Shocking Military Suicide Rates and Identifying the Signs

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Suicide Prevention

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which makes it an important time to move the conversation about suicide forward. While suicide is a national problem, it is one that also affects smaller communities, including the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community.

These brave men and women have suffered losses not only on the battlefield, but from suicide in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, each day there are around 20 veterans who commit suicide. What’s more, they report that veterans’ suicides account for 18% of the suicide deaths in the country, while they only make up 8.5% of the adult population.

“There’s clearly a serious issue with suicides among active duty military service members, veterans and their families, and it’s one that we are passionate about addressing,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “Only when people are aware of what is going on can they begin to affect change.”

Suicide is a major concern with veterans and active duty military members. It’s especially shocking when viewing the suicide rates of active duty Army members. According to a research report in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, the Army suicide rate increased 80% from 2004 to 2008. While the Army may have the most shocking suicide statistics, but no branch of the military is immune to the crisis. Among EOD technicians, suicide is considered to be at a crisis level. It’s an issue that the EOD Warrior Foundation is tackling and hoping to help change.

Suicide among EOD technicians is an issue that organizations such as the EOD Warrior Foundation are trying to not only raise awareness about, but are trying to help prevent. They are currently working with Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, of Columbia University. Dr. Gerstenhaber is the director of The Columbia Lighthouse Project, and has dedicated her life to saving others from suicide, as well as removing the stigma around the issue. She created the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and has shown that this is a critical tool in preventing suicide. We must identify to find those suffering in silence.

Those who suspect someone they know may be considering suicide should seek immediate professional assistance. The C-SSRS supports suicide risk assessment through a series of simple, plain-language questions that anyone can ask. The answers help users identify whether someone is at risk for suicide, assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and gauge the level of support that the person needs.

Users of the C-SSRS tool ask people:
• Whether and when they have thought about suicide (ideation)
• What actions they have taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
• Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition

“The suicide rate for our veterans and active duty is around 50% higher than for their civilian counterparts, showing what a serious issue we have on our hands,” says Dr. Gerstenhaber. “This group of people have a tremendous amount of stress and they need to know it’s not a sign of weakness to seek help. We have programs in place that have been successful at helping to reduce the suicide rates, and we want to expand those to help others around the nation.”

These are questions everyone must ask. In order to continue working to eradicate suicide, we all must go beyond the medical model, and this is what the Dr. Gerstenhaber and the EOD Warrior Foundation are working together to do in the EOD community.

The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, and perform bomb disposal duties. Engaging in the most dangerous job in the military, EOD technicians often sustain serious injuries, lose limbs, or are killed in action. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, a scholarship program, care of the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of those who support the organization. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

About EOD Warrior Foundation
The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help EOD warriors and their family members with a priority on wounded EOD warriors and the families of fallen EOD warriors. Specific programs include financial relief, college scholarships, hope and wellness programs that include therapeutic healing retreats, and care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

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.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Free for Active Duty Military: National Veterans Memorial and Museum

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Veterans-Memorial-museum

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.

The Chiefs’ star quarterback spends his free time building houses for veterans

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The biggest new star quarterback of NFL doesn’t get a lot of free time. Practicing is as important as game time, so when the time comes to relax, it’s understandable that a young football star might actually rest. But it turns out Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ young QB, is a star both on and off the field.

The second-year QB spent his day off helping build transitional housing for veterans in the Kansas City area with The Veterans Community Project, a non-profit that’s building a specialized community network of tiny homes and services dedicated to supporting every man and woman who served — also known as Tiny Houses for Homeless Vets.

The founder of the Veterans Community Project, Chris Stout, is a former U.S. Army corporal who was wounded in Afghanistan. His own transition into civilian life was marked by trouble with PTSD and employment issues. Though not homeless himself, he told CNN he was shocked at the inefficiencies he witnessed in the programs designed to help vets escape homelessness.

When Stout discovered homeless vets shunned shelters because they were unsafe and lacked privacy, he paid for hotel rooms out of his own pocket to keep these heroes off the street — but that too was inefficient. Eventually, he and his friends left their jobs to start the VCP, helping veterans first and asking questions later.

For the complete article, continue on to We Are The Mighty.

11 Ways to Celebrate Yours During Month of the Military Child

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Month of the Military Child

April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. Sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, the Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome.

The Month of the Military Child is part of the legacy left by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He established the Defense Department commemoration in 1986.

DoDEA joins the Department of Defense and the military community in celebrating April as the Month of the Military Child. In DoDEA communities around the world, our most essential strategic imperatives are: establishing an educational system that progressively builds the college and career readiness of all DoDEA students; and establishing the organizational capacity to operate more effectively and efficiently as a model, unified school system. We aim to challenge each student to maximize his or her potential and to excel academically, socially, emotionally and physically for life, college and career readiness.

Throughout the month, DoDEA will encourage schools to plan special events to honor military children and have administrators and principals incorporate the themes of this month into their every day duties and responsibilities. These efforts and special events will stress the importance of providing children with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle.

Tips for you and yours:

1. Wear Purple

April 15th is Purple Up! Day, an opportunity for Americans everywhere to show support for military children. Pick your favorite shade of purple and wear it all day long to raise awareness of the sacrifices military families make, but especially kids. Let your child know you’re wearing purple especially for them.

2. Have a Special Date Night

With life’s chaos, it can be challenging to spend quality time with your children. This is especially true when you’re a military family just trying to get through a long deployment  or settling into a new duty station. Let your child pick a place to go and treat them to a date night. If you have multiple kids, do this with each of them individually.

3. “Share Your Story” Project

Your school-aged child might have the opportunity to do show and tell or another similar project. Use this as an opportunity to educate other students and teachers about Month of the Military Child. If your child goes to a DoD school, encourage them to do a fun presentation on all the places they’ve lived.

4. Create a Scavenger Hunt

This activity is especially fun if you’ve just relocated to a new duty station. You might do it on base in a safe place like the commissary or exchange. Create a list of items for your kids to find. Have players take pictures of items or collect listed objects. Set a timer and see who finishes first! Set behavior expectations as well prior to starting.

5. Be Genuine

Sometimes you just want to do the dishes, laundry, and a million other items on your to-do list. If sitting down and playing a board game sounds boring, but your kid would love it, give it a try.  Genuine encounter moments (call these GEM for short!), are when your kids get your full and undivided attention. Be in the moment and watch how your kids open up.

6. Host a Photoshoot

Let your child wear that colorful tutu or awesome superhero cape for a photoshoot. Call in a professional photographer or snap pics on your phone.  If you want to get super creative, have your kids help you create a backdrop and pick out props for their photoshoot. Bring in their closest military friends, too, for double the fun. Be sure to send the pics to your service member if they’re deployed.

7. Be a Guest Speaker

Young kids love to show off their parents. Whether you’re a military spouse or service member, offer to be a guest speaker in your child’s classroom during the Month of the Military Child. Share your experiences, and open the floor for discussion about military life.

8. Ask About Their Feelings

Whether it’s over dinner or a visit to an ice cream parlor, ask your kids how they’re doing. Let them lead the conversation, but sprinkle in questions like “How does that make your feel?” or “What do you think about ______?” Listen, verify, and validate their feelings. You’ll be surprised what they are willing to share if you ask in the right setting.

9. Connect With Other Military Families

When you spend quality time with other military families with kids, it can help your own child or children create their tribe. This is especially true for families within the same unit or platoon. As deployments come up, your kids can learn and grow together in the ways of military life.

10. Friday Fun

For the month of April, let your child decide what you do on Friday nights.  This will let them feel like they have a say in what family does, when they so often don’t. Consider all requests thoughtfully and make modifications as necessary. Movie nights, ordering take-out, and water balloon fights in the yard are a couple of ideas to get started.

11. Get Teachers Involved

Ask your child’s teacher if they’d be willing to plan some lessons around the military. This might be especially interesting for children to learn more about military life operations. If your family has a favorite book about deployments or military life, offer to let the teacher borrow it for a lesson or two.

Continue on Sandboxx to read the complete article.

America’s Warrior Partnership Hosts “Camouflage & Cocktails” Event to Celebrate Empowered Veterans

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Clint Romesha poses for camera in full military dress uniform with US Flag in the background

Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha, pictured left,  to speak at networking event on April 4 at 6 p.m. EST in New York City.  America’s Warrior Partnership is hosting its next “Camouflage & Cocktails” networking event to celebrate empowered military veterans.

Sponsored by First Data, OppenheimerFunds, Apollo Global Management and Natixis Investment Managers, the event will take place in New York City at Carnegie Hall on April 4 starting at 6 p.m. EST.

The event will recognize business and civic leaders who are supporting veteran-friendly workplaces and communities, while also providing attendees the opportunity to network and learn how they can contribute to the movement of empowering veterans. Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha will serve as the evening’s honorary host and speak to attendees about how communities can bridge the gap between veteran and civilian cultures.

“An empowered veteran claims the right to thrive within their community rather than simply survive, and Clint embodies that definition,” said Jim Lorraine, president and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership. “It is one thing to understand what makes an empowered veteran. The true challenge lies in coming together to provide veterans with the means and opportunity to achieve the quality of life they deserve. We look forward to learning from Clint’s experiences alongside attendees as we work together to create more veteran-friendly communities.”

Before commencing the “Camouflage & Cocktails” evening event, Clint will join America’s Warrior Partnership in visiting several New York-based businesses on April 4 to speak with employees and recognize their dedication to creating veteran-friendly workplace environments. Donations raised during the evening event will support ongoing programs and initiatives from America’s Warrior Partnership that are empowering communities to empower veterans.

For more information and instructions to RSVP for the event, visit the America’s Warrior Partnership website.

About America’s Warrior Partnership

America’s Warrior Partnership is committed to empowering communities to empower veterans. We fill the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy, improving their results and empowering their initiatives. America’s Warrior Partnership is a force multiplier for warrior community integration that enhances communities where great Americans choose to live and contribute. For more information on the organization and how to get involved, visit AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.

From homeless to national champ: Army athlete rises to top of USA boxing

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As the two-time national middleweight champion, she has fought some of the world’s best boxers to earn a No. 3 international ranking.

But for a long time, Army athlete Naomi Graham had to fight her toughest opponent — herself.

Before the staff sergeant rose to the top of USA boxing, she had to overcome a mindset that began well before she ever set foot in a ring.

TOUGH LOVE

She was too nice, a coach had told her when Graham began training in 2014.

“You would never know that she’s a boxer,” said USA boxing assistant Joe Guzman, a former Army heavyweight competitor.

To become competitive in the ring, especially for the Olympics, she needed to be tougher, Guzman would say.

Graham speaks courteously and answers questions politely. In middle school, she allowed bullies to taunt her and get in her face. She never flinched, as her mother told her to avoid physical altercations, and instead tell a teacher or administrator when confronted by other children.

But one day Graham had enough. Another student threatened to fight her. Graham responded by hoisting the girl up and tossing her over a table.

“People started to leave me alone after that,” she said.

As a teen growing up in the outskirts of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Graham admittedly followed the wrong path after her graduation from Pine Forest High School in 2007. Instead of attending college courses or finding work, she enjoyed going out and spending time with friends.

Her mother, Bertha Clark, decided to show her some tough love and told her to move out of the family home. With no plan and no car, she found herself homeless in 2012, walking the suburban streets with a blanket and a few belongings.

She went to her friends’ homes asking for assistance and a place to stay.

Finally she decided to take matters into her own hands. One day while walking through a neighborhood southwest of Fayettville, she noticed an abandoned one-story house. Graham entered the backyard and found the backdoor unlocked.

She spent almost a year sneaking back into the abandoned home and sleeping in the back bedroom at night. She ate with friends when invited, but she used food stamps to get by.

One winter evening, she shuddered under her blanket in deep thought. Sitting in the darkness beneath the winter cold, she made a silent promise to herself.

“I was crying and I was basically saying, ‘this can’t be it for me,'” Graham said. “‘I know there is more to me than this.'”

She had already committed to joining the Army, but at that moment she vowed to use her Army enlistment to make a better life for herself.

For the complete article, continue on to U.S. Army.

 

2GIG and ELAN Smart Home Gifted by the Gary Sinise Foundation Provides U.S. Army CPT Jake Murphy with the Control He Needs

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Disabled Veteran with his family standing outside their smart home

While on a mission in Afghanistan on July 23, 2011, a pressure plate improvised explosive device detonated beneath U.S. Army Captain Jake Murphy, immediately taking his left foot and causing an anoxic brain injury that put him into a coma.

Against all odds, Murphy emerged from his coma four weeks later and was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he eventually lost both of his legs.

Recognizing Cpt. Murphy’s immense bravery, the Gary Sinise Foundation R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program provided him and his family a specially adapted smart home with technologies by Nortek Security & Control in an effort to help improve and simplify everyday life for the family of four.

“When designing this home for Captain Murphy and his family, simplicity was key,” said Jason Hanifan of Comware AV, the ELAN dealer that designed the home technology solution. “With that in mind, we personalized the ELAN Control System to make it easy for the whole family to control all the integrated technologies in the 3,598 square foot home.”

Comware AV built the system with an ELAN gSC10 as the main system controller, with an ELAN S1616A providing audio distribution and a 8×8 HDBaseT™ Matrix for video. The Murphy family can manage their home’s security, audio, video, Lutron® lighting, fans and shades, plus thermostats, and door locks through ELAN HR30 remotes in the family room and master bedroom, ELAN 7” Touch Panels in the kitchen and master bedroom, as well as through the ELAN app on their smart devices and with voice control through ELAN’s Amazon Alexa® integration.

With security being essential to the family, Hanifan and his team installed a 2GIG security system with over 40 sensors wirelessly connected to a 2GIG GC3 panel, which is integrated into the ELAN control system. According to Hanifan, “In addition to the intrusion sensors, we added 2GIG Glass Break Detectors to monitor for the sound of breaking glass in the home, 2GIG Motion Detectors, ten 2GIG Smoke Detectors, plus Carbon Monoxide Detectors.”

Murphy and his family can easily review the status of their home’s doors and windows before leaving the house or turning in for the night, using the GC3 panel, two 2GIG SP1 secondary touchscreens or any of their ELAN interfaces. If a door is left open, the 2GIG system will annunciate exactly which doors or window are open, and where. For further security, an ELAN network video recorder captures video from six ELAN surveillance cameras, all which can be managed from within the ELAN app.

To simplify the home control, Hanifan and the Comware AV team personalized automated scenes, such as “good night,” which automatically locks the doors and adjusts the lights, or “away” which automatically locks the doors, turn off the lights and sets the thermostats to a certain energy-saving level. “By initiating the ‘relax’ scene, the lights will switch to their designated level and the TV will go on,” said Hanifan. “With ELAN, the scene options are endless, which is ideal for Captain Murphy and his family. For example, when he wakes up in the morning he simply needs to say ‘good morning’ and everything will adjust to his desired settings. It’s that easy.”

For the Murphy family, music and entertainment are important aspects of home life. The Comware AV team installed 18 SpeakerCraft AIM282 speakers to maximize audio performance, and added a 1,000-watt Sunfire HRS10 subwoofer so the family can really “feel” the entertainment in the media room.

To ensure that all of the home’s technology receives uncompromised power for optimal operation, the system components plug into a Panamax M4315-PRO power conditioner with BlueBOLT® remote power management, while a Panamax MB-1500 battery backup guarantee protects the system in case of a power outage.

According to Scott Schaeperkoetter, Director of Operations for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program, the smart home system has completely transformed everyday life for the Murphy family. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve the lives of these veterans and with Nortek Security & Control’s line of smart home and security solutions, we’re able to completely customize the smart home technology in each home to fit the individual needs of the veteran and their family,” he said. “We’re honored to be able to support their journey to regain their independence.”

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, and continues to expand its intuitive functionality with security, climate, surveillance and video distribution products and integrations. 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 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 security dealers, technology integrators, national telecoms, big box retailers, OEM partners, service providers, 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.

Emmanuel Kelly, formerly of X Factor, to open for Snoop Dogg at Salute The Troops Music and Comedy Festival

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Emmanuel Kelly- performing onstage with Chris Martin

Salute The Troops Music and Comedy Festival announced today that Emmanuel Kelly will perform at the Fox Theatre in Pomona, CA on Saturday, March 23rd in direct support of Snoop Dogg. Emmanuel was born in Iraq, is a child of war and was rescued by US Service Members.

He has performed on the X Factor and has most recently been on tour with Coldplay and has recorded tracks with Imagine Dragons.

Emmanuel was born with severely underdeveloped limbs due to chemical warfare in his community. In 2000, he was adopted by humanitarian Moria Kelly and moved to Australia where over the next several years, he had eight life-altering surgeries. Through rehabilitation, Emmanuel learned how to walk, drive a car, dress himself and more.

Read more about Emmanuel’s story via Billboard: billboard.com/meet-emmanuel-kelly

After being discovered on X Factor and fulfilling his goal of becoming the first “differently-abled pop star” Emmanuel is passionate about raising money for disadvantaged, differently-abled children, and cancer research. Emmanuel has now performed in front of audiences of up to 100,000 in venues like the Sydney Opera House, and MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

On the addition of Emmanuel to the Salute The Troops roster, co-founder of the festival, Nate Parienti said this: “This really adds a unique twist to our event and crystallizes the message of Service members, activist artists, veterans, children of war and the general public coming together to heal through music and comedy.”

Watch Emmanuel’s X-Factor performance: youtube.com/watch?v=IY37l4PDsao

About Salute The Troops:

Salute The Troops Music And Comedy Festival was founded by Nate Parienti and co-founded with John Wertz (USMC 2001-2006) of Semper Fi Productions. Salute The Troops will take place at iconic Goldenvoice venues, The Fox Theatre and the Glass House from Friday, March 22nd – Sunday, March 24th in downtown Pomona, CA. The event is aimed at raising awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress and the epidemic suicide rates among returning soldiers and veterans. Two-day tickets are on sale now at SaluteTheTroops.com

Every Day is a Dog Day for One Marine Veteran

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John and Daisy

By Brian Robin

The biggest rock star playing at Pechanga Resort Casino isn’t Pitbull. It isn’t Tony Bennett. Nor is it Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, or Steven Tyler, all of whom have performed at the Temecula, California, resort this year.

No. The biggest rock star at the largest resort/casino on the West Coast slowly walks on four legs, wears a vest, and performs four days a week for 10 hours a day, helping to keep Pechanga team members and guests safe. And unlike the aforementioned, you can see her for free all over the property, not just in Pechanga’s entertainment venues.

Daisy—a 4-year-old lab/terrier mix rescue dog—is Pechanga’s reigning rock star. So much so that Pechanga’s management had to send out a memo to its team members not to pet her while she works. And when Daisy works, her job makes her the poster girl for an innovative, productive way of keeping Pechanga’s property and guests safe, while providing a renewed sense of life and purpose for one Marine veteran.

Daisy belongs to John Tipton, a 62-year-old Marine veteran who saw action in such places as Beirut, Grenada, and Iraq during the first Gulf War. Places and action that left the retired gunnery sergeant with post-traumatic stress disorder and turned the Vista resident into a self-described “grumpy grandpa” who was unemployed for three years.

“It was a pretty rough couple of years. I’d walk into job interviews, and they’d take one look at me and then look at the dog. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in the tone of their voice. They wondered what was wrong with me,” he said.

Now, the grumpy grandpa is a grateful grandpa. Under a program Pechanga instituted over the summer, John and Daisy are the first six-legged safety patrol team at the resort. Armed with a radio, water bowl, and beef jerky treats, they spend four days a week patrolling the hotel lobby, hallways, pool, casino, parking garages, and golf course, looking for things that are out of the normal routine for the bustling resort.

John Tipton and Daisy_4
John Tipton and Daisy taking a break from walking the 4 to 6 miles a day at Pechanga

“It brought me back to being a human again. It brought me back to doing the things I would normally do again,” Tipton said about his new position as DPS Specialist. “It takes the right person in the right spots for something like this to happen, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here. A lot of people have said ‘It’s about time someone gives those with disabilities a chance,’ so I think our society is trending in the right direction.”

Those were Robert Krauss’ exact sentiments. Pechanga’s vice president of public safety and also a former Marine, Krauss lives ahead of the curve when it comes to next-level ways to keep guests safe. For example, Pechanga’s two security robots—one stationary and one mobile—Krauss introduced to the resort this summer. But not even security robots “Rudy” and “Buddy” have stopped traffic with appreciative guests like John and Daisy.

“These individuals have so much to offer our society that it’s a waste not to consider those with disabilities and their service dogs,” Krauss said. “The first time I heard John’s story, I knew he wasn’t the only one with issues finding a job where he could bring his service dog to work with him. I just knew we had to do something to help.”

“We have a need in the public safety department. They have a special skill set that I’m specifically looking for. Who better, with everything they’ve gone through and all the training and service they’ve provided for us. That’s exactly what we’re looking for here.”

Krauss said they’re looking for eight more veterans and their service dogs to join Tipton and Daisy, who has become the poster girl for more than just Pechanga. She’s the poster girl for the proverbial who-rescued-who happy dilemma many pet owners embrace.

“I’ll tell you this (about) the best part of having a service dog,” Tipton said. “Because everyone will tell you they got the best. But I do. That’s it. She’s the best-looking girl here.”

About the Author

Brian Robin is a copywriter at the Pechanga Resort Casino.

Understanding Veteran-Owned Business Certifications

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Terms like 8a, SDVOSB, VOSB, and CVE can be confusing for many veterans related to what they might be eligible to use and what the status means to their company.

Why should I get a Veteran certification?

If you are selling to the government or if you are selling to major companies that do business with the government, a Veteran certification gives you more tools in your marketing toolbox—it may give you leverage in some contract bidding. Each year, the federal government is required to buy a certain percentage of their purchases from small businesses and businesses that have minority or presumed disadvantaged status.

Sometimes the government reaches its goals through bid preferences. In a bid preference, if a non-certified company and a certified company both bid $100,000, the certified preference company bid might be viewed as $95,000, thereby giving them the winning bid.

In other cases, the procuring agent might decide that only a certain classification of businesses could bid on a particular contract. This is referred to as a “set aside” solicitation. In the set aside scenario, a procurement officer may decide to only open the bidding process to a minority or preference class of business. Any company that did not have the required certification would not be able to bid on the project. One limitation to this setting is that if there are not at least two businesses of this classification bidding, the bid may have to be reissued and opened to a wider group. In some cases, a procurement officer may be able to justify a sole source contract, but that is the exception, not the rule.

What are the types of Veterans certifications available?

Currently, the federal Veteran status certifications and the agencies that confirm them are:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) 8a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small business (SDVOSB). The SBA 8a SDVOSB requires an application process to validate the certified status. For the certified SBA’s 8a SDVOSB, only Veterans who are service-connected disabled Veterans can apply.
  • Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB). This status is self-certified by the business owner in the System for Award Management (SAM) Website.
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). This status is self-certified by the business owner in the SAM Website.
  • Veteran Administration (VA) Certified Veteran Enterprise (CVE) Veteran Owned Small Business. The VA CVE is primarily used for the VA’s Vets First program. It is not a substitute for the SBA 8a certification.
  • VA CVE SDVOSB. As noted above, the CVE is mainly for doing business with the VA.

Am I Eligible?

The question of eligibility is where things get to be a little murky at first. Any Veteran, honorably discharged from military service can self-certify as a VOSB in SAM if they meet the following conditions:

  • The Veteran or Veterans must own a minimum of 51 percent of the business.
  • The Veteran or Veterans owning the business must show control of the day-to-day operations of the business and must be the highest-ranking officer of the company. In some cases, where a Veteran is severely disabled, some of that operational control may be handled by a spouse or other family member.
  • To qualify for the Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), the disability must be a service connected disability and must be shown on the DD214 document issued when discharged from the service.

For the three certifications issued by the SBA or the VA, the same requirements listed above apply, but must all be supported by documentation to prove ownership and control. Although the documentation may at times seem cumbersome, it is used to verify that the business is indeed owned and operated by the Veteran. This protects the true Veteran-owned businesses and allows them to compete competitively.

Source: Florida SBDC at University of South Florida