Remembering Army Ranger and NFL Player Pat Tillman

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Pat Tillman, former NFL player.

The VA marked the start of the 2019 National Football League season with a VAntage Blog entry commemorating the service of Pat Tillman. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tillman finished his 2001 NFL season and then enlisted in the U.S. Army.

He completed Army Ranger School in late 2003 and deployed. Tillman was killed April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan.

In a previous Off the Base blog post, I shared a portion of Tillman’s “Just In Case Letter” he left his wife, Marie Tillman shared in her new book, The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, & Life:

  • Just in case I don’t come back I want the money used to put the boys through college.
  • Just in case I don’t come back I want you to know that I was fighting for my country: my country is you and our babies and my mom and my sisters.
  • Just in case I don’t come back I want you to know that you were everything a wife was supposed to be. That you made my life happy. That even though we didn’t have 50 years together, the five we did have were the fullest, richest years anyone could ever want.

But Tillman’s life did not end there.

Marie Tillman created the Tillman Scholars Foundation “empowering the next generation of leaders.”

I’ve had the privilege to interview several Tillman Scholars over the years. They are remarkable military veterans and spouses with even larger dreams and a passion for service and scholarship, among them:

So as you cheer on your favorite NFL team this weekend, you might also consider a “shout out” to the memory of Tillman and the team of Tillman Scholars who contribute daily to better our world.

Mission Roll Call Seeks Voices, But Limits Feedback

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Field of Stars at the World War II Memorial, Washington D.C., courtesy of the WWII Memorial.com

 

It’s estimated that only about half of all United States military veterans are using the VA benefits they’ve earned, or are connected to a veteran service organization.

So, what’s the response? One, featured in today’s VA email newsletter, is a “movement” named Mission Roll Call

… to reach all Veterans, to learn how to better serve them. Every Voice Matters. Stand and be counted, make your voice heard.

But there’s a problem from my point of view as the spouse to a World War II veteran who is not actively using his VA benefits.

It’s “Every Voice Matters” campaign is pseudo marketing with a pseudo survey.

When you click on the “make your voice heard” link, there’s a survey that only gives you three options for your “most important issue”: veteran suicide, veteran employment and veteran caregiver support.

That’s it.

First let me acknowledge, veteran suicide, employment and caregiver support are all very important concerns.

However, if “Mission Roll Call” really wanted to “REACH ALL VETERANS,” this is not the way to connect with those who are not engaged. In fact, the survey is more like an insult to their intelligence.

There’s no option to write in a specific concern. There’s only the three issues, a space for your name, email and then a “VOTE” button.

That’s how you supposedly make your voice heard, pick only from Mission Roll Call’s three issues?

I understand if the survey is an attempt by the organization to prioritize its predetermined top issue.

I get it. But present it that way.

PLEASE don’t market this as a campaign to give “voice” to individual veterans and their concerns.

It’s not.

It appears only as a way to advance the organization’s concerns and to build a database of emails.

Additionally, this “pseudo survey” will come up with only “pseudo results” – none of them will be accurate or real. Unfortunately, such pseudo polls have become pervasive on the internet while consumers have become less discerning.

As a veteran’s spouse, I thought Mission Roll Call might be a way to encourage my WWII Veteran to use his VA health benefits for his hearing loss.

I’m disappointed. He remains among the estimated 50 percent who have not reached out and probably will not thanks to the level of pseudo marketing to veterans.

Civilians ‘Out Gun’ Military & Law Officers More Than 70 To 1

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Full disclosure: The analysis link below was researched and written by my nephew, Sean Phillippi. I confess being partial to the man, a loving, kind and smart young man. But aunties, like me, are also known for having a more critical eye and being a more skeptical audience because family is expected to meet a higher standard.

That stated, his research includes a little discussed statistic that I wanted to share because it gave me chills when I first read it:

“…there are more than 70 guns in civilian hands for every one gun in the hands of law enforcement and military.”

I can’t help but wonder about the thoughts of law enforcement officers, National Guard, Reservists and active duty military as they’re sent into unpredictable situations with those odds 70 to 1.

Sean’s full article, published at FloridaPolitics.com, includes all his data, how it was resourced and the research methodology. He did the research and wrote the article looking for answers that are grounded in facts and data. He is looking to take the community discussion on gun violence, like many, beyond the “sound bytes” and flashy headlines. A scientific analysis is a good starting point.

Sean Phillippi: Data links gun deaths to gun ownership, not mental health, video games

 

 

 

 

A Thank You To All Who Served Including My Dad

I’m thankful this Memorial Day for many people including my younger sister, Pat O’Brien Turner, who today visited our father’s grave at the U.S. National Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

Navy WWII veteran Robert Joseph O’Brien spent D-Day off-loading troops on the shores of France. He was part of a naval landing-craft crew that made numerous trips back and forth to the coastline for the first two days of the invasion.

My father talked to me about his service just once. And that’s only because I was with my husband, also a WWII Navy veteran.

Like many of his generation, he didn’t like to recall the war. I think in part, it’s because he was assigned burial duty after the beach was secured. It was a heart-wrenching assignment that I know he carried out with the same care and dignity he would afford his own loved ones.

Today, I think of my father and all the families of those killed on the beach that day, those who died in WWII and all who have fallen while serving their country.

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Memorial Day 2019 at the U.S. National Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

 

‘A Little Pink’ Always Colors My Memorial Day

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The American Flag flies above the US American Victory Museum & Memorial Ship, Tampa, FL.

Through almost 40 years of reporting – there are stories and people that never leave you.

A Little Pink In A World Of Camo, a military wife’s blog, is where I discovered such a heart-captivating story titled: I Will Always Be A Marine Wife.

I just need to share some sad news with all of my blog friends.

Sad isn’t even the word to describe it, but honestly at this point I can’t find the words to describe it. Angry, empty, crushed, confused, shocked, alone, unglued, hateful, depressed, beaten down… none of these words can do justice to my feelings.

I am being forced to do something that no 23 year old woman should ever have to do. I am being forced to do something that no one should ever have to do, not at this early in life, especially. I am being forced to lay the love of my life, my saving grace, my entire world to rest. …

– Rachel Porto –

And after reporting on their family’s loss, Ariana Porto, her mother Rachel Porto and grandmothers Evelyn Jewell and Rachel Bernaby (Porto’s mother) forever became a part of my Memorial Day remembrances.

I never met him and Corporal Jonathan Porto never held his daughter Ariana.

The closest he got was kneeling down and talking to her through Rachel’s pregnant belly on the day he deployed. An iconic photo of that moment was snapped by another Marine wife. Rachel was unaware at the time, but she ended up featuring the picture at the top of her blog: A Little Pink in a World of Camo.

Porto was one of 10 men killed in his battalion, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, while deployed to Afghanistan. He died in March 2010 just shy of his first wedding anniversary.

What will always stay with me is that photo of Jonathan talking to his unborn daughter and the power of Rachel and Jonathan’s relationship. Jonathan made Rachel promise “no moping” while he was gone. And as difficult as the hours, days, months and years may have been since his death, Rachel continues to keep her promise to Jonathan. And she’s continued to write earning a masters’ degree in writing.

Please on this Memorial Day, keep the promise made by President Lincoln, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” So, take a moment to remember those who have fallen in service to our country.

My eternal appreciation to all who have allowed me to tell their stories.

 

Cigars, Rough Riders And Sandwich Link Tampa To Cuba

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Photo by Bobbie O’Brien/WUSF Public Media

Tampa is linked to Cuba by more than early Spanish fishermen, migrating cigar workers and the 1960s missile crisis. Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders used the city to train and then launch their 1898 foray into Cuba during the Spanish American War.

But a sandwich became the most recent Cuban battleground between the communities in Tampa and Miami: The Cuban Sandwich Crisis.

As a result, Tampa City Council named the traditional Cuban Sandwich of sweet ham, mojo-marinated roast pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard and Genoa salami as the city’s “signature sandwich” in April 2012.

Tampa’s Cuban Sandwich Festival on Saturday, March 30, features a taste from a 170 foot-long Cuban sandwich, music and a junior chef’s showdown. Sunday, March 31, is the 8th annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival where teams from South Korea, England and California will compete for the title of Best Cuban Sandwich.

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Keystone View Company. Roosevelt’s “Rough Rider’s”sic arrival at Tampa, Fla., U.S.A. Florida Tampa, ca. 1898. Meadville, Pa.: Keystone View Company manufacturers and publishers.

And if you’d like some additional visuals, while munching on your Cuban sandwich, here’s a short film of Rough Riders at drill in Tampa on the Library of Congress website.

Registration Deadline For Veterans Outreach Court In Tampa

Here’s an opportunity for veterans living in Hillsborough County to resolve outstanding misdemeanor warrants, fines, legal fees and ordinance violations.

This is the second year that the Veterans Outreach Court is offering low income and homeless veterans a chance to clear up their court record.

Close to 100 veterans got help with their minor legal issues during the one-day outreach court last year.

Cases the outreach court will not hear:

  • domestic violence
  • child support
  • active felony warrants
  • cases already pending in Veterans Treatment Court

But to take advantage, veterans must act because today, October 26, 2018, the deadline to register.

The 2018 Hillsborough Veterans Outreach Court is free and scheduled in two weeks, Friday, November 9, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital Primary Care VA Annex, 13515 Lake Terrace Lane, in Tampa.

Online registration is available for veterans at the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court website: www.hillsclerk.com.

All qualified participants will receive a notification by mail.  Veterans can also view their case online at www.hover.hillsclerk.com.

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