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Meet Your Military: Palau Native Marine Returns to Island Home

support our troops us marine returns home PHOTO: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Milton Donatus, second from right, instructs Palau national law enforcement officers on the operations of the M9A1 9 mm service pistol in Irai, Palau, Sept. 16, 2014.IRAI, Palau– Bedtime stories can have an impact on children’s imaginations. For many young people, hearing tales of fictitious characters like “Peter Pan” or “Jack and the Beanstalk” can create the desire to experience Peter’s or Jack’s extraordinary adventures. Donatus is a native of Ngaraard, Palau. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drew Tech For one boy from Ngaraard, Palau, bedtime stories were not about fighting pirates or giants. This boy was told stories of combat and the U.S. Marines at the Battle of Peleliu during World War II. That boy was Milton Donatus, and the stories his grandmother told him as a child spawned a lifelong dream to become a U.S. Marine.

“Every time my grandmother would talk about war, the Marines came up,” said Donatus, the training chief with Combat Logistics Detachment 379, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. Idolized Marines “The Marines were always talked about as the saviors and the best [warriors] ever, so growing up, I didn’t know about any other military,” he added. “I only knew about the Marines, and that I wanted to be one.” Shortly after graduating from high school in 1995, Donatus moved to Guam to pursue his dream, and in May 2000, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His career has seen him rise to the rank of staff sergeant and has brought him aboard the USNS Sacagawea as part of exercise T-AKE 14-2, a maritime pre-positioned force, multinational theater security cooperation event that deploys from the Japanese island of Okinawa to conduct training exercises.

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Meet Your Military: Food Services Trio Inseparable Since 8th Grade

support our troops us soldiers inseparable since 8th gradePHOTO: Pfc. Derek Jones, Pvt. Joshua Anderson and Pfc. DeAndre Kinlaw, all now 19 years old, graduated from the Army’s Food Service Specialist Course on Sept. 10, 2014. FORT LEE, Va– In middle school, three students made a pact to attend high school together, play football together, enroll in college together and follow the same career path. The Jacksonville, Fla., natives have attended middle school, high school and college together and are now embarking on a stint with the Florida National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell “We were in the eighth grade sitting at a table, and we planned our whole lives out right there that day in class,” recalled Army Pvt. DeAndre Kinlaw, a member of the trio. One could argue their ambitions were simply notions of pre-adolescent romanticism, but it was far more than that. It was about extending their reach far beyond the familiar, actively pursuing goals and drawing inspiration from each other along the way.

Those dynamics also played part in the decision to take the plan one step further, joining the Army National Guard and completing basic combat and advanced individual training together as members of the same units. The three 19 year olds -- Pvt. Joshua Anderson, Kinlaw and Pfc. Derek Jones -- graduated Sept. 10 after completing the Quartermaster School’s Food Service Specialist Course as members of Tango Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion. They are now on leave in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Resilience, teamwork, common purpose Army Capt. Constance Marable, Tango Company commander, manages more than 400 soldiers at any one time.

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Meet Your Military: Archery Helps Airman Overcome Adversity

support our troops us airman archeryPHOTO: Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena readies his compound bow to strike a target 25 meters away in San Antonio, Sept. 14, 2014.SAN ANTONIO – Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Pena, a highly decorated tactical air control party member who is noted for calling in coordinated close support airstrikes that killed up to 70 Taliban members in one fight, sat down with a crossbow draped across his lap and a target 25 meters in front of him, reminiscing about the night that changed his life forever. Pena will compete at the 2014 Warrior Games, taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Ellis "I have gone on multiple deployments, defeated the Taliban; I never thought another American would do this to me," he said. One night while Pena was riding his motorcycle, a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into him. As Pena was flung from his bike, the driver attempted to flee, but was apprehended by a service member who witnessed the incident. Pena doesn't remember the event. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple broken bones and fractures, and he lost a lot of blood. He died immediately at the scene, but was resuscitated once medical personnel arrived. "I actually died twice," Pena said with a sobering tone.

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Soldier Reflects on Hispanic Heritage

support our troops us soldier hispanic heritagePHOTO: Army Sgt. Maj. Jose Velazquez joined the Army as a way to get out of his hometown and fight the possibility of becoming a “statistic.” U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.– Army Sgt. Maj. Jose Velazquez, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command public affairs sergeant major, is one of the more than 158,000 Hispanic Americans serving in the military today. Reflecting on National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15, he recalled what joining the Army meant to him and how it changed his life.
Velazquez said he grew up in the lawless Essex Street Projects of Lawrence, Massachusetts, with his mother, who had moved from Puerto Rico to the United States. “My mother worked in factories to help provide and raise me,” he said. “Her hopes for me were to not become another statistic of the city, with working in a factory or ending up dead on a street corner.” After graduating from high school, Velazquez said, he tried his hand at community college, but fell short. “At the time, I was [still] struggling to not be a statistic, but in many ways I already was,” he explained. “By 1990, I had already failed out of college and had been hired by a clothing factory, working in what was known as the ‘sweat shop.’” Velazquez said he knew this was not the life he wanted to live, but was not sure about how to survive otherwise. ‘I knew I couldn’t stay there’ “I still remember like it was yesterday,” he said. “What I remember the most is the blank stares of the good, decent men and women who worked there. It felt like their hopes and dreams had died amongst those mill walls. I knew I couldn’t stay there. I knew I had to find a way out.”

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Meet Your Military: Boom Operator Follows in Father's Footsteps

support our troops us soldier boom operatorPHOTO: Air Force Senior Airman Danielle Repp performs an aerial refueling operation in a KC-135 Stratotanker. Photo courtesy of Daniel Repp ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England – Some families have a history of military service, whether it be in different branches or the same one. Less common however, is for two consecutive generations not only serve in the same service branch, but also to pursue the same career field. This is the case with Air Force Senior Airman Danielle Repp, a 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator from Spokane, Washington, and her father, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Repp. Both Repps chose to be boom operators, with Danielle entering the Air Force in 2012. Her father enlisted in 1981. Danielle said her desire to become a boom operator stemmed from her father's career, which she got to observe first-hand growing up. "Boom operator was definitely No. 1 on my list," she said. Her first exposure to the boom operator world was all it took to peak her interest in the career field, she said. "I got to fly space-available once on a flight from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, to Hawaii, and I got to watch [my dad] during [a [refueling operation]," she recalled. "Seeing pictures and hearing how much he likes the job made me think, 'You know, I don't want to sit at a desk all day. I want to be out there doing something.'"

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Meet Your Military: Minnesota Brothers Reunite in Kuwait

support our troops kuwait us minnesota brosPHOTO: Army Sgt. 1st Class Laudert of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and his brother, Army Spc. Cameron Laudert of the Army Reserve’s 452nd Combat Support Hospital, display the White Earth Nation flag while deployed to Camp Buerhing, Kuwait. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Holly Elkin CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait – Though one serves in the Army Reserve and the other in the Minnesota National Guard, a pair of brothers from Monticello, Minnesota, are deployed here together. “I didn’t know if our paths would cross,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Lowell Laudert as he sat with his brother, Army Spc. Cameron Laudert.

Cameron, a health care specialist, is assigned to the Army Reserve’s 452nd Combat Support Hospital out of Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Lowell, an intelligence analyst, is assigned to the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. When Cameron deployed to Kuwait last year, he said, he never imagined he would be sharing lunches with his brother at the dining facility here. “As soon as I got here, I tracked him down,” said Lowell as the brothers reflected on their reunion. Cameron, having been deployed for several months before his brother joined him, had grown accustomed to being called by his last name. When he heard a familiar voice calling out “Cameron,” he was unsure of how to react.

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