Gary Sinise awarded Congressional Medal of Honor Society award for supporting veterans

LinkedIn
Gary Sinise Cover of U.S. Veterans Magazine

The Patriot Award was awarded to the veteran advocate and Forrest Gump actor recently at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA. It’s the highest honor given out by the organization, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Sinise is known for several memorable roles. These include George Milton in Of Mice and Men, Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Harry S. Truman in Truman (for which he won a Golden Globe), Ken Mattingly in Apollo 13, Detective Jimmy Shaker in Ransom, and Detective Mac Taylor in the CBS series CSI: NY(2004–13).

Sinise started off as a rebel and a musician. His parents bought him a guitar when he was a boy, but he noticed everyone was playing guitar, so he switched to bass, which he still plays today.

The hugely popular Lt. Dan Band, which plays mostly rock’n’ roll and country covers that are favorites among troops, has played for service members all over the world. He has spent countless hours raising money to support veterans.

He stresses that veterans are everywhere. You don’t have to put on concerts for thousands; you can support one veteran, and that’s a big deal. “Look within your own neighborhood, your town, your state.”

Read his story here!

RallyPoint Partners with Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers on New Series of Essays Highlighting Powerful Stories about the Military-Connected Caregiving Experience

LinkedIn
Man in wheelchair sits and holds dumbbell in his hand. The caregiver controls exercises.

RallyPoint, the premiere digital platform for the military community, and Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI), a leading nonprofit supporting the health, strength, and resilience of U.S. caregivers, announced a partnership to highlight the caregiving experience within the military community.

Through a new series of powerful, first-person essays from caregivers, the series aims to elevate the voices of those helping loved ones who served in the United States Military.

The new project showcases the compelling journeys of caregivers who provide for a loved one who sacrificed for our country, yet often go unheard, unseen, and unrecognized.

Together, RCI and RallyPoint are leveraging their networks and resources to raise awareness of the challenges and shortfalls the 5.5 million military-connected caregivers endure daily,– as well as their inspiring stories. The first three essays of the series include:

“We are proud to partner with the Rosalynn Carter Institute on this new series in order to amplify the voices of Military Caregivers, an important part of our military community who are often underserved,” said Dave Gowel, CEO of RallyPoint. “Our veterans sacrificed for our safety and security, and now their loved ones are sacrificing in order to provide the care they need. We are excited to share these stories with our millions of members in order to increase caregiver access to a stronger community with more accessible resources.”

“With so many caregivers within the military community, this partnership with RallyPoint is a natural fit,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Chief Executive Officer of RCI. “Through our everyday work supporting caregivers across the country, there is no doubt that those within the military community face some of the toughest challenges. Raising awareness of their stories through this powerful new project is just a first step in making sure these caregivers are seen, heard, and given the resources they need to persevere.”

Excerpts from this powerful series include:

“Building that trust was showing her that she’s my world, she’s my life, she’s what I do because it is my full time job. This came to light when handling the relationship with the VA. When it comes to the VA and navigating their system, be persistent. The phrase “the squeaky wheel gets heard” is 100% accurate. My label at the VA is “the sister;” when they see me coming they know I am going to advocate for her as hard as I can and will not accept no for an answer. I am relentless and will end up where I need to be even if I have to go to every single office.”Keesha McCloud

“As my Veteran father’s primary caregiver, I schedule medical appointments. I collect medical records. I administer medications and treatment. I attend a constant stream of exams and procedures. I sit in waiting rooms, wait for prescriptions, sift through bills and fill out paperwork. … Because I cannot earn a living outside of caregiving, we depend on my father’s monthly disability and pension checks to stay afloat and no other income comes into the household. I do this out of loyalty, deep concern and love for my Dad, a Veteran who volunteered to serve this country and was injured in an accident during service. It’s a 24/7 commitment and there are no paid vacations.”Eric Barnett

The series will be an ongoing representation of the unconditional support caregivers lend while providing care to veterans from diverse military backgrounds with diverse mental and physical ailments, along with the sacrifices they make. Essays will be posted on RallyPoint’s military curated content destination, Command Post, and tagged with the “caregiver tag” which easily connects Milvet caregivers across the globe.

About RallyPoint
RallyPoint is the premier online platform where warriors talk and listen. With nearly 2 million members, RallyPoint continuously brings military connected people to together through their shared experiences to discuss all things military, from professional questions to personal stories. Visit http://solutions.rallypoint.com/ to learn more and follow RallyPoint on Facebook and Twitter @RallyPoint.

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers promotes the health, strength, and resilience of caregivers throughout the United States. Established in 1987 by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Institute’s priority is the family caregiver: those individuals who care for a relative, friend, or loved one. To learn more about RCI, visit www.rosalynncarter.org.

How VR is Helping Train the U.S. Military

LinkedIn
woman soldier in uniform donning VR goggles

Futuristic training, the kind of immersive simulations seen in sci-fi TV shows, is no longer a fictional dream. It’s almost here.

With the Tech Training Transformation team’s creation of a virtual reality training system coordinated by artificial intelligence, Air Education and Training Command officials are transforming the Airmen development process. At the forefront of this development stand the cruxes of modern technology, high completion rates and an agile speed of learning.

In partnership with officials at Sheppard Air Force Base, the T3 team has re-engineered the foundational Crew Chief Fundamentals Course into a VR experience. In July and August of 2020, 29 students donned VR gear and took the program for a spin. They examined tools, maintained simulated aircraft and completed objectives, all within a 3D, on-the-job environment.
 
The results were impressive. On the end-of-course assessment, scores from students within the program were comparable to those of students using traditional methods. However, both students and instructors commented on the quality of T3’s program, emphasizing how Airmen-centric and approachable the program made the training, and how the personalized modalities built upon AETC’s world-class standards of quality. They also finished the course 46 percent faster, completing the 27-day course in just 12.5 days.

“It’s proven that T3’s program is an effective learning model,” said Senior Master Sgt. Toby Caldwell, 362nd Training Squadron assistant superintendent, who has been actively involved in overseeing T3’s training initiative at Sheppard AFB since the program’s beginning. “As we continue to meet the accelerate-change mission, we in the training environment are teaming up at the forefront of technological enhancements.”

In June 2021, T3 introduced an additional component: non-player characters. Students interact with AI Airmen by asking them questions and receiving instructions within the simulation. For example, a student maintaining an aircraft could have a conversation with an AI security forces Airman patrolling the flight line and learn about safety protocols or ask questions about the area.

This AI interaction will assist with the formation of multi-capable Airmen and agile combat employment, as students will have the ability to essentially swap places with AI characters. A maintainer can learn basic flight line security from an AI security forces Airman, or a security forces Airman could enter the program and familiarize themselves with aircraft maintenance from AI.

The AI system will also continuously measure the student’s ability to complete tasks and foundational competencies, and it will track performance throughout the Airman’s career, not just during technical training. This education-focused career model relies fully on competency-based learning and an Airmen-centric, mission-focused mindset that meets the students where they are.

woman soldier in uniform demonstrates a virtual reality training
Air Force Staff Sgt. Renee Scherf, Detachment 23 curriculum engineer, MC-130H subject matter expert, demonstrates a virtual reality training system. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt Keith James)

The T3 team is developing and testing an app for courses that don’t require VR. In the future, Airmen will log in on their phone and begin consuming course information according to their preferred learning style. For example, visual learners can watch videos and audio learners can listen from anywhere, even while on a run. Along the way, the AI capability will personalize the program. For instance, it will provide suggestions like, “Hey, I’ve noticed you listened to the lesson three times but still haven’t scored well on the assessment. Why don’t you try watching this video or completing this exercise instead?”

“This training is all about you,” said Maj. Jesse Johnson, Det 23 and T3 commander. “We’re no longer making you fit our content, we’re changing our content to match your needs. Not only does this program give more resources to students, it also keeps up with a new generation of learners who perform best outside of a traditional classroom. It allows for continued learning and the formation of multi-capable Airmen who can cross-train and expand their skillset anytime, anywhere.”

According to Johnson, this program will bring Air Force training to the cutting edge of education around the globe. He and his colleagues credit this success to the strong network of partnerships across the Air Force.

“Our plan is to partner with Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Labs and with AETC’s Force Development Team to develop the agile combat employment, multi-capable Airmen training philosophy,” said Col. Leonard Rose, AETC’s Analysis and Innovation director.

The T3 team views training instructors, or force generators, as a first line of partnership. The initiative aims to empower instructors by eliminating the need to lecture at length, allowing them to focus on facilitating and answering questions instead of fitting into the typical “teacher” mold.

This kind of student-centered instruction flips the traditional teaching method, where instructors stand at the center of the learning process distributing information to students, on its head. In a student-centric model, students have the power to explore and learn through discovery and practice while instructors act as mentors and coaches.

Learner-centric initiatives and an improved training infrastructure speed up the training pipeline by allowing Airmen to progress at the speed of learning. It’s creating more well-rounded Airmen who are better prepared for an era of great power competition, and developing a more resilient training enterprise that can continue to operate in disrupted environments.
 
“We’re excited to continue utilizing virtual and augmented reality to enhance our technical training courses here at Sheppard AFB,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason C. Groth, 82nd Training Group superintendent. “I think this type of training capability could also eventually be used to help train our multi-capable Airmen in austere locations.”

Plans are in place for two fully operational courses to launch at Sheppard AFB in 2022 with additional courses to follow. The two initial courses will be Crew Chief Fundamentals (2AX01 Air Force specialty code) and Logistics Planning (2G0X1 Air Force specialty code). The order for updates to training courses is determined according to requirements necessary to grow multi-capable Airmen.

Source: U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense

Top photo:  Air Force Staff Sgt. Renee Scherf, Detachment 23 curriculum engineer, MC-130H subject matter expert, dons virtual reality goggles. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Keith James)

The National WWII Museum Commemorates Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary

LinkedIn
A photo of the National WWII Museum's Building

Commemorative programming highlighted by special ceremony, student programs and Meet the Author lectures discussing the significance of this historical event.

WHAT: The National WWII Museum will commemorate the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor with a full day of programming on December 7 in New Orleans and online. Programs will begin with an Electronic Field Trip aired free to students around the country and designed to educate participants on the events that led to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II. Additional programming will include a special commemoration ceremony, a panel discussion by Museum scholars from the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and lectures by noted authors Rich Frank and Christopher Capozzola. Guests will also be able to tour the Museum’s newest special exhibit, Infamy: Pearl Harbor Remembered examining how the event is remembered today.

Referred to as “a date which will live infamy” by President Franklin Roosevelt, the Pearl Harbor attacks on the US Pacific Fleet led to the United States’ Declaration of War on Japan and plunged the country into World War II. Killing more than 2,400 servicemembers, Japanese planes destroyed or damaged 19 US warships and 300 aircraft in less than 90 minutes. The event launched the battle cry “Remember Pearl Harbor,” setting the tone for American efforts in World War II.

Schedule of events and registration information for Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Programming, Tuesday, December 7:

9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. CST airings

Electronic Field Trip: The Path to Pearl Harbor

Virtual Only

Join The National WWII Museum with student reporters from Hawaii and New Orleans to learn more about why on December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack is the event that brought America into World War II, and while Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor stunned Americans, its roots stretched back more than four decades. Designed for students in grades 6–12, the program will help participants understand the broader context of World War II and the history of the events leading up to the attack. During this Electronic Field Trip, student reporters will help answer the essential question of why the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led America into World War II.

10:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CST

Knit Your Bit: Scarf Distribution to Veterans

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

Museum staff will distribute free Knit Your Bit scarves to veterans of all eras. Learn more about the Museum’s Knit Your Bit program as it celebrates its 15th anniversary year.

11:00 a.m.–11:45 a.m. CST

Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Each year, The National WWII Museum commemorates those who lost their lives on that fateful December day. During the Pearl Harbor 80th anniversary commemorative ceremony, pay tribute to those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, through a moving program that reflects the enduring significance of this day.

2:15 p.m.–3:45 p.m. CST

Meet the Author: Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War July 1937-May 1942 with Rich Frank

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Join internally renowned expert and author Richard Frank as he discusses his book Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War July 1937-May 1942. Frank’s first book in his trilogy on the Pacific War, Tower of Skulls is an extraordinary WWII narrative that vividly portrays the battles across this entire region and links those struggles on many levels with their profound 21st-century legacies.

3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m. CST

Pearl Harbor: The Aftermath; an Institute for the Study of War and Democracy Panel Discussion

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

The Museum highlights its own talented scholars from the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy during a panel discussion on many of the critical effects that the attack on Pearl Harbor had on the world 80 years ago and the enduring legacy of December 7 to this day. Topics include A Truly Global War: Hitler, Mussolini and the Global Ramifications by Jason Dawsey, PhD; Awakening a Sleeping Giant: The US Military Regroups by Kali Martin; The Home Front: Are We All in This Together? by Stephanie Hinnershitz, PhD; and Remembering Pearl Harbor: The Continuing Mission of the DPAA on Oahu by Adam Givens, PhD.

5:00 p.m. Reception CST

6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. CST Lecture and Livestream

Meet the Author: Bound by War with Author Christopher Capozzola

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Join expert and author Christopher Capozzola for the concluding event of the Museum’s 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor programming, a discussion that covers a sweeping history of America’s long and fateful military relationship with the Philippines amid a century of Pacific warfare. Detailing his book Bound By War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century, Capozzola reveals this forgotten history, showing how war and military service forged an enduring, yet fraught, alliance between Americans and Filipinos.

Where: The National WWII Museum

945 Magazine Street, New Orleans

Website: www.nationalww2museum.org

COVID-19 Event Protocols:

Per City of New Orleans requirements, proof of COVID-19 vaccination (at least one dose) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test (taken within 72 hours) is required for entry to all events (applicable to all guests 12 years of age and older) as well as the Museum’s food and beverage outlets (including American Sector Restaurant & Bar and Jeri Nims Soda Shop), BB’s Stage Door Canteen shows, private rentals and indoor public events. For more information, please visit https://www.nationalww2museum.org/know-before-you-go.

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.

Bob Dole, WWII hero and former Republican presidential candidate, dies at 98

LinkedIn
Former Senator Bob Dole stands behind podium waving to crowd with U.S. flag in the background

By Elizabeth Chuck and Doha Madani

Bob Dole, the longtime lawmaker who overcame life-threatening injuries during World War II to become a shepherd of the Republican Party, died in his sleep Sunday at the age of 98.

Dole’s death was confirmed by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in a statement Sunday.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” the foundation said. “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

His family also released a statement about Dole’s death Sunday, saying that they have lost their rock, adding that they shared Dole with Americans “from every walk of life” over the decades.

“Bob Dole never forgot where he came from. He embodied the integrity, humor, compassion and unbounded work ethic of the wide open plains of his youth,” the statement said. “He was a powerful voice for pragmatic conservatism, and it was that unique Kansan combination of attributes and values that made him such a giant of the Senate.”

In February, Dole revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and said he was starting treatment.

President Joe Biden reflected on his decades-long friendship with Dole, who he worked with on opposite sides of the Senate floor throughout their careers. In a statement Sunday afternoon, Biden described Dole as a man with “an unerring sense of integrity and honor.”

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation,” Biden said. “And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves.”

Dole was among one of the first people he spoke to outside of the White House administration after being sworn in as president earlier this year, Biden said. The two also spoke following Dole’s cancer diagnosis, Biden saying he wanted to offer the same support Dole offered him after Biden’s late son, Beau, was diagnosed.

“Like all true friendships, regardless of how much time has passed, we picked up right where we left off, as though it were only yesterday that we were sharing a laugh in the Senate dining room or debating the great issues of the day, often against each other, on the Senate floor,” Biden said. “I saw in his eyes the same light, bravery, and determination I’ve seen so many times before.”

A former Senate majority leader and the 1996 Republican nominee for president, the native of Russell, Kansas, represented an earlier version of the GOP that had come through the Great Depression and did not shy away from a muscular use of government at home and abroad. He championed expanding the federal food stamp program, bringing awareness to disabilities, and sending U.S. troops to foreign conflicts.

He was one of the oldest first-time presidential nominees at age 73, but even after retiring from politics after losing the race to President Bill Clinton, Dole didn’t shy away from the limelight. He took on a new career starring in television commercials for Viagra, Visa and other brands. He also kept his commitment to fellow war veterans, spending Saturdays well into his 90s greeting veterans who flew to Washington, courtesy of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that arranges such flights for veterans.

Clinton tweeted following Dole’s death on Sunday, offering a tribute to his former presidential opponent who had “dedicated his entire life to serving the American people.”

“After all he gave in the war, he didn’t have to give more. But he did,” Clinton said. “His example should inspire people today and for generations to come.”

Continue on to the original article posted on NBC News.

Military Veteran Finds Passion in Public Service: Meet NFBPA’s Demetrius Payton

LinkedIn
NFBPA’s Demetrius Payton poses in uniform and additional headshot within the same frame

On March 30, 2022, the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), the principal and most progressive organization dedicated to the advancement of black public leadership in local and state governments, will host its Annual Forum in beautiful Grand Rapids, Mich.

The four-day conference allows public service professionals to gain practical and transferable skills they can apply immediately. It was events like Forum that drew Demetrius Payton to the organization. Demetrius Payton (pictured) is a director of infrastructure & operations at CPS Energy.

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally-owned energy utility providing both natural gas and electric service. Serving more than 840,750 electric customers and 352,585 natural gas customers in and around San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city. He is responsible for overseeing the Technical Services department, which includes the Infrastructure Server Team, Network Engineering & Collaboration Team and Data Center & Operations, which includes business process, compliance and patching.

Payton served 15 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He was deployed during Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Payton retired after 10 years from military service where he served as a commissioned officer in the Medical Service Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Payton, who is originally from Leesville, La., holds a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Business from Wayland Baptist University. Payton also holds a Master of Arts in Computer Resources and Information Management from Webster University. In 2018, he completed the National Forum for Black Public Administrator’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP), a program dedicated to grooming African American managers for the rigors of executive positions in public service organizations.

NFBPA sat down with Payton to talk about his time in the service, challenges faced in civilian employment and inspirations:

How did the military prepare you for your career in local government?
The military allowed me to understand structure and protocol. The military also gave me stewardship experience with resources for our country. I have that same responsibility in my public sector career.

What were some challenges you faced in your career adjusting to civilian work?
I think the biggest challenge was around understanding all of the visibility and transparency required in this civilian job versus my military job. We have a Board and Senior Leadership Team that is required to approve capital procurement.

Three qualities needed to be successful in your role:
My role is director for infrastructure and operations, but I feel that a CIO has to be trustworthy, be able to communicate vision and set the stage for innovation in their organization.

Can you relate your military career to what you want to do next?
I think I always want to serve my community. I left a lucrative paying job in the private sector for an opportunity to work in the public sector. I feel like it’s my calling to serve others.

Who had the greatest influence on you growing up and in your career?
I had several influences that coached and mentored me throughout my military and civilian careers. But if I had to choose one individual, I would say it was my good coach Ralph Miles at the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence. He taught me things about being a good leader, a good teammate and a good human being.

Would you recommend local government after military life?
Local government and politics impact nearly every aspect of our lives. To me, going from the military to local government seems like a natural progression and a way for a member to impact their community.

What job in the military prepared you most for a career in local government / the public sector?
My last role in the military was Battalion S6 Security Officer.

If you could be or do anything else – what would you do or be?
Silly as it sounds, I would love to be an owner of a professional sports team. It’s been my dream since I was a little boy.

What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?
Determined.

Payton has been married to his wife, Michelle Payton for 32 years. They share three children and three grandchildren. He has been a member of his local church for over 34 years and his passion is fundraising for the American Cancer Society.

A Tale of Two Nonprofits: How Veteran-Focused Organizations Collaborate to Serve Heroes in Need

LinkedIn
two nonprofit logos veterans legal institute and patriots promise

By Antoinette Balta

Veteran-specific services remain in high demand. Despite an abundance of patriotic Americans and well-meaning nonprofits, the reality is this: there are simply insufficient funds and resources to address the myriad of needs of Veterans throughout the United States. Worse yet, many new nonprofits duplicate the efforts of other nonprofits, thereby diluting each other’s impact through competition rather than collaboration.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath continues, the need for veteran services has skyrocketed, and many nonprofits have had to step up to fill the voids in service. Two such nonprofits, Veterans Legal Institute and Patriot’s Promise, exemplify the benefits of collaboration for the greater good.

Veterans Legal Institute (VLI) is a nonprofit legal aid that provides free legal services to veterans and active service members that are homeless, low income, at risk, mentally ill and disabled. Since 2014, VLI has served over 8,000 veterans.

Because of VLI’s legal services, veterans keep their housing, gain access to healthcare, find employment, and return to school. While VLI is solely focused on providing legal services, many of its clients often need tangential services in order to be fully empowered into self-sufficiency.

For that reason, VLI, as a member of the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative, values collaboration as part of its legal services model. For example, VLI recently provided free legal services to a veteran amputee who needed to access his benefits. When VLI learned that an electric wheelchair was available for donation, VLI connected its client to the donor. Although these services were not legal in nature, they were certainly life-changing for both the veteran and the donor.

Army Veteran John Baskin founded Patriot’s Promise on the principle of “Never Leave A Soldier Behind,” and in honor of his late father, Col. Rev. Ronald R. Baskin, Sr. Col. Baskin was a highly decorated Army Officer, and served his country for 33 years. After his military service, Col. Baskin went to seminary in the Episcopal Church, became an ordained Priest, and served the church for 25 years. In his free time, Col. Baskin would go to local VA hospitals, and volunteer to provide financial, relationship, and family counselling to any veteran in need. Patriot’s Promise continues his legacy by serving veterans who need a hand up. These two nonprofits have collaborated in a number of ways. When John Baskin approached VLI, and shared his desire to serve veterans through Patriot’s Promise, VLI agreed to provide free legal services to the nonprofit. This broadens Patriot’s Promise’s impact, which in turn expands veteran services. VLI also assisted Patriot’s Promise in receiving its 501(c)(3) tax exemption, and continues to assist with other governance work on a pro bono basis.

This allows Patriot’s Promise to take the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars that would have otherwise gone to legal fees, and use them to serve veterans in need.

These nonprofits offer truly transformative services to Veterans.

Patriot’s Promise takes homeless veterans off the streets and temporarily places them in hotels while connecting them to healthcare and helping them gain employment. This is consistent with Patriot’s Promise’s slogan: “The streets are for cars….not Veterans!”

Another veteran approached Patriot’s Promise in need of a car to get to work. Patriot’s Promise was able to donate a vehicle to him, thereby ensuring his safety, continued employment, and transportation. Further, in his own ministry, John Baskin met a veteran in dire need of veteran benefits. John connected the veteran to VLI. Within 3 months, VLI was able to successfully connect the veteran to his benefits so he could access healthcare and become more economically stable— all at no cost to the veteran.

Patriot’s Promise, in turn, understands the power of free legal services, and helped host two fundraisers for VLI. These fundraisers raised almost enough funds to support a full-time legal aid attorney for one year. As a direct result of these efforts, over 200 low-income veterans and their families will receive free and lifechanging legal services.

In a time of limited resources and extraordinary demand, nonprofits like Veterans Legal Institute and Patriot’s Promise are working hand-in-hand to serve veterans and save lives.

Raising Awareness of Neurodiversity in the Military

LinkedIn
U.S. Soldier in uniform smiling

A passenger-filled sedan rolls violently against a dirt median, abruptly halts on its roof and blocks oncoming traffic on the interstate. Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz’s duty to protect and serve kicks in.

Due to his application of military training and a unique diagnosis, Norwitz safely extracts the occupants of the vehicle, leading them away from the wreckage and redirected the flow of traffic.

Norwitz, 5th Combat Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Operations Planning, attributes this act to his military training and neurodiversity. “I’m on the [autism] spectrum and that makes me good at being a strategic thinker, and contributes to my innovation,” he said. “This is the stuff that makes us great, but it is something we need reinforcement on.”

Norwitz said his neurodiversity allows him to objectively react during situations. He said because of his ability to remove emotion from a situation, he is able to see a clear series of targets, tasks and creative solutions whenever an issue arises. This ability led him to learn to accept his diagnosis. According to the U.S. Air Force Medical Standards Directory, Autism Spectrum Disorder is not disqualifying for continued military service unless it is currently–or has a history of–compromising military duty or training.

Norwitz has seen improvements in his professional development and feels empowered to reduce the negative stigma surrounding autism. He adds that remaining resilient while overcoming his neurodiversity in the workplace has been no easy feat.

“There have been a lot of things throughout my military career that I struggle with,” Norwitz said. “I struggle with forming intersocial bonds. I felt like an outsider and didn’t know why.” This can have an impact on one’s mental health because these social bonds form an integral part of not only your social career but also your professional career, he added.

Norwitz believes he is not alone in his sentiments, and said unit cohesion and interacting with others who have similar neurodiversity challenges have contributed to reducing his feeling of isolation throughout his 19-year military tenure.

“Knowing I have a peer group that not only shares the same challenges that I do, but are people that I can instantly connect with helps soften the impact of the idea that I do struggle socially,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that I am actually more inclined to be successful at social interaction with people who are operating at the same frequency as me.”

Norwitz said one goal he has been working diligently to achieve is to raise more awareness through advocacy towards the increasing support for military members dealing with ASD. Part of his initiative is encouraging education amongst cohorts, supervisors, peers and the general public on the complexities of the autism spectrum.

He believes learning how to better accommodate, relay messages and adapt to the growing demographic of neurodiversity presence in the military may allow for more efficient cohesion and connectivity amongst all members and personnel within the armed forces.

As part of this initiative, Norwitz has engaged with the Secretary of the Air Force’s Disability Action Team.

There are currently seven Department of the Air Force’s Barrier Analysis Working Groups to include: the Black/African American Employment Strategy Team; the Disability Action Team; the Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team; the Indigenous Nations Equality Team; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team; the Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and the Women’s Initiatives Team.

Norwitz said he is hopeful for the continued advocacy for neurodiversity in the military.

“All of my efforts have been met with nothing but support from the external community, supervisors, coworkers and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” he said. “This has been incredibly healing for me, but I have a responsibility to make sure that same acknowledgment and acceptance reaches everyone else in uniform.”

Source: U.S. Air Force
Photo Caption: Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz, 5th Combat Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Operations Planning, poses for a photo at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force via Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz

Retired Marine heroes get mortgage paid off in full for brand new North Carolina home

LinkedIn
military family looks on to welcoming group marching near them and their home

A Marine couple in Jacksonville, North Carolina, learned on national television that their new house had been fully paid off. Mario and Amy Perez both served in the Marine Corps for more than a decade, deploying multiple times and serving America with honor.

“Marine Corps values: Honor, courage and commitment. The hard thing is to live by it, and that’s one thing that Mario has done,” retired master sergeant Tony Johnson said.

Veterans United Home Loans repaid the Perezes commitment to our country by fully paying off their brand new home, which took them months to find.

Mario said he and his wife and their two kids had been looking for a new home for a while. However, because of the demanding housing market, every house they liked ended up being purchased by someone else for thousands of dollars over asking price.

Finally the couple found a home that fit their family just outside Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville.

They closed on the house Nov. 9. Then on Nov. 10, the 246th anniversary of the creation of the US Marine Corps, they learned the best news ever. Friends of the Perezes, a full marching band and Good Morning America all showed up and surprised the Perezes with the news that Veterans United Home Loan has fully paid off their mortgage.

“It’s unreal to even think that, I mean, I never would’ve thought anything like this–I’m out of words.” Mario said through tears of joy.

The mortgage company isn’t stopping there. In total, 11 military families will have their loans paid in full by the end of the year.

Plus, one of those military families could be you or someone you know. The 11th family will be randomly selected from a group of nominations.

You can nominate an eligible military family by clicking here.

Read the original article posted on ABC 7 here.

The End of America’s Longest War

LinkedIn
military woman holding Afghanistan baby in her arms

The last military planes have left Kabul and the evacuation operation is over, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told Pentagon reporters via teleconference from his headquarters in Tampa: “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”

The last C-17 departed with Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of troops in Kabul, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson aboard. It was fitting the State and Defense leaders left together, McKenzie said.

That C-17s played such a part in the evacuation is only fitting. On Oct. 7, 2001, Pentagon leaders announced that C-17 aircraft were dropping humanitarian rations to starving Afghans, even as American military went after al-Qaida and the Taliban leaders that were sheltering Osama bin Laden and his murderous cult.

The C-17 departure today was both the end of the military portion of the evacuation and, “the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001,” McKenzie said.

More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured.

“Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed by an (Islamic State of Khorasan) suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today. No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it,” he added.

While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues.

This was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden ordered the start of the NEO operation on Aug. 14. Since then, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians. “In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” McKenzie said.

He praised the more than 5,000 service members who enabled the operation. He said the number of people evacuated represented a monumental accomplishment, enabled by the, “determination, the grit, the flexibility and the professionalism of the men and women of the U.S. military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions.”

Coalition contributions were invaluable and McKenzie cited the contributions of Norway, which kept a hospital open during the evacuation that was instrumental in caring for some of the wounded from the ISIS strike.

The situation on the ground has been complicated. Assumptions and plans changed daily, the general said. One plan was to work with a functioning ally in the Afghan government and security forces. Another was based on the premise that the outer provinces would fall to the Taliban, but that Kabul would stand. Finally, it became apparent that the government was collapsing and the security forces giving up.

Each time the planners in U.S. Central Command rolled with the punches. They positioned forces in the region to act instantly and pre-positioned aircraft. They worked with interagency officials and with international partners.

McKenzie himself had to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, to tell them that if the group interfered with the U.S. non-combatant evacuation operation, there would be severe consequences. He said they were “businesslike and pragmatic” and did not interfere with U.S. operations on the airfield. This included military operations to bring Americans to be evacuated.

And they accomplished the mission. “The last 18 days have been challenging,” McKenzie said. “Americans can be proud of men and women of the armed forces who met these challenges head on.”

Source: Department of Defense

Veterans Day Freebies and Discounts for 2021!

LinkedIn
Veterans Day Freebies promo

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.

Happy Veterans Day to all our soldiers, both past and present, and their families. We thank you for your sacrifice and your service, but more than that, we thank you for our freedom.

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 will get the All-American Steak Plate for just $11.99 (regularly priced around $23.99) This deal is available for restaurant dining and takeaway orders.

BJ’s Restaurants On November 11all 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.

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. 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 11-11.

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 11-11, 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 11-11. Dine-in only.

Outback Steakhouse Veterans and active-duty service members get a free Bloomin’ Onion and Coca-Cola product to on 11-11. Offer available for dine-in or to-go (call-in orders only, not available online).

Red Lobster One free appetizer or dessert. Active-duty military and veterans get a free sandwich with fries or tots on 11-11. 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 11-11. 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 free appetizer or dessert.

Recreation

Shopping

Services

 

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

Lumen

Lumen

Leidos Video