Gold Star Mother’s Day

Gold Star Mother’s Day

Gold Star Mother’s Day

“Gold Star mothers and families know the immeasurable cost of fighting for the ideals we believe in, and they know the pride that comes with exemplary service to America.”

~ President Barack Obama ~ September 23, 2011 ~ Presidential Proclamation

A Gold Star Mother knows the ultimate sacrifice – it is those mothers that have lost a child to service in the United States Military.

Grace Darling Seibold was an ocean away from her son when he served on the front lines for WWI. While she waited for news from her son as to his whereabouts and safety, she volunteered her time at the local VA hospital. After learning of her son’s death overseas, she devoted her time to helping wartime survivors and uniting the mothers of other deceased soldiers. Through Seibold, the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. was born.

While it was a mother who formed the organization, it was a father with two boys on the front lines who created the Service Flag. Army Captain Robert L. Queissner displayed a flag with a blue star that was flown during times of military conflict to represent a child serving in the armed forces. Should a service member be lost during a conflict, families would stitch gold over the star.

This tradition took hold on June 23, 1936 when a joint congressional resolution declared that Gold Star Mother’s Day would be observed annually on the last Sunday of September. In 2011, President Obama amended the title to be “Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day.”

While there is no set way to observe Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day, the official hashtag is #GoldStarMothersDay.

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Army Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

There are many ways to celebrate another trip around the sun. Birthday cake, candles – parties and presents. Retired Army Master Sergeant Polito “Paul” Olivas didn’t think any of the normal fanfare was quite enough. He decided to celebrate his 100th birthday by reliving his glory days – and jumping out of an airplane.

Olivas has spent decades of his life doing just that – he jumped out of a plane over Normandy. Jumped out of another at the Battle of the Bulge and even more in Korea. A Veteran who served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam, he has more than 300 skydive jumps under his belt – though all of them were before his 100th birthday.

At 100 years of age, the 5’2” Veteran, who doesn’t use glasses or hearing aids according to his friends, is already looking forward to his next jump. “After you get to 100 – you get to 101 or 102. I want to do it before I get too old!”

His celebratory century birthday jump was sponsored by the nonprofit Sea Inspiration and Sky Dive Hawaii. The current age record for skydiving is 103. Olivas seems ready and his friends think he is up for the challenge! Stay tuned for August 2021!

Check out the video of the jump here… https://www.stripes.com/news/former-green-beret-who-jumped-on-d-day-celebrates-100th-birthday-with-skydive-1.544989

 

Military Memoirs: Vietnam

MilitaryMemoirs Vietnam

Military Memoirs: Vietnam

Contributed by Jerry Van Boxtel

I was stationed at Travis AFB, California from 1959 to 1968.

In 1964, I started flying missions as a flight engineer on C-124 aircraft making a trip every month to different bases in Vietnam. The trips were long, as the airplane was very slow. Each one took around 14 days and we logged about 112 hours of flying time. I remember picking up my first deceased Army person that first year. There was a flag-draped aluminum casket and a ceremony with pallbearers – it was a pretty sad occasion. We delivered the remains to the military mortuary in Hawaii where all human remains were to be delivered during the entire war.

Noteworthy was the way that ceremony was to change over the years. It wasn’t too many years and the body count would go up to the point that, not only was there no ceremony or pallbearers or flags, but the human remains were loaded on pallets and raised up into C-124 on an elevator. In 1965, I changed to the C-141 jet cargo airplane. I would continue these missions for a total of 10 years, taking a break from 1968/69 when I got orders to fly C-121R recon aircraft out of Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, flying missions over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. After this tour, I was assigned to McGuire AFB, NJ flying C-141s again, but going to Vietnam by way of Alaska. There were a lot of Air evac, cargo, and troop missions, also. I ended my 20-year Air Force career flying my final mission to Saigon in April 1975, helping with evacuations as the base was being overrun. But that is another story…

 

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Prosthetic advances Making soldiers whole

Prosthetic advances: Making soldiers “whole”

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When discussing military deployment, many often think of two scenarios – the best case and the worst case. Less discussed, however, is the event that a soldier will come home missing a piece of him or herself. While nothing can truly undo the experiences of combat and bodily harm, prosthetic advances are improving every day to help make soldiers feel physically complete again.

The road from the first peg legs and hand hooks to the computerized prosthetic leg began nearly 3,000 years ago. From the ancient Egyptians through the middle Ages to present-day conflicts in the Middle East, there has been a constant evolution that has led to the highly individualized fitting and casting of today’s devices.

One company that is still making a difference today got its start back in 1905 when a bilateral amputee in Ohio used Willow wood as the medium to carve his handmade prosthetic limbs. He founded the Ohio Willow Wood company, which is a pioneer in custom-made prosthetic devices for amputees.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has thrown its support into the development of state-of-the-art prosthetic pieces and innovations. Soldiers who have lost their limbs from IEDs and older veterans who have suffered the same outcome from diabetes and vascular disease are now benefiting from those innovations. The longer veterans can stay mobile, the healthier they will be.

The research, innovations and advancements have undoubtedly helped thousands of veterans – but the benefits have reached beyond the military world. While there are countless civilians who have been able to take advantage of the prosthetic device advances, the uncounted number is perhaps the most staggering: the number of military spouses and families that have benefited from their soldier becoming “whole” once again.

Socks of the Brave

socks of the brave

Socks of the Brave

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

When you see the words “Made in the USA,” the co-founders of Socks of the Brave want you to not only think of superior American-made quality, they want you to think of remember the service men and women who sacrifice their personal lives to protect this great country.

Socks have become increasingly more bold, funky and colorful; department stores sporting racks of “fun and fashionable” foot coverings and minimal packages of the standard black and white tube socks of yesteryear. Socks of the Brave capitalized on the change in footwear fashion and combined a love of spirited sock with a pay-it-forward mentality to help our troops. To kick off their sock company, Socks for the Brave sent 150 pairs of their USA-manufactured socks to the Ironhorse Brigade from Fort Hood, TX, a unit preparing for a nine month deployment.

Why socks? Deployed servicemembers spend more hours in their boots than many civilians can even imagine. Have you ever had an uncomfortable sock wedged in your shoe? Now imagine walking on that uncomfortable sock for 18 straight hours. Or possibly even sleeping with that sock! Socks of the Brave makes sure that this often overlooked necessity is of the highest quality.

The Socks of the Brave sales model allows a sock donation for every pair that is purchased. The “buy one-give one” model sends the socks to active military across the globe through third-party charitable groups.

In addition to being American designed and manufactured (by a company in North Carolina), Socks of the Brave works to keep their fixed costs down with “no frills” packaging. As per their website, “with each penny saved, Socks of the Brave is able to spend more on our US Military.”

The Socks of the Brave are currently available in five different camouflage print styles. From ankle socks to knee socks, there are styles available for all feet – both men and women! Right now, the focus is on the camo print design, but they are taking suggestions for future styles and prints and plan to roll out more as popularity increases.

If you should find yourself in need of some new socks, go shopping at https://www.socksofthebrave.com/ and buy some socks for yourself – and a soldier!  

Army Veteran Craig Morgan to Perform at BaseFest

BaseFEST (powered by USAA) kicks off another year of concerts on military bases on Saturday, May 12, at Fort Bliss, TX. Army veteran and country star Craig Morgan will be appearing with Dustin Lynch, Lindsay Ell, Carlton Zeus and Ha Ha Tonka.

BaseFEST features a rotating roster of talent. Future shows will be at Naval Station Mayport, FL (June 2nd), Camp Lejeune, NC (July 4th) and Twentynine Palms, CA (September 22nd). Check the BaseFEST website for exact lineups.

Craig Morgan’s music career took off in the early 2000s and he had a #1 hit in 2005 with “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” His family just launched a TV show called “Morgan Family Strong” on the UP! network. Craig talked with us about his military service, his work with the USO, music and the family TV show.

How did you get involved with BASFEST and what do you have planned for the show at Fort Bliss?

I was invited.  When we come to these shows, we do the same show no matter where we go, for the most part.

When we play on a military installation or near one, I feel like I have an advantage over most entertainers.  It’s a little easier for me because I understand the military language better than most, having served for so long.

Tell us about your military career.

I had almost 11 years of active duty and almost 7 years of active reserve time after that before I walked away because my music was doing so well.  I loved it.  I was a 13 Fox Fire Support Specialist, finished with the rank of staff sergeant promotable to E7.  I had the great opportunity to be with the 82nd, the 101st, Ranger Regiment.  I did a lot of stuff as a fire support guy.

Guessing from the ages of your kids, you started a family while you were still active duty military.

Oh, yeah.  My two oldest children remember the military as much as they remember the music.

Your wife’s had two of the toughest spouse jobs I could think of, being married to an active duty military person and being married to a touring musician.

I think she enjoyed being married to a soldier more than she enjoys being married to a singer.  I say that kind of half-jokingly but half-seriously. We loved our tenure in the military.  The friends that we had then, we still have today.  It was a very important part of our life. Three of our children were born while I was in the service, so it was a big part of our life.

Craig Morgan and Jon Stewart visit sailors aboard the USS Carney (DDG 64) forward deployed at Rota Naval Station, Spain.

You just got back from a whirlwind around-the-world USO Spring Tour with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva, NBA star Rip Hamilton, Jon Stewart, chef Robert Irvine and UFC fighters Max Holloway and Paige VanZant. That trip sounds intense. 

That Vice Chairman around the world tour is one of the more demanding USO shows that we do just because of the time restraints.  We’re limited in the areas that we go in.  Some days we do two shows in one day in two different areas, so there’s a lot of flying, a lot of traveling, but it’s also some of the most rewarding that we do.

Your music career took off in the years after 9/11. You were coming in with a different perspective on the state of the world than a lot of people in Nashville.  Did you think about performing as a way of continuing your service?

Well, I was still in the active reserves.  Unfortunately, the unit that I was assigned to did not deploy, as much as I wanted it to.  They did deploy here in the states.  We didn’t get to go overseas, so I was a little disappointed.

I definitely had a different perspective than people in my music business.  I was watching the news every day, talking to friends. I was still in the reserves, so I still had means of communication with people that the average citizen doesn’t.

You’ve got a new reality show “Morgan Family Strong” on the UP! network. So many of those shows are all about nastiness and manufactured conflict. It feels like you’re trying to do something that’s an alternative and, in a way, it feels closer to peoples’ real lives.

I have a great family who deals with a lot of the same stuff that every other family in the world deals with, regardless of their occupation. In my family, we don’t create drama. There’s enough bad stuff going on in the world. This show really just highlights our life. It’s really about us trying to run this business with me being who I am.  That’s the funny part.

Was it hard to open up your life to TV cameras?

Not for me.  It’s more difficult for my wife sometimes.  She’s a lot more protective than I am.  I’m kind of an open book, I don’t really care.  As long as it doesn’t hurt my family, I don’t really think about it or care about it too much.  I don’t care what people think about me.  I say I don’t.  I care to the degree that I can affect that.  Outside of what I can affect, though, if I can’t change their mind, I can’t change their mind.  You know if they think one thing, that’s the great thing about this nation.  So outside of that, I don’t really care.

Things have really changed in Nashville over the past decade or so. The city’s grown and there seem to be a lot of music business folks who’ve moved there from New York or LA. Have you felt any change in dealing with the business?

That may be your understatement of the interview.  I will say that the change is not due to the influx of people from New York and LA.  The reason people are moving to Nashville from New York and LA is because they no longer want to live in that type of an environment.  The political stature there is just terrible.  That’s why the people are moving here, because they like the freedom, they like the comfort, the kindness.  It’s a lot different in this part of the world.  That’s why they move here.

Their influx has not impacted the business.  What’s impacted the business is social media.  That’s what’s changing the business.  In fact, it’s changing the way record labels operate, managers, everything.  It’s really turned it on its head and I think we’re going to see even greater changes in the next three years.  The business as we know it will be non-existent.

You seem to have a knack for those changes in a way that a lot of your contemporaries don’t. It’s tough sometimes to watch people who just want to sing and write songs try to deal with all this other stuff. 

I don’t know that I have any better handle on it than anybody else.  I just try to go with the flow.  The one thing that I find most important is that, still even today, and maybe even more so today, it’s about the song, it’s about the music.  As long as you’re singing and writing and producing great music, you’re gonna have some success.  It’s just that simple.

People are having success regardless of record label, regardless of management, booking.  There are guys who are having success without any of those things.  That gives me great joy because it just clarifies that it’s about the music.

Back to BASEFEST. Have you played on Fort Bliss before or spent time in southwest Texas?

I’ve been to Fort Bliss a few times.  I don’t know that we’ve performed there.  For some reason I feel like we have, but I’ve been to Fort Bliss, for sure.

We’ll be playing the usual set. Sometimes we may do a few things a little different, depending on the crowd. We let the crowd dictate our show. They’re the ones that pay the money and spend the time and effort to just come see us, so we want to do what they want us to do.  And usually it’s about the hits, quite honestly.

New Campaign Aims to Support Military Spouses

New Campaign by the Second Lady Aims to Support Military Spouses

New Campaign by the Second Lady Aims to Support Military Spouses

By Debbie Gregory

The Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence, is using her new cachet to call around on behalf of military spouses, looking to help them overcome the challenges that come with being wed to active-duty service members.

The vice president’s wife has announced a new campaign that allows military spouses be reimbursed by the federal government for licensing or certification renewal costs. She sees these spousal challenges as key to military readiness. Unhappy spouses lead to unhappy service members who eventually will quit. Mrs. Pence wants to elevate, encourage and thank military spouses.

“In the Trump administration, we feel it is imperative we support our military spouses and children,” said Mrs. Pence. “Spouses do so much and ask for so little.” She referred to them as the “backbone” of their families.

Mrs. Pence, who has a son in Marine flight school and a daughter-in-law in graduate school, said she wants to be a voice for military spouses.

The effort seems to be a follow-up to Joining Forces, Michelle Obama’s and Jill Biden’s initiative to care for military families. Mrs. Pence wants to apply her influence to try to make a difference.

“Nobody elected me, nobody voted for me,” Mrs. Pence said. “They don’t want me writing policy, and I don’t intend to. But what I do know I could do is I can speak to as many spouses as possible and encourage them and uplift them and connect them.”

Mrs. Pence has participated in numerous round table discussions with spouses from all branches of the U.S. military in the nearly two years since she assumed her new role, both around the U.S. and in other parts of the world. She and the vice president have lived in 14 homes during their 33-year marriage, so she gets it.

Mrs. Pence also highlighted another issue Thursday: helping kids cope with having a deployed parent.

She was handing out “comfort kits” to children that include an animated video, a guided journal and a teddy bear. She and the spouses of nearly 30 members of Congress assembled 500 of the kits last week.

Former Green Beret Sets the Record Straight

Former Green Beret Who Inspired Kaepernick’s Infamous Kneel Sets the Record Straight

Former Green Beret Who Inspired Kaepernick’s Infamous Kneel Sets the Record Straight

By Debbie Gregory.

 

San Francisco 49ers’ superfan and former Green Beret Nate Boyer was the one who advised Colin Kaepernick on how best to protest racial inequality.

 

Disappointed by the former quarterback’s decision to sit during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL exhibition game in 2016, Boyer got the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Kaepernick after the former penned an open letter to the NFL star in the Army Times.

 

Kaepernick and his teammate, Eric Reid, met with Boyer in San Diego. Boyer explained to Kaepernick that veterans might feel “you don’t have their perspective and their understanding, just like they don’t have yours.”

Kaepernick asked Boyer if there was another way he could protest. Boyer told him to kneel, rather than sit.

That next game, Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, with Boyer alongside him on the sideline.

Boyer doesn’t believe that he told Kaepernick what to do, rather he offered an alternative.

“What I did was meet with him, make suggestions on different ways to do it after he was already protesting,” said Boyer. “And worked with him to kind of come to a middle ground.”

“He’s not protesting the national anthem. It has become an anthem debate, but that’s not what the protest is about. It’s about racial inequality, police brutality.”

Whether people agree or disagree, Boyer wishes the message hadn’t been intercepted.

“It’s not fair to Colin, it’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to the cause,” he said. “And it’s not good for our country.”

Boyer is involved with a number of charitable causes, including MVP: Merging Vets and Players and Waterboys, L.A.Ram’s Chris Long’s foundation that provides clean well water to East African communities.

Boyer is also working in the film industry, with a special emphasis on telling the stories of veterans.

 

Air Force Expansion!

Air Force Looking to Expand by More Than 70 New Squadrons

 

Air Force Looking to Expand by More Than 70 New Squadrons

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service needs 386 squadrons to maintain current operations and to train and prepare for growing future threats.

“To face the world as it is, with a rapidly innovating adversary, the Air Force we need should have about 25 percent more operational squadrons in the 2025 to 2030 time frame than the Air Force we have,” she said.

To meet that goal, the service branch is looking to add 70 squadrons, as follows:

1 more airlift squadron

2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons

5 additional bomber squadrons

7 more fighter squadrons

7 additional space squadrons

7 special operations squadrons

9 nine combat search-and-rescue squadrons

14 more tanker squadrons

22 squadrons that conduct command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

“The Air Force is more ready for major combat operations today than we were two years ago,” Wilson said. “We’re moving the whole force to higher levels of readiness with actions that will play out over several years, but there are also steps that are making a difference right now.”

Wilson cited growing threats from Russia and China, countries that have made great strides in electronic warfare.   

“While the Air Force is driving forward, restoring the readiness and lethality of the force, buying things faster and smarter and strengthening our space forces — in the end, the most important thing we have is people. And the ideas our airmen have to make things better,” Wilson said.

“We aren’t naive about how long it will take us to build the support and budget required for the force we need. It is a choice,” said Wilson.

Wilson is the 24th Secretary of the Air Force and is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training and equipping and providing for the welfare of 670,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces as well as their families.

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Audit Reveals VA Paid $101 Million in Double Billings to Medical Contractors

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Two companies are under investigation for over-billing the United States government by tens of millions of dollars for private medical care provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Choice program.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an audit on September 6th that revealed between March 2016 and March 2017, 142,493 duplicate payments were made to Health Net Federal Services and 111,148 to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp.

The inspector general reported to Congress that the two companies have collected at least $101 million more than what they were supposed to, and that figure may rise as the audit is not expected to be complete until the end of the year.

The errors consisted of  billing the VA more than once for medical services, billing the VA for medical services already covered by private health insurance, billing the VA for more money than what the companies paid medical providers for their services, and charging medical providers different rates than what were set by Medicare or contracts.

Health Net and TriWest have overseen the VA Choice program since it was launched in 2014 to help alleviate tremendous strain on the VA. The two companies were given only 90 days to set up the program, and it has been plagued by numerous problems from the start.

“This was a senseless waste of resources that could have been better spent on veterans’ health care,” Republican Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin.

CEO and President of Triwest David McIntyre responded saying the system has improved remarkably in the last 18 months and the overpayments were due to “mechanical errors on both sides.”

Both TriWest and Health Net’s current contracts with the VA were also extended through September 30, 2018 because the agency “has no other immediate options available to perform the functions of current contracts.”