Helping Others See the World

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Jim Higgins

Jim Higgins is the owner of Js Travel Consultants LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada. For the past 26 years, he has been learning, innovating and successfully filling the needs and goals of employers, team members and travel partners.

Beginning his travel career with World Connections Travel in Clearwater, Florida, and presently operating Js Travel Consultants in Las Vegas, Higgins says it’s been a great adventure. From the first interaction developing resort programs to generation leisure and meeting segments of all types, And he’s enjoyed his journey, every step of the way.

Higgins spoke to U.S. Veterans Magazine about establishing a business after his military service.

Why did you decide to open your own business?

As I progressed in my career, I had many different challenges and success. I made the decision to open my own business after working for my last two companies, from which I was laid off, followed by a reduction in force. At that point, I said “No more.” I didn’t want to go into work each day looking over my shoulder and wondering about my future there.

I have many friends in the Industry who said I should start my own business, that I would be good at it. It took a while to think about it, but I’m glad I did. Celebrating our fifth anniversary in business this year was one of the greatest achievements in my professional career.

What resources did you use when you were just starting up?

I took the public approach and started with SCORE Las Vegas, the Small Business Development Center and Diversify Nevada. The mentors and advice were awesome, cost was less and it was much easier.

What lessons did you take from the military that helped you in running your own business?

Attention to detail, focus, discipline and structure. Those qualities have allowed me to be more creative and know that I can accomplish my goals with fun and professionalism.

What advice would you give other veterans who want to open their own businesses?

It’s scary and a big commitment; but once you get past your initial fears and get rolling, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. When you get up in the morning and see the boss in the mirror, you smile! Don’t be afraid of the responsibilities that come with running your own business—this is what you were trained for.

Being a certified veteran owned small business can open a lot of doors for you. People recognize your honor, commitment, and integrity. Clients will work more with people they trust more often than those they don’t.

Higgins has 27 years of experience and a lot of common sense. Working in Las Vegas—one of the most competitive markets on the planet—“You need to combine not only who you know; but what you know,” he says. Visit jstravelconsultants.com for more information.

Garamendi’s World War II Merchant Marine Congressional Gold Medal Act Passes House

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Garamendi meets with WWII Merchant Marine Veterans and family members of deceased veterans in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), announced that his bipartisan Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019 passed the House of Representatives unanimously.

“Throughout the Second World War, our armed forces relied on the Merchant Marine to ferry supplies, cargo and personnel into both theaters of operation, and they paid a heavy price in service to their country,” said Garamendi. “The Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. An estimated 8,300 mariners lost their lives, and another 12,000 were wounded, to make sure our service members could keep fighting. Yet, these Mariners who put their lives on the line were not even given veteran status until 1988.”

“Last year, I got the chance to meet with three World War II Merchant Mariners: Charles Mills of Texas, age 97; Eugene Barner from Kansas, age 92; and Robert Weagant from Illinois, age 92,” Garamendi continued. “These mariners put their lives on the line for this country, braving German and Japanese submarines in their Liberty Ships as they delivered critical supplies to our servicemembers in the European and Pacific theaters. Unfortunately, their sacrifice is commonly overlooked. A Congressional Gold Medal would give them the recognition they deserve, and that’s why I introduced this bill: to give these veterans and their families the honor and respect they are owed. I’m pleased that this bill has passed the House and I will work to ensure it passes the Senate and becomes law,” Garamendi concluded.

“The time has come for our nation to provide a well-deserved thank you and honor the remaining Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII with a Congressional Gold Medal. This group of unsung heroes nobly served our country by operating the ships that transported critical supplies to front lines of the war, and in doing so suffered a casualty rate higher than any other branch of the military. In fact, one out of every 26 casualties during WWII was a volunteer Merchant Mariner. America would not be the great nation it is today without their valiant service of yesterday. I urge Congress to support this important bill and recognize this dwindling group of Merchant Marine Veterans from WWII that have served our nation so admirably,” said Christian Yuhas, Vice President of American Merchant Marine Veterans and a Chief Engineer Merchant Marine.

The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced in the Senate simultaneously by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) are the original cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

9 Reasons Recognizing Companies and Employees is Important

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Diverse group of employees raising their hands in cheer

By Mona Lisa Faris

We all remember scientists Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner’s experiments famous for exploring the benefits of using rewards and positive associations to change both behavior and emotion. Lately, I’ve seen it to be true with companies as well.

Few corporate awards are as highly sought-after or revered as a prestigious Best of the Best title.

A company achieving recognition in this area values inclusion and has a hand on the heartbeat of diversity at all times. There are two ways to achieve this award, either by employee vote or by a third party strictly looking at numbers.

In my opinion, independent third-party HR auditing, such as filling out a survey, outweighs employee-based evaluations.

Nine reasons recognizing companies and employees is important:

  1. Demonstrate You’re Doing Something Right

Business awards are important badges of honor to companies. The Best of the Best list is an opportunity to demonstrate to clients, employees, investors, customers, and the general public that yes, you’re doing something right, according to a third party and an objective panel of judges.

Whether or not your company has had direct involvement with these awards, the results are an invaluable source of information. It gives you an edge above your competitors, too.

  1. Diversity Matters

A company that makes it on a Best of the Best list believes in diversity and understands the importance of salaries, benefits, leadership, personal growth, and wellbeing, ultimately revealing what employees really care about in the workplace. Organizational cultures built on inclusion drive engagement, which drives business and financial performance.

  1. Employee Retention

Recognizing a job well done affects employee retention. When employee morale receives a boost, employee retention is increased. When a company is rewarded, it’s encouraged to strive to stay on the Best of the Best list and do even better. It is not a good sign when a company makes it on the list for a year and then doesn’t make it the following year.

  1. Better Job Performance

Recognition keeps employees feeling proud and passionate about their work. When employees are recognized, they are encouraged to perform better, and consistent recognition—especially when they’ve gone beyond the call of duty—will enhance their job performance. According to Great Place to Work, “Employees who say they have a great place to work were four times more likely to say they’re willing to give extra to get the job done.”

  1. Attract Great Talent

Award-winning status can help you compete for great talent. Customers, prospective employees, and the community hold top workplaces in high regard. If you’re recognized as a Top Veteran-Friendly Company, for example, it encourages veterans to apply with less hesitation knowing you’re diverse and inclusive to the veteran community. You present the following message: “Welcome, veterans, we’re here to train you and support you.”

  1. Media Exposure

Recognition as a Best of the Best company will keep your diversity message and branding alive all year long. Companies on the Best of the Best list performed two to three times better than their counterparts. Being awarded is a great opportunity to brag and put out public notices of achievement, such as a press release. It’s a great recognition to put on a website or use the Best of the Best logo to brand and market across the nation. Some companies go as far as putting the logo on their advertisements, marketing material, and at events and job fairs.

  1. Compete by Advantage

With better performance comes stronger revenue. When you’re on that list, it means you’re diverse, which means you’re getting diverse perspectives, ultimately putting out the best product and service because of the different views you have within your company. With a recognition, you also have a wider consumer base, which gives you an advantage over non-diverse competitors. At the end of the day, every company wants to be recognized, but companies are also interested in what other companies in their industry are being recognized for.

  1. Increase Innovation

Diversity drives innovation. It’s helpful for managers to establish a culture in which all employees feel free to contribute ideas, implement feedback, and give credit where credit is due. Employees who are given an environment to speak freely, no matter what the feedback is, are more likely to contribute their culture, ethnicity, gender, and work experience to drive innovation. Companies that foster and implement diverse groups for feedback, such as an ERG, help define culturally sensitive products, services, and demographics, and these diverse groups bring the greatest innovation.

  1. Increase Profits and Revenue

Recognition keeps employees satisfied, ultimately increasing revenue and profits. The bottom line is that we want our employees to be satisfied at work, because that is what influences company performance. Thus, diversity and inclusion are the keys to a company’s bottom line.

As a publisher of six-diversity focused magazines, I know it’s imperative to recognize companies for their achievements in diversity, and we do this through an independent survey. Any company award is a positive marketing strategy. Just as with any survey, do your research. My advice is to never participate in a “pay to play” investment because it’s not an investment. Our reports are never “pay to play.” By publishing these much-anticipated lists, my goal is to encourage those doing a good job to continue doing a great job, and for those who are not there yet, to entice them to join the bandwagon—to see what their competitors are doing and show the value. Companies that put diversity first, implement it in their policy, and practice it every day from the top down see the fruit of their labor and deserve praise.

Man believed to be oldest living American World War II veteran celebrates his 110th birthday

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Oldest World War ll veteran sitting in wheelchair receives birthday card from womens' singing group

A man believed to be the oldest living American to have served during World War II celebrated his 110th birthday Thursday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Family, veterans, and current military service members joined Lawrence Brooks at the museum, where the celebrated with cupcakes and a musical performance by the Victory Belles trio.

Born in 1909, Brooks served as a support worker in the Army’s 91st Engineer Battalion, a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war. He reached the rank of private first class.

He was the servant to thee white officers in the battalion, the museum said in a press release.

The supercentenarian is a father to five children and five step-children.

He had an exhilarating brush with death

In an interview with the museum, Brooks recounted a story of riding in a C-47 cargo plane from Australia to New Guinea. The plane was loaded down with barbed wire but “one of the motors went out on it,” he said.

To lighten the plane, those aboard threw much of the cargo into the ocean. Brooks threw the boxes out of the plane like his life depended on it: there were only enough parachutes on the plane for the pilot and the co-pilot.

Brooks said he joked to the aircraft’s pilot: “If he’s going to jump, I’m going to grab him.”

Thankfully, he didn’t have to resort to drastic measures.

“It was a scary moment,” he said. “But we made it.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

These are the first sisters to attain the rank of general, Army says

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Army General Sisters headshots side by side both dressed in Uniform

For the first time in the Army’s history, two sisters have attained the rank of general, the service said. It isn’t surprising that Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett, 53, and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi, 51, have climbed some of the highest ranks in the Army, the women’s brother Rus Lodi told USA Today. The sisters, who he dubbed “leadership junkies,” always amazed the family and have been a “great source of pride” for the family, he said.

The Army isn’t surprised by the sisters’ success either.

“Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer,” Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said, according to USA Today. “However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army.”

Although there have been cases where fathers and sons, and even a married couple have become generals, the Army doesn’t believe that there is another group of sisters who have pinned on general’s stars.

“The fact that we’re sisters, not brothers, I think it’s a huge illustration of how far we’ve come as a service,” said Lodi, who is now deputy chief of staff for operations in the Army’s Surgeon General’s office.

Barrett was initially interested in joining the Army to help pay for school at Tufts University, and wanted to go on to a career at the State Department. After going through Reserve Officer Training Corps as an undergraduate student, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

But as Barrett advanced as an officer, she realized the Army was a better fit for her.

“When I talk to younger officers, I tell them the reason I joined is not the reason why I stayed,” said Barrett, who is the commanding general of the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM. “Our democratic experiment, even on its most imperfect day, is worth defending.”

Lodi, who The Washington Post reports was promoted to brigadier general in July, also didn’t expect to stay in the Army for as long as she has.

Continue on to Army Times to read the complete article.

Affordable Internet Service for Low-Income Veterans

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Soldier using a laptop to code at desk

Comcast has expanded eligibility for its Internet Essentials program. The program ensures that low-income individuals have online access and in-home WiFi. This is important for veterans, especially considering the recent push for claims processing through the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

We encourage eligible veterans to sign up and stay connected. Veterans may be eligible and can apply with VA pension or HUD-VASH documentation.

Internet Essentials customers have the option to purchase a laptop or desktop computer at a discounted price ($149.95). It includes Windows 10 and Microsoft Office!

This program is not limited to only veterans. Low-income individuals on public assistance programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others, may be eligible. This program is limited to households located in areas where Comcast provides internet service.

Applicants may qualify if:

  • Eligible for public assistance
  • Do not have outstanding debt to Comcast less than a year old
  • Live in a Comcast Internet service coverage area (and not subscribed to Comcast service within 90 days)

The program provides an online learning portal for its users from basic to advanced skills. Some in-person classes may be available nearby also.

Continue on to Swords to Plowshares to read the complete article.

Semper Fi Trailer: Leighton Meester & Jai Courtney Test the Limits of Loyalty

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Semper Fi movie poster

Lionsgate has come through today with a first look at their dramatic new thriller Semper Fi, which features a line-up of popular talent on the rise.

The movie features Jai Courtney in the lead. He is joined by Nat Wolff, Finn Wittrock, Beau Knapp, Arturo Castro and Leighton Meester.

Semper Fi is directed by Henry Alex Rubin.

He wrote the script alongside Sean Mullin. The story follows a police officer serving in the Marine Corps Reserves who is faced with an ethical dilemma when it comes to helping his brother in prison.

The movie will be in theaters October 4, 2019. It will also be getting a simultaneous release On Demand and Digital HD release.

Henry Alex Rubin has released this statement on Semper Fi.

“Semper Fi’ is the motto of the U.S. Marines, and means ‘always faithful. That motto also applies in deep friendships, where you are incapable of betraying each other, and stand up for each other no matter the pressure. If you’ve got just one person like that in your life, you’re lucky.”

The director also had this to say about the production.

“[We] wanted to write a film about that deep feeling of loyalty and love among friends. Before shooting, the cast spent lot of time training together, going out every night, cooking meals, partying, drinking, nearly getting into barfights, staying up till sunrise. It was the most fun we’ve ever had on a set and that sense of true camaraderie is reflected on screen.”

Continue on to Movie Web to read the complete article.

Petty Officer Takes Marines to the Fight aboard U.S. Navy Warship

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Petty Officer Kevin Taylor aboard Navy warship

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Taylor, a native of La Habra, California, was inspired to join the Navy to follow in family members’ footsteps. “My dad, the majority of my uncles and my grandfather all served in the military,” Taylor said.

Now, three years later, Taylor serves aboard one of the Navy’s amphibious ships at Naval Base San Diego.

“For the most part it’s really nice,” Taylor said. “It’s nice to be able to rely on shipmates for help and to help them as well.”

Taylor, a 2016 graduate of La Habra High School, is a interior communications electrician aboard USS Essex, one of four Wasp-class amphibious assault ships in the Navy, homeported in San Diego.

“We do the electrical work for the alarms,” Taylor said. “We maintain all shipboard alarms, warning and indicating systems and certain flight systems.”

Taylor credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in La Habra.

“I learned that nothing comes easy,” said Taylor.

Essex is designed to deliver U.S. Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts. Designed to be versatile, the ship has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations.

Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Essex. More than 1,000 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 1,200 Marines can be embarked.

“Serving with the Marines gives you a different aspect of the military and seeing how different branches operate versus the Navy,” said Taylor.

Serving in the Navy means Taylor is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Taylor is most proud of being selected as Junior Sailor of the Quarter and being promoted to third class petty officer.

“It’s something that you have to work for, to study and learn and to always be accepting of constructive criticism,” said Taylor.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Taylor and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy is a sense of pride knowing that you’re doing something for the country and giving back to people,” said Taylor.

Source: Navy Office of Community Outreach

One Warrior’s Illuminating Journey

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Michael Landry poses outside at sporting event

The future looks bright for this veteran entrepreneur, who miraculously regained his once lost eyesight.

By Annie Nelson

Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Michael J. Landry Jr. was returning from his 5th combat deployment as a Field Radio Operator when he received orders to Okinawa, Japan in August 2014. He underwent an eye exam and was told his vision had changed but not to worry.

However in Japan, Landry noticed his vision was getting worse—so much so that his optometrist thought he was exaggerating his condition. It was then he was told that both of his corneas were shattered and he was legally blind in both eyes.

I spoke with Landry about his amazing journey, from regaining his sight to competing in the Marine Corps Trials to starting his own lifestyle clothing and music businesses.

Tell me about your journey to being able to see again?

I was medically evacuated from Okinawa in March 2016 and sent to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif. In Japan, I was still able to make out the outlines of objects because of the cloudy weather, but in California, I wasn’t able to see anything because it was so much brighter. I was fitted for hard-lens contacts until I received a corneal transplant in my left eye. The crazy thing was the eye transplant I received was originally blue! But then genetics took over and the eye eventually turned brown.

Due to my amazing doctor, the day after the surgery for the first time in two years, I was able to see the eye chart. Over the next 20 months, the vision in my left eye improved to the point that I was able to get prescription glasses, but only for the left lens because I was still blind in my right eye. Last February, I received the transplant for the right eye and today, I still have 12 stitches inside that eye but my vision overall is constantly improving.

You recently competed in the Marine Corps Trials—what events did you compete in and how did you finish? Are you going to the Warrior Games?

Yes, I competed in several events including track, shot put, discus, 100m sprint and powerlifting. For the powerlifting event, my doctor recommended to limit the weight because the excessive eye pressure could still cause damage. I was scheduled to run the 200m and 400m, but I pulled my hamstring during the 100m sprint. I ended up finishing first place in all events except powerlifting. I competed in the visually impaired category for field events, however, I did out throw every other competitor overall. I was also selected to compete in the Warrior Games and I’m looking forward to it.

What did the Marine Corps Trials teach you?

It taught me that I’m able to do more than I think. I’ve never competed in any of those sports before and it felt as if it came naturally. It also taught me that I need to learn to stretch better so I don’t get hurt!

You are a new entrepreneur. Tell me about your businesses and how you started?

The birth of One Life Clothing started when I was going blind. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t true so I began sewing with the thought that in order to sew, you have to be able to see. Going blind at the age of 32 forces you to see life in a different perspective. Tomorrow isn’t promised and you never know what can happen so you should always enjoy the “One Life” you have.

My second business I actually credit with saving my life. I was going through a lot mentally and physically with the loss of my sight and was severely depressed. At one point I was contemplating suicide until one day my brother, who is a rap artist, called me to vent about his music career, or lack thereof due to bad business deals. To help him, I started One Life Entertainment Music Group, LLC. Thus far, we’ve released four solo albums and two compilation albums.

My non-profit organization, One Life At A Time Outreach, helps not only feed the homeless, but also provide necessities like clothes, toiletries and shoes.

Michael Landry portrait with children Makiya and Michael III
Michael with children Makiya and Michael III

What does the future look like for you?

Bright I would say. Losing your vision and gaining it back is a blessing on its own, no matter what life throws at me. I’ve already won because I can see again. I’m embracing the new me. Business-wise, I would love to get into government contract designing and making uniforms as well as getting my clothing line into stores.

What advice would you give other service members who are recovering from an injury or illness?

You have to embrace the new you. I know what it feels like to be completely alone and to be stuck in your own head, but you have to remember that you are here for a purpose. God will never give you a task that you can’t handle. We are all gifted—find your gift and get out of your comfort zone.

Continue to follow Landry’s journey at onelifeclothing.net and on onelifemuzik.com

Veteran carries fellow Marine to Utah mountain summit: ‘We’re all a band of brothers’

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Veteran carrying his disabled Marine buddy on his back up a hill while hiking

When it comes to the U.S. Marines, one of their core beliefs is to leave no man behind.

That motto was on full display last week when retired Marine Sgt. John Nelson was caught on video carrying his friend and fellow Marine, Staff Sgt. Jonathon Blank, to the summit of Utah’s Mount Timpanogos.

Blank lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, with Nelson nearby when the blast occurred. The two, who served together on long-range reconnaissance missions, joined “Fox & Friends” Tuesday to detail the inspirational journey, which spanned 14 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation.

The sight of Nelson carrying Blank, who weighs about 135 pounds, on his back left two fellow hikers in awe and one shared the video on Facebook.

Phil Casper wrote, “They sought no special attention. The disabled vet said he weighed 135 lbs. They were committed to reach the summit. Having just exhausted myself to reach the summit with less than 5 lbs on my back, it was hard to fathom the drive that the pair possessed to achieve their goal.

To have arrived where I met them was already an incredible accomplishment. It was a powerful and inspiring experience to see them on their way.”

Continue on to Fox News to read the complete article.

This top military working dog is a Purple Heart recipient with nearly 100 Marine combat patrols under his collar

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military working dog with two soldiers investigating a suspicious bag on the ground

This year’s American Humane top military working dog sniffed out bombs and explosives over three combat tours with the Marine Corps across Iraq and Afghanistan and is now competing for the grand prize title of American Hero Dog.

Sgt. Yeager, a Marine Corps improvised explosive detection dog, carried out nearly 100 combat patrols and was awarded the Purple Heart after an IED explosion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in April 2012, took out part of his ear, according to a press release

His handler, Marine Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, was killed in that explosion during a dismounted patrol in Helmand province’s Marjah district.

The pair, whose bond was described as “unbreakable,” according to American Humane, were both assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.

Yeager was transported back to U.S. and treated for his injuries and eventually retired from the Marine Corps, according to a press release.

A press release said that while 12-year-old Yeager is showing signs of aging, his spirit is “undiminished.” Yeager was adopted by a family in North Carolina, according to the release.

Yeager is now headed to Hollywood, California, on Oct. 5 where he will be one of seven dogs to receive a 2019 American Humane Hero Dog award, the News Observer reported.

The American Humane Hero Dog Awards are a nationwide competition held every year to recognize dogs that do amazing things.

Yeager will also compete for the top award the 2019 American Hero Dog. According to American Humane, the gala will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 23.

Continue on to the Marine Corps Times to read the complete article.