortunately, we were out of my favorite MRE: bean burrito doused in discolored tobacco sauce. Yum. As I walked over, the intense evening heat offered little relief and the sand nipped at my tan Desert Combat Uniform (DCU) boots.The front of the DFAC was lined with twelve feet tall concrete T-barriers (a line of defense against stray bullets and blast protection from mortar attacks. They also made great canvases for unit pride paintings). There was a red weapon-clearing barrel between the barriers and DFAC.The chow line was long. Everyone turned to look at me as I approached. I glanced back. Yep, only female again. Which wasn’t unusual, the male-to-female ratio on base was unequivocally unmatched. I didn’t pay it much mind. Some of them had just returned from hellish forward deployed locations and hadn’t seen an American female in several months. When the line reached the wooden overhang, I quickly shoved my nose into the crook of my elbow. “Gross, what the hell is that?” A massive Marine in front of me with oversized facial features pointed under the DFAC trailer, “Something fucking died under there.” I replied, “I hope that’s not what they are serving for dinner.” He didn’t respond. I thought it was funny. I nally made it inside the entry point that housed the hand washing stations, just before another doorway that led into the kitchen and dining area. I started washing my hands when a mortar hit nearby. Shit! “ALARM RED, ALARM RED, ALARM RED wwwwwhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaa.” The remaining fteen people in line hurried inside to bunker down. There were worse places to be stuck during an attack when you were hungry. Just then, someone from the kitchen shut the door between us and the dining area. The room erupted. “Aw, come on! We’re right here. At least let us eat!” After standing around the conned space for 10 minutes or so, I sat on the oor, crossed my legs, and propped my head on my sts to help alleviate the weight of my helmet and vest. Several more minutes had passed when a small-statured Soldier turned to me and asked, “Hey, ya wanna have a thumb war?” He had a child-like expression and seemed harmless enough. I told him I would.“One, two, three, four, how about a thumb war?” Our thumbs danced around each other as I waited for the perfect moment to strike. BAM! Got em. “Best two out of three?’ he asked after I defeated him. “Five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumb straight.” Soon, two others started playing. Then two more. Before long, almost everyone stuck inside the DFAC entryway was engaged in a thumb war.It felt like hours had passed when nally, all clear sounded and we were let inside to eat. I never saw my thumb war buddy again; I never even learned his name. The day’s events were full of lessons: A. Fear manifests itself in funny ways. B. When you’re a sitting duck, it’s the little things that help take your mind off the looming danger.

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34 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023ARBEIT MACHT FREI - Work Will Set You Free - Dachau Camp Gate (1947) Wikimedia CommonsApril 29, 1945April 29, 1945In the Spring of 1945, US Allied troops In the Spring of 1945, US Allied troops had Nazi forces on the run, as they made had Nazi forces on the run, as they made their way into Munich, Germany. On their way into Munich, Germany. On April 29th, the 45th ‘Thunderbird’ and April 29th, the 45th ‘Thunderbird’ and 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Infantry Divisions of 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Infantry Divisions of the 157th Infantry Regiment, among the 157th Infantry Regiment, among other units, received orders to secure other units, received orders to secure what they thought would be an old SS what they thought would be an old SS training or POW camp. But what they training or POW camp. But what they were about to witness and experience, were about to witness and experience, would haunt these soldiers for the would haunt these soldiers for the rest of their lives. Simultaneously, US rest of their lives. Simultaneously, US troops were experiencing the same troops were experiencing the same atrocities at Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, atrocities at Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, Flossenbürg, and Mauthausen.Flossenbürg, and Mauthausen.ABOUT DACHAUABOUT DACHAUDachau was the invention of Heinrich Dachau was the invention of Heinrich Himmler, the Reich leader of the Himmler, the Reich leader of the Schutzstaffel or SS, and ofcially described Schutzstaffel or SS, and ofcially described the camp as “the rst concentration camp the camp as “the rst concentration camp for political prisoners.” It was built for political prisoners.” It was built on the site of an old munitions factory on the site of an old munitions factory located in the Northeast section of the located in the Northeast section of the town of Dachau in 1933. Originally, it town of Dachau in 1933. Originally, it had the capacity to house 5000 ‘inmates’ had the capacity to house 5000 ‘inmates’ and would serve as the model for over and would serve as the model for over 44,000 concentration camps and ghettos 44,000 concentration camps and ghettos built by the Nazis over the next twelve built by the Nazis over the next twelve years.years.In 1938, expansion of the camp was In 1938, expansion of the camp was complete and included 32 new prisoner complete and included 32 new prisoner barracks, including one designated for barracks, including one designated for clergy political prisoners and another clergy political prisoners and another exclusively for medical experiments, in exclusively for medical experiments, in addition to a crematorium. This was just in addition to a crematorium. This was just in time for Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken time for Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass,” as the Nazis violently targeted Glass,” as the Nazis violently targeted Jews, destroying Synagogues Jews, destroying Synagogues and Jewish businesses in their and Jewish businesses in their wake throughout Germany, wake throughout Germany, Austria, and part of what is Austria, and part of what is today known as Czechoslovakia. today known as Czechoslovakia. Hundreds of Jewish men, Hundreds of Jewish men, women, and children were women, and children were systematically murdered, and systematically murdered, and the Nazis arrested over 30,000 the Nazis arrested over 30,000 Jewish men, transferring them to Jewish men, transferring them to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other camps.and other camps.By 1945, Dachau had served as a training By 1945, Dachau had served as a training camp for SS Guards who were encouraged camp for SS Guards who were encouraged to practice their excessively cruel and to practice their excessively cruel and barbaric punishment, the Brausebad barbaric punishment, the Brausebad shower or gas chamber took the lives shower or gas chamber took the lives of tens of thousands of prisoners, of tens of thousands of prisoners, while disease and starvation due to while disease and starvation due to overcrowding took the lives of almost overcrowding took the lives of almost 50,000. Just before the liberation, it is 50,000. Just before the liberation, it is estimated that barracks designed to estimated that barracks designed to hold 200, were housing over 2000. hold 200, were housing over 2000. MILITARY HISTORYLIBERATION OF DACHAULIBERATION OF DACHAUBy Christine WalkerConcentration-Camp-Dachau-Aerial-View | Photo Credit: Picryl

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Summer 2023| AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 35IN HIS OWN WORDSIN HIS OWN WORDSNovember 11, 2000, Lakewood, Colorado:November 11, 2000, Lakewood, Colorado:The two elderly gentlemen shufed The two elderly gentlemen shufed across the stage of the church. The across the stage of the church. The older of the two steadied himself on older of the two steadied himself on the microphone stand and took a deep the microphone stand and took a deep breath. It wasn’t the rst time he would breath. It wasn’t the rst time he would tell this story, but as with every time tell this story, but as with every time before, his memories would transport before, his memories would transport him back 57 years to a moment… a him back 57 years to a moment… a war… that would change him forever.war… that would change him forever.At 83, his voice wavers a bit and is not as At 83, his voice wavers a bit and is not as strong as it once was; but the message strong as it once was; but the message remains powerful. Colonel Felix Sparks remains powerful. Colonel Felix Sparks takes another deep breath and begins takes another deep breath and begins to recount the events that unfolded on to recount the events that unfolded on the Sunday morning of April 29, 1945.the Sunday morning of April 29, 1945.“I’m going to [tell you] just a little bit “I’m going to [tell you] just a little bit about why the war was fought and some about why the war was fought and some of the rewards that came out of that war. I of the rewards that came out of that war. I have with me this evening a very special have with me this evening a very special guest, and I’ll tell you a little bit about him guest, and I’ll tell you a little bit about him later. But, I rst want to tell you about the later. But, I rst want to tell you about the circumstances in which I found him. In the circumstances in which I found him. In the closing days of World War II, I received closing days of World War II, I received an order one morning to proceed and take an order one morning to proceed and take the concentration camp of Dachau. At the concentration camp of Dachau. At that time, I was the Colonel and Combat that time, I was the Colonel and Combat Battalion Commander of the [3rd Battalion, Battalion Commander of the [3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, of the 45th Infantry 157th Infantry Regiment, of the 45th Infantry Division]. I’d never heard of concentration Division]. I’d never heard of concentration camps, nor had any of my soldiers.”camps, nor had any of my soldiers.”The order was given at 0922 and Colonel The order was given at 0922 and Colonel Sparks was furious because it would Sparks was furious because it would delay their primary objective of moving delay their primary objective of moving into Munich. He split up his forces and into Munich. He split up his forces and took the Battalion Task Force reserve took the Battalion Task Force reserve into Dachau. Absolutely nothing could into Dachau. Absolutely nothing could have prepared these war-weary soldiers have prepared these war-weary soldiers for what they would actually nd. for what they would actually nd. “In any event, in response to the order, I found “In any event, in response to the order, I found that the camp was in my zone of action and that the camp was in my zone of action and was [located] about 10 miles from Munich, was [located] about 10 miles from Munich, Germany, which was our main objective. Germany, which was our main objective. It was on Sunday morning, April 29th. It was on Sunday morning, April 29th. As I proceeded into that camp, As I proceeded into that camp, we rst encountered a train or we rst encountered a train or long string of box cars and other long string of box cars and other types of railway cars loaded with types of railway cars loaded with human bodies, several thousand human bodies, several thousand of them, all of whom were dead. of them, all of whom were dead. All had been enclosed in these All had been enclosed in these box cars and moved from another box cars and moved from another concentration camp and had died concentration camp and had died from lack of food and water. We from lack of food and water. We did nd two or three prisoners did nd two or three prisoners who had the strength to crawl who had the strength to crawl out of their cars and they were out of their cars and they were lying on the pavement alongside lying on the pavement alongside the railroad track and appeared the railroad track and appeared that someone had taken the rie that someone had taken the rie butt and bashed their brains out butt and bashed their brains out on the pavement.”on the pavement.”The 45th entered the camp The 45th entered the camp several blocks away from several blocks away from the main gate. As they came the main gate. As they came out of the woods, they were out of the woods, they were overwhelmed by the smell of overwhelmed by the smell of rotting esh. It wasn’t until rotting esh. It wasn’t until they got close to the boxcars they got close to the boxcars and opened them, that they and opened them, that they began to realize what they began to realize what they were dealing with. According were dealing with. According to many historical accounts, to many historical accounts, soldiers cried, cursed, and soldiers cried, cursed, and were dumbstruck into silence. were dumbstruck into silence. Almost all of them, including Almost all of them, including Colonel Sparks, vomited due to the Colonel Sparks, vomited due to the overwhelming odor of rancid decay. overwhelming odor of rancid decay. In a video interview, Dallas Peyton of In a video interview, Dallas Peyton of Tucson, Arizona, a member of the 70th Tucson, Arizona, a member of the 70th remembers, remembers, “Most of the things I saw were “Most of the things I saw were so horrible that they’ve been blocked mentally, so horrible that they’ve been blocked mentally, I guess from self-preservation or something, I guess from self-preservation or something, that I don’t remember the details very much. that I don’t remember the details very much. I remember a couple of scenes very vividly. I remember a couple of scenes very vividly. One, when we were approaching, we saw One, when we were approaching, we saw a trainload of prisoners. Turned out they a trainload of prisoners. Turned out they were not prisoners. It was a trainload of were not prisoners. It was a trainload of bodies that had been sent to Dachau from bodies that had been sent to Dachau from Buchenwald, I presume to be, to go through Buchenwald, I presume to be, to go through the furnaces, ovens, of Dachau.”the furnaces, ovens, of Dachau.”“This enraged my soldiers! We were used to “This enraged my soldiers! We were used to death. We had fought for two long years in death. We had fought for two long years in combat, starting from the shores of North combat, starting from the shores of North Africa to Sicily, to Italy to Rome, and into Africa to Sicily, to Italy to Rome, and into France and Germany. So, we were used to France and Germany. So, we were used to death. Death was our constant companion.” death. Death was our constant companion.” As Sparks and the 45th proceeded into As Sparks and the 45th proceeded into camp, they entered the gates of hell. camp, they entered the gates of hell. Sparks orders his men like Technician Sparks orders his men like Technician 4th Grade Joe Wilson, a combat medic, 4th Grade Joe Wilson, a combat medic, who took on the role of a Rieman that who took on the role of a Rieman that day, to continue into the camp. Wilson day, to continue into the camp. Wilson relates, relates, “We were going towards the guards “We were going towards the guards and they start to put up a ght. So, we laid and they start to put up a ght. So, we laid out about 13 and 14 of them on the ground out about 13 and 14 of them on the ground and the rest of them give up.”and the rest of them give up.”Corpses lie in one of the open railcars of the Dachau death train. The Dachau death train consisted of nearly forty cars containing the bodies of between two and three thousand prisoners transported to Konzentrationslager Dachau in the last days of the warThen, Captain Felix Sparks (L) with some of his Men from E Company. (Picture given to Author Alex Kershaw by Mary Sparks. Used with permission.)

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36 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023mother would go to the local meat market mother would go to the local meat market and buy freshly killed chickens. And she and buy freshly killed chickens. And she would take the chicken and wave it over the would take the chicken and wave it over the gas ame on the gas stove in our kitchen to gas ame on the gas stove in our kitchen to sear off the pin feathers of the chicken... Well, sear off the pin feathers of the chicken... Well, that was the odor that that I smelled and my that was the odor that that I smelled and my brother smelled when we moved into this new brother smelled when we moved into this new forward gun position. And a few minutes forward gun position. And a few minutes later. One of our Jeep drivers came by our later. One of our Jeep drivers came by our gun position and told my brother and me gun position and told my brother and me that there was a very strange camp nearby that there was a very strange camp nearby and he thought we might be interested in and he thought we might be interested in taking a look at it… And I saw the ovens. taking a look at it… And I saw the ovens. And that’s when I realized and knew what And that’s when I realized and knew what the odor I had smelled … was the same odor the odor I had smelled … was the same odor of the burning esh from the ovens.”of the burning esh from the ovens.”Sparks and his men continued to the Sparks and his men continued to the main prisoner-holding area. main prisoner-holding area. “The “The prisoners inside realized that something prisoners inside realized that something unusual was taking place and came pouring unusual was taking place and came pouring out of 34 barracks inside the enclosure. out of 34 barracks inside the enclosure. Then they started screaming and yelling. Then they started screaming and yelling. In any event, as we checked the camp, we In any event, as we checked the camp, we found about 32,000 people still alive in the found about 32,000 people still alive in the camp, mostly men. All just skin and bones. camp, mostly men. All just skin and bones. Extremely emaciated and suffering from Extremely emaciated and suffering from typhus, dysentery, and typhus, dysentery, and other diseases. And they other diseases. And they were dying almost hourly as were dying almost hourly as we arrived there. We found we arrived there. We found hundreds of others dead in hundreds of others dead in and around the camp. A total and around the camp. A total of about 9000 dead bodies of about 9000 dead bodies were in various stages of were in various stages of decomposition. Again, my decomposition. Again, my soldiers, many cried, some soldiers, many cried, some cursed and some were silent. cursed and some were silent. We could not comprehend We could not comprehend the inhumane treatment the inhumane treatment that those innocent people that those innocent people received.”received.”The majority of the 32,000 The majority of the 32,000 prisoners were Jewish prisoners were Jewish men, with a few women, men, with a few women, clergy, and gypsies. clergy, and gypsies. Some soldiers of the 45th Some soldiers of the 45th were so incensed, that were so incensed, that they rounded up all the they rounded up all the SS Guards they could SS Guards they could nd, including those in nd, including those in the camp hospital, and the camp hospital, and lined them up against lined them up against a large wall in the coal a large wall in the coal yard. A young private yard. A young private knelt behind a Tommy gun and was knelt behind a Tommy gun and was told to shoot any of them that moved. told to shoot any of them that moved. Gunre erupted and Colonel Sparks came Gunre erupted and Colonel Sparks came running into the coal yard, shooting his running into the coal yard, shooting his pistol in the air to stop his men. When pistol in the air to stop his men. When the smoke cleared, 17 SS Guards were the smoke cleared, 17 SS Guards were dead. While there was an investigation dead. While there was an investigation and an arrest warrant was issued for and an arrest warrant was issued for Sparks, there were so many differing Sparks, there were so many differing accounts, that General Patton dismissed accounts, that General Patton dismissed the whole incident, calling it "a bunch the whole incident, calling it "a bunch of crap." of crap." Soldiers also turned a blind eye to the Soldiers also turned a blind eye to the beating and killing of SS Guards by beating and killing of SS Guards by the prisoners themselves. By their own the prisoners themselves. By their own accounts, they would just walk away, accounts, they would just walk away, feeling justice was served. feeling justice was served. As the 45th continued to get a handle As the 45th continued to get a handle on the situation, they tried to feed the on the situation, they tried to feed the prisoners their K Rations. Unfortunately, prisoners their K Rations. Unfortunately, starvation does horrible things to the starvation does horrible things to the human body. Alan Moskin, a Jewish human body. Alan Moskin, a Jewish soldier with the 3rd Army remembers, soldier with the 3rd Army remembers, “We had Spam or crackers or whatever, but to “We had Spam or crackers or whatever, but to watch people take the food. and start biting watch people take the food. and start biting and chewing so strongly. And then the next and chewing so strongly. And then the next thing, seeing them grab their esophagus thing, seeing them grab their esophagus and throat, choking and gagging and fall and throat, choking and gagging and fall to the ground, yeah, you’re trying to help to the ground, yeah, you’re trying to help and people now are falling to the ground and people now are falling to the ground choking. What did we do? I remember the choking. What did we do? I remember the medic starts screaming no solid food, no solid medic starts screaming no solid food, no solid food. I learned later when you starve your food. I learned later when you starve your windpipe or your esophagus, it clamps up windpipe or your esophagus, it clamps up so you can’t swallow. But we didn’t know it so you can’t swallow. But we didn’t know it at the time. So you’re trying to help people at the time. So you’re trying to help people and then seeing them choking and falling and then seeing them choking and falling to the ground, it was calamitous.” to the ground, it was calamitous.” Two Army Hospital units arrived within Two Army Hospital units arrived within 48 hours, and over the course of the day 48 hours, and over the course of the day and weeks following the liberation, the and weeks following the liberation, the Army rounded up the townspeople to Army rounded up the townspeople to witness rst-hand what they had been witness rst-hand what they had been turning a blind eye to. They were forced turning a blind eye to. They were forced to feed, clothe, and help bury the dead. to feed, clothe, and help bury the dead. Colonel Sparks continues:Colonel Sparks continues:“Of the prisoners, they were mostly men. “Of the prisoners, they were mostly men. You have to understand the selection You have to understand the selection system that the Germans practiced at the system that the Germans practiced at the concentration camps as people arrived in concentration camps as people arrived in the camp for Jewish people, and others as the camp for Jewish people, and others as well. They were selectively separated. [Most] well. They were selectively separated. [Most] “You have to cross a large, barbed wire “You have to cross a large, barbed wire enclosure. We eliminated most of the German enclosure. We eliminated most of the German guards who are guarding the camp. Although guards who are guarding the camp. Although we found out that the commanding ofcer, we found out that the commanding ofcer, named Colonel Martin Weiss, and most of named Colonel Martin Weiss, and most of his ofcers departed the camp about two his ofcers departed the camp about two days before our arrival. I can see that they days before our arrival. I can see that they did not anticipate our coming. We came did not anticipate our coming. We came out near the crematorium. As I looked at it, out near the crematorium. As I looked at it, I saw one room stacked full of nude bodies, I saw one room stacked full of nude bodies, stacked like cordwood. Quite piled up in stacked like cordwood. Quite piled up in this big cement room. And as I moved on, this big cement room. And as I moved on, I saw these furnaces, a total of ve of them, I saw these furnaces, a total of ve of them, still burning.” still burning.” The furnaces of the crematorium were The furnaces of the crematorium were still in operation on April 29th. Howard still in operation on April 29th. Howard Margol remembers, Margol remembers, “Our unit moved “Our unit moved forward that morning and then we set up forward that morning and then we set up a new gun position and red a few ring a new gun position and red a few ring missions. There was a very strange and missions. There was a very strange and very strong, very strong odor in the air. very strong, very strong odor in the air. And some of the guys said, well, must be And some of the guys said, well, must be a chemical factory around here. I said no, a chemical factory around here. I said no, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my it reminds me of when I was a kid and my Above: US Soldiers in the aftermath of killing SS Guards | Below: Army Lt. Col. Felix Sparks orders his troops to stop ring on German SS soldiers at Dachau concentration camp. (National Archives)

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children were separated immediately and children were separated immediately and executed. The women, for the most part, executed. The women, for the most part, were also immediately executed. Survivors were also immediately executed. Survivors were mostly teenagers and men up to about were mostly teenagers and men up to about 40 years of age that the Germans felt that 40 years of age that the Germans felt that they could get labor out of. And the German they could get labor out of. And the German economy was sustained almost entirely by economy was sustained almost entirely by slave labor during the war. [After liberating slave labor during the war. [After liberating Dachau] It was the rst time we felt there Dachau] It was the rst time we felt there was a compelling reason for the American was a compelling reason for the American army to be in Germany at that point. We army to be in Germany at that point. We never dreamed of all the other effects that never dreamed of all the other effects that we would have and liberating innocent we would have and liberating innocent people from terrible deaths. So we nally people from terrible deaths. So we nally felt a great sense of satisfaction that we felt a great sense of satisfaction that we had arrived to liberate these 30-some-odd had arrived to liberate these 30-some-odd thousand people. And we suddenly saw a thousand people. And we suddenly saw a reason for the war. We could not handle reason for the war. We could not handle all of the bodies that we had to bury so we all of the bodies that we had to bury so we ‘impressed the citizens of the city of Dachau ‘impressed the citizens of the city of Dachau into service’ to help us bury the 9000 dead into service’ to help us bury the 9000 dead by digging deep trenches and having mass by digging deep trenches and having mass burials. We went after the war criminals, burials. We went after the war criminals, collected all the SS ofcers we could nd collected all the SS ofcers we could nd in Germany and put them in Dachau, and in Germany and put them in Dachau, and separated them for a possible trial. Colonel separated them for a possible trial. Colonel Martin Weiss was apprehended and executed Martin Weiss was apprehended and executed as a result of the Nuremberg trials.” as a result of the Nuremberg trials.” While at Dachau, Colonel Sparks met a While at Dachau, Colonel Sparks met a 16-year-old boy named Jack Goldman. 16-year-old boy named Jack Goldman. After recovering from severe malnutrition, After recovering from severe malnutrition, Jack made his way to the United States. Jack made his way to the United States. He never forgot his liberator and that He never forgot his liberator and that inspired him to immediately join the inspired him to immediately join the Army serving in the Korean War. In the Army serving in the Korean War. In the early 80s, Jack met Felix Sparks again. early 80s, Jack met Felix Sparks again. Felix, then a Colorado Supreme Court Felix, then a Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Brigadier General in the Justice and Brigadier General in the Colorado National Guard, never forgot Colorado National Guard, never forgot Jack and they became lifelong friends. Jack and they became lifelong friends. Felix and the other soldiers never forgot Felix and the other soldiers never forgot what they encountered, and he would what they encountered, and he would go on to tell the story thousands of times go on to tell the story thousands of times before he died in 2007. before he died in 2007. “I could just tell you that what we saw “I could just tell you that what we saw left a mark. A mark on my heart, my left a mark. A mark on my heart, my soul. I wish I could get rid of the mark, soul. I wish I could get rid of the mark, but I can’t. Just like a tattoo, it’s there but I can’t. Just like a tattoo, it’s there [forever]. Indifference to me is the same [forever]. Indifference to me is the same as consent. Inaction is the same as as consent. Inaction is the same as consent. It has been said many times consent. It has been said many times before, but always bears repeating. before, but always bears repeating. ‘Those who choose to forget or ignore ‘Those who choose to forget or ignore the events of the past are doomed to the events of the past are doomed to have the events of the past return.’” – have the events of the past return.’” – Alan MoskinAlan MoskinNEVER FORGET NEVER FORGET NEVER AGAINNEVER AGAINDachau prisoners celebrating liberation. Writers Note * - Having Jewish lineage, as a writer and student of history, I have probably spent hundreds of hours pouring over the Holocaust from beginning to end. But I've never researched it from the perspective of the US Military. Listening to the audio/video testimonies of Soldiers who were there; hearing their voices crack and tears glistening in their eyes, I was overwhelmed with the humanity and compassion for the Jewish prisoners they rescued.

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38 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023We hope to broaden your perspectives of the stories that veterans tell by sharing some of them gathered through my broadcasts. These are real people with real stories to share. Some have overcome challenges and others have chosen to face the challenges they live with each day. While each of them is different, they all share the same thread of having served in uniform for our country. All of them are relevant to the mission of AT EASE! Veterans Magazine. These are their stories. They are your stories, and we hope that you enjoy them.My interactions with my broadcast guests are for the benet of those that will be watching and listening to the results of those interviews. Occasionally those conversations will hit home with me and strike a personal chord. It is at those times that I may lose focus on the bigger audience picture, but I often realize that my focus may very well strike the same chords with those who are listening. This is one of those stories.This is Marvin’s story. At the outset, let me say that Marvin was a real veteran, but I have chosen to change his identity to protect his family, his honor, and his memory.Marvin and I met back in the mid-1990s at a meeting of veterans in south Florida. Some attended those meetings to forget and some to remember. Others attended mainly for the donuts and coffee. I attended to heal my scars from Vietnam by listening to the stories that others had to share. Marvin grew up in the Bronx during the Depression. He had a New York accent that had faded a bit over the years. While most of the vets in the room wore hats of their military branches or specic units, Marvin wore a cap of his beloved New York Yankees. He loved to watch the Bronx Bombers and could rattle off statistics that were hard to nd even in baseball encyclopedias. He had a photographic memory and that is where the heart of this story lies.Marvin and his family struggled through his childhood, doing anything they could to make ends meet. Some of those things would result in jail time today. He dropped out of high school early because he never really t in and because America was at war with Germany and Marvin saw the military as a safe haven from the streets of New York. He was assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division which was created when the United States entered World War I. Re-activated in 1943, the 42nd “Rainbow” division was deployed to south France. Marvin joined them in the winter of 1944 as they advanced to Strasbourg and then through southern Germany to Austria. Fast forward to Spring 1945, and Marvin’s voice suddenly becomes quieter as his mental recollections start to mingle with his descriptions of events. The war is winding down, and the Rainbow Division is sent to Dachau, Germany north of Munich to liberate a prisoner camp. Not much additional information is given to the troops at that point. At this point in our story, I must share with you that Marvin is Jewish and our conversations were shared at the monthly meetings of the Jewish War Veterans in Florida. Marvin was then in his 70s, never married, and living alone in a retirement center room with not much more than a small TV, a few books, and his memories. With great care and some caution, we continued our conversation.Three US Army divisions entered the gates of Dachau on April 29, 1945, and what our soldiers witnessed was beyond belief and comprehension. Marvin is now very somber, and tears were forming in his eyes as his mental recollections were now mingling with his verbal descriptions. They had been told that this was a prison camp, but the further they proceeded the more they learned what this concentration camp was about. The brutal reality of what our troops witnessed; the death, the horror, the stench was more than many could handle and comprehend. And for Marvin, now knowing that this was a genocide of his ancestral heritage, it was sending him into a depression that he would live with the rest of his life.Marvin shared his stories with me partly because I was deeply interested and partly because he needed to cleanse his sole of the burden he carried. He often cried and I cried with him. He always had great difculty reciting the Pledge of Allegiance out loud and singing our National Anthem. They triggered those memories and brought more tearful emotions. Marvin died in his easy chair wearing his Yankees cap while awaiting the start of a game. His care giver said there were tears running down his cheeks and the National Anthem was playing.TOP: DACHAU FRONT GATECENTER: DACHAU SIDE GATEBOTTOM: AERIAL VIEW OF DACHAU'S 34 PRISONER BARRACKS

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 39I Remember When...I Remember When...As a senior citizen with dementia settling into my eighty-eight-year-old brain, I can still remember the introduction to my beloved Marine Corps. What the Marine Corps has instilled in my mind and heart will last until I greet those fellow marines standing at the pearly gates awaiting our permanent deployment. I still remember my ofcer basic training at Quantico, Virginia. God only knows how much I learned and how much I grew militarily. The OBS was a seven-month military program to develop leadership skills, teaching skills, and numerous military tactics and strategies. Each class was to prepare me to train young men not much younger than myself to defend our country and to face whoever our enemy might be in the future. Talk about pride!! You have to wear the uniform to feel the camaraderie, the gung-ho attitude, the profound feelings of brotherhood, the intense loyalty, and the Esprit de Corps that make up the heart and soul of a Marine. That was what I felt and still do. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”Ever since our Continental Congress decreed on November 10th, 1775 that two battalions of Marines be raised for combat in battles at sea, we have been continually staying alert, prepared to land on hostile shores and do harm to the bad guys. Whether in the air, on land, or at sea, the Marines will protect and defend this country, its people, and our friends wherever they may be, as will any military man or woman. After being sworn in as an ofcer, I spent approximately seven months in the Ofcer Basic School, a tough but good experience in preparation to do all that I could do for God and country, and of course, my Marine Corps.Through all the years during and after my experience with the Marine Corps, nothing has been lost or wasted. All the training I received has only added to my personality, my goals, and my achievements. I took the USMC into my civilian life and made good use of all those blood sweat and tears on days when I thought I was going to dry up from dehydration, blow up from desert heat or melt into a puddle of exhaustion. As a teacher and principal, I made use of the teaching skills and “never panic mode” that the corps instilled in me. For example, when I was discharged I took a job as a teacher at our local Dept. of Youth Services (Junior Jail) thinking that it was going to be a tough job. However, my training as a Marine Corps Ofcer was just what I needed to work with a room full of 7th - 12th grade hoodlums soon-to-be lifetime residents at the adult facility. My rst day on the job as a new green teacher with a target on my back was eventful. The class led into the room and each student took his seat. This class was a literature class. I learned that less than half of the students could read or had ever even opened a book. My rst wife, Brenda, had given me a book of poems that down the line I would discover would be a lifesaver for a couple of these kids. The classroom started to buzz with discontent as two of the students who had had a history together decided that they’d play out their grievances now in a class where they thought they could set the tone for the year. As they stood up and started to throw punches at each other, my training kicked in automatically, and without thinking I got between the two of them. I grabbed one by the collar and gave a push while I lifted the other one up by the shirt and shoved him up the wall onto his tippy toes. Now “I” had set the tone for the year. Respect for my authority was established and the class moved on. Later in the hallway, the security guard who had witnessed the incident through the window on the door told me that I should never get between these kids when they ght because they didn’t respect anyone. I had proved that wrong. Everyone got back into his seat, I got the room settled down and began to read “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe from the book “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” which became part of our class curriculum from that day on. They were hooked and thanks to my USMC training I had won their respect and we were off to a great start.One of those students was a hardcore hater. He hated his teachers, his classes, and anything to do with school. With a little help and encouragement from me and my USMC training, he even completed his high school program, was released from the facility, and even went on to Community College. The Marine Corps has helped thousands more than the men and women who it has directly trained. Families, friends, coworkers, and students all benet from the training one gets through the United States Marine Corps.USMC TRICKLE-dOWN Paul Sullivan, Ret. Captain, USMCPaul Sullivan, Ret. Captain, USMC resides in Massachusetts with his wife Beverly.

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40 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Justin Stieglitz is as patriotic as you can get as an American. Not willing to sit on the sidelines and watch others making a difference in his community and for our country, he’s one to take on more than his fair share of responsibility. Rooted from his great love of America, he has always had great respect for the men and women who joined the military to maintain the freedoms we all enjoy every day. Justin felt that if he was going to benet from their sacrice, he should contribute so that future generations could enjoy the same benets that he had and continues to value today. So, Justin took the initiative to join the Army to do his part. After enlisting as an Private in the Army Reserves in 1993, he joined ROTC at the University of Georgia and was commissioned as a Regular Army Second Lieutenant in Field Artillery in 1996. Justin was stationed at the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in Ft. Campbell, KY. He excelled in every position that he served while on Active Duty until 2000 and transitioned out of Active Duty after achieving the rank of Captain. But that wasn’t enough. Still compelled to serve our country, Justin went into the Inactive Reserve. However, in 2004 he was pulled back into Active Reserves serving as a Psychological Operations Ofcer. Justin was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and served in various command and staff positions up to Brigade Commander as a PSYOP ofcer. Ultimately, Justin would retire as a Colonel in 2020. While continuing in the Army Reserves, Justin successfully transitioned into the civilian sector holding several positions in medical sales and then in operations/management in a food manufacturing company. Not satised with his military and professional successes, Justin set his mind to pursue the quintessential American Dream of owning his own business. After all, being his own boss and owning his own business has always been a desire of his. Having the condence from already achieving a very successful military and corporate career he took the big leap in 2021 to invest further into his future. After leaving his corporate job, Justin pursued franchise ownership and decided to buy four Koala Insulation territories in the northeast OH area (Koala Insulation of Summit). In this role, Justin not only creates jobs for his community but helps businesses and homeowners achieve greater comfort, reduce energy expenses and reduce the negative impact on the environment by reducing their energy consumption. Justin is once again taking the initiative to achieve a new level of success as well as take an active role to better his community.FROM ARMY COLONEL TO CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRYWhy are Veterans Why are Veterans Selecting Franchises?Selecting Franchises?•• Proven track recordProven track record•• Less riskLess risk•• Established infrastructure Established infrastructure •• Full operating proceduresFull operating procedures•• Comprehensive training and Comprehensive training and ongoing support ongoing support •• Brand awarenessBrand awareness•• Experienced leadership teamExperienced leadership team•• Marketing resourcesMarketing resources•• Easier fundingEasier fundingWhy are Veterans Why are Veterans Selecting Franchises?Selecting Franchises?•• Proven track recordProven track record•• Less riskLess risk•• Established infrastructure Established infrastructure •• Full operating proceduresFull operating procedures•• Comprehensive training and Comprehensive training and ongoing support ongoing support •• Brand awarenessBrand awareness•• Experienced leadership teamExperienced leadership team•• Marketing resourcesMarketing resources•• Easier fundingEasier fundingIrving Chung is a franchise consultant with FranChoice. He is also the Director of Entrepreneurship and Board Member at the Dallas/Fort Worth Veterans Chamber of Commerce.To learn more, contact Irving for a free consultation.Irving ChungFranChoice Franchise 908-9791bigconsideration.comJUSTIN STIEGLITZColonel, US Army

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 41So, I have always been fascinated with words. Big words. Small words. Combinations of words. And the ability to put words into sentences and paragraphs whether it be for research or just for pure entertainment.One of the unique qualities of words is their ability to confuse your senses and understanding. For instance, take the words through, thought, though, tough, and thou. Each one has a similar use of the letters “ou”, but each is pronounced differently. And how about words that are the same forward and backward like level, kayak, rotator, civic, radar, madam, and racecar? At this point, some of you are thinking, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.” Others are thinking, “Get a life!” But stop and think about it. We all started with words in pretty much the same way. C-A-T, cat. D-O-G, dog. We looked at the combination of letters, put them together, and sounded out words to learn how to speak and read.This process was also used during my time in Vietnam. One of my many assignments while there was as OIC of the battalion PX. Severely undersized and understocked for the size of the unit, our rst challenge was to build a bigger facility to provide more options for the troops. The bigger the PX, the more supplies we could order from the depot in Saigon. Since communication was difcult with the entry-level papasan carpenters, we often showed them the words on the tools and boxes of supplies so they would know what to use and where to use it. By the way, Vietnamese papasan carpenters prefer to use a saw with the teeth facing up which is both interesting and awkward. But that’s another story.Three months after starting the project, we opened the doors to a bigger, brighter, and now better-staffed PX. In addition to a few military staff members, we now had Hai, Mai, Thu Ha, Kim, Nina, and our incredible stockman Trang. All of the female Vietnamese employees eagerly wanted to learn English beyond responses to the troops’ verbal advances, if you catch my drift. Trang was the conduit between learning English words and phrases and passing them along to the mostly female staff. It went something like this. The trucks would arrive with our orders from the depot and Trang would unload the goods to our dock before checking them in and moving the goods into the PX for stocking. It’s how he learned to read and say, Falstaff, Busch, Strohs, Budweiser, and you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a young Vietnamese say Schlitz! They learned to read the packs and cartons of Winston, Camels, Lucky Strike, Marlboro, Chestereld, Pall Mall, Tareyton, and the runaway favorite KOOL. And there were all those canned goods from Hormel, Campbell’s, Del Monte, Van Camp, and more in addition to the bags and packages of chips, cookies, and candies.I mention all of this because it became the primer for the locals to learn English more so than the troops learning Vietnamese. In between customers, they would read the ingredients on the labels of the boxes and packages and then speak the words to each other. And it was amazing the number of words they would absorb and share each day. Their favorites were, of course, any labels that had the words, candy, sugar, or sweetener in them.This all leads to one amazing occurrence. Saturday was always the busiest day for the PX, especially in cigarette, beer, and snack sales. Also, most shipments arrived on Fridays so that the shelves could be fully stocked for the weekend. Everyone from the stocking staff to the salesgirls to the NCOs and even yours truly pitched in to receive, hustle and re-stock the store. Sometime mid-morning, Trang came into the ofce to tell me that among the supplies received were some chocolate bars which were a rarity in Vietnam and as much of a delicacy to the Vietnamese as they were to the troops. He wanted to know if the staff could share in the bounty, and I replied in the afrmative but strongly ordered no more than one bar per person so that there would be enough for the grunts coming in off of guard duty and for the rest of the battalion. His eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning.Usually at about noon each day the staff would start taking turns getting a bite to eat and often catching a short nap. Mai, who was all of about eighty pounds but was usually the rst to take a break, came into my ofce at about 10:30 and asked if she could take her break early. Afrmative. A short while later Thu Ha asked if she could go to the latrine. This was not unusual as she was six months pregnant and needed to step away a few times during the day. Kim was the next to request an early break. Since she rarely left the oor for any reason during her shift, I became suspicious. Then Trang burst in the door. “Oi choi oi”, he shouted, “Need to go latrine!!” Since a pattern was now forming with the Vietnamese staff, I asked Trang for more info before excusing him. Sure enough, the chocolate he had requested for the staff was Ex-Lax and each had digested the allotted one bar each! There were twelve squares in each package and the recommended dosage was one to two squares at a time.Suddenly it was quite clear why the staff was rotating trips to the latrine all day long. Bear in mind that the latrine was located about a block and a half away from the PX since we had no on-site plumbing. The operation of the store that day was like an exercise in musical chairs as each of us had to keep shifting positions to relieve each of the staff to relieve themselves.This also explains why that particular weekend the PX ran out of toilet paper!by Stuart SaxLOST IN TRANSLATIONLOST IN TRANSLATION

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42 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023August 26 will mark two years since thirteen of our own were killed by a suicide bomber at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. THE FALLOUTTo be frank, it is a shit show that just keeps on giving…from the minute we left Americans and Afghani allies behind, to the moment the remains of 13 of our own were unloaded from the C17 at Dover in American ag-draped cofns. As one of the most solemn honors we can give our fallen, has there ever been a Commander & Chief who checked his watch every ve minutes, as if he had somewhere better to be? While I, myself am not an OEF combat Veteran, I have witnessed the fallout within the Veteran community which has been like opening Pandora’s box . There is not a day that goes by that I have not been in a state of self-controlled rage and grief watching my brothers and sisters suffer. I see it in the stories of Afghanistan Vets, I see it opening old wounds in Vietnam Veterans, I’m aware of an increase in OEF Veteran suicides, and I’ve watched military leaders and politicians outright lie, gaslight, and avoid accountability for the fallout of their decisions, and then turn to the camera and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Was it preventable? According to an internal investigation report released by the Pentagon in February of 2022, it was not. “Based on our investigation at the tactical level, this was not preventable,” General Lance Curtis told reporters at a brieng Friday. “And the leaders on the ground followed the proper measures. And any time there was an imminent threat warning they followed the proper procedures: they lowered their prole, they sought cover and, at times, they even ceased operations at the gate.”1And yet, in March of 2023, Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas testied before the House Foreign Affairs Committee:2“Around 2:00 AM on August 26th, Intel guys conrmed the suicide bomber in the vicinity of and nearing Abbey Gate, described as a clean-shaven, brown dressed black vest and traveling with an older companion. I asked Intel guys why he wasn’t apprehended sooner since we had a full description. I was told the asset could not be compromised. Throughout the entirety of the day on August 26th, 2021, we disseminated the suicide bomber information to ground forces at Abbey Gate. He 1 transcribed from: To Be Forgottenby Christine WalkerAFGHANISTAN REMEMBEREDOPINION

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was spotted somewhere from noon to 1:00 PM by myself, then Sergeant Charles Schilling and another, the anomaly in the crowd who was clean-shaven and t the description exactly, traveling with an older gentleman. The individual was consistently and nervously looking up at our position through the crowd. The older of the two wore a black silky hijab that was covering his face most of the time. They both had obvious mannerisms that go along with who we believed them to be. They handed out small cards to the crowd periodically, and the older man sat calmly and seemingly coached the bomber over the communication network. We passed on that there was a potential threat and an ID attack imminent. This was as serious as it could get. I requested engagement authority while my team leader was ready on the M110 semi-automatic sniper system. The response leadership did not have the engagement authority for us. Do not engage. I requested for the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brad Whited, to come to the tower to see what we did. While we waited for him, psychological operations individuals came to our tower immediately and conrmed the suspect met the suicide bomber description. He eventually arrived and we showed him our evidence, the photos we had of the two men. We reassured him of the ease of re on the suicide bomber. Pointedly we asked him for engagement, authority, and permission. We asked him if we could shoot. Our battalion commander said. And I quote, ‘I don’t know.’ Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, ‘Well, who does? Because this is your responsibility, Sir.’ He again replied he did not know but would nd out. We received no update and never got our answer. Eventually, the individual disappeared. To this day, we believe he was a suicide bomber who made everyone on the ground aware. Operations had briey halted but then started again. Plain and simple, we were ignored. Our expertise was disregarded. No one was held accountable for our safety.”Sgt. Vargas goes on to testify…“About 1730 Staff Sergeant Darren Hoover, friend and mentor came to get me from the tower to go help nd an Afghan interpreter in the crowd. We found the interpreter and his brother, born with American passports. They told us of ve family members still in the canal. I stayed there waiting for the family members standing against a 2-foot canal wall and 10 minutes passed. Then a ash and a massive wave of pressure. I’m thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what had happened. I opened my eyes to Marines, dead or unconscious, lying around me. A crowd of hundreds immediately vanished in front of me and my body was catastrophically wounded with 100 to 150 ball bearings now. And almost immediately, we started taking the re from the neighborhood and I saw how injured I was with my right arm completely shredded and unusable. I saw my lower abdomen soaked in blood. I crawled backward 7 feet, roughly 7 feet because I thought I was still in harm’s way. My body was overwhelmed by the trauma of the blast. My abdomen had been ripped open, and every inch of my exposed body except for my face took ball bearings and shrapnel. I tried to get up but could not. Laying there for a few minutes, I started to lose consciousness. When I heard Chaz, my team leader, screaming my name as he ran to me. His voice calling to me kept me awake. When he got to me, he dragged me to safety and immediately started triaging me, applying tourniquets on my limbs and doing anything he could to stop the bleeding and start plugging wounds, With the help of the other Marines, I was awake through most of it, screaming, moaning and cursing. Please ask me about getting shot at, at the tower and Abby gate. And how no one wanted my report post blast. Even NCIS and the FBI failed to interview me. Ask me to elaborate on my ordeal post blast and asked me about this one little girl and her family that I reunited. Our military members and veterans deserve our best because that is what we give to America. The withdrawal was a catastrophe, in my opinion, and there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. The 11 Marines, one sailor, and one soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for.” So, was the suicide bombing and the death of 13 of our brothers and sisters preventable? You’re damn right it was! I can only hope that one day very soon, our elected ofcials and military leaders directly involved in this asco, will take a long hard look in the mirror, and take some accountability for the decisions made and the decisions not made, that would have averted this heart-wrenching loss of American service members, American citizens, and Afghani allies. IN MEMORIAMUSMC SSgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, UtahUSMC Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, MassachusettsUSMC Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, CaliforniaUSMC Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, CaliforniaUSMC Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, NebraskaUSMC Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, IndianaUSMC LCpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, TexasUSMC LCpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, MissouriUSMC LCpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, WyomingUSMC LCpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, CaliforniaUSMC LCpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, CaliforniaUSN HM Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, OhioUSA SSG. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, TennesseeThe full testimony of Sgt. Vargas can be viewed here:Until Valhalla ... SEMPER FI!

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As part of Operation Kingsher, which ofcially began on June 1, 1967, we continuously pursued the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). We moved up, down, and across the “Trace” (aka the McNamara line) from mid-August to mid-September of 1967 without any letup. My battalion, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines (2/9), was engaged in a search-and-destroy mission to kill or capture and stop the inltration of the NVA crossing the DMZ into South Vietnam. It was a monumental task and several other Marine battalions were involved as well. SEPTEMBER 19We were still receiving intelligence reports of a massive NVA troop build-up just three miles from Con Thien on the northern side and near the Ben Hai River. After 31 drudging days in the Trace, 2/9 was ordered to take up a defensive position on a small hill about 800 meters (875 yards) southeast of Con Thien posthaste. From our position, it was a forced march through rugged terrain and torrential rains to reach the outpost before dark and set up a defensive perimeter.The G2 intelligence was anticipating an all-out ground attack on Con Thien by the NVA and we were there to provide a reactionary force along with another battalion, 2nd Battalion 4th Marines (2/4) just west of us. At the time, 3rd Battalion 9th Marines (3/9) was assigned to defend Con Thien inside its perimeter. When we arrived at “Con Thien South” as I called it, there were no sandbag-reinforced bunkers. The hill had been previously occupied by Marines, and it had concertina wire surrounding the perimeter and a small clearing for a helicopter landing zone (LZ). There were some pre-dug foxholes but most were overgrown and lled with mud and water. So, we dug new foxholes the best we could. We were well exposed to the enemy’s artillery and rockets and they took full advantage of this situation. This hill had few trees on it, so there was always a fear that a rocket would hit the trees just above and shower shrapnel down on top of you. There was no safe place on that hill. We set up a hasty perimeter that rst evening and the rest of the night was relatively quiet.SEPTEMBER 20Early the next morning it all started. Just as the rst few rays of light began to appear, at a time most would refer to as twilight, the rockets came screaming in. We were now ground zero for the enemy’s rocket and artillery attacks as well as Con Thien, our neighbor to our north. We were particularly vulnerable at this time of day because it was not still dark, nor was there really enough light yet to see. This made it extremely difcult to pinpoint the NVA’s position and return re. Because we had no protection overhead, it was just a matter of time and bad luck if you received a direct hit. One day, we received more than 400 rounds of 140mm rockets with 200 plus rockets per day being the norm. This attack went on relentlessly for the next nine days.With this kind of daily pounding, Colonel John J. Peeler, the battalion commanding ofcer, sent out as many patrols as possible. The fewer the number of Marines inside the perimeter, the fewer could be killed or injured. We were keeping the medivac choppers very busy because they landed every day to pick up our casualties. My S3 radio duties required me to be near the command center foxhole and maintain radio communications with the rest of the companies dispersed around the perimeter and out on patrols. However, for the rst time in my Vietnam tour, I would have rather gone out on patrols than stay inside our camp. Usually, being inside the perimeter would be considered safer than tramping around in the jungle. But, not in this case.The constant shelling played havoc on a Marine’s psyche. Some handled it better than others. However, I saw rsthand Marines aficted with “battle fatigue” also known as shell shock. One of my fellow radio operators started acting strange and distant. He was just sitting and staring with a blank expression on his face, and he was shaking. He wouldn’t respond to commands and had a 1,000-yard stare on his face. He was tagged with “battle fatigue” and medivac'd later that day. I never saw him again after that incident.Marine and NVA positions in and around Con Thien during September 19-27, 1967. Map by Col. Long, Joseph. Hill of Angels: U.S. Marines and the Battle for Con Thien, 1967 to 1968, History Division, Marine Corps University, Quantico, VA, 2016, p. 5. Used with permission. Map edits by VL StevensonVL Stevenson – Corporal, USMCVietnam 1966 – 1968Where Angels Gathered... Where Angels Gathered... 44 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023

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SEPTEMBER 21On this day I came down with dysentery. I was running a low-grade fever and nothing would stay in me for long. I won’t go into details, but it was bad. The Corpsman tagged me for medical evacuation but we were still taking casualties daily so my evacuation priority was low. The rst priority was the severely wounded, then the walking wounded along with the dead. If there was any room left, then the sick would go, and rightly so. The only choppers landing were the Marine UH-34D Seahorse helicopters which had limited carrying capacity. Every day I would make my way down to the LZ in the hope there would be room. Three days passed before I was nally medivac'd. By that time I was in bad shape with dehydration and fever.On the same morning I became sick, the inevitable happened. During our daily shelling, a single rocket landed in a foxhole with three Marines and a Corpsman. Severely wounded was Captain Frank L Southard, Hotel Company’s commanding ofcer. Killed were his company gunny, his radio operator, and a Corpsman who had leaped into the hole at the last minute with the round making a direct hit on him. My route down to the LZ took me right beside the foxhole that had been hit. I didn’t look too hard but I could see most of the body parts had already been collected and were down at the LZ. As I made my way down the path, a Corpsman came running up to me with a C-ration case box in hand. He told me to make sure it got on the chopper. I took the corrugated box under my arm and quickly made my way to the LZ. I reached the LZ in time and approached the chopper door and presented the box. At the same time, the prop wash blew open the box aps and revealed what I was carrying. Inside, a completely laced-up jungle boot covered in blood. Out of the top of the boot, the shattered bones of the tibia and bula extended about halfway to where a knee would have been. The loose muscle and esh were only being held in place by the boot top. I’m sure it belonged to one of the three poncho-wrapped bags laying on the chopper’s oor. Over the years, that boot has appeared in my memory, and I think, when he put that boot on and laced it up, he didn’t know it would be his last time ever to tie those laces. It’s an image that has never left me.SEPTEMBER 22-23When we rst arrived at that small hill south of Con Thien, there was an LZ inside the perimeter. We moved it further east and outside the wire to an open rice paddy to have more space for the choppers. I’m guessing the LZ was about 200 meters (219 yards) from my foxhole and the command center foxhole. There were no foxholes at the LZ, so getting caught out in the open there was risky. One day, I was making my way down to the LZ in hopes of leaving on a medivac. Just as I reached the LZ, rockets started landing on top of the hill and progressively worked their way down the hill toward the LZ. The chopper immediately lifted off and left the area. I was looking for protection, but there was none. Across the at area where the helicopters landed was a small dike about two feet high that ran the length of the LZ. It looked like the remnants of an old rice paddy. I ran toward the dike and then a rocket impacted the LZ. I was close enough that I should have received shrapnel but didn’t. However, the rocket’s concussion knocked me off my feet. Still in panic mode, I rolled on the ground, stood up, and started running toward the dike. All this time I was putting more and more distance between me and our camp. Another round hit just as I made it to the dike and I dove for the other side. After the last round exploded I slowly peeked over the top and realized I was a good distance from our perimeter. A new panic set in…I was now in what we considered enemy territory and by myself. I stood up and ran a straight line back toward our perimeter thinking all the while a sniper would pick me off. Dysentery was still raging in my body but, with a high dose of adrenaline, I had temporarily forgotten all about it. Adrenaline is a powerful drug.SEPTEMBER 24It was now my 3rd day of dysentery, much weaker, and still maintaining a low-grade fever. A medivac chopper was on its way, so once again I made my way down to the LZ. This time my luck held out and I boarded the chopper. I remember taking off as I sat in the canvas sling seat directly across from the open door. The pilot made a steep bank while he spiraled upward from the LZ. At this point, I was looking straight down at the LZ, my legs loosely dangling. I thought if I let go of the seating structure, I will drop right out the door. Fortunately, he straightened out and I was on my way back to Dong Ha for some medical attention.Story continued on page 57Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 45Top: RL Lupold standing in his hole after a rocket attack. Middle: Looking northwest at the hill of Con Thien. Bottom: VL Stevenson third day sick with dysentery. Con Thien © 1967 VL Stevenson

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46 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Winter 2022

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of life, for my artistic endeavors, my business, and what I wanted out of relationships too. I then created a task list of activities for each of those sections and then added a frequency list. Some things I only do on the weekends, other things every morning, etc. Once I did this mapping I added it to my calendar as non-negotiables and my “get it done no matter what.”Secondly, I strive to stay balanced and engaged with my purpose by developing good habits and routines, maintaining personal relationships, and regularly participating in self-care activities. I added this list to my non-negotiables and on the calendar. I work out every morning for about 20 mins. I then read my Bible rst, and then 3 other books for 1 hour. That means that I only read a few pages at a time from each book. I’m a bookworm and I love reading, exploring, and learning. I take time to connect with my daughters regularly and check on my closest friends frequently.Thirdly, ikigai encourages individuals to connect with the world around them by being aware of environmental issues and taking part in meaningful activities that can help make a positive impact on society. Everyone can help our community by doing something even as simple as volunteering. I support several non-prots by creating all of their social media and also by maintaining their websites. It is my way of giving back to the community. Lastly, the ultimate goal of ikigai is to achieve true happiness by nding joy in the journey rather than solely focusing on the end result.This goes back to reading, I read a lot and I love to read books that are inspiring or that have a moral lesson. And Here are my top 10 books. Of course, I have about 100, or should I say 1000 books that I would highly recommend but 10 will sufce for this article.“Happiness Through IKIGAI - A 20-Step Guide” by Ayano Fukutomi. An easy-to-follow 4-week program to help readers nd their ikigai. It also provides practical tips and advice on how to improve mental wellbeing and create meaningful connections with others.“Ikigai: The Japanese Art Of Finding Meaning In Life” by Akiyoshi Mishima and Takashi Mishima. Packed full of ancient wisdom, inspiring quotes, and uplifting advice, this book provides an accessible introduction to ikigai for those seeking greater joy and satisfaction in life.“Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr. Sadako teaches that peace, hope, and tolerance should be embraced to build a better world. Despite having faced immense suffering, Sadako found courage and strength within herself to make a thousand paper cranes in pursuit of a wish for peace. She showed us that we can all make a difference - no matter how small - in our own ways.“The House of Sixty Fathers” by Meindert DeJong. Family and friendship can be found in unexpected places. Through his journey, Me-Tzu discovers the true meaning of camaraderie and shows the power of love, respect, and understanding to bring people together in times of struggle. The book teaches us that no matter how desperate a situation may seem, there is hope if we take the time to look for it.“Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. The book offers a unique perspective on dealing with suffering, encouraging individuals to take ownership of their attitude and discover a purpose to live even under the most difcult circumstances. By emphasizing the importance of having hope and courage, Frankl helps us realize that we have far more control over our lives than we may think.“A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Irvine. Through this book, readers are encouraged to re-evaluate their understanding of happiness and start living with greater intentionality by utilizing techniques such as negative visualization and self-monitoring. Ultimately, Irvine’s advice helps us build self-awareness and resilience so that we FROM MY POINT OF VIEW:FROM MY POINT OF VIEW:By Cristie RemmelAs I was searching for a good topic for this next article I was in a quandary as to the subject matter. Do I write about our current state of affairs, write about art, or perhaps about personal development? After thinking about this for several days I chose the latter. Personal development has been the focus of my attention for the last few years. Why? well because I feel that to withstand the assaults of the world, one has to be resilient and nd ways to cope with our current state of affairs.Lately, I’ve resumed the desire to get back in tune with nature, calm my spirit and quiet the chatter in my brain. In my younger years, I was an avid student of martial arts and I am proud to say that I earned my 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I have a 1st degree in sword forms and I have my green (level 3) belt in Krav Maga. All this came to a halt when I had my second knee surgery, so my attention turned towards studying the philosophical aspects of the Warrior Spirit such as the Samurai way of living and their history. Thus my journey to nd my Ikigai.First a brief explanation of what Ikigai means: Ikigai is a Japanese concept that can be translated as “reason for being” or having a purpose in life. It is believed to be the source of true fulllment, contentment, and joy in life. Ikigai involves discovering one’s true passion, embracing it, and dedicating oneself to pursuing it with enthusiasm. It encourages individuals to explore their interests, analyze their unique skill sets, pursue meaningful goals and relationships, and nd out what they truly value in life.The process of discovering one’s Ikigai requires some deep introspection and thought. It can be a difcult journey however, it is essential to achieving true fulllment in life. To begin the process of nding your Ikigai, I had to ask myself some hard questions such as: What am I truly passionate about? What do I nd meaningful and rewarding? What do I value most in life and how can I use my unique skills to benet others?I started by setting achievable goals, creating a plan for achieving them and taking small steps every day toward those goals. Not being discouraged when encountering obstacles along the way, as every journey of self-discovery is bound to have its ups and downs. In the short journey to discovering my Ikigai, I found 4 key principles:The rst principle is to have a clear purpose, which involves determining what one truly wants out of life and setting achievable goals toward achieving it. For this rst principle, I made a list of what I wanted out Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 47Story continued on page 57

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48 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023RETIRING THE COLORSVeterans2Veterans Group is an apolitical organization, that always has been and always will be. Our position is that we, as an organization, do not have a position. Naturally, our members, directors, and volunteers are free to have whatever political views they wish. However, V2VG is ‘mission rst, and only’ and as such we focus on our veteran and rst responder clients and how we might be able to help them. If that means, we need to obtain assistance from a political entity we don’t care about which side of the aisle they reside on. Likewise, locally, we just don’t care about politics on a local level either. Franky, we don’t have time. Again, we are mission-driven and if a business assists us with our mission, we don’t care about their political views or leanings.It is important to note that we are not ignorant of local politics, but we do try to stay above the fray, as it were. It just doesn’t typically concern us as our mission isn’t related to that area. An example of this is one of our missions to educate the public about veteran issues, including the proper treatment of our National Colors. To that end, we have partnered with a local waste management company, North Country Environmental Services (NCES) a Casella Waste Systems Inc. subsidiary out of Bethlehem, NH to develop and establish a Flag Collection and Retirement Program at multiple area landlls and transfer stations. This program, entirely sponsored by Casella, was envisioned by Mr. Bruce Grover, an employee of NCES and an army veteran himself. It consists of custom Flag Drop-Box receptacles stationed on-site so people who use these landlls and transfer stations can simply drop off their destroyed or otherwise unserviceable colors. Afterward, twice a year, once during the Spring and once during the Autumn, the Veterans2Veterans Group collects these ags and conducts a proper Flag Retirement Ceremony, open to the public.The rst Flag Retirement Ceremony we conducted in unison with this project was held on April 22nd this year at The Wayside Inn & Restaurant in Bethlehem, NH. It was our trial run at that location and with that number of ags. It was a great success, and we plan on continuing the tradition going forward into the future. This year we had cadets from our local JROTC program, the “Spartan Battalion” participating in the ceremony as well as cadets from the Mt. Washington Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.Written by: Eric McNailVeterans2Veterans Group will also be hosting a free First Responder Luncheon before the Flag Retirement Ceremony to say ‘thank you’ for all they do for our local community. This is designed to simply show our appreciation for their hard work. It is provided by the amazing staff of the Wayside Inn & Restaurant. In the future, we may open the Free Luncheon to the public as well.All these things are done to not only thank the hard-working rst responders in our communities, to educate the public about the proper treatment and disposal of the American Flag, and to honor those who have fought and perished under it, but also to support our sponsors, those who support Veterans2Veterans Group for no other reason than their belief in our mission. We appreciate that and love the support and want to spread that appreciation around to the communities that support us, and them as well. It truly is a community effort. We cannot do this alone. No one is an island unto themselves. Don’t let local, state, or national politics ruin a good thing, and patriotism is always a good thing, of that you can be sure.

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Casella actively recruits Veterans and helps match their valuable skills with careers that best suit their interests and experience.Thank you, Veterans, for your service, your sacrifice, and your hard work protecting our freedom.To learn more, text CASELLA to 97211, visit or scan here >>CASELLA EMPLOYEES HAS A BACKGROUND OF MILITARY SERVICEOUT OF1 20EVERYBruce Grover, NH

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50 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023AMERICAN PATRIOTISMAmerica was founded based on freedom, even though in the very beginning freedom was only an idea. People who have witnessed injustices have had to advocate and speak out to make change happen. In today’s world, everything is out of sync. Our elected ofcials seem to be swayed by the wind and the top story of the day. They no longer represent the people who elected them, they represent their wallets. What is American Patriotism? To answer that question as to what patriotism means, we must look at education reform or should I say the lack of reform and the deterioration of such education that has taken place over the last 20-30 years. We are a nation made of many cultures, and what binds us together has always been the American ag and the ideals behind that ag. To be precise, our Constitution and what our forefathers had in mind for an ideal American nation. We have been moving away from what America represents by allowing the different cultures who come here not adapt to our ways of life. I believe that we must assimilate and love what our Constitution has given us so that we can return to what America was rst designed to do and to provide for all of us: Freedom to pursue justice, fairness, and equality to all of its people and to achieve the people’s own goals as to their ideal life.This also means that people are responsible for their own lives and there must not be a reliance on the government to provide things for them. Freedom grants individuals the autonomy to live their lives as they choose with dignity and respect. The opportunities are in this country for everyone to succeed. As a country, we must foster characteristics such as ambition, hard work, resilience, discipline, resourcefulness, and critical thinking skills in our education system. Ambition is necessary for setting long-term goals and taking steps to reach them. Hard work is essential to turn those dreams into reality. Resilience enables people to persist through challenges and keep pushing toward their goals. Discipline helps maintain focus on the tasks at hand and complete them efciently. Resourcefulness allows individuals to identify opportunities for growth and take advantage of them. Finally, critical thinking skills are essential for success in a variety of contexts because they allow people to assess different perspectives and make informed decisions. By engaging in analytical reasoning, problem-solving, and creative thinking, individuals can develop their critical thinking abilities and become better decision-makers. The benet of having strong critical thinking skills is that people have more condence in their judgment and can make decisions with greater accuracy while mitigating risk. Additionally, they will be able to identify potential opportunities or solutions more quickly.Over the last 30 years, our education system has become lacking in what used to make our country great. We no longer teach patriotic songs to young children; no longer teach the constitution in our elementary schools, nor at the high school level, and in college it is an elective if so desired. We no longer abide by our laws; the tiny minority has been forcing the majority to abdicate and change our ways of life. Many people nowadays are ignorant of the principles of American government and the spiritual foundations of the nation. They seem unaware of the current saying: “To be born free is a great privilege: to die free is a great responsibility.” That quote is important because it serves as a reminder of the importance of individual freedoms and their responsibility to protect them. In a world of oppression and autocracy, it is essential to recognize that freedom should not be taken for granted but rather earned and defended at all costs. This phrase underscores the importance of maintaining the rights and liberties that have been paid for with blood, sweat, and tears for us to enjoy them today. And yet ignorance is especially true of the younger generation in today’s world because they are bombarded with an abundance of media and have access to technology that can both foster knowledge and mislead them. With so much information available at their ngertips, young people have difculty discerning what is accurate and relevant, which can lead to a dangerous lack of awareness and understanding. Additionally, there is a tendency for youth to rely on supercial knowledge rather than critical thinking or meaningful learning, which can lead to a lack of critical thinking skills and a shallow understanding of complex issues.There is a toxicity that plagues our current political climate, and it feels like nothing can be done. This cannot be further from the truth. We can start in our own backyard by making a stand in who we select as our representatives and voting out those who misrepresent us and who line their pockets with money.A great example of this abuse of power is that recently our elected government ofcials made the decision to the destabilization of our dollar because it ts their narrative of “control of the people.” A cashless society has several detrimental consequences, including the potential for reduced nancial privacy, compromised security, and an by Cristie Remmel

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 51increased risk of cybercrime. Without physical currency, all transactions would be recorded digitally in online banking or payment systems, leaving customers vulnerable to large-scale data theft and identity fraud. Additionally, a cashless economy could lead to greater social inequality because those without access to bank accounts or digital payment methods may nd themselves excluded from participating in certain kinds of nancial transactions. Furthermore, if governments move towards creating a completely cashless society, then they may gain unprecedented control over citizens’ spending habits and nancial activities.American patriotism is the love for or devotion to America. It represents people who love this country and support the authority and interests. It also means that we have to teach history with all its aws and ugly truths so we can value what we have and how far we have come from the cruelty of slavery and the atrocities committed long ago.In our most recent past, it became popular to erase history because somehow it is supposed to make things better. However, it is important to remember history because it provides us with a context for understanding the present. History reveals patterns and themes that can help us make sense of current events and the world around us, allowing us to recognize our own biases and those of others. Knowing our history also helps us gain a deeper appreciation for different cultures, values, and ideologies; this knowledge ultimately leads to more compassion and empathy for ourselves, as well as for others. To erase history would be to deny ourselves of a valuable resource that can help bring about positive change in our society.Patriotism means taking a stand, voting, being a decent individual with principles and fairness, not running away from our country, and being present each day! Patriotism means that you will do whatever is in your power to make sure we uphold our Constitutional rights and our values because upholding our American values and Constitution serve as the foundation of our society. This foundation ensures that all citizens are treated fairly and equitably, regardless of their race, religion, creed, or gender. The Constitution also protects the rights of individuals from government intrusion and overreach, thereby providing an important check on the power of authorities. Our American values also ensure that the United States remains a beacon for freedom, justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. As such, upholding these values and our Constitution is essential to continue promoting justice and prosperity for all citizens in today’s world. By doing this simple act of protecting our American Values and Our Constitution we protect our citizens to be free to pursue their lives as they see t.What we don’t welcome is their laws they are escaping from. Come to this country legally, come and assimilate to our way of life, our values, and love of country. See yourself as an American of (insert your nationality here) decent. Never forget where you came from but see yourself as America rst. America owes you nothing! You owe America everything! Seek not to be enslaved by the erroneous thought of the few who want handouts and reparations for something that did not happen to them. When different cultures of people don’t assimilate into our values and the protection of our Constitution, it can lead to misunderstandings, tension, and conict. When people from different cultures come together, they may not all understand or appreciate each other’s language, customs, beliefs, and values. This lack of understanding can lead to stereotypes that cause division rather than unity. Moreover, when there is no effort made to bridge the gap between cultures through education and dialogue, it can create an environment where prejudice towards certain groups becomes commonplace. As such, it is important for people of different backgrounds to make an effort to learn about one another to foster respect and understanding between cultures.Seek instead to be free of the slavery mentality and the victim hood that the few want to maintain. Believing that reparations should be paid is a dangerous thought pattern because it perpetuates the idea of collective guilt. The notion of collective guilt holds that all members of a group are responsible for the actions of past members and must pay for those actions through some form of reparations, regardless of whether they had any direct involvement in those actions. This kind of thinking ignores the complexities of history and fails to recognize the individual experiences and realities of people from different backgrounds. Additionally, the idea that one group must pay for the wrongs or injustices committed by another unfairly places responsibility on one side while failing to acknowledge any wrongdoing from another. Such a rigid approach to restitution can create further divisions and tensions between groups and impede progress toward mutual understanding. I choose to be a free person of my own volition and thought and my own means. I choose to be free to do and pursue my life as I see t. I choose to earn what I have through my personal efforts and mental capacities. I will never be made a slave to the thought that someone owes me something and that reparations should be paid.We must demand election integrity, and we must demand they represent us as elected ofcials. Election integrity is important in a free country because it allows our citizens to have condence that their voices are being heard and the outcomes of elections reect the will of the people. Fair, secure, and transparent elections ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process and that their votes will be counted accurately. Additionally, elections should be conducted following established laws and regulations to ensure fairness and prevent corruption or manipulation of results. When citizens trust that their government is upholding high standards for election integrity, they feel empowered and invested in democracy. Yet in the last few years, there has been a lack of election integrity in the United States. It is shameful as the entire world watches the debacles, we are experiencing currently by the few who have all the control and power. Patriotism to me is defending our way of life against all foreign and domestic enemies. I was never released of this oath when I left the military. I choose to take a stand for our freedoms and our way of life. To take an unwavering stand and to vote our representatives out of ofce when they do not line up with what the Constitution mandates. Take the time to vote locally so that our voices are heard where we are affected the most, at home. Take the time to vote at the national level so that our elected ofcials work to protect our way of life! Please vote them out when they break their promises. We as a nation must come together. The silent majority needs to stand up and be heard, why are we allowing the minority to rule with all the detrimental choices they are making? Why are we still silent on this? Are we not strong enough to come together and make a stand? Who then is going to protect and defend our American Values and our Constitution? It is our right to be represented. It is our right to voice our opinion and what we need.TAKE A STAND AND BE A PATRIOT!Cristie Remmel is a Desert Storm Veteran, having served as an FMF Corpsman in the United States Navy. She is also a business owner and President of the DFW Veterans Chamber of Commerce as well as the National Chamber Development Director for the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce.

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How Two Wolf Foundation is connecting the veteran tribe to nature through land stewardshipWho am I? What is my purpose in life? Where do I belong? When everything that you have ever believed in has been shattered to pieces, these are the questions that loom in the dark aftermath of trauma and existential crisis.For many of our warghters and combat veterans, during our time in uniformed service, these questions were incredibly simple to answer. There was a limitless sense of pride in our identity as service members of the Armed Forces. We lived a life committed to a cause greater than ourselves. We belonged to a tribe of warriors, always home when surrounded by our brothers and sisters in arms. Now, take the uniform off for the last time and suddenly those questions are not so easy to answer.What aspects of military service gave our lives so much meaning and how can we reignite a belief for our place in the world? For Brian Flynn, co-founder of the Two Wolf Foundation, the answers sat at the epicenter of his service as a United States Army Green Beret. For Brian, having a mission to accomplish was the undeniable driving force of purpose. Secondly, operating as a team, a small group of individuals fully committed to each other and the mission, created the strongest sense of belonging and connection to others. Lastly, empowered by the collective of mission and tribe there was always an internal drive for growth, physically and mentally.After years of combat, suppressed traumatic experiences, the loss of a best friend and fellow Special Forces brothers to suicide, and his own existential crisis after separating from the military, Brian eventually sought help through the form of Boulder Crest Foundation’s Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes), the nation’s rst-ever program designed to cultivate and facilitate Post traumatic Growth (PTG). Now armed with an understanding of the science of PTG, a road map of the growth phases, and a robust catalog of daily wellness practices, a lifelong journey of growth was rejuvenated. A NEW MISSIONA NEW MISSION52 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023by Doug Bauer

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 53But one burning question remained, how do we reintegrate a life of meaningful service that will sustain a positive growth mindset? And so Brian Flynn and Doug Bauer, Warrior PATHH teammates and co-founders of Two Wolf Foundation, set out to create a new mission for the warrior tribe with an emphasis on immersion in the incredibly therapeutic landscapes of nature and wilderness.Two Wolf Foundation mobilizes our nation’s combat veterans and rst responders to serve with a new purpose towards the protection, conservation, and sustainment of our US public land systems. Two Wolf Foundation brings our country’s warriors together to connect, serve, and grow stronger in unique and inspiring environments through overland adventure and land stewardship.In October of 2022, Two Wolf Foundation organized its rst Warrior Stewardship Team (WST) that embarked on an 1,100 mile overland expedition from western Montana to central Arizona culminating in the team’s participation in a multi-day stewardship project within the Four Peaks Wilderness on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. The land stewardship project was an incredible collaboration between the Arizona Trail Association’s VETS (Veteran Engagement and Trail Stewardship) program and Two Wolf Foundation to improve trail conditions in an area badly damaged by the Bush Fire of 2020 that burned more than 193,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest and the Four Peaks Wilderness. In total, the veterans of WST.001 lived out of the TWF expedition equipped vehicles for nine days, camped in four National Forests across three states, and improved twelve combined miles of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Quite the epic adventure lled with impacting moments of connection, service, and growth!Recognizing the signicant value in the rst team’s experience, Two Wolf Foundation set the bar high for 2023 to organize and fund three Warrior Stewardship teams to accomplish public land stewardship missions in partnership with Tread Lightly!, a nationally recognized outdoor ethics and stewardship organization focused on sustainable access to public lands. At Two Wolf Foundation, our goal is to satisfy a desire for adventure, connection, and purpose through team-based mission execution and meaningful service. In 2023, Warrior Stewardship teams will serve public lands in Montana (Kootenai National Forest), Idaho (Salmon-Challis National Forest), and Utah (Uinta National Forest). Each team will engage in a weeklong journey to connect to self, team, and the land that will strengthen each team member’s commitment to the lifelong path of posttraumatic growth.It takes an incredible community of supporters to make all of this possible and Two Wolf Foundation is grateful for every person, business, and entity that believes in our mission and is actively providing support for our warriors to serve again. Our organization is thankful to have been selected as a 2023 grant awardee by the Overland Expo Foundation that provides funding for our Salmon-Challis National Forest project this summer improving the sustainability of motorized access trails and multi-use recreation areas within the forest.Along every healing journey there are many struggles faced. When the internal battle against things like depression, stress, anxiety, fear, or loss is overbearing, we all have some modality to endure the darkest days. We all retreat to somewhere that makes us feel a little less pressure. Two Wolf Foundation’s hope is that we bring a greater awareness to the benets of seeking time in nature for the mind, body, and soul.For more information about Two Wolf Foundation, please visit our website at and stay up-to-date on our Warrior Stewardship teams by following @twowolffoundation on Instagram!CONNECTCONNECTSERVESERVEGROWGROW

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54 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 202310-19-21... Wow! What an awesome letter you wrote! I showed it around the cell block. So I wanted to respond with a quickness seen by few.Business rst: Bond hearing coming up next week hopefully by the time you receive this, I’ll be on my way to California to stay with my Uncle Harry. He’s a good man looking out for me. I’ll end up going home with him if it goes well. I can’t believe 22 yrs in the service, and 9 yrs working with the state agency would land me here. I have a guy/friend of mine working on my “Give Send Go.” He and I have been friends for almost 25yrs. We’ve chewed the same dirt overseas, he’s a good man. My ex trashed all my clothes in storage. Whatever was convenient at the time. She can give you a better update. With my eyes, I did see one each on video: Rosanne Boyland & the brutal beating she took by ofcers. All had a hand in the beating or watched it standing by. The video is on OAN. She had blunt force trauma to the upper right eye, on & on. Keep your eyes open for that one, no more boogieman stories. We hear things are getting better, so we just keep ghting from within! Make sure you’re getting your copy of the “Criterion Final Call” by Luis Farrakhan. This paper is the driving factor behind radical Islam & white hate. It tells what and how to treat white inmates. Believe me when I say “treatment.” A vOICE FOR THE vOICELESS PT vIA LETTER FROM JEFF MCKELLOP, US ARMYRetired Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey A. McKellop, a Green Beret of the 3rd Special Forces Group and CIA Contractor has been held without bail for over 26 months since his arrest on March, 17 of 2021 and to date, there is no set trial date. According to the Department of Justice website, Jeff is charged with 9 counts: Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers, Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers Using a Dangerous Weapon, Inflicting Bodily Injury, Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers Using a Dangerous Weapon, Civil Disorder, Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon, Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon, Engaging in Physical Violence in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon. Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building, and Act of Physical Violence in the Capitol Grounds or Buildings. It is understood that anything in the hands of an individual with specific training could become a weapon, but it is important to note that the 'dangerous' weapon Jeff had in his possession that day, was a regular flag pole ... with the flag attached. The following is a letter written by Jeff to Tim Rivers of the Patriot Mail Project in October of 2021. The letter was transcribed and is in it's raw state of Jeff's shorthand and abbreviations. At the time, there were rumors that J6 inmates were being physically abused by guards and locked down in isolation for 23 hours a day. These allegations have since been substantiated and in some instances have become a matter of court record. - Christine Walker

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Jordan Minx – Aug 23rd pulled from his cell, handcuffed to the handrail in front of his cell, 2 ERT Emergency Response Team members (ERT) went into his room and removed all his legal paperwork, They took his laptop and video on Jan. 6. All the documents were given to him legally. We have one guy with minor cancer who undergoes treatment. They have been denying him proper treatment as I write. This made it to his legal team and have led suit against them.This facility resulted in a “Town Hall Meeting” that literally faked in their face! Facility Mawa Gennet brought Captains, civilian workers & ERT (to keep us calm), section chiefs, & utility workers. Smart duds in here. Equivalent to PAs, attorneys, nutrition specialists, military badass (me) on & on. They brought a pencil & one notepad. Ha! We gave it to them to a point, they quit taking notes and started walking out one by one. Not one has come back to rectify the situation or topic. Shocking. Call my legal team Mrs Henry and Mrs Young. They are hot-looking women & extremely smart! Beat them at their own game.Now the nal part. This is where I cry while writing, Drinking my lukewarm faucet toilet water coffee, I want to thank you for your warm letter. You can see my words, and hear them in the faces of all who read it. I close my eyes & drift away from the hole that is my home. Faces fade as the minutes pass. I have a dream of an angel on the beach with the perfect sounds of waves in the cove! His hair is ying out in ribbons of gold, and his ngers touch my shoulder, his touch is like the power of stone. “Jeff now is the time.” He smiles & points to a pile of equipment near a boulder in white sand. “Now is the time to talk, to speak, to instruct, to don the armor of God.” St. Michael, the archangel, points and says nothing else. Now is the time, to put on the helmet of salvation! Fit yourself with the breastplate of righteousness. Take your shield of faith. Fit your waist with the belt of truth! A vOICE FOR THE vOICELESS PT vIWith your feet rmly planted and tted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Raise high, the sword of spirit that is the word of God! When you have done everything you can? Stand rm then! You only speak His name He will be your fortress & ramparts.“ A thousand will fall by your right hand, and a thousand lay at your feet, but none shall touch you.” Step into the jaws of death to kiss the lips of danger. Be with me! Put on the full armor of God. Let his truth be known throughout the lands. 2003 Battle of Debecka PassA hail storm of artillery and air defense artillery (ADA), small arms automatic, & mortar. (Oh! Northern Iraq) We almost ran dry of ammo. When it was over we stood atop the mountain, sword held high! Divine intervention. Taifar outside Mosul w-s/w, I was so scared. You could feel His presence. Tracer bullets coming so close to my face it makes a bullwhip crack as it passes. “After you have done everything to stand, stand rm then.”Call everyone! Tell your friends now is the time to put on the full armor of God. Be with me Be with us! We are in the middle of enemy territory, so far behind enemy lines help us! Now is the time we need you the most. Never quit.My name is Jeff McKellop. I am a political prisoner. 22 yrs Army, 101st Airborne, 2nd Ranger Bn, 3rd Grp Special Forces, ODA 394 & 395. 9yrs Hand & Gbve state & agency. When I need America most, she has turned her back on me. My name is Jeff McKellop, I am a political prisoner—This is my message in a bottle. Morse code decoded;H E L P U S…. . .-.. .--. ..- …/ P H Y S.--. .… -.-- …/A B U S E.- -… ..- … ./ T O T A L - --- - .- .-../I S O L A T I O N.. … --- .-.. .- - .. --- -./1 L 0 C D.---- .-.. --- -.-. -.. / D 0 R N-.. --- .-. -. /8---../1.----/SAVEOURFARMVA.COM | PATRIOTMAILPROJECT.COMIn December of 2022, Navy Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) Thomas Caldwell was convicted on two felony charges: Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Tampering with Documents or Proceedings. LCDR Caldwell honorably served in the United States Navy for 20 years. During his career, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, (2) Navy Commendation Medals, (3) Navy Achievement Medals and he was the first Navy officer to receive the Humanitarian Service Medal as a personal award. On January 6, 2021, LCDR Caldwell and his wife attended the Trump Rally and then made their way to the lawn on Capital grounds. Based on video evidence, at no time did either of them enter the Capital. On January 19, 2021, LCDR Caldwell was arrested at his Virginia farm and charged with Seditious Conspiracy. His case was grouped with the Oath Keepers, even though he himself had no affiliation with the group. The 100% Service-disabled Navy Veteran spent 49 out of his 53 days of pre-trial detention in solitary confinement and was denied his medications for the duration. On May 24, 2023, 70-year old LCDR Caldwell will be sentenced and could face up to 20-years in prison. To find out more about his case, visit: Demand Demand JusticeJustice for the for the January 6th Political Prisoners!January 6th Political Prisoners!SUPPORT LCDR thomas caldwellAD PAID FOR BY JENNYCUDD.COMAt the end of Jeff's letter, he included a message in Morse code as a means to share what was going on in the jail. We have deciphered what was available.

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I’ve always had one memory that returns to me anytime I recollect coming home from Vietnam in 1968 and the unwelcome reception that was waiting. Of the two of us, I always considered myself the lover, and Phil, well, he was always the ghter. Phil and I joined the Marine Corps about the same time and eventually ended up in Vietnam about the same time. He was assigned to the Motor Transport Section, Marine Air Squadron 11 in Da Nang, and I was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, an infantry battalion that moved around in the DMZ. Consequently, our paths never crossed except for one time. After I was in Vietnam for 10 months, in October 1967, my unit gave me and two other Marines a 3-day in-country R&R pass to China Beach, Da Nang, South Vietnam. Phil was in Da Nang at the time, and I was able to contact him, spend some time with him, and snap the picture included in this story.Phil was my brother-in-law’s brother, and I had known of him before my sister married his brother. We went to different high schools so we never ran around together. It wasn’t until after he was discharged from the Marines, about two months after me, that we were reacquainted. He and I hit it off and decided to get an apartment together. We were both single, both driving brand-new Olds 442s and recently discharged from the Marine Corps. We not only shared a family tie, but we had the same Marine Corps and Vietnam experiences, and we both grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. So we had a strong bond and always had each other’s back no matter the circumstance.While living in our apartment on Fort Worth’s east side, we frequented all the local nightclubs regularly. One of the most popular was the Bayou Club near Camp Bowie and the West Freeway intersection, where on Tuesdays they served $1 pitchers of beer. Phil was 24 and I was 22 and obviously past the legal drinking age. However, liquor law enforcement was somewhat lax in those days, and there were many underage drinkers, including recently graduated female high schoolers who were especially abundant on Tuesdays. It was the best time to meet girls, so Phil and I always made a point to be there.Not many ever mentioned our Vietnam service and those who did were careful to always cast us in a good light. But one night a smartass guy, who I had seen before but didn’t know personally, causally approached me and Phil as we were about to enter the Bayou. Phil was near my right side when this guy thought he’d be cute in front of his buddies. So, with a smirk on his face, he said, “Well, how many babies did you kill?” This was a direct reference to the My Lai massacre that just happened a few months prior, but after we both had already left Vietnam.I was still quickly compiling my careful answer when out of nowhere came a st whizzing by me destined for this guy’s chin. It wasn’t my st, it was Phil’s. This guy just said the trigger words that, unbeknownst to the smartass, would extract an immediate response from Phil. He laid the guy out on the parking lot right in front of all his buddies.Phil was a man of action and few words. If you lit his fuse, you better be ready because there was no time to duck and cover. So, I took the opportunity not to waste the words I had been compiling in my head and leaned over the guy, who was still trying to regain his bearings sprawled out on the asphalt. I told him, “None yet, but you may be the rst!” He got his answer and then some. Word quickly spread, and we were tagged as the “two crazy Marines,” a persona that we enjoyed and served us well over time. Phil, who regained his pre-war weight had a husky build. He also carried a pissed-off look, which was his normal expression but added to the crazy image. When we entered the club henceforth, we were given a wide berth, especially by the smartass and his buddies. It had little to do with me, but no one would mess with Phil. Some may have still felt animosity toward us because we did what our nation asked of us, but not a derogatory word was uttered thereafter, at least not to our face.This is a sad commentary for an already tumultuous time. Phil had undiagnosed PTSD in my opinion. He never changed from the time I lived with him, only steadily declining over time. His brother and I lost touch with him for years at a time and didn’t know where he was living. He ended up dying alone and wasn’t found for 4 days until a neighbor was suspicious that his truck hadn’t moved for days. Another tragic ending to wars we maybe shouldn’t be ghting for an ungrateful nation and the unjust treatment they thrust upon vets that served and returned home. Phil, while at Da Nang, received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal but rarely mentioned it to anyone. So, you see he had good reason to defend his honor with those who never served and would disparage his/our military service. Phil is Interred at Dallas-Fort Worth National CemeteryPHOTO ABOVE:Phillip Nixon (L) and Les Stevenson in Da Nang, South Vietnam, October 1967. Semper Fi, my brother!©1967 VL StevensonA SHORT A SHORT FUSE & FUSE & A RIGHT A RIGHT HOOKHOOKA SHORT A SHORT FUSE & FUSE & A RIGHT A RIGHT HOOKHOOKVL Stevenson – Corporal, USMCVietnam 1966 – 196856 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 57HAVE A STORY TO TELL?We're always looking for Veteran stories! Whether it's your story, a family members or a Soldier you've read about... let us know! We are also looking for 'Boots on the Ground' Veteran organizations, making a tangible difference in the lives of Veterans. ... Every Veteran has a story to be told...Email us at: les@ateaseveteransmagazine.comSEPTEMBER 25-28After the rst few days on that hill, Col. Peeler contacted regimental command and explained to them that the longer we sat there in a defensive position, the more casualties we would incur, and eventually, 2/9 would be no more. He wanted us to move around like we had been doing up to this point. Finally, he convinced them to bring us into Dong Ha and we were relieved by another Marine battalion.After being pounded for nine days straight with hundreds and sometimes thousands of rockets, mortars, and artillery, on the morning of September 28, 2/9 left that hill and made their way by foot to Cam Lo, about ve miles south of our position. Once they reached Cam Lo, 6-bys (6x6 military transport trucks) were waiting to take them back to Dong Ha some 10 miles to the east. The battalion had been out in the eld continuously for 40 days! No bathing, little shaving, and many were wearing the same utilities they had in the beginning. Finally, the costly Operation Kingsher came to an end for 2/9 on September 28, 1967.The Secretary of the Navy recognized our efforts defending Con Thien from an NVA ground assault and awarded 2/9 the Meritorious Unit Commendation. Part of the citation read, “Due in no small measure to the Battalion’s swift reinforcement and stalwart determination in the face of extremely adverse combat conditions, the expected large-scale enemy ground attack on Con Thien failed to materialize.” Postscript: One of my radio buddies took off his utilities when we got back to Dong Ha and said, “I’ve worn these utilities for 40 days. Never for the rest of my life will I ever wear clothes this long and get them this sweat-stained and lthy.” They were stiff enough to almost stand up by themselves. He decided to keep them as a souvenir. He carefully packaged them and sent them home for safekeeping. A few weeks later he received a letter from his mom saying, “I don’t know what you did to those clothes but it took me three washings to nally get them clean.” He was devastated… Moms, don’t you just love ‘em!'Where Angels Gathered' continued from page 45can pursue a more fullling life that is free from external distractions.“Socrates Children” by Peter Kreft. The books cover a range of topics such as epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and social theory, providing an insightful look into the development of ideas over time. By tracing the common themes throughout philosophy’s history, and encourages readers to think more deeply about their own beliefs and values.“The Ragged Edge” by LtCol Zacchea (My amazing friend, battle buddy, and mentor whom I miss tremendously). A gripping rsthand account of the experiences of American soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Zacchea provides a unique insight into the realities and challenges of warfare, painting vivid portraits of the heroism, tragedy, and complexity of modern combat.“Fallen Angels” by Walter Dean Myers. The story follows Richie Perry, an eighteen-year-old African American soldier who nds himself at war in a strange and distant land. Through this heart-wrenching narrative, Myers explores themes of patriotism, courage, and sacrice in a way that resonates with readers to this day.“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque (One of the most saddest stories I’ve ever read) This classic novel tells the story of a young German soldier’s experience during World War I, exploring themes of youth, patriotism, camaraderie, and despair in a realistic and moving way. It remains an iconic testament to the tragedy of war and its indelible mark on those who ght it.As you can see, I like a variety of books. I tend to read whatever strikes my fancy and I work on learning the deeper lessons within each book. I could go on to write another article about what each of those books have taught me and that could possibly be my next article. For now, I leave you with hopefully the desire to nd your own Ikigai and fulllment in life. If you wish to reach out and comment on this article please send an email: cristie@bludragon or nd me on social media @cristieremmelUntil next time…'Finding Your Ikigai' continued from page 47"Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for."- General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army

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58 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Bagdad, Iraq circa 1980. | Public DomainHow the Hell did We Get Here?by Sgt.Maj. Greg LealAPRIL 28, 1937 • TIKRIT, IRAQBeginning in the 1970s, Saddam Hussein ruled the Republic of Iraq with a tight grip. Regardless, he retained control of his country during countless military conicts, including an eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. He also survived a slew of assassination attempts throughout his presidency, and at times he seemed almost invincible. But in March of 2003, U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq and deposed the deant leader. Saddam escaped capture, but after a nine-month manhunt, he was caught, imprisoned, and faced multiple charges relating to war crimes and human rights abuses. Many speculated that the once-invincible ruler would ultimately face the death penalty.Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, in the village of Al-Awja, near Tikrit, a town just north of the city of Baghdad, in central Iraq. Saddam, which means “one who confronts” or “the stubborn one.” “We are ready to sacrice our souls, our children, and our families so as not to give up Iraq. We say this so no one will think that America is capable of breaking the will of the Iraqis with its weapons.”He joined the political Arab Baa’th Socialist Party, which had been formed in Syria in 1947 to promote unity among the various Arab states in the Middle East. In Iraq and neighboring countries, the Baa’th Party had become an underground revolutionary force.Saddam even faced resistance within his own party, and he made it a policy to weed out anyone he viewed as a threat. On July 22, 1979, just days after taking over the presidency, he organized an assembly of Baa’th leaders and read aloud the names of suspected spies; these people were taken from the room and publicly executed by a ring squad. A few years later, in 1982, he ordered the execution of at least three hundred ofcers who had supposedly questioned his military tactics. He became known for Saddam Hussein 1979 | Public DomainPART I | An Excerpt from 'Amongst Warriors'

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 59his paranoia, which was justied, considering he had survived at least seven assassination attempts. As a result, he rarely appeared in public. He also slept only a few hours a night, at secret locations, and all of his food was carefully prepared and inspected by ofcial food tasters.CONFLICTS WITH IRAN AND KUWAITOutside of Iraq, especially in the West, Saddam was seen as a dictator whose quest for dominance in the Middle East was viewed with particular concern. In 1980 Saddam proved that such fears were founded when he attacked Iran, an invasion that led to an eight-year bloody conict. Relations between Iran and Iraq had been deteriorating for years and came to a head in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini (c. 1900–1989) overthrew the government of Iran during an Islamic uprising. Saddam worried that Khomeini would set his sites on spreading his radical religious rule to the secular (nonreligious) state of Iraq. Disputes over territorial boundaries led to skirmishes throughout late 1979 and into 1980, and on September 22, 1980, Iraqi forces crossed the Iranian border and ofcially declared war.Over the next eight years, both countries suffered almost irreparable damage, and the healthy economy that Saddam had created during the 1970s was in ruins. Billions of dollars were borrowed from countries such as the United States, Kuwait, the U.S.S.R., and France, to support the war effort. The United States alone gave the Iraqi government nearly $40 billion in food, supplies, and arms. And both sides suffered a tremendous loss of human life. It is estimated that approximately 1.7 million people were killed during the conict. In one battle on March 16, 1988, Iraqi troops attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja, using poisonous nerve gas. Nearly ve thousand people died, most of whom were women and children. Various reports claimed that chemical weapons were used by both Iran and Iraq, but these tactics continued to raise the alarm that Saddam Hussein was a military threat who could not be trusted.In 1989 the war ended in a stalemate, with no side claiming a real victory. Conicts between Saddam and other nations, however, were just beginning. Faced with the prospect of rebuilding his country, Saddam tried to pressure the neighboring country of Kuwait to forgive the $30 billion loan he had been given. The reason he gave was that the war with Iran had effectively protected Kuwait from an Iranian invasion. Tensions were also sparked between the two countries over territorial boundaries, which were especially important because they involved the control of oil reserves in the area. When negotiations failed, Saddam invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990.The unprovoked attack was denounced by governments throughout the world, especially the United States. The administration of Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) in the 1980s may have seen Saddam as a potential ally, but after the invasion of Kuwait, President George H. W. Bush (1924–2018) essentially severed all ties between the United States and Saddam Hussein. As a result, when the Iraqi leader refused to leave Kuwait, a combined force of U.S. and United Nations (UN) troops stepped in. The ghting lasted a mere six weeks, but after the Persian Gulf War came to an end, casualties topped over eighty-ve thousand. Saddam was successfully evicted from Kuwait, but the tensions were not over. Bush ordered U.S. troops to protect Kuwaiti borders, and in his March 1991 State of the Union address he told the American people, “We all realize that our responsibility to be the catalyst for peace in the region does not end with the successful conclusion of this war.” He called Saddam a brutal dictator “who will do anything, will use any weapon, will commit any outrage, no matter how many innocents suffer.”Editor’s Note – This story was used with permission by the author, Gregory Leal. Copyright 2022 © Amongst Warriors | Gregory Leal. Copy and/or reproduction in any form is unauthorized.Sgt. Maj. Gregory Leal was born and raised in Abilene, Texas and enlisted in the Marine Corps in May of 1976. Over the course of his exemplary Marine Corps Career, Sgt. Maj. Leal participated in Operations: Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Joint Task Force-6 Counter Drug Operations, Anvil 2, Desert Fox, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. His personal awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Combat “V” Device, Meritorious Service Medal, with one gold star, the Navy Achievement Medals with two gold stars and the Combat Action Ribbon. He currently holds a 2nd-degree black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.Sgt. Maj. Leal is married and resides in the North Texas area. ...

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60 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Like many OIF Marines, PTSD was Daniel Perez’ inner demon. He made a valiant effort to get the care he needed from the Dallas VA. Unfortunately, he fell into the cookie cutter care of strong meds that debilitated him and made his day-to-day life, like holding down a job or healthy relationships, next to near impossible. Always the Marine, he tried to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Over the years he would check himself into the Bonham VA for inpatient treatment, and while there he received excellent care from their compassionate staff. But once he was on his own again, he would self-medicate with alcohol. This cycle would take a toll on Daniel’s health, and he was diagnosed with Sorosis of the liver. Earlier this year, while on his way home from his VA appointment in Dallas, he received a call from his primary doctor who said “Well, you’ve got 3-months to live, so make them count.” Daniel had been ghting this battle alone and had been keeping his diagnosis hidden from everyone. But on that uber ride home, he lost it, and nally came clean with his sister. Within a few short weeks, Daniels health began to fail rapidly. And it is with a heavy heart that we inform our readers that Daniel passed away on April 23, 2023. Daniel was the rst Marine that we interviewed and his story, ‘A Promise Made, A Promise Kept’ was in our inaugural edition in the Spring of 2021. (Read his story on page 26)Shannon Robinson, our former Assistant Editor, was friends with Daniel and she writes: “Danny and I met shooting pool in Denton about six years ago. Many games and a few beers later, we developed a solid friendship. When I rst asked Danny if I could interview him, he insisted there were soldiers with better stories and more impactful service. Always humble, always joking, and at times, very sincere, he was my rst interview forAT EASE!Danny was a faithful friend to me, always giving support and advice with a well-timed dark joke and a shot of Fireball, never asking for anything in return. He was a loyal friend and forever a Marine. As for this writer, she will miss him dearly.”Daniel was born to be a Marine and he leaves a legacy of giving. Even while he was ghting his own battles, his concern and care for fellow Veterans was tangible. He saved the life of a fellow Veteran while in the hospital, and even in death, he is still giving. Daniel was adamant that he wanted his service dog, Smokey, to go to another Veteran who needed him and with the help of his sister and a little divine providence, Smokey will go to a fellow Marine who served with Daniel in Iraq. And unbeknownst to his family, in his nal hours, Daniel donated his vital organs. Both his lungs went to a 61-year-old man and his kidney to another man in Texas. Daniel wasn’t worried about leaving a legacy behind. He didn’t care if other’s saw him as a hero or not, as long as his three girls knew he loved them unconditionally: nothing else mattered. He said, “We all try to do our part to make the world a better place. I introduced my beautiful daughters to this world, so I know the world is better off, with them in it. I love them more than tacos! And there is no bigger love than that!” Until Valhalla ... SEMPER FI, MARINE! WE REMEMBERSGT. DANIEL PEREZ - USMCSGT. DANIEL PEREZ - USMC60 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023

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62 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023A SACRED DUTYA SACRED DUTYBOOK REVIEWBOOK REVIEWA Sacred Duty: How a Whistleblower took on the VA and wonBy Paula PedenePublisher: Skyrocket PressCopyright © 2022 Paula Pedene"A SACRED DUTY is the true story of Paula Pedene, a visually impaired, decorated Navy veteran who was instrumental in exposing the corrupt leadership at the Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Hoping for a return to integrity, instead the new administration retaliated by stripping her of her position in public affairs and consigning her to the basement to work as a librarian."Paula Pedene joined the Navy in 1978 with an open billet. Eventually, with the help a commanding ofcer, she would get her dream job as JO or Journalist through Navy Public Affairs. After being honorably discharged, she became a civilian journalist until 1991 when Desert Storm started, and Paula reenlisted into the Navy. She would try to reenlist but was found to have a very rare ocular condition that would end her Navy career. She was hired at VA in Public Affairs near her husband’s duty station, and would then transfer to Phoenix, Arizona VA shortly thereafter. In A Sacred Duty, Paula recounts her role as Public Affairs Director until being targeted by the new Hospital and Assistant Directors in 2012. After an innocent, albeit unauthorized incident of logging into her computer so her husband could help her with a power point presentation for the Director herself, Paula was ‘temporarily’ removed from her position as Public Affairs Director, citing a 30-day ‘investigation’ that would end up lasting years. Paula was not suspended but was instead, relegated to the basement library as a Temporary Library Technician. Scan the QR Code to Find Out More...Unbeknownst to her at the time, she would uncover a scheduling scheme within her VA facility and others, which would have dire ramications for Veterans needing care across the country. “ I worried about what are called ‘ghost panels’, in which veterans were assigned primary care doctors who were not actively providing care, allowing [the] VA to collect money for them under appropriations, despite the fact the patients weren’t getting any treatment.”With the information Paula had, she went from being the hunted to the hunter. Skillfully written, A Sacred Duty, draws the reader in emotionally as it follows every detail of the VA’s scams against veterans needing care and the people passionately willing to go to war with the ‘Goliath’ for the sake of their Veteran brothers and sisters. Journey's of courage are present in battles. When the fight arises, I pray you stand steadfast. "Without hesitation, AT EASE! Veterans Magazine highly recommends A Sacred Duty: How a Whistleblower took on the VA & won. Excellent & emotional read!"

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 63Are the youth of today lost?I know it is not their fault. They did not get lost on their own. They were lost by the previous generations that failed to instill American values. Which are needed within the populace of a Constitutional Republic, that helps to support the health of a society, setting the social norms and laws that govern it. Without that, a nation begins to fall apart. It has been happening in America for many generations already. If it is not stopped, it could be fatal to not only America but to the world as well. With the purposeful government-sponsored breakdown of the American family and the epidemic of fatherless children, discipline and parental supervision has decreased. Now approximately 19.5 million or about 27% of all children live in fatherless homes. This makes them 47% more likely to live in poverty according to, the lack of in-person interaction helps people to avoid the shame society uses to help govern a basic standard for dealing with others. Shame is what keeps society running without falling apart. It is necessary, when there is no shame left to be had, society crumbles. We are on the precipice right now, just look at how ugly society has become lately. Look at how they have successfully divided us. How they have amplied our differences and minimized our similarities. Even though essentially, we all want the same things in life. The Constitution promises us the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Nothing else matters except being an American. I do not have more rights than any other American, nor would I demand them. To ALL my fellow Americans, I want to stand next to you, not in front of you, and not behind you. I want you to have a voice even if I disagree with your message. Why do they work to silence opposing voices and even destroy lives simply because they disagree? Shouldn’t the best ideas win the day? I’d almost understand believing the lies and propaganda, and why it would be so hard to accept reality. It has been proven time and time again that in the arena of ideas they cannot win, so instead they work to silence. They have become experts at removing their opponents’ voices by a few different methods. And none of these include winning the argument with clever ideas and a fact-based explanation for why those ideas work. Instead, they focus on tactics explained in Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals,” which attack a person and not the issue itself. The point of which is to take their opposition’s voice not by silencing their voice, but by damaging their reputation and polarizing them. This causes others to dismiss or ignore their voice altogether. Ridicule is often a tool they use to this end. If no one is listening, does one really have a voice? At the risk of sounding like an old man, the youth of today just don’t know American values because most were never educated on such things. They have been raised on the propaganda of subversion and dehumanization for so long, that they can no longer see the facts right in front of them. They trust Google more than dad. They trust online inuencers, which are simply puppets, more than mom. Our work is cut out for us and we cannot give up, if we do, we lose our youth. The Founding Documents are our weapons, we just need the right people to wield them. The parchment that we carry, is our sword, as we wear the Armor of God and take on what seems like an impossible task. With God nothing is impossible, and every valley is crossable, it only seems impenetrable through our worldly eyes. Man-made tools are mostly useless until they are acquired by a hand that honors God’s desires. Once wielded properly, it will inspire an ‘army’ to nish what He started in our Nation, restoring Old Glory to her once bright vibrance. We must be the city on the hill that stands in great deance of the evil carried out by tyrants. God save us... 'Mags' - MagAmericans.comAre Our Youth Lost?OPINIONBy Chuck 'Mags' Chadwick. US Army

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64 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023Working a 9 to 5 job and trying to stay healthy can be difcult. Most people understand that being healthy is important but feel that time is an issue. I joined the Marine Corps in 2006. At that time my tness level was not as advanced. I would focus mainly on lifting weights and light running so I could get a decent 3-mile run time. Before deploying to Afghanistan our Platoon Commander introduced us to High Intensity Interval Training.They call it “HIIT” for short. This was introduced as the perfect combination of speed, strength, and endurance. Being overly strong makes it hard to move. Having endurance means you eventually sacrice strength. This is why HIIT was introduced to us. With HIIT you not only become stronger, but you increase your endurance under stress. I normally spend an hour and thirty minutes training at the gym. HIIT workouts are roughly 20 to 40 minutes. So now you can see why this type of training can be appealing. But what about weight loss and other benets? Based on an article by research has found that HIIT burned 25–30% more calories than the other forms of exercise. HIIT also plays a role in increasing your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories even after you are done working out. (ts-of-hiit#benets) The other huge benet is heart health. These types of workouts can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. If you are like me and get busy these types of workouts might just be the solution. But what is HIIT like, I will gladly show you. We love sharing workouts too. Let’s nd some lightweight dumbbells and try this awesome workout. Veteran Fitness:THE BEST WORKOUTS FOR A BUSY SCHEDULEBy Daniel Dancer | USMC...

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Summer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 65We are Camp Freedom Fitness. My wife and I both believe that everyone has the right to be t. We are a Woman owned and Veteran run company. You can nd us on Facebook at “Camp Freedom Fitness”, or contact us at CampFreedomFitness@gmail.comWe send them workouts, build their diets, coach them, and train them. Having an online platform means we can work with more people more often. You can always nd us on Facebook at @campfreedomtness or visit our website at campfreedom . We would love to meet you. ......Enjoy the Workout! I hope you enjoyed the workout! Take care of yourselves and remember to make yourself a priority. This is for beginners, so no need to go crazy. This is a circuit-style workout. Complete every exercise without stopping. Once complete, take a two-minute break. We are super excited to feature our very own Camp Freedom Fitness Model Amanda Townley. She’s a Professor with a Ph.D. and a huge supporter of Veterans. 1. THE FIRST EXERCISE IS A HAMMER CURL ALTERNATING ARMS. • DO 20 REPS FOR EACH ARM. • STARTING POSITION UP AND DOWN TO START POSITION2. THE SECOND EXERCISE IS THE SVEND PRESS. • DO THESE 20 TIMES. • STARTING POSITION EXTEND AND RETURN TO THE START. 3. THE NEXT EXERCISE IS TRICEPS EXTENSIONS. • DO EACH ARM 15 TIMES. • STARTING POSITION EXTEND AND RETURN TO STARTING POSITION 4. THE NEXT EXERCISE IS THE DUMBBELL GOBLET SQUAT. • DO THESE 20 TIMES. • STARTING POSITION SQUAT AND RETURN TO THE STARTING POSITION Now that you completed the rst circuit, take a 2-minute break and start again. Do this circuit 5 times. I hope you found this workout to be challenging and fun. We are Camp Freedom Fitness. My wife and I both believe that everyone has the right to be t. H.I.I.TH.I.I.TRepeat this circuit based off your current tness level.*As always please consult a medical professional before participating in exercise. 1324

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66 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023“Mountains are only a problem when they are bigger than you. You should develop yourself so much that you become bigger than the mountains you face.” - Idowu KoyenikanLiving as a human on Earth is dynamic, with each day presenting a different experience. Although we set a daily routine, chaos tends to insert itself when we least expect it, and the ght-or-ight activates in response to a perceived “threat.” This sympathetic response evolved from when a hunting and gathering society competed for food and had to defend itself and escape from predators. In the present day, this protective mechanism can help us to rescue a child who has become trapped under a car or run from a perpetrator who wants to do us harm. As we recognize a threat to our personal space, the stress response manifests in the following way. The adrenal glands release the stress hormones noradrenaline and cortisol. Our heart rate and breathing increase, and pupils dilate for an expanded eld of vision. Blood diverts from the digestive to the cardiovascular system providing additional oxygen to the muscles, which allows us to run from a criminal or lift a car off of that trapped child. In acute (sudden) events, ght-or-ight is benecial to our well-being or the well-being of others. However, most days, we do not ght off wild animals, run from criminals, or rescue others trapped beneath a car. Daily stressors challenge us: getting the kids to school or activities, project deadlines, rush hour trafc, arguments with another person - the list goes on. In these circumstances, our sympathetic nervous system (ght or ight) responds the same way as the brain does not distinguish between running for our life or the anxiety of waiting in a long line at the grocery store. When left unchecked, we tend to live in this heightened state of stress that can lead to chronic disease and fatigue. In Western society, we live a hurried life where self-care practices are a low priority in our daily schedule of obligations. For the remainder of this column, I will offer you a yoga pose, breathwork, and a mantra to assist you in moving from the ght or ight to the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system (a topic I will save for another day) as we conquer the mountains we face. Interestingly enough, it is called Mountain Pose.MOUNTAIN POSEThe mountain pose is the foundational pose of a yoga practice as it establishes the principles of action needed for all poses. Once mastered, settling into this grounding pose takes only several seconds. Add breathwork and a mantra, and you REBUILDING THE MIND, BODY, & SPIRIT; ONE BREATH AT A TIMETim GrutiziusTim Grutzius, is a US Army Veteran and a graduate of the YAM Yoga School (Laurel Park, NC) and is a 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance. He is a recognized Level I teacher through Warriors at Ease (trauma-informed training), and is the Owner of Mind Body Badge Yoga and Wellness ( can release that which no longer serves you. For your learning experience, I have included pictures (inset) and a link to a YouTube video where I guide you through this pose.● Stand with your feet hip distance apart and parallel.● Press rmly through all four corners of your feet.● Lift your inner arches as you hug your outer hips and inner thighs together.● Press the top of your thighs back as you lengthen your tailbone down.● On an inhale, roll the shoulders up towards your ears, and as you exhale, allow the shoulders to roll down and back (broadening the collarbones - softening the front ribs.● Your hands can face palms forward or towards the sides of your legs.● Lift the chin slightly (parallel to the oor) as you lengthen the back of your neck.● Soften your eyes.● Breathwork Practice● Once you have settled into the mountain pose, use the following breathwork in this grounding pose. You can keep your eyes open with a forward-looking gaze or close them to connect inside. Remember, healing is an inside job.● INHALE for a count of four, and EXHALE for six.● If your mind wanders, disengage by saying silently to yourself, “Those are just thoughts,” and return to the focus on your breath.● Breathe in and out through the nose (Boston 2020).● You can practice this breathing whenever you feel stressed or anxious or have trouble falling or staying asleep.

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Summer 2023| AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 67REBUILDING THE MIND, BODY, & SPIRIT; ONE BREATH AT A TIME......VETERANS CREEDVETERANS CREEDI AM A VETERAN, I HAVE SEEN AND DONE THINGS MANY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.I AM A WARRIORI WILL NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT.I WILL NEVER QUIT AND I WILL NEVER LEAVE A FALLEN BROTHER OR SISTER.IF THEY ARE HURT, I WILL CARRY THEMIF I CANT CARRY THEM, I WILL DRAG THEM.I WILL HELP THEM FACE THEIR ENEMIES.TO INCLUDE THE DEMONS FROM WITHIN.THEY ARE MY BROTHERS & MY SISTERS.I AM A VETERAN! MANTRAI leave you with a mantra (afrmation) for use as you start your day or face a stressful scenario:“LIKE A MOUNTAIN, I AM GROUNDED.”Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. You can reach me through my website at or email at mindbodybadgeyoga@gmail.comUntil next time -Be well and take care,TimReferencesLagos, L. (2020). Heart Breath Mind: Conquer Stress, Build Resilience, and Perform at Your Peak. Boston: Mariner Books. Mountain Breathe...Mountain Pose: FrontMountain Pose: Side

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68 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023FINISH“Finish Strong” are the famous words of heroic Air Force leader Maj David Gray. They are also the words that inspired his team and carried them across the nish line when things got tough. In August of 2013, 13 Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airmen assigned to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS) “Delta Flight” at Ft Carson, Colorado, set out to ruck 140 miles to honor their fallen ight commander Maj David Gray. Maj Gray was a prior-enlisted, Air Liaison ofcer in the 13th ASOS, killed in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. Delta Flight organized the DG 140 Memorial Ruck March to pay their respects on the rst anniversary of Maj Gray’s passing.I recently had the pleasure of speaking with veteran Joe Gilbert about his rst-hand account of working for Maj Gray and taking part in the ruck march. Joe separated from the Air Force 6 years ago as a SSgt/E5, yet the remnants of being active remain with an A-10 Warthog tattoo on his still t, swollen bicep. His foo-man-chu was the only thing that gave him away. He served for 10 years from February 2007 to February 2017. Joe went into Basic Military Training open general and eagerly raised his hand when the Special Forces recruiters came around looking for volunteers. “Pararescue looked cool but I don’t really like to swim. The TACP recruiting video showed dudes shooting and blowing stuff up. And they said we’d get to hang out in Florida for 14 weeks for technical school. So, I signed up on the spot.” For a more technical description, TACP Airmen are Special Warfare specialists embedded with Army units to call in air strike support for ground combat forces. Within 2 years, Joe went on to become a certied Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), qualied to direct the action of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other offensive air operations. Joe spent over half his career either TDY or deployed; having served one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. Of all his experiences, he stated that the DG 140 Memorial Ruck March was one of the most remarkable of his career. “We started training for the DG 140 shortly after we returned from Afghanistan in November of 2012. It was back to old-school rucking for 6 months. We did the march because we couldn’t be there when he was laid to rest. We called the ruck DG 140 for Maj David Gray - our commander in Afghanistan. We chose the 140-mile route based on the last leg of his journey home from the Casualty Reception Center at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware to his nal resting spot in Arlington National Cemetery,. We arranged it so we would arrive at the cemetery exactly one year to the day of his passing.“We all looked up to Maj Gray. He was a great leader.Fit and muscular - better shape than most of us. He brought out the best in us. One time in Afghanistan he taught me something that stuck with me.Being Air Force deployed with the Army was hard.They would ask us to do stuff that wasn’t our job. Our mission was to call in air strikes, not to provide sentry.So, I really angered an Army Ofcer one time when I said, “no, that’s not our job.”Maj Gray sat me down and told me ‘While you are not wrong Joe, you need to use better tact.Next time explain to the nice Army Ofcer what your job is so he will better understand why you can’t stand guard. That advice has helped me out in my career and life in general.“The ruck took three and a half days, we carried everything we needed on our backs. I’d say our rucks weighed close to forty pounds each.And we were up against the elements - weather mostly. It Major David Gray

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Summer 2023| AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 69by Sonja Berrywas August. So, was hot. And there were a lot of bugs. It took its physical toll too. Especially on our feet. Our feet got really ‘rucked-up’ with blisters and blood.”Back in Afghanistan….“Back in Afghanistan, on a day like any other at Jalalabad (US base), a report came through that the Tactical Operations Center needed the assistance of a JTAC and I responded immediately. What I found in the operations center when I arrived was controlled chaos. A helicopter was ying away from the scene. We had 3 to 4 jets that were trying to neutralize the enemy.You had people down. You had people injured. Then reports started coming in that people were dead. One KIA, one warrior down, two warriors down….6 wounded, seven wounded….And then it hit me as soon as I heard that an Air Force ofcer was reported down. There was only one Air Force ofcer out there…and I knew who it was.“Earlier that day before the chaos in the operations center ensued, Maj Gray and the command staff headed over to Kunar province in Afghanistan in two helicopters to meet with Afghanistan leaders.When they touched down and stepped off the helicopters, two suicide bombers broke through the security line and blew themselves up.Multiple people were injured, and four lost their lives - including Maj Gray. After the rst explosion, he rushed to the scene to assist and was hit by the second explosion.Very long pause. “That was a rough day.”Another pause. “I felt anger.Anger, upset…I questioned the mission.”Pause ... “A lot of anger.Trying to focus on it.Just mad…mad.”Back to the ruck march……The rst night we slept in a eld on a gentleman’s farm. The second night we slept on the front lawn of the Arundel Volunteer Fire Department in Gambrills, Maryland. On the third night, we slept in a hotel in Arlington. Community outreach was great...people really supported us. Some people came up and hugged us.Others handed out food and water along the way. Some even walked with us for a while. And let me tell you, rubbing another man’s feet has a way of bringing people closer.But, despite the condition of our feet, we had to nish the ruck. He would have wanted us to. And he would have wanted us to nish together.Finish strong - heart and head held high.That’s what kept us going.It hardened our resolve and all thirteen of us made it. His wife Heather nished the last two miles with us. She gave us a great big hug when she saw us.She was so proud; she knew the sacrice we made.It was his kids that…”Pause"I didn’t talk to the kids too much. But…for me it made me feel…like man, too soon."Pause... “Way too soon.”But his burial plot is nice with a great view. It overlooks a meadow and a river. And it’s off the main road. Very peaceful and quiet.Maj David Gray is survived by his wife Heather, daughters Nyah & Ava, and son Garrett. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.And as for Joe, he is currently serving his community as an Emergency Telecommunicator in Desoto, Texas. And every year, like many in the TACP community, he performs the “DG” hero work out of the day (WOD) on the anniversary of Maj Gray’s death. The “DG” WOD was added as an ofcial CrossFit Hero WOD on 26 December 2013 in Maj Gray’s honor. WODWELL.COM/WOD/DGSTRONG!

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26 VETERAN PODCASTS YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT26 VETERAN PODCASTS YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT1. 7 Figure Squad: Hosted by Ma Sapaula. hps://hewsapaulainc2. Operaon Freedom Recovery :Hosted by Dan Miller. hp:// The Unprofessional Veterans: Hosted by The Rev & The Kid. hps:// The Red, White & You Show: Hosted by Dean McMurray. Website: hp:// The Truths We Hide: Hosted by Annee Whienberger. Website: hps://e-whienberger6. Someone You Should Know: Hosted by Stuart Sax. Website: hps:// Non-Prot Architect: Hosted by Travis Johnson. Website: hps://nonpro Entrepreneur on Fire: Hosted by John Lee Dumas. Website: hps://www.eo Vercal Momentum: Hosted by Richard Kaufman. Website: hps:// Jocko Podcast: Hosted by Jocko Willink. Website: hps:// Airman to Mom: Hosted by Amanda Human. Website: hps:// The Stoned Vet: Hosted by Sgt G. Website: hps:// The Hoarding Soluon: Hosted by Tammi Moses. Website: hps:// Veterans Be Real: Hosted by John Valenne. Website: hps:// Disgruntled Docs Podcast: Hosted by Disgruntled Docs. Website: hps:// The Military Veteran Dad: Hosted by Ben Killoy. Website: hps:// The Ambious Vet: Hosted by Chris Homan. Website: hps://theambi Home-Bound Veteran: Hosted by Keith and Laura. Website: hps:// Mind of the Warrior: Hosted by Dr. Mike Simpson. Website: hps:// Team Never Quit: Hosted by Marcus and Morgan Lurell. Website: hps:// Borne the Bale: Hosted by Tanner Iskra. Website: hps://le-Podcast/B08K568Z9122. Frontlines of Freedom: Hosted by Denny Gillam. Website: hps://frontlineso The Warrior Soul: Hosted by Chris Alpert. Website: hps:// Mentors for Military: Hosted by Robert Gowin. Website: hps:// Bale Buddy: Hosted by Keith McKeever. Website: hps:// Veteran on the Move: Hosted by Joe Crane. Website: hps:// AT EASE! Veterans Magazine | Summer 2023

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‘‘Those who choose to Those who choose to forget or ignore the forget or ignore the events of the past are events of the past are doomed to have the events doomed to have the events of the past return.of the past return. Alan MoskinAlan Moskin US Soldier, 3US Soldier, 3rdrd Army ArmySummer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 71

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CROSSWORD ANSWERS:EXERPT FROM 'BORN IN A BAR II'...EXERPT FROM 'BORN IN A BAR II'...After Marine Combat Training, we had to do the sea bag drag, down the street several blocks to School of Infantry. It was weeks of playing in the mud, muck, weeds, and trees. I’m up. They see me. I’m down. “Your fighting hole isn’t deep enough. Dig it deeper, Devil Dog.”Asian hookers tried to follow us to our rooms at the Triangle Motel. One whistle and they could make it from the parking lot to the third floor in thirty seconds flat. Ah, the historic Triangle Motel, where you could finally take a real shower and wash off the remnants of your poor attempt to recreate the Recon guy in the tiger print camo paint from the early 90s recruiting poster, and then clog the toilet from a week’s worth of MRE shit. Don’t forget the pyramid of empty beer cans stacked in formation next to the bed, and a trash can that was recently used as a vomit receptacle. There was also a nonstop parade of cabs and Papa John’s pizza delivery cars at midnight. By the way, how fucking good did that pizza and garlic sauce taste?For many, this period also included the first moto Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoos and many nights at the Driftwood finding our one true love.It was our first experience with real freedom as Marines. We got paid in cash. What a fucking brilliant idea: Giving a bunch of eighteen- and nineteen-year-old boots $1,000 in fresh $20 bills. What could POSSIBLY go wrong? Fresh high and tights, our USMC t-shirts (just purchased from Saigon Sam’s) tucked into our pants secured with a belt, dog tags swinging from our necks, singing cadences, or speaking in our best Drill Instructor impersonations. I am very thankful, however, that I never had to wear the standard issue ‘birth control’ glasses.God damn, we were some sexy motherfuckers.How on earth did those strippers ever find the courage and restraint to resist the rest of those boots? Not me though. I was different and so was Amber, my future wife. She was definitely in love with me. No, really. She said so.When the last field op was over, I saved one of my silver pop-up flares, tucked it away in my ass pack, grabbed a few MREs, and went back to Pennsylvania to see friends and family. I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say, that going home to visit friends now felt very different. College is nothing like the experiences I’d just had (strippers, hookers, and learning new ways to utilize the word ‘fuck’ in sentences). My friends wanted to know everything, and hey, who was I to disappoint?A bunch of my high school friends had gathered at another friend’s house to catch up on how life was going since graduation. After a few minutes of boring college class stories, it was time to bring out the big guns: I started off by telling libo tales and then let them try a sample of the MREs I had with me. Pork BBQ, ham slice with potatoes au rotten, tuna with noodles, and chicken with rice (although I did keep the Charms candy for myself).Blank stares and exclamations of “Ewww!” came from all but Ski. “Try it with the hot sauce. It’s much better like that.” I said.“But wait! There’s more!” I excitedly exclaimed. “Watch this!” (Nothing good EVER happens after someone utters these words.)I gathered everyone out behind the house and launched the pop-up flare into the clear night sky. It lit up the entire mountainside and as it slowly drifted down to the ground, at that moment I stood there grinning in my glory, feeling like a rock star. It was beautiful.Stick THAT in your fucking college backpack, Bitch.About a half hour or so later, there was a knock at the door. My friend’s mom calmly said, “Uh, Jesse, you’re needed at the door.” As I walked over, I looked out the window and saw a bunch of red and blue flashing lights from multiple police cars parked out front.Oh, fuck.Apparently, because we were only a few miles from the Regional Airport, the flare was reported to police as a possible aircraft down and they had been searching for possible wreckage. Oops.Thankfully, one of the responding officers was a former Marine himself, and not only did he laugh after scolding me, but he only gave me a warning. Lesson learned.FOR MORE INAPPROPRIATE SHENANIGANS, FOR MORE INAPPROPRIATE SHENANIGANS, SCAN THE QR COdE BELOW: SCAN THE QR COdE BELOW: BIRD DOWN by Gunny Jesse EsterlySummer 2023 | AT EASE! Veterans Magazine 73

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6674 AT EASE! Veterans Magazine |Summer 2023Content used with Permission | fullmagazinepublishing.comINTRODUCING... PART 1 OF 4

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Coming Up In Our Next Issue: • Exclusive: Ray Cash Care• Veterans Day!• NEW FEATURE: Veterans in Business• Veteran Stories• Motaritaville... continued• Plus our regular feature articles

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LIKE WHAT YOU SEE SO FAR? HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS? LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ...the liberatorHIGHLY RECOMMENDS: SCAN THE QR CODE TO WATCH The Liberator is based on the true story of World War II infantry commander Felix "Shotgun" Sparks (played by Bradley James), who led the members of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, an integrated group of white cowboys, Mexican Americans and Native soldiers drawn from across the west. Sparks and his battalion of "Thunderbirds" were classic citizen soldiers, and for over 500 days they led a special group of American soldiers from Italy to France to the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, through some of the most grueling battles of the war, becoming one of the most decorated American combat units of World War II.ON

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This is a historic time in America. We are witnessing a clash of giants in a ght for dominance of American culture. Whether we return to our historical roots or pass into a new form of governance is seriously in contest. This book is a chronicle of those who represent the bellwether of this storm for conservative dominance – a group of people who are being imprisoned and persecuted for a cause they believe in, by a government that views them as enemies of the state. This book is their story in their own words, written by their own hands. The American people need to read The American Gulag Chronicles and spread awareness of what has happened and is happening to these patriots in this Republic we hold dear. What happened to them could potentially happen to ANY AMERICAN! ~ Tim RiversAVAILABLE NOW! “en the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and invite You in? Or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “And answering, the King will say to them, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ~ Matthew 25:37-40 (TLV)AMERICANGULAGCHRONICLES.COM** PROCEEDS GO TO J6 DEFENSE FUNDS. ** PROCEEDS GO TO J6 DEFENSE FUNDS. $45ORDER NOW!The American Gulag Chronicles presents a personal and poignant look at one of the most signicant events in recent American history. Through rst-person accounts, this book brings to light the injustices and inequalities that have emerged in the wake of the events of January 6, 2021. Whether one views these events as a riot or a planned disaster, they have had a lasting impact on American values and those who hold them dear.PUBLISHED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:Use Code: ATEASE for free shipping.

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