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Homeland

Resources Support Inspiration

Vol. 4 Number 2 • February 2017

USO San Diego Celebrates 76 Years of Service A Broken Life A Veteran Learns to Love Himself Again A Sugar-Sweet February Love Story Courage, Compassion & Creativity Shelter to Soldier’s Unique Training Model The Endurance of a Warrior Team Hope For The Warriors Soldier Fortune Monster Jam Returns with Military Patriotism

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Research Opportunities

VETERANS: WE NEED YOU VA San Diego Healthcare System and Veterans Medical Research Foundation are looking for participants for human subject research studies on Veterans health issues. Findings will help provide better treatments for Veterans and the general population. • We are one of the largest VA research programs in the nation • We employ the most advanced research technologies • We employ some of the best, talented and world renowned researchers in the country • We conduct approximately 400 human subject studies annually

Sign up for a research study TODAY!  

Some studies provide medical care and/or reimbursement for participation.

Check out our current list of research opportunities.

Visit: www.sandiego.va.gov/studies.asp and www.vmrf.org/studies.html www.homelandmagazine.com

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EDITOR’S

LETTER

Publisher Editor-In-Chief Mike Miller Contributing Writers CJ Machado Vicki Garcia Wounded Warrior Project Vesta Anderson John Roberts R4 Alliance Jenni Riley National Veterans Transition Services Sara Wacker Disabled American Veterans Steven Wilson Shelter to Soldier Eva M. Stimson Boot Campaign Barry Smith USO Sharon Smith USAA Chad Storlie Craig Zabojnik Operation Homefront Stephen Thomas USS Midway Scott McGaugh Cover Art by Iwo Jima artwork © Joe Everson

Greetings and a warm welcome to HOMELAND Magazine! Please take some time to get to know the layout of our magazine. Homeland Magazine focuses on real stories from real heroes; the service member, the veteran, the wounded and the families that keep it together. Our magazine is driven by passion, vision, reflection and the future. The content is the driving force behind our magazine and the connection it makes with service members, families, veterans and civilians. Homeland is about standing your ground, resilience, adaptation, inspiration and solidarity. HOMELAND is inspirational, “feel good” reading; our focus is on veterans, military and civilians alike. I believe HOMELAND is where the heart is, and our publication covers a wide variety of topics, and issues about real life and real stories. We are honored to share the work of so many committed and thoughtful people.

Public Relations CJ Machado Thomas McBrien Graphic Design Trevor Watson Homeland Magazine is published monthly. Submissions of photographs, Illustrations, drawings, and manuscripts are considered unsolicited materials and the publisher assumes no responsibility for the said items. All rights reserved.

We appreciate your support and are so happy to have you as a reader of HOMELAND Magazine.

Homeland Magazine 9528 Miramar Road, Suite 41 San Diego, CA 92126

With warmest thanks, Mike Miller, Publisher

858.275-4281 Contact Homeland Magazine at: info@homelandmagazine.com

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inside this issue

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6 A Broken Life, A Veteran Learns to Love Himself Again26 14 VA Loans 16 Shelter to Soldier’s - Unique Training Model 18 Higher Education Planning Tips 21 Tackling College During Deployment 22 USO Celebrating 76 Years 30 The Endurance of a Warrior 33 R4 Alliance Survey 34 Enlisted To Entrepreneur 36 Leaving The Military 39 Soldier Fortune - Monster Jam Returns

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A Sugar-Sweet February Love Story Courage, Compassion & Creativity

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A Broken Life, Mended Through Wounded Warrior Project, a Veteran Learns to Love Himself Again

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rom a troubled childhood to the struggles of raising a young family, Army veteran Jesse Babson’s origins were far from idyllic. Though his was not an easy life, it was an existence he took in stride – until his Army career ended. Memories of his tumultuous deployment to Iraq mingled with the ghosts of his past, making him unable to acclimate to civilian life. Isolated and disillusioned, Jesse’s personal battle took him to his lowest point – and very nearly claimed his life. His downward spiral may well have continued, if not for a chance viewing of a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) commercial on TV. A Rocky Start Born in Grand Rapids, Jesse was raised in the Michigan countryside. At the age of 7, he was sent to live with his father in Florida, where he grew up getting into trouble and spending time in and out of juvenile detention centers. Jesse’s troublemaking continued through his teen years, until his father sent him back to Michigan. Though he had expected his brother to pick him up at the bus station, no one showed. His first steps into adulthood were taken alone, and without a place to call home. 9/11, Following Duty At 18, Jesse had picked himself up from the uncertainty of homelessness in a new town by working a job in fast food. He had a little money in his pockets, and he had Lisa, his new girl. By September of 2001, his life had undergone a few changes. The 19-year-old had a job delivering furniture – and a girlfriend at home whose belly was big with their first child. On one particular delivery day, Jesse noticed that at every home he delivered to, families were glued to their televisions. “I went back to the warehouse and put the TV on, and that’s when I saw the towers fall,” Jesse said.

BY JOHN ROBERTS

His daughter was born eight days later, and Jesse began to feel the stirrings of a fighter ready to go into battle and defend his country. After his daughter’s first birthday, he went to his local Army recruiter’s office and announced he was ready to answer the call of his nation. After a few minutes discussing his background, he was turned away. Devastated, he left the recruiting station still a civilian, and he did not return for another year – this time as a young father of two. “I walked back into that same recruiter’s office, walked up to the recruiter and said ‘This is America. I want to join this Army, and I know that I can do it,’” Jesse said.

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Soon after, Jesse completed his training in Fort Jackson and requested to be added to the volunteer list for deployment to Iraq. Eager to begin his career as an Army mechanic, he deployed with the 101st Airborne Division, attached to the 505th Combat Engineer Battalion, a National Guard unit. Shortly after his arrival at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, Jesse received word that either he or his roommate would have to gear up and ship off to Mosul, Iraq. He volunteered. “When I landed in Mosul, I met the first and staff sergeants, and they asked me how long I had been a mechanic,” Jesse said. “I told them ‘about five minutes.’ They looked at me and told me I was their new gunner.” In his new role, Jesse was part of a Mosul security team, running missions to provide cover for envoys and equipment and protecting the engineer teams as they constructed roadways and checkpoints. While it was a high-risk job, Jesse said he never felt any actual fear until June 6, 2006, when a chain of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hit his convoy. Jesse sustained a cut to the face and hit his head on the turret. “That was when I realized this wasn’t a game,” he said. “I realized that at any moment I could be killed and never see my wife or kids again.” Jesse pressed on following the attack – ignoring the persistent ringing in his ear, and telling no one of the near-crippling headaches that began to plague him. “I wanted to be on the security team,” he said. “I was afraid if I told them what was happening, I would be replaced.” Following the attack that tested his body, Jesse found himself on a mission that would test his soul. It started as a bit of boring and tedious duty, watching a northern road as his combat engineers built a security checkpoint for Iraqi police. As night fell, a pair of flatbed trucks pulled up, each carrying two rows of Iraqi soldiers. Once Jesse put on his night vision goggles, the sky lit up with gunfire from every direction. “I will never forget the sounds of bullets passing my head and hitting metal, or the mere seconds in which I saw my life flashing before my eyes,” he said. “I just returned fire on the muzzle flashes. The whole scenario lasted only seconds.” Jesse was ordered to escort medics in the aftermath of the quick attack. Amid the chaos, nearly 15 civilians lost their lives in the ensuing gunfire. The survivors were scattered in a daze – some sitting in cars, others lying on the ground. Those who were not stunned into silence frantically chanted prayers that he could not understand. A Soldier No More Jesse returned to Michigan with a laundry list of issues following his deployment. The IED blast left him with partial hearing loss, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and a ringing he admits still continues to this day. Damage to his back and knees left him in constant pain, unable to stand and walk or even sit for extended periods of time. Even sleep provided no respite from his ailments, as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had rendered him a prisoner in his own mind. “I can never forget the time I spent in Iraq, or the things we saw and did,” Jesse said. “I can’t sleep because of them. I close my eyes, and I see the faces of the dead.” His difficult upbringing had done little to equip him with the ability to deal with people, and his experiences downrange only made things worse. He began to withdraw from his wife, children, and friends. He found employment at a tire

“At first I didn’t even sign up for any Wounded Warrior Project events, and then I even backed out of a couple because my anxiety was so high,” Jesse said. “But when I finally went to one of the outings, I was hooked. I was surrounded by veterans like myself, and I didn’t have to be nervous wondering what they were thinking of me. I was at peace.”

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company, securing a position that allowed him to be alone, the way he preferred. “Anyone who knew I was in Iraq would always ask the questions,” he said. “What did you do there? Was it hot? Did you kill anyone?” Jesse did not want to answer their questions about what happened in Iraq. He wanted to be in Iraq – and as far as he was concerned, the people back home were just a constant reminder of a world where he felt he no longer belonged. “Life for everyone else was so normal,” he said. “They went to work, discussed bills, and bought groceries. They went out on dates and ate at restaurants. I wanted a chow hall. I wanted discipline. I wanted to load up for the next mission. But all that was gone.” Without his fellow soldiers and without a mission to carry out, Jesse felt adrift and completely alone. Growing up had been a struggle, the demons he carried were a burden, and he had grown tired. One day as Jesse’s wife was out with the kids, she received a phone call from her husband, the message succinct and profound: “I’m sorry.” A surplus of pain medication and sleeping pills coursing through his veins, Jesse laid down with every intention of succumbing to the darkness that had come to invade his waking life. Fate’s Other Plans “I woke up one month later in a hospital,” Jesse recalled. “I had been placed in a medically-induced coma. I had no choice but to face my issues or they wouldn’t let me leave.” Jesse played the role of patient, telling the doctors everything he thought they wanted to hear so he could be released. He was put on a variety of medications and sent home, where awaited the anger of those who could not comprehend what he did.

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“They said I was selfish, that I didn’t think about my wife and kids, that I was a coward,” he said. “So now I’m sitting at home, even more depressed, thinking that I am doomed to this miserable existence. That’s when I turned on the TV and saw a Wounded Warrior Project commercial.” HOMELAND / February 2017

“They said I was selfish, that I didn’t think about my wife and kids, that I was a coward,” he said. “So now I’m sitting at home, even more depressed, thinking that I am doomed to this miserable existence. That’s when I turned on the TV and saw a Wounded Warrior Project commercial.” Looking at the WWP website, Jesse began to read the many stories of injured veterans who had reached out to the organization. After signing up, he began to receive emails about events and activities happening in his community, designed to connect warriors with one another. “At first I didn’t even sign up for any Wounded Warrior Project events, and then I even backed out www.homelandmagazine.com


of a couple because my anxiety was so high,” Jesse said. “But when I finally went to one of the outings, I was hooked. I was surrounded by veterans like myself, and I didn’t have to be nervous wondering what they were thinking of me. I was at peace.” Connecting with fellow service members breathed new life into Jesse, and he began to look forward to participating in WWP programs like Soldier Ride®, which instilled in him a love for cycling. “It was scary at first,” Jesse said of his first Soldier Ride. “I thought for sure I would fail – what’s worse, I would fail in that tight outfit. I was not only able to finish the ride, but I actually went back into a group of riders so I could motivate them to finish. And just that simple thing woke me up from my brokenness – being able to help someone else who needed it.” Attending WWP writing workshops, Jesse learned to put pen to paper and articulate his feelings instead of keeping them bottled up where they could fester into more dangerous things. He enjoys knowing he has an open line of contact with the WWP outreach teammate in his area. “He speaks from his heart, and he continues to be a presence even after you go to a connection event,” Jesse said. “I know he cares about veterans, and I know he loves what he does.” At Peace Jesse Babson is a man who has looked his own mortality in the eye on several occasions. More than once, he has made peace with dying. But nowadays, he finds he is actually at peace with living. “My life has turned around,” he said. “My family is doing things together. I am a better father and husband who loves to see the smiles on my wife and kids’ faces. I am finding ways to cope with my day-to-day struggles. Most importantly, I am no longer pondering suicide like I used to.” His love of biking motivated him to purchase his own bicycle. The writing workshops have inspired him to write a book and share the story of his life with the world. He has even taken up hockey – after a WWP workshop paired him up with a veteran who happens to coach a local team. “I am happy with myself now and with what I have overcome and achieved,” he said. “But none of it would have been possible without Wounded Warrior Project. By simply watching TV, seeing that commercial, and then reaching out to them, I jumpstarted the path to a whole new life.” To his brothers and sisters in arms still coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war, Jesse offers his story as a prime example of what is possible when a person reaches out for help. “I promise you that you are not alone,” he said. “But the biggest and most important thing you have to do is reach out. And the best place to start is Wounded Warrior Project. You will open a network of resources for not only you but your entire family. There are people out there just like you, and they are waiting.”

“I am happy with myself now and with what I have overcome and achieved,” he said. “But none of it would have been possible without Wounded Warrior Project. By simply watching TV, seeing that commercial, and then reaching out to them, I jumpstarted the path to a whole new life.”

About Wounded Warrior Project The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. The WWP purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To learn more about WWP and Warrior Care Network™, visit woundedwarriorproject.org. (Photos courtesy WWP) www.homelandmagazine.com

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“It was McKayla’s savvy intuition that helped Hale improve his spirits and get him motivated to get out of his own head and away from the depression and frustrations he was experiencing after returning home from the hospital.”

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By Barry Smith / Boot Campaign

LOVE sTORY A SUGAR-SWEET FEBRUARY

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COURAGE, COMPASSION & CREATIVITY

or centuries, February has long been celebrated as a month romance. Nowadays, in a typical year in America, History.com says one billion Valentine’s Day greeting cards are sent, 220 million roses are produced, and 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold. Altogether, Americans spend almost 20 billion dollars on the holiday, and an estimated six million couples become engaged. Chocolate candy ranks as the No. 1 Valentine’s Day gift, followed by flowers and jewelry, and that is thrilling news to one U.S. Army veteran and Boot Campaign Hero Ambassador, whose own love story and culinary talents recently got him engaged and into the candy-making business full-time, not just in February.

Staff Sergeant Aaron Hale is a highly decorated and retired 14-year veteran of both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army. At 21 years of age, he enlisted in the Navy as a mess management specialist seaman recruit.  Achieving the rank Culinary Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class, he enjoyed his career as a chef, which included preparing meals for U.S. and foreign dignitaries aboard a three-star Navy admiral’s flagship as it cruised the Baltic and Mediterranean seas. He also was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he says he became responsible for feeding 500 to 600 ISAF soldiers in the desert. “When I was running that Army chow hall in Afghanistan I had a staff that did most the cooking, but I would come in at least once a day and make one thing myself for the troops,” remembers Hale.  “Every Sunday there would be a line out the door for my Stuffed French Toast.

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“For the most part, in Afghanistan and the Army food comes pre-cooked and frozen,” he explains. “I would take the frozen, thick-style French toast, re-dip the slices in egg, put them on the griddle, and add a sweetened cream cheese filling mixture in the middle of two big pieces of toast. I would top it off with strawberry sauce and whipped cream. It was a crowd favorite!”

Afghanistan, it was Dec. 8, 2011 that his career as an EOD Team Leader ended in an instant. After disarming an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) with his robot, Hale approached the IED to collect evidence.  On his approach, however, an undetected IED 30 feet from the original device exploded under him, fracturing his skull, breaking every bone in his face, and taking his eyesight.

All modesty aside, it was during that first deployment to Afghanistan that he also was introduced to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) field. Impressed by the technology used and life-saving abilities of the brave EOD technicians, Hale decided in September 2007 to switch branches of the military and begin training in the Army’s EOD school.  Following graduation, he deployed to Iraq for one year with the 725th EOD Company, and again to Afghanistan in 2011 with the 760th EOD Company.  

Hale never accepted defeat, and while awaiting military retirement, he began teaching at the EOD school at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, continuing his education in finance, running marathons, paddling solo whitewater kayaks and even hiking to the occasional mountain top. Two years after retiring and just one week from attempting to conquer Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Hale’s plans dramatically changed once again when he was forced to climb an even bigger mountain than losing his sight.

Despite disabling as many as 50 explosive devises on his second mission to

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In July 2015, Hale had just finished a speaking engagement for friend Tom McCann’s Holidays for Heroes veteran’s charity on the tiny island of Nantucket off Cape Cod, Mass. The Akron, Ohio native remembers returning to his current Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., residence and feeling ill, weak and dizzy while talking on the phone to his long-distance California girlfriend McKayla Tracy. “This was unusual, so I said to McKayla I’m going to have to lay down for a nap,” recalls Hale.  “Maybe five to 10 minutes later, I woke up to the most awful, awful headache. The pain was indescribable.” After calling 911 and explaining to the operator “I have literally been blown up before and have never felt pain like this,” an ambulance was dispatched to his assistance and “the next thing I know it’s four days later, McKayla is by my side, along with my mother, father, and sister.” Hale had mysteriously contracted a rare and dangerous strain of bacterial meningitis, resulting in the loss of another of his five senses -- his hearing.  “I eventually was released from the hospital totally blind, completely deaf, and incapable of walking alone due to the severe vertigo,” he confides, “and I was in a very difficult, awful place.” Vital to his emergence from this “awful place” was his family and McKayla, the latter bringing a little California sunshine with her to the Sunshine State and into Hale’s life at just the right time. Even though McKayla was raised in Colorado and Aaron in Ohio, the two had known each other from early childhood as their mothers had grown up together in Glen Burnie, Md.  Each summer, McKayla’s mother Janet would load up the car with all the kids and drive from Colorado back to Maryland for a visit, but they always made a pit stop in Ohio to see Aaron’s mother Carol. It wasn’t until many years later that Aaron and McKayla began a long-distance romance that was kindled thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.com.  “He is one heck of a matchmaker,” laughs Hale about Zuckerberg, who says McKayla’s comments to one of his silly Facebook posts led to instant messages, texts, phone calls, and “I eventually convinced her to visit me down in Florida. That’s what got the snowball rolling down the mountain.” McKayla visited Aaron in Florida for an enjoyable week, but had to return to the West 12

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Coast. “We knew we liked each other, but didn’t really know how anything was going to happen in the future because Aaron was committed to Florida and I was committed to my career path in California,” explains McKayla.  “So I was back to work for four days when he was in Nantucket speaking.  We talked that day he returned to Florida and he wasn’t feeling right.” “McKayla came back from California to nurse me back to health and moved in,” adds Hale.  “She hasn’t left since, and I won’t ever let her go!” It was McKayla’s savvy intuition that helped Hale improve his spirits and get him motivated to get out of his own head and away from the depression and frustrations he was experiencing after returning home from the hospital. “I was trapped inside my body,” he says.  “I couldn’t use any of the tools or techniques that I’d learned to help me navigate my world.  I needed something to do.” With McKayla’s help and encouragement, Aaron found a way to cope with his situation.  The fastapproaching Thanksgiving holiday, and the need to feed many family and friends, also helped speed up the process. “I fell back to one of my old loves, which was cooking,” says Hale.  “I started making fudge weeks in advance and found out, ‘Hey, I can still cook!’  I can do something that keeps me busy and keeps me from thinking about how terrible I thought my situation is.  The funny thing was, the desserts were piling up. There was more fudge in the house than any family of any size could eat in one sitting.” It turns out McKayla started “sneaking” out the front door to give a lot of the

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extra fudge to friends and neighbors. Eventually, many of the lucky and pleasantly satisfied recipients returned and asked if they could “buy more fudge.” Wa-lah! A new sugar-sweet business was born.

“The business came out of a really dark time for both of us,” admits McKayla. “It was originally just something to keep Aaron focused and busy during the Holidays.  Once I noticed that it gave him a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning I realized we really needed to latch on to this and make it into something amazing together.” After a surprise marriage proposal was accepted by McKayla this past September in front of family, friends and a video camera crew on Nantucket island, her astute realization is right on schedule.  The couple plans to wed this October back on Nantucket thanks to generous donations from the local community who are making it all possible. “Our friends in Nantucket are donating our wedding to us, from the venue and catering to the lodging,” she happily reports.  “Their generosity has been so sweet and such a blessing in our lives.” Sweet like fudge.  So, what did the smitten couple name their new candy company?  How about: Extra Ordinary Delights, or E.O.D. for short. “E.O.D. is Extra Ordinary Delights,” reveals Hale, “in honor of my previous occupation which I loved so much.”

“The business came out of a really dark time for both of us,” admits McKayla. “It was originally just something to keep Aaron focused and busy during the Holidays. Once I noticed that it gave him a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning I realized we really needed to latch on to this and make it into something amazing together.” www.homelandmagazine.com

Available nationwide at EODfudge.com, Extra Ordinary Delights features 11 flavors of Aaron’s handcrafted secret-recipe fudge, including three created for Valentine’s Day last year that are now a fixture on E.O.D.’s forever menu. Those three special flavors include “Raspberry Glow” with a Chambord liqueur, “Strawberry White” featuring an enticing combination of strawberry cream liqueur and semisweet chocolate, and “Cherry Cinnamon Spark,” a darker mix of chocolates, cinnamon, cherry, a hint of red chili pepper and a splash of cinnamon whiskey and rum to add a little fuel to the fire. In addition to the new business and making wedding plans, Aaron and McKayla have much more to keep them busy and involved.  Giving back to the military community is high on their list of priorities. “McKayla and I are very, very active in veteran’s service organizations like Boot Campaign,” concludes Hale.  “I actually went through EOD school with (fellow Hero Ambassador) Johnny “Joey” Jones, who introduced me to Boot Campaign (bootcampaign.org).  To be one of their Hero Ambassadors is an honor and gift. “It’s a gratifying and fulfilling feeling to help others, whether it’s mentally, spiritually or physically.  I love being involved in the Boot Campaign missions for all the good it does for everyone else, and the good it does me.  I’m always trying to pay it forward and give it back as much as I can, but the more I try to give it away, the more it comes back to me.” Sounds like a perfect message for a Hallmark Valentine this February, and an ideal companion, of course, to a healthy ration of E.O.D. Fudge.

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by LisaSeverson USAA

3 Good Reasons To Consider a VA Home Loan Service members move a lot. A move may take them across the country or to the other side of the globe. When it comes time to buy a place to call home, a Veterans Affairs loan may be able to help them do it for less. Since its inception in 1944, the VA loan program has helped more than 20 million service members and veterans purchase homes, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Today, it can provide lower interest rates than traditional loans and other advantages for those who are eligible. If you’re considering buying a home, here are three reasons a VA home loan might be a smart decision: The perks can be big. “Typically, a VA loan is a good choice for eligible veterans who want to avoid a down payment and who want 100% financing,” says Winston Wilkinson, USAA’s senior vice president for real estate lending. “But the choice should always come down to a veteran’s personal situation.” 14

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Consider two of the biggest advantages of VA home loans:

borrowers and provide evidence of income.

No need for a down payment. You can generally get 100% financing to help you get into your new home sooner.

An appraisal verifies the value of the home they are buying.

Mortgage insurance isn›t required. Your monthly bill should be lower because you usually aren’t required to pay private mortgage insurance, which can be part of a conventional loan. While the mortgage rates associated with VA loans are often more favorable than other loans, a borrower›s actual rate will vary based on personal credit rating and other factors.

There are two exceptions: Establishing VA eligibility. You can do that yourself before you begin the process, or ask your lender to help. Getting a VA-approved appraisal. You lender will get an approved appraiser assigned to your case, and the VA sets maximum fees for the work.

They’re available for repeat use. The VA loan is a reusable benefit. This can be particularly helpful for service members faced with frequent PCS orders that keep them crisscrossing the country. The process is similar to other loans. The process of applying for a VA loan is essentially the same as applying for a conventional or FHA loan. Homebuyers establish themselves as trustworthy

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By Eva M. Stimson

Shelter to Soldier’s Unique Training Model and New Facility Offers Path for Expanded Donor Opportunities

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s Shelter to SoldierTM begins operations for the first quarter of the New Year, an emphasis is being placed on serving a greater number of veterans who have discovered the services available to them free of charge through Shelter to Soldier. While the good news has spread throughout the veteran population, demand has increased exponentially. In response, Shelter to Soldier has immediate need to adopt and train more service dogs to be paired with eligible veterans (the goal is to place ten service dogs in 2017 and have another 15 in training getting ready for graduation in 2018), and the search for a suitable piece of property to house a new facility in San Diego has been launched. The new facility will encompass the capacity to house, care for, and train up to 30 service dogs in training at one time, three times the current capacity. The facility will also provide an indoor training area with tools & equipment tailored to the specific service dog training tasks and needs.

According to Shelter to Soldier Co-Founder Kyrié Bloem, “Our non-profit organization relies on donations large and small to rescue, train and match our dogs with approved veterans as a service companion. One of the main areas of need is to adopt more dogs into our program, as we have a waiting list of very worthy veterans in need of an immense amount of support through the companionship of a psychiatric service dogs trained through our program.” Shelter to Soldier is supported solely through charitable contributions from grants, corporations, charitable foundations and private individuals. The cost of a dog’s journey through the program is $12,000 and includes adoption, safe housing fees, medical care, training, equipment, food, grooming, treats, toys, supplements, testing and certifications, liability insurance, handler training, and graduation materials for the veteran. The program also continues to add services to benefit veteran applicants. One of those key additions from 2016 is a mental health liaison that provides one-on-one therapy sessions to approved veterans or those in the application phase who have been approved for this service. In order to implement their 2017 expansion plans, Shelter to Soldier has a variety of donation options available to interested supporters. Donors may select from an itemized list to contribute toward the total cost of training a dog through the Shelter to Soldier program of $12,000, or donors may opt to sponsor a dog for the entire amount as a Red Star Sponsor.

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Shelter to Soldier Founder, Graham Bloem, explains, “Any amount donated contributes to our program expenses. This project is designed to train a potentially behaviorally challenged rescue dog into a level 1 psychiatric service dog in the span of 12-18 months. We also offer lifetime followup training for all of our veteran/service dog teams at our facility. Although we evaluate the shelter dogs at a very high level to determine their potential as a working service dog, every dog we rescue is an individual, with unique needs and challenges to work through. We tailor the training program to each dog to build them up to a successful career change from abandoned rescue to psychiatric service dog and lifelong companion.” The Shelter to Soldier service dog training program includes extensive training sessions with the veteran, providing oneon-one education about their dog’s training needs, day-today care, and service dog laws, and preparing the team for success in everyday life. Dogs are housed and treated like family at their training facility with Paw Paradise in Poway, CA. Shelter to Soldier President Graham Bloem elaborates, “We’re extremely excited about developing a new facility where we can house and train a larger number of rescue dogs and create a campus surrounded by nature for our veterans. We have plans to create a variety of functional areas within the facility for which there will be naming opportunities for donors, including a meditation garden, water features, classroom space with interactive media, grooming salon, and state-of-the-art training center. In the future, the organization plans to add a dormitory for visiting veterans who wish to enroll in our program from other parts of the country.” A potential site has been determined, and the architectural renderings are being developed. The goal is to move into the new facility in 2018. Shelter to Soldier has additional avenues of support through a variety of partnerships that have recognized the need for funding to perpetuate the mission of Shelter to Soldier.

UNITE, a global professional hair care company donates 90% of the proceeds from the sale of their Doggy ‘Poo dog shampoo to two non-profit organizations in San Diego, including Shelter to Soldier. Shop for a Cause is an online store offering branded apparel where 100% of net proceeds are donated to Shelter to Soldier. Visit www.sheltertosoldier.org and click on the “shop” tab. Every 69 minutes a US veteran commits suicide and every day, 3200 dogs are euthanized nationwide. Shelter to Soldier adopts dogs from rescues and helps veterans working through the perils of mental injury associated with traumatic combat experiences. The healing impact that a highly trained service dog provides for US Veterans improves their overall quality of life, personal relationships, confidence and sense of security, therefore advancing their mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time”.

Shelter to Soldier service dogs help US Veterans integrate back into society and find their purpose, often for the first time since their military service. Visit www.sheltertosoldier.org for additional information or call 855-CUS-TMK9 (855-287-8659) for a confidential interview regarding eligibility. Shelter to Soldier’s 5th Annual fundraising event will be held on September 9, 2017 in Rancho Santa Fe, California. To contact the author, email emsmci@aol.com.

www.homelandmagazine.com

HOMELAND / February 2017 17


Higher Education Financial Planning Tips for Military Veterans By CraigZabojnik USAA

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There is extraordinary excitement for military veterans to return to institutions of higher learning to get an undergraduate or a graduate degree. For many veterans, successfully completing an undergraduate degree marks the very reason why they began their military journey in the first place.  For decades, the promise of military service followed by an undergraduate education has inspired thousands to join the military and complete their service.   The promise of an education also leads to high levels of financial peril for military veterans.  The financial peril in higher education comes when we spend too much vs. what the degree and the following career can financially deliver for us.  Higher education is a wonderful experience and ensuring that you remain on a sound and sensible footing during your education is an essential component of educational success.   

Follow these five tips to remain on a sensible and financially wise path during your education.

#1 – Am I Getting What I Pay For –Determining the true value of your education while you are getting your education used to be extraordinarily difficult.  Today, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has created a higher education research tool that helps compare major education outcomes of schools.     There are ten key measures to look at when comparing a school against other choices:  

1. Total Undergraduate Enrollment 2. Retention Rate of All Students 3. Graduation Rate of All Students  4. Average Salary of All Students  5. Loan Repayment Rate of All Students  6. Average Student Loan Debt 7. Total Instate Tuition + Books  8. Military Training Credit Offered? 9. Any Department of Veteran Affairs Caution Flags? 10. Total Complaints Against Institution

The goal of these metrics is to have the highest level in retention rate and graduation rate while having the lowest loan debt and the lowest caution flags and total complaints.  You want to choose a school that has high student success, high loan repayment rates, and low debt to have a maximized educational outcome.  

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#2 – Maximize Your Military / Veteran Benefits – Once you chose 4-5 schools to look at, the next step is to develop very detailed financial estimates that look at the best use of ALL of your available military veteran benefits compared against the best educational outcomes.  Remember, less expensive is not always better, if the institution you choose has a lower graduation rate and higher student debt levels.  The goal of this step is to maximize your military veteran educational benefits and align those benefits to the educational institutions that offer the best outcomes.   #3 – Avoid Any Debt As Much As Possible – Avoiding any debt is a good rule for life.  For education, debt can come quickly and in the form of loans for tuition, books, and also in the form of credit card debt for living expenses.  A small amount of educational debt is acceptable if the payoff in income and graduation from your education is worth the tradeoff.  In general, high levels of education debt lead to incredibly high living challenges after graduation.  The best case is to avoid high levels of education debt right from the start.   #4 – Work & Have Paid Internships –Working while going to school at an employer or in an industry that you want to work at after graduation is the best case for students.  This not only earns money for school expenses, it also creates a network and valuable experience for post-graduation hiring.  Internships should focus on being paid, gaining valuable experience, and building a network.    #5 – Select a Degree with a Clear Profession (s) – This is instrumental to help military veterans have a good military service to higher education to purposeful employment transition.  Selecting a good educational institution with a major that is in demand and that you are also interested in is the best way to maximize your education.  The STEM degrees (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are very popular.  If your interests are not in STEM, then do not choose them.  Instead, look at Business, Healthcare, and Education for other degrees.  In general, a four year degree will be the most preferred degree among employers.   Choosing a good school, choosing an in demand degree, and minimizing debt while also working a job or internship while in school will offer the best chances of post-degree success.  This path will also offer the highest level of work in your degree, but in the end, it will be well worth it.  

HOMELAND / February 2017 19


Mike Knutson Bachelor of Science, Cybersecurity Navy Veteran

Because I wanted to draw on my past to better our future, it had to be UMUC. Credit for your military experience and training. You deserve credit for what you already know. At University of Maryland University College, you can receive up to 90 undergraduate credits for your prior college coursework and military experience and training and be well on your way to an in-demand degree from a respected state university. You may even be able to ďŹ nish your degree in as few as two years with online and on-site classes and multiple start dates throughout the year.

FIND OUT HOW UMUC CAN WORK FOR YOU.

Call 800-939-UMUC (8682). Visit umuc.edu/homeland. 20 16-MIL-215 HOMELAND / February 2017 November National Military Mike K Print Ad_Homeland_HRR1.indd

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Š 2016 University of Maryland University College

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By Sara Wacker

By Angela Caban

4 Tips to Tackle College During a Deployment

Many military spouses consider the idea of going back to school during a deployment. I was motivated to complete something during my husband’s last 15 month deployment. Call it my mission if you may. When I decided to tackle this big challenge I didn’t think it would be possible. I was working full time and had an active 2 year old running around. I ended up not only finishing; I was on the Dean’s list all of my semesters. When I would think about trying to fit school and homework into my already overly stretched schedule, it would make me want to run to the nearest exit! The large amount of military spouses who tackle this challenge every day and actually survive to graduate have been a great source of encouragement to me on days when I just didn’t think I’d make it to the end. www.homelandmagazine.com

If you are in that spot and looking for some helpful advice, I’ve got some insight to share.

on’t have the time for a traditional school, check out online schools. There are so many military friendly schools.

Here are 4 tips that helped me survive both college and graduate school during a deployment.

GIJobs.com features a section within their website highlighting military friendly schools.

Money – Research Financial Aid and Scholarships

Work – Schedule Class, Study and Project Time

My biggest obstacle for going back to school was money. When you are 18 years old and living at home with your parents, you don’t really tend to think about everything that needs to be paid on a day-to-day basis. Working full time and having so many grown-up expenses really did scare me into thinking I would never be able to afford going back to school. Fortunately, with the help of financial assistance, grants, scholarships and payment plans, going back to school is possible for nontraditional students. I suggest you do some research on financial aid for military spouses. Depending on the program you choose, there are various different options out there. Don’t let the money factor scare you into not pursuing your goals.

It’s not just class time you need to make sure you stay on top of, you also need to remember to schedule the time weekly to study, complete projects and get all your assignments completed on time. Put the time on your calendar in advance and leave it there. Treat it as you would a work or doctor’s appointment, don’t move it unless there is an extreme emergency. Don’t worry; it’s okay to decline other events and activities in order to protect your personal education dates. We all know military life tends to throw us a curve ball or two.

The Military Spouse Education Initiative Facebook page features links to available scholarships and programs that can assist spouses with their education.

Taking Care of You

Nozbe and Evernote are task management apps that allow you to schedule tasks, take notes, and prioritize projects (just to name a few).

When our lives and schedules get jampacked, why do we tend to put our personal health last? We cut out very important things such as; sleep, eating properly and exercising. When you take care of you, you perform better. These shouldn’t be the things we cut back on, but the things we should also remember to do a lot of. When you invest in your health the same way you are your education, you are remembering why you are working so hard to begin with. Make the time to eat well, sleep and exercise. Your body AND your brain will thank you.

Time – Pursue Flexible Online Learning I have always been one to manage time rather well. This time in my life I had to figure out how to fit a busy school schedule in with work, raising children and having a deployed husband! Cue, online learning! Having the ability to go to school online assures the non-traditional student has the time, flexibility and portability needed in our already busy lives. If you think you d

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San Diego

Land of the Free . . . Because of the BRAVE “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” - President Harry S Truman, 1945

Art by Iwo Jima artwork © Joe Everson 22

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HOMELAND / February 2017 23


By USO San Diego

CELEBRATES USO SAN DIEGO

76 YEARS OF SERVICE

“On any given day, hundreds of brave men and women who sacrifice their lives for our country, convene in and move through our centers. Their presence is inspirational, and our support of them is unwavering.”

Military life is an adventure for our families. In one sense they can thrive on change and look forward to the next challenging assignment. However, the same set of changes and challenges experienced through the deployment continuum can offer distinct hardships. Today’s military recognizes the importance of military life- and deployment-related stressors upon the service member and their families. Stressors can impact marital relationships, parenting and communications, staying connected, behavioral issues, emotional well-being, coping skills, and resiliency. In response to identified stressors and challenges, USO San Diego has launched The Norris Support Center for Military Families to help meet the comprehensive health and well-being needs of our service members and their families. The Norris Center offers a wide continuum of support programs for active duty, National Guard, Reserve personnel and their families to provide family strengthening and resiliency. The USO San Diego Norris Support Center for Military Families’ programs build upon the principles of stress management, relationship strengthening, financial

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literacy, nutrition, and fitness. The Center is able to assess family needs, provide resource referrals with follow up, care management and supportive short-term counseling, and education. It emphasizes a service continuum of care that is able to wrap around the service member and their family in a supportive safety net. The deployment continuum is emphasized throughout the program’s delivery, and services include spouse/partner support, life after deployment, positive parenting, strengthening families, marital support and enrichment, military teen talk, multifamily support group, collateral support for children and teens, www.homelandmagazine.com


communications skills, financial stability, education, and benefits counseling. “The goal,” said Arne Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of USO San Diego, “is to assure that families are better able to deal with the stress of military life, sustain more healthy relationships and maintain financial stability. Children in these families will fare better in school and will have a stronger support system around them as they grow.”

its climax, the United States had more than 12.2 million military members deployed, and vibrant USO presence throughout the battle zones and around the world offering entertainment and some semblance of a home away from home.

extraordinary philanthropist also known as “Mr. San Diego” for bringing America’s Cup to San Diego. Sebastian L. Gorka, Ph.D., Vice President and Professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. will keynote the event. Co-Chairs include Stephanie Brown, Richard and Arlene Esgate, George and Hélène Gould, Sam and Reena Horowitz, and Don Breitenberg and Jeanne Jones. Mark Larson of the Mark Larson Show on AM 1170 and political analyst on KUSI, will serve as emcee. (https://sandiego.uso. org/stories/76th-annual-stars-and-stripesgala-13).

“Today, as USO approaches its 76th anniversary, more than 1.3 million military members are deployed throughout the world, and their needs have not changed,” said Nelson. “We strive to make USO San Diego a true home away from home, and a patriot organization that inspires the community to support our military members and their families.”

The evening includes a cocktail reception, seated dinner, live and silent auction and entertainment. Gala tables of 10 will range from $5,000 to $10,000, individual tickets will be price at $500 and $1000. Tickets for military members are $150 per person. Mr. Bradley Norris, Board of Trustees of the Norris Foundation, stated, “USO San Diego embodies all the elements that are integral to our Foundation’s mission. The new Norris Support Center for Military Families will become an important resource for our military families and we’re honored to offer them support.” Celebrating the USO San Diego Norris Support Center for Military Families will be one part of the USO San Diego’s 76th Annual Stars and Stripes Gala: Land of the Free… Because of the Brave that will take place on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. The event will honor Malin Burnham, an

Nelson continued, “On any given day, hundreds of brave men and women who sacrifice their lives for our country, convene in and move through our centers. Their presence is inspirational, and our support of them is unwavering.”

Founded in February 1941, the nation had approximately 1.8 million military members deployed. President Franklyn D. Roosevelt recognized the critical nature of maintaining moral among these brave soldiers regardless of severe and dangerous circumstances. He challenged six organizations – the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, National Jewish Welfare Board, Traveler’s Air Association, and the Salvation Army – to develop a program. Together, they founded the United Service Organization (USO) to help our troops feel connected to family and the comforts of home, no matter where or under what conditions they served. By 1945, as the war reached

Douglas (Papa Doug) Manchester, founder of Manchester Financial Group and acclaimed builder and philanthropist stated, “As one of the leading military cities in the world, San Diego and our USO San Diego team serve an extraordinary number of lives who rely on private support from dedicated and compassionate Americans who cherish our community, cherish our military, and who want to make a difference for those who represent the bravest amongst us around the world. USO San Diego truly deserves our heartfelt support and recognition.”

“Today, as USO approaches its 76th anniversary, more than 1.3 million military members are deployed throughout the world, and their needs have not changed,” said Nelson. “We strive to make USO San Diego a true home away from home, and a patriot organization that inspires the community to support our military members and their families.” www.homelandmagazine.com

HOMELAND / February 2017 25


YOU PROTECTED US.

IT’S TIME WE RETURN THE FAVOR. After all you’ve done to protect our country, you deserve the best. So we’re giving the brave men and women of the military* the opportunity for big savings on top of all current incentives.* Like up to $1000 on select models. If you’re an Active or Reserve U.S. Military, U.S. Retired Military who completed at least 20 years of Active or Reserve duty, or a U.S. Veteran discharged from active service within the past year, Nissan’s Military Program is open to you and your spouse or partner. To get started, just print your Military Program Certificate, gather your proof of eligibility, and head to your local Nissan store today.*

Visit NissanUSA.com/military *Eligibility requirements apply: Eligible individuals include U.S. Active and Reserve Military, U.S. Military Veterans within 12 months of separation from Active or Reserve duty, U.S. Military Retirees that have completed at least 20 years of Active or Reserve duty required. Military cash certificate available towards the lease or purchase of a qualifying new Nissan vehicle from dealer stock. Excludes Nissan Versa Sedan S Trim, Maxima, Murano, Murano Cross Cabriolet, 370Z, Quest, Pathfinder, Armada, Titan, GT-R and NV. Military cash certificate amount varies by qualifying model. Offer valid from 3/1/16 through 3/1/2017. Limit up to 2 vehicle leases or purchases per calendar year per qualified participant for personal use only. Offer not valid for fleet or business use. Down payment may be required. Available on lease or purchase. Must take delivery from new dealer stock. Subject to residency restrictions. Other restriction s apply. See dealer for details. Offer is subject to change at any time. Always wear your seat belt and please don’t drink and drive. Nissan, the Nissan Brand Symbol, Innovation That Excites, and Nissan model names are Nissan trademarks. ©2016 Nissan North America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Visit www.ChooseNissan.com.

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WIC helps Pregnant Women, New Mothers, and Young Children Eat Well, Stay Healthy, and Be Active You can participate in WIC if you:

WIC offers families:

• Are pregnant • Are breastfeeding a baby under 1 year of age • Just had a baby in the past 6 months • Have children under 5 years of age including those cared for by a single father, grandparent, foster parent, step-parent or guardian

• Checks to purchase items like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cereal, baby food, milk, eggs, cheese, tofu, peanut butter, beans, and juice. (Checks are worth between $50-$113 a month per participating family member.) • Breastfeeding Support and breast pumps • Nutrition Information and Online Classes

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HOMELAND / February 2017 29


R4 Alliance Member Highlight By Hope For The Warriors

The Endurance of a Warrior Team Hope For The Warriors began participating in events with Team Hope For The Warriors; his first event was the 100-Mile Relay with the Marines. After a positive experience Michael went on to participate in any endurance event he could register for, including the Long Island Run For The Warriors and the New York City Marathon. Michael found a community through Hope For The Warriors, where he was recognized and appreciated for his service. Hope For The Warriors also gave him the ability to give back and continue to serve the military community by connecting him with other veterans who were struggling with their transitions. US Air Force Veteran, Michael Roesch, will not slow down. Through injuries and setbacks he continues to participate in endurance events in support of veterans on Team Hope For The Warriors. Michael served in the Air Force from 1999 to 2003. His transition after service was challenging; he described himself as “rough around the edges” and was not prepared for the adjustment back to civilian life. Michael grew up a military brat, and once he left the Air Force he lost the warrior culture that had surrounded him his entire life. However, through fitness and physical challenges, Michael found a place to call home through Hope For The Warriors. In 2012, while doing a Tough Mudder, Michael saw a participant wearing a Hope For The Warriors shirt, which led him to reach out to the organization. He then 30

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In 2013, with the NYC Marathon approaching, Michael seriously injured his knee. Being the consummate warrior, he continued his training and participated in the marathon. Around Mile 9 his knee completely gave out; however, he walked to the finish line. Six months later Michael had his first knee surgery, and went right back to supporting veterans through endurance events. On March 23, 2016, he needed another surgery on his knee as it became painful for him to walk. As Michael shared the challenges he was facing with his knees to his Battle Buddies and fellow Team Hope For The Warriors members, Len Lacina and Steve Suwilic, his friends asked him how he planned on continuing to live an active life and do what he loves with non-functioning knees. This conversation helped convince Michael to request a hand cycle, so he reached out

to Hope For The Warriors. On November 7, 2015, Michael was given a hand cycle at the 8th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors. Michael has put his hand cycle to good use, and this winter he logged about 300-400 miles on his new ride. Recently, he has also participated in the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge and three marathons with Team Eva (Every Veteran Appreciated). This year Michael plans on participating in seven of the ten Run For The Warriors Races and the Marine Corps Marathon with Team Hope For The Warriors Beyond his resiliency, Michael has a secret weapon that keeps him going—his girlfriend, Daria Smith. In his own words, “She does not allow me to be a lesser version of myself.” Daria participates in every endurance event with Michael and offers immense support. Both are pillars in the Team Hope For The Warriors community and inspire us all to become the best versions of ourselves. Like many others Michael found a sense of restoration through sport. Hope For The Warriors Sports and Recreation programs help reintroduce a loved sport or hobby with an emphasis on organic healing, or giving the opportunity to gain new skills with the use of adaptive equipment to assist in physical and psychological recovery. The variety of programs include: • Outdoor Adventures: Service members, who previously embraced an outdoorsman lifestyle, as well www.homelandmagazine.com


as those new to wilderness sports, are introduced to recreational opportunities on the road to recovery. • Drive For Hope: Engages service members focusing on transition and invites them to racetracks across the country.

goals, or simply support our military. Together, these Team members are united by the goal to improve the rehabilitation of wounded service members and military families.

Wish, has granted 162 wishes to fulfill a desire for a better quality of life or support a quest for gratifying endeavors. In addition, Run For The Warriors has captured the hearts of more than 22,000 since 2010.

• Run For The Warriors: National Run Series dedicated to the men and women wounded in the global war on terror and their families.

Team Hope For The Warriors worked with Michael providing comradery and motivation while he searched for his new normal both after his transition from active service in the Air Force and his knee injury. This program truly helped restore a sense of self and hope when needed.

• Team Hope For The Warriors: The Team provides athletes of all abilities the opportunity to engage the competitive spirit at endurance events. Warrior Team members are provided adaptive equipment and race support to ensure that they are defined by their achievements rather than by their injuries. Community Team members challenge themselves to raise funds for America’s heroes, set new athletic

Serving the community for over 10 years, Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served approximately 10,000 through a variety of support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement and connections to community resources. Hope’s first program, A Warrior’s

www.homelandmagazine.com

“Hope For The Warriors is honored to be part of the R4 Alliance Programs of Excellence joining forces to better serve our Military Family,” said Robin Kelleher, cofounder, president and CEO of Hope For The Warriors. “Programs like this help support our service members, veterans and military families with much needed resources and a collective portal through which to find them.” To learn more about Hope For The Warriors and the Team Hope For The Warriors program and find out how you can get involved, visit: www.hopeforthewarriors. org. For the complete 2017 Run For The Warriors schedule, visit: www. runforthewarriors.org.

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communities built to support those who serve.

. 24/7 Maintenance . No Security Deposit . Gas & Water Included Roadside Assistance . Average Electrical Use Included . Intrusion Alarms

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Call 866-779-5434 or visit www.lincolnmilitary.com

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veterans. This indicated an overall level of excellence and quality among the programs, according to Gillette.

R4 Alliance Survey Shows High Level of Excellence Among Member Organization Programs

“This was our first effort to create an evaluation tool that could be used across so many organizations. We are thrilled at the success,” Gillette said. The results from the survey will be used by the Alliance to create a baseline for all member organizations, and a standard that organizations applying for membership will need to meet. “We know the amazing programs that are in our membership,” said Riley. “This collaborative study shows the rest of the world that we are not the only ones that think so.”

N

ational non-profit R4 Alliance announced today that a recent online scientific survey of military veterans, their families, friends and supporters offered exceptionally high evaluations of member organizations’ support services and therapeutic and community recreation programs. “R4 has always set out to recruit programs of excellence,” explained Bert Gillette, R4’s Director of Operations. “These evaluation results affirm the level of quality services R4 members deliver to our veterans and their families.” Conducted over a period of approximately 16 months in 2015 and 2016, the study compiled results from online evaluations that program participants voluntarily completed following participation in member programs. “To have over 1,300 responses from clients that consistently give such high marks is rare, to have these results across multiple and diverse organizations is unheard of,” said Gillette. Jenni Riley, the R4 Alliance’s Director of Development and Marketing, noted the consistency and high standards set by the participating programs helps the Alliance as it encourages member organizations to continue to deliver exceptional experiences for veterans and their families. “The great things that our organizations are doing for Our Military Families with non-pharmaceutical programs are finally being recognized. This study is just one of the ways that prove these organizations truly are programs of excellence.” Submitted evaluations indicated that nearly 60 percent of the participants in member programs were first time attendees. More than 83 percent of participants were men. Satisfaction was high for the evaluated member programs, which ranked 4.44 or above on a five point scale, with a value of 5 being extremely important to the participating www.homelandmagazine.com

Gillette reports the study will help veterans receive better experiences in the future, as well as allow the R4 Alliance to better coordinate quality care among its member organizations. “Going forward, we are creating assessments for each of the service areas within R4 membership. This will help us dig even deeper gathering constructive feedback to drive the evolution of member services.” Jaimee Rizzotti, the R4 Alliance’s Programs and Logistics Coordinator, created the evaluation and compiled the results. Noting that military service members are returning home following their service with a variety of physical and invisible wounds, she believes research of this nature is not only important, but needs to be followed by additional studies in the future. “Thank you to all the service members and supporters who participated in this evaluation,” Rizzotti said. “Understanding the fundamental importance factors will help guide program creation to better serve Our Military Family!”

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ENLISTED TO ENTREPRENEUR

POWER THE

By Vicki Garcia

OF PREDICTABILITY

Predictability has been in the news lately. Unpredictability may be useful to certain people, but it can be deadly for a business from many points of view. The idea of predictability as it relates to you and your business has been around for a long time. Predictability is defined as “consistent repetition of a state, course of action, behavior, or the like, making it possible to know in advance what to expect.� In this definition, there are a couple of very important concepts: consistency and the possibility of knowing what to expect being most important.

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Predictability has much to do with avoiding risk. Predictability is the grease that makes business work. Customers must know that you will predictably deliver. You must do all you can to predict the market, meaning forecasting customer needs and spending habits.

“What is happening to predictability in an intensely competitive, rapidly changing global economy? It is being destroyed. The practices that leaders are adopting to make their organizations more competitive are ignoring the human need for predictability.”

Howard H. Stevenson Mihnea C. Moldoveanu, wrote 22 years ago for the Harvard Business Review, “What is happening to predictability in an intensely competitive, rapidly changing global economy? It is being destroyed. The practices that leaders are adopting to make their organizations more competitive are ignoring the human need for predictability.” So much for big business.

What About You as A Small Business? Customers are fickle. Loyalty is dead. Good marketing and consistently high-quality help customers know what to expect from a company. If customers come to trust a company, they are likely to turn to it often to solve their problems and to learn about new products and services. A similar logic applies to suppliers. Managers might be tempted to spend a lot of time searching for the cheapest supplier, but what will the company get out of such arrangements? Unpredictable service, most likely. Cultivating relationships with a stable set of suppliers helps each side know what to expect from the other. Moreover, solid relations with suppliers also make life more predictable for the company’s employees, who can then focus on delivering the best products and services to their customers. (Harvard Business Review again!) Building a reputation for predictability can go beyond simply delivering on your promises. It can also mean a reputation for honesty. My dad, who owned a surveying firm for 50 years, once sent back a gift of a case of Chivas Regal when he was named the city engineer for a small community. His reputation for honesty could not be purchased by a box of expensive whiskey, and he made his point. Call it old school, but because I’ve made it my model, in 30 years of business, most of my deals have been sealed with a handshake. In the small business world, there is much angst over review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business. Step back and understand that what is happening there are customers attempting to lower risk and make a more predictable choice. Your job is to enhance your predictability on those sites. A modern, well designed and intelligently written website as well as testimonials signal to prospects that you will predictably deliver on your promises. Conversely, crappy website = crappy service. Another case of “perception is reality.”

Vicki Garcia is the Co-Founder of Veteran Entrepreneurs Today & President of Marketing Impressions. Look for trusted advisors, or apply to be a B2B vendor for veteran entrepreneurs at www.veteranentrepreneurstoday.org

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HOMELAND / February 2017 35


THE MILITARY DECIDING TO LEAVE

Stay or Go? There is probably no greater decision for a military member regardless of their military service, military occupation, or status in the Active military, Guard or Reserve than deciding to leave the military. This is an emotional decision and you need to do your best to separate, for a time, the emotion from the practical decision making components of deciding to remain in the service or depart. The following six factors will help you determine if you should stay in the service or depart. The following six factors will help you determine if you should stay in the service or depart. Â

1. What is the Degree and Education Level Required to Enter Where I Would Consider Working?

Comparing education levels can be a tricky business when looking to enter a new company, industry, and occupation. For a lot of companies, where you get your degree and in what major field of study can be the central factors for hiring even if you meet the basic degree requirements. For example, if you want to live and work in the technology companies surrounding Austin, TX, then you may be better off pursuing a part-time degree from a local Austin, TX university versus trying to complete a degree at a local college in Maryland 36

HOMELAND / February 2017

where you are stationed. Location is a critical factor for real estate but location is just as much a factor for deciding the choice of an educational institution. Finally, the strength of an alumni network in hiring is one of the major values of the degree when you complete it. Local educational institutions have much higher value in their network strength for employment.

2. What Am I Interested In and Where Would I Want to Live? Are there occupations, industries, and companies outside of the military that interest you? Can you see yourself working somewhere else and away from the military? Seeing yourself outside of the military is a critical step in transition because if you cannot see yourself and imagine your success in a new www.homelandmagazine.com


field, then you are not ready to leave. Another question to ask is do you know anyone doing what you want to do in the civilian world? If not, that’s ok because networking up to a year or more out from transition is common. You also need to think of four to six occupations and industries at a minimum that you are interested in. For example, if I want to work in the Energy sector but employment is down due to global factors, then I need a backup plan. Where to live is another issue, because usually where we grew up may or may not offer the economic and social opportunity needed.

3. What Does Your Family & Close Friends Think? Leaving the Military is hard and your family and friends should help you weigh in on the decision. If you think the military has too hard a schedule, then it is worth your time to talk to people in the Energy industry, Technology sales, or Consulting industry. It could be that the military schedule is not as bad as some civilian occupations. Does your spouse support the sacrifices of your military career? Do your kids understand why you have to be gone? All of these are factors to making a decision to stay or go. I know lots of military veterans that are away from their families MORE in their civilian jobs than when they were in the military. Getting a full range of views on the decision to stay or remain in the military is critical to making a good choice for you and your family.

4. Do I Like What The People 2-3 Levels Above Me Are Doing? This is probably the single best question to help you decide to stay or go. First, look up the ranks and assess what the people who are 3, 5, and 7 years your senior are doing. Do you like the demands of their jobs? Is it interesting? Do these people like what they are doing? Are their advanced educational opportunities that you are excited about? Can you see yourself fulfilling the requirements of those jobs? If you say no, then is it possible to move into another military occupation you would enjoy? For example, if I am a U.S. Army Infantry officer that loves technology, could I move into the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps to help make design and purchase decisions on new U.S. Army Infantry equipment? If you love the military but do not like what future positions hold, then that could be a strong indicator you are ready for something new?  

5. What is the True Value of My Military Pay & Benefits?

future retirement compared to the geographic location that I want to move? In short, if I live outside Fort Benning, GA today what will I need to live in San Francisco, CA tomorrow? USAA has a great calculator called the Military Separation Assessment calculator that provides a comparison between the value of your military pay and benefits and what you will need to replicate it at your new living location. Comparing Fort Benning, GA to San Francisco, CA, a service member would have to more than double their income level to have equal, not better, benefits. This calculator is meant to inform you of the totality of the value of your benefits, not scare you to stay in the military. Military members receive a great deal of “hidden” value in access to base amenities, health care, Commissary, etc. that do not exist in the civilian world. The financial planning and creating an 8-12 month emergency fund to transition from the military is an essential step.  

6. What’s The Life Stage of My Family? 

The decision to leave for a single service member or a married service member with three children really is different. A single, transitioning service member can literally go anywhere, do anything, and need few resources to do it. A family is a completely different consideration where housing, access to good schools, transportation, medical care, and tens of other choices dominate. A service member at any life stage can separate successfully, but if you are married with children just understand that the complexity and planning involved is about 10X a single service member due to your obligations. Also, the timing for a military family to leave the service is critical to make jobs, school, and medical care work. Once you make a decision to stay or go, then sit on it for three months. If after three months, you still feel good about it, then you have made the correct decision. The decision to stay or leave the military is a very difficult decision.  By understanding your family’s life stage, the true value of your military compensation, the precise education requirements for a new career, your opinion of your military career progression, looking at the potential of new occupations, and understanding what your friends and family think of your choice, then you can make an informed decision to stay or leave the service.  If you decide to leave, the first step is creating a robust, comprehensive, resourced, and detailed military-to-civilian transition plan.

By Chad Storlie USAA

What is the true economic value of all aspects of my military compensation, benefits, healthcare, access to services, and

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HOMELAND / February 2017 37


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By Sara Wacker

G

et ready to rev your engines, because a night of car-crushing and dirt-flying action is returning to Petco Park on February 18! Celebrating its 25th year, Monster Jam is known for its infamous 2,000 horsepower engines and some of the world’s best monster trucks battling it out on a vast dirt arena. Whether they are jumping over mounds of dirt, racing at intense speeds, free styling stunts or crushing cars, these 10,000 lb. monster truck beasts create a high-octane show that’s not to be missed. Several World Finals Champions will be making an appearance on February 18, racing for the San Diego Champion title. Crowd favorites include Grave Digger, Max D, El Toro Loco, Metal Mulisha and Bounty Hunter.

However this year, a special truck will be making its mark on the arena and its first San Diego debut, Soldier Fortune. This 540 CI engine truck was created in 2015 in honor of the thousands of men and women who serve in the U.S. military around the world. Paying tribute to the sacrifices our military makes, Soldier Fortune is decorated with camouflage and longtime Monster Jam veteran, Chad Fortune, drives the tank-inspired truck.

In addition to witnessing the world-class 8 racing and freestyle competition action, fans have the ability to participate as the competition’s judges. Certain freestyle scores depend on the volume of the crowd’s cheering and enthusiasm.  Not to mention, the Monster Jam Pit Party pre-show experience gives fans unparalleled access to view their favorite trucks up-close, meet the star drivers for autographs and take photos.

Monster Jam isn’t just home to trucks that race for military pride, but driver and former Army Medic, Dawn Creten, who is known for sporting her military colors on and off the field. Dawn drives the 10,000 lb. Scarlet Bandit truck that recently competed in San Diego last month. This proud veteran also has numerous event titles that have taken her to the Monster Jam World Finals in Las Vegas.

Tickets for Monster Jam are just $15 with Pit Passes available for purchase for $10. Tickets now on sale; all seats are reserved. Tickets and Pit Passes are available for purchase online at Tickets. 16 com, charge by phone at 619-795-5555 or in-person at the Petco Park Box Office.       

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As a retired combat veteran I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to help my fellow veterans who are out there struggling alone and in silence. I am asking you, our honored veterans, to join us as we expand our footprint into military hubs and communities across the country. SgtMaj. Jim Booker USMC (Ret.) Silver Star Bronze Star CAR

Who Better? Than a veteran who carries the moniker of “disabled veteran” to help fellow veterans. They have been there, seen it and done it and have overcome great challenges themselves. We (Veterans 360) want to offer them the opportunity to transition from disabled veteran to active Ambassador. Our mission for the past 6 years has been to provide hands on support to our most at risk, vulnerable and underappreciated of all military veterans. Namely our high school educated 0311/11B’s with a short military career and a record of service in hostile environments. So today we want to invite any veterans with a 100% disability rating to inquire about how we can put their skills and knowledge to good use once again. As localized ambassadors they can, under our guidance and support increase our national footprint and provide hands on engagement, education, advocacy and healing support to thousands of at risk young veterans. STEP ONE

STEP TWO

STEP THREE

STEP FOUR

Ask yourself are you a 100% disabled veteran who wishes to serve again?

If yes, reach out and complete our registration process and provide more detail on why you want to serve.

Stand by for a webinar and conference call with your fellow ambassadors to learn how we are going to do this.

Accept the challenge, source an ideal location, put a sign on the door and get ready to support young veterans in your community.

YOUR COMMITMENT “I will conduct myself with the wellbeing of those we wish to serve foremost on my mind. I will always conduct myself in an ethical manner and will do all in my power to change the narrative of a veteran in need from one of challenge and crisis to one of success and positivity.” This I pledge.

To voice an interest in becoming a Veterans 360 Ambassador or for more information please visit: www.CarrytheChallenge.org (VOLUNTEER BUTTON) or e-Mail Info@CarrytheChallenge.org Veterans 360 Inc. & Carry the Challenge 1049 Camino Del Mar #1 Del Mar, CA 92014 Federal Tax ID #45-3713823 www.homelandmagazine.com

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Affordable Tuition 100% Online Course Options GI Bill and MyCAA Approved Financial Aid Available For Those Who Qualify • Tuition Assistance Our new address: 3550 Camino Del Rio N. Suite 208 San Diego, CA 92108 Easily accessible from anywhere in San Diego Easy Freeway Access: I-8, I-15, I-805 / Bus Stop: #18 Trolley Stop: Mission San Diego Phone: 858.653.3000

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TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP TOWARD A REWARDING CAREER In addition to Patrol, our core service, the Department offers a wide range of special assignments: • Crime Impact Team • Criminal Investigations Section • Crisis Negotiations Team • Downtown Bicycle Unit • Field Training Officer Unit • Gang Unit • Homeless Liaison Unit • K-9 Unit • Mounted Patrol Unit • Neighborhood Resource Officer Unit • Personnel and Training Unit • School Resource Officer Unit • Special Weapons and Tactics Team • Traffic/Motor Unit • Vice/Narcotics Unit

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