Oct 30

Marines complete operations in Afghanistan, depart Helmand province

Colors and Flag Changing Marines complete operations in Afghanistan, depart Helmand province

Sgt. Dustin D. March
Brigadier Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, center, Regional Command (Southwest) commander, and Sgt. Maj. Doug Berry Jr., RC(SW) sergeant major, case the RC(SW) battle colors during the End of Operations ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 26, 2014. The ceremony marked the official end of RC(SW) operations in Helmand province.

Story by Staff Sgt. John Jackson

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The final elements of Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan loaded onto aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline in Afghanistan, and departed Helmand province for the final time Oct. 27.

The Marine Corps completed operations in the region during the early afternoon when the final eight Regional Command (Southwest) helicopters landed at the command’s intermediate staging base at Kandahar Airfield, ending more than five years of continuous Marine Corps operations in Helmand province.

“It’s an historic day for the Marine Corps, but more importantly, it’s an historic day for the Afghan National Security Forces,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commanding general, Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan. “The security of Helmand is up to the ANSF, and I am confident in their abilities to continue to succeed.”

ANSF in Helmand

Afghan National Security Forces in Helmand province were virtually nonexistent just six years ago. Colonel Anthony Henderson, the MEB-A operations officer, first arrived in Helmand as a battalion commander during 2008, and says he has seen monumental changes in the ANSF’s capacity and capability.

“The ANSF were not an existing force in 2008,” Henderson said. “There were police organizations in the district centers that were very weak and lacked capability, and there was almost no Afghan National Army presence here in any form beyond a battalion or brigade size. When I came back here, the size of the 215th Corps and the capabilities of the Corps were a dramatic change.”

The ANA’s 215th Corps and the Afghan National Police will continue to provide security for the province, something they have been doing with very minimal support from International Security Assistance Forces throughout the past two years.

During May 2014, the Marine Corps’ last brigade-level advisor team left Sangin, a once insurgent stronghold. Since then, the Marine Corps provided no ground support to the ANSF. The ANSF held control of all district centers and maintained freedom of movement between them, coordinating between various pillars to successfully accomplish their mission.

“I think from a security perspective they are ready,” said Col. Morgan Mann, the security force assistance director for MEB-A. “They have proven that throughout the last year. They have done it alone out in the battlespace. They have proven time and again, especially during this past fighting season. They did it completely on their own on the ground, and I think that is a testament to their readiness and their ability and confidence to go on next year.”

While the Army and police have proven they are capable of taking the fight to the enemies of Afghanistan, sustaining the successes they have made during the past five years will be determined in the months and years to come.

“If they continue to follow what they have developed, they will be trained well enough,” Henderson said. “They will be able to continue to overmatch the insurgents they encounter. They will overmatch them tactically, as an ANA soldier against a given insurgent, and overmatch them operationally through battalion and brigade operations against insurgent district operations.”

Tactical Retrograde

Upon the departure of the Marine Corps and their coalition counterparts from the United Kingdom, the Marine Corps transferred Camp Leatherneck, an expansive Marine Corps forward operating base located in central Helmand province, to their Afghan counterparts.

Approximately 6,500 acres were transferred back to Afghan control, giving the ANA a large base that includes a nearly 11,500-foot-long runway, providing them with the continued ability to coordinate ground and air operations in Helmand province.

“I think we left as little as we could and as much as the ANA could handle,” said Col. Doug Patterson, the MEB-A logistics officer. “We could have probably taken down a few more buildings and things like that, but the Afghans were our hosts and they wanted that capability. So we left it for them, giving them the opportunity to operate that camp, which will allow them to further their operations in the future.”

Months prior to leaving Helmand province, the Marine Corps worked diligently to get their equipment out of Afghanistan and leave the base responsibly. During the final 45 days in Helmand province, 191 C-17 equivalents of gear were flown out of the province and the outer perimeter of the base was reduced. To help ensure their ANSF partners could sustain what was being transferred, Marines conducted an 8-week course encompassing everything from generator maintenance to airfield operations.

“It was definitely a daunting task, but the ability for everybody to coordinate and work together toward a common goal was just outstanding,” Patterson said. “Just to see the individual Marine and how hard they worked on a day-in, day-out basis was wonderful to see.”

Marine Corps legacy in Helmand

The day prior to the Marines’ and British service members’ final departure from Helmand province, the RC(SW) command held an End of Operations ceremony. During the ceremony, the Marine Corps cased the RC(SW) battle colors for the final time and lowered the NATO, U.K. and U.S. flags, leaving only Afghanistan’s flag waving outside the headquarters building.

“People ask what we did here and whether it was worth it,” said Sgt. Maj. Doug Berry Jr., the MEB-A sergeant major. “We were successful. We are leaving here knowing that everything we worked for was accomplished. We met our objectives. Those who have come here and did not go home, or went home different, should know that we finished for them. The families should be proud of that. The United States flag coming down the way it did was significant. It was more than just a ceremony. It was a good day for the United States and a damn good day for the United States Marine Corps.”

During the Marine Corps’ approximate five years of combat operations in Helmand province, more than 350 Marines were killed on the battlefield and thousands went home wounded.

“The Marine Corps teaches so much about our magnificent performances and our success of winning in combat throughout our history,” Berry said. “When you become a Marine and get an opportunity to go forward deployed, you automatically want to go. With that comes a side that we are prepared for. Those Marines who died did so doing something that they wanted to do, and that is honorable. It is truly honorable because they raised their right hand and said they wanted to serve and support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The fact that they have passed serving their country in combat is part of what we do.

“We knew what our mission was here. We had to finish our mission here in Afghanistan and we did that. And we represented everyone who has ever been here, those past and present, those who were changed here and wounded in action, and those who died on the battlefield. What we did in RC(SW) was finish. We finished what had to do, what we were charged with doing, and we did it with courage, we did it with honor.”

Oct 25

Veterans Day Deals and Discounts 2014

Veterans Day Meals Discount Freebies Free Stuff 2014 300x290 Veterans Day Deals and Discounts 2014Veterans Day is right around the corner and over the last several years restaurants have been saying “Thank You” by offering fantastic discounts and freebies to both active duty service members and veterans. Many restaurants participate each year and the list continues to grow so we decided to make it easier for you to map out your plan of action if you’d like to take part in such a generous offer this Veterans Day.

Before we dive in with the list we want to highlight a few particulars.

  • Before arriving, please call your local establishment to ensure their participation. Not all establishments are offering nationwide participation.
  • Be sure to bring proof of military service.
  • Gratuity may not be included in your bill. Though the establishment may be offering a free meal, in some states servers still make below minimum wage. Please be kind to your servers.
  • Lastly, be mindful that service may be slower due to a higher amount of veterans in your area, especially establishments near military installations.

November 11, 2014 Veterans Day Deals

(Unless otherwise noted, all listings are offered to only active-duty service members and veterans, on Veteran’s Day November 11th, and are Dine-In only.) 

Applebee’s is offering a free meal, with 7 entrees to choose from.

BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse: Free lunch entree, up to $9.95 value.

Bob Evans: Free All-You-Can-Eat hotcakes.

California Pizza Kitchen: From CPK’s Veterans Day Menu, your choice of a free pizza, full size salad, or pasta.

Carraba’s: Free appetizer.

Cattlemens Steakhouse: Free 8 oz Sirloin Steak Dinner and beverage.

Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse: Free meal for active and former military members with ID or other valid proof of service. Find a location near you.

Chili’s: Free dinner with 7 entrees to choose from or any lunch combo during lunch.

Cotton Patch Café: Free full-size chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken meal.

Country Cookin: Free meal.

East Coast Wings: Free Appetizer or Desert.

Einstein Bros Bagels: Free coffee.

Fatz Eatz & Drinkz: Free meal up to $13.00 value.

Fire & Ice Grill & Bar: Free meal.

Friendly’s: Free “Big Two Do®” breakfast or an All-American Burger meal for lunch or dinner.

Golden Corral – Military Appreciation Monday “Thank You” Dinner is on Monday Nov. 17, 2014 (5pm – 9pm).

Hooters: Free meal up to $10.99 in value with any drink purchase.

Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House: Free meal from the American Values Menu which includes soup, salad, desert, and beverage.

Krispy Kreme – Free doughnut and small coffee.

Lone Star Steakhouse: Free Starter..

LongHorn Steakhouse: Free Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage.

Max & Erma’s: Free “Best Cheeseburger in America” Combo.

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants: Sunday Nov 9, 2014 Free lunch or dinner. Reservations are highly recommended as space is limited.

Menchie’s: Free 6 oz. frozen yogurt.

Noah’s Bagles: Free coffee.

On the Border: Free Create Your Own Combo meal.

Outback Steakhouse: Free Bloomin’ Onion and a non-alcoholic beverage on Veterans Day. From November 12th to December 31st, receive 15% off.

Perkin’s Restaurant & Bakeries: Free Magnificent Seven meal.

Pinnacle Entertainment (Casino Buffets): Click Here for a list of casino locations offering a free buffet on Veterans Day.

Ponderosa: Free Veterans Day buffet to veterans on Sunday, November 9th.

Red Lobster: Select a free Appetizer from a special menu Nov. 10 –Nov. 13th.

Shoney’s: Free All-American Burger.

Sizzler: Free lunch served until 4pm. Choice of 3 entrees, and a free coffee, tea, or fountain drink.

StarBucks: Free tall brewed coffee for active duty, veterans, and their spouses.

Texas Land and Cattle Steak House: Free appetizer or shared plate.

Tim Hortons: Free donut. No purchase necessary.

Travel Centers of America: Free meal for CDL holders who are also veterans.

Uno Chicago Grill: Free individual pizza or entrée with the purchase of a pizza or entrée of equal or greater value. Inform your server that you are there to support the Fisher House and a portion of the check will donated to the Fisher House Foundation, a fantastic charity that supports our military!

54th Street Grill Free meal up to $12 value, Dine in AND Express To-go.

 Below is a list of previously participating restaurants that have not yet confirmed participation in Veterans Day 2014 offers.

Bar Louie:  Free meal up to a $12 value.

Champps Americana: Free hamburger (7 burger options) and waffle fries.

Cheeseburger in Paradise: Free All-American Burger with fries with purchase of beverage.

Denny’s: Free all you can eat pancakes from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Famous Dave’s: Free or discounted meals on Veterans Day. Offer varies by location.

Fox & Hound and Bailey’s Sports Grille: Free Sandwich or Entree (up to $13).

HoneyBaked Stores: Free lunch; includes sandwich, chips, cookie, and a drink.

Hy-Vee: Free Breakfast from 7am – 11am at all participating Hy-Vee supermarkets with in-store dining.

Little Caesars® Pizza: Free Crazy Bread®

O’Charley’s: Free entree from the $9.99’er menu.

Red Robin: Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries.

Texas Corral: Free entrée. Texas Corral locations offer a 50% discount daily to active duty police officers, firemen and military personnel.

Texas Roadhouse: Free lunch choosing from 10 meals, plus sides and a drink.

T.G.I. Friday’s: Free lunch 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. required. Dine-on only at participating locations. Be sure to contact your local T.G.I Friday’s for details. Locations.

The Olive Garden: Free entrée from a special menu.

Tony Roma’s: Free Entree up to $15 value.

Twin Peaks: Free meal.

Additional Veterans Day Freebies:

  • Great Clips: Receive a free haircut or pickup a free hair cut coupon and give it to a Veteran to be used by the end of 2014.
  • Lodging at B&B: Monday November 10th and Tuesday November 11th, Veterans can stay at a participating B&B for free. Spots are limited and reservations are required. To see which B&B’s are participating, click here. (Some Canadian B&B’s are included.)
  • Knott’s Berry Farm Military Tribute Days: Free admission to all veterans, retired and active duty military and one guest. No more than six additional discounted tickets can be purchased for $24 each from November 2nd thru November 21st and for $29 each from November 22nd thru January 4th, 2015.
  • Koda Bridal: On November 11th, Koda Bridal in Pennsylvania will be generously giving away bridal gowns to military brides. There is limited number of dresses being given away so you must register and read the rules for attending the event, and call ahead to schedule an appointment.
  • Colonial Williamsburg: Free admission to Active duty military, reservists, retirees, veterans, and the direct dependents of currently deployed troops can receive free admission for the entire Veterans Day weekend, November 7–11, 2014.

USMC Life wants to say, “Thank You” to the participating establishments for acknowledging our nations veterans!


Home Depot and Lowe’s

Offer a 10% discount to military and vets (all year round).


Veterans Day weekend, Cabelas is offering their employee discount to all veterans, active duty military and reserves, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel on November 11 and 12. Discounts vary from 5% to 50% depending on the item and excludes guns, boats, trailers and safes.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club will give a free $15 Sam’s Club Gift Card to military personnel* when you join or renew as a Sam’s Club Member.

JC Penny

Veterans, active duty and family members receive 20% off Nov. 6-11


Receive 10% off regular, sale and clearance merchandise November 11-12th.

Brides Across America

Free wedding gowns for military brides. Check the site to see when the next event is happening.


Members of the armed forces receive a 20% discount November 11 thru 15th on any one transaction.

Dollar General

Offers a 10% discount to all veterans, active duty personnel, National Guard, reserve members and their families.

Big Lots

Offers a 10% discount on Saturday, November 9th. All day.

Meinke Car Care

Free oil change on Veterans Day.


On Nov 11th they are offering 15% off select items and 20% off Walgreens store brand NICE! And W brand products.

Sports Clips

Free hair cuts for active duty and Veterans on Nov 11th.

Military One Source

Receive up to ten free paperback and audio books throughout the year.

National Parks

Free Fee Day at National Parks November 9th -11th.

Anheuser Busch Companies

(Here’s to the Heroes) Free Admission any day of the year to ONE of the following parks, along with three guests:

  1. Sea World: SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
  2. Busch Gardens: Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
  3. Sesame Place
  4. Adventure Island
  5. Water Country USA

Aquarium of the Pacific

Offers free admission on November 11th for veterans, military personnel, police officers, and firefighters who show valid service.

Audubon Nature Institute

As a special thank you we are offering complimentary admission on November 11, 2013 to Audubon ZooAudubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium or Audubon Aquarium of the Americas for all military personnel (active and retired) and their guests. Active or retired military personnel, or dependent, must show a military ID for admission at the Zoo, Aquarium, or Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This offer is valid for up to five (5) admissions, including the Veteran, and does not apply to Entergy IMAX® Theatre

San Jacinto Museum of History

In honor of veterans and Veterans Day, admission to all venues of the museum – the theater for Texas Forever!! The Battle of San Jacinto; the Observation Floor, and the special exhibit Making a Mark, Leaving a Legacy – will be free for veterans and their accompanying family members for the week of Veterans Day.

Historic Jamestown

Free admission to veterans, current Armed Forces members and their family members.

Battleship Cove

Free admission for all active duty, retired and reserve military personnel who show proof of service will be honored with free admission to Battleship Cove! Open 9 AM to 4:30 PM

Vicksburg National Military Park

Free admission for all November 9th-11th

Greenbay (WI) New Zoo

Free admission to veterans and their families.

Central Florida Zoo

Free admission to the Sanford, Florida zoo with proper ID.

Strategic Air & Space Museum

Free admission for Veterans Nov. 11th

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

In Oklahoma City offers free admission to veterans and six guests.

Natural Elements Spa & Salon

Veterans by offering 40% off any service for the week of Veterans Day

Westgate Resorts:

In recognition of the bravery and dedication of the valiant men and women returning from deployment, Westgate Resorts is proud to give away 1,000 three-day/two-night stays at Westgate River Ranch, an authentic Florida dude ranch. We understand it’s tough to be away from your loved ones while being deployed, so we want to help out by giving you a free vacation so you can reconnect and spend quality time with your family. Those Veterans who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and/or The War on Terror are eligible for the giveaway. If you did not serve in the above wars, you are still eligible for a discount of 25% off the Best Available Rate.

Des Moines, Iowa Botanical Gardens

Veterans and their families can enjoy free admission to the Des Moines Botanical Center in honor of Veterans Day!

Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo will offer free admission to military veterans and active-duty service members Friday through Monday. The Zoo will also provide free admission to spouses in the event the active-duty service member is deployed overseas.

Aquarium of the Bay San Francisco

Receive discounted tickets all year long with promotion code: VETTIX. Ticket Prices: $10 Military/Veteran Adult ($6.95 savings),$5 Child ($3.00 savings),$5 Senior ($3.00 savings). Restrictions: Good for up to 9 tickets. Groups of 10 or more must schedule a group visit.

Castle Park Riverside, CA

Buy a Duke’s Duo online ONLY for $9.99 (Savings of $6). Ticket valid for 11/11/13 only.

Sand Castle Waterpark in PA

Military member with their ID card will get a discount of $10 off the regular admission price, so instead of being $30.99 the ticket would become $20.99. Military family members with their ID cards will get a discount of $5 off the cost of a ticket, so the prices would be for family members $25.99 for general admission, $15.99 for children under 48″, and children three years and younger get in for free. The military members and family just need to show their ID’s at the gate to receive the discount.

Sun Splash Florida

Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branch, active members of a reserve or National Guard Unit and or up to 3 direct dependents.Must present valid, active-duty military/service ID; dependents ages 10 and over must present valid dependent ID. Valid for 1 complimentary single-day admission per person, per year.

Roaring Hills Wildlife Adventure in KS

15% military discount to all active, veterans and retired military. Just present your military id or VA card at the ticket office.

Oct 24

Lance Corporal Saves Fellow Marines Thousands of Dollars Through Innovative Program

Lance Corporal Vincent D Thomson Marine Corps Camp Hanson Swap Shop 300x200 Lance Corporal Saves Fellow Marines Thousands of Dollars Through Innovative Program

Lance Cpl. Vincent D. Thomson, left, receives a donation from Lance Cpl. Nikolas E. Foust Oct. 17 at the Swap Shop. The Swap Shop allows anyone to take any item from its shelves or donate items they no longer need. The store is located in the second floor storage room of Barracks 2667 on Camp Hansen. Thomson is from Wilmington, Vermont, and is a ground radio repairer with 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. Foust is from Macomb, Michigan, and is a heavy equipment operator with 7th Comm. Bn. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

Story by Lance Cpl. Isaac Ibarra

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan — More than 6,000 miles separates the U.S. and Okinawa, Japan. Marines are constantly moving to and from each country. With the limited space and numerous flights, extra luggage can increase their expenses and inability to comfortably move on a moment’s notice. Because of this, countless useful items get thrown away when Marines leave the island for their next duty station.

Lance Cpl. Vincent D. Thomson noticed a need to salvage these useful resources and took action. He came up with a donation program, Swap Shop, to put things normally discarded back into use.

Thomson arrived to Okinawa in March 2014, and after about two months of living in the barracks on Camp Hansen, he established the Swap Shop on the second floor of his building.

The Swap Shop operates on merit. Anyone can take anything from the shop, but they must donate something in return. The shop carries items ranging from board games and books to uniform items.

“A lot of my experiences before the Marine Corps involved being jobless and homeless,” said Thomson, 29 years old, from Wilmington, Vermont. “Resources were very scarce. It wasn’t easy to get a pair of boots without a job. I had to salvage a lot of things. When a pair of good shoes are being thrown away it triggers a lot of memories, so that was the key to my determination (to open Swap Shop).”

Thomson put in a lot of his personal time to implement the Swap Shop and plans to take it beyond his barracks.

“I’m trying to implement them in other barracks,” said Thomson. “It’s a slow and cumbersome process because it required a lot of my personal time. In order for me to make this one happen, I had to get people to like the idea by talking about the benefits and explaining how I’m going to be dependable when I do it.”

After the Swap Shop opened, Thomson noticed how beneficial it was for other Marines.

“One of the most rewarding examples of having the Swap Shop is when people come up to me and tell me how awesome it is, and how much they save money and help others financially through the donations,” said Thomson.

The shop is open Sunday afternoons and Monday through Friday in the evenings. Thomson routinely organizes new items to ensure the shop stays organized and easy to use.

“If we coordinated how we got rid of things, we can save everybody thousands of dollars,” said Thomson. “My ultimate goal is to have a Swap Shop in every barracks in the Marine Corps before I leave in three years.”

For those looking to participate, the Swap Shop is located at Camp Hansen Barracks 2667 in the second floor storage room.

Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/145933/lance-corporal-saves-fellow-marines-thousands-dollars-through-innovative-program#.VEpsNvnF8rU#ixzz3H4l5z3Ky

Oct 23

New YouTube and Military Song from Artist John Preston

In the words of John Preston…

“Ten years ago I was preparing to return from Iraq. I was trading in my rifle for a guitar with a hope to give our nations warriors an identity. At that point the media was not showing the great things we had accomplished; from opening schools to teaching an oppressed people to be strong defend theirselves. Ten years of our warriors boots on the ground (the many of us that gave our lives and the many of us that still suffer today) as we sacrificed for the Iraqi people and the better good of the world.

It was just months ago when I saw the first mass murder ISIS had posted on the internet… I was in tears as I realized what was happening…. These young men that were being shot in the back like pigs were once the children that had surrounded me and thanked me for their new school, playground, or the pack if skittles from my MRE. The young men that tens of thousands of us gave our lives for. The children that kept our hearts warm during the most trying hours of war!

I can no longer just watch this happen. Though I no longer hold my rifle at the ready, I refuse to allow our war to be forgotten! I refuse to accept that my brothers have died in vain. I pray you all stand with us as we ask the world around to do the right thing. This is not a protest…”

This IS War


If you like the song, you can purchase on iTunes. A substantial portion of the proceeds of this single and my upcoming album will go to Boot Campaign to help fight PTSD across America.

Marine Play Video New YouTube and Military Song from Artist John Preston

Oct 23

A Dark Horse Bond Like No Other: Grandfather, Grandson Serve in Same Battalion 50 Years Apart

Grandfather and Grandson serve in same Marine Corps Battalion 3 5 Darkhorse 300x192 A Dark Horse Bond Like No Other: Grandfather, Grandson Serve in Same Battalion 50 Years Apart

This photo illustration depicts Lance Cpl. Benjamin Ferry and his Grandfather, Richard T. Ferry, side-by-side while each was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Coincidentally, both Benjamin and Richard were assigned the same unit with more than 60 years’ difference in service time. Richard served with 3/5 during the Korean War, fighting in Inchon and at the Chosin Reservoir before being evacuated with two wounds suffered in combat. Benjamin is an automatic rifleman and is currently deployed aboard the USS Peleliu with India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

By Staff Sgt. Joseph DiGirolamo, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

USS PELELIU, At Sea — Lance Corporal Benjamin J. Ferry joined the Marine Corps because of his grandfather.

“My grandpa always said I could go in any branch, and die in any branch, but if I joined the Army he would shoot me tomorrow,” said Ferry, a 23 year-old from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. “I always wanted to be a Marine so that’s the way I chose to go.”

Richard Ferry, Benjamin’s grandfather, is a Marine combat veteran who served with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in the Korean War, fighting in Inchon and at the Chosin Reservoir.

“I encouraged [Ben] to join the Reserves and stay in college so he would have a good shot for a commission,” said Richard. “Like me, he didn’t pay any attention!”

Benjamin, who was working toward a Criminal Justice degree after high school, temporarily set his books aside to enlist in 2013.

“Infantry was the only option,” said Benjamin, an automatic rifleman currently deployed with Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “I wanted to be a trigger puller.”

His 83-year old grandfather, a Boston native, had different reasons for joining the Marines, but it would ultimately set a path for Benjamin to follow.

In April 1949, Richard was spending time with a high school classmate who was the son of Boston Red Sox chief scout Neal Mahoney. Neal would often take his son, Neal Jr., and Richard on scouting trips during the summer break. One day at Fenway Park, Richard and Neal Jr. met Ted Williams, the famous Major League Baseball player who served as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II. Neal Jr. was a pitcher in high school at the time, and Ted challenged him to throw some pitches from the mound.

“Neal took the mound and Ted belted a few balls out of the park and teased the hell out of Neal,” said Richard. “Afterwards he asked what we were doing in town. Neal admitted that we had caught the ride with his father because we wanted to go to the Federal Building to join the Naval Reserve, [mainly] so we could get an ID card and alter the date of birth [so] we could drink.”

The legal drinking age of Massachusetts was 21 (and still is).

“Of course Ted thought that was funny but he asked, ‘what are you, a couple of (wussies)? If you want to drink and be men, why don’t you join the Marine Corps like I did?’”

So, Richard and Neal Jr. took Ted’s advice and joined the Marine Corps’ Inactive Reserve. Later that year, Richard received a telegram ordering him to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

A year later he was with 3/5 fighting in the Korean War. He was wounded twice at Chosin Reservoir, first on November 27 and again on December 2, 1950. His second wound required an air evacuation from the small village of Hagaru-Ri, and after a series of flights, he eventually ended at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston. He would later receive two Purple Heart awards.

Richard later earned a commission and served in several challenging billets. His notable assignments include training officer, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island, South Carolina ; combat cargo officer on the USS Renville (APA-227); an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia; and a staff officer for Gen. David M. Shoup, the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps.

He resigned as a Captain in 1964 after 15 years of service.

More than 60 years after earning the eagle, globe, and anchor, Richard returned to Parris Island. This time it was to see his grandson, Benjamin, march across the depot’s Parade Deck as a new Marine.

Benjamin’s drill instructors learned about his grandfather’s story and they did not hesitate to introduce themselves after the graduation ceremony.

“Instead of the recruits getting to take pictures with their drill instructors,” said Benjamin, “the drill instructors all asked to get pictures with him.”

After boot camp, Benjamin attended the School of Infantry, East. While there he shared more stories of his grandfather to his Marine buddies.

Like the one about the tootsie roll Marines.

“The brevity for mortars in the Chosin Reservoir was ‘tootsies’,” said Benjamin. “[My grandfather told me that] some supply person dropped off tootsie rolls instead of mortar rounds.”

Although they did not receive the requested mortar rounds, it turns out the tootsie rolls were exactly what the Marines needed.

The blistering subzero temperatures froze a lot of the food rations.

“They kept [the tootsie rolls] on the inside of their parkas so they would soften up to chew on them while they marched out of the Chosin,” said Benjamin.

Another story was about the time his grandfather got into trouble just prior to the Korea War and had to report to his commanding officer. That commander was none other than Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller . While the encounter was short and to the point, it left an impression on Richard to steer clear of trouble in the future.

“[My] G unny overheard me telling some of the Marines that story,” said Benjamin. “He asked to have [my grandfather] be the guest speaker at my graduation.”

A few months later, his grandfather came through and was the guest speaker at the graduation .

The already strong bond between the two became stronger when Benjamin received orders to 3/5.

Now they can both say they are a “Dark Horse” Marine.

“I wanted to stay in the Carolinas because I was an East-coast boy, but I said if there was anywhere else I wanted to go, it was 3/5,” said Benjamin. “It was exciting for my grandfather when he found out. I don’t think he stopped smiling for a couple of days.”

“He was the only one in the group that went to 3/5,” said Richard. “It was only a coincidence, but I loved it!”

The Marines of BLT 3/5 know Benjamin has big shoes to fill, but it is the passion of his grandfather that pushes him to be a model Marine.

“It’s known around the platoon that his grandfather was a part of 3/5,” said Staff Sgt. Omar Martinez, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Company I, BLT 3/5. “[Benjamin] is extremely disciplined and eager to learn. He’s working his way to be a team leader and I’m confident he can fill in those shoes without question.”

While Benjamin serves with BLT 3/5 on deployment, Richard is also traveling the world. He is the President and Regulatory Affairs Manager for the Valjean Corporation. More impressive is that he is an avid runner and still competes in races of varying length across the globe, from 5Ks to half marathons. He recently signed up to compete in the Athens Marathon.

Notably, he was the oldest competitor to finish the 2014 Marine Corps 17.75K race. During the event, he wore a Dark Horse 3/5 shirt that read “Get Some” in honor of his old unit and grandson. He crossed the finish line waving a banner that read “The Chosin Few”.

“The 17.75k meant the most to him; he had some unfinished business,” said Benjamin.

Benjamin hopes to run a marathon with his grandfather soon after his tour with the 31st MEU, with both donning 3/5 t-shirts.

“He has always said ‘never stop: it’s going to be tough… but keep pushing, don’t ever stop,’” said Benjamin. “I can’t really argue with that because he was at the frozen Chosin.”

Benjamin is currently deployed with Co. I, BLT 3/5, 31st MEU, aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) in support of the annual Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

Oct 22

Travel Regulation Changes Affect PCS Moves, Travelers

Moving Truck 300x157 Travel Regulation Changes Affect PCS Moves, TravelersBy Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2014 – Big changes are happening with the Joint Travel Regulations, and they could affect your next permanent-change-of-station move or how you are reimbursed for temporary duty assignments.

As of July 25, Army uniformed and civilian travelers are directed to use their government travel credit cards for PCS moves, Harvey Johnson, the director of the Defense Travel Management Office said today.

The Air Force has a similar policy already in place, Johnson said, and the Marine Corps is preparing to implement its own administrative message regarding use of the government travel card for permanent changes of station. “The Navy is conducting a pilot [program] to use the card for PCS, so I believe it’s imminent for all the services,” he noted.

The change applies to both uniformed and civilian personnel in each of the services, Johnson said.

“Ultimately, we want to extend this initiative to all federal civilians and uniformed members, because at the end of the day, we believe it’s the right thing for our cardholders,” he said.

Reducing the fiscal burden for movers

By using the government travel card, movers no longer are forced to pay out of pocket for moving expenses, Johnson said. The new policy also generates a number of other benefits, including eliminating the need to apply for advance travel pay and reducing the chance of becoming delinquent on a personal credit card.

“We want to make sure that people still have it within their budget to continue to travel,” he said, “but we’ve got to travel smarter, more efficiently and try to return money back to the Department of Defense.”

Every time travelers use their government travel card, their service receives a rebate, Johnson said. A 5 percent increase in usage across the department generates an 11 percent rebate, he said, adding that “services get that money back in their budgets, … a return on investment that we need during sequestration.”

Additionally, using a government travel card allows the department to understand how travelers are spending, Johnson said. “And that allows us to negotiate better rates, whether it’s with the rental car companies or amenities with hotels,” he added.

Authorized moving expenses

Just about any moving-related expense is authorized, Johnson said. “So, if you think of the big categories, there’s air, there’s rail, there’s rental cars, then you have things like lodging, meals and other travel-related expenses,” he said.

The Joint Travel Regulations and the Joint Federal Travel Regulations were consolidated into one regulation on Oct. 1, so all travelers now have one volume to refer to for questions about official travel, Johnson said.

An extensive list of authorized expenses can be found at Appendix G of the Joint Travel Regulations, he said, which is available at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm. Travelers also can call the Travel Assistance Center at 1-888-HELP1GO, which is open 24/7, Johnson added.

Incidental expense definition changing

An expanded definition of what constitutes incidental expenses during official travel went into effect Oct. 1, he said. The change will save the department about $18 million annually, Johnson said.

Per diem payments are made up of lodging, meals and, for travelers in the continental United States, a $5 daily incidental payment. The definition of what qualifies as an incidental expense — which travelers are expected to pay for from that $5 daily payment — now includes ATM fees, baggage tips for uniformed personnel and, within the continental United States, laundry expenses, Johnson said.

“These were previously expenses that were miscellaneous reimbursable expenses,” he noted.

The expanded definition will affect only a few travelers, Johnson said, and no one should end up paying out of pocket. For example, only about 13 percent of travelers were claiming ATM fees, he said, and they averaged out to about 76 cents per day, well under the flat $5 daily incidentals payment.

“This incentivizes people to plan ahead,” Johnson said. “Should you make an ATM withdrawal? Certainly, if it’s necessary. Should you make one every day? I would offer there’s probably a better way to plan for that.”

If travelers find their average incidental expenses are in excess of the incidentals payment, they should contact their approving authority to ensure actual expenses are authorized on their travel orders.

Mission-related expenses continue to be reimbursable, and should not be confused with incidental expenses, he noted.

“So, if my mission calls for … [me] to do certain things — make an extraordinary amount of phone calls using the hotel phone, or other mission-type expenses — they are still reimbursable,” Johnson said. Travelers should still ensure that their approving authority has approved such expenses, he added.

Behind the policy decision

The travel management office used three guiding principles when considering these policy changes, Johnson said.

First, do no harm — reducing costs to the government shouldn’t come at the expense of travelers, he explained.

Second, Johnson said, “We’re looking to fairly compensate travelers for expenses occurred.”

And third, use data to test and back up recommendations. “I truly believe the data tells the narrative. As you start to look at the data from prior years, … the picture becomes quite clear on what sort of travel solutions are out there,” he said.

Oct 22

Bronze Star Awarded Posthumously to Marine for Valor in Combat

By Cpl. Tiffany Edwards, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

Erin Vasselian Sgt Daniel Bronze Star Awarded Posthumously to Marine for Valor in Combat

Erin Vasselian holds a Bronze Star Medal following a ceremony where her husband, Sgt. Daniel Vasselian, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Oct. 13, in front of the American Legion’s Lewis V. Dorsey Post 112 War Memorial in Abington, Mass. Daniel was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for combat actions while on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Erin Vasselian, and parents, Karen and Mark Vasselian, each were presented with medals during the ceremony. Daniel was killed in action Dec. 23, 2013 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

ABINGTON, Massachusetts — “He was killed stepping out of a doorway so someone else didn’t have to,” said Sgt. Christopher Leonard, the former first fire team leader for 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. “He would never let someone else put their life on the line when they didn’t have to.”

Sgt. Daniel Vasselian is remembered by his Marines as a grunt’s grunt, according to Leonard. He was professional and tough with his Marines, while still being approachable and maintaining strong relationships with his men. Vasselian’s wife, Erin, remembers him as the one who gave her strength.

“Throughout our town, he was known as the guy who could make everyone laugh,” said Erin Vasselian. “When we lost Danny, the world lost a great Marine and I lost my rock.”

Reserve Marines of Company B, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, in Abington, Massachusetts presented Vasselian’s family with the Bronze Star medal Oct. 13, 2014.

Vasselian was the 2nd squad leader for 1st Plt., B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines when they deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom Sept. 25, 2013. During the deployment, Vasselian led his squad in three heliborne operations and 10 combat patrols over the course of two months.

According to the award citation, on Dec. 23, 2013, Vasselian led his unit while under heavy machine gun fire to support an adjacent unit that was pinned down. Leonard fought alongside Vasselian and witnessed him entering the line of enemy fire to signal their unit’s position to advancing support elements. Vasselian was killed during his efforts. Later, his unit nominated him for a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The request was returned by II MEF, with the order to nominate Vasselian for a Bronze Star instead.

“He definitely deserved it, that’s who he was and he completely earned it,” said Leonard. “He had character. He had a great personality, was a savvy infantryman, and he was everything a grunt should aspire to be.”

For Sgt. Aaron Alonso, a former squad leader in 2nd Plt., B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines, the memory of Vasselian’s legacy and support from the Vasselian family helped him through rehabilitation from grievous injuries he received just two months after Vasselian’s death. Alonso lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while on a combat patrol on Feb. 8, 2013. Alonso and Vasselian met during training at the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry, and were friends until his death in 2013.

“As long as I’ve known him, for eight years, he’s always been the Marine who would pick you up when you were down,” Alonso said. “He was the best guy at his shop. He always had a smile on his face.”

The Marines of B Co., 1st Bn., 9th Marines were thrilled when they learned Vasselian was earning a Bronze Star.

“All the Marines in 1st Bn., 9th Marines believe he absolutely deserves that Bronze star, and there was no greater honor than serving with that guy,” Alonso said. “He was always there for me, and for his Marines. He never shut anyone out.”

For Erin Vasselian, the circumstances of her husband’s death and subsequent award came as no surprise to her and his family.
“He was dedicated to his job, and he told me that his job was to protect his men,” she said. “That’s just how Danny was. He just wanted to make sure his men made it out ok.”

She added that while the loss of her husband still hurts, his Bronze Star and the support the Vasselian family has received from their community and the Marines Corps reminds her that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

“We are so proud he was awarded this medal,” she said. “There’s nothing that can put a price on his life, but the fact that he has been commemorated through this award and in our community means so much to us as his family. We’re so happy he will be remembered for his actions.”

According to Vasselian’s father, Mark, this Bronze Star serves as a source of pride and comfort for the Vasselian family, but their loss remains very close to their hearts.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of my son, knowing about his achievements with the United States Marine Corps, and knowing what he’s done for our country,” Mark Vasselian said. “It’s bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m very proud of him. On the other hand, living without him has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

First Sgt. Shane Dillon, company first sergeant for B Co., 1st Bn., 25th Marines was the primary casualty assistance call officer assigned to Vasselian’s family, and was one of the Marines who was tasked with notifying them of his death. Almost a year later, Dillon was able to present the Vasselian family with their fallen Marine’s Bronze Star.

“Having been there to present that award, I’m glad that we were able to recognize that Marine’s efforts,” Dillon said. “The Vasselians are a great family with a great dynamic and support network. Especially after the experience of being the CACO assigned to the case, presenting this award was one of the most rewarding things I have been able to do in this capacity.”

As Operation Enduring Freedom winds down, Vasselian, along with the 458 Marines* who have laid their lives down for their nation during OEF, continue to be remembered for their sacrifice. While he is unable to witness the outcome of his actions, Vasselian’s valor in combat serves to inspire a new generation of Marines, who put their lives on the line to uphold the highest traditions of their Corps.

Oct 20

36th Commandant General Dunford’s Message to all Marines

Marines, I am truly honored and humbled to serve as your Commandant. I’d like to begin my tenure by thanking General and Mrs. Amos for their four decades of extraordinary service and commitment. They transition to the next phase of their lives with the admiration, appreciation, and affection of all Marines and their families.

The Marine Corps is in great shape. We are recruiting and retaining high quality Marines who are fit, tough, and smart. Our Marines are well led, well trained, and well equipped. The infrastructure at our posts and stations — our barracks, family housing and training facilities — has been significantly enhanced over the past decade.

We remain forward deployed and forward engaged in the Pacific, South America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Just in the last year, we have responded to crisis in the Philippines, South Sudan, Libya, and Iraq. In Afghanistan, we have remained engaged in combat operations. We have clearly demonstrated our flexibility, versatility, and adaptability. Marines are relevant and in high demand.

We have answered the call and we have delivered! Throughout the last decade, Marines have enhanced their reputation as the Nation’s premier force in readiness. Today’s Marines, like their predecessors, can be very proud to claim the title United States Marine.

Despite these accomplishments, much work remains to be done. As Marines, we maintain the highest standards and we constantly seek to improve. We will continue to attack by:

  • Maintaining a first-rate, well-trained total force of Marines in a high state of readiness.
  • Prioritizing the support of those Marines in harm’s way.
  • Developing and fielding MAGTF capabilities that will ensure that the Marine Corps remains an innovative,
    relevant, naval, expeditionary force-in-readiness.
  • Building upon our success in leader development, professional military education, wounded warrior care,
    and family readiness.

Our Corps is informed by your input. I will continue to engage with Marines of all grades to solicit feedback. Your ideas will help us improve our warfighting and crisis response capabilities and provide the foundation for detailed Commandant’s Planning Guidance in the New Year.

Know that I’m extraordinarily proud to stand in your ranks.
Thanks for who you are and what you do.
Continue to march…

Check out the official 239th Video featuring the Marine Corps Birthday Message.

239th Birthday Video Happy Birthday Marines from General Dunford 36th Commandant of the USMC  300x181 36th Commandant General Dunfords Message to all Marines

Oct 20

Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders Coalition

Kids Stakeholders Coalition 1024x501 Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders CoalitionInitial Response: “Study on Health Care and Related Support for Children of Members of the Armed Forces”
September 2014


On July 15, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the Honorable Jessica L. Wright, submitted a Report analyzing pediatric health care coverage under TRICARE to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The Report, commonly referred to as the “TRICARE for Kids (TFK) Report,” was a requirement of Section 735 of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), directing the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of health care provided to dependent children of members of the Armed Forces.

The TRICARE for Kids Stakeholders Coalition, consisting of pediatric provider organizations, military and veterans’ service organizations, disability groups and military families, has been working since January 2013 for the purposes of providing input to the Department of Defense (DoD) on its provision of healthcare to our military children and coordinating next steps. The Coalition appreciates that its feedback and recommendations were included for consideration in the TFK Report and has asked Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Chuck Hagel, to also incorporate the feedback into the recently directed 90 day review of the military health system.

While each organization has its own perspective and priority issue areas, in order to provide an easy-to-reference summary and response to the TFK Report, the Coalition has compiled the following from analyses, concerns and reactions collected from partner organizations and military families.


The TFK Report concluded that the Military Health System (MHS) is meeting the needs of children in its care—including those with special health care needs—as specifically addressed under each of the nine elements listed in Section 735. This overall finding is not surprising, as this Report was an internal review conducted by the Defense Health Agency (DHA), which administers the TRICARE program.

Although the Report concluded that TRICARE was meeting the needs of children, it also acknowledges in every element of the study that there are significant “gaps,” “areas for clarification” and considerable deficiencies in data collection, utilization and analysis. These findings might be better described as “areas in need of improvement.” These gaps and findings align with many of the areas identified and recommendations made by Coalition partners to the DoD for consideration in preparing the Report. Those areas are ripe for and in need of immediate attention. TFK stakeholders are pleased that the Report acknowledges areas of concern and urges action in a timely and collaborative manner.

An overarching theme woven throughout the Report is the lack of data and meaningful utilization of data, or inability to collect data, which then limits the analysis in many of the elements examined. Many areas, such as specialty care, the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program, care management and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), lack sufficient data to support the DoD’s conclusion that it is providing adequate care and support, particularly to military families with special needs. This lack of data and appropriate analysis is consistent with a recent New York Times article “In Military Care, a Pattern of Errors but Not Scrutiny,” published on June 28, 2014. The Coalition aligns itself with the comments of Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in a follow-up to the New York Times investigation:

“The people we serve expect us to improve. The American public expects us to improve. We expect ourselves to improve.” Woodson called for greater attention to patient safety and more openness about problems in treatment. “In moments like these, it can be easy to close down,” he said. “We need to do the opposite. We need to become even more transparent.”
In each of the nine areas of the Report, the TFK Coalition identifies substantial opportunities for the DHA and the DoD to work with the Congress and stakeholders to collect better data, increase transparency, enhance safety and institute changes to improve TRICARE for one of our most valuable resources, our military children.

Click to Download the Rest of the Report Now

Kids Stakeholders Coalition Complete Report.jpg Tricare for Kids: A Response by Kids Stakeholders Coalition



Oct 17

Marine Survives Sniper Headshot By Inches In Afghanistan

This video has gone viral and shows footage of a Marine peering out from behind cover. The Marine survives a non-fatal headshot by Taliban sniper in Afghanistan. Luckily the bullet only hit his helmet and didnt caused fatal damages. His other squadmembers also had luck the bullet didnt hit one of them. Notable is how calm they reacted to the shot. The attack was recorded on an helmet camera during a joint helicopter raid in the Now Zad district, Helmand Province.


Marine shot in helmet 300x155 Marine Survives Sniper Headshot By Inches In Afghanistan

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