Knife Used in Raid on Bin Laden Sold to Benefit SEAL Family

tommy-v

By Debbie Gregory.

The knife carried on the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden has been sold to raise money for the family of a Navy SEAL killed this year in a training accident.

Chief Special Warfare Operator and Navy SEAL Brett D. Shadle died March 28 during a training accident. Known to his friends as “Shady,” he is survived by his wife Jenifer, daughter Savanah and son Christian. Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonette, who wrote the book, “No Easy Day” under the pen name Mark Owen, donated the Emerson CQC-7 folding knife to the charity Combat Flip Flops, with the intention that they sell the knife to raise money for Shadle’s family.

The auction began May 1, which was the two-year anniversary of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. Other items were auctioned as well, including a Taliban helmet, private shooting lessons, and a custom Suunto watch. Bissonette’s donated knife netted $35,400 for the non-profit Tommy V Foundation, which is collecting money for Shadle’s family.

Combat Flip Flops has given the auction’s additional proceeds to four other charities that specialize in helping service members, including The Green Beret Foundation, Station Foundation, Team 5, and the Lead the Way Fund.

Combat Flip Flops has organized the auction for the past three years as part of the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla. This year, the group added the internet auction to give more people the chance to bid and, hopefully, raise more money.

Bissonette has owned the knife for eight years. He took the knife on multiple missions, including the 2011 mission in Pakistan to kill Bin Laden. Bissonette has said the knife is still in good condition.

In addition to receiving the knife, the winner of the auction will receive a letter of authenticity from Bissonette.

The Navy Seals’ motto is “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”, but hopefully, the efforts of the Tommy V Foundation  will make tomorrow a little bit easier for the Shadle family.

Congress works to stop commanding officers from changing rulings in military sexual assault cases

sexual-assault

By Debbie Gregory.

Republicans and Democrats have joined forces to change the military justice system and fight the prevalence of military sexual assault – an offense the military has repeatedly failed to address effectively for decades.

Experts believe the cases of military sexual assault far exceed the 3,192 reported in 2011. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta estimates the real number to be closer to 19,000 assaults, but said few victims report the crime. Over the years, Congress has repeatedly challenged the military to change how it handles military sexual assault cases, but so far, the military has been slow going.

One case may change that.

Last year, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, was found guilty of charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault, and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. The incident involved a female contractor.

Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service, but Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, reviewed the case and overturned the jury’s verdict of guilty. He sent Air Force secretary a six-page letter, explaining that he found Wilkerson and his wife more believable than the alleged victim.

Franklin’s decision to overturn the conviction set off a firestorm of outrage in Congress. At a congressional hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said victims think “no matter what happens at the trial, no matter if they believe me, some general is going to decide I’m a slut.”

Members of Congress now see an opportunity to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They are quickly writing legislation to change the often archaic rules which were first established in 1950. The Armed Services committees are expected to complete the bills in June.

The goal is to remove all decision-making abilities regarding military trials from the chain of command, and would not just be for military sexual assault cases, but for all violent crimes.

Commanding officers would still have authority in cases that would be regarded as misdemeanors in the civilian courts, and convicted military members would retain the right to appeal.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the new chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee said, “Everyone knows the current system is not working. Everyone knows that 19,000 sexual assaults and rapes a year is unacceptable… It’s not one of those situations where they can say, ‘We got this,’ because they clearly don’t.”

“Each year that we have advanced remedies to try to affect sexual assault in the military, we found something unique and egregious was in the Defense Department system that would re-victimize victims of sexual assault. The case of Gen. Franklin setting aside the sexual assault is absolutely one of those,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio.

Turner is again helping to write the current legislation. His aggressive effort on the issue over the years stems in part from the brutal death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, of Vandalia, Ohio, whose charred remains were found in the backyard of the North Carolina home of a former Marine corporal in January 2008.

Lauterbach had accused Cesar Laurean of rape and of being the father of her unborn baby. The two were assigned to the same unit at the Camp Lejeune Marine base. A jury convicted Laurean of murder and he was sentenced to life in prison in August 2010.

Yoga program focuses on wounded warriors

yoga

By Debbie Gregory.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder, usually occurring after an extremely stressful event, such as the threat of violent death or serious injury.

Working in the psychiatric ward at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Lt. Col. Shaye Molendyke has seen PTSD and the effects of war, up close and personal. A number of years ago, after a severe injury, Molendyke began yoga training.  Many years later, she decided to take her love of yoga to the next level, combining her counseling skills honed at Landstuhl with her knowledge of yoga, developing a new program called “YogaFit for Warriors”.

YogaFit for Warriors has been specifically developed to help wounded warriors, emergency responders, and those who suffer from PTSD, stress, anxiety and other mental and physical traumas.

The stigma of PTSD prevents members of the military from coming forward and seeking help. A new study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates that active-duty troops are using some alternative therapies such as massage therapy, meditation and guided imagery therapy for stress reduction at rates up to seven times higher than civilians.

When most people think about the military, a calm yoga room is probably the last thing that comes to mind. But with veteran unemployment, substance abuse, and suicide rates due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the rise, the U.S. Armed Forces are using yoga to do what conventional drugs and therapy cannot. Trauma-sensitive yoga helps people suffering from traumatic stress, with the added benefit of increased strength, flexibility, agility and relaxation

Over the next six months, Molendyke plans to visit Army bases that include Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint base San Antonio and Fort Belvoir, VA., to train yoga instructors in trauma-sensitive yoga. It’s always great to see new progress when it comes to helping those with PTSD.

While yoga is not a cure for PTSD, it has already become an important tool used to treat PTSD effectively and efficiently.

Teen’s soldier homecoming Wins Doodle For Google

google-doodle-memorial-day

By Debbie Gregory.

Congratulations to Sabrina Brady for winning the “Doodle for Google” contest.  The contests asks students in K-12 to present a drawing based on the theme, “My Best Day Ever”.  Sabrina’s doodle was greeting her dad after his 18 month deployment in Iraq and when she was 10 years old.  Sabrina is now a high school senior.

This heartfelt and poignant moment is one that many military children and military spouses experience.  They may not be deployed but military families make huge sacrifices every day.  The Doodle speaks volumes and Sabrina uses the Google letters to illustrate her feelings.  This resonated with the judges who included Google employees and guest judges Katie Couric, Brian Henson of the Jim Henson Company and Pendleton Ward, the creator of “Adventure Time”.

Sabrina was awarded a college scholarship of $30,000, a grant to her school of $50,000, a lap top and other prizes including having her artwork grace Google’s homepage for a day.

Way to go Sabrina!

Checking Out Veteran Schools

veteran-student-clothes-uniform

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran schools and veteran colleges offer all types of educational options for veterans who are transitioning from the military.   Many veterans choose to go back to school instead of trying to obtain veteran employment in this challenging job market.   In fact education and the GI Bill are one of the three pillars of the new mandatory Transition GPS program for veterans.

Veteran unemployment is improving but is still higher than it should be especially for Post 9/11 Veterans.   Veteran Job Seekers realize that they can obtain better veteran jobs with additional education and specialized training.  The Post 9/11 GI Bill has been a huge revenue generator for schools offering veteran education programs.  There are all types of degrees and programs for veterans. It is important to choose an excellent veteran school, veteran college or veteran education program.

We encourage all veterans to look before they leap or enroll in any veteran school whether it be a brick and mortar veteran school or an online veteran school.  Many schools are aggressively marketing to military and veteran students.  It is important to distinguish the facts from the hype and make the best choice.

Select a school that offers a degree, license or certification that is recognized and respected in the industry you want to enter.  Many schools offer programs that are not accredited.    Make sure the veteran school or veteran college you are looking at is fully accredited.  Otherwise, you will be wasting the valuable veteran education benefits you have earned.

Veterans should also check out the completion rates at the schools they are researching.  High veteran completion rates will show that the school is the real deal and they are not just collecting tuition from veterans but want their veteran students to succeed and finish.   Also check out how many veterans attend the schools you are researching and if they recognize the special needs of veteran students and offer counseling.  See if they have a student veteran organization on campus with other veterans as mentors.  No one understands a veteran better than another veteran.  Sometimes it is challenging to adapt from  the disciplines of military  life to the more laid back environment of academia.

Make sure that you education benefits will cover the full cost of you’re the school of your choice and you won’t have to go into debt with loans.  We also encourage veterans to look at the placement rates at the veteran schools they are considering.  See what resources these veteran schools, veteran colleges or veteran vocational programs offer in finding valuable jobs.   Do your homework before enrolling in any veteran school.

Accredited Universities for Military Distance Learning Are An Excellent Option

veteran-education

By Debbie Gregory.

There are many choices for veteran and military accredited universities and colleges.  Many military accredited universities and colleges offer a variety of distance learning programs and distance education programs for military and veteran students.  Military accredited universities and colleges offer both undergraduate and graduate online programs.

Online veteran education is a very popular option today.  Many veterans previously were in the military and are used to taking distance military education courses.  The Post 9/11 GI Bill covers the cost of education for veterans including those enrolled in accredited online colleges and universities.  Additionally, vocational programs for military and veterans are also covered.  Many certificate programs for service members and veterans provide attractive options.

These programs range across the board.  They include but not limited to degreed programs for military and veterans as well as medical, HVAC, welding, truck and trailer driving certifications and much more.  Healthcare and trade courses are very excellent online options.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill provides in addition to tuition a housing allowance that is tax free based on the zip code of the school for an E-5 with dependents whether or not that is your rank or you have dependents.  You don’t have to attend a brick and mortar military accredited college or university to receive these housing benefits.  If you are attending an online accredited college or university for veterans and military, you still will receive a smaller tax free housing allowance of $700 a month.  There is also a $1,000 stipend to cover books and supplies regardless if you are attending an online distance education school or actually taking classes in person.

There are all types of accredited universities, colleges and trade schools for military and veterans One size does not fit all Many excellent accredited universities are dedicated to military distance education. Many schools cater to military and veterans. These trade schools, colleges and universities offer outstanding online education programs for veterans and military. Before selecting any school, make sure that the schools you are considering are accredited and offer the degree or certification required to obtain employment in your desired career. If you are interested in a specific university or college, locate their website or talk to a counselor about their military online education policies.

The GI Bill provides for a veteran’s education, and at Military Connection we provide information on all of the education veteran benefits available to you.  Learn about veteran schools, training programs, scholarship opportunities and more.  Use our tools and resources to jump start your education post-service.   Veterans have worked hard to earn this benefit and deserve the best education possible.

Veterans Choosing Colleges

post-911-gi-bill

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students are flooding college campuses across the country as military members leave the uniform behind and head back to the classroom to secure a new career.

Administrators, however, are finding that veteran students are choosing less traditional schools and more veteran friendly colleges where they can earn their degrees in a shorter time, with less distraction. Veteran students arrive on campus with the motivation they learned in the military.

Dan Torres, an official with the Veterans Service Office at Butte College, said veteran students are serious. “When you join the military, you learn things,” Torres said. “Just like they did in the service, veteran students have a mission.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that in 2009-10, the first full academic year education benefits were available under the revised G.I. Bill, enrollment among veterans at for-profit private universities was significantly higher than at four-year public institutions. In 2012, one for profit school alone had more than 21,000 veteran students on its rolls. Veteran students have also widely chosen community colleges.

The swell of veteran students across college campuses is due, in part, to the generous educational benefits of the  Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which was rewritten after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, veteran students receive benefits not just for tuition, but also for the cost of books, fees and  housing. Qualifying veterans can also transfer their benefits to their spouse or children.

In recent years, many local colleges have transformed to become veteran friendly schools. Some have instituted offices of veterans’ affairs, while some schools offer additional financial assistance to veteran students.

Derek Evans, a student at Chico State who is also an official with the campus Veterans Affairs Office, said veterans come to his office to receive their veteran education benefits. Money for veteran education, he said, is one of the easiest VA programs for veterans to access.

Veteran students may also be hitting the books because there are so few options in the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, unemployment among veterans ages 18 to 24 was at 30 percent, versus 18 percent for that age group in the general population.

According to Evans, as troops previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan return home, the school is prepared to handle far larger enrollment numbers.

“I believe we’re expecting a higher number of new veteran students next semester than ever before,” he said.

Young war veterans struggle to find jobs

jobs

By Debbie Gregory.

Nearly 1 million service members are expected to leave the military and enter the workplace over the next five years. But translating that military experience into civilian lingo is proving to be tough, and may be part of the cause of a drop in veteran employment.

“The vast majority of people in this country didn’t serve,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Civilians just don’t get what vets did in the military. It can seem like vets were beamed down from Mars.”

On the battlefield, a veteran may have commanded dozens of soldiers, made split-second, life or death decisions and shown textbook leadership qualities. However, that doesn’t fit neatly onto a civilian resume. And even if it did, more veterans making the transition from military life to the civilian workforce wouldn’t know how to phrase it.

“That person might have led 12 men in Afghanistan,” said Kevin Schmiegel, executive director of Hiring Our Heroes. “He built schools, negotiated with tribal warlords, oversaw millions of dollars in equipment. The world should be his oyster. But we can’t look at that title and think that the only job he’s well-suited for is as a security guard. And if we do have that mentality, what does that say about our country?”

The job market is already a tough place for nonveterans to find work. Veteran jobs are even tougher to find as veterans struggle to sell themselves to employers and overcome the stigma of PTSD. Officials say younger veterans are having the hardest time finding work.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2012 states that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 25 to 34 is 10.6 percent, and a whopping 20.4 percent for the 18-to-24 age group. Those numbers were much higher than the civilian figures of 8.2 percent for those 25 to 34, and 15 percent for the 18-to-24 group..

Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce program, has staged 490 job fairs since March 2011, resulting in more than 18,400 veterans and military spouses finding work. Schmiegel, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said that while their goal is to introduce employers to the talent pool, veterans must close the deal.

“This isn’t charity,” he said. “We can help show veterans where the jobs are and how to broaden themselves. But once they have the tools, then it’s up to them.”

Hagel Orders Retraining Sexual Assault Responders

army-recruiter

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is frustrated with the military’s inability to end sexual abuse within their ranks, and even more so with service members trusted with the task of preventing such abuses. Sexual assaults are a criminal offense. The fact that Military Training Instructors are accused of victimizing trainees makes it even more egregious.

Yesterday, Hagel was informed that sexual assault allegations have been made against a sergeant first class who is a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas. This is the second time this month that a service member in a sexual assault prevention program is being investigated for a sexual crime.

All branches of the military are under intense scrutiny for sexual assaults within its ranks. Anonymous sexual assault reports have grown by more than 30% in the past two years.

The news of the Fort Hood case comes as the military prepares for a historic move: opening combat roles to women for the first time. It’s unclear how that might affect the apparently increasing problem of sexual assault.

Army and Air Force assault cases highlight a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny in Congress, and expressions of frustration from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Secretary Hagel has ordered the armed services military recruiters and sexual assault prevention officers to be re-trained, re-credentialed and re-screened. Last week, he warned that the military’s ability to recruit and perform its missions was becoming endangered by deepening public perceptions that the armed forces are unable to or unwilling to cope with a sexual-assault crisis in the ranks.

No one, female or male should have to tolerate sexual assault in the armed forces.  This must not be a concern or fear.  It is a very positive move for this problem not to be ignored and to be addressed by Secretary of Defense Hagel.

Over $100,00 Raised to Help WWII Veteran Stay in His Home

john-jack-potter

By Debbie Gregory.

John “Jack” Potter, a 91-year-old WWII Veteran, was served with an eviction notice on February 03, 2013. His daughter, Janice Cottrill, ordered the eviction from the house that Jack built 56 years ago in Zaleski, Ohio.

In 2004, Potter, and his now deceased wife, signed over power of attorney to their only daughter to provide security in health situations, and continue the care of their severely disabled 64-year-old autistic son. Potter discovered that his daughter intended to have declared legally incompetent, but he had the charge reversed.

The Veteran, who previously fought in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, also served as former sheriff of Vinton County. He had also been elected mayor of Zaleski, Ohio, and had been employed as a chief train dispatcher by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Potter is now retired and living on his pension.

Upon discovering the deed switch in 2010, Potter immediately transferred power of attorney to Jaclyn Fraley, his 35-year-old granddaughter from San Diego. Fraley, a nurse, moved to Columbus, Ohio, to live near her grandfather.

Power of Attorney does not permit the assigned person to transfer assets from the estate to their domain. Potter sued Cottrill for fraud in Vinton County Court to reclaim his home, and he won his case. However, the daughter appealed in the Fourth Appellate District Court, and since the four-year statute of limitations had run its course, Potter lost the final court decision.

ABC news reported Fraley’s comments concerning the case, explaining that Cottrill and her husband Dean, served Fraley’s 91-year-old grandfather with an eviction notice, terminating his current lease.

The eviction hearing is scheduled for June 12, 2013.

Potter is dismayed that his daughter and his son-in-law would evict him. Janice Cottrill has declined to speak on the issue. But her attorney, Lorene Johnston, said, “The case is pending in the Vinton County Court, and we will let the court decide the issues.”

Fraley has been estranged from her mother and stepfather for two or more years, upon discovering their intent to force her grandfather into a nursing home facility.

Trying to cease an eviction and save her grandfather from losing the home he built, Fraley established a crowdfunding drive on gofundme.com, and initially raised $42,134 from 1,781 contributors. As word spread of Potters plight, almost $100,000 was raised within a 24-hour timeframe. As of the posting of this article, a total of $136,203 has been donated by over 5,000 kind contributors.

Potter’s attorney, Timothy Gleeson, stated that his client isn’t in a position to make an offer on his home until the money arrives. Cottrill is willing to negotiate a purchase price, as she says she needs the money, or the old Veteran must go. Fraley wants her grandfather’s remaining years to be lived out in the home he built and has lived in most of his life.

Potter is grateful for the display of generosity from strangers donating to his cause, and he is wonderfully overwhelmed, and says he is “slightly embarrassed that he has to ask his fellow man for help.”

His fellow man has responded with kindness, even during an economic crunch. Now, he may purchase back his home thanks to his granddaughter’s swift actions, trusting in the “kindness of strangers” and the heartfelt donations of those moved by this crisis.

If you would like to join “Team Jack”, go to:  http://www.gofundme.com/GrandpaJohnJPotter.
If you prefer to send your donation, the mailing address is:
P.O. Box 558, McArthur, Ohio 45651.