My name is Dustin Canestorp, I am the Founder and General of the Beer Army. I am also an avid beer enthusiast and veteran that retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service in 2014.
During my last deployment, I, along with a small group of Marines served as combat advisors to the 1st Iraqi Army Division. The stress and hardship was immense.
The catalyst for creating Beer Army happened on 16 February 2007 when friend and fellow Marine, Captain Todd Siebert, was killed in action when the vehicle he was in took a direct hit from an enemy 82 millimeter mortar while conducting combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. His loss left a significant impact on my psyche. I can’t explain why it was so instrumental as I have lost friends to combat before and after Todd’s death in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The importance of the picture titled, “Shark Fin” is that this is the actual moment in time captured in this photo when I made the decision on starting Beer Army. Mind you, I didn’t have the name or what you see today as Beer Army all flushed out, I just knew that I was ready to move on from the Marine Corps and do something in the beer industry.
This photo was taken by then Corporal Ryan Lekosky, the turret gunner in my vehicle on 26 February 2007, exactly 10 days after Todd’s death. We were conducting combat operations in an area that we called the “Shark Fin” which was east of Habbaniyah, Iraq. This photo was taken just south of that. I still had very mixed emotions with processing and compartmentalizing the loss of Todd.
In this photo my Iraqi interpreter, “Jaguar” on the left, was asking me (on the right) after we finished our operation and walking back to our vehicle, to help him get to the United States to pursue the American Dream. I don’t recall my exact response but I do recall what I was thinking, it was time for me to pursue my American Dream which encompassed the lovely liquid that we call beer.
The friendships that were forged on the advisor team were stronger than most families. After our tour, we would get together monthly to play poker and to drink my homebrew. I knew that they would be brutally honest on what they liked and disliked about my beer. That honesty made me a better brewer and I started calling us, the Beer Army.
We have been educating beer drinkers since 2008 when we made our formal presence known by launching our initial website. Since 2010 we have hosted many beer tasting festivals and other similar beer related events. During that time we have donated tens-of-thousands of dollars to numerous charities and provided millions of dollars in economic impact to the communities that support us.
JOIN THE REVOLUTION AND LIBERATE YOUR SENSES BECAUSE IF YOU DRINK BEER, YOU ARE IN THE BEER ARMY!
FOOTNOTE: Sergeant Lekosky is shown third from the right in the picture titled, “The Crew” and I’m on the far left sitting. He was an outstanding Marine and I’m forever indebted to him for capturing this pivotal moment in time with a photograph (picture titled, "Shark Fin"). Sgt “Ski” and I chewed a lot of dirt together in Iraq and I feel fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to serve with him in combat and call him a friend. Unfortunately, Sgt Ski was stabbed to death in his dress blue uniform on 31 October 2010 while escorting his wife in the French Quarter of New Orleans from the Marine Corps Ball. God bless him, Todd and all service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending our country. The Beer Army Foundation is a living memorial and tribute to them. We will not squander the opportunity that they have provided us, the opportunity to pursue our American Dream.