The Bravest Women

Since 1782 when Debra Samson disguised herself a man in order to serve under General Washington, women have served honorably in our Armed Forces. These same women have had and continue to have their service marginalized, by the VA, fellow service members, and the very citizens in which they fought so bravely to defend. This is not always the case. However, one is too many. This is not like trying to find the cure for cancer. This is something we can end immediately with a simple change in attitude. It starts with a conversation and the willingness to understand someone else’s perspective. Let’s get this conversation started.

So,when we were in Afghanistan I remember you wanted to be an animal doc right? What happened with that? 

A: Correct. Ive wanted to be a veterinarian since I was about 5 years old and could understand what that meant. Growing up, and going through school, I always kind of thought I was too dumb to make it through vet school… After joining the Army and being put through some of the most mentally challenging courses and situations in my life, I realized that if I could learn to fly one of the most complex airframes in the world, I was smart enough to make it through vet school. When I got out of the Army I decided I was going to go back to school and persue veterinary medicine. However, I had to have an honest talk with myself about my abilities to work with sick, injured or dying animals everyday. I realized that that would take a huge emotional toll on me and it just wasn’t something I could do. I knew I would have a hard time working through that and compartmentalizing those situations. Even as a police officer, I sometimes get called to put animals down that have been hit in a roadway or are gravely injured which always reaffirms my decision to go into policing rather than veterinary medicine.


Any parallels from you Army service to SWAT service?

A: I think the mindset is the biggest factor that has transitioned from my military service to my service as a Police Officer and as a SWAT Operator. The concept of violence of action and split-second decision making has carried over and helped me greatly in training and during call outs. I served in predominately male dominated environments during my time as an Apache pilot and the same goes for my time as a SWAT operator.  I made history as the first female SWAT operator for our team, and I take great pride in ensuring I meet the standards set before me by my brothers.


Have you experienced any difficulties in being a female veteran?

A: I haven’t personally experienced any issues related to being a female Veteran more so just being a veteran in general. I live in a fairly remote area and the nearest VA Center is 3.5 hours away. My community does have a VA outreach clinic which helps for small issues. I live in a small town, with small town values. We have an extremely strong support system for Veterans, through the VFW, the VA Outreach Center as well as programs set forth by our community college.

After answering this question Cassie was quiet then opened up about some the REAL issues she has faced. This was very difficult for her to speak about. As is often the case, Cassie did not want to bring attention to her situation, but felt strongly that women as a whole deserve to be treated equally and with dignity and respect. 

A: I think one of the biggest problems is fighting to be relevant. I think a lot of society finds it hard to believe that females veterans can have issues related to combat stress or stress from their service. More and more  female veterans are exiting their service and dealing with issues that have taken an emotional toll on them during their time in and its bleeding over to their civilian life. That can make it difficult to relate to others and move forward in their personal lives and careers. I think male veterans also have difficulties transitioning at times but I think the issues they deal with are different. If you ask any female service member or veteran, chances are, they have suffered sexual harassment, maybe even assault, while serving their country. Thats a hard concept to grasp- that the bravest women, who raised their hand to serve and protect their nation can suffer some of the most degrading and deplorable actions by their counterparts. Sometimes its taken care of. but in my experience, and in speaking with female veterans, more often than not, they are failed by their chain of command or those leaders who were supposed to take care of them. That failure of leadership can make it hard to build relationships and trust with those in the civilian world, it can be extremely isolating. I think the VA is working to get a handle on the epidemic and more and more Veteran resource groups are addressing the issue, but staying relevant and continuing to shed light on the issues seems to be one of the toughest aspects about being a female veteran, at least from my standpoint.

Any tips for transitioning vets?

A: Education is key, use your GI Bill if you have it. Market yourself and ensure your resume is on point. After over a decade of war, there are a lot of Veteran’s who are seeking employment, make yourself standout from the rest. Ensure everything that you can control, i.e. attitude, skill set, appearance, etc. is on par with the profession you’re seeking.

Thank you for you time.



Money Where Your Mouth is Monday


Welcome to another glorious Monday! A new week means a new opportunity  to support  Veterans in their quests to become entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and creative geniuses. Today we profile three Veterans, Travis Winn, Army,  Erik Bernard, Army, and Sean Matson, Navy, that would love your support. We would really appreciate it if you would take moment to view the stories of these great Americans. and if it is in your heart AND you have the means, support their businesses or fundraising requirements.

Thank you for your time.



It’s Not All Good

Admin up front. Travis Winn is the owner of Floor Coverings International, NE San Antonio as well as a friend of mine. We both worked at Amazon together in Operations. As always, this is not a paid interview.

You know, you hear it everywhere these days. Quit your job! Follow your passion! Get out! Start a business! Be your own boss! And while I support these statements, I think it is reckless and irresponsible that the vast majority of the stories you hear are success stories when 50% of businesses don’t survive past year three. Travis has not failed and I don’t believe he will. However, his point of view should help shed some light on the other side of the issue.

What was your motivation to leave Amazon?

A: Amazon was always a short-term plan. I joined for the stock option and experience. I knew I would be leaving to start my own business, I just didn’t know it would happen quite so fast.

What has been the most difficult thing about being a business owner?

A: Nobody loves your business the way you do. When you are just a manager in a corporation, with someone else is making the payroll, small wastes and inefficiencies don’t hurt so much. When YOU are paying all the employees out of your pocket, and every dollar you pay someone else is a dollar you can’t pay yourself, it is VERY difficult to find people that will meet your expectations. You can try to do more yourself, and your life quality will deteriorate rapidly. You can hire a bunch of people and operate at a loss while you get people to perform the way you want and need them to. Finding that middle ground as you ramp up is extremely challenging.


Have you ever wanted to quit?

A: Yes, I want to quit often. This has been the hardest professional challenge of my life. However, I know that if I don’t succeed at this, my chance of entrepreneurship may not come again for a decade or more. There is too much at stake to quit now. I also know that I haven’t done EVERYTHING in my power to be successful, and that new businesses can take years to be successful. I remind myself of that every time I feel like giving up.

What do you wish you would have known prior?

A: I wish I would have known just how expensive it would be to operate my business. I underestimated several costs, and failed to plan for a few costs altogether.

What advice would you have for other Veterans?

A: Being a good leader doesn’t automatically translate into being a good business owner. You need to be self-motivated. There is no secret sauce, there is no special book, and there is no shortcut. If you aren’t rich, extremely well-funded or didn’t invent something, it’s just going to take 1,000’s of hours of work, much of which is not fun or glamorous.

Any Veteran specific resources you used to help get started?

A: I researched several vet friendly franchises, and took advantage of a discounted franchise fee that was/is offered to Veterans through the franchise I bought. However, for funding, I used an SBA approved lender and got the SBA Express Loan. A small business can borrow up to $150k without a personal guarantee.

How can you support Travis?

If you are in the NE San Antonio area, to include Boerne and New Braunfels and will be in the market for flooring, follow this link to Floor Coverings International, NE San Antonio


Thank you for your time.



Creative Release

Admin up front. Erik Bernard is a former Army Ranger and Attack Aviator. Erik and I graduated Officer Candidate School together and served as members of the 3d Combat Aviation Brigade during Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. You can support Erik’s current film In the Deathroom by clicking this link.

Having a creative release is an awesome way to reduce stress and anxiety and give back to your community. When I was in Iraq, I had a co-pilot that would knit. Of course, I would give him the business every time I saw him doing it, but it kept him calm and kept his mind off of his wife that he missed dearly.

Erik’s thing has always been filmmaking. Even while on Active Duty he was called upon to honor the memory of Medal of Honor recipient Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun, with a stirring video tribute. Please take two minutes out of your day to learn about this great American. 

erik doc

Since departing from Active Duty, Erik has kicked his filmmaking into high gear. I was able to catch up with him in Austin for a quick chat.

What was your motivation to get into film?

I was always inspired by film. Before joining the Army, I worked in a video shop and would watch hundreds of movies. During one of my deployments to Iraq, we watched Kill Bill in between missions. I saw how my fellow Soldiers were taken to another place in the midst of all that was going on and it was then I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker.

What are some of the biggest hurdles you have faced in chasing this passion?

Time.  Full-time job, family and I have to find time. I started by taking classes on my lunch break when we were at Hunter Army Airfield at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  I was lucky to have some great teachers help me overcome some of the technical hurdles.


What has been your greatest reward thus far?

The greatest reward is having someone come to you and say that you made something that helped them through a tough time.  I think any artist is looking to create something whether it be a film, a painting or novel that has a positive impact.

Advice for other Veterans transitioning into the creative space?

Having a creative release really helped me overcome some tough times as a Soldier, father, husband and citizen.  I think you have to have some kind of hobby that helps you really hone your passion into something that you want to develop. Get out and meet people that are doing what you want to do. My Chamber of Commerce has been able to help me tremendously. LinkedIn  been able to help me network and meet new people across the cross the world.

Support Erik’s current project by clicking here.


Thank you for your time.



Kick the Can with Strike Force

Admin stuff out of the way. I do not know Sean Matson personally. We have had one conversation on LinkedIn. I did not receive the product for free. I actually purchased it as you should because it’s Awesome with an Army A!  Now with that out of the way, lets get down to the review.

First thing I wanted to know, after reading the nutritional facts, was how does it taste?

Answer? Great! If you were ever a Private and ripped open a beverage base powder from a MRE and poured into your mouth. Yeah, that kinda great. If you were never in the military, think pixie stix candy but not as sweet. Which brings me to my other point.

Convenience. To my surprise, the pouches actually contain liquid not powder. So, no worries about staining your favorite bottle or spilling powder all over the place and attracting ants.

What does it goes with? Pretty much everything from Tea to Tequila. In my chat with Sean he mentioned that one of his favorite combos was Lemon Strike Force Energy with unsweetened ice tea or lime soda water. Well, I’m from North Carolina and I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as unsweetened tea. I didn’t have any lime soda but I did have this.



It was ridiculous how great the combination was. I went to try the lemon with plain bottle of water, the grape and the orange also. Lemon is my favorite but they all taste great and mix clear.

How did it make me feel? I took one before my workout instead of my normal stuff and didn’t see any major drop-off in performance and it taste better and is less messy. Strike Force has 120mg of caffeine, about the equivalent of a cup and a half of coffee. Where the product really shines is that I felt ZERO crash (always good for an Aviator), zero jitters and no disgusting  after taste.

Verdict: Great product, great taste, great company.

How can you support? In my area the only place I found to purchase locally was at a US Patriot Tactical Store. 7-11 carries the product in a few states. The easiest way is purchase Online Direct from Strike Force Energy or through Amazon

If you would like to know more about Sean and his transition story be sure to check out this Connecting Vets article by CBS Eye on Veterans host Eric Dehm.

Thank you for your time.




We are currently renovating our site to give you the best possible content available. Thank you for your patience. We look forward to delivering impactful, insightful and inspiring content, focused on Veterans and the successes and struggles that come with transition.


Donnell and Rich

FlyBys Media