Sharon Caples McDougle is somewhat of a “hidden figure”

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Sharon McDougle with Mae Jamison

Everyone knows that Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel into space – but many don’t know that an African American woman “suited her up”. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for the historic mission STS-47 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor September 12, 1992.

McDougle worked closely with her during her training leading up to launch, as well as actual launch day and landing of the space shuttle – taking care of all of her assigned crew escape equipment – her suit, helmet, writing utensils, even her diaper.

McDougle joined the NASA family through Boeing Aerospace Operations in 1990 where she worked as a Flight Equipment Processing Contract team member in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She began her career as a CEE Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch and entry suit (LES) assemblies worn by all NASA space shuttle astronauts. She was assigned to her first mission STS-37 within a year. McDougle was one of only two women CEE Suit Technicians and the only African American technician when she began her career.

In 1994 McDougle was promoted to the position of Crew Chief making her the first female and first African American Crew Chief in CEE. In her new position she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. She was responsible for leading her team and ensuring the astronaut crews were provided with outstanding support during suited astronaut training, launch, and landing events. In 1998, United Space Alliance (USA) absorbed the Boeing Aerospace Operations contract and McDougle continued in her position as a CEE Crew Chief employed by USA. She traveled to Kennedy Space Center quite often where she worked in support of many space shuttle launches. As Crew Chief McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-female suit tech crew supporting space shuttle mission STS-78.

In 2004 McDougle became the first female and first African American promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE Processing department. In this position, she managed the team of 25+ employees responsible for processing the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) and related equipment worn by the astronaut crews aboard the space shuttle. Her team assisted the astronaut Sharon McDougle and Lt. Uhuracrews in donning/doffing the suit, testing the equipment, strapping the astronauts into the space shuttle before launch, and recovering the crew upon landing. She held this position until the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Sharon continued working until 2012 to help close-out the program, ending an illustrious 22 year career with the space shuttle program.

Other notable African-American astronauts McDougle has suited up: Charles Bolden, Frederick Gregory, and Dr. Bernard Harris.

During her career she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award, USA Employee of the Month Teamwork Award, USA Employee of the Month Community Service Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison recognizing her career as the first and only African American woman suit tech/crew chief in her field. She absolutely loved her job and is proud to have been a part of our nation’s historic Space Shuttle Program.

McDougle was recognized by her home state as a 2018 Mississippi Trailblazer at the 16th Annual Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala where she received two awards: the Calvin “Buck” Buchanan “FIRST” Award named for Mississippi’s first United States Attorney for the Northern District – honoring a Mississippian who holds the distinction of being the “first” in their profession and the Dr. Cindy Ayers “Legacy” Award honoring a Trailblazer whose singular work and contributions will leave a legacy long after their life has ended.

Most recently, McDougle received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Moss Point Visionary Circle during their 6th Annual Living Legends Ball for her military service and NASA career.

McDougle is also a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, which is where she began her aerospace career in 1982 after graduating from high school. She served proudly in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist at Beale Air Force Base, CA (1982-1990), reaching the rank of Sergeant (E-4).

During her enlistment she was a member of the Physiological Support Division (PSD). McDougle was responsible for training the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 (“spy planes”) reconnaissance aircraft pilots on high altitude operations. She performed hazardous duty as an inside observer chamber technician and as a chamber operations team member during hypobaric (altitude) and hyperbaric (dive) chamber operations. During the hypobaric chamber flights crewmembers learned firsthand how hypoxia affects their judgment while flying an aircraft. The crewmembers were taught and practiced how they would handle these types of situations and the importance of wearing all equipment correctly.

McDougle also inspected and maintained flight equipment used for the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 missions. The equipment included full pressure suit ensembles (helmet, gloves, boots, etc.), harness assemblies, and survival equipment (seat kits and parachutes, and emergency oxygen systems). She sized and fitted crewmembers’ pressure suits, assisted crewmembers in donning and doffing their suits, and performed functional tests before takeoff. She also loaded the survival seat kits and parachutes into the aircraft, strapped-in the crewmembers before take-off, and recovered the crew upon landing.

• 1982 – Graduated from Moss Point High School (Moss Point, MS)
• 1982-1990 – served in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist
• 1990 – Joined Boeing Aerospace Operations/Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE), becoming the first African American CEE Suit Technician
• 1992 – Suited up Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to travel into space (STS-47)
• 1994 – Promoted to Crew Chief, becoming first African American (male or female) CEE Crew Chief
• 1996 – Led the first and only all-female suit tech crew (STS-78)
• 2004 – First and only African American (male or female) promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE department

McDougle spent much of her enlistment on temporary assignment traveling abroad to Greece, Korea, Japan, and England, as well as stateside locations, in support of the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft missions. She separated from the Air Force in 1990 with an honorable discharge. During her enlistment she was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (2 devices), Good Conduct Medal (1 oak leaf cluster), Training Ribbon, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Longevity Service Award, and was also recognized as Airman of the Month.

Three Ways Veterans Can Hone Their Skills After Service

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woodworking students move large piece of lumber on to skillsaw

By Kurt Ballash, owner of Ballash Woodworks
Military veterans are a special talent pool because we learn valuable skills that set us apart from other candidates in the workforce.

During the pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate has hovered around 5%, but there are boundless opportunities, programs and outreach groups that can help veterans hone their skills, find a job or identify an upskilling program that is best for them.

Fayetteville, N.C., which is home to the largest U.S. Army base and Army Special Operations Command, has more than 7,000 veterans entering the workforce each year. One area of opportunity for employment across the country is skilled trade jobs. A recent study found that nearly 400,000 skilled trade jobs had posted from the pandemic’s onset in March 2020 through February 2021. As veterans consider this pathway after service, they should leverage workshops, apprenticeship programs and military-friendly programs at local colleges and universities to identify the trade that is right for them.

Participate in a Workshop

Studies have shown that creative hobbies, such as woodworking, can be an effective avenue to help veterans cope with the battle scars associated with years of combat service and to help overcome PTSD. A creative workshop is also a great starting point in identifying your strengths because it’s a short-term commitment; it’s inexpensive, and it’s a fun way to learn something new.

These are a few of the reasons why I started hosting workshops at Ballash Woodworks. We’re a Fayetteville-based small business that specializes in handcrafted wood furniture, and we’ve also become a place for veterans and their families to come together for support and healing. Our workshops teach the art of woodworking, which brings veterans together through a shared trade.

Consider an Apprenticeship Program

While workshops are a great way to test the waters with new skills, apprenticeship programs take this a step further. Companies partner with workforce development organizations and education institutions to create structured programs that provide jobs to trainees as they perfect their skills over a 3- or 4-year time frame. Glassdoor says that 91% of apprentices are hired full-time at the end of their programs.

ApprenticeshipNC is busier than ever during the pandemic, as military personnel are pursuing 91E Allied Trade Specialist certifications. With this certification, apprentices can master the art of welding, machining, carpentry or one of hundreds of other trades. In North Carolina, the average program pays about $36,100 annually. The Department of Labor also approved a woodwork manufacturing specialist apprenticeship program, so industry apprentices who complete the program can receive a national, industry-recognized credential as a registered woodwork manufacturing specialist.

Ask Your Local Colleges About Their Military Programs

One of the reasons why veterans stay in Fayetteville after service is because of the access we have to military-friendly education programs and support networks with our neighbors and veterans. Victory, a media company that connects the military community to civilian employment, releases an annual ranking of the country’s most military-friendly education institutions based on factors such as student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, loan default rates and persistence to advanced degrees. It ranked Fayetteville Technical Community College in the Top 10. Have a look at programs near you. You might qualify for scholarships and have access to resources that help ease the transition from military life to campus life.

Transitioning out of the military can be a tough road, but finding a new career that will bring you joy doesn’t have to be. Opportunities at local colleges and the experts behind apprenticeship programs can help guide the way to your next path and arm you with the training needed to get there.

Woodworking is in the Ballash blood. As a child, Kurt spent afternoons in the shop where his father and grandfather crafted custom cabinets, and Kurt developed an unspoken love for the process of turning lumber into one-of-a-kind creations. When Kurt returned to Fayetteville, N.C. after serving his country, he decided to share his love for woodworking with the community by opening up Ballash Woodworks. Veteran entrepreneurs are strong contributors to the growing Cumberland County workforce, and he immediately felt a kinship to the other veterans in the region by sharing his passion with others.

ballashwoodworks.com

Jon Huertas – From Airman to Actor

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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.”

Remembering America’s Military Heroes this Memorial Day with Ancestry

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Ancestry

This Memorial Day weekend, visit Ancestry® to find those in your family who served our nation and who lived through these remarkable chapters in history. Share your stories on Instagram with #ISaluteFor and tag @Ancestry.

To help everyone find stories to share, from May 28-31 Ancestry is offering free access to:

  • Search more than 550 million military records on Fold3®, covering military conflicts as early as the Revolutionary War.
  • Personalized stories on Ancestry.com using its StoryScout™ tool which quickly sifts through millions of records and can curate stories about your ancestors to help you make meaningful discoveries with no research needed.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Memorial Day as a federal holiday, Ancestry partnered with Wounded Warrior Project, The Greatest GENERATIONS Foundation, Combined Arms, and Jewish War Veterans to create a “50 Story Salute,” a joint tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedom.

The tribute on Ancestry’s social channels is a curated montage of military heroes through time highlighting powerful stories of strength and hope.

Photo Credit: Ancestry

May is Military Appreciation Month

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American Flags blowing in the wind

May is Military Appreciation Month and national observances include Armed Forces Day, May 15, and Memorial Day, May 31.

U.S. Veterans Magazine’s (USVM) staff says thank you to those who have served and those who continue the call of duty.

During this month and always, make an effort to thank our military and to remember our Fallen Soldiers.

National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM) is celebrated every May and is a declaration that encourages U.S. citizens to observe the month in a symbol of unity. NMAM honors current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom. May is characterized by six national observances highlighting the contributions of those who have served. Show your support on social media with #MilitaryAppreciationMonth.

Upcoming Military Appreciation Month Observances & Events

Armed Forces Day
Date: Saturday, May 15th, 2021. Celebrated the third Saturday in May every year.
About: A single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.  This day honors everyone serving in the U.S. Military branches; Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy, Space Force. There is also Armed Forces Week which typically leads up to Armed Forces Day, although it is not an official observance, many activities are planned nonetheless during the week.

Memorial Day
Date: Monday, May 31st, 2021. A Federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May.
About: A remembrance of our veterans.  Commemorates the men and women who died while in military service. All Americans are encouraged to pause, wherever they are, at 3:00 pm local time for a minute of silence.

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

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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

Steven Spielberg And Tom Hanks Working On New WWII Series

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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.

Armed Forces Day – Military Appreciation Month

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Armed Forces Day

In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. It falls near the end of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May (the fourth if the month begins on a Sunday, as in 2016).[16]

First observed on 20 May 1950, the day was created on 31 August 1949, to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard – following the consolidation of the military services in the U.S. Department of Defense. It was intended to replace the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Days, but the separate days are still observed, especially within the respective services.[17]

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. The United States’ longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade is held in Bremerton, Washington. In 2019 Bremerton will celebrate the 71st year of the Armed Forces Day Parade.

Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in the month of May.

On 19 May 2017, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the Armed Forces Day holiday, marking the 70th anniversary since the creation of the Department of Defense.[18][19][20]

Aside from the Armed Forces Day the Armed Forces and the National Guard Bureau are honored on the following days:

  • 29 March: Vietnam Veterans Day (All US Military Branches)[21]
  • Last Monday of May: Memorial Day
  • 14 June: Flag Day and Army Day (United States Army)
  • 4 August: Coast Guard Day (United States Coast Guard)
  • 18 September: Air Force Day (United States Air Force)
  • 13 October: US Navy Birthday (United States Navy)
  • 27 October: Navy Day (United States Navy)
  • 10 November: Marine Corps Birthday (United States Marine Corps)
  • 11 November: Veterans Day
  • 13 December: National Guard Day (National Guard of the United States)

Source: Wikipedia

Help Heal Veterans Hosts #VigilforValor to Honor Military Lost to War and Suicide

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Veteran with PTSD sitting down with hands folded

Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets) will host a month-long virtual candlelight vigil in May to honor service members who have fallen in battle and military members who served honorably in war and fell victim to suicide later due to the invisible scars of combat.

Help Heal Veterans is a nonprofit that provides free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to veterans and active duty military who are suffering from the physical, psychological and emotional wounds of war, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

#VigilforValor kicks off May 1, the start of Mental Health Awareness month, and concludes on May 31, Memorial Day. The United States has suffered more than 100,000 military casualties of war since 1950, and in the last 10 years we’ve lost more than 65,000 veterans to suicide.

“Our hope is to shine a light on the remarkable lives of those who have been lost,” said Joe McClain, retired Navy captain and Help Heal Veterans CEO. “Often times we honor the war dead as a group and not as individuals. This year, we want to give people an opportunity to learn about the remarkable lives represented by people who have paid the ultimate price for this country.”

Participants in #VigilforValor will:

1. Create a candleholder, either of their own design or one made from a kit provided by Help Heal Veterans for a $20 donation. (Note: a large number of candle kits will be provided free of charge to select veterans/active-duty service members).
2. Customize the candleholder for the individual they wish to honor with a photograph, drawing, patch or other item. Those who don’t have someone in particular they wish to remember are encouraged to reach out in their community, school, church or search local news to find someone to honor.
3. Light a candle and share a picture of it along with their story on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #VigilforValor so we may pay tribute to them together.

For 50 years, Help Heal Veterans has been using craft therapy to help veterans and active-duty military heal the invisible wounds of war.

“We have seen first-hand the healing power of crafting,” said McClain, “and it has been especially important over the past year, when isolation placed an extra burden on recovering veterans and military and the usual sources of support were not always available or accessible.”

Studies show that crafting can provide therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits, including improving fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, memory and dexterity, and can help alleviate feelings of anger and the severity of negative behaviors triggered by PTSD and TBIs.

To learn more about Heal Vets and the organization’s COVID-19 efforts, as well as find out how you can help, visit HealVets.org.

Veterans who are in a crisis and need support can go to https://www.veteranscrisisline.net or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

About Help Heal Veterans
First established in 1971, Help Heal Veterans has provided free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound veterans for generations. These craft kits help injured and recuperating veterans improve fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, manage stress and substance abuse, cope with symptoms of PTSD and TBI, while also improving their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health. Most of these kits are developed, manufactured and packaged for delivery at our production center headquartered in Winchester, California. Since inception, Help Heal Veterans has delivered nearly 31 million of these arts and crafts kits to veterans and veteran facilities nationwide, along with active duty military overseas.

After 59 Years, the Families of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 Receive Closure

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Wreaths Across America text with three decorated wreaths in red and green and the text Live up to their lecacy below

Very little known about what happened to Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, a military mission plane that went missing on March 16, 1962, with 93 US Army Soldiers on board and 11 crew members (including CA natives SP4 Charles Edward Kissee from Stockton, SGT Nicholas Nichols Jr. From Seaside, SFC Edmond Saenz of Lakeview Terrace, SFC John Joseph Burns from San Luis Obispo, Pvt Larry Dean Canon from Chino, MSGT Robert R. Glassman of San Jose, PVT Robert Henderson of San Francisco, Navigator Grady Reese Burt Jr. from Baldwin Park, 2nd Officer Bobbie Jean Gazzaway from Fillmore, Navigator William T Kennedy of Braintree, Flight Engineer Clayton E McClellan from San Mateo, Flight Engineer, George Michael Nau of Pacoima, Stewardess Christel Diana Reiter from San Mateo, Senior Flight Attendant Barbara Jean Wamsley from Santa Barbara, 1RST Officer Robert J Wish of Hidden Hills, Stewardess Patricia Wassum and Stewardess Hildegarde Muller).

Due to the complexities surrounding the mission, the names of all those who have been lost have not yet been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. However, on May 15th, the families of those lost will gather in Columbia falls, ME to meet each other for the first time and share in the moment that a monument to these brave men and women is unveiled.

The land where this monument has been erected was donated by Wreaths Across America Founder Morrill Worcester and is located on the balsam tip-land where brush is harvested each year to make veterans’ remembrance wreaths to be placed on the headstones of our nation’s heroes. Last summer (during the pandemic), WAA held a quiet groundbreaking ceremony for the new monument.

View Facebook Live Groundbreaking: facebook.com/watch/live/?v=201297657982321&ref=search

In addition to the monument unveiling, All Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 families will be invited to take part in the Wreaths Across America Remembrance tree program. To learn more about the WAA Remembrance Tree Program visit https://wreathsacrossamerica.org/remembrance-tree-program

As part of this program a replica dog tag will be hung on individual trees that are used to make remembrance wreaths for Wreaths Across America Day. Watch the Video: What is a remembrance wreath? youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=5_-EW6a_VAs

This simple gesture becomes a living tribute “from the fallen to the fallen” in remembrance of their service and sacrifice: as every three years, the trees where the tags are hung, will be tipped to make veterans’ wreaths to be placed on headstones by volunteers on Wreaths Across America Day, (December 18th, 2021 this year.) Leading up to the monument unveiling you’ll be able to hear interviews with family members on Wreaths Across America Internet Radio.

Wreaths Across America is the non-profit organization best known for placing wreaths on veteran’s headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. However, in 2020, the organization placed more than 1.7 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 2,557 participating locations nationwide.

You can sponsor a veteran’s wreath anytime for $15 at wreathsacrossamerica.org. Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest at noon on Saturday, December 18, 2021, as part of National Wreaths across America Day.

Click here to find a local participating cemetery near you to support go to and type in your town and/or state.

About Wreaths Across America
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

For more information watch this video or to sponsor a wreath please visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.

A U.S. Marine will wrestle in the Olympics for the first time in decades

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The MArine who will wrestle in the Olympics is pictured with a side by side image of him in uniform and his wrestling gear

For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. Marine will be wrestling at the Olympics. “It’s amazing … I never in a million years thought I’d wake up one day and say I’m an Olympian,” Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz said after three consecutive wins at Olympic Team Trials in Fort Worth, Texas over the weekend.

The 29-year-old member of the All-Marine Wrestling Team is now the best 87 kg (181-pound) class Greco-Roman wrestler in the country, according to The Jacksonville Daily News, which described Stefanowicz as feeling “unstoppable” and ready to bring home a gold medal. He’ll be one of 15 American athletes competing at the 2020 Tokyo games this summer, which were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every time I step out on the mat and I wear USA on the back, that means something greater than just myself and my last name,” Stefanowicz told Task & Purpose.

“What it means is to truly show the world what we’re about and what my brothers here do day in and day out,” Stefanowicz said of his Olympic dream. There has not been a U.S. Marine wrestler at the Olympics since 1992.

“I fight for everything that I believe in and what the Marine Corps stands for,” Stefanowicz said in 2019, describing his style in training and on the mat as “high intensity, high impact, no forgiveness.” He’s made a name for himself as a top athlete, despite his age and untraditional path into the sport.

Stefanowicz also has a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program — though it’s unclear if any of his Marine ninja skills have ever come into play during an official wrestling bout.

Read the full article on Task and Purpose.

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