Veteran of the Year Awarded to Lt. Colonel Tom Lasser

Revered by many to be a man of great integrity and worth, Lt. Colonel Tom Lasser was recently named “Veteran of the Year” by Assembly member Ted Lieu at the 3rd annual Veteran of the Year ceremony.

Our own Debbie Gregory is a long time friend of Lasser and was happy to hear the news of his award, citing his deserving of it because of his “24/7” work ethic and all around good will. Lasser’s 7 years of active duty service and 33 years spent with the California National Guard might speak for themselves, but after 40 years of veteran service, this award is a long time coming.

Lasser is a Vietnam veteran who earned his Army aviator wings upon completion of the Army Aviation Warrant Officer Aviator Flight Course. He is a brightly decorated war vet, earning the Purple Heart award, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 35 Oak Leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medals and many other awards and commendations. He is a master Army aviator with more than 1000 Vietnam helicopter missions and over 6000 total flying hours.

It is no wonder why someone with such impressive experience and impenetrable devotion to his country would be recognized with an award of this nature. Lasser is truly a role model for American veterans.

Lasser has resided in Redondo Beach with his wife for 20 years. They have a daughter, Ami’ Collette, who works in the fashion industry in Hollywood.

Runners Gear Up for Fisher House Marathon

As the event date creeps ever nearer, participants of Team Fisher House close in on their goals for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon, taking place October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.

Runners have been training all year long for the event, which raises both funds and awareness for wounded warriors and marines across the nation. This is the 35th year for the marathon, which continues to obtain some 30,000 runner spots every year. Talk about some serious civilian support. Millions of dollars are raised each year to provide services and support to marines and other military service members who have been injured and wounded while serving the United States.

Team Fisher House has been a large supporter of the marathon and continues to raise funds and awareness for injured marines and soldiers alike. MilitaryConnection.com is proud to be an official sponsor of the Fisher House team, providing support and encouragement to their volunteer runners.

The Team Fisher House fundraising minimum deadline is August 1, 2010, by which runners must meet the required $500 to reserve a spot in the marathon, so there’s still time! Plus, runners’ campaign pages will be open until December 31, 2010 so there will be plenty of opportunity to raise funds for this great cause.

For more information, visit the Team Fisher House website and sign up for their newsletter.

As always, thanks for reading and keep checking back for more updates on the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon!

Thanks!
Katy Cryns

Reaching Out for Vets Benefit Education

When it comes to our veterans, the most important aspect of their post-service lives is their right to a thorough understanding of their benefits. Unfortunately, many veterans find it difficult to understand the sometimes complex benefit information provided to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is why we at MilitaryConnection are heavily supporting the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ veterans benefit workshop/meeting, properly titled, “All Hands.”

The meeting is free for all veterans of the United States and will strive to better educated them on the benefits they’ve worked so hard for. The meeting will take place on Thursday, June 24th from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at Liberty Theatre (Building 6), 4411 Yorktown Avenue, Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, CA 90720. This event is free to all vets and the Cal Vet is encouraging all veterans in the area to attend.

MilitaryConnection.com commends the Veterans Affairs department for reaching out to our vets in this way. Too often, the men and women who serve so diligently, honestly and with the greatest integrity are left with questions and concerns regarding their benefits. It is one mission of Military Connection to stall and reverse this as soon as possible.

As such, we will endorse any town hall that encourages this kind of meeting. Town halls that organize events such as this will gain our full support and appreciation. It’s time we start reaching out to those who reach out for us.

Know of a Town Hall Meeting by you supporting the education of veterans’ benefits? Send us an email with the information to [email protected]. We’ll post it on our site!

Thanks for reading!

Katy Cryns

Letters from Hollywood – Tom Wilson

Tom has enjoyed a successful career as an actor, writer and comedian for over 20 years.he is probably best known for playing bully Biff Tannen in “Back to the Future”.He has more than 50 films, television shows and comedy specials to his credit,and has appeared on talk shows with everyone from Johnny Carson to Jay Leno and David Letterman. As a voice-over actor, he has worked in dozens of animated series, including many episodes of Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants”. Actor, comedian, writer, musician, and artist – Tom Wilson has transcended the limitations of pop-cultural celebrity to become an artist of honesty, gravity and grace. Tom supports those who serve.

Dear Troops,

I had to say “dear troops” because I hope that my note to you goes far and wide to reach men and women in the armed forces around the world, but the fact is, I’m talking to YOU, the person reading this letter, and I’m talking from my heart.

My name is Tom Wilson. I’m an actor and comedian. I’ve performed lots of voices on the cartoon “SpongeBob Squarepants.” That’s right, I’m Reg, the bouncer at the Salty Spitoon Bar. Imagine a growling tough guy who’s a fish … “Welcome to da Salty Spitoon…How tough are ya?” yeah, that’s me. I’ve been in lots of movies and T.V. shows, lots of people recognize me as the gym teacher from the show “Freaks and Geeks,” and I’ve been a stand up comedian on the Tonight Show, and David Letterman and lots of shows like that. But okay …Time to bring out the big guns …I played Biff, and Griff, and gunslinger Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen in all the “Back To The Future” movies. Yep, that’s me.

What are you lookin’ at, BUTTHEAD?
HELLO?! ANYBODY HOME?!
Why don’t you make like a tree …and get outta here.
McFLY!!!

Thank you…Thanks …Oh, please stay seated, standing ovations have always kind of embarrassed me, but yes, I played the bad guy in those movies, which I’m sure you’ve probably seen or heard about.

You’ve been watching me on T.V. and movies for a long time, but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you that I’ve been watching you, too. I’ve watched you working when I’ve performed shows on bases and even on the U.S.S. John Stennis (I did one of those landings on the deck where we stopped super fast and my spleen popped out my eye socket) I watch you in training when I drive by the bases of Southern California, I watch you in rough video footage on the internet and on news programs, working hard to protect not only our country, but grateful people from around the world. I watch you walking through the airports headed home to family, or headed in the opposite direction, away from your loved ones and on the way to a difficult and dangerous mission. I watch you in my heart, as I pray for you, your safety, and your family, and I thank God for raising up so many thousands of heroes like you.

I just wanted to say thank you for all you do for me and my family.

My son is thirteen. He plays baseball. He’s a big side of beef and likes to swim in the ocean and eat pizza. He wears a size thirteen shoe. He’s growing fast.

Thank you for protecting him.

I have three beautiful daughters. One is a musician, one a dancer, and one a “Hippie” artist who paints colorful pictures and wears tie dyed jeans.

Thank you for protecting them.

My wife is a music teacher. She teaches little kids to sing beautiful songs about how beautiful the world is, and how we should love each other.

Thank you for protecting her.

My Mom lives in Philadelphia. She can’t get out of the house much anymore, but she watches you on T.V., and probably like a lot of your Moms, worries about you and prays for your safety.

Thank you for protecting her.

I’m a Husband and a Dad. Like all Dads, I run around trying to take care of things, looking in the sofa cushions for spare change to buy another pizza, and hanging onto this crazy life, grateful to God for family and friends.

And grateful to God for you.

Thank you for protecting me.

I pray for you, I thank you, and I love you. That’s right. YOU.

God bless you,
Tom Wilson

Transfer of Education Benefits Soothes Graduate Students’ Financial Woes

A remarkable feat for the U.S. military and veterans alike, eligible recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can now transfer those benefits to dependents. The Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB) Program is a great leap for military families with children or spouses wanting to attend graduate school but lack proper funding to do so.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill’s transferability program applies to service members who have provided at least 6 years of service and agree to extend their service 4 more years; have provided 10 years of service to the military; or are currently retired or will become retirement eligible any time between August 1, 2009 and August 1, 2013. Under these provisions, service members are able to transfer their education benefits to a spouse, to a child or to a combination of spouse and child. This added provision to the bill has opened up doors to many people who otherwise would not be able to attend a graduate university.

There are stipulations regarding extra costs covered by the benefits, but the bottom line remains the same: benefits will cover up to the highest tuition cost of any public school in the state—including graduate studies programs. For many dependents (and service members) this change couldn’t come sooner.

As the economy remains unsteady, many spouses and children are choosing to go back to or continue school in an effort to remain ahead of the game. TEB has made this possible for many dependents of military service members.

As the school year comes to a close, talk with your family about your education needs and discuss your goals. As high school and college graduates enter into the next phase of their lives, now is a great time to learn about the transferability of GI Bill education benefits. To learn more and to apply for GI Bill benefits, review our GI Bill information page. You can also calculate your BAH rate by using the calculator provided.

As always, have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend. Remember why we celebrate. Pass on a high five, a low five or a simple smile to a service member this weekend. Go ahead, make their day.

To all those who serve, past and present, thank you. You are appreciated.

Thanks for reading,
Katy

VA Announces Positive Changes for GI Bill

According to a recent story in Army Times, The Veterans Affairs Department has announced that it plans to implement an automatic system to better facilitate the processing of GI Bill benefits claims. Since the bill was enacted in 2008 and the VA began dispersing benefits, it has stumbled upon several obstacles, including delayed processing times. According to VA education service director, Keith Wilson, processing times of Post-9/11 GI Bill claims takes so long (averaging 82 minutes) because applications “require manual processing using four separate IT systems that do not interface with each other.”

The implementation of an automatic processing system would minimize the amount of human hands that handle each claim. The electronic system would process claims in 15 to 20 minutes and produce even more accurate results than previously recorded. The new system is set to be installed in a series of phases to easily transition the procedure.

Subsequent phases will be integrated into the system in the following months of September and December and will culminate in a nearly-fully electronic processing system.

For more information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including eligibility, requirements and processing procedures, visit MilitaryConnection’s GI Bill information page.

Questions? Concerns? I want to know! Email me at [email protected] and tell me what’s on your mind!

Thanks for reading!

Katy Cryns

Letters from Hollywood – Robert Davi

Robert Davi is the son of a Navy Gunner who earned a Purple Heart and served during World War II. Davi might be known as a Hollywood Tough Guy but when it comes to those who serve, he has a huge heart. Robert Davi is one of the film industry’s most recognized tough guys, whether on the big screen or on television.From his portrayal of James Bond villain Franz Sanchez to FBI profiler Bailey Malone in “Profiler” (1996), The show, currently in syndication, struck a chord with audiences, paving the way for such shows as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2000), “Without a Trace” (2002), “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2001) and many others. His work as a Palestinian terrorist Salim Ajami in an award-winning TV movie brought him critical acclaim and caught the eye of legendary James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, who cast Davi as Colombian drug lord and lead villain Franz Sanchez in the Bond film License to Kill (1989). Davi is a native New Yorker.

Dear Troops,

One of the fondest and lasting images I had as a child was on every Memorial Day, Veterans Day and 4th of July, my dad, who was a Navy gunner on a Merchant Marine ship during World War 2, raised the American flag and put on his Navy uniform, till he died in his mid-fifties. His ship was torpedoed and he was on a raft for 3 days before being picked up. He received a Purple Heart. He never spoke about his experiences and I was too young to have a heart to heart with him about them. What I do know and what he handed down to me was a love for Our Country and the men and woman who serve her to protect our Freedoms . His Father, a Sicilian immigrant, also received a Purple Heart and an Oak Leaf Cluster during World War 1 ,when he served in the Army Infantry. I want to THANK ALL OF YOU WHO SERVE and have SERVED and for the sacrifice you and your families have made for us here at home. We live in a time when the very values that our country was founded on seem to be under attack and where confusion is used to weaken the resolve and will of the people . But make NO MISTAKE: There is no more important gift then what you are giving to US.

On behalf of myself and my 5 children we say -God Bless to you all. Know that you have our Love and Support,

Robert Davi

Memorial Day Weekend – Giving Back to Those That Serve

Memorial Day Weekend presents us with a chance to step back from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives—from the traffic jams to the paper jams to the strawberry jam stains on our work shirts—and take a moment to thank those people providing their time and energy toward serving our country in the most demanding way. Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to take a few minutes out of our lives to do a small part in return and thank those that lend their lives to the United States.

This year, American organizations are celebrating a little more, offering special deals and discounts on a variety of activities, products and services to military service members, veterans and their families. These are just small ways that we give back to our military members who do so much for us. Here are some of the special events happening across the nation in celebration of the great deeds done by our very own men and women in uniform.

Free Museum Admission

Over 600 museums nationwide will open their doors to military members and their families for free, beginning Memorial Day Weekend and continuing throughout the summer. The free admission program is a highlight of the partnership between Blue Star Museums, Blue Star Families and the National Endowment for the Arts programs. Many museums are offering savings of $10-15 through the program. The government has offered this map to help military families locate the participating museums near them.

Free Admission to the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary served as a troop carrier during WWII for five years. It was responsible for carrying thousands of veterans back to the United States, many of which still have vivid memories of the trip. This Memorial Day Weekend, the ship will be offering free general admission to all military service members, both active duty and veteran members. General Admission will give you a self-guided tour through the ship as well as the “Ghosts & Legends” portion of the tour. Bring your military ID and head on out to Long Beach to the Queen Mary during 10AM and 6PM May 29, 30 and 31st to enjoy the discount.

Discounted Cruise Rates

Carnival Cruises is providing discounts for service members, family and friends throughout the month of May on cruises to many popular destinations, such as the Caribbean, Mexico, the Bahamas, Alaska and Canada. Reservations must be made before May 31st, 2010 and the discount applies to cruises booked between now and April 30, 2012. For more information, call 1-800-Carnival or visit their website.

10% Off at Home Depot, Lowe’s

Although Home Depot and Lowe’s have offered 10% discounts to military service members, veterans and their families in the past, beginning this year, both stores will offer the same discount every day to military members, veterans and families.

These are some small ways that regular citizens and organizations are giving back to those that give so much. There are ways individuals can give back, too.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that a great way to make a soldier’s day is to pay for his meal or just say “Thank you.” Well, this Memorial Day Weekend offers another great time to recognize the efforts of those who serve. Step out and stand in at a Memorial Day service, buy a service member a cup of coffee, make an extra effort to listen to your grandfather’s war stories without yawning—whatever you can do to give a little support to the men and women who so diligently and without question support our country, do it. The smallest contributions can mean a great deal to someone who has or is serving.

I am proud to be a part of MilitaryConnection.com because it is dedicated to constantly do all it can to serve our service members. It is an organization whose primary goal is to help, support and assist military members, veterans and their families to the best of its abilities, 24/7.

My contribution this Memorial Day Weekend: Calling my state representative to ask for quicker processing of veteran benefits. It’s a short order that could go a long way.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,
Katy Cryns

Letters from Hollywood – John Ondrasik

Dear Troops and Families,

CD for the Troops III is alive and well and this year it’s a comedy edition. Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Dennis Miller, Jeff Foxworthy, Ray Ramano, Dana Carvey, and more have donated some of their best comedy for you, for free! Download your CD at www.aafes.com or go to www.cdforthetroops.com for more info. This CD is family friendly and is a thank you from all of us to all of you for your service and sacrifice.

Five For Fighting (that’s my band) is also currently touring the U.S. If any military or family members would like to be my guests at any of our shows please e-mail [email protected]
Tour dates at www.fiveforfighting.com

Thanks again for all you do for us…My kids send you a special shout out! We love you!

John Ondrasik
Five For Fighting

Letters from Hollywood – Ed Bernero

Executive producer and show runner for the CBS television series “Criminal Minds.” Ed is a former Chicago police officer who is the Co-Creator and Executive Producer of “Third Watch” (WB/NBC).

Hey Heroes!

My name is Ed Bernero. I am the Exec. Producer/Show runner of the CBS television show, “Criminal Minds”. I also had a show called “Third Watch” that was on for a while a few years back that you may have heard of. I’m a veteran of the Air Force in peacetime (1980-84 – 3 years in Clark AB, R.P.I. and a year in Lowery in Colorado as an SP) and a ten-year cop from my hometown, Chicago.

Just wanted to drop a line to let you all know that you are in I and my family’s thoughts and prayers every single day. We are honored to live in a country under your protection and service. Please be careful and come home to us safe and sound.

All my best,

Ed