Highlights of an Entrepreneurial Education: Boots to Business

Highlights of an Entrepreneurial Education: Boots to Business

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

(This is one of a series of posts relating to entrepreneurship. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment and self-employment topics.)

For many of us, transitioning from the military to the next phase of our lives – going “back on the block”, if you will – consisted of nothing more than getting our hands on a set of clearing papers and looking for signatures, so we could get our final orders for Fort Living Room. In 1993, the first time I left active duty, I was offered some help on putting together a resume and shown how to sort through some arcane database of open jobs…but that was about all, and that was about all I wanted.

The next time I found myself clearing an active duty installation was about 15 years later, and to be sure, there were more opportunities available to help me successfully transition. There was more hardware, more software, and more subject-matter experts to help me navigate my options, but it was still optional and mostly centered around getting help finding a job.

One of the best things the Department of Defense has done for transitioning service members recently, though, was to make the core transition workshop mandatory and add some additional tracks to augment the experience. One of those tracks is a course on entrepreneurship called Boots to Business (B2B).

Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The two-day course, titled “Introduction to Entrepreneurship”, is held at over 180 military installations worldwide and provides an overview of the subject. Active Duty service members (including National Guard and Reserve), veterans, and spouses are eligible to participate. Boots to Business Reboot is a version of the original workshop that takes the event off the military installation and extends access to veterans of all eras. There is no cost to participate, and those that have successfully completed either course are eligible for follow-on Boots to Business courses that cover a variety of topics.

“Introduction to Entrepreneurship” is a TAP training track for those interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges of business ownership and it’s the foundational piece of the larger Boots to Business (B2B) program. Participants are introduced to the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to launch a business, including steps for developing business concepts and a business plan, and information on SBA resources available to help. Participants learn business fundamentals and techniques for evaluating the feasibility of their business concepts and are introduced to a broad spectrum of entrepreneurial concepts and the resources available to access start-up capital, technical assistance, contracting opportunities, and more. Subject matter experts from the SBA and its network of partners and skilled business advisors teach the course.

Those partners and business advisors are what makes this event so valuable. While there is some variance from installation to installation, there are a few key organizations that help facilitate the workshop across the country. Those groups include the Veterans Business Outreach Centers, America’s SBDC, SCORE, the Association of Women’s Business Centers, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, members of the National Guard & Reserve, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. There are 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement with the SBA that have the VBOC mission.

Small Business Development Centers (America’s SBDCs) are hosted by leading universities, colleges, state economic development agencies, and private sector partners. There are nearly 1,000 local centers available to provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses. on topics that include business planning, accessing capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development, international trade and much more.

SCORE. A nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories, SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors, and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.  SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters.

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs). WBCs work to secure entrepreneurial opportunities for women by supporting and sustaining a national network of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers. WBCs help women succeed in business by providing training, mentoring, business development, and financing opportunities to over 145,000 women entrepreneurs each year.

Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). Located at Syracuse University, IVMF is higher education’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, singularly focused on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.

Personally, I think it’s a great benefit that the Department of Defense, the Small Business Administration, and those resource partners have put together for those of us in the military community. I may be a bit biased, however, because over the last 5 years I helped facilitate over 150 Boots to Business workshops across 7 different military installations in 5 states. I’ve spoken with hundreds of folks considering their entrepreneurial options and witnessed plenty of “a-ha” moments. I’ve also seen more than a few come to the realization that ‘small business ownership’ wasn’t for them.

In my opinion, as both a Soldier that has recently transitioned and as a professional facilitator, the Boots to Business workshop is a great course that offers a birds-eye view of some of the key elements of small business ownership. In pretty short order, most participants will figure out if entrepreneurship is something that could be right for them and they’ll know where to turn for more information.

Perhaps you find yourself pining for the day when you can open your own business. Or you and your spouse are already knee-deep in running a successful enterprise, but you’re ready to connect to resources that might help you take it to the next level. Or maybe you just might officially rule out the option of being self-employed, but want it to be an educated decision. For whichever reason, Boots to Business is a good starting point and will likely be a good use of your time.

If you’re still actively serving, contact the transition office at your closest military installation for more information. If you don’t have access to an installation or aren’t close to one, you can visit the program’s website at https://sbavets.force.com/s/. For technical support and registration questions, contact the Boots to Business Help Desk by emailing Boots-to-Business@sba.gov/ or by calling (202) 205-VET1 or (844) 610-VET1. Good luck with your journey!

 

Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Remembering George H. W. Bush

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

He has returned to Washington, DC for one last visit before his final resting place. He has been visited by many, including his faithful service dog, Sully, who has sat in empathetic mourning in front of his flag-draped casket. Flags across our country fly at half-mast and our social media feeds are flooding with stories of his greatness. Whether you loved him during his career or opposed him, George HW Bush’s legacy surpasses the politics for which he is known.

 

Born June 12, 1924 in Milton, MA, George H.W. Bush was one of five children for Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. A young man headed for collegiate life, Bush was extremely impacted by the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, on his 18th birthday, George Bush enlisted in the US Navy and subsequently became one of the youngest aviators in naval history. His three years in the military was only the beginning of his lifetime of service to the American people.

 

By 1948, George Bush was out of the Navy and a graduate of Yale. Upon his graduation, he moved with his family to Texas and began his career as an investor in the oil industry. He founded his own oil company and was a millionaire by the age of 40. From there, he launched himself into the field of politics. His initial run for US Senate resulted in a defeat in 1964. However, that loss was followed up with a win for the 7th District for the US House of Representatives just two years later. He won re-election in 1968 but suffered another defeat in the US Senate election of 1970. He had already garnered the attention he needed, however, as President Richard Nixon took the opportunity to appoint Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971. By 1973, he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  

 

Bush’s run for the Oval Office began in 1980, but he was defeated in the Republican Primary by Ronald Reagan. Reagan subsequently selected Bush as his running mate and this Republican ticket was elected in 1980. Bush used his eight years as Vice President to head the war on drugs, which became a popular slogan of the decade. He also headed the task force on deregulation.

 

After two terms as Vice President, Bush became the first incumbent VP to win the Presidential election. He defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis and began what would be a foreign-policy presidency.

 

In those four years, Bush’s presidency saw a series of military operations and historical events. From Panama and the Persian Gulf to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, foreign events helped to make Bush’s term memorable. These events also led to a variety of issues in this new, post-cold war environment. A domestic economic recession, foreign wars, and foreign policy issues combined to give Bill Clinton the edge in the 1992 election.

 

Despite leaving office in 1993, George Bush remained active in the public eye. It was just eight years later that he would officially become George H. W. Bush, as his son, George W. Bush, became the 43rd President of this great country.

 

It is no doubt that our 41st President was a great man, a good leader and a wonderful husband, father, grandfather. While his son was in office, he was called into service yet again. This time to work side-by-side with former political adversary, Bill Clinton. The two were thrust into humanitarian projects and through working together, became friends. In fact, his son, George W. Bush, once joked that during Clinton’s surgical recovery, he likely “woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea…my Dad.”

 

It was those humanitarian lessons that taught us some of George H. W. Bush’s greatest lessons. We learned that there is always more we can do – more ways we can help. His time to be in the limelight was technically over and he would have been within his rights to want to enjoy his retirement with his wonderful wife, Barbara, by his side. Instead, he spent much of his golden years trotting the globe, helping those in need.

 

Through his relationship with Bill Clinton, he taught us that the past is the past and we can overcome personal differences to truly make the world a better place. What they demonstrated is something this country is sorely lacking.

 

Even Clinton has made this observation:

“I think people see George and me and they say, ‘that is the way our country ought to work.’”

 

President Trump has declared today, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning in honor of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. He has been lying in state in Washington DC in the Capitol Rotunda since Monday. He will make his way to the National Cathedral for his State Funeral Service. After the State Service today, “Special Mission 41” will take George H. W. Bush home to Texas where he will ultimately find his final resting place on the grounds of the library that bears his name.

 

PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment

PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

PTSD is arguably one of the most significant issues that our Veterans face when they are acclimating to civilian life. Unlike physical wounds which are visible to others, a soldier battles the mental wounds on his or her own. While there are many different forms of therapy available, the treatment is personal and not all therapy methods work for every person. As more research results become available, the additional needs required become increasingly apparent.

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause Veterans to struggle, particularly when it comes to interviewing, getting a civilian position and maintaining a new career. That is where Veterans CARE comes into play.

 

Veterans Coordinated Approach to Recovery and Employment (Veterans CARE) is a $5.1 million Pay for Success initiative that is the result of a partnership between the US Department of Veterans Affairs, local governments, impact investors and Social Finance. The goal of this initiative is to support unemployed or underemployed Veterans with PTSD and assist them in attaining and maintaining employment that is both compatible with their skill set and competitive in their workforce.

 

The first Veterans CARE project will launch in New York City, Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts and Central/Western Massachusetts. It is anticipated that 480 Veterans will benefit from the programs in these areas. Recruitment has begun for this comprehensive “test study” in those areas.   

 

It is expected that local VA medical centers will be able to deliver Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to program participates through Veterans CARE. IPS is a personal approach, tailored to each Veteran, with the goal of supported employment. Veteran CARE plans to assist up to 500 Veterans over the three year period.

 

Funded primarily by project investors, government partners will repay investors when the positive outcomes as a result of the project are proven.

 

This is the first Pay-For-Service project of its kind in the United States. Veterans CARE focuses on improving the health and employment for Veterans. The ground-breaking project, the first to be multi-state, will work to achieve the goals of supporting under- and unemployed Veterans with PTSD in their journey to attain and maintain employment, improve the access to high-quality, evidence-based employment services, and to serve as the demonstration project for the use of the Pay-For-Success model and its successors.

 

For more information regarding Veterans CARE, visit the Social Finance website: http://socialfinance.org/focus-areas/workforce/veterans-care-project/

Lest we forget, during the holidays…

Lest we forget, during the holidays…

By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell

The holidays are approaching, so you know what that means…the black plague of shopping is upon us.  No, I don’t really think this way. I love shopping during the holidays, albeit mostly online. Enter Thanksgiving-the day we feast with family, watch football, and discuss all those blessings we are so thankful for.  Then, just when everyone is getting settled down for the night after gorging on pumpkin pie and spiced eggnog, the avid Black Friday shoppers are reading their flyers, marking their maps and strategizing as if they are preparing for combat, ready to trample anyone in their path that would prevent them from purchasing their child the latest, most popular, deeply discounted item…the must-have item that will be played with for about 10 minutes and placed on a shelf until next year.

Yes, it’s the holidays. It brings out the best or worst in all of us.  I for one, have been the best and the worst to those around me at times I’m sure.  Let me explain, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been so special to our family, being that we don’t always get to see a lot of our family during the year.  We are “the military family.” We see family when we can and in the past, that has always depended on where we were in the country and whether we could afford to travel long distances (raise your hand if you’re a military family on a tiny budget, yet are expected to travel to see everyone else during the holidays).

I’d say being around those I love always brings out the best side of me.  The side that loves to laugh and cook, play practical jokes, and watch Christmas movies.  In recent years past, it’s been difficult celebrating Christmas when my brother Sam made his last phone call to us on Thanksgiving 2011, and then was killed in action just three weeks later on December 14th   in Afghanistan.  I am thankful for my husband and children who are so patient with me during those “bad days.” While most families were preparing their Christmas plans and wrapping gifts, we were planning a funeral.  The reality is, if we hadn’t been planning a funeral, Sam would have still been in war, separated from his family like so many other deployed members are each and every year.

Many military families daydream of running through an airport with their balloons and signs, imagining their little toddlers stumbling over their own feet because they haven’t seen mommy or daddy in nine months.  It becomes hard to fathom the scenario of holiday shopping madness of people pushing and shoving each other that has now begun on Thanksgiving Day in recent years, instead of waiting until Black Friday. How has our beloved Thanksgiving now become Black Thursday?  Who agreed to this?

You get a whole new perspective when you’re sitting around a Christmas tree wondering what you’re to do, since there was no time for Christmas shopping because your brother of 36 years of age was recently killed.  We had three young children at the time, and he had two young sons. That was the Christmas when Black Friday or any other shopping day didn’t really seem to matter anymore. We just wondered how we would survive each year without him.  

Being a military spouse and a military family, we have an understanding that so many people do not.  0.4 percent of Americans are currently serving on active duty. The scope of understanding what military life is like is getting smaller and smaller for Americans as fewer people are serving.  For the majority of my life I have lived or have been part of a military community. It is hard to fathom that so many American’s do not understand or cannot comprehend the magnitude of sacrifice our military men and woman face each day.  “Since 2001, 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments across the world with soldiers from the Army accounting for the bulk of them. Deployed personnel were under 30 years old on average, over half were married and about half had children” (McCarthy, 2018).

Understand this-In the past 17 years, there have been 5.4 MILLION deployments.  This means that statically, every service member since 2001 have deployed twice.  Now, we all know that there are some that never deployed and there are those that have deployed nine times.  Let us not forget about Retired Navy Seal, Dan Crenshaw, who got blown up in Afghanistan in 2012, lost an eye, and signed up to be deployed two more times.  Let that sink in during your hair pulling and Samsung TV trampling shopping event after telling cousin June how much you hate grandma’s lumpy gravy.

But I digress.  You see, Christmas will never be the same for our family.  As if it weren’t bad enough that military families have to miss anniversaries, birthdays, and births, some of us will forever have the empty chair at the table.  Christmas of 2011 was our families first experience with the proverbial empty chair. Not only was there going to be an empty chair, but also an empty Christmas Tree on Christmas morning.

Cue the sad, melodic, music which begins to increase as the doorbell rings on Christmas morning.  Just when you think life couldn’t get any sadder…it’s as if I could hear the sound of angels singing and thunder erupt from the heavens shouting “SEND IN THE MARINES!”  And that was the day the Marines were sent in to save the day for our family. That Christmas, the one with all the small children, and not a present in sight, was the Christmas that restored my hope in well…everything good.  You see, two young, sharply dressed Marines showed up with Christmas present after Christmas present for our families just five days after my brother’s memorial service. I don’t recall any child that morning wishing for something else or complaining they didn’t receive a new puppy or a $500 iPad.  What I heard was grateful children, happy to have experienced a little joy that morning, long enough to get a short break from the tears.

For years, our families have been donors to Marine Toys for Tots.  Did you ever wonder who was the recipient of those toys?  I did. I wondered about the “less fortunate” children that would have Christmas from the Marines because people were generous enough to donate in stores and businesses across the United States. Christmas morning of 2011, I realized where those toys go.  I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined our family would be the recipient of such an amazing organization. But that day, well, it brought us hope.

The following year, I made this observation:  Christmas morning came, children awoke out of their beds, and not a single one asked about opening presents.  There were presents under the tree, but it wasn’t the focus of the day. These children knew and understood, at such a young age, the level of sacrifice no family should have to endure.  There were giggles and smiles, hugs and pancakes…and then we got to the presents.

It’s 2018, and there is still a war.  There are many wars still happening that we never hear about in mainstream media.  There are men and women still sacrificing their lives for our opportunity to shop until we drop.  They do it willingly. They don’t begrudge our opportunities to bless our kids. They do it with willing hearts because they love America. I know they would much rather be with their families during the holidays, as they do not get to choose when they will go or when they will return home.

There are military families all over this country who will be separated from their hero, either by ocean or by death, that are not focused on the “buy now” or the “add to cart” button.  They just desire their family together. Don’t get me wrong. Shopping is not evil. Black Friday or Thursday or any other day to spend time shopping for your family is not evil. Get all your girlfriends together and have a great time doing it, while the men are at home watching football (or sleeping).  I love shopping and I love shopping especially for my children and family. We now try to do extra special things at Christmas to make new memories, which usually entails a special trip, and less presents.

I always believe the best way to combat the materialism at Christmas is to give-and give generously.  While you’re out shopping or enjoying your feasts with your families, let me suggest that you take the time to remember those that are deployed.  Pick up an extra gift and donate it to Toys for Tots. There are donation boxes everywhere. You can also go online and donate money. Say a prayer for our deployed and their families.  You never know when they’ll receive the dreaded knock on the door. You know that military family down the street in their twenties with two young children? Perhaps give them a card with some cash in it to help pay for their travels home to see grandma and grandpa. The ones they haven’t seen since before the last two deployments.

In addition to Toys for Tots, an organization that provides a beautifully wrapped gift for Gold Star children is Believe With Me.  It’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who helps support Gold Star families throughout the year. At Christmastime, this group of selfless volunteers prepares months in advance to purchase, wrap, and ship gifts to hundreds of Gold Star children.  They call it an American Gold Star Christmas and it’s spectacular! It is a wonderful gift to be remembered at such a difficult time of year and I know these families are grateful that their heroes sacrifice have not been forgotten, nor have their children. Believe With Me allows donors to purchase the gifts themselves or provide cash or gift cards and the organization will shop for the sponsored children.

Believe With Me currently has 300 Gold Star children signed up for gifts.  They are expecting over 1000 children this year. The non-profit continues to grow each year in its provision for fatherless or motherless children.  Sadly, this means that there are thousands of children who are missing a parent, not only at Christmas, but forever. Believe With Me depends solely on the donations of others and they depend on the volunteers who help package and ship these beautiful gifts.  I spoke with the Founder of Believe With Me, Lyette Reback, about the upcoming American Gold Star Christmas. She explains,

An American Gold Star Christmas is your opportunity to give back to the families of our fallen soldiers. Your donation will allow high school and university students the opportunity to shop for Gold Star kids’ wish lists and the students will be impacted by the up close and personal cost of their freedoms. This year, Believe With Me will have more than 1000 children to serve and the cost of the project will total more than $150,000. FedEx has graciously stepped in to underwrite the shipping costs, but our needs for gifts are still at an all-time high.”

Being a Gold Star family member myself and understanding firsthand the cost of freedom, our family is incredibly grateful for families like the Rebacks’ and organizations who honor our fallen and the families left behind, year after year.  You can never replace what is lost, but love sure does go a long way. Christmas is the time of year when people all over the world express their love in the form of gifts and giving. I hope you will show your gratitude this Christmas and support Toys for Tots and Believe With Me.

If you are a Gold Star family, you can go to www.BelieveWithMe.com/sponsor to register your child. Organizations like these need your help to make a difference in the lives of these children who have already sacrificed so much.

 

Renee Nickell is the Author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan” For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.

Small Business Ownership & the Military Veteran

Small Business Ownership and the Military Veteran: It Depends…

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

What does it mean to be a small business owner? Well, the short answer is that, it depends. ‘Small business ownership’ means different things to different people. The owner’s title or status alone is one that leaves folks scratching their heads…am I self-employed, or an entrepreneur? Am I a sole proprietor, or perhaps an independent contractor? Often, the answer to that question depends on who’s asking, and why…but to many small business owners themselves, their title is just a formality.

Building a business, often starting from scratch, is ‘where it’s at’ for so many small business owners – Veterans and non-Veterans alike. You’re solving problems and alleviating pains…creating market share…making a difference, with customers and end-users. Many of you reading this already have experience as small business owners. Many of you are getting ready to make that leap. And if you’ve spent time in our military community, you already know what the research suggests: that Veterans are entrepreneurial.

Plenty of agencies have studies that back up that last statement. Some of the most profound data indicates that while Veterans make up roughly 6% of the general population in the United States, we account for over 13.5% of successful small businesses. Of course, what that really means depends on how you define ‘successful’, but for now let’s just assume it means that the business is paying taxes, or making payroll, or closing profitable deals or impacting GDP in a positive way. Now that we’ve learned that we Veterans account for more than our fair share of businesses “in business”, it might be interesting to take a stab at why that might be.

It might be because many of us possess more than a few of the traits and attributes that help foster success. Yesterday we published a post in this blog that listed over ten reasons why employers should hire Veterans. Actually, it was twenty-five reasons…and those reasons, those things that make us great candidates for an employer’s workforce, also make us more likely to succeed at small business ownership. Things like attention to detail, a strong work ethic, leadership training, and plenty more…can all be things to keep in your hip pocket, whether you’re working for the owner of the business or that owner is you.

Success factors. That’s what I like to call the items on my list of “Over Ten Reasons”. Each of them is a sort of combat multiplier, if you will…things that can help you succeed in many endeavors, to include small business. Some of those items can help you mitigate and minimize risk. But make no mistake, small business is still risky…and certain industries in small business are really risky. With small business ownership, it helps to have a certain comfort level with risk. And, as it turns out, many military Veterans do have that comfort level, because of the homework they’ve done, the preparations and the calculations that they’ve made that becomes the calculated risk.

I’ve spoken with a lot of small business owners over the last couple decades, and have been one myself a time or two. I’ve spent what seems like countless hours engaging with my fellow entrepreneurs…engaged as counselor, friend, comrade, brother-in-arms, you name it. I’ve watched separating service members get the ‘small business bug’, talking about their business plan at the height of motivation, passion, and drive. I’ve seen companies start up and companies close down…and both events can be enjoyable and painful at the same time. And each time I see or hear about one being started by someone from the military community, I ask myself, “How successful will this one be?”

To be sure, the answer to that question is, “It depends.” And it depends mostly on how that small business owner has defined success. There have been many successful companies shuttered over the years, and for a variety of reasons. Many times, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. Or, perhaps it’s just not profitable enough. Or, maybe the business owner is a member of the National Guard or Reserve, and his or her independent contractor gig just got interrupted by a mobilization and subsequent deployment. There are a lot of variables that observers take into account as to whether a company is a success, and those variables are as independent as the Veteran Small Business Owners themselves. Sometimes it just depends

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Top ten lists…it seems like they’re everywhere, and about everything. For many of us, it’s a method of focusing and organizing so we can prioritize our time and energy on what we’ve deemed the ‘most important’. For others, it’s just a catchy way to encourage a reader or a viewer to linger a few more minutes.

Whether you cut your teeth on the humor of David Letterman’s regular ‘Top Ten List’ segment or you find such lists a really valuable use of your time, it should come as no surprise that examples abound on the top ten reasons employers should hire Veterans.

A quick Google search will pull up results from the U.S. Department of Labor (“Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), BusinessInsider.com (“10 Reasons Companies Should Hire Military Veterans”), Military.com (“10 Reasons to Hire Vets”), MakePositive.com (“5 Good Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“Top Ten Reasons to Hire Members of the Guard and Reserve”). Some of those lists were compiled with the help of military veterans, some were put together by employers, and some were assembled by federal, state, and local agency personnel who have a stake in the employment assistance space. And the shocker is, all of them are correct, to some degree…it’s just a matter of perspective.

I put my first of such lists together in 2010, when I started working with the Show-Me Heroes Program, a partnership between the Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri National Guard that sought to help our state’s Veterans find meaningful employment. My original list expanded and contracted as I spoke with more and more employers and reflected on my own years of experience in the U.S. Army.

I often shared my list with job seekers from the military community that I came across, for this list of reasons to hire Veterans is as much for Veterans themselves as it is for business owners and hiring managers. Once employers ‘get it’, there’s not usually a need to go on and on with them. For those looking for a job, however, it’s important that they know how those in the employment assistance arena are advocating for them. They need to know that we’ve ‘talked the talk’, so they can put things in place to ‘walk the walk’, so to speak.

Once job seekers read through my list or any other, they should take inventory of the things that might very well make them the best candidate for the job. They should incorporate those soft skill sets and experiences into their resume, their cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. That’s how they can communicate what they bring to the table. That’s how they can communicate how they can make a positive and lasting impact to that civilian employer’s workforce.

From the front lines to the assembly lines, much of the training, the challenges, the adversity…those things do, indeed, translate. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard from countless employers that hiring someone with military experience made a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce.

So, here’s my perspective. I was initially going to say, “this list is in no particular order,” but in fact there is an order to my list. It’s an order that I put together based on nearly a decade of meeting with employers to discuss the prospect of hiring Veterans for their workforce. My Top Ten list includes these elements…

  1. Leadership Experience.
  2. Strong Personal Integrity.
  3. Ability to Work as a Team Member and Team Leader.
  4. Performance under Pressure.
  5. Possession of a Valid Security Clearance.
  6. Strong Work Ethic.
  7. Specialized Advanced Training & Technical Skills.
  8. Flexibility and Adaptability.
  9. Discipline.
  10. Attention to Detail.

When I first penned this list, I struggled with how short it was. I thought that there were many other attributes that were front and center in the people with whom I served…attributes and soft skills that could really make an impact. After taking some time to look through some old award narratives and evaluation reports, and touching base with some human resource managers that I knew, I felt that I could justify a few more.

  1. Ability to Work Efficiently & Diligently in a Fast-Paced Environment.
  2. Commitment to Excellence & History of Meeting Standards of Quality.
  3. Ability to Conform to Rules and Structure.  
  4. Initiative & Self-Direction.
  5. Respect for Procedures and Accountability.
  6. Strong Sense of Health, Personal Safety, and Property Standards.
  7. Ability to Give and Follow Directions.
  8. Hands-on Experience with Technology and Globalization.
  9. Systematic Planning and Organizational Skills.
  10. Accelerated Learning Curve with New Skills and Concepts.

But wait, there’s more. Some of us have more of these soft skills than others. Some of us have spent decades in uniform, others just a few years of an initial enlistment. Different Branches of Service have put emphasis on different areas in different times, and training that the Soldier received in the ‘70s is quite a bit different that what the Sailor received last year. So, I added a few more to the list…

  1. Diversity in Action and Strong Interpersonal Skills.
  2. Emphasis on Safety in the Workplace.
  3. High Levels of Maturity and Responsibility.
  4. Motivation, Dedication, and Professionalism.  
  5. Triumphant over Adversity.

I’m pretty sure I could keep going, but I’m going to stop right here. These are just a few reasons why employers value military experience in their workforce. If you’re a hiring manager, I’m sure you get my point. If you’re a job seeker from the military community, I encourage you to figure out which of the items in this ‘Top Twenty-Five’ list resonate most with you, at least in part because of the path you’ve followed. Be able to make the connection between items on this list and essential elements in the job description and do your best to communicate what you bring to the table…to the person that’s sitting across the table from you during your next job interview. Cheers!

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

A Veterans Day Salute (2018)

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Retired)

Greetings, friends. As we commemorate this Veterans Day, it is an honor to be able to visit with you on the Military Connection platform. It is an honor to have worn the uniform of the US Army, as well. I was a Soldier by choice, but an American by the grace of God.

We gather in many places to salute our nation’s Veterans. On the anniversary of Armistice Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our country. We remember the other men & women we’ve served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss, as we contributed to something we considered priceless – the defense of our country. I feel privileged and proud to be part of a group that has done so much for so many.

We remember our battalions, our companies, our ships…our bombers, our tanks, and our cannons. We remember our patrols, our deployments…our battles & our homecomings. We remember our friends, our crews, our units – our first haircut, the mess halls, guard duty – we remember voices – shouting, laughing…and the tears. We, the ones that have served this nation, have these images and sounds and feelings burned into our minds, hearts, and souls…

We remember the brave men and women who have served in places such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill; in the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, the deserts of Africa; the jungles of the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, or Vietnam; the hills of Korea, the sands of Kuwait, the villages of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Wherever and whenever our men & women are called to serve, they go.

For those Veterans who have stood guard in peacetime… to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat — and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – our Veterans have always been there, defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The Veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties since before the American Revolution.

On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas. Where it was once specifically a celebration of the silencing of the guns of World War One, Veterans Day now marks a day when nations around the world pause and observe – with solemn, silent pride – the heroism of those who have served, those who are currently serving, and those who died in our country’s service, in that war and in all others. It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, a celebration of those who made victory possible.  It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in, and fought for, a set of ideals.   

Just as our Veterans chose to serve, I challenge & encourage all of you to volunteer your services to any number of endeavors…your school’s PTO, a local food pantry, or your church…the Little League or the high school feeder team’s Football Club. Service to country is very much like service to community.

Our communities are the fabric of our nation, and every one is a little different. From those communities, our Veterans bring those differences to the defense of our nation. Poor or wealthy, urban or rural…they bond together as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. As our Nation’s sword and shield, our Veterans represent the strength and diversity of our nation.

This includes members of the Reserve Component – our Reservists & National Guardsmen. When serving in a traditional role, not federalized or deployed, these men and women are full-time members of the community. They work in your towns, their families attend your schools, and they commit themselves to the protection of your land and defense of your freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today’s National Guardsmen and Reservists, from all branches of service, are able to transition from the workforce to the fighting force with speed, grace and resiliency.  In this time of what seems like persistent conflict, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. I deployed twice while my sons were in elementary school. I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and children, but I also vividly remember the joy of coming home after a long deployment.

Those of us that have worn the uniform typically have a variety of reasons for having done so. For many, it’s a sense of Duty-Honor-Country, a belief in freedom, and a faith in America’s future. I think that one of the reasons why I served is that, on occasion, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness…visiting with a Tuskegee Airman at a Missouri Veterans Home, or watching history come alive at the airport at 0400 as WWII Veterans gathered for a trip to see our nation’s memorials in Washington, DC, a part of the Honor Flight network.

So, whether it’s chatting with Veterans from WWII or trading war stories with those fresh from today’s battlefields, sometimes I get to shake the hands of some real heroes. That’s just one of reasons why I served, and why I’m proud…I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be a Veteran.

On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have served. The Veterans of today are writing the history books that you, your children and your children’s children will one day study.  

Thank you for taking the time to commemorate this special day in your own way. God bless our Troops, God bless our Veterans…and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

Something New to Celebrate Veterans Day 2018

Something New to Celebrate Veterans Day 2018

By Bonnie Laiderman, CEO Veterans Home Care

Veterans Day 2018, wartime veterans have something to new to celebrate. Sweeping changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s benefit known as “Aid and Attendance” went into effect October 18, 2018. The new changes open the door for more deserving veterans and their surviving spouses.

This benefit has two parts. The first part is a pension for veterans who served a minimum of 90 days active duty with one day during wartime. The pension doesn’t require overseas service or combat duty. The second part is an additional payment for those who require “the aid and attendance” of another. The combined monthly amount of the Pension and Aid and Attendance benefit can be as much as $2,169 for a married veteran.

The benefit has been around for many years, yet it’s often overlooked and under-utilized by those who qualify. Instead, most people are aware of health care offered through the Veterans Health Administration or Compensation offered through the Veterans Benefits Administration for veterans who were disabled or killed while serving their country. Few people realize that a pension exists for those who have limited assets and have non-service-connected disabilities.

To learn more, you can contact a Veteran Service Officer or if you choose to use your funds primarily for home care or adult day care, contact Veterans Home Care® Veterans Home Care is a family-owned company offering the exclusive VetAssist® Program which helps wartime veterans or their surviving spouses access a VA benefit and home care. Our clients are served by our nationwide network of home care providers and our unparalleled expertise with the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit.

We change lives. Our VetAssist clients typically start from little to no awareness of the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit to having assistance with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, light housekeeping and companionship in their own home paid by their military service. Call 888-314-6075 or email info@veteranshomecare.com.

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Veterans Day was originally coined as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. It was a commemoration of the first anniversary of the end of World War 1. It didn’t take long for Congress to recognize the need to make this occasion and annual observance, and legislation was passed in 1926 to formalize that notion. Since then, we have used November 11th to celebrate our Veterans and remember their sacrifices.

My grandfather had served in WWII, but passed away before I had the chance to ask him to share his stories. I also spent most of my childhood in a time of peace. While the Catholic nuns had us practice air raid drills “just to be safe,” the closest I knew to conflict was Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. Even then, aside from yellow ribbons tied to my backpack straps, I really did not understand much about Veterans, soldiers and the sacrifices.

Fast forward to college, and my internship boss was getting married on November 11th. When she gave me the date, she said “yeah – Veterans Day.” Veterans Day? I didn’t question it, but instead looked up the date on my calendar. Sure enough – Veterans Day was a real, observed day on the calendar and I was completely ignorant to it! My only exposure to military anything was knowing a handful of ROTC boys on campus…and the one friend who was active duty and stationed in Italy. I didn’t know any Veterans or know of their stories. Over the next few years, I would begin to learn.

Earlier that year, JB joined the Marines. I met JB through my then boyfriend (who would eventually become my husband), Rich. JB was Rich’s very closest childhood friend. JB slept on the floor of Rich’s hospital room when Rich was in a meningitis-induced coma. JB was his brother from another mother and the bond seemed unbreakable. I met JB right before he left for bootcamp. It was important to Rich that I meet this key person in his life before he packed it up and headed out on his new journey. We met – and it was adoration at first sight.

JB embodied my mind’s vision of what a soldier should be. Strong, muscular – broad shoulders while maintaining kindness and compassion and a simplicity that made his personality so very appealing. With JB – what you saw was what you got. He was real. And he was joining the Marines.

We traveling north for his going away party, and Rich was uncharacteristically somber for most of our trip. No doubt that he had worries. His best friend, who had never ventured out of their home zip code, was embarking on an adventure that would no doubt change his very existence. There might have been some tears in his eyes when he gave JB one last hug before our departure from New Jersey – and our car ride was certainly filled with stories of when Rich and JB were boys.

I wrote to JB every day while he was at Paris Island. I mailed my letters once each week, and they were usually at least 15 pages long. I didn’t know him well – we had only met twice – but I felt the need to *do* something. I was too young to understand it at the time, but this was my introduction to loving someone in the military. The helplessness – the lack of communication. The constant praying. Upon his completion of boot camp, JB told me that it was my weekly diary that I mailed to him that helped push him through.

A few years later when Fox Company 2/1 was on the front line in the first wave of troops on the ground in Iraq, I resorted to my letter writing again. It was the only thing that seemed to help ease my anxiety surrounding the unknown about his deployment.

Fox Company 2/1 went 46 days without access to running water as they marched across the desert theater. We sent them candy and gum for them to distribute to the children they met. We sent them baby wipes and powder and travel deodorant. We wrote more letters. We collected newspapers. We sat at home and watched CNN and MSNBC incessantly. There was a photojournalist imbedded with their unit. We searched the newspaper for images. I will never forget Rich’s reaction to seeing JB’s hand in the newspaper. “It’s his hand! It’s his hand! I know that hand anywhere!” That soldier – covered head to toe with just his hand as the exception, was our proof that JB was still safe.

From the time he left for boot camp, we proudly displayed both the Stars & Stripes and the rich scarlet & gold of the Marine Corps flag. We wore our yellow ribbons and tied them to our trees. I prayed like I have never prayed before. We were fearful of the news yet still addicted to it. We worried. We sat side-by-side on the couch and stared at the TV.

We celebrated when we got the word he was coming home. Rich and I boarded a plane in July 2003 and headed to San Diego to see our soldier.

We stood on base at Camp Pendleton and waited. And waited. And waited. Rich and I were there with JB’s parents, sister and brother-in-law…and the tension of the waiting was getting to us all. I spent some time with a young woman and her baby girl. She wasn’t that much older than I and her daughter had been born while her husband served in Iraq. I was blessed and fortunate as I was with mom and baby when the helicopter carrying dad landed. I was there – just feet away – when the little family was reunited and that brave Marine met his baby girl for the first time.

Helicopters would land on the hill and soldiers would march down. The Raiders were not among them and as the day wore on, our heads and feet ached and our hearts just longed for “our” Marine. Finally, his bus arrived. We waited for him to check in his weapons and head down from the barracks. We cried. We breathed again – for the first time in so long. We held him, never wanting to let go. There were several times when I just took a step back to enjoy the beautiful emotion of the moment. 

Not long after, Rich and I were married. JB was one of our best men – he stood by our side with Rich’s brothers. He toasted us. He danced with me. He wore his dress blues – at our request – as we wanted everyone in attendance to be aware and in awe of his sacrifice.

His journey in the USMC wasn’t mine – but it taught me so very much. In those years, I learned a new level of respect for soldiers and Veterans. I better understood the multitude of sacrifices. Active duty isn’t like watching your kid go off to college – it’s more like saying goodbye in the hopes that you will both live to see tomorrow. It is being so proud to be an American that you are willing to lay your life on the line. It is seeing things and living experiences that change you. Permanently.

It has been 15 years since JB came home from Iraq. He and his time overseas are constantly on my mind. He has taught me so much. JB is now married with children, his active duty days may be long behind him, but he is and will always be a Marine who is true to the Corps.

I made the conscious decision to make sure my children grew up with a healthy respect for military – active duty and Veterans. This country has, in so many ways, become divided. I need them to know that Veterans should be honored because they have done what so many of us cannot do: they have stood in between us and the enemy and said “no – you can’t have them. You need to get through me first.”

We have done little things throughout their lives to make sure the lesson is heard and understood. They stand when they hear the National Anthem, even if it is playing on our TV in our living room. We have sent care packages to soldiers and letter to recovering men and women at Walter Reed. We have talked about and prayed for those who haven’t come home. Most importantly – they know to thank any soldier they can visually identify. LIving in Baltimore, we see men and women in fatigues often. They know to hold that door and say thank you, from the bottom of their hearts, because those fatigues represent so much.  

As a family, we are always looking for ways that we can serve the men and women who serve our country. As I was telling my children about my most recent discovery of Soldiers’ Angels and the Deployed Adoptions Team, they gave me a little lesson on Veterans Day and what they are doing to help support our troops. Their school has adopted a ship in the US Navy and is sending them thank you cards. 1500 thank you cards. My heart swelled as they told me about the notes they wrote and the drawings they were sending. They asked if they could send letters all year, and I told them I would find a way to make that happen.

I will never forget the feelings in my heart as I stood on Camp Pendleton all those years ago. I will never forget the fear and anxiety during JB’s deployment. I can’t imagine how those feelings would be magnified if it had been my spouse or my child that trudged through the desert sands, unable to contact his or her loved ones.

I spent the first 20 years of my life ignorant to the sacrifices made by strangers but in honor of my very existence. It matters not to these dedicated individuals whether I am a liberal hippie democrat or a conservative republican. The color of my skin or my religious beliefs are unimportant. The protect us all equally and without question. And for this, we should be grateful.

My Veterans Day sentiments and memories are dedicated to John A. Baker, JB. The Marine who opened my eyes and my mind to so many things. It was through his friendship that I learned an appreciation of our Military and it is to honor his service that I write this article. 

The Healing Power of Art

The Healing Power of Art

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Art as therapy. If you’ve seen it in action, you know the life-changing effects it can have on our Brothers & Sisters that struggle. For years, art has been shown to improve interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, and boost self-esteem. Clinically speaking, this helps reduce tension and anxiety, which can relieve pain and set a strong foundation for the process of healing or coping with lifelong disabilities. It can also mean relief for PTS and other issues stemming from military service.

For at least one Veteran, the visual arts have long been a format for creative expression, often providing emotional healing, strength, and a sense of purpose. Scott Beaty, a 20-year Navy Submarine Veteran and the founder of Visions for Vets, a small non-profit in St. Louis, Missouri, discovered a way to provide Veteran assistance through teaching and creating art and building strong Veteran camaraderie. As his organization grew, he witnessed his Veteran art students find release from their burdens, express themselves emotionally through creativity, and realize freedom from society’s label of being “disabled.”

“We’ve found that once Veterans have gained confidence in their newly-found, rekindled, or enhanced art skills, they’re ready to serve all over again. Service is at the heart of Visions for Vets and we seek to help Veterans continue the mission through art, building important relationships in their communities and engaging in outreach to bring the power of the healing arts to those in need of peace and joy,” Beaty said.

There’s an emphasis on the power of the visual arts at the national level, as well. As part of the current Presidential Administration, Second Lady Karen Pence uses her national and international platform to shine the light on art therapy. The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have their own platforms in the Creative Forces Network and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network serves the special needs of military patients and veterans who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, as well as their families and caregivers, placing creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical facilities across the country.

Made possible by a unique collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, DoD, the VA, and state arts agencies, Creative Forces is a network of caring people who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of art. The network is made up of creative arts therapists, artists, doctors, military service members, veterans, community leaders and policymakers, helping make a difference on military bases, in hospitals, and at community art centers.

Nationally, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities use the creative arts as an effective rehabilitative therapy to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in local creative arts competitions, culminating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Through a national judging process, first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. The Festival is co-sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. In addition to raising funds for the event, Auxiliary departments provide volunteers who assist with everything from punching meal tickets to stuffing programs to ironing costumes for the stage show.