5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

There’s something about a conference. Maybe it’s the swag. Maybe it’s the sessions. Maybe it’s the thrill of ordering new business cards and finally meeting your online heroes in real life. Likely, it’s some combination of them all. At a good conference, you can’t walk into the main space without hearing the excitement. But when you walk into a great conference, not only do you hear it, you can feel it.

This year, the one conference that has to be on your radar and your calendar is the Military Influencer Conference in Orlando, Florida, from September 23-25. After the inaugural conference brought together over 300 veteran and military spouse influencers in Dallas last year, this year’s MIC promises to not only match last year’s magic, but to top it.

Here are our top 5 reasons you can’t miss MIC Orlando:


5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

Military Influence Conference founder, Curtez Riggs, speaks at MIC 2017.

The mission

As most incredible things begin, the Military Influencer Conference started with one person and a vision. Founder Curtez Riggs wanted to connect the different corners of the military space, from the business owners to the bloggers, the freelancers to the designers, inclusive of veterans and military spouses. He knew the passion behind the entrepreneurs and the savvy of the content creators, and the power in bringing them together. And so he did. The result in Dallas was an extraordinary exchange of ideas with promise only to build, and MIC Orlando will do just that. Attendees will learn how to grow their business, no matter what stage it’s in, and how to incorporate giving back to our community into their business model.

The expertise

Often times at a conference, you’ll see one or two headliners and then sessions that warrant more of a coffee break than continued interest. That is anything but the case for MIC Orlando. While keynotes like Jim Koch of Sam Adams, our own David Gale, and Janine Boldrin of Military Spouse Magazine should be enough to draw you in, there is a tremendous depth of expertise in the panel sessions. With tactical takeaways like how to develop e-courses, social media strategies, financing your business, launching a freelance career and so much more, you’ll be learning from and interacting with the best of the best. It’s rare to have such breadth of experience in your network, let alone within arm’s reach. From the MIC website:

With more than 21 educational sessions and a wide range of dynamic, inspiring speakers, this event gives digital entrepreneurs an unprecedented opportunity to find the resources and connections needed to grow your online business. Time and time again, you’ll be introduced to bold new ideas and proven strategies for both short and long-term growth.
5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

The opportunities

Sure, you’ll meet so many incredible people, but if that isn’t reason enough, MIC Orlando could forever change your business. StreetShares, who has partnered with Sam Adams Brewing the America Dream, will be announcing three Veterans Small Business Awards, for a total of ,000. There will be a live pitch competition where succinctly explaining your business model could garner investments, and an opportunity for service organizations to have a roundtable with The Veterans Trust. We don’t want to put the pressure on you and say these are “once-in-a-lifetime” chances, but, well… let’s call a spade a spade: these are once-in-a-lifetime chances.

The network

Some of the best takeaways from a conference aren’t in what you learn, but in who you meet. MIC Orlando has some of the biggest names in the military space, and not only are those folks attending, they’re there to connect, to collaborate, to network. That’s right: they want to meet you! Don’t miss the opportunity to share a drink and your dreams with some of the most prominent influencers, who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing and how they can help elevate you.

In addition to the impressive speakers and fellow attendees, the sponsors of MIC Orlando are second to none. With companies like USAA, Comcast, Military By Owner, GovX, Amazon, Crosby Marketing, Military Fresh Network and Life Flip Media sponsoring the event, you’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to talk about partnerships, branding, and so much more.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

(Rosen Shingle Creek)

The location

Honestly, we’d attend MIC 2018 no matter where it was being held after last year’s experience, but the fact that it’s at a world-renowned resort certainly doesn’t hurt. We’re guessing a lot of collaborations will happen over drinks at the pool, on the golf course, and at one of the resort’s many lounges or restaurants. With pristine grounds, extravagant amenities and beautiful accommodations, the Rosen Shingle Creek is reason enough to go. Add on the incredible benefits of MIC Orlando, and it becomes a “can’t miss.”

We know you won’t regret buying your ticket to MIC Orlando, but you might regret if you don’t. You’re worth the investment. We can’t wait to see you in Florida.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA listed as top employer of veterans

Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, recently singled out seven top employers of veterans and their families, and it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made the list, along with Booz Allen, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and others.

A total of 123,608 veterans — more than 30 percent of the workforce — work at VA, according to the latest federal government data. Glassdoor said veterans choose VA careers for its generous employee benefits, such as tuition assistance and loan repayment. A physician quoted in the article commended VA for its “great mission, incredible benefits (and) good work/life balance.”


Through the Transitioning Military Program, VA also has well-paying careers specifically for veterans with healthcare skills. Veterans of healthcare fields successfully work as health technicians, Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs), mental health providers, nurses, physicians, and support staff in other healthcare occupations.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
(Department of Veterans Affairs)

ICTs, for instance, are former basic medical technicians, combat medic specialists, basic hospital corpsmen or basic health services technicians applying their skills to care for fellow veterans. (Meet ICTs Ryan White, Anthony Juarez, and other VA employees.)

Choose VA today 

Other benefits of a VA healthcare career include 36 to 49 days paid time off per year, depending on the leave tier, and the ability to apply military service time to a civil service pension, participate in a 401(k) with up to 5 percent in employer contributions and gain access to a range of exceptional health insurance plans for individuals and families.

Are you transitioning from the military? See if a career with VA is the right choice for you.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Veterans

VA can help with those holiday blues

Holiday traditions and family get-togethers are a source of comfort for many. But the holidays can also act as anniversaries of unpleasant events or remind us of difficult changes that have happened in the last year. Veterans may also have memories of being deployed over a holiday during their service and could experience challenges with returning to civilian norms.

For Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, the holidays can be even more difficult to manage. While there are often bright spots, the unique struggles that trauma survivors can face as the year ends can often overshadow the joy of the season.

Helping you manage over the holiday season

If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.

There are ways to cope and manage these feelings and stressful events. Here are some tips from our clinicians that can help you manage your symptoms over this holiday season:

  • Don’t overschedule. Leave time for yourself.
  • Make a plan to get things done. Set small, doable goals.
  • When stressed, remind yourself what has helped in the past.
  • Use the tools from PTSD Coach app or PTSD Coach Online to help you manage stress.
  • Reach out for support if you need it. Know who you can rely on for help. If your symptoms are getting worse or you feel down, reach out to your provider or
  • Call the Crisis Line.

If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.

  • Educate yourself: Download and read Understand PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF) to learn more about how PTSD affects your loved one.
  • Talk to your family member about what they need to feel comfortable during the holidays. If your loved one needs services, call Coaching into Care for advice on talking to them about treatment.
  • Keep important resources at hand, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The holiday season can be difficult for people with PTSD, but there are healthy ways to cope and manage stress and have positive mental health throughout the holidays.

Here’s more information about PTSD.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Montel Williams seeks veterans for home makeovers

Saying thank you for your service is not enough, according to veteran and talk show icon Montel Williams. But he does have a few ideas on other ways to show gratitude for military service.

He’s teamed up with WWE to find the next veteran for a home makeover that will be featured on Lifetime TV’s “Military Makeover with Montel.”


“We take these veterans and we literally make their home over from top to bottom,” Williams said during a phone interview. “We do, not just a facelift, but everything, from the floors, the ceilings to you name it, to make sure the veteran has what we call a forever home once we get done.”

Since 2015 the show has worked with one veteran family per quarter to makeover their home within 10 days, with 20 homes completed to date. Most episodes, Williams said, have featured families who have been in the midst of transitioning from military to civilian life. A few have featured veterans who have already left the military, but Williams adds any deserving veteran family will be considered as long as they own their own home.

He’s personally been involved in making over six homes, having taken over the show after the death of Military Makeover’s previous host Lee Ermey.

Williams said the reactions on the show have been great, not just from the service members, but from everyone in the community. The show uses volunteers and donations from local vendors to renovate the homes.

“Everybody is uplifted,” Williams said.

Hosting a home makeover show is also a good way to show appreciation for a group Williams describes as underappreciated.

“I think it’s a really good way to do more than say ‘thank you for your service,'” Williams said.

Williams is a 22-year veteran who served in the Marine Corps and Navy before starting his television career. Like many veterans, he’s come to see the phrase ‘thank you for your service’ as hollow and meaningless.

“I’ve been saying this for over a year. When people say ‘thank you for your service’ it’s lip service or a passing phrase, like you say ‘good morning’ to people when you walk by and don’t even wait for a person’s response,” he said.

In addition to his own service, Williams is a longtime veterans’ advocate. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House — a charity providing lodging near DOD and VA facilities for the families of those receiving care. He also works with an organization that help veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and has an upcoming project designed for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

Williams launched a new national campaign to makeover the home of a veteran. (Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.)

Williams said he believes the current coronavirus pandemic has put showing genuine gratitude to veterans even further from the forefront of people’s minds.

“Right now, while we’re suffering through this COVID-19 pandemic, every day of the week people applaud our first responders. When they think about people on the frontline, they think about doctors, nurses and first responders to this virus here on U.S. soil,” Williams said. “We have ships and submarines and aircraft carriers and airplanes and deployed forward bases where people don’t have the same luxury of being able to social distance. These guys are out there every single day putting their lives on the line for us.”

While not everyone has the resources of a television legend, Williams insists there are things average people can do to show their appreciation to veterans.

“You don’t have to makeover a veteran’s home to contribute to a veteran’s life,” Williams said. He said providing meals, volunteering to babysit or mowing an injured veteran’s lawn are great ways for people to show their appreciation.

“Why not go out and do a gesture, not just of being a good neighbor, but deliberately doing something to help out our veterans?” Williams asked. “Remember that there’s a military family on every block in every community across this country. Reach out and do a little bit more than just say ‘thank you for your service.'”

Another way people can show appreciation is by going to Tag A Hero and nominating a veteran for a home makeover before May 31.

Williams has joined forces with WWE star Lacey Evans, a Marine veteran, to gain awareness for the new national campaign, but they are in need of more nominations.

“Lacey Evans, who is one of their stars, has become one of our team members on Military Makeover. She convinced [WWE] to reach out to their viewers to nominate veterans in their community,” Williams said.

The application submission deadline for the latest campaign is May 31st. On July 13, Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans will appear on Facebook and Instagram announcing the home makeover recipient.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.

“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.


Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.

(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)

“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”

Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.

Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.

“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.

(Facebook)

Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”

Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”

Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”

After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.

Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Photographer Michael Stokes brings sexy vets back with ‘Invictus’ photo book

The photographer behind the ultra-sexy “Always Loyal” coffee table book has created a sequel project featuring wounded and amputee veterans, and it’s even steamier than the original.


Michael Stokes’ newest work, “Invictus,” showcases 15 recent veterans baring (almost) all — flaunting prosthetics and rock-hard abs in a bold celebration of their post-war bodies.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

The photo book includes five British veterans and American vet-turned-comedian Bobby Henline, who was severely burned during a tour in Iraq.

Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”

“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”

Check out Henline’s pose below:

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”

Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns. 

This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”

“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.

Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.

“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”

Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.

The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.

“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”

Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

It happened in a flash and changed Jason Redman’s life forever.


Redman — a lieutenant on a Navy SEAL team — and his assault squad were searching for an Al-Qaeda operative in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 when they were ambushed. Redman’s left elbow nearly exploded when two rounds tore through his arm. As the team retreated for cover, another round tripped through the right side of his face, shattering his jaw and tearing off half his nose as it exited.

Nobody would have questioned Redman had he chose to let that moment ruin his life.

Instead, Redman pushed forward and started several organizations designed to help wounded veterans.

Now, he’s receiving the Red Bandanna Hero Award for his efforts.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
The American Heroes Channel Red Bandanna Hero Award. Logo from AHCTV.com.

Named for Welles Remy Crowther — “The Man in the Red Bandanna” who rescued more than a dozen victims of the World Trade Center attacks — the award pays tribute to the “everyday hero who exemplifies the American Spirit and defines us as a nation,” according to a news release. It is given by the American Heroes Channel and the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, and the winner gets to donate $10,000 to the charity of his or her choice.

Redman will receive the honor during an Oct. 27 ESPN broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State football game. And he will be featured on an American Heroes Channel story about the award on Oct. 28.

“Before I was wounded, I wanted to stay in the Navy for 30 years and become the commander of a SEAL Team,” said Redman, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It’s amazing how life turns on a dime and unfolds right in front of you.”

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Retired Lt. Jason Redman, U.S. Navy SEAL, exits Malmstrom Air Force Base’s auditorium to a standing ovation after his presentation. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt.

Redman is the CEO and founder of Combat Wounded Coalition and Wounded Wear. He also has a speaking and consulting firm called SOF Spoken. With Old Dominion University he is creating the Overcome Academy, which will help military men and women returning to civilian life. All operate under the Combat Wounded Coalition umbrella, which he started with his wife, Erica.

“If anybody should have the light shine on them, it’s him,” said Kevin Gaydosh of O’Brien et al. Advertising in Virginia Beach, which supports Redman on some of his projects. “Talk about an inspiration. We certainly believe in him and what he’s trying to do.

“You have to admire a guy like this.”

Also Read: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

Redman, 42, also has written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” and will appear in an upcoming film about Navy SEALS. He recently had a role in an episode of the Hawaii Five-O television series.

“Some people suffer through a bad event and stay in that spot,” said Redman, who joined the Navy in 1992 and finished SEAL training three years later. “Others push and drive forward by learning and growing.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

“But no, if you told me after I was wounded that I would have a book, a non-profit, that I’d be speaking and acting, I would say no and that you needed an instant drug test.”

Redman barely survived his injuries because of blood loss, and doctors initially thought he would lose his arm because of the injuries to the elbow. Forty surgeries, thousands of stitches, hundreds of staples, and countless hours of rehabilitation helped him regain some normalcy.

But progress was slow.

“Like so many wounded warriors, I was broke,” said the father of three children. “I was used to making things happen, and it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”

Redman admits that he let himself go. He stopped working out and wasn’t eating right. He drank more than he should have. But a visit to the doctor changed all that.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, right, and retired Navy Lt. Jason Redman, left, pose for a photo following the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Ball in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2014. USMC photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour.

“He told me I would die of a heart attack,” Redman said. “My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, so it was all there.”

“Now I’m pretty much on a fitness quest.”

Back on track, Redman is excited about the award he said belongs to all those he’s trying to help.

“Every morning I wake up I’m thankful I have another day,” said Redman, who retired from the Navy in 2013. “If I die today, because I’m already living on borrowed time, I know that I did it right today.

“Most of us have one shot in this life. I got a second chance.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

US Senator John McCain today applauded the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences Act, which would bolster the Veterans Choice Program and consolidate the VA’s community care network.


The proposal also includes several measures Senator McCain has strongly advocated to expand quality and timely care for veterans in their communities, such as eliminating the current 30-day/40-mile limit to permit all eligible veterans to use the VA Choice Card.

Also read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

It would also offer patients access to a network of walk-in clinics for minor health issues. This is modeled on a path-breaking partnership in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 veterans to visit dozens of local CVS MinuteClinic locations for care.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Senator McCain released the following statement supporting the VA’s new proposal:

“The VA’s proposed Veterans CARE Act would improve access to health care by developing a consolidated community care network that places veterans first. I am especially pleased to see the VA’s proposal incorporates some of the major reforms I have long advocated, such as eliminating the 30-day/40-mile restriction in the Veterans Choice Program, and expanding the successful pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows veterans to visit local walk-in clinics nationwide.

Veteran Issues: Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

“Over the last few years, demand for community care through the Veterans Choice Program has grown considerably. Millions of veteran appointments have been made with quality community health care providers around the country. Today, veterans no longer have to wait in long lines or drive hundreds of miles to receive care. Unfortunately, the Veterans Choice Program has also been a victim of its own success, and has outpaced the VA’s ability to accurately predict growing demand for the program. Until the VA can accurately assess demand for care in the community, Congress’ efforts to create an integrated and efficient VA health care system will continue to face difficulty.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

“Those efforts must reflect the lessons learned through the Veterans Choice Program. We must set standards for care that are easy to use and understand. We must require the VA to accurately assess demand for care in the community. And we must produce a standardized and transparent system that integrates community and VA services.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, my colleagues on the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and veterans service organizations to build on the proposed Veterans CARE Act and deliver our veterans the timely, quality, and flexible health care they deserve.”

Jobs

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

The best entrepreneurs are like a good cup of coffee: fresh, strong, and bold.

Army Green Beret turned coffee brew master, Evan Hafer, is exactly that. As the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, Hafer says they’re selling freedom, one cup at a time.


It’s a great tagline. You know what else? It’s an incredible business. The company roasts over a million pounds of coffee per year and grosses over $30 million annually. This isn’t a veteran with a hobby; this is a savvy businessman with a passion.

Here’s my 60 second interview with Evan, filmed recently at the White House.


As the CEO of StreetShares, my team and I fund America’s best veteran-owned businesses with veteran business loans, and contract or invoice financing. The questions we get asked over and over again are how to break away from the crowd; how to stand out as an entrepreneur. Here’s how:

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Evan Hafer, Mat Best, and the Team from Black Rifle Coffee.

Lesson 1: Find your passion.

“I fell in love with coffee 20 years ago,” Hafer told me. “I was the only guy who invaded Iraq with a bunch of boutique, small-roasted coffees.” Eventually, he began roasting for his fellow soldiers; they even converted a gun truck into a spot where they could grind coffee every morning.

To be a successful entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do is hone in on your passion. What’s going to make you want to get out of bed every day and hit the pavement until you can’t work anymore? If you’re not passionate about your business, why would anyone else be? Find out what drives you, then figure out how to make money doing it.

Hafer told me, “When I got back from the Middle East, all I wanted to do was roast.” That’s exactly what he did.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Evan Hafer inspecting coffee beans.

Lesson 2: Be clear in your vision.

Hafer knew his passion had potential. He teamed up with some friends at Article15 Clothing and did a test-drive of his Freedom Roast coffee on their site. They sold about 500 pounds of coffee, and it inspired him to launch Black Rifle Coffee in December 2014. “Conceptually, guns and coffee go together very well,” he said. “Every range that I’ve been to, coffee has been part of shooting.” He knew what he wanted to create: A lifestyle brand centered on supporting the 2nd Amendment in conjunction with great coffee. “You’re not going to find that anywhere else,” Hafer added.

Hafer’s time in the Army served him well in transitioning to life as an entrepreneur. “In the military, you have to push yourself past mental and physical limits, every day to the point where you’re almost desensitized to the work,” he explained. “Now I feel like I have an endless capacity to just always work. The military gave me the context to reach into basically a bottomless well of endurance.

Lesson 3: Be fearless.

One of the most important assets veteran entrepreneurs bring to the table that their civilian counterparts don’t always have is perspective. “While serving, you’ve been in the worst places,” Hafer offered. “The worst business you are put in will never compare to the worst experience that war puts you in.

“That realization is ultimately what encourages Hafer to be fearless. He explained, “I’m not going to lose my life or kill anyone. That allows me to fail and fail fast, so I can learn from my mistakes. At the end of the day, I don’t care. It doesn’t harm my ego – I just embrace the failure and move on.”

Any entrepreneur will tell you that failure is a part of the game. How you handle risk, and incorporate it into your business model will dictate whether or not you’ll be successful.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Evan and Mat Best in the shop.

Lesson 4: Be you.

Hafer always wanted to roast coffee. Now, he wants to make other people a lot of money doing it. “I’d rather make 100 people millionaires than make $100 million dollars myself,” Hafer shared. “This company is a good opportunity to make money.”

One of Hafer’s first hires was a soldier who served alongside him in Afghanistan. With 86 employees, 60 percent are veterans . That was a big part of Hafer’s vision. “It’s not PR – it’s who we are,” Hafer said. “This company is about freedom. It’s not about social issues. The premise of the company is, ‘You do you.'”

Next time you go to order a latte, think about the lessons you can learn from Evan Hafer. Then order your coffee like a good entrepreneur: fresh, strong, and bold.

Articles

This girl invited the PJ who saved her during Katrina to a high school dance

On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


And for a decade after that, they lost touch.

At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Left: Master Sgt. Mike Maroney embraces 3-year-old LeShay Brown after rescuing her and her family from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Right: Mahroney and 13-year-old Brown reunite after a 10-year search by Maroney to find the girl who’s smile and hug helped him through the difficulties of the rescue effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First class Veronica Pierce/Warner Brothers photo/Erica Parise)

The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.

The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.

In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.

Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
Master Sgt. Mike Maroney (middle), LaShay Brown (left) and Diane Perkins pose together for a photo during a reunion in Waveland, Mississippi. (USAF photo)

“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.

LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Updates to Post-9/11 Gi Bill transfers are coming

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.

The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:


  • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

  • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
  • Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.

For more information, go to https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

The White House Chef does 2,222 pushups a day for veterans

There’s only one person aside from the Secret Service who brings guns to the White House every day. That would be Chef Andre Rush, who can be found in the gym when he’s not cooking up a storm for the leader of the free world. As you can imagine, his fitness routine is heavy on arm work and (of course) his diet.


Rush not only tends to his biceps with what some might consider an excessive amount of curls, he also pumps up with the 22 Pushup Challenge every weekday, his part in raising awareness of the estimated 22 military veterans who die from suicide every day. Only, Andre Rush doesn’t just do 22. He does 2,222 pushups on top of his 72-hour rotating isolation schedule. Chef Rush is himself a military veteran who served in the Army before he ended up in the White House kitchen. He has served supper to Presidents Clinton, Bush 43, Obama, and now Trump – and their families, of course.

Food is still, thankfully, bipartisan.

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference

Rush joined the Army as a cook in 1994. His military career took him through culinary training before he started serving the goods at the Pentagon, and eventually, the White House. He retired only 18 months ago. He still works as a consultant for the White House.

“The camaraderie among the chefs reminded me of hanging out with my friends back in Mississippi, and I got tired of being serious and being out in the field 24/7,” he told Men’s Health Magazine. “Plus, I just love to eat!”

A diet for this force of a man consists of 12-24 hard-boiled eggs, only two of which are whole eggs. For the rest, he eats only the whites. He also downs his own peanut butter protein shake with blended quinoa and nonfat milk. For the rest of his training meals, he eats greek yogurt, oatmeal, and lean turkey – at the gym. He snacks on the turkey in the gym. For his afternoon meals, he consumes four roasted chickens.

If you’re interested in Chef Andre Rush’s workout routine, you can find it on Men’s Health Magazine’s website. For more about the 22 Pushup Challenge for veterans, check out the routine on the Active Heroes website.

Veterans

How ‘Operation Ward 57’ kept up its support for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic

This post was sponsored by Evan Williams and the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund.

For the most grievously wounded troops returning to the United States from a theater of war, the first stop on the road to recovery was Ward 57 of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This earned the ward the distinction of being known as “The Amputee Ward.” 

It’s also where the nonprofit organization Operation Ward 57 got its name. Operation Ward 57 was the recipient of an Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant that allowed it to carry on its mission during one of America’s most trying times. 

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
(Courtesy of Operation Ward 57)

Executive Director Brittney Hamilton says the grant made a world of difference in the lives of veterans struggling with pandemic-related issues. The ongoing mission of Operation Ward 57 is supporting veterans through advocacy and education, but the nonprofit often takes a more direct approach to assistance.

“We tend to fill in a lot of gaps where people aren’t eligible for other nonprofits,” Hamilton says. “Some veterans get sent to us because there’s nowhere else to go. If we can find a way to help them, we will.”

Hamilton became the Executive Director of the nonprofit after spending years as a volunteer with the organization. She saw what life was like for wounded troops at Walter Reed and began donating her time in 2007. By 2011, her dedication took her to the top of the organization. 

“Even though I had worked around veterans, I don’t think it was until my first time when I got to go to Walter Reed and I really saw the impact and I saw how young everybody was and how much their lives are being changed by these injuries,” she says. “From then on, I knew this is what I want to do. I want to help these families.” 

Operation Ward 57 has helped veterans dying of cancer get their last wish, provided Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for Gold Star families, and has even helped a wounded vet with mobility issues get their lawn mowed to avoid a homeowners association fine — if that’s what they need. 

Like many Americans, veterans faced an unprecedented set of challenges during the pandemic and Operation Ward 57’s constituency of wounded vets were no different. The COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant allowed Operation Ward 57 to not only continue its assistance, but answer those unique needs. 

“We had to stop doing a lot of our in-person events, but requests for smaller emergency grants really started to rise,” says Hamilton. “Almost all the grant requests we were getting were because people were losing their employment and were unable to work.” 

These grants were only possible thanks to the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund—established by Evan Williams in 2020 as part of their ongoing commitment to improve the lives of veterans. As an American made and owned company, Evan Williams believes that it’s important to give back to those who serve.

The Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant allowed Operation Ward 57 to answer those requests from wounded warriors who couldn’t work. On top of providing small grants for food, utility payments, and rent, it allowed the organization to keep its Honor and Courage Crisis Line going. Veterans in need — from any era — can call, text, or email someone from Operation Ward 57 at any time day or night, for as long as the pandemic lasts – and long after. 

Brittney Hamilton says the COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant was a great boon for the work of Operation Ward 57 and other, smaller nonprofits like it. 

“We’re a smaller nonprofit, so we’re used to getting passed over for grant money in favor of larger, more mainstream names,” she says. “It’s tougher to compete for support like this. It was huge for us. It’s not just about the money. The more that we get our name out there, the more people we’re able to reach and are able to help support and that’s what’s really important to us.”

5 reasons to maximize your potential at the Military Influencer Conference
(Courtesy of Operation Ward 57)

This post was sponsored by Evan Williams and the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund.

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