Navy Veteran Receives Financial Support from the Gary Sinise Foundation in face of Foreclosure and Cancer Battles

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Allyson Petersen sitting in a hospital bed

By Brandon Black of the Gary Sinise Foundation

The first time it happened caught Kimberly Petersen off guard when she was watching her daughter, Allyson’s softball game. Seconds had passed, yet Allyson still had a blank stare, if not, unconscious look on her freckled face. Episodes like this kept repeating on and off the softball field, with each instance lasting for between 20 to 30 seconds.

Allyson, 11-years-old with long brown hair that matched the color of her piercing hazel eyes — the spitting image of her mother at that age — had something wrong going on inside of her. From what her daughter was exhibiting, it appeared to Petersen to be a type of epilepsy known as absence seizures, which are common among children.

Petersen spent eight years in the Navy as a corpsman. Her grounding in medicine came from advanced placements at clinics and hospitals. She and her “Ally” thought nothing more of the seizures. Allyson, unsuspectingly thought she was merely spacing out.

Appointments were scheduled with her regular doctor but problems arose with her insurance provider, preventing necessary scans being done. The alarm bells slowly began to ring as the length of each seizure Allyson experienced began to intensify, and were now accompanied with facial grimacing and her right-hand curling inwards during each episode. The noise finally hit a crescendo one summer evening in June 2016, when Allyson experienced several prolonged seizures in the same day, including a terrifying moment unlike anything before.

“We were out on the front deck when she collapsed on the flowers,” Petersen said of the startling scene that took place at their home in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Allyson’s body draped over the broken pots.

“I rolled her over, and she had stroke-like symptoms on the right side of her face.”

Allyson needed immediate medical attention and was soon after taken to the emergency center at Regional Hospital in Rapid City, a 30-minute drive from their home. After undergoing several tests, including a CT scan, it revealed that a tumor had massed over a section of Allyson’s brain that controls for speech and motor functions. Scared and frightened by the revelatory news, Allyson looked at her mother and said, “Am I going to die?”

Nearly 5,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed each year with a brain tumor, according to the American Cancer Society. As the second most common form of cancer in children, very few drugs exist in the marketplace to treat brain tumors, making traditional methods of radiation, chemotherapy, and invasive surgery typical medical care options that supplement clinical trials.

Days after visiting the emergency room, Allyson was admitted to the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she underwent an open craniotomy to remove the brain tumor. The procedure didn’t go according to plan.

Allyson Petersen's headshot
Allyson Tedder was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 11 years old and continues treatment to this day.

During the surgery, the pediatric neurosurgeon recognized that the tumor had embedded itself deep in the brain. In the best interest of Allyson’s quality of life — ensuring she has full ability of speaking and motor functions — the decision was made to leave a fraction of the tumor in her brain to avoid any permanent damage.

In the three months that had passed since the procedure, it was discovered that the tumor had begun to regrow. With limited treatment options, Allyson was placed in a clinical trial to mitigate further growth of the tumor. The treatments didn’t work as Allyson developed complications that resulted in her leaving the trial. Chemotherapy became the next preventive measure to quash the tumor’s growth.

“She started developing cells behind her cornea which can cause blindness and irreversible damages,” explained Petersen about the dangerous side effects Allyson experienced from the cocktail of drugs that had been pumped into her body.

Several years had gone by since Petersen and her husband divorced. She wasn’t just taking care of her sick daughter and keeping her family afloat. She was also midway through a master’s degree program. The balancing act came at a high cost.

“Even though I have good insurance,” she said, “the out of pocket expenses, the food, the hotels, gas, time away from my other kids, putting the dog in the kennel, it felt like I was robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

She and Allyson frequently commuted more than 600 miles from Sturgis to Masonic Children’s Hospital so that Allyson was able to receive critical follow ups and MRI scans each phase of her cancer treatment. Depending on how much time Petersen was able to take off from the Meade School District, where she serves as a special educator, she wasn’t left with many options.

Flying to and from Minneapolis wasn’t in the cards. Petersen would either have to book it to Minneapolis in one day or spend the night at her parent’s home in Watertown, a six-hour drive from Sturgis, before spending the next four hours getting into the city.

Bills began piling up. Those that could be paid were done in piecemeal. Other bills weren’t paid at all. Downsizing expenses and making ends meet became the survivalist mentality she and her family adopted under the sole income she was bringing in. They had no other choice. It got to the point where she had to seriously ask herself, “do I pay the credit card bill, or do I pay the water bill?”

In the pecking order of priorities, Petersen was stretching every dollar she could to ensure her children had food on the table, a roof over their heads, and that she had gas in her car. She even picked up a summer job to supplement her salary by working nearby Black Hills National Forrest at an RV resort in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yet for all that she was doing to make ends meet, she was delinquent on her monthly mortgage payments.

Five months overdue, her home loan provider gave her notice that if she were unable to pay the balance and associated late fees in full, she would face foreclosure on her home.

“I have four kids looking up to me. I can’t quit, and I can’t sit there and wallow about it and have a pity party,” she said of finding any ways to deal with her financial circumstances.

While there were plenty of times, she admits, where she broke down and cried out of sight of her children, sometimes in the car or the backyard, she was resolved to seek help. Her mother, Linda, insisted she look into the Gary Sinise Foundation as a few years ago, the organization had helped her younger brother with the purchase of a new suit for his wedding. Perhaps the Foundation could help another veteran in financial need.

Through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency program, the urgent financial needs of those like Kimberly Petersen are addressed through an initiative called heal, overcome, persevere and excel or H.O.P.E.

Petersen was hesitant at first but eventually relented, and in early February of this year, she submitted an initial inquiry seeking mortgage assistance. Within days of her submission, the Foundation’s Outreach team contacted her, requesting additional information to supplement the initial application. Not long after, she received a phone call from the Foundation with an update on the status of her application.

“She was taken aback and almost relieved of her stress,” said Nick Wicksman, who handled Petersen’s application from the start, and who was on the phone with her as the bearer of good news.

The Gary Sinise Foundation was going to cover the last four months of her mortgage and associated late fees. Petersen, having struggled tooth and nail year after year supporting her family as a single mother, was overcome with gratitude.

“She’s able to no longer worry about what is owed but to focus on the present and future by focusing on the health of her family,” said Wicksman. Had she not received financial assistance from the Gary Sinise Foundation, Petersen said matter of factly, “We would’ve lost the house.”

familytrip
Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Allyson, her three brothers, and Kimberly were able to take a family trip to London in June 2019.

While they’re not out of the tunnel just yet in Allyson’s cancer treatment, they can see the light. Despite setbacks in her regiment of treatments, Allyson was able to compete on the freshman girls’ volleyball and softball teams during the school year while also participating in the school newspaper as a photographer and journalist.

She fights the fight as oral chemotherapy treatments continue as do visits to Masonic Children’s Hospital. Looking back on the last four years and thinking about the question Allyson had asked her late in the night while at the emergency center, Petersen said, “In some ways, the tumor and her cancer diagnosis have brought us closer together because we’ve learned that you don’t know what’s going to happen from day to day.”

“Between Masonic Children’s Hospital and the Gary Sinise Foundation, I know I wouldn’t have my daughter.”

Oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor marks 105th birthday

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Joseph Eskenazi and large family

By Kevin McGill, The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Flag-waving admirers lined the sidewalk outside the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Wednesday to greet the oldest living survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as he marked his upcoming 105th birthday.

“It feels great,” Joseph Eskenazi of Redondo Beach, California, told reporters after posing for pictures with his great-grandson, who is about to turn 5, his 21-month-old great-granddaughter and six other World War II veterans, all in their 90s.

Eskenazi turns 105 on Jan. 30. He had boarded an Amtrak train in California on Friday for the journey to New Orleans. The other veterans, representing the Army, Navy and Marines, flew in for the event.

(Pictured) World War II veteran Joseph Eskenazi, who at 104 years and 11 months old is the oldest living veteran to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, sits with fellow veterans, his great grandchildren Mathias, 4, Audrey, 1, and their grandmother Belinda Mastrangelo, at an event celebrating his upcoming 105th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

They were visiting thanks to the Soaring Valor Program, a project of actor Gary Sinise’s charitable foundation dedicated to aiding veterans and first responders. The program arranges trips to the museum for World War II veterans and their guardians.

Eskenazi was a private first class in the Army when the attack occurred. His memories include being awakened when a bomb fell — but didn’t explode — near where he was sleeping at Schofield Barracks, reverberating explosions as the battleship USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese bombs, and machine gun fire from enemy planes kicking up dust around him after he volunteered to drive a bulldozer across a field so it could be used to clear runways.

“I don’t even know why — my hand just went up when they asked for volunteers,” Eskenazi said. “Nobody else raised their hand because they knew that it meant death. … I did it unconsciously.”

He was at the Army’s Schofield Barracks when the Dec. 7, 1941, attack began, bringing the United States into the war. About 2,400 servicemen were killed.

Eskenazi and his fellow veterans lined up for pictures amid exhibits of World War II aircraft and Higgins boats, designed for beach landings.

Read the complete article on Military Times.

Empowering Veteran Business Owners For Nearly 150 Years

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Alex McKindra pictured with father and grandfather

The McKindra family believes in two things: service and community. That’s what led Commercial Banking Managing Director, Alex McKindra to West Point, the Air Force, and now JPMorgan Chase. Here’s how he honors his family legacy by helping to empower veteran business owners.

From his years of service in the military to his current role as a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase—where he helps former soldiers build their own businesses—Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story.

And his story has a long history, tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.

Generations of Mentorship

In the late 1800s, McKindra’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.

Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow—and grow—their family farm.

Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military and, subsequently, to their communities when they returned home.

“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”

Paying It Forward

McKindra chose to honor his roots by following in his ancestors’ footsteps and joining the military. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving as Captain in the United States Air Force.

Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA from the University of Southern California—McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking.

Amid his own success, McKindra’s also wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians.

At JPMorgan Chase, he continued to advocate for veterans, ultimately becoming co-lead of JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives program, alongside Army veteran Terry Hill.

Currently, McKindra and Hill are working with JPMorgan Chase and Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit, to build programs to help veteran small business owners. Together, they created CEOcircle, a 13-month mentorship program that is tailored to help mid-size, military-connected companies grow. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial mentoring from JPMorgan Chase advisors. The program empowers businesses that will support military families for generations to come—businesses like the McKindra farm.

The new program launched nationally last year and will welcome its second cohort of 80 military-connected businesses this November.

“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”

In the past decade, over 16,000 veterans and service members have transitioned their military skills into civilian careers at JPMorgan Chase. Through our programs and initiatives, our goal is to position military members, veterans and their families to thrive in their post-service lives. Learn More.

What to Consider Before Moving Post-Military

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Close up of male hand packing property in cardboard box with spouse in the background

The day will come when you’re preparing to transition out of the military. You might have spent time thinking about where you want to live when this day arrives. As you decide where to live after your military separation, it’s helpful to consider:

  • Your family’s wishes
  • Career opportunities
  • Education
  • Cost of living

Talk with your family

The decision about your next home will affect the entire family, so include them in every step of the process. Here are some things you might want to think about:

  • Career and educational opportunities— Do you want to start a new career? Does your spouse want to continue their career or start a new one? What about the kids? Where are the best schools? Base your decisions on what will be good for the whole family.
  • Extended family— How close do you want to be to your extended family — “See you tomorrow” close, or “See you on holidays” close? Take a careful look at your hometown and evaluate the job market, schools and cost of living.
  • Career goals— The Department of Defense’s mandatory Transition Assistance Program will help you prepare for life after active duty. Whether you plan to pursue a civilian job, continue your education or join the Reserves, the Transition Assistance Program will help you develop a plan and make sure you are ready to pursue your goals. In addition, the Military Spouse Transition Program provides guidance to help spouses transition to civilian life, including starting or continuing a career

Consider your options

Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you, like job opportunities, schools, climate or cost of living. Then, do your research to find the best match.

The following can help you make the military-to-civilian transition a little easier:

  • Take advantage of resources like the CareerOneStop Veteran and Military Transition Center, sponsored by the Department of Labor. The Veteran and Military Transition Center website allows you to access free interest and skills assessments, explore civilian careers and education options, search for jobs, learn about benefits and much more.
  • Search websites — Many websites can help you find the best places to live by letting you order the importance of categories like education, crime rates, climate and housing costs. You can narrow your search by preferences or compare your favorite cities.
  • Find local information — Eligible users can search for local community information on the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website. On the home page, after the words “I’m looking for a …” choose the option “State resources.” Then click on the words “VIEW ALL STATE RESOURCES” located under the magnifying glass. This brings up a list of all 50 states. Click on any state, then look for the box titled “Local Community Information.” Click on the link for eligible users. You will need to enter your Military OneSource user identification and password to access the tool.
  • Identify unique, personal preferences — Some preferences can’t be factored into a test or a website. You may want to live close to a military installation so you and your family can take advantage of military benefits. Or you may want to move near a particular reserve unit where you can train in a specialized area.
  • Weigh your options — Write down the available choices and assess the pros and cons of each. Use your list to help you look objectively at options.
  • Prepare for mixed emotions — Be prepared for different kinds of feelings as you transition from active duty. It’s normal to be nervous about big life changes like this. No decision is 100 percent guaranteed, but the better you prepare, the more likely you are to set up yourself and your family for success.

Access military support

Your relocation benefits include one final move from your last duty station within the time and geographic limits listed below. If you live in installation housing, you may be allowed one move out of housing into the local community and another final move within these limits. Check with your installation transportation office for details on benefits specific to your final move.

  • Retirement — You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your retirement date. (This is called a home of selection.)
  • Involuntary separation (honorable discharge)— You may be moved anywhere within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) or to your home of record outside the United States within one year of your separation date.
  • Voluntary separation (honorable discharge)— You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation date. If you choose a destination of greater distance, you will be obligated to pay the additional costs.
  • General discharge (under honorable conditions)— You may be moved to your home of record (or an equal or lesser distance) within 180 days of your separation.

Once you have made your decision, contact your installation transportation office about scheduling your move. The earlier you start to plan, the more likely you are to get the move dates you want.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

Utilizing your COOL Benefits

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Young couple looking at family finance papers

Created by the Department of Defense, Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) is the result of extensive inter-service collaboration to facilitate credentialing of service members.

All services recognize the important role that occupational credentials can play in professionalizing the force and in enhancing the service member’s ability to transition to the civilian workforce upon completion of military service. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard each have their own service-specific COOL programs designed to match military occupations to civilian credentials (occupational certifications, licenses and apprenticeships) and provide resources to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen attain these credentials. The services disseminate this information on their own COOL websites.

What does COOL help me do?

DOD COOL contains resources and information on credentialing and the military for decision makers, leaders, agencies and other interested parties. It is intended as a workforce professionalization tool for active duty, reserve and civilian personnel to understand what their military training could translate to in the workforce and the professional development opportunities available in their career field. COOL is also a main hub for credentialing agencies and resources to help new veterans have a smooth transition into the civilian workforce.

The branch-specific COOL sites contain a variety of service-specific information about certifications and licenses related to military occupations. Use the branch-specific COOL sites to:

  • Get background information about civilian licensure and certification in general and specific information on individual credentials, including eligibility and testing requirements and resources to prepare for an exam.
  • Identify licenses and certifications relevant to individual military occupations.
  • Learn how to fill gaps between military training and experience and civilian credentialing requirements.
  • Learn about resources available to service members that can help them gain civilian job credentials.

Depending on qualifications and specifics, COOL can also fully cover the costs associated with certain credentials needed for your civilian career.

That being said, COOL is not a credentialing agency or testing center in and of itself. Service members do not get credentials from COOL or take tests or purchase training materials through COOL. It also doesn’t create credentialing standards, nor is it reserved exclusively for veterans, being used primarily by service members.

What does my branch COOL website provide?

For ease of use, the COOL sites are all organized in the same way. The key differences among the sites are the personnel categories covered and the scope of credentials paid for by the respective service. The following highlights the similarities and differences:

    Army

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information, including Promotion Points, Skill Level and Star credentials
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Warrant Officer:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed
    Officer:

  • Credential information for select Advanced Operations Courses
  • Credential payment for all credentials listed on Army COOL
    Navy

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Officer:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    DOD civilians:

  • Credential information, including Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential payment for certain mandatory credentials
    Air Force

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    Marine Corps

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD civilians:

  • Limited credential information, for Cybersecurity Workforce (CSWF)
  • Credential information for select federal occupational series with more to be added on an ongoing basis
    Coast Guard

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information
  • Credential payment for all credentials directly related to the rating or to an embedded skill set
    DOD Civilian

    Enlisted members:

  • Credential information

To learn more about COOL and your branch specific website, visit cool.osd.mil.

Source: DOD COOL

Taking the Initial Steps to Certification

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Successful businessman clarifying provisions of contract with business partner, discussing terms of agreement, explaining strategy or financial plan

By Natalie Rodgers

If you’re a business owner, then you may already be aware of the basics of Veteran-Owned (VOBE) and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOBE) business certifications. But going through the process to actually obtain the certification can be daunting, especially when considering the paperwork and fees that often go into the process. However, even if your business is thriving by your standards, earning your certification can take your business to new heights. Some of the benefits that certification can bring to your business include:

Funding Opportunities

Money is helpful no matter what kind of business you run, and certification opens the doors to funding opportunities that other businesses can’t access. Every year the government puts aside 23 percent of all of their contracts for small businesses, with 3 percent of that total going specifically towards VOBE and SDVOBE businesses. However, to be eligible to compete for these funds, you have to be a VOBE or SDVOBE certified business. Depending on the network you use to earn your certification, you may also become eligible for other funding opportunities through your certifier.

Corporate Partnerships

Businesses work with other companies all the time, but what a lot of people don’t know is that big name, Fortune 500 companies are often looking to work with minority, women and veteran-owned businesses to increase their supplier diversity efforts. To find these small businesses, these companies go directly to small business certifiers like NAVOBA, the SBA and the VA. When you become VOBE or SDVOBE certified, you will be given access to networking opportunities that could gain you a deal with some of the biggest businesses in the country. These kinds of partnerships can lead to an increase of sales and publicity. Some of the top corporations who have dedicated their efforts to work with veteran-owned businesses include USAA, JPMorgan, FedEx, Lowe’s, T-Mobile, Hilton, Ford and many more.

Resources Galore

Even if you aren’t looking for government funding or corporate partnerships, certification can still benefit your business in tremendous ways. By becoming certified, you gain access to courses, classes, conferences and networking opportunities that can help you grow your business in every aspect. Through whichever certifier you choose, you can learn the best methods of filing your business taxes, handling payroll, marketing your brands, working with social media and so much more.

Veteran Connections

Being certified not only allows you to connect with big-name companies but to other veteran-owned businesses and the customers that support them. When you become certified, you have the perfect platform for connecting with other veterans on their entrepreneurial journey. This can lead to potential business partnerships, mentoring opportunities or even just friendships with other veterans.

So How Do I Get Started?

If the benefits of becoming certified are enticing, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by what may be required of you, remember that you are not alone. If hundreds of veteran-owned businesses across the country can become certified, then you can too. To simplify the process, start with our preparation guide.

  1. Choose the certification that’s right for you. This will depend on your business and your needs.

For those interested in federal contracts, try:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs: vetbiz.va.gov/vip

For those interested in private contracts, try:

  • National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA): apps.adaptone.com/navoba
  • National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC): nvbdc.org/certification-landing-page
  1. Gather your documents. The kinds of documents you need will depend on your specific program, but just about any certifier you choose will need the following:
  • Government issued ID
  • Your resume
  • Past tax returns
  • Articles of organization or incorporation
  • Operating agreement
  • Your DD214
  • Payroll information
  • VA Disability Documentation (SDVOSB certification)
  1. Utilize your certifying organization’s contacts. If you run into any trouble during the application process or just need clarity on what to do next, feel free to reach out to your organization via the email or telephone number provided on their website. They are willing to assist and want to help you get your certification.

 

Sources: NaVOBA, US Chamber, Fulton Bank, Veteran Owned Business Round Table, Indeed

Challenge Accepted: Mastering Military Transition

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“Women veterans are a strong group of people. They worked hard, deployed, raised families and sacrificed their time, energy and selves to earn their ranks, titles and places in history books that have not yet been written.

Women have great instincts and deserve a seat at every table, in every boardroom, at every town hall meeting and at any discussion where decisions need to be made. Women have always been an integral part of society and [the] future of the world. It’s time that women are put out front to receive the recognition of all the decades of hard work that has been put in to establish a legacy in the armed forces.” -retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez, USMC

Let’s meet one of these esteemed women, 28-year USMC veteran retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez. MGySgt Perez began her career in the Marines on May 17, 1993, and retired on December 31, 2021. Her service included three deployments: Bosnia in 1996, Iraq in 2008-2009 and Afghanistan in 2010-2011. She was stationed in many places around the globe, including 29 Palms, California; Iwakuni, Japan; Camp Pendleton, California; Vancouver, Washington; Marine Corps Air Station, Mira Mar in San Diego and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Although Perez was raised in a family of veterans, the military was not initially in her plans. She graduated high school and went on to college at the University of Montana but returned home to Oregon when she didn’t have the funds to continue her studies. There, she worked a few odd jobs until a recruiter found her and offered her the opportunity to join the Marine Corps. You can say the rest is history!

While serving in the Marines, Perez found that women progressed in the Marine Corps in both rank and job opportunities at a fair rate. She never felt as though being a woman held her back. Previously closed jobs in the combat arms MOS had opened, and women were assigned to traditionally male units. Early in that transition, women were doing combat supporting jobs, admin, supply

In 2008 for one year as their Logistics/Supply Chief. The unit was assigned a Civil Affairs mission. There were only a handful of women assigned to that battalion for the duration of that deployment.

Transitions can be difficult. Moving from a career in the military to civilian life is one of those challenging transitions. I asked Perez how she prepared for her retirement. She had been thinking about the transition for a few years before submitting papers to retire and felt as prepared as she could be. Perez is a few college courses shy of a BS in Criminal Justice and initially thought about returning to school at the beginning of her transition. Throughout her time in the Marine Corps, she worked in the Supply/Logistics field and felt that her resume would make her a strong candidate in either of those fields. She knew she had more to give beyond the last 29 years of her life as a Marine, and she was excited to see what opportunities awaited her.

Initially, she took a few months off to spend time with her family and relax. Everyone should take time off from the rigorous schedule the military requires of its service members to just exhale. She highly recommends this approach! In February 2022, she was given the opportunity to work for Liberty Military Housing. She currently holds the position of Director of Military Affairs, Southwest Marines, Housing. Her region encompasses Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms, Yuma, Colville and Kansas City — a few locations where she was stationed during her career.

I asked her how her military career prepared her for her current role in her civilian career. She responded, “Being a Marine and being a person of service was something I am very good at. I am flexible yet mission-oriented. I like to get things done and take care of people. This job is the perfect fit for me. My job responsibilities are very closely tied to the military and taking care of military families. I bridge the gap between our government housing partner and Liberty Military Housing. I am honored to be able to continue to be so closely connected to Marines and military families that live aboard our installations.”

I inquired about the advice she would give someone considering a career in the military or someone preparing to transition to the civilian sector. Perez replied, “Choosing a career in the USMC is like no other job in the world. Hard work will always be rewarded and not go unnoticed. Being a Marine is a tough job that comes with a lot of responsibility. Upholding and honoring traditions of all the men and women that have gone before us is something that sets Marines apart. There are very few Marines and even fewer female Marines — expect to work just as hard as all of those around you, if not harder, both men and women. There are so many intangible traits and feelings that make Marines who they are that cannot be explained — experiences and a sense of pride that cannot be compared to anything else. Being a good leader takes time and  work. More energy and personal time spent away from your daily duties are what it takes to go the distance in the USMC. Working hard and staying focused is the best advice I can give.

”Perez continues, “Think ahead about your transition out of the USMC. A few years in advance, have a mental picture of what you want your life after to look like. Take the necessary steps to prepare to depart. It will have to be a fluid plan until you make your final decision. Be flexible and keep an open mind. You will have so much to offer the world, more than you can just write on a paper or summarize on a resume. You will have all the tools you need to make the move, don’t be afraid; just have a plan with a few options.

”And that, my friends, is proof that the long-standing slogan, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” is as true today as it was when Marine Corps Master Sergeant Paul Woyshner first shouted it. I enjoyed my time with MGySgt Perez and appreciated her insight into navigating the transition after a career in service to our country.

The Latinx Community’s Growing Influence

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The United States is currently experiencing a massive demographic shift, led in large part by the nation’s Latinx population. This group is growing rapidly, quickly becoming the most culturally and economically influential community in the country.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the country’s Hispanic or Latinx population grew from 50.5 million in 2010 (16.3% of the U.S. population)  to 62.1 million in 2020 (18.7%). That’s an increase of 23 percent. In fact, slightly more than half (51.1%) of the total U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020 came from growth in the country’s Latinx population.

It is no surprise then, that Latinx people have a massive effect on the U.S. economy. Their buying power is expected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2023, according to a report from Nielsen. This is up from $213 billion in 1990, marking an over 200% growth rate, more than double the growth in buying power of non-Latinx consumers.

This community’s economic influence reaches all industries, and it is critical that businesses gain a deeper understanding of Latinx culture. Doing so will allow business leadership to both better support employees and more effectively appeal to customers.

Understanding the Hypercultural Latinx individual

Among young Latinx people, there has been a rise in what is known as the “Hypercultural Latinx.”

Hypercultural Latinx people are often first-generation Americans who straddle both U.S. culture and their parents’ native Hispanic cultures. This group feels deeply connected to both aspects of their identities and has, in a sense, created their own blended, hybrid culture. As Ilse Calderon, an investor at OVO Fund, wrote on TechCrunch, a Hypercultural Latinx person is “100% Hispanic and 100% American.”

So, what do they want to buy? While Latinx people are clearly not a monolith, there are a few key trends across the community. According to research in the PwC Consumer

Intelligence Series, the Latinx population is especially enticed by new tech products. They are active on TikTok and exceedingly more likely to use WhatsApp and other social media platforms than other groups.

Nielsen also found that 45% of Latinx consumers buy from brands whose social values and causes align with theirs. This is 17% higher than the general population. Latinx people also share strong family values, as well as pride in their distinct cultural heritages. That is why organizations must engage the Latinx community and invite Latinx people to share their experiences.

It is pivotal that business leaders understand that “Latinx” is not a single streamlined culture. Rather, it is a diverse mix of traditions, nationalities, and values.

Embracing these cultural nuances is a key to understanding Latinx audiences. Organizations must consider methods to appeal to distinct Latinx groups, rather than marketing to the group as a whole.

Cultivating and advancing Latinx talent in the workplace

It isn’t only consumers that businesses should be thinking about. Latinx talent has also accounted for a massive 75% of U.S. labor force growth over the past six years, according to Nielsen. Nevertheless, only 3.8% of executive positions are held by Latinx men, and only 1.5% of are held by Latinx women.

Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do to attract and cultivate Latinx talent—and it all starts with recruitment. To ensure a diverse work force, companies must utilize culturally competent recruitment strategies that not only make new positions appealing to a variety of job seekers, but also give every applicant a fair chance.

According to an article in Hispanic Executive, understanding cultural differences can help recruiters create job descriptions that more effectively appeal to different communities. For example, the Latinx community feels a more communal sense of identity, compared to the more individualistic sense of identity in European-American culture. Recruiters should keep this in mind when thinking about what necessary skills they are highlighting for available roles.

Click here to read the complete article on Bloomberg.

Black Wealth Transfer and Confronting the Racial Wealth Gap

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The second installment of Bloomberg’s Power of Difference series on Black wealth offered a deep dive into issues that impact intergenerational Black wealth transfer. The three part series, hosted by Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, seeks to highlight and encourage dialogue about the structures that aid in Black wealth accumulation and extraction.

Speakers discussed why wealth transfer remains pivotal to building wealth in the United States and explained how the historical lack of opportunity for Black families to preserve and pass on wealth has contributed to the prevalence of racial wealth inequality today.

 

Inherited wealth plays a pivotal role in advancing the economic launch point for future generations. Despite the pervasiveness of the American rags to riches story, the wealthiest families have certainly benefited from this capital infusion power–about 30% of the Forbes 400 inherited at least $50 million. Middle and working-class families can use transferred capital and assets to boost emergency savings, make down payments on homes, pay tuition for private schools and higher education, and invest in the financial markets or new entrepreneurship.

Black families, however, are five times less likely than white families to receive a sizable inheritance. When they do, the amount is still typically three times lower on average than what white families receive. This disparity has contributed to Black Americans falling behind in wealth accumulation while white generational peers are empowered to move towards further economic stability and advancement. Black families have certainly been capable of growing assets even in the shadow of Jim Crow and other forms of systemic racism that persist to this day. So why haven’t they been able to hold on to this wealth and pass it to their heirs?

Before the Race Massacre of 1921, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a vibrant, thriving community of Black residents, like many of the “Freedmen’s Towns, and “Freedom Colonies established after the Civil War. Families there owned land, operated businesses, and ran community-sustaining institutions to create property wealth with an estimated value of over $200 million in today’s dollars, earning Greenwood the moniker “Black Wall Street.” When the Greenwood neighborhood was burned to ashes during a violent racial attack, hundreds of residents lost their lives and businesses, thousands of survivors were left homeless and impoverished, and many of them were hunted down, executed, or imprisoned. Laws were passed by the city of Tulsa to impede the rebuilding of Greenwood by survivors and their families. The most disheartening part of Greenwood’s story: this was not an uncommon occurrence.

In Chicago alone, approximately 1,000 Black homes and businesses were burned down during the Red Summer of 1919, a season of racism-fueled on Black communities across the nation. The segregation and violence of Jim Crow, in particular, have been theorized to have had a pervasive impact, stifling Black innovation and entrepreneurship with the threat of violent reprisal for Black wealth building.

In the latest Power of Difference event, speakers discussed how racially driven violence toward Black people like in Tulsa, Chicago, and elsewhere — particularly during the several decades following the abolishment of slavery — was used to rob Black people, destroy their property and intimidate them from building wealth. Government policies, local and federal, often neglected to protect Black communities from this ongoing threat, and instead have codified many racially discriminatory policies such as redlining, government seizures under eminent domain, and disenfranchisement. In turn, such practices have systematically destroyed and eroded the value of Black wealth since the Reconstruction era, with the effects felt to this day.

Pathways to recovery and resilience

Despite economic impediments and discriminatory policies, strategic options and vehicles for securing assets can help more Black families strengthen the economic mobility of future generations. Session speakers painted a detailed picture of how to address these systemic injustices: loopholes in state property inheritance laws can be closed; discriminatory institutional practices and local ordinances, such as those that might assign more value to land according to who owns it, can be revoked; and concentrations of wealth in Black communities, like those created in Greenwood can be systematically encouraged through initiatives that can start at the individual level.

Sean Anderson, a curator from The Museum of Modern Art, discussed the Reconstructions, Architecture, and Blackness in America exhibition he created with scholar and architect Mabel Wilson and 11 Black architects, designers and artists. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the project aims to encourage reflection on how Black communities strive to build and rebuild in the face of economic and social challenges, and “…how history can be made visible and equity can be built”. The exhibition sparks questions about topics such as “What might our nation look like today if all-Black towns of the past had been allowed to thrive?” and “How might Black community spaces be used to prepare for threats imposed by climate change?”

Reggie Lee, Partner and Chief Transformation Officer at The Carlyle Group described the ten-year journey he took to reclaim the family land that his great grandmother, a formerly enslaved person, had purchased during the Reconstruction era. His story serves as a case study for reclaiming and preserving family-owned assets. For example, to keep the newly reclaimed property intact for future generations, using a trust to ensure legacy building.

The panel Q&A delved into reasons for the continued loss of Black assets and different ways better laws, policies, and individual practices could help reverse this trend. Lack of wills and vehicles like trusts, for example, can make family land and other asset claims vulnerable to loopholes in policies, such as heirs property laws (aka ownership in common) or inheritance taxes. However, it is estimated that 70% of Black Americans do not have a will or estate plan.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

All It Takes Is a Spark: Capital for Veteran-Owned VCs

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J.P. Morgan Asset Management announced a new initiative within its Project Spark program, aimed at providing capital to venture capital funds managed by emerging alternative managers that have served in the U.S. military.

In collaboration with JPMorgan Chase’s Military and Veteran’s Affairs division, the mission is to use the firm’s capital and network to close the funding gap for underrepresented managers and to strengthen the veteran ecosystem in the alternatives industry.

As part of the new initiative, the firm intends to commit an initial $25 million to five or more funds across a range of sectors and specialties, to be overseen by the Project Spark investment committee, which is comprised of diverse senior executives across J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The investments seek to support firms managing venture capital and other eligible, private funds founded by U.S. military veterans.

To launch this new activity, the firm along with Vets-In-Tech (ViT), gathered prospects at its first VetVC Summit, hosted at its world headquarters, featuring panel discussions, networking sessions and guest speakers, including JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Dimon.

“Through Project Spark we have demonstrated our desire to directly impact representation of diverse managers in the alternatives industry and I’m excited to extend this to the veteran VC community,” said Jamie Kramer, Head of J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Alternatives Solutions Group and the chair of the Project Spark Investment Committee. “Through our investments in funds managed by veteran-owned VC firms, we’re not only providing a capital commitment, but also seeking to create a network between the veteran community and the J.P. Morgan investment ecosystem.”

In 2011, JPMorgan Chase established its Office of Military and Veterans Affairs to promote veteran initiatives by weaving them into the fabric of how it conducts business. Focusing on careers, entrepreneurship and financial health, the firm supports veterans through both business-led initiatives like Project Spark, as well as philanthropic efforts and partnerships with top veteran service organizations around the world.

“This investment is a terrific example of how we are using the resources of our firm to lead the industry in creating access to venture capital for the veteran community,” said Mark Elliott, Global Head, Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, JPMorgan Chase. “When we leverage our partnerships across multiple lines of business and activate our global network, the economic opportunities we can create for the veteran community is so powerful.”

Another example of the firm’s commitment to veterans includes CEOcircle. In 2021, JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking launched the year-long program for growth-stage businesses in partnership with Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit built by military veteran entrepreneurs with the mission of empowering other military veterans to become leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation. The program provides entrepreneurs with three key resources needed to help grow their businesses: targeted educational programming, peer-to-peer networking via monthly group meetings and financial expertise gleaned from a 10-week mentorship with JPMorgan Chase advisors.

For the 2021-2022 program, Bunker Labs and JPMorgan Chase worked with 40 businesses with 2021 projected annual revenue ranging from $1.5 to $105 million. The businesses, which averaged $13.9 million in annual revenue, represented a diverse array of industries including healthcare, marketing, data and information technology, staffing and recruitment and restaurants. The program is expected to double in size next year.

Source: JPMorgan Chase

Armed Forces Bank and U.S. Army Working Together to Employ Veterans

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Armed Forces Bank (AFB), a full-service military bank committed to serving those who serve since 1907, today announces a new partnership with the U.S. Army Partnership for Your Success (PaYS) Program. Working together with PaYS, Armed Forces Bank will guarantee soldiers an interview and possible employment after serving in the Army.

The PaYs program is a strategic partnership between the U.S. Army and a cross section of corporations and public sector agencies. The program provides America’s soldiers with an opportunity to serve their country while they prepare for their futures. PaYS partners promise soldiers five job interviews, job mentoring, and the potential for employment as they return to civilian life.

To celebrate this partnership, Armed Forces Bank will hold a ceremonial signing on Thursday, August 18, at 3 p.m. at the Fort Leavenworth branch (320 Kansas Ave). Members of the media are invited to attend, but advance clearance is required. Key U.S. Army and Armed Forces Bank representatives will be on hand for the ceremony, which will include the singing of the national anthem, remarks by 1st Lieutenant Caleb Plug from the U.S. Army, a plaque presentation, flag salute and refreshments.

U.S. Army Captain Micah Robbins will be signing the Memorandum of Agreement along with Jodi Vickery, EVP and Director of Military Consumer Lending for AFB. U.S. Army General Robert Arter, former Board Member for Armed Forces Bank and retired Commanding General of the Sixth United States Army, will also be in attendance. General Arter’s military awards and decorations are extensive. They include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

The Fort Leavenworth ceremony location is significant, as it is the oldest active U.S. Army post west of the Mississippi River. Established in 1827, the military base has devoted more than 190 years of service to the nation.

“Our partnership with PaYS is a natural extension of our longstanding commitment to support the distinct needs of military service members and their families,” said Paul Holewinski, President & CEO of Armed Forces Bank. “We’re honored to join forces with the U.S. Army to connect soldiers with the business community, as they return to civilian life.”

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 service members exit the military, often with uncertainty about transitioning into the civilian workforce and without a defined career path. Soldiers who participate in the PaYS program gain valuable leadership, professional and technical skills, as well as experience and confidence, as they pursue career opportunities. In addition, service members gain access to employment possibilities with organizations that understand the value of their military service. In turn, PaYS provides employers with a pool of highly skilled, motivated and responsible candidates from which they can fill their personnel needs. The PaYS partnership provides a win-win situation for all.

Armed Forces Bank also is proud to work alongside U.S. Army Recruiters, Army National Guard Recruiters and local ROTC programs through PaYS to send the message of staying in school, setting goals, choosing appropriate friendships, leading a values focused life and staying off drugs. Granting employment interviews gives AFB the opportunity to mentor soldiers and newly commissioned officers on resume/interview skills and building better qualifications as they transition to private employment. Often, this will be the soldier’s first experience with interviewing in the private sector.

Armed Forces Bank’s Longstanding Military Commitment

With its headquarters in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Armed Forces Bank has been dedicated to serving military service members and their families for more than 115 years. Approximately 75% of AFB associates have some type of military affiliation either by spouse, retired themselves or their children. AFB, and its sister bank, Academy Bank, currently employ 22 veterans of the armed forces and 57 spouses of active or retired members of the armed forces.

AFB’s dedication to the military includes many leadership initiatives and awards:

  • AFB is a founding partner of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. MSEP connects military spouses with hundreds of partner-employers committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses for long-term, portable careers with advancement opportunities.
  • AFB is a leader within the S. Army’s Training with Industry (TWI) program, a yearlong training program with AFB for one Officer and one Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army Finance and Comptroller Corps. The TWI program is designed to take selected officers out of the military environment and expose them to the latest commercial business practices, organizational structures and cultures, technology development processes and corporate management techniques.
  • For each of the last eight years, AFB also has earned the “Military Saves Designation of Savings Excellence” by the Association of Military Banks. The program helps service members and their families save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.
  • AFB was named “Distinguished Bank of the Year” for 10 of the last 11 years by at least one branch of the military. Nominated by the Command Leadership at military installations around the country, the award recognizes AFB’s leadership in serving military service members and their families with a vast array of banking services, installation support and financial education. In 2019 and 2020, the Department of the Army and Navy recognized AFB. In 2021, AFB received 13 nominations from the Army, Navy and Air Force with the award ceremony to be conducted at the end of August 2022.
  • AFB was named the official financial services partner for A Million Thanks, a national organization that collects and distributes letters of support and thanks directly to active duty, reserve and veteran military men and women around the world.

“As a spouse of a 20-year Army veteran, I understand the importance of stepping up and providing service members with an interview and the potential for employment,” said Jodi Vickery, EVP and Director of Military Consumer Lending for AFB. “Transitioning from the military is not easy and our partnership with PaYS is an important way to actively express our gratitude for the many sacrifices military men and women endure.”

Armed Forces Bank offers a variety of exciting career paths in the fast-growing banking and financial services industry. Serving both active and retired military, as well as civilian clients around the world, AFB values former service members as employees. AFB provides a wide variety of training, development and mentorship programs for veterans across the company.

“The best way to honor a service member is to hire one,” adds Tom McLean, SVP and Regional Military Executive for Armed Forces Bank. “We thank our Armed Forces for protecting our freedoms. There’s no place else where people can dream such big dreams and reach their goals. Our business and our country will only improve by employing more military veterans.”

About Armed Forces Bank

Armed Forces Bank (AFB), founded and headquartered in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is a full-service military bank committed to serving those who serve since 1907. With 23 locations, Armed Forces Bank has more on-installation locations than any military bank in the country. Armed Forces Bank provides affordable, personal and convenient banking and financial services to both active and retired military, as well as civilian clients in all 50 states and around the world. AFB has $1.2 billion in assets and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dickinson Financial Corporation, a $3.5 billion bank holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. AFB’s sister bank, Academy Bank, is a full-service community bank with over 70 branch locations in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. For more, visit www.afbank.com. Member FDIC.

About the Partnership for Your Success (PaYS) Program

The Partnership for Your Success (PaYS) Program is a strategic partnership between the U.S. Army and a cross section of corporations and public sector agencies. The Program provides America’s soldiers with an opportunity to serve their country while they prepare for their future. For more, visit https://www.armypays.com

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