Homeland Magazine July 2024

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Career Strategies & Resources

Understanding Your Personal Independence

Marine Finds New Rhythm and Harmony With The Past

Veteran Continues to find solace from PTSD through ART & Helping Others


happier with myself. Having been in therapy, period, has helped me be in a better place now.”

Rogelio “Roger” Rodriguez, Jr US Navy (1987 – 1993) US Air Force (1993 – 2013)

PTSD treatment can turn your life around. For more information visit: www.ptsd.va.gov/aboutface

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Our Members Are the Mission

www.HomelandMagazine.com EDITOR’S LETTER

Welcome to Homeland Magazine!

Homeland is a veteran-focused magazine throughout the country. It serves to assist all veterans, active military as well as their spouses and families.

It’s the leading veterans magazine emphasizing resources, support and focusing on topics and issues facing today’s veteran community. Homeland focuses on resources, support, community, transition, mental health and inspiration for our veterans, & military personnel.

The content is the driving force behind our magazine and the connection it makes with our veterans, service members, military families, and civilians.

The magazine is supported by a distinguishing list of veteran organizations & members, resource centers, coalitions, veteran advocates, and more.

We are honored to share the work of so many committed and thoughtful people.

Despite all the challenges, our team has upheld their focus and let not one opportunity go to provide resources and support to our veterans & military personnel.

On behalf of our team, we wanted to take this moment to say THANK YOU to the readers and the military and veteran community for supporting our magazine. With that support we aim to make a difference and continuing to make a profound impact on the quality of life for our veterans, military personnel and their families.

If you want to catch up on the current and all past issues please visit: www.homelandmagazine.com/archives

Mike Miller


mikemiller@homelandmagazine.com www.homelandmagazine.com



Mike Miller

Monthly Columns

What’s Next Transition

Eve Nasby • Kristin Hennessy

Human Resources

Paul Falcone

Franchise Dreams

Doug Dwyer

Successful Transitioning Stories

Dr. Julie Ducharme

Veterans in Business

Barbara Eldridge

Risky Business

Hadley Wood

Real Talk: Mental Health

Hope Phifer

PTSD: Reclaiming Control

Robert ‘Bob’ Cuyler, PhD

TLC Caregiving

Kie Copenhaver

Legal Eagle

Kelly Bagla, Esq.

Veterans Chamber Commerce

Joe Molina

Contributing Writers

Wounded Warrior Project

Disabled American Veterans

(In-House) Correspondents

Holly Shaffner

CJ Machado

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

(858) 275-4281



Independence Day

Independence Day is annually celebrated on July 4th and is often known as “the Fourth of July”.

It is the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776. Patriotic displays and family events are organized throughout the United States.

On July 4th, 1776 the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation by adopting the Declaration of Independence. Today, Independence Day is celebrated and honored in many forms such as fireworks, BBQs and parades. It is an opportunity for Americans to express patriotism and love of country including reflecting on the sacrifices from those in the military.

Independence Day History

On June 11th, 1776 the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to formally sever ties with Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson, who considered an esteemed writer, was selected to draft the document. After 86 revisions and on July 4th, 1776 the Continental Congress signed the final version.

The first readings of the document included ringing of bells and band music. The following Fourth of July Congress was adjourned in Philadelphia and everybody celebrated with bells, bonfires and fireworks. Soon these customs spread to other areas within the 13 colonies and new customs began to develop such as picnics, speeches, games, military displays and of course fireworks. These traditions continued for almost a century before Congress finally established Independence Day as a holiday.

Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration states,

“We hold these Truths to be selfevident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”

Independence Day Facts

• The original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States

• Independence Day 2015 is the 239th Independence Day.

• 56 People signed the Declaration of Independence.

• John Hancock was the first signer and famously had the largest signature.

• In July 1776 there were an estimated 2.5 million people living in the Colonial United States.

• Currently there are approximately 316 million Americans.

• The Declaration of Independence was revised 86 times.

• The first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776.

• Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the Fourth of July, 1826.

Things to do on the Fourth of July

• Barbecue with friends and family

• Watch a fireworks show

• Go to a blockbuster movie release

• Have a block party

• Light some fireworks (safely & legally of course)

• Attend a baseball game

• Find water – Boating, beaching and water skiing

• Rent a 4th of July themed movie

• Find a National Park hosting a July 4th event

Patriotic Things to do on the Fourth of July

• Fly the American Flag

• Wear Red, White and Blue

• Volunteer to help our veterans

• Take a trip to a special fort, park or monument near you.

• Go to a Fourth of July celebration

• Attend a Revolutionary War reenactment

• Send Letters, Care Packages, and Other Ways to Support the Military

Make July your Month of Independence

In the United States we have just finished celebrating the 4th of July. It’s a special time to Americans. Not only are there picnics and parades, there is an understanding that over 200 years ago people got fed up with the way things were and pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to making the changes they saw necessary for long-term success as a nation.

July is also halfway through the calendar year, six months away from the hopeful exuberance of New Year’s resolutions. This makes it a perfect opportunity to make July a month to declare your personal independence from the things that are standing in the way of your resolutions and goals. Revisit those grand dreams and declare your independence from the tyranny holding you back – pledging with the same revolutionary fervor as the patriots did to make the changes necessary for your success.

Declare your independence from failure.

How are you doing on the goals you made at the first of the year? Have you fallen so far behind that you have shoved them back into a corner, pointedly ignoring them because you feel that you have failed?

This is the tyranny of failure. It stalks along beside you, assuring you that each and every time you try something new it will not work out and you will not be successful. Often it has helpers – your friends, co-workers, possibly even those closest to you. Regardless, the largest ally of failure is the voice inside of you.

Before you listen to all these voices, ask yourself these three questions:

• Have you given this goal your best effort?

• If you have – what are the reasons you could not be successful? Is it a lack of resources, knowledge or skill?

• How can you learn from where you are and make a plan to acquire what is missing – the resources, knowledge or skills – to allow you to be successful?

The great Roman general Marcus Aurelius asked the question a different way: “Does what’s happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?”

In other words, does what you perceive as failure change your basic nature as a human being? If not, don’t waste time being held back by the failure. Instead use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Take that learning and growth into the future and continue on to achieve your goals.

Declare your independence from fear.

Television personality Mike Rowe tells a story when he stood before the camera to begin his first night as a host on the shopping channel QVC. He had a product he knew nothing about, he had no experience in live television, and he knew that QVC was not interested in on-air personalities who could not sell products.

In his story, Mike points out a key in declaring your independence from the tyranny of fear: Don’t hide your fear. Acknowledge that you are scared to yourself and to those around you. In Mike’s case, he started out his segment letting the entire television audience know that it was his first time, he didn’t know anything about what the product did, and then he asked them to get involved and help him out.

The audience responded by filling the phone lines to talk about their experience with the products, encouraged by Mike’s willingness to be truthful and authentic with them. Most importantly, they were willing to purchase the products being pitched.

What Mike Rowe did was eliminate the best weapon of fear, which is the uncertainty that comes with doing something that you have not done before. By openly acknowledging the fear he made it clear that he was committed to success and was able to tap into those who were waiting for an opportunity to make that success possible.

Declare your independence from going it alone. The story that Mike Rowe tells also shows the futility of trying to go it alone. Many people set goals – whether they are related to education, fitness or career – then attempt to achieve those goals in the absence of any type of support system.

The self-made man is a myth. Throughout history, leaders who have been successful have had carefully developed support systems around them.

Whether they are formal advisors, technical assistants, or just sounding boards who can help in the development of ideas, a support system is invaluable in helping you reach a goal.

Make yourself accountable to those who care about you. It does not have to be a formal accountability framework; something as simple as online social media can be very powerful. When I first started a fitness program, I posted each day’s run to my Facebook account. This was not so much that I wanted to be sure that my friend saw me run, rather, it was my motivation when I did not want to go run.

Make this July your personal “Independence Month” – a month to recommit to the goals that you want to achieve this year.

Adjust where necessary, learn from the attempts of the first half of the year, banish your fear, and re-engage with your support system.

You have the second half of the year to make your goals a reality, and the experiences of the first half of the year to get you there.

What’s So American About Apple Pie?

The grill glows hot, the beer is on ice, and the fireworks are ready to burst. Fourth of July is a holiday celebrated through food. There’s potato salad, popsicles, watermelon slices — and, of course, apple pie. But this all-American dessert isn’t as homegrown as you’d think. “When we say, ‘As American as apple pie,’ we think of baseball and hot dogs without ever considering not one ingredient in apple pie originates from what we call the United States,” says Libby O’Connell, author of The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites.


The Recipe

The British used animal fat, wheat, and water to create airtight pastry shells with the un¬appetizing name of “coffyns.” These savories were usually stuffed with beef or venison. In America, the shells became flakier (like the strudels made by German immigrants) and the meat fillings were replaced with apples, a way to use up imperfect fruit.


The sweet, juicy fruit we use in pie isn’t native to North America, which specializes in crab apples. It originated in Kazakhstan. The Romans then crossed it with astringent apples used for making ¬cider. (True tidbit: Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman really did plant orchards around the United States.) Love apples? Here are some other healthy ways to eat apples you didn’t know about.


First cultivated more than 9,000 years ago, ancient wheat has been found in Iraq, Iran, and throughout the Middle East. The “king of grains” spread through Europe and then to the New World, where it failed miserably, which is why colonists relied on a Native American staple for baking: corn. In the late 1800s, Russian immigrants brought a wheat variety known as Turkey Red, which was better suited to our climate.

Lard and Butter

Wild boars (the ancestors of lard-producing pigs) are native to Asia, Europe, and Africa. It was actually Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, who brought pigs and cattle, the source of all things dairy.

Sugar and Spices

Columbus also played deliveryman for sugar, which originated about 4,000 years ago in Indonesia, India, China, and what is now Papua New Guinea.

Cinnamon comes from an evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka. (The prophet Moses and Rome’s emperor Nero are believed to have eaten it.) The variety most commonly found on super¬market shelves today is cassia cinnamon, which originated in southern China. Cloves and nutmeg, indigenous to the Banda Islands of Indonesia, were considered so precious that Ferdinand Magellan brought 50 tons of them back to Spain after he sailed around the world in 1522. Watch out for these foods that are surprisingly high in sugar.

Becoming an American “Original”

Once all the ingredients were in place, putting them together was as easy as—Well, it wasn’t so easy after all. Although the earliest apple pie recipes date to the 1300s, it took nearly 500 years for the dessert to hit it big in the United States. “During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops scavenged for apples and commandeered the hearths—and flour bins—of white farmers and black tenants to bake pies,” writes John T. Edge in Apple Pie: An American Story.

“Wartime adversity fixed the taste of apple pie on the palate of generations to come.” By 1902, an editorial in the New York Times proclaimed that pie had become “the American synonym for prosperity.” In the 1920s, the phrase as American as apple pie started to appear in print, and by World War II, soldiers declared that they were fighting “for mom and apple pie.” Apple pie—wholesome and comforting—had woven itself into the way we see our country.

Given apple pie’s strong associations with America, there’s perhaps some small irony that it is not necessarily a homegrown American product, but something baked overseas and brought to these shores. But if immigrants comprise a key component of the United States’ lifeblood, then there is perhaps no better symbol of America than the delicious dessert.

Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

Make a Grand Trip the Grandest

Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel has been transporting adventurers to the majestic beauty of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World–the Grand Canyon–and continues to inspire travelers today. The journey from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a truly unforgettable experience. As you chug along in an authentic vintage train car, you can take in breathtaking views of idyllic landscapes and wildlife along the way. Not only will you have plenty of time to relax and soak in the serene atmosphere, but also appreciate how easily accessible this natural wonder is by train.

The 65-mile round-trip route begins in Williams, also known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon" (since it's less than an hour away from one of America's most iconic landmarks). Here, travelers have more than enough time to explore local restaurants, galleries, and the magic of a bygone era along historic Route 66.

Once you reach the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you have an array of activities to choose from. Whether you want to hike down into the canyon, or just take in the views from atop the rim, there’s something for everyone. The Grand Canyon National Park Service Staff provides many educational programs and guided tours throughout the area so that visitors can learn more about its rich geologic history and diverse wildlife.

The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel offers several different packages depending on what kind of experience you are looking for. From basic round trips to the canyon by train, to packages that give you

the option to stay inside Grand Canyon National Park, to journeys aboard The Polar Express™ during the holidays, there is something sure to pique your interest.

No matter how you decide to spend your time when you arrive at Grand Canyon National Park, one thing is certain: The journey there by train is sure to be an unforgettable experience filled with amazing sights that transport you back in time! Along the way, you'll be enthralled by vast desert plateaus and colorful mountain mesas that transition seamlessly between Arizona's high-desert and Ponderosa pine forests. And while these natural wonders offer spectacular sights

that are sure to take your breath away, they're often accompanied by sightings of elk and deer roaming freely around the tracks or the majestic California condor soaring high overhead.

As you reach higher altitudes (up to 7,000 feet above sea level), there sits a picturesque view that welcomes passengers into Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim—a sight many riders find both humbling and aweinspiring as they disembark onto terra firma after their two-hour trip! The South Rim is home to numerous Native American tribes who continue to be stewards of this ancient land with various cultural activities throughout the year; it provides visitors with a chance to learn about Native American culture alongside one of nature’s grandest masterpieces.

Traveling on the Grand Canyon Railway can be considered a privilege today—not least because no other mode of transportation offers such unparalleled access through some of North America’s most rugged terrain via comfortable coaches or private parlor cars. It’s not just about getting there faster either: each ride is an experience that enables passengers to reconnect with nature on their own terms. Guests enjoy activities including live music performances and storytelling sessions held onboard by skilled cowboys and entertainers, while the experienced engineers and staff members add another layer of service and authenticity to this much-loved institution.

At its heart, riding on board the historic Grand Canyon Railway helps connect us with our true selves— reminding us that taking it slow can lead us further than if we simply raced from point A to point B! In this fastpaced world filled with endless distractions, a trip aboard Grand Canyon Railway reminds us why we should take time for ourselves every once in a while—and why going out for adventure aboard this famous railway can feed our creative soul.

Military personnel can use the promo code ’STRONG’ to save on this magical experience. Please visit us online at thetrain.com



Insurance Info & Risk Management Tips

Travel Insurance – Is It Worth It?

With summertime in full swing, some of us may have plans to take a family vacation, a friend get-away or spend a little time overseas exploring a foreign country. Traveling can be a much-needed break from our daily routines and a way to relax and reset our bodies and brains. With this in mind, it is a good idea to set in motion some risk management tools prior to leaving on your trip and that might include purchasing travel insurance. But what does this cover and is it really worth getting?

Travel insurance is offered online or through an agent or broker and can be very reasonable in cost and be comprehensive in coverage. One of the main reasons to have this coverage is for unforeseen medical emergencies that happen outside the country. Most US health insurance plans do not cover medical costs or needed prescriptions overseas. Should you get into a car accident, break a bone, get a virus, or need any special medical attention, it can be a very costly and out of pocket expense.

Another reason to purchase travel insurance is to cover lost baggage, equipment, hotel mishaps, trip changes, emergency removal from an area, and other unforeseen events that could really dampen your experience. Some of these events may be covered under certain credit cards when used to book your trip BUT you will want to ask your credit card company what specifically is covered and not covered should something happen. This is especially true for car rental insurance. Comprehensive car rental insurance is generally not included in travel insurance, and it is usually best to purchase it through the car rental agency directly. It makes the claim filing process so much smoother!

The cost for travel insurance depends on where you are traveling to, the length of time you will be traveling and the amount of coverage you choose. Certain areas that may be deemed high risk or dangerous would cost more - but generally, the prices are reasonable ($60$100 per week). Many plans can cover children under 17 at no cost if the parents or guardians purchase the coverage for themselves.

If you travel overseas often, you can also purchase an annual travel insurance plan that can cover all your trips as long as each trip is under a set amount of travel time (sometimes 45 days). This works well for businesspeople traveling abroad, a world cruise, semester abroad and those of us that just like to wanderlust through the world. If you have employees that travel for the company it is a smart idea to purchase this coverage for them and bulk plans can be purchased.

Traveling can be expensive and takes a lot of time in planning to execute a successful trip. You should consider looking into having the travel insurance as part of the cost of the trip so you can truly relax and not worry about all the ‘what-if’s’ that might jeopardize your fun!

Wishing everyone a safe, festive and happy 4th of July –wherever you are celebrating!

Talk with your broker and as always, reach out to me at: www.hlinwood-insurance.com with any business insurance or risk management questions.

Empathy and Support for Military and Veterans During 4th of July Celebrations

The 4th of July is a time of celebration and patriotism in the United States, marked by fireworks displays and festivities However, for many individuals, particularly members of the military and veteran community, or those who have experienced traumatic events involving gunfire or explosives, these celebrations can activate emotional distress and trauma responses This guide provides tips for navigating these challenges and fostering empathy and support

Understanding Trauma Responses in Yourself or Others

PTS Activation: Fireworks often activate PTS symptoms among veterans, leading to anxiety, panic attacks, and flashbacks due to the association with combat sounds.

Sensory Overload: The combination of loud noises and bright lights can cause sensory overload, resulting in significant emotional distress

Sleep Disturbance: Fireworks, especially those set off late at night, disrupt sleep patterns, exacerbating PTSrelated sleep issues

Emotional Struggles: Fireworks can evoke memories of sacrifices and losses, leading to complex emotions

Social Isolation: To avoid distress, some veterans may isolate themselves during celebrations, which can further impact their mental health

Strategies for Managing Emotional Responses

Create a Safe Space at Home: Designate a quiet, comfortable area in your home equipped with blankets, books, & comfort items where you can retreat if the celebrations become overwhelming.

Noise Reduction: Use noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to reduce the impact of loud noises

Inform Neighbors: If you feel comfortable, inform your neighbors about your sensitivity to fireworks They may be willing to adjust their celebrations or give you a heads-up before starting

Engage in Distraction Techniques: Engage in activities that require focus and can serve as distractions, such as puzzles, games, or crafts

Self-Care: Promote self-care activities that enhance relaxation and well-being, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones

Support Systems: Lean on friends, family, or support groups such as those offered by Give an Hour for emotional support.

Empathetic Choices for the General Public

Promote Awareness: Share information about how fireworks can affect veterans and others with trauma histories. Raising awareness can foster a more supportive community.

Participate in Community Events: Support and attend community events that are designed to be inclusive and considerate of those who may be distressed by fireworks.

Offer Alternatives: If you’re hosting a gathering, provide alternative activities that don’t involve loud noises, such as a movie night, a barbecue, or a game night.

Advocate for Silent Displays: Advocate for the use of silent fireworks in your community. Silent fireworks provide visual enjoyment without the loud noise that can cause distress.

Encourage Support: Encourage those experiencing distress to seek professional resources or join trauma-focused support groups, like the ones offered by Give an Hour, where individuals can express emotions and share experiences without judgment.

“As we celebrate the 4th of July, let’s remember that fireworks can be distressing for some, especially our veterans. Consider quieter celebrations and check on your neighbors who might need support.”

Photo by Brooke Stevens

Marine Finds New Rhythm and Harmony with the Past

Music has always been a part of Sal Gonzalez’s life. His father gave him his first guitar for his 12th birthday. He loved plucking the strings and writing melodies. Despite describing himself as someone with low self-esteem, Sal loved putting on shows for his family.

“There is nothing like making people forget their trouble for a little while and just be happy,” he said.

As the child of immigrants, Sal said he developed a deep patriotism for the country that served as a haven for his family. “After 9/11, I felt called to serve and joined the Marines as soon as I was out of high school,” said Sal, who joined the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines unit as an infantry machine gunner and deployed to Iraq.

He’d only deployed for two months when, on Oct. 31, 2004, his unit encountered several improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Sal doesn’t remember much other than waking up a week later at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and being greeted by a man in a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) polo shirt.

“He said that on behalf of a grateful nation, he wanted me to have this – and it was a backpack full of what other people might think was trivial stuff, like socks and underwear, but it was mine,” Sal recalled.

The IED damaged Sal’s left leg. After enduring almost 30 surgeries over three months, Sal decided he was tired of the hospital.

“I made a decision. I told the doctors, ‘Cut it off.’ Let me walk again.”

Doctors amputated his leg below the knee and then sent Sal to a health care facility in San Antonio that specialized in prosthetics. Soon, he was on the move.

Continued on next page >

Climbing Up, Falling Down

During his time in Texas, Sal learned to walk again. He also reconnected with WWP™, thanks to another warrior’s invitation to go rock climbing. “I was like, ‘Bro, you’re missing an arm, and I’m missing a leg!’ But he was assured it would all work out. So, I went and learned to rock climb for the first time. It was really cool.”

With his guitar by his side, Sal focused on his physical and mental health recovery, regaining mobility, and finding connections with others. Over time, he participated in other WWP activities, from simple dinners to go-cart racing, finding camaraderie along the way. But after he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2005, the myriad of emotions surrounding his injuries and the abrupt end to his service took center stage.

“I’ve only been inherently talented at two things: the mechanical workings of a 50-caliber machine gun and music. There were only two paths in my life, and one was closed, so I ran from it and hid it,” said Sal, who began to disassociate from anything military-related.

Looking back, Sal admits that he was struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and coped with alcohol.

“I should have been pursuing a music career and dream of being a songwriter, but instead, I was self-medicating, playing guitar and hanging with friends. Then I’d drink myself to oblivion to go to sleep.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that more than 50% of individuals with

alcohol use disorder and co-occurring PTSD are military personnel and veterans. People with PTSD commonly use alcohol as they try to cope with symptoms or numb memories from a traumatic event.

Data from Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior Survey, (Wave 2, conducted June 15-Aug. 24, 2022), found similar data, with over 43% of warriors who self-reported PTSD screening positive for potential hazardous drinking or active alcohol use disorders.

The Call of a Blue Bird

Recognizing Sal’s desire to pursue a music career, an acquaintance suggested he visit the Blue Bird Café, a Nashville mecca for many well-known country music writers; it’s where Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift were offered their record deals.

Sal picked a random night and joked that after witnessing the talent, he almost left town. His passion for music, though, made him stay.

“I may not have a lot of self-esteem, but I’m stubborn,” said Sal, who began writing guitar melodies as a teen before moving into lyrics. “I knew I had talent, but I also knew my songwriting wasn’t there yet. I needed to hear the best music as often as I could so that I could get better.”

Sal began working the door at the Blue Bird, which allowed him to hear – and meet – many renowned writers, producers, and singers. Though he kept writing, he wasn’t sure exactly what the future would hold.

A 180-Degree Ride

In early 2009, Sal was invited to join a WWP Soldier Ride®. He tried to beg off, joking, “I’m not a soldier, but they said Marines can join, too.”

Sal agreed to join the multiday event because of all the goodwill WWP had built up with him over the years and the camaraderie he found on previous outings. But Soldier Ride brought more than just a workout. Along the miles, Sal found some clarity and new friends. “I realized that all these guys and girls were going through the same stuff I was,” he said.

As Sal’s peer network grew, so did his mental health. “We started calling on each other, loving each other, wishing each other well. We all started doing better in our lives and becoming the people we wanted to become.”

Sal realized he wanted to do more.

“I did a total 180 from the way I had been living. It led me to start playing [music] for any veteran charity. Anything that would help vets, I would do,” he shared.

Sal eventually found work with a nonprofit in Nashville doing benefit concerts, but after a two-week USO tour, budget cuts eliminated his role.

“I knew I could make ends meet at the bar, but I didn’t want to take a step backward,” he said.

Then he remembered WWP.

“I had become friends with someone who worked with Wounded Warrior Project, so I called and got connected with Warriors to Work.”

Looking for a job is difficult enough for anyone, but it can be overwhelming for veterans, who often struggle to translate their military skills to a civilian career. WWP’s Warriors to Work® program helps veterans navigate the job search process and assists them in finding opportunities.

“I felt so helpless and lost when I first walked in, but it was wonderful to find out there was a team of people available to guide me, who were looking out for me and cared about me,” Sal said.

When reviewing potential opportunities, Sal learned that WWP was looking to expand its Warriors Speak team—a group of people who share their stories to raise awareness of the needs of post-9/11 veterans and caregivers. This was a perfect fit for Sal, who is a showman at heart.

The Emotional Draw of Music

Songwriting is personal for Sal. It’s a way to share stories that reflect on his military journey stories that reflect on his military journey and those of other veterans who struggle with coming home from war and coping with loss and pain.

“My music is a way for the part of me that doesn’t get expressed to get expressed,” he explained.

Some songs, though, are just for Sal. “Sometimes, I just need to get the emotion out. I put it down and put it away,” he said.

He loves to perform his songs in front of military audiences and then uses the feedback to motivate his next composition. “I like playing music in front of people, but playing in front of my people is a

Continued on next page >

Warriors Speak Team
(L) Nick Morrison (R) Sal Gonzalez

different kind of feeling,” he said, adding that he gets great satisfaction from knowing his music has helped other warriors on their mental health journeys.

“The best part of my job is hearing how they feel about my music, that it’s often the same way I feel. Hearing someone say that I captured feelings they could never articulate on paper and cut it perfectly is the best thing.”

The Next Curtain Call

As a member of WWP’s Warriors Speak team, Sal travels around the country, sharing motivational stories about sacrifice and service. He also talks about his mental health journey, the impact of WWP, and the opportunities available for other veterans.

During his presentations, Sal usually shares a song or two and encourages others to embrace creativity on their path to healing.

“Speaking has been incredibly beneficial for my mental health, just as much as my music,” said Sal. “If you’re human and you’re struggling, creative outlets can help you. It could be playing music, writing songs or stories, doing art, dance, martial arts …”

Sal and his music have gained great visibility over the years. He appeared on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and the television show Nashville and performed with country music star Keith Urban. He is working on an album with a Grammy Award-winning producer and juggling invitations to perform for audiences he never thought possible.

In May 2024, Sal debuted on the same stage that helped launch many country music careers, delivering an emotional performance that honored military heroes at the Grand Ole Opry.

Reflecting on the experience as the curtain went down: “It’s pretty significant. A Mexican kid from east LA playing at the church of country music. Who’d of thought?” exclaimed Sal.

“Ultimately, it’s a stepping stone on this wild ride I’m on. Who knows where I’ll go or where I’ll end up? All I know is that I’m going to have fun getting there.”

To learn more, visit wondedwarriorproject.org or call 888.ALUM (997.2586) to connect with the WWP Resource Center.

‘I need help.’ That was the hardest sentence I had to say in my whole life.

Chris found hope and support with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). WWPTM has resources and programs offered at no cost to veterans and their families facing mental health challenges.

Veteran Continues to find solace from PTSD through ART & Helping others with the Same affirmity!

Homeland Magazine checked back in with Disabled Vietnam Veteran /Hamptons, NY Oil Painter Artist John Melillo who continues to share his Art Journey of Surviving from PTSD by honoring Others in his next Solo Art exhibition this August!

Homeland: John please tell us about your Message and experience over the years using ART to help you deal with your PTSD condition?

John Melillo: Painting is my Life Saver!” I’m dealing with my PTSD condition by sharing my journey through my Art in hopes to help others. All of this is about doing something that’s good for yourself. I’m painting for Solace. PTSD is not something to heal from it’s something you learn how to deal with and painting gives me a great feeling of accomplishment. In doing these Art Solo Shows, we realized the connection of PTSD goes beyond just the Art, as Veterans, and their families would come in that experienced tragic situations that stays with them. I try to encourage to do something Good for yourself that you enjoy.

Homeland: How is this year’s “Life Goes On Part 4” ART show different?

John Melillo: I am Continuing to find solace with my PTSD condition through ART & Helping others with the Same affirmity! “Life Goes On Part 4” ART & Video Exhibition is going to be a continuation in me honoring my Canine “King” that I worked with in Vietnam that not only saved my life but I became so close to that we almost functioned as one.

Over 50 years later I think about him every day and so in supporting Organizations like “Paws of War” that rescues and pairs Service Dogs with Veterans and First Responders is a continuation to Honor and show the importance of Canine’s/Animals and also in honoring the memory of “King.” PLUS Pal-O-Mine Equestrian that works to provide Solace for Veterans with Horses with their Military Programs.

Homeland: How is this experience been different in prepping for your Solo Art show this year?

Melillo: We decided to Honor such dynamic/giving organizations like Paws of War and Pal-O-Mine Equestrian to showcase their Passion/Mission to help Military and First Responders.

We will be having two Receptions to Kick off & Close “Life Goes On Part 4” to Honor Each Organization and bring together the Community. My ART will be on View and A Video Premiere will take place where I visited these organizations, to experience their passion and did interviews to capture their heroic stories and their Mission. You will hear these stories from the Founders, Veterans, Service Dogs and Even a Heroic Horse; This year my Solo Art show “Life Goes on Part 4” will feature a “Service Dog Art Series” that features Paws of War’s Service Dogs that I painted as well as a Heroic Horse from Pal-O-Mine Equestrian. In addition, On View will be a series of over 30 of my East End Paintings that take you on an adventure, a New “Flag” inspired for my Vietnam “Life Goes On 4” Series called “The Old Barn,” Westhampton. Many of my “East End” Paintings were inspired growing up in historic Southampton, Watermill and Sagaponack where my heritage goes back to the 1890’s. Getting to the know the East End circa 1950 onward and fishing the waters has served as a great Original Wellspring for my inspiration and paintings today.” PLUS, some of the Service Dogs that I painted and appear in our Video will be on site. We are offering a portion of the Proceeds of my Paintings to help these organizations.

Homeland: Thank you for your Service! You have been embracing the Veteran community not just through your ART, but now through Veteran workshops, lectures/ screenings, and driving awareness to a positive survival. How does that help you today?

Melillo: By Helping others it helps me continue to evolve with my PTSD and do something meaningful with my ART through my message of healing.

You don’t want to miss this! It’s all about bringing the community together!

John’s Art is on display in all the Starbucks in the Hamptons all year long and he recently won the Westhampton Beach Chamber Art Poster Contest for the second year.

John’s Website www.artfeelingsjm.com and Instagram @artfeelingsjm or bethmproductions@gmail.com


Southampton Cultural Center – Aug 9th – Aug 25th –Thurs-Sun 12-4PM


Thursday August 15th, 2024 - 4-7 PM w/Paws of War Sunday August 25th, 2024 - 1-4 PM w/Pal-O-Mine Equestrian Military Programs

On View Life Goes On Parts 1-3 as well - ART & VIDEO

“Life Goes on Part 4” Video TRAILER


Real Talk: Mental Health

Deepening Your Understanding of Personal Independence

The word independence can be defined as “the quality or state of being independent: freedom from outside control or support.” For many of us, this word is especially important as we celebrate the birth of our nation on July 4th and focus on our values of freedom. As mental health experts in the military-connected community, we’ve also looked at what general independence could mean from a personal perspective for veterans, active-duty service members, and their loved ones.

Let’s see what independence looks like at the beginning of life and how it evolves. Supporting independence in young children could be guiding them as they advance through different developmental milestones like riding a bike or walking to school with friends. Some parents at this point begin realizing the importance of allowing a child to feel safe enough to make a mistake by themselves and strong enough to keep themselves accountable to get out of their situation by their own means. In teenagers, independence could look like providing more autonomy, like going out unchaperoned, extending curfew or even getting a driver’s license. Then, one day you hit your legal independence at 18 years old, and the term independence seems to take on more. For some, that decision may have started with enlisting and signing one of the most significant contracts of your life – to serve your country, as you just began to learn what independence meant to you personally.

Independence looks different for everyone, and it also takes time as it is a process. How do you hone in on understanding what independence means to you?

Let’s start with who you are, and who you are in relation to others, plus how does this make you feel? These are the start of some complex, but necessary questions, but realize that you are the only one capable of answering. Learning who you are is a large part of finding to independence. Asking yourself questions that drive you to recognize your natural reactions is a wonderful way to start understanding yourself more. The following questions are additional ones to explore:

Questions Focused on Identity

• What are some personal accounts of when you first felt independence? How did you navigate through this newfound independence?

• What values or beliefs have you adopted in your life without questioning them? Do they align with your true self?

• Are there activities or decisions that drive you due to routine more than desire?

Questions Focused on Differentiation

• Are you building hard boundaries with some or allowing more elastic boundaries with others?

• Do you give self-permission to step outside of what “always has been” and make space for what can be?

• Who are you outside of these parameters that have always defined you? (Differentiating from parents, romantic partners, friends, etc.)

• How comfortable are you with saying “no”? Are there relationships where this is especially hard for you?

• Have you learned to appreciate the struggles and benefits that come with responsibility and independence?

• What new passions or interests do you feel ready to pursue at this point of your life?

Another part of independence is mood management. Getting in touch with emotion and growing in emotional intelligence can help. First, it’s important to seek the support system you need, instead of the one you were handed. It is also important to get used to being the main person prioritizing your mental and physical health. Keep yourself accountable for your emotions and how you react to them and allow yourself to forgive and let go of past scars and broken relationships. This is where you learn to appreciate yourself and practice self-love.

Overall, independence is the first step towards defining yourself and who you want to be. Independence is not a switch that turns on and off in an instant, but instead it is a slow process of defining what we want to keep in our lives, what we want to let go of, and what we want to improve upon. Sorting through independence is a great topic to explore with a licensed mental health professional, which could ultimately facilitate your growth into the independent individual that you want to be.

Cohen Clinics provide therapy to post-9/11 veterans, service members, and military families, including National Guard and Reserves. All sexual orientations and genders welcome. LEARN MORE vvsd.net/cohenclinics

3609 Ocean Ranch Blvd. Suite 120

20800 Madrona Ave. Suite C-100, Torrance, CA San Diego Oceanside Los Angeles our CALIFORNIA locations

8885 Rio San Diego Dr. Suite 301

Alaska Adventure Project

Be a part of a Hero’s Journey! We provide therapeutic support to veterans and their families through outdoor adventures in the rugged beauty of Alaska.

About Alaska Adventure Project:

Founded in 2017 by U.S. Marine Combat Veteran and Native Alaskan William Boulton. Alaska Adventure Project (AAP) is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to supporting military veterans and their families.

Our Adventure program entails:

• Therapeutic support for veterans and their families suffering with PTSD and TBI.

• Veterans helping veterans through shared experiences.

• Outdoor activities provide atmosphere’s of reflection, discovery, meaning of service, camaraderie,

• New network of resources, a new extended family, connecting veterans with veterans, establish lifelong bonds, and promote healing.

PTSD: Reclaiming Control

Exploring Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy: A High-Tech Approach to Treating PTSD

This month, our survey of treatments for PTSD moves to the world of high tech, namely the use of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET). VRET is designed to re-create traumatic situations and sensations, enabling desensitization to the disturbing circumstances seared into the memory of individuals with PTSD.

This approach has a fairly lengthy history, but as with many technological developments, the sophistication has exponentially grown while costs have dramatically fallen. VR goggles are now readily available and affordable, enabling both research and treatment. I saw reports of VR systems designed around 9/11 costing $300,000. Now, hardware usable in VRET may be as low as $300.

Early work with VR therapy adopted principles of exposure therapy, which involves exposing anxious or fearful individuals to images related to their fears and gradually increasing the intensity of the exposure. This process is guided by the collaborative development of a "fear hierarchy" by patient and therapist. For example, with a spider phobia, we might start with the view of an "itsy bitsy" spider seen at a distance in the VR goggles. As this view becomes more tolerable, bolstered by relaxation training, the user can progressively increase the intensity of the image so that eventually, a close-up view of a big hairy tarantula becomes tolerable. With the fears desensitized, the benefit can then become generalized to the outside world. The lack of fear

doesn’t translate into indifference, so we could expect a previously terrorized person to take reasonable caution if they saw a black widow spider but not be overwhelmed by the experience. Other common applications include fear of heights and flight phobia. Other approaches to flight phobia have included preparatory sessions followed by an actual air flight accompanied by the therapist. Clearly, this is an expensive approach that limits use.

The use of VR techniques in treating PTSD is becoming more common and available, often in VA centers and specialized clinics. Some veterans find this approach to exposure therapy more comfortable and tolerable than prolonged exposure therapy as a form of talk therapy. Several reasons may be involved, including comfort with video games and less need to discuss and activate memories in one-to-one sessions.

The sophistication of the VR world in re-creating combat now includes multi-sensory experiences, including smell, sound, and tactile sensations. One group has created 14 combat scenarios that replicate a range of settings from villages to deserts to crowded cities. The treatment is always done with the support of a trained and supportive therapist. Since blocking of memories and emotional numbing is such a central part of the PTSD experience, the presentation of combat scenarios in a safe and controlled environment can reintroduce the veteran to highly individualized versions of their experience, gradually detoxifying the wartime experience.

When this desensitization takes hold, the veteran can begin to dismantle the avoidance behaviors that can drastically narrow life experience. When we can be out in the world again, despite crowds, noises, strangers, or whatever was previously triggering, we can live life more fully. When we no longer intensely scan our surroundings for danger, body and mind can be at peace again.

Dr. Cuyler is chief clinical officer of Freespira, an FDA-cleared non-medication treatment that helps people with panic and PTSD manage their symptoms by learning how to regulate their breathing. www.freespira.com


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder does not always allow the affected to seek help.

Lend a hand and provide them with methods of help, listen and be a friend.


Homeland Magazine works with veteran organizations & for-purpose institutions that help more than one million veterans in life-changing ways each year.

At Homeland Magazine you can visit our website for all “Fighting PTSD” columns, and featured articles relating to mental health, symptoms, therapy and resources.


Columns & Articles available at: Homeland Magazine - Fighting PTSD


Excellent Support for Caregivers Makes a Difference

Many service members and veterans rely on the unwavering support of caregivers – spouses, parents, children, and friends – who step up to ensure their well-being. These caregivers are the backbone of our community. Yet, their dedication often goes unrecognized and unsupported within our systems.

Caregivers face unique challenges. They navigate the complexities of the VA and healthcare systems, manage daily needs, provide emotional support, and much more. This constant pressure and the obstacles they face can lead to burnout, stress, and feelings of isolation. Supporting caregivers is about removing barriers so t hey can do their best for the person they care for. When caregivers are well-equipped and supported, they can better manage the veteran’s needs, enhancing the recovery process and the individual’s long-term well-being.

How You Can Support Veteran Caregivers:

Start a Conversation: Ask the people in your life if they are caregivers and how you can help. Many may not even realize they are caregivers or feel comfortable sharing without being asked. Acknowledging their role can open new doors to finding support and help them feel recognized and less alone.

Listen and Learn: Pay attention to the challenges they mention. Is it difficult to get groceries, attend appointments, or simply take a break? Using active listening skills, you can provide not only a safe space to share but also identify practical ways to assist.

Offer Specific Support: Do not wait to be asked! Offer to help with errands, mow the lawn, watch the kids for a few hours, or pet sit. Daily tasks take time and mental energy, and you can make a significant difference by pitching in. Additionally, conduct research on local veteran support groups, mental health resources, or financial aid options that might benefit the caregiver.

How Organizations Can Make a Real Difference:

Educate and Raise Awareness: Educate your team and community on the role caregivers play in veterans’ lives. As experts in the industry, you can provide educational programs addressing the specific challenges of caring for veterans, gaining recognition as a caregiver, navigating the VA, understanding mental health, and self-care strategies.

Embrace Trauma-Informed Care: Equip staff with the knowledge and skills to recognize the signs and symptoms of secondary trauma in caregivers. Traumainformed staff can create a safe and supportive environment where caregivers feel comfortable discussing their challenges. They can also provide resources and strategies to help caregivers manage stress and promote their own well-being.

Champion Ethical Practices: Prioritize ethical practices and transparency in fundraising and program delivery. This ensures that resources reach those who need them most and builds trust within the community.

Offer Respite Services: Provide temporary relief for caregivers through meaningful respite programs. This allows for much needed breaks and helps prevent caregiver burnout.

Connect Caregivers to Resources: Share resources with veterans and caregivers to ensure they find the support they need. No single nonprofit can be the solution to everything veteran families need, but by connecting caregivers to other sources of support, you can help them find comprehensive assistance.

Supporting the Whole Ecosystem:

Highlighting caregivers also emphasizes the need to support the entire ecosystem around the military member or veteran. They do not exist in a vacuum, and good intentions alone are not enough. To make a longterm difference in this community, we must ensure excellence in serving the whole support network around each individual.

The well-being of those served is paramount. Nonprofit organizations must operate with unwavering ethical standards. This includes transparency in operations, development, and program delivery, ensuring services reach those who need them most.

Investing in excellence within nonprofits benefits everyone. By prioritizing trauma-informed care and ethical practices, organizations can deliver high-quality services that truly make a difference. This leads to improved outcomes for veterans and their families, fostering a stronger and more resilient military community.

Let’s not settle for mediocrity. To make a significant impact, nonprofits dedicated to supporting veterans and their caregivers must uphold the highest standards of excellence. By doing so, they ensure their programs and services make a real difference in the lives of those who have served our country and their families.

By investing in the excellence of our nonprofits and supporting those who support our veterans, we can truly be effective and honor the sacrifices made by service members and their caregivers.

For more information about how Capacity Builders can help your organization excel in supporting veterans and their families, visit NonprofitExcellenceProfessionals.org or contact lori@nonprofitexcellenceprofessionals.org


Life gets mighty precious

“Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste". Wise words from singer/song writer and music legend Bonnie Raitt in her hit song Nick of Time. And the older I get, the more these words hit home. I recently drove my father and stepmother to visit extended family outside of Cardwell, MT – a two-hour drive from Helena, MT. I was asked to drive because neither my father nor stepmom could make the drive for various reasons. My first thought was this will be an all-day venture, taking up one of my two days off from work. And the very next thought was I get to spend a full day with my beloved family, an opportunity I may not get another chance to grab. As we drove down the beautifully lush Boulder Valley, my father turned to me and asked if the drive and scenery brought back memories. As a rush of memories from my high school days hit me like a tidal wave, my face lit up and I looked at my father and said, “yes dad, fond memories indeed”. That seemingly simple questions sparked a conversation that took us both down memory lane. We laughed and talked about the people and places we remembered, together and separately. It was a moment I will cherish and one I would have missed had I declined the invitation to drive them to their destination.

There are no “do overs” in life. Sure, the everyday tasks of going to work, gassing up the car, picking up our dry cleaning and doing laundry afford us many opportunities for “do overs” but it is days like yesterday that are a golden opportunity, that brass ring we need to reach out and grab.

If we are lucky, we may get a second chance at some things; and if we do, we should surely count ourselves as fortunate. I urge us all not to rely on luck when it comes to those things in life that are most dear to us. For me that is family and friends, the great outdoors, the opportunity to make new friends, and to experience new things along the way.

According to current life expectancy statistics in the United States, women will live to 79.3 while men live to 73.5 years of age. All three of my parents have exceeded these numbers and I am grateful for each day I get with them - I moved back to Montana for this very reason. Each new day is not promised, and life does indeed get mighty precious when there is less of it ahead of us. I do not want to look back on these days with regret and thoughts of “what if”, and “I should have”. On the contrary, I want to look back and be warmed by the memories created, the conversations had, and the sights seen. I want to look back and know that I did everything I knew to do in order to make each day precious.

“Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste"


- ONWARD OPS: Transition Support

- What’s Next In Transition: (Not So) Average Jane

- HR: Do You Know Your MOOCs?

- Franchise Dreams: Resources for Veterans

- Franchise: Own Your Future

- Business for Veterans: Mid-Year Challenge

- Legal Eagle: American Corporations

- Careers in Law Enforcement

Transitioning out of the Military into the Civilian Workforce?

For editorial & monthly columns regarding transition, career advice, tips, workshops, transition to education, entrepreneurship, straight-forward legal tips for military and veteran business owners and more visit Veterans In Transition at www.homelandmagazine.com/category/veterans-in-transition

WHAT’S NEXT Transition to Civilian Life

Encouraged to embrace her power and share her story, Dallas embarked on a journey of self-discovery. She poured her heart into transcribing her journal, a process that spanned six months and unleashed a torrent of emotions she had long suppressed. Through this cathartic experience, she realized that her story resonated with

(Not So) Average

Jane: The Inspiring Journey of a

Female Combat Veteran

Dallas Knight's journey from military intelligence analyst to corporate leader is a story of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

At 17, Dallas’s mother signed over her rights to the government, a decision fueled by a desire to provide for her daughter's desire to become a DEA agent. Determined to combat the scourge of the effect of having parents and adults in her life who were influenced by drugs that had ravaged her childhood she set out to hopefully change the trajectory of future young people's lives through her future job. Dallas joined the military to defray the cost of her education.

Her aspirations were abruptly interrupted by the tragic events of 9/11, which thrust the nation into a state of heightened vigilance. Dallas found herself deployed to Iraq in February 2003, where she served until November of that year. The horrors of war left an indelible mark on her psyche, and a journal gifted by her best friend became a repository for the raw emotions she could not express.

Upon her return, Dallas embarked on a decade-long career as an intelligence analyst for the DEA, honing her skills and building a formidable foundation for her future endeavors. However, the trauma of her experiences lingered, locked away in a metaphorical "big black box" in the recesses of her mind.

It was not until her transition to the corporate world that Dallas faced a reckoning. Confronted with sexual discrimination and harassment, she was forced to confront the demons that had long haunted her. A chance encounter with a compassionate Vietnam veteran proved to be the catalyst for her transformation.

countless other women who had endured similar struggles, yearning for a safe space to heal and rediscover their purpose.

From this realization, the "(not so) Average Jane" podcast was born, a platform where Dallas amplified the voices of extraordinary women, each with a tale of courage and resilience. Yet, she recognized a glaring gap – the lack of resources and support systems tailored specifically for female combat veterans.

With unwavering determination, Dallas declared her intention to host the first-ever retreat for female combat veterans in June 2025. This bold vision has since gained momentum, with support pouring in from various quarters, and plans for a fundraising event in July rapidly taking shape.

Dallas's journey is a testament to the power of mentorship and the importance of surrounding oneself with individuals who can guide and inspire. From speaking coaches to fundraising experts, she has cultivated a network of mentors who have empowered her to navigate the complexities of her endeavors.

Her advice to those transitioning from military to civilian life is both pragmatic and profound: "Take all of your amazing qualities, what is in your promotion packet. Take all skills and translate like Google from English to Spanish into civilian terms. Once you understand the civilian language, you can feel validated in your ability to succeed in any civilian career."

Reflecting on her own path, Dallas acknowledges the challenges she has faced but also recognizes the lessons embedded within each experience. "It will all be worth it in the end," she asserts, encouraging others to find meaning and growth in even the most difficult circumstances.

In a poignant revelation, Dallas shares her struggle to reconcile her military training with her intuition, a conflict that has transcended the battlefield and manifested in her civilian life. The dichotomy between following protocols and trusting one's instincts is a constant tug-of-war, reminding us of the complexities that shape our decision-making processes.

As Dallas continues to navigate the interplay between her experiences and her intuition, she offers a profound insight: "Our normal is not our baseline across the board." This realization underscores the importance of self-awareness and the courage to challenge the familiar in pursuit of personal growth and fulfillment.

In a world that often celebrates the extraordinary achievements of men, Dallas's story shines a spotlight on the resilience and fortitude of women who have served on the frontlines. Her journey from the battlefields of Iraq to the boardrooms of corporate America is a powerful reminder that adversity, when met with unwavering determination and a willingness to heal, can be transformed into a catalyst for positive change.

As Dallas prepares to welcome fellow female combat veterans to her groundbreaking retreat, she stands as a beacon of hope, reminding us that even in the darkest of moments, the human spirit possesses an extraordinary capacity to not only survive but to thrive.

Donate to the cause in supporting female combat veteran healing journey at NSAJ.betterworld.org

Female combat veterans can apply for the Fall 2024 retreat at https://notsoaveragejane.com and can contact Dallas to share your story on the NSAJ podcast at dallas@notsoavergagejane.com

You can listen to the (not so) Average Jane podcast on all major platforms and watch the episodes on YouTube at www.youtube.com/@notsoaveragejane.

Need help with your transition? Have questions? Link up with Eve on Linked In today. www.linkedin.com/in/eve-nasby-given-hiring-expert

Transition to Business HUMAN RESOURCES

Do You Know Your MOOCs?

What’s a MOOC?

I don’ t know. . . What’s a MOOC with you?

Okay, bad jokes aside, you need to know about MOOCs. . . at least as far as educating yourself, upskilling, and pursuing online certifications that will help you in your immediate private sector job search and as well as gaining traction in your career. MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. You may not be familiar with the term, but you may have heard of a number of prominent MOOCs like Coursera, FutureLearn, Udemy, EdX, and Udacity that offer free online courses taught by top university professors as well as certifications (typically for a small fee).

In general, MOOC courses range in length from one to sixteen weeks. Auto-graded quizzes and peer-feedback assignments may be available, although certain elements—for example, graded assignments—may sit behind a paywall. Certificates of completion and nanodegrees may be available for free or for a fee. Although originally created by universities and reserved for academic circles, MOOCs have now found their way into the mainstream business world. Applying data analytics to marketing, fundamentals of international business, diversity and belonging in businesses and organizations, supply chain design, and best practices for project management success are actual courses available via a simple online search.

MOOC coursework and certification may go a long way in meeting your career and professional development needs by providing outstanding free or low-cost training. Companies are teaching their employees how to access MOOCs and other free or low-cost resources to reskill and upskill according to the market’s changing needs. Think of a MOOC as an open online course aimed at unlimited participation via the internet. MOOCs typically offer educational materials such as videos, readings, and assignments, and they often include interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs can be free of charge or offered at a low cost compared to traditional university courses, making education more accessible to a global audience. They cover a wide range of subjects and are provided by various institutions and organizations worldwide.

Upskilling to Meet Today’s Market Demands

MOOCs can be highly beneficial for upskilling and meeting today’s skill needs because of their global accessibility. The variety of topics is amazing: think of everything from technical skills (like programming, data analysis, and cybersecurity) to soft skills and emotional intelligence (like leadership, communication, teambuilding, and project management). They’re flexible in that you learn at your own pace and on your own schedule. They’re updated regularly to reflect the latest industry trends and developments and are typically free to enroll in with optional certificates for a small fee.

Completing a MOOC course and earning a certificate can validate your new skills to potential employers. They’re good for networking as well since MOOCs often include forums or discussion boards where you can interact with instructors and fellow learners from around the world, leading to potential project collaboration opportunities. Likewise, MOOC platforms often offer courses that cater to both beginners and advanced learners, allowing you to continuously build upon your existing knowledge and skills. Most important, MOOCs are a valuable tool for upskilling because they provide accessible, flexible, and current educational opportunities that can help you meet the evolving skill needs of today’s changing job market.

Displaying a MOOC certification on your resume or LinkedIn profile can help showcase your skills and commitment to continuous learning. On your resume, create a dedicated section titled “Professional Certifications” and include your MOOC certifications. Be sure to include the specific MOOC that awarded the certification. List the certification title, the platform or institution where you earned it (e.g., Coursera, edX), and the date of completion. If the certification is particularly relevant or prestigious, you can briefly mention key skills or topics covered in the course under your bullet points for relevant work experience or skills section. If no certification is offered, you can list instead “Relevant Coursework Completed” and include the titles of the courses completed. Likewise, on your LinkedIn profile, add the MOOC certification completion to the “Licenses and Certifications” section. Be sure to use the full title of the certification as it appears on your certificate to help recruiters understand exactly what you’ve achieved.

Certifications are the new bachelor’s degrees, especially in a world changing so quickly by innovations in technology. By effectively displaying your MOOC certification, you demonstrate your commitment to learning and acquiring relevant skills, which can enhance your professional credibility and attractiveness to potential employers or connections on LinkedIn. Agility, upskilling, and an “early adapter” mindset are critically important, whether you’re pursuing technical or soft skill education. Take advantage of these free and lowcost resources to build your career on your own time, budget, and the platform of your choice.

Paul Falcone (PaulFalconeHR.com) is a consultant specializing in management & leadership training, keynote speaking, and executive coaching.

His bestselling books on hiring, performance management, and leadership development are available at amazon.com/author/paulfalcone.


Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs FRANCHISE DREAMs

Franchise Resources for Veterans

It’s no secret that I have a passion for veterans in franchising. This passion partly comes from my father (USAF Ret.), who was the founder of the Dwyer Group (now Neighborly) and an active member of the IFA (International Franchise Association). As a former veteran, he founded an organization called VetFran to support veterans returning from the Gulf War transitioning to the civilian economy.

Today, VetFran includes over 500 franchise brands offering financial incentives, education, and support to veterans interested in franchise ownership and/or a career path in franchising. In fact, the VetFran program is increasing in popularity. Franchisors who are looking to grow and expand are increasingly more aware of how important veterans can be to their success, and with the help and encouragement of the VetFran initiative, they are actively looking for veterans like you!

Why are so many franchise brands interested in Military Veterans? Although veterans make up only about 7% of the population, they account for a whopping 14% of all franchisees in America. They’re more likely to hire other vets and spread the opportunity, prosperity, and job creation that has made franchising one of the fastest growing sectors of the US economy.

VetFran’s mission is to continue to grow these numbers and continue to connect talented and patriotic veterans with so much to offer with franchise business ownership opportunities. With over 500 franchise brands participating with VetFran, military veterans can expect significant veteran discounts from their initial franchise fees. DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen is one of these brands. If you meet the qualifications to purchase a DreamMaker franchise and are honorably discharged, we offer a 20% discount off the initial franchise fee. Find out more about the resources and brands available through VetFran at www.Vetfran.org.

Another organization that helps military veterans explore entrepreneurship opportunities (including franchising) is ZeroMils. Founded by veterans for veterans, their mission is to create military thriving

cultures and communities. ZeroMils works with several military non-profits to help connect veterans and their spouses with entrepreneurial, franchising, and employment opportunities. They offer numerous resources including educational webinars and face-toface events to help the military community thrive. Find out more about ZeroMils at www.Zeromils.com

A recent VetFran survey showed that a whopping 99% of surveyed franchisors think that veterans are a good fit as employees within their company, while an equally impressive 97% say that veterans make excellent franchisees. 70% have brought on a veteran franchisee or corporate employee in the last year alone!

The franchise business model allows military veterans to go into business for themselves, but not by themselves. Veterans emerge from service with strong leadership skills and a thorough understanding of teams; both are great skills to launch and grow a franchise business. Organizations like VetFran and ZeroMils recognize that franchising can be a fantastic option for transitioning veterans, and offer numerous resources to those who are interested in entrepreneurial opportunities.

Doug Dwyer is the President & CSO of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen, a company dedicated to helping its remodeling franchisees achieve Strong Margins and a Quality of Life. doug.dwyer@dreammakerbk.com


Own Your Future: Why Franchising is a Great Fit for Veterans

The transition from veteran to civilian life can be daunting. But the grit, determination, and exactness honed in the military gives veterans a full arsenal of skills to pull from on the journey forward—including entrepreneurial pursuits.

Here’s how franchising can work for veterans, and how time in the service can work to your advantage as a business owner.

Own Your Future

Franchising Is Not Just For Millionaires

The greatest barrier (or perceived barrier) for most potential franchisees is cost. However, not only do many franchises have a lower cost of entry than you might think, but many franchisors also look for and reward the multitude of strengths veterans bring to the table.

Hundreds of franchises offer discounts or reduced ownership costs to veterans, as well as on equipment and initial inventory. Working with a franchise advisor— most often at no cost to you—can help focus your search on brands offering veteran discounts that also align with your personal goals and interests.

Franchising Can Be Affordable

Even with special discounts, franchise ownership requires an initial buy-in and additional funds to scale the business. Fortunately, there are many ways to make it an accessible and savvy investment.

Certain government loan programs through the Small Business Administration (SBA) are tailored for veterans, plus equipment leasing makes starting up a business and scaling it attainable. VA disability payments or pensions offer steady income and stability that make veterans great candidates for financing options.

Franchising Goes Beyond a Storefront

Owning your own business doesn’t need to be tied to brick-and-mortar. There are hundreds of options for franchising in the United States that touch every conceivable industry. Automotive services, pet grooming, senior care, cleaning, fitness training, and many more franchises are perfect options for owning a business and can be operated from a vehicle.

If you’re not interested in face-to-face interaction with clients, other franchises such as those in healthcare billing, IT, or coaching can be run completely online from home.

Franchising is an Approachable Way to Own a Business

One of the biggest draws of franchised businesses for many veterans is the offer of a “business in a box.” Not only do owners have proof of a franchise’s success, but they also have corporate support in everything from training to marketing, operations, and more.

These opportunities, paired with the skill and drive of military veterans, can maximize the potential for long-term success, and franchisors are looking for these qualities. For example, a veteran’s ability to follow established procedures, lead a team, and adapt to challenges can directly translate to successfully managing a franchise location, ensuring consistency and quality while driving growth.

There is a Franchise for You

For veterans looking forward to the next career stage, franchising can align with your work experience in the service, hobbies and personal pursuits, and long-term financial and lifestyle goals. A franchise advisor can help you find the perfect fit.

Liz Leonard is a certified Franchise Advisor who has helped hundreds find the right-fit franchise for their budget and aspirations. Liz authored the book Your FranchisE Fast Pass to give potential business owners a stepby-step guide for finding the ideal business. www.yourfranchisefastpass.com


Your Mid-Year Challenge

“Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.”

Owning and operating a business isn’t something that one undertakes lightly. It requires a huge leap of faith. It’s both exciting to live your entrepreneurial dream, and at the same time scary because there's no guarantee you'll succeed. But the benefits of being challenged physically, intellectually and emotionally as a business owner are in a word: ENORMOUS!

Success is created by the systematic process of setting and achieving progressively more difficult, interesting and rewarding goals. Goals are the things that you make happen when you're awake. Goals are the things which require you to get up, keep your eyes open on the road ahead and work. Goals are the things which often, if not always, come to life providing you work at them.

Your results then are a reflection of your self-esteem and demonstrate what you believe to be true about yourself and what you are capable of. They showcase the depth of your intellect, creativity and passion.

When striving for success, it isn't about toughness and strength it's about alignment with your profound values, beliefs and thoughts. Setting goals, developing a rock solid-plan, and having a significant challenge in place for your entry into this Quarter can and will help reduce the uncertainty and thus the fear, replacing it with control and confidence. That’s what you really want, isn’t it?

Get ready for a new perspective - Set your goals, write them down, set deadlines for their achievement and get busy working a plan. Let your daily watch word be action, action, ACTION!

If you've gotten this far and can acknowledge that you are capable of being, doing and having so much more, then what are you going to do differently in the THIRD QUARTER?

Remember that your journey is a gift because it provides the wisdom you will need to go out and create positive change in the world. So your commitment is to learn from your past and do better as soon as you know better. Be strong and have courage to change.

“I wish for you a life of wealth, health and happiness; a life in which you give yourself a life of patience, the virtue of reason, the value of knowledge, and the influence of faith in your own ability to dream about and achieve worthy rewards.”
- Jim Rohn

Barbara Eldridge President/ Founder of Mind Masters an organization that provides business owners a proven, repeatable process that keeps the focus on the business of success. She can be reached at (858) 467-9091 or visit www.mindmasters.com

The mission of Zero8Hundred is to proactively link military service members, recent veterans, Reservists, National Guard and spouses (including Gold Star spouses) to the broad range of resources and opportunities in their local community dedicated to helping them transition to civilian life

Zero8Hundred derives its name from the daily military ritual of raising the American flag at 0800 hours (8:00 a.m.) to signal that a new day of work has begun.

Zero8Hundred uses a Veterans Wellness Model to create & ensure a better system to ease the transition into the civilian community before, during and after leaving the armed forces

Through a unique partnership with community partners and the military, Zero8Hundred provides a one-stop approach to support transitioning service-members, veterans and their families.

legal Eagle

Straight-forward legal tips for Military and Veteran Business Owners


As the American Revolution came to an end, America was born on July 4th, 1776. The nation was founded by those who yearned for freedom. With that came innovators, individuals who wanted to start businesses, and those looking for work. American corporations started developing in the 1790s, and soon became vital to the new nation’s economy.


Although corporations date back to the 1790s, the first major corporation was the Boston Manufacturing Company, founded in 1813 by Francis Cabot Lowell, which focused on the making of cotton textiles. Lowell took the plans for his business model from England as the first corporations were created in Europe.


The 1870s proved to be a formative time for corporations in American. Oil, electricity, and the growth of railroads aided in the development of American corporations. These developments became opportunities for business ventures and created more business. During this age, the American Industrial Revolution took place. Corporate structure supplies business development and capital

that stoked the flames of the American Industrial Revolution.


Since many corporations were founded in America’s early years, the U.S. became one of the chief economic powers of the world. Corporations were incredibly easy to start. The nation was young so there were not many laws for corporations and the steps to start one were simple. Due to the lack of regulations and restrictions, Robber Barons were prominent. Robber Barons were businessmen who were considered unethical in the way they handled their businesses. Robber Barons manipulated the market, creating monopolies. This eventually threatened capitalism. However, the enactment of the antitrust legislation in the late 1800s combined with state regulation and taxation combatted these Robber Barons and their monopolies.


Corporations in American took a turn for the worst when the Great Depression hit in 1929. The Great Depression was the biggest economic crisis in the in the industrialized world. Impacting the globe, the Great

Depression lasted until 1939. Many Americans saw big corporations as the reason for the downturn. Franklin D. Roosevelt put policies in place to revitalize the country with opportunities for businesses and jobs.


After the Great Depression and World War II, corporations in America were able to rise and gain what they had lost. However, states intervened again during this time to enforce labor laws and ensure that monopolies were not dominating the market. As American citizens started to care more about the environment and making sure labor laws were enforced, activism throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s pushed for labor and environmental standards to be enacted and enforced. Despite the steady rise of corporations in America, they continue to face challenges from large global corporations in the competitive international market.


In 2020, American corporations along with the rest of the world were hit with the coronavirus. This global pandemic forced many corporations to shut down or slow their plans and instead put their energy and resources towards survival both personally and professionally. Large corporations as well as small businesses were negatively impacted by this, but throughout the pandemic, a support small business movement helped many smaller corporations survive.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation this 4th of July, we also celebrate the many businesses in the United States who drive our community, state, and national economics and provide jobs to the American people. Corporations can be a beautiful vehicle to provide jobs, support for the community, help the economy, and to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Corporations are governed by both state and federal laws, which can have negative impacts on those who do not understand corporate compliance.

If you need help navigating the complex corporate laws or determining the best asset protection strategies, we can help. Click here https://baglalaw.com/contact to schedule your consultation. Becoming a business owner, you control your own destiny, choose the people you work with, reap big rewards, challenge yourself, give back to the community, and you get to follow your passion. Knowing what you’re getting into is smart business because the responsibility of protecting your business falls on you.

Veterans Chamber of Commerce

Our American Independence & Freedom

Recognizing American independence is crucial in understanding the foundations of democratic ideals. The National Veterans Chamber of Commerce emphasizes that acknowledging this historic event honors the sacrifices made by veterans and military families who have protected these freedoms.

A Tribute to Sacrifice

The National Veterans Chamber of Commerce highlights the essential role that veterans play in maintaining the freedoms gained through independence. The recognition of American independence pays tribute to those who have served and continue to serve, ensuring that the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy continue to shine.

Inspiring Global Movements

The success of the American Revolution and the subsequent recognition of American independence served as a catalyst for other nations seeking freedom. The principles of liberty, equality, and self-determination outlined in the Declaration of Independence resonated globally, inspiring movements such as the French Revolution and independence struggles in Latin America.

Top 5 Freedoms and Liberties Americans

Enjoy Today

1. Freedom of Speech. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to express their opinions without fear of government retaliation. This freedom is practiced daily, from public protests to social media debates.

2. Freedom of Religion. Americans have the right to practice any religion or none at all, free from government interference.

3. Right to Privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, ensuring personal privacy and security.

4. Right to a Fair Trial. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a fair and speedy trial, ensuring justice and the rule of law.

5. Right to Vote The right to vote is a cornerstone of American democracy, allowing citizens to participate in the electoral process and influence government policies.

Freedom and Liberty in Practice Today

These freedoms and liberties are not just historical facts but are actively practiced and defended by Americans today.

The freedom of speech is exercised through a vibrant media landscape and civic engagement. Religious freedom is evident in the diverse religious communities thriving across the country. Privacy rights are safeguarded through legal protections and advocacy. The right to a fair trial is upheld by an independent judiciary, and the right to vote is continually defended and expanded through civic participation and reform efforts.

In conclusion.

Recognizing American independence is vital for appreciating the development of modern democratic societies and the ongoing influence of the United States. This recognition honors the sacrifices of veterans, inspires global democratic movements, strengthens international relations, and promotes economic and cultural growth.

The Veterans Show: Share your story: Be our guest on the show – click the link: www.vccsd.org/radioshow.html

If you have any ideas for a project, we would like to support your venture. Send your ideas to: veteransccsd@gmail.com

Shining a Light on Overlooked Grads Joining the Military After High School

National nonprofit honors high school graduates who are enlisting in the military, many of whom are overlooked at traditional graduation ceremonies.

Rose Fein prepares to join the ranks of the U.S. military after graduating from high school.

When Rose Fein decided to enlist in the military after graduating from high school this year (a full year early), she didn’t expect any special recognition. She just wanted to get a jump on her dreams of becoming a U.S. Marine.

But recognition is what she and some 100 other young, new military enlistees got during a recent ceremony at a grand manor in the suburbs of Philadelphia. “This event makes me feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, they want me!’” she exclaimed.

The ceremony was one of dozens held across the nation by Our Community Salutes (OCS), a national nonprofit that honors high school students who are enlisting in the U.S. Armed Services after graduation. Based in south New Jersey, OCS was shaped in part by a tragedy that rocked the area in 2010, when native son Jeremy Kane, a young lance corporal in the Marine Reserves, was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The community leapt into action, quickly organizing a funeral procession in his honor and lifting up his name in marquee letters.

But the thanks, though appreciated, came too late, according to Ken Hartman, a retired education executive and officer of the U.S. Army who is a friend of the Kane family.

Something Had to Change

Our Community Salutes celebrates 100+ high school graduates enlisting in the military at a May 7 recognition ceremony in Berlin, N.J. Hartman—whose admiration for the military stems in part from its role in liberating his father and grandparents during World War II—knew something had to change.

In 2009, he organized a ceremony to recognize young new enlistees—an effort that has since spread across the country. “We’re the first to say thank you,” Hartman says.

That message came through loud and clear at the May 7 ceremony, which took place in a grand ballroom surrounded by lush gardens. During the ceremony, a military band serenaded the audience as dignitaries delivered uplifting speeches and called out the names of new enlistees, who lined up to receive certificates and shake official hands, much like they would during a traditional graduation.

Dozens of Ceremonies

Our Community Salutes honors high school graduates in El Paso, Texas, who are enlisting in the U.S. Army.

The South Jersey event was one of roughly four dozen OCS held this spring across the country. The events are supported by volunteers and business and community leaders, including Navy Federal Credit Union, which supported more than 30 OCS ceremonies this year with volunteer support and philanthropic giving.

“We’re proud to serve alongside OCS in our mission to equip military families with financial success,” said Keith Hoskins, executive vice president of Branch Operations at Navy Federal. “OCS ceremonies give us a unique chance to connect with novice servicemembers and their families to help them get a solid start on their financial journey.”

In addition to certificates, enlistees receive a pocket guide to the U.S. Constitution and gifts from sponsors, such as rally towels and swag bags. New this year, attendees also have access to an online resource hub with tools to guide them into military life, including how to prepare for service, navigate finances, unlock educational opportunities and more.

Our Community Salutes is poised to grow, Hartman says. “Our vision is that someday, all young Americans who enlist in the military will have the respect and support they deserve.”

These articles are written and produced in partnership with the Navy Federal Credit Union.

Celebrating Heroes On and Off the Ice

From the start of our work together in 2018, we knew our partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL®) was an authentic fit. We’re like-minded organizations with not only a shared passion for the game of hockey, but also shared values of service integrity and community.

NHL Stick Tap For Service , presented by Navy Federal Credit Union, is one of the many ways our partnership with the League embodies the spirit of military appreciation. The program provides opportunities to the military community to share personal stories of how hockey has impacted their lives. Navy Federal and the NHL seek out the most impactful stories and give back to causes those Veterans and servicemembers are passionate about.

Nominees elect outstanding individuals in their community for their spirit of giving, mentorship, sacrifice, service and their love for the game of hockey. This year, we reviewed over 600 nominations to carefully select four finalists. All are either Active Duty servicemembers, Veterans or military family members or supporters.

Hockey fans know that a tap of hockey sticks between players or against the boards is a sign of applause. In honor of all those who give back, let’s meet the 2024 Stick Tap for Service finalists.

Grand Prize Winner: David Hartle

David Hartle, who actively serves as a Staff Sgt. in the U.S. Army, proves that one person’s dedication can transform an entire community. He’s stationed at Fort Moore in Georgia, and he has done tours in Afghanistan, Bulgaria and South Korea.

First runner up: Kathy West

An Air Force military spouse and an avid supporter of the Johnstown, PA hockey community, Kathy runs GearUp4Kidz, which provides free equipment, lessons, and ice time for local children aged 10-15. She’s raised around$10,000 towards equipment, ice time, coaches and more for the program.

Kathy has also spent three years as a billet mother for the Johnstown Tomahawks hockey team, where she takes in two boys a year and provides them with meals and a home away from home. Further, she’s the founder of the HNB Women’s Hockey Tournament—a two day all women tournament for teams in the midAtlantic area. She’s raised $1,000 to pay for the cost of all military spouses.

As the first runner up, Kathy receives a $10,000 donation made in her honor to support GearUp4Kidz

Second runner up: Kevin Boggs

Kevin is a recently retired, 26-year Marine Veteran and an avid supporter of the hockey and Veteran communities in Louisiana. He founded the all-military Louisiana Warriors Hockey Association, which provides a support system for those who have transitioned from military life.

Second runner up: Brian Borowski

As the grand prize winner, David wins a trip for two to a 2024 Stanley Cup Final game. A $30,000 donation is also made in his honor to Columbus Street Hockey, a non-profit founded by David that helps kids from under-resourced backgrounds learn and play street hockey, while promoting teamwork, sportsmanship, and a healthy lifestyle.

He’s also the assistant captain and treasurer of the Chattahoochee Valley Warriors, an all-military hockey club, and a coach for the Columbus Hockey Association, a local youth hockey league.

A 34-year Veteran and Army Reservist, Brian is a passionate supporter of the Fayetteville hockey community. He serves as an off-ice official for the local Fayetteville Marksmen, running the play clock or assisting in the penalty box during home games. Additionally, Brian volunteers at Artist Village Hope Mills, a local theater group in Fayetteville—helping with fundraisers, building renovation, set building and music.

As second runners-up, both Kevin and Brian get a $5,000 donation made in their honor to a charity of their choice.

On-and-off the ice, the hockey community honors the sacrifices that military members and their families make. That’s why we’re proud to be the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the NHL and create ways to honor the hard work, commitment and camaraderie of military members and their families.


Our sports managements program supports professionals striving to become leaders in the exciting athletics field. Enrolled students can complete coursework entirely online while receiving guidance from high level coaches, retired pros, and sports industry experts.


You’ve served your country, now serve your community!

Military and law enforcement have had a longstanding relationship with overlaps in training exercises, equipment, and, most important, personnel.

It is not uncommon for a service member to make the jump from the military to law enforcement as both professions look for the same characteristics; leadership, fidelity, chain of command, and teamwork are all common themes in both professions.

Quite understandably, many American military veterans often gravitate to a career in law enforcement when the time comes to rejoin the civilian workforce.

The two professions have many fundamental similarities; from the uniforms they wear with pride, to the firm command structure they serve under, to great personal risk they endure while protecting those who cannot protect themselves.


The following agencies are actively hiring & proudly support our veterans, active military and the families that keep together.

From Navy Sailor to San Francisco Police Officer

Changing careers can be exciting, exhilarating, and filled with trepidation. Meet Officer Cindy Ovares who has made the transition numerous times – from active-duty service member, to student, massage therapist, teacher, and now police officer.

The life experience she gained in those previous longterm jobs set her up to be successful today. She is doing what she’s always wanted to do – have a career that is challenging and rewarding.

Cindy was like many seniors in high school as she contemplated what she would do after graduation. When the Navy recruiter called the house looking for her brother, the recruiter instead got an eager, independent 17-year-old woman who wanted to find adventure. Just a few months later, she was off to “see the world” and start her first career.

As an Aviation Machinist’s Mate, Petty Officer Ovares was a jet engine mechanic. It was a male-dominated job, and she wanted to prove that anything a man could do, she could do better. She attended military schools in Florida and Virginia to learn her trade, and was later stationed in Lemoore, California. She was attached to VFA-22, an F/A-18 Super Hornet squadron, that deployed on ships. After serving four years on active duty, she earned Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, and chose to leave the Navy to attend college.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and being a fluent Spanish speaker, she was hired to be a high school Spanish teacher. The job was gratifying; but also, under resourced, understaffed, and had little room to grow professionally. She wanted something new and challenging, was drawn to the community where she grew up, so, in her late 30s she applied to be a police officer.

“Being able to talk to people, figure out what they are going through, and what they need is a huge portion of the job. I enjoy interacting with the public, and engaging in what I call verbal judo.”
- Officer Cindy Ovares

Officer Ovares was accepted to the San Francisco Police Academy and has been an officer for the last three years. She is a foot patrol officer working in the Tenderloin District – a 50-block area that has a storied history, and has been known for homelessness, drugs, and crime.

“Being able to talk to people, figure out what they are going through, and what they need is a huge portion of the job. I enjoy interacting with the public, and engaging in what I call verbal judo,” said Officer Ovares.

For Officer Ovares, the parallels between serving in the military and serving in law enforcement made the transition go smoothly:

• Routine – You know what to expect before your shift begins (what time to report, what uniform to wear, the structure of the day).

• Camaraderie – The bond between fellow officers is like the bond between your fellow military brothers and sisters.

• Variety – Every day is different with different assignments and duties, so the job is never boring.

• Benefits – Include a competitive salary, paid vacation days, floating holidays, and sick days, healthcare, retirement, and special pay for certain assignments and being bilingual.

As a Latina giving back to her community, she admits that the job comes with highs and lows. Officer Ovares recommends a career in law enforcement for those military members looking to make a smooth transition to a new chapter.

To learn more about the San Francisco Police Department, or to connect with recruiter, go to: www.sanfranciscopolice.org/your-sfpd/careers

SDPD Ride Along: A Story of Two Marines

When I asked to go on a ride along with the San Diego Police Department, making a special request for any veterans-turned-cops, I expected a really serious, possibly dangerous, afternoon of shadowing our city’s toughest crime fighters.

What I got was an afternoon of heartfelt service to our San Diego community, honorable humility and a lot of respect.

When I asked whether former Marine Sergeant Major, Mark Wright, and his partner, former Marine Staff Sergeant, Sean Bunch, had rank or titles he said their titles were just San Diego police officers. They are relatively new partners, but act like they’ve known each other for years, which is usually the case when you get Marines together.

Wright is a newer addition to the force, coming on board two years ago, with Bunch only having two years left.

Currently, these brothers-in-arms spend their days patrolling the entirety of Balboa Park.

Although neither men are taking fire or kicking in the enemy’s door on this beat, like during their time in Iraq or Afghanistan, they still work hard to serve their local community. Service which can range from tracking down criminals to answering questions from lost pedestrians, to giving out stickers to kids and never backing down from a chance to turn on those flashing red and blues just to make one of them smile.

Most of our particular day was cruising around beautiful Balboa Park running car tags to see if they were current, from cars not displaying proper plates and placards to those double parked. Bunch says they often catch parole violators or even stolen cars doing just this. I was struck as I watched both officers go out of their way to look in and around vehicles to find plates or disability placards not displayed correctly so as to avoid issuing superfluous tickets.

“We try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” said Wright. “We’re not out to get anybody.”

Although, both officers confirm that enforcing even the most basic of park rules can yield large payoffs. During a recent patrol Bunch spotted an individual smoking in the park, which is illegal. As he circled back round, the individual turned and rapidly tried to walk away, which activated immediate suspicion. He was detained and came back with a warrant for numerous kidnapping and child molestation charges.

Both men say a lot of what they do is talk with museum owners and those living in the neighborhoods surrounding the park about their concerns. A shared concern by all is the park’s homeless population.

Bunch says their posture towards the homeless is mostly that of assistance, adding there are many resources available for those who would take them.

Officer Sean Bunch
Officer Mark Wright

The city spends a lot of money on resources,” said Bunch. “The biggest problem we run into is whether or not the [homeless] people want them, and a lot of them don’t.”

Thus, the men tend to run into the same issues with the same people pretty often. Although frustrating, they have learned that respect goes a long way when challenged with these repeat offenders. Bunch recalls spotting one such offender in the park, who was in violation of his parole and wanted on warrant. He was unable to get to the offender immediately, but still apprehended him with a verbal request. The parolee waited patiently to be hand-cuffed and arrested, simply out of the respect he held for the law man.

“Being respectful of everyone despite their lot in life goes a long way in this job,” said Wright.

Both men say a huge part of their work is being able to connect and communicate with the myriad of people they meet daily.

Bunch says he feels he and Wright are lucky to come to the force later in life, given it means they have a wider frame of reference for those they meet and serve daily. “We deal with people who are going through all kinds of things in life,” said Bunch. “And it’s helpful to be able to say, ‘hey I know what you are going through, I’ve been there.”

As the day progressed, I realized that both gentlemen definitely had a long list of tough and unique life experiences to pull from. Both proudly served the United States Marines for years, traveling to war and all over the world, experiences that yield much wisdom as well as many a story.

Bunch, for instance, did not come to the force straight from the Marines, but from Hollywood. Surprisingly, he is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, working as a military advisor on various productions, like Lonestar 911, and appearing in some as well, such as one of the most recent Men in Black movies.

“I grew up outside of LA,” said Bunch. “So, I’ve always just kind of been around the business and found a place for myself there with all my military experience.”

Bunch hopes to return to work in Hollywood after he leaves the force, bringing with him a new level of experience and respect.

Wright, who retired from the Marines as a Sergeant Major never worked in Hollywood, but he does have plenty of stories about being a proud grandfather, father and new amputee. When I entered the Central Division Station and met him, he said he was just getting back to work after some time off after losing his leg.

Wright remained unscathed during his over-20-years in service, overseas deployments and endless combat train ups. It wasn’t until after service that he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident late one foggy night a little over a year ago. Wright says it had been an eventful second watch and he was leaving the station about 2 AM on his motorcycle when it happened.

“It was only about two minutes from work,” said Wright. “I was coming around a curve and entered into what I thought was fog, and as I’m entering, I see a headlight and side mirror in my lane.”

That headlight and mirror became an entire car that was blocking Wright’s entire side of the road.

“I was a heuy crew chief in the Marines and reverted to my training from that, grabbed my shoulders, braced for impact and went flying like a human lawn dart over my handlebars,” said Wright.

Wright landed in the ditch on the side of the road. He says he realized immediately that he had a back and leg issue. He learned that a bystander had called 911, but he requested they call back and state that the injured motorcycle rider was a policeman with the San Diego Police Department and expedite services. This one request would become pivotal in saving Wright’s life.

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“What I didn’t know at that time was that I had severed two arteries in my leg, and I was bleeding out,” said Wright.

What Wright would learn later is his heel had also been torn off on the wrecked car as he sailed past it into the ditch. After much pain and many surgeries, Wright would finally lose his leg from the knee down. says he doesn’t let it get him down, though. He’s proud to continue to serve as one of our city’s finest.

Both he and Bunch take much pride in their time as Marines and as San Diego Police Officers. Each officer comes from strong military stock, with Wright’s grandfather being a World War II veteran and Prisoner of War and Bunch’s father a decorated veteran of Vietnam.

All in all, this Army vet’s afternoon with two Marines was an impressive one. Both seasoned public servants, these honorable men have discovered you must give respect to get it, that violence is often not the answer and the most important thing to keep in mind along the way, is a good, human dose of empathy.


For more information visit www.joinSDPDnow.com or email us at SDPDrecruiting@pd.sandiego.gov

Officer Sean Bunch - Amber Robinson (Homeland Magazine) - Officer Mark Wright

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