At the Veterans Breakfast Club,

Stories Unite Us.

Check out our online & in-person veterans storytelling programs and see our full event schedule below. All are welcome to join us!

The Challenges Facing Military Spouses

Date: July 15, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

When one half of a couple joins the military, the other does also, in a sense, by default. There can be a sense of abandonment, as well as a troubling intimation that the military will always come first.

Military spouse Simone Gorrindo joins us to talk about her experience as captured in The Wives: A Memoir. Her book is an intimate and evocative account of the challenges that come with her husband’s deployment.

Initially resistant to the idea of military life, Gorrindo stuck with her boyfriend, Andrew, when he decided to join the Army.

That meant leaving a vibrant life in Manhattan to a rented house near Fort Benning. In time, Andrew left with a special operations unit in Afghanistan.

Gorrindo, who holds a master’s degree in journalism and has a background in editing, felt the constraints of her new role. She found military culture to be one of dependency which, along with the oppressive heat of Georgia, the mundane routine of her days, and the abandonment of her professional life in New York City surrounded her in a curtain of isolation.

Her company consisted primarily of other military wives, each dealing with the challenges of their husbands’ deployments. These women, thrown together by circumstance, navigated a life filled with uncertainty, emotional strain, and the need for resilience.

The uncertainty, anxiety, dependency all recalled Simone’s childhood, one dominated by her mother’s alcoholism. The sense of longing and stability, the desire for connection, pervades her account. Her own background flooded the foreground as she progresses in her pregnancy.

Each deployment felt like a betrayal. The adrenaline and purpose that guided Andrew’s life were absent in hers. As an Army wife, Simone was expected to be compliant and accommodating. The gulf between her and Andrew widened.

Yet, Simone knew her job was to maintain the household and construct a sort of family stability, even as the Army spun plans of its own, of which she was left entirely unaware.

When Andrew returned from a deployment, he had changed. But, she had changed also.

In detailing her story with courageous candor, Simone Gorrindo gives us a opportunity to talk about the dilemmas and difficulties faced by military spouses. It sheds light on the emotional labor, the sense of isolation, and the resilience required to navigate life in the shadow of military deployment.

Through her personal narrative, Gorrindo gives voice to the collective experiences of military wives, arguing for the recognition of their strength and the importance of their own transformations.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

How the Allies Almost Lost the Air War in Europe

Date: July 18, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

In 1939, the US Army Air Corps was a modest force with 26,000 personnel and 1,200 outdated aircraft. By 1944, it had expanded a hundredfold, becoming the world’s most formidable air force. This transformation was largely inspired by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell’s vision of strategic bombing. Mitchell argued that long-range bombers could cripple an enemy’s industrial base and demoralize its population, thus ending wars swiftly. His concepts were embraced by key figures like Major General Haywood Hansell, Henry “Hap” Arnold, and Carl Spaatz, who pushed for the mass production of heavy bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

The B-17, equipped with the advanced Norden Bombsight for precision bombing, became central to the Bomber Mafia’s doctrine of Daylight Precision Bombing. However, initial raids revealed the doctrine’s flaws. German fighter aircraft, such as the Focke-Wulf FW-190 and Messerschmitt ME-109, along with effective anti-aircraft defenses, inflicted severe losses on American bombers. Notable failures included the Schweinfurt-Regensburg raids in 1943, where substantial losses forced a reevaluation of tactics.

The turning point came with the introduction of the P-51 Mustang, a long-range fighter capable of escorting bombers deep into enemy territory. The P-51’s superior performance enabled it to protect bombers effectively, leading to a dramatic shift in air superiority. This change was crucial for the success of operations leading up to D-Day.

Operation Argument, also known as “Big Week” in February 1944, marked a significant resurgence of the Allied bombing campaign. Over 1,000 bombers and 600 fighters launched daily attacks on German industrial targets, dealing a crippling blow to the Luftwaffe. This operation demonstrated the strategic importance of air power and set the stage for the successful D-Day invasion in June 1944.

The Allied air war’s success was supported by immense production capabilities and the relentless efforts of those on the home front. The United States produced over 30,000 heavy bombers, while Britain manufactured over 7,000 Avro Lancasters despite constant enemy bombings. However, the human cost was staggering. The Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command lost 57,000 men, nearly half its force, and the Eighth Air Force saw 26,000 killed.

The physical and psychological toll on airmen was profound. Many suffered from Traumatic Stress Reaction, and the brutal conditions at high altitudes caused severe frostbite. Despite these hardships, the courage and sacrifice of these airmen were instrumental in achieving air superiority and, ultimately, victory in Europe.

The air war over Europe in WWII was a unique and significant chapter in military history. It highlighted the transformative power of air warfare and the incredible resilience and bravery of those who fought in the skies. Their contributions were vital to the Allied victory and remain a testament to the strategic importance of air power in modern warfare.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

 

War and Transgenerational Trauma

Date: July 22, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

 

Combat veterans may not tell their children about their experiences, but they transmit them invisibly, almost imperceptibly, through deep channels of influence in the mind, body, and psyche. Author, artist, and son of Vietnam veteran Carl Sciacchitano joins us to talk about his family story as captured in his new graphic memoir, The Heart That Fed: A Father, A Son, and the Long Shadow of War.

Also joining the conversation is internationally recognized neuroscientist Dr. Nadia Rupniak, whose father served in the Polish Army in World War II and received his country’s highest military decoration for heroism. 

The stories we hear from Carl and Nadia inform a broader discussion on transgenerational trauma—how the traumatic experience of war can echo across generations.

Violence, uncertainty, and tension can bring heightened caution and fear to children and family members, long after the real danger has passed.

This phenomenon, where trauma impacts individuals beyond those directly affected, can effect descendants who may not have had any direct exposure to the traumatic events themselves.

As Dr. Kimberly Copeland, Military Behavioral Health Psychologist  at the Center for Deployment Psychology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, outlines, transgenerational trauma can be understood through three main mechanisms: nature, nurture, and narrative.

Nature: Trauma impacts the whole person—mind, body, and psyche. Research in epigenetics, such as studies on cortisol levels, suggests that the physiological impacts of trauma can be passed down from parents to children. Variations in cortisol levels, influenced by trauma, can predispose individuals to PTSD and other stress-related disorders.

Nurture: Socio-psychological impacts of trauma, such as stress, low self-esteem, and impaired functioning, can be transmitted through learned behaviors and psychological symptoms. Studies highlight the transmission of these effects from combat veterans to their children, indicating a pattern of secondary trauma that could lead to intergenerational impacts.

Narrative: Even when trauma survivors do not explicitly share their experiences, their behaviors and the silence around these topics can influence future generations. Cultural and communal stories, as seen in Holocaust survivor families, can perpetuate a latent form of trauma, influencing descendants through the collective memory and narratives of the community.

The narrative stresses the importance of recognizing and understanding transgenerational trauma to facilitate healing. Healing should focus on identifying risk and resiliency factors, adopting holistic approaches, and utilizing culturally and spiritually congruent practices. The author reflects on the growth and bonding experienced with their sister, Trinh, suggesting that understanding and shared experiences can aid in healing from transgenerational trauma.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

Cold War of the 1980s with Author and Intelligence Veteran Brian Morra

Date: July 29, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

Brian Morra joins us again to talk about his followup his successful thriller The Able Archers. Brian’s new book, The Righteous Arrows, takes the story to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistant, an event that previewed the wars following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Brian is a highly decorated former American intelligence officer and a retired aerospace executive. He is the author of the award-winning Able Archers series of historical thrillers. Brian bases his book’s characters on himself and on people he encountered as an intelligence officer. He also brings into play countries and places that he knows firsthand in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His books are based on real events but read like page-turning thrillers.

Brian has written numerous articles for national publications and is an on-air expert in the new Netflix series on the Cold War called Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War. He also contributed his extensive expertise to the newly released CNN/BBC documentary called Secrets and Spies: A Nuclear Game. Brian was also featured on an episode of Turning Point – The Bomb and the Cold War, a Netflix series that explores the Cold War and its aftermath.

After collaborating to thwart nuclear war in The Able Archers, Kevin Cattani and his Soviet counterpart, Ivan Levchenko, developed a deep mutual respect—but in The Righteous Arrows they are working against each other. Cattani, despite serious misgivings, conducts a perilous covert mission inside a Soviet bunker and barely escapes with his life, putting himself on a collision course with Levchenko. Their ultimate confrontation comes on a battlefield during the brutal Soviet war in Afghanistan, where Levchenko issues the American an ominous warning that will echo for decades.

Foreshadowing the global war on terror, former Air Force Intelligence officer Brian Morra illuminates the stubbornly persistent rivalry between the US and Russia in this heart-stopping story of international espionage and war.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

The US Army at Guadalcanal

Date: August 1, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

Dave, a seasoned veteran with a 28-year career in the US Marine Corps, is host of the popular Guadalcanal – Walking a Battlefield YouTube channel. He shares with us his extensive knowledge and passion for the Battle of Guadalcanal. He’s dedicated especially to assisting veterans and their families seeking information about the Guadalcanal campaign. Through his extensive personal knowledge, research, and field experience, he has become a valuable resource for those interested in the Guadalcanal campaign.

Military Historian Jeff Ballard is the expert on the Navy side of the Battle of Guadalcanal, but he shares his extensive knowledge of the Army experience with us.

We’re grateful to UPMC for Life and Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

 

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