Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II is not your average painter. He paints boulder-sized rocks ranging from 1 to 12 feet tall. These “Freedom Rocks” honor United States war veterans.
I recently interviewed Sorensen in Pottawattamie County, in my home state of Iowa. He said that he originally planned to paint a Freedom Rock in all 50 states. Sorensen still hopes to achieve that ambitious goal. But for now, his focus is to paint a rock in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. He started in his hometown of Greenfield, Iowa, offering an example for others to see.
A 1998 movie about World War II, Saving Private Ryan, inspired Sorensen to start his Freedom Rock tour. “I felt lucky that that was as close to war that I would get,” Sorensen said. “So I wanted to say thank you to the veterans.”
For Sorensen, painting felt like the best way to honor our veterans. “I didn’t paint much as a kid, but I loved to draw,” he said. He learned to paint in college and that is when he decided to become an artist.
In 1999, at the age of 19, Sorensen started painting the original Freedom Rock. He repaints the original rock every year with a new picture.
TELLING VETERANS’ STORIES
Each Freedom Rock has an American flag on top and patriotic pictures. Sorensen said that he tries to include “specific stories of local veterans in each painting.”
Sometimes, Sorensen is even able to include ashes from veterans in the paint for the rocks. Each county rock takes 7 to 10 days to finish, while the larger state rocks take up to two weeks to paint.
Continue onto Scholastic to read more about Freedom Rocks and when it will go on tour.
Stuck at work on Memorial Day Monday? Here are some ways to celebrate.
Honor the Fallen
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans—the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—established Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. So honor the fallen by taking an office field trip to a local cemetery to lay flowers on a veteran’s grave.
Dress in Red, White, and Blue
A simple but classic way to show your support for our nation’s fallen heroes is to dress in the patriotic colors of the flag.
Run a Book Drive
Ever heard of Operation Paperback? Now celebrating its 20-year anniversary, nonprofit Operation Paperback has sent over 2,853,347 books to deployed troops, veterans, military families, VA hospitals, USOs, and Red Cross units in 35 countries. Have your office pitch in and send a collection of books to Operation Paperback!
Take a Moment to Observe
Established by Congress, the National Moment of Remembrance asks Americans to pause in an act of national unity at 3:00 p.m. local time for one minute to honor those who died in service to our country.
Share on Social Media
Have you lost a family member who died in military service? Take a moment on Memorial Day to remember them by posting a picture on your social media platform and sharing your thanks and love.
Two events changed Gary Sinise’s life: playing Lt. Dan in the Oscar-winning 1993 movie Forrest Gump, and Sept. 11, 2001. The first provoked countless encounters with Vietnam veterans who identified with the heroic, sorrowful, raging and, finally, redemptive Lt. Dan.
The latter went even deeper. His country had been attacked. America changed that day, and so did Sinise. His life’s focus shifted from self to service. “It set the stage for working with the wounded after that terrible day,” he said. “I couldn’t sit back. I wanted to let our service members know they were appreciated … then, the men and women who serve our country raised their hands and I thought, ‘I can take a proactive role in backing them up.’”
Twenty six years after Lt. Dan captured American’s imagination as a ravaged Vietnam vet utterly lost and ultimately found—and 18 years after the United States was attacked on its own soil and more than 3,000 lost their lives, Sinise has penned a New York Times bestselling book that describes his journey: Grateful American: From Selfto Service. “I am grateful to be an American,” he said, in an interview with U.SVeterans Magazine. “That’s something I will always cherish.”
It took about a cup of coffee for Grateful American to hit the New York Times Best Seller list in early 2019. Sinise describes his journey from self to service in a plain-spoken, compelling way. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue, titled “Stunned,” in which he’s accepting an award from the Disabled Veterans of American for his performance as Lt. Dan: “When our veterans returned from the first Gulf War, unlike Vietnam, they were greeted with giant parades in New York and a few other cities. Yet even though our country eventually tried to make amends with Vietnam veterans by supporting them as they created the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., and with some cities in the mid-1980s hosting a few welcome-home. parades, now in 1994, I can still sense remnants of this rift in our country, this stillopen wound for the veterans of the Vietnam War.
Little do I know how significant this moment at the convention will become in my life. Seeds are being planted that will grow into a tree with many branches. For it’s here that I first begin to ask myself, ‘How can I make a difference in restoring what’s been lost? How can I help make sure our veterans are never treated that way again?’”
Since publishing the book through Nelson Books, Sinise has been hearing from readers, including veterans. “I’m thrilled whenever I hear from a veteran,” said Sinise, 64. Sinise is an actor, director and musician. Among other awards, he has won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Sinise is known for several memorable roles. These include George Milton in Of Mice andMen, Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Harry S. Truman in Truman (for which he won a Golden Globe), Ken Mattingly in Apollo13, Detective Jimmy Shaker in Ransom, and Detective Mac Taylor in the CBS series CSI: NY(2004–13).
Sinise was born in Blue Island, Illinois. His father, Robert, was a film editor. He graduated from Highland Park High in Highland Park, Illinois. He later graduated from Illinois University. His legacy at Highland Park has been secured. In the 1970s, Sinise and two friends founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The theatre, a non-profit, continues to thrive today.
He started off as a rebel and a musician. His parents bought him a guitar when he was a boy, but he noticed everyone was playing guitar, so he switched to bass, which he still plays today. The hugely popular Lt. Dan Band, which plays mostly rock’n’ roll and country covers that are favorites among troops, has played for service members all over the world.
It’s one of many services he provides through the Gary Sinise Foundation, which he founded after 9/11 to ensure that today’s veterans are not treated like the Lt. Dans of the Vietnam War.
Sinise is an actor at his core. But his work for the troops just might be his lasting legacy. His journey from self to service has resulted in these staggering numbers from his foundation: —Building 70 specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded heroes; —More than 102,400 attendees at the Invincible Spirit Festivals since 2012; —More than 175,000 meals served to our nation’s defenders across the country; —About 460 support concerts for our troops, sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation; —More than 7,000 vets have joined Gary and crew for “Vets Night” performances; —About 1,700 children of fallen military heroes and their surviving parents/guardians attended the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express event in 2018.
“Snowball” is a word Sinise favors. He hopes his, and others’, support of our active troops and veterans creates a snowball effect.
“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” he said. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”
“We have tremendous supporters who support the Gary Sinise Foundation,” he added. “There’s an unfortunate disconnect between our people and those who defend this country. I encourage all of us to get to know the people who are protecting you.”
He stresses that veterans are everywhere. You don’t have to put on concerts for thousands; you can support one veteran, and that’s a big deal. “Look within your own neighborhood, your town, yourstate.”
Here’s one more excerpt from Grateful American that encapsulates Sinise’s attitude, and personal journey: “There have been any number of ups and downs in myn life, and there was a time when I wasn’t concerned about too much more than my own career. But slowly things changed. It’s my hope that as I share these stories from my life, you will be entertained and maybe even inspired, too—empowered to overcome obstacles, embrace gratitude, and engage in service above self.”
It’s never too late to pay your respects to the fallen – and for Gary Marquardt, that meant learning to play the trumpet at 66 years old.
Marquardt was just a youngster when he enlisted in the military and waited to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Due to a bleeding ulcer, however, he was deemed unfit to serve.
Years later, he finally found a means of atoning for his guilt over not being able to fight alongside his fellow soldiers.
In 2014, Marquardt had been attending the funeral of a military friend when he was stunned to hear a mechanical recording of a bugle playing taps. He couldn’t help but be bothered by the lack of live music to honor a fallen soldier – so he walked into a music store and started learning to play the trumpet.
Much to the dismay of his wife and neighbors, Marquardt practiced day and night.
“It was awful,” Marquardt’s wife told KARE11 with a laugh. “Seemed like every 15 minutes, it was all the time. We were all hoping he would get better. And then he did.”
Sure enough, Marquardt managed to become a bona fide trumpeter. He then started using his newfound skill to visit local cemeteries and play taps at the gravestones of recently deceased veterans and soldiers.
The NVMM is the first and only nationally designated museum in the United States dedicated to honoring veterans, and just opened in October 2018 in Columbus, OH.
A few key highlights visitors and locals can look forward to:
A Museum About Veterans and For Veterans: Exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum Associates created an exhibition that is focused on the people – the soldier, the military personnel, the family member of a veteran – and their narrative journeys. Through personal artifacts, imagery and videos of veterans telling their story in their own words, the exhibitions draw in visitors and give them a sense of what veterans have gone through during their military service, highlighting the historical and contemporary examples of veterans’ stories. Rather than focus exclusively on combat and war, this exhibition narrative will explore the transformative experience of military service while connecting it to the broader idea of public and community service. The aim: to stimulate an ongoing dialogue to increase connections between civilians and veterans.
Pioneering in Education – Finally a Platform for Vets’ Stories to Be Told and Heard: The NVMM is the only place where the stories of our veterans, their families and the fallen – across all branches of service and all eras of conflict – are told together. The museum bridges historical events to current concerns and strengthens understanding and respect between veterans and civilians. This cultural institution stands as a place of inspiration for all visitors to come together as one people with a common bond and a shared pride in our veterans.
A New Architectural Icon: The building architect, Allied Works Architecture, has designed a massive concrete arch structure (made up of a whopping 28 million pounds of concrete) with a glass curtainwall system and spiral processional, rising to a rooftop sanctuary – truly setting this museum apart The landscape architect,OLIN (the masterminds behind Bryant Park and Columbus Circle), designed the surrounding 2.5-acre Memorial Grove as a place for reflection. At the center of a circular path, there will be a grove of trees, designating the area as a sacred place to honor and memorialize veterans.
A Unique Philanthropic Effort: Most fundraising projects are fueled by a group close to a cause – this is a unique exception. While many veterans have played a critical role in the project’s bottom line, the largest private investors – Les and Abigail Wexner – committed to the project not because of particular ties to the military but because of their strong commitment to the community. They invested in the cultural credibility of the Region, and in the importance of not only supporting our veterans, but educating the public on their stories and service. The project received more than $82 million.
The biggest new star quarterback of NFL doesn’t get a lot of free time. Practicing is as important as game time, so when the time comes to relax, it’s understandable that a young football star might actually rest. But it turns out Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ young QB, is a star both on and off the field.
The second-year QB spent his day off helping build transitional housing for veterans in the Kansas City area with The Veterans Community Project, a non-profit that’s building a specialized community network of tiny homes and services dedicated to supporting every man and woman who served — also known as Tiny Houses for Homeless Vets.
The founder of the Veterans Community Project, Chris Stout, is a former U.S. Army corporal who was wounded in Afghanistan. His own transition into civilian life was marked by trouble with PTSD and employment issues. Though not homeless himself, he told CNN he was shocked at the inefficiencies he witnessed in the programs designed to help vets escape homelessness.
When Stout discovered homeless vets shunned shelters because they were unsafe and lacked privacy, he paid for hotel rooms out of his own pocket to keep these heroes off the street — but that too was inefficient. Eventually, he and his friends left their jobs to start the VCP, helping veterans first and asking questions later.
April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. Sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, the Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome.
The Month of the Military Child is part of the legacy left by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He established the Defense Department commemoration in 1986.
DoDEA joins the Department of Defense and the military community in celebrating April as the Month of the Military Child. In DoDEA communities around the world, our most essential strategic imperatives are: establishing an educational system that progressively builds the college and career readiness of all DoDEA students; and establishing the organizational capacity to operate more effectively and efficiently as a model, unified school system. We aim to challenge each student to maximize his or her potential and to excel academically, socially, emotionally and physically for life, college and career readiness.
Throughout the month, DoDEA will encourage schools to plan special events to honor military children and have administrators and principals incorporate the themes of this month into their every day duties and responsibilities. These efforts and special events will stress the importance of providing children with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle.
Tips for you and yours:
1. Wear Purple
April 15th is Purple Up! Day, an opportunity for Americans everywhere to show support for military children. Pick your favorite shade of purple and wear it all day long to raise awareness of the sacrifices military families make, but especially kids. Let your child know you’re wearing purple especially for them.
2. Have a Special Date Night
With life’s chaos, it can be challenging to spend quality time with your children. This is especially true when you’re a military family just trying to get through a long deployment or settling into a new duty station. Let your child pick a place to go and treat them to a date night. If you have multiple kids, do this with each of them individually.
3. “Share Your Story” Project
Your school-aged child might have the opportunity to do show and tell or another similar project. Use this as an opportunity to educate other students and teachers about Month of the Military Child. If your child goes to a DoD school, encourage them to do a fun presentation on all the places they’ve lived.
4. Create a Scavenger Hunt
This activity is especially fun if you’ve just relocated to a new duty station. You might do it on base in a safe place like the commissary or exchange. Create a list of items for your kids to find. Have players take pictures of items or collect listed objects. Set a timer and see who finishes first! Set behavior expectations as well prior to starting.
5. Be Genuine
Sometimes you just want to do the dishes, laundry, and a million other items on your to-do list. If sitting down and playing a board game sounds boring, but your kid would love it, give it a try. Genuine encounter moments (call these GEM for short!), are when your kids get your full and undivided attention. Be in the moment and watch how your kids open up.
6. Host a Photoshoot
Let your child wear that colorful tutu or awesome superhero cape for a photoshoot. Call in a professional photographer or snap pics on your phone. If you want to get super creative, have your kids help you create a backdrop and pick out props for their photoshoot. Bring in their closest military friends, too, for double the fun. Be sure to send the pics to your service member if they’re deployed.
7. Be a Guest Speaker
Young kids love to show off their parents. Whether you’re a military spouse or service member, offer to be a guest speaker in your child’s classroom during the Month of the Military Child. Share your experiences, and open the floor for discussion about military life.
8. Ask About Their Feelings
Whether it’s over dinner or a visit to an ice cream parlor, ask your kids how they’re doing. Let them lead the conversation, but sprinkle in questions like “How does that make your feel?” or “What do you think about ______?” Listen, verify, and validate their feelings. You’ll be surprised what they are willing to share if you ask in the right setting.
9. Connect With Other Military Families
When you spend quality time with other military families with kids, it can help your own child or children create their tribe. This is especially true for families within the same unit or platoon. As deployments come up, your kids can learn and grow together in the ways of military life.
10. Friday Fun
For the month of April, let your child decide what you do on Friday nights. This will let them feel like they have a say in what family does, when they so often don’t. Consider all requests thoughtfully and make modifications as necessary. Movie nights, ordering take-out, and water balloon fights in the yard are a couple of ideas to get started.
11. Get Teachers Involved
Ask your child’s teacher if they’d be willing to plan some lessons around the military. This might be especially interesting for children to learn more about military life operations. If your family has a favorite book about deployments or military life, offer to let the teacher borrow it for a lesson or two.
Continue on Sandboxx to read the complete article.
Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha, pictured left, to speak at networking event on April 4 at 6 p.m. EST in New York City. America’s Warrior Partnership is hosting its next “Camouflage & Cocktails” networking event to celebrate empowered military veterans.
Sponsored by First Data, OppenheimerFunds, Apollo Global Management and Natixis Investment Managers, the event will take place in New York City at Carnegie Hall on April 4 starting at 6 p.m. EST.
The event will recognize business and civic leaders who are supporting veteran-friendly workplaces and communities, while also providing attendees the opportunity to network and learn how they can contribute to the movement of empowering veterans. Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha will serve as the evening’s honorary host and speak to attendees about how communities can bridge the gap between veteran and civilian cultures.
“An empowered veteran claims the right to thrive within their community rather than simply survive, and Clint embodies that definition,” said Jim Lorraine, president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership. “It is one thing to understand what makes an empowered veteran. The true challenge lies in coming together to provide veterans with the means and opportunity to achieve the quality of life they deserve. We look forward to learning from Clint’s experiences alongside attendees as we work together to create more veteran-friendly communities.”
Before commencing the “Camouflage & Cocktails” evening event, Clint will join America’s Warrior Partnership in visiting several New York-based businesses on April 4 to speak with employees and recognize their dedication to creating veteran-friendly workplace environments. Donations raised during the evening event will support ongoing programs and initiatives from America’s Warrior Partnership that are empowering communities to empower veterans.
America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans. We fill the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy, improving their results and empowering their initiatives. America’s Warrior Partnership is a force multiplier for warrior community integration that enhances communities where great Americans choose to live and contribute. For more information on the organization and how to get involved, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.
As the two-time national middleweight champion, she has fought some of the world’s best boxers to earn a No. 3 international ranking.
But for a long time, Army athlete Naomi Graham had to fight her toughest opponent — herself.
Before the staff sergeant rose to the top of USA boxing, she had to overcome a mindset that began well before she ever set foot in a ring.
She was too nice, a coach had told her when Graham began training in 2014.
“You would never know that she’s a boxer,” said USA boxing assistant Joe Guzman, a former Army heavyweight competitor.
To become competitive in the ring, especially for the Olympics, she needed to be tougher, Guzman would say.
Graham speaks courteously and answers questions politely. In middle school, she allowed bullies to taunt her and get in her face. She never flinched, as her mother told her to avoid physical altercations, and instead tell a teacher or administrator when confronted by other children.
But one day Graham had enough. Another student threatened to fight her. Graham responded by hoisting the girl up and tossing her over a table.
“People started to leave me alone after that,” she said.
As a teen growing up in the outskirts of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Graham admittedly followed the wrong path after her graduation from Pine Forest High School in 2007. Instead of attending college courses or finding work, she enjoyed going out and spending time with friends.
Her mother, Bertha Clark, decided to show her some tough love and told her to move out of the family home. With no plan and no car, she found herself homeless in 2012, walking the suburban streets with a blanket and a few belongings.
She went to her friends’ homes asking for assistance and a place to stay.
Finally she decided to take matters into her own hands. One day while walking through a neighborhood southwest of Fayettville, she noticed an abandoned one-story house. Graham entered the backyard and found the backdoor unlocked.
She spent almost a year sneaking back into the abandoned home and sleeping in the back bedroom at night. She ate with friends when invited, but she used food stamps to get by.
One winter evening, she shuddered under her blanket in deep thought. Sitting in the darkness beneath the winter cold, she made a silent promise to herself.
“I was crying and I was basically saying, ‘this can’t be it for me,'” Graham said. “‘I know there is more to me than this.'”
She had already committed to joining the Army, but at that moment she vowed to use her Army enlistment to make a better life for herself.
For the complete article, continue on to U.S. Army.
While on a mission in Afghanistan on July 23, 2011, a pressure plate improvised explosive device detonated beneath U.S. Army Captain Jake Murphy, immediately taking his left foot and causing an anoxic brain injury that put him into a coma.
Against all odds, Murphy emerged from his coma four weeks later and was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he eventually lost both of his legs.
Recognizing Cpt. Murphy’s immense bravery, the Gary Sinise Foundation R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program provided him and his family a specially adapted smart home with technologies by Nortek Security & Control in an effort to help improve and simplify everyday life for the family of four.
“When designing this home for Captain Murphy and his family, simplicity was key,” said Jason Hanifan of Comware AV, the ELAN dealer that designed the home technology solution. “With that in mind, we personalized the ELAN Control System to make it easy for the whole family to control all the integrated technologies in the 3,598 square foot home.”
Comware AV built the system with an ELAN gSC10 as the main system controller, with an ELAN S1616A providing audio distribution and a 8×8 HDBaseT™ Matrix for video. The Murphy family can manage their home’s security, audio, video, Lutron® lighting, fans and shades, plus thermostats, and door locks through ELAN HR30 remotes in the family room and master bedroom, ELAN 7” Touch Panels in the kitchen and master bedroom, as well as through the ELAN app on their smart devices and with voice control through ELAN’s Amazon Alexa® integration.
With security being essential to the family, Hanifan and his team installed a 2GIG security system with over 40 sensors wirelessly connected to a 2GIG GC3 panel, which is integrated into the ELAN control system. According to Hanifan, “In addition to the intrusion sensors, we added 2GIG Glass Break Detectors to monitor for the sound of breaking glass in the home, 2GIG Motion Detectors, ten 2GIG Smoke Detectors, plus Carbon Monoxide Detectors.”
Murphy and his family can easily review the status of their home’s doors and windows before leaving the house or turning in for the night, using the GC3 panel, two 2GIG SP1 secondary touchscreens or any of their ELAN interfaces. If a door is left open, the 2GIG system will annunciate exactly which doors or window are open, and where. For further security, an ELAN network video recorder captures video from six ELAN surveillance cameras, all which can be managed from within the ELAN app.
To simplify the home control, Hanifan and the Comware AV team personalized automated scenes, such as “good night,” which automatically locks the doors and adjusts the lights, or “away” which automatically locks the doors, turn off the lights and sets the thermostats to a certain energy-saving level. “By initiating the ‘relax’ scene, the lights will switch to their designated level and the TV will go on,” said Hanifan. “With ELAN, the scene options are endless, which is ideal for Captain Murphy and his family. For example, when he wakes up in the morning he simply needs to say ‘good morning’ and everything will adjust to his desired settings. It’s that easy.”
For the Murphy family, music and entertainment are important aspects of home life. The Comware AV team installed 18 SpeakerCraft AIM282 speakers to maximize audio performance, and added a 1,000-watt Sunfire HRS10 subwoofer so the family can really “feel” the entertainment in the media room.
To ensure that all of the home’s technology receives uncompromised power for optimal operation, the system components plug into a Panamax M4315-PRO power conditioner with BlueBOLT® remote power management, while a Panamax MB-1500 battery backup guarantee protects the system in case of a power outage.
According to Scott Schaeperkoetter, Director of Operations for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program, the smart home system has completely transformed everyday life for the Murphy family. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve the lives of these veterans and with Nortek Security & Control’s line of smart home and security solutions, we’re able to completely customize the smart home technology in each home to fit the individual needs of the veteran and their family,” he said. “We’re honored to be able to support their journey to regain their independence.”
ELAN®, from Nortek Security & Control, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award, and continues to expand its intuitive functionality with security, climate, surveillance and video distribution products and integrations. To learn more, visit www.elanhomesystems.com.
About Nortek Security & Control
Nortek Security & Control LLC (NSC) is a global leader in smart connected devices and systems for residential, security, access control, and digital health markets. NSC and its partners have deployed 5 million connected systems and over 25 million security and home control sensors and peripherals. Through its family of brands including 2GIG®, ELAN®, Linear®, GoControl®, Mighty Mule® and Numera®, NSC designs solutions for security dealers, technology integrators, national telecoms, big box retailers, OEM partners, service providers, and consumers. Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, NSC has over 50 years of innovation and is dedicated to addressing the lifestyle and business needs of millions of customers every day. For further information, visit nortekcontrol.com.