Library of Congress Veterans History Project

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U.S. Navy veteran Keith Sherman embraces Gold Star family members

Mother Teresa once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Have you ever considered the impact you have on others?  Without realizing it, you have the power to change someone’s course.

What if I told you that by sharing your story, you can create a ripple effect that could benefit countless individuals? The Veterans History Project (VHP) offers that opportunity. (pictured; U.S. Navy veteran Keith Sherman embraces Gold Star family members)

In 2000, the United States Congress passed legislation to create VHP under the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (Public Law 106-380, 2000). VHP’s mission is to collect, preserve and make accessible the firsthand narratives of our country’s military veterans and families of the fallen, better known as Gold Star family members.

Participating in VHP is simple, meaningful and leaves a lasting legacy. There are many ways to share a story, either through oral history interviews or original items such as photographs, letters, diaries, 2-dimensional artwork and other historical materials.

Whether you served in uniform or simply know someone who has, VHP is your chance to make history through participating as a volunteer contributor. Individuals and organizations across the nation sit down with the veterans or Gold Star family members in their lives and communities to help them gather materials, interview veterans within their communities and establish primary sources for our national library. Interested parties can find online resources through the VHP website at loc.gov/vets. The Field Kit and Field Kit companion video provide step-by-step instructions, required paperwork and sample questions for interviewing veterans.

For veterans, VHP is your opportunity to leave your imprint and to enrich our historical record. As World War II veteran Don Griffin noted, “These aren’t the stories in history books or TV. If we don’t tell our story, then nobody will know what transpired” (Griffin, 2004).

Veteran sitting in chair participates in oral history interview about his service.
Veteran participates in oral history interview about his service. Photo provided by Library of Congress.

VHP is currently home to over 111,000 collections of veteran and Gold Star memories. These collections provide an invaluable cultural resource that informs the historical record and illuminates the times in which our nation’s veterans lived. They are accessible to the public and are used regularly by researchers, family members, historians and students. VHP collections have informed more than 800 different books, publications, films and other artistic productions including Ken Burns’ PBS docuseries “The Vietnam War (2017),” Liza Mundy’s book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of American Women Code Breakers of World War II (2017)” and Douglas Taurel’s “The American Soldier (2017)” performance.  As the veteran or next of kin maintains the copyright to their story, permissions need to be obtained before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication.

While VHP has come a long way since its inception, there is still a long way to go. With over 17 million veterans in the United States today (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019), we need your help.  All veterans deserve the opportunity to be remembered, so that their service and sacrifice for our country might not fade and be forgotten with the passage of time.  Now is the time for you to cast your stone.  Tell your story and discover the ripples your memories create.

For more information, visit loc.gov/vets/ or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848. Subscribe to the VHP RSS to receive periodic updates of VHP news. Follow VHP on Facebook @vetshistoryproject.

Busting 12 Military Benefit Myths

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Don’t know what to believe about transition assistance, Veterans Affairs benefits and entitlements? Click on a myth below to reveal the true story.

Myth #1: After I return from Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, I need to have my dental work (as part of my VA benefit) completed before the end of the 180-day period.

The Truth: The 180-day period refers to enrolling in the VA and making the dental appointment within 180 days of the Release From Active-Duty date, but you are not required to have all of your dental work completed before 180 days.

Myth #2: If I receive disability compensation from the VA, I will be discharged from the National Guard.

The Truth: You can be a traditional National Guard member and receive VA disability compensation. However, you cannot receive VA compensation for the same time period that you receive military pay. For typical traditional Guard members, this means 63 days of military pay (48 unit training assemblies and 15 annual trainings). Any Active-Duty Operational Support Guard program, readiness management assembly, etc. counts as military pay as well. If you are Active Guard Reserve or mobilized, you will be receiving military pay 24/7, and must stop VA compensation immediately, or you will become indebted to the federal government.

Myth #3: I am receiving 40 percent disability compensation from the VA and have heard that I will be discharged if I am receiving more than 30 percent.

The Truth: Although there is something in the enlistment contract about 30%, that does not apply to you because you are not enlisting. The percentage of disability compensation from the VA does not affect your membership in the National Guard. However, you must pass the physical examination for the NG – “fitness for duty exam or ability to perform your duty” – this is what will determine if you are retainable. And always record accurate information on the Annual Medical Certification. There is a block that asks if you are receiving disability compensation from Social Security, VA, Workers Comp, etc. These are government documents and to give an untrue answer is deemed as committing fraud and then neither the Department of Defense nor VA is going to be chomping at the bit to take care of you.

Myth #4: VA does retirement physicals.

The Truth: They do not. Guard members often confuse the Compensation and Pension Exam as being a retirement physical. However, if there is a VA/DOD Sharing Agreement, the VA Medical Centers may be requested by DOD medical facilities to assist with these service retirement physicals, but these instances are rare. Note: Under the Benefits Delivered at Discharge Program, DOD will accept the VA’s physical as their retirement physical. If the service member has already done a VA Compensation and Pension exam, they can get a copy of it and use it as their retirement physical.

Myth #5: If I am injured in a car accident, my Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection benefits will reduce the amount of my SGLI in the event of my death at a later time.

The Truth: Payment of TSGLI has no impact on the amount of SGLI payable. For example, if a service member is insured for $400,000 of SGLI coverage and receives a TSGLI payment of $50,000 for a traumatic injury, that member is still insured for the full $400,000 of SGLI coverage, which will be paid upon the service member’s death.

Myth #6: As a National Guard member, I heard that my SGLI coverage is only good while I’m at drill.

The Truth: If you are a National Guard member and have been assigned to a unit in which you are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive duty that is creditable for retirement purposes, full-time SGLI coverage is in effect 365 days of the year. You are also covered for 120 days following separation or release from duty.

Myth #7: I cannot go to the VA Hospital for a service-connected problem because I have private health insurance.

The Truth: You may enroll with the Department of Veteran Affairs for health care benefits regardless of your private health insurance plan. You may, depending upon the circumstances, have to make a co-payment for treatment for non-service-connected conditions. Your private insurance may be billed for non-service conditions as well.

Myth #8: If I am a service member returning from theater and do not have a job, I am not eligible for Unemployment Compensation.

The Truth: Although the Unemployment Compensation benefit varies among states, you may be eligible in your state for unemployment insurance. Usually, the states provide these temporary wage replacement benefits to qualified individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own. Check it out, and also check your state benefits, which may include employment benefits and job placement assistance, too.

Myth #9: I need to pay enrollment fees to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Truth: There are no enrollment fees to receive benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Myth #10: If I file for my VA compensation, then I have automatically enrolled in the VA Healthcare System.

The Truth: The process to apply for VA compensation is separate from the process to enroll in the health care system. To enroll, you must complete a 10-10EZ and submit it in person, online or via the mail to your nearest VA hospital. It must be signed before you submit it. It is also wise to have a copy of your DD214 to verify your active-duty status and theater of deployment for combat vet eligibility for enhanced health care and other benefits. Additionally, if you submitted your military medical records with your disability claim, it is not available to the hospital. For VA health care enrollment, it is also necessary to bring copies of any of your medical records so that they can be scanned into the VA’s VISTA electronic record system.

Myth #11: Service members and their families are not eligible for Pre-activation Benefits (Early Eligibility) TRICARE.

The Truth: Guard and family members are eligible once the service member receives mobilization alert orders, is within 90 days of deployment and all are currently enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Special note: if you think there is a possibility that you may be found not fit for duty, you should keep your civilian health insurance until you are found fit for duty. Remember that when you return from this deployment, you are eligible for six months of the TRICARE Transitional Assistance Management Program for your and your family’s health care needs. (Enrollment is not automatic – see your Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor or TRICARE representative for details.) VA health care covers only veterans for five years from the REFRAD date.

Myth #12: I am enrolled in the TRICARE health care program and am automatically covered for dental care.

The Truth: Enrollment in TRICARE does not cover your dental care. The TRICARE Dental Program is offered by the Department of Defense and you must purchase this benefit from United Concordia, which administers the program. Learn more at TRICARE dental.

Mitsubishi Motors Introduces Team ‘Record the Journey’ for 2021 Rebelle Rally

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Selena “Mason” Converse and Erin Mason are sisters-in-law, wives, mothers and combat veterans, and they are two-thirds of Mitsubishi Motors’ 2021 Rebelle Rally entry.

They’ll be joined in their 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander on the nine-day, 2000-km, all-women off-road navigational rally by Sammy, Mason’s two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd, the first service dog ever to compete in the Rebelle.

Altogether, Mason, Erin and Sammy are Team #207, representing Record the Journey (RTJ), a military veterans charity dedicated to helping service members successfully transition to civilian life, and advocating for PTSD awareness.

“Mitsubishi Motors’ participation in the Rebelle Rally is first and foremost about our partnership with Record the Journey and supporting Rachael Ridenour and the charity she founded to help military veterans,” said Mark Chaffin, Chief Operating Officer, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA). “This year, in addition to supporting two veterans who honorably served, we’re breaking ground with Mason and Erin competing with Sammy to raise awareness for PTSD and the potentially life-saving work that trained service dogs do. We couldn’t be more proud to see the three of them in their 2022 Outlander, and celebrating one of Mitsubishi Motors’ most significant Dakar wins.”

MMNA and RTJ have broken new ground at the Rebelle each year and are poised to do it again. Starting in 2019 – when the brand first partnered with RTJ as part of MMNA’s “Small Batch – Big Impact” social-good program – Team RTJ finished second in the Rebelle’s CUV class with the event’s first ever adaptive athlete – U.S. Air Force veteran Karah Behrend – at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

In 2020, MMNA and RTJ marked another first for the Rebelle, competing in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle ever to complete the grueling multi-day event. This year, MMNA and RTJ will again make history in the wilds of Nevada and Southern California, when Sammy will become the first four-footed Rebelle.

“Record the Journey couldn’t be more grateful for the support that Mitsubishi Motors and our other partners have provided to enable military veterans to have this life-changing – and life-affirming – experience,” said retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major and RTJ Founder Ridenour. “And this year is particularly important, as Sammy joins Mason and Erin to bring focus to PTSD and the important role that service dogs play for our returning heroes.”

MMNA recently shared a rendering of the vehicle that will carry Erin, Mason and Sammy through the 2021 Rebelle Rally October 7-16. The Outlander’s special paint scheme pays tribute to a history-making Dakar Rally win twenty years ago, when Jutta Kleinschmidt drove a Mitsubishi Pajero to victory in 2001, becoming the only woman ever to win the world-famous Dakar. This was only one of Mitsubishi’s 12 overall wins in the world’s most rugged motorsport competition, and the first of seven in a row.

Navigator: Erin Mason

Erin Mason smiling wearing uniform

Military Info:
Branch Served –
United States Navy
Job Title – Aviation Structural Mechanic
Brief Job Description – Maintained aircraft airframe and structural components including flight surfaces and controls. Responsible for inspections, fabrication and repairs.
Years Served – 4
Deployments – 2 – Flight deck, USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, Red Sea, as well as the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea
Duty Stations – Naval Air Station Oceana
Last Rank Earned – E-4 Petty Officer

Personal Info:
Hometown –
Wildomar, CA

Current Residence – Quitman, TX

Age – 32
Marital Status – Married, 7 yrs.

Number of Children – 2

Current Job – Owner & Farmer, Mason Wholesale Greenhouses – Plant Nursery Airport; Manager, Collins Field Regional Airport

 

Driver: Selena “Mason” Converse

Selena "Mason" Converse

Military Info:
Branch Served
– United States Air Force

Job Title – Emergency Medical Services Technician – EMT
Brief Job Description – Provided emergency medical care in both combat and non-combat situations. Instructed EMT Certification Courses (NREMT) for incoming Air Force Medics and Navy Corpsman.
Years Served – 12.75 yrs.
Deployments – 1 – Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

Duty Stations – MacDill Air Force Base (Florida), Grand Forks AFB (North Dakota), Mountain Home AFB (Idaho), Fort Sam Houston (Texas)
Last Rank Earned – E-6 Technical Sergeant

Personal Info:

Hometown – Quitman, TX

Current Residence – Hurricane, UT

Age – 37
Marital Status – Married, 17 yrs.

Number of Children – 3

Current Job – Owner of Mason Converse Media. MCM Provides Off-Road / Adventure Photo & Video Content Creation, as well as social media services for off-road, adventure, and travel/tourism companies.

 

Service Dog: Sammy

Sammy the dog smiling

 

Breed – German Shepherd

Color – Black
Age – 2.75 yrs.
Birthplace – Colorado
Service Dog Type – PTSD
Services Provided – Guarding/Protection Alerts, Anxiety Regulation, Night Terror Management, and Social Situation Guide Tasks.

Preferred Pastime When Not Working: Non-stop Frisbee!

Service Dog Info:

https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/ptsd-service-dog-tasks/

In addition to honoring the 20th anniversary of Kleinschmidt’s momentous win, MMNA is also celebrating the brand’s 40th anniversary in the United States this year.

Alongside Mitsubishi Motors North America, Ally Financial, Inc., BFGoodrich Tires, Nextbase Dash Cams and Vision Wheel are partnering with Team RTJ this year, and Skout’s Honor Pet Supply Co. is providing special support to Sammy.

About Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.
Through a network of approximately 330 dealer partners across the United States, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for the sales, marketing and customer service of Mitsubishi Motors vehicles in the U.S. MMNA was the top-ranked Japanese brand in the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study. In its Environmental Targets 2030, MMNA’s parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has set a goal of a 40 percent reduction in the CO2 emissions of its new cars by 2030 through leveraging EVs — with PHEVs as the centerpiece — to help create a sustainable society.

With headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, and corporate operations in California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Virginia, MMNA directly and indirectly employs more than 8,000 people across the United States.

For more information on Mitsubishi vehicles, please contact the Mitsubishi Motors News Bureau at 615- 257-2698 or visit media.mitsubishicars.com.

The National WWII Museum Celebrates Oldest Living U.S. Veteran on his 112th Birthday

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LAwrence Brooks stands on porch with balloons

Lawrence Brooks, a New Orleans native and the oldest known U.S. veteran of World War II celebrated his 112th birthday at his home on September12, 2021. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing recovery efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Ida,  The National WWII Museum arranged a small, socially distanced birthday celebration with cake, a performance from the Museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, and a Jeep parade courtesy of Kajun Outcast Jeep Club and Northshore Wrangler Association. Entertainment also included the Lawrence Brooks Birthday Band, a collection of local New Orleans musicians presented by the Bucktown All-Stars. The City of New Orleans also issued an official proclamation recognizing his milestone birthday.

Lawrence Brooks, born Sept. 12, 1909, served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. He was married to the late Leona B. Brooks and is the father of five children and five step-children. His oral history, recorded by The National WWII Museum, is available here. Last year, Mr. Brooks received more than 21,000 cards from all over the U.S. and abroad wishing him a happy 111th birthday.

Mr. Brooks’ birthday is a significant reminder of those who have served and continue to dedicate their lives to our freedom. The National WWII Museum’s ongoing educational mission is to tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.

From Vietnam to Flag Rank – An Asian American Story

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Rear Admiral Huan Nguyen headshot

Rear Adm. Huan Nguyen’s road to an admiral’s star was not a journey for the faint of heart. Arriving in this country as a teenage orphan from Vietnam, he faced an uphill climb. He credits his Asian heritage and community with helping him get to the top.

On Oct. 19, 2019, Nguyen put on a rear admiral’s star, making him the first Vietnamese American to attain flag rank in the U.S. Navy. That October day was a far cry from his roots as a boy in the 1960s, growing up in the South Vietnamese city of Hue at the height of the Vietnam War. His is a story of personal loss and adversity, and the resilience he found in himself through serving his adopted country.

“Growing up in the war zone, it is literally a day-to-day mental attitude,” said Nguyen, who is a Naval Sea Systems Command Deputy Commander for Cyber Engineering.

“You never know what is going to happen next. The war is at your doorsteps. Images of gunships firing in the distance, the rumbling of B52 bombings on the countryside, the nightly rocket attacks from the insurgents—it becomes a daily routine. There is so much ugliness in the war and living through a period of intense hatred, I didn’t have any peace of mind.”

Nguyen’s father was an armor officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, making his whole family enemies of the Viet Cong insurgents.

During the 1968 Tet Offensive, his family was attacked in their home. His parents and five brothers and sisters all died at the hands of the Viet Cong.

Nguyen, nine at the time, was shot three times. Though gravely wounded himself, he stayed with his wounded mother, trying to help her. Once she died, Nguyen, despite his wounds, managed to escape.

He would live with his uncle until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, when they fled the country.

MyNavy HR sat down with Nguyen to talk about his journey and the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make to the Navy and the nation. Here are his words:

MyNavy HR: How did the tragic events of your childhood in Vietnam shape who you are and who you became?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: It is not easy to get over the trauma of losing your entire family. It has been over fifty years, but it is something I will never forget. Every day I asked myself: “Why me?”

I thought of myself as a curse. In my mind, bad news was always around the corner; it was just a matter of time. I was afraid of building relationships just to lose the people I love. I was afraid of losing everything.

I have often thought of the actions of my father the day he died. Why did he make those decisions that ultimately led to not just his death but those of my mother and siblings? Would I have made the same choices?

The message I have come to understand from his example is that it is about service before self and doing what is right, with honor. What I experienced and learned from that event is about honor, courage, and commitment. The same ethos that the Navy I serve pledges today to uphold — honor, courage, and commitment.

MyNavy HR: What did growing up in a time of war teach you about resilience at a young age?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: Having gone through the war in Vietnam and having survived the worst of it, I strongly believe that we all have the inner strength to be resilient.

Having a chance to emigrate here to the U.S. gave me hope. Every day I wake up, looking at my scars every morning; I thank God that I am alive. I learned to take control of my own destiny and overcome the adversities that life throws at me.

To go beyond just surviving, and to thrive through the trauma, the stress, the emotional scars that I carry with me. I needed to have the courage to challenge and conquer adversities rather than allow myself to wallow in self-loathing and victimhood. It also helps when you think about serving something that is greater than yourself. In my case, it is about serving my country.

MyNavy HR: Tell us about your journey to America and how and why you joined the Navy?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: I first set foot on American soil forty-six years ago. Under Operation New Life, more than 111,000 Vietnamese refugees were transported to Guam in the last days of the Vietnam War, and I was one of them.

At 15-years old, I was scared. I was afraid. I didn’t know what to expect. On Guam, I witnessed the young Sailors and Marines go above and beyond their duties to make us feel welcome. They made us feel like a part of their family, a part of this country.

I knew then I wanted to be in the U.S. Navy. Their dedication to service and their commitment to helping us inspired me. I wanted to repay the kindness and my debt to this country and serve our great nation.

In college, I tried to join the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. But, not being a citizen yet, I could not.

After receiving my citizenship, I applied and was admitted to the Navy Reserve as an Engineering Duty Officer through the Direct Commission Program. One of the best decisions that I’ve made.

MyNavy HR: Returning to war in Iraq as a Sailor. Can you tell us what you did and where and what that experience was like for you?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: It was one of those experiences that I will remember for life. It is the idea of shared risk, of serving the soldiers, Sailors and Marines that keep you going. It is the bond that you developed between each other for life.

I worked on the Counter [Improvised Explosive Device (IED)] mission, first with the Army Warlock Program Office, Task Force Troy and the Joint Crew field office. I was involved in fielding, training, engineering in the early days of the war.

I was the executive officer and chief engineer for an Army O6 when I first got into theater. Since it was the early period of our fight against radio controlled IED, I did everything along with our military and contractors’ personnel.

We collected intel, developed threat loads, route clearance and did mundane administrative control. I am grateful that I have a chance to serve and to do my part in the fight. A few memorable moments that I remembered were the chance to brief then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen when he came into theater. He was surprised to learn that Navy personnel were leading the Counter IED fight.

By then, my CO was Navy Capt. David “Fuzz” Harrison. He and I had a chance to work on a Request For Force that brought in hundreds of officers and enlisted Navy personnel to help with Counter IED fight, leading to the establishment of Joint Crew Composite Squadron 1.

I also attended many memorial events for soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty in the C-IED fight. It speaks volumes to the toughness and dedication and honor of our service members.

MyNavy HR: What does it mean to be the first Vietnamese American to achieve flag rank? How does that make you feel as a person, as an Asian American?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: It is a great honor to attain the rank of admiral. I am tremendously humbled to become the first Vietnamese American to wear flag rank in the U.S. Navy.

The honor actually belongs to the Vietnamese American community, which instilled in us a sense of patriotism, duty, honor, courage and commitment to our adopted country the United States of America.

This is our America. A country built on service, kindness and generosity, opportunity and the freedom to hope and dream. These values are what inspired me to serve. And what a great honor and privilege it is to serve our Navy—to serve our country—to support and defend our Constitution.”

MyNavy HR: Tell us how being an Asian American and specifically a Vietnamese American has shaped you as an American and a Sailor? What is it that your heritage brings to the table for you today?

Rear Adm. Nguyen; I came here as a political refugee in the 1970s. Millions of South Vietnamese refugees left their homeland, risking their lives, seeking freedom on the high seas. Many fall victim to pirates, to weather.

Yet, they were determined to leave, seeking the ideas of freedom and democracy. Refugees have typically suffered severe trauma, lost family members, and languished in refugee camps before coming to the United States.

They leave their homelands without hopes or plans to return again.

Nevertheless, once here, Southeast Asian refugees share many experiences in common with other immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

Things such as a language barrier, culture shock, racial discrimination and the challenge of starting new lives are shared between us all.

A common and a long-standing tradition for Asian Americans is the belief that we are not only individuals but also part of a larger community.

This is also a shared experience and value among Vietnamese Americans and all other minority groups. All Americans believe in the value of hard work, family responsibility, community development, and investment in education for the next generation.

Together we are stronger.

MyNavy HR: What does service mean to you and how does patriotism fit into that for you?

Rear Adm. Nguyen: America was founded on ideas that our founding fathers stated eloquently in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The history of our country is a struggle to keep these ideas alive.

My desire to serve is to give back and repay the debt to this country and fight for the ideas and values for our children, for our next generation, for the world. It took years, including a civil war, for the United States to be where we are today.

America has always been great. We are the North Star to the world on the ideas of democracy and freedom. As a U.S. citizen and as an American service member, I have the duty and the honor to serve and to ensure that the American Dream is alive, that the ideas that our founding fathers of freedom and equality are preserved.

Source: U.S. Navy

Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark D. Faram

‘Not something you should ever really see’: Veterans reflect on 9/11

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9/11 2001: International Newspapers headlnes

Spc. Bryan Stern was hungover. It was a sunny near-autumn day, but after a night of partying to bid a friend farewell, he didn’t want to be anywhere but bed.

Stationed in Lower Manhattan with the 227th Military Intelligence Company housed at 7 World Trade Center, he was riding the subway to work from Brooklyn, wishing he had stayed home on September 11, 2001.

“I was having a slow, slow morning,” he told Military Times. “I was just kind of in my own little world.”

Struggling, he continued his daily routine, making a much-needed stop at a street cart where he’d order a bagel and coffee each morning.

“My friend, I’m so happy you’re okay,” the cart owner said. Not feeling particularly fine, Stern asked what he meant.

The cart owner pointed up, at the flaming hole in the side of 1 World Trade Center.

Nearly 3,000 miles away at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, Lt. Amy McGrath was sound asleep when her sister called to tell her to turn on the news. A plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“I hung up and thought to myself that it was probably just a Cessna,” she said.

Unable to reach anyone using his early-era cell phone, Stern made his way to the building, hoping he might be able to assist with whatever had happened. Twenty years after the attack of 9/11, a group of military veterans speak about their experience of that day.

“I figured people needed help,” he said. “I have a lot of medical training, so I made my way down and I was just north of the South Tower, right in between them.”

Then a plane smashed into the second tower.

“I felt it on my face,” he said. “The exit hole of the second tower was right above me. I thought, ‘Holy shit, I’m going to get clobbered with all this debris.”

McGrath turned on her television just in time to see footage of the plane making impact. Her command called and asked her to head to the base.

“I got my flight suit on, put my flight boots on and got in my car,” she said. “Because I lived so close to the gate, I was one of the first air crew on the base that morning.”

Staff Sgt. Stefan Still was stationed at Fort Myer with the Army’s Old Guard, just outside Washington, D.C., and three miles from the Pentagon.

“It was just an absolutely beautiful morning,” he said. “It’s kind of the first morning where the temperature had broken and it first started to feel like fall.”

After PT, while waiting for assignments, he and members of his platoon were listening to the radio when they heard about the crash in New York. They switched a television to CNN.

And then they felt their building shake. Flight 77 had crashed into the Pentagon.

“As I’m opening the door, I can already see the smoke coming up,” he said.

Still instructed his unit to call their loved ones and tell them they were okay. He phoned his wife at the time, who was still sleeping. She screamed as she turned on the TV.

“It’s a very surreal feeling to see F-16s churning and burning above the barracks when you’re underneath combat air patrol for the nation’s capital,” Still said. “It’s not something that you should ever really see.”

Col. Randy Rosin was stationed at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. While he believed the first plane crash into the side of the North Tower was an accident, when the second tower was struck, he quickly began to piece together exactly what was happening.

“We had all this activity that was going on, this chatter — they called it the ‘big wedding,’” he said. “In August, there was an intelligence assessment that came out, that said that something big is going to happen. But they placed it in Africa not New York.”

When the second plane hit the south tower, he began to realize that perhaps the intel about this large-scale al-Qaida event was correct about everything but the location.

Rosin, who had previously worked on plans for a response to the USS Cole bombing — the al-Qaida suicide attack against the guided missile destroyer on Oct. 12, 2000 in Yemen — recognized that the two attacks could be connected.

“I started to think, ‘Holy shit. This is the big wedding.’”

Stern was injured and bleeding from surface cuts. People were screaming, running in every direction. Medics treated him, and he returned to the base of the towers to continue helping. A few workers in the towers even began jumping, hopelessness spread, and panic ensued.

Then the second tower began to fall.

“I ran north,” Stern said. “My big idea was to get onto the West Side Highway kind of and bolt. There are no words to describe it. I remember thinking I’m going to die, I hope that I’m found, and I hope it’s not too painful.”

He found a car to hide under, and as the plume of debris washed over everything in sight, Stern waited to die. Minutes or maybe hours later, he emerged, with a mouth full of soot, and made his way back towards Ground Zero. Along the way, he spotted a friend.

Wreckage from World Trade Center at ground zero on September 11. (FEMA)

Looking for a bathroom, the pair stumbled across the only building with lights on — 340 West Street, a Bloomberg office with a generator. With permission from a lingering employee, the pair worked to set up a mobile command center to direct survivors stuck in lower Manhattan to safety.

Stern stepped out for a cigarette when he noticed something odd.

“There’s a little city bus stop, and all the glass is gone,” he said. “I looked down and there’s this American flag. It’s all crumpled up and messed up, and had probably been hanging over a building somewhere before.”

He picked it up, hung it over the door of the building, and he and the friend called the Army to connect with survivors in the city.

“Just tell them to look for the flag,” they said.

McGrath, had never flown in combat, but was ordered to board a jet and take it to the edge of the runway, leave the engines running, and await further instruction.

“I played scenarios out in my head,” McGrath said. “[I wondered] ‘Could we escort first?’ We didn’t train for this. We were sort of making it up as we went along in the hopes that we would never have to do the unthinkable.”

Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath flew combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The orders she expected were to shoot down any hijacked aircraft on the West Coast headed towards densely populated centers or key buildings — planes that were transporting civilians, American men, women and children.

It never came to that. After several hours, McGrath was relieved, but she knew this assignment was just the beginning of what was to come.

Still’s orders came the next day. His unit was one of several selected for recovery duty at the Pentagon.

“It’s one thing to see that on television,” he said. “But it’s another thing to actually pull up to the site itself. It’s still smoking, it’s still on fire.”

His job was to pull casualties from the wreckage. His unit worked the lower floors. He felt lucky because there the intact bodies were fewer.

“Most of what we were dealing with, we knew was a human at one point,” Still said. “But you could just disassociate yourself from what it was because it was just a foot or a hand you, as opposed to the higher floors. They were dealing with people that died of smoke inhalation.”

For Stern, Sept. 11 was a tipping point in his career and his life. He left the Army and recommissioned with the Navy, working with intelligence and special operations, and dedicated much of the last 20 years to homeland security.

Every day, when he leaves his house, however, he is reminded of that sunny Tuesday. The flag that served as a beacon for survivors at 340 West Street is prominently displayed in his living room. He recently reframed it, and it brought him straight back to lower Manhattan.

“It still smells,” he said. “It smelled like dust and dead people when I took it out of the frame. I had to go take a walk because it still smells like Ground Zero.”

Stern said that for years after 9/11, he was unable to go near construction sites because of the smell of the concrete and the sweat on the workers.

Navy Officer Bryan Stern deployed multiple times after Sept. 11 with Special Operations Forces.

Reminders of the day can be difficult to contextualize for those who served.

“How do you transition back from seeing all of that to going home and seeing your family and seeing your wife and seeing the dog?” Still said. “There was a lot of anger, I think in my heart.”

Still, whose unit didn’t deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq, got out of the Army. He thought about rejoining so that he could be part of a combat unit, but ultimately chose to separate from service after two more years. He keeps in touch with members of the platoon he served with on Sept. 11.

He noted, however, the way that the events that followed the attack altered the fabric of the military changed.

“Everybody that signed up post-9/11, every single one of them knew they were going to war,” Still said. “I don’t know if I would have been the person that would have done that absolutely knowing 100 percent and I’m deploying to Afghanistan or Iraq soon after basic training.”

Reflecting on the last two decades of war, McGrath said the military has made great strides in inclusion and diversity that never would have come if not for 9/11.

“When we deployed to combat, we were the first women to deploy in these roles,” McGrath said. “We were very aware that we were the first, not only from a combat aircrew experience, but also the maintainers and the mechanics that came out. This was really the first time that a combat unit like ours was integrated with women actually doing combat.”

She said the way women stepped up into combat roles during the Global War on Terror is part of the reason why, in 2015, all military occupations across all four branches were opened up to women.

“Our performance in combat was a big part of why no one could make the argument effectively that we should keep these doors closed to women, to all these other jobs,” she said. “I’m not sure that would have happened had it not been for our combat time after 9/11.”

Click here to read the full article on Army Times.

The Types of Government Contracts & What You Need to Know

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When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.

The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.

The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:

Set-aside contracts for small businesses:

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

Competitive set-aside contracts:

When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source set-aside contracts:

Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.

In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.

Contracting Assistance Programs:

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:

8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses

Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses

HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses

SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.

Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)

Joint Ventures:

Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.

Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.

A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Resources

If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

How My Air Force Experience Shaped Me to Be a Leader

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By Joe Paranteau

From the foot soldiers of the Roman Empire and Genghis Khan’s cavalry to today’s military, the contributions and leadership of people in uniform have stood the test of time.

I spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserve and the leadership lessons I learned have lasted a lifetime. I often rely on my military leadership lessons to lead sales and business teams today.

Here are a few of the most enduring lessons I learned. Whether you have served or not, you can take some of these golden nuggets and apply them to your business:

It’s Not About “You.” It’s About “Us”

The moment enlisted or officers start their initial training – the core value is the same. No one person is greater than the team. If you are a lone wolf, you won’t go far. From the minute your service begins, you learn that the sum is more significant than its parts. The team is everything.

My first night in training, I watched people shed their individuality for the team’s good. Over time, our team grew stronger through proximity and shared adversity. If something wasn’t right, the whole team suffered.

I was a chow runner, which meant I ran ahead of the formation to the chow hall to sign our unit in. The fastest runners guaranteed their units ate first. I could run fast. In fact, on a good day, I could get signed in 5-10 minutes before my unit would arrive, which meant I had time for a bit of shut-eye. One day, I was fast asleep leaning against a pole. Click, click, click. I heard the boot taps of my drill instructors as they circled me. I woke up and stood at attention. They yelled at me for what seemed like hours.

I had already learned to take ultimate accountability for my actions. When asked why I was asleep at my post, I replied, “No excuse, sir.” In reality, there is no reason for an excuse, although people make thousands of them. My unit had to wait because of my actions instead of eating early. I stared into a sea of hungry, impatient eyes and realized I made a mistake that affected everyone. I learned to never repeat that mistake again!

No One Left Behind

Military teams take care of each other. As a result, one person rarely does anything alone. And no one is ever left behind. This is an ethos in the military, and builds upon the “Us” mentality. Strength gets forged in unity. You don’t need a battlefield for this to ring true. How do you check to ensure your people are never left behind in the activities that drive your business? Build strong teams that look out for each other and make your organization strong. Get rid of inadequate training, unclear expectations or guidance or a lack of support. Don’t leave your people behind.

Attention to Detail

In the military, you learn that the subtle details can cause big problems. For example, foreign object damage (FOD) is anything that should not be on the runway. The smallest of items can wreak havoc on jet engines resulting in fatal outcomes. Pay attention to the small things and their impact on the broader operation. Teach your people to be on the alert for these little details. Condition them to spot things that may otherwise go unnoticed. Instilling attention to detail can help your business avoid unpleasant outcomes. Consider creating more detail around safety, ethics, governance, compliance, and fiduciary matters.

It’s Easier to Course Correct a Moving Object

In the military, there is a significant amount of planning done for many things. You can talk, plan, and prepare. There is a need to act and put the plans in place. Standing still tells you nothing. Military battle planners will often admit their plans rarely survive the first bullet. It does not mean to stop planning. Instead, some things are clear when you observe them in action. Take flying a plane. You can preflight a plane, but flying in the air is dynamic based on many changing variables. If you miscalculated wind speed, you need to adjust your plans. Headwinds may cause you to burn fuel faster, and may call for you to make deviations to your course. When you march a unit in a formation, you may need to make minor corrections. But they happen once the unit is moving and marching. If someone gets out of step, make the cadence clear and consistent for everyone to follow. The same is true of many things in business. Get started and expect to make minor pivots along the way. You can learn a great deal when you move past your best plans and test them in the market.

Know When to Lead, Follow and Serve

Know when to lead from the front, stand beside and serve. The best leaders I’ve ever seen in my life are military leaders. What makes them exceptional leaders is how they model excellence. They have solid missions and visions, and they communicate them from top to bottom of the unit. Everyone knows the mission. Being able to create clear goals and focus on them is a critical skill. As a military leader, you learn to feed the troops first. I recall how my commanders demonstrated how to serve.

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Joe Paranteau
During the holidays, leaders served in the mess halls, cooking and serving others. As a business leader, find similar opportunities to serve your people. Figure out what behaviors you can model that will make your team stronger.

It’s been years since I’ve been out of the military. Yet, fellow servicemen and women who have served can all relate to one or all these examples. How would it look if you applied them to change your business culture? What results should you expect? The military has been using these principles for centuries. Take a lesson from tried-and-true leadership practices, and see how your people respond. These principles show you care, and build trust and strong teams dedicated to the mission.

Joe Paranteau is the author of Billion Dollar Sales Secrets and works at Microsoft. He leads a sales team and serves as an industry leader for healthcare customers. He is a sales coach and mentor, keynote speaker, small business owner, entrepreneur and investor. As a U.S. Air Force veteran, he is committed to veteran’s issues. He supports causes to end child trafficking and exploitation. Visit him on LinkedIn or at.thejpar.com

Serving the Called — Letter From the Editor

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Kellie Pickler featured cover story

Merriam-Webster defines military service as “time spent serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc…” A simple, literal definition whose meaning goes so much deeper.

Service is at the heart of every facet of the military, no matter which branch you serve.

You might hear servicemembers and veterans alike speak of being ‘called to serve,’ or inspired to be of service in any capacity to their fellow man, their country and the greater good.

It’s this devotion to serving others – and the sacrifice it requires – that puts us in awe of our veterans, military members, spouses and families. It’s why we can never thank them enough.

Our cover story, singer Kellie Pickler, is attempting to do just that by serving those who have been called. By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her.

“They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” Pickler shares.

“Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones. We take a piece of home to them.” Read more about Picker’s mission to serve on page 88.

If you’re preparing to transition from service, or have already started a new job, check out these 10 career tips on page 25 to keep you on a positive course.

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Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine

Looking for new career options? Consider putting your military experience to work in the electronics industry on page 28.

If you’re a recruiter, check out these 3 tips companies need to successfully attract and hire veterans on page 36.

Maybe offering a work-from-home option could be a draw, as most employees want to continue working from home on page 38 in these postpandemic times.

In honor of all of those who have served or are serving, we here at U.S. Veterans Magazine are proud to provide the information, content and stories that continue to serve you and your career and business needs.

US WWII veteran reunites with Italians he saved as children

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Martin Adler receives kiss on cheek from woman he saved

BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) — For more than seven decades, Martin Adler treasured a black-and-white photo of himself as a young American soldier with a broad smile with three impeccably dressed Italian children he is credited with saving as the Nazis retreated northward in 1944.

Recently the 97-year-old World War II veteran met the three siblings — now octogenarians themselves — in person for the first time since the war.

Adler held out his hand to grasp those of Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi for the joyful reunion at Bologna’s airport after a 20-hour journey from Boca Raton, Florida.

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Then, just as he did as a 20-year-old soldier in their village of Monterenzio, he handed out bars of American chocolate.

“Look at my smile,’’ Adler said of the long-awaited in-person reunion, made possible by the reach of social media.

It was a happy ending to a story that could easily have been a tragedy.

The very first time the soldier and the children saw each other, in 1944, the three faces peeked out of a huge wicker basket where their mother had hidden them as soldiers approached. Adler thought the house was empty, so he trained his machine gun on the basket when he heard a sound, thinking a German soldier was hiding inside.

“The mother, Mamma, came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me (from) shooting,” Adler recalled. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest,’’ Adler recalled.

“That was a real hero, the mother, not me. The mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’” he said.

Adler still trembles when he remembers that he was only seconds away from opening fire on the basket. And after all these decades, he still suffers nightmares from the war, said his daughter, Rachelle Donley.

The children, aged 3 to 6 when they met, were a happy memory. His company stayed on in the village for a while and he would come by and play with them.

Giuliana Naldi, the youngest, is the only one of the three with any recollection of the event. She recalls climbing out of the basket and seeing Adler and another U.S. soldier, who has since died.

“They were laughing,’’ Naldi, now 80, remembers. “They were happy they didn’t shoot.”

She, on the other hand, didn’t quite comprehend the close call.

“We weren’t afraid for anything,’’ she said.

She also remembers the soldier’s chocolate, which came in a blue-and-white wrapper.

“We ate so much of that chocolate,’’ she laughed.

Donley decided during the COVID-19 lockdown to use social media to try to track down the children in the old black-and-white photo, starting with veterans’ groups in North America.

Eventually the photo was spotted by Italian journalist Matteo Incerti who had written books on World War II. He was able to track down Adler’s regiment and where it had been stationed from a small detail in another photograph. The smiling photo was then published in a local newspaper, leading to the discovery of the identities of the three children, who by then were grandparents themselves.

They shared a video reunion in December, and waited until the easing of pandemic travel rules made the trans-Atlantic trip possible.

“I am so happy and so proud of him. Because things could have been so different in just a second. Because he hesitated, there have been generations of people,’’ Donley said.

Read the complete article originally posted on Military Times.

Pentagon to require COVID vaccine for all troops by Sept. 15

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.

“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration “whichever comes first,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. He added that if infection rates rise and potentially affect military readiness, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”

The memo is expected to go out Monday.

Austin’s decision comes a bit more than a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. It reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world, as nations struggle with the highly contagious delta variant that has sent new U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths surging to heights not see since the peaks last winter.

Austin said in his memo says that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented. The additional time, however, also is a nod to the bitter political divisiveness over the vaccine and the knowledge that making it mandatory will likely trigger opposition from vaccine opponents across the state and federal governments, Congress and the American population.

It also provides time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. Without that formal approval, Austin would need a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.

Troops often live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spreading. And any large outbreak of the virus in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in any national security crisis.

Read the complete article posted on AP News.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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Upcoming Events

  1. Women Veterans Alliance 2021 UnConference
    October 8, 2021 - October 10, 2021
  2. Camp Pendleton Career Fair
    October 14, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  3. Navy Base San Diego Career Fair
    October 15, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
  4. VETS 21—Veteran Entrepreneur Training Symposium
    November 2, 2021 - November 4, 2021
  5. The DAV 5K will honor veterans with in-person and virtual events
    November 6, 2021