Mindset: The Secret to Living

LinkedIn
two soldiers standing side by side smiling

When one discharges from the military, veterans are often left with the gigantic task of reintegration. To describe this journey as “daunting” doesn’t even cover half of it.

Not only do these veterans have to deal with an entirely new set of norms and procedures; they also often come with scars of war such as survivor’s guilt, missing limbs, tinnitus, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) just to name a few. Add on the feeling of a general lack of support from society; it is no wonder why many veterans go into complete isolation, or worse case, commit suicide.

I saw my first Special Forces (SF) person in basic training. I, along with the rest of my company, looked at them with reverence and awe. Like a sort of real-life Rambo. We all thought that there was nothing that these guys couldn’t do; they were the best of the best; they were elite. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that individuals in the SF community go through the exact same struggles that veterans do. I had the privilege to speak with 27-year Navy SEAL veteran Jason Tuschen, former CMC (Command Master Chief) and current CEO of Sylabs, Inc., about his struggles, lessons learned and mindset.

Paul Peng: Out of your 27-year career as a Navy SEAL, what was your most trying time?

Jason Tuschen: When Dave Tapper was killed in action (KIA) on August 20, 2003 in Eastern Afghanistan. Dave was one of my closet friends. We deployed together at SEAL Team 3 and worked closely at NSWDG. He was a husband and father of four kids. His youngest son and my son were born a month apart. Any death is a tragedy. But when it is someone close, it is gut wrenching. I will never forget carrying his casket at Little Creek, Va. while the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” standing at Arlington listening to Taps as he was lowered down; nor the brotherhood we shared. As I progressed up to the rank of CMC, I had to handle several tragedies. The last one that I had to be a part of before retirement was when Chuck Keating IV died. He was KIA in Northern Iraq May 3, 2016. Any death in the Teams is hard, but Chuck’s was especially so because of how much media attention it got. Myself and Capt. Gary Richard had to go to both his parents and his brother (also a SEAL) informing them that he was KIA. The whole process of getting the proverbial 2 a.m. phone call, hauling ass into work then telling the next of kin is the worst task a leader has to do. But it pales in comparison to what the family has to endure.

Peng: To you, what’s the difference between the mindset of a SOF (Special Operations Forces) member versus conventional forces?

Tuschen: Humble confidence. We train with a sense of urgency and to the worst-case scenario. You definitely learn humility by training that way. It is physically and mentally exhausting, but you know that when you deploy you are as well trained as you can be and feel prepared. However, there is always room for improvement. You continuously strive for virtuosity knowing that you will never attain it. That is “humble confidence.”

Teamwork. In SOF, we are very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. As a result, we are able to complement each other, covering for each other’s weaknesses. Making an unstoppable team.

Taking Ownership. Take ownership of your mistakes, that’s how you learn. In SOF, we spend a lot of time going over lessons learned so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.

Mental Toughness. It is the union of discipline and courage. Courage isn’t just running to the sound of gun fire, but doing what is right, regardless of apprehensions or fear. Discipline is doing what you know to be right regardless of any distractions or discomforts.

Peng: How was your transition to the private sector after serving 27 years as a SEAL?

Tuschen: I did not find it too difficult. I retired because I realized I needed to be uncomfortable again. I became comfortable with the problems I faced and my authorities. Heck, I had my own parking spot! I needed to feel like the “new guy” again. I loved every moment of the SEAL teams, but I am not defined entirely by being a SEAL, and I never let it define me.

Peng: Why do you think so many veterans, including the SOF community, have a tough time transitioning?

Tuschen: I think, particularly in the SOF community, it’s very easy to let your job and lifestyle become your identity. The longer you stay in, the more likely you will fall into the identity trap. Once you have achieved such heights, becoming the “new guy” again in a completely foreign environment, can be extremely daunting. The environment you move to next most likely will not share the values and morals that you have grown to respect and love. That can be extremely frustrating if you stay stuck in the past. You have two choices: go forward and be uncomfortable or stay stuck in the past. I call it the “Uncle Rico Syndrome.”

Peng: What advice can you give to transitioning SOF members and veterans that are struggling?

Tuschen: I would tell them to apply the same physical and mental energy that got you through selection or basic training and apply that to your new task at hand, starting as the “new guy.”

Nobody cares that you were in a combat zone, been through life-threatening events or were in Special Forces. Many civilians will think that you are a robot or the “angry veteran,” even though you and every other veteran knows it’s false. Instead, use your experiences to your advantage and GET AFTER IT! Be humble and confident. Be prepared to prove yourself all over again.

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

LinkedIn
A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.

Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.

 

The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:

  • Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • North Carolina National Guard
  • Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • Fort Wainwright, Alaska
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
  • Camp Humphreys, South Korea

By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.

“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”

To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.

Source: Department of Defense

Post Military Education – 5 Questions You Should Ask Before Going Back to School

LinkedIn
Series with a female as a solidier in an United States Army uniform. Numerous props convey a variety of concepts.

Post Military Education – Going back to school is one of life’s big choices. And like all major decisions, it might feel a little overwhelming — particularly if you’re just starting to navigate the civilian world again after military service.

Make it a little easier by breaking your decision down into smaller steps. If you’re on the fence about whether to continue your education, here are five questions you can ask yourself before taking the leap back into school.

 Happy military student in camouflage uniform and graduate cap standing on copy space background

What is my goal? (Or what do I want to be when I grow up?) 

This one tops our list for a reason. Once you have an answer to this critical question, you can start working backwards. Before you commit money and time to returning to school, think about what you hope to achieve by continuing your post military education and where you see your civilian career taking you. You don’t want to take courses without an endgame in mind because then you might end up with classes you don’t need.

If you’re not sure of your goal, consider the skills you mastered in the military and how they might translate to a civilian career. Evaluate your strengths using a test, like with the CareerScope Assessment at the Department of Veterans to identify potential job courses. See a career counselor or find someone in your field of interest to meet with or even shadow for a day. But you don’t have to do any of this alone. The VA also offers free career and educational counseling to those who are about to leave the military or who have recently transitioned.

 Veteran African Man Person Education. Army Soldier - Post Military Education

What should I study?

Once you’ve decided on a career path, it’s time to choose a program of study for your post military education. If you want to work at VA, you can pick from just about any program. As the largest integrated health care system in the nation, we employ hundreds of thousands of clinical and non-clinical staff across the country. We have job opportunities across the spectrum of careers, not just in health care.

 

Where should I go to school?

There are thousands of colleges in the U.S., ranging from two-year technical schools to four-year liberal arts schools. Narrow down your list by finding a school that offers the program you’re interested in and is located nearby if you plan to attend in person. You might also want to consider a school with an active veteran community and resources for former military for post military education.

 The soldier's military tokens are on dollar bills. Concept: cost - Post Military Education

Can I afford it?

We want to make sure the answer to this question is a definitive yes. As a veteran, you may be eligible to receive funding for some or all of your college, graduate school or post military education training program through the GI Bill — not to mention the generous scholarships, loan repayment and reimbursement and partner programs with colleges and universities that are available to VA employees. The VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) scholarship even pays your salary and tuition while you pursue clinical licensure.

 

Do I have time? 

Juggling a career, family life and school can be a delicate balancing act. Be sure you’re at the right place in your life to devote the time you need to your studies. It might be helpful to make a list of the time challenges you foresee and the resources you can put in place to help you manage them. Building this support system now can save you headaches down the road. At VA, you’ll find a culture of continuous learning with flexible work schedules, possible telework options and generous leave to help you manage going back to school.

 

Source: VAntagePoint Blog

 

Man’s Best Friend Reduces PTSD Symptoms

LinkedIn
Man Hugging his service dog

According to a new review of evidence-based studies, military veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from reduced symptoms and enhanced trauma treatments when they partner with assistance dogs and help with their training.

Seven scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found a long-term reduction in symptoms.

Chris Diefenthaler standing with his PTSD service dog
Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence and boosting well-being, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.”

Eleven assistance dog programs across the U.S. including eight accredited by ADI — participated in the studies carried out by behavioral scientists, military psychologists, public health experts and social workers. Researchers reported that “veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but [they also] experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.”

One study found “a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms…participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life.” In another study, researchers working with veterans being treated for chronic severe combat trauma used eye-tracking technology to measure the psychological effect of training a young assistance dog. The more time veterans spent in close contact with the dog, the less time they spent looking at threatening imagery, and they paid more attention to “pleasant” images.

In four studies that utilized control groups, symptoms of the assistance dog participants were reduced more than those of the control group, and few improvements were found in the treatment-only comparison groups.

“The scientific evidence is conclusive,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of ADI member Warrior Canine Connection. “These seven scientific examinations provide the long-awaited evidence that assistance dogs are both popular and effective at reducing trauma symptoms and improving the quality of life for our veterans. They also indicate that partnering with an assistance dog can enhance the perception of standard trauma treatment. PTSD is projected to remain a chronic and debilitating condition for thousands of veterans. It is imperative that assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD be fully integrated into military and veteran trauma care.”

Source: Assistance Dogs International

Acing the Military Tuition Assistance Program

LinkedIn
graduation cap on top of one hundred dollar bills

If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance (TA) program may be just the benefit you need.

The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100 percent of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:

  • Vocational/technical programs
  • Undergraduate programs
  • Graduate programs
  • Independent study
  • Distance-learning programs

Eligibility

All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active-duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with — not in addition to — any existing service obligation.

Coverage amounts and monetary limits

The Tuition Assistance Program may fund up to 100 percent of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits

  • Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
  • Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30

Tuition assistance versus the Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits

While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill funds are available to you after you leave the military. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.

Tuition assistance benefits and restrictions

Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee

NOTE: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.

Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:

  • Books and course materials
  • Flight training fees
  • Taking the same course twice
  • Continuing education units, or CEUs

Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid, if any of the following situations occur:

  • Leaving the service before the course ends
  • Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
  • Failing the course

Application process

Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center or go online to a virtual education center

Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:

  • Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
  • Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.

Top-up program

The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill — to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.

  • Eligibility. To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty.
  • Application. First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application, and mail it to one of the education processing offices listed on the form.

Other supplemental funding possibilities

Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members, including the following:

  • Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

Looking for a Service Dog?

LinkedIn
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

Retired Military Working Dogs Overcoming PTSD

LinkedIn
military working dog posing in a grassy area

The men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren’t the only ones who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from active duty — the dogs who serve so bravely alongside them often do as well.

Mission K9 Rescue, a working dog rescue in Houston, TX rehabilitates and re-homes retired military and contract working dogs. Since 2013, they’ve saved over 1,100 dogs and reunited over 540 dogs with former military handlers.

Often, retired military and contact working dogs have been in situations that have caused them severe anxiety and stress. Many retire with issues such as PTSD. These dogs need time with us to decompress and reintegrate into society, and Mission K9 Rescue works with these dogs to make them suitable for adoption.

Rehabilitating Retired Military Working Dogs Who Have PTSD

Causes — Retired working dogs frequently come to Mission K9 from high-intensity and potentially traumatizing circumstances. Many are trained for dangerous and high-risk tasks such as tracking, search and rescue, explosive detection, patrol, and attack, many of them undergoing explosions, air drops, and heavy-handedness by uncaring handlers. Because of this, many of these dogs exhibit PTSD. Of the dogs brought to Mission K9 Rescue, approximately 30% of military working dogs and 50% of contract working dogs exhibit PTSD. Contract working dogs are a higher percentage, as on top of the training and stressful scenarios, they are more likely to be handled poorly and often aggressively.

Removal From Kennels — After retirement, many military working dogs are stuck in kennels, whether overseas or stateside. The first step for rehabilitation of these dogs is to get them out of these kennels as soon as possible, one of the many reasons being that the kennel environment does not help their PTSD.

Symptoms — Dogs with PTSD may exhibit symptoms such as shaking, crying, and trying to hide. They can also be aggressive around people, including being resource aggressive. They may also not trust, occasionally mistrusting one sex over the other due to handler neglect or abuse. Various triggers from their service cause these behaviors.

Treatment Once Mission K9 Rescue determines a dog to have PTSD, they isolate them in their own play yard so they can get used to their new surroundings and begin to feel a bit more grounded and peaceful. Mission K9 Rescue will also make sure they’re not around any loud noises, which can trigger their condition. “We treat them all the same, giving equal amounts of love and care,” says co-founder, Bob Bryant. “If they cower or show aggression, we’ll take more time with them, working to gain their trust and love. Unfortunately, if dogs with PTSD have continued difficulties, we may have them prescribed Prozac or Trazodone, though we try to keep this at a minimum as there can be nasty side effects.” However, though Mission K9 Rescue can mitigate PTSD with time, love, and patience, “We unfortunately cannot cure it,” says Bob.

Adoption Despite not being able to fully cure PTSD, Mission K9 Rescue has seen many dogs initially exhibiting PTSD eventually decompress, become adoptable, and find happy homes with devoted caretakers. Behavioral changes that show less agitation, return of normal drive, and sociability are some of the signs we look for when evaluating a dog for adoption that initially presented with PTSD.

Awareness is the key for dogs with PTSD. It takes someone with patience, awareness, and compassion to take care of a dog that has any level of trauma. But as that dog begins to find peace in its new home and develops a sense of trust for its new owner, the richness of the bond can be incredibly special.

Chicago fundraiser ‘Ruck March’ supports veterans in need

LinkedIn
Veterans at the Ruck March

By , Fox 32

With Memorial Day around the corner, one Chicago veterans group is preparing for their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The daily average of veterans who die by suicide has dropped, but the pandemic put a huge dent in services.

The big event later this month aims to show veterans they are not alone.

The Chicago Veterans Ruck March is 17 miles and raises money for veterans in need — 17 miles representing how many veterans die each day from suicide.

“The Ruck March is basically bringing awareness and it’s also giving soldiers a therapeutic value that they can wear their lost soldiers picture, they can do it in their honor,” said Carlos Vega, Veteran Outreach and Events Coordinator. “And also bring awareness that PTSD is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”

For eight years, the organization Chicago Veterans has hosted 300 community events in 45 Chicagoland communities.

“This is all about keeping us together as a team. One team, one fight. We’re all fighting one mission. We’re all battling ourselves,” said Army veteran Armando Vega, Organizer of Veterans in Recovery.

Vega has been sober for more than eight years. Through Chicago Veterans, he launched the Veterans in Recovery program. Money from the fundraiser helps keep the program going.

“It’s all about paying it forward, helping others and ain’t nothing better than helping another brother or sister veteran,” Vega said.

Click here to read the full article on Fox 32.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, long-distance hiking fills that need.

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

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

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

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

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

Read the original article posted on the OC Register

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

LinkedIn
Service dog with his handler bent down on one knee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanking Community-Based Veteran Service Providers in 2021

LinkedIn
group of hands shaking

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

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans

American Family Insurance

American Family Insurance

Leidos Video

lilly

Alight

Alight

Heroes with Hearing loss

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. REBOOT WORKSHOP – VIRTUAL
    September 12, 2022 @ 8:00 am - January 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
  5. Americas Warrior Partnership 9th Annual Symposium
    October 4, 2022 - October 6, 2022