Remembering America’s Military

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Memorial Day

Throughout American history, men and women have loved our country so deeply that they were willing to give their all to preserve its safety and freedom. On the last Monday in May, our nation honors the selfless heroes who gave their lives to defend the land we love and the freedoms we believe everyone deserves.

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. People visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Often people decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition.

Ways to Honor Our Fallen Heroes
This tradition continues on Memorial Day when we reflect on the courage of service members who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Here’s what you and your family can do to remember these heroes this Memorial Day:

✪✪Display the flag—The U.S. flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day. Some people also choose to fly the POW/MIA flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in.

✪✪Visit a cemetery—Honor the memory of a family member or another veteran by putting flowers on their grave.

✪✪Join the national moment of silence—Pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.

✪✪Attend local parades—Many cities and towns have Memorial Day parades to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

✪✪Wear red poppies—Red poppies are worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

USVCC, NFL Hall of Fame Host Service & Sports Heroes

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A military veteran sitting in a wheelchair in his uniform, looking at the camera

By Rich Dolan

On March 9, the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce (USVCC)—in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame—hosted a benefit dinner to support the U.S. Invictus team. The event was hosted at the historic New York Athletic Club, whose athletes have won 271 Olympic medals since the inaugural Modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The night was dedicated to the bravery and commitment of the wounded military veterans who make up the U.S. Invictus team and featured a silent auction of NFL memorabilia to benefit the team. Kevin “Red Eagle” Brown, president and CEO of USVCC, opened up the night, explaining the mission of the USVCC and the organization’s dedication to helping veterans successfully transition from the military to civilian life.

“Underneath the umbrella of support for all veterans, we have a laser-focused look at our wounded warriors that are participating in adaptive sports,” said Brown.

Brown also recognized the late Pro Football Hall of Fame member Chris Doleman for his contributions to USVCC and the veteran community. “It was his original inspiration that identified the similarities between transitioning ball players and transitioning service members.

“Both of them leaving behind a team, both of them leaving behind something bigger than themselves—a higher calling, a mission, a victory,” said Brown.

Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Bud” Bucha also spoke to the attendees, defining what it meant to be an adaptive athlete. “An adaptive athlete is a competitor who uses the modification in sports to meet the challenge of their disability,” said Bucha. “Basically, an adaptive athlete is an able-bodied athlete with all the problems mankind can think of being thrown in their way.” He went on to thank the many corporate sponsors of the night, the athletes and the veterans who he added, “have gone to the gates of hell and back to serve their country.”

Retired Army Master Sergeant and U.S. Invictus team co-captain George Vera also spoke to the attendees. Vera shared his personal story of the events that led to him become an adaptive athlete. In 2015, Vera’s base in Afghanistan was attacked by terrorists using a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and assaulters with suicide vests in an attempt to overrun the outpost. Vera led part of a counterattack that successfully defeated the terrorists inside the base.

However, in the process Vera was shot four times in his legs and back, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. Vera experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout his recovery, and he explained how adaptive sports helped save his life. “Although I couldn’t be a regular Special Forces guy, Istill had the ability to help lead,” said Vera.

He also discussed the bond that adaptive sports bring to the wounded warrior community. “Although it’s great to bring home the gold medal, I don’t really think that’s what it’s about—it’s more about overcoming adversity and helping others overcome adversity,” Vera said.

Among the other honored guests of the night were Pro Football Hall of Fame members Kevin Greene, Curtis Martin, Mike Haynes, Curly Culp, Harry Carson, Morten Andersen and Rickey Jackson. Greene also held a fireside chat for the attendees, where he spoke about his time serving in the U.S. Army and his reverence for the wounded warriors playing on the U.S. Invictus team.

“They volunteer, first of all, to serve our country in the combined armed forces, and then despite all the adversity that they’ve experienced and are presently experiencing they’re now becoming heroes of the field of sports,” said Greene. “They’re being heroes for us now on a different stage, on an international stage, representing this country in these sporting events.” The fireside chat came to a playful close as Greene was asked if he would take Tom Brady on his team, to which he replied, “does a fat baby fart?”

The main event of the night featured a fireside chat between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. Baker opened up the discussion by reciting “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Henley wrote the poem in in the late 1870s after losing a leg to tuberculosis. The poem was meant to define fortitude in the face of adversity, and strength in the face of permanent disability.

Throughout the fireside chat, the long relationship between the NFL and the military was discussed, as well as the fact that three NFL players—including an NFL commissioner—have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Goodell then touched on his 2008 United Service Organizations (USO) tour that brought him to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to visit deployed soldiers, saying, “I was just amazed at what these people do for us. The men and women in our military are just extraordinary,” added Goodell. He went on to say that the 10 days he spent on the tour were some of the most inspiring days of his life, adding that the debt which is owed to U.S. soldiers for what they sacrifice could never be repaid.

The two also discussed Goodell’s contributions to the veteran community, including his support of the Merging Vets & Players (MVP) organization, which helps transitioning service members and professional athletes navigate life outside of uniform together. When asked about his thoughts on the Invictus Games, Goodell told Baker that he didn’t think there was anything more inspiring.

“I don’t think that there’s anything more important in the world to show people that you do overcome those problems, you do overcome those challenges, and you’re doing something really positive in the world and inspiring people who are watching you as athletes on the world stage,” Goodell said. “When you combine football, athletes and our veterans, that’s a magical combination in my view.”

The night ended with the silent auction of NFL memorabilia and VIP picture opportunities. Over $150,000 was raised by 256 attendees and all proceeds will fund the U.S. Invictus Team Training Camp at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus in Canton, Ohio. Official sponsors of the event included Caliber Home Loans, Seeger Weiss, World’s Greatest Videos, Aetna, CVS Health, GEICO and Loews Hotels.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Invictus Games have been postponed until 2021. For more information, visit invictusgamesfoundation.org

2 WWII veterans who are lifelong friends celebrate 96th and 97th birthdays together

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WWll veterans pictured smiling lifelong friends celebrate birthday together

World War II veterans and lifelong friends celebrated their 96th and 97th birthdays together in Whittier, California on Sunday. U.S. Army Veteran Randel “Randy” Zepeda Fernandez is turning 96 this week. His best friend of nearly 90 years, U.S. Coast Guard veteran Salvador “Sal” B. Guzman, just turned 97.

Fernandez’s son, Steve Fernandez, decided a major event was in order to mark the momentous occasion.

So he organized a massive celebration that drew a parade of community members, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and even mariachi musicians.

“This is amazing. I didn’t expect it to be this big,” Steve Fernandez said.

Both veterans said they were surprised by the outpouring of gratitude.

“I knew nothing about this,” Guzman said.

The men’s friendship dates back to childhood.

“We’ve known each other since the second grade,” Randy Fernandez said. The men attended elementary school and junior high together, before they both attended Garfield High School, they said.

Randy Fernandez helped liberate concentration camps and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which helped organize the event. Guzman patrolled the Northern California coastline on horseback from 1943 to 1944.

“Both veterans reunited in the 1950s and bought their first homes on the same street in Montebello, raising their families together,” the sheriff’s department said in a written statement.

Continue on to CBS News to read the complete article.

How to Land a Government Contract

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A headshot of Katie Bigelow

By Katie Bigelow, founder, Mettle Ops

Government contracting is not for the faint of heart. The barriers to entry are high and the regulations are complicated and overwhelming. If easy money is the goal, government contracting is not the way to get it. We lose 99 bids out of 100. Can you take that kind of beating and keep going?

The first steps to government contracting are pretty simple. Register with Dun & Bradstreet. Don’t pay them or anyone else to do it. Regardless, of how it seems, it is a free service. They will give you a DUNS number. Use that to register in Sam.Gov where you will get a CAGE code. Don’t skip the opportunity in Sam.gov to complete the SBA Dynamic Small Business search. Read all the regulations that you are committed to follow. Next, register with Beta.sam.gov and look for opportunities to bid. When you find something that looks good, read the whole thing. That’s right. Read all 76 pages paying particular attention to the Performance Work Statement, Section L, and Section M. Submit your bid per their instructions. That’s it. Too easy.

I don’t actually know anyone that has made any real money doing it this way. No doubt there are people out there that simply followed the prescribed path and struck it big. More often, there are people that followed the path and ended up in the pokey, too.

The hard truth is that nobody in this business is rooting for you. I have never found a Government Small Business office that did anything other than put your name on a list and provide a PowerPoint presentation.

Government Contracting Officers, as a general rule, don’t want to do lots of small contracting actions for small businesses. They want to execute fewer contracting actions for big businesses with big dollar amounts. One of my first customers tried to offer me a $14 million contract. The contracting command gave us all a giant “NO!” We were too small, too new, too much of a nuisance.

“Go work for a prime for 5 years,” is the verbatim advice we’ve received from contracting officers. Large government primes have lots of attorneys, lots of money, and lots of shareholders to please. They use small businesses, strip the name of the small business off the work and offer it as your own. It’s not illegal. If you don’t mind, this may be the route for you. It’s not the route for me.

Here’s my secret sauce: Work really hard. Do all the things I mentioned in paragraph 2 and then work hard. We take every opportunity we can afford to meet people, to shake hands, to share what we’ve learned. We don’t shy away from making referrals, even if we get nothing in return. We wear our character on our sleeves, our business cards, and our websites. We were warfighters and always will be at heart. There is a standard of values that comes with that.

We are students of our industry. Take DAU classes. We read and connect and learn. We reach out personally to potential customers every single day. Our goal is to understand more about government contracting than even our customers know. We aren’t trying to outsmart them. We are trying to provide great value to them.

To date, I have only won 4 government contracts since 2015. The first was for $70,000, then $14 million, then $19 million, and the most recent another $19 million. Since I told you we won 1 out of 100 or less, you can do the math to see how many times we lost. Decide if this is the industry for you. If it is, call me. Maybe we can do it together.

Katie Bigelow is the founder of Mettle Ops, a woman-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, disadvantaged small business. WBE, WOSB, EDWOSB, NVBDC, CVE, VOSB, SDVOSB, U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027

Strange Days, Indeed

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Headshot of Scoba Rhoades

By Scoba Rhodes

Like you, I have been cooped up in my apartment for almost two weeks. For me, the lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much, except when I head outside, the experience is very different.

Since being confined to a wheelchair, I’ve had to adjust to working more from home. It took me over ten years to adjust to my situation, so to expect anyone to do it overnight is a really tall order. Everything is closed except for the huge lines waiting to get inside the grocery stores. No one is hanging out at the coffee shop, the malls are either empty or closed all together, and even the pool at my apartment complex is locked due to “an abundance of caution.” I agree with these measures since they are meant to save lives. But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if the lives the government is hoping to save aren’t going stir crazy wondering when this will all be over.

During my voluntary internment, I’ve been catching up on my reading. Much has been work-related, with some personal development mixed in, and quite a few have been articles advising us on how to best cope with the current crisis. My current book is titled, “How to break the habit of being yourself.” It’s quite a read.

I have read articles providing ideas on working out inside your home, new recipes to try, even ideas on making movie and music lists. There have been articles on the power of positive thinking during this crisis, and that may be the most misused concept yet. I’ve heard many state and federal government briefs stating over and over that this is a temporary condition, yet I’m pretty sure when this article is published, we may still be in our homes waiting out this wave.

I am part of a group of neighbors that get together every Wednesday and share some good wine and conversation and catch up with each other in our neighborhood clubhouse. It has been closed for a few weeks, so we decided to meet outside today, keeping our six-foot distance and each bringing our own wine. We were having a great time until one of the complex managers said we had to go back to our apartments. I complied, as did everyone else, and I cannot say the manager was wrong to do it. In fact, looking back, I can say it was the correct decision. I just felt like a 54-year-old man being told to go to his room.

I can’t help but wonder once this is all over, will everyone have adjusted to the new habits, and will shaking hands will have become a thing of the past? When these thoughts enter my mind, I immediately find a book I’ve been putting off reading, place a Blu-ray on I’ve been thinking about, or just sit down with my wife and have a cup of coffee together, something we haven’t done in a long time. Thanks to the current level of technology, I can meet with clients and friends using Zoom or Skype, something I am quite used to. I actually did my first year at USC from my hospital room, and it was the Skype application that allowed me to be in the classroom. This was in 2012, long before the schools went online. Necessity is always the mother of invention it may seem.

I am part of the population with compromised health issues. Being paralyzed, having bronchitis as a child has left me with scar tissue on my lungs, and being in my mid-fifties all means I cannot afford to be cavalier about the current situation. Now when my wife says to make sure I take a jacket, or don’t forget my hat, I no longer say “I’ll be fine.” Now my answer is “Thank you sweetheart. I got it.” I head out, collect what I need, and return home.

I am attempting to build relationships online, in the hopes that when we are allowed to congregate again, we will still be somewhat familiar with each other, and have a newfound appreciation for the joys of personal connection. There are networks on LinkedIn and Facebook for every group you can imagine. Nextdoor.com is also a great place to find and connect digitally with your neighbors. If you’re in Orange County, I relish the day when we can meet in person, share a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, or grab a nice lunch (or martini) at my favorite hangout at the District Mall.

I can’t pretend the current situation is not happening (which it is), nor abandon hope that it is temporary (which I know). I realize by taking these steps now, I am participating in a practice that will benefit our nation, and possibly save a life. I remind myself that I am not being sent to my room, I am doing this willingly in support of a greater health effort. When I feel frustrated or cooped up, which happens more than I’d like to admit, I find a lesson online and learn something new, or take time to reconnect with my wife.

One thing is for sure: Our habits and attitudes will be forever altered. Some for the betterment of society, some for the safety of ourselves and our families. Let’s attempt to make those changes out of diligence, and not fear.

To quote author John Shedd, Admiral Grace Hopper, and Albert Einstein, “Ships are safest when in port. But that’s not what ships are for.”

Be safe and healthy everyone, and remember, “This too shall pass.”

Is America still the home of the brave?

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homelesss veteran sits on bench outside looking solemn

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, veterans were already experiencing homelessness at a higher rate than the civilian population. While we hunkered down in the comfort and safety of our homes, our veterans’ situation worsened. As of April 2020, veterans are 12.5%[1] more likely to pass away if exposed to the virus, making homeless veterans even more vulnerable.

Is America still the home of the brave if in these challenging times our heroes are left alone to fend for their lives in the streets of LA? Where is home for our heroes? What do we tell the Funderbergs of America who were once young kids fighting in Vietnam and are now 63-year-old men deprived of their dignity? Have we as a nation failed them in some way?

We ask, because we as American citizens who proudly sing about being “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave,” we are all responsible for making sure that the Funderbergs who proudly fought for our nation are taken care of.

New Directions for Veterans (NDVets) was founded by veterans for that precise reason, to empower men and women who served in the military, and their families, to lead productive and fulfilling lives. For more than 25 years, we have been providing transitional and emergency housing, food, clothing, counseling and vocational assistance to veterans in Southern California. NDVets currently operates eight permanent supportive housing facilities, with six additional properties scheduled to be completed and filled by the end of 2020.

We also run the nation’s first transitional housing for veterans that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Residents leave NDVets with housing, a job, savings, renewed self-confidence and a support network of mentors and peers.

A misunderstanding NDVets tackled from the get go is that housing does not fix the problem. A majority of our homeless veterans survive with lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse. The truth is mental health and sobriety is the key to ending the homeless crisis and taking our veterans out of the vicious cycle of homelessness.

At NDVets we assess our veterans to see what their needs are and create an individualized plan to ensure they feel supported. We offer clinical services, therapy sessions, and neurofeedback support. We provide the life skills and money management classes necessary for them to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

As you can imagine, we are now going through difficult times. The pandemic has impacted us and our veterans in a variety of ways, putting a strain on our organization whilst creating new challenges to tackle. Veterans feel more isolated, their mental health is declining and we fear the worst.  We’ve had to create a safe environment for our case and frontline workers, slow down the moving of veterans into available apartments, and are now  struggling with unbudgeted expenses such as hiring temporary workers.

While we partly rely on funding from the VA, most of our funding comes from grants and donations. Without you, we wouldn’t be here, without you, the veterans we house would be in the street.

California’s economy is one of the largest in the world, competing with that of Germany or the U.K, yet LA houses the largest population of homeless veterans in the country. That means that we can do better, we must do better.

Whether it is through volunteering, sewing masks, in-kind donations or donations, we must all think of ways we can give back to our veterans. They’ve done so much for our country, it’s time we do the same for them.

This year we will be holding two big charity events, to which you are all invited:NDVets Logo

– The 1st Annual Veteran’s Valor Golf Classic: Monday, August 17, 2020, at the exclusive Braemar Country Club in Tarzana.

The New Directions for Veterans Honoring Our Hero’s Gala 2020: Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. An opportunity to honor both our veterans and those advocating for them.

The funds raised through the tournament and the Gala will be used to help continue supporting the veterans in our programs with the services that they need to become self-sufficient productive members of society once again.

We invite you to reserve your sponsorship or foursome today by contacting Dawn Zamudio, our Development Manager at (626) 627-6552 or via email at dzamudio@ndvets.org.  You can also visit our website at www.NDVets.org for more information.

Our Executive Director Leonardo Cuadrado, retired Captain,U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) likes to say “ In the Marine Corps we were always taught never leave a Marine behind both in garrison and in the combat zone, these veterans have served our nation honorably and it’s time for us as a nation not to leave any veteran behind.” Help us make America the home of the brave, help us support our nation’s heroes.

[1] National Coalition for Homeless Veterans CEO Kathryn Monet, House Hearing on Homeless Veterans and COVID-19 Pandemic, April 28, 2020.

USO Supports Service Members During Military Appreciation Month

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USO members and servicemembers stand on the dock in front of Red Cross Ship

May kicks off Military Appreciation Month, and the USO will continue its mission delivery to the military and their families. The USO has been on the front lines providing for the emergent needs of the Armed Forces during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USO’s mission of strengthening service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country is more critical than ever before.

The USO has proudly provided support to almost 150,000 service men and women and their families in just six weeks throughout the Western States through virtual programming, front-line support and distanced programming to quarantined isolated service members and family.

The USO has quickly mobilized to transition to military virtual programming including story-time for families, fun classes for kids, health and wellness for spouses and service members, and live engagements with celebrities and athletes. During the month of May service members in Alaska, California, Arizona and globally will have engagement with leading entertainers and celebrities including Eli Manning, Ciara, Trace Adkins, Ne-Yo, Sarah Silverman, Craig Robinson and more.

The USO during COVID – 19 has activated its small team to facilitate:

  • Weekly deliveries to essential military personnel throughout the region of supplies of food and toiletries
  • Care package deliveries to quarantined military, including units returning from deployment
  • Morale boosting and meal deliveries to National Guardsmen volunteering at local food banks, field hospitals and in the community
  • Providing support to the USNS Mercy docked at the Port of Los Angeles with morale boosting activities and meal donations

During Military Appreciation Month activities are increasing, upcoming USO support events throughout the West Coast include:

  • USO Alaska:
    • May 8: Eielson AFB is hosting a spouse spa bag and USO mask give away to celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Visit Alaska.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 59,978
  • USO Arizona: 
    • May 9: MilSpouse Appreciation Luncheon Serving 150 with lunch and spa bags at Davis-Monthan AFB. Visit Arizona.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 54,443
  • Bob Hope USO: 
    • May 13, 20 and 27: Weekly Wednesday Lunch for USNS Mercy serving local eats to the Sailors and Marines providing ground support and security for the USNS Mercy
    • May 20: LAAFB Spouse Appreciation Event hosting virtual event for spouse appreciation month complete with grab bags and entertainment. Visit BobHope.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 13,937
  • USO Nevada: 
    • May 8 and 15: May Lunch on the USO and Dinner on the USO which is intended for families at Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases.  Visit Nevada.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 11,178
  • Northern California: 
    • May 12: Providing over 900 military medical staff at David Grant Hospital at Travis AFB with sweet treats in honor of Nurses Appreciation Week and their support during COVID-19
    • May 15: Distributing Spouse Appreciation kits to over 200 military spouses at Beale and Travis Air Force Bases. Visit NorthernCalifornia.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #s to date: 4,600
  • USO San Diego: 
    • May 8: Military Spouse Appreciation Day Take the Night Off Dinner Kits and Swag Bag Giveaway  at USO Liberty Station and USO Camp Pendleton
    • May 16: Armed Forces Day USO and San Diego Padres Mobile Drive-Through Food Distribution at Petco Park. Visit SanDiego.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 26,840

To learn more about USO West’s COVID-19 response, upcoming donations, Military Appreciation Month Activations and more visit BobHope.USO.org.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Empowering Veterans to Address Mental Health Challenges

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America's Warrior Partnership Operation Deep Dive-team members stand together in front of poster board for support group

By Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while veterans and their families are leaders in navigating stressful situations, there are times when they can use some help to overcome a challenge. Whether the severity of a mental health issue ranges from mild to critical, there are programs and services tailored to help veterans navigate their unique situation.

During times like this, it is important to connect with resources that are available to help.

Accessing Mental Health Support

First and foremost, as I have, you should memorize the number to the Veterans Crisis Line. Any veteran who is experiencing an urgent crisis should call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255. The Veteran’s Crisis Line enables veterans to reach caring and qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These counselors can help veterans who may be feeling anxious, lonely, or are thinking about suicide. Veterans in crisis or need of help can reach out to the hotline for connection and immediate support.

For situations that are less urgent but no less severe, there are physical and virtual resources that veterans may be able to use. For example, in your community, there could be a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, or Vet Center. In addition to these programs, there are community behavioral health and health centers that can address many less urgent stressors. A great point of contact in the local community would be your local County Veteran Service Officer. They likely know of local resources and can facilitate your connection. Lastly, you may seek peer support from local Veteran Serving Organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Team Red, White, and Blue, or the American Legion.  However, if you are unable to navigate your community resources, you can contact the America’s Warrior Partnership Network, who will reliably connect veterans with a service provider from outside of their community, such as Vets4Warriors or the Cohen Veterans Network that specialize in peer and mental health support.

Advocating for New Resources and Programs

In addition to raising awareness of existing resources, one of the most important things that veterans can do this month – and throughout the rest of the year – is to advocate for new policies that will better support their brothers- and sisters-in-arms who live with a mental illness. One of the most cutting-edge pieces of legislation is Senate Bill 785, also called Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. This bill unanimously passed the Senate and is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to improve mental health and end veteran suicide. We strongly encourage a bipartisan and bicameral approach to make this bill law.

Advocacy is especially critical in the national fight to reduce suicide and self-harm among veterans. One of the initiatives contributing to this effort is Operation Deep Dive, a four-year study currently being conducted by America’s Warrior Partnership and researchers from The University of Alabama with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The project is examining community risk factors involved in suicide and non-natural deaths among veterans in 14 communities across the country. By the study’s completion, researchers will develop a methodology that any community can implement to identify the unique risk factors of suicide among their local veterans and then address those factors through a customized support program.

As part of this study, Operation Deep Dive researchers are currently interviewing individuals who have either lost a loved one, friend, or acquaintance who was a veteran to suicide or a non-natural cause of death. These interviews will enable researchers to examine how a veteran was engaged within their community before their death, and more importantly, what can be done to better support veterans in the future.

To participate in an interview, individuals must be 18 or older and live within one of the 14 communities where Operation Deep Dive is taking place (the veteran must also have lived in that same community before their death). More information about the interviews and details on how to participate are available online.

By advocating for new policies and supporting essential programs, veterans can ensure their fellow service members who struggle with mental health challenges can build the quality of life that they have earned through their service.

About the Author

Jim Lorraine is President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit that empowers communities to empower veterans. The organization’s mission starts with connecting community groups with local veterans to understand their unique situations. With this knowledge in mind, America’s Warrior Partnership connects local groups with the appropriate resources to proactively and holistically support veterans at every stage of their lives. Learn more about the organization at AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.

Meet the Two Veterans Leading the First Mission Back to Space

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Colonels Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley crossing their arms in front of the Dragon spacecraft

In 2011, Marine Colonel Doug Hurley served as the pilot of the last U.S. space shuttle mission aboard the Atlantis. Upon their arrival, the United States has since used Russian rockets to send astronauts into the cosmos. But nearly ten years later, this is all about to change.

On April 17, NASA announced the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft, the first manned space vehicle to launch from U.S. soil since the Atlantis’ return. The mission will be commanded under Hurley alongside Air Force Colonel and Endeavour veteran Bob Behnken. The Shuttle is set to launch tentatively on May 27 and will be taking off from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida.

The two men have had their fair share of space time, both having gone to space at least two times. Behnken was aboard the Endeavour in 2008 and 2010, while Hurley served on the Endeavour in 2009 and the Atlantis in 2011. Being no stranger to the stars, the two men have been assigned the roles of joint commanders on the mission, with Hurley serving as the craft’s commander, responsible for the launch and landing of the rocket, while Behnken will be in charge of rendezvous and the docking and undocking of the vehicle at the space station.

Should the launch commence on May 27, as planned, this would also be the first time in history that NASA used a privately owned and operated spacecraft to send astronauts into orbit. The Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft are currently owned and operated by SpaceX, created by Elon Musk.

The May 27th mission, though monumental, is not the only plan for a U.S. vehicle to be launched from U.S. soil. NASA announced it is currently in a partnership with Boeing to create another manned space vehicle. However, this project was put on hold due to the setbacks Boeing suffered from the Starliner space craft.

Two US Army Veterans Receive Complete Home Renovation Thanks to National TV Show Military Makeover with Montel and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans

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Military Makeover Army veteran suprised outside of his home renovation

In true Military Makeover style, host Montel Williams, cast and crew, special guest WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, and equally passionate national brands have come together again to serve those who have served.

U.S. Army veterans Luke Harvey and Natasha Woodruff along with their 3 children will be given the gift of a beautifully renovated home among other gifts of gratitude. The first of eight (8) episodes airs on May 15th at 7:30am EST. All aired episodes can be viewed at militarymakeover.tv.

Luke Harvey, a medically retired and disabled combat veteran, served 6 years in the United States Army as an infantryman. In 2008, he was deployed to Iraq, where his convoy was hit by multiple IEDs. In 2014, Luke was medically retired from the military for PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury), and was awarded a Purple Heart. Luke met Natasha Woodruff while he was recovering from his injuries. Natasha too is a medically retired, disabled veteran who served as a Geospatial Engineer in the United States Army. During Natasha’s service, she was sexually assaulted, which left her with permanent injuries and PTSD. Upon retirement, Natasha was awarded the Women of Courage Award by the Pentagon for her perseverance in shining a light on the issue of sexual assault in the military.

Military Makeover stars Montel Williams and Lacey Evans outside the home being renovated
Military Makeover stars Montel Williams and Lacey Evans oustide the home being renovated

The Military Makeover team came equipped with donations from generous brand partnerships that the show cultivates. Brand partners provided supplies like floors (Tarkett), roofing (ABC Supply), HVAC systems (Goodman Manufacturing), countertops (Caesarstone), computers (MyComputerCareer) and other home furnishings. Other partners pitch in and donate gifts for the family such as insurance (Geico), mortgages (New Day Financial), caption enabled phones (CaptionCall) and smartphones (AT&T). Exclusive weather sponsor, AccuWeather, ensured sunny skies throughout the week, while Unilever kept the volunteers hydrated with Lipton beverages. The Harvey-Woodruff makeover was made possible by all of these generous companies.

Volunteers from the community and guest WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, stepped up to lend a hand in support of the Harvey-Woodruff family throughout the renovation process. The final reveal unites cast, brand partners and volunteers, creating a literal “community celebration” of support for the change they created together.

“In the nearly three decades since I retired from the Navy, I’ve never really taken the uniform off because standing up for those who are serving now and those who have served has been the greatest honor of my professional career.” – Montel Williams, Host and Co-Executive Producer

“We are so fortunate to be able to cultivate strong partnerships with national brands, non-profits, and local military communities to make each makeover better than the next.”-Mark Alfieri, Founder and CEO of BrandStar

Luke and Natasha Harvey outside their home with their childrenMilitary Makeover with Montel®, A BrandStar Original, is America’s Leading Branded Reality TV Show that offers hope and a helping hand here on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. A veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Navy, talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, who creatively co-produces the show along with a colorful cast that seeks to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country. The cast includes co-host Art Edmond, designer Jennifer Bertrand and contractor Ryan Stanley. This special series enlists caring companies of all sizes as well as non-profits and the local community. Help starts at home for veterans on Military Makeover. Join us as our makeover team engages to change the living situation – and the lives – of these deserving families. Military Makeover with Montel EPK

Season 22 Air Dates on Lifetime @ 7:30am EST or visit www.militarymakeover.tv

May 15th – Episode #1

May 21st – Episode #2

May 29th – Episode #3

June 4th – Episode #4

June 12th – Episode #5

June 19th – Episode #6

June 25th – Episode #7

June 26th – Episode #8

These Chuck Norris Facts Will Make You Love Him Even More

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Funny Chuck Norris meme

On March 10, Carlos “Chuck” Norris turned 80 years old. Before becoming a martial arts expert, acting and creating his own gym, Norris served as an Air Force Pilot in South Korea and has become the subject of some of America’s favorite jokes. In honor of Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday, we wanted to share our top ten favorite Chuck Norris jokes.

  • Chuck Norris was once bitten by a cobra. After days of excruciating pain, the cobra passed away.
  • One time, Chuck Norris went to Mars. That’s why there’s no sign of life there.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse; the zombies try to survive Chuck Norris.
  • Few people know that Chuck Norris has a diary—it’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Chuck Norris has never cheated death. He always wins fair and square.
  • Chuck Norris is actually the creator of the giraffe. It came to be after he uppercut a horse.
  • Chuck Norris has punched people so hard that their blood started bleeding.
  • Chuck Norris has never had to put gas in his tank. All of his vehicles run on fear.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t need to look at a clock for the time. He tells the clock what time it’s supposed to be.
  • When life gave Chuck Norris lemons, he squeezed the lemons and made orange juice.

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