One Pedal at a Time

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Dan Hurd standing behind his bike which has several personal belongings tied to it.

Dan Hurd’s infectious smile and true contentment rests gently with him wherever he goes. But this hasn’t always been the case. There have been many days where the voices of fear, shame, depression, and anxiety have made it hard to smile and trust others.

The years of sexual abuse, PTSD from time served in the military, battling years of painful addictions, and struggling to ever have any real peace eventually lead to him believing this life just wasn’t worth living anymore.

After multiple failed suicide attempts, Hurd was invited to go on a weekend ride with friends that would inevitably change the course of his life forever. Here’s his personal account:

In 2017, I was in a dark place in life. I had tried to commit suicide for the third time and felt like my life was this dark void. After I was released from the hospital, I was in the stage of telling everyone I was better, but deep down, I still had no idea how to change my life or what direction to go in.

My best friend had tried for years to get me to go bicycling with him with no success. He was an avid rider and I never really had the motivation to join him. I rode motorcycles, and in my mind, it would be a downgrade.

This time though, for several reasons, I ended up taking him up on his offer. With nothing to lose, I decided to ride with him and two mutual friends. We rode 20 miles. It felt good in the moment but I still felt the same after. A few days later we rode again. This time 30 miles. Again, in the moment riding felt good, but this feeling of being in a void lingered. What changed everything was the third ride I took with him the following weekend. We took a 166-mile trip.

I remember in the first half falling asleep while riding and barely made it to our destination. What helped me get through was the encouragement of my friend, who told me, “stop worrying about what we’ve done and don’t worry about what we got left; it’s left, right, left, one pedal at a time.” After that trip everything changed.

I realized what got me through it wasn’t worrying about the past or the future but only living in the moment. Taking it “one pedal at a time” became my mantra and my turning point. Hearing that was like someone throwing a glow stick in the void. My void wasn’t as deep as I thought.

I fell in love with bicycling and started planning longer trips. I became addicted, but it was a better addiction then my past choices of alcohol and drugs.

After only a few months of riding, I knew that I needed to do something EPIC.

Cycling proved to be so transformational for Hurd that he decided to sell everything he had, get a bike and begin a journey around the country, visiting fellow veterans he had served with in the Navy. He traveled across 48 states in the continental United States. As the trip went along, it was obvious that it was meant to be more than just a trip to visit friends. The journey totaled 25,000 miles in about three years to raise awareness for suicide prevention. “Broken down on a daily basis that’s 22 miles a day, and that’s my dedication to service members that lose their battle every day to suicide,” Hurd said.

His deep passion to share his gift of cycling with others, along with his desire to raise awareness about suicide prevention, was how the One Pedal At A Time Movement was created.

Now after 20+ states and thousands of miles later, you’re invited to be a part of this journey and learn to take life, one petal at a time. Join the movement! #OPAATMOVEMENT

To learn more, visit: ridewithdanusa.com or opaatmovement.com

20 US Veterans, Aged 28-92, to Skydive at the National WWI Museum and Memorial this Veterans Day

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older veteran shaking hands with a group of younf soldiers in uniform

In commemoration of Veterans Day, the National WWI Museum and Memorial serves as a fitting place to honor those who have served — and continue to serve — our country. To recognize these men and women, admission to the Museum and Memorial is free for veterans and active duty military personnel from Saturday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 15. General admission for the public is half-price on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11.

A “Legacy Jump” will kick off the Nov. 11 Veterans Day activities at 6:30 a.m. CT Led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, the “Legacy Jump” will feature an All Veteran Group parachute team who will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. The veterans range in age from 28 to 92.

Parrott will cap off the jump with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial Tower in honor of POW-MIAs and a war that is talked about infrequently. The “Legacy Jump” will bring together generations of veterans, including news host Pete Hegseth, to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder causes through the Bird’s Eye View Project.

“We’re excited to host this special ‘Legacy Jump’ on Veterans Day,” says Dr. Matthew Naylor, president & CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.  “We are proud to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

Additionally, the Museum and Memorial will offer a wide variety of events throughout Veterans Day. A free, public Veterans Day Ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. CT in the Memorial Courtyard with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony, along with all other Veterans Day special events, will be held outdoors with social distancing and masks to ensure the public can celebrate our veterans safely.

Following the ceremony, at 11 a.m. CT, locally-based Cars 4 Heroes will be giving away 11 vehicles to veterans on the North Lawn. The bi-annual Walk of Honor dedication ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. CT, followed by a special outdoor performance from the Kansas City Symphony. Their Mobile Music Box will be on the Southeast Lawn from 3 – 5 p.m. CT.

Support for Veterans Day is provided by Jackson County Executive and County Legislators and Weather or Not.

VETERANS DAY ACTIVITIES: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020

LEGACY JUMP

When: 6:30 a.m. CT

Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn

What: Organized by the Bird’s Eye View Project and led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL from Team 7 and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott. An All Veteran Group parachute team will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. Parrott will cap off the event with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower.

VETERANS DAY CEREMONY

When: 10 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: Join us for a moving ceremony honoring our nation’s veterans with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony will be outdoors to ensure we can celebrate our veterans safely. Please dress warmly, practice social distancing and wear a mask. FREE to the public.

LIVING HISTORY VOLUNTEERS

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard and Paul Sunderland Bridge
What: History is brought to life with our Living History Volunteers who will be available for social distanced pictures. FREE to the public.

CARS 4 HEROES CEREMONY

When: 11 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn
What: For 24 years, Cars 4 Heroes has provided free, basic, reliable transportation to Veterans, First Responders and their families, that otherwise are not able to obtain transportation for themselves. Join us for a moving ceremony as the organization hands over the keys of 11 cars to deserving individuals.

WALK OF HONOR DEDICATION CEREMONY

When: 2 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: More than 100 new Walk of Honor granite bricks will be dedicated during a special ceremony. The Walk of Honor is divided into three sections: bricks dedicated solely to those who served in World War I; bricks dedicated to veterans of any military service; and bricks that honor civilian friends, family or organizations. Walk of Honor bricks are dedicated twice each year during Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. FREE to the public.

KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE

When: 3 – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Southeast Lawn
What: At a time when audiences cannot visit indoor venues, the Symphony is taking the music on the road to reach music lovers and families in every corner of the metropolitan area. Kansas City Symphony’s new outdoor stage on wheels, the Mobile Music Box, will be on the Museum and Memorial’s Southeast Lawn for a 3 p.m. CT performance. FREE to the public.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.

About the Birds Eye View Project

The Birds Eye View Project (BEVP) uses extreme sports to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder charities. Veteran and former Navy SEAL, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott knew that it takes big events to make a significant impact. That’s what this is. That’s why we are here. One man’s idea of running from Dallas to Waco in 24 hours to raise $100K for charity, turned into a charity that performs over-the-top stunts to impact those who need it most – veteran and First-responders injured in the line of duty – raising funds and awareness for small charities that need help doing their awesome work.

Photo Credit: The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Veteran Launches Advanced Lifestyle Management App Called BE LUX

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BE LUX CEO headshot

The COVID pandemic has prompted people to change how they conduct their business and personal activities. 

 

More than ever, people have come to rely on mobile applications to order groceries, make appointments, and otherwise meet a wide variety of their needs.

With this in mind, Waldron McCritty, a black U.S. Navy and hospitality industry veteran, set out to revolutionize concierge services for those who want to enjoy their best-available lifestyle. He designed BE LUX, the new mobile app by Bold, Inc., to provide personal concierge service in today’s high tech world. The BE LUX lifestyle management platform will help people with everything from travel arrangements to lawn care. All they have to do is sign up for a membership, and everything will be handled by quality trained service professionals.

 

“I come from three generations of hospitality and management services, and have made it my mission to introduce to this segment the power of today’s advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence,” explains Waldron McCritty, chief executive officer of BE LUX. “I have a passion for providing great services, and BE LUX is going to help streamline that process.”

 

The company and its service platform, is a concept that occurred to Waldron while he was helping his family develop their property and hospitality businesses. He envisioned a mobile app that would help solve some of the customer services and logistics problems that they had encountered regularly. After researching and testing various alternatives, BE LUX was born.

 

Today the BE LUX app is available for download on Apple and Android devices.  Users may choose a membership level that includes a range of services that suit their personal concierge preferences. Membership levels include Basic, Premium, and Executive, with service options that span personal assistant, home services, lodging, party and events, travel, and delivery service needs.

 

Members seeking Home Services, for example, will have all of their essential needs met without having to source the specific individual service providers to perform the work. Services such as yard work, repairs, cleaning, and laundry will integrate seamlessly.  Likewise, those who choose the Executive membership level will have all of their office assistant needs addressed. BE LUX will help people save time and money by running errands, having groceries and take-out delivered, or making travel plans.

 

Five things to know about BE LUX include:

 

1.    The company that created Be Lux, Bold Inc. is a certified Black- and veteran-owned business. Waldron served eight years in the U.S. Navy.

2.    Waldron’s experience in the military prepared him for entrepreneurship. He served with the Elite Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Counter Narcotics Units as an Operations Specialist, and Coordinator.  After obtaining a degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering, he gained 15 years of professional experience in management and mobile technology.

3.    The app is currently launching in Atlanta, but will soon be available in cities around the country.

4.    Currently the services offered include restaurant and grocery delivery, package and alcohol delivery, and transportation services. Transportation services include on-demand, as well as chauffeur services. More services will follow shortly.

5.    The BE LUX platform and underlying services will focus on helping people with everything from simple chores to corporate office assistance.

 

“Everyone wants more free time and less stress, despite all the daily tasks and chores to be done,” added McCritty. “BE LUX does all this and so much more. Constant attention to a list of to-dos around the home or office can consume a lot of time and energy. Users of BE LUX can while our trained service providers ensure that everything on their list gets properly handled in a timely and professional manner. BE LUX is the app for those who want to spend more time living their life to the fullest, rather than taking care of all the little tasks that need to be done.”

man's hand holding a serving tray with white gloves on

Those interested in learning more about Be Lux can log online and watch a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmcwxEoI9tk, download the app: https://play.google.com. Please visit the website: https://beluxllc.com.

About Bold, Inc.

Bold, Inc was founded by Waldron McCritty, a black veteran whose service experience prepared him to be an entrepreneur. He spent eight years in various positions within the U.S. Navy. As a third generation concierge professional, he is tapping into new technology to help streamline this service domain. BE LUX is the revolutionary new App that offers advanced lifestyle management services. To learn more about the company and app, visit the site at: https://beluxllc.com.

Tulsa Welding School and Hire Heroes USA Partner for Veteran Scholarship Program

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welding wearing face shield working in shop

Tulsa Welding School (TWS) has partnered with Hire Heroes USA, a national veteran employment nonprofit, to help military members entering the civilian workforce find opportunities for training programs in the skilled trades.

The partnership will provide Hire Heroes’ clients who no longer receive military funding with a $2,500 scholarship to TWS.

“We are honored to work with Hire Heroes USA,” said Mary Kelly, president and CEO of StrataTech Education Group. “We are incredibly passionate about supporting veterans, as well as active military, to achieve their career goals. We understand that the transition from military to civilian life can be challenging, so with this new partnership we hope to make that transition a little easier.”

As a part of Hire Heroes’ education and training program, the TWS partnership provides transitioning military members with access to a world-class skilled trades education. At TWS, students can explore careers in welding, HVAC, refrigeration and electrical. They will receive hands-on training that equips them with the skills necessary to find job opportunities in their field after graduation. With an 87% job placement rate, TWS graduates experience meaningful and lucrative careers.

“Hire Heroes USA is excited to be partnering with TWS,” said Ross Dickman, chief executive officer at Hire Heroes USA. “Employment assistance is the number one requested service among military members entering civilian life. In 2019, we were able to help more than 10,000 clients find meaningful employment. By welcoming TWS as a training partner, we are excited to work to increase that number this year.”

TWS will be an ongoing employee partner with Hire Heroes USA. For clients interested in enrolling at TWS and receiving a $2,500 scholarship, they can visit www.hireheroesusa.org or call (866)-269-4596 to learn more.

Operated by StrataTech Education Group, TWS is the largest accredited welding school in the country and has been training students for sustainable welding careers for more than 70 years.

For more information about TWS, please visit www.tws.edu.

About Tulsa Welding School

Tulsa Welding School (TWS) was founded in 1949 in Tulsa, Okla. and has trained thousands of individuals to become professional, entry-level welders for more than 70 years. Students learn hands-on, technical competencies and skills in labs, workshops and classrooms, with a curriculum designed to meet employers’ needs. TWS offers Professional Welder and Pipefitting programs. Upon program completion, TWS graduates are equipped to start entry-level careers in a variety of industries, ranging from automotive to manufacturing. TWS is an ACCSC accredited school and licensed by OBPVS. For more information, visit www.tws.edu or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

About StrataTech Education Group

StrataTech Education Group focuses on the education, growth and development of specialized career education schools, particularly skilled-trade programs designed to address the nation’s growing infrastructure needs. Holding an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, StrataTech Education Group’s portfolio includes The Refrigeration School, Inc. (RSI)Tulsa Welding School (TWS)Tulsa Welding School Jacksonville, and Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center (TWSTC). For more information, visit www.StrataTech.com.

About Hire Heroes USA 

Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit organization that empowers U.S. military members, veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce. We offer personalized one-on-one coaching, professionally revised resumes, mentoring, workshops, a job board, career fairs and more, to tens of thousands of job-seeking veterans and military spouses annually. Funded exclusively through public donations and private grants, we provide our services at no cost to clients. Hire Heroes USA prioritizes transparency, earning a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and the GuideStar Platinum Seal. For more information about our organization, visit hireheroesusa.org.

Paws of War Asks for Help to Bring Soldier’s Dog Back to America

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soldier pictured with her dog that lying on the grass next to her feet

Many people are aware that some military bases are being closed overseas and the soldiers are being brought home. What they may not know is that some of these soldiers have dogs that will be left behind to fend for themselves in an area of the world that doesn’t treat dogs with kindness.

One of those dogs is Meeka, who has been a loyal companion to Sergeant E, who is already back in the U.S., missing her dog, and has turned to Paws of War to help bring him back home to live with her.

“Anyone who has ever had a dog knows how difficult it would be to walk out on him one day and live with the idea that you may never see him again,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “That’s exactly what has happened to Sergeant E, and we will make every effort to bring her dog to America to live out the rest of his days with her in a safe and loving environment.”

The bond between a dog and his human companions is special, particularly when you are someone living on a military basis thousands of miles from home. When Sergeant E first saw a dog wandering around the base that was showing signs of neglect and abuse, she had no idea that she would end up creating such a bond with him.

Naming him Meeka, the pair created an instant bond and connection. Every morning when she would leave the barracks she would see the dog, who would get excited for her attention. The dog would also spend time each morning alongside of her as she did her runs. The two became inseparable, but then she was sent home to the U.S. with very little notice, leaving Meeka on his own. He hid for a while, staying away from people out of fear, until other soldiers found a way to coax him closer by enticing him with food. They were able to catch him and have been holding him in a makeshift pen until Paws of War can help reunite him with Sergeant E.

“Ever since I returned home I’ve been worried about Meeka and miss him,” says Sergeant E. “I’m grateful that there is an organization like Paws of War that will help in such cases. I look forward to them bringing Meeka home to me. We have a bond that will last for many years to come.”

Paws of War is on a mission to help bring the dog back to the States, but needs the help of the public for it to happen. Transporting a dog across the world is not only costly, but it involves working with overseas organizations and volunteers to ensure that all medical records and paperwork are in order.

To support the effort to bring Meeka back to America, please make a donation at: 
https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com.

Paws of War rescues dogs, provides them with proper training, and then pairs them with veterans who need service animals, all free of charge. They also help soldiers bring their dog back to America after serving in the Middle East. Those who would like to learn more about supporting Paws of War and its mission can go online to: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War

Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance to military members and their pets, rescues and trains dogs to be service dogs, and provides therapy dogs to veterans. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

How I Got Into The Best Shape Of My Life At 51

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King Cuz promotional poster

by Ellis King

Most are generally surprised to find out my actual age of 51. “How do you look so young and fit? That is a question I get often and with a grand smile I pass on the great advice I received from my father; if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you!

As a retired Navy Veteran for 26 years and spending 4 years in amateur boxing, I’ve developed my own blended fitness program that combines the physical military training with the intensity of boxing training. This approach I consider my “Ageless” workout plan consists of building and maintaining lean muscle mass while decreasing body fat to achieve a healthy body and mind.

Growing up in a large family of 6 brothers and 5 sisters in southern Georgia and whose father is a Brick Mason and Farmer, hard work and fitness came hand to hand.

Being the shortest of all my brothers and the only twin to my younger sister,  I’ve prove to myself that my strength matched their sizes and never needed their support.

During most of my tours in the Navy, I was appointed as Command Fitness Coordinator (CFC) where I’ve trained Sailors to pass a physical fitness assessment (PFA) twice a year!

I’ve developed a deep passion to continue this training after retirement and my results have been amazing!  I’m truly am at the best shape of my life!

Earlier this year I started to conduct live virtual workout sessions to support others looking to make improvements to their health regardless of their past fitness level which can be done from the comfort of their own homes.

Since COVID-19 made its entrance in 2020, the world has never been the same and now more than ever we need to make health and fitness our top priority. The truth of the matter is with a weak immune system, poor diet, and lack of exercise we’ve been a huge target of health issues before this pandemic occurred. The stakes are much higher now and we must do all we can to defeat it.

I am honored to mentor and coach others on their path to fitness success.

Learn more at www.50andfit.org

Air Force Vet’s Business Franchises Take Flight

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Headshot of Don Stone

By Rhonda Sanderson

Don Stone’s entrepreneurial spirit first began when he learned to fly while serving in the Air Force. After leaving the service, Stone took his flight knowledge and chose to open his first business as a fixed-based operation, which is basically a gas station for planes, at a small airport in Colorado.

While it was a fun business overall, he faced challenges with the city and county governments that owned the airport. This experience helped him immensely for his next endeavor—owning and operating a franchise.

Stone’s first franchise was part of a 216-location hair salon company near Texas. After selling that business in 2000, he was immediately interested in purchasing another.

“My experience with franchising was what made me pursue future opportunities,” Stone shared. “I spoke to someone in Dallas about a mobile pet grooming business that wanted to expand and start franchising. Because of my experience with the hair salon franchise, I thought of using that same model to expand it, but instead ended up buying the business outright.”

After much due diligence, Stone realized it would be complicated to turn the mobile grooming business into a franchise. He was surprised to learn that mobile pet grooming salons are more complicated than the average person would expect, so instead of franchising, he kept the business as it was and it has since grown significantly. Stone now operates over 50 mobile grooming salons in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

As time went on, Stone continued to watch for a complementary business to purchase.

“I knew one of the founders of Pet Butler,” he said. “I watched the business as it grew and franchised.”

Once the Dallas/Fort Worth market opened, he jumped at the chance to diversify by adding a Pet Butler franchise to his current business model.

“It was easy for me to add on because we had the back-office services in place already,” Stone explained. “It was a great way to acquire a much-needed service, popular in the pet specialty services group.”

Stone was able to keep his focus on the same great services for pets in people’s homes or offices. He has a full-time manager and six scoopers—four having been a part of his organization for more than 10 years. And when Pet Butler was acquired by Spring-Green Enterprises in 2017, franchisees of Pet Butler received not only digital marketing help, but also back-office support—a huge advantage Stone says because he’s not tied to a desk.

The company’s National Call Center answers all calls from would be and existing customers, and provides immediate information to the franchise owner.

“Within minutes, we are on the phone with the customer solving any issues or schedule changes.” Stone said.

The back-office support team also handles customer billing and processes payments. Stone has also gotten his son involved with the Pet Butler end of the business, which, frankly, involves the back end of a dog! Stone has a dedicated, full-time Pet Butler manager, but he, too, scoops poop, and his son is learning to become a manager for the business by scooping poop as well.

“He will learn the business by doing, not by taking over,” Stone says.

In fact, all of Stone’s children are involved in both his Pet Butler and mobile grooming businesses. They came to them on their own, which was very important to Stone.

“It is interesting to get a different perspective from my kids,” said Stone, who is proud to build his businesses alongside his kids.

His advice to those veterans thinking about purchasing a Pet Butler franchise?

“You must have an entrepreneurial spirit, but you also need to follow the program,” Stone said, “The franchisor spends a lot of time and money on what works and what does not. A good franchisee will learn from that so they don’t repeat costly mistakes.”

Stone added, “If you’re in the pet business already or are looking for a business in a booming industry, take a serious look at this. Ninety percent of the things you need to know and do are already figured out for you. It’s a great business.”

Pet Butler was acquired in 2017 by Spring-Green Enterprises, the parent company of 43-year-old Spring-Green Lawn Care and SGE Marketing Services. They currently have 30 franchisees located in 26 states with plans to open 60 more within the next 5 years.

To learn more about how Pet Butler serves pets and their people, visit their website here.

To inquire about a franchise, call (844) 777-8608 or visit their website here.

Send A Birthday Greeting To The Oldest Living World War II Vet In The U.S. As He Turns 111

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Lawrence Brooks smiling with people in background

In a week’s time, the United States’ oldest living American to have served in the Second World War is going to turn the grand old age of 111. To help him celebrate, the National World War II Museum is asking people from all around the world to send him a birthday greeting.

So what is life like for a 110-year-old? If you’re Lawrence Brooks—who in the early 1940s was stationed in the Pacific as part of the 91st Engineer Battalion—you spend lots of time doting on your five children and five stepchildren, your 12 grandkids, and an incredible 23 great grandchildren.

If you’re Lawrence, you also love celebrating your big day with others at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

On those jubilant occasions, there’s live music. There’s cupcakes. It’s a fun day for all.

But because of the pandemic, on his birthday this year Lawrence won’t be able to celebrate with lots of others.

Luckily, the museum has come up with a novel idea for Lawrence’s September 12 birthday this year: Well-wishers can send the supercentenarian a birthday card the old-fashioned way: by mail.

Lawrence, who lives with his daughter in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood, reflected on his long and interesting life to National Geographic. And he gave a few words of wisdom. Eat right. Stay healthy. Most importantly? ”Be nice to people.”

Now you know a little of Mr. Brooks’ story, perhaps it’s time to find that stash of letter paper, your fanciest pen, and celebrate by sending the veteran a card?

Here’s the mailing address you can send your birthday greeting to:

The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!

The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
945 Magazine St.
​New Orleans, LA 70130

Happy writing! And be sure to check out the National World War II Museum’s social media on September 12 for a special birthday video.

Image source:  National World War II Museum

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

StableStrides: Why Horses are Used for Therapy for Veterans

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A man wearing a camoflauge shirt, looking at a black horse

by April Phillips, StableStrides

Horses are not only “good for the inside of a man,” but uniquely suited for mental health therapy for veterans due to both instinct and behavior.

When paired with a human, a horse will intuitively react to behavioral patterns or body language from the human. This gives insight into how a person is being perceived. Because they are prey animals, horses are constantly on the lookout for danger and respond quickly with either confrontation or flight. This instinct allows for a deeper level of intervention with a therapist that surpasses any other mental health treatment.

StableStrides is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose primary focus is mental health therapy with horses. Situated in the large military community of Colorado Springs, CO, StableStrides is uniquely positioned to serve veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. On a mission to significantly improve the lives of people through a connection with horses, StableStrides exists because of horses and their ability to touch the lives of people.

Horses and humans share a history that goes back to ancient times and has continued to today. Their role in medicine was first prescribed by Hippocrates (460 BC-375 BC) as a form of natural movement that strengthened the body. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” believed in health that united body and mind and studied treatment for trauma and mental healthcare. Since then, relationships between horse and human has been studied and incorporated into modern medical practices, both physical and mental.

The physical aspects of horseback riding are used to develop physical strength, muscle development and other physical benefits, while the relationship between horse and human is known to strengthen both mind and spirit. Today, the term Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT) defines the use of the horse in recreational and medical intervention. A large portion of EAAT is focused on veterans and their healing journeys during and after service. When partnered with a horse, a veteran is asking the horse to enter into a relationship with them that requires mutual trust and some degree of vulnerability.

One veteran reflects on his mental health sessions at StableStrides by asking:

“How could they go from resting and relaxed to full alert, with a first instinct to run, then to relax again, in seconds? How they could let go of that tension and anxiety and just “be?” As a herd animal, they entrust leadership to the strongest. That leader makes the decisions for the herd for as long as it’s capable or trusted. How can a prey animal, the horse, come to trust an apex predator, a human, with their safety? What a concept. This huge, powerful animal, easily capable of killing me, that fears me because I am a predator, could come to trust and work for me because it wants to.”

As prey animals, centuries of domestication have done little to lessen the horse’s response to danger. They understand that their best chance in escaping danger is to flee. As a result, the horse’s “fight-or-flight” instinct is used for decision making. In addition, horses are extremely perceptive and communicate with body language to convey fear, anger, calm or anxiety.

In a herd, each member relies on the leaders in the hierarchy to make decisions for the safety of the herd, if that leader can be trusted. When in the absence of a herd, the horse will determine if the human is to be trusted as the leader. If not, the horse will decide on his own what is safest.

Therapists have selected horses to incorporate into therapy due to these characteristics, including what many call “mirroring of emotions”. While horses aren’t mirrors, they will often reflect their leader’s emotions. If their leader senses danger and responds with fear, so will the horse. If the horse senses calm in their leader, the horse will likewise be calm, trusting their leader’s instinct. In mental health therapy, the therapist incorporates the horse and the relationship between veteran and horse for a dynamic and therapeutic environment. Through the horse’s reactivity, a veteran and therapist are able to examine and process behavioral reactions or emotional incongruencies. This requires the veteran to be present and mindful as to what is unfolding, and to be transparent about reactions.

Many organizations such as StableStrides exist for the horse-human connection and improve lives through EAAT. Through a connection with horses, mental health therapy strengthens families and individuals. Because of the horse’s unique qualities and instincts, incorporating horses into mental health allows for a therapeutic intervention that surpasses any other form of mental health therapy.

Photo Credit: Amy May Images 

 

 

 

What You Know is Only the Beginning

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Aliahu “Alli” Bey's Headshot

by Jackie Hobson

Aliahu “Alli” Bey is a husband, father of 3, and a US Army Aviation veteran entrepreneur. After gathering nearly two decades of engineering and project management experience, Alli decided he would prefer life without the corporate politics.

Utilizing his experience, he started his first small business, Haight Bey, in June of 2014. He spent 14 long months writing proposals from his basement and making ends meet by moonlighting at a small food manufacturer in the evenings and working as a boot and ski technician during the day at a local ski resort.

In July of 2015, he won his first Department of Defense contract worth more than $47 million dollars. Over the past 5 years he has added several Prime and Subcontracts to their project portfolio, and most recently stood up a cybersecurity compliance company called Totem Technologies.

Helping Other Veteran Business Owners

Bey volunteers his time and donates company profits to helping other veterans and minorities start and grow their businesses. He is a board member of the Utah African American Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chairman of the Warrior Rising board, a nationally-recognized organization that helps veteran entrepreneurs. Bey developed over 3000 square feet of incubator space within the Haight Bey and Totem.tech facilities. He currently supports two veteran-owned businesses— one is a USAF Minority Veteran, Woman-owned Human Resource startup called Pyramid Edge, and the second one is a USN-owned machine shop called Fox Machining.

Haight Bey workforce employees standing around a table
The Haight Bey workforce is comprised of over 60 percent veterans

Bey’s advice to those thinking of starting a business:

Stick to what you know: My first contract win was in support of a tactical weather system utilized by the USAF and Marine Corp. This was not luck—it was experience, patience, and relationships. I worked over a decade on this system for the manufacturer, and then as a program manager for a large Prime contractor. I assisted with engineering, deploying, servicing and supporting. I knew this system inside and out.

I had and continue to have great relationships with the manufacturer and the government program management team. What you know will get you started, but who you know, and better yet—who knows you—is a cornerstone in building and growing a successful company.

Focus on quality: Our chief cybersecurity engineer has always said to me, “Build a quality product and the customers will come.” We all know that nobody wants a cheap product that’s going to fall apart after a few uses. What we don’t understands as clearly is that a quality product requires a collective mindset of those around you. From my salesperson not over promising and clearly defining what will be delivered, to our project manager ensuring that we are constantly communicating and delivering exactly what our customers expect, everyone in the process must share the same desire of delivering quality.

A group filming Travis Bell's weather program
Program Manager Travis Bell, teaches the Air Force about their sustaining methods and support of their tactical weather program.

Don’t depend on your set-aside status: All too often I find within our veteran and minority business community individuals that expect to be handed business opportunities solely on their set-aside status i.e. Woman, Veteran, Minority, etc. In business, your set-aside status is a good thing, but if you have failed to focus on what and who you know, and delivering a quality product or service, your set-aside will never become relevant.

Get multiple mentors: You can never have enough people around to ask questions. I often seek advice on the same topic from multiple mentors, knowing each will have an answer based on their unique experiences. Sometimes I get widely varying opinions/answers, however, I have now been a mentee long enough to learn that no one answer or opinion is more correct than the other. This allows me to evaluate my issue from multiple perspectives, which ultimately leads me to make a better decision. Mentors don’t have to be formal. Many times, I ask for advice from co-workers or even a complete stranger.

It’s hard work: Let’s be honest—starting a business takes a rather large emotional commitment, so you must want this at your core. I spent years talking daily with my family and other business owners, making sure I was making the right move. I knew once I jumped in, it was all or nothing. Vetrepreneurship requires buy-in from the entire family, as there is usually a substantial financial and personal time commitment.

Jason Van Camp, my friend, mentor, US Army Green Beret and the founder of Warrior Rising, says, “I ask the same three questions to vetrepreneurs that I do when a guy tells me he wants to go to Ranger School or Special Forces: The first is, why do you want to do this? Second, what are you going to do? Finally, what have you done in the past to ready yourself for this?”

Photo Credit: Haight Bey Marketing

Financial Resources Available During the Pandemic

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An army soldier standing with his wife, speaking to a doctor.

In light of the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19, many Americans across the country have seen their lives suffer. Veterans and military families are no exception and have experienced both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has adjusted its operations and existing programs during the COVID-19 outbreak, but veterans’ benefits and services should not be affected. Veterans will continue to receive their benefits and survivors will continue to be provided.

However, more help is available for veterans in need of financial assistance as a result of the pandemic.

VA Compensation and Pension Benefits

Tens of thousands of veterans can access VA benefits. But during the pandemic, VA has changed how it administers and processes these benefits. For their safety and security, especially for those with underlying health conditions, all 56 regional VA offices are closed to the public for in-person services.

Compensation and disability evaluations usually done in person are currently evaluated electronically, via “tele-C&P” exams, virtual-tele-compensation and pension. Regional offices continue to operate, but now communications with health care providers, which determine how much money veterans can get, are being made via computer.

There is a significant backlog of these benefit cases and the pandemic added to it, delaying access to health care and other benefits. Veterans can wait more than 125 days for a decision. “These benefits are worth tens of millions of dollars to veterans amid the pandemic,” informs Gregory Cade, an attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a community toxic exposure law firm in Alabama.

During the pandemic, VA makes it possible for veterans to submit late claims and appeals, alongside requests for extensions on submissions.

Exceptionally, the appeals for veterans diagnosed with COVID-19 will be expedited.

VA Caregiver Support

Veterans in need of home-based care and their families are eligible to receive money to cover various necessary services by participating in the Veteran Directed Care program.

The CARES Act has made special provisions to help veterans in need of home-based care navigate the uncertain path ahead. During the pandemic, no in-home visits will be required and they can enroll or renew their participation in the program through telehealth or telephone.

Veterans and their caregivers who can’t get to the post office or a printer due to COVID-19 will not be penalized for sending in late paperwork. Also, their caregiver can still be paid for services, even if they are out of their home state and can’t travel due to COVID-19 restrictions and health concerns.

Other Military-Focused Efforts

A good starting point for veterans who suffer from COVID-19’s economic impact would be their branch’s relief organization, such as the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) or Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Also, veterans and their families can get help for expenses not covered by current military support systems from several organizations:

  • The Red Cross works in conjunction with military relief societies to provide help.
  • Operation Homefront has a financial assistance program.
  • The Gary Sinise Foundation has a dedicated emergency Covid-19 campaign that provides financial assistance to veterans and service members.
  • PenFed Foundation has launched a COVID-19 relief fund. The program has closed after receiving over 6,000 applications in four days. But it may open again.

Additional Financial Help

Veterans who suffer from serious health conditions, such as cancer, and their immediate family members find themselves in a complicated situation during this period. This is not only because they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 but also because they need to continue their treatment but may lack the financial resources.

Therefore, they need to know that there are other options available to them. For instance, they can access legal help. When veterans are diagnosed with any disease stemming from asbestos exposure that took place in the military, they can recover money from one or more asbestos trusts, whether they already receive benefits from the VA or not.

Also, veteran firefighters who’ve been exposed to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and suffer from kidney, testicular, pancreatic or liver cancer can seek compensation from chemical manufacturers.

There are many services available to help during this time. Veterans have served, and organizations and lawyers are available and will do all they can to serve them now, during this unprecedented and challenging period.

Environmental Litigation Group P.C. is a national community toxic exposure law firm dedicated to helping victims of occupational exposure to toxic agents, including asbestos and the PFAS in AFFF.

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