Google cameras capture a walk through Arlington National Cemetery

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By Debbie Gregory.

If you have never been to Arlington National Cemetery, now you can take a virtual walk through Arlington without ever leaving home.

For a little background on Arlington National Cemetery, in May, 1861, a young Union Army officer rushed into the Custis-Lee mansion. “You must pack up all you value immediately and send it off in the morning,” Lt. Orton Williams told his cousin, Mary Custis Lee, who was also the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee was away mobilizing Virginia’s military forces, as the country hurtled toward the bloodiest war in its history.

Mary Custis Lee had inherited the1,100 acre estate from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, in 1857.

On May 23, 1861, the voters of Virginia approved an ordinance of secession by a ratio of more than six to one. Within hours, columns of Union forces streamed through Washington, headed for the Potomac. At precisely 2 a.m. on May 24th, some 14,000 troops began crossing the river into Virginia. They advanced in the moonlight on steamers, on foot, and on horseback. The forces advanced in swarms so thick that James Parks, a Lee family slave watching from Arlington, thought they looked like “bees a-coming”.

The undefended Arlington estate changed hands without a struggle. By morning, the estate was teeming with Union soldiers. Arlington National Cemetery is located on Robert E. Lee’s confiscated estate.

Early in 2014, you will be able to virtually explore one of the most sacred pieces of ground in America, thanks to Google’s work of mapping Arlington National Cemetery. Google is collecting panoramas of the cemetery’s 624 acres. The tech giant is preparing a “digital walk-through” of the cemetery that will launch to coincide with events marking the cemetery’s 150th anniversary.

Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Among those buried at the cemetery are President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, and 12 Supreme Court Justices.

Next year, you will be able to pay your respects while taking the virtual walk through Arlington National Cemetery, courtesy of Google.

GI Bill Students: from Uniform to University

GI Bill Students

By Debbie Gregory.

One of the biggest incentives that American men & women have for voluntarily enlisting into the military during a time of war is the education benefit. Military and Veteran education benefits have made it possible for approximately one million Military, Veteran and dependent students to attend college over the past four years. And it is estimated that one million more students will be enrolled, utilizing service-earned education benefits, within the next 5 years.

Given the current state of the job market, coupled with the increased benefits in education programs such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill,  there has never been a better time to attend college, university, or a technical school. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most generous benefit to date. It provides Veteran students with up to 100% of the cost of tuition and fees, paid directly to the school. It also pays the student a Monthly Allowance for Housing (MAH) and a stipend for books and supplies at the start of each semester.

But the transition in lifestyles from uniform to university is not always an easy one for Veterans. Most GI Bill college students haven’t seen the inside of a classroom for over four years. While they have all received military “classroom” training at several points of their careers, college and university classrooms have expectations and workloads which require a student’s mind to function in a different gear. Readjustment has not been too difficult a challenge for most Veterans, who have already excelled in their abilities to adapt and overcome. It is just one of many obstacles.

Veteran students are often subject to a sort of “culture shock” on college campuses. Most GI Bill students range in age from the mid-twenties up to the forties. They were shipping out and seeing combat while most of their classmates were still in junior high. Veteran students often have spouses, children and jobs, on top of their academic workload.

Military Veterans have historically become leaders in our communities. College educated men and women are the leaders of our workforce. Given the enormity of use of these education benefits, we are primed to have the largest generation of college educated Veterans that this country has ever seen. The potential for this generation is limitless.

Coach helps Manage PTSD Symptoms

ptsd coach

By Debbie Gregory.

A coach is highly respected as one who leads to victory. A coach can help reach goals.

The Veterans Administration has developed a website that will help with managing the troubling symptoms of PTSD. The PTSD Coach Online website is a self-help tool that builds coping and problem-solving skills. Veterans with PTSD can learn to manage troubling symptoms such as trouble sleeping, trauma reminders and anger. There is also a PTSD Coach mobile app, but you don’t need a smartphone for PTSD Coach Online. Anyone who has Internet access can access its tools.

PTSD Coach Online is for anyone who needs help with upsetting feelings. Trauma survivors, their families, or anyone coping with stress can benefit through the following:

  • Self-Assessment: Self-assessment of PTSD symptoms with individualized feedback, and the ability to track changes in symptoms over time. The assessment does not formally diagnose PTSD.
  • Managing Symptoms: Coping skills and assistance for common kinds of post-traumatic stress symptoms and problems, including systematic relaxation and self-help techniques.
  • Assistance in finding immediate support: Enables individuals to identify personal sources of emotional support, populate their cell phones (via the app) with those phone numbers, and link to treatment programs. And in an emergency, users can quickly link to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Learn about PTSD: Education about key topics related to trauma, PTSD, and treatment.

The site also offers 17 tools that deal with a variety of PTSD symptoms, and how to develop the following problem-solving skills:

  • Be in the Moment
  • Change Negative Thinking
  • Identify Your Values and Goals
  • Look Carefully at Your Thoughts
  • Change Feelings by Changing Thoughts
  • Deal with Trauma Reminders
  • Learn to Be Assertive
  • Notice Your Thoughts and Feelings
  • Relax Through Breathing
  • Relax through Visualization
  • Weigh the Pros and Cons
  • Write to Reflect
  • Change How You Think About Sleep
  • Form Good Sleep Habits
  • Learn to Problem Solve
  • Plan Something Enjoyable
  • Relax Your Body

Although the PTSD Coach Online can help you with symptom management, problem solving and skill building, it is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment and care.

To find PTSD Coach Online, the PTSD Coach Mobile App and other resources on trauma and PTSD visit www.PTSD.va.gov.

VA Provides Long-Term Care Options to Veterans

VA Provides long term care

By Debbie Gregory.

Long-term care costs can add up quickly. Veterans (and also for surviving spouses of deceased Veterans) who need in-home care, or are in a nursing home, may help available to them. The Veterans Administration (VA) has an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance.  This benefit provides money for those who need assistance performing everyday tasks. Even Veterans whose income is above the legal limit for a VA pension may qualify for the benefit, if they have large medical expenses for which they do not receive reimbursement.

Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit, which means it is available to Veterans who served at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime. The Veteran does not have to have service-related disabilities to qualify. Veterans or surviving spouses are eligible if they require the aid of another person to perform an everyday action, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, etc. This includes individuals who are bedridden, blind, or residing in a nursing home.

To be eligible for nursing home care, the Veteran must have a service-connected disability rating of at least 70 percent, or be rated 60 percent service-connected and be unemployable, or have an official rating of “permanently and totally disabled.”  Non-service connected Veterans and those officially referred to as “zero percent, non-compensable, service-connected” Veterans who require nursing home care for any nonservice-connected disability, and who meet income and asset criteria, may also be eligible.   If space and resources are available, other Veterans, on a case-by-case basis, may also be eligible.

A number of VA services exist to help Veterans of any age remain in their homes. These services include: adult day health care, home-based primary care, homemaker and home health aid care, hospice and palliative care, respite care, skilled home health care, and tele-health care.

If you qualify, we hope you will take advantage of this program.

Marine unit uncases colors, to be among last to deploy to Afghanistan

marine unit encases

By Debbie Gregory.

On October 23rd, the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) was activated during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.

Brigadier Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commanding general of I MEF (Fwd), and Sgt. Maj. Douglas E. Berry uncased the unit’s battle colors during the ceremony.

“This is the most important thing I MEF will do,” said Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general.

The I Marine Expeditionary Force (IMEF) (Forward) will be the last major Marine Corps command to deploy to Afghanistan, as the war winds down. I MEF (Fwd) will assume command of Regional Command (Southwest), which is comprised of Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

Brig Gen. Daniel Yoo echoed the significance of the upcoming deployment, as he spoke of the enduring commitment of those who have served in the past.

Camp Pendleton Marines conducted the activation ceremony for the unit that will supervise the wind down of Marine forces in southern Afghanistan over the next year. A similar event took place  in October 2009, when Camp Pendleton stood up a brigade headquarters to lead the surge of Marines back into Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, will take charge of U.S. and international troops in southwestern Afghanistan next year at the helm of a Camp Pendleton-led task force, a Marine official said.

I MEF (Fwd) will deploy to Helmand province, southwest Afghanistan in early 2014. The brigade will take over responsibility and command of Regional Command (Southwest) from II Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. President Obama has set the end of 2014 as the deadline to withdraw most American forces.

We at MilitaryConnection.com wish the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) a successful mission, and await their safe return home to their families and friends.

No unisex hats for US Marines

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps has cancelled plans for a uniform change that would have created a unisex service cap.  The new female cover was floated in a Corps-wide survey as one of two possible options for a unisex cover that all Marines would wear. They were considering the idea of issuing one cap for all when they were forced to redesign the hats for female Marines. The manufacturer of the women’s ‘bucket cover’,  which has a distinctly different shape than the men’s cover, is going out of business and will not continue to make the cap.

A survey had been emailed to all active duty and reserve Marines, asking them to vote on one of two options: either adopt the Dan Daly cap as the universal cap,  or adopt the current male frame cap, with some modifications to make it more comfortable,  as the universal cap.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos put an end to the matter, stating that, “The survey was incorrect when published and has been pulled. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover.”

Despite earlier reports, President Obama did not instruct the Marine Corps. to adopt new, unisex covers.

However, thanks to media attention, rumors, and “loud and clear” opposition to a shift towards unisex hats, the survey was pulled. The controversy over uniforms has prompted the Marines to issue a formal statement, denying they are planning on changing the hats worn by male Marines. This is not the first time Uniform Board proceedings have been controversial. In 2011, the Board voted to require Marines to wear utility uniform sleeves rolled down all year. This contradicted survey results that showed the majority of rank-and-file Marines opposed the change. But the initiative was supported by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett and approved by Commandant Gen. Amos.

Wrigley heiress comes to the aid of US Marine

Wrigley heiress

By Debbie Gregory.

Wrigley heiress Helen Rosburg, the great-granddaughter of Wrigley chewing gum founder William Wrigley, reached out to a United States Marine and the two dogs he rescued from Afghanistan.

Sgt. Andrew Morales, who rescued Dusty and Wyatt, could not get a commercial airline to fly his dogs from San Diego to his family’s new home in North Carolina. Helen Rosburg stepped up to help.

Morales had rescued Dusty and Wyatt almost three years ago, while on an overseas tour of duty. He could not bear to part with the two mixed breed Anatolian Shepherds.

Dogs are man’s best friend, and Morales said that in Afghanistan, that adage is especially true.

Morales learned that he was being transferred from his base in Southern California to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and the airlines could not accommodate the size of his dogs. Searching for advice, Morales called the rescue league that had helped him bring the dogs stateside.

His story was posted on Facebook, where it caught the attention of Ms. Rosburg. She didn’t hesitate to charter a private jet to get the Morales family and their dogs to their new home.

“He was going to lose his dogs and I said ‘Not on my watch,'” Rosburg said. “He’s a hero on so many different levels. The Wrigleys are an extremely patriotic family, and I am a true Wrigley child.”

Rosburg has a reputation for rescuing animals, and is the founder of  On the Wings of Angels Rescue. This privately funded rescue takes in dogs with nowhere left to go. They rehabilitate and train the animals through obedience, play, structure, socialization and confidence building.

Morales said he and his family would like to thank Rosburg in person.

“From the bottom of my and my wife’s hearts, we really appreciate what she did for us,” Morales said.

“Veteran School Salute” Award Launched by MilitaryConnection.com

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Colleges, universities and trade schools that go above and beyond for their Military/Veteran students can now receive recognition for doing so. The inaugural “Veteran School Salute” awarded to D’Youville College.

MilitaryConnection.com is proud to announce that they are presenting their first “Veteran School Salute” award. This award was conceived to recognize Veteran-friendly colleges, universities and vocational schools that go above and beyond in their efforts to provide premium education services for their Military, Veteran and military-dependent students.

There are approximately one million Veteran students nationwide who are currently attending institutions of higher learning and vocational schools using the education benefits earned through military service. These education benefits for Veterans, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, are one of the prime reasons why our young men and women enlist in the military. The GI Bills, including both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill, cover the cost of the tuition and fees that Veteran Students otherwise might not be able to afford. The Post 9/11 GI Bill also pays students a housing allowance that is tax free.

“Our Veterans have sacrificed so much for our nation so that we can live safely in the greatest nation in the world,” said Debbie Gregory, Founder & CEO of Military Connection. “They have more than earned the education benefits they receive for their military service.”

With so many Veterans using their education benefits, schools are competing for Veteran enrollments. And with so many schools to choose from, MilitaryConnection.com developed the “Veteran School Salute” in order to help Veteran students distinguish which schools are doing the most to put Veterans at the vanguard of their educational programs.

“Veterans have a choice when it comes to which school to attend,” Ms. Gregory said. “Our ‘Veteran School Salute’ is designed to show Veterans those schools that offer the most valuable education programs that best serve Veterans and cater to their specific needs .”

Military Connection is proud to announce D’Youville College as the inaugural recipient of the “Veteran School Salute.” D’Youville is a Yellow Ribbon School located in Buffalo, NY. The school has shown a dedicated commitment to their Veteran and military students. D’Youville has been a pioneer in developing innovative ways to serve those who have served. On top of recognizing and accepting various VA benefits and programs, the school offers its own grants and waivers to its Veteran Students. D’Youville’s treatment and consideration of their Veteran students proves that they truly put student Veterans first. MilitaryConnection.com is proud to award the “Veteran School Salute” to D’Youville College.

Only Veteran-friendly colleges, universities and vocational schools that go above and beyond are eligible to be awarded the “Veteran School Salute. If there is a school deserving of being “saluted” for its efforts in providing the best educational services for its Veteran Students, please let us know at info@localhost. We would love to recognize other schools so that Veterans will be cognizant of the very best schools for them.

Army to End ROTC Programs at 13 Schools

Army to End ROTC Programs at 13 Schools

By Debbie Gregory.

The Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is the largest officer commissioning source in the country. It provides college and university students with the opportunity to obtain merit-based scholarships that can pay up to the full cost of tuition, in exchange for a military commitment to be completed once their degree is obtained.

As of October 2, the Army has approved the closure of 13 of its ROTC programs. The ROTC programs selected for closure are:

University of South Dakota
Northern Michigan University
North Dakota State University
University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
Arkansas State University
University of Tennessee at Martin
University of North Alabama
Georgia Regents (Augusta State) University
University of Southern Mississippi
East Tennessee State University
Morehead State University
Tennessee Technological University
University of California–Santa Barbara

“The decision to close the 13 ROTC programs is not a reflection on the quality of those academic institutions, or the outstanding officers produced at those schools,” said Karl F. Schneider, acting Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). “These closures are necessary changes that allow for more efficient use of available resources within the command, while maintaining a presence in all 50 states. The Army will continue to be good stewards of its resources through prudent transformation of the institutional Army.”

Under Defense Department rules, Army officer training programs are expected to produce an average of 15 officers a year from each school. According to the Army, the programs being closed have been producing fewer than the average officers, and have showed little potential for growth. Although the Army acknowledged that it has granted exceptions to dozens of schools, that is because they met other standards or displayed a potential for growth.

The Army Cadet Command, which oversees the ROTC and its nearly 33,000 students, said that the closing of these 13 underachieving programs will allow the Army to allocate its resources to 56 other markets that have more potential. These markets include bolstering major urban areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago. Some of the funding will shift to support programs that are already successful, but require more funding in order to expand even further.

The closures are set to take place over the next two years, to be concluded by the end of the Spring, 2015 term. The two year time frame is to allow juniors and seniors currently participating in ROTC at the affected schools to be able to complete their degrees. The Army is offering assistance to freshmen and sophomores in the 13 programs. The Army will help those students to transfer schools or negotiate the possibility of completing their training by cross-enrolling in nearby schools that will retain their ROTC.

Tuition Assistance Once Again Reinstated

Tuition Assistance

By Debbie Gregory.

During the 16 day government shutdown, the military’s Tuition Assistance program was suspended. Now that the shutdown is over, the widely used Military Education program can resume.

The Tuition Assistance program differs slightly from branch to branch, but is ultimately designed to assist active duty Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in their pursuit of achieving their educational and professional goals during their off time. The program differs from all the other Military and Veteran Education programs in that it can only be used by the servicemember, and only during their obligated term of service. Tuition Assistance covers up to 100% of the cost of tuition and fees at most Military and Veteran Friendly colleges and universities, up to $4,500 per year.

The reinstatement of the program was left to each military branch. The Army is re-starting its Tuition Assistance effective immediately. Soldiers can apply for Tuition Assistance on classes that have a start date of October 17th or later. The Army said that it will not honor claims made with classes that have a start date of October 1-16.

The Air Force has instituted a similar policy, where it will accept submissions for classes beginning on or before the 17th . But the Air Force’s Military Tuition Assistance (Mil TA) differs in that their program will also reinstate previously approved Mil TA requests, for courses which began on or after October 17th. The Air Force has also said that it will announce its policy for Mil TA requests for classes that start before October 17 at a later time.

The Navy announced that Sailors who want to participate in the Navy TA program should seek advice from their local Navy College office before enrolling in classes or submitting requests. The Navy is in the process of reinstating their program, and has yet to develop a policy.

The Military Tuition Assistance program appears to have been saved again, as it has been shut down twice now during the past year. This time it was due to the government shutdown. But last March, Tuition Assistance was suspended because of government sequestration. During the sequestration, the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard suspended their Tuition Assistance programs. The Navy weathered the month-long storm, with its leadership fighting to keep the program up and running. When law makers forced the Department of Defense to make room in their budget to reinstate Tuition Assistance, all of the branches resumed their programs. The Coast Guard’s Tuition Assistance was the lone exception. The Coast Guard’s funding falls under the Department of Homeland Security. Coast Guardsmen’s Tuition Assistance program was never reinstated.

But the Department of Defense officials are maintaining that the TA programs for branches that fall under its control are safe for now. And the DOD says that it is making an effort to prevent interruptions to the program in the future.