Kellie Pickler, Wilmer Valderrama Named USO Global Ambassadors

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In honor of its 80th anniversary, the United Service Organizations (USO) has named country singer and actress Kellie Pickler, and producer, actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama as USO Global Ambassadors.

USO tour veterans Pickler and Valderrama will help lead the effort for Americans, united in spirit and action, to give more than thanks to the military community.

“We are honored to have these two longtime advocates come on board as USO Global Ambassadors,” said J.D. Crouch II, USO CEO and president. “Kellie and Wilmer have seen firsthand the importance of the USO mission and the impact it can have when we express the nation’s gratitude to our Armed Forces. We hope their continued support will invite more Americans to join them in honoring service members and their families.”

As USO Global Ambassadors, Pickler and Valderrama will support the organization’s Give More Than Thanks initiative, a campaign encouraging all Americans to find actionable ways to express their gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. Throughout the year, Pickler and Valderrama will participate in events and entertainment engagements for service members, raise awareness of our military’s needs and share ways Americans can help the USO give more than thanks.

Pickler and Valderrama have dedicated their time and talents to give back to service members and their families throughout their careers, including touring together in 2018 for the annual USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ways Pickler and Valderrama have served with the USO include:

Kellie Pickler

  • First tour in 2007 to Iraq
  • 12 USO tours visiting 13 international locations (Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Norway) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • Five USO Holiday Tours with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
  • USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) session with husband, Kyle Jacobs, broadcast worldwide to 34 locations in the U.S., Qatar, Guam and Japan
  • Recipient of Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award, Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award and USO of North Carolina Heart for the Warrior Award

“I am honored to join the USO as a Global Ambassador for their 80th anniversary of supporting America’s military, especially in support of this campaign encouraging all Americans to give more than thanks,” shares Pickler. “The USO has allowed me so many opportunities to serve those who serve us, and this is another way I can help shine a light on something that matters … supporting our servicemen, servicewomen, their families, and letting them know we don’t take what they do for granted.”

Wilmer Valderrama

  • First tour in 2007 to Germany
  • Eight USO tours visiting nine international locations (Germany, Poland, South Korea, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Greenland, Norway, Bahrain, Iraq) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • One USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018
  • More than 40 USO performances
  • USO MVP session broadcast worldwide to 13 installations in the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, Italy and Iraq

“Touring with the USO has been one of the proudest moments of my career because it has given me the chance to pay my respect and personally express my gratitude to our servicemen and women,” Valderrama said. “I feel honored to now serve as a USO Global Ambassador, to help others understand how important it is to support the military and encourage Americans to follow our heroes example in becoming a more united community in a more united nation.”

Generations of Americans have answered the call to step up, serve and sacrifice. Wherever they are deployed or stationed—on the front lines overseas or the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response at home—the USO stands by our heroes in uniform. Since 1941, the USO has been a resource for more than 40 million individuals, from providing morale-boosting entertainment to delivering millions of care packages.

To learn more about ways to give more than thanks, visit USO.org/morethanthanks. Follow the USO’s Give More Than Thanks campaign and join the conversation using the hashtag #MoreThanThanks on social media.

About the USO:

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

Discovery Channel’s special “Gold Rush” Featuring military vets airs Friday Night- Sneak Peek Clip!

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promo poster of Gold Rush series on Discovery Channel

“Gold Rush” is Discovery’s #1 show, and Friday night’s episode will focus on the all-military veteran team led by military veteran turned mine boss Fred Lewis.

During the show, fans will learn about their war injuries, paths to recovery and how his all-veteran team got into gold mining. It also reveals that crewmember Kyle Pletzke is one of the nation’s many homeless veterans.

Fred’s rookie team has faced a lot of setback this year from spotty ground to aging equipment… resulting in a low gold total so far.

But, the silver lining is that his special forces team has gelled together and is working well now as a crew.

They’re working through the night when needed, all with the goal of banking more gold.

VIEW THE TRAILER!

On Friday’s episode of “Gold Rush”, airing at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, mechanic Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew stops by to help fix up the operation to get them to finish line. Now, they have to hope the gear will hold and that there’s gold in the ground to have any chance of bringing home gold this year.

Gold Rush” airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on discovery+

99-year-old World War II veteran finally gets his medals

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Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett sits tall in wheelchair on sidewalk in his military uniform

Shaky but sturdy, retired Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett stood tall in a uniform he hadn’t worn in more than half a century to receive an overlooked award he’d been due since 1944.

Donning his “Eisenhower jacket,” a green, waist-length jacket worn by the famous general in the later stages of World War II, a garrison cap and matching trousers, Cornett was the center of attention at American Legion Post 84, in Auburn, California, Monday for an outdoor ceremony in which he finally received his Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Photo: WWII veteran Jimmie H. Royer attends the ceremony where he was awarded France’s Legion of Honor at VFW Post 346 in Terre Haute, Ind., Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Image Credit: Austen Leake/The Tribune-Star via AP

Cornett, 99, came in not an inch shorter or a pound heavier than in his fighting shape of three-quarters of a century past, when he stood 5-foot-2-inches tall and carried 110 pounds on his frame.

More than 77 years ago, after having helped capture Sicily, completing a nighttime combat jump in the rain and seeing heavy combat during the Allied invasion of Italy, Cornett was wounded during a combat assault at Amzio on Jan. 31, 1944, which pulled him from the front lines.

His wounds, severe enough to send him home, were listed in unit paperwork. But in the blur of wartime bureaucracy, they were lost.

Members of the 82nd Airborne, along with other active duty and retired military members, were on hand to see Cornett get the awards he was due at the outdoor ceremony in California. Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, spoke with Cornett on a remote video call during the ceremony.

Recounting Cornett’s wartime and post-war service — along with the anecdote that until a few years ago, the man still regularly did 100 pushups a day — Donahue made an offer.

“If you want to come back, come on back,” Donahue said. “We need men like you.”

Cornett served in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.

“You represent everything that is great with this country. You represent everything that is great with paratroopers,” Donahue said. “You are the 82nd Airborne Division.”

Read the full article at Army Times.

Trace Adkins—He’s Got Your Back

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By Kat Castagnoli

For more than two decades, country music icon Trace Adkins has sold 11 million albums –all but one has gone Gold or Platinum — won numerous Country Music Television (CMT) and Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards and has nearly 200 million plays on YouTube.

But if you ask Trace Adkins what he’s proudest of, it has little to do with any of the above.

It’s the invaluable, long-lasting connections he’s made with U.S. veterans through his work with the USO, and especially with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

“I’m a better man for having associated with these men and women. I always say that if you have the opportunity to be in the presence of heroes, take it. You’ll be better for it,” said Adkins, who’s been WWP’s spokesperson since 2010.

“It’s always been a privilege to work with veteran organizations and it’s really been the most meaningful thing that I’ve done in my career.”

Steve Nardizzi, chief executive officer for WWP, says Adkins’ unwavering and passionate support for their cause has given a voice to their mission and the needs of the nation’s wounded veterans. “Time and time again, Trace has gone out of his way to highlight WWP and help us ensure this generation of injured veterans is the most successful and well-adjusted in our nation’s history,” said Nardizzi.

The country music singer’s support for the military began when he went on his first USO tour in 2002 to Bahrain, according to an Iamthevoluntourist.com interview.

“After that first trip, I was hooked,” Adkins said. “They were some of the most appreciative audiences you’ll ever play for.”

Since then, he’s been on a total of 12 USO tours, visiting over 65,000 service members across the globe, including performances at military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Respect for the armed forces is a common theme in the singer’s music. “The last few albums we’ve always tried to include a song that pays tribute to the men and women that serve,” he says. “I appreciate them. They’ve got my back and I want to let them know, I’ve got theirs, too.”

A Deep Connection

Widely known for his distinctive, bass-baritone voice, Adkins first emerged onto the country music scene in 1996 with his debut album, “Dreamin Out Loud,” released on Capitol Records Nashville. Since then, he’s released ten more studio albums and two greatest hits compilations. In addition, he’s charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country music charts, including number one hits, “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This,” which peaked in 1997, 2007 and 2008, respectively.

All but one of his studio albums went Gold or Platinum in the U.S. – his highest-selling to date is the 2005 album, “Songs About Me,” which went multi-Platinum, selling over two million copies.

On his 2017 album, “Something’s Going On,” Adkins dedicated the song, “Still a Soldier,” to our nation’s veterans as a way to show his support and respect for all that they have done.

The song talks about the life of an American veteran and his deep-seated connection to life as a solider, even though he’s currently living a civilian life:

“Comes home at night to a pretty wife

With a baby due

He’ll sleep in on Saturday

Cut the grass if it don’t rain

After church he’ll watch the game

And have a beer or two”

“He’s still a soldier

His blood runs red, white and blue

He put away his gun and boots

But he still believes

The American Dream

‘Til his last breath he’ll always be

A soldier”

Adkins’ songs are just one of the many ways he advocates and supports veterans. The singer has been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project since its

Trace Adkins on stagein a suit and holding his cowboy hat singing with US flag in background
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 31: Trace Adkins performs onstage during the Wounded Warrior Project Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Wounded Warrior Project)

inception and is passionate about its mission. “In my career, I just can’t think of any other organization that I’ve been involved with that just moved me the way my work with Wounded Warrior Project has,” he told Rolling Stone.

In his experience with wounded veterans, Adkins said he’s been struck by how many share the same goal: to rejoin their colleagues in active duty. “That’s all they want to do is go back, because they couldn’t find solace or comfort here. They just want to go back,” he says. “It’s sad to see those folks and visit with them. You can hear that pain. I’ve been around a lot of them and talked to a lot of them and it leaves you feeling helpless.”

Still, the singer, who released the EP “Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy” in October, is bolstered by the progress he’s witnessed. “There have been so many success stories,” Adkins says. “They come back and they get the help they need and it’s a wonderful thing to see when that does happen.”

In 2016, Adkins received the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for his exceptional leadership and advocacy for service members. But, “I’m not going to pat myself on the back too hard,” Adkins says. “I just do what I can and hopefully it’ll help.”

Living Country

Just hearing some of the things Adkins has lived through, you might say he doesn’t just sing country songs – he’s lived them. Born in the small Louisiana town of Sarepta in 1962, Adkins, at the age of 17, hit a school bus while driving to school one morning, puncturing both lungs, breaking several ribs and severing his nose – which, thankfully, they were able to sew back on, according to Wide Open Country. He went on to garner a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, but sadly, knee injuries ended any chance of an athletic career.

After college, Adkins worked several manual odd jobs before figuring out that Nashville was the place to be. He took up the guitar early in life but at the time, he was known more for his accident-prone ways than his singing.

Trace Adkins performs in on stage with his guitar in blue jeans, cowboy style shirt and cowboy hat
CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – AUGUST 09: Trace Adkins performs in concert at HEB Center on August 9, 2019 in Cedar Park, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

In 1982, Adkins’ tangle with a bulldozer caused such deep cuts that, “I thought I was fixin’ to lose both my legs,” he told Wide Open Country. Less than a year later, a tank containing 400 barrels of oil exploded while he was trying to repair a leak, crushing his left leg. And in 1988, Adkins flipped his truck on an icy overpass in Texas, putting him in a neck brace. Another accident a year later left him with one of his fingers cut off.

But the decade’s cherry on top was Adkins being stranded with nine other coworkers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Chantal in 1989. To survive, “I got to the highest part of the living quarters on the rig, so if it turned over, I was pretty well centered and could go in either direction,” he told Wide Open Country.

Adkins survived, and went on to have two daughters, Tarah and Sarah, with his first wife and high school sweetheart, Barbara Lewis, and three daughters, Mackenzie, Brianna and Trinity, with his third wife, Rhonda Forlaw, a former publicity manager for Arista Records who actually helped Adkins jumpstart his career.

However, in 1994, his second wife, Julie Curtis, got a little too fed up with his drinking, picked up the family shotgun and shot Adkins. Bullets went through his heart and both lungs.

“The doctors held little hope that I would survive and told my family and friends to go in and say goodbye,” he wrote in his autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck.

But if you know anything about Adkins, it’s that the country star has nothing if not nine lives, and continues to live life on his terms.

Generations of Sacrifice

With all Adkins has been through, he wasn’t going to let a pandemic

Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy sitting on a couch
JUNE 11: Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy, invites dog owners to enter the Waggin’ Train Tail Waggin’ Jingle Contest by writing a song about the fun they have with their four-legged friends. The Grand Prize winner gets to sing his or her jingle in a recording session produced by Adkins. For complete contest rules, visit www.WagginTrainBrand.com. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images for Purina)

prevent him from performing at the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS for his fifth time. The concert is traditionally one of PBS’ highest rated shows and went on as scheduled, but with a few noticeable changes. The event usually draws hundreds of thousands of people to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, but in 2020, the tributes and performances were filmed separately in accordance with social distancing guidelines–something Adkins didn’t mind.

“For me, it was less of a challenge than it has been in the past because there was no live audience and if I screwed up, I got to do it over again. In the past I walked out on stage to 200,000 people, so it’s like being in a pressure cooker. This time it was way easier,” he laughingly told Iamthevoluntourist.com.

Adkins says he was thrilled to be part of the show and is happy to celebrate veterans every chance he gets. “It’s always a privilege and the highlight of my year to be part of this show. This year, I think especially. It provides some perspective.

“We’re going through a strange time but there have been generations before us who have been asked to sacrifice way more than we’re being asked to sacrifice. The times have been tougher on a much bigger scale and I think we need to be reminded of that. This too shall pass.”

General Lloyd Austin Chosen as Biden’s Secretary of Defense

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Headshot of Army General Lloyd Austin III, commander of the US Central Command

By Natalie Rodgers

Retired General Lloyd Austin has been chosen as the United States’ Secretary of Defense under President Joe Biden, making him the first black person to hold the position.

Before earning his four-star general rank and officially retiring in 2016, General Austin led the command on various historical events. He served in the U.S. Army for almost 41 years, spending much of his time as a General and commanding officer. After working for the Pentagon as the Chief Joint Operations Division for two years, Austin oversaw issues in Iraq; overseeing Operation Iraqi Freedom and the combat aspects of Operation New Dawn.

Photo Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

In 2010, Austin became the Commanding General of the United States Forces in Iraq and played an integral part in handling negotiations between the United States and Iraq governments.

In 2011, Austin was nominated to be the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army (VCSA), where handled the organization’s budget and improved upon issues concerning suicide, mental health, and disability. From there, he took on the commanding position of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under President Barack Obama’s nomination, making him the first black man to ever serve in the role.

Upon his retirement in 2016, Austin worked on the boards of large name companies such as Raytheon Technologies, Nucor, and Tenet Healthcare. He also runs his own operating firm.

Outside of his professional and official positions, Austin has been known to care for Gold Star Families, the loved ones of military personnel who passed away in service. It is highly believed that Austin’s extensive experience in the field and his understanding of the cost of life are two of the main reasons why he was nominated for the position by President Biden. Austin, much like previous Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, will need be waived from a law calling for a seven-year gap between service and the position.

Source: Washington Post and Wikipedia

Meet the bomber pilot who will be leading the Super Bowl flyover

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Sarah the female bomber pilot close up image of her in military uniform smiling

By Jennifer Holton Fox29 Philadelphia

Captain Sarah Kociuba has a pretty impressive resume. She’s a B-2 instructor pilot, has flown more than 90 combat missions, and has more than 1,700 flying hours in five different aircraft.

Come Sunday, she’ll be adding “Super Bowl flyover flight lead.”

“It is very exciting, I am very humbled,” she told FOX 13. “We are certainly doing our prep for it.”

Kociuba, call sign “Gucci,” will lead a formation in her B-2 Spirit, along with a B-1B Lancer and a B-52 Stratofortress. She says a lot of planning helps missions like these come together.

“We’ve been working for weeks making this plan very precise, so that we can execute it,” she said. “So we’ll all brief together, and plan together, and make this rejoin happen.”

The military flyover on Super Bowl Sunday is planned down to the second.

The bombers are coming from three different bases in the Dakotas and Missouri. It’s a mission that takes coordination, and precision timing.

First, they’ll meet up in a whiskey area – that’s military jargon for “restricted airspace” – before the pass over Raymond James Stadium and Super Bowl LV.

“We will rejoin very low altitude, very high speed and very close together in this whiskey area, and then we’ll work our timing, and then do the flyover,” she explained.

The entire flight will take about seven or eight hours round trip because the Air Force is including training in the sortie. That means Kociuba won’t return to base until long after the fourth quarter ends.

“I’m not going to get to watch the game, so I hope there’s no spoilers before I land,” she added. “I’m going to have to watch it afterwards!”

Read the complete article on FOX29 News Philadelphia

Soldier is Seeking Support to Help Save Her Rescued Puppy From Being Left Behind

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US Soldier holding her puppy while sitting on the ground

When one person tries to pay for the expenses to bring a rescued soldier’s dog back to the US from overseas it’s a costly endeavor.

When 1,000 people come together and each chip in just $5 it’s a total game changer. With a small donation like that they can help to change the life of the soldier who has adopted the dog, and help ensure that the dog will live a healthy and safe life in land of the free.

“We absolutely want to help bring PupPup back to America. These overseas rescues are extremely challenging and have a high cost,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “If we don’t step in to save these dogs and cats, the soldier is forced to leave behind an animal they rescued from a bad situation. An animal they deeply love left behind can become subject to abuse, neglect and unfortunately death. It sounds harsh but that is the truth on the ground for our hero soldiers.”

PupPup is a puppy that Army Sergeant Char, who is stationed overseas, fell in love with and rescued. Her mother was a stray dog who hung around the base and ended up giving birth to a litter of puppies trying to hide them from danger. The dog was moved to a safer place, giving her the ability to care for her babies. On several occasions the soldier’s had to hide the dog and her puppies from many potential deadly threats.

While all the other puppies were quick to warm up to the soldier’s, one stayed hidden. She was too shy and afraid to come out. Sgt. Char was immediately drawn to the one that was so shy, she focused her love and attention on this little pup trying to help the puppy get comfortable and ensure she was being fed. She ended up gaining the trust of the dog she named PupPup, and they formed a loving bond. Now that Sgt. Char is scheduled to head back to the US, she can’t bear the thought of having to leave her dog behind. She knows PupPup won’t survive. Sgt. Char is still the only person PupPup will go to.

“I’m desperately asking Paws of War to help me bring my beautiful helpless PupPup back to America with me because I can’t stand the thought of leaving her behind,” says Sgt. Char. “This spot can be very harsh to dogs and I fear she will die if she is left behind. Plus, we have formed such a strong bond that means everything to me. I can’t turn my back on her and would be forever grateful for the help to get her home.”

The only way Paws of War can successfully bring PupPup back to America to live with Sgt. Char in a loving forever home is with financial help from people in the community. Paws of War is asking for donations to help cover the costs of bringing this special dog home. They are urgently accepting donations so they can save this dog and help this soldier.

To see get more information or make a donation, visit the site: https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/122504-pup-pup.

Paws of War has helped numerous soldiers to bring their rescued animals back to the U.S. However, this year the mission is more challenging to pull off. The pandemic has added additional quarantines, medical treatments and challenges transporting animals from remote locations. There are a severely limited number of flights coming into the U.S., especially those allowing dogs. Plus, flights from overseas are costly, and there is a lot of red tape that needs to be addressed and logistics to overcome.

Paws of War helps soldiers bring their rescued dogs and cats back to America after serving their country overseas through it’s War Torn Pups and Cats program. Those who would like to learn more about supporting Paws of War and its mission can go online to: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War

Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance to military members and their pets. They rescue cats and dogs in the U.S. and overseas. They train dogs to be service, support and companion animals for veterans and first responders. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

This Taylor Swift ‘Red’ Hit Is Now a Sea Shanty, Thanks to U.S. Navy Band

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Taylor Swift closeup with her smiling wearing red lipstick

Sea shanties may be trending on TikTok, but the U.S. Navy wants you to know that they were into the genre first — so much so, that the U.S. Navy Band took to Twitter to share its sea-shanty rendition of Taylor Swift’s Red single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Featuring a thumping, shanty-esque beat, violins and a five-part vocal harmony, members of the Navy Band chant the lyrics, even putting their own spin on the second verse’s “indie record” line: “And you would hide away and find your peace of mind/ With some TikTok video that’s much cooler than mine,” the female vocalist sings, nodding to the growing sea-shanty trend on the popular video sharing platform.  (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

To really let followers know that sea shanties are deeply embedded in U.S. Navy history and culture, the band playfully quoted the Navy Chief of Information in the caption: “To quote @CHINFO, ‘We were very much into this music before it was cool.’”

Watch the U.S. Navy Band’s sea-shanty version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” below.

Read the complete article on Billboard.

A bridge from the Navy to civilian life

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two student veterans are pictured in the center of a Raytheon warehouse background

Raytheon Missiles & Defense awards SPY-6 scholarships to US Navy vets.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, has partnered with the Student Veterans of America to award two $10,000 scholarships to U.S. Navy student veterans.

The recipients are Francheska Salazar, a sophomore at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Chris Ricks, who attends Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts.

The scholarship, named for the Navy’s SPY-6 family of radars, helps veterans achieve their educational goals and succeed in their transition to civilian life. It is part of the company’s longstanding support for military veterans, which includes a $5 million commitment to SVA.

Photo: Francheska Salazar and Chris Ricks received the 2020 Raytheon Missiles & Defense SPY-6 scholarships offered exclusively to U.S. Navy student veterans pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree.

A humanitarian at heart

Pride in service runs deep in Francheska Salazar’s family, as she is a fifth generation veteran, but her decision to enlist in the Navy extends beyond tradition.

“I realized how much each generation of my family sacrificed so I may have the privilege to have choices,” Salazar said. “I was not about to waste this opportunity.”

While serving 13 years in the military, Salazar deployed to Latin America on humanitarian missions that helped shape her career trajectory and life purpose.

“I want to be part of a team that works to find long-term solutions,” said Salazar, who aspires to work in immigration and human rights policy.

After separating from the Navy, Salazar used her GI Bill at a community college where she earned paralegal degrees. It left her with limited benefits to complete her bachelor’s degree and attend law school.

“The SPY-6 scholarship gives me peace of mind and hope,” she said.

A life of service

Chris Ricks wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself, so he joined the Navy’s Submarine Force.

“Every day on a nuclear submarine was something special,” said Ricks, an 8-year veteran. “Every sailor has a unique role in accomplishing the mission.”

The former sailor will use the SPY-6 scholarship to help pay for his MBA.

“I look at it as a long-term investment that will serve as a foundation for the next chapter of my life,” he said.

Ricks hopes to someday use artificial intelligence to improve the lives of others in agriculture, health, finance and education.

“My military experience has given me a passion to empower others, improve systems and solve problems with cutting-edge technology,” he said.

Source: Raytheon

Air Force Veteran Becomes New Mexico’s First Senator

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Air Force Veteran Senator Harold Pope Jr. poses outside wearing a suit and tie and smiling

By Natalie Rodgers

In his first-ever political race, retired Air Force Captain and Democratic Candidate Harold Pope Jr. became New Mexico’s first black Senator against Republican opponent and longtime Senator, Sander Rue.

Senator Pope will be representing New Mexico’s 23rd district, making the coronavirus and the need for public education the focal points of his platform.

Before being elected into the Senate, Pope balanced his military service with his college studies, serving as a dental technician in the Air Force by day and taking classes at night. After earning his degree in biochemistry, Pope went on to serve in the Air Force for over twenty years, mainly working as a security cooperation officer, a program manager and a chemist.

His military experience, along with his extensive work in non-profit organizations and his time working in education, helped to shape Pope’s focal points for his platform: community and education. Throughout his campaign, Pope advocated heavily for the importance of public education, healthcare, and race issues–a heavy contributor in his campaign,

“We have to see other people in those positions and see people that look like us,” Pope told the Coloradoan. “We really have to see people that look like us or came from our situation.”

Though the first black Senator for New Mexico, Pope was not made aware of his potential status until later in his campaign.

“I just want to set the example and take a lot of pride in it,” Pope said of his representation, “but because I am the first, I don’t want to be the last. I just want to be that voice and have that seat at the table.”

While in office, Pope is hoping to expand upon his platform in addition to help foster a more inclusive community in New Mexico.

Source: Coloradoan and Popefornm.com

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

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