Tagged: Marine Corps

Determined Boy + Marine = Inspiring

Posted by Kelli McKinney

I saw this video last night, and my first reaction, surprisingly, wasn’t to reach for the tissue. It wasn’t to hug my child who, thankfully, is healthy and happy. Nor was it to reflect on the tenacity of the human spirit, which drives children like Ben to overcome obstacles and reassures parents faced with tough decisions like the Baltzes faced five years ago. That’s when they had to decide whether or not to have Ben’s right leg amputated to stop their young son’s bone cancer.

No, my reaction was embarrassingly simple: Of course the Marine helped him. What else would he do?

This is the stuff our military men and women are made of. When Pfc Matthew Morgan, who at 19 is only a few years older than the young man completing the triathlon, saw that Ben Baltz fell, his natural response was to go to him and offer help. Our servicemembers stand ready to go out and care for others. To lift others up so they go on and achieve great things. That’s who they are.

Even though it wasn’t surprising or revelatory, it was still a beautiful thing to see.

The Marines were at the Sea Turtle Tri-Kids Triathlon last weekend with the sole purpose of helping. They volunteered their time and talent to help set up, to police the area, and to encourage the kids as they swam 150 yards, rode four miles and ran a mile. These physical challenges might not even cause the Marines to break a sweat, but they are taxing for the youngsters competing, and they’re even more taxing when you’re a kid relying on a prosthetic leg.

What inspired me the most about this story was something that Ben’s mom was reported to have said. She was quoted in a Yahoo news story as saying that her son was a little aggravated that his mechanics failed and he had to have help to finish. As a mother of a determined young man, I get it. He wants to do it himself and succeed on his own merits. I’m so very grateful for kids like that. Like most of us, Ben Baltz doesn’t want to be someone who wants to relies on others to meet his personal goals.

So this fantastic bundle of determination and frustration meets a Marine, whose only thought was to help the kid achieve what he set out to do. After all, he’d come so far; there was no reason why he shouldn’t cross those last few yards to the finish line as a champion, right? As hard as they work to avoid it, even the toughest, most battle-hardened warrior has to be helped off the battlefield sometimes.

And here’s where a lot of the tears seemed to flow among the spectators. Because there was our Marine, lifting Ben Baltz high and proud, joined by fellow Marines, who demonstrated solidarity and support for a young man who probably doesn’t even realize what an inspiration he is to others.

Whatever Ben Baltz does next in his life, he has the support and encouragement of those 22 Marines behind him. He has the immeasurable love of his parents behind him. And he has the silent cheers of the tens of thousands of people who have seen his victory mile and are motivated by his potential. People who might otherwise be discouraged in their own situation will see this amazing kid who has already beaten cancer and completed a triathlon and find a spark of encouragement to keep going.

Cheers to you, young Ben, and to you Pfc Morgan, for your steadfast determination, honor, and service. Thank you for giving us hope and helping us believe that we can achieve anything we set our mind to – and reminding us that when things go wonky, we can rely on the strong shoulders of our brothers and sisters in the Marine Corps (and all our Armed Services) to dust us off and bring us safely to the goal.

Amazing Veterans – Montel Edition

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Montel WilliamsBefore he was a talk show host, an actor or a prescription drug plan representative, Montel Williams was a Marine Lieutenant with a degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an important message to the kids of America: When you have an education, nothing can stand in your way – not even a mountain.

Williams’s life is testament to that message. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he attended Andover High School in Linthicum, Maryland. He was a good student, athlete and musician, and was elected president of both his junior and senior classes.

After he graduated high school in 1974, Williams enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training at Parris Island, SC, he was promoted to platoon guide and sent to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twenty-nine Palms. His leadership skills caught the attention of superior officers, who recommended him for the Naval Academy Preparatory school at Newport, Rhode Island. He was accepted, completed the one-year course, and went on to be accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

When he arrived at Annapolis, he was honorably discharged from the Marines, and enlisted into the Navy as a midshipman. When he graduated from Annapolis in 1980 with a degree in general engineering and a minor in International Security Affairs, he became the first African American enlisted marine to complete and graduate both the Academy Prep School and Annapolis.

Although he had planned to return to the Marines as an officer after graduating from Annapolis, he and 99 other seniors were given the wrong dose of an immunization. He had a severe reaction to the immunization, was hospitalized for 2 ½ weeks and lost the vision in his left eye. After a partial recovery, he was able to serve as a naval intelligence officer, specializing in languages.

He served as a naval intelligence officer for the next year and a half in Guam, studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, and served for three years aboard submarines. Lieutenant Williams was made supervising cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Ft. Meade, discovered a gift for public speaking, and in 1988 began conducting informal counseling for families of servicemen in his command. He was invited to speak to a group of kids in Kansas City, Mo about leadership and overcoming obstacles. He left the navy with the rank of lieutenant, and received the Navy Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal and began a three-year career as a motivational speaker. The video clip below is from the beginning of one of his engagements at a prominent college.

As a speaker, Williams traveled the country and reached hundreds of thousands of students, parents, educators and business leaders, inspiring them to work together to help kids reach their highest potential. First order of business to reach your potential: stay in school.

These efforts to reach out to the community with a motivating and inspiring message eventually led to his talk show, the “Montel Williams Show,” which won an Emmy in 1996 and has been on-air for 17 years.

In addition to his success in the Navy, public speaking and television industries, he is a best-selling author. One of his stated beliefs is that “success is determined by what you give back to others,” which may be why he is an active volunteer and philanthropist. In 1999, Montel announced his diagnosis with MS, a potentially debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. To raise both awareness and funds for MS research, he created the Montel Williams MS Foundation. He’s also been the National Spokesperson for the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a major industry campaign to extend prescription drug help to all Americans, since 2006.

Mr. Williams’ work to motivate people to live to their fullest potential, combined with his willingness to serve, makes him an inspiration and has left an indelible impact on our country. During a time when the economic and social disparities seem to be more and more divisive, he delivers a timeless message about the importance of education, hard work, service and perseverance.

Ready to move mountains? If you’re ready to use your military education benefits, find out how to get started.

Know an inspiring veteran? Tell us about them in the comments.

Wish Upon A Wedding

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

military weddingJake and Meredith met at church and soon became fast friends. Friendship developed into even more, and they became engaged. Life, in that particular way it works, decided to get in the way. Throwing one thing after another after at Meredith and Jake, life quickly became complicated (and that’s an understatement). The money for an engagement ring was not there earlier; a wedding would most definitely have to wait. Unbeknownst to them, a friend had presented their story to Wish Upon A Wedding; Jake and Meredith became husband and wife in January 2012.

Why is this on a military blog? Because Jake is a Lance Corporal in the United State Marine Corps, and Meredith is a former Marine Corps officer. They were married at the United States Naval Academy, Meredith’s alma mater.

Wish Upon A Wedding (WUW) provides free wedding ceremonies and receptions for the terminally ill, for severely injured service members, and others having faced/are facing “seriously life-altering circumstances.” Formed in 2009, this non-profit organization wants to “to celebrate the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.” And with over 30 wishes granted in over two years, they are doing just that, and doing it well.

There are over 20 local chapters of WUW across the nation filled with wedding vendors who provide, free of charge, their services or products to ensure that those who are postponing their wedding because of dramatic circumstances have the opportunity to have a great wedding. Applicants first fill out the online application, which is forwarded on to the closest local chapter. The application not only asks for the basics (name, address, phone number) but also for medical information/other information to verify the situation. Information is verified, and decisions are made based on applicant circumstances and eligibility.

Once an applicant has been chosen, items covered in the wedding depend on the number and type of vendors involved as volunteers. What typically is covered is the officiant, venue, wedding planner, florist, cake, caterer, and most rentals. Often times, the gown and tuxedo is covered. What is never covered is alcohol; if you wish to provide alcohol to your guests, you must do so on your own and also provide liability insurance.

The wedding planner takes over for you once receiving your preferences. There are no guarantees; each chapter runs solely on volunteers. If there are no volunteers that specialize in lighting and a dance floor, it simply can’t be provided. Gathering multiple volunteers together for one event can sometimes be difficult; keep that in mind when you are requesting a wedding because you may not get the particular date you desire. Check here for the list of items that WUW can and cannot generally provide when planning a wedding.

If your circumstances prompt a wedding in less than six weeks, there is a limit of 25 guests. If you can wait longer than that, up to six months, you can invite up to 50 guests.

If you know of a couple, or are a couple, with extreme circumstances, visit Wish Upon A Wedding’s website. Like the national chapter on Facebook, as well as many of their regional chapters. You can help this unique organization in many ways; they offer eight suggestions, including financial donations, becoming a wish granter (donating time and service as a vendor), and directly volunteering with the local chapter, including helping to start a new chapter in your area.


(Disclaimer; I am a wedding vendor signed up to provide services in my local chapter. There has been no financial remuneration involved from WUW in the writing of this article. They are not aware of this article prior to its publication.)