The effects of Hurricane Florence are still being felt in North and South Carolina, as flooding continues to be an issue after the deluge of rainfall from the storm earlier this month. The death toll from Florence has reached 43, and damage is estimated to be about $50 billion. In Shelby, N.C., home of The American Legion World Series, Post 82 members have helped load bottled water, cleaning supplies, pet food and other necessities donated by Cleveland County residents to help those impacted by the storm closer to the coast. “We were very pleased with the response from the community and the Legionnaires,” said Post 82 Adjutant Jim Quinlan. While Shelby and other cities in central and western North Carolina are in good shape, the eastern part of the state is in “desperate need,” Quinlan said. North Carolina Department Adjutant Randy Cash said Post 230 in Spring Lake, N.C., had been flooded out in Florence’s aftermath. On Tuesday, he was still waiting for assessments from other areas. In the meantime, the department has been working with agencies like Operation North State and Carolina Cavalry to get collected supplies to the areas where they’re needed. “And I’m waiting for the influx of NEF and TFA applications,” he said. The Department of South Carolina is waiting to see what sort of relief efforts might be necessary. “With the initial storm there wasn’t a lot of damage,” Adjutant Nick Diener said. “There’s a lot of flooding, but those areas we can’t get into anyway (to see what needs to be done).” Diener said Post 34 in Rock Hill, S.C., had collected care packages for the National Guard soldiers who have been sent out to help with relief efforts. Meanwhile, the Legion Family across the nation has been doing their part to help those affected by the hurricane. In Harveys Lake, Pa., Post 267 members and local borough officials have been collecting food, clothing and cleaning supplies to fill a trailer that will head to North Carolina next week. And in Fond du Lac, Wis., the local SAL chapter and Patriot Emergency Response Team are collecting donations at Post 75. Brian Stenz told KFIZ-AM that “one of the biggest needs right now with the flooding is that every person who has a house is going to have to basically gut the house out, clean it out and start over.” Cash said he’s been in contact with other departments, including the Department of Puerto Rico, where residents are still dealing with the effects of last fall’s Hurricane Maria. “We supported them and now they have returned the favor … it’s heartwarming,” Cash said. “This effort is going to take awhile,” Cash said. “We’re this far out from the actual storm but we’re still reeling from the floods. Wilmington and other areas are still in need of support. Continue to pray for us, and thanks to everyone for their outpouring of support.” For American Legion and Sons of The American Legion members who have been impacted by the hurricane, as well as Legion posts, The American Legion's National Emergency Fund (NEF) is available. NEF provides up to $3,000 for Legion and SAL members with an active membership, and up to $10,000 for posts that have been damaged by a natural disaster. For individual NEF grants submitted for Hurricane Florence, applicants: Must have been displaced from their primary residence which sustained damages from the hurricane and/or flooding. Should have receipts for out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., temporary housing, food while displaced, and other essentials to survive during the displaced period). The intent of the NEF grant is not to replace household goods or the living facilities, as these are insurance items. The grant is to be used to offset expenses needed in order to survive during the disaster period. Should have photos of damaged home, as well as hotel, gas and food receipts, or testimony from post, district or department officers attesting to damages or extraordinary circumstances. For American Legion post NEF grants, posts must state why they will cease to perform their duties and activities in the community due to losses sustained. Legion posts that served as community service centers during the disaster may also be eligible for a grant to offset their costs in providing food and other services to members of their community during these disasters. To apply for an NEF grant, please visit Since Jan. 1, 2018, the NEF has provided more than $166,000 in grants. These grants are made possible by donations to the fund. To donate, visit Additionally, The American Legion's Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program is available to help meet the basic needs of minor children of eligible veterans. These needs include shelter, food, utilities, clothing and health expenses. TFA grants are available to children (17 years or younger) of active-duty servicemembers or American Legion members. No child can be considered eligible until a complete investigation is conducted at the post or department level, a legitimate family need is determined, and all other available assistance resources have been utilized or exhausted. To apply for a TFA grant, contact your local American Legion post or department (state) headquarters. For post/department contact information, click here.
Starting with just one hungry veteran years ago, Rich Synek launched an ambitious plan, and now he, his wife, Michele, and a team of volunteers provide nourishment to veterans and their families Since 2008, a grassroots, VFW-member-led effort has fed more than 15,000 veterans nationwide, distributed more than 1 million pounds of food and donated more than $80,000 in gift cards. And it all started with one postage stamp. VFW Department of New York member Rich Synek was postmaster in Vernon Center, N.Y., when he noticed WWII vet Orley Baker purchasing one stamp at a time because that is all he could afford to buy. Synek soon learned that Baker and his wife had only enough money to buy food for two weeks out of every month.  “I just couldn’t get over how horrible it was that a WWII veteran was going hungry,” said Synek, who earned the Navy Expeditionary Medal off the coast of Libya in 1986. “For that matter, anyone being hungry is unacceptable.” Soon after learning this about Baker, Synek and his wife, Michele, took food to the vet’s home, only to find empty cupboards and an empty refrigerator, other than a few condiments.  That’s when Synek knew what he had to do. He retired 11 years early and found his calling. And so was born Feed Our Vets, a New York-based nonprofit veterans-only food pantry.  With pantries in Utica and Watertown, Feed Our Vets also has a mobile unit that feeds veterans monthly in Syracuse. Additionally, the unit takes food to Binghamton, Buffalo and Albany. Numerous times, it has traveled as far away as Philadelphia. To receive assistance at the pantries, vets only need to bring in a DD-214 and a photo ID or a VA card. No questions are asked. How vets end up at the pantry is not important to Synek and the teams of volunteers. One such volunteer is Vietnam veteran Joe Ancona. He’s been the director of the Utica pantry for eight years. He retired from the Army after 20 years before going to work for the state. After he retired, he thought he would do some volunteer work. “Rich married my youngest sister and that’s how I got roped into this,” he said and laughed. “It’s really like having another job, but that’s OK.” Most weeks, Ancona puts in 25-40 hours a week. While the pantry is open every Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. and the third Saturday of every month from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., it takes a lot of work to stock it. Each week sees about 50-60 veterans coming in for food, and the volunteer staff of 12 makes sure everyone receives a portion. “Some vets cannot make it in during our regular hours, and I’ll meet them after hours,” Ancona said. “There are a lot of hungry people out there, so you do what you gotta do, you know?” Ancona added that some people are hungry enough that they try to con him. They will say they were in the military but cannot prove it. In those situations, the volunteers will give a person enough food to get through the day and refer them to other places for assistance. “We’re never going to turn away a hungry person,” Ancona said. Selena Dewey also volunteers her time at the Utica food pantry. She’s been there about a year. October will mark three years since her husband died just one month shy of retiring after 30 years in the Air Force.  “People always say that the best way to heal is by helping others,” Dewey said. “I really wanted to get involved with something that would help veterans. This has truly helped my healing process.” Dewey is charged with weighing the food as it leaves the pantry. The IRS requires all food to be weighed both in and out.  She noted that veterans from WWII to Iraq utilize the pantry, adding that it’s particularly sad to see WWII vets in a position of needing assistance finding food.  “It has been the most humbling and rewarding experience,” Dewey said. “Each week, we, as volunteers, thank the veterans for their service. They always thank us. They are so appreciative of us. But it seems so wrong that they feel like they have to say thank you.” FRESH VEGETABLES APLENTYArmy veteran Carl Davis is one of the veterans who regularly visits the Utica pantry, which he calls a “society within a society.” Davis, who was severely injured years ago while serving as an Army welder at Ft. Ord, Calif., is 100 percent disabled and has three children. “I don’t know what I would do without this,” Davis said. “You know, they can shut off the cable and that’s fine because you don’t have to have that. But when you don’t have food for your family, it really hits home.” While talking on the phone for this article, Davis noted that he was cooking a pork roast with fresh vegetables that he had received at the pantry. He added that he always gets milk, eggs, cheese, bread and fresh vegetables.  “It’s not like you come in and they give you a box of macaroni and call it good,” he said. “They really care for us vets because they are vets, too. I pray for them every day.” Davis added that he appreciates the camaraderie at the pantry. They know how to relate to one another and “speak the same language.” FEED OUR VETS IS A ‘LIFESAVER’Besides the pantries and mobile unit, Feed Our Vets sends gift cards to veterans in 38 states. As of May 20, more than $80,000 in gift cards had been distributed around the country. The family of Amber and Anthony Hockensmith, from Georgetown, Ky., is the recipient of a $75 gift card each month.  Amber said the family, which includes four children, was doing pretty good on the couple’s dual income. But after Anthony’s two tours in Iraq with the Army, where he was wounded in multiple IED explosions, all of that changed. Diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury — with side effects including short-term memory loss, seizures and night terrors — Anthony is no longer able to work.  Amber, who previously worked in the medical industry in an administrative role, now is his full-time caregiver. From her caregiver support group, she found out about Feed Our Vets.  “I learned to coupon, and that $75 lasts us the entire month,” Amber said. “No words really describe how great Rich and his wife are. They are amazing.” Amber noted that the application process for Feed Our Vets was “simple,” easy and not invasive.  “There are no questions about why you need help or for how long,” Amber said. “They just help, no questions asked.” Nikiea Shelton agrees. Her husband, Dustin, was wounded in Iraq while serving in the Army. He was rated 90 percent disabled by the VA due to spinal cord complications. Last November, while pregnant with two children at home, Nikiea lost her source of income. She doesn’t recall how she heard about Feed our Vets but said she’s glad she did. The family in Georgia receives a $75 gift card each month from the New York operation. “Without this, we wouldn’t make it through the last week of the month,” Nikiea said. “Even if it was $20, it would help. Feed Our Vets has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion.” Synek recalled a woman he helped in Arkansas who wrote him a letter that nearly brought him to tears. She told him she hadn’t had anything to eat in days and then received a $75 Walmart gift card. She went out and bought a lot of food and came home and made a good dinner for her family. “I just can’t imagine,” he said. “I mean, it is food. It’s what the rest of us just take for granted.” ‘THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD’Since Feed Our Vets does not receive any federal or state funding, Synek said the group relies on individuals, businesses and community groups to help pay its bills.  “We have churches and other organizations that host food drives for us,” he said. “And we do different fundraising programs as well.” The latest such fundraising endeavor is the auctioning off of a restored 1990 AM General Humvee. Synek began researching this idea a few years ago, hoping to find someone to donate one. “I reached out to several donors with this idea and asked if they would like to be a part of this project,” Synek said. “After several months of talk, one of them donated one from Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.” In January 2017, Feed Our Vets received the vehicle. The restoration was completed by Steve Hale from Steve’s Restoration in Frankfort, N.Y. Synek said Dewey secured a lot of parts for the restoration, saving “tens of thousands of dollars.” FOV 1, as it’s now called, is at the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga, N.Y. At press time, a charity auction had been scheduled there for Sept. 22.  “All of this is more rewarding to me than anything else,” Synek said. “When a vet leaves one our pantries with a week’s worth of free food, it’s the best feeling in the world.” Synek said Feed Our Vets has no plans on slowing down. He hopes it does well enough on the auction that in a year or so they can have an FOV 2 to auction. For now, Synek and his volunteers will continue feeding as many as they can with what they have. “If I only fed one veteran, it was all totally worth it,” he said. “The people like Carl and Amber and all the 3,525 vets we fed last year are what keep me going.” For more information on Feed Our Vets and the vets they help, visit or check out the Feed Our Vets Facebook page for updates. 
WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said his department “needs to be more welcoming to women veterans” and promised improvements at the bureaucracy in months to come. “We are on the cusp of a great change,” Wilkie told veterans attending the inaugural meeting of the Military Women’s Coalition in Georgia on Friday. “This is not my father’s or my grandfather’s VA. It is now your VA. We have to change how we do business, and that means making the institution more welcoming.” Wilkie did not offer specifics on policies or programs to “make sure the needs of our fighting women are taken care of,” but he did acknowledge that women veterans are the fastest growing demographic group under the department’s watch. About 10 percent of the veterans population in America today are women, and that number is expected to rise above 17 percent in the next decade. Wilkie, who previously served as the Pentagon’s top personnel official, said more than 250,000 women service members are stationed throughout the world today.
Two disabled post-9/11 veterans and their families will get beach vacations next week, courtesy of two Department of New Jersey American Legion posts. On Sept. 9, Morvay-Miley Post 524 in Ocean City will welcome U.S. Marine Corps veteran Lance Cpl. Bobby Raditz, his wife Erika and their 1-year old daughter Emma for a week's vacation through the post’s Rest and Relaxation Program. And on Sept. 12, American Legion Post 469 in Longport will host former Navy Chief Petty Officer Adam Fleck, his wife Christina and their 4-year-old daughter Penelope for a week’s stay in the beach community. Honoring “The Whole Family.” In Ocean City, Raditz – a service-connected veteran who served in Iraq – and his family will be greeted with a lunchtime welcome ceremony at Post 524 and then receive an escort into town by American Legion Riders, and local police and fire department vehicles. The Raditz family will stay, for free, in a condo for the week and receive gifts from Ocean City businesses. It’s the fifth year Post 524 has conducted the program. They annually provide two veterans with a week at the beach – one earlier in the summer, and one near the end of the summer season. Jerry Bonner, Post 524’s Rest and Relaxation Program chairman, said it’s important to make sure the veterans’ families are included in the week. “The deployment affects the whole family,” he said. “When these soldiers are deployed, their family’s under a lot of pressure, too. It impacts the whole family.” Bonner said that if the veteran has an older child, the post will present him or her with a medal, thanking the son or daughter for helping out while the mother or father was deployed. The post also provides the veterans’ children and spouses with various gifts. “We try to make it for the whole family,” Bonner said. “Everybody suffers when you’re deployed.” Local businesses and organizations contribute to the program, while Auxiliary Unit 524 member Gina Secrest is providing the condominium for the Flecks. “People come to me and search me out (to contribute),” said Bonner. The majority of Post 524’s members are Vietnam veterans, Bonner said. The reception some of them received when they left the military drives them to honor those both still serving in and separating from the U.S. Armed Forces. “I think they go out of their way to make it good for the soldiers nowadays,” Bonner said. “When these (veterans) come in for (the vacation), they always say they don’t deserve it. I always say ‘You’re helping us. You’re helping the Vietnam vet … feel better. “It’s a pretty good program. It’s a winner for everybody. It’s a winner for Ocean City, it’s a winner for the vet, and it makes our guys really like we’re doing something.” An “Interactive” Vacation. For the seventh year, Post 469 in Longport will host a wounded veteran and his family during its Wounded Warrior Week program. Fleck, a former Navy Special Operations Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, was seriously injured during an attack against his unit in Afghanistan. He was medically discharged in June and earned a Purple Heart. He and his family will be honored with a welcome parade and escorted by American Legion Riders and local first responders to a reception. The Flecks will stay in a beach-block home and be presented with free restaurant meals, sports and beach activities, and shows in Atlantic City. Post 469 Commander Larry Pacentrilli said the first time the post sponsored a veteran’s vacation, there wasn’t much interaction between the veteran and the post during the week. But that has changed. “The local veterans organizations that participate and contribute (to the program) really look forward to doing this because it’s an interactive visit,” Pacentrilli said. “We don’t toss the keys to the wounded warrior and say ‘Hey, have a good week.’ They know before they come that this is an opportunity not only for them to have a nice vacation, but also … for the community to express its appreciation for all the troops and wounded warriors through them. So they’re kind of a surrogate in that respect. When they come now, just about every day we’re doing something almost with them. “It’s gone over so well. At first we were wondering ‘maybe we’re taking up too much of their time.’ But the feedback we’ve gotten each time is that they really loved the interaction and getting to know the people in the community. And the people in the community love it, too.” All of their expenses are paid through contributions from local residents, organizations and businesses. “We don’t have to twist any arms for money,” Pacentrilli said. "We send out the notices, we advertise and the money just comes pouring in.” Pacentrilli said the week gives the veterans a chance to see that “people care.” He referenced a Marine Corps veteran with PTSD who went through the program three years ago. A Marine he’d served with in Afghanistan had recently committed, and the Marine was at a point where he felt no one cared about him or his fellow servicemembers. “They come into town, they get the parade, and we showed them a good time for the week,” Pacentrilli said. “But … the week we had them in included (the veteran’s) birthday.” Post 469 reached out to the veteran’s wife and asked if he had any good friends who he’d served with that may be able to attend a party for the veteran. “We were able to fly in four Marines that served with him, plus the Navy Corpsman that saved his life,” Pacentrilli said. “I get a little choked up talking about it. And we’re still in contact with him. His wife told us that since then, he’s fine now. He knows people care.”
Patriot Day serves as a reminder of the cost of freedom KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tomorrow, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. will pause to honor Patriot Day and remember the 2,996 lives tragically lost 17 years ago in New York City, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.  Since that fateful day, our bravest have fought on multiple fronts, with thousands of our nation’s finest paying the ultimate price for defending our freedoms, and thousands more having returned home bearing the physical and mental scars of battle.  The events of 9/11 serve to remind the world of everything our great nation stands for, that we will fight for the freedom to live our lives free from tyranny and fear, and that the true price of freedom is never free. The more than 1.6 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary encourage all Americans to take a moment tomorrow and throughout the week to reflect on all that has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, and to remember the victims, their families, and those who’ve selflessly sacrificed to ensure our way of life remains.
A life member of Arizona VFW Post 7401 WASHINGTON — The 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary are saluting the life of one of their own, U.S. Sen. John S. McCain III, who died this evening after battling brain cancer. “The senator is being remembered as a maverick at the U.S. Naval Academy, as a naval aviator, as a five and a half-year prisoner of war, and as a two-term U.S. congressman and six-term U.S. senator from Arizona,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “But we remember Senator McCain as a 32-year Life member of VFW Post 7401 in Chandler, Ariz., and as a staunch supporter of a strong military as well as a champion for our troops, our veterans and their families.” To recognize that support, McCain was a two-time VFW national award recipient, having been presented the VFW Americanism Award in 1992 and VFW Congressional Award in 1995. He also shared in the receipt of the VFW Armed Forces Award in 1971, which was presented (in absentia) to American POWs in Vietnam. “John McCain was a patriot who cared deeply about the health and well-being of those who have worn the uniform of our country and their families,” said Lawrence, “and on behalf of the entire VFW family, I send our deepest condolences to his family for their loss, and thank them for their strength and support that enabled him to continue serving our great nation for so many years. Bravo Zulu.”
Sen. John McCain quotes shared: "Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again." John McCain "In the real world, as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality." John McCain "Every day, people serve their neighbors and our nation in many different ways, from helping a child learn and easing the loneliness of those without a family to defending our freedom overseas. It is in this spirit of dedication to others and to our country that I believe service should be broadly and deeply encouraged." John McCain "If you want to preserve - I'm very serious now - if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started." John McCain "The first role of government is to help people who are in crisis or need. That's why we have government." John McCain Read more at: See John McCain's family photos here Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather, both admirals, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. But the straight-speaking former POW and senator chose to be laid to rest at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Memorial services begin Wednesday — his 82nd birthday — at the Arizona State Capitol, where he will lie in state. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
15 Military Discounts ONLY Veteran, Retired And Active Duty Members Are Entitled To Military veterans, retired and active duty members deserve the many discounts available to them. As a thank you, our country and plenty of companies offer steep discounts and even free products and services only to military and immediate family members. There are private companies and federal programs that many of our past and present servicemen know of, but there are plenty that exist that are relatively unknown, until now. That's why we are here. To show you what you might be missing and to help you save on things you may not have known existed. Enjoy our list and please share this with others you know might be interested. 1. $42,000 MORTGAGE REDUCTION When veterans and active military homeowners visit the VA Refinance Website they are surprised their benefits qualify them for a huge mortgage reduction, that can save them on average a whopping $42,000 on their mortgage. Millions of savvy veterans are taking advantage of VA benefits that drastically reduce monthly mortgage payments by an average of $3,100 each year. These benefits serve as a big pay day for our veterans, but millions of veterans miss out on these huge savings by simply being unaware of their eligibility for this program. All veterans and active military can qualify for this refinance program and the process is very simple. Check To See If You Qualify (60 Second Survey) »   2. CONSOLIDATE ALL YOUR EXISTING DEBT INTO ONE SIMPLE PAYMENT Members of the military run into unavoidable factors – constant relocation, financial inexperience and unemployment among spouses – that make them more vulnerable to falling into debt than civilian peers. Do you owe more than $10,000 in credit card debt? Here is an amazingly effective debt relief program available for Veterans, Retiress and Active Military Members by Freedom Debt Relief that not only consolidates your loans, but will also reduce the amount you owe. Amazing right? Click Here To Consolidate Your Debts »   3. MILITARY DISCOUNTS ON APPAREL AND ACCESSORIES FROM LOCAL RETAIL SHOPS From local shops to national chains, a range of clothing and accessories stores offer special prices and deals for military personnel. Get some great discounts from these participating companies: Bass Pro Shops: Eligible military members receive a 5 percent discount every day on select products and Cabela’s gear with a valid military ID. Champion: Military personnel and veterans get 10 percent off. Big 5 Sporting Goods: Active-duty and reserve military personnel, retirees, and veterans receive a 10 percent discount on their in-store purchase. Foot Locker: Qualified military personnel can get a 20 percent discount off most purchases on Michaels: Get 15 percent off your purchase — including sale items — every day with a military ID. Military personnel and first responders, along with their spouses and close family members, get a 15 percent discount on their purchase. NBA Store: Military service members receive a 15 percent discount on their order. Nike: Receive a 10 percent discount at and at Nike stores as an eligible military member. NFL Shop: All eligible military personnel enjoy a 15 percent discount to use when purchasing products on Under Armour: For eligible military personnel, the sports retailer offers a 10 percent discount with verification. 4. VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY: NEVER PAY FOR HOME REPAIRS AGAIN You never know what will happen with your home. That's why it's important to get a home warranty. Think of it as taking vitamins to prevent future disaster. You won't feel the benefit right away, but you won't feel what you are trying to prevent. Plus the peace of mind a home warranty provides is priceless. A home warranty will not only save you money, but it protects all appliances and other systems put under coverage. This includes refrigerators, AC, dryers, washers, dishwashers, ovens and more. Total Home Warranty offers rock solid protection when something inside or outside of your house goes wrong. Total Home Warranty has a claims hotline open 24/7. Once a claim is filed, a local technician is sent to fix it. A home warranty gives protection when the unexpected happens. Exclusive Offer: Our military and veteran readers are now being offered one month FREE and $100 Off when you sign up. This offer is not available to anyone but our readers. Click here to take advantage. Click Here To Get Started » 5. SAVE UP TO 70% ON LIFE INSURANCE Need more than SGLI to help protect your family’s financial future? has affordable plans to fit any budget. Try the 20 year plan. The price you pay the first month is designed to remain level for the first 20 years. Sign up soon – the younger you are, the lower the rate! Many Veterans and active duty servicemen also have a hard time qualifying for a new policy once they reach a certain age. The best way to get the cheapest life insurance policy possible is to compare quotes from multiple carriers. Luckily, will automatically use your information to find you the best life insurance policy for your needs at much lower prices. Click Here To Save On Life Insurance »   6. EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD COLLECT "FEDERAL RENT CHECKS" Do you like paying the mortgage on your house? Probably not. It’s a huge drain on your bank account. But what if we told you… A little-known $11.1 billion pool of money exists at the Treasury Department Most of this money will be released, after which it will be distributed across the country There is a way for our military readers to get on a distribution list entitling you to a BIG monthly check. These BIG monthly checks could effectively help you live in your home for FREE. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.    7. FREE ADMISSION TO NATIONAL PARKS FOR MILITARY MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES Yosemite, Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Zion, The Everglades & More With this amazing perk, active military members can tour America’s National Parks for free, for life. Military members and their dependents are now eligible to receive a free annual pass to U.S. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands. Beginning May 19, 2012, all active duty military members and their families can receive the free annual pass with proper identification – a Common Access Card (CAC) for the military member and DD Form 1173 for dependents (see more info about getting a replacement military ID card if you need a new one). How to get a free annual pass: You must apply for the free pass in person at the National Park or Federal Recreation Land with your ID in hand. What is covered with the free pass? Passes cover entrance to Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service sites that charge Entrance Fees, and Standard Amenity Fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites. The pass covers admission for the annual pass owner and the passengers in their vehicle (up to 3 adults per vehicle, age 16 and over; no charge for children under age 16). Are free passes available for veterans? Unfortunately, no, unless you are a Veteran with a disability rating. Otherwise this offer is good for active duty service members and their dependents. If you haven't been rated, you may want to, as this and other discounts not available to Veterans, may be available to Veterans with a disability rating. More information on how to obtain a rating decisions can be found at So get out and see America! 8. MILITARY HOTEL AND TRAVEL DISCOUNTS Active-duty personnel and veterans can land big deals on train, plane and bus fare. Take advantage of these military fares and don’t forget to book a hotel with a discount to enjoy when you arrive at your destination. These companies offer some of the best veteran discounts and military travel discounts: Amtrak: Active-duty military personnel, their spouses and dependents can receive a 10 percent discount on the lowest available fare price on most Amtrak trains, as well as permission for uniformed military personnel to skip to the front of ticket lines. This offer is invalid on non-Acela business class, first class or sleeping accommodations. Best Western Hotels & Resorts: Veterans and active members enjoy at least 10 percent off the flexible rate at Best Western locations in North America. This offer is also extended to Canadian military members who are on official government business travel. Greyhound: Veterans Advantage card members receive 10 percent off tickets purchased online or at a Greyhound station. Hilton Hotels & Resorts: Active-duty and retired military members receive a discounted room rate at participating Hilton Hotels & Resorts. Search by the military base, government building or local attraction to check availability and view exact discounted room rates. Motel 6: Get a 10 percent discount on a room with a valid military ID. National Car Rental: While traveling on official business, U.S. government travelers can enjoy benefits, including a loss damage waiver, discounted rental rates and no fees for additional or underage drivers. Red Roof Inn: Active military members and their loved ones can enjoy 10 percent off their room. A 20 percent discount is available to those carrying a VetRewards card. Sandals: Take advantage of an additional 10 percent savings on top of current promotions when you book a Sandals luxury all-inclusive vacation. Travelers: Members of PenFed Credit Union could save an average of $550 on auto insurance. United Airlines: Veterans Advantage members receive up to 5 percent off tickets for United- and United Express-operated flights purchased on 9. NEVER PAY FOR ANOTHER AUTO REPAIR AGAIN Ever see the "check engine" light on in your car and have no clue what it means? The typical response is to head straight to the local "trusted" mechanic and see what's up. Well that response is exactly how these mechanics make their money. They no most of us are clueless about our cars, and create they create a laundry list of things that need to be repaired. The fact is, 90% of the time, you're being ripped off. Enter FIXD. FIXD is pocket-sized device plugs right into your car’s dashboard and instantly diagnoses your car’s issues onto your phone screen in plain English. This way, you know at all times what problems your car may or may not have, without the help of your "trusted" shady mechanic. This device has upended the entire auto mechanic industry, as it's taking millions out of their pockets, and keeping it in yours! Never get scammed at the garage again. Click here or the button below to find out more about FIXD. Click Here To Learn More About FIXD »   10. FORMER HOME DEPOT CLERK WANTS TO SHOW OUR MILITARY READERS HOW HE BECAME AMERICA'S #1 TRADER Watch this former Home Depot clerk become $4238 richer in just 41 seconds.. You've never seen anything like this, nor will you ever see it again. It's insane and he's proven anyone can do it. It's truly amazing and he wants to show our readers his tricks. Watch him earn actual profits as they are happening, in real-time. Click Here To Watch »   11. MILITARY SPECIALS FROM MOBILE AND TECH COMPANIES From hardware and software to monthly payment plans, some mobile and technology companies offer deep discounts to veterans and active service members. Start saving today with these deals: Apple: For eligible military members and their families, discounts and promotions are available. You can purchase or “sponsor” up to three system bundles or displays, three iPads, three iPhones, three watches, and up to 10 iPods each full calendar year from January 1 to December 31. AT&T: Qualified active-duty military and National Guard service members, reservists, veterans, and spouses of active-duty or deceased service members can receive 15 percent off their monthly service charge under qualified plans. Boost Mobile: Temporarily suspend service and service charges under the Deployed Military Program. Samsung: Military Discount Program members can save 20 percent on a Galaxy S8, S8+ or Note8 smartphone. Microsoft: Enjoy a 10 percent discount on various Surface devices as an active, former or retired military member. Former service members who are business owners are eligible to receive discounts on Microsoft products they need for their business. T-Mobile: All U.S. military and veterans receive 50 percent off family lines.   12. THEME PARK AND ENTERTAINMENT DISCOUNTS From local theaters to giant theme parks, entertainment venues of all kinds offer discounts for active military men and women, as well as former and retired veterans. Here’s where to have more fun for less: Busch Gardens: All eligible military personnel and up to three of their dependents receive one free admission per year to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens or Sesame Place. Cinemark: Go see a movie for less with a government-issued military ID. Contact your nearest Cinemark theater to find out exact discount days, rates and times. Disneyland Resort: Eligible service members and their spouses enjoy discounted rates for select rooms valid on most nights from now until Dec. 19, 2018. Knott’s Berry Farm: Get into one of California’s favorite theme parks for just $52 with a military ID. The offer excludes junior tickets, senior tickets, and Knott’s Scary Farm or any other special or private events. Legoland: Active-duty military members receive a discount on admission tickets at Legoland California. Also, score exclusive military savings on Legoland California resort hopper and Legoland California Sea Life hopper tickets by visiting the resort’s military promotions website. Massage Envy: At participating locations, all active-duty military personnel can join Massage Envy at a savings of $60 annually. National Park Service: Get free entrance into national parks across the U.S. with the free annual pass for U.S. military, which you can obtain by showing a military ID. Standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver are also waived with the pass. Showcase Cinemas: All active-duty military members and their dependents can receive discounts on movie prices. Get a general admission ticket for $7.50 and bargain matinee, children, and senior tickets for just under $6. Universal Studios Hollywood: Excluding blackout days, discounted ticket prices are available for all active-duty and retired military personnel all year with a valid military or U.S. government I.D. at time of purchase.   13. GREEN DRINK TURNS VETERANS INTO "YOUNG BUCKS" Secret “Green Drink” once reserved for Military elite, restores youthful energy, stamina & pain-free movement. For a limited time you can claim 7 free sample packs of this powerful green drink that U.S military members swear by... Claim Your 7 Free Sample Packs »   14. PURCHASE AN ANNUITY AND GET UP TO 7% RETURN WITH NO MARKET RISK When it comes to preparing for the golden years, our veterans and their families have many resources at their fingertips. They include pensions, a civilian income, Social Security (or possible disability income), VA healthcare and tax-advantaged savings. Veterans and servicemen and women preparing for retirement should purchase annuities to supplement their military benefits and future benefits like Social Security and pension payments. Annuity income provides tax advantages, a consistent and guaranteed stream of money and hedges the risk of running out of money late in life. Click Here To Find Out More About Annuities »   15. NOT ENOUGH VETERAN HOMEOWNERS CLAIM THIS AMAZING BENEFIT ONLY AVAILABLE TO YOU Veterans: Cut Your Interest By 72% If you took out a 30-year mortgage on your home, you’re not alone. And you could be paying tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary interest over the course of your loan. But not to worry, this VA homeowner program is designed to empower Veteran homeowners with a better mortgage with lower interest and many options that only our VA homeowners can qualify for. Sounds great, right?
Retired Maj. Gen. Chris Cortez, vice president of Military Affairs at Microsoft, speaks to the Veterans Employment and Education Commission during The American Legion's 100th National Convention in Minneapolis on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. Photo by Lucas Carter/The American Legion. Currently, the veteran unemployment rate stands at 3 percent, which is down from 3.5 percent last July and lower than the non-veteran unemployment rate. The commitment from companies to hire veterans is visible as the veteran unemployment rate continues to decrease; however, Legionnaire and retired Army Col. Adam Rocke said the hiring efforts can’t stop. “We need to sustain this; keep your foot on the gas pedal,” said Rocke, moderator of The American Legion’s National Veterans Employment and Education (VE&E) Committee Saturday in Minneapolis during the organization’s 100th national convention. “Because if one veteran or military spouse is out of work, we still have a job to do here.” Committee members heard from several organizations about their efforts to employ the military community, including Microsoft, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Comcast NBCUniversal. Several years ago, Microsoft looked at the number of servicemembers transitioning out of the military every year – more than 200,000 – and coupled that with the fact that there were thousands of jobs within the company that were going unfilled due to not enough people with information technology (IT) backgrounds. Moreover, retired Maj. Gen. Chris Cortez shared that 490,000 IT jobs in America go unfilled for the same reason. As a result of these IT vacancies and the number of transitioning servicemembers looking for employment, Microsoft created the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) program to provide transitioning military servicemembers and veterans with the skills needed to get into the IT industry as well as to benefit the company and industry nationwide. The MSSA program launched in July 2013 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. After the 18-week course, “we knew we had a program that was going to work,” said Cortez, vice president of Military Affairs at Microsoft. The MSSA program is currently held on 14 military bases and growing. More than 1,000 servicemembers and veterans have graduated from MSSA and 94 percent are employed. Of that number, 87 percent are working in the IT industry either within Microsoft or with one of its 300 hiring partners. By 2020, Microsoft hopes to be working with 500 IT hiring partners. The program fee is $6,500, but Cortez said GI Bill benefits can be used. “The program is working. And it’s bringing much-needed talent to the IT industry,” Cortez said. “These young men and women are awesome. They bring so much with them when they come to work, and we have to articulate that to the industry. Because up to now, they really haven’t realized the talent that’s out there of those that served, and we do and our graduates are proving it.” Microsoft is in the process of rolling out a MSSA pilot program for military spouses. Michael Dovilla, chief of staff for OPM and a member of Post 91 in Berea, Ohio, said veterans currently represent about 31 percent of the federal workforce, which is up from 26 percent only 10 years ago. “OPM is working on finding ways to make better connections between the specific skillsets that our vets have as they are returning and connecting those to the specific needs that are in place within the federal government at this moment in time,” Dovilla said. Dovilla made VE&E Committee members aware of the website in hopes of energizing federal employers to seek out qualified veterans and eligible family members for employment. Another leader among veteran and military community employers is Comcast NBCUniversal, a company of 167,000 employees with a focus on hiring from within the military community – veterans, National Guard and reserve members, and military spouses. This focus has been a foundation of Comcast since its founding by World War II Navy veteran Ralph J. Roberts in 1963. In 2012, Comcast NBCUniversal pledged to hire 2,000 veterans by 2015; and then 10,000 members of the military community by the end of 2017. They surpassed both goals as more than 15,000 members of the military community have been hired. “We work with our talent acquisition and advise them how to hire military, where to find them, how to read their resumes,” said David Gaulin, director of Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal. Gaulin and his team created an online internal tool for recruiters, hiring managers, leaders and employers to learn more about the military community, veterans service organizations, programs, different ranks within each service branch, and more. The company also leverages its brand to support the military community in many ways, including providing free viewing of the Olympics. With the focus on the need to continue employing veterans to contiue reducing the unemployment rate, Deputy Director of Soldier for Life Col. Tom Anderson reminded the committee that, “We are not a bunch of broken people that need scooped up off the street. That’s the narrative that is too often seen out there in the media and in the movies. What America needs to understand is the value we have as veterans and how we can continue to keep this country what it is.” Improvements to TAP The only thing Wendy Torres remembers from her transition assistance program (TAP) experience was not to lose her DD 214. Three weeks into her new role as acting executive director for the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Transition and Economic Development (TED), her focus is to improve the TAP curriculum to meet the needs of servicemembers transitioning from military to civilian life. As TAP now falls under TED, Torres said the vision is to “comprehensively address military to civilian transition, providing tools and resources needed to sustain economic and dependency post transition … specifically in whole health and wellness. This is the way forward for TAP will only become one piece of the military-civilian transition.” Torres said the TAP curriculum was revised and implemented this past April. Besides having the servicemember register into the VA health-care system during TAP, six modules are now the focus of TAP to address the questions and concerns many servicemembers have. They are: Navigating your journey (What do I want to do? What will my quality of life be like). Supporting yourself and your family. Getting career ready. Finding a place to live. Maintaining your health. Staying connected (Where will my support come from?). TED’s vision is to also look at the military lifecycle, which Torres said TED is going to be responsible for managing that military lifecycle and military-civilian transition, in addition to finding opportunities for economic long-term development for transitioning servicemembers, veterans and their families. To support the military lifecycle, Torres believes it’s imperative to start educating servicemembers early on about their benefits and transition – such as on their first assignment and every time they have a permanent change of station -- instead of in their last six months of service to help them make more informed decisions as they get closer to whenever they want to separate from the military. H.R. 5649, (retired) Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William `Bill’ Mulder Transition Improvement Act of 2018, was recently passed by the House. The bill will restructure TAP to require servicemembers to choose a career-oriented track that best suits their post-service plans and require servicemembers take part in one-on-one counseling a year prior to separation to help determine the path that best suits them. “The way forward is to continue to collaborate with DoL (Department of Labor), DoD (Department of Defense), veteran service organizations and all other stakeholders as we continue to shape activities, outcome and measures for TED,” Torres said. Financial education Legionnaire Patrick Campbell, acting assistant director for the Office of Servicemember Affairs, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said his division provides tools and resources to help military families manage their financial life. Campbell shared that the biggest thing that needs to be made aware to military personnel is that DoD just changed its security clearance. When Campbell was in the military he received his security clearance every five years; however, since a credit report can now be pulled quickly, DoD has gone from a periodic to a continuous monitor. “Now more than ever it is important for servicemembers to be monitoring their credit reports and dealing with any debt collectors,” Campbell said. Employment awards The American Legion’s national veteran employment awards for 2017 were presented during the VE&E Committee meeting. The recipients are as follows: Employer of Older Workers – ESW Inc., of Crown Point, Ind. Local Veterans Employment Representative of the Year – Spencer Horton of Georgia Employment Service Local Office of the Year – IDES Sterling Office in Peoria, Ill. Employer of Veterans (small business category) – Allied Universal Security Services (Raytheon Account) in Rowlett, Texas Employer of Veterans (medium business category) – Gallery Furniture in Houston Michael Guty Homeless Veterans Outreach – Department of New Jersey American Legion Family. Bob Looby, VE&E Committee member and the department’s homeless committee chairman, accepted the award. Looby shared that the Legion Family raised and donated more than $300,000 in 2017 for its homeless veteran transition facilities, and over $1 million in the past five years for the state’s homeless veteran initiatives. “I have to believe one of the elements of this award is that we instituted our own, The American Legion, department stand down. We are about to conduct our third,” Looby said. “It feels good but I know our homeless veterans, especially women and their family – the fastest growing homeless veteran population – it’s a tragedy. We have to wake up Congress, we have to wake up our mayors.” Kathryn Monet agreed. “We don’t have any high profile leaders on this issue in the current administration so there are a lot of communities out there that the attention’s waning so the motivation is slipping a little bit. And that’s not a good thing. Let’s keep the pressure on,” said Monet, CEO of National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, who said on any given night more than 40,000 veterans are homeless. “Go back to your local communities and ask what you can do. Keep pointing at Congress and VA saying, ‘Hey, this is important. These are our brothers, these are our sisters, and they’re out there (on the streets) and they shouldn’t be.”
According to the El Paso Times, the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System on Wednesday broke ground on the VA Wellness Center, one of two new clinics for veterans expected to open in the community by the end of 2019. Officials with the health care system, the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke gathered near Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso on Wednesday to mark the start of construction on the $16 million mental health clinic. "This is not only a great way for El Paso to address outstanding mental health care needs for veterans, but it's a great way for El Paso to provide an example for the country as to how to work with limited resources to make sure we're delivering care for our veterans," O'Rourke said in an interview Monday. "This is really something special we're going to be celebrating on Wednesday," the El Paso Democrat said. Construction of the VA Wellness Center is part of an ongoing effort to improve how the El Paso VA Health Care System provides care to the more than 7,000 veterans in the region. The clinic was first proposed in 2015 as part of a pilot program introduced by O'Rourke to reform the system to prioritize care for service-related conditions and promote partnerships between the VA and local health care providers. The program, developed by O'Rourke and local health providers, sought to address the El Paso VA Health Care System's long wait times, which have been ranked among the longest in the country. The average wait time for an appointment varies by location and specialty. Over the past month, the average wait time for a new, primary-care patient to get an appointment at the main VA Medical Center in El Paso was 23 days, according to the VA's website that tracks wait times. Click the full story here: