With over two decades of experience, Mark Cooter and Alec Bierbauer have been called the “Wright Brothers” of the U.S. drone warfare program. They were the ones – in January 2000 – who were tasked with finding terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. They had nine months to carry out their mission.
This week’s episode of Borne the Battle explores the history of drone warfare, which dates back to the 1990s, when drones were used as relatively simple, short-range surveillance tools.
Here, Cooter and Bierbauer discuss how their team located bin Laden a full year before the events of 9/11 (and why they couldn’t take action against him), how weapons were first added to drones, and the ways in which drone technology has evolved over the last 20 years. They also talk about the psychological stress endured by today's drone operators and caution against minimizing the combat trauma faced by pilots and support crews.
“It could very easily be perceived as a video game,” said Bierbauer in the podcast, “and it’s not.”
U.S. rules of engagement hold that military forces could only attack an enemy target if they had “eyes on” – that is, if the target was under direct observation. Political considerations also meant that American troops could not be stationed in a friendly “host” country. Further complicating matters, manned spy planes could not be deployed unless they were also supported by search and rescue personnel, in case the aircraft was shot down. Using unmanned drones provided a solution to all of these problems: They didn’t require the presence of troops on the ground and could monitor targets from a distance without any risk to a pilot or crew.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Wendall Robert Cram
Additional Links:VA, Civil Air Patrol chaplain corps to support families of Veterans at national cemeteriesMost recent VA Secretary press conferenceVA delays electronic health record implementation date due to COVID-19 surge in Ohio
SSVF is a program administered by VA to rapidly rehouse Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. National director of the SSVF program, John Kuhn, joins this episode of Borne the Battle to speak on the following:How the SSVF operates and what resources eligible Veterans can receive from utilizing it (2:18)An overview of the requirements organizations must meet before becoming a SSVF provider (5:02)How a local nonprofit can become a SSVF partner (6:04) Additional VA resources available for Veterans needing eviction protections, homelessness avoidance, and rapid rehousing resources (8:00)
And unlike many VA-backed programs, enrolling into SSVF does not require any interaction with VA. Instead, an eligible Veteran simply needs to call or email their county’s SSVF partnered nonprofit or consumer cooperative to start receiving SSVF assistance.
OPEN THIS EXCEL FILE TO FIND YOUR 2022 SSVF PROVIDER
The SSVF Program Office also provides its Shallow Subsidy service. The Shallow Subsidy provides rental assistance to low-income and extremely low-income Veterans who are enrolled in SSVF Rapid Rehousing or Homeless Prevention projects. And the Shallow Subsidy service is designed to incentivize recipients to raise their income by fixing the money they receive for two years. That means SSVF recipients can increase their income or benefits without the fear of losing their subsidies.
For Veterans experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness and where SSVF assistance is not sufficient, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program will be able to help.
Check out this Borne the Battle episode featuring HUD-VASH national director Meghan Deal for more details.
Additionally, the U.S. Treasury Department also has funds available to assist households unable to pay rent or utilities through its Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
There is a variety of services and programs ready to help Veterans and their families overcome homelessness. However, not enough people know that these programs exist. SSVF aims to close that gap by connecting Veterans with housing support experts in their local communities. These people who can provide relevant and specialized support to meet any eligible Veteran’s needs.
Of course, they need your help spreading the word about their program as well.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Lawrence Brooks
Additional information:Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are encouraged to contact National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838) for assistance. They can also visit their closest VA medical center without calling in advance.VA seeks feedback to guide new copayment waiver program for Veterans at risk for suicideVA health records now display gender identityVA designates flexible funding to support homeless Veterans
Approximately four months have passed since the Afghanistan withdrawal. Since then, Veterans across the country have grappled with figuring out what it means to them. For some Veterans, these last four months could have felt like a painful slog. For others, it could have felt like a chaotic blur that whizzed right on by.
We know that every Veteran will process the withdrawal from Afghanistan differently.
This episode of Borne the Battle features four intrepid Afghanistan Veterans who discuss how they processed their own emotions as the Afghanistan withdrawal unfolded while reflecting on their service. The four Veterans are:Marine Veteran Stephen Kupryk served two tours in Afghanistan and now wrestles professionally under the name Steve Maclin.Air Force Veteran Amanda Huffman served in Afghanistan as a civil engineer before transitioning out of the military. She now hosts her own podcast addressing real issues women face while in the military, called Women of the Military Podcast.Marine Veteran Daniel Sharp served 11 years in the military and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He now runs his own media company to bring laughter to troops worldwide, and hosts his own podcast named The Smoke Pit.Marine Veteran Zachary Bell served two tours to Afghanistan and now dedicates a substantial part of his life assisting service members, Veterans, first responders and their families with his project, Veteran With A Sign.
During and after the withdrawal, Kupryk thought about what he would have done differently. Huffman experienced the withdrawal with a therapist by her side. Sharp thought about the war in Afghanistan within its broader historical context, while Bell coped by using humor.
In the end, no Veteran should ever have to feel alone. If this Borne the Battle roundtable resonated with you, please consider parsing through your own experience with fellow Veterans. To learn more about group counseling services, talk to a representative at your local Vet Center.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Air Force Veteran Jamie Fox
Additional Links:VA’s four-part series on how Afghanistan Veterans can get help through VA with the following links:How Afghanistan Veterans can reconcile their serviceHow Afghanistan Veterans can learn from Vietnam VeteransHow spouses, caregivers can support Veterans with PTSDResources for PTSDVA and Indian Health Service broaden scope to serve American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delayVA advances Electronic Health Record Modernization program
Original Air Date - 9/25/2019
2019 marks the 40th Anniversary of VA's Vet Centers. They started as outreach for Vietnam Veterans who did not utilize the VA as much as WWII Veterans.
This week’s interview is Pennsylvania National Guard Veteran Michael Fisher who is the Senior Readjustment Counselor. He leads and has direct oversight of over 300 Vet Centers, 80 Mobile Vet Centers and the Vet Center Call Center. We broke it all down - how vet centers started, their differences between them and VA Medical Centers, their services and who is eligible.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Bernadette Agnes Payla Miller
Original Air Date -7/27/2021
This week's episode of Borne the Battle features one of its largest panels to date, as representatives from VA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) break down the details of the Alaska Native Veterans Program of 2019.
This episode features:Program manager Paul Krabacher (BLM).Acting Chief, Adjudication Services Section, Native Allotment Lead Candy Grimes (BLM).Land Transfer Resolution Specialist and Acting Native Liasion Ralph Eluska (BLM).Deputy Communications Director and Marine Corps Veteran Eric Tausch (BLM).Tribal Government Relations Specialist for the Continental/Midwest/North Atlantic Regions and Marine Corps Veteran Peter Vicaire (VA).
The Alaska Native Veterans Program of 2019 allows Alaska Native Veterans who served in the Vietnam era, or an heir of theirs, to claim between 2.5 and 160 acres of land in Alaska. The BLM website hosts information about the program, including contact information, proposed rules for the program, a link to available lands, answers to frequently asked questions, and video from virtual public meetings about the program.
How to Ensure You Receive your Application
Potentially eligible Veterans should update their contact information with the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) Realty Tribal Service Provider and with BLM.BIA Enrollment Verification: (907) 271-4506BIA Realty: (800) 645-8465BLM Native Allotment Section: (907) 271-5998
Potentially eligible Veterans should also request a copy of their DD-214 from the Alaska Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, US Department of Veteran Affairs. Your local VA office or Veteran Service Organization can provide assistance.
How to Ensure the Program Works for You
Potentially eligible Veterans can coordinate a personal representative appointed by an Alaska State Court, or contact the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, for help coordinating a personal representative.
Potentially eligible Veterans should also read the draft proposed rules for the program. There is a 30-day window for public commenting that ends on August 10, 2020.
Use the interactive map of available lands for the program from the BLM website. You can claim and save a plot selection as a .pdf and turn it in with your claim. The map will be updated regularly as more lands become available and allotments are made. (This is an image of the interactive map; please click the link to go to the BLM website to use the interactive map.)
Help Spread the Word
VA, BLM and BIA need every Veteran’s help to spread the word about the program. In order to reach the estimated 2,200 eligible Veterans or their heirs, the program needs its contact information to be as up-to-date as possible. Veterans and non-Veterans can use this PDF flyer to spread the news and ensure that every Alaska Native Veteran who has earned their land will receive it.
BtBattle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Jefferson E. Keel
Originally Aired - 11/20/2019:
Native American Vietnam Veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army, to Hollywood.
As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.
In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.
However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.
Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.
Later, Robert moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.
Recently, Robert has been advocating for fallen service-members to be enshrines in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident.
From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Air Corps Veteran Gus Palmer Sr.
When Marine Corps Veteran Kelly Murphy began an Instagram account to document his workouts, he never dreamed that it would lead him to becoming the winner of CBS’ "Tough as Nails" competition show. He left the set $200,000 dollars richer and the owner of a brand-new Ford F-150.
In this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Murphy talks about life in the Marines, helping student Veterans find their place in civilian life and winning season one of the CBS competition show Tough as Nails.
Murphy also works for the University of Central Missouri. He helps with outreach and recruitment for the university as well as mentors and helps student Veterans with their transition to civilian life.
Murphy reflects on his own difficulties with transitioning to civilian life and advises Veterans currently separating from the military: “Go find your tribe to hang out with; go find your fellow Veterans, because it’ll help you.”
Though he is retired from the Marine Corps, Murphy continues to maintain his physical strength and fitness. When the Instagram account he created to document his workouts gained a following, he was approached by the casting director of Tough as Nails. Of his time on the show, Murphy says: “It brought me back… to my Marine Corps days. The show kind of made me feel like my old self again.”
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Marine Veteran Gregory “Pappy” Boyington
Additional Links:Murphy’s Tough as Nails BioGI Bill Benefits Information
If there is anyone who knows what it means to be a warrior, it is Air Force Veteran D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas. D.J. Vanas travels around the country speaking at conventions packed with audience members, giving motivational presentations that teach people how to find their unique warrior spirit.
You might be wondering, what exactly is the warrior spirit? Tribal nations, Fortune 500 companies, the military, and even the White House on two occasions have hired Vanas to answer that question. This episode of Borne the Battle offers the opportunity to hear him describe what exactly it means to embody the warrior spirit.
Modern American culture often over romanticizes the warrior role and makes it out to be something unrealistic. Vanas brings the term back down to earth and emphasizes the beauty of imperfection, especially the warrior’s ability to learn and grow from mistakes.
Leading by example, in this episode of Borne the Battle, Vanas talks about his life’s highs and lows:The life changing moment he learned of his appointment to the U.S. Air Force AcademyStruggling to learn how to take responsibility when starting out in the AcademyServing as the Academy’s youngest Chief of Minority EnrollmentGrappling with managing his military duties while also building up his speaking businessDeveloping a network and building the momentum he needed to reach the professional height he is at today
Vanas sympathizes with the challenges that many face when leaving the military. Part of embodying the warrior spirit entails being flexible and leveraging the many skills we honed while in the military to build our new tribe, and then using those skills to make our communities a better and brighter place.
To learn more about the warrior spirit, PBS hosted a program featuring Vanas teaching audiences how to tap into their slumbering warrior spirit.
Being a warrior does not mean facing life’s struggles alone. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and it is okay to not always know the answer. We might not be bulletproof, but as Vanas argues, being a warrior means rising over and over again and to keep moving forward one step at a time.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Dennis Wolfe.
Additional Links:Check out our interview with fellow Lakota Warrior Billy Mills, a Marine Corps Veteran and 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist. His path to Olympic Gold was never certain but he certainly never quit.Lakota Warrior and Vietnam Veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux bounced back after suffering a terrible car accident while serving. He kept moving forward and achieved his dream of being an actor.VA expands offering of COVID-19 booster vaccinesVA extends presumptive period for Persian Gulf War Veterans
At first glance, Tim Davis was not an ideal candidate for the Marine Corps. Although he had wanted to join the Marines since grade school, Davis was unathletic, overweight and had a shoulder problem that would require surgery before he could qualify for service.
“I was a big nerd,” Davis laughed. “I was functionally fat in the Marine Corps.”
Davis was sworn into the Marines a week before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Over the course of a 15-year career in the Corps, he deployed nine times, engaged in anti-terrorism operations in Southeast Asia, and collaborated with military forces from around the world.
Today, Davis is working toward a doctorate in adult education and teaches ethics to the next generation of Marine Corps leaders. He’s also a minor internet celebrity, having appeared in a couple of Marine memes that went viral.
In this week's episode of Borne the Battle, Tim Davis talks about the life lessons he learned in the Corps, making the transition from soldier to civilian, how his experiences in the military helped him prepare for a career as a teacher, and the difference between teaching adults and children. He also discusses the benefits of studying jiu-jitsu and how it helps to heal both body and mind.
How does he do it? “Remain calm,” Davis said. “Find the humor in the situation.”
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Marine Veteran John Reyes
Additional Links:Veterans Jiu-JitsuVA prepares to get ahead of surge in backlogged claims VA stands up commission to recommend new Veterans Health Administration Under Secretary
This week's Borne the Battle – a benefits breakdown – features VA Mobile Mental Health Apps, which provides free tools and information to support and help Veterans manage PTSD-related symptoms and stress, learn mindfulness practices, aim to reduce suicide risk and strengthen parenting skills. The apps were designed to meet the needs of Veterans; they are free, easy to download, and are available via VA App Store, Google Play and Apple App Store.
According to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, some hopeful data shows that 399 fewer Veterans died from suicide in 2019 than in 2018, reflecting the lowest raw count of Veteran suicides since 2007.
Navy and OIF Veteran Tim Avery, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and readjustment counselor at the Peninsula Vet Center. These statistics are the reason why Avery’s work is so vital. In this episode of Borne the Battle, Avery answers these questions and more:How are the apps developed?How can Veterans access these apps via VA App Store/Google Play/App Store?How have these apps helped Veterans?What training is required to use these apps effectively?
The VA Mobile Mental Health Apps are available to and beneficial for all family members of Veterans as well. Avery delves into how apps such as Couples Coach and PTSD Family Coach provide a great source of information that can help enhance communication and improve relationships.
Having access to effective mental health care resources is important to improving quality of life after service. If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is experiencing a mental health crisis, call VA’s Veterans Crisis Line for immediate assistance. People like Avery are working for and alongside VA, and are committed to providing mental health care for all Veterans and their families, 24/7, and are ready to help at a moment’s notice.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Navy Veteran Michael Edwin Thornton
Additional Links:Borne the Battle #247: Irreverent WarriorsVA Mobile Mental Health Apps PlaylistNational Center for PTSD AppsDigital Safety Plan YouTube introductionVet Centers (Readjustment Counselling Services)Tech into Care siteMillions in adaptive sports grants help disabled Veterans with rehabilitation goals VA improves quality of care for Veterans diagnosed with ALS
When Bill Czopek decided to transfer to the Naval Academy, he knew that he wanted the structure and support of a military career. Through persistence and dedication, he was accepted. Little did he know, that experience would lead him to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
In this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Special Agent Bill Czopek discusses his time in the Navy, his experience in the DEA, and some things Veterans should be concerned about when it comes to counterfeit pills and the illegal drug trade.
In the Navy, Czopek served as a Surface Warfare Officer. He became a “jack of all trades” and learned versatility in this role. His first-ever “drug bust” happened off the coast of North Africa, where his ship intercepted a dhow (fishing boat) smuggling two tons of hashish.
After his service, Czopeck turned his eyes toward serving his country in a civilian role, today as a DEA officer, and and he talks the state of drug trafficking in America, including:DEA foreign officesCounterfeit pillsThe drug trafficking supply chainOnline drug salesHow Veterans and other citizens can protect themselves from the effects of drug trafficking
He also gives advice for other Veterans planning on applying to federal agencies after their service.
Want to know more about counterfeit pills, an issue that directly affects Veterans receiving medical care? Among other details in the podcast, Czopeck shared:Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl can look exactly like legitimate prescription pills.According to the DEA, the number of counterfeit pills in circulation has increased 430% since 2019.According to the FDA, consumers should ensure their pill and drug packing look normal before taking any medication.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army and Air Force Veteran William Bonelli
Additional Linkshttps://www.dea.gov/ep/360-strategyhttps://www.dea.gov/alert/sharp-increase-fake-prescription-pills-containing-fentanyl-and-methVA resumes overpayment notifications, medical copayment collections while continuing to offer Veterans expansive debt relief options Veterans Legacy Memorial expands to include VA-grant funded state, territorial and tribal Veterans cemeteriesVA embarks on process to design new model to deliver seamless integrated care
In 1945, warehouses in Birmingham, England, were brimming with unsent postal mail intended for U.S. soldiers at the frontlines. At the same time, African American organizations pressed the War Department to create more opportunities for African American Women’s Army Corps members to serve. Tackling two issues at once, the War Department started recruiting African American women and formed the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. The job was expected to take six months. The "Six Triple Eight" did it in three.
Retired Air Force Major Fannie Griffin McClendon was one of these women to take up the monumental task of ensuring soldiers on the frontlines received mail sent to them by their loved ones, regardless of rain, sleet, “buzz bombs,” racism, and sexism. Indeed, throughout her time in the 6888th Battalion and later as a commander with Strategic Air Command, she faced and overcame many instances of racism and sexism thrown at her. This ranged from men who refused to serve under her because she was a woman. Focusing on her vital duties to the country, McClendon knocked down barriers and shattered glass ceilings at every corner of her military career.
Even as a centenarian, McClendon remembered stories from her days in the military like the back of her hand. Stories she discussed in this episode of Borne the Battle include:What life was like for her while serving abroad in Europe during WWIIThe casualties the 6888th suffered while in FranceBecoming a commander in the Air Force
Surrounded by the stench and sight of death, soldiers on the frontlines depended on members of the 6888th, like McClendon, to deliver them letters written by their loved ones back home. Despite the importance of their role, the 6888th, like many other segregated units from WWII, received little recognition after the war.
The 6888th only recently started gaining popular recognition, with a documentary on it released in 2019.
In 2021, the Senate passed the “Six Triple Eight” Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021, an act awarding congressional gold medals to members of the 6888th for their “pioneering military service, devotion to duty, and contributions to the morale of personnel stationed in the European theater.”
While formal recognition for her service was long overdue, McClendon seemed not to mind too much. Rather, she focused on the many opportunities the military gave her and the spectacular life it allowed her to live.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Marine Veteran Zane Jones
Additional Links:Even at the age of 100, McClendon went out of her way to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Click here to learn how you can get vaccinated through the VA.To read more about the 6888th Veterans, check out the 6888th’s website.practical resources for transitioning service members VA stands ready to offer COVID-19 booster vaccinesVA request for information on proposed rule change published in Federal Register on character of discharge VA, National Support Network teach Veterans how to fight cybercrime
If you know of Black Rifle Coffee Company or watch Mayans MC on FX, you may already know this week’s Borne the Battle guest – Army Veteran, entrepreneur, actor and overall entertainer Vincent Vargas.
It was a windy road that led him to this point in his life. Too many wild parties got him kicked out of college and ended his childhood dream of playing professional baseball. At 20, as a young father who was no longer playing ball or attending school, Vargas felt like a disappointment to his family.
In 2003, during the invasion of Baghdad at the outbreak of the Iraq War, Vargas watched a televised newscast in which a Marine helped to topple a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein. News reporters interviewed the Marine’s family, who emotionally expressed their pride in his service.
The next day, Vargas went to a military recruiting office to enlist. He later served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, became a drill sergeant, and after serving, even joined the U.S. Border Patrol.
In this week's episode of Borne the Battle, Vincent Vargas discusses his many transitions between sports, military and civilian lives, getting into acting, his time on the Drinkin' Bros podcast, and the founding of Beteran, his Veteran-focused clothing line that emphasizes empowerment and positivity rather than the prevailing Veteran narratives of depression, alcoholism, and suicide.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Ricardo Barraza
Also Mentioned in this Episode:https://vincentroccovargas.com/VETSmile pilot program to improve affordable dental care access for VeteransProgram of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to provide an additional year for eligibility and reassessment of certain participants
David Bonilla grew up in El Monte, California, where, as a child, he had the opportunity to be involved with a few film projects. Through his mother’s connections, he gained both experience in the film industry and an interest in filming and directing. He initially had no plans to join the military, but when a recruiter offered to buy him lunch, his life found a new direction.
Bonilla discusses his deployments overseas to Baghdad and his position as part of the logistics team during the Gulf War. There, he experienced what it was really like to be in the field and understand what a near death experience was like.
After completing his service and later a college degree, Bonilla landed a position at Solar City, a company under Elon Musk. While working at Solar City, Bonilla’s assistant noticed how he was struggling with panic attacks and helped guide him to VA. This led him to VR&E, where he found purpose and goals in life.
Now finished with his military path, Bonilla returned to his early love of the film industry and began studying audio by using his GI Bill benefits. He started working as a foley artist, eventually winning an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Eleanor of Avalor.
In this episode, Bonilla discusses:His experiences in the militaryWorking in the film industryWorking for RaytheonHis time at a company under Elon MuskHis projects as a sound engineer, including Disney’s Eleanor of Avalor
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Jose Lopez
Additional Links:VA enhances geriatric emergency care for older VeteransVA annual report shows decrease in Veteran suicidesVA assembles Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention Workgroup
On September 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals–just like any other day.
Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.
While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.
At first, Baxter didn’t know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Clinic.
Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.
Baxter’s team ran to the spot. They found Army Veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.
John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week’s Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.
(Originally casted 9/11/2019)Army Veteran and 9/11 victim Max Beilke
#BtBattle Veteran of the Week:
This episode of Borne the Battle – a benefits breakdown – features HUD-VASH, a collaborative program between HUD and VA that provides support to help homeless Veterans and their families – and those at risk of becoming homeless – to find and sustain permanent housing.
Veterans Matter is one of the many nonprofits which work alongside and enhance HUD-VASH’s ability to reduce homelessness among Veterans.
According to the 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were 37,252 homeless Veterans in 2020, and 15,204 of those Veterans were unsheltered.
For Meghan Deal, national director of the HUD-VASH Program, and Ken Leslie, a former homeless man and founder of Veterans Matter, these troubling statistics are an indication of the importance of their work. In this episode of Borne the Battle, Deal and Leslie answer these questions and more:What motivates them to help Veterans despite not being Veterans themselves?What does help from HUD-VASH and nonprofits like Veterans Matter look like?What makes a Veteran eligible for HUD-VASH assistance?What makes a Veteran “homeless?”How can people get involved with helping homeless Veterans in their community?
The HUD-VASH program also has resources geared specifically for the Native American Veteran population. For tribes that are interested in providing rental assistance and supportive services to Native American Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, read up on Tribal HUD-VASH and considering submitting an application.
Having access to safe and adequate housing is a human right. If you know a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of being homeless, encourage them to call VA for assistance. There are people working for and alongside VA, like Deal and Leslie, who are committed to rooting out homelessness and are standing by ready to help.
Borne the Battle Veterans of the Week:Marine Veteran Darin T. Hoover of Salt Lake City UtahMarine Veteran Johanny Rosario Pichardo of Lawrence MassachusettsMarine Veteran Nicole Gee of Sacramento, CaliforniaMarine Veteran Hunter Lopez of Indio, CaliforniaMarine Veteran Daegan Page of Omaha, NebraskaMarine Veteran Humberto Sanchez of Logansport IndianaMarine Veteran David Espinoza of Rio Bravo, TexasMarine Veteran Jared Schmitz of St. Charles, MissouriMarine Veteran Rylee McCollum of Jackson, WyomingMarine Veteran Dylan Merola of Rancho Cucamonga, CaliforniaMarine Veteran Kareem Nikoui of Norco, CaliforniaNavy Veteran Maxton Soviak of Berlin Heights, OhioArmy Veteran Ryan Knauss of Corryton, Tennessee
Additional Links:Check out the Borne the Battle episode on Supportive Services for Veteran Families, another VA program helping tackle Veteran homelessness in its own way.The VA recently announced its Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology Grants to enhance Veterans’ abilities to live comfortably in specially adapted homes.VA expands rental support, increasing housing options for Veterans
On this episode of Borne the Battle, Army Veteran Tommy Davis shares his story about deploying to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and Afghanistan, then later working in the video game industry.
Tommy always enjoyed playing video games, but his journey to working in the video game industry was not straightforward. After taking some courses at a community college, he still felt uncertain about the future and what he wanted to do. He spoke with a recruiter and enlisted in the Army.
After serving seven years in the Army, Davis transitioned to civilian life and enrolled in George Washington University. He discusses connecting with fellow Veterans on campus and serving as president of GW Veterans. They are a chapter of Student Veterans of America, who focus on issues regarding Veterans and education.
Next, Davis talks about becoming interested in and doing extensive research about the video gaming industry after earning his bachelor’s degree. He discusses how he convinced himself to apply to his dream job after being encouraged by his family and friends. His determination led to him applying to and accepting a position with ZeniMax Media as a video game quality assurance tester working on The Elder Scrolls Online.
Later, he delves into how the framework he learned in the military helps him stay focused while working in web development. He talks about the Veteran community affiliation within Zenimax Online Studios. That community helps recruit Veterans and helps them with civilian integration.
Finally, he provides advice for Veterans interested in joining the gaming industry and developing specific skillsets by attending the Microsoft Software and Assistance Academy.
In this episode, Davis talks about:What he learned from his experiences in the military.His post-military education at George Washington University.Various positions available to Veterans at Zenimax Online Studios.Career advice to transitioning service members and how they can gain valuable specific industry training.How important it is for Veterans to get involved with Veteran service organizations, such as Team Rubicon and Wounded Warrior Project.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Air Force Veteran Patrick Peter Caruana
Additional Links:Borne The Battle 140: Danny Chung – Marine Veteran, Chief of Staff, Microsoft Military AffairsVA spotlights special benefits for elderly wartime Veteran populationVA grants improve transitional housing, prevent Veteran homelessness
Army Veteran James Stejskal spent nine years in West Berlin during the Cold War, serving in a clandestine and small special forces unit known as Detachment A. His mission bordered on the impossible, tasked with being ready to cross into East Germany and sabotage the Soviet army at a moment’s notice in case the Soviet Union ever decided to launch an invasion.
He spent 23 years in service with special forces and 13 years operating under the CIA. Stejskal lived a life brimming with unique experiences. A few of the stories he shared on this episode of Borne the Battle include how he:Fought to get a role in the Army Special Forces after initially serving with the 82nd Airborne Division.Was prepared to blow up Soviet trains and destroy Soviet railway networks if West Berlin was invaded.Nearly had to amputate his leg after being in a vehicle that rolled over an old Soviet tank mine, but had it saved by an orthopedic surgeon with an ingenious idea.
For nearly half a century, information pertaining to Detachment A remained classified and hidden from the public eye. The government only declassified information about this unit in 2014. With a story virtually absent from the history books, Stejskal is determined to keep Detachment A’s legacy from being forgotten.
One of Stejskal’s most notable books on Detachment A is “Special Forces Berlin.”
Though Stejskal is a professional historian, he also enjoys writing fiction. Adept at writing in a variety of styles, Stejskal has written a diverse selection of books, ranging from historical fiction to professionally researched historical narratives.
For decades, Stejskal had to keep his lips sealed about Detachment A because it was classified information. Now with it declassified, he wants everyone to know its story. Hear what Stejskal could not talk about for years by listening to this episode of Borne the Battle.
Borne the Battle Veteran of the Week:Army Veteran Tom Rice
Additional links:Stejskal gave his opinion on the state of publishing in the age of digital media from the perspective of being an author. Hear Navy Veteran and singer-songwriter Jonathan Kingham share his perspective on the future of the music industry in Borne the Battle #246 Many credit the tactics used by Detachment A as being the basis for today’s special operations and law enforcement tactics.VA expands mandate for COVID-19 vaccines among VHA employeesAfghanistan: How Veterans can learn from Vietnam Veterans
Links to programs and resources mentioned in this episode:Veterans Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/https://www.vetcenter.va.gov/https://www.va.gov/find-locations/https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/https://www.maketheconnection.net/https://www.ptsd.va.gov/appvid/mobile/Women Veterans Call Center: 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM - 10PM & SAT 8AM - 6:30PM ET)https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/https://www.va.gov/files/2020-11/mental-health-quick-start-guide.pdf
In 1954, the United States became actively involved in the Vietnam War. John Ligato followed suit and joined the Marine Corps to serve his country after receiving a draft notice in 1966.
Ligato breaks down his experience during the Battle of Hue City from an operational view. He discusses what he calls the three missing days in Marine Corps history due to the nature of the battle, and how he pushed for 13 years to get the medals that his team rightfully deserved. He was awarded three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam in addition to other valor awards.
After being wounded, Ligato transitioned to civilian life, went to school, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Ligato discusses working for the The ARC of the United States (ARC), which helps severely handicapped children and adults, and then joining the FBI. There, he got involved in undercover work, spending a total of eight years working undercover in various locations in the 70s-90s. He also talks about working as a pilot with the FBI and spending much of his latter career in diplomatic training missions in various locations around the world. His efforts and time working with the FBI resulted in him receiving the Directors Award and Attorney General’s Award for investigative excellence.
In this episode, Ligato talks:Becoming an adjunct college professor and teaching counter-terrorism and international security at Campbell University.Writing several books and providing advice to aspiring professional authors.Appearing in several movies.How Veterans can become involved in Veteran Service Organizations, such as Hope for the Warriors and Semper Fi Fund.