To The Girl On The Bus

We’re starting a new feature:  The letter you always wanted to write.

10706663_392775517537060_212893065_aThere we were, on the Fly Away Bus at the airport, waiting to begin our trip to Union Station. We just started to pull out of LAX, when you turned to face the window. I busied myself, trying not to look at you.  It was only going to be a 25 minute bus ride. This wasn’t a commitment to be a chatter box on an uneventful ride.

As the bus made its way onto the crowded freeway, it was clear you were crying behind those sunglasses. You’d pick up your phone, text, then cry again. I tried my best to not engage in your drama. Scenarios ticked off in my mind, none very original.  Were you breaking up?  Did someone die, and were you arriving too late? I kept  to myself, determined to grant you space, but your tears weren’t letting up. You were wiping them away with the back of your hand. Combined with the worst collection of heartbreak songs being piped over the bus PA system …you were breaking me up.

So I handed you a tissue. It wasn’t a gallant handkerchief, the type that would have been offered by a gentleman. No,  just a kleenex, offered to you by a Mom. I hoped you wouldn’t take offense. You didn’t. A conversation started during rush hour traffic on the freeway, and continued through the backstreets of Los Angeles. You were searching for comfort and reassurance and I, feeling the echo of an empty nest, was willing to provide it.  You’d just dropped your mother off at LAX. A three week vacation of hiking, going to the beach, and many smiles had ended. She was on her way back to Scotland.

You missed her the minute you had to get back on the bus, and now, on the ride back, the future tumbled through your mind. Would you move back? You couldn’t, really. Would she move here? She couldn’t, really. All these poignant questions loomed over you like a sad cloud.

To miss someone is a horrible thing. To miss your mother?  Ah, that’s the stuff of poetry.  So all I could tell you was that things have a way of working out. I hoped I didn’t sound so trite. But the truth is, your mother is always with you.  You’re riding on this incredible wave of love, given to you from her.  She instilled the courage in you to pick up stakes in Scotland, and move across the ocean (and then some) to the west coast. Your Mum is the reason you’ve been able to work through 2 states with one company, riding the opportunities they’ve given to you. Will you go, or will she come?  There’s no way of knowing. The answer will be revealed to you over the years. Keep building bridges, and you’ll have more choices. Eventually, you’ll know. The uncertainty of the future is something that will always be hovering just above our heads. But love hard, be present, live, grow and learn. Things will work out.

The Power of One

September is Suicide Prevention Month and we wanted to take a moment and let you know about one of the resources available. The Veterans Crisis Line is available to Veterans (and their loved ones!) via phone call, text message or online chat. The Folks at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances.

a2NXEze_700bIn support of Suicide Prevention Month, the Veterans Crisis Line has dedicated a section of their website to “The Power of One” and other resources and information available.

If you or someone you love displays the “signs of crisis”, please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line, where confidential support is just one call, text, or chat away.


UTAH: Cedar Mesa Military Expedition. Happening soon!

When:  Oct 3 – 9

Follow them on Facebook at Paradox Sports, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors.
Where: Meet in Salt Lake City, travel to Cedar Mesa. Travel to SLC is the responsiblity of the participant.
Who: Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, and Paradox Sports, leaders in veteran led and organized outdoor experiences
For more info: Go to the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Website

From the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors website:

“Veterans and Service Members, join the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, the Bureau of Land Management, and Paradox Sports from OCT 3rd through the 9th in an epic cultural, spiritual, and adventurous expedition in one of the most enchanting wild places in our country. After a weekend of celebration and a traditional Navajo healing sweat lodge ceremony, our veterans will explore Grand Gulch and the other surrounding canyons of the Cedar Mesa area through a series of day and through hikes led by Sierra Club Veteran leaders and assisted by local rangers and experts who have a vast knowledge of how to live, explore, and enjoy these sacred natural and historical sites.

General Itinerary:
3 OCT: No later than noon arrive at SLC Airport and move to Cedar Mesa
4 OCTt: Trip Logistics, local historical and natural talk, celebration dinner
5 OCT: Traditional Navajo sweat lodge and welcome home ceremony
6 OCT – 8 OCT: Group 1 Day hikes from central camp, Group 2 Hike through of Grand Gulch
9 OCT: Re-consolidate and move to SLC

Travel to and from SLC is the responsibility of the participant. We will provide local lodging in SLC for those arriving on the 2nd or leaving on the 10th. All group gear and food will be provided, a light backpacking packing list will be provided upon acceptance.

If you are interested in applying for the trip, send an email with the subject line: ‘YOUR LAST NAME_FIRST NAME Cedar Mesa’ to that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Branch of service, rank, when and where you served (or are serving)
  • Proof of service
  • Outdoor Experience (none is required) and other veteran / service member trips you’ve been on
  • Two sentences about why you want to go on the trip.
  • Where you will be coming from and if you need help getting to SLC
  • Any physical or mental concerns you might have about your participation on the trip (we will aim to make this trip 100% adaptable to your needs)

We will let everyone know about their participation no later than September 20th, 2014.”


NASHVILLE: Operation Purple Family Retreat OPEN

imagesCalling all veterans and active duty in the Nashville / Ft Campbell area. National Military Family Association is still taking registration for their upcoming Operation Purple Family Retreat October 3 – 6.  Other than getting you and your family there, it’s free.

From their site:  Coming back together after a deployment can be difficult. Operation Purple Family Retreats provide military families with the opportunity to reconnect as a family. We are using our popular ‘camp’ approach and bringing families to beautiful outdoor locations in order to provide fun family oriented activities, new memory making, and the ability to spend quality time together. Specially adapted communication activities developed by FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress ™) ensure families return home stronger. Families are able to connect in a “purple” environment that brings families from all ranks and services including National Guard and Reserve components together as a community. We are climbing, hiking, canoeing, bonding, eating s’mores, and more!

operation-purple-logoAbout the retreat and the camp:

Apply Now!

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan is located on the shores of Percy Priest Lake, in Nashville, Tennessee, just 20 minutes from downtown. Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center sits on 320 acres and 4 miles of shoreline. Water Activities include: swimming, Wet Willy Water slide, the Blob, sailing and many more. Land activities include: horseback riding, soccer, basketball, alpine tower, zip line, archery, arts & crafts and many more.
The camp sponsor is the wonderful USO.
Find Out More:  Visit for more information about our camp.

Fort Bliss Movie

New Film: Fort Bliss, Your Chance To Review!

FB_Opening-DayWe need films. They’re a narrative that can show the world what we’ve experienced, and how we feel, as we sometimes struggle for words.

Isn’t it difficult?  Going off to war?  Leaving hearth and home, leaving the children, the spouse, all those things that are essential to who you are?

I haven’t seen the film, “Fort Bliss,” but this story about the Mother-Soldier or Soldier-Mother is one that deserves to be told.  How many of us have known a female Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Sailor who hasn’t struggled upon coming home?

The film was shot in El Paso and on Ft Bliss with the full cooperation of the U.S. Army Motion Picture & Television Liaison Office. This means they did everything from read the script and make suggestions for accuracy, to help arrange the filming schedule on post. What it doesn’t mean is that they edited the film, or used undue influence to shape the film.

So here’s your chance to write a review for us. Go see Fort Bliss, and let us know what you thought about the film by hitting the “contact us” button.  While it is in a few theaters, the film is streaming online, via On Demand, and Digital formats. Check their website for more info.

  • Who were the main characters?
  • What strength did the characters have?
  • What vulnerabilities did they have?
  • Did you relate to them?
  • Why or Why Not?
  • Did the film remind you of something that happened to you or a friend?
  • How was your own, or your friend’s circumstances worked through?
  • Did you feel the film captured the problem that female soldiers with families face?
  • Did you feel the depiction was clear, and fair?


A decorated Army medic and single mother (Michelle Monaghan) returns home from an extended tour in Afghanistan to discover that the bond with her five-year-old son has been shattered.  In her absence, the boy has attached to his father  (Ron Livingston) and his new girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui).  As she struggles to reclaim her son’s affection and reintegrate into civilian life, she meets a mechanic (Manolo Cardona) with whom she becomes romantically involved.  Just as her life begins to stabilize and the bond with her son shows signs of healing, she gets news of another deployment. She must now find a way to reconcile her duties as a mother and her obligations as a soldier.

Kula for Karma: Free Video Series

Kula for Karma is a non-profit organization that has developed a free, 6-part guided yoga and meditation practice designed specifically for veterans. The videos are posted online, making them easy to access if you are trying out yoga for the first time (or even if you are a seasoned practitioner). 699ebb_664c6e5c327c8aaa1e96933fe2fecac2.png_srz_p_265_169_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

With the goal of creating a safe space for transformation and healing, these 30-minute videos guide viewers through asana, adaptive yoga, restorative practice, easy flow, power yoga levels I & II, and meditation.

You can find the videos on YouTube or on the Kula for Karma website!



SFC Patterson checks on his men during the winter at OP Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films

KORENGAL: A Review by Jim Channon


SFC Patterson checks on his men during the winter at OP Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films
SFC Patterson checks on his men during the winter at OP Restrepo. 2008. Korengal Valley Photo: Outpost Films

 This is not just a war movie it is a bone deep “check in” America 

Reviewed by Jim Channon (LTC retired), 173rd ABN

I saw another story in film today about frontline infantrymen at the same business I was in about 50 years ago. Their faces filled the screen with high definition emotions doing their best to describe a world that somehow never changes. They knew long periods of waiting while their minds could not be free of the kinetic woe that could come out of nowhere and strike them down or somehow even worse kill a friend. There is guilt with that too. What was surprising is that they maintained a certain deep and steady voice. Facing real danger that could come at anytime somehow brought reality into their language. So, many young people today babble ten words before even one of those words carves some meaning and lends distinction to the story.

They looked straight into camera. They explained what made them crazy about war. Their fortress was a bizarre combination of warehouse parts and the hillside it stood upon was full of treacherous little rock slides. Their sometimes enemy was smiling one day and attacking the next. It was a formula for psychic chaos. With

Korengal you are there in this very close up way.

We Americans must see what it is that we trust our government to be honorable about. I can say as a planetary elder, cultural designer, and veteran rifle platoon leader that our national leadership needs to be led to the theatre en masse and swallow this filmic truth.

Some will say yes but look at how grown up these once idle teens have become. And some of those teens will say life in America needs to grow up. In the end your realize that humans under pressure can become family. This is not just a war movie it is a bone deep “check in” America. The filming and editing are patient and defining. Go face to face with another reality for a change.

Jim Channon commanded five rifle platoons in four highly diverse natural settings. The Vietnam operation “hump” referred to by Chris Christopherson in this film involved Jim’s rifle platoon in 1966.
Jim created the field manual called “Evolutionary Tactics” where soldiers learned to be directly involved with the local populace. That manual was the cause of the George Clooney and Jeff Bridges film …”The Men Who Stare at Goats” …now a cult favorite. Jim now coaches veterans groups to bring these men home as real veterans not handicapped and drug dependent victims. A visitor to his home this week and veteran is establishing yoga studios on America’s army posts.

Note:  Sebastian Junger and TEAM Korengal wish to thank Jim for his insightful review. GO PLANET!  Follow Jim on Facebook!


KORENGAL: A film by Sebastian Junger

Battle Company’s Sterling Jones on the M240B during a firefight at OP Restrepo.

Some of you might not know that four years ago, I worked as the outreach coordinator on the film, Restrepo. This film followed the men of the 2/503, Battle Co. of the 173rd ABN. Both a kinetic and emotional experience, the film took audiences into the belly of war, showing people what war is, what it looks like, and how it is to fight.

After the death of Tim Hetherington, for whom this blog was started, Tim decided to embark on the project they both had discussed. To make a film with some of the hundreds of hours left over and unused, that would look at war in a different way.  And so now, I’ve been called back. The film is ready to launch on KorengalMay 30 in NYC, then across the country throughout the summer. The team is back together, Battle Co and ever troop who ever served in the Korengal have been alerted. We’re back. Without Tim. Without so many friends –troops who died then, and more recently. But their loss just signifies the growing need for the stories of war to be told now, and not left to be brushed off only to be varnished with a coat of nostalgia. 

Korengal is a more visceral experience. It asks the questions, how do soldiers fight?  What is courage, and what is fear? What happens to you when you lose one friend, then two, then three?  What do you tell your family back home, when you finally get to talk to them? What’s the impact of daily firefights, and when does it all turn so surreal that the only thing certain about your situation in a remote combat outpost is the uncertainty itself.

Same valley. Same men. Same ferocious fight. Their stories continue.

Watch Jason Mace and Michael Cunningham talk about the film at the Little Rock Film Festival.



Next Weekend: Sebastian Junger Will Buy You A Beer

Returning on the eastern cliff face of Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films.

Your ticket stub dated May 30, 31, or June 1 is good for a free glass of wine or a beer. Landmark Theaters has issued a challenge to viewers in the NYC. Pack the house for 3 days, and Korengal gets released nationwide.  Read this note from director Sebastian Junger.

A note from Director Sebastian Junger:

Four years ago, my colleague, Tim Hetherington, and I went to the Academy Awards with our film Restrepo, about a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan. Tim was tragically killed in combat several weeks later while covering the Libyan civil war, but I continued to work with the footage that he and I had shot in Afghanistan. The result is my new film, KORENGAL, which tries to understand the effect of war on the young men who fight it. How does courage work? Why do men often miss combat? Why is it to hard to come home?

imagesThe film is completely independent – I paid for the edit myself and am releasing it without any distributor or middleman (along with my longtime production partners, Goldcrest Films.) Korengal premieres May 30 at the SUNSHINE CINEMA at First Avenue and Houston.  BUY TICKETS HERE for Friday May 30, 31, or June 1.

But this is the deal: If we pack the theater for the first three days, Landmark will take Korengal nationwide — a real victory for independent film. We are doing this completely solo, and WE NEED YOUR HELP. Below you will find a link to pre-buy tickets to the film. Obviously the daytime showings are the hardest to fill, but please go whenever it’s convenient. I will be at most of the screenings to do a Q&A afterwards. But perhaps just as important: BRING YOUR TICKET STUB BACK TO THE HALF KING THAT WEEKEND TO REDEEM FOR ONE FREE BEER OR GLASS OF HOUSE WINE.

30daysonbeer_2011_day3_01_144_144_85_c1I hope you enjoy the film. I look forward to seeing you either at the cinema or back at the bar.

Sebastian Junger

Bear's Den on the Appalachian Trail, Virginia

Mindfulness Meditation Retreat for Veterans

HONORING THE PATH OF THE WARRIOR  (Supported by San Francisco Zen Center)


Supporting Our Veterans:
Mindfulness Meditation to Calm and Heal the Body and Mind


Spirit Rock is honored to offer a half-day of mindfulness meditation for veterans and their families. You will be introduced to mindfulness practice through sitting and walking meditation as well as time for small and large group discussion. This will be a time to connect with others and learn mindfulness meditation to help calm and heal the body and mind.

Lee and the Spirit Rock teachers will be joined by Fred Krawchuk, retired Colonel and Michael Ergo, MSW who works in the Veterans Administration. 

Sunday, June 15, 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Spirit Rock’s Community Hall
Registration through Spirit Rock is required.  Click 
here for more info and to register.

This event is open to veterans, their families and significant others. Spirit Rock will provide childcare to those who need it.

This program will be offered on a “dana” (donation) basis. The teachers are offering the day as a gift to the Spirit Rock community. The regular half day fee of $40 – $75 is waived for this event. The practice of generosity, or dana, in all forms is considered a central pillar of Buddhadharma practice. Spirit Rock invites you to contribute what is appropriate for you.

From Active Duty to the Active Life: Stress reduction through movement & breath. Resources from the military family for veterans, contractors, combat journalists, and their families.


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