Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today was a Good Day

Hello, Cory here.

In the journey of my transition, I have had many more difficult days than good ones.  When I say difficult, I don't mean that in a negative tone.  I just look at those difficult days and realize that I wasted more energy beating myself up and not living up to my potential.  But as my transition goes on, life becomes a bit more simple and I learn something new about myself each day.  

But today was a good day.

After working an overnight shift at the Stress Center, I took a quick power nap, and then made my way to downtown Indianapolis to watch a minor league baseball game.  Although this spring has been rather chilly thus far, today was around eighty degrees and the sun felt good on my face as I sat in the stands.  This is my favorite time of the year, seeing life back to my surroundings and also my senses.  The smell of the trees in bloom and the radiance of the new foliage foreshadows the life ahead.

At the game.  Elleigh looks like a chunk in this photo, haha!
During the fifth inning, my eyes started getting a little dry and the yawns became more consistent.  I started to think back on the days of pulling 24-hour CQ and then coming home to be father/husband, fighting sleep for as long as possible.  But today was to beautiful to miss due to being tired.  After all, sleep is for the weak.  So we slammed some hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, some pop (yes, it's pop, not soda!), and enjoyed watching the home team take a huge lead with a three RBI triple.

I was told toady by an old friend, that they see the difference and progress I have made in the past couple of years.  They said I seem much calmer and not so agitated with the insignificant things in life.  Living a militant lifestyle does have its downfalls I guess.  For a greater part of my time in the military, I didn't allow for myself to enjoy life.  I was to caught up in the things that I didn't have the ability to change, and never looked at the things I could have changed.  But now, I live a life with endless possibilities.

Following the game, we took a walk through White River Park.  The trail led us across a bridge and behind the zoo.  Blocks of Indiana limestone stacked on top of each other was the division of the trail from the animals on the other side.  Although we couldn't see the animals, the limestone didn't do anything from keeping the scent of them away, haha.  And we walked on...

So, today was a good day.

I guess my purpose of writing this is to just say, whenever you get the chance enjoy the simple things in life, stop and take a chance to do so.  The summer is coming and soon people will be complaining because it's too hot or too muggy, or it's raining instead of shining.  So, if you find yourself tired on a sunny day, go take a nap outside.  Enjoy the little thing rather than letting them become a burden or a task.  Take advantage of every day that you have, so when you lay down to fall asleep you can say, "Today was a good day."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Honoring Corporal Matthew Commons - US Army Ranger

One of the most humbling and inspiring things that can happen to the founder and executive director of a Veteran serving nonprofit is for a Gold Star family member to raise funds for that nonprofit in the name of the hero killed in action.

GallantFew is truly honored to be so closely associated to these men, and to be able to provide a platform so those closest to the fallen soldier can help ensure that the loss is never forgotten in the mists of time.

Please stop by this page and read about this run to honor Corporal Matthew Commons, and make sure you click the link at the very bottom so you can read the tribute and see the photos of Matthew's life and service.

Those of us Rangers who have served, survived and now transitioned - we have a calling written in blood to help the next Ranger achieve a smooth, peaceful and successful transition.  Go here to find out how you too can help.

Rest in Peace, Ranger.  You have the high ground until we join you.

Rangers Lead the Way.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why Write an Essay by William Orlando Darby

Last week I had the great fortune to attend the 2013 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia.  While there, I met Joe and Liz Armstrong.  Joe is a Ranger veteran and they both are working on the Darby Legacy Project.  Liz forwarded me this essay this morning.  RLTW Karl

1929 Fort Smith High School Yearbook
Of all the atrocious problems that are assigned to the modern high school student the writing of an essay heads the list.
I agree with the long dead physician of Peter II of Russia when he said, “The affairs of state depend largely upon the mood in which my master awakens.” His “jovial” monarch was known on one day to arise and calmly distribute among his courtiers millions of rubles. Then on the following morning, he arose in a sordid and melancholy mood and lined up these courtiers and deliberately snuffed out their lives with the point of a sword. So it is with every man, especially myself. Sometimes I awaken in a mood of taciturnity and melancholy and then I awaken in a mood of sublime exultation.
It was in this blissful mood of exuberance that I arose one day last week and sauntered happily through those great portals of learning known as Fort Smith Senior High School. But alas – my happiness was soon to be destroyed. As the hour of eleven thirty drew near a feeling of impending calamity settled on me, and try as I would, I could not shake it off. Finally, at the set hour, I merged cautiously into my English classroom. There – there inscribed on a rectangular piece of slate were written words – words that made my blood run cold- words that change my feeling of happiness to one of nausea and abhorrence – words that made me feel as if the world was slipping from under me. I sank limply into my desk and weakly copied those diabolic words, “Write an essay of your own – the subject matter and length of it to be of your own choice.”
I plodded slowly homeward; however my slow gait was not happy thoughts by to a depressing state of morbidness. My feet seemed laden with lead. My heart felt as if a red-hot blade was piercing it.
After reaching home and undergoing an oral examination concerning my health and school work from mater, and financial denunciation from pater, I retired to my room and contemplated whether I should join the Navy or become a professional bum. Then suddenly came the long needed inspiration from Heaven. I would defy the world. I would disregard my school work and my health – I would be heedless of what it cost my father per annum – I would write that essay.
But on what subject could I write this premeditated essay?
Again returns that burning question to my mind “Why should I have to write essays?” Let those who will and wish write them, but force me not. Alexander the Great at one time conquered all the known world. Where, pray tell, is a volume of his essays to be found? If perchance he did write essays they must have been poor ones for they have never reached print. Let us take Napoleon Bonaparte, Frederick the Great, Maria Theresa, Catherine de Medici, Thomas Edison and Colonel Charles Lindbergh – again I ask you, where are their essays? Why then, since I am given no answer and since I intend to become great, should I have to tax my soul with the writing of essays?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Operation Enduring Gratitude and GallantFew spark Kansas Driver License Veteran Initiative

Dan Garza of Operation Enduring Gratitude told Karl nearly two years ago about an initiative he had started to get states to recognize Veterans through a drivers license designation.  Karl brought this idea back and on 6/20/11 suggested it to the Sedgwick County Veterans Coalition who took it on.  Last week the Kansas Senate OK’d the initiative and sent to the governor for signature: 


This designation is important as many businesses offer discounts to Veterans, but unless you are retired or have a VA card you probably don't want to carry around your 214 to prove you are a Veteran.  This optional designation on your driver's license provides that verification.

Is your state one of the few that recognizes Veterans on drivers' licenses? Go to http://www.op-eg.org/ and find out.

RLTW  Karl

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Veteran Unemployment - A Look at the Numbers

Every month the Department of Labor releases unemployment figures for the prior month. Since January 2011 I have kept a spreadsheet loaded with the DOL figures, and once the new numbers come out I update the twelve month rolling average and publish it here and on Facebook.  

Here's what the numbers tell me:
  • The average US military veteran of all eras is 9.5% LESS likely to be unemployed than a non-veteran (this is good).
  • The average Desert Storm era veteran is 20% LESS likely to be unemployed than a non-veteran (also good).
  • The average post 9/11 (called GW era II) is over 28% MORE likely to be unemployed than a non-veteran (not good).
Let's break it down by men:
  • The average male veteran is 14% LESS likely to be unemployed than a male non-veteran.
  • The average Desert Storm era male veteran, 18% LESS likely unemployed than male non-veteran.
  • Average post 9/11 male veteran is 11.5% MORE likely unemployed than a male non-veteran.
  • The average female veteran is 12% MORE likely to be unemployed than a female non-veteran.
  • The average Desert Storm era female veteran, 10% MORE likely unemployed than a female non-veteran.
  • The average post 9/11 female veteran, 63% MORE likely to be unemployed than a female non-veteran.
In every instance, the post 9/11 veteran is significantly more likely to be out of a job than someone who never wore the uniform - but look at the female statistics.  In every instance, a female veteran is more likely unemployed than a female who never served.

Friday, April 5, 2013

VA Home Loan Program Update

Stable housing leads to long-term stability, which factors into reliability and other characteristics of successful employees.  Are you aware that loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Program have had the lowest foreclosure rate in the past 19 quarters compared to all other types of home loans?  This is pretty significant given the trials and tribulations of the housing market during the past several years.

Did you know the VA's Home Loan Program Benefit is not a one-time benefit, but can be reused?  Since 1944, more than 20 million Veterans and Service Members have enjoyed the benefit of a home purchase through the VA Home Loan program.  Veterans who have already used their VA benefit in their home purchase may reuse that benefit to purchase another residence, or to refinance to a lower rate.  This is referred to as an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) or Streamline Refinance Loan.  No appraisal or credit underwriting is required. 

Consider this:
If a Veteran used their benefit, perhaps while on active duty, to purchase a home, they should compare their interest rate with current rates in their area.  That Veteran can reuse their VA benefit to refinance their home with "no money out of pocket," as costs may be included in the loan. If that Veteran has since separated or retired from the military and receives disability compensation of at least 10%, he or she is exempt from the funding fee. This can be a considerable monthly or total savings for the Veteran.  On average, Veterans saved more than $200 per monthly payment on IRRRLs last year, saving those Veterans over $900 million in their first two years alone!  Learn more about IRRRLs on the VA website:   http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/irrrl.asp

Veterans may obtain a Certificate of Eligibility online through eBenefits or through their lender.   I encourage Veterans to seek the advice of a financial professional and to contact several lenders for quotes to determine what is in their best interest.  If you have any questions, you can contact your closest VA regional office with Loan Guaranty staff by calling 877.827.3702, or visiting http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/contact_rlc_info.asp.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


So up here in Indiana, the weather has not been the best this winter.  When I say not the best, I mean cold.  I have held off on running for quite some time, except on those occasional sunny Midwest winter days.  For any of you that might be living in the Midwest, we have seen a few days of sunshine with temperatures in the 50s, even low 60's as of lately.  So back to back days, I ran 7-8 miles, and I'm paying for it now.  I quickly remembered the physical pain that I was in when I ran from Georgia to Indiana.

So, I go back...

Right before it all started.
Huddled outside of the entrance of my apartment complex in Columbus, GA, a group of my friends and I prayed.  This was the day; it was Jan. 3, 2011.  The month and a half of planning and preparation was over and now it was time for me to implement the plan of action.  For some reason, the temperature dropped that day in Georgia, and each mile it got worse and worse.  The entire time that I trained, the furthest I had run was 16 miles every other day.  This was nothing like the 20 miles a day, for 28 days, that I was attempting to do.  So, by the last mile, I was completely worn out.  My first day had led me to just at the edge of Franklin D Roosevelt State Park, and the random change in elevation wore me out.  I came back to my empty apartment that night, and I put on two sweatshirts and a sweatpants, yet I still couldn't get warm.

The next day I woke up and made my way to Fort Benning to officially complete my separation.  The DoD civilians screwed up some of my paperwork, so I had to go back and repeat what I did the day before.  I continued my journey later that afternoon by making a 4 mile up hill run, dodging semi-trucks and reckless drivers.

Beyond the ass pain of dodging cars and trucks, I had a breakthrough moment that day, a feeling that I will never forget.  After ascending the hill, for what seemed to be forever, I finally made it to the top.  The rewarding part about completing an uphill battle, is the moment when you get to the other side and you begin to make your descent.  This obviously is more significant than just letting your legs go by the grace of gravity.  Up to this moment, five months I had lived in an apartment with just a television, washer/dryer, and an inflatable mattress.  The door to where my daughter used to sleep had been closed for months.  Every time I came home from work, I had illusions of her coming to the door saying "Daddy."  Every night I had dreams of my previous life, one in which I had my family there with me.  So, as you can imagine, I didn't ever want to sleep.  But, this was the uphill battle I had to overcome.  So, as I started making my way down the hill on that day, I cried with a huge smile on my face.  I was overwhelmed with joy because I knew that I had made it through, up to that point, the darkest time of my life and I did not give up.  Surrender is not a Ranger word.
The moment I finally didn't have to fight an uphill battle.

In closing, I will shed some light on the uphill battle.  When I finally made it back home, I not only had to face legal measures with a divorce, but I had to figure out who I was beyond the struggle and reintegrate myself into the selfish civilian world.  I had no money, it was all drained because of the divorce.  I was living with my parents, something that I hadn't done in ten years.  Unemployment, being homeless, and hopeless all crept its way into my life...but, I didn't stop.  I found ways to get through it.  I utilized the relationships that I have built through my run to talk to others that have gone through similar situations.  I know I've said it before, but I have more friends that I have never met face-to-face than I do have in my local area.  Acquaintances are those that share stories and a few good laughs, but friends are those that will bring you into their home when you no longer have one.  A friend is someone that will push you up that hill.

There are times that you think you are at the top of a hill, but it turns out it just leveled off and there is another climb in front of you.  And sometimes, that hill is a mountain.  There isn't a topographical map to life, so you will never know exactly how much further you have to climb in order make it to the top.  But, when you do,  just remember to enjoy the view, and enjoy your descent.