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A Veteran’s “Million Mile Stare” (Story)

These images come from British war photographer Jerome Starkey while attached to a U.S. Army Medevac team. He captured this powerful moment of Specialist Jacob Moore from the 101st Airborne while in Afghanistan. This is the story that led to one photo titled the “Million Mile Stare”.

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An image of a combat veteran staring into the sun for a paper advertisement

A look back at the heroes we’ve helped (15 Photos)

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come, but more importantly, to remember how we got here. The freedom that we enjoy every day did not always belong to us – we had to fight for it.

Chive Charities is committed to providing financial support to those who defend us. When our veterans have nowhere to turn, they turn to us.

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In so many ways, it feels like Rory never left. He can still hear the car bombs exploding, the deafening sound of the waterfall of gun fire going off at the fence line… only yards away. He can still feel the heat, the way it seemed to get into your bones and cover you like a wet blanket. He can still feel the bullets ricochet, the way they shook the walls around him. That first night in Iraq he didn’t sleep one wink. But when he left four months later, the feeling of constant anxiety, of always being on edge, would stay with him…

“Being stationed in the Sunni Triangle was the beginning of the end of my personality, my emotions, and my mental state,” Rory told me on the phone. He recounted instances of being inches away from death, the way it felt when a car bomb goes off and suddenly everything becomes slow motion, like in a movie. He remembers the nightmares more than anything. The noise. The gut-wrenching fear. “Our base was hit by mortars 139 times in 120 days,” he said. When I asked what a mortar was, he told me it was a miniature bomb. 

Big things come in small packages, he said. 

One night, he felt like he was out of options. He was having one of the worst panic attacks he’d ever had, and he wasn’t able to snap himself out of it. Watching his three young daughters sleep didn’t have the same curative effect it usually did… he just felt empty, gutted, defeated. He felt like he just wanted it all to be over. “I was tired,” he remembers. “I was tired of locking up all my sadness, anger, depression, and anxiety and pretending like it didn’t exist. I thought about becoming one of the 22 a day because I didn’t think I deserved to be here anymore and I was just a burden to my family.” 

As a last ditch effort to find comfort and solace, he posted about these suicidal thoughts on a veteran support group. It was the middle of the night, but he hoped someone would respond. Someone who had been there, who could pull him out of the trenches. Out of the 12,000 people who belonged to the support group, only a handful were online at that time. And of the handful who saw Rory’s cry for help, only one responded. And only a few months before, she had been contemplating the same dark thoughts. But in her case it was a charity, not a person, who came to her aid…

A fated act of kindness saves one veteran’s life (12 Photos)

“I was tired,” he remembers. “I was tired of locking up all my sadness, anger, depression, and anxiety and pretending like it didn’t exist. I thought about becoming one of the 22 a day because I didn’t think I deserved to be here anymore and I was just a burden to my family…”

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At the top of the mountain, it’s incredible how much you can see. The sky is clear, the air is pure. It even smells different up here. The wind whips around the trees, shaking the snow from the pines. But inside your helmet - it’s completely quiet. The only sound you can hear is your steady, rhythmic breath. Any moment now, you’ll push yourself forward towards the slope. For now though, you stand and appreciate what it’s taken you to get here. Funny, the simplest things seem so beautiful after you think you’ll never get a chance to see them again. Lake Tahoe seems bluer. The snow feels like powder under your feet and it’s beckoning you to come play. The sun touches everything around you and the light dances off the trees. The view from the peak leaves you breathless. You’re at the top of the world. You tilt your head back, close your eyes, and inhale deeply. 

This, you think, is what it feels like to be alive.

Chris Wolff never imagined he’d be here. In fact, he never thought he’d see the outside of his C-130 troop transport plane. “I had accepted it,” he said. “I was going to die in the sky over Afghanistan.” But somehow, against all odds, he survived. Even though an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) penetrated the aircraft’s engine, the pilot “was able to limp the aircraft back to base.” Ironically, it wasn’t this harrowing experience but a virus vaccine that almost killed him. His spinal cord became infected, his white blood cell count skyrocketed, and within a matter of days doctors were telling him he would never walk, breathe, or eat on his own again. A month before that he was the picture of health, and now his life was unrecognizable to him.

Jake Schick is a third generation Marine. Everything about him “epitomizes service and sacrifice.” In 2004, a triple-stacked tank mine detonated below his vehicle in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. Jake suffered compound fractures in his left leg and arm; he endured burns, loss of skin, ligament, and bone, partial loss of his left hand and arm, amputation below the knee of his right leg, traumatic brain injury and PTSD. At the moment many people would give up and give in… Jake set to work. To date, Jake has undergone 46 operations, 23 blood transfusions, and countless hours of rehabilitation. In 2014, Jake appeared in the film American Sniper. And in 2015, he met a group of people who were going to change his life.

One non-profit is bringing military to the mountain (16 HQ Photos)

“Physical limitations,” he said, “are just that – physical limitations. They’re not mental limitations. How far are you willing to let that physical limit get ahead of your mentality? It’s all about trusting yourself and your ability, and just surrounding yourself with soul-feeders and you can do anything.

So that’s why I skied down the mountain.”

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