RedWhiteandCool Program Draws Vets into Refrigeration Industry

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Five RedWhiteandColl founders stand in line together smiling

The Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA) and Smithfield Foods, Inc. are pleased to announce RedWhiteandCool, an initiative focused on recruiting, training and hiring transitioning military veterans into the natural refrigeration industry as refrigeration technicians.

“There is a shortage of skilled labor in our country, and the commercial and natural refrigeration industry is not exempt,” said Lois Stirewalt of RETA. “There are currently more than 40,000 jobs open nationally for refrigeration technicians. At the same time, many veterans remain unemployed once they transition to civilian live. RedWhiteandCool is taking action to address this very issue.”

The RedWhiteandCool program will work hand in hand with the Department of Defense and transitioning military personnel, family members and veterans to recruit them into the commercial refrigeration industry. The partnership, administered by RETA’s non-profit arm— RETA-Training Institute (RETA-TI)—in conjunction with the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, is the organization’s newest Career Skills Program (CSP).

Transitioning military veterans met with program staff during an information session in February to learn more about the training program and refrigeration industry. Participants will receive certification testing at the end of the program and have the opportunity to interview for a career with Smithfield Foods as part of the company’s veteran hiring initiative.

“Supporting the men and women who have served our country is core to who we are as an American company,” said Keira Lombardo, executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance for Smithfield Foods and president of the Smithfield Foundation. “We owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans; this training and transition program is just one way we demonstrate our appreciation.”

For more information, please visit: www.RETA.com and/or www.smithfieldfoods.com

Photo:
Bruce Owens, Director, Infrastructure Engineering (Smithfield Foods); Clarence Scott, Talent Acquisition Specialist (Smithfield Foods); Lois Stirewalt (RETA); Jim Barron (RETA executive director); Troy Vandenberg, Military Talent Acquisition Manager (Smithfield Foods)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VETERANS DAY ACTIVITIES: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020

LEGACY JUMP

When: 6:30 a.m. CT

Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn

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

VETERANS DAY CEREMONY

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

LIVING HISTORY VOLUNTEERS

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

CARS 4 HEROES CEREMONY

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

WALK OF HONOR DEDICATION CEREMONY

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

KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE

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

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

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

About the Birds Eye View Project

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

Photo Credit: The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Skills Veterans Bring to the Contracting and Construction Industry

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Three contractors from Hoosier Contractors sit on top of their newly completed roofing project

By: Josh White, President of Hoosier Contractors  

Recognized by the U.S. government every year, November marks Veterans and Military Families Month, with Veterans Day falling on Nov. 11.

During this month, the country honors the brave men and women and their families who have served or are continuing to serve our nation through increased awareness and support. In the lead up to November’s annual celebrations, it’s important to provide a broader perspective on how veterans can be invaluable assets to the job force.

Oftentimes, it can be difficult for employers to recognize the key experiences and transferable skills veterans acquire during their time of military service. This creates a deep knowledge gap between veterans entering the workforce and employers searching for top talent in their industries. One industry that stands out amongst the rest in terms of hiring veterans is the contracting and construction industry.

A total of 15.5% of all U.S. veterans will enter the construction industry at some point, and about 666,400 veterans are currently working in this field. These hard-working and determined individuals can contribute in an assortment of ways to this industry, bringing their military background of unique skillsets to an American workforce in dire need of productive workers.

Experience working in a diverse team setting.  

From the moment they enter the service, military veterans are taught that genuine teamwork derives from a responsibility to one’s peers. Being an ultimate team player is not taken lightly, as members must learn to think in terms of the greater good of the team and what they can do to improve, grow and strengthen it. A blend of individual and group responsibilities allows veterans to work side-by-side successfully with teammates of all backgrounds – regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status or geographic origin. As much of the job force is done with a team in a diverse workspace, veterans with vast teamwork experience are already ahead of the curve.

Easily trainable, adaptable and determined.

Veterans continuously learn, develop and grow from day one. As situations can change rapidly and without notice, veterans master adaptability and learn to improvise as their specific roles can be affected day to day. Adaptable and capable, veterans are quick learners with little that can faze them. Not to mention that veterans are persistent and determined, sticking with a problem or solution until results are achieved. An ongoing focus on development not only proves successful for the individual, but for their team and their organization as well.

Putting the team first.

When military personnel enter into the service, the majority of whom have just reached adulthood, they quickly learn the skills to be a good follower and obtain the experience to become a great leader. Through training, education and experiences, veterans take on a variety of roles and responsibilities. In the face of ever-changing and unpredictable situations, veterans are required to make quick and smart decisions as leaders, a parallel that translates to the fast-paced work environment.  Additionally, veterans have an innate, conscientious obligation to serve others. It’s this servant leadership philosophy that allows veterans to be selfless, putting the needs of teams first and acting towards improving the organization, rather than only themselves. These skills and characteristics are becoming increasingly more desirable among prospective employees as employers are looking for the ones who will take their business and the industry as a whole to the next level.

Contractors work on a full roof replacement for a home in the suburbs of Indianapolis
Contractors work on a full roof replacement for a home in the suburbs of Indianapolis. Photo Credit: Hoosier Contractors

The contracting and construction industries are ready to welcome veterans like you (and me!). We bring these sets of dynamic traits from the military world that can transfer directly to the business world – and contracting/construction is no exception. With proper training and opportunities, veterans can and will continue to succeed in this business. What are you waiting for? Take the plunge and apply to a construction job today!

About the Author

A disabled veteran from Indianapolis, Indiana, Josh White has served as the President of Hoosier Contractors since 2013. Hoosier Contractors is a locally owned and operated residential and commercial contracting business serving the greater Indianapolis area. Using a customer-first approach to build business, Hoosier Contractors’ services include roof repair and replacement, gutters, siding, painting, home construction and more. Hoosier Contractors is part of the National Roofing Contractor Association and accredited by the Better Business Bureau. To learn more, visit www.hoosierroof.com.

USVM talks with Shawn Driscoll, Co-Founder of Loop Media, Inc., about his experience in the Military and more

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Shawn Driscoll smiling wearing a black and white t-shirt with the word Loop on it

USVM: What was your personal experience as a veteran, and how did the values you learned in the military influence the creation of Loop Media?

SD: Veterans have something that not everyone has the opportunity to experience. Discipline and commitment is the approach to life that we follow. The Marine Corps teaches you chain of command, commitment, discipline, and teamwork as core principles. The most important thing that the Marine Corps taught me is to never quit on your commitment. It’s critical to your success.

USVM: How has your collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus led you to develop a passion for music videos?

SD: I was involved in the Achy Breaky Heart 2 music video, around when Mylie Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball was blowing up. It was done as somewhat of a joke but it was viewed millions of times. Popular music videos are seeing people tuning into them like never before. Videos have taken center stage, with 40% of YouTube traffic being music videos. Videos are a mainstay of entertainment globally, more so than in the U.S and it’s a powerful medium to entertain.

USVM: How can reopened businesses keep patrons engaged through streaming content, and what types of content do they respond to best?

SD: Content that is short form is responded to best. Content like movie trailers, music videos, viral videos, sports highlights, drone footage from around the world are the forms of entertainment that is consumed out of home. This will get people to move away from their phone and engage with their surroundings. The goal is to move them to engage with Loop’s platforms when out and about.

USVM: Why is the future of streaming outside the home, and how the streaming giants are missing a tremendous opportunity in that arena?

SD: Everyone is trying to find the secret formula. Loop is the only one aggressively going after the market of short-form content outside the home. Spotify is focused on mobile. Apple and Amazon on content creators. At Loop we believe that building a network outside of the home is an untapped market that no one is going after.

USVM: What advice would you give veterans who wish to start their own businesses, as well as entrepreneurs looking to break into the entertainment industry?

SD: You need commitment to see things through and achieve your dreams and goals. Loop grew from an idea that we wanted to build a competitor to VEVO. It has grown to so much more than that now but it all started with one idea. Have a vision and be prepared to grind. In the Marine Corps, you are taught to do this in a unique way. Work hard, and make sure someone notices the hard work. Tell your story, and make sure someone listens to it. You only get out of life what you demand so be passionate about it. You are the one that has the ability to make it happen.

Variety Announces Salute to Service Special Premiering Veterans Day on the History Channel

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Variety's Salute to Service promo poster

The fourth annual VARIETY’S SALUTE TO SERVICE PRESENTED BY HISTORY® AND VOICES MAGNIFIED, a celebration honoring our veterans and servicemembers and contributions by various individuals who continue to shine a light on the military and related organizations, was recently announced.

The special will air on The HISTORY® Channel on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th at 10pm ET / PT. The special will include appearances by Trace Adkins, Kevin Bacon, Bryan Cranston, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mario Lopez, Kellie Pickler, Kelly Ripa, Shaggy and Gary Sinise as they pay tribute to the courageous servicemembers.

The program will highlight organizations such as Headstrong, Team Rubicon, The Bush Institute, Gary Sinise Foundation and the USO – which will showcase its work with the troops since its inception and its current initiatives during Covid-19.

Bryan Cranston will present the USO segment which is a non-profit partner of the program. Also featured will be Verizon, which employs more than 10,000 veterans as part of its workforce. In 2020, for the third year in a row, Verizon was voted the #1 Military Friendly Company for its commitment to serving the military community.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to the veterans for all their sacrifices for our freedom, but this Veterans Day, we strive to honor those fearless men and women.  It was crucial to us to keep our annual Salute to Service event going and to pay tribute and recognize those who have given so much to keep our country safe and strong,” said PMC Vice Chairman, Gerry Byrne. Byrne is a United Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and works across all of PMC’s platforms to support veteran’s initiatives.  “We are thankful for the continued support by The HISTORY Channel.”

“Variety’s Salute to Service is an important opportunity to honor our nations veterans and service members and give a platform to many of the excellent organizations out there who are helping veterans and military families,” said Paul Buccieri, President, A+E Networks Group. “Honoring and celebrating our veterans and military families has been a long-term priority for The HISTORY Channel and A+E Networks and we are proud to have the opportunity to get these organizations in front of viewers and encourage our audiences to learn more about their vital work.”

The HISTORY Channel has an on-going commitment to mobilizing support for veterans and military families through the award-winning Mission to Honor initiative which acknowledges the many vital contributions of veterans and shares their stories across all platforms. Through this initiative, The HISTORY Channel collaborates with many of the nation’s leading veterans’ organizations to help showcase the many ways veterans and military families give back to their communities through service.

ABOUT VARIETY

Now celebrating its 115th year anniversary, Variety is the seminal voice of the entertainment industry. Featuring award-winning breaking news reporting, insightful award-season coverage, must-read feature spotlights and intelligent analysis of the industry’s most prominent players, Variety is the trusted source for the business of global entertainment. Read by a highly engaged audience of industry insiders, Variety’s multi-platform content coverage expands across digital, mobile, social, print and branded content, events and summits.

In May 2019, Variety’s “Actors on Actors” on PBS took home a Daytime Creative Arts Emmy award  and has been awarded the Emmy for best entertainment programming at the 67th and 68th Emmy Awards. “Actors on Actors,” an interview special that features pairings of prominent actors discussing their craft, was produced by PBS SoCal in partnership with Variety Media, LLC. Follow Variety on Facebook facebook.com/variety; Twitter, @variety; Instagram, @Variety The Variety Group – Variety, Variety.com, Variety Insight, Indiewire,– is owned by Variety Media, LLC, a division of Penske Media Corporation.

ABOUT The HISTORY® Channel

The HISTORY Channel, a division of A+E Networks, is the premier destination for historical storytelling. From best-in-class documentary events, to a signature slate of industry leading nonfiction series and premium fact-based scripted programming, HISTORY serves as the most trustworthy source of informational entertainment in media. For a deeper dive, visit history.com or follow @history on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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, services 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 learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Pin-Ups for Vets To Conduct Live Veterans Day Video Panel November 9

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Pin-ups for vets poster featured four models in authentic 50's style dresses

Pin-Ups for Vets, a 501(c)(3) that benefits hospitalized veterans, will be conducting a free live video Q&A with its founder Gina Elise and four military veteran ambassadors on Monday, November 9 at 1 p.m. ET, which veterans and other fans can view live on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube. They will talk about their military service, what Veterans Day means to them, and the 2021 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar, which annually raises thousands for the charity.

“The more I heard about the uphill battles of our Wounded Warriors,” explained Elise about her founding of Pin-Ups for Vets, “the more convinced I was of the need to produce a project that would bring in funds to support all of our hospitalized Veterans.”

In addition, Elise will join “Stranger Things” actress Jennifer Marshall (Navy), Linsay Rousseau (Army), who voices the character of Elita-1 in “Transformers: War for Cybertron,” Megan Martine (Marines), and Shannon Corbeil (Air Force) to conduct paid “one on five” live video chats with individual fans beginning at 2 p.m. ET, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit. Fans can sign up for the live video chat as well as purchase a calendar as part of a special package here.

Wizard World, which has produced pop culture events for 20+ years, has been conducting Virtual Experiences with celebrities, artists, authors, directors and more, and is proud to support this great cause through its platforms.

The Pin-Ups for Vets 2021 Calendar is the 15th edition, and features 12 female veterans posing as pin-ups. To date, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated more than $70,000 worth of state-of-the-art rehab equipment for VA and military hospitals nationwide.

“My late Grandpa Lou served in the Army for 4 years during World War II,” added Elise. “I wanted to do something to honor his name. I always loved the romance of those bygone eras—especially the 1940’s—and I drew inspiration from the World War II pin-up girls, whose photos and paintings boosted morale for our soldiers fighting overseas.”

Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Credits Military Skills as Foundation for His Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® Business

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Steven Cordova headshots side by side military uniform and business clothes

Steven Cordova, Modesto resident and veteran, recently launched operations as a franchisee with the No. 1 home inspection company in North America, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

The 43-year-old services California’s Central Valley which includes Modesto, Ceres, Turlock, Oakdale, Manteca, Tracy, Ripon, Stockton, Lodi, Merced, Atwater, Bridgeport, Sonora, Mariposa, Yosemite Valley and Los Banos.

Cordova was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force for 24 years.  He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Travis Air Force Base in California and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. In addition, he was stationed internationally at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, Lajes Field in Azores, Portugal and Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan.

“I always had the ambition to operate my own business and the military provided me with the tools and discipline necessary in business,” said Cordova. “With Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ startup program and franchisee support system, I knew that achieving my goal was obtainable. I look forward to what the future brings and the challenges ahead because I know that with the foundation the military has given me and the corporate team at my side, I will be successful.”

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the brand to which more than three million families have turned to for more than 25 years to be their trusted advisor when buying or selling a home. Consistently ranked for 23 years on Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise500®, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is enjoying its eighth consecutive year as No. 1 in its category on that coveted ranking. In addition, the company has 5-Star status with VetFran, a program offered by the International Franchise Association that provides discounted franchise fees to veterans.

A professional evaluation both inside and outside the home is at the core of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors’ service. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors input data and digital photos into a computerized report. All information is provided to clients in a customized binder for easy reference, allowing homebuyers or sellers to make confident, informed decisions.

About Pillar To Post Home Inspectors®
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is the largest home inspection company in North America with home offices in Toronto and Tampa. There are more than 600 franchises located in 49 states and nine Canadian provinces. The company has ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise500® for 23 years in a row, the past eight years as No.1 in Category. Long-term plans include adding 500 to 600 new franchisees over the next five years. For further information, please visit www.pillartopost.com. To inquire about a franchise, go to www.pillartopostfranchise.com

Gary Sinise releases video honoring oldest US vet for 111th birthday: WW2 vet Lawrence Brooks

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Lawrence Brooks seated, smiling

On Sunday, actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise honored Lawrence Brooks, a U.S. Army veteran who last month turned 111-years-old. Brooks, an African American, is America’s oldest living military veteran.

Brooks’ September birthday was initially celebrated with a military flyover, but Sinise also reached out to Brooks to share a personal message with the veteran. The Gary Sinise Foundation combined Sinise’s video message with footage from his birthday celebrations and an interview with a young Navy veteran neighbor who had the chance to meet Brooks.

On Sunday, the Gary Sinise Foundation tweeted, “We are thrilled to honor Lawrence Brooks who recently celebrated his 111th birthday, becoming America’s oldest living WWII veteran. Lawrence served from 1940-1945 with the 91st Engineer Battalion, in both New Guinea and the Philippines.”

“What an incredible journey you have had in your life, and you’re still out there giving,” Sinise said.

Sinise’s comments were interspersed with interview comments from Aveja Garrison, Brooks’ neighbor, who said once he learned Brooks is a 111-year-old veteran “it touched me in a special place, because as you can see, I also myself went into the Navy … to fight for this country.”

Continue on to American Military News to read the complete article.

Recruit a Military Spouse: Gain a Force of Nature

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Caitlin Emmons pictured sitting on side of fountain with husband and two small children

By Caitlin Emmons

Honor. Courage. Commitment. When University of California, Irvine School of Law graduate Caitlin Emmons’ husband enlisted as a United States Marine, her family put these values above all others.

Military spouses do not attend boot camp, they do not put their lives on the line, and they do not have rank. They serve in a different capacity by placing their dreams on hold, by taking care of the home front, and by holding dear the same values that their spouses pledged their lives to uphold.

From being CEO of the home to being professionals across many industries, military spouses are an incredible powerhouse of strength across our nation. For those military spouses who are in professions requiring specialized licensing, they are faced with a never-ending patchwork of rules to overcome.

For those businesses and organizations that understand this potential, they unlock a determination to serve unlike any other when they recruit military spouses into their communities.

Military spouse and public interest attorney Caitlin Emmons decided to attend law school long before she became a military spouse.

When she married her Marine, she was challenged to deeply reflect on how she could realize her dream of being a loving wife and mother and still play her part in building a more just society as a lawyer. Given her USMC spouse’s military occupational specialty and it being their home of record, Caitlin hedged her bets and took the California Bar after graduating from UCI Law.

The bets did not pay off because afterwards, she and her husband were called to North Carolina. Once she accepted that she would not be a practicing attorney in California for the foreseeable future, she tackled the next major decision to create the strongest way forward.

Taking a bar exam is prohibitively expensive, especially when you are living on a military salary. With two children under two years old, Caitlin placed family first in true military spouse tradition. In Caitlin’s case, she sought alternatives that would keep her connected to the legal community but did not require a law license. While many employers see military spouses as a countdown clock, always a few years away from the next move, Caitlin eventually landed a position as a judicial assistant for the Honorable Charles Henry, who specifically hired military spouses.

Caitlin was incredibly grateful for the position since it was unique, especially for the area they were in.

After three years in North Carolina, Caitlin’s husband received orders back to California and she immediately connected with Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).

Caitlin found herself seeking to extend her family’s service by dedicating her life to public interest law directed at lifting up Veterans in need.

Veterans Legal Institute is a free law firm that is dedicated to low income and at-risk California Veterans. It serves close to 2,000 Veterans each year and during the COVID-19 pandemic, immediately adjusted its service to accommodate Veterans virtually. Further, in line with its mission, Veterans Legal Institute is always seeking to hire Veterans and military spouses.

With a small grant from the Starcare Foundation, Veterans Legal Institute was able to secure Caitlin a part-time position so that she could pursue her passion of serving Veterans.

When asked why she pursues public interest work at Veterans Legal Institute, Caitlin states: “As a military spouse, I have seen firsthand what service can do to a person. I can testify to the pride that service members feel. Working with Veterans, I can also confirm that so many are returning home to restart their lives, forever changed by their military experience. Our nation collectively owes them a debt. Military spouses are uniquely positioned to fill the needs faced by our Veterans because of our military cultural competence. The fight to restore the honor of their service is a righteous one, and it is one I am prepared to continue with honor, courage, and commitment.”

Are you seeking to stand with our Veterans of today and tomorrow? Become a champion for public interest law. Help eradicate barriers to housing, employment, education, and healthcare.

To learn more about Veterans Legal Institute, please visit www.vetslegal.org.

The $100 Bet That Forever Changed Kaleb Wilson’s Life

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Kaleb Wilson in wheelchair on a pier with his wife in his lap

Seven years ago, Coast Guard veteran and PVA member Kaleb Wilson took a $100 bet that changed his life.

Some friends dared him to jump off a pier. He was 22 years old, and he figured he’d do it—it’s $100, right?

So, he dove in headfirst and hit the bottom, shattering several vertebrae. Instead of celebrating his win with friends, he found himself in a New Orleans Trauma Center, paralyzed.

One Goal

With his sweetheart Brittany by his side, he fought tooth and nail with one goal in mind: He wanted to walk down the aisle on their wedding day. She had been there for him during his recovery and rehab, and now he made it his mission to be there for her, standing across from her at the altar, and dancing at their wedding. With a lot of love, support, and hard work, he made it happen.

Wilson had been interested in joining the military ever since he was a little boy. He was a swimmer in high school, and started looking into programs with the Navy and the Air Force. But it was the Coast Guard that caught his attention. He was drawn to rescue swimming. “I knew it was where I needed to be,” he says.

He was a part of the Coast Guard for three years. After he graduated from boot camp he was assigned to a station in New Orleans, where he worked doing search and rescue missions, intercepting drug shipments, escorting vessels into the Gulf, and patrolling rivers and lakes. He loved his job, and he enjoyed the culture in New Orleans. He was a young man enjoying his career, living in a lively city, in love with a beautiful girl. Wilson was on the list to go to “A” school in November of 2012 when he took that fateful dare that landed him in a wheelchair.

A New Normal

Becoming paralyzed presents a whole host of challenges, of course, not just for the injured, but for those closest to them. Wilson and Brittany had to work together with trust and focus in order to adjust to their new normal. They relied on each other, and became stronger together. He proposed in 2013; they married in 2014, both of them standing for the ceremony.

Kaleb, in wheelchair and Brittany Wilson pose outside with their two young daughters, all smiling
Kaleb and Brittany Wilson with their two daughters

They also relied on Paralyzed Veterans of America. During rehab and recovery, PVA helped Wilson with benefits information, and later on, with vocational rehab benefits allowing him to return to school to pursue a chemical engineering degree. A couple of years ago, Wilson competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in swimming, and was inspired to join the Mountain State chapter of PVA, serving on the Board and as Treasurer.

He has attended two Games so far, most recently in Louisville, where he brought home seven medals in swimming, rugby, and field events. “It’s nice to be around people who are in a similar situation as I am, who understand what you are going through,” he says. “Brittany loves it, too, because she gets to socialize with other wives who know what we’re dealing with, and we get to come together with friends who live around the country.”

Giving Back

He and Brittany are in the process of moving to Illinois, where he will transfer his membership to the Vaughn chapter of PVA and do some volunteering for fellow veteran Noah Currier with his Oscar Mike Foundation.

“It’s not just money that keeps these programs running, it’s volunteers, too. I don’t want to be somebody who just takes, takes, takes. I want to give back.”

Today, Wilson is a loving and happy husband, and delighted father of two little girls, with a third child on the way. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

“Seven years ago, I sustained my injury that ended my time actively serving in the Coast Guard, but that did not take away the fact that I still am a Coastie. I still feel at home around my fellow Coasties; I still feel connected in the way I always have. I may not serve beside them anymore, but I will always be a part of them!”

Source: https://blog.pva.org & craighospital.org/blog/wilsonwedding

VA resumes in-person benefits services halted by the COVID-19 response

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woman working at VA meeting with veteran about benefits wearing face mask for social distancing

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced  the reestablishment of in-person benefits services in select locations throughout the country.

Currently, there are 11 regional offices (RO) open to the public and more are expected to reopen in the coming weeks as reopening phases will vary by RO and local conditions.

“During the last few months, VA regional offices continued performing our essential mission virtually — to provide benefits to Veterans and eligible family members,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We have robust safety measures in place that will allow us to resume in-person services while protecting the health and safety of Veterans, their families and our team members who serve them.”

ROs will continue adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which includes the use of social distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizer and asking sick individuals to stay at home.

Veterans can continue to interact with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) virtually for accessing benefits information online or when filing a claim online. For claim-specific questions call 1-800-827-1000. To check the availability of an RO near you, visit VA benefits offices.

VBA’s return to normal, pre-COVID-19 public-facing operations align with White House guidelines for re-opening. Read more about our response to COVID-19.

Source: va.gov

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