From Heartbreak to Hope, Honoring Those Who Protect Us

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Stephen Siller in Firefighter Uniform

By Kellie Speed

When New York City Firefighter Stephen Siller was killed during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, he could never have imagined the tremendous legacy his family would create in his memory.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was born as a result of that tragic day to honor and remember Stephen’s heroism as he ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60 lbs. of gear on his back to the South Tower to serve in the rescue efforts. The foundation honors America’s greatest heroes and their families.

We caught up with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation Chairman and CEO Frank Siller to discuss the incredible work the foundation continues to do in the loving memory of his little brother.

Why was it so important for you personally to create a program to help our wounded warriors?

We know we went to war because of what happened on September 11, 2001, and my brother was a New York City firefighter who died that day. I fully appreciated that we didn’t want this to happen again on our soil, and we went into Iraq, Afghanistan and other places to ensure that it did not happen again. While doing so, many men and women sacrificed tremendously for our country to protect us here in America.

The first ever quadruple amputee to survive any war was years after 9/11; to be precise, it was in 2009 when SGT Brendan Marrocco lost all four limbs for our country. I went down with a group from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. I saw the sacrifice Marrocco made for us as a country and those 9/11 families who lost somebody — that’s when we decided to start building mortgage-free smart homes for our country’s most catastrophically injured service members. Not just injured, but catastrophically injured — those who have given up two, three or four limbs, or those who are quadriplegic, paraplegic or suffered a traumatic brain injury where they can hardly function, and other injuries along those lines. We want to give back some of the independence they gave away protecting us.

Can you tell us about the smart home program?

We have built over 100 smart homes across the country, but we have 73 new names that we just added for this coming year or two. It will be close to 200 by the time we are done in two years, but there are still more out there. Many have waited for years because I didn’t have the funds, resources or ability to build all these homes at once. Each home is a tremendous expense. Just to buy the land for these great heroes is $200 to $300 thousand. Then, we are into the construction side for $600 to $700 thousand.

The recipients need the space inside their homes to maneuver comfortably, and that’s the idea behind it all to give them back some of the comfort and independence that was taken away from them because they were protecting us. By no means is our work done. I don’t believe it will ever be done.

We have men and women who are still protecting us, and Gold Star families, those who have lost a loved one protecting our country. If they have young families left behind, if they don’t have a house, we build them a house; and if they do have a house, we pay off their mortgage. It’s a promise we made at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation that when their loved ones give them a kiss goodbye and they don’t come home, we are going to be there for the families because they gave their life for our country, so we have got to take care of them. That’s the promise the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has made.

How did it feel when you were able to hand over the keys to the first home recipient, Army SGT Brendan Marrocco?

It was a feeling that was inexplicable. It’s an emotion; sad to say that a lot of people don’t have that experience. They have great joy in their lives, and everybody should, but this is different. This is a blessing that we are able to give to a patriot who was willing to give their body for our country.

We delivered over 200 mortgage-free homes in 2021 and again in 2022, and the pace is picking up. We have got to do more and more every year. We do it for fallen first responders as well. If you die in the line of duty, we are going to pay off your mortgage, so we have our work cut out for us. I know there is no other foundation in America that has taken on this responsibility, and we are proud that we are. It’s more than just giving a mortgage-free house away; it’s creating a relationship with these beautiful families.

Did you ever envision Tunnel to Towers becoming what it is today?

No, this foundation was started in honor of my youngest brother Stephen. Stephen was the youngest of seven, so the six remaining siblings wanted to honor what he did and, for that matter, what all first responders did on 9/11. Stephen is only symbolic of the heroism demonstrated that day, and we want to make sure we never forget. That is our first obligation to make sure we never forget.

The beautiful thing about the Tunnel to Towers run that we have every year on the last Sunday in September is that we carry pictures of all 7,072 men and women who have given their lives for our country since 9/11. I think the legacy of my brother and the legacy of the foundation is the good work we are doing for all of these families.

What do you have planned for 2023?

We are going to try to eradicate homelessness amongst our veterans. The numbers I have given you are just for smart homes, Gold Star and fallen first responders. The foundation will have close to 1,000 homeless vets off the street in 2022, and I don’t talk about it too much. I want people to start realizing that we deliver. When we say we are going to do something, we deliver. When people donate $11 a month, and that’s what we ask Americans to do, they know where their money is going.

When you asked about plans for 2023, I am going to say that among smart homes, Gold Star, fallen first responders and catastrophically injured, we will do about 250 mortgage-free homes. Then for our homeless veterans, we will have 1,500 to 2,500 veterans off the streets in 2023. The beautiful thing is we are building these comfort homes for these homeless veterans, and then we are going to give them comprehensive services to be able to stay in the homes. We have a tremendous program we have rolled out that we are so proud of where we are doing all these things.

For more information about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, visit t2t.org.

Army Veteran Who Was Paralyzed Hopes to Inspire Others After Decades of Rehab

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veteran inspiring others screenshot of videoo

For retired Army Colonel Jim Bedingfield, it’s been nearly three decades of relearning how to put one foot in front of the other. Here’s his story of recovery and hope that he hopes will inspire others.

His rehab journey began back in 1994 after a spinal cord injury in the Army left him paralyzed.

“I had to learn how to walk again, had to learn how to use my arms and hands,” he shared.

View the video here.

But now, Bedingfield is doing a lot more than just walking thanks to a functional electrical stimulation leg device from a company called Bioness.

“For the first in 30 years since pre-injury I skied. For the first time in 40 years since pre-injury, I golfed. And those are things I just never thought I could do again,” he shared.

Now 61, Bedingfield is able to take on a range of adaptive sports.

To learn more about the L300 Go System that helped Jim regain mobility call 888-384-4090 or visit Bioness Rehab to learn about how this technology can help veterans.”

Read his full story recently posted on NBC 10 Boston here.

World War II veterans return to Utah Beach to mark D-Day anniversary

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World War ll veterans lined up to salute

By Sylvie Corbet and Jeffrey Schaeffer, The Associated Press

ON UTAH BEACH, France — World War II veterans shared vivid memories of D-Day and the fighting as dozens returned to Normandy beaches and key battle sites to mark the 79th anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi control.

Looking at the vastness of Utah Beach, its sand blowing in strong wind and bright sunshine, 99-year-old Robert Gibson remembered: “it was tough.”
 

U.S war veterans salute during a ceremony outside the Pegasus Bridge memorial in Benouville, Normandy, Monday, June 5, 2023. (Thomas Padilla/AP)

Gibson landed there on June 6, 1944 alongside more than 150,000 other Allied troops.

He said there were “lots of casualties. We had almost run over bodies to get in the beach. Never forget we were only 18, 19 years old. … I’m glad I made it.”

The first job of his battalion, he said, was “to guard an ammunition dump and the first night it got struck. You didn’t know where you were to go. Bullets were going all over the place. But we ducked it.”

On Monday, veterans have been greeted to the sound of bagpipes at the Pegasus Memorial, where they attended a ceremony commemorating a key operation in the first minutes of the D-Day operations, when troops had to take control of a strategic bridge.

World War II veterans Jake Larson, a 100-year-old American, and Bill Gladden, a 99-year-old British national, met at the memorial where they had a close discussion.

“I want to give you a hug, thank you. I got tears in my eyes. We were meant to meet,” Larson told Gladden, their hands clasped.

Larson, who has more than 600,000 followers on TikTok, explained with enthusiasm: “I’m just a country boy. Now I’m a star on TikTok. You can see me all over: ‘Papa Jake.’ I’m a legend! I didn’t plan this, it came about.”

Larson landed on Omaha Beach, where he ran under machine-gun fire and made it to the cliffs without being wounded.

“I’m 100 without an ache or a pain. You can’t fake that,” he said.

U.S. veteran Andrew Negra returned for the first time to Utah Beach this year. The last time he stood there was when he landed on July 18, 1944.

He was “amazed” by the warm welcome from local French people: “Every place we went, people are cheering, clapping, and they’ve been doing this for I don’t know how many years.”

At age 99, Negra is the only member of his battalion who is still alive. Braving the wind to walk on the beach for a few minutes, he said, “So many we lost. And here I am.”

Negra participated in combat operations until his division reached eastern Germany in April 1945.

Cheerful crowds applauded, calling out “Merci” and “Thank you.” Children waved, and many families asked for a photo with the men.

Read more of the article on Military Times here.

Deshauna Barber: On the Move

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Deshauna Barber was crowned as Miss USA 2016

By Brady Rhoades

Deshauna Barber’s father is a retired special forces Master Sergeant that instilled “leadership, discipline and integrity” in all his children, said Barber in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine.

Her late mother also served in the U.S. Army and inspired Barber and her siblings to join the military.

Growing up in North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Barber learned foundational principles from her parents that she carried into her military career.

Self-discipline. Teamwork. Endurance.

But she had to learn other principles and skills that hadn’t crossed her mind on her way to winning the 2016 Miss USA title.

Army Captain and Miss USA don’t seem to add up until you hear Barber, a veteran, CEO and motivational speaker, tell audiences, “The most important thing is to move.” And: “Be terrified of regret.”

Rewind to 2007, when Barber, 17, committed to a U.S. Army scholarship and joined the ROTC program at her university.

She then earned her master’s degree in management information systems and services from the University of Maryland University College and worked as an IT analyst for the United States Department of
Commerce.

Barber went on to become president and chief executive officer of Service Women’s Action Network, the nation’s leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of service women and women veterans in the country.

Deshauna Barber
Deshauna Barber (988th Quartermaster Detachment Company)

Barber was commissioned in 2011 as an Army Quartermaster Officer. During her service, she held many positions including a logistics commander of a petroleum detachment company. After reaching the rank of Captain, she decided to leave service to focus on her motivational speaking career and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve after 11 years of service.

“The Army Reserve taught me how to balance, plan, multi-task and prioritize,” she said. “Not to mention, being in the Army can be somewhat intimidating, depending on who is in the room with you… It was scary, but I think I’ve been in scarier situations.”

She has spent much of her career focused on supporting Soldiers suffering from PTSD and women who’ve faced sexual harassment in the military. She said one in four women will experience sexual trauma while serving.

“We try to break the stigma attached to it,” she said. “It’s really about catching that stigma and making sure they don’t go to that darker place.

“It’s important to get help and get therapy,” she added. “I am still in therapy at 33. These types of trauma can manifest in subtle ways.

“You may not get the sorry you deserve, but it does not mean you have to lock yourself into the sadness and sorrow.”

She said it was a pivotal move when “President Joe Biden signed into law that sexual harassment is against the law as far as military justice.”

To help women who’ve survived sexual abuse, visit servicewomensactionnetwork.org. To help veterans struggling with PTSD, visit resourcecenter@ woundedwarriorproject.org. More on Barber can be found at deshauna.com.

Deshauna Barber receives her Honorary Doctorate after giving the commencement speech at Norwich University's spring 2022 graduation
Deshauna Barber receives her Honorary Doctorate after giving the commencement speech at
Norwich University’s spring 2022 graduation. (Mark Collier/Norwich University)

When Barber was crowned Miss USA 2016, she became the first member of the military to win the honor and the first African-American woman to wear the crown since Crystle Stewart in 2008. Her platform: promote veterans’ issues.

Barber is diligent about fitness, and she’s a polished speaker, two qualities that were honed in the military (as a Captain, she gave presentations to companies and battalions). But she wasn’t prepared for one thing.

“I got to tap into my femininity, my girly side,” she said. “But the military doesn’t prepare you for six-inch stiletto heels.” Her parents and siblings supported her throughout her pageantry endeavors, but it wasn’t easy for her father.

Seven years after being crowned, Barber is on the move, per usual. She’s a speaker- preacher T.D. Jakes and TV host Steve Harvey have influenced her style-and an activist.

For her, the two go hand-in-hand. A survivor of sexual abuse, she frequently talks about dealing with trauma and loss.

Her Apple podcast will launch in late spring or early summer of this year-the title: Sour Loss, Sweet Lessons.

eshauna Barber being pinned as a first lieutenant by her father,
Deshauna Barber being pinned as a first lieutenant by her father, Darren Barber Sr. (Courtesy of Deshauna Barber)
Barber suffered a profound loss when her mother died. There’s no getting over it, but there is the matter of getting on, so she’s taken her own advice, advice she’s doled out to audiences for years in her work as a motivational speaker.

“Sometimes, when people are dealing with sorrow, they allow themselves to drown in it,” she said. “I tell people to swim through it and ask them what direction they’re headed.”

These days, when Barber speaks to the media, corporations, universities, the military and even the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, you can see the Army Captain, the pageant queen, the corporate executive, the survivor.

She walks upright, like a Soldier, paces the stage with the confidence and charisma of a Miss USA, and issues words that have been polished through many rewrites.

“People connect to the beauty of words, and that’s what preachers have mastered,” she said.

Most recently, at the Life Vantage Global Convention 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona, she talked about overcoming doubt, be it internal, external or both. Her words excited the crowd in front of her but were meant for everyone- women, men, survivors of abuse, those struggling with mental health issues, active military personnel and veterans.

“You have been promoted for a reason. You’ve been placed in your role for a reason,” she said. “Put on your bulletproof vest and allow the doubts of others to bounce off you.”

Bobby Henline: Forging Forward

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Retired Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline receives an award

By Brady Rhoades

Bobby Henline survived two wars and 48 surgeries and now he’s standing in front of an audience on the Huckabee TV show, telling jokes.

“Halloween is my favorite holiday because I make lots of money at the haunted house,” he says. “I made $50 laying in my neighbor’s yard. I even got a modeling job at the Halloween Super Store.”

Henline, who suffered burns on 40% of his body while fighting in Iraq, is loose, cheerful, wearing a sky-blue blazer, jeans and boots.

Photo: Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, second from right, receives an award at Forward Operating Base Walton, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Henline and four other wounded warriors visited Afghanistan as a part of Operation Proper Exit. (Public domain photo from defenseimagery.mil).

“It took me four tours and an IED to figure out my lucky number is three… I’m a little slow…”

He’s just getting warmed up. He often warns civilians, “I hope you enjoyed that, because it’s going to get darker.”

“They have a hard time laughing at me,” he said. “They eventually come around.”

This is a story about not being afraid of the dark.

Joking As a Way of Coping

Henline, 51, married to wife Connie and a father of four, was wounded while serving with U.S. Army in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Iraq War. The Humvee he was riding in hit an IED. Four other soldiers were killed. Henline’s face and head were burned to the skull. His left hand and forearm below his elbow were damaged so badly amputation was necessary.

After being put into a medically-induced coma, he awakened after two weeks and underwent six months of treatment. Henline has since had several surgeries including dozens of skin grafts and reconstructions.

Randy Jackson with veterans Bobby Henline and Chris White pose for a picture
VAN NUYS, CA – JULY 11: Randy Jackson with veterans Bobby Henline (R) and Chris White (L) pose for a picture at City Summit: Wealth Mastery And Mindset Edition after-party at Allure Banquet & Catering on July 11, 2018 in Van Nuys, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

While hospitalized, Henline, a veteran of the Gulf War who’d re-enlisted after 9/11, goofed around and told jokes as a means of coping. It happens that he had a great aunt who had a “disformed face,” as he describes it.

“It didn’t stop her. I look to her for strength.”

His occupational therapist urged him to attend an open microphone night at a comedy club. Just to satisfy her, he did so. Backstage at his first performance, he was a nervous wreck. Then he remembered he had written a rap in ninth grade—about constipation.

“When the warning light came on at the end of two minutes to indicate that I still had one more minute to go, I did my constipated rap,” he said.

Henline made his debut on a big a stage in 2009, at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and became a regular at open mic nights at comedy clubs like Hollywood Improv and Laugh Factory. He appeared in the Showtime documentary Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor, as well as Samsara, Surviving Home, MBF: Man’s Best Friend, Shameless and Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy.

‘I Needed That Laugh Today’

He helped found the Bravo748 Military and Law Enforcement Speakers Bureau, and he’s traveled the world as a motivational speaker for the organizations. He formed a charity called Forging Forward with the goal of helping troops, first-responders and their families deal with injuries and traumas. “It’s the best revenge I can get for those four men and their families,” says Henline, referring to his four comrades who were lost in the IED explosion.

obby Henline and Ann Samson attend the UCLA Operation Mend 10 Year Anniversary
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 24: Bobby Henline and Ann Samson attend the UCLA Operation Mend 10 Year Anniversary at the Home of Founder Ron Katz Sponsored by The Thalians Entertainment by The Operation Mend All Star Band with Special Guest Billy Idol on September 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/WireImage)

He knows what survivors and families are going through; after his injuries and loss, he’d been suicidal. He’d prayed for death thousands of times.

“There have been so many times when a Soldier has come up and said, ‘I needed that laugh today,’” Henline said. “We hug and we cry—then we pretend we were chopping onions together, but I’m a big cry baby, I let it all out…. Sometimes I’m there to remind others that they can go on, and sometimes they help remind me.”

Going from fighting in the Middle East to standup comedy seems unlikely, but this is a story about light, too.

“When you talk about the truth—that’s the best comedy,” he said, which is why he issues lines like, “They took my stomach and put it on top of my head. Now, I pick lint out of my ears.”

He looks mischievous after punchlines, like he’s playing a prank and on the verge of cracking himself up.

Forging Forward

There are four people who try to dodge his jokes at every chance, though: his kids. One of his daughters stopped following him on Instagram, where 63,000 followers do think he’s funny.

“I don’t know what you’re going to do next,” she told him.

This year, Henline will host several Forging Forward events at military bases and other sites across the country, including a Big Sky Retreat in Helena, Montana on June 1-4.

Groups of six to eight military personnel and first responders will get the chance to explore outlets via fishing, rafting, horseback riding and photography, outlets that “bring you back to who you are,” Henline said. He keeps the events small so that “Nobody gets lost.”

Forging Forward covers all costs. To donate, visit forgingforward.org.

Henline’s newest outlets are fly fishing and golfing. How do you tie a fly with one hand? Part science, part will. How do you golf? He can’t fully explain it.

Out on the links, shanking, chunking, hitting for a double bogey, just trying to break 100 (which he’s done), Henline does not take out his frustrations on himself. With his trademark sardonic smile, he lets his clubs, or the weather, have it.

“I’ve cursed more in a year and a half of golfing than I ever did in the military,” he laughs.

21 ​​National Military Appreciation Month Discounts in 2023

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National Military Appreciation Month in May. Annual Armed Forces Celebration Month in United States. Patriotic american elements

Originally posted on VeteranLife

Military Appreciation Month is a month full of celebrations for military members and supporting personnel, like military spouses and their families. There are a ton of days dedicated to different people and events that contribute to patriotism and those who make the military strong and successful.

There are events like Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Loyalty Day, VE Day, and Armed Forces Day, which some like to call Military Appreciation Day. Discounts are offered all month long in honor of all these events, and you may even find last-minute special offers depending on a particular day’s celebration.

Here, we’ve gathered a shotgun blast of National Military Appreciation Month discounts so that every type of service member can find something to save money on this May!

1. Black Rifle Coffee Co.

Who doesn’t love a delicious, hot cup of joe? Luckily for you, Black Rifle Coffee Company has the best coffee out there – plus, all their products are catered towards military members since it’s a Veteran-owned company!

Both current and former U.S. Military personnel can claim up to a 20% discount EVERY DAY during Military Appreciation Month. Just sign in to their National Military Appreciation Month discounts page to get a new code each day!

2. Blue Star Museums

Averaging more than 2,000 museums nationwide each year, there are a ton of opportunities no matter where you are to enjoy the Blue Star Museums. Free admission is available throughout National Military Appreciation Month for active duty military members and their families and 100% is the best kind of discount, is it not?

3. Columbia College

Military Appreciation Month discounts don’t stop at retail! The GI Bill not cutting it? Well, Columbia College, whose headquarters is in Columbia, MO, is offering a Military-Affiliated Benefit, which is now being extended for Military Appreciation Month!

Their discount applies to spouses, dependents, and CC-affiliated military employees. Everyone eligible under the discount can receive decreased tuition rates to the institution pushing higher education for more than 160 years– which is a HUGE source of savings in this day and age.

4. Youth Home

If you’ve never heard of Youth Home, let us put you onto something. Youth Home is offering an invaluable service to military members and Vets across the nation. They are a TRICARE-certified living facility for dependents aged 12-17 years old who need residential inpatient care.

They offer a ton of beneficial classes and professionals to assist dependents and increase their entire well-being – from emotional aspects to physical health. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young person who’s struggling, reach out to Youth Home. Youth Home is offering special care options for military dependents, as a thanks for your service.

5. Early Bird

If you’re carrying the weight of the free world on your shoulders, you’re gonna need a good mattress to back it up. That’s why Early Bird, a premier mattress and bedding company, is offering specialized deals to military members.

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, military members can get 25% off of their entire purchase sitewide. Not only is Early Bird providing you with a better night’s sleep, but you’re getting it for far less in the process.

6. Naked Warrior Recovery

Naked Warrior Recovery is a Navy SEAL-owned and operated company that offers pretty much any CBD product you could ever want. Whether your military service has left you with physical ailments or mental struggles, CBD has been shown to relieve all kinds of issues.

With Naked Warrior Recovery, military members can enjoy a hearty discount after verifying their identity through GOVx access.

7. Flaviar

Where there’s war, struggle, and strife, there’s gotta be some good hard alcohol to follow it up for our hardworking service members. Flaviar promises a deliverable catalog of unique liquors not available at your local liquor store (try saying that five times fast). During National Military Appreciation Month, on all of its membership plans for your favorite libations.

8. Cincinnati Zoo

Whether you are active duty or retired military personnel, your sacrifice is appreciated by one of the best zoos in the nation. The Cincinnati Zoo is providing free admission on Memorial Day, with the ability to purchase up to six half-priced tickets for family members.

9. Ford Military Discount

No matter what branch you’re in or where you’re stationed, everyone needs a good truck in their lives. Ford is making it a lot easier for military members and Veterans to get one with their National Military Appreciation Month discounts and deals.

They’re always offering special deals for military members, and even first responders, on Ford models in addition to models from their higher-end luxury brand, Lincoln. Find local offers through Ford’s Military Appreciation Program this May and beyond!

10. UGG Military Discount

On another part of the spectrum, you have the UGG Military Discount. You read it right – the unique boots that everyone was obsessed with in the early 2000s. They’ve actually got some great products outside of their infamous boots, like sneakers, loungewear, coats, and more.

Military personnel can receive 10% off of their purchase of any full-priced style. Active-duty, reservists, retirees, Veterans, and members of the National Guard are all eligible.

11. Chick-fil-A Military Discount

Who doesn’t love a chicken sandwich? As a military member, your chicken cravings just got a little cheaper. Participating locations have historically offered a 10% discount to military members, but that’s not all.

Depending on your local establishment, you may get to enjoy a free meal on select military appreciation days – just be prepared for a line and show your military ID. Check with your nearest Chick-fil-A to see the most up-to-date offerings near you.

12. Bear Creek Arsenal Military Discount

Guns, guns, and more guns! If you want it, Bear Creek Arsenal likely has it at a great price. Lucky for you, military members can also enjoy 5-10% off with verification through ID.me at checkout.

13. LASIK Military Discount

You read that right! One of our exclusive National Military Appreciation Month discounts is for LASIK eye surgery! Though you won’t be able to join the Air Force as a pilot if you get LASIK, you can enjoy a 20% discount on your procedure at LasikPlus!

According to their site, 40% of all ocular injuries during duty are caused by glasses or contacts – a great reason to consider LASIK! With their Military Appreciation Month discount, you can have peace of mind in the field and in your bank account.

14. Home Depot

Serving the military is personal to Home Depot, according to their website. They give back by investing in Veterans’ causes, hiring military members and supporting personnel, and offering a discount not only throughout National Military Appreciation Month but also every day.

Active duty personnel, Veterans, and military spouses can enjoy 10% off of eligible purchases every single day, up to $400 yearly. Just apply online or through the app to get qualified!

15. Indianapolis Zoo

You’ll find that the Indianapolis Zoo is offering not only $2 off admission for up to four tickets per visit throughout Military Appreciation Month but all year long for Veterans and active duty members. But there are two exceptions, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On these two holidays, admission is free!

16. QALO Military Freebie

During May, military members can get a free military ring from QALO after verification. The rings are silicon and imprinted with your branch of service on them. They come in almost a dozen colors, over a dozen sizes, and your choice of width. They’re stylish and practical, so get yours and show pride for your branch this Military Appreciation Month!

17. HealthSource Chiropractor

Military work is tough, and it often comes with a unique set of physical pains and troubles as a result. HealthSource Chiropractor, which has locations all over the country, has been known to offer new patient discounts for military members and Veterans all throughout May.

Click here to learn more and find a participating clinic near you.

18. Crayola Experience

The True Blue Heroes Annual Pass for the Crayola Experience provides active duty, retired, and Veteran members of the military community with many great perks. Experience what makes Crayola truly magical by creating a coloring book themed after you, naming and wrapping your own crayon, learning about the manufacturing process, and exploring a 4-D coloring campaign.

This all comes with unlimited free visits each year, quarterly days to bring a friend for free, 20% discounts on purchases while you visit, and much more. It’s a great discount and perk for May and well beyond!

18. Rack Room Shoes

When you visit a Rack Room Shoes participating location on Tuesdays in May, if you have a military ID, you will receive 10% off of your order. On Memorial Day? Those savings double, as you’ll enjoy 20% savings!

19. Walgreens

Walgreens may not be offering its discount the entire length of National Military Appreciation Month, but from May 26 through 29, Veterans, members of the military, and their families can enjoy 20% off in-store purchases. You’ll need to use myWalgreens®, there are restrictions, and you can’t combine the offer with others.

20. TrueCar

Military members get exclusive discounts and benefits from TrueCar. TrueCar Military is the popular vehicle brand’s offering that’s geared specifically for active duty service members and their families. With TrueCar Military, you could receive up to $3,500 in bonus cash toward select vehicles, and up to $4,000 to put toward auto repair.

21. Miami Links

Miami Links is a luxury jewelry brand with a major connection to the city of Miami. They offer Cuban-inspired chain link jewelry in precious metals like gold or silver. Miami Links is Veteran owned and operated, and you can get 15% off their product line in May.

Other entries include:

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester

During the month of May, active-duty military, Reservists and veterans get free entry plus 50% off for their friends and family (up to four guests). This offer is valid online or at admissions. Please note, the discount is available at this location only.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union is celebrating Military Appreciation Month with special offers for its members. Earn $250 bonus cash back with $3,000 spend within 90 days of account opening, open a 12-month EasyStartSM/Special Easy Start share certificate and complete three automatic transfers by August 31 to earn a $30 bonus and earn a $200 bonus when you refinance your current auto loan from another lender that’s at least $5,000.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld will honor Military Appreciation Month with free one-day admission for U.S. military veterans and up to three guests at SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, and SeaWorld San Diego. Veterans can register for this offer through May 14 and have until July 9 to visit the parks with their free tickets. Active-duty military and their guests continue to enjoy one-day complimentary admission all year long.

Silverwood Theme Park

Military personnel and veterans with ID receive free admission to Silverwood Theme Park on May 27, 28 and 29. Their immediate family members (spouse and children) also receive a special discounted rate when purchasing tickets at Silverwood’s front gate.

Sleep Number

Sleep Number is offering exclusive military discounts, including 20% off most Sleep Number smart beds, bases, furniture and bedding through June 5.

Splashway Waterpark and Campground

Active-duty military, veterans, and their immediate family members (spouse and children) can purchase discounted tickets at the gate with their valid ID on Memorial Day.

Sun Splash Family Waterpark

Active and retired military members with ID receive one free admission ticket May 27 through 29.

Happy Military Appreciation Month!

This is your month to enjoy. Take some time for self-care, relaxation, and fun. These deals and National Military Appreciation Month discounts are a great starting point for all there is to take advantage of during May.

The Next Generation: Ways to Commemorate Memorial Day as a Family

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Text Memorial Day and Honor on flowing American flag

Every year, we celebrate Memorial Day as a way to honor our service members who have fought and given their lives for our freedom.

But especially when you’re a kid, it can be easy to get swept away in the excitement of an extra day off rather than remembering the real reason for the holiday.

While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a free Monday, it’s important to remind our families why we celebrate Memorial Day and how we can commemorate the holiday.

Here are some ways that your family can learn about and honor those who gave their lives:

Have a Conversation

Sitting down as a family and talking about Memorial Day is one of the easiest activities you can do. Discuss with your children why we celebrate the holiday and most importantly, talk about the people that you know who gave their lives in service. Bringing up fond memories, discussing the importance of their role during their military service and answering any questions your child may have are all great ways to remember those who have served. If your family doesn’t personally know any fallen service members, here are a few notable people in history you could discuss instead:

1st Class Alywn C. Cashe:

An Army Soldier who saved the lives of six of his fellow Soldiers after their vehicle was struck with an explosive in Iraq. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in 2021, 16 years after his heroic act.

1st Class Alywn C. Cashe in fatigues

Read more…

Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy:

A Navy SEAL who gave his life during Operation Red Wings. As he tried to make a call to headquarters to relay a dire situation, Murphy was shot several times, but completed the call and continued fighting until he passed. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in 2007.

1st Class Alywn C. Cashe in dress uniform

Read more…

Army Staff Sgt. Edward Noboru Kaneshiro:

One of the most recent recipients of the Medal of Honor, Kaneshiro is best known for saving his platoon when they were attacked by enemy soldiers in Vietnam. While he survived this event, he was killed in 1967 as he tried to help a wounded comrade during an ambush.

Edward Kaneshiro in dress uniform

Read more…

Take a Field Trip

One of the best ways to learn about something is through hands-on experiences. This is why museums and monuments have been fundamental in educating the public. This Memorial Day, visit a historical or educational center where you can honor those who have served. Places such as the Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Memorial and the National World War II Museum are excellent places to understand the impact fallen veterans have had on our lives, while learning the importance of service.

If the site allows, you may also be able to bring flags or flowers as a commemorative token to those who have served. If your area does not have a museum or memorial that is easily accessible, you can also find virtual tours of memorials online or local events that will be commemorating your community’s veterans.

Volunteer

One of the best ways to reflect on Memorial Day is through acts of service, especially volunteer work. From dedicating your time to planting flowers and flags at the gravesites of your local veterans cemetery to participating in your community’s Memorial Day parade; showing up for Memorial Day events is a great way to honor our fallen veterans. Some other great volunteering opportunities for families include helping out at a food kitchen or shelter that specifically caters to homeless veterans or offering your services to help run a Memorial Day parade, race or event.

Reach Out to Veteran Families

Sometimes it’s easy to picture fallen Soldiers coming from older wars in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In reality, there are families who have lost their loved ones in military service within this last year. Make a family effort to reach out to other families who may be struggling with the loss of their service member. As a group, your family can cook meals for those in mourning, donate (no matter the amount) to Gold Star family groups or volunteer with events honoring Gold Star families.

For more information on how you can help, check out the following nonprofit organizations:

  • America’s Gold Star Families (americasgoldstarfamilies.org)
  • Operation We Are Here (operationwearehere.com)
  • Believe With Me (believewithme.com)
  • Tunnel to Towers Foundation (t2t.org)

Sources: Wikipedia, Department of Defense, Centsai

Army Special Ops Command welcomes first female command sergeant major

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female soldier hugs outgoing sergeant in ceremony

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command has its first female command sergeant major, while the outgoing top enlisted soldier will be the next sergeant major of the Army.

With more than 30,000 soldiers and civilians, USASOC is the higher command for the 1st Special Forces Command, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Army Special Operations Aviation Command and 75th Ranger Regiment.

During a ceremony recently at Fort Bragg, Command Sgt. Maj. JoAnn Naumann assumed responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Michael R. Weimer.
Photo: U.S. Army Special Operations Command change of responsibility ceremony on Monday, May 1, 2023, on Fort Bragg. (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer)

Naumann most recently served as the senior enlisted leader for Special Operations Command-Korea.

She enlisted in the Army in February 1996 as a voice language analyst. She completed the Arabic Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute and Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas.

Naumann’s assignments include serving as the Joint Special Operations Command’s senior enlisted advisor, command sergeant major for the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion and command sergeant major for the Joint Special Operations Command Intelligence Brigade. She has completed 14 deployments throughout CENTCOM and AFRICOM.
In an Army interview last year, Naumann said she’s been with special operations since 2002.

“When I came into the SOF (special operations forces) community in 2002, there were very few women,” Naumann said.

Read the complete article posted on Army Times here.

Survivor Winner Donates $100,000 to Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS)

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Mike Gabler headshot with beach background

Survivor season 43 winner Mike Gabler has donated $100,000 of his $1 million prize winnings to Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), a non-profit providing resources, research, and advocacy for U.S. special operations military veterans seeking mental health treatment with psychedelic-assisted therapies.

Gabler selected 10 veteran organizations to split his winnings with —highlighting non-profits that help former service members with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are at risk of suicide.

Mike Gabler’s donation was made on behalf of his father, Robert Gabler, who was a Green Beret, to veterans in need who are overcoming health challenges and to curb the suicide epidemic.

As a nonprofit organization that supports veterans in accessing psychedelic-assisted therapies, VETS recognizes the critical importance of psychedelic research. Recent Phase 3 trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD are demonstrating the significant impact of psychedelic treatment on individuals suffering from trauma-related disorders. Other compounds, like psilocybin and ibogaine, are also showing incredible promise in addressing these issuesbut more research is critically needed.

Gabler’s donation will directly support VETS’ work to provide resources, research, and advocacy for veterans seeking psychedelic-assisted therapies.

“There is nothing like the support of the military and veteran community, and we are incredibly grateful to Mike Gabler, the son of an Army Special Forces veteran, for donating a portion of his Survivor winnings to VETS. Mike exemplifies the notion of serving those who’ve served, and we honor and value his outstanding leadership and unparalleled commitment to giving back,” said Marcus Capone, Co-Founder and Chairman of VETS.

VETS and its community greatly appreciates the donation from Gabler and is looking forward to expanding access to psychedelic-assisted therapies to additional veterans to ultimately put an end to veteran suicide.

For more information on VETS, visit our website.

Help Heal Veterans Exceeds One Million Pounds Of Recycled Materials For Use In Theraputic Craft Kits

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Stephanie Preciado, a veteran of the Texas Army National Guard, sews a pillowcase during at the Help Heal Veterans facility

Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets) announced it has recycled and repurposed more than one million pounds of material. Inspired in part by this year’s Earth Day theme, “Invest in Our Planet,” Heal Vets is increasing efforts to use repurposed materials by actively seeking new partner organizations that need to find uses for materials they might otherwise discard.

For 50 years, Heal Vets has repurposed unused leather, cloth, and other materials to create therapeutic craft kits that are sent to veterans and active-duty military around the world to help with long-term support and recovery from the wounds of war — delivering thousands of kits to
kits to veterans and active-duty military each month. Pictured: Stephanie Preciado, a veteran of the Texas Army National Guard, sews a pillowcase during at the Help Heal Veterans facility.

Heal Vets partners have donated, and Heal Vets has repurposed:

  • 395,000 pounds of leather from airplane seats.  Southwest Airlines has donated leather from airplane seats since 2018. These materials are used to make wallets and footballs, and as components such as liners and insoles for moccasins.
  • 1,000,000 square feet of leather. The Elks, a partner since 2002, donates leather from Elks Lodge members around the country that is used to make moccasins, wheelchair gloves, dreamcatchers, pouches, and other items.
  • 469,500 pounds of upholstery. Since 2017, La-Z-Boy has donated upholstery fabric that Heal Vets uses in kits to make messenger bags, oven mitts, bowl cozies, and other items.
  • 112,416 pounds of cabinets. Since 2019, American Woodmark has donated cabinets that are repurposed for wood kits to make items like boxes and birdhouses.
  • 40,000 pounds of leather from automobile seats from Magna. The leather is used to make purses and bags.

“As our planet faces the challenge of climate change and the ever-increasing demand for resources, we all need to find ways relieve the pressure on our environment and use the resources we have wisely. For Help Heal Veterans, the answer is upcycling, using donated materials that otherwise would have gone to landfills to produce the kits that help our veterans heal. It’s a win all around–for the environment and for the people we serve,” said Capt. Joe McClain, USN (retired) and CEO of Heal Vets. “We are fortunate to work with corporations and civic organizations that share our dual commitment.”

Heal Vets has worked with partner organizations to produce more than 32 million therapeutic craft kits to aid veterans and active-duty military rehabilitation.

To learn more about Help Heal Veterans sustainability efforts, click here.

About Help Heal Veterans 

A nonprofit organization founded during the Vietnam War supplies free therapeutic kits to injured servicemen and women and U.S. veterans. The therapy kits often become a part of the patient’s treatment plan, providing a creative outlet for stress and boredom and a way to rebuild confidence and self-esteem. Help Heal Veterans has distributed more than 32 million kits since 1971 from hundreds of craft categories.

Photo Courtesy of Help Heal Veterans

Virginia siblings become first Black triplets to join the Navy

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Black triplets seated on couch in NAVY uniform

By Joanne Aran and Amanda Su, GMA

Being in the Navy is a family affair for the Sutton siblings, Ayrion, Andrea, and Adrion. The 20-year-olds from Virginia recently enlisted together, making history as the first Black triplets to do so, according to the Navy Recruitment Office.

The siblings were inspired by their parents Andre Sutton and Tiffany Sutton, who met while serving on the USS Arctic in 1999. The triplets have in turn inspired their father, who recently reenlisted.

The idea to enlist originated with Adrion Sutton, the youngest of the triplets, who has wanted to join the Navy since the beginning of high school.

“What motivated me to join was hearing my parents talk about how good the Navy was when we was growing up and seeing my dad come home from long months, not being at home and taking care of the family,” Adrion Sutton told “GMA3.”

When they were young, the siblings often inquired about the time their parents spent serving in the military, according to Tiffany Sutton, who said she always spoke highly of the experience.

“I couldn’t find a better job,” she said in an interview with “GMA3.”

Andre Sutton, who is from the projects in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said he originally joined the Navy for the opportunities it afforded.

“I love the people [in Allentown]. I love the town. You know, I’m grateful,” he told “GMA3.” “But that environment is not where I wanted to be in life, so I decided to go forward.”

A week before they left for deployment, Tiffany Sutton said she was going down to the mess decks when she saw Andre Sutton for the first time.

“I walked past him, and I thought I saw sunshine,” she said. “I even called my mom and told her I found my husband.”

Continue to read more of the article on Good Morning America.

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