Mission K9’s Intercontinental Rescue Reunites Hero Dogs With Hero Handlers

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In an intercontinental rescue operation, Mission K9 Rescue — a nonprofit that finds loving homes for retired military, police, and contract working dogs — has reunited four retired military working dogs with the handlers who cared for them during their years in service. Now the dogs can have the happy retirement they deserve.

Working dogs are an integral part of the efforts that American law enforcement, military, and supporting contractors undertake at home and abroad. Sadly, however, many of these dogs end up left at kennels to suffer alone after their usefulness as high-performing working dogs has run its course. Mission K9 finds forever homes for the dogs, often with the professional handlers they had worked with, so that they may live out their retirement in peace.

In their most recent rescue mission, the organization flew three retired military working dogs to Germany, bringing one back to the United States, despite complicated travel protocols due to the pandemic. The dogs have now been reunited with their former handlers, who eagerly awaited their arrival. (Pictured: Spyk and Justin).

Mission K9’s president Kristen Maurer and vice president Louisa Kastner accompanied the dogs on their cross-Atlantic journey, reuniting them with their former handlers in person.

“This journey posed some challenges. A cross-Atlantic flight is always a big undertaking for transporting dogs, but protocols due to COVID-19 made this trip even more challenging. Nothing would stop us from giving these military dogs the retirement they deserve, though, and now they are all happily reunited with their former handlers.”

Retired Military Working Dogs: Home at Last

Military Working Dog Spyk and Handler Justin Reunited in Germany

Justin and Spyk worked together for 4 years in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Spyk has retired after 9 years of service, two deployments, and many “temporary duty travel” (TDY) assignments. Spyk and Justin developed a strong bond during their time together and are now enjoying Spyk’s retirement as a family in Germany.

Military Working Dog Syrius and Handler Debbie Reunited in Germany

Handler Debbie shares that after finishing up a Kennel Master/Trainer course, she picked up and helped transport Syrius to Tinker Air Force Base in 2015. “After arriving back to Tinker, I was given his leash. So that’s when our adventure began.”

“We ended up taking a few POTUS missions,” Debbie shares. “Those were always filled with laughter. Syrius has — and always will have — a special place in my heart.”

Military Working Dog Rango and Handler Adrian Reunited in Germany

“Rango and I were partners for 2 years and he was my first Military Working Dog,” says Adrian, who is now giving Rango the peaceful retirement he deserves. “As a Narcotic dog team we busted many cases of illegal drugs coming onto Luke Air Force Base.”

Despite being a fierce, hard worker, Adrian says Rango always acted like a puppy. After serving the Air Force for eight years, Rango was retired due to spine health issues. “Rango will be joining me in Germany and will continue to live with me for the rest of his life wherever I go, giving him the best retirement life he deserves. I still continue to serve as a K9 handler and have had 6 other dogs I’ve worked [with], but none of them gave me memories like Rango.”

Military Working Dog Vulkan and Handler Jonathan Reunited in the United States

After reuniting Spyk, Syrius, and Rango with their loving handlers in Germany, Kristen and Louisa flew back to the United States with Vulkan, so that he could go home to his former handler, Jonathan. In his career as a Military Working Dog, Vulkan had been deployed to Turkey and supported multiple United States Secret Service and Department of State missions in Europe, where he spent six years. But there will be no more hard work for Vulkan, who will be spending the rest of his life enjoying his retirement with Jonathan.

Since 2013, Mission K9 has brought over 1,000 working dogs home from abroad. Over 520 of those K9s have been reunited with their former veteran handlers. The organization has helped hundreds more with veterinary care, and have completed dozens of transports in the United States.

About Kristen: Kristen Maurer is the president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Louisa: Louisa Kastner is the vice president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Bob: Bob Bryant is the chief technology officer of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

‘Survivor’ Winner Donates Entire Million Dollar Prize to Veterans: ‘I Am Very Fortunate’

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Mike Gabler headshot with beach background

Survivor 43 winner Mike Gabler made history on Wednesday night after he revealed he’d be donating his entire $1 million prize to veterans.

The heart valve specialist, 52, had been telling viewers of the CBS competition series his plan before nabbing the win, but followed through with his promise after being named Sole Survivor.

“There are people who need that money more,” Gabler told host Jeff Probst during the Survivor after show, filmed moments after his win. “And I’m going to donate the entire prize — the entire million dollar prize, in my father’s name, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret — to veterans in need who are recovering from psychiatric problems, PTSD, and curb the suicide epidemic.”

“We’re going to save lives and do something good,” the Kingwood, Tex. native continued amid cheers from jurors and castmates. “Season 43, all of us did this. A million dollars is going to them. We made history guys,” he added in the tender moment.

Ahead of his big reveal, Gabler could not praise the Survivor enough, sharing what an impact it had on him and the rest of the contestants. “We all have the chance of a lifetime out here, the adventure of a lifetime,” he said. “What we all learned from each other is priceless. It all made us better.”

The long-running reality competition show took place on the Fiji Islands again this season. Along with Gabler, the three-hour season finale consisted of top five competitors — Owen Knight, Jesse Lopez, Cassidy Clark and Karla Cruz Godoy — with Clark, Knight and Gabler making it to the final three.

After a 7-1-0 vote from jurors knocked out his final competitors, Gabler officially won. It was the first time his name had been written down all season.

Gabler, who is the second oldest winner in the show’s history, went on to say that he’s been “fortunate enough to come from a military family.”

When Probst respectfully asked what his financial situation was at home, considering his “beautiful gesture,” Gabler noted that he does not come from money.

“No I’ve worked very hard, I’ve been fortunate,” he said. “But you know, I realized being through this experience, I am rich at home. I have an amazing life at home. I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends. I need to be a better husband, I need to be a better father, I need to be a better brother, I need to be a better son. I’m going to do all those things just like all of us are going to do that when we go home.”

Read the complete article posted on PEOPLE.

U.S. Veterans Magazine Wins Two Awards in One Week

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Tonya Kinsey smiles while holding award in her hands

U.S. Veterans Magazine, the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families, has been awarded two prestigious awards in just one week.

The first award was received on November 7th from Veterans Legal Institute (VLI). Each year, VLI reviews the contributions given by their partners and chooses a group to recognize for their continual support of veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine was the recipient of VLI’s Community Partner of the Year award for its dedication and contribution to veterans.

The second award was received just a few days later, on November 9th from the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC). Every year, the Board of Officers at NVBDC reviews the activity of their corporations, members, certified veterans and partners, and recognizes individuals and groups for their dedication to going above and beyond to support veterans. This year, U.S. Veterans Magazine and its Partnerships Division Lead, Tonya Kinsey, were the recipients of the Media Partner of the Year Award.

“I am extremely proud of the work U.S. Veterans Magazine is doing through important organizations that value our veterans and give them vital resources when they most need them,” Kinsey stated of the honor, “I have worked closely with both organizations to help them expand their platform and highlight their stories.  We truly value their partnerships and are honored to have received recognition from both organizations!”

“We are so honored to receive these awards from these two veteran-focused organizations,” U.S. Veterans Magazine Publisher and Founder, Mona Lisa Faris, said of the awards. “Our partnership with each of these organizations works so well because our mission statements align. We were created to help veterans advance and both VLI and the NVBDC have the same goal.”

About U.S. Veterans Magazine

U.S. Veterans Magazine (USVM) is the premier resource magazine for transitioning service members, service-disabled veterans, veteran business owners and their spouses and families. USVM is the link between the qualified students, career and business candidates from the ranks of our nation’s veteran organizations, educational institutions, corporate America and the federal government. We provide our readers with relevant and timely information about employment, recruitment, supplier diversity, education, wellness and benefits. We recognize the immense value veterans offer as employees, and link job seekers with companies eager to hire them. Our publication connects entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their businesses, and for those seeking educational prospects and scholarships, we share the information they need to support their academic success. Visit our official website at https://usveteransmagazine.com/

About Veterans Legal Institute (VLI)

Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) is an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, disabled, at risk and low-income service members with opportunities for healthcare, housing, education, employment and more. VLI is dedicated to help current and former service members foster a sense of self-sufficiency for the future. To learn more, visit their official website at https://www.vetslegal.com/

About the National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC)

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is the original Veteran-Owned Business Certification organization developed by veterans, for veterans. The NVBDC is dedicated to providing credible and reliable certifying authority for veteran-owned businesses of all sizes to ensure that valid documentation exists for veteran status, ownership and operational control. The organization even offers a FASTRACK process, allowing businesses who are already certified with other certifiers to qualify for Veteran-Owned Business Certification in as little as 30 days. To learn more, visit their website at https://nvbdc.org/

Cheeriodicals Team Delivers gifts of Appreciation to Hospitalized Veterans

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man in VA hospital bed smiling with gift bag

U.S. Veterans Magazine is an ongoing supporter of the VA Medical Center Cheeriodicals program.

The Veteran Cheeriodicals are duffle bags packed with patriotic comfort and care items, such as a soft blanket, tumbler, toiletry items and, of course, the U.S. Veterans Magazine!

To add to the impact, volunteers had the opportunity to join the Cheeriodicals team and hand-deliver gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans.

Volunteers packed 224 Cheeriodicals for veterans receiving care at the West Roxbury VA Medical Center.

Cheeriodicals were also delivered to VA hospitals in Phoenix and Charleston.

Find out more about Cheeriodicals here.

FOX Nation’s 4th Annual Patriot Awards Ceremony Benefitting the American Red Cross is Tonight

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Fox Nation Patriot Awards

By Kellie Speed

FOX Nation is hosting its fourth annual Patriot Awards at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, tonight. You can catch the patriotic show live at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Nation, and it will also be offered in a repeat presentation on FOX News Channel on Sunday, November 27, at 10 p.m. ET.

Each year, the awards show honors standout Americans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in support of this great nation. The event gives true American heroes the recognition they deserve.

“It is the awards show that America needs and that America deserves,” said FOX & Friends Weekend co-host and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth, who will return for his fourth year as the emcee.

Hegseth will join FOX News Media personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Greg Gutfeld, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, Judge Jeanine Pirro, the cast of The Five, Harris Faulkner, Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Dan Bongino, John Rich, Mike Rowe, Nancy Grace, Lawrence Jones, Johnny Joey Jones and Abby Hornacek.

This year’s Patriot Awards include the Most Valuable Patriot Award, Heroism Award, Service to Veterans Award and Back the Blue Award. Additionally, The Five (weekdays, 5 p.m. ET), Tucker Carlson Tonight (weekdays, 8 p.m. ET) and Gutfeld! (weekdays, 11 p.m. ET) will present live shows at the venue.

Last year’s Patriot Award recipients included “Most Valuable Patriot” Olympic Gold Medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock; Award for Heroism recipient Lt. Col. (Ret.), Former Green Beret Scott Mann for his work in Afghanistan with Task Force Pineapple; “Modern Warrior” recipient Army Sergeant First Class John Goudie, and the “Courage” award recipient posthumously awarded to Todd Beamer in United Airlines Flight 93 (accepted by his parents David and Peggy Beamer).

They also paid a humbling tribute to the nation’s 13 fallen heroes killed on August 26, 2021, during the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan – Marine Corps Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza, Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole L. Gee, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan C. Knauss, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem M. Nikoui, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared M. Schmitz, Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak and Marine Corps Corporal Daegan W. Page.

Keep an eye out in the next issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine for a full feature on the event.

For more information, be sure to visit nation.foxnews.com

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) : Victories for Veterans

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DAV victories PSA

Give a Minute to Support Victories for Veterans. America’s veterans are on their most important tour—the tour of their lives. DAV, a leading nonprofit, is helping more than 1 million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

While serving in Vietnam, a grenade took Michael Naranjo’s eyesight. His fingers became his new way of seeing. Starting with a lump of clay, he learned to create objects of beauty with his hands. Today, he’s a successful sculptor. Each year, DAV helps more than a million veterans like Michael in life-changing ways — helping them to get the benefits they’ve earned.

Support more Victories for Veterans®. GO TO DAV.ORG

Veterans and the Oath of Enlistment: Thank You for Your Service

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John Register

By John Register

Thank you for your service!

As a retired combat disabled veteran, I have heard this heartfelt statement from many proud American citizens. I always hear it in terms of deep respect for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation.

Yet, now, in this time in history in our nation, I have been thinking deeper about what these words, “thank you for your service,” actually mean.

Here’s what I mean. When I ask a person who has just thanked me for my service, what do you mean by your words? They often tell me, “well, you protected our nation,” or will say, “you fought for our country.”

Both of those are true; however, they are also byproducts of the service oath I took when I enlisted into the United States Army.

I believe what we’re missing in American Society today is honor, respect and truth for what the military service member has signed on to do. There appears to be an assumption of what “thank you for your service” means. There is no recollection or call back to the oath of service each enlisted, or officer takes to begin the process of service to our country.

The oath I took was “to support and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

What this means is my combat service was in defense of the United States Constitution. It was not to an individual or a group. Even though the next lines say that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, there is always an exception to the policy if an order is in contrast to the defense of the United States Constitution or is unlawful.

The next question I asked myself was when was the last time I read the United States Constitution? I realized I had not done so in quite some time. So, I downloaded the app and read through the document on Memorial Day.

What fascinates me about Article 5 is that despite the best efforts to get it right, the framers of the constitution wrote this Article to let future generations know it could be amended. They knew that what they wrote had to be a living document to stand long beyond their years on this earth.

Another interesting point about “thank you for your service” is the assumption that my amputation came due to my combat experience.

Often amputees, who served or have not served, will be mistakenly identified as service members because of their disability. I represent 70 percent of those who were not injured in combat — though my disability occurred while on active duty.

When building the United States Olympic and Paralympic Military Sports Program, the issue that gave me the greatest concern was well-meaning charitable organizations that only wanted to serve those who were injured in combat. They had no idea the rift they were causing in the hospitals because they were separating who was more worthy of their “thank you for your service.”

I was recently talking with a business coach friend of mine who served in Vietnam. When I shared with him my sentiments around, “thank you for your service,” he shared with me that when he got out, he was never un-oathed.

This, I believe, is the bond that connects every service member, regardless of branch, together. Just because service members transition back to civilian life, hopefully with an honorable discharge, it does not mean we have thrown away the oath to protect the United States Constitution.

So, the next time you either hear, “thank you for your service,” or you say it to somebody, remember what the oath of service says and what it protects. Our democracy will stand or fall not on one leader but on our vigilance to defend the United States Constitution.

There remains deep respect in America for the sacrifices men and women have made to defend our nation. Let us honor those who served by understanding the United States Constitution is the depth of our defense.

John Register is a combat Army veteran, two-time and two-sport Paralympic athlete and Inspirational Keynote Speaker. Book John to speak at your next conference by visiting johnregister.com.

Charlie Mike: “Continue the Mission of Life”

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Man holding dog smiling

The mission of Charlie Mike is to save the lives of those still carrying the unseen wounds of combat, one veteran at a time.

Our vision is to help Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors help one another “Continue the Mission of Life,” in whatever form that may be. We believe that by standing together at home, just as we stood together during war time, we will help each other succeed in getting back to life.

Charlie Mike will save lives through a multi-faceted approach to help each veteran “continue the mission,” to never quit, and to address their daily challenges. This approach is based on three pillars that focus on creating stability for each veteran we serve.

The three foundational pillars of Charlie Mike are universal yet tailored to each veteran, designed to address the challenges they face. Each person’s experience is quite different, even if similar challenges or needs are exhibited. These pillars are designed to address three key areas affecting veterans today: PTSD and TBI, suicide and sexual assault.

Pillar One: Mental & Emotional Stability

Creating mental and emotional stability is the foundation of everything Charlie Mike will do within the veteran community. Mental and emotional instability are the unseen costs and casualties of war, and they are quite common. When progress is made, healing begins, and life changes for the better. The resulting stability allows for the other aspects of “normal” life to be within reach.

Pillar Two: Stability in Daily Living

Creating stability in daily living is part of the overall goal and mission of Charlie Mike. Once mental and emotional stability are created, daily living will get easier, be better, and more productive. The issues are complex and challenging, but the approach is simple. Helping veterans find and learn tools to become self-reliant is the best gift we can provide. This daily stability will provide a foundation for participants to sustain themselves for the rest of their lives.

Pillar Three: Stability by Serving Others

As much as veterans miss their teams, they miss the service. In the volunteer force of the U.S. Military, everyone joins for various reasons. The service aspect, however, is an integral part of the job, and is instilled by every branch of the military. Once discharged, those who have deployed often miss the high tempo, the austere environment, the challenge, and even the danger. Very few things in life will ever compare to or compete with wartime service. This causes a lack of stability as veterans struggle to find meaning in “normal life.”

Charlie Mike has a solution: getting veterans back into service. Creating stability by serving others is a simple approach for long-term healing. When we serve and help each other, we serve a higher cause, and yet gain personal benefits that are immeasurable.

Charlie Mike

Charlie Mike was created by modern combat veterans who know the realities of war and the realities of returning to civilian life. We understand the mental and physical tolls, the challenges, and the struggles. We understand what veterans want and need in order to cope with these life challenges. Our work will create a new community, a new forum, and new programs to help former war fighters integrate back into “normal” life after military service.

I’m a Vietnam War Veteran. Here’s How Writing My Memoir Has Helped Me Heal

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Bill Taylor, Vietnam Veteran, dressed in suit coat smiling in a library

I fought in Vietnam for 13 months at the age of 18. After my tour in Vietnam, I returned home a changed man. And while there was nothing extraordinary about my experience compared with others who had fought, I remain changed by my experiences there.

It’s estimated that around 30 percent of Vietnam Veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetime. The disorder, however, doesn’t have to be as a result of war; it can be caused by any traumatic experience. For veterans who have fought in wars, PTSD can be lurking just under the surface and ready to take the place of rational thought. It pushes you into an uncontrollable urge to win the perceived battle. My urges are deep-seated and come from just over a year of constant combat.

I Had to Get My Story Out 

When I came home, I knew I had an amazing story to tell. It took me nearly 50 years, but last year, I published my memoir, On Full Automatic: Surviving 13 Months in Vietnam. I always knew getting my story down on paper would be a great way to explain to those who have never fought in a war, what it’s like to actually be there. What I didn’t expect was that the whole process would be so cathartic.

Here’s How Writing My Book Has Been Healing:

I’ve Found a Way to Honor the Heroes I Knew in Vietnam

I’m not the hero in my book. People have said to me, “Thank you for your service. You are a hero in my eyes.” But I’m thinking, “I’m not the hero. The guys in my book that I wrote about are the heroes. Especially those that gave their all, they are the real heroes.” I was just a scared kid and in a lot of ways it was pure luck that brought me home at the end of my tour. Many guys weren’t as lucky.

Bill Taylor in battle uniform early Vietnam war days
Just south of the DMZ before our battle during Operation Buffalo

In writing my book, I’ve been able to tell the story of all the men I knew. Many of them lost their lives but writing about them is a way of honoring them. They are back with us forever. My story is their story, and it’s finally being told.

I’ve Helped Other Survivors Process Their Own Experiences 

So many veterans come home from war and can’t talk about it. They keep their experiences bottled up inside, where they can do real harm. But people respond to shared experiences. When I’ve talked to other vets who have been through war, our stories just come out automatically. It completes, verifies and justifies something inside us. I’ve had a lot of feedback from other vets who have read my book and feel that by telling my story, they have found healing too. In a way it’s their story, the one they weren’t able to tell themselves or to their families.

I’ve Given Those Who Weren’t There a New Understanding of War

On the flip side, many people who haven’t experienced war don’t know why the vet acts the way they do. They may see erratic behavior in a loved one and not know why their behavior has changed. I’ve also heard from a lot of readers who in reading the book finally understand. If you haven’t experienced it, you just don’t know. My book has given people the experience of being there. It has opened their eyes like never before.

I wanted people to know what happened. I wanted to get those memories out of me. And now that it’s all out in the open, it’s there for everyone to see and experience. When I’ve traveled to talk at book clubs, I’ve had some amazing experiences. At times I’ve had up to 20 people surrounding me asking questions. And that’s 20 more people that have a better insight of what veterans have been through.

I’ve Learned How to Process and Control My Own Emotions 

When I first sat down and actually wrote my book, I didn’t experience healing immediately. It wasn’t until I started going through rounds of editing that the real healing set in. The first time I edited my manuscript, I cried after each story. Then the second time, I cried. Third and fourth times the same thing would happen. But the more I edited the less I would cry. And now I can tell the stories when I speak to crowds of people and for the most part, do not have a problem anymore.

A lot of veterans attend support groups and share their stories. But for those guys who just can’t talk about it for whatever reason, writing can be very therapeutic. I’m not suggesting that everyone write a book. And grammar or spelling shouldn’t be a concern. A lot of guys are just like me; they went into the military straight from high school. But it’s about getting your story out on paper. Once it’s there you have a choice. You can save it and share it with your children or grandchildren, or you just tear it up. The important thing is that you got your story out.

Gary Sinise: Positive About Service

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Gary Sinise collage of his phots

By Brady Rhoades

When the inaugural issue of U.S. Veterans Magazine hit the stands — and the internet — Gary Sinise was on the cover.

He’s back, and for good reason.

Sinise, best known as Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, has devoted his life to serving veterans.

What’s the author of the New York Times best-selling Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service have to say 10 years down the road?

“I’ve been honored to be featured, and it’s an honor and a pleasure to be featured again,” he said. “I did not serve. One way I can serve is by shining a light on those who do serve. U.S. Veterans Magazine does that.”

The 67-year-old husband and father of three has been busy for the past couple of years. He continues supporting veterans through the Gary Sinise Foundation, and the Illinois native moved from California to Nashville, Tenn.

“I was looking for a change, and there are so many veterans groups from that part of the country,” he said, adding that his foundation — which supports veterans and their families by building homes for wounded warriors (as part of its R.I.S.E. program), hosting day-long festivals at military medical bases and serving meals to deploying troops — is in its 11th year. “We’re poised and positive to do so much of service to the men and women of our military.”

He said he’s looking forward to Veterans Day and a salute to veterans ceremony at the National World War II museum in New Orleans, La. That week, he’ll be giving away another house to a wounded veteran, as well.

When Forrest Gump first played in theaters in 1994, Lt. Dan — Gump’s no-nonsense platoon leader in Vietnam — resonated with veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam. One oft-cited scene, which critics have called a classic in American film, involves Lt. Dan climbing to the top of the mast on Gump’s shrimping boat during a lashing storm, shaking his fist and hollering at God.

“Never once did he think that either one was going to happen, that he was going to lose his legs and also suffer PTSD and tremendous guilt,” Sinise said. “This is not an uncommon thing, and then he isolates, drowning himself in alcohol and drugs.

“That scene is an absolute metaphor for wrestling those demons… That was the story of many Vietnam veterans.

“And he wins. It’s the story of a Vietnam vet that we hadn’t seen before.”

Lt. Dan Band performs at an Invincible Spirit Festival providing respite from medical treatments for wounded warriors and their family members
The Lt. Dan Band performs at an Invincible Spirit Festival providing respite from medical treatments for wounded warriors and their family members. (Courtesy of Gary Sinise Foundation)

After the storm, Lt. Dan is seen floating on his back in the calm waters of Bayou La Batre. Later, at Gump’s wedding, he shows up with what Gump calls “magic legs.” Lt. Dan has received prosthetics. He is newly married and clearly sober and happy.

Sinise, a rock and roller from the Chicago area (he’s a lifelong Bears and Cubs fan), didn’t anticipate the attention that would come his way.

But it did, and quickly.

It was a pivot point in Sinise’s life. He said he was so deeply moved that he felt compelled to turn his emotions into action.

Around the turn of the new century, that’s what he did. One strategy he employed was to introduce himself as Lt. Dan when trying to make inroads with organizations.

“They’d patch me right through,” he joked in an earlier interview.

In time, the bass player formed the Lt. Dan Band, which has put on more than 500 concerts for veterans who get to revel for a few hours in the 13-member group’s covers of Adele, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Charlie Daniels and others.

Said one Marine, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons: “Upon returning from my first tour in Afghanistan, the loss of more brothers than I’d like to remember was taking its toll. I saw a poster that the Lt. Dan Band was performing in my area and decided to attend. I like to believe that one show kept me from doing the unthinkable. Thank you for all you do.”

Sinise’s work on behalf of the military is described in detail in Grateful American, which includes, Sinise said, “hilarious things about my childhood.”

Mostly, it’s about his transformation.

Gary Sinise with Christian Brown during a RISE home visit
Gary Sinise with Christian Brown during a RISE home visit (Courtesy of Gary Sinise Foundation)

“The book continues to sell three years later,” he said. “It’s an interesting journey from self to service.”

None other than Clint Eastwood said about the 254-pager: “The book is called Grateful American, and I promise you after you read it, you will be grateful for what Gary has accomplished and contributed to our country.”

Forrest Gump won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Zemeckis) and Best Actor (Tom Hanks). Hanks and Sinise went on to team up in two other classics, Apollo 13 and The Green Mile.

“We hit it off,” Sinise said.

Hanks has joined Sinise on several occasions in efforts to benefit veterans.

“Tom’s been a good supporter of mine and what I’m trying to do,” Sinise said.

Sinise has also starred in Of Mice and Men (which he directed), Reindeer Games, Snake Eyes, Ransom, Mission to Mars, The Stand and Impostor.

In 2004, he began his first regular television series with the crime drama CSI: New York, in which he played Detective Mac Taylor. He was credited as a producer from season two onward and wrote the storyline of an episode.

In 2008, he was the narrator for the Discovery Channel’s miniseries, When We Left Earth.

Sinise was the executive producer — along with David Scantling — of the Iraq War documentary Brothers at War. The film features an American military family and the experiences of three brothers.

In 2009, Sinise narrated the highly acclaimed World War II in HD on the History Channel. In 2010, he narrated the World War II documentary, Missions That Changed the War on the Military Channel.

He has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and with the Presidential Citizen Medal — given to him by President George W. Bush for helping the military and Iraqi children.

Mona Lisa Faris and Gary Sinise standing together smiling for camera
U.S. Veterans Magazine’s publisher Mona Lisa Faris catches up with Gary Sinise at Sky Ball Foundation benefit.

But for all his fame and accolades, Sinise is that rare celebrity whose off-screen work might turn out to be his greatest legacy.

His foundation faced a major challenge when the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, ending the longest war in American history.

“That was a tragic withdrawal,” he said. “To watch the Taliban raise their flag was difficult for our military members to watch… We found ourselves reaching out to a lot of Afghanistan veterans and letting them know they have our support.”

The impact of Sinise’s foundation (garysinisefoundation.org) on the lives of veterans, first responders and their families is evident in the math.

To date, the foundation has built, modified or retrofitted 77 homes for severely-wounded heroes, dished out 771,144 meals to the nation’s defenders, donated 12,020 pieces of essential equipment to the military and first responders and provided supportive experiences and resources to 11,181 children of fallen servicemen and women.

“It is upon us to give back to our heroes to ensure they have the tools and resources to deal with their physical and invisible wounds,” he said. “It’s up to us to give them comfort. To give them support. To give them hope. I believe while we can never do enough for our nation’s defenders and the families who sacrifice alongside them, we can always do a little more.”

Military Veterans in Journalism

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In order to ensure that military veterans are covered properly, truthfully and ethically in the news, the Military Veterans in Journalism, in collaboration with News Corp Giving, the nonprofit organization, will be providing a range of resources for reporters covering military and veteran issues through an online resource portal.

MVJ will provide standards, tips, and guidance to reporters navigating sensitive topics using this portal. The organization will put together a directory of experts on such subjects as post-traumatic stress and veteran suicide. MVJ will also create a style guide with explanations on technical terms to help journalists avoid common stereotypes and tropes.

The U.S. Veterans Magazine sat down with Zack Baddorf of MVJ as he expanded upon their mission and its importance to the veteran community.

USVM: Tell us more about the mission and purpose of this new initiative and how it got started. Why did your founders feel it was important and necessary to include access to veteran writers and journalists?

MVJ: The purpose of this new initiative is to improve the quality of reporting on military issues across the board and help journalists who may not have much military experience properly cover these topics. We felt it was necessary to include access to veteran journalists in the initiative so that newsrooms would have a resource for contacting (and hiring) journalists with firsthand experience.

USVM: How did you seek out/receive funding and how do you plan to allocate the funds to support your mission?

MVJ: I submitted a request for funding to News Corp Giving in 2021. In December 2021, we received the news that funding for the project had been approved. We plan to allocate the funds toward the creation and development of the portal and to pay the veteran journalists who will be contributing to our reporting tips guide.

USVM: What kind of resources can veterans and publications expect to find on your portal?

MVJ: Veterans and publications can expect to find several things:
■ The Military Veterans in Journalism Style Guide, which will provide definitions of technical terms and usage corrections while also providing some useful information on thematic issues like veteran disabilities. The goal of this is to help reporters who are not familiar with the military avoid these mistakes in the future. This Style Guide will follow standards set by the Associated Press.
■ A series of blog posts and videos intended to provide tips on how to broach sensitive topics and dig deeper. The blog posts will be specific to one issue, while the videos will teach skills for conducting stronger reporting on military and veteran affairs.
■ A showcase of military veteran journalists that are doing great things in their field. This showcase is intended to focus on the veterans themselves.
■ A directory of experts that can provide insight and analysis on a range of topics. This will include military veterans working in journalism who have carved out a niche. The current topics covered include VA medical care, veterans’ mental health, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, Iraq, anti-war activism and special operations.

USVM: How do active duty and veteran journalists enroll in your database? Will there be any vetting tools or procedures in place? Can they create a portfolio of their work along with their profile?

MVJ: Active duty and veteran journalists can email me at zack@mvj.network to be included. Our team will also be performing a standard vetting process on each showcase submission prior to placing them on the site.

USVM: Will there be breaking news, commentary or opinion pieces, or will the articles you publish mostly cover specific subject matters, like PTSD, transitioning out the military or veteran-owned business stories?

MVJ: We will not be publishing breaking news articles on this site. Instead, we will be publishing blog posts and videos with reporting tips. These will cover specific issues within reporting on veteran and military affairs.

USVM: Who will have access to your portal, or will it be completely free to the general public?

MVJ: The portal will be free to the general public. We will be promoting it to newsrooms nationwide for their use. We intend to create this portal as a tool for reporters and newsrooms to learn and improve their journalism.

USVM: How quickly do you hope to get started and be fully operational?

MVJ: We plan to have the site up and running by Veterans Day this year – November 11, 2022. We’ve already begun the process of building the portal and are putting together our directories with help from our community.

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