VA launches Solid Start to ensure Veterans are contacted during initial transition

veteran looking at document on his laptop

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in collaboration with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, recently introduced VA Solid Start which will proactively contact all newly separated service members at least three times during their first year of transition from the military.

The program will engage contact with approximately 200,000 Veterans each year and is part of Executive Order 13822 which was issued to improve mental health care and access to suicide prevention resources available to transitioning uniformed service members in the year following discharge, separation or retirement.

“The stress of transition from service can lead to challenges or unmet health care needs for Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Through VA Solid Start, the department will ensure consistent, caring contact and help new Veterans get a solid start on their civilian lives.”

The goal is to establish a strong relationship between VA and transitioning service members, promoting awareness of VA benefits, services and partner resources available to them.

Veterans within their first year of separation from uniformed service experience suicide rates nearly two times higher than the overall Veteran suicide rate. Contacts through VA Solid Start — via phone calls or emails — will ensure transitioning service members are aware of the free VA mental health resources the department offers Veterans for up to a year, regardless of discharge status or service history.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at

Source: VA

Sailor Spotlight! Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jonathan Cole

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jonathan Cole

SAN DIEGO – Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jonathan Cole, from Anaheim, Calif., assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), participates in the E-7 Navy-wide advancement exam.

Bonhomme Richard is in its homeport of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary DiPadova)

The men and women in the U.S. Navy are deployed around the clock and ready to protect and defend America on the world’s oceans.


Army Green Berets earn over 50 combat awards — including three Silver Stars — in Afghanistan

Deputy Commander Col. Steven M. Marks salutes a 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier during a ceremony at the chapel on Eglin Air Force Base

Dozens of Green Berets received valor awards, including three Silver Star medals, in a recent ceremony meant to highlight the bravery and dedication that members of 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) showed during a recent Afghanistan deployment.

In addition to the trio of Silver Stars — the military’s third-highest personal award for combat bravery — officials also presented seven Bronze Stars for valor and 17 Army Commendation medals. The 27 valor awards were presented during the ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., officials said.

“This is a reminder that even in the modern age, warfare is still about courage under fire,” said Col. Steven M. Marks, deputy commander of 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), in a 7th Group statement. Marks presented the medals at Eglin’s Liberty Chapel.

The unit’s soldiers also earned 21 Purple Hearts during the combat zone deployment, a 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) spokesman told Stars and Stripes.

The decorations were awarded to the soldiers of 7th Group’s 2nd Battalion for actions during a six-month deployment in late 2018.

The Bronze Star is for acts of heroism of a lesser degree than the Silver Star, which is awarded for acts of gallantry of a higher degree than those meriting any other U.S. combat decoration except the Medal of Honor or service crosses. The Army Commendation medal ranks below the Bronze Star.

Pictured above: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2019, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) Deputy Commander Col. Steven M. Marks salutes a 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier during a ceremony at the chapel on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., after presenting him a medal for valorous acts during the battalion’s recent deployment to Afghanistan. Liberty chapel on Jan. 9. Jose Vargas/U.S. Army

Four Green Berets who had earned additional valor awards — two Bronze Stars and two Army Commendation medals — were absent. Twenty-six soldiers earned valor awards, with five of them earning two valor awards and six earning both an award for valor and the Purple Heart for being wounded in action.

“The valor we are recognizing today happened at the most tactical level — face to face fighting, close quarters combat, hand grenade-range,” Marks said.

The 7th Group statement did not provide details of the specific acts that were recognized, which occurred during a war that has largely faded from public view during which most offensive operations are carried out by shadowy commando units.

A relative few U.S. troops, typically special operations forces, have gone into combat or served on the front lines in Afghanistan since 2014, often as part of unilateral or joint operations with their Afghan counterparts during separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.

During 2nd Battalion’s deployment from September 2018 to February 2019, some 14,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the country, most as part of a NATO mission training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces for battling a Taliban insurgency against the Kabul government.

Continue on to Stars and Stripes to read the complete article.

Defense Department expands commissary access to more military members

Commissary building

The New Year brought new perks for some military members and their families.

The Department of Defense expanded shopping privileges at its commissaries to a number of new groups, including Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, all veterans with service-connected disabilities and individuals approved as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans.

The expanded eligibility went into effect Jan. 1.

Other patrons authorized to shop at commissaries by the Department of Defense include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100 percent disabled veterans and authorized family members.

Commissaries are discounted grocery shopping facilities located on bases. By law, the shop is required to deliver savings to shoppers, based on prices negotiated with manufacturers. Baseline savings are typically expected to be just shy of 24 percent.

Shoppers are subject to a 5 percent surcharge but no state and local food-related taxes. The surcharge is used for store upkeep and construction.

In addition to commissaries, newly eligible military personnel will also have access to military service exchanges, golf courses, bowling centers, recreational lodging, RV campgrounds, movie theaters and other facilities.

According to the Department of Defense, eligibility is limited because it does not have the infrastructure to handle an influx of more than 15 million additional veterans to the facilities.

Not only did the new year bring new benefits for some veterans, it also brought higher pay for service members.

Continue on to Fox Business News to read the complete article.

Paws of War Helps American Soldiers Bring Home Dogs from the Middle East

U.S. Soldier is holding up his rescue dog for a picture

Being deployed to Afghanistan can be dangerous and stressful for our service members. Some of these service members rescue stray dogs and befriend them. When it’s time to head back to the United States, the last thing they can think of is leaving the dog behind to fend for itself. One soldier, Sgt. Dominick, is desperate to bring his dog, Jonsey, back home with him.

“After these dogs are rescued, they develop a special bond with our service members. These dogs will not leave their side and become very attached and loyal,” explains Dori Scofield co-founder of Paws of War. “There’s no way they can leave them, so we do everything we can to help them bring the dog home with them. We need all the support we can get from the public in order to be successful with these efforts.”

Army Sgt. Dominick, who is stationed in a remote area of Afghanistan, first spotted Jonsey when the starving puppy was eating burnt trash outside of his camp. He took the puppy in, fed him, and the whole unit fell in love with him, which brought them joy. He named him Jonsey, and the dog grew to feel like a part of his family. Now that he will be heading back to the United States, he can’t bear to leave him behind.

Stray dogs in Afghanistan have a very rough life and often times are subjected to cruelty. Desperate to bring him back home with him to live out his life and be a part of his larger family, he turned to Paws of War for assistance. The organization has a program in place that helps service members bring their dog home after being deployed to the Middle East. While they are always quick to help do what they can, they can’t do it alone.

In order for Paws of War to be successful at bringing a dog back to America from Afghanistan, they work with Nowzad, the only official animal shelter in Afghanistan, and get financial support from public donations. There’s a lot that goes into bringing a dog back to the U.S., including quarantine, all of which comes at a high cost.

If you would like to help, please donate To learn more about Paws of War and the programs please visit

About Paws of War

Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance to active, retired, and disabled military members. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation visit its site at:

Sailor takes over duties as Chief of the Boat aboard U.S. Navy submarine

Master Chief Sonar Technician (Submarine) Michael Wangen II pins his replacement abaord Navy ship

SANTA RITA, Guam – Master Chief Sonar Technician (Submarine) Michael Wangen II, pins Senior Chief Yeoman (Submarine) Matthew Zwan, right, from Garden Grove, Calif., as his relief as the Chief of the Boat aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) on the pier following a deployment.

Topeka is one of four forward-deployed submarines assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen out of Apra Harbor, Guam.

Source: Navy Outreach

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger)

Veteran Goes From Janitor to Physicist After Teaching Himself Trigonometry Using Only Youtube Videos

Joshua Carrol pictured with an dark purple and black background wearing a dark sweater with arms folded

This U.S. Army veteran is a perfect example of how anyone can achieve their dreams—regardless of their experiences.

Joshua Carroll had only been in high school when an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center back in 2001. Rather than pursue a college education, Carroll got his GED so he could enlist in the military.

After spending three deployments in Iraq, Carroll returned to his home in Virginia and found himself suffering from PTSD—and a general lack of purpose.

Carroll had begun working as a janitor at a local school when he caught sight of a Stephen Hawking book sitting on a library shelf. As he flipped through the pages, Carroll suddenly decided to pursue his childhood dream of being a physicist.

With just a 10th grade education in geometry, Carroll managed to persuade the admissions staffers at Radford University to let him skip the prerequisites for the physics program provided he could teach himself trigonometry.

Armed with nothing but the internet, Carroll prepared for his entrance exam by watching dozens of YouTube videos to learn advanced mathematics in just three weeks.

Not only did he pass with flying colors, he graduated as one of the top students in his class—and he has been working as a physicist ever since.

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

Navy Petty Officer Reenlists in U.S. Navy for Six Years at USS Arizona Memorial

Master at Arms 1st Class Petty Officer Christopher Kurz took the oath of enlisment from Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Fortnam at the USS Arizona Memorial at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix, Ariz. on December 7, 2019

PHOENIX – Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Kurz, a native of Mesa, Arizona, reenlisted for six years at the USS Arizona Memorial in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 7th, in honor of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during the attack at Pearl Harbor and was the pivotal moment that sent America into WWII.

Kurz, a 2001 graduate of Red Mountain High School and a 2013 Ottawa University graduate with a degree in business administration, is a master-at-arms serving with Naval Security Forces Guam.

As a Navy master-at-arms, Kurz is responsible for providing qualified Naval physical security and force protection in support of Naval Base Guam’s mission involving waterfront operations, ordnance security, and logistical support to the 5th and 7th fleets in Guam and Marianas Area of Responsibility.

“What I enjoy most is making a direct impact on my peers and junior sailors,” Kurz said. “The diversity allows me to accomplish my career goals while helping others flourish and succeed in their career goals. Their success is my success and there is no better feeling than seeing hard work and determination exemplify the navy core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”

Kurz said he joined the Navy to fight for his country, especially in a time of need.

“Being fourth-generation military and the son of a sailor who served in Vietnam, the Navy allowed me the opportunity to fulfill my destiny following the 9/11 attacks which took place soon after I graduated high school,” Kurz said. “I was set on becoming a master-at-arms and the requirement at the time, was prior service or law enforcement experience, so I took the advice from my father to attend college and join up after graduation. However, after watching the “shock and awe” on the news of the invasion of Iraq in late March 2003 and not being one who was college material at the time, I went to try my luck with the other branches. I found out the requirements for master-at-arms changed, so within 40 days of talking to the recruiter again, I was officially enlisted and took my oath to defend the constitution of the United States.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Kurz is most proud of the accomplishments he has accumulated in his 15-year Naval career, which include: mentoring junior sailors who have been Junior Sailor of the Year and BlueJacket of the Quarter; earning his expeditionary warfare, surface warfare and aviation warfare insignias; completing five deployments to include serving alongside Naval Special Warfare Development Group and earning a Combat Action Ribbon and Presidential Unit Citation; being nominated for Sailor of the Year for 2019; actively participating in the Funeral Honors Detail for over 500 veteran services; and earning his bachelor’s degree with honors and getting accepted in graduate school.

“I learned adaptability, superior decision making, being resourceful, flexibility and persistence, self-discipline, confidence, determination, extreme discipline and the power of intense focus,” Kurz said. “Additionally, the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of those under your command, always be willing to listen, invest in relationships for the long term, stay calm under pressure and act decisively even with limited information. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Kurz is part of a legacy that will last a lifetime providing the Navy the nation needs.

“I’m providing safety and security to not only to the American people, but those who need it the most around the world,” Kurz said. “I’m getting the opportunity to serve alongside fellow Americans who volunteered in all branches of the military and I’m helping to make the world a better place, by participating in contingency operations that helped neutralize threats that could have potentially caused greater destruction and the loss of life to fellow American and allied troops.”

Source: NAVY Outreach

Hugh Hefner’s Son Steps Down From Media Company, Enlists In Air Force

Cooper Hefner in fatigues taking the oath with flag in background

The 28-year-old left the country on Tuesday to begin his basic training.

“Today Cooper left to begin his service in the United States Air Force,” Cooper’s wife, Scarlett, wrote on Instagram. She added, “I’m incredibly proud.”

In 2018, several months after the larger-than-life Playboy founder passed, the Hefner estate sold its shares of Playboy, splitting the money between Hugh’s four children and his widow. They have no business interest in the brand anymore. Earlier this year, Cooper announced he was launching his own media company, including a website called HefPost. It has yet to launch.

His involvement in that company is now on hold.

“Today I informed leadership and financiers of Stag and Hefner Media Corporation I would be stepping back from focusing on launching a new company and stepping towards greater service to community and country,” he wrote on Instagram on Dec. 10. “In a week I depart for US Air Force basic training. A new road ahead.”

Cooper’s new endeavor comes less than two months after marrying “Harry Potter” actress Scarlett Byrne.

The couple announced the marriage on social media.

“Scarlett and I have made it officially legal and the two of us could not be happier,” he captioned a series of pictures on Twitter. “Cheers to a life full of love, happiness, adventure, and great purpose, Mrs. Hefner.”

Continue on to Wonderwall to read the complete article.

L’Oréal USA Presented Have A BEAUTIFUL Day – Honoring U.S. Military Service Women and Their Family Members

Loreal Have a Beautiful Day gathering of military spouses and veteranspictured

The L’Oréal USA Office of Diversity & Inclusion, in partnership with VALOR (Veterans at L’Oréal USA), an employee-led resource group, Bridging The Gap, Stand Beside Them, USO, American Legion, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Women Veterans Interactive, welcomed 48 active duty women U.S. military personnel and veterans of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, along with members of their families, to Have a BEAUTIFUL Day. The annual event was held at L’Oréal USA headquarters in Manhattan and featured a day of beauty services and career advice and education, including a panel discussion with employees who are veterans.

Guests received complimentary hair, makeup and manicure consultations and services offered by a team of volunteer professional stylists from the company’s Consumer Products Division Technical Center, L’Oréal Professionel, Matrix, Mizani, Redken, Pureology, Pulp Riot, L’Oréal Paris, Essie and Luxe & CPD Make-up.

Have a BEAUTIFUL Day began with registration and breakfast at the company’s nearby Terminal Stores. The service women, veterans and family members were then escorted to L’Oréal USA headquarters where they were greeted by a Marine Corps Color Guard and FDNY Bagpiper along with hundreds of L’Oréal USA employees waving miniature American flags and a rousing a capella rendition of the national anthem by L’Oréal employee Alicia Cooper.

The women were welcomed by Executive Vice-President, L’Oréal Americas Frédéric Rozé, who thanked them for their service noting that, “L’Oréal is strongly committed to hiring, retaining and advancing veterans in our company.  We have many veterans working in our corporate offices, manufacturing and distribution facilities, research and innovation offices – and throughout our company.”

Carol Hamilton, Group President of Acquisitions for L’Oréal USA, said, Today you’ll hear from a panel of veteran employees at L’Oréal who will tell you about their transition from military careers to the corporate world.  I can’t emphasize enough that the skills you developed in the military can translate successfully in both the private and public sectors.  The fact is that your talents are needed everywhere.  At L’Oréal, we have potential careers in fields such as sales, finance, marketing and operations.  We also have an initiative for positions in sales within our beauty advisor revolution program that are ideal for candidates who may be moving from one location to another.  You can find more details on our website at”

L’Oréal USA executive Cecilia Nelson-Hurt, AVP Diversity & Inclusion, also greeted the guests and gave an overview of the day. Each guest was then escorted to a salon station for consultations and services.

Among the guests for the day were:

  • VALOR panelists (veterans and L’Oreal employees) – Everett Betts, Kevin Reim, Bronco Figueroa, and Curtis Cunz;
  • Mike Ferraro, President & Co-founder, Bridging The Gap; Ginger Miller President, Women Veterans Interactive and Stephanie Richmond, Founder & CEO, Stand Beside Them; and
  • Keynote speaker –  Jas Boothe, founder of  Final Salute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit committed to providing services and transitional housing to female veterans around the country as part of her commitment to “Never Leave a Fallen Comrade.”

In her address, Ms. Boothe outlined her passion for serving and was candid about the toll that her military experience, her defeat of aggressive cancer and her bout with homelessness had taken on her both physically and mentally. Dealing with and overcoming those challenges led to her establishing Final Salute, which provides services and housing that female veterans were unable to find elsewhere.

L’Oréal USA is committed to hiring veterans and “Have a BEAUTIFUL Day” is one of the strategic initiatives of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion designed to impact the workforce, workplace and marketplace.  The event seeks to raise awareness of the experiences of active duty and veteran U.S. military personnel, to provide unique, direct programs to show appreciation and support for deserving families with a day of beauty, pampering and professional styling advice to make beauty accessible to them, and to offer career education.

PHOTO CAPTION: Pictured center front are Frédéric Rozé, Executive Vice-President, L’Oréal Americas and Carol Hamilton, Group President of Acquisitions for L’Oréal USA, surrounded by a Marine Corps Color Guard and FDNY Bagpiper at the opening welcome to L’Oréal USA’s Have a BEAUTIFUL Day.

About L’Oréal USA

L’Oréal USA is the largest subsidiary of the L’Oréal Group, the world’s leading beauty company. L’Oréal USA manages a portfolio of more than 30 iconic beauty brands, including Garnier, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Kérastase, Lancôme, La Roche-Posay, L’Oréal Paris and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté. L’Oréal USA also serves as the international hub for the product development and marketing strategy for L’Oréal’s 21 American brands: AcneFree, Baxter of California, Carol’s Daughter, CeraVe, Clarisonic, Dermablend, essie, IT Cosmetics, Kiehl’s, Matrix, Maybelline New York, Mizani, NYX Professional Makeup, Pulp Riot, Pureology, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Redken, Seed Phytonutrients, Softsheen-Carson, SkinCeuticals and Urban Decay. Generating more than $7 billion in sales annually, L’Oréal USA is committed to growth through sustainable innovation, driven by the company’s Sharing Beauty With All ambition for sustainable development across the Group’s value chain. The company is headquartered in New York City, employs more than 11,000 people, and operates administrative, research, manufacturing and distribution facilities across 14 states, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Washington. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @LOrealUSA.

Source: L’Oréal USA

Sailor Assigned to USS John F. Kennedy Participates in Christening Ceremony

Master-at-Arms 1st Class Kristi Dennis in uniform

An Edmond, Oklahoma, native assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) will participate in the christening of the U.S. Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier during a ceremony in Newport News, Dec. 7.

The Navy will christen its newest aircraft carrier on Saturday, Dec 7, 2019, during a ceremony at the Huntington-Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) shipyard in Newport News.

Master-at-Arms 1st Class Kristi Dennis, who is assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy, discussed the pride in serving on board the second Ford-class aircraft carrier.

“It is a great honor and humbling experience to not only create new traditions with PCU JFK but also know I am a part of carrying on the traditions of the Navy for many generations,” said Dennis.

On Nov. 6, nearly a month earlier, the crew of PCU John F. Kennedy officially revealed the carrier’s seal. The seal is crafted to integrate elements that honor President John. F. Kennedy, his service to the Navy, and his vision for space exploration.

It features 35 stars located around the outer ring that represent John F. Kennedy as our nation’s 35th president. The 35th star is positioned after his middle initial and the two gold stars placed between CVN and the number 79 symbolize the fact that this is the second aircraft carrier bearing his name and legacy.

The Roman numeral “CIX” or 109, is a tribute to President Kennedy’s heroic naval service as commander of Patrol Boat 109 in the South Pacific. Additionally, the moon backdrop represents President Kennedy’s instrumental role in the nation’s space program.

“John F. Kennedy displayed extraordinary courage, both in combat as a naval officer, and as president of the United States,” said Capt. Todd Marzano, the ship’s first Commanding Officer. “The seal design and ship’s motto are a very powerful and fitting way to honor President Kennedy’s legacy.”

Anchoring these and other elements on the seal is the ship’s motto – Serve with Courage. Dennis discussed what Serving with Courage means to her.

“Courage is the foundation of integrity. It defines how you carry yourself in choosing to do what is right even when it is not the popular choice,” said Dennis.

Other recent milestones PCU John F. Kennedy have completed include the ship’s dry dock was flooded on Oct. 29, officially launching the aircraft carrier approximately three months early to the original schedule. The ship’s keel was laid on Aug. 22, 2015, and placement of the 588-metric ton island superstructure was completed on May 29, 2019.

Source: Navy Outreach