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Homeland Resources Support Inspiration

Vol. 4 Number 1 • January 2017

Veterans of America

A nation at work, a community of support From Dual Service to Dual Recovery: Warrior Couple Finds New Way of Life Together I Just Want To See Trees A Journey Through PTSD Operation Homefront 13,000 Holiday Meals to Military Families Higher Education Financial Planning Tips for Military Veterans WWII Veteran Reflects

HOMELAND / January 2017 1


HOMELAND / January 2017

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

HOMELAND / January 2017 3



Homeland Publisher Editor-In-Chief Mike Miller Contributing Writers CJ Machado Vicki Garcia Vesta Anderson Ryan Kules Wounded Warrior Project Tom Scanlon CraigZabojnikUSAA Sara Wacker National Veterans Transition Services Steven Wilson Disabled American Veterans Jenni Riley R4 Alliance Eva M. Stimson Shelter to Soldier Boot Campaign Operation Homefront Scott McGaugh

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


HOMELAND / January 2017

inside this issue 6 10 20 22 24 28 30 32 33 34 36 38


A Journey through PTSD 26 Shelter to Soldier 2017 Mission Operation Homefront - Holiday Meals to Military Families WWII Veteran Reflects Higher Education Financial Planning Enlisted To Entrepreneur Money Matters Military Services Preparing for the Military God Bless The Broken Road Higher Ground Military-Friendly Destinations for 2017 VA Loan – A Better Way to Qualify for More Home


8 10


From Dual Service to Dual Recovery


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Trees I Just Want To See A Journey Through PTSD


HOMELAND / January 2017


By Tom Scanlon

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, can be a killer

- literally. According to ptsa.va.gov, “Some studies that point to PTSD as a precipitating factor of suicide suggest that high levels of intrusive memories

can predict the relative risk of suicide.” Something must be behind this, as a

Department of Veterans Affairs study released a few months ago said that, in 2014, 7,400 veterans took their own lives, a rate of about 20 per day. Marc Raciti was perilously close to adding to this saddest of statistics. Though he could “put on a happy face,” behind the fake-smile, his brain ricocheted from rage to sadness, with unhealthy doses of guilt and hopelessness. He was a physician assistant who had rushed to aid bloodied comrades in combat; when the smoke cleared after years of service, his professional mind diagnosed that he needed help - but indifferent treatment by a military psychiatrist had him swear off “shrinks.” Then, a psychologist who wasn’t even treating him answered his silent cries of “man down.” She saved his life. He married her. Now that he has found at least a close approximation of inner peace, Marc Raciti is trying to push-it-forward, by giving hope and tools to others who are struggling with untreated PTSD. Raciti’s new book is “I Just Want To See Trees.” It is powerful, and it is poetic - literally, as the title comes from a poem he wrote: “No leaf would grow on this dying tree ...Just like the Soldier with a heavy heart and broken soul/That came back from war intact, but never whole.” The book’s subtitle is “A Journey Through PTSD,” and describes the post-traumatic stress disorder endured by a soldier in modern war. Raciti entered the military in 1989, leaving it in 2013. “I saw the best of humanity,” he said, “and the worst.” And that was just one particularly traumatic day. As a physician assistant, Raciti was often under fire, treating soldiers screaming in pain - and those silently speeding to death. He survived 24 years of service, with deployment in Iraq and Kosovo, but was left with horrible exit wounds.


Invisible though they were. As he writes in “Amputation of the Soul,” the book’s fourth chapter, “Looking back it seemed that every time I returned from a deployment, there was a piece of me missing.” Two words started haunting him: End it. Thoughts of suicide gradually turned into an actual plan, and he decided to hang himself from a big, dead tree he dubbed Unforgiven. Even after he walked away from the tree, he was plagued by thoughts that he was too much of a coward to “off himself.” That’s PTSD - damned if you do, damned if you don’t... Now living in a peaceful Phoenix suburb, Marc calls PTSD “a disease of avoidance. It’s very insidious. I thought for many years there was nothing wrong with me, I was just very angry all the time.” He was able to compartmentalize, going on about his daily life with a forced smile, while mentally limping along through the tough nights. “I guess when I knew I was in trouble was the first time I tried to end my life,” he said, speaking softly but forcefully. “There’s a big difference between suspecting and knowing. I reached out to a psychiatrist who was a jackass.” Raciti writes about sitting in the psychiatrist’s office, ready to talk about his thoughts of suicide - and the doctor hardly looked up from his computer, typing away and asking just a few, vague questions. After three visits to the rude doctor, Raciti swore off “shrinks” and muddled his way through another deployment before being assigned to Hawaii.

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Then along came Sonja. In December of 2009, Marc Raciti became a physician assistant at a military medical facility where Sonja was treating military children and families. A friend of hers introduced them. They went to the beach at Kailua for their first date. She instantly became his girlfriend, and it didn’t take her long to see the telltale signs of PTSD. “Doing what she does,” Marc said, “she spotted it right away. She put that bug in my ear.” On his own, he might never have walked into another shrink office; but he “wanted to be a better person” for his new loved one. She helped overcome his cynical resistance to therapy, finding a doctor who was - unlike the villain of Marc’s first experience - caring and skillful. The good part: He started getting treated for PTSD. The tough part: He started getting treated for PTSD. In many cases, untreated post-traumatic stress disorder leads to extreme isolation, substance abuse, uncontrollable emotions and/or suicide. Treatment often is successful, but it isn’t easy. Rather than trying to forget “the bad stuff” (which is usually impossible, thanks to the brain’s self-defense mechanism of chiseling in memory every detail of a traumatic experience), treatment requires meeting those experiences head on, bringing them from the festering subconscious to the surface. With Sonja’s urging, Marc started seeing a therapist on Wednesday afternoon. The first few weeks were a brutal cycle. “When you’re, the girlfriend that’s your life,” Sonja recalled, able to smile about it from a few years distance. “Wednesday nights, no sleep, all nightmares. Thursdays we both saw patients. Thursday nights, all nightmares, no sleep. By Fridays I was crosseyed, really exhausted.” She spent weekends away, doing drills, worrying about her boyfriend: “He was depressed, he was isolating, he was suicidal, somewhat.”


HOMELAND / January 2017

Marc says he was able to “totally compartmentalize. You go to work and put on a smiley face - that’s what’s scary about this. You put on good show, then when the weekend comes along, you pride yourself on not speaking to another person.” Slowly, the pain of therapy began helping Marc cope with his past and deal with the present. In addition to his two-legged therapist, Raciti received invaluable assistance from a fourlegged one: Douglas, a shelter pit bull. As he writes in the book, Raciti entered the kennel of the scarred, jagged-tooth dog and felt a powerful connection: “We’d both been thrown away and we were both prisoners. His kennel was his prison and mine was a life lived in the shadow of fear, distrust, guilt and anger.” After being adopted by the Racitis, Douglas was trained as a service dog. The massive mutt also doubles as a guard dog, standing watch over the North Scottsdale home shared with the Raciti kids, 21-year-old Marc and 19-month-old Makana (“gift”). Life was good, but Marc Raciti felt he had to put down his experiences in a book, as a possible lifeline to those with untreated PTSD. Like war, it was hell to write. The background and happy stuff was easy enough. But the traumatic experiences that came to define his life kept pushing him away from the keyboard. “Having to rip off that ban aid … I didn’t want to go there.” Like a good soldier, he bucked up, cranked up Springsteen on the stereo and completed his mission, sweating through writing about those most painful experiences, then finding “it was therapeutic.” Proceeds from the book go to Raciti’s nonprofit, Healing Wounds. The organization’s mission: “Healing Wounds is all about helping others to heal from invisible wounds of the soul. Our goal is to help those that are lost and are in a dark space see light and know that there is hope and forgiveness around the corner.”


The Racitis hope those suffering with the evil, invisible disease that is PTSD will throw off the poison of unforgiveness, feel the warmth of understanding and, on what they thought were dead branches, sprout leaves.

Marc Raciti hopes veterans in crisis will reach out to skilled, caring professionals - like Sonja Raciti “I have a lot of vets - I do a lot of PTSD treatment,” she says. “Just last week, the day before he had an appointment with me, a vet had thoughts of ending his life - he was at a bridge, deciding whether to do it. We got him in the very next day, and saved a life. That’s exactly what this is about.” While Marc Raciti is the author of “I Just Want To See the Trees,” Sonja is all over it literally. Her painting (in turn inspired by one of Marc’s tattoos) is used on the cover. And she wrote one of the book’s last chapters. She writes that he was a huge challenge: “Dating Marc was a lot more to take on than I ever could have imagined it would be. He needed more care giving, reassurance and love than I have ever given in any relationship. That first year of our relationship was so exhausting I wasn’t so sure we’d make it. In the end, I am grateful for having stuck by him. He has become a wonderful husband and father and I can’t imagine life without him.” The book was a team effort, Marc says. “Our goal is for people to be able to read the book, and say, ‘This is my son’ - or daughter, or someone I work with.”

The mission is well on his way, a recent email Marc Raciti received suggests: “Because of your book, I’m thinking about getting help.”

The Racitis hope those suffering with the evil, invisible disease that is PTSD will throw off the poison of unforgiveness, feel the warmth of understanding and, on what they thought were dead branches, sprout leaves.



HOMELAND / January 2017 9

Shelter to Soldier Enters 2017 with Plan to Advance Mission in the New Year By Eva M. Stimson


appy New Year to all of our veterans and canines in service! Shelter to Soldier had a record number of veteran and shelter dog graduates in 2016, and as they reflect on their past accomplishments, they look forward to 2017 with great enthusiasm. Shelter to Soldier has hired two additional full-time dog trainers in order to keep up with the pace of veteran inquiries that arrive on a daily basis. Furthermore, Shelter to Soldier experienced tremendous growth during 2016 due in part to benevolent corporate sponsors, and has implemented growth protocols for 2017 that will enable them to serve as many veterans and shelter dogs as possible, therefore advancing their mission of “Saving Lives, Two at a Time”. 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 save veterans from the perils of mental injury associated with traumatic combat experiences. The healing impact that a highly trained service dog provides for psychological treatment for US Veterans improves their overall quality of life, personal relationships, confidence and sense of security. Many Shelter to Soldier veteran recipients graduated successfully with their service dogs during 2016 and below is a recap of the partnerships that allowed Shelter to Soldier to serve their needs during 2016. USMC Veteran Liz Carmouche (Ret) and STS service dog “Charlie” were sponsored by Schubach Aviation and graduated together this fall. Schubach Aviation also sponsored US Navy Veteran Karen Miller (Ret) and STS service dog “Seven” in partnership with FINE Magazine. Schubach Aviation is an exclusive charter flight service headquartered at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California and FINE Magazine is a San Diego-based luxury print/online publication that has supported Shelter to Soldier for many years. www. schubachaviation.com, www. finehomesandliving.com USMC Veteran Ricky Mendez (Ret) and STS service dog “Plato” were sponsored by Plato Pet Treats, a California-based healthconscious pet food company that sources pure ingredients for their pet treats that are free of sugar, fillers or artificial additives. www.platopettreats.com.


HOMELAND / January 2017


US Army Veteran Mason Crosslin (Ret) and STS service dog “Griffin” were honored to be sponsored by Griffin Funding, a VA home loan specialist headquartered in San Diego, California, that offers 100% financing on residential loans for veterans, as well as refinancing, debt consolidation and home equity loans. www.griffinfunding.com. Griffin Funding has sponsored a second dog, “Meisha”, who is currently in the Shelter to Soldier service dog training program, in addition to a third sponsorship made in October to sponsor a service dog in 2017 that has not yet been adopted. US Army Veteran Chris Meyer Ontiveros (Ret) and STS service dog “Jade” graduated with flying colors at the Poway Veterans Park thanks to the generous sponsorship of Integriv. Integriv is a San Diego-based leader in providing innovative IT solutions through customized approaches for businesses. Integriv has sponsored a second dog, “Luna”, currently in handling training with her US Veteran Jeremy Engle and expected to graduate the program within the first two quarters of 2017. www.integriv.com US Army Veteran Jonathan Marroquin (Ret) and STS service dog “Berkeley” graduated together on Veterans Day this year, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Calabasas office, who specialize in residential real estate brokerage transactions, and Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Los Angeles Charitable Foundation. www.berkshirehathawayhs.com Shelter to Soldier is supported solely through charitable contributions from 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. Shelter to Soldier Founder, Graham Bloem, is the recipient of the prestigious San Diego 10News Leadership Award and Shelter to Soldier is accredited by the Patriots Initiative and a Gold Participant of GuideStar, the preeminent non-profit accreditation organization in the U.S. Graham is also the recipient of the 2016 Waggy Award for Community Service from the TailWaggers Foundation headquartered in Los Angeles.

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.


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From Dual Service to Dual Recovery:

Warrior Couple Finds New Way of Life Together By Ryan Kules

“blueside” to the “greenside.” This common bond has been shared between FMF corpsmen and their Marine partners since the Navy Hospital Corps was established nearly 120 years ago. “I knew that was where I belonged,” Rebecca said. “I served 11 years with the Marines – a brotherhood like no other. The thought of helping was always in my nature. I loved the medical field: triage, trauma, and blood.” During that time, Rebecca married an infantry Marine, and they soon added three children to their family. The responsibilities weighing on dual-service couples can be intimidating. Families are not an excuse for not completing military obligations. The two began shuffling field duty schedules and deployments – and missing birthdays, anniversaries, and other family celebrations. “When 9/11 came, they wanted to send both of us overseas,” Rebecca explained. “Trying to explain to your 5-year-old child why dad was gone for so long, whether or not he was coming home, and then – to top that off – explaining why you were leaving them too … that was difficult. As parents, we had to learn to communicate with each other, and trust in each other and our independence.”

It was a difficult time, but not as challenging as what was to come when they hung up their boots and ebecca Benton’s military service was the direct result of her goal to receive a higher education. transitioned into the civilian world As one of three children from an underprivileged family, Rebecca knew the responsibility of together. college tuition would fall on her shoulders. When she signed the dotted line to join the Navy “Trying to work on my anxieties, in 1995, the thought of a terrorist attack on American soil never crossed her mind. But everything changed September 11, 2001, and Rebecca was soon immersed in a war that was enshrouded in the deal with my husband’s post-trauunknown – uncertain coalition support, invisible enemies and weapons, and an undetermined opera- matic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and manage my famtional conclusion. ily can become overwhelming at Rebecca’s first duty station was at Camp Pendleton, California, where she served in the medical times,” Rebecca said. “The whirlfield as a Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsman. U.S. Navy sailors are known as “bluesiders,” but FMF wind of divorce threats combined corpsmen are known as “greensiders” because they endured the same rigorous eight-week trainwith physical and mental isolation ing program as their U.S. Marine counterparts. This program transforms the FMF corpsmen from the 14 HOMELAND / January 2017 www.homelandmagazine.com


became more than I could handle at times. Depression set in, and I began to question my purpose in life, my role as a wife and mother, and began to lose my sense of identity.” Rebecca also came face-to-face with a very real issue veterans encounter when separating from the military. No longer an active-duty FMF corpsman, Rebecca was stuck with limited resources in a desolate part of Oklahoma that is a two-hour drive from the nearest Veterans Administration hospital. And even with a master’s degree, Rebecca struggled to find adequate employment in the civilian world. “You come off active duty feeling like you have a wealth of knowledge to offer the civilian world, only to find out you feel like an outsider, and no one understands you,” Rebecca said. “At work, I was told to ‘never talk about my military career again’ and that ‘it was like talking about your old friends in front of your new friends.’ I had been asked to change who I was and who I had become from my military experience – because others didn’t know how to handle me and adapt, so I was supposed to change for them. The military was my identity, and to change that would mean to change who I was. This added to my social anxieties and increased the burden on my family.” At the same time, Rebecca’s husband battled his own demons. The distance between the two warriors became an ever-growing wall of separation. Distrust was the mortar that strengthened the division, and the expanding isolation only increased the wall’s height. Their three children stood on the pinnacle of the wall. The children teetered from one side of the wall to the other as their parents’ shifting moods rocked them like branches in a storm. Still, an unspoken understanding between the dualservice warriors inspired a deeper trust that soon trumped their individual battles. They knew they didn’t have to endure the fight alone – they had each other – and that helped make the long healing process “as normal as possible,” Rebecca said. “As warriors, we have missed opportunities to bond with our children due to deployments and field operations during their younger years,” Rebecca explained. “But after we left active duty, we no longer have those same restraints. Now that our kids are teenagers, we are trying to comfortably reconnect with them in ways that fit our injuries and social anxieties.” www.homelandmagazine.com

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In June 2015, Rebecca and her family moved from Oklahoma to Orlando, Florida. The family was determined to take control of the recovery process and transition to a new normal in the civilian world. “Nine years after my military service, I turned to Wounded Warrior Project® for help finding employment through the Warriors to Work® program. They helped me rebuild my resume, and in two months, I landed an amazing job. I immediately applied for my first family activity with the organization.” The family went to Dave and Buster’s and interacted with other local veterans – expanding their warrior network. Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) family- and warrior-focused events like the one Rebecca and her family participated in are part of connection and outreach opportunities, which create support through shared experiences, and build camaraderie by connecting injured veterans to one another and warrior families. Many wounded service members face similar challenges adjusting to their injuries and civilian life. By bonding through WWP gatherings, veterans learn they are not alone and have the chance to grow closer to those around them. These opportunities also provide warriors a chance to learn about other free, life-saving programs and services that aid in the recovery process.

“WWP has provided me the opportunity to learn to be one with myself and my surroundings – to learn to be more in tune with my body’s needs by re-energizing and reinvigorating my spirit through adventures and challenges, all with the help and support of other warriors like me and my husband,”

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Rebecca admitted. “We went in apprehensive, but it was an amazing experience, and we were able to meet new people.”

same things my husband and I had been through. Little did we know, it would be life-changing. As dual-service warriors, it has been especially difficult in many ways to build bonds at home with each other and continue to acclimate to civilian ways of life.”

Rebecca’s and her husband’s momentum with WWP continued to grow. The couple found out about WWP’s multi-day mental health workshops for individual warriors and couples and knew they wanted to get involved. These gatherings provide safe, private environments for warriors to express themselves and share their combat experiences – with laughter and tears. At the end of the rehabilitative workshops, warriors share lessons learned from the activities that impacted their personal struggles most and set achievable goals for their recoveries.

The workshop incorporates the WWP Peer Support program. Warrior-to-warrior support plays an important role in the recovery process for veterans dealing with the invisible wounds of war as they rely upon one another’s learned experiences when managing day-to-day challenges. This special type of therapy reintroduces injured warriors to the unique bonds experienced during military service. Rarely duplicated in the civilian world, these relationships act as a secure bedrock that paves the road to recovery.

“The mental health workshop for couples gave us an opportunity to build our support network with other couples that have experienced the 16

HOMELAND / January 2017

“WWP has provided me the opportunity to learn to be one with myself and my surroundings – to learn to be more in tune with my body’s needs by re-energizing and reinvigorating my spirit through adventures and challenges, all with the help and support of other warriors like me and my husband,” Rebecca said. “By decreasing outside noise, clutter, and distraction, I have been able to truly identify what my internal needs are to better myself – so that I can help others. I am learning to surrender to the idea that I am not alone and others can help me. I have learned to be more flexible in everyday life. I accept those forces that are out of my control and add anxiety and stress – two key components that set my mind, body, and soul off balance.” www.homelandmagazine.com

With the help of WWP, Rebecca has been able to reduce her feelings of fear and isolation while building trust in others and her natural environment, which she calls the civilian world. “By learning other ways to control my mind, I am able to change my negative feelings into more positive ones without the aid of pills and medication.”

I have learned to be more flexible in everyday life. I accept those forces that are out of my control and add anxiety and stress – two key components that set my mind, body, and soul off balance.”

At the end of the day, wounded warriors want to figure out how to be in control of their own recoveries. And when they do, they want to be ready to turn to the warrior behind them to help them, thus embodying the WWP logo of one warrior carrying another warrior off the battlefield.

“My hope is that – through WWP – I can pass my experience on to other veterans as a way to bond with comrades outside of the typical military structure and build a positive support network with others who have the same interests. WWP has been a way to convert our tradition of having a battle buddy in combat to one in everyday life, empowering us to continue with the sense of camaraderie and trust.”

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

HOMELAND / January 2017 17


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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.

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Operation Homefront Distributes Nearly 13,000 Holiday Meals to Military Families A service member retrieves a bag of groceries during the Operation Homefront, Holiday Meals for Military event held Dec. 9 in Silverdale, Wash.


peration Homefront, Walmart and other generous partners worked together to distribute holiday meals to military families in 2016 through the national nonprofit’s annual Holiday Meals for Military program. This year, 12,850 holiday meals were distributed at more than 40 events from Nov. 22 through Dec. 22.

The Holiday Meals for Military program began Thanksgiving 2009 as the result of a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife, and infant had a handful of grocery items they could not afford, so a Beam Suntory executive picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. Since that time, the program has grown from initially providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 12,000 this holiday season. Beam Suntory continues to be a major supporter of the program.


HOMELAND / January 2017


“Many of our military families at the holiday time of year are dealing with challenges that strain even the most frugal household budget,” retired Brig. Gen. John I. Pray, Jr., president & CEO of Operation Homefront. “Helping this amazing group of our fellow Americans overcome these financial challenges is at the core of our mission to build strong, stable, and secure military families. Providing them a holiday meal is just one of the many ways in which Operation Homefront and our incredible partners show our collective gratitude for their service and help them thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.” “The families of our military members serve alongside them not only while they are deployed, but also when they return home. Our support of Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meal program is one way Walmart thanks military families who help strengthen our local communities and sacrifice so much for our nation,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President of Giving Programs for Walmart. Distributing these meals is an important undertaking that was carried out in military communities and at local Operation Homefront field offices across the nation. For more information on how to donate to the cause, please log on to http://www. OperationHomefront.net/holidaymeals. In addition to Walmart and Beam Suntory, major national sponsors for the program include Thirty-One Gifts, The Procter & Gamble Company, Navy Federal Credit Union, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, San Antonio Shoemakers, Ocean Spray, and Boston Beer Company. The Holiday Meals for Military program took place as a part of Operation Homefront’s “Giving Strength” campaign, which runs through the rest of 2016. Operation Homefront knows our military and veterans have served around the world to protect us. Along with their families, our service members continually Give Strength to us by serving in our nation’s time of need. That’s why Operation Homefront provides a variety of programs and services that show these families that their nation is grateful for their service and that we are there to help them. Learn more at OperationHomefront.org/ GivingStrength, and join in online with the hashtag #GivingStrength.

A young military family member carries home a bag of groceries at the Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military event held Dec. 5 in Saint Robert, Mo.

The meal kits, which are designed to include all the grocery items necessary for a full holiday meal, were distributed to lower- and midgrade ranking military families, E-1 thru E-6, at locations nationwide during the holiday season, including Little Rock, Ark.; Oceanside, Calif.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; Great Lakes, Ill.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Joint Base LewisMcChord, Wash.; and Norfolk, Va. www.homelandmagazine.com

A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront builds strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. With more than 3,200 volunteers nationwide, Operation Homefront has provided assistance to tens of thousands of military families since its inception shortly after 9/11. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, 92 percent of Operation Homefront’s expenditures go directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to www.OperationHomefront.net.

HOMELAND / January 2017 21

By Sara Wacker

n a r e t e V WWII s t c e L F re A

s we embark on 2017, it’s a chance to reflect on what can be learned from year’s past. Harold Wachs, a 91year old resident at St. Paul’s Senior Services in San Diego, reflects on his service in the U.S. Army during WWII. Drafted right out of high school in 1943, Wachs served four years in the Army, deployed to Europe, including time in Normandy, Northern Germany, Northern France, and Belgium. He was an infantry rifleman, and feels fortunate that he survived. He doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but a survivor. He often thinks about “what the price of peace really means,” he says.

“I hope the sacrifice of my friends brings peace,” Wachs adds. He wishes that there was more study of WWII, because it was difficult to win the battle. Throughout the year, veterans are honored – a time to reflect, remember and salute. Cities like San Diego, where hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans call home, there are remembrances and tributes to the fallen. These events give a chance to learn from servicemen like Wachs. This last Veteran’s Day, reserved on Nov. 11 annually, honors all American veterans. The holiday is largely intended to thank the living veterans for their dedication and loyal service to the country – their patriotism, love of country and sacrifice for common good. In Chula Vista at St. Paul’s Plaza, together with The Elizabeth Hospice, they acknowledged the military service and sacrifice made by veterans residing at the senior living community through a special pinning ceremony. In downtown San Diego at St. Paul’s Community Care Center, veterans were honored through a special program, including a flag raising ceremony, accompanied by Saxophonist Marcia Foreman, an all-hands Pledge of Allegiance, and sing-along, led by John Iocolano. Retired Navy pilot Timothy Conroy served as the keynote speaker, recounting highlights of his life and military career. There was also a banner presentation by the child care participants and later, the event culminated with a certificate presentation to its veteran residents, including Wachs. Wachs is correct. We can learn so much from lessons of the past, and Wachs himself.


HOMELAND / January 2017

HOMELAND / January 2017 23

Higher Education Financial Planning Tips for Military Veterans By CraigZabojnik USAA


HOMELAND / January 2017


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.  


#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 / January 2017 25

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.


Call 800-939-UMUC (8682). Visit umuc.edu/homeland. 26 16-MIL-215 HOMELAND / January 2017 November National Military Mike K Print Ad_Homeland_HRR1.indd


Š 2016 University of Maryland University College

10/10/16 11:20 AM www.homelandmagazine.com

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HOMELAND / January 2017 27


15 Easy Low Cash Start-Up Opportunities Are you an entrepreneur in search of a good idea to start up as a small business? Not every startup is high-tech or will turn into Uber. There are many business opportunities that can succeed with hard work and moxie. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you should grow a company with many employees to be legitimate. If you can create a small business that supports you and your family, that’s good enough. Often there is growth potential with only that as a foundation. The key is to find the lowest-cost way to make a sale and then parlay your profits into the next step. Some entrepreneurs have bootstrapped their way to millions using this basic formula. I started my marketing firm 30 years ago on a $2000 severance check and one class from UCSD Extended Studies. I grossed more the first year in business than I had ever made working for anyone else. So, ditch the boss. Be your own boss. Start by taking stock of your own skills and aspirations. Do you want something you can do immediately, or are you willing to get a little education first? Take a hard look at what you’re good at and what excites you. If you can create something that fits both of those criteria you will be just fine. Here are a few ideas. If you Google “Easy to start up small businesses” you’ll probably find many more. Most of these can be started from home with very little money required.


Website Consultant - Most people don’t have the slightest idea how to really create and promote a business website. A website consultant functions as a multi-faceted guide to building and maintaining a business’s website, working with development, hosting, managing content, search engine optimization and security. You’d be my competitor, but there’s enough business for both of us.


Graffiti Remover – Businesses don’t have the time to maintain their external walls. With the right products, an entrepreneur can not only remove graffiti, but also prevent it in the future. Become an expert in graffiti, network with community kingpins and take a leadership role in making your community graffiti free.


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Boat Cleaner - On the coast boats need repairs and cleaning year-round. If you like hanging out on the waterfront, this could be for you. Get to know the tight marine trade community, boat brokers and chandleries which are frequently looking for freelance maintenance providers.


Vehicle Advertiser – All sizes of cars have the potential to be used to generate easy profit. Keep your car in decent condition and it can become a tool to pick up extra cash. Grow your fleet and all you need is drivers. Crazy, huh?


Pet Sitter – Animal lovers will particularly enjoy this business and find the most success. Pet sitting can involve light


grooming, walks, feeding and playtime. Concentrate on building a portfolio of clients who trust and depend on you. Create a professional image, a logo, and website to compete with the slobs who aren’t the slightest bit sophisticated.

maintained when no one is around. You will be the contact number if the security system operator needs to contact someone about a breach in security. You can grow this from a one-person operation to a big enterprise if you want.


Business Plan Writer - You would be amazed how many business owners either cannot write or are terrified by the prospect. A business plan is useful in many ways, including getting a bank loan or courting investors. Cultivate vendors, such as financial planners, who can do the parts of the job where you need expert help. Start by writing one for your own business.


7. Event Planner – If you’re organized and energetic, creative and ingenious, event planning could be for you. Start a database that will allow you to sort venues by varying features--the number of people each site holds, if there is AV equipment available on site, will you need to arrange for rental chairs, etc. Let sites know you’re available to help plan events. Stay away from weddings if you don’t want to discover the meaning of “bridezilla.”


Gift Basket Service - Finding a niche is the best way to start out in the gift basket business. Are you a dog lover, horse lover, or exercise guru who could put together baskets that hold the things that people with this interest would like? This is going to be easier if you provide your services to corporations rather than one-off consumers. Landscaper/Tree Care – Don’t just think of this as just two people with a truck. Yes, it can include mowing lawns and cutting back shrubs. Offer garden work such as spring planting of annuals and perennials; vegetable garden preparation, planting and fall cleanup; pest control and watering systems. Tree care and trimming can be a highly skilled, in-demand professional operation. There is plenty to do in the yard that has nothing to do with plants: stone wall restoration, fencing, irrigation system installation. Consider contracting with housing developments by offering your services to management companies.

Get Out There and



Household Organizer/Staging Pro - You can choose either to do the organizing work or to come into a home and consult on the things the homeowner could do to better organize. Have a portfolio of different organizational scenarios in different rooms in the home and talk with the homeowner about the style he or she likes. Create checklists and questionnaires to understand how the family uses the home. Network with local realtors who can send you business.

9. Notary Public - In most states in the U.S., a notary public is a state officer who is authorized to witness and attest to the legalities of certain documents by signature and stamping a seal. Most states require that you pass an exam and a background check. It costs very little to become a notary and your income from notary work is dependent on building relationships with referral sources. This is a great side business if you have a retirement income in place. 10.

Personal Concierge - This business is for someone who is supremely efficient and can make things happen. People who hire you will expect things when they want them and you need to be able to come through with not only what they want, but with a personal touch and a smile on your face. The most likely clients for a personal concierge service are top executives who find themselves at the office by 7 a.m. and are there most nights until 9 p.m., leaving them very little time to do all those things that often need to be done during those very hours.


Property Management - Your job, in the case of rental units, will be to make sure the property is running smoothly. For seasonal properties, you will most likely spend your management time making sure the property is ready for seasonal visits and well-


Uber Driver – This might be something great to do while you’re building your other business. You will need to pass a minimal background check and have a 4-door car. When you want to make money, just open the app and you’ll start to receive trip requests. You’ll get information about your rider and directions to their location and destination. When the trip is over, you’ll receive another nearby request. And if you’re ready to get off the road, you can sign off at any time.


Tour Guide - Enjoy introducing visitors to your area? Have a special interest in history, cooking, culture, art or another passion? If you know an area well, simply sign up with a website like www.Vayable.com and let them find your customers for a cut of the revenue. Once you know the ropes and make some money, you can encourage returning visitors to come to you (and your new employees) directly. Vayable provides guides with marketing toolkits, training in best practices, exclusive community events and a list of online tools to help you build your business.

Many of the above have local professional associations that can be helpful. Be sure and check to see if any there are any licensing requirements for your endeavor. Once again, do your homework. Check out www.bookstore.entrepreneur.com where you can find how-to guides on almost any business.

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


HOMELAND / January 2017 29

By CraigZabojnik USAA


HOMELAND / January 2017


PLANNING AND THE MILITARY go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Think about it. Virtually all military operations begin with some sort of detailed planning process. That same approach will help you get off to a good start with your personal finances.   Here are eight money moves to make early in your military career:   Build a budget. If you don’t have one, you’re not alone. Too many people fail to map out where their money goes, so this belongs first on the list. Developing a detailed list of what comes in and a plan for what goes out is the first step to taking charge of your money. And don’t forget that regular saving should be part of your what-goes-out list.   Save for emergencies. Having money set aside in a savings account for the unexpected is a must. Start with an achievable goal, say $1,000, and then build until you can cover three to six months of expenses. Set up an allotment on the Defense Department’s myPay website or arrange an automatic transfer to move money into your savings account each payday. Start small, if you must — even $25 to $50 a paycheck will get the ball rolling.   Sign up for the TSP. The military’s version of a 401(k) is called the Thrift Savings Plan, and it’s a great way to save for your future. You can sign up to contribute a portion of each paycheck to this tax-advantaged account on myPay.   Guard your credit. Your credit report and accompanying score are important — and fragile. You get off to a good start by using credit responsibly, so pay on time every time. When it comes to credit cards, don’t borrow what you can’t pay back by the end of the month. You can get your score for free by contacting the nearest military financial counselor.   Protect your stuff. A renters insurance policy is a great way to help protect your uniforms, computers, phones and whatever else you have — and will accumulate over the years. Having a policy makes sense, even if you live on base, and they’re typically fairly inexpensive.   Use pay increases to your advantage. No, we’re not saying go out on a shopping spree — exactly the opposite. You should see plenty of raises while you serve: annual pay raises, promotions, special pays, time-in-service increases and the like. If you commit to using half of each pay raise to boost your savings instead of your spending, you’ll be headed in the right direction.   Read up on the SCRA. Yep, another acronym. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a law with which you should become familiar. Did you have some debt (credit card, student loans, etc.) before you joined the military? The SCRA can put a 6% interest rate cap on pre-service debts, and it offers a host of other protections.   Visit a financial counselor. Counseling isn’t just for people with money struggles. Actually, it can be great help to anyone — especially when it’s free and offers you the chance to understand and take charge of your own finances. Every installation has personal financial managers and classes to help you do just that.   Before you’re too far into your military career, take the time to build a foundation that will last a lifetime. It’s the first step toward financial security and a solid choice as you embark on your service to our nation. www.homelandmagazine.com

HOMELAND / January 2017 31

How To Prepare To Join The Military By CraigZabojnik USAA


reparing to join the military is a great way to get your military and civilian career off to a great start. To start your military career right from Day One, there are some vitally important factors for you to consider so you can be successful in your initial training as well as your follow on or advanced training. This advice is for anyone planning to join any military service.   #1 - Start Talking to Recruiters A Year Out. If you are considering enlisting or joining an officer commissioning program, make a plan to go and speak to all the service recruiters. If you are set on the Marines, then go and explore your options with the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the Air Force. If you are just interested in the Air Force, then talk to the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, and the Navy. At this point, you “don’t know what you don’t know.” Speaking to recruiters from all military services will give you a very good idea of the full range of positions, training, and signing bonus that are available to you. At any point in joining the military, there are a range of opportunities that are and are not available based on the current size of the respective services. Speaking to all the recruiters gives you a good idea of what is truly available.   #2 - Drugs, Legal Violations, Some Tattoo›s, Obesity & Fitness Level Are What Ruin People›s Military Dreams. There is a large group of people that want desperately to join the military but cannot due to violations of the military service standards that bar them from joining the military and entering service. As a broad rule, the use of illegal drugs; legal convictions of criminal activity; some tattoo’s on the face, neck or hands; personal weight levels above the service standard, and the inability to successfully complete a basic physical fitness test are what remove candidates from consideration for military service. The best advice is to avoid any and all activities that will disqualify you from military service.   #3 – Get In Good Overall Shape. Your goal for fitness and bodyweight should be to get in the best overall shape that you can. You want to balance strength training and cardiovascular fitness because too much strength training could hurt your run times and too much running may leave you susceptible to injury and not passing the push-ups and pull-ups to military standard. There are a number of excellent fitness programs that you can pursue.   #4 – Do Well On Your High School GPA & Graduate. After the fitness disqualifications to military service, a lack of a high school degree with a decent GPA is next. A high school degree and a good GPA that will help you do well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) – a test that partially controls what military specialties that you can sign up to perform. Graduating high school on time and with a good GPA is a must have to start your military career.  


HOMELAND / January 2017

#5 – Prepare for Times When Military Service Is Awful. At my first duty station in Korea, the January weather was so cold that the water buffalo’s froze inside of heated tents which made serving hot food impossible. We had limited MRE’s because they were all in the Middle East so we ate beef jerky or nothing because the peanut butter sandwiches froze. It was a horrible time in the field. You can do all the fitness and preparation, but your mind has to be prepared to suffer, and suffer mightily. Military recruits that are not prepared to suffer and to perform their best while suffering are challenged to complete a term of military service.   Talking early to recruiters, staying away from activities that disqualify you for military service, being in good shape, possessing a completed high school degree, and having your attitude focused on surpassing suffering while still serving well is how you succeed.  Have a successful military career and have fun.


‘God Bless the Broken Road’ Film showcases DAV’s support, services

Film Director Harold Cronk addresses members during the joint opening session of the 2016 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in Atlanta.

By Steven Wilson


new film from 10 West Studios Director Harold Cronk, best known for the film “God’s Not Dead” and its sequel, will prominently portray and benefit DAV’s mission to support veterans, their families and survivors. “God Bless the Broken Road,” set for release in early 2017, tells the story of a war widow’s journey to rebuild her life after her spouse is killed in service. “We have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for our armed forces, and we wanted to make a positive impact on military families with this film,” said Cronk. “We did a great deal of research and came to the conclusion that there is not a better example of an organization that puts their love into action for our veterans every day than DAV.” As a testament to the director’s dedication to caring for those who served, 3 percent of the movie’s profits will be donated to DAV to continue its effort to provide a lifetime of support to veterans and their families. The film stars Lindsay Pulsipher as Amber Hill, a military spouse who suddenly learns her husband was killed in combat in Afghanistan. She then faces financial and spiritual challenges while raising her young daughter. “I hope that our film makes it easier for people who are really in that position to seek the help and support that

DAV provides our veterans and their families,” she said. Joining Pulsipher in the all-star cast are Jordin Sparks, Kim Delaney and Robin Givens, as well as former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the role of Amber’s pastor. “We developed this story so that there would be something in the theaters that our audience members could relate to,” said Cronk. “The survivors of those lost in war often face an uphill battle of grief and hardship, and they need to know someone is there to help and offer support,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “This film brings much-needed attention to that issue, and shows the bonds and resilience of the veteran community. Beyond the positive message, we’re grateful to everyone involved for the push to ensure the effort will make a tangible benefit for veterans.” n

Learn More Online To learn more about the film, visit godblessthebrokenroad.com.

Big Ten honors DAV veterans, families... The Big Ten conference honored DAV and its members through the 2016 Big Ten Conference Football Championship in December. DAV members, staff and families were recognized during the game and were given VIP treatment by the conference. The Big Ten has made DAV and veterans a priority at its football and men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. “The Big Ten is a patriotic organization. And regardless of the outcomes in sports, they have made victories for veterans a clear priority through their commitment to our cause,” said Barry Jesinoski, National Headquarters Executive Director. www.homelandmagazine.com

HOMELAND / January 2017 33

R4 Alliance Member Highlight


eet Thomas. A veteran of the US Armed Forces who suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, Thomas attended a Higher Ground military program in January 2016. Thomas was not in a significant relationship at the time, so participated in a weeklong program for single male veterans and was invited to bring a supporter, as all Higher Ground participants are asked to do in order to provide a more comfortable entry into the program and help ease anxiety leading up to the event. Thomas asked a close friend and fellow veteran to accompany him; just a week before the Higher Ground program, however, his friend had a medical emergency and was forced to decline the invitation. This left Thomas without a support person, and therefore with significant anxiety as he prepared to make the trip to Idaho to meet 14 participants and several staff members unknown to him. Once Thomas arrived in Sun Valley, he realized that several other participants were attending without supporters, so he immediately felt connected to them and comfortable in his surroundings. He fit in perfectly with the group, and often had the whole crew laughing.


HOMELAND / January 2017


GROUND During the week, Thomas reflected on his military background and how it may be able to translate into the civilian world when he is finished with is service. He identified the impact that recreation can have in his life, and ways to transfer what he learned during the week back home with him. Thomas told us, “While the goal of the trip was to have fun and decompress, the HG staff made sure to drive the point home that once the trip was over, we could still have that same fun when we got back to our regular daily lives. Something I had never thought of, so having someone tell me that helped me tremendously.”

Thomas formed connections with other veterans who have similar backgrounds and explained to us what the trip did for him. “I felt completely at ease, stress free, and symptom free during the trip. I do not believe I experienced one negative thought or action the entire time I was there. Pretty amazing considering the fact that everyone I met there was a complete stranger at first. HG did a good job breaking the ice for us all.” The ice was definitely broken with this particular group; the bonds were clearly expressed through thoughtful discussions, laughter, and bonding throughout the week. At Higher Ground, we enhance quality of life through inclusive therapeutic recreation, education, and adaptive sports for people of all abilities. We provide year-round programs for individuals of all ages with physical, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities; we offer therapeutic activities for kids, teens, and adults through our Recreation department. Our Military program, established in 2005, provides the most effective adaptive sports and therapeutic recreation services to veterans confronted with traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTS), military sexual trauma (MST), and polytrauma through the use of evidence-based practices and the sustained continuum of care necessary for a successful reintegration into families and home communities. The Higher Ground Military Program goals address the needs of military families facing the physical and mental challenges associated with war-related injuries through a recreationbased program rooted in sustainable therapeutic impact. These programs strategically combine outdoor recreation activities with therapeutic processes to help all participants – veterans and their supporters – confront current struggles and develop skills to find success in daily life. In its application through the HG Military Programs, staff and volunteers regularly witness the power of therapeutic recreation as a mode of delivery, especially in its execution in outdoor adventure settings. Social stigma, injury-related fears, or chronic issues commonly prevent wounded veterans from seeking treatment post-injury, but through the context of outdoor recreation, as opposed to conventional clinical settings, veterans who attend Higher Ground programs are more likely to receive help and find success on the road to reintegration and recovery. www.homelandmagazine.com

The HG program focuses on the whole family in order to mitigate potential multigenerational effects of the initial injury to the veteran, and help all family members rediscover their potential to be positive, contributing members of society. War injuries – especially those “invisible,” cognitive wounds - place unprecedented stress on spouses and children in military families, in addition to the veterans, but treatment for the family unit is typically ostensibly overlooked. The numbers of men and women returning home from current conflicts with these signature wounds of PTS, TBI, and MST are staggering, and HG programming is poised to benefit not only the individuals, but the families affected. Once home after the multi-day program, HG is committed to following up with each veteran for a minimum of three years, conducting regular assessments to determine the sustainability of their progress as the reintegration process continues in their home communities. Additionally, HG allocates a budget for each participant who attends a program; these funds are restricted to provide recreation services or equipment in order for the participants to continue the positive momentum once home. Examples of past reintegration purchases include family gym memberships, bicycles, kayaks, and fly fishing gear.

HOMELAND / January 2017 35

By Sara Wacker

Military-Friendly Destinations for 2017 T here is no better time to explore our city and its attractions than the start of the New Year. Luckily for us, there are plenty of military-friendly destinations that offer special rates in honor of our service. Visit these destinations ringing in 2017 with discounts, packages and a day of fun. Start the New Year with some well-deserved family time. In appreciation, San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum is offering free admission for active-duty military, veterans and their families throughout the month of January with valid affiliation I.D. Be immersed in the museum’s exciting learning environment with hands-on educational exhibits and programs focusing on science, art, and world cultures. 36

HOMELAND / January 2017

No year is complete without a visit to one of San Diego’s wildest attractions, the San Diego Zoo. This 100-acre animal house offers a complimentary 1-Day Pass to the San Diego Zoo and/or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for active duty members. Take a guided bus tour and have the chance to observe 3,500 rare and endangered animals and a botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants. Looking to hit some balls on one of San Diego’s top greenways in the New Year? The Sycuan Golf Resort offers discounted green fees for active and veteran military, at almost half the price of the regular rate. Play a challenging game on their Willow Glen Championship, a par 72-course with dramatic scenery, narrow fairways and water crossings. www.homelandmagazine.com

This New Year, treat yourself to a 3-hour dinner cruise around the San Diego Bay. The Hornblower offers discounted Nightly Cruise tickets to military personnel and a Deployment Dinner Package for couples. Tickets can be purchased at the military ticket office. Take in the views aboard the ship with a glass of champagne, 3-course meal and 34 miles of scenic waterfront.

display of LEGO® art made out of millions of LEGO bricks.

The Fleet Science Center is home to more than 100 interactive exhibits for adults and children alike. They offer a daily 10% military discount with valid I.D. and free exhibit gallery admission and discounted theater show tickets for military members on the first Tuesday of every month. Explore the ends of the earth with their 76-foot wrap around IMAX dome, or marvel at the world’s largest


Ring in the New Year and explore our beautiful city this 2017 at these military-friendly destinations!

HOMELAND / January 2017 37

Qualification for a VA Loan – A Better Way to Qualify for More Home Home loans other than a VA loan commonly use Debt To Income (DTI) as the main income qualification calculation. But VA loans use a normally more accommodating Residual Income calculation, and as VA Guidelines clearly state, DTI is only “secondary.” Using Residual Income usually allows a VA borrower to qualify for more than does a loan which relies on DTI, especially in most areas of California. In short the VA Residual Income calculation begins with gross income from which “expenses” (taxes, debts and obligations, utilities, etc.) are subtracted and the result compared to that required in a VA Table of Residual Income.

the VA Residual Income calculation also includes expense types such as taxes, home utility and maintenance costs and job related expenses such as child care. Taxes include those such as federal, state and social security taxes, and home utility and maintenance costs are calculated by multiplying the living area square footage of the prospective house by $.14 per square foot.

VA Residual Income Calculation The VA’s Loan Analysis form, which is used to document whether the borrower has adequate residual income, contains detailed sections to sum both expense and income types. But more simply, all income types are summed together and then all expenses are subtracted from the income total to calculate actual VA Residual Income (or Balance Available for Family Support.) The result is compared to the residual income required guideline from a VA Table of Residual Income. These tables are divided into four regions of the country (West, South, Midwest

Income The income part of the calculation, as with other home loans, uses gross income and, similar to other home loans, considers the taxability of income. For income derived not from military service, the different types of income are treated similarly to that of other home loans. But VA loans often allow for a more flexible, less stringent and more accommodating calculation of the income, and this often allows the VA borrower to qualify for more than they otherwise would using another type of home loan. Military income is separated into that which is taxable and that which is not. A prime example of earnings which are taxable is base pay. Both BAH and BAS are nontaxable which allows these earnings to be grossed up, typically 25% ($1 in actual earnings is treated as if it were $1.25 of gross income,) but in some situations using a percentage greater than 25% is warranted.

Expenses Gross income for VA loans is in most cases calculated similarly to that for other home loans, with the added advantage that many types of income for VA loans are calculated in a more borrower friendly manner. But a vast difference exists between how expenses (or debts) are calculated for a VA loan and that for the other home loans. The usual items considered by the other home loans, such as installment debt which includes, for example, auto and student loans, and revolving debt which includes debts such as credit card and line of credit debt are also included in VA loan calculations. But


HOMELAND / January 2017

and Northeast) and list specific residual income guideline requirements by size of household (the more members of the household the greater the residual income required.) It’s more complicated than the following (for example requires also running the loan through an Automated Underwriting System (AUS,)) but if the calculated actual residual income exceeds the residual income guideline derived from the VA’s Table of Residual Income by 20% or more, then the loan income qualifies (assuming the loan when run through an AUS receives a positive finding result, and this is strongly affected by the strength of the borrower’s credit.) I’ve experienced cases in which my client’s DTI or that of a colleague has been in the 60s and even the 70s percentage, and the borrower was approved. If the calculated residual income equals or only exceeds the table’s requirement up to 20%, then in general the total DTI (often referred to as the “Back-end Ratio”) should be no greater than 41%, but even that can be relaxed with sufficient compensating factors. Seize the dream loan to buy your dream home your service and sacrifice earned – low rates, $0 money down and no mortgage insurance!! And while doing so, help secure your and your family’s financial future! If you wish more information or education on VA loans, don’t hesitate to call John Medin at (619) 417-2003 or email him at john.medin@caliberhomeloans.com


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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




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

HOMELAND / January 2017 41

Come Visit Us! Love To Show You Our New Location

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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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Call to speak with our Military Admissions Advisors.

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Watch trailers, audience reviews, and more at ShenYun.com/SD


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