Military Connection: Veterans Turning to Yoga: By Debbie Gregory

yoga for veteransVeterans of all generations suffer from a broad spectrum of ailments, including arthritis, joint and muscle pain/stiffness, substance abuse, depression, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the attempts to treat their conditions, Veterans are among the most medicated population in America. But not every Veteran is keen on the idea of taking pills. For that reason, many Veterans have been seeking alternative methods of treatment.

A surprisingly high number of Veterans have turned to yoga. Even more surprising is the number of Vietnam-era Veterans who are taking up the discipline, or at least trying it out.

Across the country, yoga instructors have been offering free classes for Veterans. Some instructors have reached out to local Veterans service organizations to form  partnerships. But there have also been several reports of local Veterans organizations recruiting instructors to come to their posts and clubs in order to provide yoga to Veterans.

While those who are unfamiliar with yoga may link it to Hindu or Buddhist practices, yoga has been a popular physical fitness regimen in the U.S. for about thirty years. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that still elevates the heart rate.

The obvious benefits of yoga as a regular exercise routine are increased flexibility, strength and range of motion, as well as relieving back pain and other muscle and joint pain.

But there are also other benefits that are not as easily gauged. The number of Veterans who have claimed that yoga has helped them with PTSD and other mental or emotional ailments cannot be ignored.

One of the root definitions of the word “yoga” is combining. People around the world believe that yoga is the practice or discipline of combining one’s mind and body. But when utilizing the poses just for physical fitness, yoga is the combining of stretches, poses, breathing control and concentration that give both your body and your brain a workout.

Maintaining any type of exercise routine has proven to keep people both physically and mentally fit. But running, lifting weights, and playing sports just isn’t an option for some people. Yoga is proving to be a great alternative for Veterans who may not be able to PT the way that they used to.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Veterans Turning to Yoga: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: VA Combat Call Center: By Debbie Gregory

CombatCallCenterVeterans are susceptible to stresses that most civilians cannot relate to. When they were in the service, it wasn’t always easy to talk to civilian friends and family back home about their problems, mostly because they couldn’t relate. Instead, service members would lean on their battle buddies or their comrades because they could understand the struggles, and sympathize with the difficulties.

Now that they have transitioned out, Veterans may need support system comprised of those who can relate to what they have been through. The VA Combat Call Center at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387) is there for any Veteran who needs someone to talk to.

The VA Combat Call Center runs 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, staffed by combat Veterans and the spouses of disabled Veterans. This means that any Veteran, family member or friend seeking counseling in relation to military service can call, anytime, and be connected to a sympathetic staff member who has walked in the same shoes.

Along with relating to callers on a personal level, staff members at the VA Combat Call Center are also highly trained counselors, and several are also licensed mental health providers. They are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of a Veteran in crisis, and take the appropriate measures to get each caller the help they need.

The VA Combat Call Center has a working relationship with the Veterans Crisis Line. When a caller is clearly in crisis, the call center has the capability to keep the person on the line and include a counselor from the Veterans Crisis Line via a warm transfer, ensuring that the Veteran or family member in crisis gets the help they need from the most appropriate source.

Through both training and personal experience, all Veterans and spouses working at the VA Combat Call Center are also experts on services and benefits offered by the VA and local programs. These services and benefits include mental health/readjustment counseling, bereavement assistance, homeless programs, substance abuse and PTSD treatment options, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, VA home loan guaranty, and even how to obtain copies of their DD-214s.

The VA Combat Call Center is always available to assist Veterans, 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Combat Call Center: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Bill to Help GI Bill Vets: By Debbie Gregory

HR 5589With the influx of Veteran students on college campuses, many institutions of higher education have established a centralized location where GI bill students can have all of their academic needs met. Legislation currently making its way through the House would implement an incentive for all schools to create and maintain Veteran centers on their campuses.

The Veteran Education Empowerment Act, H.R. 5589, is a bipartisan bill that directs the Secretary of Education to create a system that awards four-year grants to colleges and universities that establish and maintain a center for their GI Bill students.  In order to be eligible for the grants, the institutions would need to have a population of 15,000 students, with at least 1% of the population being Veteran students, active-duty military or military dependents. Further eligibility would require the schools be located in areas with significant Veteran populations, implementing programs that assist Veterans in the local community, and having a sustainability plan which demonstrates the schools’ plan for maintaining the center, even after the grant is expended.

H.R. 5589 defines a “Veteran Student Center” as a dedicated space that provides these students with a lounge or meeting place, or a centralized office that is staffed by trained employees that is dedicated to serving Veterans on campus. To meet the criteria for grant eligibility, the Veteran Education Empowerment act will require these centers to provide GI Bill students with the tools to succeed at school, transition into student life, and eventually, the civilian workforce. They are also required to assist their students with obtaining federal and state Veterans benefits, as well as networking with other students.

According to the American Council on Education, which represents over 1,700 colleges and universities, providing a dedicated space to serve Veterans on campus is critical to a school’s efforts to provide for Veteran students. The problem is that many schools find it difficult to fund such a resource. Grants that would be provided by the  Veteran Education Empowerment Act would allow more schools to provide this invaluable resource to its Veteran student population.

H.R. 5589 is supported by many Veterans service organizations, Veteran advocates and educators, including The American Council on Education, the American Legion, Association of the United States Navy, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the National Guard Association of the United States, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

The Veteran Education Empowerment Act was introduced in the House on September 18th, and is currently in the hands of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Please contact your representative and urge them to support H.R. 5589 the Veteran Education Empowerment Act.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bill to Help GI Bill Vets: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Army Too Uniform? By Debbie Gregory

Army diversityMost military forces pride themselves on their uniformity. Marching as one and fighting as one are what most commanders hope to achieve. Basic training instructors drill and inspect recruits to ensure uniformity. But presently, the U.S. Army is concerned with a lack of diversity among its personnel.

There is a glaring lack of minority officers currently serving in the U.S. Army.  Army officials are currently taking measures to expand recruiting efforts to target more minority officers.

In 2014, the Army reported that only one of its twenty-six brigades was commanded by a black colonel. Brigades are comprised of three to four battalions, with each battalion made up of approximately 800-1,000 soldiers. There is only one black officer slated to head a single battalion, out of the 78 battalions in the Army in 2015.

This is a case where diversity could be a valuable asset. While minority officers are less common than white officers, the minority population among enlisted is over 30%. It makes total sense to have the minority population among officers closer to the same dispersal of minority enlisted personnel.

In order to accomplish their mission, Army leadership is planning to target a recruitment campaign at cities that have concentrated minority populations. The Army named Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Phoenix as their target cities.

The Army wants to entice more members from minority communities to earn their degrees and become officers. Recruiters will push potential college-aged candidates to join programs like the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), that help them pay for college degrees in exchange for a contracted amount of time spent serving as an officer.

Of course, finding young minority officers now is the key to diversifying the next generation of the Army’s leaders.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Army Too Uniform? By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: US/Turkey Not Done Talking: By Debbie Gregory

US and TurkeyThis week, there have been more than a few media misfires concerning the United States’ relationship with its ally, Turkey, and the agreement to allow the U.S. military to carry out missions over Syria from Turkish air bases.

On Sunday, October 12, 2014, it was reported by several major media outlets that Turkey had agreed to allow the U.S. to use their air bases to stage air strikes over Syria against the Islamic State (IS), also referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Early the next day, Turkish officials were adamant that no deal had been struck, and that talks were still in progress. This announcement prompted several news sources to release stories that hinted of hostilities between the U.S. and Turkey. These stories told of bickering and confusion between the two allies, and even a possible rupture in the alliance. But perhaps it was the news sources that may have been confused.

DOD officials say that Turkey has agreed “in principle” to allowing the U.S. military the use of its air bases, but there are still several details that need to be ironed out before the deal can be finalized. Besides Turkey’s hesitancy to welcome a foreign military into their sovereignty, the Turks have a few other concerns that need to be negotiated.

Turkey has insisted on a no-fly zone over northern Syria, near the Turkey-Syria border, that would facilitate the continued arming and training of moderate rebels to fight against Syria’s Assad regime. The U.S. has resisted this plan despite belief that providing a haven for these rebels could help them fight the IS forces.

Americans reading about the ongoing talks should be aware that Turkey has been a long-time ally to the U.S., as well as a member of NATO. Turkey has been an ongoing partner in the fight against the IS, and has shared intelligence with the U.S. military, as well as participated in a U.S.-led mission to arm and train moderate rebels in Syria. Turkey has granted the U.S. access to a base in Incirlik, to be used as a staging area for surveillance drones.

It is hoped that the tense negotiations will end soon, and the U.S. will be granted a staging area in Turkey to provide better support for our allies that are fighting against the IS on the ground.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: US/Turkey Not Done Talking: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: “Fighting Joe” New CMC: By Debbie Gregory

Joe DunfordAt a ceremony held at Marine Barracks Washington on October 17, 2014,  Gen. Joseph Dunford became the 36th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) is the Corps’ member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The CMC is traditionally the senior ranking officer in the branch, and reports directly to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Navy (SECNAV). The CMC is responsible for advising the President, Secretary of Defense, SECNAV, as well as the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council on all matters pertaining to the U.S.M.C.

The Office of the CMC is responsible for the overall performance of the Corps, including readiness, training, discipline, organization and  implementation of policies and programs. Like all other joint chiefs, the position of CMC is administrative only, and offers no operational command authority over U.S.M.C. forces. Each CMC is nominated by the president, and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Terms for all joint chiefs are four years.

Joe Dunford is originally from Boston, MA, and he earned his commission in the U.S.M.C. in 1977. The new CMC held many positions along the way to becoming a four-star general. In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Dunford commanded RCT-5, and earned the nickname “Fighting Joe.”  From 2010 to 2012, Gen. Dunford served as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, succeeding Gen. Jim Amos, who he would later succeed as CMC. Dunford also served as commander of U.S. and Allied forces in Afghanistan from February, 2013, until his appointment to his new job.

Gen. Dunford was appointed to be the Commandant of the Marine Corps on June 5, 2014 by President Obama, and his nomination was confirmed by the Senate on July 23.

“My focus, in the coming years, will be to take care of our Marines and their families, and to ensure that our Corps remains the expeditionary force in readiness that our nation has come to expect,” Dunford said. He continues, “God bless you all, Semper Fidelis, and for those still in uniform, continue to march.”

Military Connection: “Fighting Joe” New CMC: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: DOD Wants New Night Vision Goggles: By Debbie Gregory

night visionIn our ever changing world, the U.S. military has managed to maintain its status as a global leader in innovating and perfecting new technologies. For years, this innovation was referred to as “American know-how” and was a prime reason why the U.S. was on the winning side of two world wars.

As a continuation of this history of innovation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently seeking proposals for the “Next Generation Tactical Wearable Night Vision.” DARPA, the agency of the Department of Defense responsible for developing new technologies, is interested in developing night vision technology that is lighter than current goggles and monocles, while offering wearers more use of the infrared spectrum. DARPA is also looking for the capability of digitally sharing the wearer’s view with other unit members and command/control centers.

The night vision gear currently issued to the U.S. military uses technology that is essentially decades old. DARPA believes that newer technology is available to develop night vision gear that will allow users to see better at night, with less strain on their necks. While the current gear is not exceptionally heavy, there has been a link established between neck strains, pinched nerves and other injuries from prolonged use of current night vision goggles and monocles.

DARPA is requesting gear that offers 20/20 vision “at clear starlight” and weighs less than current gear, all the while keeping existing durability standards.  The new system will also have to function for a minimum of 24 hours on a full charge, be able to switch in and out of night vision mode instantaneously, and have the ability to stream video.

DARPA wants the “Next Generation Tactical Wearable Night Vision” to possess the capability to “support interface with tactical computing elements and communication systems, to include the transmission of sound and video to other team members.” Equipping personnel in the field with night vision of this caliber would provide better intelligence. Ideally, DARPA would want the night vision gear to interface with nearly-universal devices such as smartphones or tablets.

The period for open submissions for “Next Generation Tactical Wearable Night Vision” will end on October 22, 2014.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: DOD Wants New Night Vision: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: GI Bill is NOT for Schools: By Debbie Gregory

GI Bill for VetsThe Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most current and most generous continuation of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, originally enacted by the government in 1944. Since its 2009 inception, more than 1 million Veterans have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend colleges, universities and trade schools. However, there has been growing concern that Veterans are not getting the education they deserve from the benefit they have earned.

But this time, it’s not the American public questioning the federal government about an insufficient offering. This time, it’s the federal government questioning the schools that are receiving the funds from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The government wants to make sure that the schools are providing sufficient services to Veterans.

A July 30, 2014 report from the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on the GI Bill and for-profit schools shows just how seriously Washington is looking at Veteran education benefits. The main area of concern is the predatory behavior of some for-profit institutions, the lack of worth of some schools’ degree programs, and the increasing enrollment rates of GI Bill students that some of these schools are still managing to receive.

The study found that in the 2012-2013 academic year, eight of the top ten recipient schools were large, publicly traded companies that operate for-profit schools. These eight companies received a total of $2.9 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition money since the program began, including $975 million in 2012-2013, which accounted for 23% of the total GI Bill tuition money spent that year. Since 2009, the Veteran enrollment rate at private for-profit institutions has jumped from 23% to 31%, while Veteran enrollment at public and other not-for-profit schools has dropped from 62% to 50% over the same period.

There are many for-profit schools that go to great lengths to provide Veterans with a quality education. But there are plenty of GI Bill students who can’t finish their degree program within the time allotted by the GI Bill, despite being told by their admissions officer that their military experience would count as credit, allowing them to finish in time. There are also horror stories about the Veterans who have used their GI Bill to complete degree programs, only to find that employers and graduate schools won’t recognize a degree from that school, resulting in a worthless degree that was a waste of time, energy and GI Bill benefits.

Congressional legislators are hoping to eliminate situations like these. Again, not all for-profit schools are bad. But proactive measures are being put into place to ensure that the GI Bill benefits earned through military service are being put to use to benefit the Veteran, not the school.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: GI Bill is NOT for Schools: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Book Glorifies Veterans: By Debbie Gregory

Veteran bookAttention all Veterans, history buffs and avid readers: a book about Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans will be hitting store shelves and online retailers soon.

The book, “For Love of Country: What our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice” is a collaborative between long-time Veteran advocate and Starbucks chairman/CEO Howard Schultz, and 2006 National Book Award finalist and Washington Post editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book will take readers through the struggles that Veterans face, both in combat and back home.

The book highlights the deeds and sacrifices made by Post-9/11 Veterans and their families, from acts of valor during the thick of the fight, to community leadership as civilian teachers, doctors, law enforcement and other occupations.

Since 2001, more than 2.5 million American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Guardsmen have been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even with this seemingly high number, Veterans from this era only make up less than 1% of the American population. Schultz and Chandrasekaran co-authored the book in an effort to help the already sympathetic American public better understand what Veterans have and continue to experience as a result of their military service.

It has been reported that Schultz is donating his proceeds from the book to a charity. It is a foregone conclusion that the charity will benefit Veterans. Previously, Schultz pledged 10,000 jobs to Veterans and military spouses. With his wife, Sheri, he founded the Schultz Family Foundation that benefits Post-9/11 Veterans and “opportunity youth.” Earlier this year, the foundation donated $30 million for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury research. These ailments have plagued Veterans, especially the ones from recent conflicts.

This is not the first book written by either author. In 1997, Schultz co-authored “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time,” and in 2011, he co-authored “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.”

In 2006 Chandrasekaran wrote “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone,” the inspiration for the film Green Zone, starring Matt Damon. In 2012, he wrote “Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan.”

“For Love of Country: What our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice” is a recommended read for everyone. The book will be released on November 4, 2014. Advance copies are available for pre-order at your regular book retailers.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Book Glorifies Veterans: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Elections Based on Vets Issues: By Debbie Gregory

electionsThe political advertising campaigns on television and radio, as well as the signs filling our street corners, tell us that it is election time. Every year, we hear how great a candidate is and what his or her stances are. Elections in 2014 have a whole new arena that politicians are jumping on the bandwagon for, and you might want to know your candidate’s position before casting your ballot.

For decades, concern over the state of Veterans healthcare was limited to the Veteran community. But the revelation of deficiencies and misconduct within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has generated widespread sympathy for Veterans among the American public. Voters are more sensitive than ever about the treatment of Veterans, and politicians must address the concern of their constituency if they want to win their elections.

This summer, Congress approved a $16.3 billion Veterans care bill. But according to campaign media analysis, there have been more political ads concerning care for Veterans since Labor Day than there were between January 1st and September 1st of this year.

Analysts claim that there have been over 42,000 television spots aired that mentioned Veteran issues. By comparison, only 14,000 ads mentioned equal pay legislation for women, and less than 7,000 ads mentioned terrorism.

This trend may lend some conscientious voters to consider whether their candidate is truly concerned with Veterans affairs, or jumping on the bandwagon in search of votes. Veteran issues are now among the top campaign concerns of 2014, along with employment, healthcare and the economy.

Every American 18 years of age or older should cast their vote this election day. Voters should take the time to educate themselves on the candidates, proposed legislation, and other concerns in the election. To research all incumbent congressional candidates, voters can utilize www.house.gov  and www.senate.gov to find their elected leaders, and see how they have been voting as your representative. For those candidates challenging the incumbents, internet searches can give you sufficient information regarding each candidate, just as long as you read sources beyond the candidates’ personal websites.

As you do your research on your candidates, please pay special attention to congressional candidates’ views on Veterans issues, especially incumbents running for reelection. If their stances or previous votes are not how you would vote, maybe you should consider voting for their opponent.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Elections Based on Vets Issues: By Debbie Gregory