Determination, Integrity, Resourcefulness: The Military Spouse

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

“On a personal note, I am a Gold Star Widow and am raising two beautiful daughters.”


That’s the line that randomly caught my attention on Tuesday and prompted me to comment and reach out to Ali Banholzer. As luck and fate would have it, we were both added to a “Women in Maryland Professional” group on facebook and that line was part of her introductory statement in the comments of our mutual welcome. Initially, I was lukewarm regarding my inclusion in yet another facebook group. However, Ali’s comment about her background (which also included details about her professional life as a successful business owner) captured the interest of the reporter in my heart. Gold Star Widow? Entrepreneur? That sounds like a story to be told.


Fortunately, Ali was open to spending some of her time on the phone with me and answered my facebook message right away. A day after our initial exchange, I picked up my phone and dialed Ali’s shop. Within minutes, our conversation had begun and I was almost immediately lost in her story. In the words of Jimmy Buffet, “some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic,” but she certainly had a good story.


Since I began writing for Military Connection, I am always on the lookout for people who are on a journey that can be considered inspirational who are willing to share their story to benefit others. When I explained this to Ali, she jumped right on my bandwagon and immediately identified herself not only as one of those precious people, but she volunteered herself as a resource, ally and mentor for anyone finding themselves in similar shoes.


Before her life as a military spouse, Ali was a criminologist with her local police department. Accomplished and sporting degrees in her field, she was making moves professionally. Fast tracked and moving up in the world, that all turned upside down when she agreed to a blind date with David Banholzer in 1995. While there was no doubt they enjoyed each other’s company, both Ali & Dave figured their blind date would lead to a few months of fun but nothing more. Neither anticipated a future, but that is exactly what they found in one another.   


Dave was a pilot in the Air Force. It wasn’t long after their honeymoon that the newlyweds got the orders to pack their bags and leave Fairchild AFB in Spokane, WA. So the criminologist and her AF Captain headed east to Scott AFB in Illinois. The move proved problematic for Ali’s career advancement. Dave had to live within a certain proximity of the base and Ali’s best employment option was well outside that circle. The logistics of maintaining the life of a military spouse as well as the accomplished career as a criminologist became impossible, as this move would prove to be the first of seven over the next 11 years.


Ali is resourceful and while she was sad to leave criminology, she embraced a new career with TRICARE. Even that career would be short-lived – because the duo would soon find their way to Travis AFB in California. Her move to California brought about more change for Ali, as it was during their time there that she and Dave welcomed their first daughter, a baby girl, in 2001.


Throughout his entire career, Dave’s ultimate goal was to Command Air Force One. He often told Ali that while this was his dream, flying Air Force One was like winning the lottery. You needed all of the skills and training to have a chance, but you also needed the stars to align perfectly in your favor to be given the opportunity. When Dave got the nod to fly Air Force Two out of Andrews AFB, it was a no-brainer that the family move to the East Coast to come one step closer to realizing Dave’s dream.


Baby girl #2 joined the family in 2003 and while Ali loved being a stay at home mom, the hours were long and the office space isolating. She craved adult interaction. She wanted to use her brain. Having walked away from criminology, Ali took a look at what brought joy into her day-to-day life, other than her family, and after careful consideration and thought, opened up Midnight Oil Scrapbook Designs when her youngest was six months old.     


As a family, they moved from Washington to Illinois to California to Maryland to Rhode Island, back to Washington and then finally back to Maryland. As an entrepreneur, she grew her business – and grew it well. In 2007, the scrapbooking industry took a hit when the housing market boom collapsed. Fortunately, Ali was prepared and the majority of her equipment could be used as crossover equipment for the apparel design industry.


While they moved from state to state, she grew her apparel design business and her husband continued to move up in rank. He spent some of his career piloting Air Force Two, flying the Vice President and staff around. In February 2014 Dave Banholzer was named “#14,” the 14th Presidential Pilot of The United States of America’s Air Force One. There is only one pilot named as the Commander at a time, and it is the pinnacle point in a career. (Air Force One is currently on Commander #16).


Air Force One Commander is typically a position that ends in retirement, and it was the Banholzers plan for Dave to stay in the position until 2022, until their youngest daughter was finished with high school. Life had other plans for the Banholzer family. Dave had been having pain in his ankle. His ankle was twitching.


One ordinary Saturday morning in May 2014, Dave called Ali’s attention to his twitching ankle to show her the physical manifestation of the pain he had been experiencing. While showing her the twitch, he looked at her, grabbed his chest, collapsed into her arms. She lowered her husband – all 6’3”, 200 pounds of him –  to the ground. He was having a grand mal seizure. Her oldest daughter called 911 while Ali tried to prevent him from aspirating.


Their neighbors, some of them in the Air Force as well, rallied to help Ali and the girls (who were just 10 and 12 years of age). Emergency crews came and took him to Calvert Medical Center. Preliminary scans showed that Dave – who had passed his mandatory physical just 6 months prior – had a 4cm mass on the front left lobe of his brain. Commander Banholzer was flown to Walter Reed.


On May 17, just three days later, Dave endured 9 hours of brain surgery. Surgeons delivered his waiting family the news of their nightmares. “If I were you, I would retire and start making memories.” Dave had Glioblastoma, Grade 4 Brain cancer. He was terminal.


While they had to wait for final pathology to know for sure, doctors advised the family that they likely had 14 or so months, but maybe six of those would be “good.” The doctors at Walter Reed suggested that they run, not walk, to Johns Hopkins, so his care and treatment plans were transferred to Hopkins right away.


Ali is clearly no stranger to the adversities that might be faced by a military spouse. She had already abandoned her anticipated career in criminology when it didn’t necessarily fit well with her multiple moves across the country. She found a way to make waves as a business owner in three different states – that were literally a country apart. This hurdle, however, seemed insurmountable.


Ali worried about the viability of a commercial business during a time of personal turmoil. Deciding to put her focus on the care of her husband and two young daughters, Ali scaled down to one employee and brought her business back to her basement. By focusing on managing what they had instead of growth, she was able to maintain their current customers throughout a difficult and trying time.


Ali tells me that they were blessed. Though Dave was no longer allowed to pilot, he remained seizure free and therefore in command of Air Force One until February 2016, 20 months after his diagnosis. Throughout that time, he started each morning with radiation therapy on his brain before heading into work. He ran three miles every day. He faced three additional surgeries and recovered to come back to work each time. They called his cancer “The Beast” and he fought “The Beast” with every fiber of his being.


Commander Banholzer took his last breath on November 4, 2016.

The man who had been given an optimistic six months to live had survived against the odds for 28 months – and most of those were good. Regardless, the loss of love leaves a hole in your heart that never truly heals. Ali might be indomitable, but she is still human. The military spouse was suddenly a Gold Star Widow – and while she and the girls had plenty of support from their friends still in the service, it was a completely different social landscape and they all needed time to adjust. She took six months to mourn and regroup before reopening a commercial space in April 2017.


Since then, “growth” does not begin to describe the progress that MODS has seen. Average industry growth is 4%. Their growth? About 50%. (Their first quarter 2019 was a 64% increase over first quarter 2018).


As always, Ali and her company are Military Proud. She currently employs three military spouses and a military child in addition to other staff members. She always looks to hire military first. In fact – she is currently gearing up for her busy season and is looking to hire some part-time, temporary employees to fill in, as-needed for the business. While they are open to anyone who fits that description, they are looking to the military community first to fill that need.


The commercial space in Huntingtown is over 4000 square feet and features a sales showroom.Their work ships internationally, though the predominant customer base is Calvert County, MD.


I asked Ali for words of wisdom for other military spouses in similar situations. Her biggest piece of advice was this: Fail Forward. In her opinion, there is really no such thing as failure. Everything is a learning opportunity. When her plans needed to change, Ali sat back and looked at her skill set, her personal assets, her life and then plugged in what she needed for success.


“Truly evaluate what you love. Do you love interacting with people socially? Do you love being creative and designing? Don’t get hung up on titles and degrees. You do not need an MBA to be successful in business!”


Ali is the first to speculate that an MBA might have moved her along the path with a little more speed – but she is quick to point out that she is still here and the future is very, very bright. “Look at what you love and see how you can make a career out of it. It doesn’t mean everything can be a career. You do need to do your homework and your research.”


She also advises that slow growth is good growth. She started with cut vinyl that utilized the same equipment as her scrapbook supply work. She made banners and shirts…and once that was full and successful, she added silk screening. After silk screening, she added embroidery. The machines she purchased are industrial and built to last. It might have been a little frustrating during the process, but the industrial equipment was worth it for her business model in the long run.


Not every hobby or skill translates into a career as fluently as Ali’s creative passions. Self-employment is never a get-rich-quick scheme and always takes more than just a little hard work, dedication and elbow grease. Self-employment can be extraordinarily fulfilling, particularly for the military spouse who spends most of his or her time performing one of the most important roles of all: supporting our active duty service men and women as they serve our country.


Are you a military spouse looking to make some extra money? Ali and her staff are coming into their busy season and they are looking to hire some part-time, seasonal help. If you are interested in being part of this military-friendly group, please email Ali at


Fisher House Foundation: Helping Veterans in New York

The James J. Peters Medical Center in the Bronx, NY is known for its innovative work. An industry leader in spinal cord work and injuries and kidney transplants, the research and development happening in exoskeletal advancements are second to none and inarguably helping our wounded Veterans in need.


It is that very specialization that bring wounded men and women to the Bronx for treatment as opposed to other VA medical centers. With our wounded soldiers and veterans come their families. While residents of New York City might not have travel complications with the Bronx location, that isn’t the case of many of the men and women who walk through the James J. Peters Medical Center.


When a service or combat related injury occurs, the immediate response is to the soldier or veteran who is the recipient of the injury. Once the injury has been assessed and stabilized, there is a secondary tier of issues that require addressing for the families of the soldier or veteran.


The majority of rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries occur in the first six months after the injury. The rehab can be intense and a veteran needs a wide range of emotional, physical and medical support to achieve success. A potential key to that success is ensuring access to family. For veterans who live outside of New York City when they are not deployed, this is often a major hurdle.


It is a hurdle that the Fisher House Foundation is working to overcome. One house at a time.


For nearly thirty years the Fisher House Foundation has been working to provide housing for the families of the wounded warriors who are receiving care in Military or VA hospitals across the country. Since 1990, over 8 million nights of accommodations have been provided for more than 335,000 families. While a night or two doesn’t always seem significant, the actions and results of the Fisher House Foundation have resulted in more than $400 million in savings for the families of the wounded.


I had the opportunity to spend some time on the phone with Ken Fisher, CEO of the Fisher House Foundation. Ken is a Bronx native, and since I am from Staten Island, NY, speaking with him sounded like being at home. Aside from being an expert on the Bronx, Ken is also an expert on the issues that face our service members and veterans and the Fisher House legacy.


In the coming days, The Fisher House Foundation will be opening two new Fisher House Foundation Homes in the Bronx that will service the families of the wounded veterans and soldiers being treated at the James J. Peters Medical Center.  The two houses will feature 16 suites for families, so that as many as 16 different families will be able to support each other. Why the Bronx?

Bottom line: Because the Bronx needs the Fisher House. The Bronx VA is a busy one. The James J. Peters Medical Center is a regional hub and point of referral for veterans and servicemembers in need of treatment. The center itself specializes in spinal cord injury, robotic surgery, amputee services, traumatic brain injury assessment and care, polytrauma, kidney transplant and dialysis. Veterans and soldiers in need of these services come from across the country seeking treatment; family members are required to stay in hotels or support their loved one from afar.


The two new Fisher Houses in the Bronx will not only serve as a safe space for the family members of those veterans and soldiers, but for paraplegic veterans who are enrolled in the exoskeleton program.


Per Ken Fisher – the families that stay in a Fisher House Home have two big things in common: they don’t know much about the area and they have a loved one that is receiving treatment at the nearby VA. Says Fisher, “this is where the families start to heal.”


Fisher estimates that around 1,000 families will come through these houses in the Bronx each year. Both houses are within walking distance to the Bronx VA. As always, there is no cost to stay in a Fisher House Home. Fisher House takes the perceived burden of associated costs away for these families.


Not only did FIsher push for this NY project, he pushed for this project to be NYC made. The plan for the 12,000-14,000 square foot buildings began nearly two years ago. This project, though similar in feel to the other 82 houses in the Fisher House program, has a special NYC feel to it. The architectural elements reflect the local Bronx environment and structures.


Both of these new Fisher House homes were 100% union built – an important detail for local boy Ken Fisher. He was sure to let me know that not only were these houses union projects, but there were many veterans who actually assisted with the construction of the homes. Even more of those union workers were related to a veteran.


Needless to say, The Bronx NY Fisher House Homes are something that not only Ken Fisher and all of the Fisher House Foundation can be proud of, but all of NYC as well. It is the perfect complement to the James J. Peters Medical Center, which is the oldest VA facility in NYC with over 75 years of service to veterans.

6 Veteran Benefits You May Not Have Heard Of

One of the most common benefits for veterans are their disability payments, such as Veterans Compensation or Veterans Pension. Most veterans know if they are injured while working, they are entitled to compensation for their workplace injuries if negligence can be proven.

However, according to The Barnes Firm, personal injury lawyers in San Diego (, if you get injured on the job and you’re a disabled veteran, always be sure to speak to your lawyer about any compensation you’re already receiving. You want to be sure a personal injury settlement won’t have a major impact on your current benefits. While many people understand the most popular veterans benefits, there are still several benefits out there that are under the radar and it’s important to consult a lawyer who is familiar with personal injury law, so you avoid any conflicting settlements.

“There’s a whole framework of resources out there,” Joseph Montanaro, a financial planner with USAA’s military affairs advocacy group, told Kiplinger. Don’t assume you’re not eligible, he says. And recognize that spouses and dependents may qualify, too.

Here are a few veteran benefits that you may not have heard of:

The Aid & Attendance Program
Long-term care can quickly eat away at savings and will be difficult for any family that struggles to provide for day-to-day necessities. The Aid & Attendance program is designed to help struggling veteran senior pay for long-term care. This money will help them cover the cost of rising nursing home costs and various assisted living programs. Veteran couples can receive up to $25,000 in aid per year, and surviving spouses can receive around $13,000.

To qualify, you should have less than $80,000 in assets, not including ownership of one vehicle and one home. On the same token, the Department of Veterans Affairs also offers a caregiver support program to help navigate military benefits, which can be especially useful for senior veterans. This support program will also help you navigate the complicated barriers of veteran aid.

There are companies that specialize in the VA Aid and Attendance pension application process. Visit Veterans Home Care for more information on how they can help you.

Free Tax Preparation
No matter what your financial situation is, preparing your taxes is never a fun ordeal. In fact, it’s not uncommon for stress levels to rise during dreaded tax season. However, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (whose offices are found in military bases), you can have your taxes prepared for free. Not only does this relieve you of the burden that comes with filing your taxes, but it can also ensure your taxes are filed correctly. Accountants in these offices have plenty of experience dealing with military-specific tax issues, which can become complicated quite easily.

Hire Your Friends & Family to Help
For veterans and family members who are receiving help from their trusted loved ones, there’s a little-known benefit that will allow qualifying vets to pay their family and friends for their caretaking. This is called the Veteran-Directed Care Program and it makes it easy for those who you depend on for tasks like laundry and basic living tasks to be compensated for their time and devotion. This payment can be upwards of $2,000 per month.

Hearing Aid Services
According to the VA, nearly 3 million veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. With so many people suffering from hearing loss after service, it’s crucial that they have the right remedy. At the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation for the American Legion, veterans do not have to wait for a referring physician to secure an appointment with a booking specialist. Your VA insurance will cover the cost, whereas insurance through government programs like Medicare typically do not cover this.

VA Foreclosure
If you’re a veteran looking for a home, you’re in luck. The VA maintains a lengthy list of all the homes that have been finances with VA loans and gone into foreclosure. Veterans will be able to sort through this list of properties and purchase homes at discount level; all homes included in the list are also eligible for VA financing, which means a bulk of the finance researching has been automatically filtered for you.

American Corporate Partners
Finding employment after service can be one of the most troubling tasks for veterans. Fortunately, with programs like American Corporate Partners, you can work with mentors who can connect you with top companies for employment opportunities. This program doesn’t just provide you with the right connection; they also help you get prepared for the interview process and will work with you to ensure the odds are in your favor.

6 Self-Employment Options For Those Getting Out Of The Military

The world has changed immensely when it comes to the variety of opportunities to earn at times without even leaving the comfort of your couch at home. After being discharged or retiring there is a chance that you want to work for yourself so you can spend as much time with your family as possible. The ability to make your own schedule after being on a tight schedule for years can add a sense of freedom that you have been missing. More and more people are taking the self-employed route rather than working at an office. The following are options for self-employment that will help you earn as well as tips to succeed.

Freelance Writer

Freelance writers are in demand for a variety of different types of written content. This can vary from everything to product descriptions, website copy, blog posts, and guest post articles. The need for content comes from the need for businesses to rank high on the search engines for specific keyword phrases. Working on your writing skills is perfect for those that are currently in the military as you will have quite a bit of time to do so if deployed. Writing is much like any other art form as you can improve immensely after a bit of practice. Utilizing freelancer platforms can be a great way to find clients to start earning from your writing immediately.  

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is the process of selling a product online with the wholesaler taking care of the shipping and inventory management. This does not take very much money up front as you do not need anything but a platform to sell on whether it is eBay or your own ecommerce website. The trick is finding the right products that offer quality as well as a good deal so you can increase the wholesale price without impacting sales to take your portion. Finding a reliable wholesaler is the most important factor in this as a wholesaler that is constantly running out of inventory or shipping extremely late can alienate consistent customers quite easily.

Personal Chef

Becoming a personal chef can be a great option for those that have cooked for large numbers of people in the army. You can have a variety of clients that you can make meals in their homes on different days of the week. For people constantly having to travel for business this can be a great option as they will not have to grocery shop or go out to eat. Marketing yourself online is imperative if you want to find the right type of clients. Offering to cater an event for cheap then marketing personal chef services can also be quite effective. If people simply love your food then they are going to be willing to pay extra to have you make it in their home when their budget allows.

Get Your Real Estate License

The real estate industry can be great for those people that enjoy helping people find their dream homes and are detail oriented. There is going to be a plethora of different forms to fill out when a buyer is making an offer or to pre-qualify a buyer with a lender. This will leave your schedule open unless you have to be at a closing or are out showing clients their next potential home. The ability to see great deals on properties can also allow you to start investing in real estate after you have established yourself. Take the time to look up the classes that you can take that will make the real estate exam in your state a breeze.

Tutor Online

There are opportunities to earn money tutoring online whether it is English or a math class. The platforms to earn are not difficult to find but you do need to be proficient in what you are teaching. Tutors often times are given ratings so do not ruin your rating by trying to tutor a subject you are not the best on. Great tutors will find consistent clients to tutor allowing them to stabilize their income monthly.

Drive For A Ridesharing App

Driving for a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft can allow you to earn supplemental income or earn a decent full-time income. This is going to take quite a bit of documentation as you do not want to be overtaxed for the money that you are earning. Tracking gas mileage is also important so you can write off the depreciation of your car due to driving for the app. This is a good way to learn a new city or to meet interesting people. For those that are not social this could be one of the worst jobs you can give yourself.

After retiring or being discharged from military service it is more than possible to work for yourself for a while or permanently. Take the time to assess your valuable skills to see how you can start earning nearly immediately!

Connecting you to what’s important: Hot Job Opportunities

Did you know that the team of is in constant contact with many corporations and agencies that specialize in job placement? In addition, we send out emails regularly with some of the most appealing job prospects for military veterans. While our home base of operations is in Missouri, our job posts are from coast to coast. Check out our most recent email – we cover California to Massachusetts!

Military Connection’s Hot Employment Opportunities Newsletter

Do you have open positions and are actively recruiting retired military personnel? We want to hear from you! Contact to get more information on how to add your job posting to our growing job board! We could be the key to your next Veteran hire!

Education Begins with the Young: Teaching Respect for our Veterans

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
Earlier this year, my 12-year-old daughter came home annoyed. She had to write an essay – an “Americanism” essay. I asked her why she was so frustrated. Her topic was specific – “what can you do to help homeless veterans in your community.”
She didn’t know where to begin.
We got in the car and I brought her to a main intersection near our home – one where I knew a gentleman would be. A gentleman who holds a sign that says “homeless vet – please help.” We have helped him in whatever ways we were able this winter – gloves, a blanket, water, warm meals – all without my children realizing that this man had a story.  
I would have loved to sit with him and hear his story – have her hear his journey first hand. The center median of a busy intersection during rush hour isn’t the place to safely stop and chat. Though she wasn’t able to hear his tale first hand, I think my goal was accomplished. Her eyes – naive to so much of the world still – were opened to the very real problem of veteran homelessness in our very own community.
She then took her search to The Google and learned that there is a homeless shelter walking distance from our house. She looked up “resources for Veterans” and found herself on the VA’s site.She clicked local centers and found one very near to her school. As she searched, we talked. We talked about why homelessness happens. We talked about what goes on when an active duty servicemember becomes a Veteran and the changes that come with that transition. We talked about the possible challenges and pitfalls.
Unfortunately for my girl, our conversation left her with more questions than answers. However, she was able to create a plan on how homeless veterans could be helped in our community. She submitted her essay into her English/Language Arts teacher the next day, and her teacher (as well as the other fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade teachers from hers as well as four other area schools) forwarded the essays along to the local American Legion.
Fast forward to March. I stood outside of IHM, awaiting my children when my oldest came running up to me and said “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. Read this.” She pointed to the envelope in the side pouch of her back pack. The envelope contained a letter from the local American Legion, congratulating her on winning first place in the Americanism essay contest!
A week later, we were invited into the American Legion monthly meeting for a presentation of the local winners. My heart was bursting with pride as my child read her speech in front of her family, friends and American Legion members. As proud as I felt for her, my heart still felt a bit heavy that this topic should even be the subject of a middle school essay contest.
However, the more I thought about it, I realized the importance of this topic and why it is necessary to educate our children about veterans and those that face homelessness.
Having not grown up in a military family, much of my initial time as a staff member for has been spent gathering information, learning about the military and understanding a culture that I have always proudly supported but never fully understood. We have all seen someone standing outside in the elements holding a cardboard sign that said “Veteran and Homeless.” I’m sure most of us look at that sign and think “something needs to change.” Not many of us know how to start that change.
I am so very proud of my daughter for thinking outside of the box with her solutions and the way she can personally help in our community. The solution to homelessness among our veterans is within our grasp. These men and women know hard work. They know dedication. They have served our country and in many cases, seen the worst that warfare can show. Their homelessness isn’t a choice, it is often a byproduct of their experiences.
One of the highlights of my professional career has been interviewing and writing about Scott Beaty, a 20-year Naval Submarine Veteran who found himself in dire straights after his return to civilian life. Beaty, a PTSD sufferer and advocate, has helped countless veterans in similar circumstances by connecting them with art therapy. Through Veteran Art Connection, our online art gallery, veterans who utilize art therapy are able to share their work and in doing so, become entrepreneurs who can sell their creations.
We will continue to be leaders in our solutions to the problem of Veteran homelessness. As a parent, I will continue to teach my children how they can help and be hands-on to work to eradicate this issue for future generations.
Rosie’s original essay, as submitted to the American Legion, is below:
Helping Homeless Veterans
I can help by helping. I can help homeless veterans get jobs. If they can get a job then they can get money. If they have money then they can retain the money for a home, so they won’t be homeless anymore.
To start my program, I will find a team of veteran volunteers who are willing to go to homeless shelters and recruit homeless veterans. I would go to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Loch Raven Boulevard and ask them to help me to find volunteers. Our volunteers will work with veterans once they are enrolled in our program. We would make contact with the Fisher House Foundation to request assistance in finding long term housing for our initial group of veterans.
We need to help our group of homeless veterans find jobs. To do this, they need an address, interview clothes and help with applications. Our volunteers will help them write applications. To make sure that they are dressed nicely for their interview my school and the attached church can start a nice clothing drive and have the homeless come pick something nice to wear for their job interview. Before their job interview they will need to get ready it would be my plan to have the clothing bank near showers so they can get ready in one spot. Then we will need to get them to their interview. I can do this by gathering people to drive them.
Our volunteers will help our veterans stay employed and teach them how to use their money to stay in their home. My plan will help get homeless veterans off the streets and out of shelters. If we all work together, then this plan will work. It is better to work for what you need.

Call to Service: The American Red Cross

Call to Service: The American Red Cross
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
The odds are good that you or someone you know has been assisted in some way by the American Red Cross.
Personally, I’ve been a blood and platelet donor for all of my adult life. While it was my practice to donate several times throughout the year, the need for whole blood donors was driven home when I became a whole blood transfusion recipient in 2011. Since that time, I have been on a mission to ensure everyone in my immediate world knows that giving up just six to ten hours each year will save countless lives.
Donating blood is an easy, painless, cost-effective (free!) way to help the American Red Cross help others – but there are so many other ways to help as well!
If you are interested in helping an organization that helps our military members, an easy and effective way to do that is to volunteer at your local chapter. There are countless volunteer opportunities at the local level – from assisting with blood drives to volunteering to work one-on-one with individuals in need.
The American Red Cross is also always looking for volunteers to take a lead in their communities and help recruit others. Additionally, you can donate your gently used home items and clothing and the American Red Cross can help repurpose those items to benefit those in need. If you have a specific skill that you want to use, the American Red Cross probably wants to know! Check out their Volunteer Page to see which options fit you the best.
According to their website, 91 cents out of every dollar that the American Red Cross spends goes to humanitarian efforts and helping those in need. There is no better time than now to help the American Red Cross realize their mission and vision statements (below):

Mission Statement

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.​

Vision Statement

The American Red Cross, through its strong network of volunteers, donors and partners, is always there in times of need. We aspire to turn compassion into action so that…
…all people affected by disaster across the country and around the world receive care, shelter and hope;
…our communities are ready and prepared for disasters;
…everyone in our country has access to safe, lifesaving blood and blood products;
…all members of our armed services and their families find support and comfort whenever needed; and
…in an emergency, there are always trained individuals nearby, ready to use their Red Cross skills to save lives. Launches Veteran Art Connection is pleased to announce the launch of Veteran Art Connection, a joint partnership with Visions for Vets that features an online gallery of art produced by America’s military heroes. The artwork, created by Veterans as a method of therapeutic release, will be featured and available for purchase in an online gallery.
Visions for Vets, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is a program designed by a Veteran, for Veterans. It utilizes art therapy techniques as a treatment for PTSD, lifelong disabilities, and other issues that might be a result of military service. For years, Visions for Vets has been a safe outlet for self-expression and a critical step in the healing process. Through this partnership with, Veterans are able to turn the results of their therapy into an entrepreneurial opportunity.
Art therapy has been proven to be an effective therapeutic method in the relief and reduction of tension and anxiety. For our Service men and women, it also provides the opportunity for self-expression, healing, and achievement of self-awareness. Many of these Veterans have been on disability and unable to work since leaving active duty. Veteran Art Connection supplies these men and women with a unique opportunity to heal their invisible wounds through the power of art while establishing a possible revenue stream for their future. is the “Go-To” site or the one-stop shop for Veterans, active military, and their families. The site features a real-time job board with new employment opportunities for candidates across the country and suggestions regarding education and how to leverage the GI Bill benefits. is loaded with information that has proven helpful for active and retired military, military spouses, families, and more.  The site is focused on continuing to provide informative content related to jobs, education, and seniors while building a database the military community can rely on.

Staying Strong: Finding an Activity that works for you

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
Beginning a new exercise or activity routine can seem daunting – especially if you were in the service where physical activity was part of your every day routine. Whether time has slipped away and a few years of inactivity have caught up with you or a fitness plan is completely new, you can approach this in such a way that makes the transition easy and effortless.
Make a Plan – take yourself to your local dollar store and buy yourself a notebook. A composition book works well. Why? Whenever you start a new endeavor, it is helpful to write down your goals – short term and long term – and track your progress.
Create Fitness Goals – what do you want to accomplish? Whether your goal is to walk around the block five consecutive days or run a marathon before you’re 70, these should be personal and specific to you. Don’t let anyone else determine your personal fitness goals! Up until about three years ago, I was an avid gym rat who loved to lift weights. Some significant all-day-sickness during my first and second trimesters of pregnancy #4 put a quick end to my daily gym-going activities. Since then, between work and children, my gym-going has been sporadic at best and it has been almost two years since my last real workout. My current goal: locate sneakers. My next goal: drive to gym. It’s ok to start small. Really small.
Make Note of Your Starting Point – this ties directly into your goals. Three years ago, I could walk in and easily jog a 5K on the treadmill. For my new starting point – I am going to walk for 15 minutes and see how far I get. For Day 2, I am going to add 2 minutes and try to walk just a little faster. Knowing your starting point (and writing it down) helps you to measure your progress. Strength isn’t always measurable on a scale and it is easy to take for granted that you have made progress.
Pick an Activity that Fits – for me, what I love the most is weight lifting. Weightlifting is not for everyone, though. I worked with a personal trainer who preferred resistance bands and body weight exercises. Here is a brief list of ideas to help get you started:
Swimming – the perfect exercise, being in the pool engages your muscles, is great for your heart and puts next to no stress on your joints. Whether you have arthritis from life or trauma to your joints (I have an arthritic ankle thanks to a break 13 years ago – I still have two pins left in my right ankle joint), the weightless water activity can take the pressure of those joints and bones. Water is naturally resistant, so activities like water aerobics help burn additional calories with minimal impact.
Yoga – I keep telling myself that I’m going to get into yoga, but the more I try it, the less I think it is for me! However, it is a wonderful activity for my children, so we have started doing some Yoga poses before school and before bed as a way of calming and centering our thoughts. Yoga is low-impact and very gentle on the body. Movements tend to be slow and deliberate, poses held for extended periods to allow for a maximum stretch.
Pilates – if you are anything like me, you didn’t know that there was a difference between Yoga and Pilates. Pilates focuses on core strength and stability and is low-impact.
Bodyweight exercises – you have everything you need to start this workout. Climb the stairs – push up off of a wall. Slow-sit into a chair (squats). Try a plank – or slow crunches. Engage those abdominals!
Resistance Band Training – You don’t need a gym to take advantage of resistance bands. Most big-box stores have a fitness section and you are likely to find a variety of resistance bands to help get you started. They are a great way to add a degree of difficulty to an exercise that might start to feel easy.
Cycling – whether you want to dust off the bike in your garage or find a cycling studio, biking can be a great way to get the heart pumping without stressing out your joints. A slow starting pace can keep your exercise low-impact and you can build as you feel ready.
Walking – get a FitBit, lace up your sneakers and hit the sidewalk. Walk for 10 minutes and see how many steps that gets you, then add to it the next day. The best part – walking is free!
If you are still struggling on how to get started, you might benefit from purchasing a few sessions with a personal trainer. A personal trainer will be knowledgeable in what exercise and activity program might best fit your likes and lifestyle.
Activity is so important – and finding something that suits you is a big key to your success!
Have you had success in implementing a workout routine? We would love to hear what worked for you! Are you a personal trainer who would like to share some tips of your trade? Submit your story and send your ideas to

Healthy and Fit: Getting and Staying in Shape over 60

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
There is no doubt about it – the more you do in your 20s, 30s and 40s, the stronger you will be in your Golden years. However, it is never too late to get and stay in shape! The physical benefits of even a small amount of exercise will amaze you!
According to the CDC, daily physical activity will help maintain the ability to live independently. As we age, falling and breaking bones is a real fear. Strengthening muscles will absolutely help increase stability, which will, in turndecrease the chance of falling. Do you take blood pressure medication to regulate hypertension? According to, more than 46% of American adults are on medication to manage blood pressure. The recently revised guidelines recommend that blood pressure should be less than 150/90. If you are over that number or on medication, the benefits of weekly exercise would outweigh the possible inconvenience of driving to the gym!
While diet is critical for managing weight and diabetes, just a little bit of exercise in your routine may increase your ability to stay off of medication. More than 100 million Americans have Type 2 Diabetes, so the disease is running rampant and exercise and a healthy kitchen are the two best defenses. Regular physical activity can also slash your coronary heart disease risk. Moving your body is good for all of your body! Healthy bones are important – but so are healthy joints! Incorporating movement, activity, and exercise into your daily routine can greatly increase your overall mobility and diminish signs and symptoms of arthritis.
So many of us need to keep up with kids or grandkids. We want to be able to tour the ruins of Pompeii or walk along the beach. Whether we are 35 or 65, we want to be able to hang with the younger crowd and keep up. Implementing a regular activity – even if it is just walking around the block to start – will help make all of those activities easier on your bones, muscles, and joints.
The benefits don’t end with the physical – the emotional and mental benefits start to stack up quickly. People new to a physical routine will rapidly feel better, from head to toe, as the body releases endorphins.
ALL Adults can benefit from physical activity. If you are looking to add physical activity to your daily routine, here are some things to remember:

  • Find an activity that works well for you. Swimming is great for your entire body, but if you don’t like the water, then it isn’t the right activity for you!
  • Activity doesn’t need to be strenuous or high impact. A daily walk around the block is a great way to start.
  • Daily activity is key. Sporadic activity is better than none, but true health benefits are achieved when your schedule is regular.
  • Start slow! Walk around the block every day this week. Next week – make it two blocks.
  • Implementing a physical activity routine doesn’t have to be expensive. Not everyone can afford a gym membership. Use soup cans as weights to get your arms moving. Time your walk around the block to determine your “personal best” time. If you are ready for something a little more strenuous, go up and down the steps! Your home is full of items that you can use on your personal fitness journey.
  • The more you do, the better you will feel.
  • Star small and set achievable goals. Something is better than nothing!
  • Write things down and keep track!
  • Be safe, be smart and don’t forget to make sure your doctor is on board with your new plan!

It is never too late to start making your life and health better! Why not start today?