TIME the backstory

#TIMEvets: Share Your Stories and Photos of Inspiring Veterans

TIME has launched #TIMEvets, a four-week special project that will explore the profound effects of war – both on those who serve and the people who support them – through the stories of our country's veterans

TIME has launched #TIMEvets, a four-week special project that explores the profound effects of war—both on those who serve and the people who support them—through the stories of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

These stories—both inspiring and harrowing—highlight the personal costs and enduring consequences when nations and politicians decide to go to war.

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Peter van Agtmael—Magnum for TIME

“After coming back from deployment in Fallujah, I thought I was adjusting fine,” says Roman Baca, a U.S. Marine veteran. “I found a good job, bought a condo, got serious with my girlfriend. However, she had to sit me down and say, ‘You’re angry. You’re depressed. You’re anxious. Some people are really afraid of you.'”

When U.S. Army veteran Steven Moore returned from Iraq, he got married, found a decent job and had a son shortly after that. “For maybe a year or so, things were going pretty good,” he says. “Then our second son was born, which turned my whole life upside down. When I saw both my kids together, the only thing I could see in their faces were these two little Iraqi boys hanging off the archway over the roadway leading into the town of Husaybah, who were executed for selling me sodas at the checkpoint and helping Americans—supposedly. I started having nightmares of people dropping out of the sky from nowhere, hanging from their necks.”

These stories are just two of the many TIME will publish ahead of Veterans Day 2014. We will also present new and original photographic essays by Balazs Gardi, David Guttenfelder, Peter van Agtmael and Nina Berman, among many others.

But we’re also looking for your own testimonies and photographs.

Are you a war veteran, or do you know a vet whose story has inspired you? Submit your pictures through Instagram, using the hashtag #TIMEvets. The best submissions—as chosen by TIME.com photo editors—will appear on the TIME Vets website.


TIME movies

How Fury‘s Director Made the WWII Film as Realistic as Possible

Columbia Pictures

Director David Ayer met with vets to learn what life in a tank was really like

Perhaps more than any other historical event, World War II has provided fodder for Hollywood. From The Bridge on the River Kwai to Saving Private Ryan to Schindler’s List, directors keep turning to “the good war.” This year alone, Fury (in theaters this weekend), Imitation Game and Unbroken all feature World War II heroes and will all battle for Oscar buzz.

Fury director David Ayer, who is a veteran himself, wanted to distinguish his World War II film with an air of authenticity. The movie takes on a single day in April 1945, when the Allies had for all intents and purposes beaten Germany. But American soldiers were still fighting on the front and, some would argue, needlessly dying. Calling into question the glory of war, Ayer and the movie’s actors—including Brad Pitt, returning to the time period he visited in Inglourious Basterds—met with veterans to get more intimate details on the challenges of fighting in a tank crew, the Credits reports.

According to the vets, the life expectancy of a tank crew member was only six weeks. Ayer incorporated this and other details he learned from veterans into the movie, like that every fifth bullet from a gun’s machine is a tracer, which is ignited with a burning powder that glows brightly so the shooter can follow the trajectory of the bullet with the naked eye. The actors also learned that the soldiers would differentiate between outgoing and incoming artillery by the whistling sound a projectile make when coming towards you (but not away from you).

Read about the connection between reality and another WWII movie, The Monuments Men, here in TIME’s archives: George Clooney’s Art of War

[The Credits]

TIME Military

Obama: ‘Do Not Turn Away’ From Injured Veterans

The newly opened Americans Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a reminder not to "rush into war"

President Barack Obama somberly thanked veterans for their service and acknowledged that the U.S. hasn’t always provided enough support upon their return home during a Sunday speech at the opening of Washington, D.C.’s Americans Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.

“With this memorial we commemorate, for the first time, two battles our disabled veterans have fought: The battle over there and the battle here at home,” Obama said.

The memorial, which the President says is a reminder not to “rush into war,” is the first one on the National Mall to specifically honor veterans who were injured in combat, ABC News reports. It joins the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials that exist around the Mall.

Obama’s remarks come during the same year the Veterans Affairs scandal put the conversation around veterans’ physical and mental health at the forefront.

“If you’re an American and you see a veteran, maybe with a prosthetic arm or leg, maybe burns on their face, don’t ever look away,” Obama said. “Do not turn away. You go up and you reach out and you shake their hand and you look them in the eye and say those words every veteran should hear all the time: Welcome home. Thank you. We need you more than ever. You helped us stay strong. You helped us stay free.”

[ABC]

TIME Afghanistan

Senior Democrat: We Should Be Proud of Afghanistan Progress

Levin Briefs On Investigation Into Private Security Contractors In Afghanistan
Alex Wong / Getty Images Carl Levin, retiring chairman of the armed services committee, thinks Americans have a "distorted" view of what the U.S. has accomplished in Afghanistan.

Retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D—Mich), chairman of the armed services committee, says things are getting better all the time in Afghanistan

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the armed services committee, is leaving the Senate after 36 years. He spent Wednesday’s breakfast with a bunch of defense reporters responding to their questions on the U.S.-led attacks against Islamic militants and the Pentagon’s budget crunch.

Levin is no bomb-thrower or partisan hack. When we offered him the chance to say a final word at the end of his final breakfast with us, we listened:

Thank you for the years that we’ve been having breakfast together. I guess my one request, which I have feelings about, is our view of Afghanistan. I’ve been there a dozen times…they’ve made some amazing progress…The people of Afghanistan, by al measure, are glad we came. Eight million kids in school now, versus 800,000 kids under the Taliban; 40% girls, 40% women teachers. Universities now have formed.

Kabul, you can move in. Yea, there’s bombings and they’re covered all the time, and I understand it. But is it a glass half full? I think at least half full and I think, more importantly, it’s getting fuller…

I feel so strongly that the American public view of Afghanistan is distorted—it’s highly negative, they feel we failed. They have a right to feel some real satisfaction because we didn’t fail—quite the opposite. They haven’t succeeded yet, but with our help they have made some real strides, and it doesn’t come through.

So my plea would be, since this may be my last opportunity, would be to somehow or other cover the positives that have occurred in Afghanistan…

I just quote these public opinion polls: Americans, 70% or 65% think we have not achieved anything. In Afghanistan it’s 70 or 80% think we have. How does that happen that the people who are in the middle of that war think we’ve really done some good, and the people who are 10,000 or 15,000 miles away think we haven’t?

Particularly our troops and their families, they’ve got a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have.

The American people, taxpayers, have a right to feel they’ve accomplished something, ‘cause they have…

I’m just going to hope that somehow or other [ex-defense secretary Robert] Gates’ point, his statement, will no longer prove to be true after a couple of more years. The statement that he made was that Afghanistan is the only war he’s ever seen that the closer you get to it, the better it looks.

I believe that that’s true, and I hope a couple of years from now, when I find a way to visit Afghanistan, that we’ll not only see more progress, but the American people finally realize that `Hey, it was worth it.’

 

 

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Afghanistan
U.S. Navy / Getty ImagesCarl Levin, center, on a 2011 visit to Afghanistan.
TIME Drugs

Pro-Pot Group Giving Free Weed to Colorado Vets

A worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 7, 2014.
Brennan Linsley—AP A worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 7, 2014.

The organization Grow4Vets is giving free marijuana to veterans Saturday

Marijuana-smoking veterans may find themselves flocking to Denver, Colorado Saturday, when a pro-pot organization will host a weed giveaway to get grass in the hands of military veterans who seek it.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Quality Inn in Central Denver, the group Grow4Vets will give out cannabis products worth more than $200 to veterans who RSVP for the event by noon Friday. Others will be asked for a $20 donation at the door and get more than $100 in pot products in exchange, organizers told ABC7 News Denver.

Grow4Vets exists to “reduce the staggering number of Veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose” by providing vets “with the knowledge and resources necessary to obtain or grow their own marijuana for treatment of their medical conditions,” the group’s website says.

A repeat of the event will be held September 27 in Colorado Springs.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 18

1. Islamic State is hunting for Syrian chemical weapons that eluded international inspectors.

By Paul D. Shinkman in U.S. News and World Report

2. The true promise of education technology is in differentiating learning to meet the needs of each student.

By Jennifer Carolan in EdSurge

3. A robot’s ethical dilemma: How would a self-driving car weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk to other motorists?

By Aviva Rutkin in New Scientist

4. A disaster relief organization is giving military veterans a chance to do good and recapture the spirit of their service.

By Jonathan Lesser in Medium

5. Future social scientists will have a wealth of data from Facebook likes and shares to truly understand what moves us.

By Jonathan Wai in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 12

1. The long shadow of September 11th haunts our modern defense policy as well as our plan of attack against ISIS.

By Janine Davidson at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Far from “The End of History:” Recent experience shows that democracy’s defenders have their work cut out for them. We should start by linking democratic values to our humanity.

By Timothy Stanley and Alexander Lee in the Atlantic

3. Climate change could remake agriculture. The world should diversify its crops.

By Sayed Azam-Ali in The Conversation

4. To transition from warfighting to the working world, America’s veterans need support from a broad range of government agencies. And that’s actually happening.

By Charles S. Clark in Government Executive

5. The Apple Watch will make people and computers more intimate.

By Walter Isaacson in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

MONEY Second Career

This PR Exec Launched Her Second Career by Raising Millions for Wounded Veterans

PHH Co Founder John Gallina and Vicki Thomas
Lynnette Thompson for Purple Heart Homes Purple Heart Homes co-founder John Gallina with Vicki Thomas

Marketing pro Vicki Thomas saw a news segment about a non-profit start up. She knew she could help them—and ended up with a new job and happier life.

Just four years ago Vicki Thomas was a successful public relations executive in New York City with high-profile financial services clients. But she was was growing frustrated. “There was a voice calling me to really make a difference in the lives of others, not just improve a client’s bottom line,” says Thomas. “I wanted to do something more fulfilling, but I wasn’t sure what it was going to be.”

Then one day in 2009, she saw a news segment on CNN about Purple Heart Homes, a North Carolina organization founded by Iraq veterans Dale Beatty and John Gallina to provide handicap-accessible homes to wounded vets. Beatty and Gallina, who also suffered combat injuries, focus on vets who lack the money and resources to renovate their own residences. Thomas felt an immediate connection and wanted to help the fledgling organization raise more money. Improving their marketing and public relations outreach was key.

“I knew they could use professional advice but couldn’t afford the kind of expertise I could give,” says Thomas. She cold-called Gallina and Beatty, leaving a message offering her services pro-bono. “It took them two weeks to call me. But we agreed to meet and we’ve been working together since.”

Thomas left her corporate PR career behind in 2009 and began drawing on her 35 years of experience in fundraising and marketing to bring attention to the non-profit. “When I met them, I couldn’t get a news story in the local paper about them,” says Thomas. A few months later, thanks in large part to her network of contacts, Gallina and Beatty were featured in a 2011 Time magazine cover story about a new generation of veterans bringing their leadership lessons home—they even appeared on the cover. “That opened so many doors. ABC News and Nightline did stories on them, and money started pouring in,” says Thomas.

Today, as the chief communications officer for Purple Heart Homes, Thomas has helped raised millions in financial contributions and material donations. In her first year with the start up, contributions rocketed from $67,000 to $2 million. With that cash horde, the non-profit was able to qualify for grants, including a major donation from Home Depot, which further improved its financial stability. She’s particularly proud of a program she launched that matches veterans with foreclosed homes donated by banks.

After providing her services pro bono for two and a half years, Thomas now 68, began working full time for Purple Heart Homes in 2012 and drawing a salary of $48,000 a year. It’s a lot less than what she earned in her PR career, and she’s fine with that. Her husband still works, but “we’re at an age where we’re not buying stuff,” she says.

She enjoys the different pace of her work life, which is far less hectic than her days in PR. “I have so much flexibility—I can take a play day when I want to,” says Thomas, who works from her home in Connecticut. “I probably have a more perfect balance in my life than I ever had before.”

As for retirement, it’s not happening. “They’ll have to carry me out on a flip chart,” she says. “I believe you remain much more vital and connected if you can work in some capacity, especially if you are doing something you are passionate about.”

Vicki Thomas was the 2013 Winner of the Purpose Prize for Future Promise, sponsored by Symetra. The Purpose Prize is a program operated by Encore.org, a non-profit organization that recognizes social entrepreneurs over 60 who are launching second acts for the greater good.

TIME health

What Americans Can Learn From Obama on Mental Health

US-POLITICS-OBAMA-AMERICAN-LEGION
SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama greets members of the American Legion after speaking at the American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26, 2014.

We must broaden the scope of our efforts beyond the military and veteran community

President Obama addressed the American Legion’s 96th National Convention on Tuesday and outlined five priorities to “fulfill our promises to service members, veterans, and their families.” These priorities include: delivering the quality health care veterans have been promised, ensuring all veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream, providing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the resources our veterans deserve, protecting the dignity and rights of all veterans and eliminating the decades-old disability claims backlog.

From early in his administration, our President has demonstrated his concern for and commitment to our military and veteran families. He has made numerous speeches at military installations, praising the sacrifices of our troops and pledging his support. He has acknowledged his respect and admiration for those who wear the uniform during his State of the Union Addresses, often inviting injured service members and their families to join the First Lady in the Capitol to watch the address. In 2012 he issued an Executive Order titled “Improving Access to Mental Health Service for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families,” which paved the way for greater communication and coordination among government agencies while creating several specific initiatives and programs to increase access to care and improve the provision of services. And in June 2013, a primary focus of his National Conference on Mental Health was on the unique mental health challenges facing our military and veteran community.

Our First Lady shares the President’s commitment. In the spring of 2009, five months into the administration, I was invited to a meeting at the White House hosted by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden. The purpose of the gathering was to learn about the issues affecting our service members, veterans and their families from the organizations that support them and to ask for suggestions regarding how the First Lady and Dr. Biden might best use their platform to assist these worthy men, women and families. This meeting, and several that followed, provided the foundation for what would become the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, which focuses on three key areas of support for military families: employment, education and wellness.

Tuesday’s speech by the President made reference to several new executive actions designed to serve the military and veteran community – many of which focus on improving the mental health and wellness of those who struggle, those who suffer and those who are at risk of suicide. During perhaps the most inspiring moment of the speech, President Obama proclaimed:

“And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength. Talk to a friend. Pick up the phone. You are not alone. We are here for you. And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help. They were there for America. We now need to be there for them.”

Our President has done an excellent job of setting the table for us. He has provided leadership and directed resources. He has made it clear that the mental health and wellness of those who serve and their families is a priority for his administration and for America. His staff has consistently reached out to the community of organizations that engage and support our military and veteran community, asking for feedback and seeking opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Some might suggest that this has all been politically motivated – sadly so much of what seems to happen in Washington these days certainly is – but to those of us who have had the honor of working alongside our colleagues at the White House over the years on these issues, it has been clear from early on that that this sustained effort is genuine.

But while the President’s leadership is absolutely critical for success, we will need more than his commitment if we hope to ensure the mental health and wellness of those who serve and their families. We must broaden the scope of our efforts and look beyond the military and veteran community. The stigma associated with mental illness is a huge problem within our society – a problem that we must address if we hope to reduce the number of service members and veterans who choose suicide every day. How can we expect those who serve – given their training on self reliance, their value on mental toughness and their focus on serving others – to step forward and ask for help if they are depressed, anxious or suicidal when so few among us in the civilian community do so comfortable or openly. It was a little over two weeks ago that Robin Williams’ suicide sent shock waves and overwhelming sadness across our nation. Robin Williams – who was so beloved, so talented, so smart – was unable to ask for help in his darkest hour. He was unable to let those he loved know that he was in danger. How horribly sad and lonely he must have felt – how terribly distressed and alone so many in our nation feel every day.

We must change our culture if we are to succeed in saving lives and ending suffering. We must come to accept that mental health and mental illness are elements of the human condition – just as physical health and disease are – not just within our military culture but for all Americans. We must use opportunities like the one that the President has given us to harness support, roll up our sleeves and do the heavy lift required that will change the conversation in America about mental health. Perhaps one positive outcome of the last 13 years of war can be an end to the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. Perhaps our service members and our veterans will once again lead America and serve as examples of courage, acceptance and compassion for self and others.

Barbara Van Dahlen, named to the TIME 100 in 2012, is a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and president of Give an Hour. A notable expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families, Dr. Van Dahlen has become a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies in support of active duty service members, veterans and their families.

TIME Guns

9-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Shoots, Kills Instructor at Gun Range

The operator says it allows supervised children age eight and up to handle weapons

A nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting range instructor in Arizona, police say.

Charles Vacca, 39, was instructing the girl on how to use an automatic Uzi on Monday when the girl, who was accompanied by her parents, pulled the trigger and then lost control of the weapon, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. Vacca was shot in the head and died of his injuries.

Sam Scarmardo, the operator of the shooting range Last Stop where the accident occurred, said the range allows accompanied children age eight and older to handle weapons.

He said Vacca, a longtime military veteran, had been working at the range for roughly two years. Scarmardo also said the range had not had an accident since it was opened more than a decade ago.

The girl’s parents were recording the tutorial on their cell phones when the incident occurred and handed the footage over to authorities, according to Scarmardo.

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