WWII Navajo Code Talker Roy Hawthorne Sr. dies in Arizona at 92

LinkedIn

Navajo Code Talker Roy Hawthorne, who used his native language as an uncrackable code during World War II, died Saturday.

At 92, he was one of the last surviving Code Talkers.

Hawthorne was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became part of a famed group of Native Americans who encoded hundreds of messages in the Navajo language to keep them safe from the Japanese. Hawthorne served in the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific Theatre and was promoted to corporal.

The code was never broken.

“The longer we live, the more we realize the importance of what we did, but we’re still not heroes — not in my mind,” Roy Hawthorne said in 2015.

But Hawthorne’s son, Regan Hawthorne, said Monday his father leaves a proud legacy.

“They went in out of a sense of duty and a spirit of responsibility to their country,” Regan Hawthorne said, adding he didn’t know about his father’s military service until he was in his 20s.

“I grew up not knowing my dad was a Code Talker. He never talked about it, didn’t see the need to talk about it,” he said.

The Code Talkers believed they were just doing their job, he said, and shied away from receiving accolades for their service.

“When we read about the effect the Navajo Code had on shortening the war because of its effectiveness, we think about the guys who did that,” Regan Hawthorne said. “(But) they’re simply humble men who performed what they sensed to be a duty to protect all they cherished.”

He said his father and other Code Talkers returned home from the war and “simply came back to work and went back to making a life.”

As of 2016, there were about a dozen Code Talkers still living. The exact number of Code Talkers is unknown because their work was classified for years after the war ended.

Continue onto AZ Central to read the complete article.

1st Female Sailor Completes Navy Special Warfare Training

LinkedIn
Navy seal on land and in small boat silhouettes on sunrise

For the first time, a female sailor has successfully completed the grueling 37-week training course to become a Naval Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman — the boat operators who transport Navy SEALs and conduct their own classified missions at sea.

Navy officials said they would not identify the woman or provide more details on her — a routine military policy for special operations forces.
She was one of 17 sailors to graduate and receive their pins on Thursday. She is also the first of 18 women who have tried out for a job as a SWCC or a SEAL to succeed.

The sailor’s graduation marks just the latest inroad that women have made into some of the military’s most difficult and competitive commando jobs — just five years after all combat posts were opened to them. She will now head to one of Naval Special Warfare’s three special boat teams.

“Becoming the first female to graduate from a Naval Special Warfare training pipeline is an extraordinary accomplishment and we are incredibly proud of our teammate,” said Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, the commander of Naval Special Warfare. “Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force.”

“She and her fellow graduates have the opportunity to become experts in clandestine special operations, as well as manned and unmanned platforms to deliver distinctive capabilities to our Navy, and the joint force in defense of the nation,” Howard added.

Of the 18 females who have sought a Navy special operations job, 14 did not complete the course. Three of them, however, are currently still in the training pipeline, one for SWCC and two attempting to become SEALs. Overall, according to the Navy, only about 35 percent of the men and women who begin the training for SWCC actually graduate.

A year ago, a female soldier became the first woman to complete the Army’s elite Special Forces course and join one of the all-male Green Beret teams. One other female soldier has finished training and will report to her assigned Special Forces group next month, and another will be attending the Military Freefall School next month, and then will report to her team.

So far, no women have successfully completed Marine special operations training. Marine spokesman Maj. Hector Infante said that since August 2016, nine females have attempted to get through the assessment and selection process. He said two candidates made it through the second phase, but didn’t meet performance expectations and, along with a number of male counterparts, didn’t get selected to continue.

He said that only about 40 percent of the more than 1,200 Marines who went through the course since 2016 successfully completed it.

Continue on to Military.com to read the original article.

The Importance of Listening to Our Veterans

LinkedIn
Group of veterans on a zoom call

Ten years ago, I toured the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, with a group of World War II veterans, including Charles Utz. We stopped at the rear of a B-17 bomber, and Charles began talking.

He told me of being shot down on Christmas Eve 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. He was a tail gunner, and the plane was in flames. But the trapdoor in the tail was stuck.

“It wouldn’t budge,” he explained. “I could see the flames growing around the engines and knew it was just a matter of minutes until they reached the fuel tank. I said to God, ‘If You let me out of here, I promise to spend my life serving You and man . . . ‘”

Charles’ voice trailed off, and his eyes brimmed with tears. “And that’s what’s always bothered me,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve lived up to that promise.”

Charles is among the tens of thousands of veterans who have shared their stories with us at the Veterans Breakfast Club. As a historian, I thought that holding veteran storytelling events would be a way to learn history from the people who lived it. I didn’t know that simple acts of listening would draw us so close so quickly and hold such therapeutic value . . . for them and me. For older veterans especially, sharing their stories is the last stop on their Hero’s Journeys.

One of the most difficult phases of the Hero’s Journey is the Return. In myth, the Hero often refuses to deliver the Grail, to bring back the knowledge gained on adventure. The Hero remains detached and alienated or enters a “deep forgetting,” unable to integrate extraordinary experiences abroad into ordinary life back home. Think of the veteran who comes back and never talks about it.

Old age provides the last chance to accomplish this integrative task.

Storytelling is the most powerful and public form of integrating past experience and gifting it to younger generations. Our veterans, I discovered, are eager to tell their stories when they know there are listeners prepared to hear them. Helping veterans complete their mission should be our mission as citizens.

Listening is hard in today’s noisy and strident social media culture. It takes a quiet mind and open heart, full attention and reserved judgement. It also takes patience. Veterans’ stories usually don’t unfold neatly in one sitting. Most have an open, searching quality, like Charles Utz’s. Meaning is revealed haltingly over time, often with struggle.

But if you, as a listener, can quiet the noise and coax a veteran through their story, you can receive a life-changing gift in return, something best summed up as wisdom.

Gaining wisdom is like earning a Medal of Honor. No one in their right mind would ever court the circumstances required to receive it. Both are granted through suffering, loss, sacrifice, and service to something greater than yourself. All of us have the capacity for wisdom, but few want to pay the price. Old age will lead us there eventually, if we allow it to.

War has the power to force wisdom upon its fighters all at once. It quickens the process by hurtling young men and women through a premature reckoning with their own mortality. If the warrior can accept the self-transformation wrought by war, then they can bring back to the world exceptional insight, perspective, and a deepened understanding of what really matters.

The veterans I’ve met at the Veterans Breakfast Club are humbler than the rest of us, more grateful for what they have, less distressed by grievance, and more dedicated to serving others. They are people of wonder, awe, and compassion. If you surround yourself with such persons, their qualities can rub off and attach to you like flecks of gold dust.

Charles Utz needed help completing the Journey that began in the tail of that B-17 in 1944. I helped simply by listening and prompting him to finish his story. In doing so, I got to reflect on how I might choose to live if I’d suddenly been granted another shot at life.

I invite everyone to take a moment to listen to our veterans share their stories. You’ll grow from the experience and may even discover your own Hero within, capable of wrestling open your own trapdoor and crossing the threshold into a new world.

By Todd DePastino

Todd DePastino is the founding director of Veterans Breakfast Club (VBC), a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to creating communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten. As a historian, Todd is author and editor of seven books, including the award-winning Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front (W.W. Norton), a biography of the famed WWII cartoonist. He has a PH.D. in American History from Yale University and has taught at Penn State Beaver and Waynesburg University, where he received the Lucas-Hathaway Award for Teaching Excellence. Learn more about VBC and its mission at www.veteransbreakfastclub.org

Biden administration formally launches effort to return deported veterans to U.S.

LinkedIn
Male Hispanic Armed Forces Soldier Celebrating His Return Holding American Flag.

The Biden administration unveiled plans Friday to bring hundreds, possibly thousands, of deported veterans and their immediate family members back to the United States, saying their removal “failed to live up to our highest values.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered his department’s immigration agencies to “immediately” take steps to ensure that military families may return to the United States. He said the department would also halt pending deportation proceedings against veterans or their immediate relatives who are in the United States, and clear the way for those who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

“The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the profound commitment and sacrifice that service members and their families have made to the United States of America,” Mayorkas said in a statement Friday. “We are committed to bringing back military service members, veterans, and their immediate family members who were unjustly removed and ensuring they receive the benefits to which they may be entitled.

President Biden had promised on the campaign trail to direct DHS during his first 100 days in office to stop targeting veterans and their families for deportation and to create a process for veterans deported by the Trump administration to return to the United States.

Veterans advocates have expressed concern in recent weeks that few veterans or their relatives have returned, while others remained in deportation proceedings. Many deported veterans also say they have been unable to access benefits such as health care from overseas.

In a memo Friday, the heads of DHS’s immigration agencies said they will review policies to ensure that military veterans and their relatives are “welcome to remain in or return to the United States.” Officials said they would also work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Department to ensure that veterans can access their health benefits, including coronavirus vaccinations, and that recruits can take the oath of citizenship, including while at basic training.

DHS will establish a “Military Resource Center” online with a toll-free number and email address to help families with their immigration applications.

Read the complete article on The Washington Post.

Tips for New Military Spouses

LinkedIn
woman wearing a military cap and gree tee looking at smart phone smiling

If you’ve recently married into the military, or you or your spouse has just joined, you may be feeling both nervous and excited about the future.

During the adjustment period, spouses take on new roles, adapt to new schedules and learn new ways of handling many of life’s obstacles. To successfully do so, it’s helpful to know about the military spouse support available to you.

What’s on the installation

Your installation Military and Family Support Center is a good place to start for anything from local recreational opportunities and a personalized introduction to installation services including spouse career and employment opportunities, personal financial management classes, activities for children and families, military spouse resources and more.

Staying positive during a deployment

The power of being positive, along with a little help from friends and family, can make time apart from your partner your time to shine. Follow our tips to stay positive and make that time go by just a little bit faster.

Living on an installation for the first time

You may experience many emotions if you’re planning to live on an installation for the first time as a military spouse. While it’s perfectly understandable to feel some uncertainty, there are several ways to ensure the transition is a success:

  • Be proactive and keep a positive attitude. Take advantage of opportunities offered to you on the installation.
  • Get your children involved in activities. The installation youth center offers a wide range of sports, activities, events and social clubs. This is also a great way to meet other parents.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Other families are getting used to the new installation too.
  • Participate in military community activities. Pay attention to upcoming events and join in the fun. You can try new things and meet new people at the same time.

Stay in touch with the military spouse online community

You might be amazed at what you can accomplish on your own and with a little help from other military spouses. The Blog Brigade is the place to read about tips from other military spouses around the world.

Spouse education and career opportunities

Continuing your education or advancing your career when you’re constantly on the move can be tough. But there are many employment and education resources that are only available to military spouses.

  • Whether you’re in need of help writing a resume or simply deciding what career is best for you, the MySECO website is your one-stop shop. MySECO provides education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering comprehensive resources and tools related to career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections.
  • Depending on your individual interests and skills, there are many job opportunities available to you. Get your resume ready and explore what’s out there, on and off the installation.
  • There certain preferences for military spouses when applying for Department of Defense civilian jobs. With the help of the Military Spouse Preference Program, you can build your career as you move with the military.
  • If your job requires a professional license or certification and you move due to a permanent change of station, you can apply for up to $1,000 in reimbursement of re-licensure or certification fees from your service branch.

Working overseas

A move overseas can shake up your world as new possibilities and experiences await you. Finding a job overseas as a military spouse presents a unique set of challenges. Here are some tips to help you with your search:

Confidential non-medical counseling

Both Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program offer services for life situations, such as coping with deployments.

Having a baby when your partner is deployed

When your partner is deployed, there are ways to bridge the distance before and after your child’s birth.

  • Enroll in the right TRICARE region.
  • Enroll in childbirth classes at your installation’s hospital or military treatment facility.
  • Get a medical power of attorney. Choose someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf in the unlikely event medical staff can’t get your or your partner’s consent. Visit your legal assistance office for more information.
  • Familiarize yourself with local Red Cross procedures. This way, when you go into labor you can have your medical provider notify your partner.

When you become your spouse’s caregiver

When your spouse is severely injured or has a debilitating illness, you face the prospect of starting a whole new chapter of your life—one you hadn’t expected. Becoming your spouse’s caregiver presents a unique set of challenges that can affect you emotionally and physically, and can often seem overwhelming. Read about common reactions to becoming a caregiver, resources for support and tips on taking care of yourself throughout the caregiving process.

All military jobs take dedication, and being a military spouse is no different. We hope this list of resources can help you through any challenges that may arise along the way.

Source:  militaryonesource.mil

American Heroes

LinkedIn
Jeff Bosley wearing his Green Beret hat and in military uniform

By Annie Nelson

Tall, dark, and handsome describes the former Green Beret turned firefighter and now actor Jeff Bosley. You’ve seen him on the screen in Take Point, Seal Team, Ray Donovan, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He plays Nomad in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops III. He’s a true-life hero who served in the Special Forces–a secret society of the nation’s finest warriors that nobody knows, ones who are in it for the honor but never get the glory.

So how on earth did this Idaho native go from down-home good ol’ boy to badass Special Forces guy to a first responder …and then finally settle in the land of make believe? Join me as I learn a bit about Jeff–how he got to where he is today and where he’s headed.

Tell me a little about why you chose to go into the Army, then on to Special Forces …. what are some of your best memories from those years?

It was a convoluted journey, to be honest.  I have some random cousins and uncles who served, but I didn’t come from one of those heavily populated military families.  I spent many years chasing college degrees because that’s what I assumed you are supposed to do.  Then, after 9/11, I still resisted the urge to serve.  I had always wanted to, but the longer I put it off, the more hesitant I became.  I look back and think it was an odd fear of leaving the comfort of the normal life I had finally carved out.  Finally, when I was nearing 30, I decided if I didn’t do it, I would forever regret it.

I chose Special Forces right out of the gate because I’d always wanted to serve and once I finally did, I knew I wanted to be in the Special Forces community: All or None.

How was your transition out of the military? How did you choose firefighting?

It wasn’t too bad.  Thanks to so much college prior to serving, my transition into the civilian world wasn’t too bad when it came to interviews and resume writing, etc.  I was actually in the middle of ETS-ing from Group [“expiration–term of service,” or leaving the military] when I first tested for the Fire Department.  I passed the requisite tests and then began the Fire Academy in lieu of the ETS process.  It was absolutely chaotic.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – NOVEMBER 11: Actor Jeff Bosley, Football Star Matt Vanderbeek, guests and Actor Robert Patrick attend The Disabled Veteran Business Alliance’s Annual Salute To Veterans Day Breakfast at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 11, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Desiree Stone/Getty Images)

I knew I wanted to continue serving in a small unit team capacity.  Law enforcement just started getting so hamstrung that I knew it wasn’t for me.  Firefighting was always appealing to me when considering options other than the military.  I was a volunteer firefighter in college, so it made sense to go back to it.  I loved the four-person shifts and how they emulated the tight-knit community of an ODA [“Operational Detachment Alphas,” which are small, versatile Special Forces teams].

When did you know perfecting your craft and solely focusing on acting was the right move?

As a kid, if I could have had some higher power come out of the sky and give me my wish, it would have always been to be in movies and television.  When I grew up, the practical side of me took me to the Special Forces.

However, after wrapping up my SF career, my firefighter career was missing something.  After the perfect storm of events, including divorce and other personal “stuff,” I finally said “fu** it” and went for it.  I had spent tons of time in the theatre and in college theatre, practicing, studying and performing…why not finally just go for it.? I guess I looked at it like I had nothing to lose.  Just like my decision to go into Special Forces–I’d forever regret it if I didn’t try.

How has your military training and experiences helped you navigate Hollywood and your pursuit of an acting career?

It helps me DAILY!  Whether grinning and bearing some inconvenience or navigating the city of with an SF-learned psychological warfare attitude…my entire career helps me tolerate the chaos, uncertainty and uncontrollable business that is Hollywood.  I’m continuing my formal acting studies and experiences, which helps me in the business and in the art and craft aspect of the city. But the skills learned during my SF service certainly help me become more marketable for certain roles.  Many roles demand weapons training or feature characters that have a history of military experience and so on.  Merging the craft of acting with the skills of SF often helps me stand out and deliver more believable performances because of the amalgamation of all I’ve seen and done.

Jeff Bosley in rugged jeans and tee-shirt modeling look with thumbs in pockets
Jeff Bosley – Courtesy Jeff Bosley

What is your view of the Flag controversy since you have served not only in the military but also as a first responder?

I abhor it.  Yet, patiently and frustratingly, I respect it.  I know the meaning and the message many argue it represents, but I personally cannot EVER support kneeling towards the flag after all I’ve seen and done.  To me, it is the last symbolic hope that we should all agree on and unite towards.  Anything less is wrong.  And I say that knowing that all I believe in and fought for is what allows this difference of opinions, and I firmly respect that.  We can disagree and still be friends.  I’ll just never do it.

What are some of your passion projects?

The kid in me loves comics and action and adventure.  I spent a lot of time working to get The Punisher brought to life and would love to see that come to fruition some day.  I’m also a huge fan of great books and novels, and there are a handful of series I’d kill to see brought to the screen. I’d love to play Sandman Slim or even the main character, Joel, from The Last of Us, a great video game for the PlayStation system.

Other than that, one of my closest friends in life and in filmmaking Scott Seagren and I are always working on his scripts, whether pitching them to Netflix (which we are currently doing with three under our Scruff Brothers Films umbrella), making them ourselves, or working to collaborate with others to bring them to life.  I love acting and circumstantially producing and directing, so any chance to do those as a career is a gift in my eyes.

To keep up with Jeff Bosley, be sure to check out www.jeffbosley.com. You can also follow him on Instagram @thejeffbosley, Twitter @thejeffbosley, Facebook @thejeffbosley, and Vimeo @jeffbosley.

How the Military Supports Diversity & Inclusion

LinkedIn
Four diverse U.S. military soldiers in side to side collage

As someone who cares about a service member, you may have questions about how the military ensures equal opportunity and acceptance of individual differences among all its members. The DOD has taken steps to root out bias, ensure the military reflects the nation’s diversity and promote an environment in which every member is treated with dignity and respect.

Over the coming months, there will be an effort to get input from service members – both officers and enlisted – to hear their views and concerns about diversity and inclusion in the military.

Some changes have been implemented to advance diversity and inclusion. Military leaders have been charged with making equal opportunity and inclusion a priority. Your service member may have already benefited from some recent changes, including:

  • Removing photographs and references to race, ethnicity and gender from personnel files in promotion and selection processes. This eliminates the risk of bias when considering a candidate for a promotion, assignment, training, education or command.
  • Enacting stronger protections against harassment and discrimination including prohibiting discrimination because of pregnancy.
  • Training to detect and respond appropriately to bias – both conscious and unconscious. Service members and leaders are also receiving training on recognizing and understanding the impact of their own biases and prejudices.
  • Reviewing hairstyle and grooming policies for racial bias.
  • Training for commanders on guiding discussions on discrimination, prejudice and bias.

As an ongoing effort, the DOD collects and analyzes information to identify prejudice and bias, measure the effectiveness of its actions and expose areas requiring improvement.

Longer-term steps toward diversity and inclusion

Building upon the above, the Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion has recommended further steps to improve racial and ethnic diversity and broaden equal opportunity in the military. These recommendations include:

  • Updating recruiting content annually to reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Diversifying senior-level positions so they reflect the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to diversity in aptitude tests while retaining a rigorous screening process.
  • Identifying and removing barriers to senior leadership for diverse candidates.
  • Disclosing demographic information about promotion selection rates. This will improve transparency and reinforce the DOD’s focus on achieving equity across all grades.
  • Creating a diversity and inclusion mobile app and website that will allow service members to easily connect with each other and locate resources.
  • Prohibiting involvement with extremist or hate group activity.

To ensure continued progress, the DOD has established the independent Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services. This committee will continue the work of examining any and all issues that will improve equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion in the military.

Diverse and inclusive ranks are essential to morale, force cohesion and readiness. Your service member plays an important role in maintaining an environment that values and respects individual differences.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Normandy Commemorates D-Day With Small Crowds, But A Big Heart

LinkedIn
background with 3d texts, army helmet and remember and honor D-Day text

Article originally posted on NPR

When the sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast stretches of wet sand extending toward distant cliffs, one starts to grasp the immensity of the task faced by Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944, landing on the Nazi-occupied Normandy shore.

Several ceremonies were held Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control, and honor those who fell.

“These are the men who enabled liberty to regain a foothold on the European continent, and who in the days and weeks that followed lifted the shackles of tyranny, hedgerow by Normandy hedgerow, mile by bloody mile,” Britain’s ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewelyn, said at the inauguration of a new British monument to D-Day’s heroes.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and nearly empty as the sun emerged, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.

For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations were marked by virus travel restrictions that prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied countries from making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.

At the U.K. ceremony near the village of Ver-sur-Mer, bagpipes played memorial tunes and warplanes zipped overhead trailing red-white-and-blue smoke. Socially distanced participants stood in awe at the solemnity and serenity of the site, providing a spectacular and poignant view over Gold Beach and the English Channel.

The new monument pays tribute to those under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. Visitors stood to salute the more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, whose names are etched on its stone columns. Giant screens showed D-Day veterans gathered simultaneously at Britain’s National Memorial Aboretum to watch the Normandy event remotely. Prince Charles, speaking via video link, expressed regret that he couldn’t attend in person.

On June 6, 1944, “In the heart of the mist that enveloped the Normandy Coast … was a lightning bolt of freedom,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told the ceremony. “France does not forget. France is forever grateful.”

Most public events have been canceled, and the official ceremonies are limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.

Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the “big loss, the big absence is all the veterans who couldn’t travel.”

“That really hurts us very much because they are all around 95, 100 years old, and we hope they’re going to last forever. But, you know…” he said.

“At least we remain in a certain spirit of commemoration, which is the most important,” he told The Associated Press.

Continue on to read the full article on NPR.

Steven Spielberg And Tom Hanks Working On New WWII Series

LinkedIn
Masters of the Air series poster with fighter plane and pilots standing in front of it

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are officially working on a new WWII-inspired series with star director, Cary Joji Fukunaga.

He is signed on to direct the first three episodes of the 10-part series. Fukunaga is also in the midst of working on the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die, which has been put off to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Masters of the Air is the name of the series, which is based on the Donald L. Miller book of the same name. It follows American bomber pilots of the U.S. Eighth Air Force who aimed to bring the fight straight to Hitler inside the borders of Nazi Germany. It’s considered to be the third installment of the Band of Brothers and The Pacific set of World War II miniseries.

Read the full article on Do You Remember.com.

Jon Huertas – From Airman to Actor

LinkedIn
Jon Huertas collage of photos

By Kat Castagnoli

He may perhaps be best known as Miguel on NBC’s Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning family drama, This Is Us.

Yet actor and Air Force veteran Jon Huertas is no stranger to bringing his real-life military experience to other roles as well. For eight seasons, Huertas starred as detective and Army veteran Javier Esposito in the ABC series, Castle. He also appeared as Ramirez, a Marine Recon Sniper Spotter, in JAG, and retired Marine Sergeant Jack Kale, in NCIS.

A pivotal role for Huertas was in David Simon’s HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, as Sgt. Tony “Poke” Espera.

The series offered a unique perspective on the 2003 invasion of Iraq – an event that hit home for Huertas, who served an eight-year stint in the Air Force in both Operation Just Cause (Panama) and Desert Storm (the first war in Iraq) as an aircraft nuclear/conventional weapons specialist.

Bringing even more veteran diversity and inclusivity to the film and television industry is on the actor’s radar and also part of his latest venture.

Alongside fellow collaborator Kenny Stevenson, Huertas recently launched the production shingle, WestSide Stories. He says the new company has several projects in various stages of development – most of them featuring at least one military veteran or active-duty character.

“With our company, we have ‘diversity’ at the heart of every story we want to tell,” he said, “and for me personally, having an active-duty member of the uniformed services or a veteran with a positive portrayal of that type of character is paramount to each and every one of our stories.”

Three men outside on a a show set. They're all wearing police vests and the middle man is pointing towards the two of them.
CASTLE – “Reckoning” – In the second installment of the Castle two-parter, stakes rise as the 12th Precinct matches wits with serial killers Jerry Tyson (3XK) and Dr. Kelly Nieman. (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Walt Disney Television via Getty Images/Colleen Hayes via Getty Images)

In addition to adding more military/veteran positive roles on the big screen, Huertas is also an advocate for giving Hollywood executives, directors, writers and producers more access to military bases – Air Force in particular – so those on-screen portrayals are more accurate as well.

“One reason I think it’s important to see what the Air Force does is that it’s a lot more than fighter planes and bombers,” he said. “There are so many things the Air Force does that gets overlooked because most stories about a military event or conflict involve the Army, the Marines or Navy, with the Air Force in just an air support role.

“Which is so important…. it’s how you win wars,” Huertas explained, “But it’s also important to shine a light on the other people who volunteer their lives in service of this country. The more we can show people, the more they’ll want to tell stories about it.”

A Born Actor
Born in New York City to a Puerto Rican father and a Caucasian mother, Huertas was raised primarily by his grandparents. He began acting when he was just 10 years old, taking part in school plays. Reportedly, Huertas once had to sing a solo at his strict Catholic school and his performance so moved a nun – who had instructed him to do so as a punishment – that the experience helped him make up his mind to pursue acting.

Cast of This Is Us
(L-R) Milo Ventimiglia, Jon Huertas, Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Justin Hartley, Chrissy Metz and Susan Kelechi Watson attend ceremony on March 25, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif.

“The Air Force was an important stepping stone leading into my entertainment career,” Huertas said. “It allowed me to take advantage of getting a higher education, and I found it and the men and women I served with were very supportive and that’s what you need to succeed in this business, and any really, the support of your people.”

Huertas finished his college degree in theater while in the Air Force. He landed his first uncredited role in 1993 in The Webbers, but in 1998, portrayed Joe Negroni in the romantic drama, Why Do Fools Fall in Love? alongside Halle Berry, Paul Mazursky and Ben Vereen. That same year, he landed the role of Antonio in the television series, Moesha, and later played Brad, a witch hunter, in the popular ABC television hit, Sabrina the Teenage Witch – a role for which he was nominated for a 2000 ALMA Award.

But it was Huertas’ role of Detective Esposito in ABC’s police drama, Castle, that earned him and his co-star, Stana Katic, an award for Best Performance in a Drama Episode at the 16th Annual PRISM Awards.

Huertas’ latest projects include a new horror film he both appears in and produced called, Initiation, in May. He also directed a short film that will be debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival in June called, Two Jacked, about what happens when the world’s worst carjacker meets the world’s most notorious armed robber.

Apart from his Hollywood roles, Huertas regularly attends charity events benefiting veterans, including Wounded Warriors and Puppies Behind Bars. The Wildlands Network and the Aware Foundation are other organizations close to his heart. Married in Tulum in 2014, Huertas also enjoys spending time with his wife of seven years, Nicole Bordges.

A couple standing in front of a yellow wall at the Emmys
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 22: (L-R) Nicole Huertas and Jon Huertas attend the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Influential Roles
Huertas believes both his military and LatinX roots have definitely influenced how he approaches his roles on screen.
“The Air Force shaped me and I think that we as creatives can show that there are different ways to be influenced in our lives,” Huertas said. “And serving your country can be a very profound way to achieve that.”

He says his background helps him navigate how he protects his characters by knowing when, who, and how to talk to the right person when it comes to any changes that would help round out or authenticate that character’s objective or backstory.

Huertas says this specifically comes from learning and respecting the military’s ‘chain of command.’
“That chain has always served well,” Huertas says. “I think following a good chain of command helps someone identify a great leader, and you want that person to be supporting you in the success of your character or the story you are trying to tell.”

And while there is improvement in incorporating more LatinX characters in entertainment, Huertas feels much more can be done.

“What we see in the media inspires us both positively and negatively,” he said. “So, for me, I feel it’s our responsibility – and more specifically, my responsibility since I’ve been able to create a small platform – to step up and try to project real LatinX heroes onto audiences in hopes of inspiring more people to strive for what they are capable of.”

Northwell Health Announces 2021 Side By Side: A Celebration Of Service Honoring Military And Health Care Heroes This Memorial Day Weekend

LinkedIn
northwell health logo, image of Katy Perry, image of Alfozo Ribiero, image od U.S. Navy hospital ship in a collage

Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, And Gavin Degraw To Perform At Livestream Benefit Concert With Alfonso Ribeiro As Host

As part of the kick off to National Nurses Week, which brought together health care workers at Lenox Health Greenwich Village to thank the NYC community for their continued support over the past year, Northwell Health announced the return of Side By Side: A Celebration of Service™ in honor of military and health care heroes.

Northwell Health has announced that the celebratory event taking place over Memorial Day weekend will feature a television special, produced in partnership with Al Roker Entertainment, airing Thursday, May 27 at 7:00pm ET on NBC4 New York.

This event is prior to a livestream benefit concert with superstars Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, Gavin DeGraw and a special performance by Northwell’s Nurse Choir, with Alfonso Ribeiro as host, on Monday, May 31 at 7:00pm ET via Northwell Health’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/NorthwellHealth1)

“We were honored to produce last year’s Side By Side television special during the onset of the coronavirus,” said Executive Producer and NBC personality Al Roker. “I am thrilled to continue the celebration, especially as America emerges from the global pandemic and notably during this 20th year anniversary of the September 11th anniversary. This year feels much different – more celebratory but no less important in realizing that true heroes don’t wear capes, but uniforms of service. We tip our hats to the first responders, healthcare workers, and veterans that put their lives on the line for all of us.”

“I am humbled to once again to be a part of Side By Side and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much,” said Alfonso Ribeiro, who hosted the inaugural Side By Side: A Celebration of Service™ in 2019. “This year we hope to raise funds in support of our military and all those who run towards danger with a night of unforgettable performances, and by sharing stories of perseverance and strength that really demonstrate the resiliency of the community in New York City.”

Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider and private employer, first launched Side By Side: A Celebration of Service™ over Memorial Day weekend 2019 in honor of those who have died serving our country, our veterans and active military.

The two-part celebration featured free daytime performances by Boyz II Men, Gavin DeGraw, The U.S. Navy Band and more, along with extraordinary storytelling by veterans. Later that evening, Northwell provided free tickets to hundreds of service members and their families for a special performance by GRAMMY Award-winning, multi-platinum band Imagine Dragons. In 2020, Side By Side: A Celebration of Service™ recognized those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic with a Memorial Day television special and a #HealthcareHeroes Concert series that brought back Gavin DeGraw along with performances by Questlove and Meghan Trainor.

“We are forever in debt to our armed forces, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedoms,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “We must never forget their service. We will continue to celebrate their efforts, along with all of our first responders and health care workers, who risked everything to save lives after the September 11 attacks and again during this pandemic. We will keep their spirits alive as we prepare not just for a return to normal – but a brighter future for us all.”

Since 2006, Northwell has been serving and supporting active-duty personnel, veterans and their families as a proud, military-friendly employer and provider of both medical care and behavioral health treatment for those struggling with PTSD, while also recruiting and assisting newly returned veterans trying to find a job and acclimate back into civilian life. Northwell hires hundreds of veterans a year, and over the past decade has also awarded about $2 million to employees who were mobilized and deployed overseas – funds that represent the difference between their military pay and the regular salaries they would have earned at their Northwell jobs. In recognition of its efforts, Northwell is ranked as the nation’s seventh top nonprofit employer by the veterans advocacy group “Military Friendly.”

“Side by Side was created to show appreciation for our military, veterans and their families who have selflessly served our country,” said Juan Serrano, assistant vice president of Northwell’s Military Liaison Services. “Along with honoring our health care heroes, we are celebrating everyone who has stepped up to the challenges brought on by the pandemic over this past year, we will remember our 9/11 heroes as 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of those attacks.”

For more on Side By Side: A Celebration of Service™ please visit SideBySideNYC.com.

About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities and more than 16,600 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 76,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,800 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit 
Northwell.edu and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

To make a donation to Northwell Health’s Military Liaison Services program:

Text NORTHWELL to 56512 (USA only)

Or go to https://bit.ly/3tiSiU5

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

Lumen

Lumen

Penn State 2021

PENN STATE WORLD CAMPUS

Leidos Video

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Verizon

Verizon Wireless

Upcoming Events

  1. Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE)
    August 16, 2021 - August 19, 2021
  2. New Directions for Veterans “Veterans Valor” Golf Classic
    August 16, 2021
  3. WIFLE Annual Leadership Training
    August 16, 2021 - August 19, 2021
  4. Annual VetsWhatsNext Golf Tournament
    September 3, 2021
  5. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021