Advancements in Technology Making Soldiers’ Load Easier to Carry

Advancements in Technology Making Soldiers’ Load Easier to Carry
It takes a lot of power to keep a unit charged up. Before now, that amount of energy required generators which were substantial in size and weight. That all might change, however, thanks to two MIT graduates.
Veronika Stelmakh and Walker Chan are co-founders of a small portable generator – roughly the size of a soda can. The “soldier-borne generator for reduced battery load” would run on fuel, likely butane or propane, then convert that fuel into electricity using infrared radiation. While the device will use photovoltaic cells (cells that create an electric current when exposed to light), no sunlight will be necessary to power the device. The photovoltaic cells will be a byproduct of the infrared radiation.
Lightening the load has been a goal for the Army and Marine Corps. This small unit would essentially turn one soldier into a portable charging station for the rest of his or her unit. It will weigh about one pound and reduce battery load by up to 75%. Currently, soldiers carry 15-20 pounds of load for the batteries that power up their required devices. As their packs are often more than 100 pounds, shedding any of that weight would be helpful.  
Stelmakh and Chan developed the device through MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

It’s that time of year in our household: the birthday and holiday season, which means an influx of items into our house which is already stuffed beyond what I find reasonable. There are seven of us in my family, and 5 of our birthdays fall between October 22 and January 4. Combine all of that with Christmas and you have loads of goodies coming through the front door and a desperate need for some gently used items to go out as well.

We do our best to reuse as much as possible and hand down clothes from child to child. Some of the outfits that are currently hanging in my youngest son’s closet have been worn by four other boys before him and we will be passing it along after his next growth spurt. While I love our little system, not everything can be easily handed down and not every family has a system quite like ours.

I happened upon the Military Order of the Purple Heart several years ago during a pre-Christmas purge. Like so many families with young children, I found our house inundated with more stuffed animals than we could reasonably handle. Our standard donation collection location did not accept stuffed animals. The thought of tossing these toys, which were in near perfect condition, prompted me to look for a donation place that would repurpose them into homes that could use them.


I did what any Xennial would do – I posted on Facebook and asked for a recommendation. There was one answer that resounded: The Military Order of the Purple Heart.


I had never heard of them before that point, but I was convinced within three clicks of a mouse. Since then, it is the only place I donate – and here is why:


  1. Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are combat wounded veterans. These men and women served their country and came home with battle scars. They take their experiences and “pay it forward” by using their energy and resources to help current active duty servicemembers, veterans and all military families.
  2. They pick up at my door. Does it get any easier than that? The Military Order of the Purple Heart has contracted with Green Drop, a charitable organization that both assists in raising funds for its partners and handles the pick up and delivery of donated items. Simply put, Green Drop converts your lightly used items into funds that are critical for the organization of your choosing – in my case, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
  3. I can schedule my pick ups online. I just pull up, click on “schedule a pick up” and type in my zip code. They keep track of me by my last name and phone number. Not thrilled with having them come to your door? No problem! There are drop off locations as well (just click on the appropriate drop down).
  4. They email me. I get a confirmation AND a reminder. Let’s be real – I’m a busy mom with five active kids. I’m lucky I remember anything. I need the reminder. My reminder email comes through a day before my pick up and I put my bags by the front door. When I get up the next morning, I put them on my porch (you designate the pick-up location: porch, driveway, front of house, side of house; depending on your home style) and then I don’t think about it again. By the end of the day, the Green Drop folks have stopped by, collected my gently used items and left a receipt to say thank you.
  5. Receipts! Speaking of receipts – I’m married to an accountant so we account for every single item that gets donated. Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart keeps your donation receipt accessible. So – when tax time rolls around and you need proof of your monthly donations, simply hop on that website again and look up your history by your phone and zip code.
  6. Don’t forget the environmental impact! My donation might end up on a shelf at a second-hand store or be given directly to someone in need. Either way, it isn’t ended up unused (like it was in my house), collecting dust or worse – taking up space in the dump. We donated a bear that could sing and read stories. I love the idea of a little girl or boy listening to those stories and singing along, just like my kids used to do.
  7. Finally – and for me, most importantly – donating to The Military Order of the Purple Heart provides me a way to help when finances are a little tighter than we like them to be. (Remember the five kids? They aren’t cheap.) I don’t always have discretionary funds and sometimes I have to make sure the bills are paid before I can put my dollars towards helping others. Green Drop and the Military Order of the Purple Heart take my donations of goods and turn them into donations that help actual people. I love that.


So as you dive into the holiday season, if you are looking to purge in your own household, please consider having Green Drop pick up your gently used items. If this holiday season brings you lots of joy – and lots of items that are brand new but won’t find a use in your home, please have Green Drop pick them up. The Military Order of the Purple Heart could use them and the financial resources that your items will bring.

Here is a comprehensive list of items accepted by Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart:

Clothing & Shoes


All men’s, women’s, children and infant clothing including outerwear, underwear, shoes and boots, jackets, ties, shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, hats, gloves, handbags, purses, raincoats and overcoats, swimsuits, sandals, shorts, sleepwear, jeans, T-shirts and formal wear.


Household Items


Cosmetics and toiletries (unopened), eyeglasses and sunglasses, artificial flowers and trees, umbrellas, yarns and material, knick-knacks, antiques,  jewelry, luggage, buttons, musical instruments, towels, area rugs-6×9 or smaller, Christmas and seasonal decorations, novelties, framed pictures and paintings, yard tools, hardware tools, bedding, draperies, blankets, bedspreads, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillow cases.




Cookware and bakeware, dishes, utensils, flatware, silverware, pots and pans, Tupperware, glasses and cups, serving plates and trays and canning jars.




Fisher Price and Little Tikes items, bicycles, tricycles, board and other games, stuffed animals, software for Playstation, Xbox and Wii.


Small Appliances


Irons and ironing boards, sewing machines, microwaves, clocks, hair dryers, electric griddles, blenders, coffee makers and toasters.  




Flat screen TV’s, computer items including towers, printers, flat screen monitors, hard drives, software and accessories, telephones, smart phones, answering machines, portable copiers, fax machines, calculators, stereos, DVD players, video cameras and equipment and radios.


Sporting Goods


Camping equipment, roller blades, ice skates, golf clubs, baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse equipment and accessories, skiing equipment and boots and fitness items.


Books, CDs & Videos


Hardback, paperback and children’s books, CDs, DVDs, Blue Ray movies, electronics, books and record albums.


Small Furniture


Furniture weighing less than 50 pounds such as end tables, coffee tables, lamps, night stands, wooden chairs, rocking chairs, stools and plant stands.


Do you work with an organization that provides assistance for Active Duty Military, Veterans, Spouses or families? We want to hear your story! Please email [email protected]!

The Best of the Army’s Best

The Best of the Army’s Best

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Many companies, organizations, and associations have contests to determine who in their midst ranks among the top, and the United States Army is no different. The 2018 Best Warrior Competition, the premier event to determine the Department of the Army’s Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, took place in early October at Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia and the Pentagon.

While the formal, final event is a six-day challenge, the 22 finalists (11 in each category) have already made it through a series of hurdles throughout the year to qualify for the DA-level competition. According to (, these elite warriors tested their “knowledge, skills and abilities by conquering urban warfare simulations, demonstrating critical thinking, formal board interviews, physical fitness challenges, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.”

The annual ‘Best Warrior’ contest tests Soldiers on “warrior tasks” presented in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks received in basic training. A consistent theme throughout was tackling the unknown, a skill that helps our military react and manage crisis situations…whether stateside or downrange.

At the start of the competition, the finalists began a ruck march carrying their M-4 carbine, four magazines and a total of 50 pounds of equipment, for an unknown distance in the early morning darkness and the rural wilderness of Virginia. Throughout the competition, planners from the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group told contestants that the roads were unsafe, which meant they’d have to constantly ruck in full gear. One of the Soldiers remarked that the heavy ruck marches really tested their cognitive and physical abilities, especially that opening morning march…which turned out to be 16 miles long.

Planners gave the Soldiers specific problem scenarios to solve by communicating with the civilian population in a simulated foreign country. Role players spoke a foreign language or broken English, and competitors had to devise their own solutions for communication. In another scenario, competitors were told to board a waiting helicopter, only to be informed moments before arrival that they needed to render first aid to injured bystanders. And other times, Soldiers needed to use their land navigation skills to find their way to a designated location.

First Sergeant Mike Kriewaldt, this year’s competition planner, said, “It’s not always about being the strongest, fastest person.” Kriewaldt, a 19-year veteran, drew on experience from eight combat deployments to create the contest’s challenges. “It’s more than just physical fitness. Being able to accomplish all the tasks in the right amount of time is key. You have to be able to get to where you’re going and have enough energy and mental capacity.”

U.S. Army Special Operations Command came out on top at this year’s Best Warrior Competition, with Corporal Matthew Hagensick, of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, named Soldier of the Year and Sergeant First Class Sean Acosta, an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, picking up Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors.

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General James McConville, lauded the efforts of the contestants at the awards ceremony, held at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in Washington, D.C. “The winners and all the competitors in this competition understand that winning matters,” McConville said. “You didn’t come here to participate. You didn’t come here to try hard. You came here to win. And that’s the American spirit — the spirit that we have in the Army. And that’s what American Soldiers do. There’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”


To Ink or Not To Ink…

To Ink or Not To Ink…

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Tattoos have been around for a long time. Many historians believe that the first tattoos were inked onto hands and fingers of our Neanderthal ancestors in an effort to ward off illnesses. Tattooed mummified remains have been found and those remains date back to more than 5,000 years ago. Tattoos have been used to mark your skill set, designate your tribe, honor your lineage and more. The perception of tattoos continues to change every day as an increasing number of soccer moms sport full inked sleeves to practice. Public perception has changed and the Navy had to catch up.

For years, the United States Navy limited to the ink that it allowed in its ranks. Rules were in place to limit visible tattoo size and number, so sailors were restricted with what could be on their forearms and lower legs. Additionally, neck tattoos were not permitted. However, with tattoos on the rise in the 17-24 demographic, the Navy found themselves limiting recruits because of this rule.

The most efficient way to handle this barrier was to eliminate it, which is what the US Navy did. Under the revised rules, sailors have no restrictions on tattoos below the neck. Full sleeves are now permitted. Neck tattoos are also permitted, but have a limit on size. This opens up the doors for the young and tattooed who have an interest in serving in the Navy.

Sailors and tattoos have had a long history, so this recent change opens up a level of public acceptance that reflects the personal feelings of many who choose to decorate their personal canvases. Over the past few years, tattoo rules have changed in the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army. While each branch has changed their code regarding the allowing and acceptance of tattoos, all of the individual rules are different.  


The Red Cross Message

The Red Cross Message

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


The first time I heard the words “Red Cross Message”, I was in the middle of Army Boot Camp. Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri…summer of 1986. In that time before cell phones, that time before social media, it seems like it was easier to focus on our military jobs because we had fewer distractions. Without the technology that, these days, keeps us all up-to-date on the status of friends and family, it was easy to get caught off-guard with a bit of unexpected bad news. And bad news came on a regular basis, like the time when a drill sergeant broke it to one of my battle buddies that there was a death in his family and he needed to call home.

I know many of you are familiar with that message, from personal experience. The Red Cross message is basically the end product of one of the services that the American Red Cross provides to the United States military. When one of our service members has an emergency that may require leaving his or her duty station, whether stateside or deployed downrange, the Red Cross can be requested to independently verify the emergency. While the Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave, that independent verification enables the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding emergency leave and if transportation and/or financial assistance is needed.

One of the country’s oldest Congressionally-chartered Veterans Service Organizations, today’s American Red Cross serves as a critical line of communication between the U.S Armed Forces and their families. The iconic symbol of the organization, founded by Clara Barton in 1881, makes many of us recall the classic images of Red Cross nurses helping American soldiers and civilian war victims during World War I…but it does so much more. Still tasked by the federal government with providing services to members of the American Armed Forces and their families and disaster relief in the United States and around the world, Red Cross workers proudly carry on the tradition of serving those in the military community with the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program. That program helps members of the military, veterans, and their families prepare for, cope with, and respond to, the challenges of military service.

The Red Cross manages its ‘force structure’ by Chapters & Regions, and each Service to the Armed Forces program offers up different events to its constituents. Here in the St. Louis area, the Service to the Armed Forces committee on which I volunteer prides itself on its outreach & how we hope to make a difference to those we serve. We provide Reconnection workshops, which are free and confidential events that help with reintegration; an annual Women Warriors Baby Shower, for expectant mothers from our military community; and a Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign every holiday season, an effort that provides our community with the opportunity to send messages of thanks and holiday cheer to military members, veterans, and their families.

When I was a young Field Artilleryman in the 1st Infantry Division, I was busy preparing for deployment, for combat. In those times when I was headed to the field or downrange – not really sure how long it would be until I spoke with one of my loved ones again – I remember making sure that my family knew how to contact the Red Cross for assistance, should something tragic happen.

In those days, it was a landline phone call to the nearest Red Cross chapter. These days, the American Red Cross Hero Care Center is available 7/24/365 days a year, and you can request assistance online or by phone. To initiate a request by phone for Red Cross emergency assistance for members of the military currently serving on active duty, call 1-877-272-7337 to speak to an Emergency Communications Specialist.

You can also start a request for services with a computer, smartphone, or tablet and track its progress from anywhere in the world using the Red Cross’ online self-service tool. To request assistance online, visit:, download the free Hero Care App, or text “GETHEROCARE” to 90999.

Every day, more than 300 military families request assistance through the Hero Care Network by either using the online self-service tool via computer, tablet, or cell phone, or by calling a Communication Specialist.

Whichever way you initiate that request for emergency assistance, please be prepared to provide information about the service member and the emergency (the Red Cross says to use the phone option if you don’t have all of the required information below):

Service member information

  •         Full legal name
  •         Rank/rating
  •         Branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard)
  •         Social Security number or Date of Birth
  •         Military unit address
  •         Information about the deployed unit and home base unit (for deployed service members only)

Information about the emergency

  •         Name and contact for the immediate family member experiencing the emergency (could be spouse, parent, child/grandchild, or grandparent)
  •         Nature of the emergency
  •         Where the emergency can be verified (hospital, doctors office, funeral home)

There are certain eligibility requirements to consider. Service members eligible to receive emergency communications regarding an immediate family member include: those on active duty in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard; activated members of the Guard and Reserve of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces; civilians employed by or under contract to the Department of Defense and stationed outside the Continental United States; cadets or midshipmen at a service academy; ROTC cadets on orders for training; or Merchant Marines aboard a U.S. Naval Ship.

It bears repeating that the American Red Cross does not authorize emergency leave for members of the United States military. Again, the role of the Red Cross is to independently verify the emergency, enabling the service member’s commander to make an educated decision regarding the granting of emergency leave. If transportation and/or financial assistance is needed, the Red Cross can help expedite access to emergency financial assistance via Military Aid Societies. These Aid Societies determine the financial assistance package that will be offered, and whether it will be in the form of a grant or a loan.

These days, I look in the mirror and realize that I’ve become the old man in the room. It’s been over 30 years since I first learned about the Red Cross & its “message” as a young Private in Boot Camp. It’s been over 20 years since I was a young(ish) Battery Commander on a long field exercise, a commander tasked with the authority to grant that emergency leave that my troops needed so. It’s been just over 10 years since I last received my own Red Cross message, one that I knew was coming due to the advent of technology and the constant contact I had with my wife during that deployment.

I’ve seen the tremendous positive impact that the American Red Cross has on our military community and now, as a retired Soldier, I get to ‘give back’ a little by volunteering with the local chapter’s Service to the Armed Forces committee. And, if you’re able, I encourage you to see how you can give back in your neck of the woods.

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You

Can you imagine getting a home loan without a down payment? How about avoiding PMI? Your VA Loan Benefit can make both of those home-buying pitfalls completely avoidable in many cases.

Veterans and active duty servicemembers are eligible to apply for VA Loan Benefits, which can make the home buying process easier and more affordable. In many cases, eligible homebuyers do not need to have a down payment. In contrast, FHA loans require 3.5% down payment and conventional loans are typical around 5%. This is a huge savings for the home buyer!

Another benefit to a VA Loan is the avoidance of mortgage insurance premiums. PMI is required in other loans. Conventional loans require PMI when the down payment is less than 20%. FHA Loans require PMI that have an annual cost in addition to the upfront charges. Avoiding the PMI provides a significant savings to the home buyer – and so does limiting the closing costs, another VA Loan perk. Sellers can be required to pay all of your closing costs – and up to 4% in concessions!

VA Loan Benefits will provide you the comfort of lower average interest rates than other lenders. There is no prepayment penalty on a VA loan, which means VA home buyers can pay off a loan early without any penalties or financial repercussions.

If a Veteran has already used their loan benefits, they may still be eligible for VA financing through “Second Tier Entitlement.” This allows Veterans to restore loan entitlement and buy homes again.

The VA Loan program has two different refinancing options for eligible homeowners – one for those with an existing VA Loan and another for those who have a conventional loan and wish to refinance into the VA Loan Program.

The VA Loan Program also tries to help protect its borrowers should difficult times arise. In the event of financial hardship, a VA Loan might be assumable by another party. There are also advocates to help Veterans and active duty servicemembers avoid foreclosure.

Your VA Loan doesn’t guarantee that your house will be perfect – no house is! The VA will appraise your intended property, but this is not an inspection. It is in your best interest as a potential homebuyer to have a full home inspection performed on any house you buy.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans


Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


Small business ownership. Entrepreneurship. Being self-employed or a sole proprietor.  Call it what you will, but research indicates that veterans and their families are a bit more inclined to start a small business venture – and more apt to succeed at it – than our peers outside the military community. And although government-backed research shows that we’re slightly more successful at keeping our doors open than our colleagues without military experience, that fact doesn’t mean that small business isn’t risky. Just the opposite…small business is still a very risky proposition, and businesses in certain industries are riskier than others.


Why are we more successful at small business ownership? Perhaps it’s due in part to the same things that we in the military community have in our hip pocket that make us attractive members of an employer’s workforce…things like leadership training, attention to detail, and a conscious consideration of second- and third-order effects of the decisions we make. Perhaps it’s also because we’re good at finding ways to mitigate or minimize the risk that is inherent in small business…and some of those ways include recognizing and taking advantage of resources that exist to help us succeed, like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV).


The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families  (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The EBV is a novel, one-of-a-kind initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education in order to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The targeted audience is post-9/11 veterans and their family members who are in early growth mode for their new business.


The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans opens the door to economic opportunity for veterans by developing their competencies in the many steps and activities associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture. The program’s curriculum is designed to take participants through the steps and stages of venture creation, with a tailored emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner.


The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans program was founded at Syracuse University in 2007 and has since expanded to additional universities across the U.S. Those EBV-partnering schools include Texas A&M, Purdue University, UCLA, the University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, The Florida State University, Cornell University, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Missouri – with Syracuse University serving as national host of the consortium of schools. Most of the 2019 dates at these schools have yet to be announced, so check back at the IVMF website on a regular basis to find those upcoming dates at a school near you.


The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans training program is offered without any cost to participating veterans, but participation is limited to those post-9/11. The program is delivered through a three-phased approach, providing premier training and support along the way:


Phase 1 is a 30-day instructor-led, online course focused on the basic skills of entrepreneurship and the language of small business. The curriculum is moderated by entrepreneurship faculty and graduate students from one of the partnering EBV Universities; during this phase, delegates work on the development of their own business concepts.

Phase 2 is a nine-day residency at an EBV university where students are exposed to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the U.S. The residency includes more than 80 hours of instruction in the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership. This particular phase is intense, and designed to both educate and motivate.

Phase 3 involves 12 months of support and mentorship delivered through the EBV Post Program Support, a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships.

The EBV is designed to open the door to business ownership for veterans by 1) developing them skills in the many steps and activities associated with launching and growing a small business, and by 2) helping them leverage programs and services for veterans and people with disabilities in a way that furthers their entrepreneurial dreams.

Other programs offered by IVMF in the same vein as EBV include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families and EBV Accelerate. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F) is an education and self-employment training program founded in 2010 and expanded to Florida State University in 2012. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program offers small business training for military spouses and family members, or a surviving spouse of a military member who gave his or her life in service to our country. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families offers training tailored to military family members with caregiving responsibilities to launch and grow small businesses from home.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is designed to take advantage of the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The program leverages the flexibility inherent in small business ownership to provide a vocational path forward for military family members. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families integrates training in entrepreneurship with caregiver and family issues, positioning participants to launch and grow a small business in a way that is complementary or enhancing to other family responsibilities. The EBV-F program operates on a rolling admissions process, so they are always accepting applications and will process them in the order they are received.  


Eligibility for participation in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is limited to a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of a post-9/11 veteran with a service-connected disability; a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of active duty military (including National Guard and Reserve); or a surviving spouse or adult child of a service member who lost their life while serving in the military post-9/11. The program is broken down in three phases: Phase I is a 30-day online, instructor-led business fundamentals and research course; Phase II is a 9-day residential training at a partnering EBV university; and Phase III is ongoing support, focused on small business creation and growth. The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veteran’ Families experience, including travel and lodging, is offered without any cost to participants.


EBV Accelerate is a boot camp-style program focused on growth that tackles head-on topics such as the financial, management, marketing, and strategic planning challenges that established businesses face. EBV Accelerate is a 3-phase program that gives veterans that already have a successful business the tools and coaching to propel their business to the next phase: that of sustainable growth. Topics include acquiring growth funding, rebranding for expansion, determining a sustainable growth rate, establishing partnerships, managing cash flow, and more.


Eligibility for participation in the EBV Accelerate program: open to all veteran business owners, as long as 50% or more ownership is maintained by the veteran; in business for 3 or more years (recommended; must have financials); must employ 5 or more full-time employees; and the veteran business owner must have served active duty with honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions. Graduates of other IVMF programs are eligible. This program is also offered in three phases: Phase I consists of two weeks of online instruction focused on business analysis; Phase II is a three-day residency during which participants will create a personalized action plan for their business; and Phase III involves resources to support the growth of the business. (Notes for Phase II: Monday & Friday are Travel Days, and the three-day residency is from Tuesday-Thursday; travel to the location is at the candidate’s cost; lodging and meals are provided for the participant during the three-day residency; and all program learning materials will be provided at no cost to the participant.)


If you decide that one of these programs looks enticing, check out the application process here. Take it seriously, though…these are highly competitive programs and you’ll need to have your ducks in a row. It’s in your best interest to write complete and thorough responses for the personal statement section to help the admissions committee make an informed decision on your application. Additional paperwork is required to go along with your application:


…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (must be addressed to EBV and speak specifically about your desire to join the program); an updated resume (military or civilian); and your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families application include 2 Letters of Recommendation; an updated resume; and the family member’s DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the EBV Accelerate application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (1 from a client & 1 from someone like your banker, accountant, insurance agent, or lawyer); a current resume; your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted); and a self- or accountant-prepared Income Statement OR Profit & Loss Statement.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, educational, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through a focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families has provided programs and services to more than 100,000 veterans, service members, and their families since 2011, and to more than 20,000 in 2017 alone. Their family of programs includes EBV, EBV-Families, EBV Accelerate, Onward to Opportunity, America Serves, Boots to Business, V-Wise, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, CVOB (Coalition for Veteran Owned Business), VetNet – The Veterans Network, and Boots to Business – Reboot.

If you find yourself in transition – from active duty, from a deployment, or from a W-2 job – and you decide that you might like to give small business ownership a try, I encourage you to take a closer look at organizations like the IVMF and programs like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. While you probably won’t be eligible for all opportunities like these out there, there’ll be others for which you’re suited. And there will be other organizations that are more local to you, or that have different eligibility guidelines, for which you do qualify.

Connect with a small business counselor at your local economic development center or at your closest Small Business Administration office. Put talented people on your ‘team’ and take advantage of resources created especially for members of the military community…like you and me.


Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Veterans Day: Reasons to Observe

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Veterans Day was originally coined as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. It was a commemoration of the first anniversary of the end of World War 1. It didn’t take long for Congress to recognize the need to make this occasion and annual observance, and legislation was passed in 1926 to formalize that notion. Since then, we have used November 11th to celebrate our Veterans and remember their sacrifices.

My grandfather had served in WWII, but passed away before I had the chance to ask him to share his stories. I also spent most of my childhood in a time of peace. While the Catholic nuns had us practice air raid drills “just to be safe,” the closest I knew to conflict was Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. Even then, aside from yellow ribbons tied to my backpack straps, I really did not understand much about Veterans, soldiers and the sacrifices.

Fast forward to college, and my internship boss was getting married on November 11th. When she gave me the date, she said “yeah – Veterans Day.” Veterans Day? I didn’t question it, but instead looked up the date on my calendar. Sure enough – Veterans Day was a real, observed day on the calendar and I was completely ignorant to it! My only exposure to military anything was knowing a handful of ROTC boys on campus…and the one friend who was active duty and stationed in Italy. I didn’t know any Veterans or know of their stories. Over the next few years, I would begin to learn.

Earlier that year, JB joined the Marines. I met JB through my then boyfriend (who would eventually become my husband), Rich. JB was Rich’s very closest childhood friend. JB slept on the floor of Rich’s hospital room when Rich was in a meningitis-induced coma. JB was his brother from another mother and the bond seemed unbreakable. I met JB right before he left for bootcamp. It was important to Rich that I meet this key person in his life before he packed it up and headed out on his new journey. We met – and it was adoration at first sight.

JB embodied my mind’s vision of what a soldier should be. Strong, muscular – broad shoulders while maintaining kindness and compassion and a simplicity that made his personality so very appealing. With JB – what you saw was what you got. He was real. And he was joining the Marines.

We traveling north for his going away party, and Rich was uncharacteristically somber for most of our trip. No doubt that he had worries. His best friend, who had never ventured out of their home zip code, was embarking on an adventure that would no doubt change his very existence. There might have been some tears in his eyes when he gave JB one last hug before our departure from New Jersey – and our car ride was certainly filled with stories of when Rich and JB were boys.

I wrote to JB every day while he was at Paris Island. I mailed my letters once each week, and they were usually at least 15 pages long. I didn’t know him well – we had only met twice – but I felt the need to *do* something. I was too young to understand it at the time, but this was my introduction to loving someone in the military. The helplessness – the lack of communication. The constant praying. Upon his completion of boot camp, JB told me that it was my weekly diary that I mailed to him that helped push him through.

A few years later when Fox Company 2/1 was on the front line in the first wave of troops on the ground in Iraq, I resorted to my letter writing again. It was the only thing that seemed to help ease my anxiety surrounding the unknown about his deployment.

Fox Company 2/1 went 46 days without access to running water as they marched across the desert theater. We sent them candy and gum for them to distribute to the children they met. We sent them baby wipes and powder and travel deodorant. We wrote more letters. We collected newspapers. We sat at home and watched CNN and MSNBC incessantly. There was a photojournalist imbedded with their unit. We searched the newspaper for images. I will never forget Rich’s reaction to seeing JB’s hand in the newspaper. “It’s his hand! It’s his hand! I know that hand anywhere!” That soldier – covered head to toe with just his hand as the exception, was our proof that JB was still safe.

From the time he left for boot camp, we proudly displayed both the Stars & Stripes and the rich scarlet & gold of the Marine Corps flag. We wore our yellow ribbons and tied them to our trees. I prayed like I have never prayed before. We were fearful of the news yet still addicted to it. We worried. We sat side-by-side on the couch and stared at the TV.

We celebrated when we got the word he was coming home. Rich and I boarded a plane in July 2003 and headed to San Diego to see our soldier.

We stood on base at Camp Pendleton and waited. And waited. And waited. Rich and I were there with JB’s parents, sister and brother-in-law…and the tension of the waiting was getting to us all. I spent some time with a young woman and her baby girl. She wasn’t that much older than I and her daughter had been born while her husband served in Iraq. I was blessed and fortunate as I was with mom and baby when the helicopter carrying dad landed. I was there – just feet away – when the little family was reunited and that brave Marine met his baby girl for the first time.

Helicopters would land on the hill and soldiers would march down. The Raiders were not among them and as the day wore on, our heads and feet ached and our hearts just longed for “our” Marine. Finally, his bus arrived. We waited for him to check in his weapons and head down from the barracks. We cried. We breathed again – for the first time in so long. We held him, never wanting to let go. There were several times when I just took a step back to enjoy the beautiful emotion of the moment. 

Not long after, Rich and I were married. JB was one of our best men – he stood by our side with Rich’s brothers. He toasted us. He danced with me. He wore his dress blues – at our request – as we wanted everyone in attendance to be aware and in awe of his sacrifice.

His journey in the USMC wasn’t mine – but it taught me so very much. In those years, I learned a new level of respect for soldiers and Veterans. I better understood the multitude of sacrifices. Active duty isn’t like watching your kid go off to college – it’s more like saying goodbye in the hopes that you will both live to see tomorrow. It is being so proud to be an American that you are willing to lay your life on the line. It is seeing things and living experiences that change you. Permanently.

It has been 15 years since JB came home from Iraq. He and his time overseas are constantly on my mind. He has taught me so much. JB is now married with children, his active duty days may be long behind him, but he is and will always be a Marine who is true to the Corps.

I made the conscious decision to make sure my children grew up with a healthy respect for military – active duty and Veterans. This country has, in so many ways, become divided. I need them to know that Veterans should be honored because they have done what so many of us cannot do: they have stood in between us and the enemy and said “no – you can’t have them. You need to get through me first.”

We have done little things throughout their lives to make sure the lesson is heard and understood. They stand when they hear the National Anthem, even if it is playing on our TV in our living room. We have sent care packages to soldiers and letter to recovering men and women at Walter Reed. We have talked about and prayed for those who haven’t come home. Most importantly – they know to thank any soldier they can visually identify. LIving in Baltimore, we see men and women in fatigues often. They know to hold that door and say thank you, from the bottom of their hearts, because those fatigues represent so much.  

As a family, we are always looking for ways that we can serve the men and women who serve our country. As I was telling my children about my most recent discovery of Soldiers’ Angels and the Deployed Adoptions Team, they gave me a little lesson on Veterans Day and what they are doing to help support our troops. Their school has adopted a ship in the US Navy and is sending them thank you cards. 1500 thank you cards. My heart swelled as they told me about the notes they wrote and the drawings they were sending. They asked if they could send letters all year, and I told them I would find a way to make that happen.

I will never forget the feelings in my heart as I stood on Camp Pendleton all those years ago. I will never forget the fear and anxiety during JB’s deployment. I can’t imagine how those feelings would be magnified if it had been my spouse or my child that trudged through the desert sands, unable to contact his or her loved ones.

I spent the first 20 years of my life ignorant to the sacrifices made by strangers but in honor of my very existence. It matters not to these dedicated individuals whether I am a liberal hippie democrat or a conservative republican. The color of my skin or my religious beliefs are unimportant. The protect us all equally and without question. And for this, we should be grateful.

My Veterans Day sentiments and memories are dedicated to John A. Baker, JB. The Marine who opened my eyes and my mind to so many things. It was through his friendship that I learned an appreciation of our Military and it is to honor his service that I write this article. 

Military Tech Advancements: The Path to the Future

Military Tech Advancements: The Path to the Future

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Warfare and military strategy have certainly changed. While militaries have faced conflict since the beginning of time, the techniques, tactics and weaponry are completely different. Even throughout the United States of America’s 242-year history, the face of the American soldier has gone from the farmer carrying the musket to sophisticated and technologically advanced specialists in the field. Desire and perseverance were the keys to military success in revolutionary America. In 2018, technology is key.

Our military drives our less well-known technological advancements. For example, the need

for wireless communication is prevalent for soldiers. Hands free technology is critical in an environment where your hands are needed for constant defense and protection. Can you imagine a world where your hands free communication device does not need to be in your ear? Sonitus Technologies is working on that very advancement!

The California-based company has paired up with the Department of Defense to create the Molar Mic – a wireless communication device that goes in your teeth! The Molar Mic (pictured below) looks like a traditional headset but instead of being worn externally on the ear, it clips to the back teeth – or molars – of the user.

A custom-made mouthpiece fits the user’s back teeth. The mouthpiece has a small microphone to pick up and transmit spoken details. There is a speaker-transducer in the mouthpiece as well to convert sound waves into the corresponding sound. Soldiers who wear the device will be able to hear necessary and critical communications through their teeth and jawbone!

Additionally, it is expected that the Molar Mic will allow troops to make radio calls as well. This completely eliminates the need for the cumbersome headset with microphone that soldiers have utilized in the past. The Molar Mic will cut down on some of the equipment weight that or soldiers carry while making communication more reliable and less subject to interruption. Weather, regional circumstance and impact can all cause such interruptions. Molar Mic uses the wearer’s body to shield from many of these and cut down on external noises and interference.  

Molar Mic is still in the development phase, but Sonitus has been contracted to finish the project.

Odds are good that you have see a drone in the skyline – whether it has been part of a military exercise or operation or commercial civilian use, drones have taken us all by storm in recent years. Drones actually got their start over thirty years ago.In the 1980s, the US military had select operations that helped to clearly identify the need for unmanned reconnaissance devices. These operations in Grenada, Lebanon and Libya prompted the Secretary of the Navy to push for the technology.

The initial need was a tall order: inexpensive to make and maintain, available on-call whenever needed, unmanned, capacity to assess battle damages… but despite the long list of requirements, there was a prototype developed, the Pioneer, and two different systems began testing in 1986. By the end of 1986, the battleship USS Iowa proudly had the very first military-grade drone on board.

The Pioneer made its way into the Marine Corps by 1987. Since then, drones have gotten far more advanced than military tacticians could have imagined in the 1980s. It was deployed on both land and sea in theaters that include Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the Persian Gulf and more. The USMC Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons were critical in 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has been publicly documented that more than one Iraqi insurgent has surrendered to the overhead drones, operated by nearby US Military.

Perhaps they knew that the overhead Pioneer, carrying an infrared camera, was just the first sign of incoming troops. Or perhaps they were under the impression that there was more than just a camera strapped to the belly of that Pioneer. Regardless, the byproduct was a small collection of Iraqi soldiers who had peacefully surrendered without the need for advanced weaponry.

Drones have since become even more commonplace both in the military theater and civilian play. We see drones, once exclusive to military use, everywhere from sports arenas to backyard barbeques. Although it has become a hobby and toy for many, with lighter and less expensive versions on the market, it is still a life-saving device that provides real-time, useful and accurate  information that is used by our military on a regular basis.

While we are on the subject of flying, the planned advancements for the larger winged vehicles designed for passenger transportation are, quite literally, out of this world.

Have you heard of the DARPA XS-1? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency , or DARPA, Experimental Spaceplane program is the new name for the XS-1, a lower-maintenance spacecraft that would travel faster than sound. The Phantom Express is a joint collaboration between DARPA and Boeing, Co. The design specs for the Phantom Express includes an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine. The AR-22 is powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Before takeoff, the Phantom Express will be loaded with up to 3,000 pounds of payload. Upon completion of its space mission, the Phantom Express will land on a runway, similar to that of a commercial plane. So what makes Phantom Express different than the shuttles that have been in use before now? The key differences is maintenance and turnaround time. The Phantom Express will be able to take off again within hours and be launched repetitively for up to 10 consecutive days.

Planes in space seem like the work of science fiction? It is far more of a fact. Testing on the Phantom Express is slated to begin in 2020.    

From out of this world to the skies above us – Northrop Grumman Corp is developing the B-21 Raider. The B-21 Raider is more advanced than its older counterpart, the B-2. The “21st Century’s First Bomber” should enter service by 2025 and is expected to replace the B-1, B-2 and B-52.

Northrup Grumman is keeping the details of this one under fairly tight wraps. The estimated cost of the project is unknown and rumors of its capabilities are unsubstantiated. What we do know is that the B-21 Raider will be able to deliver conventional long-range and thermonuclear weapons, intercept enemy plans and gather intelligence. The US Air Force Global Strike Command is planning on up to 200 of these bombers in service. It is rumored that the bomber will operate either with or without a pilot and that it will be able to strike any target in any location on the globe without refueling. These, of course, are just rumors and have not been confirmed by military officials.

From up in the air to under the sea, the stealth submarine of the future is the Columbia-class submarine. A nuclear fuel core keeps this baby moving – for up to 42 years without a single refueling. How do you make a submarine stealth?

The Columbia-class submarine literally stays under the sonar with the help of an electric motor. An electric drive is much quieter than its mechanical counterpart. The quieter propulsion allows the submarine to be more easily disguised from enemy sonar.

Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and she should enter service in 2031.

Stealthy destroyers with laser weaponry certainly sounds like a prop for a movie in the making. It’s not! The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) is in the works to replace the Zumwalt-class and Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers in about 12 years. The Zumwalt-class destroyer is already pretty incredible, so the features of the FSC will need to be incredibly advanced. Important improvement to note: the FSC is designed to be easier to upgrade. New weaponry can easily and affordably be swapped in and out. The vessel will also feature an electric drive system that can generate up to 58 megawatts of electrical power on-board.

Planes, bombers, submarines, destroyers…commands being given to your teeth – all of it is pretty incredible when you remember that less than 80 years ago, Navajo Code Talkers were this country’s “advanced” technology that assisted our Military in all of our WWII successes. The brilliance and perfection of the Navajo Code Talkers was unparallelled at the time. There have been many changes and advancements in the past 80 years, and just like communication has improved dramatically, so has our most basic of weaponry.

The weaponry of the future is hypersonic. Conventional and nuclear warheads that can travel at speeds greater than mach 8 – which is eight times the speed of sound. Development has begun on a hypersonic missile that can travel at speeds of mach 20. What is the advantage of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound?

If you are a nuclear warhead, that kind of speed makes it extremely difficult for your enemies to react, track, follow or destroy. Mach 20 makes detection nearly improbable and deflection impossible. Decreased reaction time means increased impact.

The US is playing catch up in this game as China and Russia have had hypersonic projectiles in development for some time.

We have made great technological leaps in very short periods of time. Our development is only contained by our imagination and the more the minds wander into the possibilities, the more varied our military advancements will be.

War isn’t pretty. Our weapons of the future being employed today may keep our soldiers out of the trenches, but the tools of the trade can intimidate our foreign neighbors and cause more unsettled feelings. These same neighbors have accelerated their own efforts to keep their militaries competitive.  


Freedom Isn’t Free

Freedom Isn’t Free

By guest contributor Bethany DeHart

As I began to shut the door, the chill from the refrigerated room blew against my skin and created goosebumps that I would be able to feel for the rest of my life. The room was small and the only contents were of which I had just pushed in: a black bag that contained a vessel that once was made up of dreams, laughter, memories, love, sadness, a life. What it contained now was the very essence of that which this country is made: a soldier that had given the ultimate sacrifice. His life.

In my mind, I kissed a forehead that would never again be kissed by a mother, a child or a lover and I said my goodbyes. I gave one last look into the small room full of a chill, a room that would the resting place until this Soldier took his final flight home to his family – so that they could say their final goodbyes. I tried to swallow, but the lump that had formed in my throat barely let a breath escape. I would never have to wonder what it mean to be lonely. As the door to the refrigerated room closed shut, I felt every essence of the word throughout my whole body. I turned and began my walk into the evening – unlike my fallen comrade, I was still able to experience this simple act.

I had decided to volunteer my time at the mortuary while in Afghanistan because I wanted to give a little to those who had given all. Yes, the possibility of death goes hand-in-hand with being a Soldier, especially when at war. It becomes a possible job hazard as soon as you sign on the dotted line. You do not let it consume your mind during your day-to-day, mission-to-mission tasks. You just accept it and do what you have to do. It had been my first case, and while I went out on daily missions, into harm’s way – into the possibility that I, myself, might not come back – this was the first time I had seen firsthand what war can do to the human body and what war takes from the human soul.

During my walk back to my tent, I couldn’t stop thinking about this Soldier -tying his boots that morning and having no idea that he would not be untying them this night. I wondered what he laughed at today as he and his battle buddy walked to breakfast – or what conversations had gone on in his vehicle right before the ambush. I imagined it was much like the goofy nonsense that we talked about in our truck. Anything to make the time go a little faster and to add a touch of enjoyment to the situation at hand.

I thought about his mother and the grief that was about to fill her heart. The fear as she watched Soldiers in polished uniforms walk to her door. The moment she realizes the reason for the shiny black shoes beyond her door. I thought of his comrades, who will have to load up again and continue on their mission despite the events they survived today.

The image of him sitting on is cot, lacing his boots, just like I did every morning, kept coming to my mind. It was a task that was done everyday, something you never really had to think about doing. I knew at that moment that I would never take tying my shoes for granted again. I knew that I would focus on actually feel the of the material of the lace and the pull it created as I looped the laces to form bows that would hold my shoes on my feet. I knew that from this time forward, I would enjoy tying my shoes. I had a new appreciation for untying my shoes at the end of the day – and a new awareness that the opportunity to untie them at the end of the day was not guaranteed.

I had a new awareness of the world around me. I could feel every little pebble that crunched under my feet. I could hear the whisper of the warm evening breeze as though I had become fluent in its language. Even the smell of the human waste dump left a refreshing singe in my nose. I had a new love for being alive. For the first time, I could understand and appreciate how lucky I was to be taking this walk. The walk was a second chance to appreciate my legs; what they could do for me and the places they would take me. I appreciated the feeling of my arms swinging beside me, the feeling of my pants rubbing against my skin and the tightness of the laces of the boots that held my feet so firmly inside.

As I sat down on my cot, I looked at my boots and the laces I was about to feel in my hands. As I untied them to let my feet escape from the day’s journey. I thought of the Soldier to whom I had just said goodbye and I promised that I would not take for granted this life that I had been given. From this day forward, I would give my utmost best in everything I did – from lying my laces to loving my family.

I untied my laces of my boots, and I untied them for him. My head fell to my pillow with a new awareness of my skin against the cool material and my eyes closed with an awareness of my lashes on my cheek. Sleep surrounded me and brought with it some peace – and I let it take me. The morning would come soon and it would once again be time for me to lace up my boots.