Mission K9’s Intercontinental Rescue Reunites Hero Dogs With Hero Handlers

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In an intercontinental rescue operation, Mission K9 Rescue — a nonprofit that finds loving homes for retired military, police, and contract working dogs — has reunited four retired military working dogs with the handlers who cared for them during their years in service. Now the dogs can have the happy retirement they deserve.

Working dogs are an integral part of the efforts that American law enforcement, military, and supporting contractors undertake at home and abroad. Sadly, however, many of these dogs end up left at kennels to suffer alone after their usefulness as high-performing working dogs has run its course. Mission K9 finds forever homes for the dogs, often with the professional handlers they had worked with, so that they may live out their retirement in peace.

In their most recent rescue mission, the organization flew three retired military working dogs to Germany, bringing one back to the United States, despite complicated travel protocols due to the pandemic. The dogs have now been reunited with their former handlers, who eagerly awaited their arrival. (Pictured: Spyk and Justin).

Mission K9’s president Kristen Maurer and vice president Louisa Kastner accompanied the dogs on their cross-Atlantic journey, reuniting them with their former handlers in person.

“This journey posed some challenges. A cross-Atlantic flight is always a big undertaking for transporting dogs, but protocols due to COVID-19 made this trip even more challenging. Nothing would stop us from giving these military dogs the retirement they deserve, though, and now they are all happily reunited with their former handlers.”

Retired Military Working Dogs: Home at Last

Military Working Dog Spyk and Handler Justin Reunited in Germany

Justin and Spyk worked together for 4 years in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Spyk has retired after 9 years of service, two deployments, and many “temporary duty travel” (TDY) assignments. Spyk and Justin developed a strong bond during their time together and are now enjoying Spyk’s retirement as a family in Germany.

Military Working Dog Syrius and Handler Debbie Reunited in Germany

Handler Debbie shares that after finishing up a Kennel Master/Trainer course, she picked up and helped transport Syrius to Tinker Air Force Base in 2015. “After arriving back to Tinker, I was given his leash. So that’s when our adventure began.”

“We ended up taking a few POTUS missions,” Debbie shares. “Those were always filled with laughter. Syrius has — and always will have — a special place in my heart.”

Military Working Dog Rango and Handler Adrian Reunited in Germany

“Rango and I were partners for 2 years and he was my first Military Working Dog,” says Adrian, who is now giving Rango the peaceful retirement he deserves. “As a Narcotic dog team we busted many cases of illegal drugs coming onto Luke Air Force Base.”

Despite being a fierce, hard worker, Adrian says Rango always acted like a puppy. After serving the Air Force for eight years, Rango was retired due to spine health issues. “Rango will be joining me in Germany and will continue to live with me for the rest of his life wherever I go, giving him the best retirement life he deserves. I still continue to serve as a K9 handler and have had 6 other dogs I’ve worked [with], but none of them gave me memories like Rango.”

Military Working Dog Vulkan and Handler Jonathan Reunited in the United States

After reuniting Spyk, Syrius, and Rango with their loving handlers in Germany, Kristen and Louisa flew back to the United States with Vulkan, so that he could go home to his former handler, Jonathan. In his career as a Military Working Dog, Vulkan had been deployed to Turkey and supported multiple United States Secret Service and Department of State missions in Europe, where he spent six years. But there will be no more hard work for Vulkan, who will be spending the rest of his life enjoying his retirement with Jonathan.

Since 2013, Mission K9 has brought over 1,000 working dogs home from abroad. Over 520 of those K9s have been reunited with their former veteran handlers. The organization has helped hundreds more with veterinary care, and have completed dozens of transports in the United States.

About Kristen: Kristen Maurer is the president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Louisa: Louisa Kastner is the vice president of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

About Bob: Bob Bryant is the chief technology officer of Mission K9 Rescue, an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

Paws of War Placing Emergency Feeding Stations for Ukraine Abandoned Pets

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woman bent down feeding several dogs

When Russia began to invade the Ukraine in February 2022, nobody knew how long the turmoil would last or how much destruction would be caused. Everywhere you look there are animals, once someone’s pet, roaming the streets desperate to find any morsel of food. Paws of War was one of the first organizations on the ground in Ukraine providing food and supplies to the people and their pets who stayed behind.

Paws of War are in Ukraine helping by setting up 100’s of feeding stations they quickly made, and they struggle to keep them stocked with food and water as so many animals are using them to survive. They are providing food and other supplies to animals and people around the country. While Paws of War specializes in helping animals, they have also been assisting people in Ukraine because it’s so desperately needed.

The group is still figuring out how much food and water feeding stations they need, how often they will need to be refilled, and how far apart to place them. For volunteers traveling over borders to help the animals, the trips can take six hours.

“It’s so important that we are in Ukraine talking to the people there, giving them the help they need to help themselves and the poor suffering animals left behind,” explains Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. “Some families have 20 dogs and 40 cats taken into their homes because they can’t bear to see them starving and suffering. It’s very sad. Most of these people are humble, with modest living conditions, but they are very pet friendly. They have opened their hearts and their homes to try and stop the suffering.”

While 4.7 million citizens have fled Ukraine, some have stayed behind and are doing what they can to help the animals that have been left. They are regular citizens who have essentially turned their home into an animal shelter. Daria, for example, had one cat before the invasion but now has at least 50 that she is trying to feed daily.

“Until Paws of War was able to bring me food, I would scavenge around empty houses and garbage looking for scraps of food, anything I could find,” says Daria. “Now I can give these poor cats a chance to survive, and God willing, I can get them to a safe home one day.”

The need for help is everywhere. Every street you look down has a pack of dogs foraging for food. Cristina Tutunaru is one of 20 to 30 Paws of War volunteers who have been working with Ukrainian and other rescue groups.

Paws of War relies on volunteers at the borders of Ukraine in Romania and Poland to purchase and deliver supplies, assist refugees’ animals and meet with heartbroken Ukrainians surrendering their beloved pets before they continue their uncertain journeys.

“We had a girl walk in with a goldfish bowl. People there are close to their animals. They were traveling for two days,” said Misseri.

Paws of War is seeking donations to help support its Ukraine mission of helping pets and people. To donate, visit the site:pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/156471-help-save-the-refugees-pets-of-ukraine. To see a video of Paws of War in action in Ukraine, visit: youtube.com/watch?v=-vuU0BssMws.

Paws of War has been operating around the world since 2014 helping military save the animals they rescue while deployed overseas. They have helped veterans with numerous issues, including suicide, service and support dogs, companion cats and dogs, food insecurity, veterinary care, and animal rescue for deployed military. As the demand for Paws of War’s services grew, traditional fundraisers like galas and golf outings were sidelined, putting a crimp in the needed funding to keep these services going. Paws of War has a large loyal following of supporters and looks forward to working with new corporate sponsors to keep these life-saving programs running.

About Paws of War
Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that assists military members and their pets, rescues and trains dogs in being service dogs, and provides companion animals to veterans. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or donate, visit its site at: pawsofwar.org.

Armed with a Legal Degree, a Veteran Continues His Mission

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soldier in uniform talking on phone and two other pictures of the same soldier with Army buddies

By Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM

Andrew Alton enlisted in the United States Marine Corps upon graduating from high school. He served on an intelligence collections team after studying Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. During his time in the Marine Corps, Alton deployed twice: first, in support of humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and then to a combat deployment in the Sangin region of Afghanistan. Following an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant in 2012, Alton returned to Southern California to continue his studies. Alton received his B.S. in Biology from Cal State Fullerton and then his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

While in law school, Alton longed to continue his mission of service and sought out ways to give back. Alton’s search ultimately led to Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI), a nonprofit law firm that provides free and life-changing services to low-income and homeless veterans.

Alton interned at VLI throughout his law school career and was exposed to several different areas of law including housing, complex veteran benefits appeals and discharge upgrades for survivors of military sexual trauma and other disenfranchised Veterans.

Armed with a law school degree and significant legal training, Alton was offered a variety of employment options. Alton applied to his alma mater, and was awarded a post-graduate fellowship that would allow him to work for one year at VLI. Alton’s fellowship at VLI helped numerous veterans in need of legal services in Southern California. Indeed, Alton helped over 100 veterans and their families remove barriers to housing, healthcare, education and employment.

Upon completing his fellowship, Alton was so intertwined with the veteran community and provided so much value to VLI that he was offered a full-time attorney position. Alton enjoys the different challenges and legal obstacles that he encounters daily. Here is a small sampling of the type of cases that Alton resolves in a typical month. While cases vary in terms of size and scope, Alton treats each case with the same passion and urgency, recognizing that any veteran in crisis deserves a zealous advocate.

A veteran’s landlord served a legal 60-day eviction notice to an 81-year-old Air Force veteran during COVID, who had been a tenant for 12 years. Although VLI determined that the eviction notice was lawful, this veteran desperately needed more time to find new housing and relocate his belongings — the isolation and lack of resources during the pandemic was going to render the veteran homeless. Alton was able to negotiate with the landlord to obtain an extra six weeks for the veteran to locate new housing and, most importantly, celebrate the holidays in his old home.

As a direct result of Alton’s advocacy, this veteran can alleviate his fears of homelessness, and have the time necessary to locate a new home.

In a separate case, an elderly Army veteran lived for months in deplorable conditions. The landlord did nothing to fix the conditions, despite evidence of a severe roach infestation. Worse yet, the landlord ignored the veteran’s repeated requests for extermination services. Recognizing the unsafe living conditions, Alton negotiated with the landlord for the veteran to move into a new, upgraded apartment, free from infestation, along with two months of waived rent. This resulted in a $3,740 surplus for the veteran who lives on a fixed income.

Recognizing that many veterans who fought to defend American justice cannot afford to access it, Alton committed himself to serving the greater good, and advocate for those who need a hand up. Each day presents a new opportunity for Alton to brainstorm with his team of over 15 colleagues at VLI to determine how to best uplift the veteran community.

Drew Carey: A Grateful Marine

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By Brady Rhoades

The Price is Right host and Hollywood icon Drew Carey is, in many ways, an unlikely Marine.

The congenial, bespectacled, self-described “peacenik” comedian served his country as a sergeant and field radio operator with the 25th Marine Regiment and calls the experience a pivot-point in his life.

“Military life and experiences gave me incredible experiences in leadership — especially in small groups, and under pressure,” Carey, 63, said in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine. “The military is not about yelling at someone to do things, as people wholly unfamiliar with the military would believe. There’s a tremendous amount of trust that other people will do their jobs and that you’ll do yours. So, there’s social pressure. And a lot of subservience to the mission and the greater good of the group. So, you learn to swallow that and perform because there are always stakes, great and small. And you never want to be the one who can’t rise to the occasion. You’re reminded of this dynamic constantly in the Marines. It’s just there. No one has to yell at you about it.”

Rewind to 1980. Carey, who hails from Cleveland, was jobless, broke and crashing at his brother’s California home when he joined the military.

It turned out to be a watershed move.

“I went from not being able to afford to eat or clothe myself to getting three meals a day. I had an instant family,” Carey said.

The lessons his new family — the Marine Corps — taught Carey ring true to him to this day. They explain, in part, why he’s committed to the ideal of service.

One of his most famous philanthropic efforts took place in 2014 when he promised $10,000 to help find the perpetrators of a fake “ice bucket challenge” involving an autistic 14-year-old Ohio boy who had been told he was going to be doused in ice but instead was showered in urine, tobacco and cigarette butts.

“Horrendous,” Carey tweeted at the time.

Drew Carey seated in helicopter wearing fatigues and posing with another Marine
Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Carey, who checked out a joke book from a local library after his stint in the Marines, is a big supporter of libraries. Over the years, he has donated millions to the Ohio Library Foundation and Cleveland Public Library.

And he advocates for active military personnel and veterans — performing in USO tours, competing in the Marine Corps Marathon, and raising money in various ways.

On a lighter note, Carey continues to advocate for the Cleveland Browns, who sported a disappointing 8-9 record this season. After Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 3, the funny man tweeted this:

Maybe the #Browns offensive line just doesn’t like Baker Mayfield?

Ever think of that?

Or it’s some kind of insurance scam.

I dunno.

When Carey completed his military service in 1986, he turned to standup comedy at the Cleveland Comedy Club and other venues.

In 1988, he competed on Star Search. In 1991, he landed a spot on HBO’s Young Comedians Special and appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He went on to co-star in the Disney TV series The Good Life and worked as a staff writer on The Gaby Hoffmann Show.

Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez pose outside smiling
(L-R) Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez attend the 29th Annual AIDS Walk. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

By the mid-1990s, Carey was a household name, starring in The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improv/sketch show Whose Line Is It Anyway? on which he was host and producer from 1998-2007.

The success of that show led to the creation of Drew Carey’s Improv All Stars, a talented troupe that performed across the country.

Carey was cast in movie roles and penned a best-selling memoir titled, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined.

In 2007, he was named the host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker. This year marks the show’s 50th anniversary.

As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, Carey is more-than-passingly involved in music.

“I play rock n roll every Friday night on Sirius channel 21,” Carey said. “Little Steven’s Underground Garage. It’s called the Friday Night Freakout, and it airs from 8 to 11 p.m. EST. Also streams on the Sirius app. It’s my passion project.”

Most people know all about Carey’s TV career — and now they know

Drew Carey speaks at a podium at the Veterans Inaugural Ball
Actor Drew Carey attends the Veterans Inaugural Ball.(Kris Connor/Getty Images)

about his love of rock and roll — but what do they know of pre-famous Drew Carey? Probably not much.

That goes back to the unlikely part, although Carey said he’s not that unlikely.

“I know it sounds paradoxical, but despite being such a supporter of our troops and the military, I’m a real peacenik. I’m half hippy, to be honest. But I know I’m not the only one.”

He’s also not the only Buddhist who’s served his country.

“I discovered Buddhism and meditation late in life,” he said. “You do it because it’s the least conflicted and happiest way to live. And because it’s just the right thing to do. It took me a while, but I no longer consider anyone else above or below me. I used to think I did. But I didn’t. I would be intimidated by or jealous of different types of people in power or with different social standings. And I would feel sorry for people who didn’t have as much in one way or another. Now none of that matters to me as far as how I treat them. We all have our path. I try to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect.”

And, of course, he will always be an Ohio-style diehard when it comes to veterans, a feeling that took root in his teens.

Drew Carey as a young  Marine headshot
Drew Carey during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I graduated high school in 1975, the year we got the last helicopter out,” he said. “I delivered the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a paperboy. They broke the Mai Lai Massacre story. I remember folding all those papers with those awful pictures on the front page. And I remember how badly soldiers were treated when they got home, both by civilians and our institutions. I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”

Army veteran hikes across the nation to raise awareness of veteran suicides

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Alex Seling greated by dozens of people at the walking finish line

By Erika Ritchie, O.C. Register
The last thing that Alex Seling did after finishing a coast-to-coast hike that started in Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and ended in Dana Point was to step into the Pacific Ocean.

On Monday, Jan. 31, Seling, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, was greeted by dozens of people at Doheny State Beach after walking the last part of his journey along the San Juan Creek trail.

Stepping into the Pacific, he finished a 4,000-plus mile trek dedicated to raising awareness of and addressing suicides among military veterans. As part of his efforts, he raised more than $6,500 for Warrior Expedition and Mission 22.

According to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report compiled by the Department of Veteran Affairs, suicide among veterans appears to be increasing in America at a pace similar to the broader civilian population. In 2018, 6,435 veterans killed themselves, compared with 6,056 in 2005.

“It feels unbelievable,” Seling said after reaching the ocean waters. “It was absolutely the best moment of my life. It’s a little overwhelming and I’m not sure it’s really hit me yet, but I’m really happy and proud of the journey.”

It took Seling, originally from Georgia, 13 months to get to Dana Point. He began his hike along the American Discovery Trail on Dec. 21, 2020. He crossed the Appalachian Mountains and hiked through the Rocky Mountains. At Grand Junction, Colo., he headed to Moab National Park in Utah and then walked southwest toward Dana Point.

His favorite spots were in West Virginia, southern Ohio and Colorado, he said.

On Sunday, he walked along Ortega Highway, saying it was likely the most dangerous road he had traveled. “It was very narrow along the shoulder and I had to dart in and out.”

Seling said since getting out of the Army in 2010, he has continued to have a thirst for adventure. He joined the Army for just that reason.

Now, long-distance hiking fills that need.

“To me, it’s very therapeutic and has helped me grow as a person,” he said. “It helps me be much more confident and gives me time to reflect and process things I’ve dealt  with.”

Kiki Macdonald, of Dana Point, was among those there to greet Seling at Doheny. She first met him when he was previously hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and she was at a Mammoth campsite.

“Once I found this out (about his cause), I decided we would be friends forever,” Macdonald said. “I followed his journey the rest of the way as he made it to Canada.”

In 2019, when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Seling met up with her. And, she paid the favor back to him for this hike. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, she met him along his route, bringing leftovers and making camps where he could rest and recharge.

“I was proud to help support him along the way,” she said. “I love that he went for it and followed through.”

Read the original article posted on the OC Register

Vietnam Veteran Continues Serving Others Through Legal Advocacy & Emergency Response

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veteran advocate sits with group at table

By Sophia Chapple, KellyAnn Romanych, and Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM

Like many fellow Vietnam veterans, Scot Douglas dedicates his life to service and remembrance of others. His hardworking nature to bettering the lives of fellow veterans is exemplified by his journey from voluntarily enlisting in the Army during the Vietnam War to eventually pursuing law to close the justice gap for veterans and military families.

As a former probono-turned-staff attorney, Douglas has helped more than 1,200 veterans gain priceless peace of mind through his tireless work at Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).

In all honesty, Douglas did not want to be drafted. Despite pursuing his college degree, he was reclassified as 1-A (eligible for military service). This did not stop him from contributing to the Vietnam War effort. Instead of going the traditional route of waiting to get drafted, Douglas pursued his own niche – languages and linguistics.

While researching extensively to find a language school to learn Japanese, he found if he enlisted, the Army would offer him the opportunity to attend a language school. The only catch was he didn’t get to choose his language, and as such, was sent to Vietnamese Language School for 47 weeks instead. Due to his voluntary enlistment and language training, he was deployed to Vietnam where he served as a translator. Douglas continued to serve as a translator once he returned to CONUS (Continental United States) from deployment.

Douglas knew he wanted to pursue language learning before enlisting in the Army, however, whilst in the Army the true extent of his passion became clear. After being discharged from his first enlistment, he attended college to get a degree in Linguistics with a minor in Anthropology, simultaneously participating in the ROTC program. This allowed him to dedicate his time and expertise to the Army once again, and he served in the Army Air Defense and Intelligence units.

After a second discharge from the Army, Douglas went on to work for the United States Postal Service; another highly essential role in our country. Despite enduring multiple personal hardships during his time with USPS, he proved his resilience by completing an MBA through evening classes.

Once Douglas retired from the Postal Service, and with his wife’s encouragement, he decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and attend law school. At 62 years old he began law school – a testament to his dedication to learning and his continuous commitment to contributing to society.

Impressively, Douglas passed the Bar exams in both California and Arizona. His decision to volunteer with VLI was spurred by a talk he attended. Knowing homeless, disabled and low-income veterans desperately needed free legal aid, Douglas eventually began volunteering 5 days a week. Valuing his hard work and dedication, VLI offered Douglas a stipend and the flexibility to work remotely.

Scot and Marion Douglas provide year-round, critical volunteer emergency response support with the Yavapai County Jeep Posse to protect fellow Arizonans
Scot and Marion Douglas provide year-round, critical volunteer emergency
response support with the Yavapai County Jeep Posse to protect fellow
Arizonans.

His work at VLI began with meeting exponential requests for assistance in veterans benefits, discharge upgrades, immigration, consumer issues, landlord-tenant matters and estate planning. Now, with the mentorship of VLI Board Member and pro bono attorney Sheila-Marie Finkelstein, Douglas specializes in estate planning, recognizing the importance of assisting his fellow veterans with this important legal area they would not normally consider.

Estate planning requires an unrelenting dedication as clients can face immediate concerns. In one pressing case, Douglas completed an estate plan for a veteran just weeks before he passed on, so his house would go to his son. In another, he fulfilled an immediate request for a Durable Power of Attorney, where he interviewed the client, drafted up the necessary documents, and sent them to the veteran the next day.

Douglas is an inspiring and compassionate individual who has shown unerring resilience and perseverance through his years of service to our nation. He is truly an exemplary individual, one we all can look up to, and VLI is extremely fortunate to have him in its ranks.

Join VLI and help provide free legal services to our veterans and military families. Together, we can greatly reduce veteran homelessness and suicide. To date, VLI has served more than 8,000 veterans and restored over two million dollars in veterans benefits.

To learn more please visit VetsLegal.org

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Ann Phillips as Chief Administrative Officer

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Chris Ann Phillips headshot

She joins Guardian Angels and brings academic and leadership experience in development, marketing, communications, human resource management and diversity, equity and inclusion.

She is a results-oriented leader and nationally recognized advocate in the veteran and disability community. As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran she brings strategic focus to the growth and development of the organization.

Chris joins us from PNC Bank where she served as the Military Affairs Liaison and Enterprise Business Lead for PNC’s Annual Community Mutt Strut – supporting veterans in danger of suicide by raising funds to provide medically trained service dogs across the country. Starting her career with PNC as a Diversity Specialist in HR recruiting, she was instrumental in the design, development, and execution of the veteran hiring strategy for PNC.

For the last 3 years Chris has taught as an Adjunct Professor of Business and Professional Communications at Duquesne University. She has held successful positions with Chrysler Corporation and the Department of Labor as a national sales trainer and regional job developer.

Her civic duties include Pittsburgh Veteran Employer Coalition and the Veteran’s Advisory Board for Duquesne University. She is an active member of the board of directors for Pittsburgh Warrior Hockey and is a highly sought-after mentor and public speaker in the military community.

Guardian Angels logoShe is the recipient of a 2013 PA ESGR Patriot Award and instrumental in PNC receiving the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award. Having twice been named in the nation’s top five finalists for Individual Excellence in Veteran Employment by the US Chamber of Commerce, her commitment and passion to the veteran community is exemplary.

Chris holds master’s degrees in Leadership, Professional and Corporate Communications from Duquesne University and will complete her doctorate from Duquesne in 2022. She has two daughters, two granddaughters and a large family. In her free time, she enjoys reading, entertaining and traveling.

Joining the Guardian Angels executive leadership team at a time of amazing growth and expansion, she will be an integral part of the transformation geared towards furthering the mission and long-term sustainability. Her proven leadership and strategic focus will offer great value to our team and all those we serve.

For information about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, visit https://www.medicalservicedogs.org/

Manly Bands Partners with Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA To Reunite Military Families This Holiday Season

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Manly Bands wedding ring sitting on table with bottle of Jack Daniels in the background

Manly Bands recently announced their partnership with Jack Daniel’s on their Operation Ride Home program to help as many as 60 active duty junior service members return home for the holidays this year.

Manly Bands will be donating a portion of every sale from their Jack Daniel’s wedding ring collection to Operation Ride Home totaling up to $25,000.

Manly Bands is the most popular direct-to-consumer wedding ring brand for men and has been a licensed partner with Jack Daniel’s since 2020. The Jack Daniel’s Collection uses genuine aged barrels from the Tennessee whiskey with other unique ring materials such as carbon fiber, meteorite, dinosaur bone and more.

Operation Ride Home was created in 2011 in partnership between Jack Daniel’s and the Armed Services YMCA to help reconnect military families over the holidays. Since it was founded, Operation Ride Home has generated a total of more than $1.8 million in donations and sent a total of 8,583 individual junior-enlisted service members and their families home from all 50 states.

Over the years, Manly Bands has supported military families in many ways including donations to veterans and military families and distributing free silicone bands to active service members. Now, the company is looking to go further by donating up to $25,000 to help finance the cost of travel for US troops returning home.

“Manly Bands has always been a great supporter of our brave military personnel,” said Johnathan Ruggiero, co-CEO of Manly Bands. “This is a special time of year for love and hope, and we believe that there is no better way to share that than to honor the brave men and women who protect our country year-round by helping to bring them home for the holidays.”

The collaboration between Manly Bands and Operation Ride Home will commence on December 1st and run until the end of the month. Every ring sold from the Jack Daniel’s collection will go towards bringing active service members home for the holidays. More information can be found at manlybands.com/pages/jack-daniels-operation-ride-home to learn more about our partnership with Operation Ride Home.

About Manly Bands

Manly Bands is the fastest growing direct-to-consumer e-commerce retailer of men’s wedding rings. We make it easy for couples to order a ring that looks (and fits) perfect on every man. Our rings are crafted in more than 400 unique styles made from dozens of non-traditional materials, such as dinosaur bone, meteorite and authentic Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel. We’re on a mission to give men the ring that they’ll never want to take off. To see our latest collections, visit ManlyBands.com today.

ABOUT ARMED SERVICES YMCA:  

The Armed Services YMCA is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves currently serving military members and their families. In 2019, we engaged more than 225,000 people in our programs and delivered over 1 million points of services to junior enlisted Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and family members at 200 service centers in 18 states. Whether providing respite childcare for parents in need, summer camps for kids, or assisting with emergency needs, the Armed Services YMCA is a nonprofit with a mission: Strengthening Our Military Family. Visit our website to see how you can join us in supporting military families.

This Holiday Season, Give a Retired Military K9 the Greatest Gift of All: A Loving Home

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Service dog with his handler bent down on one knee

Though many of us are aware of the great service dogs provide to the US military, few realize that once these K9s are no longer deemed useful as high-performance working dogs, they often end up abandoned in kennels.

“These dogs were drafted into what they did; they didn’t choose it,” says Mission K9 president Kristen Maurer. “They have selflessly given their lives to protect our soldiers, our first responders, and our citizens. And we feel like they deserve the best retirement we can give them.”

Mission K9 rescues and rehabilitates military working dogs and contract working dogs (who do the same work as their military counterparts, but aren’t owned by the U.S. government), adopting them into loving homes. Many people choose the winter holidays to bring home furry family members, so it’s the perfect time of year to adopt a retiree from Mission K9.

Individuals and families may apply to adopt from Mission K9 at their website, MissionK9Rescue.org.

Even if you can’t adopt, you can support Mission K9’s important work by making a donation.

About Mission K9 Rescue: Mission K9 Rescue is an animal welfare group dedicated solely to rescuing, reuniting, rehoming, repairing, and rehabilitating American working dogs. Since 2013, the group has provided a wide array of services to working dogs in an effort to offer them a comfortable and peaceful retirement. Mission K9 focuses on retrieving dogs both from overseas and national shelter situations where they are suffering without proper care or medical attention. Their work has been featured numerous times in the national media, including appearances on “America with Eric Bolling” and “Pit Bulls & Parolees.” Learn more at MissionK9Rescue.org.

Thanking Community-Based Veteran Service Providers in 2021

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By Kaitlin Cashwell, Director of Community Integration, America’s Warrior Partnership

The past year has been challenging for our nation’s veterans. We processed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and the lingering impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, through these trials and tribulations, communities maintained strong networks of support for veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Our team at America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) is particularly thankful for the new partners and programs that rose to meet the challenges of 2021 and stand ready to help veterans start the New Year off on the right foot.

Connecting Veterans in Northwest Florida

The Panhandle region of Florida has a robust population of veterans embraced by local communities. Yet, many of these veterans live in isolated areas that lack easy access to support services. Across our ten years of serving veterans, we learned that most of the challenges facing veterans, from housing to employment, can be solved locally. That’s why we’re thankful for the Panhandle Warrior Partnership (PWP). The PWP leverages the America’s Warrior Partnership Community Integration model to connect with, educate, and advocate for veterans across the panhandle of Florida while collaborating with local leaders to find effective solutions to various problems. One of the PWP’s most important objectives is helping Panhandle warriors overcome the impacts of living in isolated areas by connecting with each other to enjoy recreational opportunities and family gatherings. You can connect with fellow veterans at www.facebook.com/groups/panhandle.

By Indiana Veterans, For Indiana Veterans

This past November, the Indy Warrior Partnership (IWP) was launched, which focuses on serving veterans in central Indiana. The IWP seeks to proactively connect with these veterans, educate them on the local services available to them, and then advocate on their behalf to improve resources within the community. Like the Panhandle Warrior Partnership in Florida, IWP has set up a Facebook page where Indiana veterans can learn about local resources and opportunities. You can learn more at www.facebook.com/groups/indywarrior.

Food Drives for Navajo Nation Veterans

Military veterans of the Navajo Nation in the U.S. Southwest live in some of the most isolated communities in the country. In such circumstances, it’s more effective to bring resources directly to veterans in need rather than educate them on accessing services that may be hours away. Diné Naazbaa’ Partnership (DNP) along with their community partners have supported several donation drives over the year to bring food boxes and other critical items to thousands of Navajo veterans and family members.

Getting Started with Accessing Resources in Your Community

As we look ahead to 2022, we hope every veteran seeking to improve their quality of life will start by researching the resources and services available in their community. Getting started can be as simple as visiting a local veteran organization to learn how they can help. Veterans can visit the AWP Network page to access the State Veteran Benefits Finder for more specific needs, a database initially developed by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). The database includes more than 1,800 benefit providers at the state level and is accessible at www.americaswarriorpartnership.org/the-network.

We look forward to helping every veteran achieve the quality of life they have earned through their service.

About the Author

Kaitlin Cashwell has over 10 years of experience in business administration, finance, and project management in both the nonprofit and for-profit industry.  She currently directs and oversees the Community Integration program, including AWP’s Network, research projects, community training/consulting, Corporate Veteran Initiative, and WarriorServe® client relations. Both of her grandfathers served in the military, and she has two brothers-in-law currently serving in the United States Navy. Kaitlin holds a Master of Business Administration at Augusta University’s Hull College of Business.

About America’s Warrior Partnership

America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans.

We fill the gaps between veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with veterans, their families, and caregivers. Our programs bolster nonprofit efficacy, improving their results, and empowering their initiatives. Preventing veteran suicide is the outcome of America’s Warrior Partnership’s work.

www.AmericasWarriorPartnership.org | @AWPartnership | #awpartnership

Morgan Freeman: Always With Purpose

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By Samar Khoury

The world knows Oscar winner Morgan Freeman for his box office hits, like The Shawshank Redemption, Invictus and Bruce Almighty, among many others. But there is so much more to this acting legend than his performances on stage and screen, for Freeman is a philanthropist and humanitarian whose contributions have made a difference in the lives of so many. This year alone, aside from filming three movies, the Air Force veteran has made it his mission to spark change — most recently lending his powerful voice to call for police reform.

In June, Freeman and criminal justice professor Linda Keena at the University of Mississippi donated $1 million to the university to create a Center for Evidence-Based Policing and Reform – the only one of its kind in the state and one of only a few in the nation. The purpose of the center is to research and implement the best practices for training police around the country, as well as train how police can better engage the community in crime prevention.

“Look at the past year in our country – that sums it up,” Freeman said. “It’s time we are equipping police officers with training and ensuring ‘law enforcement’ is not defined only as a gun and a stick. Policing should be about that phrase ‘To Serve’ found on most law enforcement vehicles.”

The star’s work doesn’t stop there. After indie film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain premiered at the Austin Film Festival, Freeman and Revelations Entertainment (his independent movie production company) partner Lori McCreary jumped on the opportunity to be executive producers for the film, which was released in theaters in September. The film recalls the final moments of Kenneth Chamberlain – a 68-year-old Black veteran killed by White Plains, N.Y. police in 2011 after accidentally setting off his medical alert. Police broke down the door to his apartment and shot Chamberlain twice in the chest. No charges were brought against the police in a 2012 jury trial.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman sitting outside on the benches playing checkers and talking in a movie scene.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman sitting outside on the benches playing checkers and talking in a scene from the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’ (Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment/Getty Images)

“All of the news coverage this past year, about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter and all of the other stuff that’s been going on, this movie I think sort of narrows it all down to what is necessary here, and to my way of thinking, what was necessary here is police reform,” Freeman told The Hollywood Reporter. “We have to get another way of doing policing in the community. Policing is for help, it’s not law enforcement, and I think this movie points that out.”

But this is just scratching the surface of what Freeman has accomplished. His activism has only begun.

From the Air Force to Stardom
Freeman was born on June 1, 1937, and grew up in a segregated community in Mississippi. There, he discovered his passion for film – he frequented the local movie theater and loved watching war movies, sparking his interest in becoming a pilot. In school, Freeman performed in school plays and competitions, and, not surprisingly, took on lead roles and won awards.

After he graduated from high school in 1955, Freeman turned down a drama scholarship to Jackson State University to enlist in the Air Force, working as radar technician for more than a year before training as a pilot. That’s when he realized flying was not right for him, thus receiving an honorable discharge as an airman first class in 1959.

Throughout his time serving out nation, Freeman’s interest in acting never left him. “When I got in and started to live that life [in the Air Force], it occurred to me that I had been functioning with my romance with movies. I had seen all these war movies, but you are thinking reality when it is all make believe,” he said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey’s “Master Class.”

He found work on television in the children’s show The Electric Company, appeared on stage in Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, winning an Obie Award, and then got his big break with his extraordinary performance in Street Smart.

After his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Street Smart and his Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a second Oscar nomination for his role in Driving Miss Daisy, Freeman’s career began to skyrocket. In 1993, he directed his first film, Bopha!, and soon created Revelation Entertainment with Bopha! producer Lori McCreary.

Along the way not only has Freeman’s movie performances, as a lead actor, supporting actor and narrator, resulted in global box office totals of over $10 billion, but according to Forbes he is the “most trusted voice in the world.

Currently, he is set to lead upcoming thriller Muti with Yellowstone star Cole Houser. The film, set for release next year, will follow a detective who, unable to cope with his daughter’s death, hunts down a serial killer who murders based on a tribal ritual: Muti. The only person who can help him is Freeman’s character, an anthropologist hiding a secret. In addition, to his film work, he has a series coming to History Channel in the fall: Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman. The show tells true stories of prison breaks, most of which failed.

Morgan Freeman during Morgan Freeman Footprint Ceremony at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Morgan Freeman during Morgan Freeman Footprint Ceremony at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Activist, Philanthropist and Go-Getter Acting isn’t the only thing Freeman is passionate about – it turns out that he has a heart of gold, and he’s committed to making the world a better place. He is a driving force behind the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, has donated funds to help create the Morgan Freeman Equine Reproduction Research Unit at the Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine and founded the Tallahatchie River Foundation committed to quality early childhood education in the state of Mississippi. It is a fundamental belief of Freeman that when children thrive by 3rd grade, they have the promise of a better future.

Freeman is also an advocate for Artists for a New South Africa and the Campaign for Female Education. The philanthropist has also hosted an online disaster relief auction for the American Red Cross, created a cookbook – Morgan Freeman and Friends: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause– and supports efforts to promote the use of clean-burning fuels in America.

“I firmly believe that alternative fuel supplies need to be developed to allow the US to wean itself off its significant dependence on foreign oil,” Freeman said. “Moreover, I feel that our development of alternative sources such as biodiesel fuel will help the environment, farmers and the economy in general.”

An active environmentalist, in 2014, he added honeybee hives to his Mississippi ranch after learning about their global decline. Since then, he has planted magnolia, clover, lavender and bee-friendly fruit trees, as well as ensured his farm is as sustainable as possible. “There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet,” Freeman said. “We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation.”

Master Sgt. Curtis Chiles (left) conducts egress training for actor Morgan Freeman before his orientation flight in a T-37.
Master Sgt. Curtis Chiles (left) conducts egress training for actor Morgan Freeman before his orientation flight in a T-37. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jennifer Moore)

Freeman, who was dubbed this year’s #VeteranOfTheDay, constantly advocates for human rights. From supporting the Black Lives Matter movement to remembering Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his federal holiday, the activist has always spoken out against injustice. “Fighting for equality is a celebration of independence. Fighting for black lives is a celebration of independence. #BlackLivesMatter,” Freeman said on Twitter.

In January this past year, Freeman made a point to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and continues to make a difference. “In these trying times we must remember and uplift the good while rising above violence,” he said. “We must never forget about him. Today, we must remember to keep the dream alive. So be kind, show love to one another, help pave the way for equality and justice and have faith that our great country can recover from anything. Because through this we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

As far as we’re concerned, Freeman has kept the dream alive.

“I can say that life is good to me. Has been and is good. So, I think my task is to be good to it. How do you be good to life? You live it.”

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. LA Fleet Week
    May 27, 2022 - May 30, 2022
  5. Buffalo Soldier Iron Riders Quasquicentennial Gathering
    June 13, 2022 - June 19, 2022