Guide to Veterans Affairs benefits and loans

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In a nutshell…The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many benefits for eligible veterans, including VA loans, the GI Bill, job training, medical benefits and housing grants for disabled veterans.

After your time in military service, you may be eligible for numerous veteran benefits. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, offers a range of services and assistance for eligible U.S. veterans and qualifying family members to help transition into civilian life.

Read on to understand the different benefits and loans available through the VA.

VA housing and homebuying assistance

One of the most well-known veteran benefits is VA housing assistance. It is meant to help veterans, service members and surviving spouses buy or build a home, refinance a home or make home improvements. Below are some of the specific programs and insights into each one.

VA home loans

A VA home loan is a type of mortgage loan that is backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Note that just because the loan is backed by the VA doesn’t mean it’s risk free. The VA backs the loan to protect the lender, not the borrower. If you miss payments, you still risk getting hit with late fees, decreased credit scores or — worse — possible home foreclosure. VA loans can be used to …

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Buy a home and fund improvements
  • Make energy-efficiency improvements to an existing home
  • Refinance an existing loan

Specific eligibility requirements can vary based on when you served. But veterans, surviving spouses and those joining the military today must generally meet one of the following eligibility criteria to qualify for a VA loan:

  • Served 90 total days of active service during wartime
  • Served 181 continuous days of active service during peacetime
  • Served six years of service in the National Guard or the Reserve
  • The applicant is a surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty or passed away from ­a disability that resulted while serving.

Additional eligibility requirements apply in some circumstances, so check with the VA for specifics.

The VA offers just one type of direct loan — through its Native American Direct Loan program for purchases on qualifying tribal lands. Otherwise it offers borrowers indirect, VA-backed loans from private lenders that participate in the VA loan program. Be sure to shop around and compare mortgage rates to choose the best mortgage for you. Ask friends and family for lender recommendations and be sure to look at online reviews.

VA loan programs specify that the home purchase being financed must be for a property used as a primary residence. Here are some other rules to keep in mind:

  • Property requirements: VA loans are for single-family residences with one to four family units and must be primarily residential in nature.
  • Qualifying income considerations: VA loan rules on using rental income as qualifying income for the loan include having cash reserves for at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments and providing the previous two years of tax returns showing the rental income.

There are some key differences between VA loans and other types of mortgages that make VA loans so appealing. These differences are:

  • No down payment may be required: Most types of home loans generally require some form of down payment. The VA loan typically requires nothing down — although you can make a down payment if you want to try to lower your total loan amount and monthly payment. If your home is appraised at a lower value than the listing or asking price — or if the lender needs it to meet secondary market requirements — you may have to make a down payment.
  • The VA has no minimum credit score requirement: There are no credit score requirements set by the VA — however, the specific lender you go through to apply for a VA loan may have their own credit requirements.
  • You may not be subject to loan limits: Unlike FHA loans, VA loans of more than $144,000 do not have a borrowing limit, as long as you have full VA loan entitlement — meaning you have not already taken out a VA home loan, or you have fully repaid a previous VA loan.
  • You do not need mortgage insurance: Unless you put 20% down, lenders typically require mortgage insurance to protect themselves in case you don’t pay your mortgage. Since a VA loan is backed by the VA, you are not required to pay for mortgage insurance.
  • VA loans have a funding fee: VA loans may require a one-time funding fee. This fee can range from 0.5% to 3.6% of your loan, depending on a number of factors, and can be wrapped up in your loan if you’re unable to pay it outright.

Types of VA home loans

There are several types of VA loans that are designed especially for the varying borrowing purposes listed above. These are:

  • VA purchase loans: A loan program that qualifying individuals use to buy, improve or build a home
  • VA cash-out refinance loans: A loan program that allows qualifying veterans, service members or surviving spouses to replace an existing loan with a new one, allowing them to borrow against equity in their home or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan
  • VA interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL): A program that allows qualifying individuals to refinance your VA loan under new terms, potentially allowing you to reduce your monthly mortgage payments or interest rate.

There are both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate VA mortgages. With fixed-rate mortgages, you lock in your interest rate for the life of the loan. With adjustable-rate mortgages, your interest rate fluctuates according to the index of interest rates. The VA no longer prescribes specific interest rates — adjustable-rate loan changes depend on whether the loan is a standard or hybrid adjustable rate mortgage. Be sure to talk with your lender about which option is best for you, and learn how often these rates are subject to adjustment.

Homeowners insurance for veterans

Like almost any type of mortgage, institutions offering VA loans will typically require the borrower to purchase homeowners insurance. Additionally, the VA requires borrowers to have a hazard insurance policy where appropriate (flood insurance, for example, in known flood zones), which may be included in the conventional homeowners policy required by your lender. It may be worth asking your insurer or agent about possible military discounts for these types of programs.

State-specific veterans benefits

If you do not qualify for a VA loan or you are simply looking for additional housing benefits, there are generally state-specific organizations and programs designed to help veterans and others with housing at the state level. Be sure to check with your local VA office to help point you in the right direction.

VA disability benefits and programs

If you became sick or injured while serving in the military, or have an existing condition that got worse as a result of military service, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. You can file a claim for VA disability compensation online or at your local VA regional office — or send the appropriate information via mail to the address below.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Claims Intake Center

P.O. Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444

You will need the following documentation to submit your claim:

  • Military discharge papers (DD214 or any other separation documents you may have)
  • Any service treatment records
  • Medical treatment records that show proof of disability (for example, doctor reports, X-rays, test results, doctor orders/recommendations for treatment, mental status examination or operative reports)

Be sure to apply for disability compensation as soon as possible since the claims process can take a while — generally in the neighborhood of four to five months. The VA site regularly updates the average time it takes to approve or deny a claim — it was 134.4 days as of June 2021 and 139.6 days as of July 2021.

VA benefits for disabled veterans

  • Disability compensation: This is a tax-free monthly benefit paid to disabled veterans who are considered 10% disabled or higher. The exact dollar amount you receive each month fluctuates based on the degree of your disability and if you have dependents.
  • Clothing allowance: This is an annual allowance for eligible veterans and service members whose clothing has been damaged by prosthetics/orthopedic devices or topical medication for a skin condition.
  • Service-disabled veterans’ life insurance (S-DVI): This insurance benefit is for eligible veterans who may have service-connected disabilities but are in good health otherwise. The amount of premium you pay depends on your age, the type of plan and the amount of coverage you need.

The eligibility requirements and application process for each benefit can change, so be sure to check with your local VA center to determine whether you qualify and how to access the benefit.

VA disability housing programs

  • Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA): The HISA program provides up to $6,800 in funding for home improvements and structural alterations to a disabled veteran’s primary residence. The intent behind the program is to improve home accessibility.
  • Specially Adapted Housing grants (SAH): The SAH grant helps certain veterans and service members with disabilities work toward independent living by creating barrier-free environments.
  • Temporary Residence Adaptation grant (TRA): The TRA grant may be available as part of the SAH program described and linked above. It is used to help veterans and service members make accommodations when living temporarily in a family member’s home that needs changes to meet their needs.

Automobile allowance for veterans

Although the VA does not offer specialized car loans for all veterans, it does provide an automobile allowance for veterans and service members with qualifying injuries. This is a one-time allowance for disabled veterans and service members to help them purchase a vehicle that better accommodates their needs.

Qualifying individuals can use this allowance to purchase a new or used vehicle that is already equipped with adaptive equipment, or they can purchase and install adaptive equipment to an existing vehicle.

VA education, training and employment benefits

The VA offers several education, training and employment benefits to veterans, service members and their qualified dependents to help with education costs, finding a training program or career guidance and counseling. Below are the different VA education and training benefits.

  • Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E): The VR&E program is designed to help veterans and service members with service-related disabilities with job training, employment accommodations, resume developments and job-search coaching. In some cases, these benefits may extend to dependents.
  • Personalized Career Planning and Guidance (PCPG): The PCPG program offers education/training, career, academic, resume and goal-planning counseling to eligible service members, veterans and dependents.
  • Dependents and Survivors Educational Assistance: This is a specialized program for spouses and children of veterans or service members who died or received permanent disabilities while serving. The program helps with tuition, housing, books and school supply costs.
  • Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC): The VET TEC program helps veterans with training and educational courses in high-demand areas of the tech industry. The training is for computer software, computer programming, data processing, information science and media applications.
  • VetSuccess on Campus: This program is designed to help veterans and service members transition from life in service to life on campus. Each school that is a part of the program has a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to help support veterans with assistance needed to pursue their educational and employment goals.
  • Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): The MGIB-SR program pays for up to 36 months of education or training benefits for qualifying reservists and members of the Army National Guard or Air National Guard.
  • The National Call to Service Program: This program offers a choice between a $5,000 cash bonus, up to $18,000 of student loan repayment, or educational assistance for eligible veterans who performed a period of national service.
  • Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program (VRRAP): The VRRAP is a temporary program that provides up to 12 months of tuition and schooling fees as well as a monthly housing allowance for qualified veterans who became unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for other unemployment and education benefits can impact eligibility for this program.

Next steps

To find out if you are eligible for VA home loan programs, visit the VA website or your local VA regional office to discuss the programs and your service record.

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Small Resume Mistakes that could cost you the job

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By Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

As many Americans find themselves back on the job hunt, candidates are polishing their interview skills and, of course, updating their resumes. But what exactly should one be looking for to strengthen their resume and help it stand out from the crowd and get past those pesky AI systems?

Here are some small mistakes that could be slowing your resume down in a big way:

1. Outdated Keywords
Words are important, but which words have the most impact in your field can change in the blink of an eye. As technology updates and social standards progress our business expectations, jargon shifts, thus the words that applicant tracking AI systems and human recruiters are looking for on your resume inevitably changes too. As you review your resume, make sure to use search engines and job postings from your industry to find the skills and experiences being asked for the most. Make a list. Then, use it to align your keywords with what recruiters want to see.

2. The Wrong Formatting
The number one focus of every resume should be readability! Unless you’re a graphic artist seeking a design-focused occupation or a similar type of creative role, your resume does not have to be visually striking. Usually, a simple, clean design and format that is easy to read and scan is the best option. It is alright to use a resume template but tweak it, so it doesn’t look like every other resume that hits the human resources desk. Edit your resume to have a standard font, plenty of white space, bullet points instead of paragraphs and concise statements. Also, consider changing written numbers to numerals to conserve space and using the percent sign (%) instead of the word. Finally, make sure your style and formatting choices are consistent throughout the page.

3. Bad Grammar and Mechanics
After correcting confusing formats or unreadable style choices, your next step is to run your resume through some proofreading software or hire a professional editor. After looking at it repeatedly, it can be easy to miss basic typos, grammar mistakes or other small errors. So, take your time when everything is finished to review your resume one more time and use a program or second set of eyes as well, especially if checking grammar and mechanics is not your strongest skill. Asking friends and family to assist can be helpful during this step.

4. Listing Old Positions
Always list your most recent and most relevant positions towards the top of your resume. If you have been using the same or similar resume for several years, it might be time to look it over from top to bottom and delete some more entry-level positions, especially those over 10 years old. Not only will this help consider space, but it will also make your resume stronger because it focuses on the most pertinent and fresh experience you’ve accumulated.

5. Forgetting to Update Contact Information
During your review process, it is easy to miss small details like contact information. So, be sure to confirm everything is up-to-date. Maybe it’s time to consider creating an email specific to job searches? Use a professional email address for communication and a good phone number where you can be easily reached.

6. Irrelevant/Outdated Skills
It’s time to take Microsoft Office proficiency off of your skills list. It’s almost an assumed skill nowadays for most office and administrative roles. Similar to updating your keywords, skills should be relevant and pulled directly from the job postings and online role descriptions that show up most often in your industry research. Furthermore, think about what you’ve accomplished in recent years: Were you in a new program at your current or most recent position? Did you take a class? Have you been leading team meetings? Incorporate these skills into your new resume.

7. Using Dated Phrases
An easy way to date yourself as an older or less up-to-date job seeker is using outdated phrases. For example, “references available upon request” or any mention of references is unnecessary as most online applications ask for them separately, or your recruiter will be sure to mention them if needed.

8. Saving the File Incorrectly
This last one may come as a surprise. Simply saving your resume under the filename “resume” may make organization easier for you; however, it makes your resume one amongst many unidentifiable files on the computer of a hiring manager. Including your first and last name in the resume file name along with the word “resume” helps it point to you as an individual before it’s even opened. Furthermore, unless otherwise requested, make sure to save your file as a PDF so that all of the careful formatting and style choices you worked on will be preserved.

RallyPoint Partners with Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers on New Series of Essays Highlighting Powerful Stories about the Military-Connected Caregiving Experience

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Man in wheelchair sits and holds dumbbell in his hand. The caregiver controls exercises.

RallyPoint, the premiere digital platform for the military community, and Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI), a leading nonprofit supporting the health, strength, and resilience of U.S. caregivers, announced a partnership to highlight the caregiving experience within the military community.

Through a new series of powerful, first-person essays from caregivers, the series aims to elevate the voices of those helping loved ones who served in the United States Military.

The new project showcases the compelling journeys of caregivers who provide for a loved one who sacrificed for our country, yet often go unheard, unseen, and unrecognized.

Together, RCI and RallyPoint are leveraging their networks and resources to raise awareness of the challenges and shortfalls the 5.5 million military-connected caregivers endure daily,– as well as their inspiring stories. The first three essays of the series include:

“We are proud to partner with the Rosalynn Carter Institute on this new series in order to amplify the voices of Military Caregivers, an important part of our military community who are often underserved,” said Dave Gowel, CEO of RallyPoint. “Our veterans sacrificed for our safety and security, and now their loved ones are sacrificing in order to provide the care they need. We are excited to share these stories with our millions of members in order to increase caregiver access to a stronger community with more accessible resources.”

“With so many caregivers within the military community, this partnership with RallyPoint is a natural fit,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Chief Executive Officer of RCI. “Through our everyday work supporting caregivers across the country, there is no doubt that those within the military community face some of the toughest challenges. Raising awareness of their stories through this powerful new project is just a first step in making sure these caregivers are seen, heard, and given the resources they need to persevere.”

Excerpts from this powerful series include:

“Building that trust was showing her that she’s my world, she’s my life, she’s what I do because it is my full time job. This came to light when handling the relationship with the VA. When it comes to the VA and navigating their system, be persistent. The phrase “the squeaky wheel gets heard” is 100% accurate. My label at the VA is “the sister;” when they see me coming they know I am going to advocate for her as hard as I can and will not accept no for an answer. I am relentless and will end up where I need to be even if I have to go to every single office.”Keesha McCloud

“As my Veteran father’s primary caregiver, I schedule medical appointments. I collect medical records. I administer medications and treatment. I attend a constant stream of exams and procedures. I sit in waiting rooms, wait for prescriptions, sift through bills and fill out paperwork. … Because I cannot earn a living outside of caregiving, we depend on my father’s monthly disability and pension checks to stay afloat and no other income comes into the household. I do this out of loyalty, deep concern and love for my Dad, a Veteran who volunteered to serve this country and was injured in an accident during service. It’s a 24/7 commitment and there are no paid vacations.”Eric Barnett

The series will be an ongoing representation of the unconditional support caregivers lend while providing care to veterans from diverse military backgrounds with diverse mental and physical ailments, along with the sacrifices they make. Essays will be posted on RallyPoint’s military curated content destination, Command Post, and tagged with the “caregiver tag” which easily connects Milvet caregivers across the globe.

About RallyPoint
RallyPoint is the premier online platform where warriors talk and listen. With nearly 2 million members, RallyPoint continuously brings military connected people to together through their shared experiences to discuss all things military, from professional questions to personal stories. Visit http://solutions.rallypoint.com/ to learn more and follow RallyPoint on Facebook and Twitter @RallyPoint.

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers promotes the health, strength, and resilience of caregivers throughout the United States. Established in 1987 by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Institute’s priority is the family caregiver: those individuals who care for a relative, friend, or loved one. To learn more about RCI, visit www.rosalynncarter.org.

How VR is Helping Train the U.S. Military

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woman soldier in uniform donning VR goggles

Futuristic training, the kind of immersive simulations seen in sci-fi TV shows, is no longer a fictional dream. It’s almost here.

With the Tech Training Transformation team’s creation of a virtual reality training system coordinated by artificial intelligence, Air Education and Training Command officials are transforming the Airmen development process. At the forefront of this development stand the cruxes of modern technology, high completion rates and an agile speed of learning.

In partnership with officials at Sheppard Air Force Base, the T3 team has re-engineered the foundational Crew Chief Fundamentals Course into a VR experience. In July and August of 2020, 29 students donned VR gear and took the program for a spin. They examined tools, maintained simulated aircraft and completed objectives, all within a 3D, on-the-job environment.
 
The results were impressive. On the end-of-course assessment, scores from students within the program were comparable to those of students using traditional methods. However, both students and instructors commented on the quality of T3’s program, emphasizing how Airmen-centric and approachable the program made the training, and how the personalized modalities built upon AETC’s world-class standards of quality. They also finished the course 46 percent faster, completing the 27-day course in just 12.5 days.

“It’s proven that T3’s program is an effective learning model,” said Senior Master Sgt. Toby Caldwell, 362nd Training Squadron assistant superintendent, who has been actively involved in overseeing T3’s training initiative at Sheppard AFB since the program’s beginning. “As we continue to meet the accelerate-change mission, we in the training environment are teaming up at the forefront of technological enhancements.”

In June 2021, T3 introduced an additional component: non-player characters. Students interact with AI Airmen by asking them questions and receiving instructions within the simulation. For example, a student maintaining an aircraft could have a conversation with an AI security forces Airman patrolling the flight line and learn about safety protocols or ask questions about the area.

This AI interaction will assist with the formation of multi-capable Airmen and agile combat employment, as students will have the ability to essentially swap places with AI characters. A maintainer can learn basic flight line security from an AI security forces Airman, or a security forces Airman could enter the program and familiarize themselves with aircraft maintenance from AI.

The AI system will also continuously measure the student’s ability to complete tasks and foundational competencies, and it will track performance throughout the Airman’s career, not just during technical training. This education-focused career model relies fully on competency-based learning and an Airmen-centric, mission-focused mindset that meets the students where they are.

woman soldier in uniform demonstrates a virtual reality training
Air Force Staff Sgt. Renee Scherf, Detachment 23 curriculum engineer, MC-130H subject matter expert, demonstrates a virtual reality training system. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt Keith James)

The T3 team is developing and testing an app for courses that don’t require VR. In the future, Airmen will log in on their phone and begin consuming course information according to their preferred learning style. For example, visual learners can watch videos and audio learners can listen from anywhere, even while on a run. Along the way, the AI capability will personalize the program. For instance, it will provide suggestions like, “Hey, I’ve noticed you listened to the lesson three times but still haven’t scored well on the assessment. Why don’t you try watching this video or completing this exercise instead?”

“This training is all about you,” said Maj. Jesse Johnson, Det 23 and T3 commander. “We’re no longer making you fit our content, we’re changing our content to match your needs. Not only does this program give more resources to students, it also keeps up with a new generation of learners who perform best outside of a traditional classroom. It allows for continued learning and the formation of multi-capable Airmen who can cross-train and expand their skillset anytime, anywhere.”

According to Johnson, this program will bring Air Force training to the cutting edge of education around the globe. He and his colleagues credit this success to the strong network of partnerships across the Air Force.

“Our plan is to partner with Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Labs and with AETC’s Force Development Team to develop the agile combat employment, multi-capable Airmen training philosophy,” said Col. Leonard Rose, AETC’s Analysis and Innovation director.

The T3 team views training instructors, or force generators, as a first line of partnership. The initiative aims to empower instructors by eliminating the need to lecture at length, allowing them to focus on facilitating and answering questions instead of fitting into the typical “teacher” mold.

This kind of student-centered instruction flips the traditional teaching method, where instructors stand at the center of the learning process distributing information to students, on its head. In a student-centric model, students have the power to explore and learn through discovery and practice while instructors act as mentors and coaches.

Learner-centric initiatives and an improved training infrastructure speed up the training pipeline by allowing Airmen to progress at the speed of learning. It’s creating more well-rounded Airmen who are better prepared for an era of great power competition, and developing a more resilient training enterprise that can continue to operate in disrupted environments.
 
“We’re excited to continue utilizing virtual and augmented reality to enhance our technical training courses here at Sheppard AFB,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason C. Groth, 82nd Training Group superintendent. “I think this type of training capability could also eventually be used to help train our multi-capable Airmen in austere locations.”

Plans are in place for two fully operational courses to launch at Sheppard AFB in 2022 with additional courses to follow. The two initial courses will be Crew Chief Fundamentals (2AX01 Air Force specialty code) and Logistics Planning (2G0X1 Air Force specialty code). The order for updates to training courses is determined according to requirements necessary to grow multi-capable Airmen.

Source: U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense

Top photo:  Air Force Staff Sgt. Renee Scherf, Detachment 23 curriculum engineer, MC-130H subject matter expert, dons virtual reality goggles. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Keith James)

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.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the New Tax Laws

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form 1040 on desk with pen and roll of money with U.S. flag in the background

The coronavirus pandemic led to some temporary changes in tax laws. Most changes apply to the general public, but some have special implications for the military community.

Even within the military, the changes will not have the same impact on everyone. So, it is important to know your circumstances and adapt to the reforms and changes in a way that reflects your finances and lifestyle.

COVID-19-related changes

Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act may affect your 2020 federal income tax return in the following ways:
Expanded advance child tax credit: As part of the American Rescue Plan to help Americans recover financially from the pandemic, the child tax credit for 2021 was expanded to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and $3,000 for children 6-17 years old. Eligible families will automatically receive monthly payments from July 15 through December 2021, totaling half of the credit. Families may claim the other half of the credit when filing their 2021 tax return.
Retirement account withdrawals: The 10 percent tax penalty for an early withdrawal from a retirement account has been suspended in 2020 for those who suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Economic Impact Payments: You should have received a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment in 2020 ($2,400 if you are married), plus $500 for each qualifying child. If you did not, or if you received less than the amount for which you were eligible, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your federal income tax return.
Charitable contributions: To encourage giving in 2020, the CARES Act allows taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in cash donations to eligible charities without itemizing the contributions.
Unemployment benefits: If you are a military spouse who received unemployment benefits in 2020, you will receive a form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, that states your unemployment income and any income tax withheld. Be sure to report this information on your tax return.
Social Security payroll tax deferral: Social Security taxes were deferred for service members from mid-September through the end of December 2020. The deferred Social Security taxes will automatically be taken from your wages from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021, so will not affect your 2020 income tax filing.

Key tax reforms

Picture your financial and personal events over the last year. Perhaps you are looking forward to having your first child. Maybe the ink just dried on the paperwork for your new home. Take a look at these key reforms and see if they will affect your spending and family circumstances:
Standard deduction: For tax year 2020, the standard deduction is $12,400 for singles or those who are married but filing separately, $24,800 for those who are married and filing jointly and $18,650 for those who file as the head of household.
Personal exemption deduction: Beginning in 2018, you can’t claim a personal exemption deduction for yourself, your spouse or your dependents. This may impact decisions on the itemized deductions and dependents you claim on your tax return.
Itemized deductions: Beginning in 2018, the following changes were made to itemized deductions that taxpayers can claim on Schedule A:
• Your itemized deductions are no longer limited if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount.
• You can deduct the part of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.
• Your deduction of state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if married and filing separately). As a military member, your state of legal residence and the state in which you own a home will determine how much this change impacts you.
• Under the new rules, unreimbursed business expenses, including auto, travel, meals, entertainment and home office expenses, are no longer deductions.
• For debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, the deduction for home mortgage interest is limited to interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are a married taxpayer filing a separate return) of home-acquisition debt. This new limit doesn’t apply if you had a binding contract to close on a home after Dec. 15, 2017, and closed on or before April 1, 2018. The prior limit would apply in that case.
• Beginning in 2018, you cannot deduct interest on a home equity loan or line of credit unless it’s for buying, building or making substantial improvements to your home.
• The limit on charitable contributions of cash increased from 50 percent to 60 percent of your adjusted gross income. However, for tax year 2020 only, the limit is 100 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Child tax credit: With the exception of the temporary expansion of the child tax credit for tax year 2021, as of 2019, the maximum credit is $2,000 per qualifying child. The maximum additional child tax credit is $1,400. Also, the income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out is now $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).
Credit for other dependents: A credit of up to $500 is available for each of your dependents, such as an adult child with a disability or an elderly parent who does not qualify for the child tax credit. In addition, the maximum income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out has increased to $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).
Education: As a result of the new tax codes, you can use funds from your 529 education savings plan to pay for private K-12 educational expenses at secondary public, private or religious schools with a limit of $10,000 per student per year.
Reserve service members: Reserve service members are able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses to attend drill duty only if it takes place more than 100 miles away from home.
Moving expenses: Members of the armed forces can still deduct moving expenses as long as the move is part of an authorized permanent change of station or PCS. If you’re voluntarily moving, you will join most other taxpayers in no longer being able to deduct moving expenses from your taxes.
Deployments to the Sinai Peninsula: If you previously served in the newly designated combat zone, you may qualify for retroactive tax benefits. If so, you’ll need to submit an amended tax return, or Form 1040X, for the year in which you were there, dating to 2015. You generally have three years from the date you filed your previous tax return to claim the refund.
Alimony or maintenance payments: If you make alimony or maintenance payments, you will no longer be able to deduct them from your taxable income, and the recipient will no longer have to claim the payments as income. This went into effect for any divorce or separation agreement signed or modified after Dec. 31, 2018.
Estate tax exemption: The estate tax exemption for 2020 is $11.58 million, so an estate valued at less than the new threshold will not be taxed when the owner dies.
Investment fees: You can no longer deduct investment fees from taxes. If a major part of your financial strategy includes investments, and you have substantial investor fees, you will be paying more in taxes.
Penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage: Beginning in 2019, the penalty amount was reduced to zero.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

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.

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