News

This summer, members of the U.S. military—active, veterans and reserve—and first responders can stretch their travel dollars and create vacation memories to remember with special savings on stays at select Marriott Vacation Club resorts. A fantastic 15 percent discount at Marriott Vacation Club resorts in the U.S. is now available to active, retired and reserve members of the U.S. military and National Guard, and first responders including police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. To book a vacation stay with Marriott Vacation Club and take advantage of the special 15 percent discount for first responders and members of the military, visit Marriott.com and search U.S. hotels. Select a Marriott Vacation Club resort, open “special rates” then select “corporate/promo” from the list. Use code XYD to book. Participating Marriott Vacation Club resorts can be found throughout the U.S., in popular family vacation destinations including Orlando, Hilton Head, Park City, Lake Tahoe and Palm Desert and on the beautiful Hawaiian beaches of Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. Families can also enjoy stays at Marriott Vacation Club Pulse locations in New York City, Boston, South Beach, Washington, D.C. and San Diego. Marriott Vacation Club’s accommodations range from guestrooms—great for weekend getaways—to spacious multi-bedroom villas complete with separate living and dining areas and fully equipped kitchens that are perfect for hosting a big family get-together. It’s a well-deserved summer vacation opportunity just for first responders and members of the military and their families, at spectacular Marriott Vacation Club resorts that combine luxury with the comforts of home to make vacation memories that will last forever. Certain restrictions may apply, see website for details. About Marriott Vacation Club – Marriott Vacation Club Marriott Vacation Club is a global leader in vacation ownership with a diverse portfolio of 60 resorts and more than 12,000 timeshare villas throughout the U.S., Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Australia. Marriott Vacation Club is a premium vacation ownership program that provides Owners and their families with the flexibility to enjoy high-quality vacation experiences. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/MarriottVacClub and find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/marriottvacationclub.
Most know Tony Romo played 14 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, guided the Cowboys to four postseason appearances and was named to the Pro Bowl four times, until he retired out in 2016. Some may even know he’s now making a showing in the world of golf, having just won an amateur golf tournament by an impressive nine shots. What few people know is Tony’s commitment to our military and Veteran families.Born in San Diego while his dad was serving in the U.S. Navy, Tony grew up around the military environment and learned early on the values and the importance the military plays to the betterment of the United States. At this year’s Convention, JULY 13 – 15 in Fort Worth, TX, Tony Romo’s National Fantasy Football Convention (NFFC), in partnership with Citi Bank and Soldier On will be surprising two injured veterans with brand new homes and NFFC will be working with Canine Champions for Veterans to provide up to ten other veterans with service dogs. For those not familiar, the National Fantasy Football Convention is built by fans for the fans. Connecting football fans to the game in the newest and most innovative ways. This year’s convention will provide an unprecedented experience for fans to learn, engage and interact with the brightest stars and minds in the NFL today, with over 200 players, representing every team in the league and including Hall-of-Famers, Heisman Trophy winners and Super Bowl Champions. NFFC CEO Andy Alberth shared that this year’s event is truly special because it will showcase the appreciation and respect many NFL players have for those who serve our country in uniform. “Many NFL players in the past have stayed well-beyond their designated time slot to spend time around those in uniform who attend. They love this event because they can get around those who serve.” If you are interested in attending this year’s convention, JULY 13 – JULY 15 at Fort Worth, TX, register today at www.GoNFFC.com and plan to interact with hundreds of NFL players, talk fantasy with industry experts, explore and shop in the Fan Expo Hall, attend exciting events at the NFFC stages, party with players, get photos and autographs, toss the pigskin on the NFFC Field and so, so much more.
PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA, July 3, 2018 — After serving two tours in Iraq, U.S. Army SFC Jared Bullock trained for Special Forces and received a Green Beret in October 2013. Just a month later, on deployment in Afghanistan, an IED explosion on a routine patrol forever altered his life, leaving him without his right arm and leg. After more than thirty surgeries, Bullock was recognized by the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) to receive a smart home designed and built specifically to address his needs. When U.S. Army SFC Bullock describes that fateful day in November of 2013, he refers to it as “an incident,” according to David Young, Owner & President of integration firm The Sound Room. That is Bullock’s personality: unapologetically upbeat, always looking forward, doing his best not to dwell on the past. Speaking with the Gary Sinise Foundation® about the incident, Bullock shared, “I knew that my life wasn’t over, and this was just another challenge. Challenges have always motivated me to push harder in life.” Designing a modern home to fit the lifestyle of a wounded veteran involves technology that is customizable and extremely easy-to-use. To serve at the center of the smart home system, The Sound Room installed an ELAN® Control System and other Nortek Security & Control technologies that enable easy control of lighting, audio, video, window shades, a security system with cameras, motorized door locks, garage door control, two zones of climate control and a front door video intercom. The user-intuitive ELAN control interface is available to U.S. Army SFC Bullock through the two ELAN touch panels in the master bedroom and great room, as well as on an iPad® and iPhone®. This way, he and his family can easily see who is at the front door, view security feeds, and see what equipment is currently on or off throughout the home. Young also personalized “home” and “away” settings – the “away” setting can be enabled from any connected device to automatically ensure that TVs and lights are turned off, security is activated, and the doors are closed and locked when the family leaves. The designer and integrator worked together to build what is perhaps Bullock’s favorite area in the home, the exercise room. Complete with a 43” 4K TV and a pair of SpeakerCraft® in-ceiling speakers, he is always hard at work keeping his body in top condition. His dedication to physical fitness and challenges is part of his identity, as evidenced by the 12-mile race he ran just 10 months after the IED incident. Since then he has competed in Spartan races, worked with child amputees, and been featured for his strength and resilience on Bodybuilding.com. With a large amount of equipment involved – including two ELAN® touch-panels, 16 SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers, three Sony® 4K TVs, 16 Lutron® lighting dimmers, six 75” wide Lutron motorized window shades, home theater equipment and more – protecting the system is of paramount importance. The Sound Room relied on Panamax® VT4315-PRO power conditioners to ensure every component gets clean, consistent power for optimal operation, and a Panamax MB-1500 rack-mount battery backup to allow for safe operation and shutdown of all rack components in case of a power outage. During the project, Young was impressed with his team’s willingness to donate their time and expertise to this project. “This project presented a few challenges, namely because it was 2.5 hours away from our home location,” he said. “But even considering that, as soon as I announced our involvement in the project, several team members volunteered to work for free in support of U.S. Army SFC Bullock. It was a proud moment, as it was when we finally handed him the iPad that serves as the keys and control surface for his home.” The Sound Room also worked directly with other manufacturers to have additional items donated, including obtaining a free Luxul® networking system for the family. Toward the end of the project, a Verizon® cell phone signal booster was added to improve the mediocre cellular reception at the home. “The home for U.S. Army SFC Bullock was built to make his life at home as seamless as it could be with customized design,” concluded Judith Otter, Executive Director of the Gary Sinise Foundation. “We’re so honored to be a part of his journey and to better personalize his home to his needs. Without the generosity of Nortek Security & Control and our other partners, this wouldn’t be possible.” About ELANELAN, now part of Nortek Security & Control, develops an award-winning line of whole-house entertainment and control solutions distributed through a comprehensive channel of select dealers throughout the United States, Canada, and countries worldwide. The ELAN 8 update was honored with the “2017 Human Interface Product of the Year” award, and continues to expand its intuitive functionality with security, climate, surveillance and video distribution products and integrations. To learn more, visit www.elanhomesystems.com. About Nortek Security & ControlNortek Security & Control LLC (NSC) is a global leader in smart connected devices and systems for residential, security, access control, and digital health markets. NSC and its partners have deployed more than 4 million connected systems and over 25 million security and home control sensors and peripherals. Through its family of brands including 2GIG®, ELAN®, GoControl®, Linear®, Mighty Mule® and Numera®, NSC designs solutions for national telecoms, big box retailers, OEM partners, service providers, security dealers, technology integrators and consumers. Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, NSC has over 50 years of innovation and is dedicated to addressing the lifestyle and business needs of millions of customers every day. For further information, visit nortekcontrol.com. Other brand names and product names mentioned herein may be the trademarks, tradenames, service marks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.
  The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) recently launched the first of its kind app for use by military veterans and their advocates, available for download through the NVLSP website, Apple App Store, or Google Play Store. Named the NVLSP VA Benefit Identifier, the application helps veterans, with or without the assistance of a veteran’s service officer, determine specific VA benefits to which they are likely entitled. Veteran Rob Concklin found the app helpful and commented on Facebook. “I just wanted to write and say thanks for the benefits app. I went thru it, made a claim for five service connected conditions, three were granted immediately. I probably wouldn’t have even made the claim if it weren’t for your app.” A fourth condition was granted later for Concklin and while one condition was denied, Concklin was pleased he filed a claim. The app directs users to a logic based questionnaire that assists in verifying whether a veteran should file a claim for service-connected disability benefits or nonservice-connected disability pension. The survey addresses all possible disabilities covered by VA regulations. Created in both English and Spanish, the app functions as a comprehensive logic tree, generating additional questions from previously supplied answers. To protect privacy, no data or personally identifiable information is retained. Once the questionnaire is completed, results can be emailed or printed and used as a reference when filing claims for VA benefits. “We’re hoping to maximize the benefit of this app for veterans by offering it as a free service, without any cost for downloading and utilizing,” said Bart Stichman, co-founder and executive director of NVLSP. “We want to provide a supplementary means for veterans to decide what their best options are in filing a claim for disability benefits.” NVLSP’s VA Benefit Identifier app does not assist with claims for a higher rating for disabilities the VA has already connected to military service; claims previously filed with the VA; or claims for disabilities resulting from VA health care, VA vocational rehabilitation or participation in a VA Compensated Work Therapy program. In completing the Identifier questionnaire, veterans should have documents available about their military service (DD Form 214), information about medical conditions and any prior VA decisions or related communications. Upon completing  the survey, veterans are advised to schedule an appointment with a veteran’s advocate chosen from a list of Veterans Service Organizations furnished in the app. Veteran’s advocates are regularly available to assist with applications for VA disability benefits, free of charge. A key highlight of the NVLSP VA Benefit Identifier is its ability to appropriately recommend when veterans should file for specific conditions, prompting them to submit an “intent to file” form with the VA, while further providing timelines and instruction on how to proceed with a formal claim. NVLSP’s app features an easy to navigate interface allowing veterans to interact with a support point person, and can be downloaded from the NVLSP website to any web-enabled smart device. NVLSP recently fixed some bugs in the app in May that had frustrated a handful of users, and the problems identified were corrected. Download the NVLSP VA Benefit Identifier app on NVLSP’s website, from the Apple App Store, or from the Google Play Store. About NVLSPThe National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veterans service organization that has served active duty military personnel and veterans since 1980. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to its 22 million veterans and active duty personnel by ensuring they have the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVSLP offers training for attorneys and other advocates; connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help when seeking disability benefits; publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veteran benefits; and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced the award of 163 Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants totaling $47,600,000. This funding will provide workforce reintegration services to more than 18,000 homeless veterans. “While serving in the military, veterans learn many skills desired in today’s workforce,” said Secretary Acosta. “These grants will help thousands of homeless veterans reintegrate themselves into society and secure good jobs.” Funds are being awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards; local public agencies and nonprofit organizations; tribal governments; and faith-based and community organizations. Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. This year’s HVRP awards provide 40 first-year grants totaling nearly $13,000,000. Previous awardees will receive first and second option year grants totaling $34,600,000. Grantees under the HVRP program will coordinate their efforts with other federal programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care program.
At a shooting range near Daytona Beach Wednesday, a group of veterans and ex-cops stood in a line and took aim, firing rounds into paper targets while instructors walked between them and offered tips. Some missed, but most made their mark. They’re the new school guardians — hired by the Volusia County, Florida, school district to protect elementary schools around the county this fall against possible active assailants. They’ll be at the range for more than two weeks, training with firearms to be ready for the first day of school on Aug. 13. “We will be ready to answer the call if it’s necessary,” said Gregg Bastian, 55, a former fire department lieutenant and SWAT team medic training to be a guardian. Bastian is one of more than 40 new hires who will go through the 132-hour training course in the coming weeks. So is Ernesto Rowe, 59, a veteran and a retired state probation officer who also worked for the Daytona Beach Police Department. Deltona City Commissioner Mitch Honaker, 64, and Angel Ortiz, 34, are veterans going through the program, along with former corrections officers Damon Sansom, 44, and Frank Hayward, 73. Now they’ll all be at the district’s elementary schools. Their instruction began Monday, after a rigorous application process and, before that, months of debate at the district level about how to best meet a new state mandate on security at schools. After a mass shooting in February at a Parkland high school left 17 dead, the state responded by tightening gun laws and requiring school districts to increase security measures at schools. State dollars didn’t cover the cost of fulfilling those new requirements, so district officials began working in April to find a solution that wouldn’t break the bank. Part of that solution is putting guardians — district employees being trained by the Sheriff’s Office — in elementary schools. Sworn law enforcement officers will staff middle and high schools in the county, but guardians are a little different. They’ll carry weapons but won’t have arrest powers. Guardians are paid about $38,500 annually, and Volusia’s price tag is nearly $2 million. The district is seeking help from the cities to help fund the program. “I think it’s a great idea to use the resources you already have in the community,” said Lou Wolf, a 60-year-old retired police officer. “Guys that already have experience, who know something about what they’re doing.” That’s been the plan all along. The school district has been collaborating with the Sheriff’s Office to dig through nearly 200 applications and find people who had law enforcement or military backgrounds. It was a lengthy process that delayed the start of training. Each applicant had to go through a process that included fingerprinting, drug screening, a background check, a polygraph test, an evaluation of character references and a psychological examination. The new hires called the application process “thorough” and “rigorous.” “You want to have the right kind of people in our schools,” said Sansom, a father to five kids in Volusia County schools. “If I could’ve retired, I would have volunteered to do it.” The training process is just as rigorous. Even though almost all of the new hires have experience with weapons, they said the training is technical and they’re learning new things each day — like how to draw your gun correctly, what to do in case of a misload and how to react in high-stress situations. RELATED: HERE’S EVERYTHING WE’D NEED TO MAKE ARMED TEACHERS EFFECTIVE SCHOOL DEFENDERS » “When you’re under pressure, it’s a totally different world,” said Hayward, who has grandkids who go to school in the district. “If you have to think about it, it’s too late.” Parents and teachers in the community and across the state have questioned whether programs like this will prevent school shootings. Some people believe increased access to mental health services is the way to go — something the district is working on as well. “We have to start somewhere,” Rowe said. Honaker agreed: “Right now your children are in a safer environment until we come up with a better solution,” he said. Overall, there will be more than 40 guardians. That includes some to staff select charter schools that opted into the program, as well as provide some alternatives. The first group is training now, and a second class will begin next week. The guardians must complete the training with an 85 percent pass rate. “We will be ready to answer the call if it’s necessary,” Bastian said while he watched his classmates practice shooting. “I hope that we never have to.”
Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has formed a partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which will provide more access to the latest treatment options for VA patients with cancer. “Strategic partnerships, such as this one with the National Cancer Institute, allow VA to leverage the strengths of both organizations to the benefit of all stakeholders, especially our Veterans,” said VA’s Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “By increasing enrollment in these trials, VA and Veterans will contribute to important cancer research — this will not only help our Veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans and people around the world.” The NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment, also known as  NAVIGATE, is launching at 12 VA sites: Atlanta, Georgia; Bronx, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Durham, North Carolina; Hines, Illinois; Long Beach, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; San Antonio, Texas; and West Haven, Connecticut. Boston, Massachusetts, will also serve as a coordinating center for the effort. NAVIGATE will build infrastructure at VA sites to enable more Veterans to take part in cutting-edge clinical trials sponsored by NCI. Such trials typically test innovative experimental treatments, such as precision-medicine therapies based on patients’ genetic profiles, or immunotherapies that harness patients’ own immune systems to bring about cures. The NAVIGATE network will also establish best practices and share insights to help other VA Medical Centers nationwide enroll more Veterans in cancer clinical trials. Special attention is being given to minority patients, who often have less access to new treatments and are not as well represented in clinical trials in the U.S. While VA has a robust research program — including clinical trials on cancer and other diseases — at more than 100 sites nationwide, VA facilities often face challenges initiating and completing trials, including ones conducted through the NCI National Clinical Trials Network. Local VA research staff, for example, may lack adequate support to handle certain regulatory and administrative tasks involved in these studies. NAVIGATE will help remove those barriers. NAVIGATE will also seek to enroll Veterans in trials sponsored by NCI’s Community Oncology Research Program, which focuses on cancer prevention and symptom management. VA’s involvement in NAVIGATE is being managed through the Cooperative Studies Program (CSP) part of VA’s Office of Research and Development. CSP has a long history of running impactful clinical trials focused on Veterans’ health needs.
After learning that 1 out of 8 Americans doesn’t have enough to eat and that 27 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets face hunger daily, VFW is working to put an end to food insecurity.  Along with After the Harvest, Harvesters—The Community Food Network and Humana, the VFW launched the campaign “Uniting to Combat Hunger” on June 6 in Kansas City, Mo. “Some 25 percent of military households and 27 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets are affected by food insecurity,” VFW Commander-in-Chief Keith Harman said. “This is something VFW won’t tolerate. That’s why we are teaming with others to do something tangible in our Kansas City community.” Food insecurity doesn’t necessarily mean just being hungry. It also means not knowing when or where the next meal will come from or how a person will feed his or her family. In Kansas City alone, 15 percent of the community faces the issue of food insecurity. The goal of “Uniting to Combat Hunger” is to provide 50,000 meals in Kansas City and the surrounding areas.“The VFW assault against food insecurity takes place fittingly on D-Day,” VFW Adjutant General Brian Duffy said. “Let the assault begin.”  To kick it off, volunteers will participate in an After the Harvest “gleaning” on June 6 to gather fresh produce. According to Lisa Ousley, executive director for After the Harvest, gleaning is hand picking edible crops that remain in the fields or orchards after a harvest. Typically, the produce isn’t visually appealing for selling in grocery stores, but tastes the same. Located in Kansas City, After the Harvest aims to provide fresh produce to food banks, pantries, shelters and community kitchens in Missouri and Kansas.  “We are honored to join forces with the VFW, Humana and Harvesters to elevate the issue of food insecurity, especially among vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” Ousley said. “The rate of food insecurity among this population surpasses the national average.” In addition to gleaning, Harvesters also will provide a food-packing opportunity during convention. Harvester volunteers will place food collection barrels at various businesses around Kansas City through the end of July. VFW Quartermaster General Debra Anderson encourages convention attendees to bring canned goods to put in the Harvesters barrels around the Kansas City Convention Center. The Harvesters Mobile Pantry will be on site if attendees would rather purchase there. For those who want to volunteer while in Kansas City for the convention, they can pack and sort food July 21-22 at the convention center. “It’s an honor for Humana to raise awareness and fight food insecurity in Greater Kansas City and across the country,” said Jeff Fernandez, Segment Vice President for Humana. “Together, with the VFW, Harvesters, After the Harvest and hundreds of volunteers, we can help feed veterans and their families while increasing their ability to achieve their best health.” “We are grateful to our community partners, like the VFW and Humana, who recognize the need in our community and step forward to help us fight hunger,” said Valerie Nicholson-Watson, president and CEO of Harvesters—The Community Food Network. “Hunger knows no season and is found in every county in both urban and rural communities. It takes all of us working together to end hunger.” In addition to the other efforts, “dip jars” will be strategically placed throughout the convention center for those wishing to donate money to Harvesters. “This collaboration adds to the many ways that the VFW assists and advocates for veterans, military service members and their families,” Anderson said.
Post Commander Luddie Austin, an Army veteran and retired Trenton police officer, said he is glad to finally have “VFW representation” in his hometown. “After I came back from Iraq, it came to my attention that Trenton didn’t have a VFW,” Austin said. “I thought it was best for me and like-minded veterans to start a Post charter in our hometown.” Austin, who served in Iraq in 2004 with C Co., 759th MP Bn., 89th MP Bde., originally joined a nearby Post, but wanted to have a Post in his community. He said it is important for Post members to represent VFW at community events. That is why he participated in the Trenton’s annual half marathon, 10K and 5K event. Austin and Joe Thorpe, Post 12165 trustee, ran in the event – Austin the 10K and Thorpe the half marathon. Both represented their VFW Post along the way. Austin said Thorpe and he crossed the line at the same time “as a sign of unity.” Austin also said Post 12165 will be represented at Trenton’s upcoming Litter March in June. “We have Post members that are eager to participate in beautifying our city,” Austin said. “All of this helps promote the brand of VFW.” Austin said one of the reasons he and others started the Post was to work with schools in Trenton. “None of the schools were even aware of the Voice or Democracy or Patriot’s Pen scholarships,” Austin said. “We are also in the process of starting a community breakfast program that gives members of the community and their families a chance to mingle with veterans of the Post. The goal is to get people out in the community instead of enclosed in their home.” Another activity that Post 12165 members participated in included donating Christmas presents and a meal to a needy family, as well as to Capital Health in Trenton, N.J., on Christmas Eve. “We donated toys to the pediatric ward of the hospital to children who were not going to be home for Christmas,” Austin said. “We also provided meals to the nursing staff who were away from their families that day.” Austin said members currently are in the process of obtaining a building for the Post. But, a Trenton restaurant, 1911 Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, allows the members to meet at its facility for meetings until the Post finds a permanent home. “They allow us to do it at no cost,” Austin said. “We really appreciate them and everyone else in the community that has supported us.”
Amanda Landwehr, 26, of Prior Lake, Minn., joined the Army National Guard at the age of 20. “I wanted to do something beyond going to college, and the National Guard allowed me to pursue my education and serve at the same time,” she said.  Landwehr was deployed to Djibouti, Africa, where she worked base security. She recently completed her six-year service with the National Guard.   Landwehr is currently working toward her Doctorate of Psychology with an emphasis in Clinical Psychology at Nova Southeastern University. After she completes her doctorate, she plans to work at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs where she can be a support system for struggling veterans. “Veterans are a population that I can truly empathize with and I would like to do what I can to help.” As she pursued her dreams, she realized she needed help to fund her education. Landwehr discovered the VFW’s “Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship” while she was researching potential scholarships. “I would like to say thank you to the people who made this scholarship possible as it really helps to relieve the financial burden of graduate school,” she expressed.  Landwehr’s advice to veterans considering pursuing their dreams through education is, “There are a lot of scholarships available. You should seek out whatever resources necessary to help you succeed."