Former Marine Continues to Serve, Despite Amputation


By Debbie Gregory.

Former Camp Pendleton Marine Christopher Lawrence is working the beat as a rookie Chula Vista police officer, defying the odds that many military amputees who want to continue to serve face.

In 2007, Lawrence served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As he crossed a bridge to the mainland, insurgents watched from a distance and detonated an IED placed beneath it. Lawrence was badly injured, and his right leg was shattered, which led to a below the knee amputation.

Lawrence wanted to stay in the Marines. When that didn’t work out, his next choice was law enforcement. Four police departments turned him down before Chula Vista said yes.

Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said she was silently rooting for the Purple Heart recipient as he went through the police academy.

“I thought he was so inspiring,” Kennedy said. “I figured if he went through the process, and he could pass all the testing, I’d be more than willing to give him a shot.”

It’s a small brotherhood of injured servicemembers who have succeeded in either staying in the active-duty military or transitioned to civilian law enforcement led by Army Capt. David Rozelle, who broke ground in 2005 when he became the first military amputee to go back into a combat zone.

“I have never met a more abled-body person in my life,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said of Laurence, “The power of his attitude and character and the strength in his heart easily overcome the physical challenges. His life and the challenges he has overcome are an inspiration to others.”

“Most of the time, people are looking at the badge and uniform saying, ‘Thank God you are here to help.’ Or, they are unhappy to see us, because they did something wrong,” Lawrence said.

More than 1,700 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Military Health System figures.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Former Marines Develop App to turn Emails into Letters


By Debbie Gregory.

Did you know that U.S. Marine recruits aren’t able to make calls or send emails from boot camp? Now there is an app to address that problem.

SANDBOXX is a mobile app that connects the military community with their friends and loved ones by giving them the ability to send physical mail to those in basic training, boot camp or on deployment directly from their cell phones.

The SANDBOXX app allows loved ones to type a note on their smartphone and have it turned into a printed letter, which is then sent the old-fashioned way: snail mail. Recruits can then write a letter in return and have it converted back to email.

Former Marine Ray Smith was supposed to be retired, but instead he has teamed up with fellow former Marine Sam Meek after discussing their mutual interest for connecting the extended military community.

They founded SANDBOXX in 2013 and launched the letters app the following year to assist servicemembers and their spouses, parents, friends, siblings – anyone with a connection to the armed services.

The culture shock of suddenly losing contact to the online world can take a toll on morale and interfere with training, especially for the generations of men and women who have come of age with smartphone in hand.

Since the app was launched, SANDBOXX has passed some 900,000 letters through its platform, with about 70 percent of the company’s current letter volume coming from the Marine Corps.

But as word of the app spreads, more people are using it to contact deployed Army soldiers and Air Force personnel, with the app available to new Coast Guard members starting in January.

The ultimate goal of the company’s founders is to build a social media platform unique to the military community. They have already created a social media app called “units” based around the military’s organizational structure. Any current or former member of the U.S. military can log in, put in their unit and year, and be connected solely with people from that unit and year.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Former Marine Who Proved Russia Hacked DNC Emails is Speaking Out

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By Debbie Gregory.

When former Marine Capt. Robert Johnston chose computer science as his major at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he had no idea how that decision would impact our nation.

During his service in the Marine Corps, Johnson directed the Marine Corps Red Team, which tries to hack into the Corps computers to test its defenses. As a civilian, Johnson led the private security team that investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers, coming to the conclusion that Russian intelligence was indeed responsible.

In 2015, Johnston was leading newly formed Cyber Protection Team 81, based in Fort Meade, Maryland, as part of the military’s Cyber Command (Cybercom) when a malware attack against the Pentagon had reached the unclassified computers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Johnston helped the Joint Chiefs firm up security measures.

He left the Marine Corps in November 2015, and signed up to work for CrowdStrike, a well-known cyberprotection company.

In April, 2016, the DNC IT department became convinced that there was a hacking problem, and they called CrowdStrike.

Johnston found that their computer systems had been fully compromised by two attacks. Malware from the first attack had been festering in the DNC’s system for a whole year. The second infiltration was only a couple of months old. Both sets of malware were associated with Russian intelligence.

CrowdStrike and the DNC gave the story to the Washington Post, and on June 14, 2016, the Post published the story: “Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.”

In retrospect, Johnston thinks the Washington Post story accelerated the hackers’ timeline.

“I believe now that they were intending to release the information in late October or a week before the election,” Johnson said. “But then they realized that we discovered who they were. I don’t think the Russian intelligence services were expecting it, expecting a statement and an article that pointed the finger at them.”

In July 2016, WikiLeaks began to release thousands of emails hacked from the DNC server. Johnson’s analysis laid the groundwork for what would eventually lead to the investigation of Russia’s intervention into the U.S. presidential election.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.