Disabled Veterans of America (DAV) Walk, Roll, Run and Ride 5K — Honor America’s Veterans

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DAV logo and images of veterans participating in events

DAV 5K is a walk, roll, run, and ride that thanks those who served and raises awareness of the issues our ill and injured veterans face every day.

Join us in keeping our promise to America’s veterans! There are two ways to participate, join us in-person November 6, 2021 in Cincinnati, or virtually November 6-11, 2021 from anywhere.

Click here for details and to get registered today.

About DAV
DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year. Annually, the organization provides more than 240,000 rides to veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with well over 160,000 benefit claims. In 2020, DAV helped veterans receive more than $23 billion in earned benefits. DAV’s services are offered at no cost to all generations of veterans, their families and survivors.

DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.

With nearly 1,300 chapters and more than 1 million members across the country, DAV empowers our nation’s heroes and their families by helping to provide the resources they need and ensuring our nation keeps the promises made to them.

At the Intersection of Hearing and Mental Health

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man holding up and looking at zoomed in hearing aid piece

By Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology & Senior Director of Audiology, Signia

When people think of hearing loss, many think of being unable to hear. Period. That’s understandable. A literal loss of hearing — the onset of silence — can have dramatic ramifications for a person’s life.

But other forms of hearing loss, characterized by difficulty hearing, can have equal impact. And we’re learning, especially in the case of military veterans, that it can have a related effect on their mental health.

Two of the most prominent conditions affecting veterans are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While prevalent in the general public, each is a uniquely common health problem for veterans based on the important jobs they’re asked to perform. Also common is tinnitus, that ringing in the ears that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans but disproportionally affects veterans. The combination of the three presents a possible long-term health concern that requires coordination among disparate specialties to handle effectively.

According to a recent study of injured military personnel, hearing loss and PTSD may be linked. The study’s authors found that “the odds of PTSD are approximately three times higher in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss [hearing loss in both ears] when compared to personnel without hearing loss.” The reason, at least in part, is that hearing loss — even partial — can affect a veteran’s ability to listen and communicate, which decreases their quality of life and exacerbates mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

The Case for Coordination

As an audiologist, I’ve seen the mental health effects of hearing loss firsthand. Again, a person doesn’t have to experience total hearing loss to suffer. NIHL, in particular, affects communication because it impacts sound frequencies that are common in speech. NIHL makes hearing voices more challenging, especially in spaces where ambient sound competes to be heard. As a result, those affected strain to hear, which often leads to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, or they may withdraw from social situations, adversely affecting their mental health.

hearing aids shown inside a plastic caseIn the case of tinnitus, the study’s authors found that because it often co-occurs with NIHL, it may also be associated with higher rates of PTSD. In some cases, tinnitus may impact traumatic flashbacks. “Sounds triggering exacerbation of tinnitus similarly affected PTSD symptom severity,” they wrote.

Tinnitus is not hearing loss, but research has indicated it can be a sign of hearing loss to come. Therefore, like hearing loss, tinnitus requires early identification and treatment.

In fact, veterans and their healthcare providers need to be on the lookout early for all interrelated signs of NIHL, tinnitus and PTSD. Delay could have a serious impact on quality of life. There also should be fresh coordination between audiologists and mental health professionals. In short: veterans with bilateral hearing loss need to be monitored for PTSD.

Better Hearing in Noise

On the audiology side, technology now exists that can dramatically improve a veterans’ ability to hear and communicate in various settings, addressing one of the subtler effects of NIHL on mental health. Signia recently created a platform called Augmented Xperience that features hearing aids with two different microprocessors built in to handle speech and background noise separately. This kind of split processing in hearing aids makes it so NIHL sufferers can listen and communicate more effectively in all environments — quiet, noisy or normal.

Most of Signia’s hearing products also include innovative notch therapy technology for helping suppress tinnitus. Notch therapy identifies the wearer’s unique tinnitus frequency and creates a frequency notch in their hearing aids that ultimately offsets and silences the tinnitus.

Unfortunately, most primary healthcare professionals don’t automatically screen for hearing loss or tinnitus, and patients usually don’t recognize the problems until they’ve been examined. Fortunately for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the heightened risk of NIHL and tinnitus from military service and covers diagnostic audiology from the moment a veteran exits the service. Healthcare professionals and veterans themselves should expand from there and begin exploring the possible connections between a vet’s hearing loss and PTSD.

Dr. Brian Taylor headshot
Dr. Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia.

We know hearing loss and PTSD are significant public health problems among military veterans. Although further research still needs to be done, there are indications that identifying and treating the former through hearing technology that enhances human performance can begin to address the latter. In all likelihood, a coordinated approach to hearing and mental health can boost veterans’ quality of life.

Brian Taylor is a Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed articles and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. Brian has nearly 30 years of experience as both a clinician, business manager and university instructor. His most recent textbook, Relationship-Centered Consultation Skills for Audiologists, was published in July 2021.

Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day

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Sunken Roads movie Promotional poster featuring older veterans

Don McCarthy was 20 years old on D-Day, when his infantry division landed on Omaha Beach. Don and the other veterans who survived D-Day will someday soon have passed into memory and legend.

This realization inspires 20-year-old filmmaker Charlotte Juergens to join Don and seven other D-Day vets on a journey to France – a commemorative pilgrimage to Omaha Beach for the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

The vets come to see Charlotte as a granddaughter, trusting her with their stories as they confront the trauma that still haunts them 70 years after the war.

In capturing their lives, Sunken Roads offers an intergenerational perspective on D-Day, presenting the memories of 90-year-old combat veterans through the eyes of a 20-year-old woman.
 
 
Documentary by Charlotte Juergens.

Opens November 5, 2021 on Live & Virtual Cinema.

For details, visit the website at https://www.firstrunfeatures.com/sunkenroads.html

Marine Corps veteran, amputee makes history at Boston Marathon

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A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

By KSBY

When Peter Keating took off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, it was the realization of a dream come true. But he never imagined just how unique his 26.2-mile trek would be.

He was among more than 15,000 runners who recently raced after the pandemic forced the event to move from April to October.

A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

“I had six miles all to myself,” he said. “I would look forward, I would look backward, and there was no one but me on the road. It was like the race was meant for me.”

For the first time in the race’s 125-year history, the Boston Athletic Association included a division for para-athletes.

Keating, 31, ran an impressive time of 3:25:02, earning him third place in the division. He was awarded an engraved glass cup, a $500 check, and the Boston Marathon medal coveted by runners.

While the prize money is nice, the pride Keating feels is more important.

“Just to be recognized as an adaptive athlete who can never run as fast as a normal person, so to speak, still to be recognized for their efforts in their own division,” he said.

In 2017, Keating, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, stopped to help another Marine involved in a car crash. Moments later, Keating would become a victim.

“That’s when another car came on and hit us straight on,” Keating said.

Keating suffered a severe injury to his left leg. After struggling with foot function for a year, he decided to amputate his leg below the knee in 2018.

Over the past three years, he has documented his inspiring progress through videos and his Instagram page.

One video shows him taking his first steps on his prosthetic leg. Others capture Keating brought to tears after finishing runs on his running blade.

“Today was a victory,” he said in one of those videos.

Keating wears a sweat sock and liner underneath his 10-pound running blade. To keep the socket from becoming too wet and loose, he changed the sweat sock three times during the Boston Marathon.

He estimates the changes cost him about seven minutes on his race time.

He said that’s an example of a struggle he faces as a para-athlete and points out that he’s not one to focus on a negative.

“I can run, and I can run just like anybody else,” he said.

Keating said his Boston accomplishment is also meaningful because of the bombings near the finish line during the 2013 race. The blasts killed three people, and 17 others lost limbs.

“It means even more to us because many lives were changed that day,” he said.

Keating said one of his next goals is to push for a para-athlete division for the marathon in the Olympics. If that happens, Keating believes he could earn a spot on the U.S. team.

Click here to read the full article on KSBY.

Elite Air Force Pararescue Veteran to Serve as Grand Marshal For In-Person Return of 102nd Annual NYC Veterans Day Parade

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Grand Marshal Kevin Carrick with Air Force Rifle Team surrounding him

American veterans representing every military branch and generation of service since World War II will march up Fifth Avenue for the in-person return of New York’s Veterans Day Parade, Thursday, November 11, 2021. 

The 102nd annual Parade, produced by the United War Veterans Council (UWVC), will mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the Global War on Terror, as well as the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.  The Parade is the largest Veterans Day event in the country.

The Parade’s Grand Marshal, representing the U.S. Air Force– this year’s featured service– is Air Force veteran and local hero Kevin Carrick, a retired Senior Master Sergeant who served for over two decades as an elite Pararescueman (“PJ”) with the 106th Rescue Wing based in Westhampton, Long Island.

These elite but little-known specialists are the only Special Forces members dedicated to saving lives.  With countless deployments to combat zones overseas, and to disaster areas at home and abroad, ranging from the first search and rescue military response at Ground Zero on 9/11 to providing support during the COVID pandemic, Kevin represents the very best of the spirit of service that drives men and women in every branch of the military.

This year’s Parade features nearly 200 marching units, including veteran groups, service providers, military units, student veterans, and veteran employee groups, JROTC and more.  Marching bands, floats and vintage vehicles will add to the celebratory atmosphere.  In addition to the Grand Marshal, the Parade will welcome back U.S. Marine Corps Desert Storm hero and 2019 Emeritus Grand Marshall Eddie Ray.

2021 Grand Marshal Kevin Carrick wearing sash and U.S. flag behind him
Grand Marshal Kevin Carrick

The Parade, which takes place rain or shine, steps off at 12:30 pm and will end around 3:30 pm.  It will proceed on its traditional route on Fifth Avenue, stepping off at 28th street and going north to 45th Street, subject to final participation and COVID-19 adjustments.  Spectators can view the Parade on Fifth Avenue, from 29th Street to its endpoint.  The Parade will be broadcast live on TV and online on WABC-TV from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

“We look forward to returning in person to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the War on Terror, and the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm,” said UWVC President and Executive Director Mark Otto.  “These milestones represent critical moments in our nation’s history when brave men and women made great sacrifices to defend our country.  We know that New Yorkers are eager to show their support for all of our veterans, and to welcome the Parade back to Fifth Avenue!”

For additional information, visit www.nycvetsday.org

ABOUT THE NYC VETERANS DAY PARADE:  The New York City Veterans Day Parade is our nation’s largest Veterans Day event. Produced by the United War Veterans Council (UWVC), the Parade provides the public with the opportunity to salute our veterans and military and raises awareness for organizations working to serve their needs.  The Parade features veteran groups and service providers, military units, youth and civic groups, top high school bands from across America, vintage vehicles, floats and more. It is supported by numerous sponsoring partners, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Fiserv, T-Mobile, Wounded Warrior Project, and Cushman & Wakefield. For more information, visit www.nycvetsday.org

ABOUT THE UNITED WAR VETERANS COUNCIL:  The United War Veterans Council, Inc. (UWVC) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that honors and serves veterans.  The UWVC supports and promotes a wide range of initiatives that provide vital services to our veterans community (including health, wellness and education); raises positive awareness and increases public understanding of the needs of our veterans community through major public events and promotional activities; and brings together veterans groups, community organizations, government agencies, businesses of all sizes and the general public. For more information, visit

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.

‘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.

USO Statement on 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

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9 11 Patriot Day background, American Flag stripes and stars background. Patriot Day September 11, 2001. We Will Never Forget

The following is a statement from Dr. J.D. Crouch, II – CEO and President of the United Service Organizations (USO) about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

“This week marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – a day that forever changed our country. It is also a time when we think about how military conflicts have shaped much of the USO’s mission over the last two decades.

“Many of us have a personal experience related to the attacks that claimed 2,977 lives that September morning. And the recent events in Afghanistan – where 13 service members were killed in a terrorist attack during a mission to evacuate thousands of American citizens and our allies – highlight the extreme risk our service members have faced over the last 20 years. We honor these and all our fallen heroes who dedicated their lives to serving us all since September 11th.

“Following the 9/11 attacks, the impact of the USO’s operations was significant. Immediately after the attacks, according to the USO’s 2001 annual report, the organization’s ‘operations immediately responded, focusing programmatic initiatives inward to those restricted to their bases and extending hours and a variety of services.’ Thanks to the swiftness of our team, we worked to keep them connected to everything that gave meaning to their service.

“As the U.S. military ramped up operations, the USO was there by the side of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and many others who were engaged in the war on terrorism. USO tour veteran Wayne Newton and others first went to European bases and the carrier USS Enterprise in November 2001 to entertain service members. Then in December 2001, Newton, along with Drew Carey and others went to Afghanistan to perform.

“The USO, according to this vivid account from our Southwest Asia operations, went in to support our military with a suite of services. This included building full-scale centers to support service members deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and strategic neighboring countries like Kuwait and the UAE.

“At one point, there were three large USO centers in Iraq and eight centers in Afghanistan. The first USO facility in Afghanistan was the Pat Tillman Memorial USO Center at Bagram Air Base. Fittingly, it was the last of the USO centers to close in the country, just a few short months ago.

“Although we no longer have a physical presence in Afghanistan, we know the USO made an indelible mark in the lives of our troops, their families and the USO staff who served there. We will be forever linked by ‘the mystic chords of memory’ with the thousands of young men and women who spent time in a faraway land to ensure our safety at home.

“On this somber anniversary, we honor those who have served and thank all of those at the USO – staff and volunteers – for all that has been done for the USO and for the men and women of our country’s Armed Forces.

“While their missions change, our unwavering support of our military men and women never will. Because the weight of the world lands on their shoulders, we must be by their side. Because of the good work at the USO, we always will be.”

USO logoFollow the USO on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates and join the conversation using #BetheForce and #MoreThanThanks on social media.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home, and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort, and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, the support of our corporate partners, and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission and learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org or follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Kyle Carpenter: Worth the Sacrifice

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Kyle Carpenter speaks in to microphone

By Kellie Speed

U.S. Marine William “Kyle” Carpenter wants you to know that you were worth his sacrifice.

The sacrifice the 31-year-old is referring to is the life-threatening injuries he sustained 11 years ago. On that fateful November 21st day in Afghanistan, a Taliban hand grenade was thrown on the roof he and fellow Marine Nick Eufrazio were holding post on. Instead of running from the explosive, Carpenter heroically jumped on the grenade, saving both of their lives.

While they each sustained grievous injuries (Eufrazio suffering a traumatic brain injury and Carpenter having to undergo more than 40 surgeries to reconstruct his face, right arm and other body parts at Walter Reed Medical Center), Carpenter says he is “just so happy we are both alive today.”

In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Carpenter the nation’s highest military decoration for valor in combat – the Congressional Medal of Honor – and he became the youngest living recipient.

Today, he embraces life to the fullest with a contagiously inspirational attitude, making the most of every day – whether it be skydiving, running the Marine Corps marathon, writing a book or helping to plan his wedding this fall.

U.S. Veterans Magazine had the honor and privilege of catching up with the decorated Marine by phone to reflect on that fateful day on November 21, 2010, discuss his long and arduous road to recovery and why he considers the Medal of Honor a “beautiful burden.”

USVM: Can you tell us why you initially decided to enlist in the Marine Corps back in 2009?

Carpenter: I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to do something for a greater purpose while still young and able, and I wanted to do something that would push me to an unknown limit. Even with everything that has happened, I got exactly what I wanted. Despite the long, dark and painful nights, it has been a beautiful journey. After everything I have been through, I feel like I am more thankful than ever. Perspective has been the most powerful parts of my journey. It has been a process and evolution through many years. If you work at it over time, you will realize the silver linings and blessings in life. Today, I look at a glass as half full and keep myself in check because you remember a time when you could see it only as half empty.

USVM: Can you take us back to November 21, 2010, and tell us what you remember about the day when you saved the life of your close friend and fellow Marine Nick Eufrazio?

Carpenter: Nick is an incredibly beautiful person. He was a very junior Marine like me and was extremely smart and confident at what he was doing. It was his first combat deployment, but he was our point man. Having never deployed on a combat deployment, he led our entire squad, which was 70-75 percent Iraq veterans. I will always be honored to have served with him.

I had just turned 21 a few weeks before we were on that roof. We started getting attacked in the morning at daybreak. I remember rolling over in my sleeping bag, hearing gunfire and saying to myself, “it’s just another day in Afghanistan.” Right before the grenade came, Nick and I had been on post for four hours and it was so close to the next shift that one of the guys was putting on his gear to get to us. I just remember the final few seconds before I felt like I got hit really hard in the face. Nick and I had been going over scenarios of getting attacked. We had been getting attacked the entire 24 hours before and we had very few sandbags to protect us on the post so we were not in the best position. I remember we were going over if they came down from this alleyway, this is how we would react. You can never be fully prepared for combat scenarios, but we were just trying to get that one second jump and a little more clarity what we would do. The last thing I remember, I asked Nick what he would do if a grenade came up on the roof and he said, “I’m jumping off this roof.” I said, “Dude, I’m right behind you.” Then I felt like I got hit hard in the face.

Even though I don’t remember seeing the grenade or hearing it land, as I struggled to put the pieces together of what had happened, I realized I was profusely bleeding out. I thought about my family and my mom specifically, and said a quick prayer for forgiveness. That allowed me to truly believe and know, as darkness was closing in and I was getting extremely tired, those were my final moments.

USVM: You call that your “Alive Day.” Tell us about that perspective and how you remain so positive.

Carpenter: When I woke up five weeks later after my injury and realized those were not my final moments and that even though I had a two-page long list of injuries, I still woke up. I truly do feel like every single day is a bonus round. I slowly started to realize that what happened and my injury were a necessary steppingstone that I had to go through to pave way to that bigger purpose.

It was that kitchen counter moment I talk about in my book, You Are Worth It: Building A Life Worth Fighting For, when I had to realize the past is truly the past. When you get knocked down in life, whether it takes a day or a year to heal, you have to realize, and it’s a tough life lesson, you only have two options – that is, to get up and take that one small step forward or you are going to sit at that kitchen counter for the rest of your life. You can only move forward and look forward. Once you do that, just like the saying goes, all good things come to an end – the same goes for the bad. Stay positive, search for those silver linings and blessings and realize what you do have. Not only will you get back on your feet, but you can and will come out on the other side of that struggle better and stronger than when you started out.

USVM: When you reflect now, did you ever think you would be capable of doing what you did?

Carpenter: Still, 11 years later, I cannot believe I did what I did. Over the years, I have transitioned my thinking; I don’t really care if I can’t remember the details of those few seconds, I am just glad I woke up and did what I did. I realized that’s the beauty of the human spirit. There are so many amazing and courageous people out there. Many don’t know it because their time hasn’t come yet, but the smallest acts can be lifesaving.

USVM: Can you tell us what the Medal of Honor means to you personally?

Carpenter: The Medal of Honor represents more than words could ever express. First off, it’s not my award and never has been and never will be an individual recognition. Beyond that, it represents my journey of suffering and injury; it represents the Marines that were there with me in Afghanistan serving and sacrificing; it represents the children of Afghanistan longing to read but living in too much fear and oppression; it represents all of the people around the world that wake up every day and hope today’s sunrise will be a little more hopeful than the day before; it represents the Marines and troops that didn’t make it home; and it represents all Americans. It’s very heavy, but it’s a beautiful burden and one that I am very honored and humbled to be recognized with.

Kyle Carpenter is an American former marine, bestselling author and motivational speaker. Follow him on Instagram @chiksdigscars or YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsL5sNtcRgmG-YPsrEo9q_w.

PAWS for Veterans Passes House Legislation

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Senator is standing at podium that displays the text Pass Paws

By Natalie Rodgers

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, adorably nicknamed the PAWS, was reintroduced as a bill earlier this year and just made its second pass through the House this past May in a bipartisan unanimous vote.

The bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to run a five-year test program that would assign service dogs to veterans with PTSD, trauma and other post-deployment mental health issues. The grants issued by the VA under this program would cover the cost of providing the dogs to veterans as well as the cost to train the puppies. The reintroduced February bill has additionally been amended to classify veterans with mental illnesses but no mobility impairments to qualify, should PAWS pass.

Representative Steve Stivers, (pictured) who served with the Ohio National Guard in Iraq, was inspired to create the bill after a mutual veteran friend of his expressed how much his own service dog that helped him with his recovery, allowing him to return to normal activities that were once too difficult to perform.

“I’ve heard countless individuals who’ve told me that working with a service dog has given them their freedom,” Representative Stivers said in a statement to the American Legion. “These men and women fought to protect the American way of life…with the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act, we can make sure they’re able to enjoy the things they fought to make possible.”

 Steve Stivers, R-Ohio pets service dog
UNITED STATES – May 13: Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, greets Phoenix, a service dog, during a news conference highlighting the passage of H.R. 1448, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act in Washington on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

On average, about 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide every day, with many of these suicides resulting from post-service mental health issues. Outside of that, PTSD is estimated by the VA to affect anywhere between 11 percent and 30 percent of veterans who serve in conflict.

However, in a joint study done by Kaiser Permanente and Purdue University, evidence shows that veterans with service dogs experience fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a lower risk of substance abuse and a healthier mental state.

“The results these veterans and their dogs achieve and the bond they share is remarkable,” said Mikie Sherrill, supporting representative and Navy veteran. “I’m so proud that we’ve passed this program through the House once more. Now, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure it passes in the Senate and gets signed into law.”

From here, the bill will go on to the Senate to be voted on before making its way to President Biden for signing.

Sources: The American Legion, sherrill.house.gov, congress.gov

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