A Tribute to Fallen Veterans

Today, on the 3rd anniversary of the death of the American Sniper, Chris Kyle, I would like to write briefly about the significance of Chris Kyle and others like him.


Chris Kyle is obviously a famous and heroic American figure, and not just because Clint Eastwood made a movie about him.  I admire Chris Kyle for two reasons:

  1. He did his duty not only well, but went above and beyond what was asked of him in order to save others` lives.  If you have any doubt about this, I suggest you read this short article at Military.com.  Chris Kyle placed the safety and lives of fellow soldiers above his own and risked his life so others could live.
  2. Even after returning from war, Chris spent time trying to help others with PTSD and other ailments.  He lost his life doing this.

What is more important to remember, however, are all of those unknown soldiers who lost their lives.  Chris Kyle is a martyr and a hero and his name will always be remembered.  But there are so many others who gave their lives and will never be remembered by name.  By honoring Chris Kyle we honor them as well.

Here in the tiny Texas town where I live, there is a Veterans MemorialVeterans-Memorial-in-Tuleta-Texas dedicated to the citizens from here who served.  Every town across America can say the same.  We honor them on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July, but on a day like today they are also worth remembering.  Worth remembering every day.

Chris Kyle, Pat Tillman, George Washington, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Guy Gruters, and John McCain are just a few of my heroes from American military history who are famous for what they did and for how they served.

But we have all lost friends; brothers and sisters-in-arms whose names are not as well known.  For me, the names John Boria, Cristel Chavez, Steve Reich, Troy Gilbert, and Dennis Rando are just as memorable and important, although their names are all but unknown to the world.  But not to me and not to those who served with them or knew them.  All gave their lives while serving in war, or training to serve.  I remember them, miss them and thank them for their sacrifice.

Most gave some, some gave all.

Thank You for Serving

So today I would like to say a simple thank you to everyone out there who currently serves our great nation.  It is a never-ending story when it comes to service.  Out go the seasoned veterans; in come the new recruits.  If it were not for those who continue to enlist and continue to receive commissions, we would not be able to survive as a nation with an all-volunteer military. The draft would come back and that would be difficult for a nation where we need people who WANT to serve, not just people to fill slots. We are SO much better off with an all-volunteer military and I thank everyone who is volunteering today.

For those who are veterans and no longer serving, thank you as well.  Our successes in recent wars, battles and contingency operations have a lot to do with technology and investment in our military, but it is moreso about the PEOPLE who have served and their integrity, loyalty and selflessness.

So today`s post is a short and simple thank you note.  I saw this picture yesterday and it pretty much sums it up.  Through thick and thin, through snow and rain, on mountains and on seas, in faraway lands and closer to home–they serve and protect.  Every hour of every day.   Thank you.

Tomb-of-Unknown-Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier During Winter Storm

Faith and Forgiveness in a Vietnam POW Camp

I had the great honor of planning a dinner to celebrate Veterans Day in 2014 on behalf of a veterans group and I had the difficult task of finding a suitable guest speaker.  I wanted to bring in someone who brought an inspirational message that applied even beyond the battlefield, one that could be adapted to all aspects of life.  I spent some time doing a search online and only one individual`s name got my attention: Guy Gruters.

Veterans-Day-Event-featuring-Guy-Gruters POW
Veterans Day 2014, Guy Gruters (2nd from right)

Interestingly enough, Guy and I attended the same school and both served in the U.S. Air Force.  We were also both pilots, but the similarities end there.  I never had to go through the gruesome ordeal that Guy did, for I did not live in a Vietnamese POW camp for 5 years.

What amazed me about Guy was his humility.  Here was a man who had lived through an ordeal that only a few hundred people in this country had ever experienced.  He had to be tougher than John Wayne could have ever dreamed of being just to survive one day, and he was there for 5 long years.  But a friendlier, more humble man I will probably never meet.  He was also a fantastic speaker.

You could have heard a pin drop that night.  The other amazing thing about Guy was how candid he was about his ordeal.  He spoke about it like a historian reporting about his research.  You would never dream that he was speaking from personal experience, if you did not know better.  I have met people who cannot even speak about their horrific experiences in war.  Guy was nothing like that at all.  He told us everything he went through and described it vividly.

I am reading his book now and I highly recommend it.  It is called Locked Up With God and I am proud to say that Guy signed my copy when I met him.  Guy is definitely a hero of mine and someone I think we can all learn from.


What got Guy through that POW camp, along with his brothers-in-arms, was his faith in God.  He actually says that it wasn`t until he FORGAVE his captors that he found peace and joy inside the camp.  I will let you read the rest in Guy`s own words to learn more, should you so choose.

I respect and honor ALL veterans who have served, but it is true that we each had different experiences.  Guy`s experience was nothing short of miraculous.  He and all others who lived through that ordeal, along with those who never returned.  It is a truly inspirational and amazing story that I give the highest of recommendations to, for those who are interested in reading his story.

Veterans, We Have A Problem

Veterans, we have a problem.  Here is the problem…there is a stigma Flag in C-130 at Nightassociated with being a veteran.  The byproduct of all the calls for helping veterans, veteran related charities, VA disability ratings, etc. is that corporate America sees us as damaged goods.  I have seen it first hand.  A hesitancy to hire veterans.  (Please read my blog post “Why is it so Hard to Find a Veteran Job Opportunity?” for more detail on this subject.)  I have watched hiring managers faces when I ask them why they don`t hire more veterans.  Their expressions betray their thoughts. They are scared to hire veterans.  They don`t see the benefit of making a push to hire veterans.  They want to support veterans, as long as they don`t have to be the one doing the hiring.

My anecdote is not simply one man`s opinion–there is statistical proof of this serious problem.  One only need to click on this link to the Call of Duty Endowment home page and scroll down a few seconds to find unemployment numbers that support and confirm this trend, with the unemployment percentage for young, post-911 veterans showing to be three times the national average, according to U.S. government figures.

What`s the Solution?


There is no great solution.  We have to keep plugging along and persevere, despite the stigma.  Despite the fact that we are pre-judged.  

I watched a video the other day that I cannot get out of my head.  This is a bit of a digression, but I think everyone should see this video.  Steve Harvey, he of the botched Miss Universe crowning fame, posted this video from his Family Feud show and it is truly inspirational.  Please take 6 minutes to watch this.  I think you`ll thank me if you do.

Steve Harvey talks about “jumping”.  About taking a risk.  Daring to be great.  It`s not about the job itself, when veterans try to find work.  It`s about building confidence.  I by no means think that when a veteran finds a job, his or her worries are over.  It`s difficult to make a living with only a job as income.  I`ve tried it.  I`ve been there.

What Should We Do?


I can only tell you what I am trying to do and that is to find other sources of income to supplement my occupation.  To pursue my dreams using my gift, as Steve Harvey advised.  It may never lead to wealth, for sure, but there is more to life than wealth.  I want to succeed of course, but success to me means leading and helping other veterans.  If we can`t do this together, then I don`t want to do it at all.  Leave no man or woman behind on the battlefield.  In civilian life as in military life.  We have to stick together.

I do recommend starting a home based business of some sort, or other source of income, even as you look for a job or work the one you have now.  Please take the time to read my blog post on Part-Time Jobs for Military Veterans–Work From Home!  I think it is one of my most important posts on this website and it will hopefully provide you with some new ideas.

As always, thank you for your service and God bless America.  Have a great night and contact me anytime at dan@adviceforveterans.com, or on Twitter @vets_v

Change & Chaos in the Life of a Veteran

We all deal with change, and yet we try to plan through it all.  Plan for retirement, even though there is no guarantee that we`ll even live long enough to retire.  Plan for our kids to go to college, even though they may not even want to go to college.  Plan for an uncertain future.

C-130-at-sunset

I admire those who can simply plug through it all and fight off the adversity that will inevitably come.   I admire those who keep self-doubt from stopping them, because our own minds are probably our worst enemy when you consider that all other creatures on this planet simply live to survive.  Human beings are not satisified with simple survival.  There has to be more.

I know that suicide is a major problem in the veteran community, as is homelessness, poverty, unemployment, mental illness and so many other maladies.  I pray that those veterans who are suffering right now find the relief and peace of mind they so richly deserve.  We all battle personal demons, but some veterans may never get over what they`ve seen and done in war.   Most gave some, some gave all.  We recognize those who gave all on the battlefield, but even those who make it home physically don`t always truly make it back.  They may still have left it all on the battlefield.

For those who ask, there is help.  I think the VA is getting better.  The new VA secretary, Robert McDonald, is a West Point grad and former P&G CEO.  He`s not a career bureaucrat and he is a veteran.  The VA may never get where it should be, but my personal experience with the VA has been good.  There are so many private organizations focused on veterans as well.

For those who are suffering right now and do not know about it, there is a VA Crisis Line you can call for immediate help.  Help is available–click on the link or call 1-800-273-8255.  Do it for the ones who love you and the ones who depend on you, if not for yourself.  We veterans, we bands of brothers, need to help one another.  God bless us all.

War Is An Ugly Thing

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”–philosopher John Stuart Mill

Blackhawk Being Loaded in Iraq

Yes war is an ugly thing.  This we all know.  But one of the ugliest things about it is that when Americans come back from war, they are not given the support and opportunities that they deserve.  That they`ve earned by fighting for the protection of the freedoms we all enjoy.  There is no excuse for companies and hiring managers not giving a fair shot to ALL veterans.  Veterans have proved capable in moments of sheer terror, intense stress, and violent chaos.  They certainly should be given the opportunity to perform in the business world, manufacturing, education or any other field they choose to pursue.

I had to memorize that John Stuart Mill quote when I first joined the service.  It was not actually my favorite quote at the time, but for some reason it is the one that has stuck with me all these years.  Rather than look at it as a criticism of those who choose not to join the military and fight for our freedoms, I choose to look at it as a tribute to the “better men” and women of our society who keep us free.  Let us please take a stand and pay them back for that service.  Not with handouts or with charity, necessarily, but with support and offers of opportunity.

Let me remind everyone again of fantastic organizations such as the Call of Duty Endowment, brought to you by the company that created the new game Call of Duty: Black Ops III.  Organizations like this help veterans find jobs.  They also help companies find veterans who can help them become stronger companies. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Thank you to employers who support veterans and to organizations who help veterans.  Thank you most of all to veterans, for the sacrifices you have made for our great nation.

Veterans Day Hiring Pledge

First off, let me say happy Veterans Day to everyone out there–veterans, active duty military, military spouses, national guardsmen, reservists and all of our supporters as well.American Flag with Blue Sky Backdrop  I attended a Veterans Day tribute ceremony at my daughter`s elementary school this morning and it was very moving.  I`m happy to report that there are still schools and communities that take the time to pay tribute to those who have served and those who still serve.  America is still great because of our veterans and patriots.  Thank you to those who respect the military and veterans and who say “thank you” to veterans.  We appreciate the simple words of thanks more than you know.

Take the Pledge


I recently watched a documentary called, “Jobs for G.I.s: An AT&T Original Documentary.”  I found it on the “Audience” channel on DirecTV, for those of you who are interested in watching it, and I highly recommend this (click here to watch the 45 second trailer on YouTube).  It documents the challenges faced by veterans looking for work in Los Angeles, California, but these are the same challenges faced by veterans everywhere.  It was heartbreaking to watch people in the documentary visit the homeless to ask who were the veterans.  It is alarming how many veterans end up homeless and this is something we must put an end to in this country.  People who are willing to die for their country should receive more support than they are currently getting when they return.

I ask everyone out there who reads this post to take a pledge to help veterans in any way you can to find jobs and transition to civilian life.  Simply pointing someone in the right direction may be enough to change their life for the better.  The documentary shows how many veterans are not even aware of the help that is available.

Help IS Available


Two organizations that help veterans find jobs are the Call of Duty Endowment and Hire Heroes USA.  In addition to helping with a job search, they also help veterans write resumes, network, find training and education they need to be more competitive in the work force.  I have personal experience with Hire Heroes USA and they are a great organization, and I have heard wonderful things about the Call of Duty Endowment also.  PLEASE help veterans find organizations like these and ask for the assistance they need and deserve.  Only if we all pitch in will every veteran who deserves an opportunity get one.

Please feel free to contact me at dan@adviceforveterans.com should there be anything I can help with or questions I can answer.  Even if I do not know the answer, I will help you find one, I can promise you that.

Happy Veterans Day everyone!

From Civilian to Soldier…and back

One of my favorite people in American History is Henry Knox. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Henry Knox was a book store owner in Boston when the American Revolution kicked off.  He had no military training whatsoever and only knew what he read in books.  However, that did not stop him from becoming a General in the Continental Army and our first Secretary of War under President George Washington.

Henry Knox completed one of the most astounding feats in U.S. military history.  He volunteered to bring approximately 60 tons of cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in New York all the way to Boston in the dead of winter.  People forget how difficult tranportation was in the 1770s, but ox drawn sleds were what he had to go with.  Not to mention he had to cross numerous bodies of water.  Pretty good for a book store owner.  He completed the task and became one of George Washington`s most trusted officers in the process.

(For those of you history buffs out there, like me, a couple of great books that include stories about Henry Knox are 1776 by David McCullough and Washington`s Circle by Jeanne and David Heidler.)

Citizen Soldiers


It is part of our military history that citizen soldiers are essential and critical to success.  Beginning with the French & Indian War and all the way up to present day, with the Reserves and the National Guard, it is the part-time soldier who makes or breaks our American military. I have so much respect for reservists and guardsmen and they do not get the credit they deserve.  Henry Knox was one of the first in a long line of citizen soldiers who made this country great.

What makes the citizen soldier so unique is that he or she does not get paid as a full-time soldier and must earn a living in the civilian world like everybody else.  But when called to service, they are the ones who fight our wars alongside career military officers and soldiers.  George Washington himself was basically a reservist.  He only served when called upon to do so.  He was actually a farmer by trade, as were most Revolutionary military officers.

Reservists and guardsmen need help too.  They have to support their families as civilians, most of the time, and then they are called to war.  They sacrifice much, as do active duty military people.

Green Light a Vet


During this Veterans Day season, let us not forget the citizen soldier. Green Light a Vet The National Guard, the Reserves, the Henry Knox`es of this day and age.  The “green light a vet” movement is spreading right now and I call you all to join this tribute to our military and our veterans.  Active duty, guardsmen, reservists–we appreciate you all.  Thank you for what you do every day for our great nation, and God Bless America.

 

Service Dogs for Veterans

I remember my first deployment to the Middle East back in the fall of American Flag in Texas Wind2002.  I was planning missions in Afghanistan during the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom, working at the Air Operations Center in Saudi Arabia.  We had Patriot missile batteries posted right outside our building, pointed at Iraq, in anticipation of Saddam Hussein launching “SCUD” missiles in our direction.  A colleague said to me one day, “when the war kicks off, this place is going to get chemmed.”  We had to carry our chemical gear with us wherever we went.  Everyone thought that when Saddam got attacked, he would retaliate by resorting to chemical warfare.

The good news is that the chemical warfare everyone feared did not happen.  Saddam was ousted and the invasion was initially successful.

The bad news is that it has been a long 14 years since September 11th, 2001 and we are still fighting battles against terrorists across the globe.  The war wages on and there are veterans returning every day with severe injuries, PTSD and hundreds of other ailments, in addition to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.  We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

Help From Man`s Best Friend


Recently, I was sent an article that truly made me happy.  I was unaware of the value of service dogs to disabled veterans.  I`ve always had dogs and they comforted my family when I was deployed, but the dogs I`m talking about now are very special.  Dogs that are specifically trained to assist and provide comfort to veterans who need support.  Please read this article from Petco for details.  It is a truly fabulous article about a wonderful program.

Here is some more information about the program.  It is programs like this that make me proud to be an American and even more determined to continue to write for and about veterans, our true American heroes.

Click to Enlarge Image


Service Dogs: Helping Those Who Served Our Country

 

Managing Expectations when Transitioning from Military to Civilian

One of the major issues we all have to deal with when transitioning C-17 Globemaster Landing in Iraqfrom military life to the civilian world is expectations.  Especially as they pertain to income, benefits, bonuses, etc.  It is true that few people get rich in the military and pretty much none on military pay alone.  But we forget the little things we don`t have to worry about while serving:  health care, medical insurance, housing allowance.  All of those things that are taken care of for us when we serve.

The Civilian World


The civilian world is different.  When my daughter was born, we spent a month and a half in the hospital and did not pay a dime because of TriCare.  That doesn`t happen in the civilian world.  Tax free, hazard pay, flight pay, variable housing allowance.  It was difficult to get used to not having these things anymore.

That`s not to say that military people don`t deserve those little perks.  I wholeheartedly agree that people who risk their lives for their country deserve all that and more.  If a congressman who serves one lousy 2 year term gets a pension for life (which he does), what our men and women who serve receive pales in comparison and it`s wrong.

But now that I`m out, I realize that those who DID serve, but do so no longer, receive much less support and it is a difficult job market.  Finding a job with great benefits is hard to do.  Finding a job with great benefits and lasting til retirement is almost impossible to do.  Inevitably, a for-profit company will find a reason to get rid of you if you start making too much money.

Be Ready


I only mention this as a warning.  Be ready.  Temper your expectations for salary, position, responsibilities, etc.  You may very well find a great job making more money than you were making when you were in.  I truly hope and pray that you do.  But it didn`t happen for me and I have accepted jobs that I was completely overqualified for.  I swallowed my pride and did what I had to do to support my family.  I have no regrets when it comes to that and take pride in doing whatever it took to put food on the table.

Once again, having supplemental income through a home based business is something worth looking into, whether you are getting ready to leave the military or you already have. Please read my recent post on this subject to learn more!