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!

Found: A Veteran Story by Best-Selling Author Jack McLean

Date: June 24, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

 

Jack McLean joins us again to talk about his new book, Found: A Veteran Story which tells how he healed from Vietnam.

Last year, Jack recounted the history behind his best-selling memoir of 2009, Loon: A Marine Story. Jack served in Vietnam in 1967-68 tour with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He survived a lot of combat, including a harrowing three-day fight at LZ Loon near the Laotian border in I Corps.

Jack’s homecoming was both unique and typical of the Vietnam generation of veterans. On the one hand, he went straight to Harvard University, the first Vietnam veteran to attend.

On the other hand, he found it difficult to connect with fellow veterans or with anyone who was interested in his service. In 1968, he walked into a VFW hall and received only the chilliest of cold shoulders from the older veterans there. “Nobody offered me a beer,” he writes. “Nobody invited me to join the card game. Nobody waved me over to the pool table. Nobody welcomed me home.”

Coupled with survivor guilt and un-processed trauma of combat, such neglect and isolation only fed his sense that something was wrong.

Jack found healing as he tracks down fellow Marines and the Gold Star family members who never made it home.

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

Astronaut Jan Davis

Date: June 27, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

Astronaut Jan Davis talks about her life in aviation and the legacy of service in her family. Her memoir Air Born, tells the story of her and her father.

Her father was Ben Smotherman, a B-17 pilot in World War II, vwho aliantly fought in the European Theater of Operations before being shot down over Holland in July 1943. After enduring twenty-one months as a prisoner of war, he was finally reunited with his loved ones and was able to start a family. Years later, after perusing his Wartime Log, his daughter Jan made discoveries about her father’s experiences that shed light on her own life path. As a Space Shuttle astronaut, Jan Davis went through intensive training, flew NASA jets, and completed three spaceflights, spending over 673 hours on orbit. Her experiences and emotions during her launches and space travel echoed those of her father during his combat missions, highlighting the unshakable bond between father and daughter.

With Air Born, you can join in on a flight through history as Jan Davis relates her father’s heroic service and draws connections between his combat missions and her own spaceflights. Discover the ins and outs of pilot training in the 1940s alongside Ben Smotherman and bear witness to his harrowing capture, interrogation, and imprisonment at Stalag Luft III. Rejoice with the POWs as World War II finally ends and the prisoners are returned home to continue pursuing their life’s goals. Shadow Jan Davis as she expertly navigates a career characterized by space exploration, scientific experimentation, and phenomenal feats of engineering. And draw inspiration from the intersection of two completely different yet uniquely connected worlds brought together by a common link of family and flying.

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

Veterans Open Conversation

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

VBC Scuttlebutt is a virtual watering hole where camaraderie and connection flow as freely as laughter and shared stories.

Join us to swap stories, good and bad, at home and overseas, old and new. At the VBC, veterans from every era and branch are drawn together by the warm glow of shared purpose.

The stories bridge the gap and the years with veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, late Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and other eras and deployments. Non-veterans also join the circle, eager to understand, to listen, to learn.

They ask questions with genuine respect and a desire to honor the sacrifices made. This intergenerational dialogue, forged in the crucible of shared experience, builds bridges of empathy and understanding.

These stories aren’t just for veterans; they’re for everyone who wants to understand the lives of those who served. Whether you’re a veteran seeking camaraderie, a civilian wanting to learn, or simply someone who appreciates the value of service, the VBC welcomes you with open arms. Join us online – become part of their mission to honor stories, build bridges, and ensure that every day is Veterans Day.

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

The Battle of Britain

Date: July 11, 2024
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
Events | Online Events

In preparation for our September VBC trip to England for a tour of English air fields and WWII sites, Glenn Flickinger gives us a presentation on the Battle of Britain, a clash of air power to control the skies over Britain and the English Channel. We will experience a re-enactment of the battle at the Duxford Air Show September 13-15.

The Battle of Britain, fought from July to October 1940, marked the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces and was crucial in preventing Nazi Germany from achieving air superiority, which was necessary for launching an invasion of Britain.

The battle began after Germany had rapidly conquered much of Europe, leaving Britain isolated. Adolf Hitler aimed to force Britain to negotiate peace by crippling its air defenses and infrastructure through sustained aerial bombardment. The Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, was tasked with this mission under Operation Sea Lion.

The initial phase of the battle, from July to early August, focused on targeting British shipping and ports. This strategy aimed to disrupt supplies and weaken British defenses. However, the Royal Air Force (RAF) managed to respond effectively, inflicting significant losses on the Luftwaffe.

In mid-August, the Luftwaffe shifted its focus to RAF airfields and radar stations. This was the most dangerous phase for Britain, as the destruction of these targets could cripple the RAF’s ability to defend the skies. The Germans launched large-scale attacks, leading to intense dogfights between German fighters and British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Despite suffering heavy losses, the RAF’s effective use of radar and efficient communication allowed them to remain resilient.

A turning point came in late August and early September when the Luftwaffe began bombing London and other major cities in what became known as the Blitz. This shift in strategy was partly a response to a British raid on Berlin, which angered Hitler. While the bombings caused significant civilian casualties and damage, they inadvertently relieved pressure on the RAF airfields, allowing the British fighters to regroup and recover.

The climax of the battle occurred on September 15, 1940, now known as Battle of Britain Day. The Luftwaffe launched a massive assault on London, expecting to draw out and destroy the RAF fighters. However, the British defenders were well-prepared, and the Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses. This failure convinced the German High Command that air superiority could not be achieved.

By the end of October, Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely. The Luftwaffe’s inability to dominate the skies over Britain marked the first significant defeat for Nazi Germany in World War II. The RAF had successfully defended Britain, preserving it as a base for future Allied operations, including the eventual liberation of Western Europe.

The Battle of Britain was not just a military confrontation but also a test of national endurance and morale. The bravery of the RAF pilots, often referred to as “The Few” based on Winston Churchill’s famous tribute, played a crucial role in securing the victory. Their efforts ensured that Britain remained a beacon of resistance against Nazi tyranny.

In summary, the Battle of Britain was a crucial air campaign in World War II that thwarted Hitler’s plans for invading Britain. The RAF’s strategic use of radar, resilient defense of key airfields, and the shift in German tactics to bombing cities all contributed to the British victory. This battle not only prevented a German invasion but also set the stage for future Allied successes in the war.

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

 

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!

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