President Barack Obama announced this past May that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from 32,000 to 9,800 by the end of 2014. That means over 20,000 veterans will be returning to their homes and re-acclimating to civilian life in the coming months. But this transition can be a difficult process for some.
A 2011 Pew Social Trends survey found that 44 percent of U.S. service members who returned from deployment after 9/11 reported having a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. It can be challenging for returning combat veterans to reconnect emotionally and socially with family and friends after experiencing the ugly realities of war.
Fortunately there are social and economic opportunities, along with common everyday activities, that can ease the transition process and help build a strong support group.
Washington State’s total population is 9 percent veterans, more than the 7.7 percent average of all states, according to Governing. Unfortunately the unemployment rate for Washington veterans is nearly twice the rate of the general population. Endless free time and no job are an awful combination that will only exacerbate an already difficult situation for returning veterans.
Former Governor Christine Gregoire created a task force known as the Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) to address this issue before leaving office last year. The idea behind the initiative is to bring together representatives from every state agency to create jobs that veterans pre-qualify for based on their military training. Gregoire said the initiative would set an example private sector employers would eventually follow. Oregon’s Work Employment Tax Credit also seeks to encourage employers to hire veterans with tax incentives from $2,400 to $9,600 for every eligible service member hired.
Several private companies in the northwest have also enacted measures to help veterans find meaningful work. Microsoft’s Elevate American Veterans initiative invested $12 million for job training, placement, child care, and counseling services for returning veterans. Puget Sound Energy is listed on Military.com’s Top 35 Veteran-Friendly Employers. JP Morgan Chase, State Farm, Cintas, and several other companies formed the 100,000 Jobs Mission in 2011 and has since hired over 161,000 veterans.
The aforementioned Pew survey found that veterans who are actively involved with church and other religious activities have the easiest time transitioning back to civilian life by far. Keith Ethridge, director of the VA’s National Chaplain Center, told Christianity Today that it’s not enough for an institution of God to simply advertise itself as “military-friendly.” Ethridge has since held training sessions for clergy all across rural America so they can better understand the challenges veterans face upon returning from deployment.
The VA maintains a list of churches (organized by city, state, and denomination) that are led by chaplains who either have military experience or have gone through one of the training sessions. Veterans who don’t necessarily consider themselves religious can still attend churches as places of refuge in difficult times. Churches are also great places to meet new friends and share your experiences with people who care.
President Barack Obama spoke about the mental health challenges veterans face upon returning home from combat in his 2014 State of the Union address. Dr. Keith Tidball of Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources not only agreed with the president, but believes a study he’s been working on can help address this issue.
Dr. Tidball, who is also a veteran, said in a press release that the “Returning Warriors: Outdoor Recreation, Restoration, and Resilience” (REWORRR) study by Cornell demonstrates that outdoor activities provide numerous therapeutic benefits to returning veterans. He said the study has shown that connecting with the natural living world in turn helps combat veterans rebuild those intimate bonds with family and friends that have been damaged by their experiences overseas.
Fishing, hiking and hunting are the three most obvious activities. The Wounded Warriors Project has an office in Seattle. The nonprofit arranges two to three day outdoor sport excursions for small groups of veterans with similar experiences. Another idea is to treat yourself to a new pair of motorcycle riding boots and join a riding club. You’ll be able to soak up the outdoors while also meeting new people with a similar recreation interest as your own.
The transition from active duty back to civilian life is not easy even for the toughest minded of soldier. The kind of people you choose to work for and associate with will go a long way in determining how seamless your experience will be.
Americans hold a special place for vets returning from active duty. Even closer to our nation’s heart are female veterans who often return from combat duty to take up lives as mother, wife, and friend. Though no more or less difficult than a male’s transition into civilian life, studies show female vets experience unique challenges and need special assistance. Research published in the Journal of Women’s Health found women use more outpatient services than men, while men use more inpatient services. One interpretation of this is that women, if given the right assistance, can come back to a state-side life without needing large interventions. As loved ones, we can help make the transition easier.
Curb The Paranoia
If your returning vet was a desk jockey at Fort Drum then civilian life may not be a stretch, but a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan needs a veneer of mindfulness to keep her safe. The safety habit can turn into ungrounded fear and paranoia if not properly focused. At home, an alarm system will allow her to get a good night’s sleep. Since the first six months back may be filled with forms, documents, and signatures as the veteran reestablishes her new life, identity theft protection will help her stop looking over her shoulder. With time and a loving environment, she will be able to leave some of the fear overseas.
Be A Friend
She does not need you to fix her problems. A therapist can handle mental trauma and a physician can prescribe medication. What she needs from you is a support network. The lack of social support is one of the biggest factors in the mental decline of veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a variety of other military service-related mental health issues, reports the American Psychological Association. Studies show that vets with good friends have less severe symptoms, are able to transition into civilian life easier, and are more likely to avail themselves of help if they need it. Be a source of laughter and a shoulder to cry on.
When Combat Is Not Combat
At the 2013 American Public Health Association conference, panelists discussed the importance of allowing a soldier the opportunity to define her own perception of combat. Many women in the military services hold caretaking roles and never lift a gun. For these women, combat means caring for the wounded and potentially seeing them die. Though they have never pulled a trigger, their experiences are no less horrific, traumatizing and significant as a front line soldier’s. Whatever experiences your vet has, acknowledge them as uniquely hers.
Be A Resource
Sometimes laughter, conversation, and a hug are not enough. Almost 3 percent of female veterans are diagnosed with an eating disorder, reports Psychology Research. About one-third are diagnosed with PTSD and nearly half are at high risk of drinking abuse, notes Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health. This is where friendship has its benefits. You cannot make your veteran get help but you can be a resource for her. The Veteran’s Administration website is filled with helpful resources, advice and interventions that you can use to support the well-being of our returning military personnel. With the right care, returning female veterans do not need to struggle to have a new, happy life.
When we talk about our fellow veterans, especially returning vets, one size does not fit all. Some vets return willing and able to find a job and go back to domestic life. Others want to go back to school. Some returning vets need more assistance, especially if they are suffering from physical or mental health complications. These are some of the factors that need to be addressed when deciding where to live.
For the returning veteran, the housing market may be the determining factor in the house buying decision. Of course, these are the same motives for people that have not served in the military but VA loan caps give housing price a different significance. Lenders will typically make VA loans up to $144,000 without a down payment. Over that amount, the government still guarantees but there may be a down payment. To get the best bang for your buck, Forbes recommends Fort Worth, Texas as the best place to buy. The average house in the area is a little under $170,000 with a reasonable prediction of market growth.
If you are looking for a place to contribute some sweat equity then Madison, WI should catch your eye. Madison is a hotbed of economic development in the housing sector. As the capital of Wisconsin, small renovations to your property become multiplied by the economic growth of the city. Home exterior improvements such as new roofing, window replacements or additions like sunrooms are more than just renovations, they are a statement for community growth, bringing up the value of your home and the area in which you live. Madison is a place where your service skills can build a city.
Not everyone is coming back with a marketable skill set. The GI Bill has made it easy for service people to go back to school, to the tune of more than 800,000 vets in school. If you are planning on joining academia then U.S. News and World Report says that Massachusetts has two out of ten of the best college towns with Amherst being one of the best. This small East Coast town has three schools, including the University of Massachusetts. Since you are competing with students for jobs, this is a place where your military skills and training will put you a step above.
If you are returning to the loving arms of spouse and children then Fayetteville, North Carolina is the place for you. This is one of the largest military communities in the nation. The citizens of the city have a true affection for those that are or have served our country. Being the home of Fort Bragg, employers are accustomed to working with ex-military and vets are able to get access to services. This is the kind of place where families hang together, help each other on home improvement projects, and watch each other’s children.
For those that need some assistance then the Veteran Administration’s medical facilities are important resources. According to the Veteran Administration’s website, the Portland, Oregon VA Medical Center has been rated as a Top Performer for two years running. Portland is also the home of the Returning Veteran’s Project which offers counseling and other health care services free or at a reduced rate. As a community, Portland takes care of their service people. For home buying, the city’s housing market has flattened without some of the radical ups and downs of other markets in the country. No matter where you decide to go, remember that you are not alone and that there are people in this country that are thankful for the time that you spent protecting our country.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working with Logos Technology to develop a near-silent hybrid-electric motorcycle for military use. This technology could not only create a stealthy weapon for the military, but also a new way to combat greenhouse gas emissions for everyday riders.
These hybrid motorcycles could serve a multitude of uses, but the main reason they are being developed is to be as compact and silent as possible — they would be able to cruise into hostile territory virtually undetected. Though not much is known about the motorcycle as of yet, there is some exciting speculation on the plans that have been revealed so far.
The bike will likely be based on the BRD RedShiftMX Electric Bike, a true electric machine. Not only will it run on electricity and gasoline, but it will also utilize other fuels like diesel, JP 8 (jet fuel), and more. This multi-fuel strategy will enable soldiers to use any available fuel source when in the field, a massive advantage in rural areas far from base. The bikes will be two wheel drive, which maintains far better control and traction in difficult conditions, like the winding mountain roads of Afghanistan or places where a lot of rain falls.
The goal is to reduce the noise level of the motorcycle to 55 decibels while running only on electric and 75 decibels while running normally. This noise output compares to just below a normal conversation to just below a telephone dial tone.
The RedShiftMX that this motorcycle is based on currently has an electric running time of two hours and can reach a maximum speed of 80 miles per hour.
This motorcycle opens the door for more silent and compact military vehicles in the future. Military technology often makes its way into civilian technology. For example, things you may see or use every day that were originally developed for the military include GPS, duct tape, the microwave, and even cargo pants!
Once this technology hits the consumer market, manufacturers and parts makers will need to adopt entirely new parts standards. Even though the bikes are being developed, it’s only a matter of time before civilian and private pursuits start outfitting motorcycles with similar aftermarket parts to modify and improve these incredible vehicles.
With prototype production slated to begin in a few months, the developments of these hybrid-electric motorcycles will be entertaining. We don’t know how long it’ll take to perfect what the United States military is looking for, but we know one thing for sure: It’s going to be an awesome piece of machinery that’ll make us proud.
When AM General rolled out the Hummer line based on the military HMMWV, there was a childlike squeal from grown men. The idea of owning a car that looked like it once had gun turrets was a huge draw. Even the Terminator turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had an one. But the play toys that we get as non-military consumers are nothing compared to the real thing. Playing soldier and being one are two very different things.
Don’t tell anyone, but Hummers are not bulletproof. This really is not a secret since the AM General comparison sheet shows this as one of three substantive differences between the Hummer and the HMMWV. The HMMWV comes with ballistic protection and chemical resistant coating. Even if the Hummer does not come with these features, it is fun to pretend. Knowing that both vehicles can climb a 60 percent grade and go over a 22-inch step makes the fantasy complete even if you are stuck in city traffic.
Watch a child play with a toy tank and you will see all of the key components of tank awesomeness. The kid will run it through a wall of blocks to crush the enemy under the tracks. Traction is one of the most important parts of military vehicle power. Combining skid resistance with heavy weight is what makes them unstoppable. Anti-skid technology has become important as we look at military threats in cold weather terrains. The same technology that is used in Afghanistan is not right for snow and ice. The research around militarized anti-skid equipment is focused on directly linking the drive cylinder to the tire mounts so that the vehicle gets the maximum amount of grip.
Stealth technology has made some huge leaps in the last couple of years. Where once the military wanted equipment to be invisible to radar and sonar, it looks like we will have vehicles that are unseen by the human eye. Canada seems to be pushing the boundaries of quantum stealth technology, which means that the heavy military cars of the near future will have light bend around them, rendering them effectively invisible to soldiers.
All Terrain, Really
Motorcycles are known for their maneuverability and speed but not necessarily their silence. Looking at modern motorcycle exhaust and mufflers, noise reduction is the key issue. For commercial motorcycles, looks are also a consideration. Military vehicles need to be quiet and have power. The newest military endeavor is a hybrid motorcycle that can use electricity to move silently. The motorcycle is a sleek, light-weight machine that looks more like a dirt bike than a hog. The bike will be stealthy when in electric mode and very fast in fuel mode. With hybrid cars all the rage for commercial use, we can expect to see this military application being duplicated for non-military sales.
We don’t want your pity, we want your help to put to rest the continued betrayals by our own government. Our military veterans deserve better:
Looking Back on a Better Time in our History:
Newsletter suggestion: I say we put former military with administrative skills in charge of every VA facility with the full authority to hire/fire and start legal proceedings against ANY employee that games the system. That will put a fire under the rears of the federal employees. My beef is NOT with the doctors and nurses at VA, it is with those administrators that game the system for their own personal gains. – Roger
One of the biggest adjustments newly-minted veterans can face is getting approved for loans. Once you’re out of the service, you’ll probably want, if not need, a reliable car. Even if you already have a car, it’s a good bet it isn’t the one you see yourself in over the next few years.
With car loan interest rates at reasonable levels, this is a good time to think about getting a new car or truck, or a new late model. But if you have bad credit, or very little credit, it’s hard to take advantage of these rates. Here are some tips for getting a fair shot at car financing:
First, Determine What You Can Afford
This may sound like advice from Captain Obvious, but a car brings more than a loan to your financial picture. There’s insurance, which varies across the country. FastQuotesDirect tracks average yearly car insurance costs for each state, ranging from $2700 in Louisiana to less than $1000 in Maine.
You also need to set money aside for maintenance. Maybe you know how to change the oil and filter (and be sure that this is permitted where you live; many home owner associations and apartment complexes don’t allow car maintenance on their grounds!), but do you know how to rotate and balance tires, replace brake pads, and flush out the transmission?
Make a list of yearly car expenses outside the payment you’ll undertake. Call around or go on the Web find out local costs for each of these:
Garage or parking fees
Car property tax
Add these costs to your budget and you’ll have a good idea of how much you really have for a car and its associated expenses.
If Your Credit is So-So, Don’t Panic
Look at your credit rating before you apply for car loans. As Cars.com, points out, lenders will look at these and you should, too. You can request a free report from the three major credit bureaus each year at Annualcreditreport.com. You may be a little relieved to see that these reports look at a few things, including how long you’ve had credit, your on-time rate for paying bills, and how much of the credit available to you is used.
If your first job was with the service, you may not have a lot of credit built up just yet. Or maybe your credit is less than sterling. If you aren’t satisfied with the rates you’re being offered, consider going to a lender that specializes in credit repair and working with so-called credit risks. Reputable lenders like Drive Time report to credit unions, which helps their customers, and has very high (4.5 stars) ratings, according to information at Drivetime.com.
Get Pre-Approved for a Loan Before You Go Car Shopping
Another benefit of working with dedicated car loan services is that you can get pre-approved for loans, learn how much you can borrow and finalize payment terms before your heart is set on a vehicle. Shopping within realistic boundaries is more rewarding and less frustrating. Edmunds.com points out that it also makes it easier to negotiate with the salespeople: just ask “what’s the out-the-door price?” It also eliminates any delivery complications resulting from loan complications.
Newsletter comment: I listened to some of the testimony by former CIA assistant director Morrell on Benghazi today.
It is clear to me that the brass pays far more attention to what some analyst in Langley believes, then what a station chief or other eyewitnesses are reporting on the ground. That’s messed up.
He also explained that the Langley analysts were not privy to what those on the scene were reporting in real time. Knowing that it begs the question, why is their analysis given so much weight?
Of course this is nothing new. LTC Hal Moore’s after-action report on the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Nov ’65 were ignored by McNamara and his “whiz kids” for what they WANTED to believe. Little changes! – Roger Young, co-editor
“The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a comprehensive report on the Benghazi attack finding the tragedy was ‘preventable’ and the administration failed to respond to ‘ample’ warnings that security was deteriorating before Sept. 11, 2012…”
Newsletter comment: It would appear that everyone in any authority dropped the ball leading up to the attack in Benghazi. A complete failure by all involved from the State Dept, White House, and military commands. Incompetence and arrogance cost the lives of four brave Americans.What was the purpose of establishing AFRICOM when they apparently had no real assets available in Africa? As we know from earlier reports, everyone had to know there were serious security issues in Libya yet NO action was taken at any level to enhance security or position forces! – Roger Young, co-editor
Newsletter comment: I’ve never seen such cowards in the White House & State Department. They want to shift the blame on the intelligence community when Mr. Hicks in Tripoli was reporting from the start of the attack in Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack on that facility as reported to him by Ambassador Stevens.
In my opinion, the talking points were changed to give Sec. Clinton and the White House cover for their actions of cutting security at the facility, period. And they both went out before the television cameras when the bodies of our brave Americans were returned to U.S. soil and in front of the families with the caskets in the background, continued to lie to the families, the American people, and the entire world. And they continue those same lies today. This is an absolute disgrace! – Roger
Newsletter comment: From Vietnam until the present the State Dept. has not cooperated well with our military. The fall of Lima Site 85 in Laos, SOG missions compromised in Laos & Cambodia – a case can certainly be made that our inept State Dept. played a hand in those failures and lives were lost. Lessons are never learned when denial is the norm – Roger Young, co-editor
It is clear after listening to SECDEF Panetta and Gen. Dempsey today at hearings, and listening to some of the questioning of CIA candidate Brennan today before the Senate, there is NOT going to be any accountability regarding the tragedy in Benghazi. And it is equally clear that this President is incapable of leading during a crisis. – Roger Young
Newsletter closing comment: I believe it is clear that just like Fast & Furious we are never going to get the truth, nor will anyone ever be held accountable for what happened in Benghazi. And the GOP doesn’t have the stomach to ask the tough questions to uncover the truth. It was just another dog & pony show to appease the American people. – Roger Young
Newsletter comment: Perhaps if the President would answer any direct questions concerning Benghazi, except “it’s under investigation,” we could get some real answers to why four Americans died and their repeated requests for increased security before the attack were denied, and why their requests for help during the attack went unanswered.
It is clear to me that this President does not feel he is obligated to answer any questions to the American people. – Roger
Newsletter comment: Excellent questions, but the focus has/will turn to the Petraeus scandal. How convenient. Nothing like a good sex scandal to divert the mainstream press and congress from a national security fiasco in Benghazi. – Roger
Newsletter observation: We now know since this deadly attack the following:
1) Leading up to the attack, the State Department repeatedly denied official requests to increase security as recommended by the Ambassador and his security team on the ground in Libya. In fact, the State Department reduced the security prior to the attack according to earlier hearings in the House that took place following this tragedy.
2) As the attack was underway, Jennifer Griffin reported above that the CIA reportedly refused multiple requests for help by its operatives under attack at the annex. The CIA denies those reports – Roger Young
Newsletter comment: It is long past time that our President addressed the American people on this issue which claimed the lives of four American patriots. You decide if this adminstration has been playing it straight with us. – Roger Young
I’m not big on Super Pac ads, but this video from a GOP Super Pac raises very valid questions that deserve to be answered to the American people from the White House. This President has the time to go on comedy shows to talk about Libya, but somehow cannot address the American people thus far?:
Newsletter comment: The debacle in Benghazi which cost the lives of four American patriots, reminds me of a similar debacle during the Vietnam war which led to the fall of Lima Site 85 in Laos. In Benghazi there were repeated requests to the State Department by their U.S. security teams on the ground for additional personnel to guard the vulnerable Consulate at Benghazi. Those requests were denied according to recent House testimony.
At Lima Site 85, a top-secret radar installation manned by U.S. Air Force personnel disguised as civilian contractors, in early March 1968 MACV in Saigon knew the installation was in imminent danger of attack by the NVA and the U.S. Ambassador in Laos rejected MACV’s evacuation request and the site was overrun on 11 March 1968 and 11 Americans were killed.
Our State Department has many dedicated and brave Americans serving our country around the world. Unfortunately, far too often, the bureaucrats in D.C. who are career driven guided by politics call the shots from the safety of their desks which can have disastrous outcomes for those in harms way. Without personal accountability, we are likely doomed to see more such bad calls around this increasingly turbulent world. - Roger Young
“…’Based on information provided to the committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,’ they wrote. ‘In addition, multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington’…”
Comment: As the author pointed out, it is unlikely that the Obama administration will take any blame for the deadly attack in Benghazi or the way this tragic event was initially “spun” by the administration and mainstream media. During Vietnam we had a media that was critical of the strategy unlike today a media that avoids asking the tough questions or holding this administration accountable for any of their decisions.
Our individual freedoms have always hinged on a free and independent press that would question power and seek the truth. Unfortunately those days appear to be behind us. Sometimes like the ’68 Tet the press got it wrong – Tet was a major defeat for the Viet Cong, not a military victory – but at least they were asking the tough questions and had every right to question the Johnson/McNamara strategy of ‘escalated response’ that would not take the war to the North or their sanctuaries in Cambodia & Laos
Colleges are enrolling veterans at record numbers in 2014 and much of that is thanks to the assistance our country gives to veterans who want to pursue an education. But returning to college after a life in the service is no easy feat. There are social and academic challenges the typical high school graduate doesn’t have to face, but there are advantages for veterans as well.
Paying for college is one of the most lucrative benefits from military service. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the GI Bill to veterans who want to pursue a higher education. This often covers most, if not all, of their tuition. But veterans who need more aid have plenty of resources for tuition assistance. Federal Student Aid, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, offers financial aid to veterans with significantly better interest rates and repayment plans than standard student loans. And if you choose to return to public service after graduation, those loans are eligible for forgiveness after 10-20 years.
Programs & Degrees
Veterans enter college with a specialized skill set, which can be an advantage when compared to high school graduates with no skill set. Veterans don’t just have experience that could aid in areas like criminal justice and technology, but also have leadership skills which give them a huge advantage in collaborative programs like project management. Penn Foster even offers a gunsmith program which could be perfect for veterans with exceptional experience with firearms.
But college (and the career that follows) doesn’t need ties to your military experience. Some veterans want to break ties with their time in the service and major in a creative study (English, art history, etc.) and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Because tuition is mostly taken care of, this is a great time to pursue alternative opportunities.
Getting thrown into the epicenter of the ultimate social experience for young adults is never easy. You’ll likely be at least four years older than every other freshman on campus. And most them who are living away from their parents for the first time won’t understand your experiences fighting overseas. There are two ways to make your social experience in college the most rewarding it can be:
1. Seek out other veterans on campus. You’re not the only one and there will be at least one campus group for you to seek and and meet new friends. The common ground shared with these fellow veterans will be a great way to create a social base when you’re just starting your first semester.
2. Don’t leave civilians out of your social circle. The college experience is about expanding your horizons and excluding your friends to fellow veterans would be robbing yourself of the opportunity to meet new people with different backgrounds and experiences from your own.
Keep an Open Mind
In college, you’ll run into two scenarios that could baffle you, annoy you and possibly even anger you — the maturity level of 18-year-old freshmen and the anti-military views that college campuses often carry. The first thing to remember is that college is not split into veterans and non-veterans. There are dozens of demographics and you should do your part to experience all of them.
There is much discussion if the United States is in decline; I for one believe we are.
What happened to the days when America built the hydroelectric dams in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the dams along the Columbia River (BPA) and Hoover dam that power many cities of our once great country and invited industry into those areas?
What happened with the vision of President Eisenhower to create an Interstate highway system that connected our country and enhanced our national security, and yet today we can’t seemingly maintain them?
What happened with the vision of President Kennedy to send Americans to the moon and back which was accomplished with Apollo 11 in 1969, but today we have no manned spaceflight capability? Today we must send our astronauts to the International Space Station and back via the Russian space agency despite our disagreements with a new, rising Russia. The technology that was a spinoff from our space program led to calculators, home computers and enhanced our way of life and staying connected today around the globe, not to mention the rapid advancement in medical treatments and diagnostics.
Yet today, our nation faces record deficits and we seem incapable of inventing or creating anything of real value. This once mighty nation of industry that served the world well in WWII now has outsourced most of our heavy industry, including steel and ship building to the lowest wage earners around the globe for the sake of global trade, but at what price? And what is the damage to our national security?
Today we have a government that has spent well over $600-million on a website for mandated healthcare that still is not functioning properly. Less than 1% of our fellow citizens serve in our military and yet we seemingly can’t afford to maintain it during these very unsettling times.
As I was growing up as a child and a young adult, I was proud of our country, what it stood for, and what we produced as a nation which greatly benefited the middle class and the entire world. The Midwest was the breadbasket of the globe.
Perhaps I was young and naïve, but years back I believe most politicians were true public servants and patriots and today we have a pack of overpaid, spoiled, entitled adolescents constantly squabbling in D.C., lying to the American people and only worried about the next election cycle and the next lobbyist who is going to pad their bank accounts to enriching their way of life. Frankly, I’ve seen more “leadership” from a PFC in Vietnam than I do today from D.C. We are rapidly approaching the point where we have a ruling class that will completely destroy the middle class and dictate every aspect of our lives.
My question is this, what has happened to our once great country and how do we reverse this downward spiral? How do we encourage younger generations to get involved and believe in our Constitution and the once American Dream instead of sitting on their behinds and watching D.C. strip our very freedoms and way of life?
In 1989, motorcyclists and Vietnam veterans James Gregory and Bill Evans set out on a two-wheeled mission across America to raise awareness about the “thousands of men and women [in the armed forces] still unaccounted for from all of our wars.” Now called Run for the Wall, the tradition continues this May and organizers expect to attract 350,000 participants who will join the cause on a 10-day ride to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC, stopping at schools, memorial sites and Veteran’s hospitals along the way.
If you’ve been on a long road trip, you know the basics of what to expect. But this event is not your typical road trip, to say the least. For riders joining for the first time, there are some things to know before setting out on your two-wheeled, cross country journey:
Luggage rack > Backpack
Just because you can’t pack a suitcase on a motorcycle doesn’t mean you don’t have luggage options. But a backpack will never be one of them, at least not on long-distance runs. According to the experts at OpenRoadJourney backpacks to motorcyclists are “shoulder pinching, posture ruining, loud wind-flapping-ear-drum-popper at speed back attachment you wish you’d never brought.” Instead, they suggest heading to a motorcycle store to invest in a luggage rack that mounts on the back of the bike and can be used to secure a small to medium-sized duffel bag behind the rider. You should also look into purchasing saddlebags for extra storage space.
Everything you need
Safety gear is first and foremost. As a rider, you should already own leathers, gloves and a helmet (and wear them always), but when it comes to everything else, packing light is key. Guy Boutin of BamaRider.com says of packing, “Weight = drag and it will dog you the entire tour if you have too much. I only bring stuff I’m going to use, and use often.” Clothing must be kept light, but remember to prepare for inclement weather. RFTW is in May, so the chances you’ll run into a blizzard are slim, but it is highly likely you’ll get a bit of rain at some point. Water resistant gloves and boot covers are a must, as are rain jacket and pants.
The rest of your bare necessities include:
Motorcycle (you’d be surprised)
Water bottle or hydration pack
Toiletries (including toilet paper)
Emergency gear (tools, parts, oil)
Wind glasses, sunglasses
First aid supplies
Emergency contact information
Items you want to leave at the Wall
From there, the items you pack are at your discretion. If you forget something, that’s where cash comes in handy. RFTW organizers stress participants should never assume that another rider will be willing to loan gear or supplies. They came prepared, and if you didn’t, you might find yourself up Route-66 without a paddle.
Richard Evans – Motorcyclist, attorney, father
The Wall, Veteran’s Day 2000 by Ingo Haas – 3/17th Air Cav Trooper
Today it has been reported that our president has instructed the Pentagon for a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Afghanistan will go the way of Iraq in short order in my opinion. So much blood and treasure spent with nothing to show for it. Once again politics rule the day, after all there is an important election coming in November.
Also the past couple of days we have seen massive troop cuts proposed for our military to pre-WWII levels. And scrapping the A-10 Warthog which has been an excellent ground support aircraft with nothing to replace it. But the extremely costly F-35 program will continue, and all of these proposals with the blessing of the Joint Chiefs and SECDEF Hagel. All on the backs of our brave warriors that have served this nation well.
Look for the next major cuts in VA. After all, the wars are coming to an end and who needs veterans or our military – until the next threat surfaces…
But for all of those jumping up and down rejoicing on how they can divide the defense savings for their ever-expanding social programs, when the next war comes and it will, it might well require a draft to get the boots on the ground IF TIME PERMITS!
His transformation of America is right on schedule. – Roger Young, Vietnam veteran and newsletter co-editor
Returning from service overseas can be a difficult transition for veterans and their families. Private citizens, corporate entities, and government agencies may all be grateful for the service that you provided during your time in uniform, but even so, they cannot directly repay you for the opportunity costs that you face for serving the nation instead of using those years to advance yourself in the workplace and the community. Fortunately, each of these sectors have come up with ways to help you make up for time away from civilian life through incentives, discounts, and access to resources.
Without question, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly referred to as the GI Bill, is the most well-known education benefit associated with service in the United States Armed Forces. Since 1944, the federal government has offered veterans assistance, paying for all facets of higher education. Current information on the bill is available through a dedicated section on Veteran’s Benefits Administration’s website, but here’s the key thing you need to know: According to the Association of the United States Army, the 2014 payment rates for the GI Bill mean that a full-time service member could be eligible for up to $59,000 in tuition, stipends, and other forms of financial assistance, according to AUSA.org.
As rich as the GI Bill is, it isn’t the only education-related resource available to you. The Student Veterans of America, for example, exists to “provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation”, as their site explains. SVA coordinates the work of student veteran groups at colleges and universities across America, and advocates for university policies that are beneficial to those who have served.
Job Hunting Services
While the federal government dedicates considerable resources to helping you transition back to civilian life by paying for training and helping you connect with potential employers, the nonprofit sector is also making its presence known in these important endeavors. Consider the work of Hire Heroes USA, a Georgia-based nonprofit that prides itself on “creating job opportunities for veterans and their spouses”, according to HireHeroesUSA.org. The organization provides resume services, training, and access to job openings reported by their corporate sponsors at no cost to veterans. Not to be outdone, the private sector is also doing it’s part to help. For example, NBC News, in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce, has launched Next Steps for Vets (Veterans.NBCNews.com), a web portal that will help you calculate your eligibility for educational benefits, learn the basics of launching your own small business, and connect with potential employers.
Valuable Discounts on Goods and Services
Of course, you don’t have to be headed for Harvard to benefit from your military experience. You could just be headed to your local big box store. Lowes, one of the nation’s largest home improvement retailers, recognizes your service by providing a 10% discount to active and retired military personnel, and members of their immediate families, according to their website. LifeLock, a company dedicated to protecting consumers from credit fraud and identity theft, offers a 10% veterans’ discount on its monitoring services—an attractive incentive for anyone thinking of re-enlisting or concerned about being redeployed. Your service also entitles you to reduced military rates when renting a car from Alamo; spending the day at a Disney Park; or choosing insurance through Geico or American Family Insurance. Information about military discounts is often buried deeply within company websites, so the best way to learn if a retail outlet or service provider offers incentives for active or retired military personnel is to simply ask.
In times of economic stress, your status as a veteran can open the door to emergency assistance through organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW.org), USACares.org, and—for military parents—the American Legion (Legion.org). On the other hand, if things are going smoothly and you’re interested in securing your financial future through business ownership, the VA has compiled a helpful list of franchise programs tailored to veterans, featuring plenty of options to investigate.