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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.

Guard & Reserve May Get Vet Status & Preference!

guard and reserve

By Debbie Gregory.

In a move that is long overdue, two bills in front of Congress could be a big boon for Guard and Reserve members.

Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act contains two no-cost initiatives that would  honor their service by granting “veteran” status to 200,000 Reserve and National Guard retirees who, according to federal law, do not technically qualify as veterans.

Many civilians are surprised to learn that this is not a done deal for those who serve. While there are benefits for serving in the Guard and Reserve, they do differ from those who served in the active duty forces.

Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, (in the House- H.R. 1384,  in the Senate- S 743) has been around for a while, but now may be closer than ever to being passed. It was introduced by Sen. John Boozman (Rep-AR) in March, 2015.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has been hesitant to support the measure out of concern that passage would make retired Guard and reserve members think they are eligible for benefits they have not earned.

The second initiative would make an increased number of former Reserve and Guard members eligible for veteran preference.

Veterans preference recognizes the sacrifices made by those who serve, giving them preference over non-Veterans in both Federal hiring practices and in retention during reductions in force. Preference applies in hiring for many positions within the Federal competitive service, and provides a uniform method by which special consideration is given to qualified Veterans.

If an individual signs on, devotes years of his or her life to being ready to serve at a moment’s notice, they should receive the respect given to veterans.

These men and women served honorably and should not be penalized simply because their country did not call them up to active duty for the full requisite period of time.

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.

Should Military Service Earn Non-citizen Veterans a Second Chance at Citizenship?

hector-barajas-3

By Debbie Gregory.

A baby born on U.S. soil is automatically granted U.S. citizenship. Another path to citizenship is through military service. In fact, joining the U.S. military has always been one of the fastest ways to get U.S. citizenship. But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unfortunately, veterans who did not go through the process of becoming citizens, if they get in trouble, can be deported.

This is a fact known all too well by Hector Barajas-Varela. Born in Mexico, the 39-year-old Army veteran came to the U.S. illegally when he was seven. Although he donned a U.S. military uniform and received an honorable discharge, Barajas-Varela never followed through on his naturalization paperwork.

In 2002, Barajas-Varela was deported after pleading guilty to felony charges resulting from issues with alcohol and drugs. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known as the Bunker, a shelter for former U.S. military servicemembers who find themselves in the same situation.

The Bunker offers assistance and support from fellow veterans and volunteers.

Miguel Gabriel Vazquez is one of two Vietnam War veterans who offer counseling at the Bunker. Vazquez, a trained counselor with a master’s degree in psychology, comes to the bunker once a week to do individual counseling.

“They all have PTSD whether diagnosed or not,” said Vazquez, who has not been deported but lives in Rosarita Beach, Mexico, where he moved to write a book on healing PTSD naturally. “These guys get all that plus the trauma of being deported.”

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is considering Barajas-Varela’s application after his crime — discharging a firearm — was reclassified and is no longer an aggravated felony.

Naturalization used to be part of basic training, but the laws changed. As a result, lots of green card holders went to Iraq and Afghanistan without becoming citizens.

U.S. immigration law states that non-citizens who commit serious crimes forfeit their right to remain in the country. Deported veterans and their advocates say those who wear the uniform should be treated as U.S. citizens: punished for any crimes they commit, but not deported.

Employer Survey Reveals Surprising Attitude Towards Vets

survey

By Debbie Gregory.

While American employers see veterans as “heroes,” they don’t necessarily see them as “assets”, according to a recent survey.

The survey, done by the Edelman marketing firm, found that the designation of “hero” can create an emotional distance between veterans and civilians.  This in turn can make it difficult for civilians to connect with veterans and view them as potential colleagues.

The online survey found that 84% of employers and 75% of civilians see veterans as heroes. But only 26% of employers and 22% of civilians think veterans are “strategic assets” in their communities.

The survey also found that employers most commonly think about mental health problems when they think about veterans.

While the jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has decreased in recent years, there are concerns about the quality of employment.

Survey results were released as part of a joint effort by Edelman, Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that provides counseling to troops and veterans, and the George W. Bush Institute.

“The issue is about long-term job fit, advancement, retention. Is the veteran given the same look as others?” said  Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour.

The goal was to examine the “well-being” of veterans and what was described as an ongoing schism between civilians and those who serve in the military, according to Van Dahlen.

Van Dahlen said the contrasting view that veterans are heroes, but not assets, is a product of an American culture in need of heroes, but lacking understanding of its military. “These folks come home from war, they’ve seen and done things that would make many of us feel uneasy, uncomfortable, intimidated. And so by seeing them in this way, as heroes, it does keep us distant from them.”

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.

Army Vet Uses Skills to Free Bald Eagle

eagle

By Debbie Gregory.

A U.S. army veteran saved the life of a bald eagle by using a semi-automatic rifle and his sharp-shooting skills to free the bird, which was trapped in a tree.

Jason Galvin and his wife, Jackie, noticed the eagle ensnared in rope around its leg, hanging 70 feet above ground from a tree, near Rush City, Minnesota.

Galvin used a borrowed .22-caliber rifle with a scope to sever the four inch thick rope after firing 150 shots. Galvin never hit the eagle.

The bird tumbled 75 feet to the ground. The couple wrapped it in a blanket and took it to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center.

“We named the eagle Freedom and hope to be able to release him near his home once he is back to health!” Jackie Galvin wrote on Facebook.

Although Galvin was facing windy conditions which made the shot difficult, he was determined to free the bird.

“It was a good weekend for it to happen,” Galvin said. “Fourth of July, you know, that’s our bird. I can’t let it sit there.”

Since June 20, 1782, the bald eagle has been the emblem of the United States of America, chosen because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks, and also because it was then believed to exist only on this continent.

The Galvins initially called the police and fire departments after spotting the bird, but because it was so high up, the agencies were not able to help and “deemed this was going to be a loss.”

Before taking aim, Galvin also cleared his plan with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Phil Mohs, a conservation officer from the department, gave Galvin the go-ahead, believing the eagle would die in the tree if left alone.

The federally protected bird has been eating and drinking, although its long-term prognosis is unclear.

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.

DoD SkillBridge Program Prepares Servicemembers for Veteran Jobs

skillbridgeBy Debbie Gregory.

Under the framework of the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, eligible transitioning service members can participate in job skills training, preparing them for veteran jobs.

The DoD SkillBridge initiative promotes the civilian job training authority available for transitioning service members. Service members meeting certain qualifications can participate in civilian job and employment training, including apprenticeships and internships.

The training can take place up to six months in advance of a service member’s separation, and must offer a high probability of employment. Training is provided to the service member at little or no cost.

Service members use the SkillBridge application to search for training opportunities that best fit their goals. Search based on your skillset, your desired location and transition date. When service members find relevant training opportunities they can inquire with the training provider to learn more details about the opportunity and the application process.

Service members can set up a profile in the SkillBridge application to receive email or Twitter direct message notifications when a training opportunity matches with your profile.

Through DoD SkillBridge, tremendous potential exists for service members, companies, trade unions, and others for leveraging this new DoD authority.

The program is governed by DoD Directive 1322.29 — Job Training, Employment Skills Training, Apprenticeships, and Internships (JTEST-AI) for Eligible service members.

To be eligible a service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting the JTEST-AI. The service member must initiate their own participation and also have approval from within their chain of command. For more information, visit the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program website.

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.

 

One Word Stands Between Guard and Reserves Veteran Status

what is a veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

As the number of reserve component members of the National Guard and Reserves who have served in support of the war on terrorism nears the one million mark, it is shocking and unacceptable to learn that they are not considered “veterans” when they complete their service.

This inequity was written into antiquated law, in a time when the Guard and Reserves were called upon, for the most part, one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer.

The Reserve units of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are now considered “operational,” used continually,  the same as our active forces.

To be considered a veteran, service members need 180 or more consecutive days on active duty, not including active duty while training. Getting nearly six consecutive months on active duty isn’t as easy as it sounds; the armed forces intentionally limit orders to 179 or fewer days because anyone on active duty 180 or more days is reflected on active duty manning documents, which counts against the service’s personnel ceiling.

It would seem reasonable that we would express our appreciation to these service members by giving them the same “veteran benefits” allotted to those who served in the “regular” forces.  And doing so would be pretty easy, just by changing one word in the current law: “consecutive” to “cumulative.”

The Reserve Officers Association has worked with Congress to try to get this change approved. And it appears that no one is opposed to making the change.

While many argue the semantics of who is a veteran, perhaps we can all agree that when a person dons the uniform of our country, and signs up to serve and sacrifice, we can repay that debt by honoring what they have done. It isn’t necessary to make a divide when unity makes us not only better, but also stronger.

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 Connection: Paving the Way to a College Education

stu

By Debbie Gregory.

The Regents of the UC education system if California have decided that military veterans and their dependents who are UC students will be able to pay lower in-state tuition, even if they were previously ineligible.

The change in policy came in response to a federal law that was enacted last year.  Aimed primarily at improving Veterans’ access to health care, the law allows any Veteran who has served at least 90 days of active service to pay resident tuition rates in any state within three years of leaving the military. It also covers spouses and dependent children of Veterans meeting certain criteria.

The federal law applies to any public college or university receiving federal funding through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.   The 10-campus UC system received at least $30 million in those federal grants for the education of about 1,400 veterans and family members in the 2013-14 school year, officials said.

UC regents said they wanted to accommodate military families whose duties often move them so frequently that they do not have the chance to establish residency long enough to qualify for in-state discounted tuition. And they said they wanted to honor the service of military veterans.

UC officials said they did not know exactly how many students will directly benefit from the more lenient policy, but they hope it encourages more of them to attend UC.

While in-state undergraduates pay about $12,200 for tuition (excluding room, board and other costs), out of state, including international students, pay approximately $23,000 on top of that.

Financially independent adult students usually need to have lived in California more than a year, and show intent to become permanent residents to qualify for the lower tuition. Younger students face higher thresholds of proving they have been living on their own income for several years.

Student Veterans have spent their military careers defending the United States, so it’s important to welcome them back to the United States with the American dream: decent housing, a top quality education, wherever they would like to study, and ultimately, a great career.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Paving the Way to a College Education: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Expanding Your Résumé: By Debbie Gregory

Volunteer

As the holiday season is upon us, many unemployed and student Veterans and their spouses will have the ability to expand their résumés. Many retailers, shipping companies, private security firms, and holiday essentials providers (Christmas tree lots) are hiring seasonal help. While the bulk of these seasonal hires are intended by both the employer and the employee to be temporary, they add additional skills to your résumé.

After the holiday season, there are still numerous, ongoing opportunities for Veterans and military spouses to gain notable experience for their résumés, through volunteer work and community service.

Researches from The Mission Continues and the Center for a New American Security found that 90% of the Veterans involved with The Mission Continues believed their community work increased their prospects of finding a job. The study also found that that over 80% of the participants claimed that the volunteer experience encouraged them to search out better careers.

For the study, researchers tracked over 400 Veteran participants, known as group fellows. The researchers weighed the overall well-being of the group fellows before and after their six months of community service through The Mission Continues. The study found that group fellows reported much stronger ties with their families and communities after completing the program. They also reported increased confidence and increased activity in post-military support networks.

Veterans who completed the fellowship not only felt better about themselves, but also found that they gained skills, experience and networking connections through their community service that they can use towards finding meaningful employment. And employers will look at community service, along with the experiences and skills that were gained, increasing their confidence in hiring that employee.

The Mission Continues is just one of many non-profit organizations that connect Veterans to meaningful and experience-building volunteer work. Veterans can also take it upon themselves to volunteer for a multitude of community service programs in their own communities. Whether it’s building a house, helping fellow Veterans, feeding the homeless, picking up garbage, or working with seniors or children, Veterans are encouraged to seek out volunteer work… it could lead to that dream job.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Padding Your Résumé: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Veteran : By Debbie Gregory

sleep disorderAmericans know that such conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) have plagued the generation of Veterans who fought in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are other conditions that seem to be unique to this generation of war Veterans, greatly affecting their ability to sleep.

One of these conditions is sleep apnea. As of July, 2014, more than 114,000 Veterans were receiving disability benefits for the condition. The claims of sleep apnea among Veterans are so rampant that several politicians have cried foul. Within the next year or two, the VA will have to begin implementing tougher examinations to determine the credibility of these claims.

But there is another sleep-related condition plaguing Veterans. Doctors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington are calling it trauma-associated Sleep Disorder.Military doctors began seeing these unique “nocturnal disruptive behaviors” as early as 2006. They describe them as nightmares or night terrors that they are able to act out, to the point where they have assaulted their significant others without waking.

Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder is similar to nightmares and night terrors that other Veterans have experienced after combat deployments and traumatic events. They, too, occur during rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. But unlike these known sleep conditions, Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder is not accompanied by the body paralysis that is common with everyday REM sleep. This causes affected Veterans to thrash, punch, cry, shout and make other harmful gestures to themselves and anyone that might be sharing their bed.

The symptoms don’t exactly match the most common diagnoses for combat-related sleep issues, nightmare disorder or REM behavior disorder. Researches at Lewis-McChord are accumulating data and building a case for Trauma-associated Sleep Disorder to be included as its own diagnosis.

If you have experienced similar night time disorders, you should know that you are not alone. Please seek treatment and know that coming forward may help lead to a diagnosis and effective care for your disorder.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Veteran : By Debbie Gregory