A Lifetime of Service

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Montel Williams with cast of Military Makeover

By Brady Rhoades

Montel Williams served his country for 22 years, and ever since, he’s been serving those who serve in the Armed Forces. 

Through Military Makeover, which he produces and hosts, the Emmy-award winning TV icon has transformed the homes and lives of hundreds of veterans and their families. The show, which airs on Lifetime TV and AFN, has produced some of the most memorable moments in TV history.

In a February, 2020 episode, Montel and the Military Makeover crew helped Debbi, the Gold Star widow of Operation Desert Storm veteran Chris Hixon, who was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman  Douglas High School in Florida while rushing in and trying to disarm the killer.

They stepped in two years after the school shooting that killed Chris and 16 others and made Debbi and her two children’s lives a little brighter by, among other things, renovating her kitchen and installing long, floating shelves in several rooms. Debbi placed photographs of Chris on those shelves.

Montel — no last name necessary for most people — lives by a simple creed that he learned in boot camp: “We leave no Marine behind,” he says. “I bought into the fact that once a Marine, always a Marine.”

TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City.
TV personalities Rachael Ray and Montel Williams (C) pose with the 1st Marine Corps District at the 2nd Annual Variety Salute to Service in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Montel was the first Black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.

“In the nearly three decades since I retired from the Navy, I’ve never really taken the uniform off because standing up for those who are serving now—and those who have served—has been the greatest honor of my professional career,” he says,

Most recently, the husband and father of four joined The Balancing Act, also on Lifetime TV, as a co-host. Before that, he shot to stardom on The Montel Williams Show from 1991 to 2008, for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

Military Roots
There’s a lot of tinsel that goes with Hollywood fame, but beneath it are roots, and Montel’s are deep and resilient. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1974. He then graduated from the Naval Academy in 1980 with a degree in engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
Montel Williams (R) and wife Tara Williams.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)

He completed Naval Cryptologic Officer training, and spent 18 months in Guam as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence. He was later a supervising cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Fort Meade, Maryland. He left the Navy at the rank of lieutenant commander. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

As part of his work in cryptology, Montel teamed with the National Security Agency and was involved in the victory in Grenada in 1983. On several occasions, Montel has worked to get United States citizens — usually military personnel who have been captured in foreign lands — returned to America.

In the 1990s and early part of the 2000s, The Montel Williams Show was synonymous with excellence, empathy and intelligence. Some argue Montel is on the “Mt. Rushmore” of day-time talk show legends, alongside Oprah and others.

In 1999, after years of excruciating pain that, at times, had him crying during commercial breaks, Montel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was bad and good news all at once — bad because MS is painful and debilitating; good because he finally knew what was ailing him and could move forward with treatment.

More than two decades after his diagnosis, Montel lives an active, purposeful life. A fun one, too. One of his favorite activities is snowboarding, which he says helps his balance in day-to-day living.

A Healthy Balance

Montel Williams, Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon, his son Corey, and Hixon’s sister-in-law.
From left: Montel Williams, Hixon’s sister-in-law, his son Corey, and Debra Hixon, wife of late Navy Veteran Chris Hixon.

Balance is what makes him a perfect fit for The Balancing Act, a morning show that empowers viewers to live balanced, healthy lives. Montel, who suffered a stroke in 2018, and just keeps going like the Eveready Battery, knows a thing or two about balance. If success is measured by how many people you’ve helped, Montel is rich beyond his monetary millions and accomplished far beyond his worldwide fame.

He goes back again and again to those values he learned in boot camp. Take the following episode of Military Makeover:

After Aaron and Holly Middleton met at a Columbus bar after graduating Ohio State University, it was love at first sight. Though unfamiliar with the rigors of military family life, Holly went all in, giving up her own career to find fulfillment as a mother. Aaron is now a major and senior communications officer serving at USMC Forces Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

The family has faced overwhelming adversity. First, their newborn son, Kelvin, was diagnosed with holes in his lungs, requiring immediate surgeries. Then, unspeakable tragedy struck the family when the Middleton’s’ 5-year-old daughter Scarlett died from an undiagnosed illness.

Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”
From left: Montel Williams with Holly and Aaron Middleton, who lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, and began a foundation in her honor, “Scarlett’s Sunshine.”

The shock and trauma of Scarlett’s passing has shaken the family to its core. Scarlett loved picking and giving away flowers, and her favorite song was, “You Are My Sunshine.” Through pain and inspiration, Holly promised to keep alive the joy Scarlett brought to everybody who knew her. The grieving mother created a charity called Scarlett’s Sunshine, using random acts of kindness with flowers to induce spontaneous smiles.

“Little did I know that when I gave people the flowers, and I saw the gratitude on their faces light up, that I would see Scarlett’s light again,” Holly says. “I found her light.” The Middletons’ home in St. Petersburg— the first they’ve owned since Aaron joined the Corps— needed a lot of help. Military Makeover worked to make it a place of healing and solace for this deserving military family.

As the cherry on top, the show donated a year’s worth of flowers to Scarlett’s Sunshine. “It feels like a miracle,” Holly said, when presented with the flowers. Which brought a smile to Montel’s face.

That’s the miracle of Montel’s life, which mirrors the lives of all U.S. veterans.

Free Legal Answers now offers help to veterans

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Veteran looking up something on his smartphone

The American Bar Association online program ABA Free Legal Answers, which lets qualifying users ask civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys, has expanded to offer help on immigration and veterans’ questions.

The project, called Federal Free Legal Answers, fills a critical need for legal help during the pandemic, when many lawyers cannot meet clients in person and many Americans are suffering through the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a collaboration of the ABA Commission on Immigration, the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono & Public Service, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The new service started this month at abafederal.freelegalanswers.org.

“Many veterans, immigrants and asylum-seekers have problems that can’t be solved easily without a lawyer’s help,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said. “Fortunately, they can now turn to a trusted source for help. Many volunteer lawyers are standing by, ready to assist.”

For immigrants and asylum-seekers, lawyers at Free Legal Answers can answer questions about such subjects as deportation, green cards, DACA and naturalization. For veterans, eligible dependents and survivors, lawyers can answer questions about VA benefits, discharge upgrades and other issues.

Users are pre-screened for financial eligibility and can ask up to three questions a year, or up to five during the pandemic, when needs are greater. Legal guidance takes place online and is limited to civil matters. Users cannot be serving a criminal sentence and cannot ask questions about criminal matters.

Free Legal Answers began in 2016 with a single website in Tennessee and has since expanded to 45 states and territories. To date, it has received more than 136,000 inquiries and more than 8,600 lawyers have volunteered to answer questions.

“The Free Legal Answers website is a great resource to the public,” said Jocelyn Dyer, AILA’s senior pro bono counsel. “It’s so important for people who are seeking advice to be able to get accurate answers to their questions, especially during the pandemic, when legal service providers might have more restricted hours, intake and availability.

Attorneys can volunteer at  www.ABAFreeLegalAnswers.org and selecting “Volunteer Attorney Registration.”

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

Source: American Bar Association

Feeding an army in D.C.: Chef José Andrés steps in to help feed huge influx of National Guard

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National guard wearing a black protective face mask takes a plate a food from a food booth outside Capitol Hill

By Kevin Rector LA Times

Early Saturday afternoon on a partially cordoned-off street in Washington, D.C., Peter Baca pushed a big stack of boxes containing thousands of cookies toward the doors of Jaleo, a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant that famed chef and humanitarian José Andrés opened in 1993.

Inside, workers with World Central Kitchen — Andrés’ emergency response nonprofit — were busy assembling meals for thousands of troops guarding the city in anticipation of President-elect Biden’s inauguration Wednesday and in reaction to the pro-Trump mob that on Jan. 6 stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Baca, of the veteran-focused Dog Tag Bakery in Georgetown, said his cookie gift was “a small token to say how much we appreciate their service to our country.”

Federal officials are scrambling to catch those responsible for the deadly attacks — five people, including a Capitol police officer, died — and prevent future violence by turning downtown Washington into a fortress, with more than 20,000 National Guard troops and thousands more police officers and federal agents manning roadblocks and checkpoints.

The swiftness of the mobilization resulted in less-than-perfect circumstances for the soldiers, with hundreds of Guard members forced to rest on the marble floors of the U.S. Capitol in between shifts.

World Central Kitchen’s CEO Nate Mook said when he and Andrés saw viral images of the sleeping troops, they felt like they had to do something.

“This is a situation that nobody’s had to face before; it’s being figured out minute by minute,” Mook said. “And we know — because we see this in all types of crises and emergencies — that food can sometimes be an afterthought, and sometimes people are left working long shifts without food.”

So, they reached out to government leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and offered to tap their expertise in feeding large groups of people at a moment’s notice, as they did after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

The officials took them up on their offer. They started handing out meals Friday night. By Saturday evening, the organization had distributed about 4,000 meals. They planned to repeat the effort Sunday, and don’t plan on halting the special mobilization until Inauguration Day, he said.

In a show of thanks, Pelosi joined Andrés on Saturday in passing out meals and thanking the troops, who seemed surprised and elated to be getting a free lunch from a famed chef instead of a pre-packaged military meal.

“This is a really difficult time; folks are working long shifts,” Mook said. “They were so happy to get some fresh food to eat.”

Photo Credit: LA Times

Read the full article on LA Times.

Operation Coming Home Gifts War Veteran with Mattamy Home

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Service-disabled war veteran stands with family and friends in side the livingroom of his new home

The recipient of Hero Home 23, Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Polizzi was surprised with the ultimate gift, just in time for Christmas.

Polizzi and his family have been selected to receive a brand new Mattamy home for free through Operation Coming Home.

Polizzi served for fourteen years, deployed four times, and received the Purple Heart from an injury in Afghanistan. Together, Polizzi and his wife have three children, all under the age of 10. For the past 10 years, they have constantly moved, having lived in eight different homes during the time span.

Operation Coming Home has been building Hero Homes since 2008 in Wake County through a partnership with the Home Builders Association of Raleigh and Wake County and the US Veterans Corps.

“Since Operation Coming Home began in 2008, our team has had the privilege to support and contribute to this exceptional cause,” said Bob Wiggins, President of Mattamy’s Raleigh Division. “Operation Coming Home is a project that the Mattamy team in Raleigh is very passionate about. It is an amazing feeling being able to give something as special as a home to individuals who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.”

Mattamy Homes will build Hero Home 23, located in one of the Division’s newest communities, Oak Park in Garner, North Carolina. This is the second home donated by Mattamy Homes and the 10th from the Royal Oaks team, which was acquired by Mattamy Homes in 2017.

“The Polizzi family’s new home will be conveniently located in the desirable area of White Oak,” said Donna Kemp, Vice President of Sales for Mattamy Homes. “We’ve chosen a beautiful home site for the family, and they get to come in and choose all design selections and personalize the home just for them. It’s humbling and extremely rewarding to give back, especially to a deserving veteran and his family. To be able to provide a life changing gift such as a home is an amazing feeling.”

Polizzi and his unit were on a security patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 when they came under heavy enemy fire. Polizzi quickly created and detonated a bomb that saved his entire unit, allowing them to pass only later to come under fire again. Polizzi was shot in the leg. He was treated for five weeks at an airbase, then finished his deployment.

The Polizzi family’s new home is anticipated to begin construction in February 2021 and be ready for move-in during the summer of 2021.

About Operation Coming Home

Operation Coming Home (OCH) is a partnership between members of the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh/Wake County. Made up of Veterans and non-Veterans, this team is honoring the sacrifices of the severely wounded Veterans of recent Middle Eastern Wars by building custom homes for them, at no charge.

About Mattamy Homes

Mattamy Homes is the largest privately owned homebuilder in North America, with 40-plus years of history across the United States and Canada. Every year, Mattamy helps more than 8,000 families realize their dream of home ownership. In the United States, the company is represented in 11 markets – Dallas, Charlotte, Raleigh, Phoenix, Tucson, Jacksonville, Orlando (where its US head office is located), Tampa, Sarasota, Naples and Southeast Florida – and in Canada, its communities stretch across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Visit www.mattamyhomes.com for more information.

Ray Chavez, Oldest Pearl Harbor Vet, Will Get Post Office Dedicated in His Honor

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Ray Chavez, oldest Pearl Harbor vet, smiles at 106th birhday party wearing a lei

By Brenda Gregorio-Nieto and NBC 7 Staff

Ray Chavez, the oldest veteran survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor will have a San Diego post office dedicated in his honor after congress passed a bill introduced last year by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52).

The bill, H.R. 3005, was proposed to rename the Poway Post Office on 13308 Midland Rd. as the “Ray Chavez Post Office Building” in honor of the American hero who died in 2018 at the age of 106.

The bill was recently signed by President Trump after it passed in both the House and Senate without amendment, and with unanimous consent.

“When I found out he was the oldest [Pearl Harbor] survivor in the country, passed away in November [2018], I thought, what a fine tribute this would be not just to him and his family and his community, but to all the veterans who served,” Peters said last year.

Chavez’s daughter, U.S. Navy veteran Kathleen Chavez, said her father would have been humbled by the honor, just as he was in life when he received attention for his service.

Read the full article onNBC Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: NBC LA

2020 USO Service Member of the Year Honorees Announced

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USO honorees pictured together in a collage

ARLINGTON, Va. — Each year, the United Service Organizations (USO) honors the heroism of junior enlisted service members, E-5 or below, with the USO Service Member of the Year Awards.

Service members from each branch of the military are nominated by their command leadership for performing acts of valor that go above and beyond the call of duty and who embody the standards and values of the Armed Forces and the USO.

“These men and women have brought great honor to their respective branches of service and to the country. They exemplified bravery and courage in the face of danger and placed service above self,” said USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II. “Putting the mission first and doing the right thing embody the core values of the USO. We congratulate this year’s honorees for their outstanding contributions and for being a force for good in the world.”

The USO is proud to name the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year and share their stories:

  • Nolan P. McShane | USO Marine of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom right): Sgt. Nolan P. McShane was overseeing a training exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, when a Marine became severely wounded. Without hesitation, McShane controlled a chaotic site, confirmed tourniquet placement and inspected pressure dressings to help stabilize the wounded Marine before he was evacuated to a local hospital. McShane serves with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer | USO Sailor of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom middle):Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer was traveling over the Coronado Bridge near San Diego, California, when her heroic actions prevented a motorist from taking his own life. Singer serves with the U.S. Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 14 and is from Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr. | USO Airman of the Year 2020 (pictured bottom left):Staff Sgt. Nigel C. Archer, Jr., displayed quick thinking, exemplary leadership and heroism when he noticed a vehicle had driven off a roadway and overturned near Comayagua, Honduras. Undeterred by the terrain and the language barrier, Archer quickly jumped into action and slid down a 50-foot embankment to rescue all nine passengers. Archer serves with the U.S. Air Force’s 728th Air Mobility Squadron and is from Havelock, North Carolina.
  • Mary Ehiarinmwian | USO Soldier of the Year 2020 (pictured top middle):While Sgt. Mary Ehiarinmwian was driving to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the vehicle in front of her rolled over several times before coming to rest upside down on a steel property gate, almost impaling the driver. Without hesitation, Ehiarinmwian extracted the driver from the smoking vehicle and brought him to safety. Ehiarinmwian serves with the U.S. Army’s 523rd Engineer Support Company and is from St. Robert, Missouri.
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming | USO Coast Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top left):When Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew J. Fleming learned of a capsized recreational fishing vessel off the coast of Georgia, he quickly responded and resuscitated one of the mariners. He wrapped the other mariner who was exhibiting signs of hypothermia in his own jacket to retain body heat. Additionally, during the height of COVID-19, Fleming led efforts to establish protocols for a remote facility inspection program, safeguarding personnel from exposure to the virus. Fleming serves with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector New York and is from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman | USO National Guardsman of the Year 2020 (pictured top right):Airman 1st Class Sikander S. Rahman exemplified great bravery during an off-base motor vehicle crash near Hartford, Connecticut, when his rescue efforts ensured the driver was removed in a safe and timely manner. Rahman serves with the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Maintenance Squadron and is from Windsor, Connecticut.

Learn more about the 2020 USO Service Members of the Year here.

“On behalf of the USO, we commend the USO Service Members of the Year for their unwavering commitment to helping others in their time of need,” said SgtMaj Carlton Kent, 16th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps and member of the USO Board of Governors. “Their selflessness and bravery—not only during the events they were nominated for but also throughout their everyday lives—epitomize what it means to serve. We are grateful for them and for all of our service members who sacrifice so much to protect us.”

Due to the pandemic, 2020’s USO Service Members of the Year will be honored via celebrations hosted by their commands or local USO centers throughout the month of December. Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren J. Singer will be honored as USO Sailor of the Year on Wednesday, December 16 and Sgt. Nolan P. McShane will be honored as USO Marine of the Year on Thursday, December 17.

Join us in expressing appreciation for all our nation’s service members this holiday season by sending them a message of thanks and support.

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

Source: PRNewswire

Former record producer switches buttons to join U.S. Army

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Future U.S. Army Soldier Kenny Oliver (right), poses with his recruiter

In 2011, Kenny Oliver was on top of the music world.  At just 20 years old, he found himself producing and co-writing the massive hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’ by LMFAO, a track that would sell upwards of 8 million copies and become a number one hit around the world.

Almost a decade later Oliver finds himself about to shift trajectory and embark on a career far removed from the world of pop music, as he prepares to become a U.S Army Soldier.

For Oliver, it means a chance to serve his country and realize a long-standing ambition, following a music career that saw many highs along the way.

Oliver, 29, was born in Moreno Valley, Calif., in 1991 and spent much of his childhood consumed with soccer, before music came calling.

“My first passion was soccer. My dad played it and we’d watch it together all the time. It was what I grew up on. Once I got to high school, I grew out of that and started going to music festivals when I was 17 and 18,” Oliver said.

“I really got into electronic and house music and I wanted to make my own music. As soon as I got out of high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Alun Thomas. Future Soldier Kenny Oliver (right), poses with his recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe.

Despite receiving no formal training, Oliver was able to teach himself the basics of creating electronic music and soon started to reap the benefits.

“I was entirely self-taught. I’d watch tutorials on You Tube on how to do certain things,” he said. “I had been a DJ spinning music, but when I started playing my own music, that’s when things started to take off.”

Oliver remixed the track ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO and sent it to one of his friends, who had a connection to the band.

“My friend liked it and eventually it found its way to the manager for LMFAO. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I was working with my dad at his business, painting houses,” Oliver recalls. “I was working with him one morning, when I got an email from LMFAO saying they’d got my remix and wanted to meet me.”

Oliver soon found himself communicating with the band and seeing their relationship escalate from there.

“The band ended up calling me that day, we talked about their music and plans for the future. They’d already had success with some of their songs and 2011 was going to be a big year for them,” Oliver explained. “I went around to their house in Hollywood, where they played me the music they were working on. They kept inviting me over, to the point we were like friends and family.”

When presented with the rough version of ‘Sexy and I Know It,’ Oliver made several changes, which pleased the band and proved successful for all involved.

“They already had an idea for the song, so I made a new beat and gave it to them. They put the vocals over it and that was the final version,” he added. “My name went on the credits as a producer and I got a plaque for it as well. It was financially rewarding and to this day I still get royalty checks.”

Oliver continued to explore his music career, including a collaboration with will.i.am., founder of the Black Eyed Peas.

“At that time, Electronic Dance Music was getting into the mainstream pop scene and everyone was looking for that sound. So I met Will and started working with him doing some production,” Oliver said. “It wasn’t on the same scale of success I had with LMFAO, but I made two beats on one of Will’s songs that was released.”

Oliver decided to concentrate on his own musical career following this, playing the club scene and performing at festivals throughout the South West, but the emergence of COVID-19 affected his live music career.

“I’d been playing festivals and making my own music,” Oliver explained. “But since COVID-19 hit, all those opportunities have disappeared and my passion for the music has gone down a little.”

At a lull and looking for a new challenge, Oliver decided to enlist, something that he had always considered, but never explored.

“I wanted a new challenge for myself and get out of my comfort zone,” he observed. “I moved to Phoenix in 2017 to leave California and have some new scenery and excitement, so joining the Army is an extension of that. But to serve my country is my number one reason for enlisting.”

Assisting Oliver in the recruiting process was Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Moe, recruiter, Arrowhead Recruiting Station, Phoenix West Recruiting Company, who said Oliver has taken a huge step by enlisting.

“Kenny lives around the corner from me, so once I learned he was interested, I set up a meeting,” Moe said. “I didn’t really know his background at all until after he enlisted. I knew he did music, playing shows and traveling, but not the extent of his past and the success he had.”

“I think it’s an amazing thing, to be in that lifestyle for years and then join the Army and serve your country. He’s taking a step up that a majority of Americans aren’t willing to do,” Moe continued.

Oliver decided on becoming a religious affairs specialist and said the nature of the job appeals to him.

“I decided on that job because I want to help people. The duties and responsibilities appeal to me, setting up religious services and just being able to help people and make a difference in their lives,” he said.

As his ship date of Dec. 28 draws closer, Oliver said he’s trying to prepare as best as possible for Basic Combat Training, excited at the journey ahead.

“I’m excited for basic training … I’ve been preparing by watching You Tube videos and getting help from the recruiters,” Oliver said. “I’m trying to learn what to expect. I’m sure on the day I arrive at Fort Jackson, the nerves will hit me.”

Continue on to Dvidshub.net

Join the USO in Sending the Gift of Home to Troops Around the World This Holiday Season

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young girl with Christmas cap on hands soldier in a tank a gift bag

LONG BEACH, Calif.- This holiday season, the USO, the non-profit organization founded in 1941 dedicated to strengthening America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation, is bringing the spirit of the holiday season to the men and women who work to protect our freedom.

The USO will send the gift of home to our troops during the holidays, providing care, comfort and connection through virtual programming, care packages and opportunities for local communities to support service members and their families around the world.

“Hundreds of thousands of service members will remain on duty this holiday season, unable to return home to visit their loved ones. Now more than ever, they need our help to bridge the distance to family, home and country,” said USO West President Bob Kurkjian. “Even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference to the men and women who serve our country around the world. The USO is proud to offer easy options for local community members to make the holidays truly special.”

A full list of USO virtual programming and give back opportunities can be found below.

  • USO Wishbook The USO Wishbook is an alternative gift catalog that fuels the forces! Send a heartfelt gift to a service member, while providing critical support to help lessen the separation felt by troops and their families. Help a service member connect with their loved ones during the holidays by gifting a phone call home, a holiday meal, care package and more.
  • AmazonSmile Select the USO as your charity of choice with AmazonSmile for a simple way to support the USO every time you shop. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your eligible purchases, at no cost to you.
  • Donate by Riding with Lyft Support the USO’s mission by donating through Lyft. When you opt in to donate on the Lyft app, select the USO as your chosen charity and your payment will automatically round up to the nearest dollar, donating the difference to the USO.
  • Campaign to Connect Campaign to Connect makes it easy to send messages of thanks to service members. Send messages of support to military members as a way to boost their morale and make them smile. Kind words can go a long way.
  • USO Holidays Military Virtual Programming (MVP) Series (Dec. 2 – Dec. 11) Service members and military families are invited to join livestream events with WWE superstar Mike “The Miz” and his wife, Maryse Mizanin; television personality and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari; actress Angela Kinsey; musician Jessie James Decker; and “A Christmas Story” star Peter Billingsley. Register at org/MVP.
  • The USO MVP Holiday Special (Dec. 17) Tune in to USO’s Facebook and YouTube platforms for the USO MVP Holiday Special featuring virtual visits with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski; sports analyst Terry Bradshaw; and other pro-athletes engaging with service members around the world. Tony Award-winning star of stage and film Idina Menzel headlines the virtual special with a performance featuring holiday and iconic Broadway tunes. Featured holiday set decor, provided by Balsam Hill, renowned for its lifelike Christmas Trees inspired by nature, has been gifted to the USO for distribution to active-duty military and families. Visit org/MVP to learn more.
  • Bob Hope USO Bob Hope USO will provide meals to hundreds of service members and their families this holiday season, as well as toy distributions to military kids on local bases. To find out how you can help donate toys to military children or support Bob Hope USO holiday efforts this year, visit uso.org.
  • USO Northern California USO Northern California is helping military personnel and families during the holidays by distributing holiday baskets, stockings and meals. For more information on how to support USO Northern California this holiday season, visit uso.org.
  • USO San Diego USO San Diego will offer a variety of holiday cheer this holiday season with meal distributions to families and service members in isolation this year. The USO Santa Store will serve 1,700 military children at Camp Pendleton, allowing kids to pick out gifts for their parents and receive a kids activity bag, stuffed animal, toy and candy cane. USO San Diego’s Giving Tree program aims to serve 800 military kids and will provide assistance to military families in need. To learn more about holiday giving with USO San Diego, visit uso.org.

Give today to bring home to those that miss it most during the holidays. Visit USO.org/Holidays to donate today and for other ways to give back this holiday season.

The USO continues its efforts to support service men and women and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional ongoing efforts include delivering care packages, activity kits, meal deliveries, and virtual programs for service members and their families. For additional information about the USO and how to support the USO mission, visit USO.org.

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

Joe Walsh Presents Lineup And Details For This Saturday’s VetsAid Festival 2020 – Home For The Holidays

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VetsAid promo poster featuring many musical artists

Joe Walsh reveals the final artist lineup and details for this Saturday’s VetsAid 2020: Home for the Holidays today, boasting nearly 50 performances and appearances, the multi-hour music festival will raise sorely needed funds to veterans services groups across the country. Join Joe and his friends December 12 for a worldwide broadcast of unique performances, never-before-seen VetsAid footage from years past and great stories from some of the greatest musicians in the world. VetsAid is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and multi-GRAMMY Award winning musician’s national 501(c)3 non-profit veterans organization.

“Wow – what a show we have this year! Such a diverse and wonderful line up!” Walsh explains, “When you have something like this you humbly ask your friends and colleagues and hope a couple will sign on – kind of like going fishing – but this year everyone I asked said yes! And now it’s turned into a virtual music festival like no other. We know the plight of our vets is hard enough in the best of times, and they are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.

Nearly 50 performances and appearances from artists across the USA, including never before broadcast from The Vetsaid Archives; Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Haim, Don Henley, Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Brad Paisley, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Keith Urban, Joe Walsh And Zz Top.

And new performances and/or appearances from; Drew Carey, Kenny Chesney, Alice Cooper, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Melissa Etheridge, Brandon Flowers, Mary Gauthier, Vince Gill, Patty Griffin, Daryl Hall, Ben Harper, James Hetfield, Jewel, Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan And Ayaan, The Lumineers, Richard Marx, Tim Mcgraw, Willie Nelson and The Boys, Phillip Phillips, Nathaniel Rateliff, Josh Ritter, Blake Shelton, Jake Shimabukuro, Amanda Shires, Gwen Stefani, Billy Bob Thornton/The Boxmasters, Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Vedder, Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh and Verdine White.

VETSAID 2020: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

TO BE STREAMED ONLINE DECEMBER 12, 2020

AND AVAILABLE FOR RESTREAM THROUGH DECEMBER 14, 2020

Tickets on-sale now at vetsaid.veeps.com

“I am proud of this nationwide tradition we’ve created and I’m so glad we can have this show during the holidays featuring all these artists that I love. I’ve got a great feeling about it and know fans will too. I hope it shows the Vets how many people care and want to help – I can’t think of a better way to remember and honor the men and women who have served our country this holiday season than by helping us raise funds to support their essential and basic needs.”

This ticketed event will be streamed on December 12 starting at 6pm ET via vetsaid.veeps.com and will also be available for restream through December 14.

Tickets and merch bundles are available now at vetsaid.veeps.com and will be priced from $20 with discounts available for active duty military and veterans using the promo code VALOR.

Joe Walsh launched VetsAid on September 20, 2017 with an inaugural concert at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA. The second festival event was in Tacoma, WA and the third in Houston, TX.  VetsAid typically seeks to host the events in cities across the country with large veteran populations. The shows have included performances by musicians including James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, Don Henley, ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Zac Brown Band, Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, Haim, Gary Clark Jr. and Joe’s brother-in-law Ringo.

VetsAid has raised nearly 1.5 million dollars and supports veterans and their families.

All net proceeds from the 2020 festival will go directly to the veterans’ services charities selected through a vetting process coordinated in tandem with the Combined Arms Institute.

For more information, please visit www.vetsaid.org.

Wreaths Across America is On the Road Again With The Annual Escort of Wreaths and Virtual Convoy

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Three Christmas wreaths pictured on a promtional image with the words Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across America (WAA), is a national non-profit whose Mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach, is in part carried out with the placement of sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 2500 participating locations across America, most notably, at Arlington National Cemetery, each December.

Another highly anticipated piece of this annual event is the weeklong, miles-long parade of tractor trailers, wrapped vehicles carrying veterans and Gold Star Families, law enforcement and motorcycle riders, leading the escort of wreaths to Arlington for placement.

This year’s annual escort of wreaths will have a different look and feel due to the necessary changes being made throughout the country for health and safety. The physical journey – which will include one tractor trailer load of wreaths hauled by Gully Transportation professional driver JD Walker, who is also a Gold Star Father and NAVY Veteran, 11 wrapped CHEVY vehicles carrying Gold Star Families, and nine police cruisers – will take place from Tuesday, Dec. 15, through National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, Dec. 19.

“For those who have had the opportunity to participate in the escort of wreaths over the years, it is truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, WAA. “The way

we have been welcomed into communities, over the years, with flags waving and streets lined with children and veterans, is something we always wished every American could witness. And now, thanks to PenFed’s support, we’ll be able to offer this incredible journey to all those who wish to participate. We are both grateful and excited to safely share the mission with all who want to participate.”

In partnership with PenFed Credit Union’s digital media content team, PenFed Digital, this year’s escort will also be shared virtually for the nation to join along from the safety of their own homes. PenFed Digital and WAA are overcoming pandemic-related challenges to ensure fallen heroes are honored safely. During the escort and leading up to its departure, viewers can follow along, learning about the mission and hearing stories from the people it impacts on Wreaths Across America’s Facebook and PenFed’s TwitterFacebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn pages. From the professional truck drivers hauling this precious cargo to the hard-working, dedicated volunteers receiving them on the other side of the country, we are going to share their journeys too!

“We are proud to partner with Wreaths Across America to tell the stories of our nation’s veterans – the men and women who served to protect our freedoms,” said James Schenck, CEO of PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation. “It’s even more important that we continue to support the military community and give back during these uncertain times. This year is going to be especially memorable with both in-person events and the sharing of many incredible stories via social media with those at home. Everyone needs patriotism this holiday season and PenFed is proud to support Wreaths Across America’s mission to remember, honor and teach.”

The WAA escort will travel the route below – the nonprofit is asking Americans to plan to come out and wave your flags, share your signs and cheers of encouragement, as it travels through your community.

Tuesday, December 15

  • 9:00AM Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology

12 Addison Rd., Columbia, ME 04330

  • 11 am Parade through downtown Ellsworth, ME
  • 12:45PM Arrive atCentral Maine Veterans’ Memorial Park

Roderick Rd, Winslow, ME 04901

  • 3:15PM – Arriveat Ocean Gateway, Portland ME

14 Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland, ME 04101

Wednesday, December 16

  • 8:00AM Leave Portland (small detour through York Village)
  • 10:10AM Arrive at MA State Line
  • 12:30PM Parade through portion of Worcester, MA
  • 3:30PM Arrives atRegal Cinemas, Branford, CT

325 E. Main St. Branford, CT

  • 7:30PM Cross the George Washington Bridge

Thursday, December 17

  • 9:45AM Arrive atVietnam Veterans’ Museum, Holmdel, NJ

1 Memorial Ln, Holmdel, NJ 07733 

  • 1:30PM Arrive atHoly Rosary Church (The Guardian of the Defenders Memorial) 

3200 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, DE 19703

  • 3:30PM Arrive atWhitehall Village

801 Mapleton Ave., Middletown, DE 19709

  • 6:00PMArrive at American Legion Post 278 Kent Island

800 Romancoke Rd, Stevensville, MD 21666

Friday, December 18

These stops will be held with safety in mind as we ask citizens to tune in to the local radio dials listed below and hear real-time updates from Wreaths Across America Radio who will be traveling in the escort.

Maine

  • Ellsworth, Maine (parade through town) – 5 FM
  • Central Maine Veterans Memorial, Winslow, ME- 9 FM
  • Ocean Gateway, Portland, Maine – 7 FM

Massachusetts

  • Parade through portion of Worcester, MA -97.1 FM

Connecticut

  • Branford, CT Regal Cinemas – 9 FM

New Jersey

  • Vietnam Veterans Museum, Liberty Park, NJ – 9 FM

Delaware

  • Holy Rosary Church, Guardians of the Defenders Memorial, Claymont, DE – 5 FM
  • Whitehall Village, Middletown, DE – 5 FM

 Maryland

  • American Legion Post 278 Kent Island, Stevensville, MD – 3 FM

Washington DC

  • 5 FM

PenFed Digital is the only group following Wreaths Across America’s escort from Maine, where the wreaths are assembled, to the laying of the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery and around the entire country.

To find a cemetery near you to support or to learn how local events are being modified for safety in your community click here.

You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/. Each sponsorship goes toward a fresh balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, December 19, 2020, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. You can text WREATH to 20222 to sponsor a wreath for Arlington National Cemetery right from your phone.

About Wreaths Across America
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information or to sponsor a wreath please visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

About PenFed Credit Union

Established in 1935, Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is America’s second-largest federal credit union, serving over 2 million members worldwide with over $26 billion in assets. PenFed Credit Union offers market-leading certificates, checking, credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and a wide range of other financial services with members’ interests always in mind. PenFed Credit Union is federally insured by the NCUA and is an Equal Housing Lender.

To learn more about PenFed Credit Union, visit PenFed.org, like us on Facebook and follow us @PenFed on Twitter. Interested in working for PenFed? Check us out on LinkedIn. We are proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) Joins Forces With AT&T for Veterans Media Fellowship

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diverse group of veterans standing together with a VME sign in the background

Attention U.S. Military & Veterans: Interested in a Media or Entertainment Career?

For the second year in a row, AT&T, parent company of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros, HBO, CNN, and DC, among othersis sponsoring a Veterans in Media Fellowship in collaboration with Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME).

“The fellowship highlights AT&T’s continuing commitment and track record of supporting U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families,” said Roman A. Smith, AT&T’s Director of Community Investment.

“The select group of 40 veterans will meet virtually for 13 Saturdays starting in early 2021, with online seminars from fellow veterans already working in the industry as well as entertainment and media leaders,” said Karen Kraft, producer and VME Chair.

“The goal is to introduce veterans to the industry and provide an opportunity to work with professionals through a series of individual and small group projects,” added Tom McCafferty, actor and VME Vice-Chair.

Tom DeSanto, producer of “X-Men” and “Transformers,” was one of the first guest speakers. “It’s an honor to support our next generation of filmmakers through this AT&T program with VME. Having hired veterans before, their work ethic, ability to problem solve, and commitment to the team always amazes me. Our veterans have always been there for us and it is time for us to be there for them.”

“I was so impressed with the creativity and dedication of the Veteran Fellows I met last year,” said guest speaker Dara Weintraub, co-producer of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” “It’s inspiring to see AT&T leading this initiative to enable veterans to gain a better footing in the industry.”

Weintraub added, “Many producers are simply not aware of how diverse the veteran population is and how their talents and life experiences enrich any office or set.”

Other guest speakers included Jim Arnoff, career coach and television packaging agent; Ann Epstein, Head of Studio at Troika Media Group; James Fino, executive producer of “Rick and Morty”; and accomplished television directors Matt Knife and Jonathan X.

Several past fellows were recently engaged as segment producers for the Veterans in Entertainment Virtual Summit, sponsored by a coalition of Hollywood studios. Others have moved into production jobs or internships or entered media-related college tracks.

Emerging filmmaker Terry Rivera, a past AT&T Media Fellow and Navy vet who also served in the NYFD on 9/11, who is now developing a documentary about fellow Latino firefighters said, “The program helped me hone my career goals and the connections I made helped open doors to get my project off the ground.”

“While last year’s Fellowship was held in-person in Los Angeles, for 2021, we’ll be completely virtual. That means, this year, we can open up applications to veterans and the military all over the U.S., as well as those who are still serving overseas,” said Program Manager Brian Wright of Max Edwards Company, who also serves as a VME Advisory Board member.

Applications for the 2021 class are open online now at www.VMEconnect.org through Dec. 11, 2020, with the selected fellows notified by Dec. 18, 2020.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to connect U.S. military veterans working or aspiring to work in the entertainment industry to jobs, internships and educational opportunities. More info about VME at www.VMEconnect.org.

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