This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.
If you have professional goals of influencing people and impacting your organization at its highest level, you owe it to yourself to learn about organizational leadership. Everyone has had to deal with a toxic leader who didn’t understand how to communicate, motivate and create change. Not only does ineffective leadership directly affects the morale of an environment, but it directly impacts the esprit de corps. That means that a toxic leader not only sabotages their own chances of success but everyone else around them too.
As a member of the military community, you know firsthand how vital it is to have strong leaders who understand how to communicate with people. The essential skills and mindsets of the world’s strongest leaders all have four things in common.
What makes a good leader?
A good leader can solve problems and make decisions quickly and for the best benefit of the organization. These leaders know how to communicate and listen critically. They also understand the benefit of team building and peer development, including developing leadership potential in others. All good leaders have an eye toward the future, on the lookout for new opportunities and new chances at innovation.
Organizational leadership is the management approach to setting goals for an entire organization while motivating individuals to meet those goals. As a member of the military community, this is part of your everyday life. Whether you’re active duty, a veteran, or a military spouse, you know that goal setting and motivation are equal parts in what it takes to become successful.
Where are leaders found?
Leaders are everywhere – from company CEOs to unit non-commissioned officers to teachers in classrooms, department heads and even head coaches. All of these people share a commonality – they’re organized into a unit for some end. The leader is the person who’s responsible for directing or guiding that group. The best leaders are those who can structure the inputs of others to produce organizational outputs. Translation: a good leader values the members of their team, listens to advice and then make decisions based on sound judgment.
Members in the military community aren’t strangers to leadership, but it takes more than wearing a uniform to become a good leader. You have to be people-oriented to be a successful leader, and for that, you need to have the right training.
How does a degree in Organizational Leadership help?
Earning a degree in Organizational Leadership will help you develop the skills that employers look for most. As a member of the military community, you already know that teamwork, sound judgment, having the ability to solve complex problems and using decision-making skills are part and parcel of any good leader. Studying Organizational Leadership at Penn State allows you to broaden those skills to include how to use evidence appropriately, exercise influence, and use conflict management and communication skills.
Take a deep dive into both the managerial and supervisory behavior of successful leaders from around the world to gain insight into the layered nature of what it means to lead from the top. Our Organizational Leadership program is designed specifically for the military community to help you develop the skills you need to lead from the top.
When you enroll in our World Campus Organizational Leadership program, you have the opportunity to explore what it means to be a leader from both a social-scientific perspective and an operational perspective. Developing foundational knowledge from both sides of the house allows you to expand on your current leadership skills and broaden your professional horizons.
Build your leadership skills with an online degree and never have to worry about finding a way to fit campus time into your schedule. As a valued member of America’s military community, we know that you have a choice when it comes to how you pursue your education. That’s why Penn State is pleased to offer our Organizational Leadership bachelor’s degree program entirely online. We offer both a BS and a BA to best meet your needs.
Penn State is nationally recognized for our wide array of online bachelor’s degrees. We offer a diverse curriculum with foundational courses in communication, economics and labor and employment relations to help you develop the operational leadership skills you need to take your career to the next level.
We’ve been helping members of the military community achieve their educational dreams since 1865. To date, our Penn State World Campus includes more than 5,000 military student learners. Penn State is a proud and active member of the Council on College and Military Educators, and has been recognized through several military-specific awards and rankings.
Whether you’re ready to transition back to civilian life or just looking to advance your education, our Organizational Leadership program offers exactly what you need. Find out more here.
This article is sponsored by Penn State World Campus.
The mission was supposed to be standard: move into enemy territory and capture or kill marked Taliban leaders in the middle of the night in the Kunduz Province.
But for a team of 12 Army Special Forces soldiers, 43 Afghan Army commandos, and one Air Force combat controller, all hell was about to break loose. Soon after the sun had risen on Nov. 2, 2016, the coalition team had already engaged the enemy through various curtains of intense ambushes and gunfire — with four allied troops injured.
During the barrage of gunfire, Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, began engaging the enemy right back.
While taking multiple casualties, Hunter put his exceptional combat training to good use, calling in a total of 31 airstrikes from AH-64 Apaches and AC-130 gunships onto the enemies’ elevate position — killing 27.
Some of the airstrikes landed within just meters of Hunter’s position. Hunter then coordinated with the quick reaction force and medical evacuation helicopters to export the wounded. But Hunter’s fight wasn’t over with just yet.
VA is partnering with four technology organizations — CaringBridge, IBM, Objective Zero Foundation, and RallyPoint — that share VA’s commitment to preventing veteran suicide. These organizations are working with VA to promote social connectedness and expand the reach of lifesaving resources using mobile applications and online platforms.
“Partnerships are a vital component of the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which we are implementing at the national, state, and local levels,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention, for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “Our goal is to prevent suicide among veterans nationwide and across the globe, reaching even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care. To do that, we are working closely with dozens of important partners across sectors to expand our reach beyond VA facility walls, to deliver care and support to at-risk veterans wherever they live, work, and thrive.”
As identified in the national strategy, engaging community partners in the technology sector is an important component of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. While each of our technology partners offers their own unique services, they all use technology to help service members and veterans get the care they need whenever and wherever they need it.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
CaringBridge is a global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during any health journey through the use of free personal websites. A CaringBridge website can be used to share updates and coordinate support for service members, veterans, their caregivers and families during any health journey including mental health and substance use. While enhancing social connectedness, CaringBridge also allows its users to conduct personal fundraisers. Through the partnership with VA and CaringBridge, a tailored destination page www.caringbridge.org/military-service/ to directly focus on the needs of Service members, veterans, caregivers and their families is now available.
IBM and VA launched a collaborative suicide prevention program to develop an innovative mobile application currently under development titled GRIT (Getting Results In Transition). GRIT demonstrates how the real-time and consistent collection of personalized data can help service members and veterans understand and strengthen their emotional well-being and resiliency — particularly during the transition from active duty to civilian life. GRIT allows users to create a digital self and gain personal insight into their personality baseline, provides access to a digital assistant powered by IBM Watson, helps to build a squad of social connection and offers employment matching and fulfillment capabilities using IBM Watson Employment Manager among other resources to support the transition out of the military.
Objective Zero Foundation
Objective Zero Foundation is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to enhance social connectedness and improve access to mental health resources. The Objective Zero mobile application connects service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to peer support through videoconferencing, voice calls, and text messaging. Users also get free access to resources on mental health and wellness. Volunteer ambassadors sign up for the application, receive training including VA’s own A.V.E. training “Signs,” “Ask,” “Validate,” and “Encourage and Expedite,”— course to then be on the receiving end of those in need of connecting. Objective Zero aims to be more upstream than the Veterans Crisis Line and allows service members, veterans their families and caregivers to both volunteer and connect to others when they need it most. You can download the free Objective Zero mobile application at https://www.objectivezero.org/app.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
RallyPoint is a social networking company designed to gather service members and veterans connect with each other, discuss military life, share information and exchange stories. The platform is now open for families, caregivers and federal employees of service members and veterans. Users can build out their own professional network, share resources, connect with other members of the military and veterans in a safe, secure social media environment. Career opportunities and resources, active community discussions and increasing social connectedness with over 1 million users is free, ready and available at www.rallypoint.com/.
“VA will not stop working to prevent veteran suicide, but we can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in preventing Veteran suicide,” Franklin said. “VA’s partnerships in the technology sector enhance social connectedness and expand the reach of VA’s suicide prevention resources through these technology platforms. We are working with partners in the technology space and other sectors to ensure we reach all Veterans with lifesaving resources and support.”
The health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and former service members is VA’s highest priority. Guided by data and research, VA is working with partners, veterans’ family members and friends, and the community to ensure that all veterans and former service members get the right care whenever they need it — regardless of their discharge status. To learn about the resources available for veterans and how you can #BeThere as a VA employee, family member, friend, community partner, or clinician, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/resources.asp.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. — Military personnel and their families receive 20% off on November 11. Dine-in only.
Buffalo Wild Wings— Veterans and active-duty service members get a free order of 10 boneless wings and fries on November 11. The offer is available for dine-in or takeout.
California Pizza Kitchen–Veterans and active military get a complimentary meal from a select menu. Dine-in and walk-in takeout only.
Casey’s General Stores — Service members both past and present get a free coffee on November 11 across its over 2,200 locations.
Cattlemens— Active, inactive, and retired military personnel get a complimentary 8 oz. Sirloin Steak dinner on November 11.
CentraArchy Restaurants — Veterans and active-duty military members get an entree from the full menu at any location for half price on November 11. Guests are encouraged to make reservations.
Chili’s — Veterans and active-duty service members get a free meal from a select menu on November 11. Available for in-restaurant only.
Cicis Pizza— Active and retired military get a free adult buffet on November 11. Dine-in only. Coupon required.
Coco’s— On November 11, veterans and active-duty service members get a free slice of pie, along with a “Buy One, Get One” free deal at all locations. The offer is valid for dine-in or take out orders; online and delivery not included.
Country Kitchen — Active and retired military get a free Country Scramble on November 11 at participating locations. Dine-in only.
Cracker Barrel — Veterans get a complimentary slice of Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake when dining at any location on November 11.
Eat’n Park— All former and current military personnel and their families will receive a 10% discount for the entire month of November. Dine-in only.
Einstein Bros. Bagels — Veterans and active-duty military get a free hot or iced medium coffee on November 11.
Famous Dave’s — Military personnel get a free Free Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich + Side at participating locations on November 11. Valid for Dine-In, To Go, and Online Ordering. Not valid for call in orders.
Farmer Boys— Veterans and active-duty military receive a free Big Cheese cheeseburger on November 11 at participating locations.
Friendly’s— Veterans and active-duty military get a free All-American meal for lunch or dinner, which consists of the All-American Burger, served with a side of fries and a drink on November 11. Dine-in only at participating locations.
Frisch’s Big Boy — Veterans and active-duty military receive a free meal, all day, up to $10 at participating locations on November 11. This tribute is available at Frisch’s dine-in, drive-thru and carryout.
Golden Corral — Golden Corral Restaurants’ Military Appreciation Night free dinner will be available on November 11. Military retirees, veterans, active-duty, National Guard and Reserves are all welcome.
Hamburger Stand — Veterans and active-duty military get a free hamburger, regular fries and a small Pepsi on November 11.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar — On November 11, veterans and active-duty service members get a free Classic Burger (with or without cheese). This offer is redeemable for in-store dining or to-go orders placed by phone.
Houlihan’s— Veterans, active-duty military and military families get $10 off a $30 food purchase at participating locations on November 11. This offer is valid for in-restaurant dining or for carryout. Orders made via houlihans.com or a third-party delivery service are not eligible.
Hy-Vee— Veterans and active military members get a free curbside pickup breakfast November 11 from 6 – 10 a.m.
Kolache Factory — Veterans and active-duty military get a free kolache and a cup of coffee on November 11 from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.
LaMar’s Donuts— Veterans and active-duty military get a free donut and 12 oz. coffee at participating locations on November 11.
Little Caesars — Veterans and active military get a free HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo at participating stores on November 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Logan’s Roadhouse — On November 11 between 3 and 6 pm, veterans and military personnel receive a free meal from a special menu.
Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ — Active-duty personnel and veterans get a free Lucille’s Original Pulled Pork Sandwich on November 11.
Luna Grill— Veterans and active-duty service members get a “Buy One, Get One Free” deal from November 11 through 13, valid for dine-in or to-go orders. (Not valid online or delivery.)
McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants— Veterans, National Guard, Gold Star parents and Gold Star Spouses can enjoy a half priced entrée from a special menu on November 8. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Menchie’s— Veterans who visit stores on November 11 get their first 6 oz of froyo free.
Mission BBQ — Veterans and active-duty military get a free sandwich on November 11.
O’Charley’s– Active-duty military and veterans can enjoy a free meal on November 11. Dine-in only.
Pilot Flying J— Veterans get a free breakfast combo at participating locations November 9 through 15 through a special offer in the app.
Red Lobster— Veterans, active-duty military and reservists get a free appetizer or dessert from a select menu on November 11. Dine-in only.
Red Robin – Veterans and active-duty military who are Red Robin Royalty members can redeem a free Tavern Double Burger with Steak Fries any time between November 12 and 30 for dine-in or to-go. The offer will be automatically uploaded to your dashboard.
Sagebrush Steakhouse— Veterans and active-duty military receive a free meal on November 11. Dine-in only.
Shari’s — On November 11, veterans and active-duty service members get a free slice of pie, along with a “Buy One, Get One” free deal at all locations. The offer is valid for dine-in or take out orders; online and delivery not included.
Shoney’s — Veterans and active-duty service members get a free All You Care To Eat, Freshly Prepared Breakfast Bar on November 11 until 11 am. Dine-in only.
Starbucks— Veterans, military service members and military spouses get a free tall (12-oz) hot brewed coffeeat participating stores on November 11.
Tap House Grill— Veterans and active-duty military get a free meal on November 11. Dine-in only.
Wienerschnitzel — Veterans and active-duty military receive a free Chili Dog, small fries and a small drink at participating locations on November 11.
Yard House — Veterans and active duty military receive a complimentary appetizer on November 11.
2019 Veterans Day Restaurant Discounts:
151 Coffee — Military personnel are invited to bring your family for free drinks on November 11.
Ahipoki — Veterans and active-duty military receive 50% off any bowl at all locations across Arizona and California on November 11.
Another Broken Egg Cafe — Veterans and active-duty service members can enjoy a free Patriot French Toast Combo and coffee on November 11.
Applebee’s — Veterans and active-duty military receive a free meal from a special menu on November 11.
Army & Air Force Exchange Service — The Exchange will feature one-day only specials on November 11, including a free coffee for all shoppers at Express and participating Exchange restaurant locations. And MILITARY STAR cardholders will earn double points November 11 andadditional discounts with their card.
Aroma Joe’s Coffee — Veterans and active-duty military get up to a 24oz drink for free on November 11.
Aspen Creek Grill— Veterans and active-duty military get a complimentary meal from a special menu from 11 a.m. to close on November 11.
Biggby Coffee — Veterans and active-duty service members get a free brewed coffee up to 24 oz. on November 11.
Bombshells Restaurant and Bar— Veterans and active-duty military get free meals and soft drinks and a 20% discount for accompanying family members on November 11.
Bonanza Steakhouses— Veterans and active military get buffet specials at select locations on November 11.
Bruegger’s Bagels — Active-duty military members, veterans, reservists and military spouses get a free bagel with cream cheese on November 11.
Buffalo Wings & Rings — Veterans and active-duty military receive a free “Pick 2” Lunch Combo on November 11 between 11 am and 3 pm.
Burntwood Tavern— Veterans and active military get a free lunch or dinner on November 11.
Calhoun’s— Veterans and active-duty military get a free meal on November 11.
Cantina Laredo— Veterans and active-duty military get a complimentary meal up to $20 at participating locations on November 11.
Carrabba’s — This Veterans Day weekend, veterans and active-duty military receive a free calamari and 10% off on all future visits.
Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse— Veterans and active-duty military get a free entree from a special menu from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm. on November 11.
Chicken Salad Chick — On November 11, veterans and active-duty military will receive a free Chick Special and Regular Drink.
Chipotle— Active-duty military, reserves, national guard, military spouses and retired military get a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deal on November 11.
Chop House — On November 11, active-duty and retired service members get 50% off any dine-in lunch or dinner entree.
City Barbecue— Veterans and active-duty military get a free sandwich, two sides, and a regular beverage on November 11.
Claim Jumper— On November 11, veterans and active-duty military get a free entree up to $15 from a special menu.
Coffee Beanery— Veterans and active-duty military get a free tall cup of fresh brewed coffee all day on November 11.
Connors Steak & Seafood — On November 11, active-duty and retired service members get 50% off any dine-in lunch or dinner entree.
Cotton Patch Cafe — Veterans and active-duty military get a free chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken on November 11.
Country Cookin — Active, reserve, retired, and honorably discharged members of the military receive a free salad bar or $5 off any entree on November 11 when showing a valid military ID and filling out the service card.
Crooked Pint Ale House — Veterans and active-duty military get a free menu item on November 11 at participating locations.
Cumberland Farms — Veterans, active-duty, reserve, National Guard or honorably discharged military personnel get a free coffee on November 11.
Denny’s— Veterans and military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam on November 11, from 5 a.m. to noon.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit — Veterans and active-duty military get a free Classic Sandwich and choice of side on November 11.
Dunkin’ Donuts— On November 11, veterans and active-duty military receive a free donut at participating locations.
Fatz Cafe— Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken basket on November 11. And from November 1 through 30, veterans and active military members will receive 20% off their entrée.
Huddle House— Active-duty, retired, and veteran military members get a free order of Sweet Cakes November 8 through 11.
Hurricane Grill and Wings— Veterans and active military get a free entrée from a special menu on November 11. Plus, participating guests will also receive a card for 10% off future visits through December 31.
IHOP— Veterans and active-duty military get a free red, white, and blueberry pancake combo on November 11 at participating locations.
IKEA — Veterans get a free meal November 9 through 11.
Insomnia Cookies — Veterans and active-duty military personnel get a free traditional cookie all week, November 11 through 17.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant— On November 10 and 11, veterans and active-duty service members get a complimentary burger or sandwich along with a non-alcoholic beverage.
J. Christopher’s –Veterans get a free meal at participating locations on November 11.
Jimboy’s Tacos — Veterans get a free meal on November 11 at participating locations. Meals have a $10 max value.
Joe’s Crab Shack — Veterans receive 20% off at participating locations on November 11.
Juice It Up — Veterans and active military receive a free 20oz Classic Smoothie on November 11 at participating locations.
K&W Cafeterias— Veterans and active-duty get a free meal on November 11 from 11 am until closing.
Kwik Fill — Veterans receive a free coffee on November 11.
LongHorn Steakhouse — Veterans get 10% off your entire meal and a free appetizer or dessert on November 11.
Lucky Girl Brewing — Veterans and active-duty military receive a free pulled pork or brisket sandwich with a side at Lucky Girl Brewing or a free flat bread pizza at B52 Winery on November 9, 10, and 11.
Lucky Strike Entertainment — Active, inactive and retired military personnel get complimentary 1 hour of bowling, as well as a burger and beer for $10 on November 11.
Macaroni Grill— Veterans and active military receive a free Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs + Spaghetti on November 11.
MacKenzie River — Veterans and active-duty military receive 25% off for their entire table on November 11.
Main Event — On November 11, veterans and active-duty military receive 30 minutes of game play that can be used on more than 100 interactive video games and a free entrée from a special menu.
Manhattan Bagel Company — All active, former and retired military personnel get a free bagel and cream cheese at participating locations on November 11.
Ninety Nine Restaurant and Pub— On November 11 from 11 am to 4 pm, veterans and active military get a free lunch from a select menu with purchase of an entree.
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom— Active-duty service members and veterans get a free Specialty or up to 3 topping individual pizza with purchase, November 8 through 11 at participating locations. Not valid at OC Logan or OC Manhattan.
Old Country Buffet— On November 11, veterans get a free buffet plus a non-bottled beverage at participating restaurants.
On the Border— On November 11, active and retired service members receive a free meal from a select menu at participating locations.
Orange Leaf— Retired and active-duty military receive free froyo at participating locations on November 11.
Otter’s Chicken — Active, Guard/Reserve, retirees and former service members get a free meal at participating locations on November 11.
Paisano’s Pizza — Veterans and active-duty military get a free Large 1-Topping Pizza on November 11.
Pala Casino — Veterans and active-duty military get a free buffet on November 11.
Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille — Veterans and active-duty military get a complimentary 3-course pork chop dinner on November 10 from 4 to 9 p.m. Each veteran must be accompanied by at least one guest who purchases an entree or Sunday Supper Special.
Ponderosa— Veterans and active military get buffet specials at select locations on November 11.
Price Chopper Supermarkets — Veterans, active-duty, reserve and national guard military get a free 12oz. Coffee & Donut on November 11.
Primanti Bros. — Active or retired military can enjoy a free Primanti Bros. Almost Famous sandwich November 10 and 11.
Quaker Steak & Lube — Veterans, active-duty and Reservist service members get free or discounted meals at participating locations on November 11.
RA Sushi — Veterans, active and retired military can enjoy a complimentary shareable on November 11, available all day.
Rock and Brews— Veterans and active military personnel receive a complimentary pulled pork sandwich or salad on November 11.
Rodizio Grill — Veterans eat free November 11 through 14 with the purchase of at least one Adult Full Rodizio meal at participating locations.
Roy Rogers — Present a military ID or proof of service to receive 10% off your entire purchase on November 11.
Rubio’s Coastal Grill — Get a buy one entree get one free deal on November 11 with coupon and military ID.
Ruby Tuesday— Former and active-duty service members get a free Burger or Sandwich served with fries or tots on November 11.
Ryan’s— On November 11, veterans get a free buffet plus a non-bottled beverage at participating restaurants.
Sauce Pizza & Wine — On November 11, all locations will honor veterans with 25% off their bill.
Scooter’s Coffee — Veterans and current military personnel get a free drink of any size on November 11.
Shane’s Rib Shack— Active-duty military and veterans get a free sandwich, regular side, and 20-oz. beverage November 11 through 13 at participating locations.
Sheetz— On November 11, veterans and active-duty military personnel get a free 6 inch turkey sub and a regular size fountain drink. Sheetz locations offering car washes will also provide a free car wash to veterans and active-duty military.
Sizzler— Veterans get a free complete lunch from a special menu on November 11 at participating locations until 4 pm.
Smashburger — Veterans and active-duty military get a free double burger on November 11 with any purchase.
Smokey Bones — Veterans and active-duty military get a free dessert from a select menu on November 11.
Smoothie King — On November 11, veterans and active-duty military get a free 20 oz. smoothie.
Snarf’s Sandwiches — Active-duty military and veterans receive a free 7 inch non-specialty sandwich on November 11.
Sonny’s BBQ — Veterans and active-duty military get a free Pulled or Sliced Pork Big Deal combo on November 11.
Spaghetti Warehouse— From November 9 through 11, buy one entrée and get the second entrée free. Coupon required.
sweetFrog— Veterans and active military personnel get a free 12-oz yogurt on November 11.
Taco Mac— On November 11, active military members and veterans get a free 6-pack of wings with purchase a drink.
TCBY — Veterans and active military personnel get their first 6 oz. of frozen yogurt for free on November 11 with valid proof of service at participating locations.
Texas de Brazil— Veterans receive 50% off dinner November 11 through 13 during dinner hours.
Texas Roadhouse— Veterans and active-duty military get a free lunch on November 11 from 11 am to 4 pm.
Spring flowers are blooming, the summer travel season quickly approaches and veterans are joining the 330-million yearly visitors enjoying U.S. National Parks.
Many veterans, with a service connected disability rating, are entering Federal parks for free with the Lifetime National Parks Access Pass from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Good for entry into 400+ National Parks and over 2,000 recreation sites across the country, the Lifetime Access Pass is another way a grateful nation says thank you for the service and sacrifices of veterans with disabilities.
The Access Pass admits disabled veterans and any passengers in their vehicle (non-commercial) at per-vehicle fee areas; and, the pass owner plus three additional adults where per-person fees are charged. In addition to free entry at participating parks, the Access Pass includes discounts on expanded amenity fees; such as camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.
(Photo by Emily Ogden)
Veterans who have a VA disability rating, (10 percent or higher) are eligible for the Lifetime Access Pass — with two ways to apply.
First, disabled veterans can apply in person at a participating federal recreation site. Simply present photo identification (Drivers license, State ID, Passport) and documentation proving a permanent disability (VA awards letter, VA ID with service connected annotation, VA summary of benefits, or receipt of Social Security disability income). That’s It. The pass is free and issued at the time of entry.
Second, if applying by mail, send a completed packet and processing fee to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The packet should include:
Social workers at VA are a vital part of the team, pulling together treatment plans and providing comprehensive, personalized care to Veterans
Social workers are an integral part of mental health care teams at VA.
These versatile professionals seem to do it all, pulling together treatment plans and providing comprehensive, personalized care to Veterans.
Did you know that VA is the largest employer of social workers in the nation? It’s true. And this month, we’re turning the spotlight on this rewarding career as part of our monthly effort to recognize a different critical-need occupation in celebration of VHA’s 75th anniversary.
In her final year of graduate school, Elizabeth accepted a social work internship at VA. She’s now been a social worker here for more than a decade.
“By happenstance, I got into VA and I have never felt limited here,” said Kleeman. “The opportunities that we have, creativity and positions that you can take, the services that you can offer and the training that you can get are state of the art.”
She supervises the suicide prevention and Veterans justice outreach teams. These teams of social workers provide the VAMC with suicide prevention expertise and serve as liaisons between the legal system and VA.
“There is just so much you can do in the social work realm that is unique to this particular discipline,” she said.
As a VA social worker, you’ll be essential to our mission of helping Veterans and their families heal. Your role on a mental health care team is extensive and dynamic, including responsibilities such as:
Developing specialized treatment plans that consider social, environmental, psychological and economic factors.
Providing clinical and case management for Veterans dealing with PTSD, substance abuse, bereavement and more.
Managing crisis intervention and high-risk screenings.
Delivering family education and providing educational materials.
Acting as a patient advocate.
Developing discharge plans and coordinating outpatient care.
“We are often consultants to the other disciplines on what impacts people’s well-being and their experience – like their marriage, their past, their childhood, their current family, their work, etc. Social justice is truly what drives us; this helps the entire team function because it calls out the blind spots,” Kleeman said.
Social workers across VA serve in a variety of settings, including primary care clinics, specialty clinics, hospitals and emergency departments, and mental health and rehabilitation units.
With more than 1,200 VA facilities across the nation, you’re sure to find a social work role that suits your skills and expertise.
Work at VA
Consider becoming part of the social work team at VA, where you can play a vital role in improving Veterans’ lives.
Ohio is home for Hillary O’Connor Mueri. She was born in Parma and moved to Painesville at three years old. She’s a graduate of Ohio State University and entered the Navy as a Buckeye ROTC midshipman in 1996.
To her, it made perfect sense to run for Congress at home, in Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. And she believes she has the perfect resume for it.
“This is where I’m from,” she told Military.com. “This is where I call home. My parents still live in the house I grew up in.”
Hillary O’Connor Mueri
But running in her home district also opens her up to intense media scrutiny in front of her lifelong friends and family. With the election still nine months away, she’s already seen her opponent and his allies come out hard against her in local media. Like many veterans, she presses on, confident in her abilities. She never thought this would be easy, she says.
“Growing up, I always thought that politics was something wealthy people did. So it was never, you know, an ambition of mine,” she explains. “And I think we really need to change that narrative. We need to make the House for the people again, to make this something that everyone can aspire to.”
That aspiration is just one reason Mueri, a lawyer and former naval flight officer, decided to run for Congress. She felt a desire to serve early in her adult life, while studying aviation engineering. She wanted to use her love for all things aircraft to serve her country, especially after realizing she’d rather be flying planes than building them, she says.
Her grandfathers were both in the Navy, but they died before she was born. Still, the tradition of service, and the Navy in particular, resonated with Mueri. For her, landing on aircraft carriers meant she could always fly on the cutting edge of aviation technology.
“Tomcats forever. First love,” she says. “All the other aircraft have amazing characteristics, but there’s something about the F-14 that’s just gonna stick with me.”
Her career took her to train in Pensacola and to the carrier Theodore Roosevelt. In 2003, she flew Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance missions supporting ground troops in northern Iraq from the Roosevelt. She later became an instructor at what was then the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center’s (now known as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center) Strike school at Nevada’s Naval Air Station Fallon.
She left the Navy in 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant after getting engaged to her future husband, Simon Mueri. When he was transferred to San Diego, she went too. While there, she struggled with finding meaningful work as a civilian and decided to go to law school. Graduating in 2010, she was hired by the prestigious firm of Perkins Coie in Los Angeles.
Eventually, it was time to move home to be near her family in Ohio. But running for office wasn’t her first thought. She saw an ad for Emily’s List, a reproductive rights organization that supports women running for office. There was something about the idea of running that stuck with Mueri the same way the Tomcat did.
“Watching how chaotic our government has gotten, how it turned from service and lawmaking into partisan bickering, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” she said. “In the military, we talk about the Constitution and how service is so valuable. I want to bring that back to the House. The House of Representatives is the people’s house, and I want to be able to affect real change for everyday people.”
Part of that dedication to service is why she thinks more veterans should run for office. She believes veterans have a “country first, mission first” outlook that drives them from day to day, regardless of political party.
“It’s about identifying what needs to get done and getting it done,” she said. “So you learn how to work as a team and ignore the distinctions between you. I think having more veterans with that perspective focused on the greater good, instead of about the petty day-to-day things, we’re going to be able to really accomplish a lot that is solely for the benefit of the country.”
But it isn’t easy. Running for office is almost a 24/7 job, with nearly limitless pulls on the candidate’s attention. Being a veteran is also good preparation for those problems, she says. The 24/7 mentality is strong with most military members, and the demands of military life are great practice for balancing priorities. What most veterans probably aren’t prepared for is suddenly being in the spotlight.
“Suddenly, you have to realize that there will be a larger amount of attention paid to what you do, as opposed to going about your everyday life,” Mueri said. “That takes some getting used to.”
In her situation, allegations were made by the Ohio Republican Party that, while she was transitioning to civilian life and moving from Nevada to California in 2008, she requested an absentee ballot from the state of Ohio and voted in two primary elections.
“You’re very exposed,” she said. “It’s shocking to see that sort of thing sprung on you. In the end, you have to let it roll off your back and keep moving forward as long as you have the truth on your side. And I do, so I just have to carry on being myself.”
Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.
Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.
Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.
“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.
The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veteranswho worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASHstaff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.
Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?
“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homelesswere able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.
Recover, heal, grow
The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.
He’s the proof he inspires in others.
To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.
To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.
On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.
Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.
“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.
During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.
Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler
Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.
Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari
Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.
When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,
“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”
To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.
Visitors to Washington, D.C., pass many memorials during their trips, including those dedicated to wars throughout the nation’s history. The black granite of the Vietnam War Memorial. The fountains and columns of the World War II Memorial. The 19 stainless steel statues of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. One war—dubbed “The Great War”—has been the only one missing. That changes April 16, 2021, with the First Colors ceremony unveiling the National WWI Memorial.
Army Veteran Terry Hamby is commission chair for the World War I Centennial Commission. He hopes the unveiling will be an important milestone for Americans to remember those who fought.
“It’s significant to America,” he said. “For 103 years, 4.7 million men and women who served in World War I have not been recognized here in our nation’s capital for their service.”
Hamby said this group of Veterans blazed a path future generations would follow.
“This group of Americans were the first to deploy overseas to Europe and fight in a war they didn’t start,” he said. “They were willing to die for peace and liberty for people they never met.”
Hamby’s grandfather served during World War I. While working on the project, he also learned his great uncle served. He died in battle on the fifth day in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel.
“From that point forward, it’s personal because you’re a Veteran,” the Vietnam Veteran said. “But it’s really personal when one of your family members is one of those 116,516 people who gave not only the life at the moment, but the life that they would live, to the country.”
The lead designer for the memorial, Joe Weishaar, said the new memorial was a difficult task to tell the Veteran stories and honor their service.
“Weaving all of those things together has not been an easy task, but hopefully I’ve done it and it comes across when people visit,” he said. “It’s really about the men and women who served.”
Even though he doesn’t have a personal family connection to World War I, Weishaar said he felt a personal connection looking at photos and reading through diary entries of Veterans. He said the words of 20- to 25-year-old service members struck him. Weishaar was 25 when he submitted his design.
“I always felt a real connection with them,” the Arkansas native said. “Seventy thousand men and women from Arkansas served in World War I. For most of them, it was the first time they left their towns and villages. That really changes a person.”
About the memorial
Weishaar worked with the existing site and memorial, incorporating the stories of men and women who served during World War I. The memorial stands at the site of the former Pershing Park at the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., southeast of the White House.
The rigors of combat leave a lasting impact on many veterans who have proudly served. As painful as it is to admit, as a society, we’ve mostly left these troops to fend for themselves and find their own path in coping and healing.
No two roads to recovery are alike, but there’s one method that’s proven, time and time again, to be an effective way for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to see through the haze — and that’s adopting a support animal.
Whether it’s an officially certified and properly trained service animal or just a pet that offers its unconditional love, it’s been proven that animals can get veterans through their struggles.
As many veterans who are accompanied by a support animal can tell you, a little nudge of love can make the biggest difference in the world. Such is the story of Andrew Einstein and his dog, Gunner.
And the two have been inseparable ever since.
When he was deployed in August, 2011, a grenade went off near Andrew. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost the hearing on his right side. The road to recovery was long, lonely, and painful. Without adequate support, Andrew went through dark times. He reached his lowest point less than ten months after the injury, and intended to end his own life.
Thankfully, he made it through the night. The very next day, he met Gunner. He wasn’t the biggest or the most energetic dog, but this little puppy didn’t want to leave Andrew’s side. Gunner chose to stick by Andrew, despite of all the hardships he’s endured.
The bond between the two grew with each passing day. Today, Andrew and Gunner participate together in various runs and obstacle courses across the country. Competition after competition, the pride Andrew has for Gunner, as he successfully navigates the various challenges, can only be described as the pride a parent has for a child.
“Service dogs allow people to live a life they otherwise wouldn’t be able to live because of whatever issue or disability they’re suffering from,” says Andrew. “It’s near impossible to do anything on your own and having a support system — whether it be one dog, a team of people, it doesn’t matter the number — if you don’t get help, you’re gonna get worse. But if you ask for help, you’ll get better. You’re still the same person, nothing changes, except your life getting better.”
Andrew found that support system in Gunner.
To learn more about Andrew and Gunner’s incredible journey — and to explore the amazing ways a service animal can impact lives — visit Nulo’s website.
Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.
He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.
He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.
As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.
Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.
Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.
“A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”
After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.
“I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.“
They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.
He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.
And now he finds himself with a different challenge.
In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.
He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.
Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.
“Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.“
A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.
James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.
“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”
The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.
Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”
One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.
Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”
James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.
In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.
Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”
The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.
“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.
Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.
In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.
Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.