Meet the Scientists Changing the Way Soldiers Hear

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WHO: Army Lt. Col. Amy Blank and First Lt. Maggie Schad, two audiology experts at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) who are working to reduce incidents of noise-induced hearing loss in the Army.

Army Lt. Col. Amy Blank is an audiologist with nearly three decades of service to the Army on active duty, in the Reserves and the Wisconsin National Guard, and as a civilian employee. Blank holds a master’s degree and doctorate in audiology. She is the director of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Center at WRNMMC and the Deputy Consultant to the Surgeon General for Audiology. She now leads about 60 military and civilian professionals in the field of audiology and speech-language pathology. First Lt. Maggie Schad is an audiology extern at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who diagnoses and treats hearing loss. In 2014, Blank was involved in the first fitting of the Tactical Communications and Protective System (TCAPS) device at Fort Campbell. Earlier this year, Schad was also involved in fielding TCAPS for soldiers at Fort Bragg.

What is TCAPS?

TCAPS provides concurrent hearing protection and auditory situational awareness. Soldiers have had to choose between hearing protection and force protection on the battlefield, but with TCAPS, they’re able to maintain hearing protection while using tactical radios which increases mission effectiveness, safety and survivability. Currently, the device is only being tested by the Army.

What makes this technology so significant?

Blank: “This technology allows soldiers to communicate on the battlefield while protecting their hearing. Traditional hearing protection dampens loud level sounds from damaging hearing, but also blocks much needed low level inputs that soldiers need to hear to maintain their situational awareness on the battlefield.”

Schad: “TCAPS helps service members because they no longer have to choose between situational awareness and protecting their hearing. It gives them the edge over anyone wearing typical hearing protection because it amplifies soft sounds and it allows for easy radio communication, without ever exposing the wearer to hazardous noise.”

How do these earbuds work in comparison to other ear devices soldiers wear?

Blank: “These devices can be ‘turned up’ to amplify low level sound while still protecting soldiers from high intensity gunfire noise. The TCAPS device (Invisio System) has the ability to communicate directly with up to two radio systems as well.”

Schad: “TCAPS technology has been commonly used by special forces but more recently is becoming the standard for infantry and dismounted fires. Compared to foam or preformed hearing protection, TCAPS makes allows the wearer to maintain situational awareness while still providing hearing protection and provides amplification for soft sounds.”

Continue onto Armed with Science to read the complete article.

Veterans’ retreat gets boost from Massachusetts company

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1A Auto owner hands over keys to car

The SUV that Rick Green drove his newborn babies home in will now be packed with heroes, he said in Maine last week, handing over the car keys to a Maine organization that provides a free getaway vacation for wounded veterans and their families.

His Westford-based automotive company, 1A Auto, donated a Chevrolet Equinox to the Travis Mills Foundation in rural Rome, Maine. The car will transport veterans and their families from the airport to the retreat, a key need for the nonprofit. (pictured: Mike Green, co-owner of 1A Auto, hands over the keys to Brandy Cain, the executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation in Rome, Maine.

“This helps bring us some much-needed relief,” Brandy Cain, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, said as Rick and his brother Mike pulled up in the 2008 teal SUV. “There’s a lot of good people who are really good to us.

“That looks awesome,” she added, speaking to the owners of 1A Auto. “I’m excited to drive your baby.”

The SUV is one of the first cars that 1A Auto bought at auction. The company then changed more than 100 car parts, as seen in their how-to videos online.

“Instead of selling back at auction, we wanted to start giving cars to organizations and veterans who really need them,” said Rick, whose father flew massive C-5 transport planes in the Air Force. “This is just the first one we’ll donate, a very special one.”

Rick, who ran for Congress in the 3rd District last year, recently asked his public relations manager John MacDonald if there was a veterans organization that could use a vehicle. MacDonald, a veteran and member of the Lowell-based Veterans Assisting Veterans, reached out to the Travis Mills Foundation — and the nonprofit confirmed they needed a car.

Before heading to Maine, 1A Auto brought the car to Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, where students helped inspect and tune up the SUV.

At the retreat — founded by an Army sergeant who lost portions of his arms and legs in Afghanistan — veterans and their families can get massages, canoe, kayak, participate in adaptive rope courses, read books from the Barbara Bush Foundation, eat lobster and more.

“They tell us this is better than Disneyland, the best family vacation they’ve ever had. We get that a lot,” Cain said. “Many injured veterans can’t go on a traditional vacation, but here, they can actually be an active part of the family because we have all the adaptive equipment.”

The nonprofit serves about 200 veterans and their families each year. They raised $3.5 million last year to cover all costs for the attendees.

To volunteer and donate to the Travis Mills Foundation, visit travismillsfoundation.org.

The Gary Sinise Foundation Changes Another Life: U.S. Army SPC Tyler Jeffries Receives New Smart Home with Tech from Nortek Security & Control

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Disabled veteran sitting in wheelchair in his smart home with disability access

Following in the footsteps of his Navy-veteran father and Air Force-veteran brother, Tyler Jeffries proudly enlisted in the U.S Army in January 2010. After two years of training with the Attack Company 2-1 Infantry Battalion in Ft. Lewis, Washington, Jeffries deployed to Afghanistan’s Kandahar province In April 2012 where, just six months later, in October 2012, Jeffries’ life changed forever when an improvised explosive device explosion took both of his legs.

For Jeffries, this was not a defeat, but merely a setback, and he took his first steps with prosthetic legs after just 44 days, following nearly 30 surgeries.

Jeffries’ story caught the attention of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, which recognized his sacrifice and selected him to receive a new specially adapted smart home in North Carolina, complete with home automation, entertainment, and security technologies from Nortek Security & Control.

Brian Berg, Principal at electronics integration firm Interactive Interiors, designed and installed the home’s technology infrastructure and ELAN control system to provide Jeffries and his family with tools that simplify common household activities and give Tyler added freedom and independence.

“Thanks to the ELAN Control System in this specially-adapted home, SPC Jeffries can easily control lights, music, TV, security, door locks, surveillance, and window shades from anywhere in the home,” Berg said.

Using the simple, intuitive interface in the ELAN mobile app, two wall-mounted ELAN touch panels,RISE-smart home or one of four ELAN HR30 remotes, Jeffries and his family have total dominion over the electronic system in the home. Multiple TVs and several zones of multi-room audio can be turned on and controlled instantly, while property-wide Lutron lighting and motorized window shades are also just a touch away. The home’s climate is controlled with four ELAN thermostats creating distinct automated HVAC zones that can be adjusted right from the ELAN app.

“Tyler loves gaming, so he was really excited about the man cave we designed with a 75” TV and 7.1 surround sound system with SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers and a Sunfire subwoofer,” Berg said. “We added custom scenes based on their needs, such as lighting scenes for nighttime that automate multiple rooms and hallways through a single button, or a ‘Movie’ scene that automatically turns on the TV, selects a source, turns down the lights and lowers the motorized window shades. For Tyler, who is most often in a wheelchair while at home, this makes life more enjoyable and saves huge amounts of time for those daily tasks most people take for granted.”

The outdoor lighting is controlled as well, including a spot light on the large American flag in front of the home, and special pathway lights that emit bug spray on command through the ELAN app. The flagpole spotlight is programmed to turn on for morning and evening, and automatically turn off during daytime.

Security was a top concern for Jeffries, so having instant access to the home’s robust 2GIG security system and 10 ELAN surveillance cameras was a huge deal. Whether they are at home, at the grocery store, or halfway around the world, the family can easily view live feeds from the cameras in the ELAN mobile app and review video from the digital video recorder, all without leaving the ELAN app. Because the 2GIG security panel is fully integrated into the ELAN system, an “event” identified by a 2GIG sensor automatically alerts the surveillance system to display the appropriate video feed to the ELAN app. Three of the home’s doors feature electronic door locks that can be opened through the ELAN app, and the two garage doors are remotely accessible as well.

“They love the system,” Berg added, “and they frequently show it off when new people visit the house. It really delivers a much higher standard of living, allowing Tyler and his family to interact with their home in a more natural way that alleviates stress and provides greater comfort, convenience and peace of mind. We were thrilled to play a role in improving this hero’s life and provide modern technologies to give him greater self-sufficiency.”

With daily home life relying on integrated technologies, Interactive Interiors made sure to protect all the equipment with a Panamax M4315-PRO power conditioner and a Panamax MB1500 UPS. The power system includes BlueBOLT remote technology, so the integrator can schedule power cycles of log in remotely should a connected subsystem experience an issue. This expedites service calls and further simplifies reliable operation for the family.

The brain of the system is the ELAN gSC10 system controller, with four additional ELAN g1 controllers providing on-screen display and local control for four TVs. The surveillance system records to a 4TB ELAN NVR, while an ELAN 4K 4×4 matrix offers video distribution for centralized sources such as cable boxes and a Blu-ray player.

In addition to adding scenes and specialized automation, Berg also expects to install more surveillance cameras and potentially add voice control as another easy means of system management.

“Tyler loved that the system can grow and expand to do almost anything they want,” Berg said. “Whether that ends up being voice control, additional security or lighting, or more complex scenes that perform a host of functions from a single button, his ELAN system can do it all.”

About ELAN

ELAN, from Nortek Security & Control, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award. The new ELAN Intelligent Touch Panels add face recognition and voice control for a truly intelligent home experience. To learn more, visit www.elanhomesystems.com.

About Nortek Security & Control

Nortek Security & Control LLC (NSC) is a global leader in smart connected devices and systems for residential, security, access control, and digital health markets. NSC and its partners have deployed more than 5 million connected systems and over 25 million security and home control sensors and peripherals. Through its family of brands including 2GIG®, ELAN®, Linear®, GoControl®, Mighty Mule® and Numera®, NSC designs solutions for national telecoms, big box retailers, OEM partners, service providers, security dealers, technology integrators and consumers.

Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, NSC has over 50 years of innovation and is dedicated to addressing the lifestyle and business needs of millions of customers every day. For further information, visit nortekcontrol.com.

Other brand names and product names mentioned herein may be the trademarks, tradenames, service marks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Tee It Up for the Troops Donates 20th E-Z-GO Vehicle to Fisher House Foundation to Assist Disabled Veterans and Their Families

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Tee it up for troops logo

A golf car is a nice amenity on the golf course, but for families of veterans and active duty service members who are being treated at Department of Defense (DOD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, golf cars are a valuable and needed mode of transportation.

With limited parking and specialized transportation needs, many veterans and their elderly family members are unable to make the journey around a VA hospital campus.

That’s why Tee It Up for the Troops, with their national headquarters in Burnsville, Minn., has partnered with Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, manufacturer of E-Z-GO vehicles, to donate customized vehicles to Fisher House, a foundation that provides comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge. Tee It Up for the Troops has donated a “battalion” of E-Z-GO vehicles to Fisher House facilities nationwide, with the recent 20th new ride delivered to the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in California.

For the last seven years, Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, in partnership with E-Z-GO distributor Versatile Vehicles of Prior Lake, Minn., have delivered several vehicles a year to Fisher Houses across the nation. The first was delivered to the Augusta VA Medical Center in Georgia in 2012, with others reaching the East Coast’s Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, the West Coast’s Camp Pendleton in California, and midwestern Fisher Houses in Milwaukee, Wisc. and Minneapolis, Minn.

“Tee It Up for the Troops has been there for us and has provided a vehicle to every one of our houses on a VA property that has needed one,” said Brian Gawne, Vice President of Community Relations for Fisher House Foundation. “Parking and getting around on a VA campus is always a challenge, and some families are not mobile. Thanks to Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, these cars are a godsend when families are facing a tough medical crisis.”

“Recently we had a veteran discharged from the hospital after kidney removal surgery and it would have been extremely painful for him to bend into a vehicle to get back to Fisher House,” said Jenny Hall, Manager of the Alaska Fisher House. “The golf car allowed him to easily slide in and out at a comfortable height with minimal pain.”

“It’s great teaming up with E-Z-GO and working together to make our heroes’ lives better,” said Tim Wegscheid, President & Executive Director for Tee It Up for the Troops. “I truly believe our veterans and their families are entitled to be taken care of, and donating these vehicles is just one way we do that.”

Tee It Up for the Troops has hosted 500 fundraising events in over 40 states over the last 15 years, allowing the non-profit organization to donate over $10 million to military service organizations that provide critically needed services to combat veterans and their families.

“Electric shuttles that are quiet and efficient can take a whole family or injured warfighter from a Fisher House around the campus to receive therapy or see a doctor,” said Brandon Haddock, Director, Communications at Textron Specialized Vehicles. “The vehicles can traverse facility paths, parking lots, and even into the entry of a VA hospital. It’s great to see how excited people are about the shuttles and to give the veterans something they really need.”

“These stretch electric shuttles, which can comfortably accommodate six passengers, are customized with many added features for the comfort and safety of veterans,” said Gaby Accad, owner of Versatile Vehicles, whose distributorship customizes many of the Fisher House vehicles. Additions include safety lights, turn signals, a rear seat that can convert to a flatbed to carry a wheelchair or other equipment, and a retractable windshield to block wind and rain.

Accad works with local companies to donate custom features, including red, white and blue premium seats embroidered with the Tee It Up for the Troops logo, decals that are applied to the custom-painted cars, and shipping of the cars at donated or reduced rates to their destination.

“What this country has provided to me, it’s the least I can do for our soldiers who put their lives on the line for us to enjoy our freedom and the things we cherish in this country,” Accad said.

Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO first learned of the need for a small, efficient vehicle to transport wounded warriors in 2011, when they shipped a vehicle to a military base in Afghanistan to help move soldiers to field hospitals and to get those recovering from injuries around the base. From there, the need to meet increased demands for transport of returning service members with disabilities and their families escalated stateside.

“This is just a continuation of our support for veterans who do incredible things for our country,” Wegscheid said of the vehicles.

About Tee It Up for The Troops

Tee It Up for the Troops, Inc, is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves U.S. military veterans and their families.  Based in Minnesota, Tee it Up for the Troops inspires communities across the country to organize golf events to raise funds for partnering veterans service organizations who deliver critically needed services to military families.  These locally-supported events greatly assist returning service members to successfully reintegrate into their communities.  Established in 2005, Tee It Up for the Troops has hosted over 475 events in more than 40 states and has donated over $10 million to more than 335 various organizations serving veterans across the country.  In addition, through their REUNION initiative, Tee It Up for the Troops has reunited more than 300 combat altered veterans who were separated due to battlefield injuries or changes in rehabilitation status.  Through these reunions, participating veterans enhance their transition process into productive and fulfilling civilian lifestyles. For more information visit: teeitupforthetroops.org.

About E-Z-GO
E-Z-GO is an iconic, world-renowned brand in golf cars and personal transportation vehicles. Products sold under the
E-Z-GO brand include RXV® and TXT® fleet golf cars, Freedom® RXV and Freedom TXT personal golf cars, E-Z-GO Express™ personal utility vehicles, and the 2Five® street-legal low-speed vehicle. Known for innovation in electric-vehicle technology, E-Z-GO’s newest offerings include the ELiTE series of lithium-ion powered golf cars and PTVs. Founded in 1954 in Augusta, Ga., E-Z-GO became part of Textron Inc. in 1960, and today operates as part of the company’s Textron Specialized Vehicles division.

About Textron Inc.

Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company that leverages its global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative solutions and services. Textron is known around the world for its powerful brands such as Bell, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training. For more information visit: textron.com.

About Fisher House

Fisher House Foundation is best known for its network of 82 comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.  These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, and in Europe, close to the medical center or hospital it serves. Fisher Houses have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths.  Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a warm dining room and an inviting living room.  Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is never a lodging fee.  Since inception, the program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $451 million in out of pocket costs for lodging and transportation. Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members as well as the Hotels for Heroes program using donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. For more information visit: fisherhouse.org.

It’s Life or Death for a Puppy in the Middle East

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Bucky with soldier stationed in the Middle East

May is Military Appreciation Month.  What better way to wrap up the month, then by helping our heroes overseas? Morale can be tough to keep when you are a soldier stationed in the Middle East.

Each day brings challenges and often despair. For one soldier and his crew stationed in Kuwait, that all changed when one, tiny puppy entered their camp.

Before the tiny stray made his way into the life of 21-year-old SPC Dakota J. Campbell and his crewmembers, morale was at an all time low. Then one day, the soldiers witnessed a puppy run by their site, being chased by a larger dog. The men proceeded to scare off the dog, and the puppy scurried to hide and got his self stuck in a cement barrier.

As the soldiers saved the puppy from near death, it didn’t take long before they realized that the puppy actually saved them. They named this little guy Bucky and he lifted their spirits, gave them hope, and helped inspire them each day. With Bucky around, they felt a sense of home.

“We can only imagine the difficulty these soldiers in war torn areas face on a daily basis,” explains Robert Misseri of Paws of War. “The fact that this dog helped our heroes get through some of the darkest days in their life is testament to the abilities of a dog. We must try to get Bucky to the United States.  It is the least we can do for SPC Campbell and the crew.”

Now Campbell is heading back to the states, where he will be stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. Rather than leave Bucky in Kuwait, where his fate would be certain death as a street dog, he is reaching out to us all to get Bucky to America, where he can live his life in security and peace with SPC Campbell, and they can both have a genuine, true sense of home.

“Bucky may have saved us, but I can’t bear to leave him behind, it’s time for me to once again save him,” added Campbell. “I have one dog at home, which is like my only son, and I can’t wait for Bucky to meet him. It will be a dream come true for me to be able to bring Bucky to Texas.”

Bringing a dog back to America from the Middle East is no easy task, and it’s a costly process. Paws of War is supported solely by donations and has helped numerous soldiers to bring their rescued dogs back from the Middle East. To help make the mission possible, they are asking everyone to pitch in and thank this Army team for protecting our freedom by donating toward Bucky’s journey to the U.S. Every dollar makes a difference.  To learn more about Campbell and Bucky’s story and to make a donation, log online: pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/saving-bucky.

About Paws of War

Paws of War is a non-profit 501c3 charitable organization that provides assistance to military members and their pets, rescues and trains dogs to be service dogs, and provides therapy dogs to veterans. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or make a donation visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

Aspen Dental Offers Free Dental Care to Thousands of Military Veterans Nationwide

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Aspen Dental coworkers posing outside of office

As part of its annual Day of Service Aspen Dental will open nearly 500 of its dental offices to provide FREE care to as many as 5,000 veterans on Saturday, June 8.

Like millions of other Americans, veterans can struggle to find oral health care when they need it. The majority of U.S. veterans are not eligible for dental benefits through the Veterans Administration unless they are 100% disabled, have a service-related mouth injury or were a prisoner of war.

This year, Aspen Dental looks to build on the success of 2018’s Day of Service campaign, in which more than 4,300 veterans across the country received free dental care at 426 participating Aspen Dental locations.

Veterans are encouraged to call 1-844-277-3646 (1-844-ASPENHMM) to find a participating office near them and schedule an appointment.

Since launching the Healthy Mouth Movement in 2014, Aspen Dental offices across the country have donated more than $15 million in dentistry to over 22,000 veterans.

Continue on to Business Wire to read the complete article.

#1 Franchise for Veterans Expanding into South Carolina Lowcountry

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Dream Vacations

Charleston, S.C. (May 8, 2019) – Nationally recognized and leading travel agency franchise Dream Vacations is expanding its footprint in South Carolina and is seeking potential new franchise owners.

To introduce itself to the region, the agency has sponsored several community events through membership with the Summerville YMCA including the Shamrock Shuffle and Flowertown. In addition, the travel agency will be hosting the first ever Charleston Cruise & Travel Show on Saturday, June 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charleston Marriott.

“As booking vacations becomes more complex with all of the vacation options which can be found on the internet, travel agents are making a comeback and there is no time like the present to get started in this industry,” said Janet Harris, director of recruitment for Dream Vacations. “We like to say that people have a dream list, rather than bucket list, of where they want to travel, and since travel is no longer considered a luxury, Americans are looking to make these dream vacations become reality. South Carolina is perfect for travel franchisees because not only do they live in a popular tourist destination, but they have easy access to the Port of Charleston making it possible for locals to visit exotic destinations without having to fly.”

Tourism is booming in Charleston, S.C. due to a cruise terminal that is growing in popularity as a home port and the city’s frequent ranking as one of the best places to visit in the U.S. According to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, there are more than 15,000 military retirees in this region and 20,000 active duty personnel making a $10.8 billion economic impact. This coupled with Dream Vacations being a leading franchise opportunity for veterans, as well as South Carolina ranked a “Top 10 State for Franchise Growth” by the International Franchise Association (IFA) in its annual Franchise Business Economic Outlook for 2018, make it an opportune time for Dream Vacations to focus on expanding to this region.

All military veterans and Gold Star families who purchase a Dream Vacations travel agency business receive an enlistment package valued at no less than $5,000 and ongoing support. They can select one of four perks currently being offered — 2019 National Conference cabin aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas valued at $2,100; receive up to $7,000 back based on initial fee through the Earn Back promotion; waived administrative fees valued at $1,350; or a surface pro tablet valued at $1,000. They also receive a waived training fee for a business partner; veteran-themed marketing assets; and the ability to hire active-duty military spouses and veterans as associates at a discount. Additional veteran incentives include the ability to move residences and stay in business, LeisureCare Travel Insurance discounts for veterans, travel discounts for military customers and access to veteran networking groups. In addition, Dream Vacations is hosting its eighth annual award-winning Operation Vetrepreneur contest which awards five free franchises to military veterans from Monday, May 27, 2019, through Saturday, August 31, 2019.

Dream Vacations is looking for franchisees who are passionate about travel, helping others and are eager to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves. No experience selling travel is necessary because all new franchise owners attend an award-winning six-day training at Dream Vacations’ world headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, where they learn how to use Dream Vacations’ industry-leading booking systems and get an introduction to the cruise and resort vacation industry. New franchisees can open their home-based business for less than $10,000 and work anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Veterans interested in learning more about how they can parlay their military skills into business ownership, please visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com or call 888-249-8235. To learn more about the Charleston Cruise & Travel Show, visit www.CruiseAndTravelShow.com. Tickets are $10 and military veterans who use the promo code MILITARY will receive half off.

About Dream Vacations

Travel agents with the top-ranked home-based travel agency franchise Dream Vacations have the resources to plan and create seamless vacation experiences for their customers while offering the best value. A member of the International Franchise Association, Dream Vacations is part of World Travel Holdings and has received partner of the year, a top-ranking status, by all the major cruise lines as well as national recognition for its support of military veterans. For more information about Dream Vacations, visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com. Like Dream Vacations on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DreamVacationsFranchise, follow on Twitter at @Dream_Franchise and watch its videos at http://www.youtube.com/DreamVacationsBusiness.

Gary Sinise: From Self to Service

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Gary-Sinise-Foundation-Soaring Valor

By Brady Rhoades

Two events changed Gary Sinise’s life: playing Lt. Dan in the Oscar-winning 1993 movie Forrest Gump, and Sept. 11, 2001. The first provoked countless encounters with Vietnam veterans who identified with the heroic, sorrowful, raging and, finally, redemptive Lt. Dan.

The latter went even deeper. His country had been attacked. America changed that day, and so did Sinise. His life’s focus shifted from self to service. “It set the stage for working with the wounded after that terrible day,” he said. “I couldn’t sit back. I wanted to let our service members know they were appreciated … then, the men and women who serve our country raised their hands and I thought, ‘I can take a proactive role in backing them up.’”

Twenty six years after Lt. Dan captured American’s imagination as a ravaged Vietnam vet utterly lost and ultimately found—and 18 years after the United States was attacked on its own soil and more than 3,000 lost their lives, Sinise has penned a New York Times bestselling book that describes his journey: Grateful American: From Self to Service. “I am grateful to be an American,” he said, in an interview with U.S Veterans Magazine. “That’s something I will always cherish.”

It took about a cup of coffee for Grateful American to hit the New York Times Best Seller list in early 2019. Sinise describes his journey from self to service in a plain-spoken, compelling way. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue, titled “Stunned,” in which he’s accepting an award from the Disabled Veterans of American for his performance as Lt. Dan: “When our veterans returned  from the first Gulf War, unlike Vietnam, they were greeted with giant parades in New York and a  few other cities. Yet even though our country eventually tried to make amends with Vietnam  veterans by supporting them as they created the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., and with some cities in the mid-1980s hosting a few welcome-home. parades, now in 1994, I can still sense remnants of this rift in our country, this stillopen wound for the veterans of the Vietnam War.

Little do I know how significant this moment at the convention will become in my life. Seeds are being planted that will grow into a tree with many branches. For it’s here that I first begin to ask myself, ‘How can I make a difference in restoring what’s been lost? How can I help make sure our veterans are never treated that way again?’”

Sinise visits an injured service member in the hospital
Sinise visits an injured service member in the hospital

Since publishing the book through Nelson Books, Sinise has been hearing from readers, including veterans. “I’m thrilled whenever I hear from a veteran,” said Sinise, 64. Sinise is an actor, director and musician. Among other awards, he has won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been nominated for an Academy Award.

Sinise is known for several memorable roles. These include George Milton in Of Mice and Men, Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Harry S. Truman in Truman (for which he won a Golden Globe), Ken Mattingly in Apollo 13, Detective Jimmy Shaker in Ransom, and Detective Mac Taylor in the CBS series CSI: NY(2004–13).

Sinise was born in Blue Island, Illinois. His father, Robert, was a film editor. He graduated from Highland Park High in Highland Park, Illinois. He later graduated from Illinois University. His legacy at Highland Park has been secured. In the 1970s, Sinise and two friends founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The theatre, a non-profit, continues to thrive today.

He started off as a rebel and a musician. His parents bought him a guitar when he was a boy, but he noticed everyone was playing guitar, so he switched to bass, which he still plays today. The hugely popular Lt. Dan Band, which plays mostly rock’n’ roll and country covers that are favorites among troops, has played for service members all over the world.

It’s one of many services he provides through the Gary Sinise Foundation, which he founded after 9/11 to ensure that today’s veterans are not treated like the Lt. Dans of the Vietnam War.

Gary Sinise Foundation Invincible Spirit Festival
Gary Sinise Foundation Invincible Spirit Festival

Sinise is an actor at his core. But his work for the troops just might be his lasting legacy. His journey from self to service has resulted in these staggering numbers from his foundation: —Building 70 specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded heroes; —More than 102,400 attendees at the Invincible Spirit Festivals since 2012; —More than 175,000 meals served to our nation’s defenders across the country; —About 460 support concerts for our troops, sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation; —More than 7,000 vets have joined Gary and crew for “Vets Night” performances; —About 1,700 children of fallen military heroes and their surviving parents/guardians attended the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Snowball Express event in 2018.

“Snowball” is a word Sinise favors. He hopes his, and others’, support of our active troops and veterans creates a snowball effect.

“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted,” he said. “We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.”

“We have tremendous supporters who support the Gary Sinise Foundation,” he added. “There’s an unfortunate disconnect between our people and those who defend this country. I encourage all of us to get to know the people who are protecting you.”

He stresses that veterans are everywhere. You don’t have to put on concerts for thousands; you can support one veteran, and that’s a big deal. “Look within your own neighborhood, your town, yourstate.”

Here’s one more excerpt from Grateful American that encapsulates Sinise’s attitude, and personal journey: “There have been any number of ups and downs in myn life, and there was a time when I wasn’t concerned about too much more than my own career. But slowly things changed. It’s my hope that as I share these stories from my life, you will be entertained and maybe even inspired, too—empowered to overcome obstacles, embrace gratitude, and engage in service above self.”

Man Taught Himself to Play the Trumpet Solely So He Could Play Taps for Fallen Soldiers

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Gary Marquardt In Full Dress Uniform Playing Trumpet For Fallen Soldier

It’s never too late to pay your respects to the fallen – and for Gary ­Marquardt, that meant learning to play the trumpet at 66 years old.

Marquardt was just a youngster when he enlisted in the military and waited to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Due to a bleeding ulcer, however, he was deemed unfit to serve.

Years later, he finally found a means of atoning for his guilt over not being able to fight alongside his fellow soldiers.

In 2014, Marquardt had been attending the funeral of a military friend when he was stunned to hear a mechanical recording of a bugle playing taps. He couldn’t help but be bothered by the lack of live music to honor a fallen soldier – so he walked into a music store and started learning to play the trumpet.

Much to the dismay of his wife and neighbors, Marquardt practiced day and night.

“It was awful,” Marquardt’s wife told KARE11 with a laugh. “Seemed like every 15 minutes, it was all the time. We were all hoping he would get better. And then he did.”

Sure enough, Marquardt managed to become a bona fide trumpeter. He then started using his newfound skill to visit local cemeteries and play taps at the gravestones of recently deceased veterans and soldiers.

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Free for Active Duty Military: National Veterans Memorial and Museum

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National Veterans Memorial & Museum (NVMM) recently announced that it will offer free entry for any US Military Veteran, Active-Duty Military Member and Gold Star Families.

The NVMM is the first and only nationally designated museum in the United States dedicated to honoring veterans, and just opened in October 2018 in Columbus, OH.

A few key highlights visitors and locals can look forward to:

  • A Museum About Veterans and For Veterans: Exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum Associates created an exhibition that is focused on the people – the soldier, the military personnel, the family member of a veteran – and their narrative journeys. Through personal artifacts, imagery and videos of veterans telling their story in their own words, the exhibitions draw in visitors and give them a sense of what veterans have gone through during their military service, highlighting the historical and contemporary examples of veterans’ stories. Rather than focus exclusively on combat and war, this exhibition narrative will explore the transformative experience of military service while connecting it to the broader idea of public and community service. The aim: to stimulate an ongoing dialogue to increase connections between civilians and veterans.
  • Pioneering in Education – Finally a Platform for Vets’ Stories to Be Told and Heard: The NVMM is the only place where the stories of our veterans, their families and the fallen – across all branches of service and all eras of conflict – are told together. The museum bridges historical events to current concerns and strengthens understanding and respect between veterans and civilians. This cultural institution stands as a place of inspiration for all visitors to come together as one people with a common bond and a shared pride in our veterans.
  • A New Architectural Icon: The building architect, Allied Works Architecture, has designed aNational Veterans Memorial Museum massive concrete arch structure (made up of a whopping 28 million pounds of concrete) with a glass curtainwall system and spiral processional, rising to a rooftop sanctuary – truly setting this museum apart The landscape architect, OLIN (the masterminds behind Bryant Park and Columbus Circle), designed the surrounding 2.5-acre Memorial Grove as a place for reflection. At the center of a circular path, there will be a grove of trees, designating the area as a sacred place to honor and memorialize veterans.
  • A Unique Philanthropic Effort: Most fundraising projects are fueled by a group close to a cause – this is a unique exception. While many veterans have played a critical role in the project’s bottom line, the largest private investors – Les and Abigail Wexner – committed to the project not because of particular ties to the military but because of their strong commitment to the community. They invested in the cultural credibility of the Region, and in the importance of not only supporting our veterans, but educating the public on their stories and service. The project received more than $82 million.

For more information visit; National Veterans Memorial & Museum.