Wounded Army Corporal Inspires Boston’s Wounded Vet Run

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Vincent Mannion-Brodeur in his army uniform on the field

By Kellie Speed

When Jeff and Maura Brodeur received the devastating call that would change their life forever— that their only son had been critically injured in Iraq and may not make it—they never could have imagined how far he would come today.

U.S. Army Private Vincent Mannion-Brodeur was just 19 when he was deployed to Iraq where he served as a Parachute Infantryman in the B-2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Honor Guard.

On March 11, 2007, the Massachusetts native was checking a house for insurgents when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing his sergeant and leaving him with deep shrapnel wounds that ravaged his upper torso. In addition, his left arm was nearly blown off and he sustained a traumatic brain injury that required the removal of his cranium and part of his frontal lobe.

As a courageous recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Vincent, who retired as a corporal, became the inspiration behind Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, a motorcycle run that honors wounded veterans of New England.

“Ten years ago, Vincent was the first recipient of the Boston Wounded Vet Run, which was used to supplement a VA Special Adaptive Housing Grant he earned that took two years of paperwork to complete,” said Jeff Brodeur, Vincent’s father and an Army veteran himself, adding that Vincent will be honored once again this year at the tenth annual Boston’s Wounded Vet Run being held in September.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award

“He was in a wheelchair at the time so we used that money to put in new stairs and a new walkway. We used the funds raised to make modifications for accessibility to the outside of our home. It’s really nice to have him being honored again on the run 10 years later because it all started with Vincent and Andy (Biggio) who is the founder.”

Since Boston’s initial event a decade ago, the motorcycle runs have increased in popularity, now becoming available in major cities nationwide raising money to provide assistance to severely wounded veterans like Vincent to improve their quality of life. All proceeds from the runs go directly to veterans to assist with housing modifications or mobility and transportation needs, including wheelchairs and cars, along with other basic requirements.

After surviving a yearlong coma, lengthy hospital stays, 47 surgeries and years of rehabilitation to relearn the simplest of tasks—from walking and talking to eating and showering—Vincent and his family have become an inspiration. Overcoming all odds after being told he might never be able to walk or talk again, Vincent, who can often be found smiling, saying, “God bless America,” still faces lifelong daily challenges but that hasn’t broken his fun-loving spirit.

His parents, who are both veterans, fought successfully to become the first on the East Coast—and one of the first families in the nation—to have their son transferred to a private medical facility to continue his care, paving the way for many other wounded soldiers.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor

The Veterans Administration initially wanted to transfer Vincent to its Tampa trauma facility but his parents were concerned over the level of care he would receive. “Boston has some of the best hospitals in the nation and we won approval for Vincent to receive private care for his severe TBI at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital instead of having to go to a Veterans Administration facility,” said Jeff, an Army veteran and also the National President of the Korean War Veteran’s Association. “The polytrauma hospitals back then didn’t offer the specialized care that we knew Boston could provide.”

Their steadfast determination in finding the best care and rehabilitation for their son paved the way for the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, authorizing the Veterans Administration to, “establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.” The additional benefits offered to families of veterans now include a monthly stipend, health care coverage, and travel expenses (including lodging and per diem) while accompanying veterans undergoing care, respite care and mental health services and counseling.

10 Activities You May Not Know That Help With PTSD

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Two young beekepers in protective uniform working on a small apiary farm, getting honeycomb from the wooden beehive

By Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, DiversityComm, Inc.

More than 350 million war survivors around the globe suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to a 2019 report by the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.

And while there are many types of psychotherapy treatments, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and medication that can help treat PTSD, did you know that caring for bees, taking a swim with dolphins and donning a pair of hockey skates can help as well?

In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, we compiled a list of 10 activities and programs you may not have thought of that can help veterans, servicemembers and their families cope with PTSD:

  1. Horseback Riding – Stable Strides

StableStrides (stablestrides.org), based in the large military community of Colorado Springs, Colo., provides equine therapy for veterans, active duty servicemembers and military families. The non-profit promotes positive physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional and social development by fostering a connection with horses.

  1. Beekeeping – Hives for Heroes

Hives for Heroes (hivesforheroes.com) is a national non-profit organization based in Houston, Tx., comprised of beekeepers and veterans that focus on honey bee conservation, suicide prevention and a healthy transition from service.

  1. Cycling – Petal Against PTSD

Pedal Against PTSD (paptsd.org) aims to raise awareness regarding the severity of PTSD and to share the benefits that the sport of cycling brings to all military veterans and their families. The organization is recognized in all 50 states, as well as certain countries overseas, and seeks to provides vets with quality bicycles, create a strong community outreach program and contribute funds back to the research and development of PTSD.

  1. Service Dog Training – Warrior Canine Connection

Warrior Canine Connection (warriorcanineconnection.org) is a Boyds, Md.-based organization that enlists recovering warriors in a therapeutic mission of training a dog from puppyhood to adulthood on how to become a service dog for fellow veterans with disabilities. As a result, Warrior trainers benefit from a physiological and psychological animal-human connection.

  1. Scuba Diving – Waves Project

The Waves Project (wavesproject.org) in Temecula, Calif., was established to help wounded veterans experience the freedom and challenge of scuba diving. The organization believes the unique properties of an aquatic environment are ideal for wounded veterans as they rehabilitate from various injuries, including amputations, spinal cord injuries, Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD.

  1. Surfing – Warrior Surf

Warrior Surf Foundation (warriorsurf.org) is a nonprofit program in Folly Beach, SC, that works to provide free surf therapy, wellness coaching, yoga and community to veterans struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

  1. Yoga – Veterans Yoga Project

The Veterans Yoga Project (veteransyogaproject.org) in Alameda, Calif., teaches over 100 free yoga classes each week for veterans and their families in order to improve the overall health and wellbeing of all veterans, whether they are currently struggling with severe symptoms or are focused on increasing resilience and giving back to others.

  1. Swimming with Dolphins – Island Dolphin Care

The Key Largo, Fla.-based Island Dolphin Care (islanddolphincare.org) provides a unique, dolphin-assisted therapy program for veterans, military personnel, caregivers, family members and Gold Star spouses, children and parents. Each program is tailored to meet the needs of the participants and there is no cost for veterans to participate.

  1. Bird Keeping – Parrots for Patriots

Many veterans have gained new meaning in life by taking in abandoned birds that have been trained and donated by Parrots for Patriots (parrotsforpatriots.org) – a non-profit organization located in Vancouver, Washington that matches unwanted or abandoned parrots with any veteran desiring companionship. To qualify, veterans pay a $25 application fee and agree to home visits and a training session before their adoptions are approved.

  1. Hockey – Veterans Hockey United

The mission of Veterans Hockey United (veteranshockeyunited.com) is to bring the veteran, military and first responder community together to grow the game of hockey through no-cost player and team registration. The organization’s focus is on providing a positive outlet to raise awareness on suicide prevention, end the stigma of PTSD and mental health issues, and perform fundraising in support of Gold Star families.

About DiversityComm

DiversityComm, Inc. (DCI) is the proud publisher of six nationally recognized diversity focused magazines: Black EOE Journal, HISPANIC Network Magazine, Professional WOMAN’s Magazine, U.S. Veterans Magazine, Diversity in STEAM Magazine and DIVERSEability Magazine. We are dedicated to inform, educate, employ and provide equal opportunity within corporate America in order to create a more diverse workplace. For more information, visit www.diversitycomm.net

Is a Service Dog Right for You? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Man in military uniform with German shepherd dog, outdoors

By Nat Rodgers

What are service dogs?

Service dogs are specially trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a chronic disability who cannot perform the work or task independently for him or herself. Service dogs can, for example, pick things up, guide people who are blind, alert people who are deaf or pull a wheelchair. They can also remind a person to take prescribed medications and calm a person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. It is important to note that service animals are working animals, not pets.

How can service dogs help Veterans with mental health conditions?

Veterans with substantial mobility limitations associated with a mental health disorder for which a service dog has been identified as the optimal way to address the mobility impairment may be eligible for veterinary health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative. A substantial mobility limitation indicates that most common life and work activities (i.e. leaving the house, getting to medical appointments, using public transportation, etc.) are impaired or prevented for the person more than half the time.

Under the Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative, this benefit has been offered for veterans with a mental health condition. It provides comprehensive coverage for the canine’s health and wellness and any prescription medications necessary to enable the dog to perform its duties in service to the veteran.

How can a veteran apply for VA veterinary health benefits?

A veteran should meet with a VA mental health provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The mental health provider and care team will evaluate and determine whether the mental health condition is the primary cause of the veteran’s substantial mobility limitations. The team will also assess whether a mobility service dog would be the optimal intervention or treatment approach for the veteran. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will apply to receive the benefit on behalf of the veteran by contacting the VA Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service at VHAPSASClinicalSupportTeam@va.gov.

Each veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:

  • Goals that are to be accomplished through other assistive technology or therapy
  • Goals that are to be accomplished through the use of a service dog
  • Ability and means, including potential co-caregivers, to care for the dog currently and in the future

The veteran will be informed if the veterinary benefit has been granted. Veterans approved for the benefit are then referred to ADI-accredited agencies, assistancedogsinternational.org, to apply for a service dog.

What is covered by the VA veterinary health benefit?

Veterans with working service dogs are provided veterinary care and equipment through VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service. VA does not pay for the dog or for boarding, grooming, food or other routine expense associated with owning a dog. Additional information about VA’s veterinary health benefits can be found at www.prosthetics.va.gov/ServiceAndGuideDogs.asp.

In late 2016, the Center for Compassionate Care Innovation partnered with the VA Offices of Mental Health Services and Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service to extend eligibility for veterinary health care, specialized equipment and travel support to veterans with chronic mobility issues associated with a mental health disorder. These benefits help veterans with some of the costs involved with caring for their service dogs when they receive them from an approved agency accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

For more information on the benefits of service dogs please visit: assistancedogsinternational.org.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

For Veterans, Recognizing and Treating Hearing Problems Can Enhance Lives

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Today’s solutions conveniently target noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus through digital technology.

By Brian Taylor, Signia Hearing Aids

The U.S. military is an authority on the study of hearing loss. The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, operates the Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE), in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to enhance operational performance and quality of life. The VA, for its part, runs the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, a leader in the treatment of hearing issues, including tinnitus — that ringing in the ears that afflicts about one in 10 Americans but disproportionally affects veterans.

It stands to reason the DoD and VA are experts in the field because hearing loss and tinnitus are among the most common disabilities suffered by veterans. In fact, it’s VA policy that once a veteran is enrolled in VA health care, he or she is automatically eligible for diagnostic audiology. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America1, 2.7 million veterans receive treatment or disability compensation for hearing problems. It is in veterans’ best interest to avail themselves of these services because hearing loss, diagnosed early, is eminently and conveniently treatable through modern technology.

Awareness of Hearing Loss is the First Step
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 26 million U.S. adults have suffered damage to their hearing from exposure to noise. In that context, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has in the past cited data indicating that veterans are 30 percent more likely than others to suffer severe hearing loss.

Most people who decide they need hearing aids are in their 60s and 70s, however about half of all military veterans—many of whom are at a higher risk of tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss — are below the age of 55. In other words, many Americans address the effects of hearing loss later in life, but veterans often grapple with symptoms, such as tinnitus, earlier.

Veterans have higher rates of tinnitus than the general public, in part because many were exposed to excessive noise — machinery, engine noise, artillery fire and more. Tinnitus isn’t the same as hearing loss, but studies have shown it can be a harbinger of things to come. And there are other symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss to be aware of, especially because younger veterans may not expect them to pose a problem.

Noise-induced hearing loss leads to difficulty discerning high-pitched sounds. When a veteran has problems hearing high frequencies, it impacts communication and their ability to understand voices. It may not be obvious there’s a problem, because hearing loss is often associated with a lack of volume, but noise-induced hearing loss can present secondary symptoms, such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Then there’s the issue of “hidden” hearing loss, which the DoD, HCE and others have been studying. Put simply, people with hidden hearing loss experience some of the same symptoms as those with noise-induced hearing loss — they’re distracted in noisy settings or they mishear what people are telling them — but when they visit an audiologist, their hearing tests come out normal. We’re just beginning to understand hidden hearing loss, but we know about it because patients report their difficulties communicating and seek solutions to lead fuller lives.

Modern Technology Can Impact Hearing Positively
Such solutions exist today in the form of digital, network-enabled hearing aids. The words “hearing aid” may conjure up images of bulky devices worn by older individuals. But because it’s become clear many millions of people — across a spectrum of age and demographics — would benefit from new solutions, hearing aids have evolved tremendously.

For starters, today’s devices aren’t big, beige and bulky. Like other consumer electronics, hearing aids are smaller and sleeker, made possible by digitization. Some even resemble consumer earbuds and come in attractive colors.

Moreover, they include advanced capabilities. Traditional hearing aids focused primarily on amplifying sound; today’s hearing aids can also target specific frequencies and filter out background noise through real-time signal processing. And they’re easily rechargeable, which is not only convenient, but also ensures accessibility for veterans with limited dexterity.

Other features in select modern hearing aids include:
• “Own voice” processing, a feature that recognizes the wearer’s voice and processes it separately from other sounds, overcoming a common complaint of people with hearing aids who perceive distortion when they speak.
• Face mask mode, an especially important feature during the COVID-19 pandemic, that helps overcome muffled speech by people wearing masks and improves communication.
• Acoustic motion sensors, which sense movement and automatically adjust settings to delivering highly personalized hearing throughout the wearer’s day.

Today’s hearing aids can also specifically treat tinnitus. My company makes hearing aids that are available through the VA and incorporate a technology called notch therapy. With notch therapy, a hearing care professional identifies the pitch of a patient’s tinnitus and programs a frequency notch into their hearing aids to match that specific pitch, which can then suppress the tinnitus. Other therapies available in hearing aids introduce tones or other sounds that effectively distract the brain from the tinnitus itself.

Finally, in this age of smartphone apps and ubiquitous Internet connectivity, hearing aids can be programmed and adjusted online — an important feature for veterans whose nearest VA facility may be miles away.

The VA is a leader in teleaudiology, enabling remote access to its hearing aid services through veterans’ smartphones, tablets or PCs. Hearing aid makers supplement teleaudiology with features that allow hearing care professionals to conduct their fitting remotely.

Better Hearing, Better Lives
Today, more people suffering from hearing loss are embracing solutions that not only turn up the volume but conveniently and automatically improve their ability to communicate naturally. Because veterans are likely to have suffered tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss in the service of their country, they can rest easier in the knowledge that these solutions are available to them through the VA.
By recognizing the symptoms of hearing loss, seeking assistance and embracing the role of new technology, veterans can enjoy the path to enhanced human performance with clear hearing.

Brian Taylor, AuD, is the director of clinical content development for Signia. He is also the editor of Audiology Practices, a quarterly journal of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, editor-at-large for Hearing Health and Technology Matters and adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed articles and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. Brian has nearly 30 years of experience as both a clinician, business manager and university instructor. His most recent textbooks, “Audiology Practice Management” and the 3rd edition of “Selecting and Fitting Hearing Aids” were published in 2020.

Sources:
hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLAA_HearingLoss_Facts_Statistics.pdf?pdf=FactStats
cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6028a4.htm
statista.com/statistics/250267/us-veterans-by-age-and-gender/
pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28885938/

Normandy Commemorates D-Day With Small Crowds, But A Big Heart

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background with 3d texts, army helmet and remember and honor D-Day text

Article originally posted on NPR

When the sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast stretches of wet sand extending toward distant cliffs, one starts to grasp the immensity of the task faced by Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944, landing on the Nazi-occupied Normandy shore.

Several ceremonies were held Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control, and honor those who fell.

“These are the men who enabled liberty to regain a foothold on the European continent, and who in the days and weeks that followed lifted the shackles of tyranny, hedgerow by Normandy hedgerow, mile by bloody mile,” Britain’s ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewelyn, said at the inauguration of a new British monument to D-Day’s heroes.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and nearly empty as the sun emerged, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.

For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations were marked by virus travel restrictions that prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied countries from making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.

At the U.K. ceremony near the village of Ver-sur-Mer, bagpipes played memorial tunes and warplanes zipped overhead trailing red-white-and-blue smoke. Socially distanced participants stood in awe at the solemnity and serenity of the site, providing a spectacular and poignant view over Gold Beach and the English Channel.

The new monument pays tribute to those under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. Visitors stood to salute the more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, whose names are etched on its stone columns. Giant screens showed D-Day veterans gathered simultaneously at Britain’s National Memorial Aboretum to watch the Normandy event remotely. Prince Charles, speaking via video link, expressed regret that he couldn’t attend in person.

On June 6, 1944, “In the heart of the mist that enveloped the Normandy Coast … was a lightning bolt of freedom,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told the ceremony. “France does not forget. France is forever grateful.”

Most public events have been canceled, and the official ceremonies are limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.

Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the “big loss, the big absence is all the veterans who couldn’t travel.”

“That really hurts us very much because they are all around 95, 100 years old, and we hope they’re going to last forever. But, you know…” he said.

“At least we remain in a certain spirit of commemoration, which is the most important,” he told The Associated Press.

Continue on to read the full article on NPR.

Small Business Loans & Grants for Disabled Veterans

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two business people shaking hand during meeting

According to recent statistics, there are almost 17.5 million veterans in the United States. Of these veterans, 4 million of them are suffering from a service-related injury with disability ratings ranging from 10% and above. Meanwhile, there are 13 million who have received disability ratings for non-service-related injuries.

This means the majority of them are suffering from one form of disability or another. That’s why it’s really not surprising, and incredibly critical, that there are a lot of small business loans and grants for disabled veterans in the U.S., especially for those who are thinking of starting a business.

Here are some of them:

Small Business Association Veterans Advantage 7(a) Loan
This is one of the most popular programs that the Small Business Association (or SBA) offers, and for good reason. It offers a low-down payment and more flexible payment options. SBA also offers a counterpart of this loan program for non-veterans, but they will not be able to enjoy the discounted rates and other privileges provided to veterans.

StreetShares Foundation
StreetShares Foundation is an organization that was specifically established to help veteran business owners. They have various loans and financing programs. In fact, they even award grants to veterans who qualify for their reward opportunities annually.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Program
This is technically not a loan or financing program; however, it will still prove to your advantage to apply for it. This government program seeks to assist veteran-owned small businesses by doing business with them in the form of government contracts.

All you need to do is to get your business registered through the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (or OSDBU). This will add your startup to their roster of small businesses to call upon if they found themselves in need of the products and services that you offer.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Small Business Grants
The best thing we love about grants is that you won’t have to repay them anymore. You are not getting this money for free, though. You will be required to follow the terms of the money provided. Not to mention that it can be quite difficult to get approved given the number of applicants each year. va.gov

The Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehab and Employment Ownership Track
Here’s a program that is specifically designed for veterans with disabilities. In fact, you must have a disability that serves as an employment barrier in order to qualify for it. We highly recommend this program, especially for those who have a high disability rating.

Small Business Administration Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business Program
This is closely similar to the OSDBU program wherein qualified businesses will be granted an opportunity to qualify for contracts that can, in turn, reap revenue. The only difference, though, is that these contracts will not strictly come from the government. https://www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-assistance-programs/veteran-assistance-programs#section-header-0

Increasing Your Chances
The programs we have listed above are definitely not the only ones that are available out there. There are a lot of government offices, organizations and even companies that offer financing aid to disabled veterans. The ones that we have featured above are simply the most popular choices, and thus, more easily accessible. However, please feel free to research your options further.

In the meantime, allow us to share with you tips on how to increase your chances of qualifying for any program that you wish:

• Always check the eligibility requirements. Don’t waste your time getting the paperwork ready and waiting for a response. Make sure that you are eligible from the get-go by verifying your eligibility.
• Take care of your business credit history. Most of you are probably researching loans and grants to start your business. This doesn’t mean that existing business owners won’t qualify for these programs anymore. Quite the contrary, it is easier for a small business with an excellent business credit history to get accepted to these programs.
• Stay organized. There is a lot of paperwork required for any loan or grant application. Those with existing businesses already are typically required to present business and personal tax returns for at least the past three years. Other requirements may also include financial statements, business certificates and business plans, among other important documents.
• Find out your exact need. Finally, you should determine where you are going to use your loan or grant money and how much before even thinking of applying to a program. In this way, you will be able to make sure that the program you’re applying for and its benefits will be enough for your needs. It will also come in handy during interviews.
We hope that you have found our information helpful in finding the program that your small business requires to take flight. It is the least we can do in exchange for the service you have provided. Good luck!

Jim Hughes is a content marketer who has significant experience covering technology, finance, economics and business topics for about 3 years. At the moment he works as content manager in OpenCashAdvance.com.

Armed Forces Bank Announces New Partnership with A Million Thanks to Send Thank You Letters to Military Members Serving Around the World

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table decorated in military colors inside bank lobby with Armed Forces Bank banner on it

Armed Forces Bank (AFB), a full-service military bank committed to serving those who serve since 1907, recently announced a new partnership with A Million Thanks to send thank you letters to military members serving around the world. A Million Thanks is a national organization that collects and distributes letters of support and thanks directly to active duty, reserve and veteran military men and women. AFB was recently named the official financial services partner for A Million Thanks.

Beginning May 17 during National Military Appreciation Month, AFB branch locations will become official A Million Thanks “Send A Letter” collection sites with drop boxes available for bank clients and community members to send notes of appreciation. Drop boxes will be available in each of AFB’s 26 locations across the country and in 80 branch locations of Academy Bank, AFB’s sister bank.

“Our partnership with A Million Thanks is a natural extension of our long-standing commitment to support the bravery and dedication of our military service members and their families,” said Don Giles, President of Armed Forces Bank. “We’re honored to join forces with the inspiring mission of A Million Thanks by offering our clients and the communities we serve a convenient way to send notes of gratitude directly to those who are protecting and defending our country.”

Armed Forces Bank will also offer an opportunity to send digital messages via its website at www.afbank.com/message-your-appreciation/a-million-thanks. Since 2004, A Million Thanks has collected and distributed nearly 11 million letters to military service members.

“Now with the Armed Forces Bank partnership, we have the opportunity to significantly expand our efforts with our ‘Send A Letter’ drop boxes in their branches across the country,” said Shauna Fleming, founder and CEO of A Million Thanks. “A handwritten letter is a simple, but powerful gesture that anyone can do to express his or her appreciation for our military’s courage, sacrifice and dedication. The response to the letters is often quite emotional. The letters provide a morale boost, not just to one service member, but often to the entire unit.”

table decorated in military colors inside bank lobby with young man filing out a card to drop in boxArmed Forces Bank’s Long-Standing Military Commitment

With its headquarters in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, AFB has been dedicated to serving military service members and their families for more than 110 years. Approximately 35% of AFB Associates have some type of military affiliation either by spouse, retired themselves or their children. AFB’s dedication to the military has included many leadership initiatives and awards.

  • AFB was named “Distinguished Bank of the Year” by the Department of the Army and Navy in 2019 and has recently received nine nominations from the Army, Navy and Air Force for the 2020 award. Nominated by the Command Leadership at military installation 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.
  • For the past eight consecutive 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 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.

“At Armed Forces Bank, we celebrate the contributions and sacrifices made by military spouses. They are the backbone of military families. As a spouse of a 20-year Army retiree, that hits home,” said Jodi Vickery, EVP and Director of Military Consumer Lending. “Our partnership with A Million Thanks gives us another important way to actively express our gratitude for the many sacrifices military men and women endure.”

In support of Military Appreciation Month in May, AFB associates around the country are embarking on Random Acts of Kindness to show appreciation to servicemembers, such as spontaneous help to pay for a fill-up at the gas pump or handing out gift cards to make groceries a little less expensive for service members and their families.

“Every day, it is an honor to serve our active and retired military service members and their families in every way we can,” Giles added. “No matter where they are stationed or deployed around the world, AFB is dedicated to expressing our appreciation by making everything from banking solutions to financial advice valuable, convenient and personal.”

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. As part of a family of banks with over $1.2 billion in assets, AFB provides affordable, personal and convenient banking and financial services to both active and retired military and civilian clients in all 50 states and around the world. Armed Forces Bank has more on-base locations than any military bank in the country with 26 locations. Armed Forces Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dickinson Financial Corporation, a $3.5 billion bank holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. AFB’s sister bank, Academy Bank, is a full-service community bank with over 80 branch locations in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. For more, visit www.afbank.com.

About A Million Thanks

Founded in 2004, A Million Thanks is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the U.S. Military. A Million Thanks provides support and appreciation to our active and veteran military men and women through sending letters and granting betterment of life wishes, as well as providing higher education scholarships to their children. For more, visit www.amillionthanks.org.

Memorial Day Freebies for Veterans & Military Members

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Memorial Day freebies and discounts offer

By Natalie Rodgers

As part of Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, several businesses and organizations across the country are offering free and discounted services to current and veteran military personnel this month.

Check out our list below to see the ways in which others are supporting and appreciating our troops. Unless otherwise specified, these deals apply to all branches of the military for active-duty, retired, and veteran members.

Shopping:

  • Blanquil: 40% off all items
  • Eyemart Express: 20% off with verified military ID
  • Home Depot: 10% off on Memorial Day with verified military ID
  • Jiffy Lube: 15% off for all services year-around
  • Kohl’s: 15% off every Monday in May for all military personnel and their families with verified military ID
  • Levi’s: 15% off with verified military ID
  • Moosejaw: 20% off full priced items with verified military ID
  • MONI Smart Security: 10% off their first 12 months of service during the month of May
  • The North Face: 10% off your order for all military personnel, their spouses, and their dependents.
  • Oakley: 50% off select products
  • Pep Boys: 10% off services and parts
  • Reebok: 30% off
  • Samsung: Various discounts across appliances with Samsung’s military discount program
  • Sherwin-Williams: 15% off for all military personnel and their spouses with a verified military ID
  • T-Mobile: 50% off Magenta rate family lines for military personnel and their families
  • Under Armour: 15% off your purchase on Memorial Day, special Veterans dedicated items are also available for purchase.
  • Zappos: 10% off entire orders for military personnel

Food and Drink:

  • Chick-fil-A: 10% off for all service members with a verified military ID
  • Cold Stone Creamery: 10% off for all service members
  • Denny’s: Varying discounts between 10% and 20% off at varying locations
  • El Pollo Loco: 15% off with verified military ID
  • Friendly’s: Various discounts with verified military ID
  • Fuddruckers: 15% off with verified military ID
  • Home Chef: 50% off for all service members, teachers, first responders, and medical personnel.
  • Hooters: 20% off all takeout orders for military personnel, healthcare workers, and first responders
  • Jersey Mike’s: 10% off your order
  • IHOP: 20% off your meal at select locations
  • Ninety Nine Restaurant: All military personnel will receive a free entrée with the purchase of another meal
  • Outback Steakhouse: 10% off for military personnel and their families with verified military ID
  • Pizza Hut: 10% off your order in-store with verified military ID
  • Sweet Frog: 15% off every Monday in May
  • Vineyard Vines: 15% off most products with verified military ID

Experiences:

2021 Memorial Day Schedule of Major Events

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Memorial Day and Honor words on a flowing American flag

Originally posted on MilitaryBenefits.com

Memorial Day began sometime after the Civil War with both formal and informal ceremonies at graves and ceremonies for the soldiers who had fallen in battle. Many places claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866, including Waterloo, New York and both Macon and Columbus, Georgia. On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veterans organization, established Decoration Day, May 30, as a time for the nation to decorate the dead with flowers. Arlington National Cemetery held the first large observance later that year.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held throughout the country on May 30. Over time, the Army and Navy adopted policies for proper observances, and state legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. After World War I the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

2021 Memorial Day Schedule of Major Events

Virtual Memorial Day Events

  • Veterans Legacy Memorial (VLM)
  • Create a Free Remembrance Plaque
    • Together We Served is inviting any Veteran or Family Member to create a Remembrance Military Service Plaque, at no charge, to remember an Active Serving or Veteran Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coastguardsman who is now Deceased.
  • National D-Day Memorial – 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. est on Mon. May 31st
    • The Memorial will honor and remember those who gave their lives to the cause of freedom with a virtual online event. On-site visitors get free admission 10AM – Noon and can view the ceremony from a screen in the Bobbie G. Johnson pavilion.
  • New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony – Online at 11:00 a.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Online at 1:00 p.m. EST on Monday, May 31st
    • The 2021 Memorial Day Ceremony will be a live webcast. A small in-person ceremony will take place limited to 250 guests. Spots must be reserved in advance.
  • Virtual National Relay
    • Carry The Load’s Memorial May Campaign, in partnership with the VA, brings awareness to the service and sacrifice of our military, veterans, first responders and their families. Start or join a team or participate as an individual.
  • Wear Blue to Remember/Team Red White and Blue (RWB)
  • Parade of Heroes – 8 a.m. PT May 31

Check with your local veterans organizations, monuments, military bases and local governments for events. There are many virtual runs, ceremonies and observances being held locally throughout the U.S.

Memorial Day Events

Call ahead or check online for any in person events due to current circumstances.

  • VA National Cemeteries
    • Each VA national cemetery will conduct a brief wreath laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps. Ceremonies will not be open to the public but will be Live Streamed and posted here as they appear on May 25.
    • Other public events typically associated with Memorial Day at national cemeteries, including group placement of flags at gravesites, will not take place. However, all VA national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk for public visitation.
    • Visitors are also urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day. Families may continue the tradition of placing flowers and small American flags at their Veteran’s gravesite.
    • While the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie
    • See the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) announcement for more details.
  • Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C.
    • Flags In – Thursday, May 27, 12:00 p.m.
    • National Memorial Day Observance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – Monday, May 31, 11:00 a.m.
  • Air Force Memorial – TBD, Washington D.C.
  • Dallas Memorial March, Dallas, TX
    • Sunday, May 30th at 12PM – Monday, May 31st at 1:30PM
    • Decorate your cars and show the families of those who have fallen that they will not be forgotten.
  • Fleet Week – Memorial Events New York City, NY.
    • Fleet Week 2021 will be virtual and runs May 26-31, 2021
    • Parade of Ships – Cancelled
    • 10th Annual Veterans Appreciation Day & Memorial Tribute Event – Cancelled
    • Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Day Observance – Cancelled
    • Intrepid Memorial Day Commemoration – Cancelled
  • 153rd Gettysburg Memorial Day Parade & Ceremonies – Memorial Day, May 31, 12:00 p.m. ET, Gettysburg, PA. Cancelled.
  • National Memorial Day Concert – Sunday, May 30, 8 p.m. ET, West Lawn of U.S. Capitol.
    • Broadcast on PBS
  • National Memorial Day Parade – Memorial Day, 2 p.m., Washington D.C. Cancelled.
    • It will be replaced by a televised event, The National Memorial Day Parade: America Stands Tall.
  • National Veterans Memorial & Museum – May 28 – May 31, 2021, Columbus, OH
    • Special Memorial Day Events begin on Friday May 28th and run throughout the weekend.
    • Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony Monday, May 31 10AM – 11AM
  • Navy MemorialCancelled, Washington D.C.
    • Rolling Thunder Ceremony
    • First Reserve Assn. Ceremony
    • NDW Wreath Laying Ceremony
  • President Lincoln’s CottageCancelled – Monday, 10 am., Washington D.C.
  • World War II MemorialCancelled – Monday, 9 a.m., Washington D.C

Find a Memorial Day ceremony near you, 120+ VA National Cemetery events across the country. 2021 events will be added as announced.


Memorial Day Activities & Events to Honor Those Who Died

  • Visit cemeteries and memorials.
  • Attend Memorial Day ceremonies.
  • Volunteer to place an American Flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
  • Observe a minute of silence at 3:00 PM, local time.
  • Attend a Memorial Day parade, festival, fair or concert such as the National Memorial Day Concert.
  • Run for charity on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Volunteer to support events such as the National Memorial Day Parade.
  • Donate to veterans and military support groups.
  • Wear Blue.

National Moment of Remembrance

The National Moment of Remembrance is an annual event that asks Americans to pause for a moment of silence for a minute at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day. The 3 pm time was chosen, because it is the time when many Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday. It is intended to be a unifying act of remembrance for Americans of all ages. The National Moment of Remembrance Act became law in the year 2000.

There are many ways to observe the National Moment of Remembrance, both formally and informally. The moment of silence can be observed more formally at places such as a veterans cemetery, park, picnic ground and can include playing ‘Taps’, the military bugle call that reflects on the glory of those who have shed blood for us. A bell can also be rung at the beginning and end of the one minute of remembrance. If you are driving and unable to stop you can turn on your headlights for a minute.

Read more: https://militarybenefits.info/memorial-day/#ixzz6voCJbKFY

Remembering the Fallen on Memorial Day

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Remember and honor words with flag in background for Memorial Day observance

By Kat Castagnoli, Managing Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine

In our day-to-day lives, it’s all too easy to take the freedoms and luxuries we enjoy for granted. But, as any serviceman or woman, veteran, military spouse or family will tell you, freedom doesn’t exist without sacrifice.

That is why, on the last Monday in May, we here at U.S. Veterans Magazine urge you to take a moment and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the fallen soldiers who gave their all so we could enjoy all we have – and whose efforts we will never forget.

Ensuring that the stories of these brave servicemembers are being told in Hollywood is something 30-year acting and Air Force veteran Jon Huertas is passionate about. This month’s cover, who is perhaps best known as Miguel Rivas on the widely acclaimed NBC show, This Is Us, created his own production company called WestSide Stories in order to, “shine a light on the other people who volunteer their lives in service of this country,” Huertas says. “For me personally, having an active-duty member of the uniformed services or a veteran with a positive portrayal of that type of character is paramount to each and every one of our stories.” Read more about this talented LatinX actor, producer and veteran on page 68.

Kat Castagnoli headshot

Helping veterans with their transition into civilian life is one way we like to honor and support them. For example, showing them ways to hone their unique skills after service like on page 10. Or tips on what they should know well ahead of their transition on page 20.

If you’re a veteran and are looking to start your own business, learning how to find the right entrepreneurial fit page 36 and start smart page 34 can make all the difference to your success.

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who risked everything to defend our country and keep us safe. So, not just on Memorial Day, but every day, we are thankful for their service and their sacrifice.

Kat Castagnoli
Managing Editor, U.S. Veterans Magazine

Armed Forces Day – Military Appreciation Month

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Armed Forces Day

In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. It falls near the end of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May (the fourth if the month begins on a Sunday, as in 2016).[16]

First observed on 20 May 1950, the day was created on 31 August 1949, to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard – following the consolidation of the military services in the U.S. Department of Defense. It was intended to replace the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Days, but the separate days are still observed, especially within the respective services.[17]

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. The United States’ longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade is held in Bremerton, Washington. In 2019 Bremerton will celebrate the 71st year of the Armed Forces Day Parade.

Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in the month of May.

On 19 May 2017, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the Armed Forces Day holiday, marking the 70th anniversary since the creation of the Department of Defense.[18][19][20]

Aside from the Armed Forces Day the Armed Forces and the National Guard Bureau are honored on the following days:

  • 29 March: Vietnam Veterans Day (All US Military Branches)[21]
  • Last Monday of May: Memorial Day
  • 14 June: Flag Day and Army Day (United States Army)
  • 4 August: Coast Guard Day (United States Coast Guard)
  • 18 September: Air Force Day (United States Air Force)
  • 13 October: US Navy Birthday (United States Navy)
  • 27 October: Navy Day (United States Navy)
  • 10 November: Marine Corps Birthday (United States Marine Corps)
  • 11 November: Veterans Day
  • 13 December: National Guard Day (National Guard of the United States)

Source: Wikipedia

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