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Ft. Bragg Soldier Fighting to Save Wife from Deportation

Ft. Bragg Soldier Fighting to Save Wife from Deportation

Ft. Bragg Soldier Fighting to Save Wife from Deportation

By Debbie Gregory

A routine traffic stop near Fort Bragg, North Carolina has resulted in the possible deportation of a U.S. Army spouse.

Army Staff Sgt. Felix Vega, who has served in the Army for almost 15 years, is fighting to keep his wife, Yadira Fuentes-Paz, in the country.

A citizen of Honduras, Fuentes-Paz was sold to a man by her mother and brought to the U.S. when she was only four years old. At 13 years old, Fuentes-Paz was homeless. A felony drug-trafficking charge at 21 led to her 2001 deportation and separation from her two young children, who were both U.S. citizens.

In 2004, Fuentes-Paz illegally re-entered the U.S. through Mexico.

Vega and Fuentes-Paz married in 2015, and she has been a Defense Department ID card holder since then.

In addition to being a military spouse, Fuentes-Paz is also a military mom, as her 24-year-old son is a Marine Corps sergeant.

“I’m willing to do anything for her,” said Vega, who is in the process of PCSing to Fort Lee, VA. “They said they were detaining her because she was a fugitive from ICE, but we were doing all the proper paperwork for her to get legal status so I never understood why they’d have her categorized under that.”

Vega has set up a GoFundMe  page to help the couple with their legal fees. To date, the fund has reached $3,400 of the $10,000 goal. 

Military spouses, parents, and children who entered the U.S. illegally are often eligible for Parole in Place, allowing these family members of military and veterans to avoid deportation and apply for a green card while staying in the U.S. But the granting of parole in place is discretionary.  Therefore, criminal conduct, prior immigration violations, or other adverse factors that are revealed through the application process could affect the decision.

It is unclear how Fuentes-Paz’s previous felony conviction and deportation could impact her eligibility.

 

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

 

2018 Military Spouse of the Year

By Debbie Gregory

 

The Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for 2018 was revealed during the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 36th Annual Awards Gala in Washington, D.C.

Army Spouse of the Year Krista Simpson Anderson, the wife of Green Beret Master Sgt. Gus Anderson, was named the overall Military Spouse of the Year.

The role of the military spouse is one of selflessness and courage.

In 2013, Krista’s first husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson was killed in Afghanistan. She went on to co-found The Unquiet Professional, a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization committed to recognizing and honoring our nation’s Gold Star Families and veterans by providing rewarding and purposeful opportunities.

Krista also works as a speaker to raise money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to families of fallen and wounded service members, among her many activities.

“As Army Spouse of the Year, I am honored to have the opportunity to not only represent Special Forces spouses but all Army spouses,” said Krista of the honor she was awarded. “It’s very humbling being considered for overall Military Spouse of the Year. This journey has been humbling. As I read many of the profiles, I felt so honored to be a part of such selfless servants.”

Referring to all the spouses who were nominated, she said, “We are stronger together. We all should be standing up here right now.”

Of military spouses, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, said “These are the women, these are the men, these are the kids who sacrifice and volunteer and who keep us in the fight.”

The Andersons are based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Military Spouse of the Year award was founded by Military Spouse magazine in 2008 to honor military spouses from all branches of service.

 

Legislation Aims to Help Working Military Spouses

milspouseemploy

By Debbie Gregory.

Military spouses who want to work suffer from an unemployment rate five times greater than the national average, and they are looking for help from the government to solve the problem.

To that end, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has introduced legislation that would expand a federal military spouse hiring authority and broaden the Pentagon’s transition program to include spouses. The legislation would also order the Pentagon to develop a plan to allow military spouse small businesses to operate on military bases.

“This is not an issue that should be partisan at all,” said Sen. Kaine. “Having been on the Armed Services Committee for five years now, I know the issues where there tends to be partisan difference and I also know the issues where there’s not,” Kaine said.

Frequent moves and unpredictable military deployment and training schedules make it difficult for spouses to hold jobs long enough to establish long-term, successful careers. The bill could also lead to the expansion of the former My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program. The program was done away with in 2010, and a scaled-back version was brought back eight months later, but with a reduction in the benefit from $6,000 to $4,000.

Another issue Kaine would like to see addressed is license reciprocity. When spouses work in credentialed fields like therapy, teaching or real estate they often must get new licenses in the state they live in. Kaine and other members of Congress want to make it easier for military spouses to move to a new state without having to get a new license with different standards.

Kaine said he anticipates this bill will ultimately be rolled into the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

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

 

Sacrifices Made by Military Spouses

military spouse sacrifices

By Debbie Gregory.

It takes an extremely strong and selfless person to be a military spouse. While the sacrifices made by our military personnel are often acknowledged, military spouses are usually unrecognized and underappreciated.

Probably the biggest challenge military spouses face are their frequent moves, which makes it difficult for them to build their own careers. In fact, military families are far more likely to be living on a single income than civilian families. The financial impact of military nomadism is substantial.

Although the traditional narrative persists of the spouse who keeps the home fires burning, the reality is that many of the military spouses who work are underemployed, and most of those who don’t work are reluctantly unemployed.

If the military spouse does work, chances are it’s a job rather than a career, settling for jobs for which they are either overqualified or underpaid. And while it is good news that with the advances in technology, telecommuting and portable jobs are becoming more common, the bad news is that most portable work-from-home jobs that can be done remotely only page minimum wage or a little better.

Beyond the financial impact, military spouses who sacrifice their careers are also often suffering with self-esteem issues which can affect their identity and overall well-being.

The Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a federal program looking to improve the employment opportunities for military spouses.

The program seeks to strengthen the education and career opportunities of military spouses. This is accomplished in part by providing helping them understand their skills, interests, and goals.

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

Supreme Court Decision May Seriously Impact Ex-Military Spouses

divorce

By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that may have serious implications for the former spouses of veterans.

In Howell v. Howell , the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a veteran who believed he did not owe his ex-wife 20% of his disability pay, and ruled that state courts cannot order veterans to pay divorced spouses for the loss of his or her retirement pay caused by service-related disability benefits.

Former Airman John Howell believed that he did not have to consider his disability pay as part of divisible assets in his 1991 divorce from wife Sarah. At the time of the divorce, John’s upcoming pension was considered a “marital asset” under Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) and split 50-50 with his former spouse

At issue was whether the USFSPA pre-empted a state court’s order directing a veteran to indemnify a former spouse for a reduction in the former spouse’s portion of the veteran’s military retirement pay, when that reduction results from the veteran’s post-divorce waiver of retirement pay in order to receive compensation for a service-connected disability.

When John received a 20 percent disability rating in 2005 from the Department of Veterans Affairs for a service-connected degenerative joint disease in his shoulder, he elected to waive a portion of his monthly retirement pay under pension offset rules, about $250, in order to receive his full monthly VA award. The result, however, was that Sandra’s portion of the pension went down by about $125 a month.

John gave up $250 of his $1,500 a month in retirement pay so that he could receive the same amount in disability benefits. His decision cost Sandra $125 a month, so she sued him in 2013.

While a series of state courts agreed that even if John’s retirement pay had been reduced, Sandra still deserved half of what his retirement pay would have been without the disability benefits, the Supreme Court did not, citing Mansell v. Mansell.

In Mansell v. Mansell, the Court found that the federal USFSPA exempts disability pay as a portion of the retirement pay that a service member waived in order to receive disability benefits from the amount divisible upon divorce.

This ruling could have serious implications for ex-spouses, most affecting those who were married to veterans with 50% disability ratings or less.

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

Proposed Military Residency Choice Act Benefits Mil Spouses

The Military Residency Choice Act

By Debbie Gregory.

The Military Residency Choice Act, introduced by San Diego Congressmen Darrell Issa and Rob Wittman, will ease the tax burden on military families by allowing them to establish one consistent state of residency.

Active duty service members have always been able to keep one state as their state of legal residency (usually their Home of Record) for tax purposes even when they move frequently on military orders. It gets complicated when service members move, sometimes multiple times a year, because spouses are forced to establish residency in each new location.

The Military Residency Choice Act will allow military spouses, if they so choose, to establish the same state of residency as the service member, so that for any future moves, they will retain the same state for tax and voting purposes.

“The last thing our military families need is additional stress during tax season,” Rep. Wittman said. “Allowing military families to establish a consistent state of residency will give spouses the confidence to re-join the workforce when they move and help them better provide for their families. Our nation’s military is only as strong as the men and women serving and the families who support them. Passing this simple residency fix will send a strong signal to our military families that we have their best interests at heart.”

Military spouse unemployment becomes very expensive when you take into consideration the loss of federal income tax, the costs of unemployment benefits, and the costs of health care issues related to unemployment.

“Military families sacrifice a great deal for us all,” Rep. Issa said. “They’re often transferred from place to place, uprooting their lives each time they receive a change of station orders. Each transition requires difficult adjustments as they adapt to new schools, new jobs, new churches and new communities. They shouldn’t be burdened yet again when tax season comes around. This bill is an easy update that will simplify tax season for military families by allowing spouses to claim the same residency as their service members. It’s a simple fix, but it will go a long way to make life easier for those who have already given so much.”

Don’t you think this is the least we can do for military spouses?

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

Music Video Showcases Military Life, From Basic to Active Duty

Michele Dèniz

By Debbie Gregory.

The song “Lion Heart” was written about overcoming fears, about standing up in the face of adversity and not backing down. These are actions that U.S. Air Force Veteran Michele Déniz know well.

And now, Déniz has released an emotional video for her song,  dedicated to U.S. military and veterans, focusing on the courage it takes to wear the uniform.

The video chronicles the journey from basic training to active duty, and features thrilling footage from every branch of the service. It’s a powerful and heartfelt tribute not only to our men and women in uniform, but to Michele’s incredible life and journey. The video is a refreshingly positive and uplifting message for the men and women that so often go unnoticed.

For Michele, being a “Lion Heart” embodies the values and characteristics of every soldier. It takes a Lion Heart to put your life on the line if Uncle Sam asks you to – to defend our nation, to leave their families for months or years at a time.

Through her song, Michele’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness for her brothers and sisters in arms, and for the veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms.

Michele’s entire adult life has been shaped by the military; in addition to being a veteran, she is a military spouse and military mom. Her music reflects the life of a woman always on the move, always willing to give everything up for family and country. She is truly inspiring and a reminder of what is possible when you set your mind to something and give everything of yourself to make it happen. That’s what it means to be a Lion Heart.

To watch the video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAxPCkuxKHY or Michele’s official website at www.micheledeniz.com.

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

Military Spouses Rock!

milspousepic

By Debbie Gregory.

In all the years I have worked with the military and veteran communities, the one thing I am really sure of is that those who serve rock. They answer our country’s call, and put their lives on the line for our freedoms.

But they aren’t the only one who serve and sacrifice. Military spouses not only keep the home fires burning, they are often times forced to leave family, friends and careers behind as they follow their servicemember around the country, and sometimes, around the world.

They are truly the force behind the force. Give a military spouse an impossible set of circumstances, very little resources or time, and absolutely no choice in the matter, and they will figure it out.

These are some of the reasons why military spouses make the best employees. They are pros at adapting to ever-changing schedules, climates, careers, peer groups and housing. They will make new friends. Adapt. Overcome They will ace dreaded job interviews pretty much every time they move, unless they are lucky enough to have a portable career or work from home opportunities.

Military spouses are a unique mix of men and women who silently serve in the shadows…waiting patiently for their spouses. They are mothers, fathers, full-time workers or caretakers, the cooks, nurses, cleaners, car-poolers.They are jacks and jills of all trades, and many of them are entrepreneurs.

They roll up their sleeves, and get thing done because they have to. And they are part of a community that values loyalty.

So if you are an employer, remember that hiring veterans and military spouses is the right thing to do. Showing your support for those who serve by supporting their spouses provides you with an employee that has a work ethic second to none, as well as many of the aforementioned traits.

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

Military Spouse Among Those Killed in Brussels Terror Attack

brussels2

By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. official has confirmed that one, and possibly two Americans killed in the terrorist attacks in Brussels were the spouses of U.S. personnel. While their names have not yet been released, it has been confirmed that one of the victims was the wife of an Air Force lieutenant, and that the lieutenant and other family members were injured..

Due to privacy concerns, U.S. European Command would not release details of the service member’s injuries or the number of family members involved. But U.S. officials have confirmed the officer was a lieutenant colonel.

European Command is continuing to confirm the safety of U.S. military personnel and families in the region, including those who may be there on vacation or official travel.

The injuries bring the total to at least four Americans who were hurt in the explosions that ripped through the Brussels Airport and a metro station Tuesday. Mormon Church officials said three missionaries from Utah were seriously injured in the airport attack and have been hospitalized.

Secretary of State John Kerry vowed that the U.S. will “provide any assistance necessary” to Belgium in their shared fight against terrorism.

“We will not be intimidated, we will not be deterred, and we will come back with greater resolve, with greater strength,” Kerry said. “And we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of this Earth.”

The Islamic State terror group has claimed credit for the attacks, which were carried out by as many as five bombers, three of which are believed to have died and two who are being sought. Authorities believe the bombers used suitcases packed with explosives and nails, producing blasts so devastating that identifying bodies has been difficult, and sending deadly shrapnel hurtling through the airport terminal and metro station.

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

Congratulations to DoD’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership

working mil spouse

By Debbie Gregory.

The Defense Department has announced a milestone for the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program. In just under five years, the program, launched by second lady Jill Biden, has now partnered with more than 300 employers.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership program is an employment and career partnership that connects military spouses to partner organizations and companies who have made a commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers.

While military spouses are well educated and highly qualified for a range of careers, they face a 25 percent unemployment rate and a 25 percent wage gap compared to their civilian counterparts. This program aims to close that gap.

Rosemary Williams, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy said, “This is such an exciting and important milestone for the program and for the thousands of military spouses around the world who search for meaningful employment and career opportunities.”

For many military spouses, frequent moves are often a barrier to finding and maintaining a rewarding career.

“The Military Spouse Employment Partnership addresses the employment challenges facing military spouses while providing partner employers with access to a pool of highly qualified military spouses,” Williams said.

Hiring military spouses is good business. Spouses bring hard-to-find values and skills to a wide range of fields, including education and training, health care and financial services. They are tech-savvy, adaptable, resilient, strong leaders, team players and effective under pressure.

The partnership includes corporations, small businesses and other organizations that post job openings on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal, mentor military spouses and other employers, and provide employment data on military spouses hired.

 

The partnership is part of DoD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, which seeks to reduce the significant unemployment rate and wage gap currently experienced by military spouses.

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