Posts

Army Veteran, Gunman in Colorado Shooting, had History of Mental Illness

matthew-riehl

By Debbie Gregory.

He was once a standout student in law school and an Army medic. But in the very early morning hours on New Year’s Eve, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl shot four sheriff’s deputies who responded to a complaint at his apartment in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, killing Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish.

At 5:15 a.m, law enforcement was called out to the apartment to investigate a complaint of a “verbal disturbance” involving two men. One of the men told them the suspect “was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown” but the deputies found no evidence of a crime.

They were called back less than an hour later and came under fire almost immediately after entering the apartment and trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom. They were forced to retreat.

Riehl was killed during the subsequent shootout with a police tactical team that left a SWAT officer injured.

Deputy Parrish, 29, leaves behind his wife Gracie and two young daughters.

Riehl enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2003, and in 2006 he joined the Wyoming Army National Guard. He deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2009 to March 2010. He was honorably discharged in 2012.

Riehl had a history of mental issues, and had escaped from a veterans mental health ward in 2014 during a stay for a psychotic episode. His mother told authorities that her son had post-traumatic stress disorder from his Iraq war deployment and was refusing to take his medication to treat the condition.

By mid-2016, Riehl was at the center of a string of worrisome events reported by police in Colorado and Wyoming. He posted tirades on social media about the faculty at the Wyoming law school and sent harassing emails to police after getting a speeding ticket.

Riehl posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane, highly personal terms. He also used social media to livestream the confrontation leading up to the shooting.

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.

Russia Used Social Media to Spread Propaganda to Veterans and Troops

russia hack

By Debbie Gregory.

British researchers say they have evidence that Russia targeted U.S. military veterans and active-duty troops via social-media, especially Twitter, to spread anti-government propaganda in the spring before the presidential election.

The study by Oxford University traced the reach of three websites, Veteranstoday.com, Veteransnewsnow.com, and Southfront.org, known to have shown ads and posts linked to the Russian government.

The content led to “significant and persistent interactions” on Twitter over a one-month period, with a theme of news to undermine faith in U.S. democracy.

According to Philip Howard, a professor of internet studies who led the research, the study uncovered an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel.

“It’s a complex blend of content with a Russian view of the world — wild rumors and conspiracies,” Howard said.

The Oxford study categorized 12,413 Twitter users and 11,103 Facebook users who had messages that referenced or carried content from one or more of the Russian-linked websites from April 2 to May 2, 2017.

On both Twitter and Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart,  and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names

News from the study’s findings comes after Facebook revealed that Moscow purchased online ads that specifically targeted presidential swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Specific demographic groups were also targeted in an attempt to influence the presidential election.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the extent and the success in which Russia disseminated false news or further fanned inflammatory reports.

Given the powerful role of social media in political contests, understanding what Russian did will be crucial in preventing similar attacks in the 2018 congressional races and the 2020 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.

MilitaryConnection.com and VAMBOA Hit Record Numbers on Social Media

mc and vamboa logos

Gregory Media CEO Debbie Gregory is proud to announce that MilitaryConnection.com and its sister organization VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association, achieved new records on social media, surpassing 1.2 million combined fans and followers.

This growth in social media is also having a positive impact and generating increased traffic on the websites.

MilitaryConnection.com, known as “the Go to Site” is one of the most comprehensive online directories of resources and information, with something for everyone. This site connects its audience with excellent jobs and employment resources, military/veteran friendly colleges, universities and vocational schools, benefits, news, resources and much more. There is also a comprehensive directory for each military service branch. MilitaryConnection.com is an outstanding online advertising venue to reach military, veterans and their loved ones.

The web site also works with a multitude of non-profits within the military and veteran communities, using it significant reach to help them “get out the word” on their causes and events, and facilitates win/win partnerships with organizations and clients.

“We are excited to see the continued growth of our social media reach, as well as website traffic,” said Gregory. “We know that we are delivering quality resources to our audience, including the daily articles on our Blog and our Newsletter.”

VAMBOA, a 501 (c) 6 non-profit trade association, has over 7,000 members nationwide. VAMBOA focuses on connecting members with corporations seeking a diverse network of suppliers. The association is supported through corporate sponsorships, and does not charge members any membership fees.

“Supporting the businesses of our military members and veterans and contributing to their successes provides us with the opportunity to express our pride and appreciation to and for the many who have served and sacrificed to make our country free,” said Gregory. “ It also enables corporations to work with companies run by America’s heroes.

How Will Millennials Affect the Military?

millenials

By Debbie Gregory.

There is a big difference between Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Gen-xers (born between the mid-sixties and the early 80’s) and Millennials, who were born after Gen-x , up until around the time of the new millennium. But how will their service in today’s military fare against that of previous generations?

There are stereotypes that Millennials got rewarded just for “showing up.”  Are they too self- involved and reliant on social media to make good servicemembers? And how do you reach them when their heads are constantly buried in their smartphones?

Despite the social media memes questioning whether Millennials would have the guts to hop off a landing craft on Omaha Beach during the 1944 D-Day invasion, Millennials have fought, bled, and died in fierce combat from Fallujah to Marjah. Six out of the eleven servicemembers to be awarded the Medal of Honor for operations in Afghanistan have been Millennials.

As of 2014, the last year for which a full Defense Department-produced demographics report was done, about 4 in 5 active-duty service members were 35 years old or younger. Only 14.4 percent of the enlisted force was age 36 and up, and more than half the active-duty officer corps fell in the millennial bracket.

Raised in the digital age, Millennials have the ability to learn new systems, operate them efficiently, and deploy them quickly.

As they age, Millennials are increasingly choosing careers in military service. Millennials already make up the majority of the armed forces, and their influence will only continue to grow as the generation matures.

For some, the financial stability and excellent benefits pose an attractive alternative to the unreliable economy and job market they have known. For others, serving in the military meets their need for good, impactful work by serving their country.

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.

Can Social Media Be Used for Military/Veteran Suicide Prevention?

social media suicide prevention

By Debbie Gregory.

Suicide prevention often relies on the power of human connection. And since more and more, that connection is moving online, could social media play a role in reducing the alarming rate in which those who have served commit suicide?

In a study called “Indicators of Suicide Found on Social Networks” researchers discovered that those who died by suicide were most likely to show indications of hopelessness, social withdrawal and insomnia the year before, and in the month leading up to the suicide, they were more likely to discuss distress, relationship issues and religious affiliation.

“These clues on social media are very consistent with what we see are the warning signs in life — expressing their intent to die, hopelessness, a sense of being a burden and having no purpose in the world. It’s just another way for us to communicate,” said Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

Last October, our blog featured an article called “Plagued by Suicide,” which touched on the story of the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment who call themselves “the Forgotten Battalion.” Out of the 1,200 Marines who deployed together, at least 13 have committed suicide. Veterans of the unit, tightly connected through social media, would sometimes learn of the deaths nearly as soon as they happened.

The surviving veterans of the battalion depend on one another for survival. Using free software and social media, they have created a quick-response system that allows them to track, monitor and intervene with some of their most troubled comrades.

The Veterans Crisis Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-273-8255, press 1. Services also are available online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or by text, 838255.

Do you think there are enough resources available to military members and veterans to make a difference and stem this alarming

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.

Military Connection, MilitaryConnection.com, MilitaryConnection, Suicide Prevention, social media, veteran crisis hotline

Amputee Triumphs Through Fitness : Military Connection

Derek-Weida-The-Next-Objective-2

By Debbie Gregory.

If you’re easily offended, Derek Weida probably isn’t your guy.

Weida’s internet videos on bodybuilding and weight loss are chock full of profanity, burping, and beer consumption.

But the amputee veteran has quite a following (millions of viewers), with tens of thousands of people having reached out to him for diet and exercise advice.

The 29 year old Army veteran credits physical fitness as his impetus to break out of a severe depression after an insurgent’s bullet ended his military career and ultimately cost him his leg.

In June 2007, while on his third Iraq tour with the 82nd Airborne Division, he ran into a burst of gunfire as he led his men into an insurgent-filled house during a nighttime raid on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Weida took a bullet through his right knee. After several months of failed surgeries and physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, doctors sent him home to Minnesota for recovery and more operations.

Although they couldn’t get his knee to bend, he was still hopeful. Anticipating his return to active duty kept his spirits up.

“They were confident that they could get my knee to work,” he said.

When he was medically retired, Weida said he wallowed in alcohol-fueled anger, depression and suicidal thoughts. He was jailed several times after bar fights, arrested on drunken driving charges and spent time in psychiatric wards.

After it was evident that his leg was hindering his quality of life, doctors agreed to the amputation.

“The way my leg was before, with it not bending, there was nothing I could do to make my life better,” he said. “I couldn’t improve the state of my leg. But now, with a prosthetic, my success is determined solely on how hard I’m willing to push myself.”

Weida’s motivational videos and his organization, The Next Objective, provide him with an alternate way of serving others.

“The two things that really helped me fall out of that dark period of my life was reconnecting with my veteran friends and purpose-driven fitness,” he said. “We use fitness as an alternative to alcohol and things like that. I think fitness is kind of the universal healer.”

The Next Objective, currently awaiting 501 (c) 3 approval, is sustained by donations and is dedicated to empowering returning service members through a focus on fitness, community, and a teamcentric effort to achieve success and happiness in life outside the military. Grants help veterans pay for gym memberships, personal training and event sponsorships.