Veterans Identification Card, Courtesy of Office Depot?

id card

By Debbie Gregory.

The Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015 was enacted so that veterans who weren’t entitled to military retired pay nor enrolled in the VA health-care system could prove their veteran status without having to carry their DD214s.

As the Department of Veterans Affairs prepares to accept applications for the new cards in November, questions remain: will veterans need cellphone contracts in order to enter an online national registry, a step that must be completed before they can even apply for the cards? Will the VA enter into sponsorships with private companies to produce the cards? Will the cards carry corporate logos on them?

But probably the most confusing part of the act is the stipulation that the VA must issue hard-copy photo IDs to any veteran who applies and pays a fee. The law does not stipulate that an honorable discharge is required. So will the ID cards be available to veterans with bad paper discharges? Because when the VA begins accepting applications for the cards in November, veterans with less-than-honorable discharges will not be eligible to apply.

Wait, what?

According to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour, “Only those Veterans with honorable service will be eligible for the ID card.”

Apparently, only veterans with honorable discharges are eligible to register for and receive an ID during the first phase. Perhaps future phases will be more inclusive. Who knows? And apparently, the ID card will be brought to veterans courtesy of Office Depot!

AMVETS has tweeted images of the new ID card, which carries an Office Depot logo on the back, along with “Saluting you today and every day. Thanks for taking care of business.”

Cashour said that Office Depot is absorbing the cost of making the cards, so that veterans can receive them without having to pay for them.

To apply for one of the new ID cards, you will need to apply online, although the specific website has not been announced. You must also register with, a website that authorizes users through third-party verification company, to support identity and authentication.

Serial Fraudster Arrested for Stolen Valor- Again!


By Debbie Gregory.

You would have thought that spending a few years in federal prison sentence for impersonating military personnel would have taught Kyle Barwan a lesson. But apparently, he’s a slow learner.

Already wanted in Florida on several “stolen valor” charges, 27-year-old Barwan was arrested in Ayer, Massachusetts, after a roommate followed up on another one of Barwan’s suspicious tales.

Barwan, formerly of Polk County, Florida, had relocated to Ayer and was living with a roommate.

Suspicious of Barwan’s claims, the roommate turned amateur detective and found that Barwan had not only been arrested several times for stolen valor, but also had a nationwide warrant out for his arrest.

On September 29th, Barwan was again arrested and held without bail. He will be returned to Florida sometime in this month.

Barwan was previously arrested in 2010 in Vincennes, Indiana and charged with impersonating an officer and possession of cocaine. He was convicted of both offenses and sentenced to 18 months.

Then, in 2012, he was arrested again in Kentucky for impersonating an Army Chief Warrant Officer with intent to defraud. He was sentenced to serve 16 months in prison, followed by one year of probation.

Barwan’s run-in with the law in Florida occurred in January, when he told a woman on the online dating service “Plenty of Fish” that he was a military officer who had served five years in Afghanistan and England, claiming he had been shot in the face while storming a building.

Barwan allegedly asked the victim for money. She became suspicious, and went to the police.

When news broke of his arrest was released, several more victims came forward.

Barwan was enlisted in the Army National Guard of Kentucky in 2007, but was discharged in 2008 in less than 180 days for failing to meet medical procurement standards.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Working Dogs Receive Medals for Courage


By Debbie Gregory.

American Humane is committed to recognizing and celebrating the lifesaving contributions of the brave dogs who support our armed forces on the battlefield.

The five retired military dogs who have received the Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage to America demonstrated exceptional valor in serving our country by uncovering improvised explosive devices, sniffing out weapons caches, surviving ambushes, boosting morale, and saving lives.

“Soldiers have been relying on these four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare and today military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe,” said American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “It’s estimated that each of these dogs saved 250 lives.”

Alphie worked with Marine Lance Cpl. William Herron in Helmand province and had several close calls- being shot at numerous times, almost falling out of a V-22 Osprey that was under fire. Alphie, 7, works as a member of the TSA’s elite Canine Explosives Detection Program.

Capa helped provide safety for a dozen Naval ships and 26,000 personnel — including his handler, Navy Master-at-Arms Petty Officer Second Class Megan Wooster. Wooster adopted Capa, but is getting ready for a deployment, so he is living with Wooster’s mother.

Coffee, a Chocolate Lab, has served alongside Army Sgt. 1st Class James Bennett, an explosives detection dog, for almost 10 years, including three tours in Afghanistan.

Ranger, a Black Lab, served in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he worked as an explosives-detection dog specializing in IEDs. He suffered from heatstroke in 2012 and retired from service. He is currently living with his owner, Kirk Adams, a retired police sergeant, and his wife. Ranger is battling cancer.

The award was given in memoriam to Gabe, a pound puppy from Texas, who completed more than 210 combat missions, with 26 explosive and weapons finds in Iraq. Gabe passed away in 2013 in the arms of his adopter, retired Army Sgt. First Class Chuck Shuck. Gabe was selected as the American Kennel Club Heroic Military Working Dog in 2008 and won the top title of American Hero Dog at the annual national American Humane Hero Dog Awards in 2012.

Over 1,600 dogs currently serve in the U.S. military. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, 34 dogs have been killed in action.

American Humane is accepting nominations for the 2018 awards now. The organization’s website provides a submission form available here.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

From AK-47 to Flying Car!


By Debbie Gregory.

Kalashnikov Concern is the largest arms manufacturer in Russia, and produces a wide range civilian and military weapons, including the AK-47 assault rifle, which became a staple of fighting forces around the world.

Kalashnikov Concern has also channeled its ingenuity to unusual military-grade technology, which now includes a flying car!

The slender metal vehicle, which is more like a hovercycle than a car, bears a close resemblance to the speeder bikes from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It also resembles the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a prototype hovercraft funded by Google co-founder Larry Page.

As seen in a promotional video released last month, the unnamed vehicle is fully electric, powered by batteries located underneath the driver, which are linked to sixteen rotors. The car is controlled using two joysticks situated in front of the driving seat.

The vehicle is still in very early stages of development, with a rough and exposed appearance, although the video also appears to show the design plans that are in place for the hovering car.

Obviously, the prototype is far from battle-ready, lacking both armor and weaponry, which will necessitate design tweaks to accommodate for the additional weight.

The U.S. military has been working on its own hoverbike with Malloy Aeronautics, which they showed off in a successful flight demo earlier this year. The Malloy Hoverbike is a single seater turbo-fan powered quadrocopter developed in 2006 by Chris Malloy, and has been contracted by an American engineering firm to produce such bikes for the United States Department of Defense.

Either way, it seems possible we’ll see the first few of these skeletal hovercycles skimming above land in the near future.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Thirty-one Marathons in as Many Days for Marine Veteran Double-amputee

rob jones

By Debbie Gregory.

Running one marathon is difficult. Running one marathon after losing both legs is extremely difficult. So what would you say of a double amputee running 31 marathons in 31 days? An impossible task?

Well, Iraq and Afghanistan Marine combat veteran and double-amputee Rob Jones would disagree with you there. The 32-year-old Jones is running the equivalent of 31 marathons in 31 days on two prosthetic limbs to raise money for veterans’ charities.

Jones lost both legs above the knee in 2010, four months in to his second deployment, when an improvised explosive device detonated under his feet in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

“When a veteran comes home and they’re wounded, whether psychologically or mentally or physically, that doesn’t mean they’re now disabled, broken, or incapable of contributing to society,” Jones said.

Seven years after losing his legs, Jones’s “31 in 31” kicked off on October 12th in Hyde Park, London.

“I’m trying to be an example of a veteran who’s had a traumatic experience overseas and I came back and I found my new way of helping society, staying in the fight, and contributing to my family and to America,” Jones said.

Jones was medically retired in December 2011 and was outfitted with a pair of bionic knees and prosthetics legs at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he relearned how to walk. As part of his physical rehabilitation, he took up rowing. Then cycling. Now running.

Jones hopes to raise up to $1 million for three charities he credits with aiding him in his recovery: Semper Fi Fund, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, and Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation.

Jones finishes his run at the National Mall in Washington on Veterans Day.

If you would like to support this hero’s journey, visit

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Still Serving, Veterans Self-Deploy to Aid Puerto Rico


By Debbie Gregory.

When Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico, the catastrophic damage was evident.  Sparking a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion, the majority of residents still don’t have electricity or access to clean water.

While the federal government has been slow to move with emergency response, U.S. veterans aren’t waiting around. A group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and first responders, who have  formed the Warfighter Disaster Response Team, are taking care of business.

After assisting Houston and Florida, the team is helping to restore communications to Puerto Rico, bringing much needed supplies and aid and helping to start the recovery process.  The Warfighter Disaster Response Team mission statement pretty much sums it up: Providing Veterans and First Responders with purpose and direction through service after service by helping their fellow man in times of dire need. Red tape frustrates them, especially when people are hurting and they can help, so they deploy themselves

Another contingent of veterans, led by Army vet Jason Maddy, is buying supplies with their own money, meeting the basic needs of the residents until other aid organizations get their footing.

“We learned through Hurricane Harvey that we were able to move a bit faster than FEMA and other government organizations because we became a ‘smaller task force,’ in a sense,” Maddy said.

Army veteran Chris Agron grew up in Puerto Rico before his family PCSed to California. He reached out to water filtration company Sawyer to purchase reusable mini filters and 170-gallon-a-day bucket adaptor systems at wholesale prices, and set up a GoFundMe to raise $10,000 to pay for the supplies.

“I know that anyone who’s been in the military is not afraid to ruck to bring aid to people.”

Agron plans on linking up with the other vets who have already “self-deployed” to Puerto Rico. And it’s there where Agron finally expects to put his military training to good use.

“We’re going to link up with the vets out there because they’re willing to go to where FEMA and the Red Cross are not,” Agron said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Missing Since 1977, Airman Discovered Living Double Life


By Debbie Gregory.

A Florida man is facing a desertion charge after he was found allegedly living under another name more than 40 years after he vanished from his post at a North Dakota Air Force base

Jeffrey Michels, 64, was arrested on charges of desertion after he failed to report for duty at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base in July, 1977. He remains in the custody of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Originally from East Liverpool, Ohio, Michels was found living under the name “Jeffrey Lantz” in Sanford, FL. In the ensuing decades, he got married, had four children and started a construction business in Florida. Online records show the name Jeffrey Lantz had a certified general contractor license for construction business Atlantic Development Corporation.

A photo of Michels was posted on July 9 to the Facebook group “Veteran Doe” — a website dedicated to bringing “attention to the many missing veteran/active duty cases and unidentified person cases where there is a possible military connection.”

“Often the missing person turns out to be a John or Jane Doe case,” Amelia Pearn, the Facebook page administrator who first posted Michel’s picture.

“I was surprised by the results of this one,” Pearn says. “I’m glad he is alive though.”

The Veteran Doe post was deleted after Michels was discovered.

Due to the fact that there is no statute of limitations for deserting a military post, Michels will stand trial in military court.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Funeral Instructions Left by Veteran Killed In Vegas Shooting



By Debbie Gregory.

A year before his death, Charleston Hartfield left detailed instructions on what he wanted to happen at his funeral, including playing Johnny Cash and Nina Simone, and making sure no one wore black.

In a computer file called “Charleston Hartfield’s Memorial Service,” the military veteran and Las Vegas police officer who was one of the 58 people killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, offered careful plans for what to do in the event of his death. In addition to the music and the attire, he expressed his desire to keep it modest- no exaggeration of his accomplishments.

Pastor Jud Wilhite read aloud from the file, which addressed Hartfield’s wife: “Veronica, if you’re reading this, then I have been called home.”

He additionally said that he wanted everyone to enjoy themselves.

“And remember me for who I was. The truth only. None of that stuff about how great I was. Only real stories.”

Hartfield was off-duty when he attended the country music concert with his wife. The Army veteran served in the 82nd Airborne Division and also was a sergeant 1st class in the Nevada National Guard.

In an unbelievably sad turn of events, Hartfield’s mother, Sheryl Stiles, who was in Las Vegas to bury her son, had a heart attack the day of the funeral. She then fell down an escalator at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa and suffered brain damage, the family said.

She was taken off life support over the weekend and died.

“We came to bury my nephew and then the next thing we know, I have to bury my sister,” said Lewis Stiles, Sheryl’s brother.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Theories of the Origins of the Army’s Battle Cry “Hooah”


By Debbie Gregory.

The battle cry “hooah!” (not to be confused by the Marine Corps’ “OOHRAH”) is used by soldiers the U.S. Army. Many have questioned the origin of the term.

One version said that Seminole chief Coacoochee toasted officers of the regiment with a loud “Hough!”, apparently a corruption of “How d’ye do!”

“I don’t know how exactly to spell it, but I know what it means,” said former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan. “It means we have broken the mold. We are battle focused. Hooah says — ‘Look at me. I’m a warrior. I’m ready. Sergeants trained me to standard.’”

Other rumored origins include:

  • During World War II, soldiers would reply to orders from their commanding officers with “HUA,” an acronym for “heard, understood, acknowledged.” Some say that HUA really stands for “head up ass,” or HOOA, for “head out of ass.”
  • On D-Day, 1944, on Omaha Beach, General Cota, the 29th Division Assistant Division Commander asked a group of Rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, “Where’s your commanding officer?” They pointed him out and said, “Down there, sir.” General Cota reportedly followed their direction and, on his way down the beach, said, “Lead the way, Rangers!” The Rangers from 2nd Bat reportedly said, “WHO, US?” General Cota thought he heard them say “HOOAH!” He was so impressed with their cool and calm demeanor, not to mention their cool term, hooah, he decided to make it a household name.
  • American soldiers using Vietnamese and Vietnamese-French expressions interchangeably with English during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese word for “yes,” which is pronounced “u-ah” is easily changed to “hooah.”

Although no one is really sure where and when the term originated, or even how to spell it, the word is still an expression of high morale, strength, and confidence. And, when powered by an overwhelmingly proud, and usually loud, tone of voice, “hooah / hooyah / oohrah” no matter how it is spelled, makes a statement.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Increased Air Force Sabbatical Leave for Airmen Who Stay In

air force pilot

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Military has explored a number of incentives in order to retain their servicemembers, including monetary bonuses. Now the Air Force has come up with a unique enticement for pilots and airmen to stay in uniform.

The Career Intermission Program (CIP) is increasing sabbatical leave from one year to three years.

CIP offers the opportunity for a one-time, temporary transition from active duty to the Individual Ready Reserve for beyween one and three years, while providing a seamless return to pre-CIP active-duty status. Air Force officials are hoping that this offer will be appealing enough to allow the service branch to be more competitive when recruiting new airmen, as well as holding on to current servicemembers.

According to Adriana Bazan, military personnel specialist at the Air Force Personnel Center, this  affords an avenue to meet the changing needs of today‘s servicemembers.

“This work-life flexibility initiative will enable the Air Force to retain talent, which reduces cost and adverse impacts on the mission,” said Bazan.

Airmen who participate in the program will receive a monthly stipend equal to two-thirtieths of their basic pay. They also retain full active-duty medical and dental benefits for themselves and their eligible dependents.

Airmen who are eligible for the program must serve two months on active duty for every month of leave taken.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated earlier this year that the Air Force was short by 1,544 pilots during fiscal year 2016.

There are also financial incentives to recommit, with some pilots eligible for a possible $25,000 per year commitment bonus.

Fighter pilots, who may be able to extend their career for nine additional years, could rack up an astounding $225,000 in retention bonuses.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.