The Empty Chair

No  tears  can  fall  from  my  eyes.
So,  why  does  my  heart  ache?

Could  it  be,  the  empty  chair?

I  shouldn’t  whine.
Many,  no  longer  have  their  soldiers  with  whom  they  dine.

The  empty  chair,  always  there.

Thanksgiving  is  a  day  to  pause  and  reflect  on  all  we  are  grateful  for.

For  me,  Thanksgiving,  is  every  day.

Every  day  I’m  grateful  for  all  who  have  served  us.
Veterans,  brave  souls.

I’m  grateful  for  all  who  are  serving.

I  want  to  tell  my  son  how  much  I  miss  him.
He  doesn’t  want  me  to  be  sad.

I  want  to  hear  his  laughter.
Life  is  so  hard  over  there.

He  never  complains.
I  do,  about  the  damn  empty  chair.

Although  I  am  grateful  for  much,
I  will  be  most  grateful  for  the  day  the  empty  chair,
is  empty  no  more.

by  Karen  Estrada  (@milhealth) is proud to be working with   This is a poignant poem written by Karen Estrada when her son was away during the holidays on his 5th deployment to Afghanistan.  This poem  provides all of us a glimpse of the sacrifices made by those who serve and their loved ones.  The families of our fallen carry this grief during all holidays with their own “Empty Chair”.  Veterans Day has past but let us remember those who serve our nation and their families 24/7.   Next time you see a soldier, try a random act of kindness.  Perhaps thank them for their service, buy them a cup of coffee or even pick up their check if you are able.   Remember we are able to live the lives we live in the greatest nation in the world because of the sacrifices of less than one percent.

Victoria’s Secret Helps National Guard is in awe of our Citizen Soldiers who are there to help in times of disaster, such as assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.   We all need a little help from our friends, and Victoria’s Secret proved to be a company with more to offer than just lingerie and beautiful women. Victoria’s Secret was there to help the New York National Guard so that they could complete their mission, and help those affected by the damage from Hurricane Sandy.   We commend Victoria’s Secret, and salute our Citizen Soldiers who are there, 24/7.

Soldiers with the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry regiment found themselves in a precarious situation after Hurricane Sandy struck. Like the people they were trying to assist, they were without electricity or hot water, stuck in the city, and supplies were quickly running out.

But for a change, the guardsmen, who are usually the angels that help others, had a guardian angel of their own-Victoria’s Secret! The company, which was scheduled to have its annual fashion show at the New York Army National Guard’s armory in Manhattan, had eight 500-kilowatt generators with them. Happy to put the generators to good use, Victoria’s Secret was able to once again provide the soldiers with power and hot water. Then the Guardian Angel made sure that the solders’ communication systems were up and running, despite the local cell towers being down. Victoria’s Secret’s producer Dave Shapiro had leased a T1 line, which he generously allowed the armory to use.

The National Guard is extremely versatile, enabling troops to respond to domestic emergencies, combat missions, and reconstruction missions, with speed, strength and efficiency. “We just had one of our patrols come back, and they were just in one of the worst-hit areas of Staten Island, helping to distribute food, water, some much-needed clothing and blankets, especially because the weather is getting much colder out here,” said Air Force Captain Ryan Abbott of the New York Air National Guard’s 152nd Air Operations Group. Whether the call is from a state governor or the president of the United States, Guard Soldiers are always ready, and always there.

Since the National Guard is state-funded, their armories are usually just bare-bones storage facilities. Once again, the National Guard had to turn to the Victoria’s Secret crew—this time to borrow their fork lift to process the tractor-trailers full of emergency supplies delivered by FEMA. Thanks to Victoria’s Secret, the soldiers were able to repackage and distribute the supplies to those in need. Members of the New York National Guard continue to distribute critically needed fuel throughout the New York City area, as residents and local authorities continue with cleanup and recovery efforts.

California Veteran Friendly Laws

California New Veteran Friendly Laws

California is the home to more Veterans than any other state. The Golden State values its Veterans. California is fulfilling its obligation to our veterans and their families through favorable legislation. California’s Veterans will be able to benefit from new laws that enhance, extend or create opportunities impacting education and employment. Peter J. Gravett, California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, explained, “These bills show our commitment to serving those who have served, and we should always honor and remember the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served this state and nation in uniform.” CalVet is a forerunner in advocating for Veterans residing in California.

Among the new laws are:
• AB 2462, which gives veterans academic credit for certain prior military academic experience
• AB 2478, which expands the current exemption given to veterans from paying non-resident tuition at California community colleges
• AB 2133, which increases the number of years after leaving active duty California veterans are eligible for California college priority registration
• AB 1904, which expedites the professional and vocational licensure process for military spouses and domestic partners of certain active-duty military members
• AB 2659, which allows licensed drivers of military commercial vehicles to qualify for a California commercial driver’s license without additional California driving tests
• AB 2371, which provides restorative relief to a veteran defendant who acquires a criminal record due to a mental disorder stemming from military service
• AB 1505 which reinstates state veterans benefits that were denied solely on the basis of sexual orientation when the federal government first reinstates those benefits
• AB 2198, which changes county veteran service officer reporting requirements to ensure the programs are maximizing support to veterans
• SB 1198, which requires CalVet to provide veterans with information about federal veteran pensions, federal housing vouchers, and CalFresh
• SB 1287 & SB 1288, which allow reduced-fee sport fishing licenses for active military personnel who are recovering service members and reduced-fee hunting licenses for military personnel who are recovering service members

Veteran Hired Mission Accomplished

When Valerie Brown sat across from David Letterman on his late night talk show, she had high hopes that her “out-of-the-box” strategy would pay off in multiple job offers. She was, after all, an eight year veteran of the U.S. Army, a Fellow with The Mission Continues, a national representative of Student Veterans of America, and an Intern for Veterans of Foreign Wars. If those credentials weren’t impressive enough, Valerie had also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. So why was this assignment, finding employment, her toughest to date?

Unfortunately, this is indicative of what many of our nation’s finest are facing as they separate from the military and transition to civilian life. Faced with double-digit unemployment and a challenging economy, many veterans might be tempted to thrown in the towel. But the best strategy to get a civilian career going is get creative and get going!

Don’t undervalue good old fashioned networking. Involve your family and friends; more people helping you increases your chances of success. Social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are also good places to spread the word. Additionally, Twitter and blogs are also good ways to get the word out. And be proactive: if there is a company you’d like to work for, contact them and inquire about their hiring process. Be persistent! Using only one strategy, such as answering employment ads, greatly reduces your chances of success. The key to a fruitful job hunt is diversifying and using a number of different strategies.

Valerie was referred to Military Connection by John Mikelson of the University of Iowa. We wanted to help, and felt that we could because one major area of our focus is employment. We offered to promote Valerie in our newsletters that deploy to over 800,000 emails, and put her on our homepage banner. I’m happy to tell you that Valerie received multiple job offers, and just relocated to begin her new job – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

We invite other Veterans to register on our web site here: If you have a compelling story, please email us: [email protected] and each month we will feature a Veteran seeking employment in our newsletter.

Hispanic Heritage Month

The U.S. military is currently commemorating Hispanic American Heritage Month, which began on September 15th and runs through October 15th. Through programs, exhibits, and military/community events, the theme, “Diversity United, Building America’s Future Today,” is a homage to the brave Veterans and active duty military who can trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients date back to the inception of the medal during the Civil War. Included amongst the forty-four men of Hispanic heritage who have been awarded the Medal of Honor was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro of the Union Army, for his actions at Gettysburg. Following the Civil War, medals were awarded to men such as Private David Bennes Barkley, for his actions during World War I, and Harold Gonsalves and Jose Valdez, who were 2 of the 13 Hispanic men awarded the medal in WWII. Rodolfo P. Hernandez and Joseph C. Rodriguez were the only living recipients of the eight men who were awarded the medal during the Korean War. Among the brave men who valiantly served in Vietnam, sixteen Hispanic men were singled out for the Medal of Honor. And joining these decorated heroes is the most recent recipient, Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry, for his actions in Afghanistan.

The business world also benefits from the contributions made by a variety of Hispanic Veteran professionals, including NASA astronauts Joseph Acaba and Carlos Noriega, NYPD Chief of Patrol Nicholas Estavillo, Golfer Lee Trevino, and Congressman Frank Tejeda. According to the most recent Census Bureau Business Survey, Veteran-owned businesses under Hispanic ownership doubled from in the five years between 2002 to 2007. Currently, Hispanic veteran-owned businesses number over 113,000 and employ approximately 141,000 people.

The United States in a melting pot, and diversity has never been more valued. At Military Connection, we are proud to join forces with employers who value our talented and diverse audience of Military and Veteran professionals. Those who have served exhibit traits such as loyalty, intelligence and teamwork. They have proudly served our country while receiving state-of-the-art training. Many of them have chosen to continue their education, thanks to the rich educational benefits they separated with. If you would like to reach our audience for employment or education opportunities, please contact us.

California Veterans Dependents Education Assistance

Did you know that California State Colleges, Universities and Community Colleges will waive fees for those who serve under the circumstances below? This is known as “Veterans Dependents Educational Assistance” and it is an awesome education benefit. The children and spouses of service connected disabled veterans can attend free. These are education benefits in addition to the those offered to service members directly in the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. You have earned these benefits so please use them and have your family members use them. Education is the key to a better life and a better job opportunity. is the Go To Site For Education for Military, Education For Veterans, Education for Spouses and Education for Military Dependents.

The dependent child, spouse or unmarried surviving spouse of a service-connected disabled or service-connected deceased veteran may be entitled to tuition and fee waiver benefits at any campus of the California State University system, University of California or California Community College system. To be eligible, the student must:

  • Have a parent who is a disabled veteran (0% or more disabled), or
  • Have a spouse who is service-connected (S/C) deceased or rated 100% S/C disabled.
  • Be a child earning less than $11,702 per year (student’s income, not parents’). Note: there is no income limit for a spouse or children of S/C deceased or 100% S/C disabled veterans.
  • Attend a California Community College, California State University, or a University of California school.
  • Provide proof of the student’s relationship to the veteran such as a copy of a birth or marriage certificate.

To obtain complete eligibility requirements and assistance in applying for these valuable benefits, please contact your local County Veterans Service Office or your school’s veterans office. Contact information for the veterans or financial aid office for many California public colleges and universities is available from the Education section CDVA’s California Veterans Resources Database.

You may also contact CalVet at (916) 653-2573 or by mail:
California Department of Veterans Affairs /> Division of Veterans Services
1227 O Street, Suite 105
Sacramento CA 95814

You may also download an application form to fill out. When the form is completed, contact your nearest County Veterans Service Office (CVSO).

Fisher House Foundations – Comfort Homes

The Fisher House volunteers, who give so much of their time and themselves, are the heart and soul of Team Fisher House. With such a small staff, the Fisher House Foundation depends on the generosity of its volunteers to support their fundraising efforts. is a proud media sponsor of Team Fisher House. If you don’t know much about Fisher House, we invite you to visit their website and find out what a great non-profit they are. Fisher House Foundation”s “comfort homes”, located at major military bases and VA medical centers, enable family members to be close to a loved one during hospitalization. Knowing that a family”s love is the best medicine, Fisher Houses strive to give recovering service members a sense of community during a stressful time. There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center, providing the comforts of home in a supportive environment. The houses are usually from 5,000 to 16,000 square foot homes, accommodating 16 to 42 family members. Each house is designed to provide 8 to 21 suites, and they are all professionally decorated and furnished. They feature a common kitchen, laundry facilities, spacious dining room and a living room. They have even remembered the toys for the children. The newer homes are 100% handicap accessible and include elevators. The program began in 1990, and has offered more than three million days of lodging to more than 160,000 families, with no family ever paying for a stay at any Fisher House! In addition to constructing new houses, the Fisher House Foundation continues to support existing Fisher Houses and help individual military families in need. Additionally, they are proud to administer and sponsor Scholarships for Military Children, the Hero Miles program, and co-sponsor the Newman”s Own Award. We salute the good work done by this great organization.

WWII Merchant Marine salutes all of the Veterans of World War II. We are losing too many of these heroes. We also need to take a moment and remember the contributions of the Merchant Marines during this war and others. These are brave men and a few women who are too often forgotten or confused with other services. Next time you see a World War II veteran, remember their sacrifices so we have been able to live in the best country in the world.

It has always been a pleasure to be a participant in the Coronado Fourth of July parade due to their acceptance of the Merchant Marine but this year was unique. I felt I had to share the experience with others. The Silvergate chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII has been in many local parades over the past five years I have been its’ president and seldom have we felt so much recognition and patriotism from the spectators.

In other parades I don’t think the spectators really found out who or what the importance of the Merchant Marines was during WWII. Even when we gave a script for announcers to read as we marched past they seldom read the material correctly and they had us as members of the Navy or the Marine Corps or didn’t read the whole script. To my members this was an insult. Because of this action by the announcers and the lack of physical strength of my mariners they had chosen not to participate in parades. Also I believe too many people don’t realize how difficult it is for these elderly men to walk a complete parade route. I have tried many times to inform the public of what these men went through during the war but the newspapers chose not to print it. If we couldn’t get the message of our part in WWII accepted in a parade an article in a newspaper is almost meaningless.

We have always been a small group but due to our advanced age it is even smaller. Most of the men aren’t able to walk the length of a parade. At the last minute I found one member who felt his legs might hold up and would help me carry our banner. Because of all that had happened before in earlier parades it was truly a joy to experience. It was very moving for us to have so many spectators, including men in uniform, get up from where they were sitting and salute or say thank you to our group of four elderly veterans 85 to 90 years of age. It made the two of us that carried our banner the whole mile and a half feel very proud indeed to be so recognized.

When one has witnessed our government choosing not to fully recognize the services of the Merchant Marine during World War II for having delivered over 94% of all the supplies necessary for the success of our country and our allies to win World War II these actions of appreciation and patriotism on the part of parade observers made us feel very proud. We say thank you to all who attended that parade and salute you.

Byron Ayres
President of Silvergate chapter of AMMV

CalVet to Host Women’s Leadership Conference

The California Department of Veterans Affairs will host a Leadership Conference for veterans and veteran stakeholders on October 4th, 2012 in Sacramento at the Double Tree Hotel. The conference, entitled “A Call To Service, A Call to Action” will empower attendees to “move the needle” when working with women veteran issues in their communities.

Workshops will offer information about how to start a business *or* nonprofit organization, how to host a veteran stand down, how to run for political office, and more. The one-day event will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude with dinner, an evening reception and an awards ceremony.

CalVet will present three awards at the conference: Woman Veteran Leader of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, and Outstanding Volunteer Award. Individuals who do an outstanding job serving veterans in their community and women veterans who demonstrate exemplary leadership in their communities may be nominated at [email protected].

Those wishing to register for the conference may do so at *or* call (916) 653-1402 for more information.

Follow CalVet on Facebook and Twitter.

CalVet: Carolyn Ballou
Jaime Arteaga
August 7, 2012 salutes Sunshine Roth & Stand & Salute American Heroes.

My name is Sunshine Roth and I am the National Director of Stand & Salute American Heroes which is a Major Project of Our Fallen Soldier a 501 (c) 3 organization and Our Heroes Journey. I am also the proud wife of a Vietnam Veteran to whom I have been married to for almost 39 years. My husband suffers from severe PTS and Agent Orange. I am also the daughter of a Holocaust Survivor. From my father I got his determination and strength to never give up no matter what your situation is.

Stand & Salute American Heroes, writes cards and letters to all VA Hospitals during holidays with phone cards enclosed. We do fundraisers, and accept donations so that we are able to do this and more for our Heroes.

I got involved with Veteran Organizations to honor my husband. Stand & Salute American Heroes honors combat wounded veterans from all wars to include invisible wounds such as PTS and TBI. In the past year I have been able to spread my wings so that we could honor more veterans. Originally we only honored veterans at major sporting events such as Major League Baseball and NHL Hockey Games. But we felt there were so many out there that we were missing that might never get the chance of being honored.

I am fortunate to be able to work with Kelly Luisi who is Co-Founder/CFO and Family Assistance Coordinator for Our Fallen Soldier and National Director of Our Heroes Journey. I started exploring regular nursing homes in the area that I live in which is the Chicago area. What I found was that there are so many veterans in these nursing homes. Some of them have no family anymore. So we began scheduling events in these nursing homes. I have had as few as 15 veterans to honor and as many as 60 *or* more veteran. I bring gifts in according to what holiday it might be. We play the piano and sing songs from their time which seems to be from WWII but we have our fair share of Korean and Vietnam Veterans too. To see the smiles on their faces brings tears to my eyes as I sit here right now and write this. We have been fortunate enough to even have some Cadet Nurses and Nurses that worked in the Mash Units during Korea and Vietnam.

We feel that no veteran *or* hero should ever be alone. We believe that we should be with them at the start of their Journey and that is what Our Heroes Journey does and more, and until the very end which would be VA Hospices. I am in touch with the VA Hospitals across the country that have Palliative/Hospice for our Veterans. We send everything from stuffed animals to blankets that have been prayed over. I have been told that some of these Veterans are buried with these items.

I suffer from Parkinson’s, but have managed to turn it into a positive experience. Being able to do this for Stand & Salute American Heroes has brought more joy and purpose into my life. From my father I got his determination and strength to never give up no matter what your situation is. I wake up every day and thank God for what He has put before me. I can’t envision myself doing anything else in my life but to honor our heroes of this Country. I’m a survivor just like these heroes. It is in my blood. I’m a survivor.