Army Special Forces Medic Receives Medal of Honor

Army Special Forces Medic Receives Medal of Honor

Army Special Forces Medic Receives Medal of Honor

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

A former Green Beret medic who fought his way up a mountain in Afghanistan and braved enemy rocket-propelled grenades and sniper fire to treat wounded soldiers will receive the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor.

On October 1st, Ronald J. Shurer II received the upgrade to the Silver Star he had been previously awarded for his actions in April 2008.

Former Staff Sgt. Shurer II, who served with the 3rd Special Forces Group,  had been deployed to Afghanistan’s Shok Valley in Nuristan province. His task, as a medic, was to support operators who were hunting high-value targets of the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, a militia group that had a foothold in the Shok valley.

“As the team navigated through the valley [April 6, 2008], a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position,” Army officials said in a release.

Shurer’s unit received word another unit was pinned down at another location and had sustained multiple casualties. Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down unit. While on the move, he stopped to treat a soldier wounded in his neck by shrapnel from a RPG blast.

“With disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Shurer took off through a hail of bullets and began scaling the rock face to get to the casualties,” his Silver Star citation states. “During initial movement to the base of the mountain, he treated a teammate wounded by shrapnel to his neck from an RPG blast that blew him off his feet.”

Then Shurer continued to fight his way down to the pinned-down forward troops, killing multiple insurgents.

“Under intense insurgent fire, Sergeant Shurer reached the pinned-down element of his ODA and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. and ten injured commandos,” the citation reads. “He treated multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds until additional teammates arrived.”

“Sergeant Shurer rendered life saving aid to four critically wounded casualties for more than five and a half hours,” the citation reads. “As the lone medic at the besieged location, and almost overrun and fighting against nearly 200 insurgent fighters, Sergeant Shurer’s bravery and poise under fire saved the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.”

Using some nylon webbing that he found, Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded soldiers down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and physically shielding the others from falling debris caused by numerous airstrikes.

Shurer is the 11th soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan. He now lives in Burke, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife Miranda and two sons, 10 and 7.

Army Misses Recruiting Goal

For the First Time Since 2005, Army Misses Recruiting Goal

For the First Time Since 2005, Army Misses Recruiting Goal

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

The Army fell short of its recruiting goal for 2018, missing its mark for the first time since 2005.

The Army has been looking to grow its force strength in the face of growing threats from competing world powers such as Russia and China. The service branch has fallen short by about 6,500 soldiers, despite an extra $200 million spent on bonuses and approving some additional waivers for bad conduct or health issues.

Army leaders said they signed up about 70,000 new active duty recruits in the fiscal year that ended September 30.  The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all met their recruiting goals for 2018.

Despite the shortfall, Maj. Gen. Joe Calloway, the Army’s military personnel management director, said the 70,000 recruits who did enlist this year is the most the service has attracted since 2010. He said the Army chose to focus on taking in high-quality recruits instead of ensuring it met its goal with borderline applicants.

Calloway believes the Army’s shortfall was due to the strong American economy and increased competition from private sector employers who can pay more.

Only about 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds can meet the mandatory requirements for consideration for military service, which consists of a combination of physical, mental and background attributes. Additionally, only about 13 percent of that population is interested in military service, according to the Pentagon.

“We made a decision to raise the quality of our recruits despite the tough recruiting environment,” the Army said in a statement. “As we look to 2019 and beyond, we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity.”

To keep up with changing times, the Army is adjusting its  recruiting efforts, including a new focus on reaching potential recruits through social media and interactive gaming, and in locations where recruiting has typically been weak, such as major metropolitan areas.

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Eglin Air Force Base in Florida has opened the first Invisible Wounds Center, which will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions and psychological injuries.

“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible.”

The center will treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from all branches.

Modeled after the Intrepid Spirit Centers, the Invisible Wounds Center will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof to provide treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion. Conventional and complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services will be included in treatment.

Following the opening of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in 2010, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund began building Intrepid Spirit Centers to serve as satellite facilities to extend care to the home base of many of the troops suffering the effects of TBI and PTS. Seven centers are already completed and in operation: Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Camp Pendleton, California. Additional Intrepid Spirit Centers are planned in Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Bliss, Texas.

Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, has confirmed that Eglin Air Force Base has also been selected to receive an Intrepid Spirit Center, which will be the first one at an Air Force installation. The facility has an expected completion date sometime in 2020.

Of Fisher, Hogg said, “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”

Errors in Housing Payments for Some GI Bill Students

Errors in Housing Payments for Some GI Bill Students

Errors in Housing Payments for Some GI Bill Students

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Some 340,000 students using the education benefit of the GI Bill were shorted in their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in the month of August.

The new version of the GI Bill states that the amount students receive for their housing allowance each month should be based on where they take the most classes. The old version of the bill calculated that amount based on the location of the school’s main campus.

Either way, the calculations are equivalent to what an E-5 active-duty personnel with dependents would receive, and due to a technology issue, the VA was delayed in implementing the change.

A VA spokesperson said that the department is still working on the remaining technology updates and was in the process of preparing to notify students about the impact to their payments.

So when the fall semester started, student veterans received their BAH based on the previous system and the previous calendar year.

“Many of the benefits that (the Forever GI Bill) ensures have already been implemented; however it’s troubling to me that VA still has not yet finalized the IT systems needed to fully implement the law, despite having a year to do so,” said Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, whose Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has held two hearings on the implementation of the bill.

Fifteen veterans groups penned a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie charging the VA of not being upfront about the problems, calling it “an organizational and customer service failure at the highest level.”

“It took several weeks into the current semester before any communication was sent to students, and schools have received little information beyond, ‘wait and see,’” their letter reads. “Transparency on what to expect and when to expect it, from all levels of leadership at VA, is critical to helping students and schools make informed decisions.”

Free Flu Shots for Veterans at Walgreens

Free flu shots for enrolled Veterans at Walgreens

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost standard (Quadrivalent) flu shots to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system.

If you are interested in finding out more about other vaccine options, especially if you are aged 65 or older, contact your VA health care team.

During the program, which runs from August 15, 2018, through March 31, 2019, enrolled Veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 8,200 locations in addition to their local VA health care facilities.  No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

Your immunization record will be updated electronically in your local VA electronic health record. Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA electronic health record. Just bring your ID and VA Card to any Walgreens. Click here for more info:

If you do not receive your health care services through VA centers, your insurance will likely cover the cost of your flu shot as well.

Military Memoirs: Navy wife & Mom

Military Memoirs Navy wife  Mom

Military Memoirs: Navy wife & Mom

Contributed by Leslie Roberts

I was a Navy Brat.  I learned from my mom how to be a Military Spouse.  My biggest reward came several years after my husband retired.  Our daughter also went into the Navy, so when her marriage broke up (her husband knew nothing about Navy life) and she was stationed on a ship and getting ready to go on deployment, we became the caregivers to her children.  I was working full time and the retired Navy man became Mr. Mom.

One day after work I drove into the garage and my husband comes outside looking so overwhelmed I frantically asked “what’s wrong?”  He just said to me “How did you do it all those years?” I cannot explain the feelings I had at that moment. Our Navy daughter is now a Chief going into her 19th year and re-upped for another 3 yrs.  I am the proudest Navy wife and mom. I could not have a better life than the one I have.


Fall Travel

Fall Travel

Autumn is officially here – and while most think of summer as the ideal time for travel, late September through mid-December can be a fantastic time to get away, especially for military families and veterans!

GOV Vacation Rewards can help you plan!

What is GOV Vacation Rewards?

GOV Vacation Rewards is a travel rewards program designed specifically for active military, veterans and their families. They know that military life can be difficult on the entire family, and there is no better way to rejuvenate and re-energize than to plan a getaway and relax for a few days with family. Affording a trip can be difficult, so GOV Vacation Rewards partners with travel providers to give members the best pricing, no strings attached!

Visit GOV Vacation Rewards to activate your membership. Enrollment gives you $300 towards a travel package and signs you up for access to exclusive travel packages, delivered via email directly to your inbox. Additionally, you earn points for every dollar spent on these fantastic getaways that can be redeemed on future trips.

You won’t find a better value on a trip anywhere else – but if, by chance, you happen upon a deal that GOV Travel Rewards hasn’t found yet, the pricing will be honored and GOV Travel Rewards will price match – guaranteed!

Active duty, retired veterans, military families, government employees and civilian contractors – there are so many travel opportunities that await you! Join today!


Top 13 Colleges for Veterans

Top 13 Colleges for Veterans

Top 13 Colleges for Veterans

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Members of the military transitioning back to civilian life face a bewildering array of colleges at which to use their hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits.

What makes a college veteran-friendly? First of all, they must recognize and value of their veteran students. Veterans bring with them a unique perspective and set of experiences, as well as the determination to succeed.

They should know that military service must never be treated as an extracurricular activity. Many military jobs are highly intellectually rigorous and require extensive technical training in an intense academic environment, which is why more and more, schools grant transfer college credit for many military courses and occupations.

But most important, colleges must be responsive to the unique needs of their student-veteran population. They should be willing to go the extra mile to ensure tuition is fully covered by the G.I. Bill, and commit to meeting any shortfalls through institutional aid in a predictable manner that adult, financially independent students with families and budgets can rely on when deciding whether to apply.

According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the top 13 schools in the 2019 Best Colleges rankings that participate in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees:

  1. Stanford University in Stanford, CA.
  2. Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH
  3. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY
  4. The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Los Angeles, CA
  5. Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
  6. University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA
  7. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA
  8. University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA
  9. University of Michigan Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, MI
  10. New York University in Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, NY
  11. University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in Santa Barbara, CA
  12. University of California Irvine in Irvine, CA
  13. University of Rochester in Rochester, NY