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

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Service dog with his handler bent down on one knee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vietnam Veteran Continues Serving Others Through Legal Advocacy & Emergency Response

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veteran advocate sits with group at table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more please visit VetsLegal.org

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

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Chris Ann Phillips headshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Manly Bands

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

ABOUT ARMED SERVICES YMCA:  

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

Thanking Community-Based Veteran Service Providers in 2021

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

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

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

Connecting Veterans in Northwest Florida

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

By Indiana Veterans, For Indiana Veterans

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

Food Drives for Navajo Nation Veterans

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

Getting Started with Accessing Resources in Your Community

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

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

About the Author

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

About America’s Warrior Partnership

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

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

www.AmericasWarriorPartnership.org | @AWPartnership | #awpartnership

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.

Morgan Freeman: Always With Purpose

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Morgan Freeman collage of professional photos

By Samar Khoury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above and Beyond: The lives of a veteran’s family are changed after receiving assistance from DAV

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The Nutt family smiling outside their home with US flag in background

By: Matt Saintsing

When Sarah Nutt contacted DAV (Disabled American Veterans) last May, she hoped her husband, Gary, an Air Force veteran, would be eligible for some much-needed additional compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. DAV is a nonprofit organization that helps more than one million veterans each year get the life-changing benefits they deserve.

Finances had become so bleak in the years after Gary stopped working due to illness that Sarah would trim expenses by routinely cutting his hair. There was rarely cash for extra food or gas. And medical and dental insurance was a luxury they couldn’t afford. “There was no money for anything other than the bare necessities,” said Sarah. “That’s why we were reaching out so desperately.”

What she didn’t bank on, however, was DAV helping the family obtain much more than the modest $150 per month she was hoping for, substantially increasing Gary’s VA rating and even connecting their daughter, Sadie, with educational benefits for eligible dependents.

Years before, Gary got to see the world serving as an aircraft electrical and environmental systems mechanic, traveling to Germany, Spain and the Philippines. But it was his service in the Persian Gulf War that sparked a medical mystery.

After spending just over six months at King Abdulaziz Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Gary began to experience excruciating headaches while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. “I bent over to open up my locker on base, and after standing up, I had a splitting headache,” said Gary, a DAV life member of Chapter 7 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, “the worst I’ve ever had in my life.” Doctors said he had a sinus infection, but the medication they offered provided no relief.

“They gave me some pills that didn’t work, so I went back and they gave me some more pills that didn’t work,” added Gary. “Nothing really seemed to help.” Moments of intense anguish persisted after Gary left the Air Force, which led doctors to temporarily remove part of his skull, hoping to end the agony. Shortly after that, he began having seizures. As the years passed, Gary’s symptoms became worse.

The headaches continued, but other worries appeared: slowed speech and a steep and gradual decline in Gary’s reaction time. As more tasks took him longer to complete, the air conditioning repair company Gary worked for considered him a hazard to the workplace. “They had laid me off because I got to the point where I was really slow,” said Gary. “I got there at 5 every day, I worked as hard as I could, but they said I was more of a liability than an asset.”

“Everything slowed down,” added Sarah, “to the point where I had to help him do anything.” A stay-at-home mom, Sarah began caring for him full time, and Gary’s VA compensation at the time was not enough to cover their expenses. With Gary out of work since 2016, they slipped further into financial distress. However, their tide turned after Sarah called DAV National Service Officer Lindsay Kinslow, who was confident she could significantly increase Gary’s overall VA rating.

“They were really adamant about the $150 that comes with aid and attendance benefits,” said Kinslow, who works at the DAV national service office in Washington, D.C. “And I said, ‘Well, maybe we can get you a little bit more than that.’” Kinslow submitted the claim last June, which opened the floodgates of VA appointments for Gary—six in two months—to reassess his health. By staying in constant communication with Sarah, Kinslow learned the scope of the Nutts’ financial anxieties extended to their home, which they were close to losing.

So when Sarah got the call last October and learned about everything Kinslow had secured for Gary, she broke out in tears. “It was just such a huge blessing and a relief,” said Sarah. “When [Sarah] told me Gary had to quit working due to this condition, I knew for sure that would lead to an increase,” added Kinslow.

In all, Gary became a permanent and total service-connected disabled veteran, with the special compensation Sarah originally asked about.

With the increased funds, they were able to get a new vehicle, and for the first time in four years, Gary received a professional haircut. But the most unexpected benefit the Nutts received was the VA educational benefits available to survivors and dependents of eligible veterans. With that added benefit, their daughter Sadie will be able to recoup some of the money she spent while enrolled in cosmetology school. “We are just so thankful to Lindsay and DAV,” added Sarah.

“I know money isn’t the most important thing, but it can be very hard to live.”

To get help or learn more about how DAV helps veterans, visit DAV.org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retired Military Working Dogs: Home at Last

Military Working Dog Spyk and Handler Justin Reunited in Germany

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

Military Working Dog Syrius and Handler Debbie Reunited in Germany

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

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

Military Working Dog Rango and Handler Adrian Reunited in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022
  3. CCME Annual Symposium
    February 7, 2022 - February 10, 2022
  4. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  5. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022