Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski always knew he wanted to serve in the Marine Corp. So, shortly after graduation, he made arrangements to do just that. Ziolkowski was deployed to the Middle East. A 2001 graduate of the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, he had developed strong ties to the community while growing up and attending school. Ziolkowski flourished wherever he was and the military was no exception. Ziolkowski was assigned to the Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.While in that position, he witnessed a lot of horrendous events, but still, amidst it all, he remained a pillar of strength until the day he passed away, in active duty. Although his details of his death are unknown, on his Arlington Cemetery page it is stated that “they said they did not know the details of his death, but they believe he had led his squad into heavy combat several times in Fallujah before he was lost.” As friends, family and those who mentored Ziolkowski grieved the loss of him, preparations to honor Cpl. Nick Ziolkowski began. His mother, Tracy Miller is a Towson University academic advisor and begun to use the connection of the school, which Ziolkowski was planning on attending upon his arrival. Ziolkowski’s legacy lives on. His mother set up a scholarship in her son’s honor, which to present date have supplied over $30,000 in academic assistance. The Nick Ziolkowski Memorial Endowment has issued more than $30,000 in scholarships since the first $900 annual award was granted in 2008, according to university officials. This year’s award will be $5,000, divided between two students. And this year, it’s a little bit different because the American Legion is going to help honor Ziolkowski’s legacy. Towson American Legion member John Ruffer said the veterans organization often holds fundraisers to help the community. The group voted recently to donate $500 to the endowment fund, but members decided it wasn’t enough and reached out to Towson University’s Student Veterans Group to find out what else could be done. They have decided to also open up the Legion without charge and create a fundraiser during Superbowl Sunday for the endowment fund. “Now we [can] build community awareness to the scholarship and hopefully gain some support for our veterans,” Ruffer said. “They have already earned it.”From his Arlington National Cemetery webpage, the following is said about Ziolkowski: Ziolkowski was a team leader and scout sniper, said his family members, who gathered yesterday at his mother's Towson home. They said they did not know the details of his death, but they believe he had led his squad into heavy combat several times in Fallujah before he was lost.Family and friends remembered Ziolkowski as an intensely patriotic young man, one who began planning for his military service in ninth grade and left for active duty in the Marines the morning after high-school graduation. They said he firmly believed he could help make the world a better place. "He loved his country more than any person I know that age," said Baltimore City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who taught Ziolkowski and his older brother Peter U.S. history at Boys' Latin. "I don't think I could be any prouder of Nick." For more information you can read: or
Every veteran faces challenges upon arrival and Joshua Eckhoff is not an exception. While serving during one of his tours in Iraq, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. This was due to an improvised explosive device which made contact with the vehicle that Eckhoff was riding in. “The projectile concaved my Kevlar helmet into the right side of my skull. And they had to surgically remove it,’’ he said. The right hemisphere of my brain was injured, so my injuries are very similar to a stroke. I can't use the left side of my body very well.” Eckhoff shares. The result was an injury so severe, his comrades thought he has passed away and proceeded to share that information with his family back home.““I call that my ‘alive day,’ ’’ said Eckhoff, 33. “The anniversary of my injury every year, we celebrate it like a birthday.” And this past “alive day” is especially one to celebrate. As of December, Eckhoff graduated with honors from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In terms of growth and recovery, how far he has come certainly comes as a surprise. Eckhoff joined the Missouri Army National Guard while still in high school. His 18th birthday was spent during his first tour of duty in Iraq. At 23, he suffered his life-altering injury. Eckhoff has been awarded a Bronze star as well as a Purple heart.  A decade ago, Eckhoff started his treatment at Minneapolis VA Medical Center, which has the capabilities to help patients with debilitating brain injuries. After Eckhoff awoke from a medically induced coma, he was faced with the only option had: to relearn everything he knew. That can be an emotional process as much as a physical one and Eckhoff began to suffer the effects of depression. Therapy was a grueling process, one that exacerbated his struggles and taught him so much about his body and the way his life would now be. As he shifted expectations and perspectives, he realized what he was able to use: his voice. “It's taken a lot of time for me to feel like I can speak confidently,’’ he said. “But I always told myself these abilities were retained for a reason. I've got to find a way to use them to the best of my ability.” Eckhoff went on to realize that his duty is now to share about his experiences to the best of his ability and knowledge. From interviews, to being a spokesman with the Joshua Chamberlain Society, a local St. Louis nonprofit, to talking to the public whenever possible, Eckhoff has maintained a presence that serves other people since leaving the Army. “It's hard for me to really fathom what my life could have been like had I not been injured because at this point, it's what I live,’’ he said. “I came home after my injury and a number of my friends already had jobs and they were building families and it's almost like my life was ‘pause’ and then ‘reset.’ It's been trying to view my experiences through the lens of my peers’ experiences, and I constantly have to remind myself that I have my own journey. I never really intended to live the lives these people did because from day one I knew I wanted to serve.’’ As he began to set new goals, college was a part of them, but it happened to be different take than originally thought.   Eckhoff has consistently remolded the way his life is going to be and while taking it by the stride is frustrating at times, it carries the weight of growth and responsibility. He now encourages everyone to engage with a service member.
Daniel Lister is happy to be alive. The veteran lost a leg in Afghanistan which propelled his life to change from the inside out. Lister grew up as a military kid and always knew that military was going to be part of his life, just not sure what the capacity was going to be. As he was growing up, like most young adults, he didn’t know exactly what it was that he wanted to do. He looked to the military as an answer to the age old question. He joined in 2002. He states that “The reality of it is that I got married super young, … “I had to figure out a way to pay bills. I needed medical insurance, because I started having babies. The only way I could do that is through the military. I knew that was how I could pay my bills.” And then, circumstances made is more feasible for Lister to enlist. “I have a GED. ... When 9/11 happened, it made it easier for me to join, because they started accepting people with GEDs again,” Lister says. “They knew we were going to war, and I joined in February [2002].” Lister ended up doing four tours in the Middle East (three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan), and it made him feel alive in a way that he couldn’t capture back home in Georgia. His accident happened in his last tour of Afghanistan. “After a bad step, it blew me up. I never lost consciousness during the event. I remember every detail of it. My foot was gone immediately after the explosion. My right leg was ripped from my ankle to my hip.” “Once I got to the aid station in Afghanistan, I don’t remember anything else,” he says. “I think they had me in a medically induced coma. They had to perform a ridiculous amount of surgeries just to stabilize me. With my injuries, by all accounts, I should be dead. It’s a miracle that I’m up and walking. I got blown up on June 2 and I hit Stateside on June 3. After losing one of his limbs in Afghanistan, he knew that the military was not going to be an option any longer. Lister began to forge his new path with footwear. During his treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he had time to think about what he wanted for his life. After arriving back in his home state, he struggled with drugs and alcohol. After getting sober, he chose to collect shoes and make that a source of happiness and income. “I started posting sneakers that I was wearing everyday on my Instagram, then it started to take off. A lot of people feel shame about [having a prosthetic]. They think it’s ugly. “What really hits me is when these kids reach out to me who have cancer or have gone through a tragic accident. They say, ‘You make it OK for me to be this way.’ Those messages are the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. That was never my intent, it was just about, ‘Here are the kicks I’m wearing today, what do y’all think?’”   Although Lister has always appreciated shoes, It’s amazing to see that such a minute thing like shoes can bring such purpose, hope and love. As well as relationships, which is one of the things that Lister holds closest to him. The relationships are like gold to Lister. “This sneakerhead community has given me my life back, to some extent,” he says. “It’s made me feel whole again. My friendships that I have now are worth more than my entire sneaker collection to me.”
When you graduate high school, you have a choice on what next steps are. Among those are taking a gap year, you can serve in the military (once you’re 18), you can enroll in college. Those who decide to serve in the military, whichever conjunction it may be at: the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard, opportunities abound. When you are part of serving in the military, financial incentives towards retirement is something to consider before you make a final decision. The US military is switching things up when it comes to helping military personnel saving for their retirement years. The update is something that Pentagon officials are calling “the biggest update for military pension and benefits since World War II” which is something to behold. Of course, that does that mean that this change will affect anyone that is currently serving in the military and those who choose to do so in the future. The new retirement program is called the "Blended Retirement System" or "BRS" which is a hybrid system. It considers a pension plan alongside a program that is similar to 401 k which is a standard program. This program was implemented January 1, 2018. However, if you served for a dozen years or more prior to January 2018, the former legacy plan still stands for them. The former system was this: if you stay in the military for two decades, you would potentially be able to receive half of their base pay for retirement. Most would not stay for twenty years, though, which has altered their retirement plans. Jeri Busch, director of military compensation policy for the U.S. Department of Defense, reminded readers that in non military jobs, employees take with them a retirement benefit package which is crucial. This change leaves 1.6 million current active duty, Reserve and National Guard members in a lurch of sorts until they figure out what they want to do in regards of retirement. It is not all challenging news to bear, however. Once a decision is made in terms of retirement programs, the legacy one or the Blended Retirement System, military personnel can then help you decipher which is best for you. For example, if you know beyond a shadow of doubt that you are going to stay at least twenty years, John Bird, senior vice president of military affairs at USAA, shares that switching programs may not serve you well. There are training programs for those who may want input as they plan for their future. Cpl. Zachary Beckman, a 23-year-old government contractor who is also in the Marine Corps Reserves has taken the mandatory financial classes to make the wisest decisions he can for his future. You can find more information about these programs and retirement plans alike and make the best decision for you.
Native Americans have a longstanding tradition in serving in the American military system. Are you surprised? Given the history between the two groups, it’s understandable why you might be. The number of Native Americans who have served in the United States military is actually higher per capita rate than any other ethnic group. They have served since the Revolutionary War. Patriotism is a trait that is passed down through the generations with the Native American community. The National Museum of the American Indian is the planned site for a memorial honoring Native American veterans. Rebecca Trautmann, is the project curator of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. She states that …many see their patriotism, as inextricably connected with the land itself, … “They have described an inherited responsibility to protect their homeland, their families, their communities and their traditional way of life,” she said. It’s incredibly important for those who are non Native Americans to realize and understand the significance of their actions. Debra Kay Mooney, a Choctaw who is a veteran of the Iraq War, puts it this way: “Our ancestors are the very groundwork of the United States because we died here first. It’s our ancestors’ bones and marrow that has degraded into the ground that is actually in the roots and the tops of the tallest trees. . . . We needed to protect our ancestors’ bones.” And that is something anyone should understand as heritage and family are two motivators to get things done, especially if it’s to honor a lost family member. Over 31,000 Native American men and women are on active duty, and more than 140,000 veterans identify as Native Americans or Alaska Natives. Typically, they are celebrated in their own communities, with ceremonies and warrior societies that help them when they return from service. The memorial is something to behold. Although the funding has been approved for decades, it will not be available to peruse until Veterans Day 2020. The memorial must “encompass the vast array of tribes (567 are federally recognized) yet specific enough that veterans and their families will recognize themselves and their stories.” It also must include the spiritual realm to some extent and to include women.Those who are in committees honoring Native Americans and our military have been very happy about what is to come for their communities. From the monument actually being constructed, to respecting those who fought and lost their lives, to maintaining history, this truly is something that will be amazing to witness firsthand. You can read more here:
Army veteran Tyler Wilson is getting a chance to broaden his horizons after receiving the gift of a vehicle that aids mobility. This is all due to the non profit Quality Life Plus who was able to work with the Colorado School of Mines. The sizable donation has been put into good use with the mission of creating “adaptive devices and technologies to push performance limits for disabled athletes.” And for Wilson especially, it breeds new hope. Wilson was injured in Afghanistan in 2005, becoming a paraplegic, but with the use of a sit-ski is an avid skier. Mechanical engineering students are designing a wagon-style system that would assist Wilson in transporting his sit-ski, independently, to and from ski lifts. The funds will buy equipment for measuring, prototyping and fabricating innovative, custom devices to boost the independence of injured veterans, said Joel Bach, director of Mines’ Human Centered Design Studio.” Such support creates confidence and builds a person up and allows them to see their full potential.  This donation has changed the game of helping veterans with mobility after a life altering injury. Wilson has served our country proudly and has a family that he likes to spend time with them and make the most of the opportunities. Wilson truly believes that this opportunity will “open new doors for me,” and has changed his perspective and given him more independence. Wilson was wheelchair bound after a bullet that became lodged in the spine when he was serving in Afghanistan in 2005. After being introduced to the notion of adaptive sports, one that Wilson connected with hand cycling among the Colorado’s mountains. That’s when Mines stepped in and joined efforts for veterans that are currently immobilized to help them bridge the gaps that was created throughout their injury. Another facet of this program is involving students! Their involvement creates a sense of purpose that is cultivated in the younger generation and any progress will only further what is to come. This donation has the power to change lives of those injured, their families and the course of preventive measures. The lab itself works with advancements in science. For example, once your blood type is recognized those working in the lab “the lab now uses 3-D technology to better analyze the body types of the veterans to make devices that suit each individual, Bach said. “Everybody is different, and everyone has different needs. We just don’t want to take a one-size-fits-all approach to something so important.” And that’s a game changer and gives those in need the opportunity to grow and flourish.
British photographer Jason Larkin has traveled to various countries, including Vietnam and Cuba photographing military museums. This venture was born out of curiosity how countries with brutal pasts have come to terms with that fact while honoring their history. Although different countries offer varied perspectives, as does art. Larkin embraces movies like Dr Strangelove or Thunderbirds, which explain that rememberance is in a way that is enigmatic. In Larkin’s opinion, he believes that “It’s too easily sanitised,” says Larkin. “There should be much more context and nuance.” You can represent a history that brings pain to learn about in a way that is not inherently political. Art opens doors for conversation and debate, but one doesn’t need to conjecture and make a hardship out of something that doesn’t need to be trifled with negative attention and pain. He goes on to say. “I didn’t want to make too much of a commentary on propaganda,” he tells BBC Culture. “What I became interested in was what really reinforces this view on history and what makes the public think that it’s true – the ways in which this history is being presented, the aesthetic choices being made by the curators and the museum staff.” And that is precisely why you should revel in this art piece as it is not one with a secret (or not so) agenda. Each country Larkin visited he was able to witness that poured their culture in their art and presented their pain and hardships in a unique lense. There is a complex narrative in the way each country transforms their history. However, he does go on to concede that. “It’s just a select few people at the top who get to decide on how museums are going to look,” he says. “There are a lot of people in the countries I’ve visited who would not agree with what’s in their museums – it’s just what the state or one rich influential group or the army want to say.” And that’s an important distinction. The goal is for people to embrace humanity and realize that their actions and thoughts and who they are matter in a world that seems to go dark, when violent brokenness is seen. It shows a journey and one that isn’t only full of struggle but one of hope and love. You will be able to see Larkin’s art soon. As noted in this article, his current series can be seen at London’s Flowers Gallery now, has put much focus on how these museums put together their displays.” Find out more information at
Veteran healthcare is such a complex issue and among all the changes in legislature, traumatic situations may arise and color the way veterans see healthcare. And when that happens, it is the family’s right to receive retribution for unfortunate outcomes that didn’t have to come to be. And one Tamoca area family is grieving the loss of their family member, and a lawsuit has come out of this loss. George Walker was 75 when he died at home July 1, 2016. He was about a week shy of surgery at the local VA hospital - Puget Sound Health Care System for a new heart valve. The veteran also received service at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center. The surgery was delayed and if the procedure was taken care of sooner, Walker may very well could have had a very different outcome. His wife has sued, as she believes that the timing of the medical procedures could have helped lengthen her husband’s life. His livelihood was cut unnecessarily  short. Peggy Walker added that, her husband served in the Air Force from 1959 to 1967. He was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.Walker held a commanding presence in so many people’s lives. For nearly three decades, he worked as a foreman at a Seattle warehouse, where he gained the respect with anyone he worked with. His family adored him and the loss resonates clearly with his family and friends. Walker’s wife’s lawsuit states that her husband, George Walker, called the VA’s American Lake Division on June 20, 2016 to try to see a doctor. He was experiencing shortness of breath and pain in his chest and his doctor told him to go to urgent care. Once there the next day, he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a hereditary narrowing of his aortic valve. He was assigned a surgery date nearly two weeks later. Walker did pass away before surgery. His wife believes that medical officials withheld lifesaving information. Jessica Holman Duthie, the attorney representing the Walker family states that “They (medical officials) absolutely shouldn’t have sent him home,” and the fact they didn’t is rightfully a sore spot. The VA Puget Sound did release a statement. There stated that ““mourns the loss of every Veteran. While VA does not typically comment on pending litigation, VA Puget Sound’s wait times at both our Seattle and Tacoma locations are better, on average, than local non-VA hospitals as we are continually striving to improve our service and efficiency.” It is a sadness and a hardship to go through when a death that could be prevented. It is one of life’s tragedies. You can find more information about this case at
Anderson University is fusing education and kindness together by intertwining the two in their students’ studies. Ron Aderhold, a U.S. Army veteran earning a Bachelor of Business Administration, Health Care management class of 2017, is working on his Masters also at Anderson University. Over the summer, Aderhold participated in an internship with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans as a requirement for his degree. It was there when he realized that he realized how much of a social issue homelessness is and how simple it was to lend a hand to those in need. He was based in Washington DC and he noticed that the issue was particularly prevalent, as he became aware that the homeless men, women, and children lacked proper bedding. Once he noticed the issue, Aderhold took it on himself to work with similar organizations to bring in proper necessities for those in need. Operation Bedroll was on its way to become an option for those in need, thanks to other organizations and Aderhold’s drive and passion for the project. The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars became one of the first organizations to help as it had a surplus of comfortable bedding as those who used their service often left it there for the center to do with what it will. As the project got underway, on each floor at the center, you can find a place to deposit a donation of clean and comfortable bedding for those struggling to find the essentials. "When you're living in a room with six other people, having something new and all your own makes you feel like a human being," Aderhold said. “And in less than a year, Operation Bedroll has given gently-used bedding and cleaning supplies to about 600 veterans in the D.C. area.” Kathryn Monet, chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, commented that Ron Aderhold was "hands down the most motivated and engaging intern we have ever hosted," Monet said in a letter of recommendation for him. "He just took the initiative and ran with it," Monet said. "He put together this entire initiative, set up a drop-off center..." The operation is already looking to expand to other cities as soon as it is feasible. Aderhold looks at this operation as giving back. He was a United States Army Sergeant from 1988-1992. He was able to receive benefits but for decades chose to not to utilize them, citing pride as the main reason for his choice. Ultimately, he realizes helping the homeless is the right thing to do.
Saturday’s annual “Wreaths Across America” event at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies honored veterans. The tradition is in its’ twelfth year and takes place in four national cemeteries across the United States. “It’s overwhelming to see all these supporters,” said cemetery director Ronald Hestdalen. “It’s a sign of appreciation for veterans and their sacrifices.” Rocky Bleier is a former professional American football player as well as a veteran. He’s been the recipient of four Superbowl rings during his football career and during his military career, he obtained a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. His football accolades paled in comparison on Saturday as he approached the gravesite of Andrew Hawes, a staff sergeant in World War II. Hawes passed away in 2013, at home at the age of 94. Bleier was one out of approximately 3000 others that stopped by the cemetery to give respects to those who’ve fallen serving our country. Each veterans has their our personal story and Beleir is no different. During the time he served in the Vietnam War, Belier lost a foot due to a grenade. It is increasingly important to give proper recognition to those who fought for our country and paid the ultimate price. Their lives and what they left behind: their personal stories, friendships and families are one of the few things that have helped leave an impact and propel future generations to realize what was the cost of freedom. Since 2009, when Hestdalen arrived at the cemetery to be the director, attendance for the event had been somewhere between 300 and 400 people who put wreaths on gravesites. Now, the crowds and appreciation loomed larger. This year, the cemetery had a wreath for each of its more than 10,100 gravesites. Not only is this remarkable, it is simply comforting that the effort is more far reaching than it was a decade or so ago. The cost for the event is covered by many donors, but one of the most recognizable ones in the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a statement, team president Art Rooney II said the gift was intended to honor “a sacrifice that will always be remembered with gratitude and reverence.” As they should be.