A Military Wife’s Guide to Suicide Prevention

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Depressed soldier leaning against the window covering his face with his arm

Aleha Landry is one of the many people who has a military spouse suffering from a form of mental illness from military experience.

Through her personal experiences tending to her husband’s mental health conditions and her knowledge of the rising suicide rate among military personnel, Landry does everything in her power to help those suffering from these conditions.

Through her husband’s struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, Landry has had a look at the various military-implemented mental health programs that help military personnel in these specific instances. Though in place for good reason, Landry has expressed her husband’s distaste for the programs, as they claim to be a solution for an issue that is as complicated and complex as mental health. To bring awareness to what veterans are actually feeling in times of mental health issues, Landry writes letters to Air Force leaders and members of Congress.

Though she is yet to receive a response to her letters, Landry does offer three helpful tips that she believes should be implemented into the mental health programs for military personnel.

  • Therapists working through these programs should either be stationed to stay in one place or at least have a five-year commitment to where they are currently located. Many of the therapists that Landry’s husband has seen have relocated in a short span of time, forcing him to retell his story and rebuild trust over and over again. Lancey believes that having one therapist who is guaranteed to stick around would allow for trust, understanding and healing to be better implemented.
  • Guarantee off-base counseling. This would allow for those seeking therapy to have a wider range of choice in finding the right counselor, rather than feeling the pressure to have to talk with a specific person.
  • Reduce the redundancy in progress questionnaires. Many questionnaires given to track the mental progress of military personnel are redundant and frustrating, according to Landry, who believes asking the questions once and having them answered to a therapist rather than on a sheet of paper would decrease frustration and give patients the sense of being cared for.

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

Infinite Hero Foundation Announces the New Task Force 22 Initiative for September National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

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Veteran with PTSD sitting down with hands folded

Infinite Hero Foundation (IHF) believes our military and veterans have sacrificed mentally and physically for our country, and it is our job to continue to support innovation to ensure they get the support they need to heal.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and, with the impact the pandemic has had on the mental and emotional health of our military heroes and their families, they need us now more than ever. In response, Infinite Hero created Task Force 22. Those who have joined Task Force 22 are generously donating 22 minutes of their time, one minute for every veteran suicide that takes place each day, to help raise vital funds for mental health and suicide prevention programming. In addition to the dynamic group of Task Force 22 members, we have partnered with companies who are committed to supporting our military veterans, many of them are veteran-run, and they have joined forces with Infinite Hero to be part of this campaign.

The campaign officially kicks off on September 10th, which is a World Suicide Prevention Day. To get involved, people can visit https://www.infinitehero.org/task-force-22/ to donate to Task Force 22 and also enter for a chance to win prizes ranging from 22-minute phone calls with celebrities, a lifetime subscription to AllTrails account, Black Rifle Coffee subscription, and more.

“Suicide prevention and brain health remain a key challenge for our veterans and their families.  Infinite Hero strives to inspire collaboration of the top minds in technology, community, medical research, and mental health care to find solutions that revolutionize the way we treat the injuries of war,” said Colin Baden, President, Director, and Founder of Infinite Hero Foundation. “The Task Force 22 initiative sheds more light on the importance of providing veterans with tools necessary to cope with the mental and emotional stress they have encountered while serving our country”.

Infinite Hero welcomes you to be part of Task Force 22 in honor of suicide prevention month and to help us to bring much-needed attention to the conversation around brain health and suicide prevention, two of Infinite Hero’s key pillars that drive our mission. The opportunity to win one of the amazing auction packages that are part of Task Force 22 will launch September 10th, visit www.infinitehero.org for all the details.

Task Force 22 Members:

  • Chef Andre Rush: Andre is a celebrity chef, MSG (Ret) United States Army, and a suicide prevention advocate. @RealChefRush & www.chefrush.com
  • CWO4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, USMC, Ret.: Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams is a retired United States Marine Corps warrant officer and United States Department of Veterans Affairs veterans service representative who received the United States military’s highest decoration for valor—the Medal of Honor—for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. He is also the Co-founder of the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. www.hwwmohf.org & @HWWMOHF
  • Jason Redman: Retired Navy SEAL and NY Times Best Selling author of The Trident and Overcome relates the tactics Navy SEALs have used for decades to lead, build elite teams, and how to deal with the highest levels of adversity.  Jason teaches how his Overcome Mindset helped him rise above a leadership failure, vicious enemy ambush, and even a debilitating business crisis.  Jason’s incredible story, positive message, and vibrant energy on stage make him a highly demanded speaker both nationally and even internationally. https://jasonredman.com & @jasonredmanww
  • Carey Hart: Carey is a freestyle motocross rider turned street bike builder and hooligan racer who, out of his passion to support our veterans, founded the military charity, Good Ride. www.goodriderally.com – @hartluck & @goodride
  • Jack Beckman: Jack is an Air Force Veteran, Funny Car World Champion & driver of the Infinite Hero Funny Car. https://gofastjack.com & @fastjackbeckman_fc
  • Jack Carr: Jack Carr is a former Navy SEAL, with over 20 years of service in Naval Special Warfare, who led special operations teams as a Team Leader, Platoon Commander, Troop Commander, and Task Unit Commander. Jack is also the New York Times bestselling author of The Terminal List, True Believer, and Savage Son. www.officialjackcarr.com & @jackcarrusa
  • John Brenkus: John Brenkus, CMO Kill Cliff, six-time Emmy-Award winning creator, host, and producer of ESPN Sport Science. Brenkus also authored The Perfection Point, which hit the bestseller lists of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.  Brenkus is a gifted director and producer of tv, film, and documentaries who also created and hosted The Brink of Midnight Podcast. He is a highly sought-after motivational speaker and talented musician. www.johnbrenkus.com/ & @brinkofmidnight
  • Morgan Luttrell: Former Navy SEAL Lieutenant & Former Senior Advisor of Veteran Relations with the Department of Energy. A 14-year military veteran with multiple deployments around the globe, Morgan Luttrell has made it his mission to assist veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) post-traumatic stress syndrome, chronic pain, and addiction in finding more effective treatments. @mojoluttrell
  • Sammy L. Davis: Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy L. Davis Private First Class, U.S. Army Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division and author of You Don’t Lose ‘Til You Quit Trying: Lessons on Adversity and Victory from a Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient.

Task Force 22 Partners:

About IHF: Infinite Hero Foundation exists to connect our military, veterans, and military family members with innovative and effective treatment programs for service-related injuries with an emphasis in the areas of brain health, family support, suicide prevention, leadership development, and physical rehabilitation.

To learn more, please visit https://www.infinitehero.org/mission/

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.

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.

Construction Companies Offer Strong Parallels for Veteran Employment

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A man looking out on a construction site

By Phil Panzarella, Chief Growth Officer, Easterseals DC MD VA

When veterans transition from the military to civilian life, organizations work to break down barriers, engage communities and connect veterans with what they need for meaningful employment, education and wellness. Community services are needed to ensure unmatched, accessible and indispensable resources and support for veterans to ensure they successfully transition to civilian life.

Veteran services provided by Easterseals’ national network of 68 affiliates focus on developing inclusive programs, including valuable training for veterans to leverage their skills to secure meaning employment.

“Easterseals has been delivering critical services to veterans and military families since the end of WWII,” says Angela Williams, National President and CEO of Easterseals, and herself a veteran. “We continue to be the ‘go to’ resource for them to help ensure their successful transition to civilian life.”

Historically, veteran employment programs are funded by the government, which in many cases lead to veterans falling through the cracks. Easterseals DC MD VA recognized this significant problem and established the Veteran Staffing Network (VSN), a meaningful innovation in the world of nonprofit service delivery. The VSN provides job search training and career coaching for veterans and military spouses.

While the VSN assists veterans’ search for employment in all industries, construction industry connections have yielded great success in matching skills to opportunities. There are established parallels that exist between the military and construction skill sets, and many candidates have qualities that construction companies would value such as flexibility, dependability and accountability.

Military service trains veterans to be problem solvers, team-orientated, safety-conscious and respectful of the same kinds of hierarchical structures that exist in the world of construction. Ultimately, there are great benefits to be realized by employing those who understand the overarching aspects of complex projects. The attributes offered by veterans are a result of military service that directly mirrors day-to-day construction operations.

According to a study performed by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IMVF) of Syracuse University, veterans stay at their jobs 30 percent longer than their civilian counterparts. Countless careers in the construction industry are built around operations, and job loyalty creates a smoother operational base for long-term projects. Looking at the broader military universe, veterans are often qualified at the operations management level; they are accustomed to following complex plans, working collaboratively with teams, interacting with all aspects of diverse cultures and making things happen efficiently. Operational leadership is most often found in the enlisted corps as officers are trained for tactical leadership, senior management and operations execution. They lead the deployment of assets, oversee labor resources and develop strategic plans and relationships.

But in order for veterans to deliver their best work, companies must be willing to provide job training. Recognizing that veterans are highly experienced at learning quickly and deploying effectively, training programs are essential and valuable for 18-26-year-olds transitioning to civilian life.

Unbeknownst to most, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a product of the construction industry. To meet the prerequisites required to take the PMP exam today, one must have a background in project management. Many veterans leave the military with those skill sets, and nonprofit veteran organizations are there to help them identify that experience and prepare them to leverage opportunities. A veteran interested in learning whether they qualify should engage with an organization like the Easterseals VSN.

While working to connect veterans to meaningful employment, the VSN simultaneously works with construction companies and their veteran employees to create veteran-friendly workplace cultures. In general, creating a robust military culture is an organizational lift. One key aspect of such a culture is the appointment of an executive champion, who can drive the “we proudly employ veterans” message to a variety of external and internal communities, both horizontally and vertically.

Best practices that demonstrate veteran-friendliness include establishing veteran-specific links and landing pages on corporate websites, pushing job postings to channels that veterans often visit, and ensuring presence at job fairs aimed specifically for veterans seeking employment. With all that said, it’s incumbent upon the company to provide its recruiting teams with training on how to speak a veteran’s language.

Engaging with an organization that can assist with employment and help to establish the right program is a great first step to creating a veteran-friendly culture. The construction industry is an ideal area of employment for veterans to cultivate their top-tier talents in order to find their passions. By providing workplace diversity, construction companies create attractive careers for veterans interested in taking their next step in life.

To learn more about the Veteran Staffing Network, click here.

Indian Motorcycle Continues Support Of Veterans Charity Ride & Motorcycle Therapy Adventure To Sturgis For 2020

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two military veterans riding on a side car motorcycl with others following behind during the event

Indian Motorcycle®, America’s First Motorcycle Company, today announced its continued support and sponsorship of the sixth annual Veterans Charity Ride (VCR) to Sturgis.

This year, in addition to using the organization’s unique brand of motorcycle therapy to aid combat veterans dealing with PTSD, the veteran-operated, non-profit organization will implement a “service before self” initiative to show appreciation to first responders who have been working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veteran’s Charity Ride uses “motorcycle therapy,” a proven remedy that provides therapeutic solutions to help fellow veterans move forward and adjust to civilian life. The 2020 ride will include 15 total veterans – nine new veterans, along with six returning veterans who will serve as mentors.

“During these extraordinary times, getting our veterans out of the house and supporting them with the liberating power of motorcycle therapy is more important than ever,” said Dave Frey, U.S. Army Veteran and Veterans Charity Ride Founder. “To be able to combine those efforts and honor our selfless and invaluable first responders during this unprecedented pandemic makes this journey even more gratifying. In light of COVID-19, we will be implementing necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy, as we come together to heal and support one another on our ride to the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”

This year’s ride to Sturgis will start on July 29, 2020 in Moab, Utah where the group will cruise through the mountainous roads of Utah, stop in the cities of Craig and Fort Collins, Colorado and ride through some of the nation’s most scenic backroads and highways before arriving at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota on August 7, 2020. The travelers will be riding a variety of Indian Motorcycle models, outfitted with ReKluse auto clutch systems and custom-built Champion Sidecars for amputee and paraplegic veterans. The journey provides an experience for veterans to bond by implementing team-building exercises that allow riders to share stories and memories of their service during a two-week, mind-cleansing motorcycle ride.

For years, VCR has supported veterans by creating a healing atmosphere through motorcycle riding and camaraderie when stopping at several small towns to commemorate and honor our nation’s veteran heroes. This year, the event will have an added focus on lives outside of veterans, extended to first responders who have courageously held the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.  By following strict safety and sanitary guidelines, VCR will extend an additional hand out to these frontline workers by providing personal protection equipment and hosting barbecues at select tour stops.

“Our nation’s veterans and healthcare workers are an inspiration, and we’re grateful to be a part of an experience that honors their selflessness and sacrifices for our country,” said Reid Wilson, Vice President for Indian Motorcycle. “We’re honored to continue supporting the Veterans Charity Ride and are humbled by their work and positive impact on our veterans.”

The Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis was conceived and developed by veteran Army Paratrooper Dave Frey and Emmy Award-winning producer and director Robert Manciero, leveraging the therapeutic effects of motorcycle riding to create an adventure of a lifetime for wounded veterans.

To support the Veterans Charity Ride, donate, or to learn more visit IndianMotorcycle.com and VeteransCharityRide.org. Riders can also follow along on Indian Motorcycle’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and Veterans Charity Ride’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

ABOUT INDIAN MOTORCYCLE®

Indian Motorcycle is America’s first motorcycle company. Founded in 1901, Indian Motorcycle has won the hearts of motorcyclists around the world and earned distinction as one of America’s most legendary and iconic brands through unrivaled racing dominance, engineering prowess and countless innovations and industry firsts. Today that heritage and passion is reignited under brand new stewardship. To learn more, please visitindianmotorcycle.com.

ABOUT VETERANS CHARITY RIDE

Veterans Charity Ride (VCR), started by veterans for veterans, is a non-profit organization that delivers Motorcycle Therapy and additional life changing, life-saving holistic programs specifically designed to assist wounded and amputee combat veterans with their needs and the issues they deal with on a daily basis. Helping our fellow veterans through outreach, action, activities, education and follow-up is what drives our organization. The end result of our program is a healthier and happier, more capable individual, who is now living life in a much better physical and mental condition, and able to help and support other veterans to do the same. Visit veteranscharityride.org to learn more and support this worthy cause.

Foundation Trains Shelter Canines as Service Dogs for Disabled Veterans

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service dog trainer pictured with service dog in his arms

Miracles happen every day at CAMO Foundation, and the angels who perform them are the 4-legged variety. Dedicated to providing service dogs specifically trained for the unique needs of disabled veterans, the nonprofit organization in Palm Beach Gardens, FL is the only organization in the country that uses mature dogs rescued from local pounds.

The brainchild of Mike Lorraine, a professional dog trainer with 20 years experience, the foundation is located on a picturesque farm in south Florida, co-owned by Lorraine and a local area businessman, Joe Mullings. Their mission is simple: Provide military veterans who are physically or emotionally challenged with shelter dogs who have the right qualities—intelligence, focus, drive—to be service animals.

Yes, shelter dogs! Most service dogs are raised as puppies. However, Lorraine believes that there’s a certain fearless, stoic quality that makes select shelter dogs the perfect match for injured combatants. You might say that they’ve both seen conflict and survived.

One of CAMO’s biggest success stories so far is 26-year-old Matt Kleemann, a former Navy diver who specialized in underwater repairs on submarines. While driving home along a snowy road, he swerved to avoid a deer and plunged over a cliff. When he awoke, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Wheelchair-bound, he says, “The original plan was for me to just get my dog, Charlie Brown, but Mike saw potential in me. So, I started to come down every day.” Today, Matt serves as a mentor to visiting veterans.

Continue on to CAMO Foundation to learn more.

How Do Wounded Veterans Live with Trauma, Stress, and Disability

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Veteran with PTSD sitting down with hands folded

With today’s advanced medical technology and improved body armor, more people are surviving traumatic events, only to suffer posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In a combat setting, these events can happen suddenly and unexpectedly and cause life-changing injuries that inhibit the mobility of a survivor for the foreseeable future.

And some damage is invisible to the untrained eye. Traumatized veterans have a completely different set of challenges than other wheelchair users. Injured veterans are at risk for developing PTSD. It may even follow them in the form of combat stress, a normal reaction to the atypical conditions of a combat environment.

With the right tools, it does get better. A traumatized veteran can transition into their new life and take on challenges one step at a time.

The Challenges of Limited Mobility and PTSD
Each day brings new challenges for a wheelchair user to overcome. Older buildings often have limited accessibility, sidewalks, and other terrain can be tricky to maneuver, and it may take more time to get in and out of a vehicle without a wheelchair lift. Some days are better than others, but life improves as caregivers and wheelchair users work in tandem to tackle a day’s tasks.

Things are a bit different for traumatized, disabled veterans.

Physical disability and PTSD can occur simultaneously, leaving them with a different set of psychological and emotional challenges. Everyday tasks can trigger a bad reaction or a flashback to the traumatic event. There might be a steep learning curve, but veterans are survivors, after all. One just needs to remain cognizant that there could be a mental burden from the trauma that needs to be addressed.

Social Support is Key
Survivors of trauma, especially if their mobility changes, might not know exactly what they need as they adjust to their new life. It’s important for caregivers and loved ones to be understanding. New wheelchair users are not used to leaning on others, yet this is the time they need that strong support system the most.

Most importantly, friends and family need to remember that a disability can serve as a reminder of a trauma, and the rest of the world does not have this context. Those without physical disabilities may find it difficult to empathize with wheelchair users, let alone ones who have experienced trauma. Certain day to-day activities or conversations can trigger PTSD when a veteran least expects it.

Symptoms to Watch Out For
For some caregivers and loved ones, it’s easy to focus on mthe physical change and miss emotional or psychological symptoms. In addition to doctor’s appointments, it’s important to also see a mental health professional for a full diagnosis. Though PTSD and combat stress may seem similar in the beginning, it’s important to be able to tell them apart. Know the symptoms: disturbing thoughts, feelings, dreams, mental or physical stress, difficulty sleeping, and changes in thought patterns or their personality.

Symptoms of combat stress can include anything from fatigue, loss in concentration, to decreased reaction time. Familiarize yourself with the indicators. After adapting to life with limited mobility, as a caregiver or wheelchair user, you may identify a few symptoms of PTSD or combat stress through changes in behavior. Though combat stress tends to subside after a veteran returns to civilian life, in some cases, prolonged combat stress may even lead to the development of PTSD.

The only way to know for sure is to get a diagnosis from a licensed professional. Not only that, but veterans with PTSD can only find relief through therapy. Therapists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to overcome PTSD, combat stress, or other psychological and emotional difficulties.

It Takes Real Strength to Ask for Help
It can be difficult to ask for help or address symptoms of PTSD head-on. But after making the choice to seek help, veterans will wonder why they waited so long. It eases the mental burden, freeing up energy to focus on adjusting to life in a wheelchair.

When an injured veteran’s ready to seek support, start with some of these resources:
• Wounded Warrior’s Combat Stress Recovery Program, woundedwarriorproject.org
• Veteran’s Crisis Hotline, activeheroes.org, 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255
• The National Center for PTSD’s About Face, ptsd.va.gov/apps/AboutFace

Caregivers need to be cognizant of what PTSD entails to fully comprehend what a new wheelchair user is potentially going through. It can affect their day-to day life in unforeseen ways. By arming yourself with the right resources, veterans in wheelchairs and caregivers can address and understand these problems one step at a time.

Source: vantagemobility.com

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