"Bunker Hill, Afghan Style" - J. Mellone

"Whitewater and Light through the Arch" - J. Mellone

At U.S. we pride ourselves in outfitting our Warriors in best-in-class kit, that’s been tested in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. While a lot of us have fun at the range or recreational activities, gear can make a huge difference in safety, performance and comfort. Once in a while it can be a lifesaver!

We recently received an email from one of our peeps, Afghanistan Veteran Jennifer ‘JMel’ Mellone. With her permission, we will share her amazing story with you guys.

I'll bet you get a lot of great stories from SEALs and other combat guys using your gear downrange. Here's one of a different flavor. Long story short – Had a good experience with Arcteryx clothing from U.S. Elite Gear - kept me alive!
While shooting photos at the shoreline in Big Sur, CA last weekend, I saw a surge come up and I tripped in 1ft. of water while trying to get to the dry sand area. I was swept out in the surge, in deep water fast, and was transported out to sea head first. I turned my body and faced the open ocean so I could “ride” out feet first in the current. I knew that what goes out must come back in (to a point), but to avoid going out too far, I tried grabbing rocks as I streamed by to stop the e-ticket ride. I positioned my foot to slam into a rock and I stopped. I grabbed the rock, the surge subsided, and after some effort due to being waterlogged, I got up and walked in the calmer water to reach the dry sand. I had 2 heavy camera lenses and accessories attached to my body in a load bearing harness type configuration with pouches, making me heavy. My Arcteryx LEAF Goretex shell with Arcteryx LEAF Atom SV Hoody Coreloft insulating jacket underneath kept me somewhat buoyant through this unplanned evolution but that and my regular clothes were waterlogged at this point. I didn't even feel cold! My husband, closer to the dry sand, managed to not trip in the water and only got wet just over his hiking boots. After I was safe, he pulled my tripod with camera and remote control still attached out of the water. I sprained my ankle from hitting the rock and didn't really feel it until later (hiking boots helped)! I did not recover my Arcteryx LEAF black hat with Don't Tread on Me patch affixed to it with Velcro. My camera, lenses, and accessories were ruined. Hopefully I'll get my photos back from the compact flash data recovery service (keep your fingers crossed!). If not, I'll be back, but just not so close to the water's edge next time!
- Jennifer Mellone
Afghanistan Veteran
Photographer Enthusiast


"Whitewater and Light through the Arch" - J. Mellone


This story was truly interesting and inspiring for us. To receive a note of gratitude like this is the ultimate assurance that we are making an impact through serving our customers. Our CEO Steve Keefer founded U.S. Elite as a way of giving back some of what he was so grateful for during his service. We honor our veteran customers with a 10% discount as a way of showing our respect.

We thank Jennifer for her service, and for giving us the opportunity to provide her with great gear that really made a difference. Check out some of her photos at We’ve shown a few of them here (all the pics on this post are courtesy of Jennifer), but she’s got more amazing stuff on her site. Stay tuned to see if she gets her pix from this adventure! This story warms our hearts more than a LEAF Alpha Jacket.




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