Tips on How to Obtain VA Benefits

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By Catherine Cornell, Attorney – The Veterans Practice, Ltd.

Let’s take things back to basics: what makes a good VA disability compensation claim? VA disability is like worker’s compensation for veterans.  When hurt on active duty, veterans can get VA compensation, just as a civilian worker could get worker’s compensation if hurt on the job.

This sounds simple, but the process can be trickier than you might think.

If not handled correctly from the outset, a compensation claim could be denied, possibly leaving the veteran mired in the appeals process for years. Yes, that’s right. Years.

The following tips can help veterans avoid the delay and frustration of a denial and have a better chance of obtaining VA benefits from the outset.

  1. Understand what’s required for the claim. Basically, VA compensation requires the veteran to show he has the condition he is claiming, usually through a doctor’s diagnosis. The veteran must also prove an in-service incident or injury caused the condition or that it showed up for the first time in service. That’s usually done with the help of a medical professional. Finally, in most cases the veteran needs to prove the incident, injury, or the manifestation of the condition actually occurred by using service records, buddy statements, newspaper articles or other proof. Other VA benefits, such as unemployability, have different requirements. There can also be other proof required depending on the time period and location of service. Veterans should carefully research what’s needed for a specific benefit, or get help from a veterans service officer. Many of those officers can be found in each state’s VA regional office.
  2. Don’t claim un-winnable conditions. After veterans nail down requirements for specific claims, they may realize a certain condition is not worth claiming. For example, a back injury from a car accident after service will not lead to VA compensation. Veterans should save time and possible frustration by not claiming disabilities that are clearly not service connected.
  3. Be proactive. The VA has a duty to assist veterans in obtaining information that might establish compensation claims. However, the reality is that the VA is overwhelmed, so it’s in the veteran’s best interests to gather as much evidence as possible for the claim herself.
  4. Use the correct forms. For example, the form for a new claim is different than the one needed to appeal a claim that was denied. The same goes for a veteran seeking unemployability benefits. The VA has forms for almost everything and they can generally be found on the Internet. If the correct form isn’t used, a claim can be delayed or rejected.
  5. Get military records. If a veteran doesn’t already have a complete copy of his Official Military Personnel File, he should request it, usually from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The military file might contain helpful evidence to prove claims. Again, the VA has a duty to help obtain records to establish claims, but the veteran is best served by taking an active role in this process.
  6. Send in evidence with the claim. After a veteran gathers all the evidence and information possible, it should be sent in with the claim.  Helpful evidence may include: service and medical records; witness statements; private doctor statements; and any additional information or documentation that might help the VA make a favorable decision faster.
  7. Show up to VA exams. If the claim has merit, the VA will likely schedule a Compensation and Pension exam. That’s when a VA examiner meets with the veteran and renders an opinion on the likelihood that the claimed condition did stem from service, and the degree to which the condition is disabling. If a veteran doesn’t show up for the exam without re-scheduling it, the VA may deny the claim.
  8. Know what the VA exam is about. Often veterans submit claims for many conditions but are then scheduled for just one exam. Don’t go in blind. Contact the VA to ask what the exam will cover. That way the veteran can be prepared to explain the condition and how it resulted from service.
  9. Don’t miss deadlines or fail to respond. After getting a claim, the VA might send additional forms for the veteran to fill out or ask for clarification of a claim and set a deadline to respond. If a veteran lets these forms go or misses a deadline the VA might issue a denial.
  10. Don’t give up. The VA process can be wildly confusing and frustrating. Despite best efforts to send in correct forms and supportive evidence, compensation claims are often still denied. Veterans shouldn’t be afraid to seek help from knowledgeable people if necessary and, above all, shouldn’t give up on the benefits they deserve.

Veterans Day Freebies and Discounts for 2021!

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veterans day promo for freebies and discounts 2021

As a country, we celebrate Veterans Day every November 11 to honor those who courageously served in our Armed Forces. We honor our combat veterans still living from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve.

Businesses across the nation are offering special deals and discounts to show their support on Veterans Day.

Whether you are celebrating at home or in a socially distanced matter, here are some incredible opportunities you won’t want to miss.

All offers will be for both active duty military and veterans unless otherwise stated.

Be sure to check each restaurant’s website, or call, for details like military qualifications, restaurant participation, COVID restrictions and more.

Food and Drink

    Ahipoke Bowl: Veterans and active-duty military receive 50% off poke bowls on November 11. Dine-in or take out.
    Applebee’s: Veterans and Active Duty Military members can choose a free meal from a limited menu on Veteran’s Day with proof of service.
    Baker’s Square: Active-duty military and veterans receive a free Rise & Shine breakfast on November 11, as well as a 20% off the entire check coupon valid for their next visit from November 12 through 30. Valid for dine-in and pick-up orders only. Online orders use promo code VETSRISE when placing order for pick-up.
    Black Angus: On November 11, veterans get the All-American Steak Plate for $10.99. This deal is available for restaurant dining and takeaway orders.
    BJ’s Restaurants: On November 11, all current and former military members receive a free entree up to $14.95 plus a free Dr. Pepper beverage. Dine-in only.
    Bob Evans: Veterans and active-duty military get a free meal from a select menu on November 11. Dine-in only.
    Buffalo Wild Wings: Veterans and active military who dine-in with Buffalo Wild Wings can receive a free order of boneless wings and a side of fries.
    Bubba Gump Shrimp: Military personnel and their families receive 20% off on food and retail purchases on Nov. 11.
    California Pizza Kitchen: Veterans and active military get a complimentary meal from a select menu. Dine-in and walk-in takeout only.
    Chicken Salad Chick: On November 11, veterans and active-duty military will receive a free Chick Special and Regular Drink.
    Chili’s: Veterans and active-duty service members get a free meal from a select menu on November 11. Available for in-restaurant only.
    Claim Jumper: Veterans receive a free entrée from a special menu at participating locations on November 9. Dine-in only.
    Coco’s Restaurant and Bakery :On November 11, veterans and active-duty service members get a free slice of pie, along with a “Buy One, Get One” free deal at all locations. The offer is valid for dine-in or take out orders; online and delivery not included.
    Cracker Barrel :Veterans get a complimentary slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake when dining at any location on November 11.
    Denny’s :Veterans and military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam on November 11, from 5 a.m. to noon. Dine-in only.
    Dunkin Donuts :On November 11, veterans and active-duty military receive a free donut at participating locations. Offer available in-store only.
    Famous Dave’s :Military personnel get a free Free Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich + Side at participating locations on November 11. Valid for Dine-In, To Go, and Online Ordering. Not valid for call in orders.
    Farmer Boys :Veterans and active-duty military receive a free Big Cheese cheeseburger on November 11 at participating locations.
    Golden Corral :Golden Corral is handing out a free meal and beverage card between November 1 and 30, while supplies last. Military personnel can then redeem their card once for lunch or dinner Monday through Thursday from November 1 to May 31.
    Hooters :Veterans can stop in for 10 free boneless wings with any 10 purchase from a long list of wing styles.
    IHOP: :Free Red, White and Blue pancake combo for veterans.
    IKEA :Enjoy a free meal at Ikea 11/11. Military ID Required.
    Joes’s Crab Shack :Veterans receive 20% off at participating locations on November 11. Dine-in only.< Juice it Up :Veterans and active-duty military receive a free 20oz Classic Smoothie on November 11.
    Krispy Kreme :Free doughnut and coffee on 11-11.
    Little Cesar’s Pizza: One free lunch combo from 11am-2pm.
    Logan’s Roadhouse :One free meal from 3:00pm-6:00pm.
    Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ :Active-duty personnel and veterans get a free Lucille’s Original Pulled Pork Sandwich on November 11.
    Macaroni Grill :One free “Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs and Spaghetti” with military ID.
    McCormick and Schmick’s :Half-priced entrée for Veterans and Gold Star families 11/11.
    Mimi’s Cafe 20% off for Veterans and their families.
    Olive Garden :On November 11, veterans and current members of the military who dine in get a free entrée from a special menu.
    On the Border :Active and retired military get a free Pick 2 Combo on November 11. Dine-in only.
    Outback Steakhouse :Veterans and active-duty service members get a free Bloomin’ Onion and Coca-Cola product to on November 11. Offer available for dine-in or to-go (call-in orders only, not available online).
    Red Lobster :One free appetizer or dessert.
    Ruby Tuesday :Active-duty military and veterans get a free sandwich with fries or tots on November 11. Available for dine-in or call-in to-go orders.
    Starbucks :One free coffee, also eligible to military spouses.
    Texas Roadhouse BBQ :Texas Roadhouse will hand out dinner vouchers at the stores’ parking lots on November 11. Veterans and active-duty military can redeem their dinner vouchers when the restaurant opens for dinner, through May 30, 2022.
    Wendy’s :Free coffee for veterans, active duty and family members
    Wienerschnitzel :Free small breakfast combo on Veterans Day
    Yard House :One complimentary appetizer

Recreation

Shopping

Services

Check back for updates as we closer!

Colin Powell dead at 84 from COVID-19 complications

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Colin Pwell featured cover story on U.S. Veterans Magazine

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the first Black American to serve in the post, died on Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19, his family announced in a statement.

The family said the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been fully vaccinated and was receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center.

“General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” the Powell family said in a statement posted to Facebook.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family added.

Powell, born on April 5, 1937, in New York City, was raised by Jamaican immigrant parents in the South Bronx.

Following a decorated military career that included tours in Vietnam, Powell held key military and diplomatic positions throughout government, serving under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Former President George W. Bush, who tapped Powell to serve as his secretary of State, said he was “deeply saddened” by the military leader’s death.

“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell. He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,” Bush said in a statement.

“He was National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my Administration. He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man,” he added.

Continue on to The Hill to read the complete article.

Guide to Veterans Affairs benefits and loans

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Smiling woman in camouflage holding cardboard box and looking at camera with blurred military man on background

In a nutshell…The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for eligible veterans, including VA loans, the GI Bill, job training, medical benefits and housing grants for disabled veterans.

After your time in military service, you may be eligible for numerous veteran benefits. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, offers a range of services and assistance for eligible U.S. veterans and qualifying family members to help transition into civilian life.

Read on to understand the different benefits and loans available through the VA.

VA housing and homebuying assistance

One of the most well-known veteran benefits is VA housing assistance. It is meant to help veterans, service members and surviving spouses buy or build a home, refinance a home or make home improvements. Below are some of the specific programs and insights into each one.

VA home loans

A VA home loan is a type of mortgage loan that is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Note that just because the loan is backed by the VA doesn’t mean it’s risk free. The VA backs the loan to protect the lender, not the borrower. If you miss payments, you still risk getting hit with late fees, decreased credit scores or — worse — possible home foreclosure. VA loans can be used to …

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Buy a home and fund improvements
  • Make energy-efficiency improvements to an existing home
  • Refinance an existing loan

Specific eligibility requirements can vary based on when you served. But veterans, surviving spouses and those joining the military today must generally meet one of the following eligibility criteria to qualify for a VA loan:

  • Served 90 total days of active service during wartime
  • Served 181 continuous days of active service during peacetime
  • Served six years of service in the National Guard or the Reserve
  • The applicant is a surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty or passed away from ­a disability that resulted while serving.

Additional eligibility requirements apply in some circumstances, so check with the VA for specifics.

The VA offers just one type of direct loan — through its Native American Direct Loan program for purchases on qualifying tribal lands. Otherwise it offers borrowers indirect, VA-backed loans from private lenders that participate in the VA loan program. Be sure to shop around and compare mortgage rates to choose the best mortgage for you. Ask friends and family for lender recommendations and be sure to look at online reviews.

VA loan programs specify that the home purchase being financed must be for a property used as a primary residence. Here are some other rules to keep in mind:

  • Property requirements: VA loans are for single-family residences with one to four family units and must be primarily residential in nature.
  • Qualifying income considerations: VA loan rules on using rental income as qualifying income for the loan include having cash reserves for at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments and providing the previous two years of tax returns showing the rental income.

There are some key differences between VA loans and other types of mortgages that make VA loans so appealing. These differences are:

  • No down payment may be required: Most types of home loans generally require some form of down payment. The VA loan typically requires nothing down — although you can make a down payment if you want to try to lower your total loan amount and monthly payment. If your home is appraised at a lower value than the listing or asking price — or if the lender needs it to meet secondary market requirements — you may have to make a down payment.
  • The VA has no minimum credit score requirement: There are no credit score requirements set by the VA — however, the specific lender you go through to apply for a VA loan may have their own credit requirements.
  • You may not be subject to loan limits: Unlike FHA loans, VA loans of more than $144,000 do not have a borrowing limit, as long as you have full VA loan entitlement — meaning you have not already taken out a VA home loan, or you have fully repaid a previous VA loan.
  • You do not need mortgage insurance: Unless you put 20% down, lenders typically require mortgage insurance to protect themselves in case you don’t pay your mortgage. Since a VA loan is backed by the VA, you are not required to pay for mortgage insurance.
  • VA loans have a funding fee: VA loans may require a one-time funding fee. This fee can range from 0.5% to 3.6% of your loan, depending on a number of factors, and can be wrapped up in your loan if you’re unable to pay it outright.

Types of VA home loans

There are several types of VA loans that are designed especially for the varying borrowing purposes listed above. These are:

  • VA purchase loans: A loan program that qualifying individuals use to buy, improve or build a home
  • VA cash-out refinance loans: A loan program that allows qualifying veterans, service members or surviving spouses to replace an existing loan with a new one, allowing them to borrow against equity in their home or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan
  • VA interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL): A program that allows qualifying individuals to refinance your VA loan under new terms, potentially allowing you to reduce your monthly mortgage payments or interest rate.

There are both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate VA mortgages. With fixed-rate mortgages, you lock in your interest rate for the life of the loan. With adjustable-rate mortgages, your interest rate fluctuates according to the index of interest rates. The VA no longer prescribes specific interest rates — adjustable-rate loan changes depend on whether the loan is a standard or hybrid adjustable rate mortgage. Be sure to talk with your lender about which option is best for you, and learn how often these rates are subject to adjustment.

Homeowners insurance for veterans

Like almost any type of mortgage, institutions offering VA loans will typically require the borrower to purchase homeowners insurance. Additionally, the VA requires borrowers to have a hazard insurance policy where appropriate (flood insurance, for example, in known flood zones), which may be included in the conventional homeowners policy required by your lender. It may be worth asking your insurer or agent about possible military discounts for these types of programs.

State-specific veterans benefits

If you do not qualify for a VA loan or you are simply looking for additional housing benefits, there are generally state-specific organizations and programs designed to help veterans and others with housing at the state level. Be sure to check with your local VA office to help point you in the right direction.

VA disability benefits and programs

If you became sick or injured while serving in the military, or have an existing condition that got worse as a result of military service, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. You can file a claim for VA disability compensation online or at your local VA regional office — or send the appropriate information via mail to the address below.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

P.O. Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You will need the following documentation to submit your claim:

  • Military discharge papers (DD214 or any other separation documents you may have)
  • Any service treatment records
  • Medical treatment records that show proof of disability (for example, doctor reports, X-rays, test results, doctor orders/recommendations for treatment, mental status examination or operative reports)

Be sure to apply for disability compensation as soon as possible since the claims process can take a while — generally in the neighborhood of four to five months. The VA site regularly updates the average time it takes to approve or deny a claim — it was 134.4 days as of June 2021 and 139.6 days as of July 2021.

VA benefits for disabled veterans

  • Disability compensation: This is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to disabled veterans who are considered 10% disabled or higher. The exact dollar amount you receive each month fluctuates based on the degree of your disability and if you have dependents.
  • Clothing allowance: This is an annual allowance for eligible veterans and service members whose clothing has been damaged by prosthetics/orthopedic devices or topical medication for a skin condition.
  • Service-disabled veterans’ life insurance (S-DVI): This insurance benefit is for eligible veterans who may have service-connected disabilities but are in good health otherwise. The amount of premium you pay depends on your age, the type of plan and the amount of coverage you need.

The eligibility requirements and application process for each benefit can change, so be sure to check with your local VA center to determine whether you qualify and how to access the benefit.

VA disability housing programs

  • Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA): The HISA program provides up to $6,800 in funding for home improvements and structural alterations to a disabled veteran’s primary residence. The intent behind the program is to improve home accessibility.
  • Specially Adapted Housing grants (SAH): The SAH grant helps certain veterans and service members with disabilities work toward independent living by creating barrier-free environments.
  • Temporary Residence Adaptation grant (TRA): The TRA grant may be available as part of the SAH program described and linked above. It is used to help veterans and service members make accommodations when living temporarily in a family member’s home that needs changes to meet their needs.

Automobile allowance for veterans

Although the VA does not offer specialized car loans for all veterans, it does provide an automobile allowance for veterans and service members with qualifying injuries. This is a one-time allowance for disabled veterans and service members to help them purchase a vehicle that better accommodates their needs.

Qualifying individuals can use this allowance to purchase a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with adaptive equipment, or they can purchase and install adaptive equipment to an existing vehicle.

VA education, training and employment benefits

The VA offers several education, training and employment benefits to veterans, service members and their qualified dependents to help with education costs, finding a training program or career guidance and counseling. Below are the different VA education and training benefits.

  • Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E): The VR&E program is designed to help veterans and service members with service-related disabilities with job training, employment accommodations, resume developments and job-search coaching. In some cases, these benefits may extend to dependents.
  • Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG): The PCPG program offers education/training, career, academic, resume and goal-planning counseling to eligible service members, veterans and dependents.
  • Dependents and Survivors Educational Assistance: This is a specialized program for spouses and children of veterans or service members who died or received permanent disabilities while serving. The program helps with tuition, housing, books and school supply costs.
  • Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC): The VET TEC program helps veterans with training and educational courses in high-demand areas of the tech industry. The training is for computer software, computer programming, data processing, information science and media applications.
  • VetSuccess on Campus: This program is designed to help veterans and service members transition from life in service to life on campus. Each school that is a part of the program has a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to help support veterans with assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals.
  • Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): The MGIB-SR program pays for up to 36 months of education or training benefits for qualifying reservists and members of the Army National Guard or Air National Guard.
  • The National Call to Service Program: This program offers a choice between a $5,000 cash bonus, up to $18,000 of student loan repayment, or educational assistance for eligible veterans who performed a period of national service.
  • Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP): The VRRAP is a temporary program that provides up to 12 months of tuition and schooling fees as well as a monthly housing allowance for qualified veterans who became unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for other unemployment and education benefits can impact eligibility for this program.

Next steps

To find out if you are eligible for VA home loan programs, visit the VA website or your local VA regional office to discuss the programs and your service record.

Continue to read the complete article on CreditKarma.com

Resources for Veterans Struggling with Substance Use Addiction

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veteran seeking help from nurse for addiction

If you’re struggling with substance use problems, you’re not alone. Many veterans have problems with the use of alcohol, tobacco, street drugs, and prescription medicines.

We’re here to help.

Find out how to get support for substance use problems through VA.

What services does VA provide for veterans with substance use problems?

We provide many options for veterans seeking treatment for substance use problems ranging from unhealthy alcohol use to life-threatening addiction.

The services we offer you depend on your specific needs.

We offer proven medication options, like:

  • Medically managed detoxification to stop substance use safely, and services to get stable
  • Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce cravings (like methadone and buprenorphine for opiate addiction)
  • Nicotine replacement or other medicines for stopping tobacco use
  • We offer counseling and other therapy options, like:
  • Short-term outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Self-help groups
  • Residential (live-in) care
  • Continuing care and relapse prevention (making sure you don’t slip back into the same substance use problems)
  • Special programs for veterans with specific concerns (like women veterans, returning combat veterans, and homeless veterans)
  •  
    We also offer treatment and support for health conditions that can be related to substance use problems, like:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Learn more about treatment programs for substance use problems
  • How do I access VA services for substance use problems?

    The VA health care program covers services to treat substance use problems. To access these services, first apply for VA health care. Once you’ve signed up and have a VA primary care provider, talk to them about your substance use. Your provider can help you get screened for substance use problems and related issues (like PTSD or depression)—and can offer treatment and support as needed.

    If you don’t have a VA primary care provider or have never been seen in a VA hospital or clinic:

    Call our general information hotline at 800-827-1000, or contact your local VA medical center. If you served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND), call your local VA medical center, and ask to speak to the OEF/OIF/OND coordinator.

    What if I don’t have VA health care benefits?

    You may still be able to get care:

    If you’ve served in a combat zone, get free private counseling, alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of our 300 community Vet Centers.

    If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless:

    Visit our website to learn about VA programs for veterans who are homeless or contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area. The call is free and confidential (private).

    Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Even if you don’t qualify for VA health care, our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.

    Where can I find more information and support?

    Go to our Make the Connection website at maketheconnection.net to hear stories from Veterans about their own experiences with overcoming drug and alcohol problems, and to get access to more resources and support. Visit our self-help resources guide to get links to books, web resources, and mobile applications that have been reviewed and recommended by VA experts.

    Visit the resources section of our VA website to find more trusted resources outside VA that can offer information and support.

    Download our Stay Quit Coach mobile app—designed to help veterans with PTSD quit smoking. We based this app on steps proven to work to help people quit smoking. It includes tools to control cravings and manage smoking triggers, messages to keep you going, medication reminders, and more.

    Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Helping Other Vets Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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    man lying down on pillow with breathing device attached to nose

    By Annie Nelson, Founder, American Soldier Network

    Throughout my life, I have been blessed to befriend some amazing men and women in military communities. They often do not just serve our nation while on active duty, but continue to do so long after they hang up their uniforms. Many of them strive to support their fellow veterans with their free time, some through their employers, and still others as entrepreneurs who create new businesses that serve our nation.

    I was fortunate to recently interview two of those veterans who are successful entrepreneurs – Scott Brauer a retired Navy SEAL, and Mark Holtzapple, PhD, a professor at Texas A&M. They have partnered up on a new business called NozeSealTM that addresses sleep apnea, a growing critical health concern for active-duty members, veterans, their families and friends.

    I sat down with Scott and Mark to ask them a few questions about their latest endeavor below:

    Annie Nelson: Scott, why is sleep apnea such a hot topic?

    Brauer: Annie, there are over 25 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, and likely another 10 million undiagnosed. The situation has been getting worse, especially within the military. A recent study shows that since 2005, there is a 30-fold increase in active-duty military members diagnosed with sleep apnea. In general, sleep disorders originate from a wide range of common issues found in the veteran community, such as sleep deprivation, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, pain, tinnitus, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), toxic pollution, emotional trauma, substance abuse and even substance withdrawal.

    Nelson: What are the health impacts of sleep apnea?

    Brauer: Poor sleep leads to many negative health effects, such as obesity, depression, irritability, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower sex drive, suppressed immune function, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. New studies are emphasizing the negative effects of sleep apnea on the health of the heart and the brain. A recent study showed that patients with severe, untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had a significant increase in the number of both fatal and non-fatal cardiac events. The risk factor was nearly 3 times higher than normal! A key intervention for patients with severe OSA is treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for greater than 4 hours per night, which significantly reduces incidences of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events.

    Nelson: What are the challenges with PAP therapy?

    women holding up attached large breathing device
    The old way to sleep. Photo: Igor Kraguljac, DP Cinematographer & Photographer

    Brauer: Frankly, it can be a nightmare for many. The most frequently reported reason for discontinuing PAP therapy are side effects – leaks, discomfort and pain, facial marks and rashes, hair damage, anxiety and claustrophobia – which are experienced by approximately two-thirds of PAP users. By far, the most common complaint is leaks. Patients attempt to correct leaks by over-tightening the straps holding the mask in place, leading to the other side effects previously mentioned. Additionally, the PAP device compensates for leaks with higher air flow rates, which reduces nasal humidity contributing to nasal irritation, dryness and congestion. Leaking masks can cause eye irritation, infections and even swallowing air from increased PAP air pressures. All of these difficulties lead nearly half of those prescribed to use a PAP device to not comply with their doctor’s therapy, often quitting entirely.

    Nelson: How can we improve PAP compliance?

    Brauer: Results improve significantly by fitting masks properly and modifying a patient’s usual sleep position to reduce leaks. Minimalist masks – like a nasal mask or nasal pillow – can reduce air leakage and diminish claustrophobia. To improve comfort, seals and quietness, manufacturers continue to develop innovations for PAP masks and comfort accessories that minimize contact. Some of these innovative solutions include new nasal pillows, cushions, liners, wraps and accessories that eliminate headgear.

    Nelson: Mark, what led you to invent NozeSeal?

    Holtzapple: On my honeymoon, my wife informed me that I gasp for air in my sleep. Like most spouses, being woken nightly by snoring and gasping does not contribute to a happy marriage. After some prompting from my wife, I took a sleep study. Finally, after some struggles getting a proper diagnosis for sleep apnea, I received a PAP of my own. I quickly learned just how uncomfortable they are. On my second night, frustrated by excessive leaks, I threw my mask against the wall and shattered it!

    Fortunately, on the third night, my respiratory therapist gave me a nasal pillow to try. It leaked, but in a manageable way. I invented a way to hold the nasal pillow in place during the night using an adhesive that stuck it to my nose, keeping it in place all night! After many refinements and filing some global patents for our highly engineered, yet simple and elegant solution, the NozeSealTM adhesive strip was born! Since last fall, Scott and I have assembled a terrific team to scale up our business for the many patients who suffer from sleep apnea.

    Nelson: What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?

    Holtzapple: Nearly every week, our NozeSeal team gets a new 5-star review like this one:

    “I have suffered with uncomfortable CPAP masks for years and have had my sleep destroyed. NozeSeal is the best product on the market. No strap marks or bruises on my nose, no painful magnet attachments, no hair loss from head gear friction and no constant adjustments to eliminate mask air leakage. I can finally sleep in comfort and turn over as often as I need to with ease. I am so happy!!!!”

    These heart-felt messages truly inspire us to do our best every day to make a difference in patients struggling with sleep apnea!

    Nelson: What can folks expect from NozeSealTM?

    Holtzapple: The NozeSealTM adhesive strip is easy-to-use, inexpensive and compatible with any commercially available nasal pillow. We are blessed to deliver on our motto: “No Leaks, No Straps, Just a Great Night’s Sleep.” Please try one of our trial packs!

    Just a few months ago, I learned of a young USMC veteran, married with a wife and young children. One day he was at the Houston Astro’s baseball game and the very next morning, he never woke up. He had passed away from sleep apnea. This is a silent killer, one to be taken seriously. Men and women alike should not brush it off. I’m thankful we have people like Mark and Scott who are striving to make this condition easier to live and sleep with. To learn more, visit NozeSeal.com.

     

     

    Busting 12 Military Benefit Myths

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    Don’t know what to believe about transition assistance, Veterans Affairs benefits and entitlements? Click on a myth below to reveal the true story.

    Myth #1: After I return from Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom, I need to have my dental work (as part of my VA benefit) completed before the end of the 180-day period.

    The Truth: The 180-day period refers to enrolling in the VA and making the dental appointment within 180 days of the Release From Active-Duty date, but you are not required to have all of your dental work completed before 180 days.

    Myth #2: If I receive disability compensation from the VA, I will be discharged from the National Guard.

    The Truth: You can be a traditional National Guard member and receive VA disability compensation. However, you cannot receive VA compensation for the same time period that you receive military pay. For typical traditional Guard members, this means 63 days of military pay (48 unit training assemblies and 15 annual trainings). Any Active-Duty Operational Support Guard program, readiness management assembly, etc. counts as military pay as well. If you are Active Guard Reserve or mobilized, you will be receiving military pay 24/7, and must stop VA compensation immediately, or you will become indebted to the federal government.

    Myth #3: I am receiving 40 percent disability compensation from the VA and have heard that I will be discharged if I am receiving more than 30 percent.

    The Truth: Although there is something in the enlistment contract about 30%, that does not apply to you because you are not enlisting. The percentage of disability compensation from the VA does not affect your membership in the National Guard. However, you must pass the physical examination for the NG – “fitness for duty exam or ability to perform your duty” – this is what will determine if you are retainable. And always record accurate information on the Annual Medical Certification. There is a block that asks if you are receiving disability compensation from Social Security, VA, Workers Comp, etc. These are government documents and to give an untrue answer is deemed as committing fraud and then neither the Department of Defense nor VA is going to be chomping at the bit to take care of you.

    Myth #4: VA does retirement physicals.

    The Truth: They do not. Guard members often confuse the Compensation and Pension Exam as being a retirement physical. However, if there is a VA/DOD Sharing Agreement, the VA Medical Centers may be requested by DOD medical facilities to assist with these service retirement physicals, but these instances are rare. Note: Under the Benefits Delivered at Discharge Program, DOD will accept the VA’s physical as their retirement physical. If the service member has already done a VA Compensation and Pension exam, they can get a copy of it and use it as their retirement physical.

    Myth #5: If I am injured in a car accident, my Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection benefits will reduce the amount of my SGLI in the event of my death at a later time.

    The Truth: Payment of TSGLI has no impact on the amount of SGLI payable. For example, if a service member is insured for $400,000 of SGLI coverage and receives a TSGLI payment of $50,000 for a traumatic injury, that member is still insured for the full $400,000 of SGLI coverage, which will be paid upon the service member’s death.

    Myth #6: As a National Guard member, I heard that my SGLI coverage is only good while I’m at drill.

    The Truth: If you are a National Guard member and have been assigned to a unit in which you are scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive duty that is creditable for retirement purposes, full-time SGLI coverage is in effect 365 days of the year. You are also covered for 120 days following separation or release from duty.

    Myth #7: I cannot go to the VA Hospital for a service-connected problem because I have private health insurance.

    The Truth: You may enroll with the Department of Veteran Affairs for health care benefits regardless of your private health insurance plan. You may, depending upon the circumstances, have to make a co-payment for treatment for non-service-connected conditions. Your private insurance may be billed for non-service conditions as well.

    Myth #8: If I am a service member returning from theater and do not have a job, I am not eligible for Unemployment Compensation.

    The Truth: Although the Unemployment Compensation benefit varies among states, you may be eligible in your state for unemployment insurance. Usually, the states provide these temporary wage replacement benefits to qualified individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own. Check it out, and also check your state benefits, which may include employment benefits and job placement assistance, too.

    Myth #9: I need to pay enrollment fees to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    The Truth: There are no enrollment fees to receive benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

    Myth #10: If I file for my VA compensation, then I have automatically enrolled in the VA Healthcare System.

    The Truth: The process to apply for VA compensation is separate from the process to enroll in the health care system. To enroll, you must complete a 10-10EZ and submit it in person, online or via the mail to your nearest VA hospital. It must be signed before you submit it. It is also wise to have a copy of your DD214 to verify your active-duty status and theater of deployment for combat vet eligibility for enhanced health care and other benefits. Additionally, if you submitted your military medical records with your disability claim, it is not available to the hospital. For VA health care enrollment, it is also necessary to bring copies of any of your medical records so that they can be scanned into the VA’s VISTA electronic record system.

    Myth #11: Service members and their families are not eligible for Pre-activation Benefits (Early Eligibility) TRICARE.

    The Truth: Guard and family members are eligible once the service member receives mobilization alert orders, is within 90 days of deployment and all are currently enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Special note: if you think there is a possibility that you may be found not fit for duty, you should keep your civilian health insurance until you are found fit for duty. Remember that when you return from this deployment, you are eligible for six months of the TRICARE Transitional Assistance Management Program for your and your family’s health care needs. (Enrollment is not automatic – see your Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor or TRICARE representative for details.) VA health care covers only veterans for five years from the REFRAD date.

    Myth #12: I am enrolled in the TRICARE health care program and am automatically covered for dental care.

    The Truth: Enrollment in TRICARE does not cover your dental care. The TRICARE Dental Program is offered by the Department of Defense and you must purchase this benefit from United Concordia, which administers the program. Learn more at TRICARE dental.

    Getting Help for Combat Stress

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    Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

    Learning to recognize the signs of combat stress in yourself, another service member or a family member who has returned from a war zone can help you call on the right resources to begin the healing process.

    Combat stress and stress injuries

    Combat stress is the natural response of the body and brain to the stressors of combat, traumatic experiences and the wear and tear of extended and demanding operations. Although there are many causes and signs of combat stress, certain key symptoms are common in most cases:

    • Problems sleeping
    • Uncharacteristic irritability or angry outbursts
    • Unusual anxiety or panic attacks
    • Signs of depression such as apathy, changes in appetite, loss of interest in hobbies or activities or poor hygiene
    • Physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches and pains, nausea, diarrhea or constipation
    • Other changes in behavior, personality or thinking

    Combat stress sometimes leads to stress injuries, which can cause physical changes to the brain that alter the way it processes information and handles stress.

    You should be aware of the following when dealing with a stress injury:

    • Stress injuries can change the way a person functions mentally, emotionally, behaviorally and physically.
    • The likelihood of having a combat stress injury rises as combat exposure increases.
    • The earlier you identify the signs of a stress injury, the faster a full recovery can occur.
    • If left untreated, a stress injury may develop into more chronic and hard-to-treat problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • There is no guaranteed way to prevent or protect yourself from a stress injury, but there are things you can do to help yourself and others recover.

    Stress reactions

    Different people handle stress — and combat stress — differently, and it’s not clear why one person may have a more severe reaction than another.

    Here’s what you need to know about stress reactions:

    • Stress reactions can last from a few days to a few weeks to as long as a year.
    • Delayed stress reactions can surface long after a traumatic incident or extended exposure to difficult conditions has occurred.
    • An inability to adapt to everyday life after returning from deployment can be a reaction to combat stress.

    How to get help

    If you or someone you know is suffering from a combat stress injury, it is important to get professional help as soon as possible. Reach out to one of the following resources if you have symptoms of combat stress or stress injury, or if you are experiencing severe stress reactions:

    • Combat Stress Control Teams provide on-site support during deployment.
    • Your unit chaplain may offer counseling and guidance on many issues that affect deployed or returning service members and their families.
    • The Department of Veterans Affairs has readjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families, including those still on active duty, at community-based Vet Centers.
    • TRICARE provides medical counseling services either at a military treatment facility or through a network provider in your area. Contact your primary care manager or your regional TRICARE office for a referral.
    • The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence provides free resources on traumatic brain injury to help service members, veterans, family members and health care providers. Resources include educational materials, fact sheets, clinical recommendations and much more.
    • Veterans Crisis Line offers confidential support 24/7/365 and is staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs — some of whom have served in the military themselves. Call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat by texting to 838255.
    • Non-military support channels such as community-based or religious programs can offer guidance and help in your recovery.

    If you are suffering from combat stress, you are not alone. Reach out to get the help and treatment you need to be able to live your life fully.

    Source: Military OneSource

    Mitsubishi Motors Introduces Team ‘Record the Journey’ for 2021 Rebelle Rally

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    Selena “Mason” Converse and Erin Mason are sisters-in-law, wives, mothers and combat veterans, and they are two-thirds of Mitsubishi Motors’ 2021 Rebelle Rally entry.

    They’ll be joined in their 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander on the nine-day, 2000-km, all-women off-road navigational rally by Sammy, Mason’s two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd, the first service dog ever to compete in the Rebelle.

    Altogether, Mason, Erin and Sammy are Team #207, representing Record the Journey (RTJ), a military veterans charity dedicated to helping service members successfully transition to civilian life, and advocating for PTSD awareness.

    “Mitsubishi Motors’ participation in the Rebelle Rally is first and foremost about our partnership with Record the Journey and supporting Rachael Ridenour and the charity she founded to help military veterans,” said Mark Chaffin, Chief Operating Officer, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA). “This year, in addition to supporting two veterans who honorably served, we’re breaking ground with Mason and Erin competing with Sammy to raise awareness for PTSD and the potentially life-saving work that trained service dogs do. We couldn’t be more proud to see the three of them in their 2022 Outlander, and celebrating one of Mitsubishi Motors’ most significant Dakar wins.”

    MMNA and RTJ have broken new ground at the Rebelle each year and are poised to do it again. Starting in 2019 – when the brand first partnered with RTJ as part of MMNA’s “Small Batch – Big Impact” social-good program – Team RTJ finished second in the Rebelle’s CUV class with the event’s first ever adaptive athlete – U.S. Air Force veteran Karah Behrend – at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

    In 2020, MMNA and RTJ marked another first for the Rebelle, competing in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle ever to complete the grueling multi-day event. This year, MMNA and RTJ will again make history in the wilds of Nevada and Southern California, when Sammy will become the first four-footed Rebelle.

    “Record the Journey couldn’t be more grateful for the support that Mitsubishi Motors and our other partners have provided to enable military veterans to have this life-changing – and life-affirming – experience,” said retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major and RTJ Founder Ridenour. “And this year is particularly important, as Sammy joins Mason and Erin to bring focus to PTSD and the important role that service dogs play for our returning heroes.”

    MMNA recently shared a rendering of the vehicle that will carry Erin, Mason and Sammy through the 2021 Rebelle Rally October 7-16. The Outlander’s special paint scheme pays tribute to a history-making Dakar Rally win twenty years ago, when Jutta Kleinschmidt drove a Mitsubishi Pajero to victory in 2001, becoming the only woman ever to win the world-famous Dakar. This was only one of Mitsubishi’s 12 overall wins in the world’s most rugged motorsport competition, and the first of seven in a row.

    Navigator: Erin Mason

    Erin Mason smiling wearing uniform

    Military Info:
    Branch Served –
    United States Navy
    Job Title – Aviation Structural Mechanic
    Brief Job Description – Maintained aircraft airframe and structural components including flight surfaces and controls. Responsible for inspections, fabrication and repairs.
    Years Served – 4
    Deployments – 2 – Flight deck, USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, Red Sea, as well as the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea
    Duty Stations – Naval Air Station Oceana
    Last Rank Earned – E-4 Petty Officer

    Personal Info:
    Hometown –
    Wildomar, CA

    Current Residence – Quitman, TX

    Age – 32
    Marital Status – Married, 7 yrs.

    Number of Children – 2

    Current Job – Owner & Farmer, Mason Wholesale Greenhouses – Plant Nursery Airport; Manager, Collins Field Regional Airport

     

    Driver: Selena “Mason” Converse

    Selena "Mason" Converse

    Military Info:
    Branch Served
    – United States Air Force

    Job Title – Emergency Medical Services Technician – EMT
    Brief Job Description – Provided emergency medical care in both combat and non-combat situations. Instructed EMT Certification Courses (NREMT) for incoming Air Force Medics and Navy Corpsman.
    Years Served – 12.75 yrs.
    Deployments – 1 – Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

    Duty Stations – MacDill Air Force Base (Florida), Grand Forks AFB (North Dakota), Mountain Home AFB (Idaho), Fort Sam Houston (Texas)
    Last Rank Earned – E-6 Technical Sergeant

    Personal Info:

    Hometown – Quitman, TX

    Current Residence – Hurricane, UT

    Age – 37
    Marital Status – Married, 17 yrs.

    Number of Children – 3

    Current Job – Owner of Mason Converse Media. MCM Provides Off-Road / Adventure Photo & Video Content Creation, as well as social media services for off-road, adventure, and travel/tourism companies.

     

    Service Dog: Sammy

    Sammy the dog smiling

     

    Breed – German Shepherd

    Color – Black
    Age – 2.75 yrs.
    Birthplace – Colorado
    Service Dog Type – PTSD
    Services Provided – Guarding/Protection Alerts, Anxiety Regulation, Night Terror Management, and Social Situation Guide Tasks.

    Preferred Pastime When Not Working: Non-stop Frisbee!

    Service Dog Info:

    https://usserviceanimals.org/blog/ptsd-service-dog-tasks/

    In addition to honoring the 20th anniversary of Kleinschmidt’s momentous win, MMNA is also celebrating the brand’s 40th anniversary in the United States this year.

    Alongside Mitsubishi Motors North America, Ally Financial, Inc., BFGoodrich Tires, Nextbase Dash Cams and Vision Wheel are partnering with Team RTJ this year, and Skout’s Honor Pet Supply Co. is providing special support to Sammy.

    About Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.
    Through a network of approximately 330 dealer partners across the United States, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for the sales, marketing and customer service of Mitsubishi Motors vehicles in the U.S. MMNA was the top-ranked Japanese brand in the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study. In its Environmental Targets 2030, MMNA’s parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has set a goal of a 40 percent reduction in the CO2 emissions of its new cars by 2030 through leveraging EVs — with PHEVs as the centerpiece — to help create a sustainable society.

    With headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, and corporate operations in California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Virginia, MMNA directly and indirectly employs more than 8,000 people across the United States.

    For more information on Mitsubishi vehicles, please contact the Mitsubishi Motors News Bureau at 615- 257-2698 or visit media.mitsubishicars.com.

    The National WWII Museum Celebrates Oldest Living U.S. Veteran on his 112th Birthday

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    LAwrence Brooks stands on porch with balloons

    Lawrence Brooks, a New Orleans native and the oldest known U.S. veteran of World War II celebrated his 112th birthday at his home on September12, 2021. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing recovery efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Ida,  The National WWII Museum arranged a small, socially distanced birthday celebration with cake, a performance from the Museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, and a Jeep parade courtesy of Kajun Outcast Jeep Club and Northshore Wrangler Association. Entertainment also included the Lawrence Brooks Birthday Band, a collection of local New Orleans musicians presented by the Bucktown All-Stars. The City of New Orleans also issued an official proclamation recognizing his milestone birthday.

    Lawrence Brooks, born Sept. 12, 1909, served in the predominantly African-American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. He was married to the late Leona B. Brooks and is the father of five children and five step-children. His oral history, recorded by The National WWII Museum, is available here. Last year, Mr. Brooks received more than 21,000 cards from all over the U.S. and abroad wishing him a happy 111th birthday.

    Mr. Brooks’ birthday is a significant reminder of those who have served and continue to dedicate their lives to our freedom. The National WWII Museum’s ongoing educational mission is to tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.

    ABOUT THE NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
    The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.

    From Vietnam to Flag Rank – An Asian American Story

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    Rear Admiral Huan Nguyen headshot

    Rear Adm. Huan Nguyen’s road to an admiral’s star was not a journey for the faint of heart. Arriving in this country as a teenage orphan from Vietnam, he faced an uphill climb. He credits his Asian heritage and community with helping him get to the top.

    On Oct. 19, 2019, Nguyen put on a rear admiral’s star, making him the first Vietnamese American to attain flag rank in the U.S. Navy. That October day was a far cry from his roots as a boy in the 1960s, growing up in the South Vietnamese city of Hue at the height of the Vietnam War. His is a story of personal loss and adversity, and the resilience he found in himself through serving his adopted country.

    “Growing up in the war zone, it is literally a day-to-day mental attitude,” said Nguyen, who is a Naval Sea Systems Command Deputy Commander for Cyber Engineering.

    “You never know what is going to happen next. The war is at your doorsteps. Images of gunships firing in the distance, the rumbling of B52 bombings on the countryside, the nightly rocket attacks from the insurgents—it becomes a daily routine. There is so much ugliness in the war and living through a period of intense hatred, I didn’t have any peace of mind.”

    Nguyen’s father was an armor officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, making his whole family enemies of the Viet Cong insurgents.

    During the 1968 Tet Offensive, his family was attacked in their home. His parents and five brothers and sisters all died at the hands of the Viet Cong.

    Nguyen, nine at the time, was shot three times. Though gravely wounded himself, he stayed with his wounded mother, trying to help her. Once she died, Nguyen, despite his wounds, managed to escape.

    He would live with his uncle until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, when they fled the country.

    MyNavy HR sat down with Nguyen to talk about his journey and the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make to the Navy and the nation. Here are his words:

    MyNavy HR: How did the tragic events of your childhood in Vietnam shape who you are and who you became?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: It is not easy to get over the trauma of losing your entire family. It has been over fifty years, but it is something I will never forget. Every day I asked myself: “Why me?”

    I thought of myself as a curse. In my mind, bad news was always around the corner; it was just a matter of time. I was afraid of building relationships just to lose the people I love. I was afraid of losing everything.

    I have often thought of the actions of my father the day he died. Why did he make those decisions that ultimately led to not just his death but those of my mother and siblings? Would I have made the same choices?

    The message I have come to understand from his example is that it is about service before self and doing what is right, with honor. What I experienced and learned from that event is about honor, courage, and commitment. The same ethos that the Navy I serve pledges today to uphold — honor, courage, and commitment.

    MyNavy HR: What did growing up in a time of war teach you about resilience at a young age?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: Having gone through the war in Vietnam and having survived the worst of it, I strongly believe that we all have the inner strength to be resilient.

    Having a chance to emigrate here to the U.S. gave me hope. Every day I wake up, looking at my scars every morning; I thank God that I am alive. I learned to take control of my own destiny and overcome the adversities that life throws at me.

    To go beyond just surviving, and to thrive through the trauma, the stress, the emotional scars that I carry with me. I needed to have the courage to challenge and conquer adversities rather than allow myself to wallow in self-loathing and victimhood. It also helps when you think about serving something that is greater than yourself. In my case, it is about serving my country.

    MyNavy HR: Tell us about your journey to America and how and why you joined the Navy?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: I first set foot on American soil forty-six years ago. Under Operation New Life, more than 111,000 Vietnamese refugees were transported to Guam in the last days of the Vietnam War, and I was one of them.

    At 15-years old, I was scared. I was afraid. I didn’t know what to expect. On Guam, I witnessed the young Sailors and Marines go above and beyond their duties to make us feel welcome. They made us feel like a part of their family, a part of this country.

    I knew then I wanted to be in the U.S. Navy. Their dedication to service and their commitment to helping us inspired me. I wanted to repay the kindness and my debt to this country and serve our great nation.

    In college, I tried to join the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps. But, not being a citizen yet, I could not.

    After receiving my citizenship, I applied and was admitted to the Navy Reserve as an Engineering Duty Officer through the Direct Commission Program. One of the best decisions that I’ve made.

    MyNavy HR: Returning to war in Iraq as a Sailor. Can you tell us what you did and where and what that experience was like for you?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: It was one of those experiences that I will remember for life. It is the idea of shared risk, of serving the soldiers, Sailors and Marines that keep you going. It is the bond that you developed between each other for life.

    I worked on the Counter [Improvised Explosive Device (IED)] mission, first with the Army Warlock Program Office, Task Force Troy and the Joint Crew field office. I was involved in fielding, training, engineering in the early days of the war.

    I was the executive officer and chief engineer for an Army O6 when I first got into theater. Since it was the early period of our fight against radio controlled IED, I did everything along with our military and contractors’ personnel.

    We collected intel, developed threat loads, route clearance and did mundane administrative control. I am grateful that I have a chance to serve and to do my part in the fight. A few memorable moments that I remembered were the chance to brief then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen when he came into theater. He was surprised to learn that Navy personnel were leading the Counter IED fight.

    By then, my CO was Navy Capt. David “Fuzz” Harrison. He and I had a chance to work on a Request For Force that brought in hundreds of officers and enlisted Navy personnel to help with Counter IED fight, leading to the establishment of Joint Crew Composite Squadron 1.

    I also attended many memorial events for soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty in the C-IED fight. It speaks volumes to the toughness and dedication and honor of our service members.

    MyNavy HR: What does it mean to be the first Vietnamese American to achieve flag rank? How does that make you feel as a person, as an Asian American?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: It is a great honor to attain the rank of admiral. I am tremendously humbled to become the first Vietnamese American to wear flag rank in the U.S. Navy.

    The honor actually belongs to the Vietnamese American community, which instilled in us a sense of patriotism, duty, honor, courage and commitment to our adopted country the United States of America.

    This is our America. A country built on service, kindness and generosity, opportunity and the freedom to hope and dream. These values are what inspired me to serve. And what a great honor and privilege it is to serve our Navy—to serve our country—to support and defend our Constitution.”

    MyNavy HR: Tell us how being an Asian American and specifically a Vietnamese American has shaped you as an American and a Sailor? What is it that your heritage brings to the table for you today?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen; I came here as a political refugee in the 1970s. Millions of South Vietnamese refugees left their homeland, risking their lives, seeking freedom on the high seas. Many fall victim to pirates, to weather.

    Yet, they were determined to leave, seeking the ideas of freedom and democracy. Refugees have typically suffered severe trauma, lost family members, and languished in refugee camps before coming to the United States.

    They leave their homelands without hopes or plans to return again.

    Nevertheless, once here, Southeast Asian refugees share many experiences in common with other immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

    Things such as a language barrier, culture shock, racial discrimination and the challenge of starting new lives are shared between us all.

    A common and a long-standing tradition for Asian Americans is the belief that we are not only individuals but also part of a larger community.

    This is also a shared experience and value among Vietnamese Americans and all other minority groups. All Americans believe in the value of hard work, family responsibility, community development, and investment in education for the next generation.

    Together we are stronger.

    MyNavy HR: What does service mean to you and how does patriotism fit into that for you?

    Rear Adm. Nguyen: America was founded on ideas that our founding fathers stated eloquently in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The history of our country is a struggle to keep these ideas alive.

    My desire to serve is to give back and repay the debt to this country and fight for the ideas and values for our children, for our next generation, for the world. It took years, including a civil war, for the United States to be where we are today.

    America has always been great. We are the North Star to the world on the ideas of democracy and freedom. As a U.S. citizen and as an American service member, I have the duty and the honor to serve and to ensure that the American Dream is alive, that the ideas that our founding fathers of freedom and equality are preserved.

    Source: U.S. Navy

    Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark D. Faram

    Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

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