Marine Corps veteran, amputee makes history at Boston Marathon

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

By KSBY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article on KSBY.

The Power of Adaptive Sports

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U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston in wheelchair smiling with amputed leg and other leg in a cast

By Kellie Speed

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston never could have imagined he would lose his left leg here in the States after returning home from being deployed. While the accident certainly changed his life, his impressive outlook has him proving nothing is impossible.

“After I got back from deployment, we were moving into a new house when I was loading a mattress onto the truck and it fell off,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine in a recent phone interview. “Just as I was picking it back up, someone hit me. When I was hit, I thought the vehicle hit my funny bone which was why my leg was numb.

When they got me into the back of the ambulance, they gave me some meds for the pain. I was upset and hangry at the time because I had just ordered Domino’s. When I heard someone say, ‘left leg amputation,’ that’s when it hit me.”

Despite his injury, the U.S. Virgin Islands native has not only found many reasons to be grateful, but also push himself to incredible limits.

“As a Marine, we go from being active and physical specimens and being the best at everything to being reduced to having a caretaker,” Hairston said. “I had to fight to get back to my old self. When I was injured, I had another reason to be glad I joined the Marine Corps. I had a phone call with my Colonel at the time and I was sent to Walter Reed. They have the best adaptive program in the Department of Defense. When I was there, I told them I wanted to go to the Paralympics.”

Now holding the title of the first para-cyclist in Virgin Islands history and being the only hand cyclist in the Marine Corps to win at the 2022 Warrior Games was “the greatest feeling in my entire Marine Corps career,” he said. “Hearing guys in other branches saying ‘there’s a guy killing it in cycling’ or ‘watch out for that Marine’ was incredible. When I was injured, my physical and occupational therapists told me that even though I lost a leg, they kept reinforcing that I can still do what I did before; I just needed to figure out how to do it now. I was able to prove to myself that I can still be active and take a walk with my wife (a Marine helicopter pilot) or play with my dogs and being able to compete really helped me with my recovery.”

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Hairston para-cycling in formation with others

Hairston first competed in a four-mile race in Central Park. “It was the first time that I felt like myself,” he said. “As a Marine, we have to win everything, but I came in third place. That gave me the Paralympics bug. I have done a few marathons now in hand cycling and am getting ready to do three more.”

With two gold medals for cycling, a silver medal in archery and silver and bronze awards for track to his credit, Hairston’s continued determination to succeed has reinforced he is still the same specimen he was when he joined the military — just a little bit different now.

Hairston created a nonprofit called Salvage Life with the goal of inspiring others to lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a focus on veteran and disabled communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Knowing that people back home are disabled and not able to get the same support that I had here in the states was the reason I started the nonprofit,” he said. “As I continue in my recovery, I was able to host the first adaptive sports clinic in the Virgin Islands just before Warrior Games. I showed guys how to shoot archery and wanted to show people that you can make things work for someone with a disability. After my injury, I said if I can help just one person, it would be a success. I got to help eight people; that’s the best part of it.”

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) : Victories for Veterans

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DAV victories PSA

Give a Minute to Support Victories for Veterans. America’s veterans are on their most important tour—the tour of their lives. DAV, a leading nonprofit, is helping more than 1 million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

While serving in Vietnam, a grenade took Michael Naranjo’s eyesight. His fingers became his new way of seeing. Starting with a lump of clay, he learned to create objects of beauty with his hands. Today, he’s a successful sculptor. Each year, DAV helps more than a million veterans like Michael in life-changing ways — helping them to get the benefits they’ve earned.

Support more Victories for Veterans®. GO TO DAV.ORG

Challenge Accepted: Mastering Military Transition

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“Women veterans are a strong group of people. They worked hard, deployed, raised families and sacrificed their time, energy and selves to earn their ranks, titles and places in history books that have not yet been written.

Women have great instincts and deserve a seat at every table, in every boardroom, at every town hall meeting and at any discussion where decisions need to be made. Women have always been an integral part of society and [the] future of the world. It’s time that women are put out front to receive the recognition of all the decades of hard work that has been put in to establish a legacy in the armed forces.” -retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez, USMC

Let’s meet one of these esteemed women, 28-year USMC veteran retired Master Gunnery Sergeant Carla Perez. MGySgt Perez began her career in the Marines on May 17, 1993, and retired on December 31, 2021. Her service included three deployments: Bosnia in 1996, Iraq in 2008-2009 and Afghanistan in 2010-2011. She was stationed in many places around the globe, including 29 Palms, California; Iwakuni, Japan; Camp Pendleton, California; Vancouver, Washington; Marine Corps Air Station, Mira Mar in San Diego and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Although Perez was raised in a family of veterans, the military was not initially in her plans. She graduated high school and went on to college at the University of Montana but returned home to Oregon when she didn’t have the funds to continue her studies. There, she worked a few odd jobs until a recruiter found her and offered her the opportunity to join the Marine Corps. You can say the rest is history!

While serving in the Marines, Perez found that women progressed in the Marine Corps in both rank and job opportunities at a fair rate. She never felt as though being a woman held her back. Previously closed jobs in the combat arms MOS had opened, and women were assigned to traditionally male units. Early in that transition, women were doing combat supporting jobs, admin, supply

In 2008 for one year as their Logistics/Supply Chief. The unit was assigned a Civil Affairs mission. There were only a handful of women assigned to that battalion for the duration of that deployment.

Transitions can be difficult. Moving from a career in the military to civilian life is one of those challenging transitions. I asked Perez how she prepared for her retirement. She had been thinking about the transition for a few years before submitting papers to retire and felt as prepared as she could be. Perez is a few college courses shy of a BS in Criminal Justice and initially thought about returning to school at the beginning of her transition. Throughout her time in the Marine Corps, she worked in the Supply/Logistics field and felt that her resume would make her a strong candidate in either of those fields. She knew she had more to give beyond the last 29 years of her life as a Marine, and she was excited to see what opportunities awaited her.

Initially, she took a few months off to spend time with her family and relax. Everyone should take time off from the rigorous schedule the military requires of its service members to just exhale. She highly recommends this approach! In February 2022, she was given the opportunity to work for Liberty Military Housing. She currently holds the position of Director of Military Affairs, Southwest Marines, Housing. Her region encompasses Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms, Yuma, Colville and Kansas City — a few locations where she was stationed during her career.

I asked her how her military career prepared her for her current role in her civilian career. She responded, “Being a Marine and being a person of service was something I am very good at. I am flexible yet mission-oriented. I like to get things done and take care of people. This job is the perfect fit for me. My job responsibilities are very closely tied to the military and taking care of military families. I bridge the gap between our government housing partner and Liberty Military Housing. I am honored to be able to continue to be so closely connected to Marines and military families that live aboard our installations.”

I inquired about the advice she would give someone considering a career in the military or someone preparing to transition to the civilian sector. Perez replied, “Choosing a career in the USMC is like no other job in the world. Hard work will always be rewarded and not go unnoticed. Being a Marine is a tough job that comes with a lot of responsibility. Upholding and honoring traditions of all the men and women that have gone before us is something that sets Marines apart. There are very few Marines and even fewer female Marines — expect to work just as hard as all of those around you, if not harder, both men and women. There are so many intangible traits and feelings that make Marines who they are that cannot be explained — experiences and a sense of pride that cannot be compared to anything else. Being a good leader takes time and  work. More energy and personal time spent away from your daily duties are what it takes to go the distance in the USMC. Working hard and staying focused is the best advice I can give.

”Perez continues, “Think ahead about your transition out of the USMC. A few years in advance, have a mental picture of what you want your life after to look like. Take the necessary steps to prepare to depart. It will have to be a fluid plan until you make your final decision. Be flexible and keep an open mind. You will have so much to offer the world, more than you can just write on a paper or summarize on a resume. You will have all the tools you need to make the move, don’t be afraid; just have a plan with a few options.

”And that, my friends, is proof that the long-standing slogan, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine,” is as true today as it was when Marine Corps Master Sergeant Paul Woyshner first shouted it. I enjoyed my time with MGySgt Perez and appreciated her insight into navigating the transition after a career in service to our country.

The Latinx Community’s Growing Influence

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Latina reading magazine

The United States is currently experiencing a massive demographic shift, led in large part by the nation’s Latinx population. This group is growing rapidly, quickly becoming the most culturally and economically influential community in the country.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the country’s Hispanic or Latinx population grew from 50.5 million in 2010 (16.3% of the U.S. population)  to 62.1 million in 2020 (18.7%). That’s an increase of 23 percent. In fact, slightly more than half (51.1%) of the total U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020 came from growth in the country’s Latinx population.

It is no surprise then, that Latinx people have a massive effect on the U.S. economy. Their buying power is expected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2023, according to a report from Nielsen. This is up from $213 billion in 1990, marking an over 200% growth rate, more than double the growth in buying power of non-Latinx consumers.

This community’s economic influence reaches all industries, and it is critical that businesses gain a deeper understanding of Latinx culture. Doing so will allow business leadership to both better support employees and more effectively appeal to customers.

Understanding the Hypercultural Latinx individual

Among young Latinx people, there has been a rise in what is known as the “Hypercultural Latinx.”

Hypercultural Latinx people are often first-generation Americans who straddle both U.S. culture and their parents’ native Hispanic cultures. This group feels deeply connected to both aspects of their identities and has, in a sense, created their own blended, hybrid culture. As Ilse Calderon, an investor at OVO Fund, wrote on TechCrunch, a Hypercultural Latinx person is “100% Hispanic and 100% American.”

So, what do they want to buy? While Latinx people are clearly not a monolith, there are a few key trends across the community. According to research in the PwC Consumer

Intelligence Series, the Latinx population is especially enticed by new tech products. They are active on TikTok and exceedingly more likely to use WhatsApp and other social media platforms than other groups.

Nielsen also found that 45% of Latinx consumers buy from brands whose social values and causes align with theirs. This is 17% higher than the general population. Latinx people also share strong family values, as well as pride in their distinct cultural heritages. That is why organizations must engage the Latinx community and invite Latinx people to share their experiences.

It is pivotal that business leaders understand that “Latinx” is not a single streamlined culture. Rather, it is a diverse mix of traditions, nationalities, and values.

Embracing these cultural nuances is a key to understanding Latinx audiences. Organizations must consider methods to appeal to distinct Latinx groups, rather than marketing to the group as a whole.

Cultivating and advancing Latinx talent in the workplace

It isn’t only consumers that businesses should be thinking about. Latinx talent has also accounted for a massive 75% of U.S. labor force growth over the past six years, according to Nielsen. Nevertheless, only 3.8% of executive positions are held by Latinx men, and only 1.5% of are held by Latinx women.

Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do to attract and cultivate Latinx talent—and it all starts with recruitment. To ensure a diverse work force, companies must utilize culturally competent recruitment strategies that not only make new positions appealing to a variety of job seekers, but also give every applicant a fair chance.

According to an article in Hispanic Executive, understanding cultural differences can help recruiters create job descriptions that more effectively appeal to different communities. For example, the Latinx community feels a more communal sense of identity, compared to the more individualistic sense of identity in European-American culture. Recruiters should keep this in mind when thinking about what necessary skills they are highlighting for available roles.

Click here to read the complete article on Bloomberg.

Veteran PTSD Recovery with the Invictus Foundation

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Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient. Psychological therapy for war veteran, PTSD

Veteran PTSD Recovery – The Invictus Foundation is [at] the forefront of efforts to help veterans, active-duty service members and their families suffering the terrible effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and an array of behavioral health issues stemming from their experience in the crucible of war. TBI, PTSD and behavioral health issues afflict hundreds of thousands of people who have selflessly served in defense of our nation,” states Peter Whalen, founder and CEO of the Invictus Foundation.

To address this urgent need, the Invictus Foundation plans to build a series of eight specially-designed regional treatment centers of excellence (COEs) with the naming convention Invictus Foundation Centers of Excellence for TBI & Behavioral Health. These nationwide Veteran PTSD Recovery centers will serve veterans, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety personnel and the community. They will receive the most advanced and proven care to address the complex symptoms of TBI, PTSD and an array of other behavioral health issues to return people to their activities of daily living within a new normal brought about by their experience in war and other psychological trauma.

Healing mind. Cropped shot of middle aged military man during therapy session with psychologist. Soldier suffering from depression, psychological trauma. PTSD conceptPatients at the centers will come from a diverse and inclusive subset of the community population they serve. These subsets will be rank-ordered preferentially, starting with veterans and their families, active-duty military and their families, families of the fallen, public safety officers and community members. Patients will receive comprehensive, interdisciplinary and individually tailored evaluations and treatment during Veteran PTSD Recovery.

Each Invictus Center will incorporate a variety of specialties: neurology, neuropsychology, audiology, ophthalmology, speech pathology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, family therapy, plus art and music therapy. They will also have physiatrists, psychiatrists and psychologists and offer orthotics and prosthetics.

The first Invictus Foundation Center of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health will be constructed in the Seattle area, with its opening planned for the summer of 2025.

Professional psychologist giving advice to military patient“The philanthrocapitalism fundraising model often referred to as a social funding model, will be utilized for the capital construction campaign. It is a model used by the Bill Gates Foundation and Bill Ackman’s Pershing Foundation, to name but a few. Investors have a choice of investing for purely philanthropic reasons or an adjusted rate of return on investment, given their affinity for the vision and mission of the Invictus Centers for Veteran PTSD Recovery. The philanthrocapitalism model will be harnessed with a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) governance that will allow investors to realize gains through the real estate the Invictus Centers are built upon as well,” states Mr. Whalen.

The Invictus Foundation’s capital construction campaign efforts will be supported and overseen by the Vice-Chairs of the Invictus Foundation Board of Directors, Wayne Ross and Bryan Hoddle. Mr. Ross has an expert knowledge base in developing partnerships in the oil and gas industry. In contrast, Mr. Hoddle has a specialist knowledge base in consulting with military and veterans’ organizations on the treatment of injured soldiers and veterans with Veteran PTSD Recovery. He is often referred to as the Soldier’s Coach. For more information or a prospectus on the Invictus Foundation’s Centers of Excellence for TBI and Behavioral Health, please

email info@invictusfoundation.org.

 

‘A True Profile in Courage’

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Celebrity and former Army Ranger Noah Galloway poses for a portrait during the Tough Mudder's

By Kellie Speed

If ever there was a true profile in courage that is Noah Galloway’s story to tell.

While the U.S. Army veteran lost both his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee to an IED attack during Operation Iraqi Freedom, that hasn’t stopped him from pushing his own limits becoming a nationwide inspiration as a result.

Although his injuries certainly posed many unforeseen challenges and his life was forever changed, the Purple Heart recipient believes now he is mentally and physically stronger than ever.

“My mother always told me to join the military, but I never joined until I wanted to,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I told her if something happens, I chose this. I’ll never forget that conversation. When I got injured and I went through my depression that was the worst shape I had ever been in in my life. I wasn’t taking care of myself and that was a reflection of my whole life — I wasn’t being a good father; I wasn’t being a good husband or anything. It was my children who were the motivation for me to get back and start taking care of myself.

The first thing I did was change the way I was eating then I joined a 24-hour gym because I was embarrassed, and I think a lot of people can relate to that if they have never been into fitness. It’s hard to walk into a gym for the first time. I would go in at 2:00 in the morning because there were no books, magazines or anything on the internet that told you how to work out missing an arm and a leg. Actually, I would say that was a benefit because it motivated me, and I had to figure it out. I kind of fed off of that and I have met amputees from all over the world who told me they have seen my videos and pictures and that’s how they got into fitness. For me, that’s pure motivation to know that something I did inspired them, and it drives me to just keep wanting to do more and more. Getting back into shape was so critical with my recovery in accepting myself.”

In 2014, the Alabama native became the first amputee veteran to appear on the cover of Men’s Health. “When I was in the military, I used to say I wanted to be on the cover of Men’s Health because fitness has been a part of my life since I was 12 years old,” he said. After earning the magazine’s “Ultimate Guy” title, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and later became a finalist on Dancing With The Stars.

Noah Galloway Book Signing For
Noah Galloway attends his book signing for “Living With No Excuses” at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/FilmMagic)

“Once I went on Ellen, things just took off,” he told us. “As soon as that episode aired, I got phone calls from Survivor, which I was excited about, but I couldn’t do that because I have three kids who were young at the time, so I turned it down. When Dancing With The Stars called, I told them I had no dancing experience and had to stay in Alabama. They didn’t even hesitate. They said they would send a dancer to Birmingham where we would rehearse then they would fly me back and forth to LA for the live show. Then, I didn’t think I’d last long, but halfway through the season, I was still there. The fifth week, I did a dance to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” and I did a one-arm lift and I got a standing ovation from all of the judges and the studio audience; it was incredible. I had veterans start reaching out to me, and that changed everything. But I didn’t become a better dancer.”

On September 16, Galloway’s No Excuses Charitable Fund is hosting their second annual charity golf tournament at Timberline Golf Club in Calera, Ala. with proceeds this year benefitting Homes for Our Troops.

“I know there are people who are more inspirational, but people reach out to me and say they got into fitness because of me,” Galloway said. “To know that you have done something, even if it’s for one person to improve their life, is just so motivating.”

To check out his book, Living With No Excuses: The Remarkable Rebirth of An American Soldier, visit noahgalloway.com.

The PACT Act and your VA benefits

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Disabled Veteran in wheelchair

The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call us at 800-698-2411 (TTY: 711).

And you can file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA health care now.

 

What’s the PACT Act and how will it affect my VA benefits and care?

The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.

The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.

The PACT Act will bring these changes:

  • Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
  • Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
  • Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
  • Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
  • Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures

If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.

What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?

To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.

But for some conditions, we automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.”

We consider a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation.

If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.

Read more about the PACT Act on the VA’s website here.

Looking for a Service Dog?

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labradoodle with guide dog pack on its back

They say that dog is a man’s best friend, which could not be more accurate for veterans. Dogs provide the sense of responsibility and companionship that comes with pet ownership, but they can also act as a source of support both therapeutically and physically.

If you’re a veteran looking for a service dog to aid you in your day-today life, here’s what you need to know:

What Are the Benefits of Service Dogs?
There are approximately 500,000 service dogs on duty in the United States, with 19 percent explicitly trained to help owners with PTSD. Service dogs can be trained to perform numerous activities that are helpful to your specific needs, whether it be to provide mobility assistance, interrupt harmful behaviors, calm panic attacks, retrieve medication and more. Service dogs have also been proven to help veterans recognize and cope with their symptoms, gain sleep, reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, balance emotions and assist in healthy transitions.

Does the VA Provide Service Dogs?
Until recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs did not provide service dogs. However, in August of 2021, a new piece of legislation known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act authorized the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program on dog training therapy based on the promising “train the trainer model.” The program will provide dogtraining mskills and service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not they have mobility issues. However, regardless of how you receive your service dog, you will need to apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits to get approved for ownership.

How Can a Veteran Apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits?
■ Hearing, Guide, Mobility: The veteran should meet with their VA clinical care provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The specialist will complete an evaluation and make a clinical determination on the need for assistive devices, including a service dog. Once the assessment is completed and a service dog is determined to be the optimal tool for the veteran’s rehabilitation and treatment plan, the provider will work with the veteran to obtain the necessary information and documents to request the benefit. This includes coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
■ Mental Health Mobility: The veteran should meet with a VA mental health provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The mental health provider and care team will evaluate and determine whether the mental health condition is the primary cause of the veteran’s substantial mobility limitations. The team will also assess whether a mobility service dog would be the veteran’s optimal intervention or treatment approach. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will request the benefit on behalf of the veteran through coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.

Each veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
■ Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
■ Goals that are to be accomplished through the use of the dog
■ Goals that are to be achieved through other assistive technology or therapy The veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request by the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aid Service. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International, or International Guide Dog Federation accredited agencies.

Where Can I Find My Service Dog?
For more information on where to find a service dog and connect with a community of other veterans with their own service dogs, the VA will usually coordinate with an organization such as the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.

To access more information on the service dog process, please visit the International Guide Dog Federation at igdf.org.uk and Assistance Dogs International at assistancedogsinternational.org.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, Purina, tillis.senate.gov

One Rifle. One Book. Two Hundred Veterans.

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Older man and young man on stage at a motorcycle rally

By Kellie Speed

Though Andrew Biggio served in the Marine Corps as an infantry rifleman during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), he never could have imagined the future impact he would have on veterans.

The founder of Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, New England’s largest motorcycle ride now in its 11th year, helps America’s most severely wounded combat veterans by raising money to provide housing modifications, new transportation, financial support and basic living needs through his nonprofit.

While delving into his own family’s military legacy and reading letters sent home from his great uncle killed during World War II, Biggio felt compelled to honor the Greatest Generation. His great uncle, also named Andrew Biggio, spoke of the M1 Garand rifle in his letters, which inspired the younger Biggio to purchase one.

What happened after turned into a five-year journey for Biggio, traveling the country to hear the inspirational stories of these warriors and have them sign their name on his rifle. He has 240 signatures to date! The result of his travels and collection of combat stories turned into his recently published book The Rifle: Combat Stories from America’s Last WWII Veterans, Told Through an M1 Garand.

U.S. Veteran’s Magazine caught up with Biggio to discuss this year’s Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, how he decided to feature the veterans in his book and what’s up next for him.

U.S. Veteran’s Magazine: You’re celebrating the 11th year of Boston’s Wounded Vet Run. Did you ever think it would be as popular as it has become?

Andrew Biggio: I never thought I would be doing this for over a decade. Like every other organization, we haven’t gotten to see our peak numbers because of COVID. People are still coming out and riding 10 years later, and some people take pride in saying they have been at every wounded vet run, so I love doing it.

USVM: How do you choose the veterans to honor each year and how much money do you raise each year?

Hundreds of motorcycles and riders at rally eventBiggio: Really, it’s just people I come across, people I meet, referrals from previous wounded veterans. I had served in Iraq and Afghanistan with veterans who got wounded, and they spent time in these hospitals with veterans who they think should be honorees.

USVM: Why did you decide to write The Rifle?

Biggio: I started having World War II veterans show up to my wounded vet ride, and I started to realize how it’s not every day you see a World War II vet come to a motorcycle rally to pay respects to the younger generation of veterans. It got me into really focusing on America’s last World War II veterans. I started to read my uncle’s last letter home, who I was named after, and how much he enjoyed the M1 rifle. The M1 rifle just represented that whole Greatest Generation because that was the standard rifle of the times, so I went out and bought one. I wanted to collect signatures of all of the different World War II veterans while I still had them around. After hearing some of their stories and visiting them, I just realized some people hadn’t heard the particular stories of these men I was meeting.

USVM: How did you choose the veterans to feature in the book?

Biggio: I really wanted to write about the units that weren’t often covered in history; they were often overlooked, so I picked not well-known divisions and things like that because my grandfather had served with the 10th Armored Division. That was a division you don’t often hear about.

USVM: What’s up next for you?

Biggio: I think I am going to do volume two of my Rifle book. The book [took me in so many unexpected directions, including leading] me to bring a World War II veteran from the 17th Airborne Division back over to Germany. [In March of this year,] we unveiled a monument for the 17th Airborne Division in Germany because there was no memorial there.

For more information about Andrew Biggio, his book and the veterans whose stories were featured visit thewwiirifle.com.

Understanding the Exceptional Family Member Program

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Managing the care and services for a family member with special needs is more manageable with the right support. The goal of the Exceptional Family Member Program is to help your military family with special needs thrive in military life. EFMP is more than just one program or connection point. It’s the work of three components: identification and enrollment, assignment coordination and family support. The resources, tools and services that are available to support your journey are organized as part of the EFMP Resources, Options and Consultations or EFMP ROC.

If your spouse, child or other dependent family member is in need of ongoing medical or educational services, your first step is to enroll them in the Exceptional Family Member Program. Enrollment is mandatory but once enrolled, you will have access to the services, support and information you need to become your family’s best advocate.

Each branch of service has its own mission and history with EFMP. However, there has been a focus over the past several years on creating more standardization across services to make it easier for families to find what they need, when they need it. We can minimize misperceptions and increase satisfaction by helping families understand how the system works and what to expect.

What is EFMP?

The EFMP is a Department of Defense program implemented by all service branches. The EFMP has three components all working together.

  • Identification and Enrollment is the point of entry into the EFMP. Enrollment in the EFMP is mandatory for active-duty military members who meet enrollment criteria. When a family member is identified with special medical or educational needs, those needs are documented through enrollment. Members of the National Guard or reserve may enroll according to service-specific guidance.
  • Assignment Coordination ensures the family’s special needs are considered during the assignment process. The EFMP makes every effort to help keep families together and support the service member’s career. The final decision for duty station selection will always be determined based on mission need.
  • Family Support enables the family to become its own best advocate by helping them identify and connect with resources, expert consultations, education and community support. EFMP Family Support provides in person support as well as virtual self-service support through online information and resources available on Military OneSource and through Military OneSource EFMP ROC specialty consultations.

Ways EFMP can help your service member’s family

Each installation has an EFMP Family Support office staffed with providers who can help your service member and their family in the following ways:

  • Find and tap into community resources, services and programs that will meet their needs.
  • Provide information and referrals and help your service member’s family develop a family services plan.
  • Offer training and other support to help your service member’s family be their own best advocate.
  • Provide a warm hand-off to EFMP Family Support at the next installation when your service member PCSs.

Tools and resources for families with special needs

EFMP and offers a number of tools and resources to support military families with special needs. Your service member and their family can tap into these to stay in the know and connect with the services they need.

  • EFMP resources, options and consultations provides enhanced support by phone or video. Special needs consultants can connect your service member and their family with experts in education, the military health care system and TRICARE, special needs financial planning, and more.
  • EFMP & Me is an online tool that allows your service member and their family to navigate services for military families with special needs, create customized checklists and stay organized.
  • The Exceptional Advocate is a quarterly e-newsletter that focuses on updates and information from the Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • The EFMP & Me podcast series covers all things EFMP and other topics of interest to military families with special needs, like caregiving, legal and long-term financial planning, PCSing with a family member with special needs and more.

Everything is easier when you have a network of support. EFMP can help your service member pull together the information, services and resources that will allow their family to thrive.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

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