Help Heal Veterans Hosts #VigilforValor to Honor Military Lost to War and Suicide

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Veteran with PTSD sitting down with hands folded

Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets) will host a month-long virtual candlelight vigil in May to honor service members who have fallen in battle and military members who served honorably in war and fell victim to suicide later due to the invisible scars of combat.

Help Heal Veterans is a nonprofit that provides free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to veterans and active duty military who are suffering from the physical, psychological and emotional wounds of war, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

#VigilforValor kicks off May 1, the start of Mental Health Awareness month, and concludes on May 31, Memorial Day. The United States has suffered more than 100,000 military casualties of war since 1950, and in the last 10 years we’ve lost more than 65,000 veterans to suicide.

“Our hope is to shine a light on the remarkable lives of those who have been lost,” said Joe McClain, retired Navy captain and Help Heal Veterans CEO. “Often times we honor the war dead as a group and not as individuals. This year, we want to give people an opportunity to learn about the remarkable lives represented by people who have paid the ultimate price for this country.”

Participants in #VigilforValor will:

1. Create a candleholder, either of their own design or one made from a kit provided by Help Heal Veterans for a $20 donation. (Note: a large number of candle kits will be provided free of charge to select veterans/active-duty service members).
2. Customize the candleholder for the individual they wish to honor with a photograph, drawing, patch or other item. Those who don’t have someone in particular they wish to remember are encouraged to reach out in their community, school, church or search local news to find someone to honor.
3. Light a candle and share a picture of it along with their story on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #VigilforValor so we may pay tribute to them together.

For 50 years, Help Heal Veterans has been using craft therapy to help veterans and active-duty military heal the invisible wounds of war.

“We have seen first-hand the healing power of crafting,” said McClain, “and it has been especially important over the past year, when isolation placed an extra burden on recovering veterans and military and the usual sources of support were not always available or accessible.”

Studies show that crafting can provide therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits, including improving fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, memory and dexterity, and can help alleviate feelings of anger and the severity of negative behaviors triggered by PTSD and TBIs.

To learn more about Heal Vets and the organization’s COVID-19 efforts, as well as find out how you can help, visit HealVets.org.

Veterans who are in a crisis and need support can go to https://www.veteranscrisisline.net or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

About Help Heal Veterans
First established in 1971, Help Heal Veterans has provided free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound veterans for generations. These craft kits help injured and recuperating veterans improve fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, manage stress and substance abuse, cope with symptoms of PTSD and TBI, while also improving their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health. Most of these kits are developed, manufactured and packaged for delivery at our production center headquartered in Winchester, California. Since inception, Help Heal Veterans has delivered nearly 31 million of these arts and crafts kits to veterans and veteran facilities nationwide, along with active duty military overseas.

The National WWII Museum Commemorates Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary

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A photo of the National WWII Museum's Building

Commemorative programming highlighted by special ceremony, student programs and Meet the Author lectures discussing the significance of this historical event.

WHAT: The National WWII Museum will commemorate the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor with a full day of programming on December 7 in New Orleans and online. Programs will begin with an Electronic Field Trip aired free to students around the country and designed to educate participants on the events that led to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II. Additional programming will include a special commemoration ceremony, a panel discussion by Museum scholars from the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and lectures by noted authors Rich Frank and Christopher Capozzola. Guests will also be able to tour the Museum’s newest special exhibit, Infamy: Pearl Harbor Remembered examining how the event is remembered today.

Referred to as “a date which will live infamy” by President Franklin Roosevelt, the Pearl Harbor attacks on the US Pacific Fleet led to the United States’ Declaration of War on Japan and plunged the country into World War II. Killing more than 2,400 servicemembers, Japanese planes destroyed or damaged 19 US warships and 300 aircraft in less than 90 minutes. The event launched the battle cry “Remember Pearl Harbor,” setting the tone for American efforts in World War II.

Schedule of events and registration information for Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Programming, Tuesday, December 7:

9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. CST airings

Electronic Field Trip: The Path to Pearl Harbor

Virtual Only

Join The National WWII Museum with student reporters from Hawaii and New Orleans to learn more about why on December 7, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack is the event that brought America into World War II, and while Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor stunned Americans, its roots stretched back more than four decades. Designed for students in grades 6–12, the program will help participants understand the broader context of World War II and the history of the events leading up to the attack. During this Electronic Field Trip, student reporters will help answer the essential question of why the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led America into World War II.

10:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CST

Knit Your Bit: Scarf Distribution to Veterans

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

Museum staff will distribute free Knit Your Bit scarves to veterans of all eras. Learn more about the Museum’s Knit Your Bit program as it celebrates its 15th anniversary year.

11:00 a.m.–11:45 a.m. CST

Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Each year, The National WWII Museum commemorates those who lost their lives on that fateful December day. During the Pearl Harbor 80th anniversary commemorative ceremony, pay tribute to those who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, through a moving program that reflects the enduring significance of this day.

2:15 p.m.–3:45 p.m. CST

Meet the Author: Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War July 1937-May 1942 with Rich Frank

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Join internally renowned expert and author Richard Frank as he discusses his book Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War July 1937-May 1942. Frank’s first book in his trilogy on the Pacific War, Tower of Skulls is an extraordinary WWII narrative that vividly portrays the battles across this entire region and links those struggles on many levels with their profound 21st-century legacies.

3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m. CST

Pearl Harbor: The Aftermath; an Institute for the Study of War and Democracy Panel Discussion

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

The Museum highlights its own talented scholars from the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy during a panel discussion on many of the critical effects that the attack on Pearl Harbor had on the world 80 years ago and the enduring legacy of December 7 to this day. Topics include A Truly Global War: Hitler, Mussolini and the Global Ramifications by Jason Dawsey, PhD; Awakening a Sleeping Giant: The US Military Regroups by Kali Martin; The Home Front: Are We All in This Together? by Stephanie Hinnershitz, PhD; and Remembering Pearl Harbor: The Continuing Mission of the DPAA on Oahu by Adam Givens, PhD.

5:00 p.m. Reception CST

6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. CST Lecture and Livestream

Meet the Author: Bound by War with Author Christopher Capozzola

On-site at US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center and Livestreaming online

Join expert and author Christopher Capozzola for the concluding event of the Museum’s 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor programming, a discussion that covers a sweeping history of America’s long and fateful military relationship with the Philippines amid a century of Pacific warfare. Detailing his book Bound By War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century, Capozzola reveals this forgotten history, showing how war and military service forged an enduring, yet fraught, alliance between Americans and Filipinos.

Where: The National WWII Museum

945 Magazine Street, New Orleans

Website: www.nationalww2museum.org

COVID-19 Event Protocols:

Per City of New Orleans requirements, proof of COVID-19 vaccination (at least one dose) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test (taken within 72 hours) is required for entry to all events (applicable to all guests 12 years of age and older) as well as the Museum’s food and beverage outlets (including American Sector Restaurant & Bar and Jeri Nims Soda Shop), BB’s Stage Door Canteen shows, private rentals and indoor public events. For more information, please visit https://www.nationalww2museum.org/know-before-you-go.

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.

Bob Dole, WWII hero and former Republican presidential candidate, dies at 98

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Former Senator Bob Dole stands behind podium waving to crowd with U.S. flag in the background

By Elizabeth Chuck and Doha Madani

Bob Dole, the longtime lawmaker who overcame life-threatening injuries during World War II to become a shepherd of the Republican Party, died in his sleep Sunday at the age of 98.

Dole’s death was confirmed by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in a statement Sunday.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” the foundation said. “At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

His family also released a statement about Dole’s death Sunday, saying that they have lost their rock, adding that they shared Dole with Americans “from every walk of life” over the decades.

“Bob Dole never forgot where he came from. He embodied the integrity, humor, compassion and unbounded work ethic of the wide open plains of his youth,” the statement said. “He was a powerful voice for pragmatic conservatism, and it was that unique Kansan combination of attributes and values that made him such a giant of the Senate.”

In February, Dole revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and said he was starting treatment.

President Joe Biden reflected on his decades-long friendship with Dole, who he worked with on opposite sides of the Senate floor throughout their careers. In a statement Sunday afternoon, Biden described Dole as a man with “an unerring sense of integrity and honor.”

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation,” Biden said. “And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves.”

Dole was among one of the first people he spoke to outside of the White House administration after being sworn in as president earlier this year, Biden said. The two also spoke following Dole’s cancer diagnosis, Biden saying he wanted to offer the same support Dole offered him after Biden’s late son, Beau, was diagnosed.

“Like all true friendships, regardless of how much time has passed, we picked up right where we left off, as though it were only yesterday that we were sharing a laugh in the Senate dining room or debating the great issues of the day, often against each other, on the Senate floor,” Biden said. “I saw in his eyes the same light, bravery, and determination I’ve seen so many times before.”

A former Senate majority leader and the 1996 Republican nominee for president, the native of Russell, Kansas, represented an earlier version of the GOP that had come through the Great Depression and did not shy away from a muscular use of government at home and abroad. He championed expanding the federal food stamp program, bringing awareness to disabilities, and sending U.S. troops to foreign conflicts.

He was one of the oldest first-time presidential nominees at age 73, but even after retiring from politics after losing the race to President Bill Clinton, Dole didn’t shy away from the limelight. He took on a new career starring in television commercials for Viagra, Visa and other brands. He also kept his commitment to fellow war veterans, spending Saturdays well into his 90s greeting veterans who flew to Washington, courtesy of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that arranges such flights for veterans.

Clinton tweeted following Dole’s death on Sunday, offering a tribute to his former presidential opponent who had “dedicated his entire life to serving the American people.”

“After all he gave in the war, he didn’t have to give more. But he did,” Clinton said. “His example should inspire people today and for generations to come.”

Continue on to the original article posted on NBC News.

Military Veteran Finds Passion in Public Service: Meet NFBPA’s Demetrius Payton

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NFBPA’s Demetrius Payton poses in uniform and additional headshot within the same frame

On March 30, 2022, the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), the principal and most progressive organization dedicated to the advancement of black public leadership in local and state governments, will host its Annual Forum in beautiful Grand Rapids, Mich.

The four-day conference allows public service professionals to gain practical and transferable skills they can apply immediately. It was events like Forum that drew Demetrius Payton to the organization. Demetrius Payton (pictured) is a director of infrastructure & operations at CPS Energy.

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally-owned energy utility providing both natural gas and electric service. Serving more than 840,750 electric customers and 352,585 natural gas customers in and around San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city. He is responsible for overseeing the Technical Services department, which includes the Infrastructure Server Team, Network Engineering & Collaboration Team and Data Center & Operations, which includes business process, compliance and patching.

Payton served 15 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He was deployed during Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. Payton retired after 10 years from military service where he served as a commissioned officer in the Medical Service Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Payton, who is originally from Leesville, La., holds a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Business from Wayland Baptist University. Payton also holds a Master of Arts in Computer Resources and Information Management from Webster University. In 2018, he completed the National Forum for Black Public Administrator’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP), a program dedicated to grooming African American managers for the rigors of executive positions in public service organizations.

NFBPA sat down with Payton to talk about his time in the service, challenges faced in civilian employment and inspirations:

How did the military prepare you for your career in local government?
The military allowed me to understand structure and protocol. The military also gave me stewardship experience with resources for our country. I have that same responsibility in my public sector career.

What were some challenges you faced in your career adjusting to civilian work?
I think the biggest challenge was around understanding all of the visibility and transparency required in this civilian job versus my military job. We have a Board and Senior Leadership Team that is required to approve capital procurement.

Three qualities needed to be successful in your role:
My role is director for infrastructure and operations, but I feel that a CIO has to be trustworthy, be able to communicate vision and set the stage for innovation in their organization.

Can you relate your military career to what you want to do next?
I think I always want to serve my community. I left a lucrative paying job in the private sector for an opportunity to work in the public sector. I feel like it’s my calling to serve others.

Who had the greatest influence on you growing up and in your career?
I had several influences that coached and mentored me throughout my military and civilian careers. But if I had to choose one individual, I would say it was my good coach Ralph Miles at the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence. He taught me things about being a good leader, a good teammate and a good human being.

Would you recommend local government after military life?
Local government and politics impact nearly every aspect of our lives. To me, going from the military to local government seems like a natural progression and a way for a member to impact their community.

What job in the military prepared you most for a career in local government / the public sector?
My last role in the military was Battalion S6 Security Officer.

If you could be or do anything else – what would you do or be?
Silly as it sounds, I would love to be an owner of a professional sports team. It’s been my dream since I was a little boy.

What’s one word you would use to describe yourself?
Determined.

Payton has been married to his wife, Michelle Payton for 32 years. They share three children and three grandchildren. He has been a member of his local church for over 34 years and his passion is fundraising for the American Cancer Society.

A Tale of Two Nonprofits: How Veteran-Focused Organizations Collaborate to Serve Heroes in Need

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two nonprofit logos veterans legal institute and patriots promise

By Antoinette Balta

Veteran-specific services remain in high demand. Despite an abundance of patriotic Americans and well-meaning nonprofits, the reality is this: there are simply insufficient funds and resources to address the myriad of needs of Veterans throughout the United States. Worse yet, many new nonprofits duplicate the efforts of other nonprofits, thereby diluting each other’s impact through competition rather than collaboration.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath continues, the need for veteran services has skyrocketed, and many nonprofits have had to step up to fill the voids in service. Two such nonprofits, Veterans Legal Institute and Patriot’s Promise, exemplify the benefits of collaboration for the greater good.

Veterans Legal Institute (VLI) is a nonprofit legal aid that provides free legal services to veterans and active service members that are homeless, low income, at risk, mentally ill and disabled. Since 2014, VLI has served over 8,000 veterans.

Because of VLI’s legal services, veterans keep their housing, gain access to healthcare, find employment, and return to school. While VLI is solely focused on providing legal services, many of its clients often need tangential services in order to be fully empowered into self-sufficiency.

For that reason, VLI, as a member of the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative, values collaboration as part of its legal services model. For example, VLI recently provided free legal services to a veteran amputee who needed to access his benefits. When VLI learned that an electric wheelchair was available for donation, VLI connected its client to the donor. Although these services were not legal in nature, they were certainly life-changing for both the veteran and the donor.

Army Veteran John Baskin founded Patriot’s Promise on the principle of “Never Leave A Soldier Behind,” and in honor of his late father, Col. Rev. Ronald R. Baskin, Sr. Col. Baskin was a highly decorated Army Officer, and served his country for 33 years. After his military service, Col. Baskin went to seminary in the Episcopal Church, became an ordained Priest, and served the church for 25 years. In his free time, Col. Baskin would go to local VA hospitals, and volunteer to provide financial, relationship, and family counselling to any veteran in need. Patriot’s Promise continues his legacy by serving veterans who need a hand up. These two nonprofits have collaborated in a number of ways. When John Baskin approached VLI, and shared his desire to serve veterans through Patriot’s Promise, VLI agreed to provide free legal services to the nonprofit. This broadens Patriot’s Promise’s impact, which in turn expands veteran services. VLI also assisted Patriot’s Promise in receiving its 501(c)(3) tax exemption, and continues to assist with other governance work on a pro bono basis.

This allows Patriot’s Promise to take the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars that would have otherwise gone to legal fees, and use them to serve veterans in need.

These nonprofits offer truly transformative services to Veterans.

Patriot’s Promise takes homeless veterans off the streets and temporarily places them in hotels while connecting them to healthcare and helping them gain employment. This is consistent with Patriot’s Promise’s slogan: “The streets are for cars….not Veterans!”

Another veteran approached Patriot’s Promise in need of a car to get to work. Patriot’s Promise was able to donate a vehicle to him, thereby ensuring his safety, continued employment, and transportation. Further, in his own ministry, John Baskin met a veteran in dire need of veteran benefits. John connected the veteran to VLI. Within 3 months, VLI was able to successfully connect the veteran to his benefits so he could access healthcare and become more economically stable— all at no cost to the veteran.

Patriot’s Promise, in turn, understands the power of free legal services, and helped host two fundraisers for VLI. These fundraisers raised almost enough funds to support a full-time legal aid attorney for one year. As a direct result of these efforts, over 200 low-income veterans and their families will receive free and lifechanging legal services.

In a time of limited resources and extraordinary demand, nonprofits like Veterans Legal Institute and Patriot’s Promise are working hand-in-hand to serve veterans and save lives.

Raising Awareness of Neurodiversity in the Military

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U.S. Soldier in uniform smiling

A passenger-filled sedan rolls violently against a dirt median, abruptly halts on its roof and blocks oncoming traffic on the interstate. Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz’s duty to protect and serve kicks in.

Due to his application of military training and a unique diagnosis, Norwitz safely extracts the occupants of the vehicle, leading them away from the wreckage and redirected the flow of traffic.

Norwitz, 5th Combat Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Operations Planning, attributes this act to his military training and neurodiversity. “I’m on the [autism] spectrum and that makes me good at being a strategic thinker, and contributes to my innovation,” he said. “This is the stuff that makes us great, but it is something we need reinforcement on.”

Norwitz said his neurodiversity allows him to objectively react during situations. He said because of his ability to remove emotion from a situation, he is able to see a clear series of targets, tasks and creative solutions whenever an issue arises. This ability led him to learn to accept his diagnosis. According to the U.S. Air Force Medical Standards Directory, Autism Spectrum Disorder is not disqualifying for continued military service unless it is currently–or has a history of–compromising military duty or training.

Norwitz has seen improvements in his professional development and feels empowered to reduce the negative stigma surrounding autism. He adds that remaining resilient while overcoming his neurodiversity in the workplace has been no easy feat.

“There have been a lot of things throughout my military career that I struggle with,” Norwitz said. “I struggle with forming intersocial bonds. I felt like an outsider and didn’t know why.” This can have an impact on one’s mental health because these social bonds form an integral part of not only your social career but also your professional career, he added.

Norwitz believes he is not alone in his sentiments, and said unit cohesion and interacting with others who have similar neurodiversity challenges have contributed to reducing his feeling of isolation throughout his 19-year military tenure.

“Knowing I have a peer group that not only shares the same challenges that I do, but are people that I can instantly connect with helps soften the impact of the idea that I do struggle socially,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that I am actually more inclined to be successful at social interaction with people who are operating at the same frequency as me.”

Norwitz said one goal he has been working diligently to achieve is to raise more awareness through advocacy towards the increasing support for military members dealing with ASD. Part of his initiative is encouraging education amongst cohorts, supervisors, peers and the general public on the complexities of the autism spectrum.

He believes learning how to better accommodate, relay messages and adapt to the growing demographic of neurodiversity presence in the military may allow for more efficient cohesion and connectivity amongst all members and personnel within the armed forces.

As part of this initiative, Norwitz has engaged with the Secretary of the Air Force’s Disability Action Team.

There are currently seven Department of the Air Force’s Barrier Analysis Working Groups to include: the Black/African American Employment Strategy Team; the Disability Action Team; the Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team; the Indigenous Nations Equality Team; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team; the Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and the Women’s Initiatives Team.

Norwitz said he is hopeful for the continued advocacy for neurodiversity in the military.

“All of my efforts have been met with nothing but support from the external community, supervisors, coworkers and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” he said. “This has been incredibly healing for me, but I have a responsibility to make sure that same acknowledgment and acceptance reaches everyone else in uniform.”

Source: U.S. Air Force
Photo Caption: Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz, 5th Combat Communications Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Operations Planning, poses for a photo at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force via Master Sgt. Shale Norwitz

Retired Marine heroes get mortgage paid off in full for brand new North Carolina home

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military family looks on to welcoming group marching near them and their home

A Marine couple in Jacksonville, North Carolina, learned on national television that their new house had been fully paid off. Mario and Amy Perez both served in the Marine Corps for more than a decade, deploying multiple times and serving America with honor.

“Marine Corps values: Honor, courage and commitment. The hard thing is to live by it, and that’s one thing that Mario has done,” retired master sergeant Tony Johnson said.

Veterans United Home Loans repaid the Perezes commitment to our country by fully paying off their brand new home, which took them months to find.

Mario said he and his wife and their two kids had been looking for a new home for a while. However, because of the demanding housing market, every house they liked ended up being purchased by someone else for thousands of dollars over asking price.

Finally the couple found a home that fit their family just outside Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville.

They closed on the house Nov. 9. Then on Nov. 10, the 246th anniversary of the creation of the US Marine Corps, they learned the best news ever. Friends of the Perezes, a full marching band and Good Morning America all showed up and surprised the Perezes with the news that Veterans United Home Loan has fully paid off their mortgage.

“It’s unreal to even think that, I mean, I never would’ve thought anything like this–I’m out of words.” Mario said through tears of joy.

The mortgage company isn’t stopping there. In total, 11 military families will have their loans paid in full by the end of the year.

Plus, one of those military families could be you or someone you know. The 11th family will be randomly selected from a group of nominations.

You can nominate an eligible military family by clicking here.

Read the original article posted on ABC 7 here.

2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

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

With Veterans Day approaching and the veteran unemployment rate falling to 3.9% from the average of 6.5% in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live.

The report compares the 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, ranging from the share of military skill-related jobs to housing affordability and the availability of VA health facilities.

WalletHub also released the results of its 2021 Military Money Survey, which revealed that 77% of Americans agree that military families experience more financial stress than the average family.

To help with that, WalletHub’s editors selected 2021’s Best Military Credit Cards, which provide hundreds of dollars in annual savings potential.

Best Cities for Veterans
1. Tampa, FL
2. Austin, TX
3. Scottsdale, AZ
4. Raleigh, NC
5. Gilbert, AZ
6. Lincoln, NE
7. Madison, WI
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Orlando, FL
10. Boise, ID

Worst Cities for Veterans
91. Philadelphia, PA
92. North Las Vegas, NV
93. Cleveland, OH
94. San Bernardino, CA
95. Toledo, OH
96. Jersey City, NJ
97. Baltimore, MD
98. Memphis, TN
99. Newark, NJ
100. Detroit, MI

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-veterans/8156

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

“How good or bad a city is for veterans depends on multiple factors, including the rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness, as well as the city’s retirement-friendliness and how good its VA facilities are. All cities should be quick to take care of veterans’ needs, considering how much veterans have sacrificed to serve the country and keep it safe. However, some cities spend an appropriate amount of money on veterans affairs while others do not, either because they lack the funds to do so or because they do not put a high priority on veterans in the budget,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “While cities do have a responsibility to their veterans, so does the federal government. We spend an enormous amount of money on national defense and military operations, yet comparatively little on helping veterans once their service is done. It is distressing that there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans; that number should be reduced to zero.”

What can we do to reduce the financial stress on military families?

“The best way to reduce the financial stress on military families is by making sure that anyone in a war zone does not have to worry about their family’s basic living expenses while they’re fighting for our country. We should also improve financial education for members of the military community,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Military families can undergo a tremendous amount of financial stress, especially when one parent is on the front lines and cannot be involved with managing the family’s finances. Plus, service members who are in active conflicts put their lives at risk, which risks even more of a financial burden on their family in the event that they die or end up with a disability. The least we can do for our military families is to take care of their basic needs.”

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

“The military unfortunately does not do enough to promote financial literacy among service members. Not only do 76% of Americans agree that the military is lacking when it comes to financial literacy education, according to WalletHub’s 2021 Military Money Survey, but nearly 2 in 3 people think it’s a national security issue. Financially literate people who serve in the military can worry less about money problems and focus more on their duties, and are also less susceptible to coercion by foreign powers,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “But it’s important to remember that the military is not alone in its financial literacy deficiency. Most employers and big organizations in the U.S. fail to provide adequate information as well. Even schools don’t give students enough financial education.”

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to a big spike in veteran unemployment, but has now recovered to 3.9%, not too far above the nearly historic low of 3.2% seen in 2019,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The pandemic is certain to increase homelessness among veterans, adding to the more than 37,000 veterans who were already homeless before it even started. There are millions of veterans who are over age 65, too, and the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among people in that age group.”

At the Intersection of Hearing and Mental Health

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man holding up and looking at zoomed in hearing aid piece

By Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology & Senior Director of Audiology, Signia

When people think of hearing loss, many think of being unable to hear. Period. That’s understandable. A literal loss of hearing — the onset of silence — can have dramatic ramifications for a person’s life.

But other forms of hearing loss, characterized by difficulty hearing, can have equal impact. And we’re learning, especially in the case of military veterans, that it can have a related effect on their mental health.

Two of the most prominent conditions affecting veterans are noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While prevalent in the general public, each is a uniquely common health problem for veterans based on the important jobs they’re asked to perform. Also common is tinnitus, that ringing in the ears that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans but disproportionally affects veterans. The combination of the three presents a possible long-term health concern that requires coordination among disparate specialties to handle effectively.

According to a recent study of injured military personnel, hearing loss and PTSD may be linked. The study’s authors found that “the odds of PTSD are approximately three times higher in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss [hearing loss in both ears] when compared to personnel without hearing loss.” The reason, at least in part, is that hearing loss — even partial — can affect a veteran’s ability to listen and communicate, which decreases their quality of life and exacerbates mental health conditions, such as PTSD.

The Case for Coordination

As an audiologist, I’ve seen the mental health effects of hearing loss firsthand. Again, a person doesn’t have to experience total hearing loss to suffer. NIHL, in particular, affects communication because it impacts sound frequencies that are common in speech. NIHL makes hearing voices more challenging, especially in spaces where ambient sound competes to be heard. As a result, those affected strain to hear, which often leads to fatigue and difficulty concentrating, or they may withdraw from social situations, adversely affecting their mental health.

hearing aids shown inside a plastic caseIn the case of tinnitus, the study’s authors found that because it often co-occurs with NIHL, it may also be associated with higher rates of PTSD. In some cases, tinnitus may impact traumatic flashbacks. “Sounds triggering exacerbation of tinnitus similarly affected PTSD symptom severity,” they wrote.

Tinnitus is not hearing loss, but research has indicated it can be a sign of hearing loss to come. Therefore, like hearing loss, tinnitus requires early identification and treatment.

In fact, veterans and their healthcare providers need to be on the lookout early for all interrelated signs of NIHL, tinnitus and PTSD. Delay could have a serious impact on quality of life. There also should be fresh coordination between audiologists and mental health professionals. In short: veterans with bilateral hearing loss need to be monitored for PTSD.

Better Hearing in Noise

On the audiology side, technology now exists that can dramatically improve a veterans’ ability to hear and communicate in various settings, addressing one of the subtler effects of NIHL on mental health. Signia recently created a platform called Augmented Xperience that features hearing aids with two different microprocessors built in to handle speech and background noise separately. This kind of split processing in hearing aids makes it so NIHL sufferers can listen and communicate more effectively in all environments — quiet, noisy or normal.

Most of Signia’s hearing products also include innovative notch therapy technology for helping suppress tinnitus. Notch therapy identifies the wearer’s unique tinnitus frequency and creates a frequency notch in their hearing aids that ultimately offsets and silences the tinnitus.

Unfortunately, most primary healthcare professionals don’t automatically screen for hearing loss or tinnitus, and patients usually don’t recognize the problems until they’ve been examined. Fortunately for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the heightened risk of NIHL and tinnitus from military service and covers diagnostic audiology from the moment a veteran exits the service. Healthcare professionals and veterans themselves should expand from there and begin exploring the possible connections between a vet’s hearing loss and PTSD.

Dr. Brian Taylor headshot
Dr. Brian Taylor, Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology for Signia.

We know hearing loss and PTSD are significant public health problems among military veterans. Although further research still needs to be done, there are indications that identifying and treating the former through hearing technology that enhances human performance can begin to address the latter. In all likelihood, a coordinated approach to hearing and mental health can boost veterans’ quality of life.

Brian Taylor is a Doctor of Audiology and Senior Director of Audiology 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 textbook, Relationship-Centered Consultation Skills for Audiologists, was published in July 2021.

The End of America’s Longest War

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military woman holding Afghanistan baby in her arms

The last military planes have left Kabul and the evacuation operation is over, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told Pentagon reporters via teleconference from his headquarters in Tampa: “I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans. The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”

The last C-17 departed with Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of troops in Kabul, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson aboard. It was fitting the State and Defense leaders left together, McKenzie said.

That C-17s played such a part in the evacuation is only fitting. On Oct. 7, 2001, Pentagon leaders announced that C-17 aircraft were dropping humanitarian rations to starving Afghans, even as American military went after al-Qaida and the Taliban leaders that were sheltering Osama bin Laden and his murderous cult.

The C-17 departure today was both the end of the military portion of the evacuation and, “the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001,” McKenzie said.

More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured.

“Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed by an (Islamic State of Khorasan) suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today. No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it,” he added.

While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave continues.

This was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden ordered the start of the NEO operation on Aug. 14. Since then, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians. “In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” McKenzie said.

He praised the more than 5,000 service members who enabled the operation. He said the number of people evacuated represented a monumental accomplishment, enabled by the, “determination, the grit, the flexibility and the professionalism of the men and women of the U.S. military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions.”

Coalition contributions were invaluable and McKenzie cited the contributions of Norway, which kept a hospital open during the evacuation that was instrumental in caring for some of the wounded from the ISIS strike.

The situation on the ground has been complicated. Assumptions and plans changed daily, the general said. One plan was to work with a functioning ally in the Afghan government and security forces. Another was based on the premise that the outer provinces would fall to the Taliban, but that Kabul would stand. Finally, it became apparent that the government was collapsing and the security forces giving up.

Each time the planners in U.S. Central Command rolled with the punches. They positioned forces in the region to act instantly and pre-positioned aircraft. They worked with interagency officials and with international partners.

McKenzie himself had to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, to tell them that if the group interfered with the U.S. non-combatant evacuation operation, there would be severe consequences. He said they were “businesslike and pragmatic” and did not interfere with U.S. operations on the airfield. This included military operations to bring Americans to be evacuated.

And they accomplished the mission. “The last 18 days have been challenging,” McKenzie said. “Americans can be proud of men and women of the armed forces who met these challenges head on.”

Source: Department of Defense

Marine Corps veteran, amputee makes history at Boston Marathon

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A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

By KSBY

When Peter Keating took off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, it was the realization of a dream come true. But he never imagined just how unique his 26.2-mile trek would be.

He was among more than 15,000 runners who recently raced after the pandemic forced the event to move from April to October.

A Marine Corps veteran and amputee, Keating started his run just after the professional runners and before the next pack of fast competitors.

“I had six miles all to myself,” he said. “I would look forward, I would look backward, and there was no one but me on the road. It was like the race was meant for me.”

For the first time in the race’s 125-year history, the Boston Athletic Association included a division for para-athletes.

Keating, 31, ran an impressive time of 3:25:02, earning him third place in the division. He was awarded an engraved glass cup, a $500 check, and the Boston Marathon medal coveted by runners.

While the prize money is nice, the pride Keating feels is more important.

“Just to be recognized as an adaptive athlete who can never run as fast as a normal person, so to speak, still to be recognized for their efforts in their own division,” he said.

In 2017, Keating, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, stopped to help another Marine involved in a car crash. Moments later, Keating would become a victim.

“That’s when another car came on and hit us straight on,” Keating said.

Keating suffered a severe injury to his left leg. After struggling with foot function for a year, he decided to amputate his leg below the knee in 2018.

Over the past three years, he has documented his inspiring progress through videos and his Instagram page.

One video shows him taking his first steps on his prosthetic leg. Others capture Keating brought to tears after finishing runs on his running blade.

“Today was a victory,” he said in one of those videos.

Keating wears a sweat sock and liner underneath his 10-pound running blade. To keep the socket from becoming too wet and loose, he changed the sweat sock three times during the Boston Marathon.

He estimates the changes cost him about seven minutes on his race time.

He said that’s an example of a struggle he faces as a para-athlete and points out that he’s not one to focus on a negative.

“I can run, and I can run just like anybody else,” he said.

Keating said his Boston accomplishment is also meaningful because of the bombings near the finish line during the 2013 race. The blasts killed three people, and 17 others lost limbs.

“It means even more to us because many lives were changed that day,” he said.

Keating said one of his next goals is to push for a para-athlete division for the marathon in the Olympics. If that happens, Keating believes he could earn a spot on the U.S. team.

Click here to read the full article on KSBY.

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