Here's how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
(Photo:DVNF.org)


The business world seems to have realized that veterans make great entrepreneurs. Profiles of vets starting coffee shops, tech support companies, landscaping services, security firms, and a whole host of other businesses appear across the web on a frequent basis these days.

This should not be a great surprise. There are nearly 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., representing almost 9 percent of all businesses nationwide.

And, a study by the Kauffman Foundation, a well-respected entrepreneur support organization, indicates that approximately 25 percent (some say as high as 45 percent) of all active duty personnel want to start their own businesses upon leaving the service.

So, what makes veterans such successful entrepreneurs?

It is finally being recognized that the attitude, training, and skills gained from military service, such as discipline, hard work, a commitment to accomplishing the mission, the ability to both lead a team and function as a member of a team, and, most important, the almost innate ability to immediately pivot from plans that aren’t working to plans that do, are valuable traits that make for a successful entrepreneur.

Indeed, the Kauffman Foundation states that veterans’ “commitment to excellence, attention to detail, strategic planning skills and focus on success are the same traits that make business owners successful.” And, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, in their book, “Start-Up Nation,” say the main reason Israel is one of the most entrepreneurial nations on earth on a per capita basis is the country’s compulsory military service, which creates an environment for hard work and a common commitment to accomplish the mission.

But, even though veterans have received excellent training in the military in the skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, not enough younger veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are choosing to start their own businesses. And, we don’t know why.

After World War II, nearly one-half of all returning veterans started their own businesses—but, by 2012, that rate had dropped to less that 6 percent. Even more important, just over 7 percent of all current veteran-owned businesses are started by veterans under 35 years of age. The rest are started by older vets.

This makes some sense. Personnel mustering out of the Armed Forces after 20 years or so have a pension that gives them a financial cushion to take the risk of starting a new business. And, older vets retiring from a traditional job at around 65 years of age, and who are looking for something else to do, would most likely have their house paid off and their kids out of college, giving them the financial means to start a new business without risking their family’s financial future.

But, it is the lack of younger veterans who are choosing entrepreneurship as a viable career path that is the critical issue in veteran entrepreneurship today.

Fortunately, over the past several years, there has been a burgeoning industry that has sprung up to help veterans who want to start their own businesses. Veteran led incubators and accelerators, as well as university and community college programs, government services, online resources, and community-based organizations have all answered the call to help aspiring veteran entrepreneurs realize their dream of owning and operating their own businesses.

While it is not possible to list all of the resources available to help veterans–and, particularly, younger veterans–who want to start businesses, a small sample of these programs in each of the categories mentioned is provided below:

  • Veteran Led Incubators—Bunker Labs (https://bunkerlabs.org) is probably the best known and most successful veteran led incubator in the country. While headquartered in Chicago, it has expanded to eleven cities around the nation. Its Chicago location is in the 1871 incubator facility, which gives veterans the crucial opportunity to interact with non-veterans who are creating new businesses. The “Bunker in a Box” program (http://bunkerinabox.org) enables veterans who are not near one of its urban locations to get some of the basic tools necessary to start a new business.
  • Veteran Led Accelerators—Vet-Tech (http://vet-tech.us) is the nation’s leading accelerator for veteran-owned businesses. Located at Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA, it has an extensive network of financial, government, and management resources to bring a veteran-owned business to its next level of success.
  • University Programs—Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (http://ebv.vets.syr.edu) is one of the most extensive programs in higher education for veteran entrepreneurship. This program is offered at eight other colleges and universities around the nation.C
  • Community Colleges—Community colleges around the nation offer veteran entrepreneurship courses and programs, typically through their small business development centers. Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina offers a Veterans Entrepreneurship Advantage Course (http://www.waketech.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/build-your-business/entrepreneurship-initiatives) that is representative of these types of programs.
  • Government Services—The SBA’s Boots to Business program (http://boots2business.org) is an example of the type of program offered by the government to transitioning service members to give them the basics in starting a new business.
  • Online Resources—VeToCEO (http://www.vettoceo.org) is a free online training program that assists veterans in leveraging their skills to start or buy a business and run it successfully. The American Legion Entrepreneur Video Series (
    ) is another no-cost source to give aspiring veteran entrepreneurs at least a basic introduction to starting and running a business.
  • Community-Based Organizations—SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is an example of a community-based organization that is supporting veteran entrepreneurs with their Veteran Fast Launch Initiative (https://www.score.org/content/veteran-fast-launch-initiative).

Veterans interested in starting a business should research what resources are available to them in their local communities, and then pick a program that fits the type of business they are interested in creating.

Given all of the resources that are currently available to veterans interested in starting businesses, what does the future of veteran entrepreneurship look like?

It looks pretty robust.

There are only two cautions that need to be mentioned about support for entrepreneurship initiatives for veterans:

The first is that many of these veteran entrepreneur support programs are relatively new—within the last couple of years, or so. The proof of their efficacy—of their value and worth—will be when they produce long-term, sustainable and profitable veteran-owned businesses—and, by long-term, I mean businesses that are in existence for at least five years, at a minimum. Some of these support programs are so new that not enough time has passed where this can be determined.

The second “caution”, if you will, would actually be a good problem to have. While there is no evidence that this is presently occurring, there could come a time in the future when there are actually more veteran entrepreneur support programs than there are veterans to fill them. This will become evident when these programs begin to admit non-veterans in order to maintain their viability.

But, for now, it’s all “blue skies and smooth sailing” for veterans who want to start businesses and the programs that support them.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
Paul Dillon is the head of Dillon Consulting Services, LLC, a firm that specializes in serving the veteran community with offices in Durham and Chicago. For more visit his website here.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Friday, which means you’re one week closer to a DD-214. Here are 13 memes to kick off your weekend:


1. Passed is passed (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

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Now it’s time to celebrate.

2. It’s only a winter wonderland when you’re sleighing (via Air Force Nation).

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

SEE ALSO: This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

3. Chief doesn’t care. Figure it out (via Bangor Correctional Facility).

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
Maybe if you reboot again.

4. Hey, Carl. All those jokes that were so funny?

(via Pop Smoke)

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Probably should’ve checked to see if staff sergeant was laughing.

5. When the lieutenant finally gets to correct the chief:

(via Air Force Nation)

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
Just wait till the next time you need something … sir.

6. The saltiest sailor who ever salted:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

7. If you’re story starts with, “In boot camp we …” no one wants to hear it (via Coast Guard Memes).

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

8. When you’re headed to the field but you need that iced mocha:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

9. Til Valhalla!

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
There’s no mistress like the sea, right?

10. Surprisingly accurate.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
Except the haircuts. Really, specialist? A pony tail?

11. The city that never sleeps …

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
… except when chief isn’t watching.

12. Only the Air Force would think their base is supposed to be as good as a theme park (via Air Force Nation).

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

13. Kind of makes me want to see other senior ISIS notebooks.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
10 bucks says Baghdadi’s is Pokemon.

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13 steps to putting U.S. Navy warheads on ISIS foreheads

We see a lot of FLIR footage showing bad guys blowing up, but what really goes into schwacking ISIS on a regular and persistent basis?  Here’s a quick look at the life of a bomb from birth to boom.


1. After the bomb is manufactured it is trucked to a military ammo depot.

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2. When the aircraft carrier is ready to go to sea, it loads some of the ordnance — tailored for the planned mission — pierside.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

3. The rest of it is loaded closer to the war zone using underway replenishment.

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USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the middle of an ammo onload (using both vertrep and unrep). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. As the aviators plan the strikes in the carrier’s intelligence center, the “ordies” in the magazine many decks below build the bombs they’ve requested, adding the appropriate fin kits and fuses to the bodies of the weapons.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Once built, the bombs are wheeled to the ordnance elevator and taken up to the hangar bay.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

6. The bombs are inventoried and then taken to the flight deck and staged behind the carrier’s island.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

7. As launch time approaches, squadron ordies wheel the ordnance to their jets.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee)

8. Bombs are uploaded onto the airplane’s weapons racks using good ol’ fashioned muscle power.

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee)

9. Aircrew check with the ordies to make sure everything’s good-to-go before cranking the jets up for launch.

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Cmdr. Chad Vincelette, executive officer of the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, speaks with an aviation ordnanceman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) before his flight to support Operation Enduring Freedom. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park)

10. Once the jet is positioned on the catapult for launch, pilots show their hands above the canopy rail while ordies pull the arming pins.

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Ordie pulls the pin arming a laser Maverick hanging from an F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

11. Launch ’em!

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

12. “Pickle, pickle, pickle . . .”

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses
An F/A-18C (also loaded with Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and HARM anti radar missiles) dropping a 1,000-pound bomb. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

13. Special delivery for Mr. ISIS!

Here’s how to join the 2.4 million vets who own their own businesses

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To understand Chinese expansionism, look to the Opium Wars

In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.


Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.

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British iron steamship ‘Nemesis’ destroys a Chinese junk at the Second Battle of Chuenpi. | Edward Duncan painting

The Qing Dynasty, founded by Manchurian clans in 1644, expanded China’s borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.

Foreigners — even on trade ships — were prohibited entry into Chinese territory.

The exception to the rule was in Canton, the southeastern region centered on modern-day Guangdong Province, which adjoins Hong Kong and Macao. Foreigners were allowed to trade in the Thirteen Factories district in the city of Guangzhou, with payments made exclusively in silver.

The British gave the East India Company a monopoly on trade with China, and soon ships based in colonial India were vigorously exchanging silver for tea and porcelain. But the British had a limited supply of silver.

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European factories in Canton. | William Daniell painting

Opium war

Starting in in the mid-1700s, the British began trading opium grown in India in exchange for silver from Chinese merchants. Opium — an addictive drug that today is refined into heroin — was illegal in England, but was used in Chinese traditional medicine.

However, recreational use was illegal and not widespread. That changed as the British began shipping in tons of the drug using a combination of commercial loopholes and outright smuggling to get around the ban.

Chinese officials taking their own cut abetted the practice. American ships carrying Turkish-grown opium joined in the narcotics bonanza in the early 1800s. Consumption of opium in China skyrocketed, as did profits.

The Daoguang Emperor became alarmed by the millions of drug addicts — and the flow of silver leaving China. As is often the case, the actions of a stubborn idealist brought the conflict to a head. In 1839 the newly appointed Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu instituted laws banning opium throughout China.

He arrested 1,700 dealers, and seized the crates of the drug already in Chinese harbors and even on ships at sea. He then had them all destroyed. That amounted to 2.6 million pounds of opium thrown into the ocean. Lin even wrote a poem apologizing to the sea gods for the pollution.

Angry British traders got the British government to promise compensation for the lost drugs, but the treasury couldn’t afford it. War would resolve the debt.

But the first shots were fired when the Chinese objected to the British attacking one of their own merchant ships.

Chinese authorities had indicated they would allow trade to resume in non-opium goods. Lin Zexu even sent a letter to Queen Victoria pointing out that as England had a ban on the opium trade, they were justified in instituting one too.

It never reached her, but eventually did appear in the Sunday Times.

Instead, the Royal Navy established a blockade around Pearl Bay to protest the restriction of free trade … in drugs. Two British ships carrying cotton sought to run the blockade in November 1839. When the Royal Navy fired a warning shot at the second, The Royal Saxon, the Chinese sent a squadron of war junks and fire-rafts to escort the merchant.

HMS Volage‘s Captain, unwilling to tolerate the Chinese “intimidation,” fired a broadside at the Chinese ships. HMS Hyacinth joined in. One of the Chinese ships exploded and three more were sunk. Their return fire wounded one British sailor.

Seven months later, a full-scale expeditionary force of 44 British ships launched an invasion of Canton. The British had steam ships, heavy cannon, Congreve rockets and infantry equipped with rifles capable of accurate long range fire. Chinese state troops — “bannermen” — were still equipped with matchlocks accurate only up to 50 yards and a rate of fire of one round per minute.

Antiquated Chinese warships were swiftly destroyed by the Royal Navy. British ships sailed up the Zhujiang and Yangtze rivers, occupying Shanghai along the way and seizing tax-collection barges, strangling the Qing government’s finances. Chinese armies suffered defeat after defeat.

When the Qing sued for peace in 1842, the British could set their own terms. The Treaty of Nanjing stipulated that Hong Kong would become a British territory, and that China would be forced to establish five treaty ports in which British traders could trade anything they wanted with anybody they wanted to. A later treaty forced the Chinese to formally recognize the British as equals and grant their traders favored status.

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An 1858 drawing by Thomas Allom from ‘The Chinese Empire Illustrated’

More war, more opium

Imperialism was on the upswing by the mid-1800s. France muscled into the treaty port business as well in 1843. The British soon wanted even more concessions from China — unrestricted trade at any port, embassies in Beijing and an end to bans on selling opium in the Chinese mainland.

One tactic the British used to further their influence was registering the ships of Chinese traders they dealt with as British ships.

The pretext for the second Opium War is comical in its absurdity. In October 1856, Chinese authorities seized a former pirate ship, the Arrow, with a Chinese crew and with an expired British registration. The captain told British authorities that the Chinese police had taken down the flag of a British ship.

The British demanded the Chinese governor release the crew. When only nine of the 14 returned, the British began a bombardment of the Chinese forts around Canton and eventually blasted open the city walls.

British Liberals, under William Gladstone, were upset at the rapid escalation and protested fighting a new war for the sake of the opium trade in parliament. However, they lost seats in an election to the Tories under Lord Palmerston. He secured the support needed to prosecute the war.

China was in no position to fight back, as it was then embroiled in the devastating Taiping Rebellion, a peasant uprising led by a failed civil-service examinee claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The rebels had nearly seized Beijing and still controlled much of the country.

Once again, the Royal Navy demolished its Chinese opponents, sinking 23 junks in the opening engagement near Hong Kong and seizing Guangzhou. Over the next three years, British ships worked their way up the river, capturing several Chinese forts through a combination of naval bombardment and amphibious assault.

France joined in the war — its excuse was the execution of a French missionary who had defied the ban on foreigners in Guangxi province. Even the United States became briefly involved after a Chinese fort took pot shots at long distance at an American ship.

In the Battle of the Pearl River Forts, a U.S. Navy a force of three ships and 287 sailors and marines took four forts by storm, capturing 176 cannons and fighting off a counterattack of 3,000 Chinese infantry. The United States remained officially neutral.

Russia did not join in the fighting, but used the war to pressure China into ceding a large chunk of its northeastern territory, including the present-day city of Vladivostok.

When foreign envoys drew up the next treaty in 1858 the terms, were even more crushing to the Qing Dynasty’s authority. Ten more cities were designated as treaty ports, foreigners would have free access to the Yangtze river and the Chinese mainland, and Beijing would open embassies to England, France and Russia.

The Xianfeng Emperor at first agreed to the treaty, but then changed his mind, sending Mongolian general Sengge Rinchen to man the Taku Forts on the waterway leading to Beijing. The Chinese repelled a British attempt to take the forts by sea in June 1859, sinking four British ships. A year later, an overland assault by 11,000 British and 6,700 French troops succeeded.

When a British diplomatic mission came to insist on adherence to the treaty, the Chinese took the envoy hostage, and tortured many in the delegation to death. The British High Commissioner of Chinese Affairs, Lord Elgar, decided to assert dominance and sent the army into Beijing.

British and French rifles gunned down 10,000 charging Mongolian cavalrymen at the Battle of Eight Mile Bridge, leaving Beijing defenseless. Emperor Xianfeng fled. In order to wound the Emperor’s “pride as well as his feeling” in the words of Lord Elgar, British and French troops looted and destroyed the historic Summer Palace.

The new revised treaty imposed on China legalized both Christianity and opium, and added Tianjin — the major city close to Beijing — to the list of treaty ports. It allowed British ships to transport Chinese indentured laborers to the United States, and fined the Chinese government eight million silver dollars in indemnities.

The Western presence in China became so ubiquitous, and so widely detested, that an anti-Western popular revolt, the Boxer Rebellion, broke out in 1899. The hapless Qing Dynasty, under the stewardship of Dowager Empress Cixi, first tried to clamp down on the violence before throwing its support behind it — just in time for a multi-national military force of U.S., Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, French, Japanese and British troops to arrive and put down the rebellion.

It then spent an entire year looting Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding countryside in reprisal.

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The inside of a Taku River fort after its capture in August 1860. Felice Beato feature

‘Century of Humiliation’

It’s hard to over-emphasize the impact of the Opium Wars on modern China. Domestically, it’s led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule. It convinced China that it had to modernize and industrialize.

Today, the First Opium War is taught in Chinese schools as being the beginning of the “Century of Humiliation” — the end of that “century” coming in 1949 with the reunification of China under Mao. While Americans are routinely assured they are exceptional and the greatest country on Earth by their politicians, Chinese schools teach students that their country was humiliated by greedy and technologically superior Western imperialists.

The Opium Wars made it clear China had fallen gravely behind the West — not just militarily, but economically and politically. Every Chinese government since — even the ill-fated Qing Dynasty, which began the “Self-Strengthening Movement” after the Second Opium War — has made modernization an explicit goal, citing the need to catch up with the West.

The Japanese, observing events in China, instituted the same discourse and modernized more rapidly than China did during the Meiji Restoration.

Mainland Chinese citizens still frequently measure China in comparison to Western countries. Economic and quality of life issues are by far their main concern. But state media also holds military parity as a goal.

I once saw a news program on Chinese public television boasting about China’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning — before comparing it to an American carrier. “They’re saying ours is still a lot smaller,” a high school student pointed out to me. “And we have only one.”

Through most of Chinese history, China’s main threat came from nomadic horse-riding tribes along its long northern border. Even in the Cold War, hostility with the Soviet Union made its Mongolian border a security hot spot. But the Opium Wars — and even worse, the Japanese invasion in 1937 — demonstrated how China was vulnerable to naval power along its Pacific coast.

China’s aggressive naval expansion in the South China Sea can be seen as the acts of a nation that has succumbed repeatedly to naval invasions — and wishes to claims dominance of its side of the Pacific in the 21st century.

The history with opium also has led China to adopt a particularly harsh anti-narcotics policy with the death penalty applicable even to mid-level traffickers. Drug-trafficking and organized crime remain a problem, however. The explosion of celebrity culture in China has also led to punitive crackdowns on those caught partaking in “decadent lifestyles,” leading to prominent campaigns of public shaming.

For example, in 2014 police arrested Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan, for possessing 100 grams of marijuana. His father stated he wouldn’t plead for his son to avoid imprisonment.

Past history does not always determine future actions. Chinese sentiments toward the United Kingdom today are generally positive despite the Opium Wars. The escalating military confrontation over the South China Sea is a reality of our times, but that doesn’t mean China’s leaders will forever be committed to a strategy of expansion and confrontation.

Nonetheless, fostering better relations requires that we understand how China’s current foreign policy has it roots in past encounters with the West.

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Using your VA loan as an investment

We sometimes get asked by our loan candidates about if they can use their VA loan as an investment. While the answer to this question depends on what you consider an investment, I can share how I used my VA loan as an investment.


Multi-Family Homes

The VA loan can be used to purchase up to a 4-unit house so long as it is owner occupied. These homes are also known as multi-family dwellings, and can be referred to as 2, 3, or 4 family houses. These homes are typically separated units with each functioning as a separate apartment.

In 2008 I used my VA loan to purchase a 3-family home in Massachusetts with 2 out of the 3 units rented out at $1,250 per unit for a total of $2,500 per month that I was collecting in rent. I moved into the 3rd unit and my monthly principle & interest, taxes, and insurance payment to the bank was approximately $2,700.

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Through this arrangement I was able to own a home and only pay $200 ($2,700-$2,500) a month towards my monthly payment. This gave me the opportunity to have my tenants pay down my mortgage while I lived almost free in my home. Fast forward to 2012 and I now live in another home but still own the 3-family and have it fully rented out and clear over $1000 a month in rental income after accounting for my fixed expenses.

Below are some basics to consider. It is important to note, though, that being a landlord is an entirely different topic and not for everyone. Also, like most investments and being a homeowner, there is risk, so it is important to do your homework.

  1. Identify the area you are interested in buying: If you are interested in generating rental income it is important to look at areas that have low home values with higher rental amounts. The lower the cost of the home the lower your monthly payment amount. The higher the market rents are in the market then the more that your tenants will contribute to your payment and more of your money that you’ll keep.
  2. Start looking at homes: Any realtor can set you up with Multiple Listing Services (MLS) updates based on your criteria that you tell them. Also, a good realtor knows markets that would best suit your criteria and can guide you in were to start looking. You tell them the area that you are interested in looking at, your price range, and types of homes (single family, 2, 3 or 4 family units). Then, you will start getting emails with homes that meet your criteria that if you want can start scheduling a viewing.
  3. Know your costs: The amount that you will be paying monthly is your principle, interest, taxes, and insurance is what you should focus on. You can use VA Loan Captain’s Payment Calculator and input different scenarios to see what your payment would be. There are also other costs such as water/sewer that I typically allocated $100 a month for. Also, there are costs for maintaining any home single or multi-family which you will need to consider and depends on the age and condition of the property.
  4. Know your rents or potential rents: You can ask your realtor what the average rents are in the market that you are looking at. For example if average rents in the market for 1-bedroom apartments are $1000, and the units in the multi-family home that you are looking is average to what is available market, then you can use that to determine what you could charge if the units are vacant; or, what you could charge if there are tenants already in but paying a lower amount.
  5. Other considerations: If you go this path you will be a landlord which is something that is a small part-time job and not for everyone. Having some basic knowledge on appropriately screening applicants and knowing the state law will go a long way. Basic items for screening applicants include doing a credit check and collecting and calling references.

Overall, using a VA loan to purchase a multi-family was a great experience that has now set me up with a solid cash flow positive investment. While this was beneficial, it required a lot of work and learning along the way.

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Here’s an AAR of the Commander-in-Chief Forum in the candidates’ own words

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On the set of the second hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, which was hosted by Rachel Maddow. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


Here’s a review of the questions and responses from the candidates during the first-ever NBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander-in-Chief Forum that was held on September 7th with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in attendance. (Full video is available here.)

What is the most important characteristic that the commander in chief can possess?

Clinton: “I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents . . . What you want in a commander in chief is someone who listens, who evaluates what is begin told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented and then makes the decision . . . Temperament and judgment is key.”

Trump: “I built a great company, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve dealt with foreigncountries, I’ve done tremendously dealing with China and I’ve had great experience dealing on a national basis. I have great judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots.”

On the Iraq War:

Clinton: “The decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake. I also believe that it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes, like after action reports are supposed to do. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I think I’m in the best possible position to be able to understand that and prevent it.”

Trump: “I was totally against the war in Iraq . . . because I said it was going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.”

Editor’s note: Read a fact-check on his response here.

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Hillary Clinton attempts to answer a vet question about her improper use of email while Secretary of State. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

On the Iran nuclear deal: “If they cheat, how would you respond?”

Clinton: “I have said we are going to enforce [the nuclear deal] to the letter . . .  I think we have enough insight into what they are doing [on the nuclear issue] to be able to say we have to distrust, but verify. What I am focused is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians: ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places . . . I would rather as president be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry about their race to creating a nuclear weapon. We have made the world safer, we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”

Trump was not asked this question

On veterans and suicide:

Clinton: “I rolled out my mental health agenda last week [you can read it here]. I have a whole section devoted to veterans’ mental health. We’ve got to remove the stigma. We’ve got to help people currently serving not to feel that if they report their sense of unease or depression that it’s somehow going to be a mark against them. We’ve have to do more about addiction, not only drugs but also alcohol. I have put forth a really robust agenda working with VSOs and other groups like TAPS who have been thinking about this and trying to figure out what we’re going to do to help our veterans.”

Trump: “It’s actually 22. It’s almost impossible to conceive that this is happening in our country. Twenty to 22 people a day are killing themselves. A lot of it is they’re killing themselves over the fact that they’re in tremendous pain and they can’t see a doctor. We’re going to speed up the process. We’re going to create a great mental health division. They need help . . . We’re doing nothing for them. The VA is really almost, you could say, a corrupt enterprise . . . We are going to make it efficient and good and if it’s not good, you’re going out to private hospitals, public hospitals and doctors.”

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The Trump family in place before the arrival of Donald Trump. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

On terrorist attacks on American soil:

Clinton: “I’m going to do everything in my power that that’s the result. I’m not going to promise something that I think most Americans know is going to be a huge challenge. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe and out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement. We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online — where they recruit, where they radicalize and I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can . . . We have to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground and online in cyberspace.”

Trump was not asked this question.

On ISIS:

Clinton: “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counter-terrorism goal. We’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. We’re going to work to make sure they have the support. They have special forces as you know, they have enablers, surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance. They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops in Syria. Those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.”

Trump: “The generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful . . . The generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s an embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows . . . I can just see the great General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat . . . I didn’t learn anything [from a recent briefing to suggest that he cannot quickly defeat ISIS]. What I did learn was that our leadership, Barack Obama did not follow what our experts . . . said to do.”

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Donald Trump offers an answer to one of Matt Lauer’s questions. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

On prepping for office:

Clinton was not asked this question.

Trump: “In the front row you have four generals, you have admirals, we have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to . . . I’m doing a lot of different things. We’re running a big campaign, we’re doing very well . . . I’m also running a business . . . In the meantime, I am studying . . . I think I’ve learned a lot . . . Also, I really feel like I have a lot of common sense on the issues you’ve asked about.”

Veteran questions to Clinton:

How can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?

Clinton: “I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled I went into one of those little tents. . . because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it was that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified. I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will.”

Editor’s note: For a fact-check on her response to handling classified information, go here.

How do you respond to progressives . . . that your hawkish foreign policy will continue and what is your plan to end wasteful war campaigns?

Clinton: “I view force as a last resort, not a first choice. I will do everything in my power to make sure that our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face on our behalf. I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decision any president or commander in chief can make.”

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NBC’s Hallie Jackson takes a question from a female veteran during the second hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

Do you think the problems with the VA have been made to seem worse than they really are?

Clinton has faced criticism for making the comment that “the problems with the VA are not as widespread as they are made out to be.”

Clinton: “I was outraged by the stories that came out about the VA. I have been very clear about the necessity of doing whatever is required to move the VA into the 21st century, to provide the kind of treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve. I will not let the VA be privatized. I think that would be very disastrous for our military veterans. I’m going to have a meeting every week in the Oval Office, we’re going to bring the VA people and the DoD people. We’ve got to have a better fit between getting mustered out and getting into the VA system.”

Veteran questions to Trump:

Assuming we do defeat ISIS, what next? What is your plan for the region to ensure that a group like them doesn’t just come back? (Editor’s note: This question was posed by Marine vet Phil Klay, the award-winning author of “Redeployment.”)

Trump: “Part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody and we don’t know what we’re doing after that . . . You look at Iraq. You look at how badly that was handled. And then, when President Obama took over, likewise it was a disaster . . . If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is . . . I may like my plan or I may like the generals’ plan . . . There will probably be different generals then. ”

Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves or wants to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves to stay in this country legally?

Trump: “I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces that’s a very special situation and I could see myself working that out. If they plan on serving, if they get in, I would absolutely hold those people. Now we have to very careful, we have to vet very carefully, everybody would agree with that. But the answer is it would be a very special circumstance.”

In your first 120 days of your presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions and, more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to the negotiating table?

Trump: “I think I would have a very good relationship with many foreign leaders . . . I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia . . . Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do. If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? . . . I’m a negotiator. We’re going to take back our country.”

How will you translate those words [about helping veterans] to action after you take office?

Trump: “I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls . . . I have a very, very powerful plan that’s on my website. One of the big problems is the wait time. Vets are waiting six days, seven days, eight days . . . Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to their local doctor, they choose their doctor, they choose their hospital, whether its public or private, they get themselves better. In many cases, it’s a minor procedure, or it’s a pill a prescription. And they end up dying because they can’t see the doctor. We will pay the bill . . .”

Editor’s note: Read Trump’s 10 Point VA Plan here.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and IAVA’s Paul Rieckhoff question general officer proxies from both campaigns during the second hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

What specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?

Trump: “It’s a massive problem. The numbers are staggering and hard to believe. We’re going to have to run it very tight. At the same time, I want to keep the court system within the military. I don’t think it should be outside the military, but we have to come down very, very hard on that . . . The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military. Right now, the court system practically doesn’t exist.”

Trump was also asked about his controversial tweet about sexual assault:

Trump: “It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that is absolutely correct. Since then, it’s gotten worse. Something has to happen. Nobody gets prosecuted. You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There is no consequence . . . You have to go after that person. Look at the small number of results.”

(This article was provided by Military One Click.)

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This is how to fire a Civil War cannon, step-by-step

With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.


Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.

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Model 1841 12-pound howitzer. (Photo by Ron Cogswell)

According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.

It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.

Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.

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7 ways Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans

Considered one of the best comedies of all time, Jim Abraham’s films “Hot Shots!” had audiences laughing hysterically as he poked fun at one of Hollywood’s most iconic films “Top Gun.”


The film’s lead character is Topper Harley who it turns out has some extreme “daddy issues” and is asked to go off to war for America’s greater good.

Within this story, there are a few hidden messages on American exceptionalism.

Related: This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

So check out our list of how Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans.

1. He answers America’s call to serve once again

After being booted from the Navy, Topper finds himself living a peaceful life among Native Americans. But soon his country calls for his help on a crucial mission called “Sleepy Weasel.”

After smoking a peace pipe full of helium, Topper decides it’s his duty to answer America’s call by accepting the mission and to find closure for his “daddy issues.”

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2. He stands up for his fellow man.

Soon after reporting for duty, Topper tells a senior officer to “lighten up” after witnessing him yelling at a fellow pilot with shitty vision. Then, Topper receives an ear full — which he has no problem taking.

Topper is all about leading his men from the front like a true American.

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3. He attends therapy.

Most tough guys wouldn’t be caught dead discussing their feelings in any setting. But Topper does it, and so should the many Americans who look to him for leadership.

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4. He taught us how to cook an American breakfast using a hot girl’s stomach.

Sounds impossible? Well, Topper did it, and he added an egg, hash browns, and bacon. There’s nothing more American than that.

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5. Harley reminds us that giving money isn’t the best way to say “I’m sorry.”

Americans often look for a simple way to apologize by giving a gift. When Topper hands over his apology gift, he’s told the cold hard cash will likely be blown on a new collection of hats.

Americans also misuse their money, but that’s an entirely different subject.

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6. Topper doesn’t f’ing quit and neither should America … ever.

Topper’s father was known as sort of a wild pilot. He died during a mission and Topper has had issues ever since. This issue temporarily grounded the Navy pilot who is known to freeze up when people mention his father’s death.

Once Topper learns the heroic truth about his father, he snaps out of his funk and takes down the all bad guys — then celebrates.

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Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. We’re all on the same team.

For the whole film, Topper has been duking it out with a fellow pilot for respect with his team and for the affections of a girl. But after dueling it out with the bad guys, the men put their differences aside and become best buds.

This is just a reminder of how in the end, we’re all Americans.

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5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

The fighting in Syria is not as simple as a schismatic civil war. And there is more to the religiosity of the conflict than just Sunni vs. Shia. Theologists and other influencers, including U.S. lawmakers, see the coming “end of days” prophesies via religious texts, visions of the Apocalypse, and other theories that they claim support the notion of our living in a time when the curtain falls for good.


1. Isaiah 17

This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the Lord Almighty Isaiah

The Bible warns a series of horrible events will take place in Israel and Syria. Central to this vision of the apocalypse is the destruction of Damascus as one of the finest cities in the world.

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So… that happened.

Joel Rosenberg is a Christian author, an expert on Christian “end times” discussions. He told MotherJones unidentified members of the U.S. Congress called him to Washington to consult on the biblical end of days. Yes. Congress is concerned about the End of Days, as if they could just pass the “No to End of Days” Act and go on with life. Other legislators interested in this verse include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.

Hal Lindsey is an influential evangelist, something that should be an oxymoron but isn’t, who believes the Russians will lead a “Gog-Magog Alliance” foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, which means this bit is in the Torah, the Bible, and Koran as well. Gog and Magog could be individuals, a person and his homeland, or basically whatever suits the theory you’re peddling. In Revelations, Gog and Magog join Satan in the final battle.

Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.

Guess who a lot of people think Gog may be.

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u mad bro?

2. Islam’s ‘Grand Battle’

Many fighters in Syria (on all sides) believe was a large battle was foretold 1,400 years ago in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and anecdotes about things he said and did from his closest followers.

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The “No sh*t, there I was” collection of Islamic religious stories.

Some Sunni jihadis and other militias aren’t really even there to fight Asad. They’re there for a Grand Battle the prophet talked about in the 7th century CE. According to Muhammed, two huge Islamic armies are destined to meet near Damascus, coming from the North and West of the area. Fighters are pouring in to various sides from all over the world because Mohammed promised this would happen. The goal is to establish an Islamic state.

In the hadith, Mohammed also said Syria is God’s favored land and if not Syria, the faithful should go to Yemen, which is also not the first place anyone would associate with the phrase “God’s favored land,” as it is currently experiencing a civil war exacerbated by external aggression. Bringing the U.S. and NATO (especially Turkey) to Syria made some believe the U.S. aggression was deliberately planned by you-know-who to bring about the Grand Battle.

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Thanks, Obama.

3. The Return of the Mahdi

What sounds like the worst Star Wars movie ever (or a new hymn by Mark Morrison) is actually also prediction mentioned in hadith. Shia Muslims believe the Syrian war is paving the way for the Imam Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed’s who disappeared a thousand years ago but is going to resurface to re-establish Islamic rule during a time of war, shortly before the end of the world. To them, the Islamic state foretold by the hadith was established during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War is the war in question.

The hadith says fighters with yellow flags (see Hezbollah) join to fight anti-Shi’ites (read: Sunnis) in Damascus as a prelude to the coming of the Mahdi. Fighters believe if they are killed during the war, they will be reborn when the Mahdi comes, so they can join his army. This also works for Christians, because the return of the Mahdi coincides with second coming of Jesus. Christian religious scholars in the U.S. believe a document labeled the “Arak Codex #190001” in a museum in Tehran, says the Imam is already here, and it contains a description of the Mahdi. Guess who he supposedly looks like.

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4. Nostradamus predicted ISIS

Believers in the 16th century French prophet Nostradamus believe he wrote poems which predicted the future, and he was eerily accurate about events even 500 years later. They believe he predicted Napoleon and Hitler, who were two of three “antichrists” whose rise foretold the end of the world.

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500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote:

He will enter wicked, unpleasant, infamous,

Tyrannizing over Mesopotamia:

All friends made by the adulterous lady,

Land dreadful and black of aspect.

In the original French, it rhymed. Just saying. Anyway, adherents to Nostradamus translate this passage to mean ISIS’ rise to prominence in Iraq and Syria, the black referring to ISIS’ uniforms and flags. There’s also a bunch of math involved which makes Common Core look reasonable. But who knows, there are so many tyrants to choose from in the Middle East, especially in recent history, “He” could be anyone. The adulterous lady could mean any coalition or Syria itself, no matter who might be in charge there. The verses devolve into a description of World War III, endless war, and the end of the world. More racist looks at the writings of Nostradamus predict the end of the world will be brought by someone special…

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5. The Book of Revelation

Shortly before Russia intervened in Syria, there was a very large blood moon, visible in most of the world. John of Patmos (aka”The Revelator,” aka “the Greek” aka “Bad Host from Patmos.” [I made the last two up]) wrote in the Book of Revelation that the blood moon would appear when the sixth of seven seals are opened and then some bowls are poured, some trumpets sound, a bunch of other stuff happens. This theory doesn’t really jive with Isaiah 17, because this is where Gog and Magog gather everyone from the four corners for battle at the holy city… after a thousand years. So, unless the bowls and trumpets and the seals did this 1,000 years ago, we don’t have to worry about Gog and Magog.

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Gog and Magog have new SEALs to worry about.

Still others believe John foretold of a 200 million-man army. Since the entire world’s number of active duty uniformed personnel add up to about 20.2 million (and don’t all necessarily get along), it’s unlikely this army would be a conventional army. Enter ISIS. Some Christian groups see the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as a potential source of manpower for the apocalyptic 200 million man army. Just 10-15% of the worlds Islamic people gives said army a potential strength of 160-240 million.

Good luck getting them all to fight together.

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L’chaim.

 

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Mattis had a simple request for the new defense budget

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis personally intervened in Trump’s budget request to get more bombs to drop on ISIS, Defense News reports.


Mattis requested about $3.5 billion more in “preferred munitions” for the 2018 Pentagon budget, John Roth, acting undersecretary of defense and chief financial officer, told Defense News.

“As we closed out this budget, over the last two or three weeks in particular, a great deal of concern was being raised with current inventory levels, particularly given some of the expenditures in the CENTCOM area of operations,” Roth said. “So the secretary mandated and insisted we fully fund, to the maximum extent possible, the full production capacities for certain selected preferred munitions.”

The extra bombs and ammo Mattis asked for were (per Defense News):

  • 7,664 Hellfire missiles, worth $713.9 million for Lockheed Martin
  • 34,529 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), worth $874.3 million for Boeing
  • 6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), worth $889.5 million for Lockheed Martin
  • 7,312 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB), worth $504.1 million to Boeing and Raytheon
  • 100 Tomahawk Missiles, worth $381.6 million for Raytheon
  • An unlisted number of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS), worth $200 million

All in all, the Pentagon is asking for about $16.4 billion in missiles and munitions in the 2018 fiscal year budget.

The DoD said it has spent about $2.8 billion on munitions since the August 2014 start of the campaign against ISIS up to the end of March 2017. And Air Force Maj. Gen. James Martin Jr. said on Tuesday that munitions reserves are “challenged” by the current operations.

In February, Trump requested an extra $54 billion in defense spending for 2018. The request has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as being too little, or cutting too much from domestic spending and foreign aid.

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These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.


Most people have not heard of such a mystical Navy order, and there are others that are equally shrouded in seafaring lore, according to a list maintained by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.

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Command Master Chief of aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Spike Call plays the role of King Neptune during a crossing the line ceremony aboard the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clemente A. Lynch/Released)

Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.

But there is more than one kind of shellback.

If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).

If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”

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Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) line up on the flight deck and make sounds like a whale to call to the whales as part of their shellback ceremony. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga)

Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.

The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.

The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.

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Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”

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Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”

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Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”

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After weathering controversy, Wounded Warrior Project names Linnington as CEO

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General Linnington greets President Obama next to Marine One. (Photo: DVIDS)


Today, the Wounded Warrior Project Board of Directors announced the appointment of Michael S. Linnington to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Wounded Warrior Project. Linnington is joining WWP from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where he was appointed Director by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015. His 35-year military career included three combat tours and a number of command positions.

Linnington’s appointment follows a CBS News report about WWP that resulted in the firings last March of the previous CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano for misusing funds for extravagant parties and other perks that ate up nearly 50 percent of donated money. (The average overhead for veteran charities is approximately 10-15 percent.)

WWP’s interim CEO, retired Major General Charlie Fletcher, will remain in place until Linnington takes over on July 18. The WWP Board has also announced they planned to add another four members before the end of the year.

“Mike’s extensive military experience and proven leadership credentials make him the perfect candidate to lead WWP,” Anthony Odierno, Chairman of the WWP Board of Directors, said. “Mike understands the unique needs of our nation’s veteran community, is a collaborative team-builder, and is deeply committed to fulfilling our mission of honoring and empowering Wounded Warriors. I am excited for WWP’s path forward under his leadership.”

“I had the privilege of working with General Linnington in his role as Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and know him to be a man of honor and integrity,” Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, said. “The veteran and military family communities — and our entire nation — will benefit from his demonstrated leadership and dedication.”

Linnington’s active duty tours included command of the Third Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is an Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder and Ranger qualified officer, and earned the Expert Infantryman’s Badge and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He is a West Point graduate.

According to their website, “WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.”

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Here’s how the Iron Curtain turned into the Garden of Eden

After WWII, the dividing line between Soviet-controlled East Germany and Western-backed West Germany became immortalized in a speech by Sir Winston Churchill. In a speech at Missouri’s Westminster college, Great Britain’s wartime Prime Minister famously said: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”


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For the rest of the Cold War, this dividing line between the East and West would bear the moniker of the “Iron Curtain.” The Iron Curtain was an ideal as well as a physical thing, a series of fortifications meant to keep Western forces out and Communist citizens in.

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They built a giant wall and got Russia to pay for it.

For 870 miles, the divide was marked by fences, tank traps, barbed wire, dog runs, guard towers, and stone walls. There were sand strips to detect footprints and automated machine guns to end any attempt to flee to freedom. All this came crashing down in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Twenty-five years after the fall of Communism, the boundary areas have morphed into a green belt untouched by the pressure of German agricultural and industrial development, a place where endangered species like the European Otter have found refuge.

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The European Otter, unlike other otters, has a taste for wine and drives eco-friendly vehicles.

According to a recent NOVA story on PBS, the European Green Belt stretches over 7,700 miles from north to south. Black storks, moor frogs, and white-tailed eagles find refuge in the forests, meadows and marshlands linked by 40 national parks across 24 countries.

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A clearing between forests in the former Iron Curtain.

The government and European conservationists want to make the undeveloped areas into permanent wildlife refuges. They see a pan-European reserve that stretches from Finland to the Black Sea. The refuge has been a goal for East German environmentalists since the Berlin Wall came down. The original green belt petition was started December 9, 1989, just one month after the fall of the wall.

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The Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate. (Photo: Wikimedia)

When the two Germanys reunified, the land was preserved to compensate people for expropriation by the former East German government. Over the years the funding stalled at the hands of the German legislature. At one point “Friends of the Earth,” a not-for-profit that included former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev as an investor.

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Now, the green belt has the support of former East German Angela Merkel, who is now the Prime Minister of a unified Germany. What began as a symbol of division and oppression is turning into one of growth and renewal.

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