No veteran should ever be without a safe and stable place to sleep at night. VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans has trained counselors available around the clock to help veterans and their families access local resources or assistance. If you, or someone you know, is homeless or at-risk of homelessness, call VA’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838). You can also connect with VA online through its confidential Homeless Veterans Chat service for more information on VA programs that can assist you. Explore VA’s website to learn more about VA’s targeted health care, housing, and employment programs for homeless veterans. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans also has a list of local organizations that serve homeless and at-risk veterans.
Ed Hall was at the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, Md., last summer when he witnessed two people about to throw away 18 U.S. flags of various sizes. He yelled for them to stop, identified himself as a retired U.S. Marine colonel and current American Legion post commander, and rescued the flags from being improperly disposed. “They were apologetic and had no idea what the etiquette was for retiring a flag properly,” said Hall, commander of Post 156 in Ellicott City, Md. “This is the symbol of America, and it should not be thrown into the trash.” Saving American flags from the trash and educating community members about flag etiquette sparked an idea for Hall – to place an American flag disposal container at the Alpha Ridge Landfill. Hall worked with the Howard County Commission for Veterans and Military Families to put his idea into action and on Veterans Day 2015, Alpha Ridge Landfill became the first in Maryland to install a flag retirement station. An unused mail box was painted red with American Legion Post 156 flag retirement signage and placed at the landfill’s entrance. Since the flag retirement station’s dedication last November, 522 U.S. flags have been collected and properly retired by Post 156. “There is an awareness that is sweeping Howard County and expanding beyond that there is a final chapter in the lifespan of an American flag and that it should not be disposed of,” Hall said. “The flag disposal service certainly has increased public awareness of The American Legion and our commitment to proper U.S. flag etiquette.” Members of Post 156 visit the landfill weekly and collect up to 30 flags during each visit. The success of the flag retirement station at Alpha Ridge Landfill has led to the installation of a second one, and for the landfill to remind visitors about the flag service on its digital billboard. “Our program has proven to be very successful, and we are extremely proud of it,” said Bob Lowell, judge advocate for Post 156. “We are providing a very well-appreciated service to the residents of Howard County, and ensuring proper U.S. flag retirement etiquette.” Two Vermont posts also installed a U.S. flag disposal container at a local landfill and recycling center – Post 18 in Springfield and Post 84 in White River Junction. Post 18 Adjutant C. William Mattoon was approached by staff from Springfield's recycling center about collecting unserviceable American flags for proper retirement. Mattoon took the initiative and purchased a large trash bin with a lid, taped flag retirement signage to it with Post 18’s information, attached a small U.S. flag to the bin’s handle, and placed the trash bin in a visible area at the recycling center. Mattoon visits the recycling center weekly to collect the flags, which has totaled to several hundred over the past year. The flag retirement service “has given the post some visibility to the community, and I have had several comments thanking me for a place to dispose of the flags,” Mattoon said. “Utilizing the recycling center was the easiest and most logical place to place the container.” Vermont 5th District Commander Larry Green said Post 84 collected 50 American flags within the first two months of the post placing a flag disposal box at its local landfill. The flag retirement service “is giving Post 84 good public relations with the community, and it’s giving publicity to The American Legion as a whole,” Green said. “Everything about the flag drop-off box is good.”
The VA's home loan program has provided over 21 million home loans totaling more than $400 billion since the program's inception as a short-term home loan program in the 1944 GI Bill of Rights. Here are some of the reasons many military homebuyers choose this robust loan option. No down payments necessary Frequently, the biggest factor that delays or prevents an aspiring homebuyer from getting a home loan is the down payment. No-money-down conventional loans have all but disappeared, and a down payment - about $40,000 for an average loan - makes purchasing a home out of reach for most families. Not so with a VA loan. As long as the sales price doesn't surpass the appraised value and the loan amount doesn't exceed certain predetermined limits, no down payment is necessary. This is an incredible advantage, especially for first-time homebuyers who don't have profits from the sale of one home to put down on another. Additionally, VA home loans don't require private mortgage insurance that conventional lenders mandate if your down payment is less than 20 percent. This potentially can save a military homebuyer thousands of dollars a year. They also have less stringent credit-history and income requirements, which often are stumbling blocks for many loan applicants. Money-back guarantee It's important to understand the VA isn't actually loaning you the money, rather VA-approved lenders do, and the VA will step in and help cover the losses a lender might incur. How does this help a military homebuyer? If a lender knows they're essentially insured for part of the loan they're making, they're inclined to offer a more favorable interest rate. All other things being equal, VA home loans typically reduce the borrower's interest rate 0.5 to 1 percent. Foreclosure avoidance Falling on hard financial times might make it difficult to make a monthly mortgage payment. The VA takes a proactive approach with their mortgage assistance program by receiving monthly updates on every loan they make. At the first sign of trouble, the VA will reach out to the borrower and advocate on his or her behalf to avoid foreclosure. Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United Home Loans, who literally wrote the book on VA loans, says the assistance program has “emerged as a model for the industry.” Birk explains, thanks to the program, more than 90,000 foreclosures were avoided last year, representing a saving of $2.8 billion to taxpayers. The fork in the road The loan process of VA loans and traditional loans vary. To qualify for a VA loan, potential borrowers must obtain a certificate of eligibility (COE) that confirms they meet the minimum service requirements (which can be found at www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans). There are limited exceptions to these requirements, and spouses of veterans, as well as individuals who have served in organizations like NASA, can apply for eligibility under certain conditions. The VA doesn't dictate how much you can borrow from a private lender, but it does cap the amount it guarantees, known as an entitlement, which will be calculated as part of your COE. To account for real estate market variations, this amount varies based on the county of the property, as well as your service type. Exceeding your loan limit might mean you have to put some money down to secure the loan or the private lender might reject the application. VA loan recipients, with few exceptions, must pay a funding fee (not to be confused with closing costs) that helps defray the costs of the program. This fee can vary from 0.5 percent for refinancing to 3.3 percent for borrowers who are using the entitlement benefit for a second time. The fee may be rolled into the loan and declines if you make a down payment. Some restrictions apply The VA appraisal process is more comprehensive than just a determination of fair market value and might take longer to complete. The reviewer assures the house meets certain minimum property requirements defined by the VA. (For example, if a home is in a flood zone, it likely won't be approved.) This review does not take the place of home inspection. VA loans cannot be made for vacation or rental home purchases, nor can you flip a house. Most land purchases are disallowed, too. Condos, manufactured homes, and construction loans are permitted, but there are some hurdles to overcome. Worth repeating Refinancing via VA loans has proved preferable to the millions wanting to jump on the refinancing bandwagon, but it must be done on a home originally purchased with a VA loan. If you need cash to pay bills or make home improvements, a cash-out refinance loan is obtainable on an existing VA or non-VA loan. Birk calls the VA loan “the most powerful option on the market for [veterans] and their families.” Despite its appeal, only a fraction of eligible homebuyers take advantage of it, primarily because of a lack of awareness and understanding of the program. Seek out a realtor and lender who are not deterred by the particulars of a VA loan. Because of stringent down-payment, credit-history, and income requirements, most VA borrowers would not qualify for a traditional home loan, so military homebuyers shouldn't overlook this valuable benefit.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thousands of Filipino-American World War II veterans living in the U.S. will be reunited with family members who live outside the U.S under a new immigration program. The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program takes effect this week under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama. Rudolpho "Rudy" Panaglima (pah-nah-GLEE'-mah) is one the veterans who will benefit from the new policy. He was just 13 when joined a Filipino guerrilla unit that worked in secret with the U.S. Army during World War II. Panaglima says the program will allow two of his grown sons to move to suburban Washington to care for him and his 83-year-old wife. He says the reunification of his family "is what I am dreaming because of our age now." BY MATTHEW DALY
Newswise — Bethesda, Md. – Scientists have discovered a unique pattern of scarring in the brains of deceased service members who were exposed to blast injury that differs from those exposed to other types of head injury. This new research was published online June 9 in Lancet Neurology, “Characterisation of Interface Astroglial Scarring in the Human Brain after Blast Exposure: a Post-mortem Case Series.” “Our findings revealed those with blast exposure showed a distinct and previously unseen pattern of scarring, which involved the portion of brain tissue immediately beneath the superficial lining of the cerebral cortex – the junction between the gray and white matter – and the vital structures that are adjacent to the cavities within the brain that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Those areas of the brain, damaged by blast, suggest that they may be correlated with the symptoms displayed by those who sustained a traumatic brain injury, or TBI,” said Dr. Daniel Perl, study senior author and professor of Neuropathology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “This scarring pattern also suggests the brain has attempted to repair brain damage from a blast injury.” To better understand these blast brain injuries, researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), the Department of Defense Joint Pathology Center and the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine, examined brain tissue specimens derived from deceased service members, who had been exposed to a high explosive blast injury and had suffered several persistent symptoms. The researchers examined the brain tissues from five service members with remote blast exposures, as well as brain tissues of three service members who died shortly after severe blast exposures. They also compared these results with brain tissues from civilian (non-military) cases, including five with remote impact TBIs, and three cases with no history of a TBI. “This changes the earlier paradigm of ‘battle injury’ and demonstrates unique and specific biological changes in brains due to these injuries,” said Perl, who also serves as director of USU’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine TBI Brain Tissue Repository.Military members sustaining a TBI have often reported suffering from persistent post-concussive symptoms, which include a mixture of both neurologic and behavioral disturbances. “These can include problems such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders, memory problems, depression and anxiety. Despite these prominent symptoms, conventional neuroimaging for mild TBIs typically has not allowed providers to “see” brain abnormalities, leading this to be considered the “invisible wound,” said Perl. “This publication sheds some light, for the first time, into the nature of the persistent behavioral/ neurologic issues being reported in numerous service members who have been exposed to high explosives. It will certainly stimulate important further research and change how we think about these problems. DoD, through the Military Health System, is at the cutting edge of research dedicated to caring for our troops, and I hope that these findings will point the way into devising more rational approaches to their diagnosis, prevention and treatment,” Perl said. Other members of the research team include co-lead authors Sharon Shively, MD, research assistant professor in USU’s Department of Pathology and USU contract employee of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine; Iren Horkayne-Szakaly, M.D., neuropathologist and neuromuscular pathologist, Joint Pathology Center, Defense Health Agency; Robert V. Jones, M.D., senior neuropathologist, Joint Pathology Center, Defense Health Agency; James P. Kelly, M.D., professor of Neurosurgery and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Colorado School of Medicine; and Regina C. Armstrong, M.D., professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, and director of USU’s Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at USU. Funding for the study was provided by the Defense Health Program.###For additional comment on the study:Walter Koroshetz, MDDirector of the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke For interviews with Dr. Koroshetz, please contact the NINDS Press Team (NINDSPressTeam@ninds.nih.gov or call 301-496-5924). About the Uniformed Services University of the Health SciencesThe Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the nation’s federal health sciences university and the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. A large percentage of the university’s more than 5,500 physician and 1,000 advanced practice nursing alumni are supporting operations around the world, offering their leadership and expertise. USU also has graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health committed to excellence in research, and in oral biology. The University’s research program covers a wide range of clinical and other topics important to both the military and public health. For more information about USU and its programs, visit www.usuhs.edu.
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Center for Women Veterans today announced a partnership with LeanIn.Org, the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to empower women to achieve their ambitions. Building on the successful launch of LeanIn.Org circleswithin the Department of Defense, VA is following the same model to increase support to women Veterans. The VA initiative is called the LeanIn.Org Women Veterans’ chapter. The Women Veterans Chapter is comprised of two distinct pilot programs: the Veteran-to-Veteran program, a virtual program, which allows any woman Veteran to participate, no matter where she is located; meetings will be moderated and attended by women Veterans throughout the United States. The second is a face-to-face pilot circle. The face-to-face program is created in partnership with the existing LeanIn.Org chapter in Seattle, WA. This circle is an innovative hybrid of women Veterans and non-military members providing an environment for both to learn and share leadership skills. “We are thrilled to have LeanIn.Org as our collaborative partner,” said Kayla M. Williams, Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “For many years, women Veterans have expressed to us that they need to have a mechanism to engage with their fellow women Veterans to make a difference in their community and we believe this is the perfect match. VA is pleased to be a part of these two pilot programs.” “Women are the fastest growing population of our nation's Veterans and through this Circles program, these women will have the peer support and community they need to reach their goals,” said Ashley Finch, LeanIn.Org, Head of Partnerships. “Leanin.Org is proud to be a part of this groundbreaking and important initiative.” For more information about the LeanIn.org Women Veterans’ chapter, visit LeanIn.Org/womenvets orhttp://leaninseattle.org/veterans. ###
Claudiu Oltean, a jumpmaster and member of the U.S. Army's 10th Special Forces Group, grew up under the thumb of one of eastern Europe's most oppressive regimes: Romania. In 1999, he made his way to the United States and joined the Army to fight for the freedom of others. Saturday, he was emotionally struck to come into the company of a living military ancestor who fought for the same reason in 1944: 92-year-old Bob Nooby of New York. "I know what it means to not be free," Oltean said during the annual Amis des Veterans Americains (Friends of American Veterans) banquet in Ste. Mere-Eglise, Normandy, France. "I know what having nothing means." Nooby jumped into Ste. Mere-Eglise with the 101st Airborne Division on June 6, 1944, in advance of the Allied beach landings in Normandy that broke through Hitler's Atlantic Wall and began a bloody, deadly 11-month march that led to victory in World War II's European Theater. He was 19 years old on the night he sprang from a C-47 and landed in what would become the first city liberated in the D-Day invasion. "All the firing that was going on out there, I just wanted to get the hell out of there," Nooby said at the AVA banquet, where American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett and American Legion Auxiliary National President Sharon Conatser had head-table seats and received honorary memberships in the French organization. "I never was scared, that I remember. We were well-trained." Oltean and Nooby were among hundreds of active-duty troops and a dwindling few World War II veterans at the banquet who made connections across generations. "Men like him made it possible for me to be here," said Oltean, a combat soldier who has deployed both in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We would not be here without them. It gives me chills. This is history, man." More than 600 attended the annual banquet, including multiple paratroopers who were scheduled to re-enact the airborne assault on Normandy the following day before tens of thousands who annually gather near La Fiere Bridge to commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Nooby, who received the French Legion of Honor two years ago, has returned to Normandy five times. "This is the fifth.... and the last one," he said, adding that he is always humbled by the people of Normandy and their appreciation of U.S. military service, particularly those who fought and died for their liberation from German occupation in World War II. "I love every one of them. They have always been so good to me." The World War II veteran understands the effect he has on younger soldiers, like Oltean. "But I don't like a lot of praise," Nooby said, "because it makes me cry." Oltean, emotionally struck to be in the presence of a Normandy paratrooper, watched as attendees lined up to get Nooby's autograph or to have a photo taken with him or with other Normandy campaign veterans at the banquet. By Jeff Stoffer
Kathalyn and Joseph Barnett scurried from frog ponds to beach shores Monday, doing what any ordinary 13-year-old and 11-year-old ought to do on a family trip. But this was no ordinary family trip, and there was much more for the kids to collect than clamshells, frogs and sand crabs. They collected what their father believes will be a lifelong memory and an understanding that boys not much older than them fell fighting for the liberation of others on the beaches they freely explored Monday. Kathalyn and Joseph are the daughter and son of American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett and his wife Donna. The beaches they visited were far from ordinary. They were code-named Omaha and Utah in the D-Day invasion of World War II that led to the liberation of Europe from Axis tyranny. A weekend there, culminating with remembrance ceremonies at the Normandy American Cemetery and Pointe du Hoc, included the opportunity for the children to meet some of the veterans who fought in Normandy during the World War II invasion and to see the massive international appreciation of what the invasion meant to the future of a free world. "I was so privilieged to share this with my children," Barnettt said as he watched Kathalyn search Utah Beach for tiny sand crabs and mussel shells. "It was an incredible day. These two middle-school aged children probably learned more in Normandy and Flanders Field (the commander's group visited the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium, before coming to Normandy) than they ever knew before about the history of what happened here." Barnett joined American Legion Auxiliary National President Sharon Conatser in a day to remember, 72 years after Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and began the continental Europe advance on the Third Reich. They led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery that also included the American Overseas Memorial Day Association, the American Battle Monuments Commission and USAA, The American Legion's preferred provider of financial services. They followed that by participating in an official wreath-laying ceremony at Pointe du Hoc, at the monument perched on the tip of a cliff where U.S. Army Rangers climbed into enemy fire from above them 72 years ago. As was the case at most events through the weekend, the national commander was struck by "the amount of interface we had with senior military leadership, active-duty troops and, most important, the veterans themselves." He was likewise impressed that more often than expected, officers, embassy officials and military troops recognized The American Legion emblem and thanked he and Conatser for all the organization does to support them. "I was taken aback by the prominence The American Legion is given here," Barnett said. "This occurred to me as I was seated between a four-star general and the U.S. Ambassador to France. That speaks volumes about The American Legion's message. It was also incredible the number of Legionnaires from across the country who came up to us to express their appreciation to The American Legion and Auxiliary, as well as local nationals who shared their appreciation that The American Legion family honors those who served, no matter when." Conatser said she saw the D-Day anniversary events and activities as "an entire community of nations coming together. It's really powerful." Paratroopers from several countries were in Normandy to conduct exhibition jumps and to visit the monuments, memorials and graves. "Sharing time with the active-duty military was really important to me," Conatser said. "And, I was really emotional at the Normandy American Cemetery, which caught me a little off guard. The stories of families really resonate with me." An ABMC guide told the story of the cemetery and the more than 9,300 Americans laid to rest there by telling anecdotes and photos of particular families who lost loved ones in the Normandy battles. At Pointe du Hoc, the commander and president spent some of the time waiting for the ceremony to begin by visiting with a bomber pilot who was flying just his sixth mission when the orders came to soften the battlefield on D-Day. "When you think about places like Pearl Harbor and Normandy, you certainly think about all the lives lost," Conatser said. "Then you have to remember what might have happened if not for them." Such is the lesson of Normandy and its observances, for generations who will grow up without ever knowing anyone who served in World War II. By Jeff Stoffer
With over 1,700 VFW Service Officers across the globe, no one understands the frustration of the VA claims process, better than the VFW. The process can be confusing and one that service members and veterans shouldn't try to navigate alone. Since 2007, VFW Life Member, Nathan Weinbaum (and U.S. Navy veteran) has been serving veterans and helping them obtain their earned benefits and compensation in Tennessee as a VFW Service Officer. Over the years, he has helped countless veterans not only obtain their VA benefits, but also obtain honorary high school diplomas and service medals that were never received. VFW Service Officers are the key to success, recovering approximately $1 billion in earned benefits and compensation for veterans each year. But Weinbaum will tell you that "the job as a service officer is much more than sitting at a desk all day long. It's about impacting the lives of the veterans you serve." In 2013, he was awarded the State of Tennessee County Veterans Service Officer of the Year Award and currently serves as the Blount County, Tenn., director of Veterans Affairs/Veterans Service Officer. Weinbaum worked a case several years ago, and noticed a Western Union telegram to the veteran's mother among the veteran's paperwork. It mentioned that he had been wounded in action. After Weinbaum asked where the veteran's Purple Heart was, the veteran responded that he never got one. Weinbaum knew he had a case with the telegram as a piece of support to retrieve the Purple Heart. Since then, Weinbaum has helped three other Purple Heart recipients obtain their medals, assisted six veterans with obtaining honorary high school diplomas, and one Bronze Star Medal for another deserving veteran. "The process to obtain a medal or diploma takes work," explained Weinbaum. "Some of the applications have taken me weeks to complete as I am also working with veterans throughout the day with their claims. With the Purple Hearts, it can take more than a year before the veteran receives a decision." For Weinbaum, it's even more than claims and medals. "Blount County has the only veterans food pantry for a county Veterans Affairs office in the state of Tennessee … Some veterans come to our office hungry, and we can offer them some food. That's rewarding!" Without a doubt, Weinbaum is making a difference in the lives of the veterans in Blount County. With five medal applications and two honorary high school diploma applications in the works, Weinbaum is hard at work giving back to the men and women who have served our country. While he's officially a member of VFW Post 5154, he's also active in VFW Post 10855 because of all of the good work both Posts do for the community. "[I'm] just proud to serve my veterans and the VFW," said Weinbaum. To find a service officer near you, visit: http://www.vfw.org/NVS/.
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Can the cap and gown worn by high school graduates coexist peacefully with military uniforms worn by classmates destined for the armed services? Until recently, the answer in New Hampshire was no. A law went into effect last month allowing graduates the opportunity to wear their uniform at commencement ceremonies if they have completed basic training. New Hampshire joins Pennsylvania and California, which passed similar laws in 2011 and 2009 respectively. The debate about appropriate attire for a rite of passage is not as simple as it seems. The idea of military dress breaking up a uniform sea of school colors speaks directly to deeply held convictions about school spirit, patriotism, the role of the military and the significance of graduation. "I would love for other kids to see this law and be motivated by it. I would like Brandon's Law to be an inspiration for other high school students to strive to succeed and be rewarded for it," said Jessie Kelley, mother of the young man killed in action for whom the New Hampshire law is named. "They are putting their lives on the lines, so I feel it's the least we could do." Her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant, fought unsuccessfully to wear his uniform to his 2013 graduation from ConVal Regional High School. The school worried he would outshine his classmates and said the uniform represented achievements beyond the classroom. Reaction was swift and fierce. Commenters raged on Facebook, with some even posting personal details about the principal who denied Garabrant and encouraging emails to him. Reporters camped out at graduation. The brouhaha came into poignant focus when the 19-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan the following summer. In McHenry, Illinois, last month, Pvt. Megan Howerton was not allowed to walk in her graduation from McHenry West High School when, minutes before the ceremony, she asked to collect her diploma wearing her Marine Corp dress blues. She was told she would have to wear it under her gown, so she chose not to participate. Her case inspired a hashtag, #letmeganwalk, with commenters split between those who felt her service should be recognized and those who argued she should follow school policy as rigidly as military protocol. The Marine Corps Recruiting Station Chicago said in a statement that the decision was rightly left up to the school because "graduations recognize the academic accomplishments of the class and the class's final chapter at that institution." In New Hampshire, Brandon's Law passed with none of the angry words that surrounded his bid. The concerns at legislative hearings included the impact it would have on a school's ability to set policy and a few complaints that uniforms would be a distraction. Kate Williams, a family friend who cut Garabrant's hair for years, led the campaign and put a sign in her salon that said, "Brandon deserves to wear his uniform." Many community members couldn't understand why the school wouldn't make an exception, given what he was doing for the country, she said. Brian Pickering, the principal at Garabrant's school, supports the new law. Even though he also got the blessing from Marines and other veterans for his decision, Pickering said, the threats he endured "nearly ruined my career and family." "I'm thankful for the law because, at the time, there was no law," Pickering said. "There was nothing to fall back upon." Colleges have also dealt with the issue. The Army ROTC at the University of New Hampshire, which covers nine universities, said students can wear military dress or their cap and gown. So far this graduation season, only one New Hampshire high school student is known to have worn a military uniform during graduation - Michael Joy, of Prospect Mountain High School. But he wore it under his gown when he graduated Friday, opting instead for a red sash over his gown representing the Army National Guard. Joy, who will be a member of the military police in the Guard, said he didn't want to stand out from his fellow seniors. "I didn't want to make myself like, 'Oh, I'm better than you guys,'" Joy said. "It could be an opportunity to celebrate patriotism and stuff. But I feel like joining and actually serving, that is my way of showing patriotism. I don't have to wear the uniform to show people that I'm in the service." BY MICHAEL CASEY