USVCC, NFL Hall of Fame Host Service & Sports Heroes

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A military veteran sitting in a wheelchair in his uniform, looking at the camera

By Rich Dolan

On March 9, the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce (USVCC)—in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame—hosted a benefit dinner to support the U.S. Invictus team. The event was hosted at the historic New York Athletic Club, whose athletes have won 271 Olympic medals since the inaugural Modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The night was dedicated to the bravery and commitment of the wounded military veterans who make up the U.S. Invictus team and featured a silent auction of NFL memorabilia to benefit the team. Kevin “Red Eagle” Brown, president and CEO of USVCC, opened up the night, explaining the mission of the USVCC and the organization’s dedication to helping veterans successfully transition from the military to civilian life.

“Underneath the umbrella of support for all veterans, we have a laser-focused look at our wounded warriors that are participating in adaptive sports,” said Brown.

Brown also recognized the late Pro Football Hall of Fame member Chris Doleman for his contributions to USVCC and the veteran community. “It was his original inspiration that identified the similarities between transitioning ball players and transitioning service members.

“Both of them leaving behind a team, both of them leaving behind something bigger than themselves—a higher calling, a mission, a victory,” said Brown.

Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Bud” Bucha also spoke to the attendees, defining what it meant to be an adaptive athlete. “An adaptive athlete is a competitor who uses the modification in sports to meet the challenge of their disability,” said Bucha. “Basically, an adaptive athlete is an able-bodied athlete with all the problems mankind can think of being thrown in their way.” He went on to thank the many corporate sponsors of the night, the athletes and the veterans who he added, “have gone to the gates of hell and back to serve their country.”

Retired Army Master Sergeant and U.S. Invictus team co-captain George Vera also spoke to the attendees. Vera shared his personal story of the events that led to him become an adaptive athlete. In 2015, Vera’s base in Afghanistan was attacked by terrorists using a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and assaulters with suicide vests in an attempt to overrun the outpost. Vera led part of a counterattack that successfully defeated the terrorists inside the base.

However, in the process Vera was shot four times in his legs and back, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. Vera experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout his recovery, and he explained how adaptive sports helped save his life. “Although I couldn’t be a regular Special Forces guy, Istill had the ability to help lead,” said Vera.

He also discussed the bond that adaptive sports bring to the wounded warrior community. “Although it’s great to bring home the gold medal, I don’t really think that’s what it’s about—it’s more about overcoming adversity and helping others overcome adversity,” Vera said.

Among the other honored guests of the night were Pro Football Hall of Fame members Kevin Greene, Curtis Martin, Mike Haynes, Curly Culp, Harry Carson, Morten Andersen and Rickey Jackson. Greene also held a fireside chat for the attendees, where he spoke about his time serving in the U.S. Army and his reverence for the wounded warriors playing on the U.S. Invictus team.

“They volunteer, first of all, to serve our country in the combined armed forces, and then despite all the adversity that they’ve experienced and are presently experiencing they’re now becoming heroes of the field of sports,” said Greene. “They’re being heroes for us now on a different stage, on an international stage, representing this country in these sporting events.” The fireside chat came to a playful close as Greene was asked if he would take Tom Brady on his team, to which he replied, “does a fat baby fart?”

The main event of the night featured a fireside chat between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. Baker opened up the discussion by reciting “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Henley wrote the poem in in the late 1870s after losing a leg to tuberculosis. The poem was meant to define fortitude in the face of adversity, and strength in the face of permanent disability.

Throughout the fireside chat, the long relationship between the NFL and the military was discussed, as well as the fact that three NFL players—including an NFL commissioner—have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Goodell then touched on his 2008 United Service Organizations (USO) tour that brought him to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to visit deployed soldiers, saying, “I was just amazed at what these people do for us. The men and women in our military are just extraordinary,” added Goodell. He went on to say that the 10 days he spent on the tour were some of the most inspiring days of his life, adding that the debt which is owed to U.S. soldiers for what they sacrifice could never be repaid.

The two also discussed Goodell’s contributions to the veteran community, including his support of the Merging Vets & Players (MVP) organization, which helps transitioning service members and professional athletes navigate life outside of uniform together. When asked about his thoughts on the Invictus Games, Goodell told Baker that he didn’t think there was anything more inspiring.

“I don’t think that there’s anything more important in the world to show people that you do overcome those problems, you do overcome those challenges, and you’re doing something really positive in the world and inspiring people who are watching you as athletes on the world stage,” Goodell said. “When you combine football, athletes and our veterans, that’s a magical combination in my view.”

The night ended with the silent auction of NFL memorabilia and VIP picture opportunities. Over $150,000 was raised by 256 attendees and all proceeds will fund the U.S. Invictus Team Training Camp at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus in Canton, Ohio. Official sponsors of the event included Caliber Home Loans, Seeger Weiss, World’s Greatest Videos, Aetna, CVS Health, GEICO and Loews Hotels.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Invictus Games have been postponed until 2021. For more information, visit invictusgamesfoundation.org

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ release date pushed to summer 2021

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Top Gun Tom Cruise Kelly McGillis poster

Those feeling the need for speed are going to have to wait until next summer to see “Top Gun: Maverick.”

The sequel to the hit 1986 film, “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise was supposed to hit theaters in December. Paramount announced on Thursday that the film will now premiere July 2, 2021.

Cruise is reprising his role as US Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. It also stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and is directed by Joseph Kosinski.

“We truly believe that there is no movie-viewing experience like the one enjoyed in theatres,” Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson, and president of international theatrical distribution Mark Viane said in a statement. “We are committed to the theatrical experience and our exhibition partners, and want to stress that we are confident that, when the time comes, audiences everywhere will once again enjoy the singular joy of seeing Paramount films on the big screen.”

This is the second delay for “Maverick’s” theatrical release. In April, the film’s debut was pushed from June to December due to the Covid-19 pandemic and global theater closures.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

GREYHOUND—Starring Tom Hanks

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picture of Tom Hanks in military uniform on Greyhound movie poster

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II.

His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats.

Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

During the Battle of the Atlantic, convoy HX-25, consisting of 37 Allied ships, is making its way to Liverpool.

The convoy’s escort consists of the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Keeling, codenamed Greyhound; the British destroyer, HMS James, codenamed Harry, the Polish destroyer ORP Viktor (with a Royal Navy liason officer on the radio), codenamed Eagle; and the Canadian Flower-class corvette, HMCS Dodge, codenamed Dickie.

The escorts are under the command of Commander Ernest Krause of the United States Navy aboard Greyhound; despite his seniority it is his first wartime command.

The film is directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, and is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester. It also stars Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue.

WATCH THE TRAILER!

 

Read about Tom Hanks in U.S. Veterans Magazine’s mid-August issue featured cover story!

FATHER SOLDIER SON—WATCH THE TRAILER!

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FATHER SOLDIER SON promo poster featuring three side views of a child, teen and father in uniform

Duty. Country. Family. From The New York Times comes a documentary 10 years in the making. FATHER SOLDIER SON releases globally on Netflix this month.

This intimate documentary from The New York Times follows a former platoon sergeant and his two young sons over almost a decade, chronicling his return home after a serious combat injury in Afghanistan.

Originating as part of a 2010 project on a battalion’s yearlong deployment, reporters-turned-filmmakers Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis stuck with the story to trace the longterm effects of military service on a family.

At once a verité portrait of ordinary people living in the shadow of active duty and a longitudinal survey of the intergenerational cycles of military service, FATHER SOLDIER SON is a profound and deeply personal exploration of the meaning of sacrifice, purpose, duty and American manhood in the aftermath of war.

FATHER SOLDIER SON releases globally on Netflix July 17.

Directed and Produced by:
Leslye Davis & Catrin Einhorn

WATCH THE TRAILER!

USO Celebrates Military Service Members this 4th of July with Series of Virtual Events Including “Four on the 4th” and Annual Comedy Radiothon with K-Earth 101

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USO virtual Fireworks display with a US Flag flying in the foreground

USO is celebrating military service members and their families during “Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” this 4th of July. The virtual fun run, presented by Delta Air Lines, includes USO music playlists, rise and shine warm-up featuring Robert Killian, National Anthem sung by the USO Show Troupe and a virtual celebration.

Participants will also receive a USO branded t-shirt, downloadable bib, face mask and medal to show their support for America’s military service members. Whether you ruck, walk or run, participating on the 4th of July will directly benefit deserving military service members and their families. “Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” is our opportunity to celebrate our nation’s heroes as a united patriotic community while social distancing.

Invite family, friends and co-workers to participate in this celebratory event and tag USO on FacebookInstagram or Twitter to share your support.

Ahead of “Four on the 4th,” tune into The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon event on Thursday, July 2, 2020 from 6 – 10 a.m. as comedians bring laughter and entertainment all morning long broadcasted live on the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101 featuring co-host Lisa Stanley. The annual program is reimagined this year to virtually bring together our nation’s troops, the funniest comedic talent, and Bob Hope USO’s dedicated community partners including the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and Delta Air Lines.

WHEN: 

The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon with the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101
Thursday, July 2, 2020
6 a.m. – 10 a.m.

“Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence”
Saturday, July 4, 2020
7:30 a.m. Rise and Shine warm-up on Facebook Live featuring Robert Killian

WHERE:
The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon will be broadcast live with the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101 from the Bob Hope USO at LAX.
“Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” will take place virtually, whether it be your favorite trail, park or around your neighborhood!

DETAILS: 

Text “Freedom” to 90990 to donate in support of the weekend long festivities. Sign-up for “Four on the 4th” as an individual, team or sponsor. Registration is $35 per person. All proceeds go to USO’s mission of strengthening America’s service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country. Interested parties are encouraged to register before Friday, June 26 and can sign-up at goneforarun.com/uso. Sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested in generously sponsoring free races for USO military families to join, as well. For sponsorship opportunities please visit cvent.com/d/bnqyj6 or contact Gaby Coyle at gcoyle@uso.org for more information.

MORE FROM THE USO:

The USO’s annual T-shirt campaign will run throughout July and is a way for military supporters to express their thanks to service members and military families who are serving around the world to keep us safe, protect the country and answer the call when emergencies and natural disasters strike.

With a donation of $29 or more, military supporters will receive a limited-edition patriotic shirt. Donations to the USO go toward programs and services that strengthen the Armed Forces and keep them connected to family, home and country. The USO carries out its mission through reading and food programming for families, transition resources for service members and military spouses, care packages and entertainment that reach troops in the most remote places of the world and more.

The public can visit USO.org/tshirt to donate and get their exclusive shirt.

“At the USO, we focus on being the Force Behind the Forces. This campaign is a way for Americans to join in and be part of the effort to support our military,” said USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch II. “When each of us takes action, the collective impact is tremendous. Donations raised will help the USO continue to provide care, comfort and connection to keep our military and their families strong.”

Each year service members select the T-shirt design by voting at USO locations around the world. The chosen design becomes the limited-edition shirt of the year, known as the “Official Uniform of the Military Supporter”.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the campaign. USO tour veteran and multiplatinum, GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown developed this year’s patriotic design and printed the shirts through his own brand, Atlanta-based Zac Brown Collective. Longstanding USO partner Kroger provided the shirts made of recycled material.

“We can’t overstate our appreciation and gratitude for our military service men and women around the world and the USO which is there whenever and wherever our troops need some of the familiar comforts, connections and tastes of home,” said Keith Dailey, Kroger’s group vice president of corporate affairs. “Since 2010, the Kroger Family of Companies has provided more than $33 million to the USO. And in keeping with our long-standing commitment to the organization, we are matching up to $250,000 to support this year’s USO T-shirt campaign, uplifting service members and their families.”

Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the T-shirt campaign is the USO’s first-ever Fourth of July special. This will be the first of a three-part summer series airing through Labor Day. It will provide both military and military supporter audiences the chance to tune in to see musicians and personalities share their support for the military community.

The Fourth of July concert will air on the USO’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels at 12 a.m. ET and 12 p.m. ET to accommodate time zones around the world. The event will include a variety of segments from USO tour veterans comedian Iliza Shlesinger and actor/musician Craig Robinson along with “America’s Got Talent” world champion Shin Lim. It will also include a special nod to American surf music by the iconic Mike Love and The Beach Boys, featuring special guest John Stamos. Country music legend Clint Black will headline the first concert, and the series will continue through August with artists such as Florida Georgia Line, The Chainsmokers and more.

“Providing high-quality entertainment for our military and their families is in the USO’s DNA. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still meeting our entertainment mission – virtually, reaching thousands of people globally,” said Christopher Plamp, USO senior vice president of operations, programs and entertainment. “This virtual concert series is one example of the programming that positions the USO as the premier military entertainment provider. The concerts will also express the nation’s gratitude and help the American public gain an understanding of the critical ways the USO strengthens service members and their families.”

The summer series is a continuation of the recently launched USO MVP series, providing virtual delivery across USO operations, programs and entertainment activities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Since April 1, the USO’s entertainment division has hosted 30 virtual engagements across 24 countries and 37 states and territories. View more of the USO MVP virtual playlist at USO.org/MVP.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The National WWII Museum Turns 20 and Commemorates D-Day

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A photo of the National WWII Museum's Building

On June 6, 2020, The National WWII Museum will celebrate its 20th birthday and commemorate the 76th anniversary of D-Day.

To honor both events, the museum will be open to visitors, but to adhere to social distancing guidelines, they will hold all of the day’s activities online.

The day will be filled with an array of digital events such as  a social media scavenger hunt, educational talks, and a screening of a new documentary that will go over the museum’s history. For those wishing to attend the museum physically, the museum will be open at normal business hours.

Click here for the museum’s Facebook page where all of the live events will be taking place.

Check out what events will be transpiring within the next few days:

Live D-Day Veteran Conversation: Friday, June 5 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (CT)

The Museum’s mission is built upon its collection of oral histories–these are the people we’re committed to remembering, and getting to share their accounts with our audience puts a deeply personal spin on the Museum experience. Join Curator of Oral History Joey Balfour as he discusses the Normandy landings with a veteran who experienced the invasion firsthand. Dr. Hal Baumgarten D-Day Commemoration Ceremony Saturday, June 6 11:00 a.m. (CT) Presented in memory of D-Day veteran and Museum friend Dr. Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, this commemoration ceremony will mark the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a solemn remembrance of the events of June 6, 1944, and conclude with a moment of silence. The Dr. Hal Baumgarten D-Day Commemoration Endowment, made possible by the generous gift of Karen and Leopold Sher, ensures that Dr. Baumgarten’s legacy will live on in perpetuity and helps the Museum fulfill its mission to educate future generations about the events of World War II and its lasting impact.

Celebrating 20 Years: The National WWII Museum Saturday, June 6 at 1:00 p.m. (CT)

Boysie Bollinger, longtime Museum Trustee and one of the its biggest champions, together with the Museum’s Founding President & CEO Emeritus Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, and current President & CEO Stephen Watson, will reminisce about what it was like to be a part of the grand opening festivities on June 6, 2000; how WWII history has become a larger part of the nation’s fabric, spurring the expansion of The National WWII Museum; and the Museum’s continued transformation into one of the premier cultural and educational institutions in the world. D-Day at The National WWII Museum

Saturday, June 6 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (CT)

The National WWII Museum will be open to the public for normal business hours on our 20th anniversary. Special features for the day include independent family activities, a Social Media Scavenger Hunt, and the premiere of a short documentary celebrating the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Purchase your tickets here!

Remembering America’s Military

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Memorial Day

Throughout American history, men and women have loved our country so deeply that they were willing to give their all to preserve its safety and freedom. On the last Monday in May, our nation honors the selfless heroes who gave their lives to defend the land we love and the freedoms we believe everyone deserves.

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. People visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Often people decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition.

Ways to Honor Our Fallen Heroes
This tradition continues on Memorial Day when we reflect on the courage of service members who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Here’s what you and your family can do to remember these heroes this Memorial Day:

✪✪Display the flag—The U.S. flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day. Some people also choose to fly the POW/MIA flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in.

✪✪Visit a cemetery—Honor the memory of a family member or another veteran by putting flowers on their grave.

✪✪Join the national moment of silence—Pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.

✪✪Attend local parades—Many cities and towns have Memorial Day parades to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

✪✪Wear red poppies—Red poppies are worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Strange Days, Indeed

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Headshot of Scoba Rhoades

By Scoba Rhodes

Like you, I have been cooped up in my apartment for almost two weeks. For me, the lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much, except when I head outside, the experience is very different.

Since being confined to a wheelchair, I’ve had to adjust to working more from home. It took me over ten years to adjust to my situation, so to expect anyone to do it overnight is a really tall order. Everything is closed except for the huge lines waiting to get inside the grocery stores. No one is hanging out at the coffee shop, the malls are either empty or closed all together, and even the pool at my apartment complex is locked due to “an abundance of caution.” I agree with these measures since they are meant to save lives. But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if the lives the government is hoping to save aren’t going stir crazy wondering when this will all be over.

During my voluntary internment, I’ve been catching up on my reading. Much has been work-related, with some personal development mixed in, and quite a few have been articles advising us on how to best cope with the current crisis. My current book is titled, “How to break the habit of being yourself.” It’s quite a read.

I have read articles providing ideas on working out inside your home, new recipes to try, even ideas on making movie and music lists. There have been articles on the power of positive thinking during this crisis, and that may be the most misused concept yet. I’ve heard many state and federal government briefs stating over and over that this is a temporary condition, yet I’m pretty sure when this article is published, we may still be in our homes waiting out this wave.

I am part of a group of neighbors that get together every Wednesday and share some good wine and conversation and catch up with each other in our neighborhood clubhouse. It has been closed for a few weeks, so we decided to meet outside today, keeping our six-foot distance and each bringing our own wine. We were having a great time until one of the complex managers said we had to go back to our apartments. I complied, as did everyone else, and I cannot say the manager was wrong to do it. In fact, looking back, I can say it was the correct decision. I just felt like a 54-year-old man being told to go to his room.

I can’t help but wonder once this is all over, will everyone have adjusted to the new habits, and will shaking hands will have become a thing of the past? When these thoughts enter my mind, I immediately find a book I’ve been putting off reading, place a Blu-ray on I’ve been thinking about, or just sit down with my wife and have a cup of coffee together, something we haven’t done in a long time. Thanks to the current level of technology, I can meet with clients and friends using Zoom or Skype, something I am quite used to. I actually did my first year at USC from my hospital room, and it was the Skype application that allowed me to be in the classroom. This was in 2012, long before the schools went online. Necessity is always the mother of invention it may seem.

I am part of the population with compromised health issues. Being paralyzed, having bronchitis as a child has left me with scar tissue on my lungs, and being in my mid-fifties all means I cannot afford to be cavalier about the current situation. Now when my wife says to make sure I take a jacket, or don’t forget my hat, I no longer say “I’ll be fine.” Now my answer is “Thank you sweetheart. I got it.” I head out, collect what I need, and return home.

I am attempting to build relationships online, in the hopes that when we are allowed to congregate again, we will still be somewhat familiar with each other, and have a newfound appreciation for the joys of personal connection. There are networks on LinkedIn and Facebook for every group you can imagine. Nextdoor.com is also a great place to find and connect digitally with your neighbors. If you’re in Orange County, I relish the day when we can meet in person, share a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, or grab a nice lunch (or martini) at my favorite hangout at the District Mall.

I can’t pretend the current situation is not happening (which it is), nor abandon hope that it is temporary (which I know). I realize by taking these steps now, I am participating in a practice that will benefit our nation, and possibly save a life. I remind myself that I am not being sent to my room, I am doing this willingly in support of a greater health effort. When I feel frustrated or cooped up, which happens more than I’d like to admit, I find a lesson online and learn something new, or take time to reconnect with my wife.

One thing is for sure: Our habits and attitudes will be forever altered. Some for the betterment of society, some for the safety of ourselves and our families. Let’s attempt to make those changes out of diligence, and not fear.

To quote author John Shedd, Admiral Grace Hopper, and Albert Einstein, “Ships are safest when in port. But that’s not what ships are for.”

Be safe and healthy everyone, and remember, “This too shall pass.”

How the Girl Scouts are Spreading Joy to a Navy Ship

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A man in a military uniform holding a stack of packages

People Magazine‘s Senior Graphics Operator, Nikki Smalls, and Live Graphics Operator, Lucas Walsh, began a conversation one day about Walsh’s sister, Caitlin Walsh. Caitlin is currently serving in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Truman.

The entire crew of the Truman tested negative for COVID-19, but have collectively agreed to isolate themselves rather than take deployment as an extra precaution.

When Nikki Smalls heard about Caitlin and the rest of her crew, she wanted to find a way to show her gratitude for their service while also spreading some extra joy. Teaming up with her daughters’ Brownie Scouts Troop, Troop 83340, she decided to lead the girls in creating care packages to send to those serving on the U.S.S. Truman.

Continue on to People Magazine’s website to read the complete article

Is America still the home of the brave?

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homelesss veteran sits on bench outside looking solemn

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, veterans were already experiencing homelessness at a higher rate than the civilian population. While we hunkered down in the comfort and safety of our homes, our veterans’ situation worsened. As of April 2020, veterans are 12.5%[1] more likely to pass away if exposed to the virus, making homeless veterans even more vulnerable.

Is America still the home of the brave if in these challenging times our heroes are left alone to fend for their lives in the streets of LA? Where is home for our heroes? What do we tell the Funderbergs of America who were once young kids fighting in Vietnam and are now 63-year-old men deprived of their dignity? Have we as a nation failed them in some way?

We ask, because we as American citizens who proudly sing about being “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave,” we are all responsible for making sure that the Funderbergs who proudly fought for our nation are taken care of.

New Directions for Veterans (NDVets) was founded by veterans for that precise reason, to empower men and women who served in the military, and their families, to lead productive and fulfilling lives. For more than 25 years, we have been providing transitional and emergency housing, food, clothing, counseling and vocational assistance to veterans in Southern California. NDVets currently operates eight permanent supportive housing facilities, with six additional properties scheduled to be completed and filled by the end of 2020.

We also run the nation’s first transitional housing for veterans that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Residents leave NDVets with housing, a job, savings, renewed self-confidence and a support network of mentors and peers.

A misunderstanding NDVets tackled from the get go is that housing does not fix the problem. A majority of our homeless veterans survive with lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse. The truth is mental health and sobriety is the key to ending the homeless crisis and taking our veterans out of the vicious cycle of homelessness.

At NDVets we assess our veterans to see what their needs are and create an individualized plan to ensure they feel supported. We offer clinical services, therapy sessions, and neurofeedback support. We provide the life skills and money management classes necessary for them to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

As you can imagine, we are now going through difficult times. The pandemic has impacted us and our veterans in a variety of ways, putting a strain on our organization whilst creating new challenges to tackle. Veterans feel more isolated, their mental health is declining and we fear the worst.  We’ve had to create a safe environment for our case and frontline workers, slow down the moving of veterans into available apartments, and are now  struggling with unbudgeted expenses such as hiring temporary workers.

While we partly rely on funding from the VA, most of our funding comes from grants and donations. Without you, we wouldn’t be here, without you, the veterans we house would be in the street.

California’s economy is one of the largest in the world, competing with that of Germany or the U.K, yet LA houses the largest population of homeless veterans in the country. That means that we can do better, we must do better.

Whether it is through volunteering, sewing masks, in-kind donations or donations, we must all think of ways we can give back to our veterans. They’ve done so much for our country, it’s time we do the same for them.

This year we will be holding two big charity events, to which you are all invited:NDVets Logo

– The 1st Annual Veteran’s Valor Golf Classic: Monday, August 17, 2020, at the exclusive Braemar Country Club in Tarzana.

The New Directions for Veterans Honoring Our Hero’s Gala 2020: Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. An opportunity to honor both our veterans and those advocating for them.

The funds raised through the tournament and the Gala will be used to help continue supporting the veterans in our programs with the services that they need to become self-sufficient productive members of society once again.

We invite you to reserve your sponsorship or foursome today by contacting Dawn Zamudio, our Development Manager at (626) 627-6552 or via email at dzamudio@ndvets.org.  You can also visit our website at www.NDVets.org for more information.

Our Executive Director Leonardo Cuadrado, retired Captain,U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) likes to say “ In the Marine Corps we were always taught never leave a Marine behind both in garrison and in the combat zone, these veterans have served our nation honorably and it’s time for us as a nation not to leave any veteran behind.” Help us make America the home of the brave, help us support our nation’s heroes.

[1] National Coalition for Homeless Veterans CEO Kathryn Monet, House Hearing on Homeless Veterans and COVID-19 Pandemic, April 28, 2020.

Jon Bon Jovi —A Song For The Unbroken

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by Kat Castagnoli, USVM Editor

With his signature black leather jacket, still-tousled hair and mega-watt smile, Jon Bon Jovi is every inch the rock superstar you’d expect him to be.

The band that bears his name has released 14 studio albums, five compilations and three live albums. This translates to 130 million records sold worldwide, with more than 2,700 performances in over 50 countries for more than 30 million adoring fans.

Yet the level of Bon Jovi’s fame is unequaled by the size of his heart. Few may know this son of two former Marines is true philanthropist, and he’s made helping military veterans and their families his personal mission.

During a recent interview on CNN’s ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper,’ Bon Jovi announced that his JBJ Soul Foundation has donated half a million dollars to help build 77 new homes for homeless veterans in Washington, D.C. The project has taken ten years to complete alongside Help USA, a non-profit whose goal is tackling the issue of homelessness in the United States.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 50 percent of veterans who were homeless (since 2010) have been housed. But Bon Jovi says there are still more out there who need a helping hand. “Oftentimes, they’re [veterans] left to deal with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and the issue of coming back to the workplace after leaving the battlefield,” he said in a blog on mypositiveoutlooks.com. “Life as you knew it is going to be different, and sometimes, people need that extra help.”

Born to Rock

Bon Jovi, or John Francis Bongiovi Jr., was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. His mother, Carol Sharkey, was a former model and one of the first Playboy Bunnies. She met Bon Jovi’s father, John Francis Bongiovi Sr., after she enlisted in the U.S. Marines. John Sr. was already serving when they met.

It’s been said that Bon Jovi is a blood relative to the late Frank Sinatra, who was Bon Jovi’s great uncle on his father’s side, according to a May 1988 issue of Spin Magazine. This would certainly account for the rock star’s love of music from such a young age.

“Every kid who ever played in their garage dreams of being in a “Big Rock Band,” and I was no different,” said Bon Jovi during his induction speech into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

He explained, “I was first introduced to music at seven years old when my mother brought home a guitar she bartered for, along with the Kenny Rogers “Learn to Play Guitar” record. As a kid, my parents took me to lessons where this guy in a little cubicle smoking a pipe, opened up a book of scales and tortured kids with his smoke and lack of interest.

“After a couple weeks, I quit, throwing that guitar down the basement stairs. That guitar laid there in the dark, until I was around 15 and a man named Al

Bon Jovi and rock band 1987
Portrait of American rock band Bon Jovi backstage before a performance, Illinois, 1987. Pictured are, from left, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Alec John Such. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Parinello moved into our neighborhood. I didn’t learn quickly, and I was by no means any good, but Al showed me the magic of a song.”

Bon Jovi attended St. Joseph High School in New Jersey, but took little interest in his studies. He spent most of his adolescence dreaming about becoming a rock star; playing in his buddy’s basement, the local talent show, block dances and at clubs.

After high school, Bon Jovi worked as a janitor for a time. While sweeping floors at The Power Station in NYC, he got the opportunity to record demos. One of the demos, ‘Runaway,’ he sent to every label and manager he could think of before playing it for a D.J. at a new radio station. A few months later, ‘Runaway’ was playing on the radio, not only in New York, but in Tampa, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.

Shortly after, Bon Jovi was signed by Mercury/Polygram in 1983—the label he is still with to this day—and he gathered together David Bryan on the keyboard, Alec John Such as bassist and Tico Torres as the drummer to form the band, Bon Jovi. Their first album, Bon Jovi, was released in 1984.

Livin’ On a Prayer

By 1986, Bon Jovi had achieved widespread success and global recognition with their third album, Slippery When Wet, which sold 28 million copies worldwide. Slippery When Wet included three top 10 singles, two of which reached No. 1: “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

His next album, New Jersey, not only shared the same success as Slippery When Wet—the album had five top-10 hits on Billboard’s Hot-100. No other album or artist ever produced as many top-10 hits, according to IMDb.com. And two of these top-10 hits, “Bad Medicine” and “I’ll Be There For You” topped the charts at number one, according to Bon Jovi’s biography on Billboard.com.

Jon Bon Jovi performs at the Soul Foundation 10 Year Anniversary
Jon Bon Bovi sings onstage at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation’s 10 year anniversary at the Garage in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

But despite his success, Bon Jovi felt something was missing. “I had the No. 1 album, the No. 1 single and I opened up the window of the hotel and there was us on the billboard out my window: Literally, right there, celebrating the No. 1 this and that,” he said in an ultimateclassicrock.com interview. “And I thought: ‘Wow, this is a high. What do I do to get higher?’”

During a break on tour, he and his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, flew out to Las Vegas to elope on April 29, 1989. Fast-forward 30 years later: the couple remains happily married with four children: a daughter, Stephanie Rose, and three sons, Jesse James Louis, Jacob Hurley and Romeo Jon.

“She’s the glue,” Bon Jovi said of his wife in a Huffpost.com interview. “I’m the crazy visionary with all kinds of things flying, and the seams are all splitting. She’s the one following me with the glue and the thread and needle, keeping it all together.”

To Be of Service

When Bon Jovi was asked to appear at Rockefeller Center in NYC for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony this past December, he seized the opportunity to share with military men and women his new song, “Unbroken,” which shines a light on veterans struggling with PTSD.

In an interview with Variety, Bon Jovi says the song is written from the perspective of a soldier living with the ghosts of combat—a “daunting task” for the songwriter because he himself had not served and the subject matter was foreign to him.

“When you write a song that has to do with soldiers, my only background in this was protest songs that were of the era, whether it was John Fogerty about Vietnam and “Fortunate Son,” or ultimately Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,’” Bon Jovi said.

But when Academy Award-nominated director Josh Aronson reached out about a documentary he was doing on a soldier’s journey, entitled, “To Be of Service,” the singer was instantly inspired.

“He [Aronson] told me just a couple of things that the soldiers had said that were going to be in the film. And when I asked him the name of the movie and he said, “To Be of Service“, I got it. “It came to me immediately,” he said. “I just grabbed my guitar and pretended to be that soldier and the narrator of the film.”

After Bon Jovi finished the song, he decided on a whim to send it to Prince Harry, creator of the Invictus Games—an annual international, multi-sport event for wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women. The games were named after the short poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, an amputee himself.

Prince Harry speaks with Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road Studios
Prince Harry speaks with Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road Studios, where a single has been recorded for the Invictus Games Foundation on February 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah McKay – WPA Pool / Gettyimages)

Bon Jovi thought the Games’ choir of real soldiers singing “Unbroken” would bring attention to the issue of PTSD. “And so I just wrote him [Prince Harry] a letter and I said, ‘I’ve got this song, I’ve sung with your brother, I’ve met your father, your grandmother, your grandfather.’ And so I said listen to it and let me know. And so he said absolutely,” Bon Jovi explained in a Town & Country.com interview.

The duo met in February at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in northwest London to record a special single of “Unbroken” with the Invictus Games choir—the event one of the last public engagements Prince Harry made as an official royal.

While Coronavirus concerns have caused this year’s Invictus Games to be delayed until 2021, the special single of “Unbroken” debuted in March. The song will also be included in the forthcoming Bon Jovi album, “Bon Jovi 2020.”

Over the next year, Bon Jovi and Island Records will also donate 100 percent of the net proceeds from the download of the song to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, according to a Variety.com article.

And while “To Be of Service,” currently streaming on Netflix, takes viewers from boot camp and battle to night sweats and heartache, Bon Jovi found a way to not only honor veterans but end his song on a hopeful note, concluding, “well, the blessing and the curse is/ Yeah, I’d do it all again.”

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