How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they’ll be ready for use next month

Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.


“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.

“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”

When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career
Speaker John Boehner signs H.R. 91, the Veterans Identification Card Act, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-MI). Photo from Speaker John Boehner Flickr.

Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.

The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.

Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Articles

Quadruple amputee Travis Mills wows the crowd with appearance on ‘Ellen’ show

Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.


David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.

In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.

“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.

“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.

When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”

Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”

His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.

Vobora combined his research into the training he’d done with professional athletes with Mills’ experience at Walter Reed to build two non-profits: The Travis Mills Foundation and The Adaptive Training Foundation.

Both men were gifted with generous checks from Ellen and Walmart for their foundations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This entrepreneur wants you to know military veterans are more than the uniform

It’s easy to see American military members in uniform and sort of lump them all in together as a single unit – that’s kind of the point of part of their lives. But it’s only a part of their lives. Once the uniform is off or they’re out of the military, what remains is a person. The Military Fresh Network aims to show that U.S. military members can serve their country while being the unique individuals they were created to be.


The Military Fresh Network provides them a platform to promote their real passions. From music to fitness, active military members and veterans alike turn to the Military Fresh Network to join a family and put their talents to work for them.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

(Military Fresh Network)

If you look at Hank Robinson’s (above) ten years of Army infantry service, with his three Bronze Stars and Combat Infantryman Badge, you might be quick to lump him in with the stereotypical infantry grunt and all the baggage which might come along with it. But get to know the person and you’ll see a man who became enamored with metal work – so enamored he started his own engraving business after spending years perfecting his chosen art form. This is a man who now helps others work through PTSD via art therapy.

Then you realize you were too quick to judge. We all are. It’s sometimes hard to see past the decorations and the uniform. The Military Fresh Network is here to help change all that. Jimmy Cox, the founder of the Military Fresh Network, is as passionate about the talents of the people on the network as he is about his own.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Gabrielle Torres funded her college education through Miss America scholarships, but the dual-bachelors student will also be an Army officer upon graduation.

(Military Fresh Network)

“This is finally something we can do and show for ourselves,” says Cox, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army. “The reason so many people don’t join the military today is the same reason they didn’t join ten years ago – they don’t want who they are to get lost. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life does not have to be on hold while you wear the uniform. The Military Fresh Network shows them that. “

On the Military Fresh Network’s website, you can see the stories of dozens of America’s finest troops, officer and enlisted, who took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States out of uniform and in their natural habitat. There, you can read their stories, see the faces of the men and women who serve, and realize their talents and skills in a way never before seen – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Air Force veteran, Navy spouse, and fitness professional Tarryn Garlington is also a civilian working for the Army.

The site is broken down by branch of service and by the kind of skills and talent on display. Here you can see military members at their finest, playing musical instruments, bodybuilding, giving fitness tips, even showing off their street art and business savvy. It truly is a way to get to know America’s vets as real people, to interact with them, and appreciate people on a new level.

“I had my own following when I started in graphic design,” says Ana Valencia, a U.S. Army senior NCO who is also a Military Fresh Network volunteer. “The Military Fresh Network provided me with a huge platform for my work, so I became a huge advocate.”

In 2019, the Military Fresh Network will even be joining the ranks of the Military Influencer Conference sponsors. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Then you can post your own business skills on The Military Fresh Network.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

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 Veterans who 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-VASH staff 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 homeless were 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.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons to participate in Giving Tuesday Military

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is widely known as “Giving Tuesday.” Nonprofits compete for your donations and your social media feeds are filled with fundraisers. But this year, three military spouses are asking you to give only one thing: kindness.


Started by three Armed Forces Insurance Spouses of the Year, the Giving Tuesday Military movement hopes to showcase one million acts of kindness on Dec. 3, 2019. With 56 “Chapter Ambassadors” around the world, the three founders — Army Spouse Maria Reed, National Guard Spouse Samantha Gomolka and Coast Guard Spouse Jessica Manfre — are hoping to change the world through simple acts of kindness.

Here are 5 reasons to participate in this year’s Giving Tuesday Military:

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Volunteers beautify Fort Carson.

DVIDS

Science says it’s good for everyone — you included

We’re going to give you the super obvious reasons like “it’s the right thing to do” and “kindness is fun!” in a hot minute. First, we’ll start with science. “Studies have proven that not only will you change lives by being kind,” Manfre said, “but that brain scans reveal the person doing the giving is flooded with happy hormones. Moral of the story, kindness lifts you too!”

Don’t believe Manfre? How about Dartmouth? “Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re anxious or shy in a social situation.”

Kindness is the great uniter

Can’t get through a phone call with your mom without getting into it about politics? Ready to light your neighbor’s yard signs on fire? Somehow find yourself debating the 2nd Amendment in line at the Commissary? Here’s one thing we can finally all agree on: Kindness.

Gomolka said, “Kindness breaks down the walls that appear to divide us as a nation. It heals wounds and forges relationships. Kindness does not favor a race, religion, political party or economic status. It is literally a language of love that connects us at the core of everything that is human.”

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

The Single Marine Program at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point encourages service members to volunteer in the surrounding communities.

DVIDS

You set an example

Those little people that seemingly follow you everywhere and are always wanting snacks and typically refer to you as “mom” or “dad” take their cues from you. Teaching them about kindness is one thing. Showing them an act of it, or better yet, involving them is another. Raise a generation of kids who are tolerant and kind, you know, just like their badass parents.

Can you say FOMO?

A million acts is a lot. Which also means you’ll be on the wrong side of history if you don’t participate. Whether you do it for the Facebook post (for real: be sure to tag #GivingTuesdayMilitary) or all the right reasons (serving others, being a role model, because you have a soul, etc.), don’t miss out on the movement.

Reed said, “Many military spouses in remote locations have reached out sharing that this movement is giving them an opportunity to be a part of community and have a sense of belonging. Giving Tuesday works both ways, for the recipient and the giver.”

Be the change!

Not sure that Dr. Seuss knew what he was doing with the whole green eggs and ham thing, but he was definitely right about this: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Never underestimate the power of one small act of kindness. It might change a life… or even save one. We’ll throw another quote at you (thanks, Gandhi): “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

No matter what reason you have for joining the movement, we know you don’t have a good one not to do it. We’ll see you on Giving Tuesday.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran gets VA health care at home

It used to be difficult for Marine Veteran Kenneth Schmitt to load his wheelchair into his car and drive to the nearest VA facility. He no longer drives, and now receives VA medical care through the VA home based primary care program.


Angela Gard, assistant nurse manager of community-based care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, said home based primary care allows Veterans to stay in familiar and comfortable surroundings, remain functional and maintain quality of life.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Marine veteran Kenneth Schmitt and RN Farrah Mosely during a home based primary care visit in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Veterans Affairs

A nursing home alternative

“We try to keep people in their houses longer instead of going to a nursing home,” she said. “They’ve lived there forever. It’s not very often that they want to move.”

Schmitt, who lives in rural Wisconsin, receives his primary care at home through the Union Grove VA Clinic. The clinic, located about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, serves about 3,500 Veterans a year as they face the challenges of disability, aging and chronic disease.

“It works really well for Mr. Schmitt, who lives out in the country,” said Farrah Mosley, a registered nurse based at the Union Grove clinic.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Mosley does home based primary care from the Union Grove VA clinic.

Veterans Affairs

“For example, Mr. Schmitt is a diabetic,” Mosley said. “So, the dietician comes in and completes a nutrition assessment and collaborates with the Veteran to develop a plan of care with goals and outcomes. He has done really well with it and he has really brought his numbers down.”

Schmitt said he appreciates the care and the convenience offered by the program now that he doesn’t drive.

“I have been without a license for almost two years now,” Schmitt said. “Before that I had a power wheelchair that I loaded in my car, but it was so stressful. Even if someone was trying to help, it would just wear me down. By the time I would get back home, I was done for. Takes away a lot of stress.”

Learn more about VA home based primary care.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gulf War Veteran goes “fishing with America’s finest”

William “Bill” Watts, Sr., earned numerous awards during his service, which included tours in Egypt and Korea and service as a Gulf War combat Veteran. But the reward he values most today is the one he receives as an advocate helping his fellow Gulf War Veterans with their individual challenges.

“I am in favor of Veterans helping Veterans. Quality of life begins with quality of health care,” said Watts. Watts’ work with Veterans has earned him the Congressional Veterans Commendation Award. His work includes volunteering with Veterans in his community and meeting with researchers and health professionals to make sure that the health concerns of Gulf War Veterans are recognized and addressed.


Watts (photo above) and others are now marking the 30th anniversary of their Gulf War service. Watts served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1996. He was in the 4/5 ADA 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 24th Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division.

Fishing the Everglades to reduce stress

One of Watts’ passions is helping Veterans manage their health problems by finding non-drug alternatives. As a resident of the South Florida city of Doral, he volunteers with the non-profit Fishing with America’s Finest and also serves as the group’s director of operations. Fishing with America’s Finest takes combat Veterans bass fishing in the Florida Everglades to help reduce the stress and anxiety from PTSD.

“We try to teach them to the point that they can go on fishing tournaments if they want to.” He is also a team member of Dive4Vets, a group that takes Veterans who suffer from physical and mental health issues scuba diving to help to heal. Watts is eligible for the Gulf War Registry and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry and enrolled many years ago.

Researching the health of Gulf War Veterans

Watts understands that some Gulf War Veterans are older. They may not be comfortable with completing an online-only registry like the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. A local Environmental Health Coordinator can help with this process.

Watts also is a member of VA’s Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. He participates in research on the health of Gulf War Veterans at the Miami VA Hospital. He also volunteers to coordinate and recruit local Veterans for research.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY BRANDED

9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr


The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.

1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.

Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.

2. Someone to actually answer your call.

The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.

3. One call does it all.

Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”

4. Total online resource.

Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback.  All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!

5. Now you can actually find your service center.

Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.

Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.

Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.

6. There’s an app for that.

Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.

 7. No more waiting.

When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.

8. Claims are processed faster.

In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.

9. Taking out the middleman.

Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.

These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.

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This Marine knows the meaning of service

David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).


Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”

“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”

Also read: ‘Pin-ups for Vets’ creatively shows appreciation for veterans

The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’

He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career
Semper Fi. (Photo courtesy of the VA)

Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”

And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”

As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.

Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”

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Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

How to turn your natural knack for leadership into a long-term career
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

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