Veteran Kayla Blood Takes on Monster Jam World Finals® in Soldier Fortune®

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Kayla Blood in soldier uniform smiling

A mom, Monster Jam® driver and military veteran, Kayla Blood is a force to be reckoned with. She proudly served in the Louisiana Army National Guard for six years and now brings her tenacity to the dirt, competing in Monster Jam competitions around the world.

Kayla competes in Soldier Fortune®, a camo-clad, tank-inspired Monster Jam truck dedicated to the thousands of men and women in the U.S. Military around the world. During her six years of service in the Louisiana National Guard, Kayla served full-time in Force Protection. Just as her unit received word of deployment to Afghanistan, Kayla learned she was pregnant with her son and had to stay home in Louisiana. While she wanted to serve overseas, her son is her greatest blessing, and the Guard helped lead her to so many great experiences.

Kayla is also the first female National Guard veteran driver for Monster Jam, crashing through glass ceilings as she competes in a male-dominated sport. Kayla never turns down a competition, and her signature move if an attempt goes awry? Military pushups on the wreckage.

“I want to win fair and square,” says Kayla on competing against men. “I love being able to show little girls watching that they can do whatever they set out to do and to never back down from a challenge.”

Kayla Blood took her fiercely competitive talents to Monster Jam World Finals®, the series marquee event, which took place in Orlando May 21-22, 2022. Each year, Monster Jam World Finals highlights the best of the best in Skills, Racing, High Jump and Freestyle competitions. Drivers pull out their best moves and risk it all for the championship title.

“It’s truly an honor to drive Soldier Fortune in competitions around the world and to have done so at Monster Jam World Finals,” says Kayla. “Representing the brave men and women who have served the United States is a something I take great pride in doing.”

For more information on Monster Jam World Finals and Kayla Blood, visit MonsterJam.com/WorldFinals.

Can soldiers consume CBD energy drinks?

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U.S. Soldier drinking Rockstar beverage with hemp leaves in the background

by Sarah Sicard, MilitaryTimes

Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.

But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.

“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.

“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.

Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.

“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.

“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”

So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.

Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.

Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.

Arkansas veterans honored as motorcyclists travel cross country

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motorcyclists honor veterans in Arkansas

By Jade Jackson, THV11

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — A large American flag hung by the local fire department blows with the wind as motorcyclists ride over a hill to the River Valley Veterans Memorial Park in Russellville.

They are riding as part of ‘Run for the Wall’, and are stopping to rest and eat at the memorial park along their journey. ‘Run for the Wall’ is an annual motorcycle ride in the United States that features parades around the country supporting Veterans and patriots traveling from Ontario, California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

They ride across the country to remember those Veterans missing in action, killed in action, or others who are prisoners of war.

Their ride through Arkansas counts as day 5 for them traveling from the West Coast to the east. While resting, they also honored the veterans remembered at the memorial.

“It’s the longest and hardest ride through the entire journey. We have a lot of miles to put in,” said Christina Roulston, the Arkansas state coordinator for ‘Run for the Wall’.

Roulston said the stop in Russellville is a new one. They usually stop for lunch in Coal Hill, Arkansas but the usual organization they work with has veterans who are aging and dealing with health problems. So unfortunately they weren’t able to feed them this year.

Click here to read the full article on THV11.

Retired Army captain runs 44 miles in effort to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health

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Kyle Butters crosses finsish line carrying a U.S. flag

By Bradley Bennett, Cincinnati News

In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.

More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.

I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.

Read the complete article here.

Park Police to resume escorts for Honor Flight visits around Washington, D.C.

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male veteran shaking hands with female uniformed police officer in an outdoor setting

By Leo Shane III, Air Force Times

U.S. Park Police officials have agreed to resume escorts for Honor Flight events around the nation’s capital, continuing a tradition that had been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The news came just one day before the group’s celebration on the National Mall of the 250,000th veteran transported through the program. Since 2005, officials have helped veterans from across the country visit Washington, D.C. for an opportunity to tour the war memorials and national landmarks there.
Max Lonzanida

In many cases, the veterans are elderly and in poor health, and are able to make the trip only because of the special medical and financial assistance provided by the group.

In the past, the U.S. Park Police provided escorts to tour buses filled with veterans visiting areas of the National Mall with limited parking, such as the World War II memorial and Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Honor Flight officials reimbursed the agency for the costs of the escorts.

Honor Flight activities were largely shuttered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but resumed last fall. However, Park Police officials in recent months have told organizers they could no longer assist with the events because of bureaucratic issues with the Department of Interior.

On Monday, officials said those problems have been resolved. Escorts will resume starting June 1.

In a joint statement, officials from the Park Police, the National Mall and Memorial Parks agency and Honor Flight said they have met in recent weeks “to discuss our shared commitment to continuing to work together and the best way to safely support hosted visits while also ensuring USPP can meet its primary law enforcement and public safety mission.”

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo News.

Honor Flight Network Celebrates Milestone of Bringing 250,000 Veterans to Nation’s Capital on May 3 Event

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Honor Flight Network promo poster

To kick off Military Appreciation Month, hundreds of dignitaries, veterans, volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network will gather at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the organization’s milestone of bringing 250,000 veterans to our Nation’s Capitol to visit the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice on May 3rd.

WHAT:
Event to commemorate the 250,000th participant in the Honor Flight Network program.

WHO:
– The 250,000th Commemorative Honor Flight participant and hundreds of veterans

– Volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network
– The Honorable Elizabeth Dole, Event Chairperson
– Speakers include Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald M. Remy, Senator Jerry Moran and Congressman Mark Takano

WHY:                                    
To celebrate Honor Flight Network’s past while charting its course for the future in serving veterans from more recent eras.

WHEN:
Tuesday, May 3, 2022, 2 p.m.- 3 p.m.

WHERE:
World War II Memorial, 17th Street NW
Between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.

The event includes distinguished speakers and guests, military band, Honor Guard and hundreds of seated veterans, volunteers and supporters, set against the backdrop of the World War II Memorial.

For more information visit, Honor Flight Network.

One Veteran’s Special Mother’s Day Tribute

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John Register poses with his arm around his mother both smiling

By John Register, Silver Medal Paralympian and Combat Veteran

A post to the gentle giant slayer and the best mother a boy, youngster, and man could ever hope to have had, my mother E. Dolores Register (October 23, 1933 – December 9, 2021).

The journey of grief is not easy, especially when the person you lost is your mother. The absence of a mother is one of the hardest pains in life. Today is a wonderful time to remember that mothers hold their children’s hands for a while, and in their hearts forever. While I miss her dearly, I remember how fortunate I was that she was in my life. She was my protector. I would not trade those moments for the world.

We move forward toward a greater expected hope. Hope may not be a plan, but without it we sink into despair. It is a dynamic essence that allows us to actuate a better state to realize a better existence is on the way.

As the world changes day to day, the love and memory of my mother, E Dolores Register shall never pass. – John Register

New Minnesota Veterans Law promises to ‘protect and support’ those who served

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A man wearing appearing with half civilian clothing and the other half of a military uniform

By Dana Thiede, Kare 11 NBC

Vowing to make good on Minnesota’s duty to “protect and support” those who have served in the military, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the new state Veterans Bill into law.

The legislation, which passed through both the House and Senate nearly unanimously, was written to end and prevent future veteran homelessness, fund veterans’ homes and cemeteries around the state, and award bonuses to Gold Star families who have sacrificed while their loved ones were serving.

“This bill makes good on our duty to protect and support our veterans during and after their service – and it demonstrates that we can come together in a bipartisan way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families,” said Governor Walz in a released statement. “As a 24-year veteran of the National Guard, this is a bill that’s close to my heart. I know that this is going to have a real impact for our veterans and I’m proud to sign it into law.”

The new Veterans Law includes:

  • $5.4 million that will fund a grant to provide assistance to veterans and former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness.
  • $1.7 million annually to fund temporary housing options for vets experiencing homelessness and to increase outreach activities to end homelessness.
  • $10.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and $16.5 million in 2023 for the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of new veterans homes to support vets in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, Minnesota.
  • Nearly $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to fund service bonuses to post 9/11 era vets and Gold Star families.

“Minnesota’s more than 304,000 Veterans know that their voices were heard and their service honored with the historic passing of this first-ever Veterans Omnibus Bill,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

Along with support for Minnesota’s veterans, the new Veterans Law also provides $4 million for enlistment incentives designed to retain trained and ready members of the Minnesota National Guard over fiscal years 2023-2025.

Click here to read the full article on Kare 11 NBC.

Starbucks Supports Military Community with eGift Card Donation

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starbucks employee shaking a plastic container of coffee waering a mask and green apron

The past year has placed unique stressors on those in the military, and Starbucks continues to meet the varied needs of the military community. Since 2019, Starbucks has been committed to help break the stigma around mental health through resources, advocacy and partnerships with organizations who are dedicated to improving military families’ mental health and well-being.

To extend this support: This May, for every Starbucks eGift Card in our Military Appreciation Month category sold between May 1-May 31, Starbucks will donate $5 to be divided evenly Blue Star Families and Operation Gratitude to support the mental health and well-being of our military community.

Customers can purchase an eGift card here (starting May 1).

Starbucks Military Commitment

  • Since 2013, our goal has been to hire 5,000 military Veterans and military spouses annually, and in FY21 we hired more than 7,700 across Starbucks roles in the U.S.
  • Have dedicated nearly 100 Military Family Stores across the nation to-date. Starbucks Military Family Stores are located near major military bases and are designed to hire and honor soldiers, veterans, and their families.
  • Offer partner (employee) benefits specifically for active duty military and military families, including Military Service Pay which provides up to 80 hours of pay each year when National Guard or Reserve service obligations take them away from their work with the company, as well as a Starbucks College Achievement Plan benefit that Veteran partners can extend to a qualified family member for 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program.

Continued support of service organizations like Headstrong, Operation Gratitude, Blue Star Families and Team Red, White and Blue who help veterans as they transition to civilian life, continue to develop as leaders, and leverage their skills and passions to positively change communities.

Military Makeover: Meet Our New Military Makeover Family

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Military couple pose together with red white and blue cutain backdrop with a Military Makeover logo inserted above left

On our special milestone 30th Military Makeover, we are proud to be honoring not one, but two deserving veterans on our upcoming season, and a love story unlike any we’ve told before!

Childhood sweethearts, Justin and Kristie Ziegler, first met in 8h grade in South Florida. Fast forward to the 10th grade, Justin joined the same cheerleading team Kristie was already a part of, they ended up spending hours and hours training together. The team’s coach noticed the chemistry and encouraged them to go on a date together. The couple have been together ever since – supporting one another through each of their hardships and challenges, and even decided to join the Air Force together.

Justin and Kristie married just before Kristie left for basic training in 2003. They were stationed together at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Staff Sergeant Justin Ziegler was assigned to the 60th CES Wing as a Fire Protection Technician. He was soon deployed to Afghanistan to support “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Justin was immediately responsible for the safety of over 2000 troops, as well as over $750 million worth of Aircraft.

Justin’s duties as a Lead EMT and Crew Chief within the fire department, whether on deployment or at Travis Air Force Base, involved being a 1st Responder to medical emergencies which often resulted in encountering traumatic and stressful events; from car accidents and cardiac arrests, to shootings, house fires and wildland fires. Being a first responder to all medical emergencies, including suicides of fellow troop members, took a heavy toll on Justin and opened his eyes to the crippling levels of stress, trauma and PTSD that military service members experience.

Senior Airman Kristie Ziegler quickly emerged as a rising star and natural leader after completing her formal training as a Dietary Technician, and was awarded Airman of the year in 2006 for her dedicated service. When Kristie deployed to Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan her role would change dramatically, providing treatment to soldiers wounded in battle, as well as local civilians who had been wounded or hurt. One of the hardest and most heartbreaking struggles of her career was treating young children who had been injured in bombings; witnessing sights no human on this planet should ever be forced to endure.

Life as a young married couple together in the military was challenging for Justin and Kristie, with deployments separating them from one another for long periods, and both witnessing many tragic events and loss of life. While they still struggle with PTSD, the support and love they give one another has provided the foundation for a loving home for their two children and pets.

For our landmark 30th Military Makeover, and with the support of our devoted partners, we cannot wait to provide a “forever home” for two heroic and deserving military veterans!

Tune in to Military Makeover Thurs. & Fri. at 7:30 a.m. (ET/PT)

The before and after photos will be posted after the Big Reveal, so you will see the family reaction to their newly updated home. Stay tuned!

About the Hosts

Montel Williams: Montel began his professional career in the United States Marine Corps, becoming the first black Marine selected to the Naval Academy Prep School to then go on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. Williams earned a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs and served in the military for a total of 22 years. He is best known as the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, which aired nationally for seventeen years. Along with being a New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Montel is a passionate advocate for veterans, education and health. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House Foundation and the Anne Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Montel is thrilled to be a part of Military Makeover, relishing the opportunity to give back to his fellow veterans.

Art Edmonds:  Art Edmonds is a TV host, spokesperson and voiceover talent with over 17 years of experience. He is currently best known as the co-host of the TV series Military Makeover.

Since the show’s inception, Edmonds teamed with the late, great R.Lee Ermey, famed character actor and veteran, to give a complete home makeover to a deserving wounded U.S. veteran and his family. Now Art serves on the series alongside talk show legend and prominent veteran advocate Montel Williams to give back to our service men and women.

Art’s prominent narration credits includes three seasons on the Nat Geo Wild top-rated series Swamp Men for three seasons, docudrama series Planet Xtreme on The Weather Channel and two seasons on the Nat Geo Wild series Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.

Jennifer Bertrand: Jennifer Bertrand is best known as the winner of HGTV’s popular series Design Star, drawing over 5 million viewers thanks to her no-nonsense, accessible approach to making positive and impactful design changes without breaking the bank. After taking the competition by storm, Jennifer moved on to host her own show, Paint Over! with Jennifer Bertrand, featuring families in transition and in desperate need of help.

Bertrand currently is the designer on the series Military Makeover, airing on Lifetime TV, and has appeared in countless media outlets such as USA TodayThe New York Post, Rachel Ray Magazine, Life & Style Magazine, InStyle Magazine and is a frequent contributor to NBC.

Read more at MilitaryMakeover.TV

2021’s Best & Worst Places for Veterans to Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A with WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez

What makes a city good or bad for veterans?

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

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

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

Does the military do enough to teach financial literacy?

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

How are veterans impacted by COVID-19?

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

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. San Diego Unified Construction Expo 2022
    July 13, 2022
  5. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022