Meet the former Army officer who rallied thousands of veterans to Standing Rock.

Wes Clark Jr. is about as close as it gets to U.S. Army royalty.

The son of a renowned four-star general, Clark was born while his father was still fighting in Vietnam. He grew up at various Army bases all across the country before attending Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, followed by four years of active duty as a cavalry officer.

Wes Clark Jr. (left) with his father on the Democratic primary campaign trail in 2003. Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images.


When 9/11 happened, Clark was living in New York City. He was eager to re-enlist, but his father talked him out of it. Since then, Clark has looked to other ways of making the world better. Now he's a writer, a climate activist, and a co-host of the popular political web series "The Young Turks."

Clark had been following the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline conflict for months. As he watched the news, he became more and more enraged.

To Clark, this wasn't just a violation of human rights. It was an insult to veterans like him and his family.

Why? Because despite their continued mistreatment by the U.S. government, Native Americans have been fighting in the American armed forces for 200 years at very high enlistment rates.

Yankton Sioux veterans received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2013 on behalf of their tribe's contributions as code talkers during World War I. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

"First Americans have served in the United States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans," Clark wrote. "There is no other people more deserving of veteran support."

Clark took an oath when he joined the Army. He swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." And by that oath, he believes he and his fellow veterans should be defending the Standing Rock Sioux from the human rights violations perpetrated against them in the past months, both from police departments and private security forces.

Clark put his uniform back on and organized the movement Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. On Dec. 3, 2016, he and his troops left for North Dakota.

The veterans made a plan to join the Standing Rock Sioux in ceremony and prayer at the Oceti Sakowin camp, then form a human shield around the water protectors in direct nonviolent action against the pipeline construction.

"We are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete non-violence to provide a clear representation to all Americans of where evil resides," the co-organizers wrote in the group's official mission briefing.

"We’re not going out there to get in a fight with anyone. They can feel free to beat us up, but we’re 100% nonviolence," Clark added in an interview with Task & Purpose.

The Oceti Sakowin Camp near Cannon Ball, ND after a snowfall. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

More than 2,000 veterans joined the cause — many more than the 500 they had originally had hoped for.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

The veterans arrived on Dec. 4, and everything went according to plan. There were sage cleansings...

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

...and a human barricade to protect people from a police line.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

By evening, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied an easement for the pipeline's construction, putting its future in doubt.

Of course, the main credit for this victory should stand with the steadfast water protectors who have been camped out for months and who struggled for decades before that, too. But the massive veteran presence certainly helped.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Last night, on the veterans' first day at camp, there was celebration — but the battle isn't over.

Energy Transfer Partners, the main company behind the pipeline, is still refusing to back down — and given recent violence in pursuit of ETP's goals, it would be foolish for the water protectors to turn their backs just yet. Which means that both the camp and the veterans will remain in place, perhaps indefinitely.

The men and women who serve this country in uniform have always understood the "American experiment" is a work in a progress — and our Native American brothers and sisters have always been intimately aware of just how fragile that experiment can be. But they can all agree that environmental destruction and state-sponsored violence are not compatible with the ideal of freedom on which the country was founded.

As one tribal elder said during Sunday's celebration: "Tomorrow we fight, tonight we dance."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!