Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming available, scammers are calling, texting and emailing Veterans with promises of vaccine availability and early access to vaccines.

These promises are lies. The people sending these messages are identity thieves. They are after your sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security Number, and your money.

How can you know if the message you receive about a vaccine is a real VA message or a scam? Here are some tips on how to how to avoid scams and how to tell the difference.

Here’s how VA will contact you

VA is beginning contact with Veterans to offer and administer COVID-19 vaccinations. You can sign up for vaccine updates by visiting https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed. This is a valid and reliable source of information about VA’s COVID-19 vaccine response.

Plus, individual VA medical facilities will soon start contacting Veterans about the vaccine. Outreach will most likely come through the VA.gov website, VEText, MyHealtheVet or VA emails. VA may also reach out to you via the US Postal Service through letters and postcards. Or you may get a phone call.

What VA will never do

No matter how we contact you, VA will never request money or your full Social Security Number through phone, email, or text message.

VA will never ask for your full Social Security Number or personal health information through a vaccination request call.

VA will never include hyperlinks in texts or emails that will take you to unofficial or non-secured web pages that ask you to provide personal information. Non-secured sites look like this: “http://.” Secured sites look like this: “https://.”

VA will never require payment in exchange for providing the vaccine early and will not require payment to become eligible for the vaccine.

The information you provide is up to you

If you do receive a phone call from a VA medical center, you may be asked to provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number or your date of birth. It is up to you if you choose to provide that information.

To be safe, we recommend that you politely hang up and then call the medical center back so that you can be sure you are actually speaking with a real Veteran health provider. Use the number you have saved in your contacts or search for the facility contact information on their website.

If you receive an email or text that directs you to click a hyperlink to a website, don’t. You have no way of knowing if it’s actually the website it’s supposed to be. Instead, open your browser, type in the address of the site and visit it directly.

Scams to look out for

COVID-19 vaccine scams come in many forms: emails, website traps, texts and phone calls. Here are the top vaccine scams the FBI warns about:

  • Payment to be added to a vaccine waitlist.
  • Ads, websites, texts, phone calls and emails offering early access to the vaccine for a fee.
  • Emails or phone calls from people claiming to work at a medical center or insurance company offering the vaccine but requiring personal medical details to check eligibility.
  • Messages, calls or emails claiming that the government is requiring you to get the vaccine.
  • Ads on social media for the vaccine.

Avoid all these types of outreach and do not engage with the scammer at all.

Learn More

To learn more about how to protect yourself from vaccine scams:

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

Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mighty Heroes: Meet volunteer disaster response organization founder, Ray Guasp

A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.


“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”

Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.

The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.

“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”

Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.

“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.

“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”

When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.

The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.

“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”

Articles

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

Articles

This is the Air Force vet who forced KSM to reveal his darkest secrets

James Mitchell had a successful 22-year career in the U.S. Air Force — most notably as a top trainer at the Air Force’s survival school — before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.


And while he earned some awards and accolades for his service as a SERE leader, it was what he did as a contractor for the CIA after his retirement that truly marks his career.

See, Mitchell is the man who broke al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (often called “KSM”) and other high-ranking members of the terrorist group in the months and years after 9/11.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
Photo provided by Crown Publishing

After the release of his new book about the interrogation program titled “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell sat down for an interview with Marc Theissen, a Washington Post columnist and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

During the 90-minute discussion, Mitchell both clarified details about the controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” he used and provided insights into the minds of the terrorists.

 

First, Mitchell explained the difference between interrogation and what he describes as “how do you do” visits.

“These enhanced interrogations that I was part of really only dealt with about 14 of the top folks. I didn’t have anything to do with the mid-level or low-level folks at all,” Mitchell, who’s a licensed psychologist, said. “And most of these interrogations took place over a period of time of about two weeks. KSM’s took about three weeks. And then after that, there was no enhanced interrogations for KSM — you know, none at all.”

He later added, “[O]ur goal in doing enhanced interrogations was to get them to make some movement, to be willing to engage in the questions instead of rocking and chanting and doing the other sorts of things that they had previously been doing.”

Once they broke, it was all about “cigarettes and beer,” to borrow a quote from Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis.

“We switched to social influence stuff because we know that the real way that you get the cooperation that you want is not by trying to coerce it out of them,” Mitchell said. “It’s by getting them to provide the information in a way that they don’t feel particularly pressured to do it.”

Mitchell made it clear that after the terrorists broke, the nature of his visits were more along the lines of maintenance. During one of those visits, he described how the mastermind of 9/11 revealed that he had personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

“He describes cutting his head off and dismembering him and burying him in a hole. And [we] asked him, was that difficult for you to do, thinking emotionally this had to be hard to do,” Mitchell said. “And he said, ‘Oh, no. I had sharp knives. The toughest part was getting through the neck bone’ — just like that.”

Mitchell also described KSM’s shock at George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, revealing that the terror leader thought the U.S. would treat the attack as a law enforcement problem and not go to war over it.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
Photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed taken after his capture by American personnel. (Photo by DOD)

“And then he looks down and he goes, ‘How was I to know that cowboy George Bush would say he wanted us dead or alive and invade Afghanistan to get us?’ And he said it just about like that, like he was befuddled, like he couldn’t imagine it,” Mitchell said.

And Mitchell firmly denies that his EITs were torture.

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell said. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” is published by Crown Forum and is available at Amazon.com.

Veterans

4 possible career paths to pursue after the military

This article is sponsored by Trident University International.

Military service is a great option for anyone looking to kick start their career. Anyone coming into the military – officer or enlisted – can pick up transferable skills that can be utilized in today’s workforce. More than that, the military provides opportunities to help its personnel pursue a degree as they serve, even if it is outside their military specialty. When you combine that opportunity with access to a quality online university, there are no limits on where you can take your education.

Here are a few examples of programs Trident University International, a 100 percent online university, offers to support educational goals so you can work towards your goals as you serve.

1. Associate of Science in Cybersecurity

With constant threats to our nation’s technological infrastructure, there’s no denying that cybersecurity is of critical importance to the United States. With an increased need for more digital defense comes an increased demand for qualified personnel. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity professionals are in demand across the United States.

With Trident, students can earn an Associate degree in Cybersecurity or take the next step toward a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Cybersecurity. 

2. Bachelor of Science in Leadership

While serving, there’s no confusion as to who your commanding officer is — but as you’ll quickly learn, “boss” isn’t always synonymous with “leader.” Leadership is an art and a science, and just like any discipline, it’s something that requires study, practice and motivation to master.

With Trident’s Bachelor of Science in Leadership (BSL) program, you’ll build on your military experience, studying how to effectively translate your military knowledge into civilian business leadership principles. You’ll also explore how to effectively deal with change within organizations inside and outside of the military, critically think your way through challenging situations, and finely hone your communication skills. No matter where your career may take you, an education in the science of leadership can be a great asset.

3. Bachelor of Science in Health Administration 

Trident’s Bachelor of Science in Health Administration program is designed to develop skills necessary to use and evaluate data while working to develop analytical skills needed by healthcare administrators. Typically, those in the service have a strong desire to help those in need. A Bachelor of Science in Health Administration can help you continue down that path as you play a key role in getting aid to the right people.

This 100 percent online program is designed to help candidates develop a strong knowledge base in health administration, including health systems, ethics, finance, and policy. In addition to flexibility and affordability, Trident has another key differentiator: EdActive™ Learning. This approach is unique in that the learning outcomes help students prepare for the workplace by enhancing their ability to think, to learn, and to solve problems.

4. Master of Science in Homeland Security

We are a nation at war, and we have been for nearly 20 years now. Since 9/11, the U.S. had to quickly learn new ways to prepare for, respond to and mitigate domestic crises, terrorist-based events and natural disasters.

Now you can, study these skills too. You’ve committed to protecting our country through your oath to serve. Trident offers an opportunity to continue that service and to learn more about how we protect our continuity of government with homeland security course offerings that closely align with the Department of Homeland Security mission objectives.

Veterans interested in continuing their career paths in Homeland Security can find a quality educational program at Trident. 

No matter which road you plan to take after your time in uniform, it’s never too early to start. Trident’s EdActive learning approach helps you prepare to think critically, just like in real-life situations. Program levels span from associate to doctoral, and better yet, some degree programs are stackable. Learn more about Trident’s 100 percent online programs and how they tailor their offerings to fit the military community.

Trident University International cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Trident is part of the American InterContinental University System, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org).

This article is sponsored by Trident University International.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This vet honors her grandfather’s legacy with his secret sauce recipe

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well, in the case of Charlynda Scales, when life gives you a secret sauce recipe, you make sauce and build a company.

While serving in the Air Force, Charlynda’s grandfather invented a sauce that he’d use on every meal, but he never got to see it bottled and sold in stores. To honor her grandfather’s legacy, Charlynda built a business using his secret recipe — and she’s helping a lot of people in the process.


Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams

Above, Charlynda Scales in her Air Force dress blues.

(Charlynda Scales)

Born in 1981 in Cookeville, Tennessee, Charlynda lived with her family in a small home in the countryside. Her family ignited her passion for serving others and propelled her into pursuing a higher education. She holds a degree in Aerospace Science and Business Management from Clemson University, along with an MBA in Strategic Leadership. You could say that her family is the beacon that guided her down the path to the eventual creation of Mutt’s Sauce, LLC.

Charlynda joined the Air Force in 2004 as a 63A, Program Manager. She obtained the rank of Captain and switched over to the Reserves in 2015, presently still serving as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee. When she got out of active duty, she focused on growing her business.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams

Charlynda’s grandfather is on the label of every bottle of Mutt’s Sauce.

(Mutt’s Sauce, LLC)

Mutt’s Sauce was born out of the memory of Charlynda’s grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr. who was also an Air Force veteran that served in Vietnam and the Korean War as a crew chief. Charlie earned the name “Mutt” because of his ability to fit in anywhere he went. Considering that Mutt’s Sauce has been dubbed “the sauce for every meal,” it’s safe to say Charlie’s reputation lives on as part of the company.

To the surprise of Charlynda, after her grandfather’s passing, she was the one in her family entrusted with the knowledge of the secret recipe. Her mother revealed the recipe to her in 2013, and Charlynda was inspired to bottle it and share his legacy with the world.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams

Charlynda Scales poses with Bob Evan’s after winning the 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest.

(Bob Evans Farms)

Mutt’s Sauce has already started to carve out a name for itself by winning the Bob Evan’s Farms’ 2017 Heroes to CEOs Contest. Not only has Scales successfully bottled her Grandfather’s secret recipe, but she has memorialized his values of serving others and continues to propel forward in the business world.

In addition to building Mutt’s Sauce, LLC, from the ground up, Charlynda has also been featured on inMadameNoire.com, CBS News, Black Enterprise Magazine, Military.com, Army.mil, and Air Force Association Magazine. If that isn’t impressive enough, she was 2nd runner up for Ms. Veteran America 2016. With such a list of accomplishments, we can expect even greater things from her in the future.

To check out more about Mutt’s Sauce, LLC, or to buy a bottle visit, www.muttssauce.com.

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.

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 TRENDING

Why ‘sheepdog’ really is the most proper analogy for veterans

The analogy is simple. There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The vast majority of people are sheep — nothing wrong with that. They move about their day carelessly, are loving and compassionate beasts, and only rarely, accidentally hurt each other. The wolves want to devour the sheep. They’ll cause as much harm as they can with little remorse. These are the terrorists, despots, dictators, and other types of villains in this world.


Which brings us to the sheepdog, the guardian of the sheep against the wolves. Their capacity for violence is frowned on by the sheep. Their capacity for love is frowned on by the wolves. The sheepdog is bound by duty in that middle ground. They are the troops, first-responders, and anyone willing to take a stand against the evils of this world.

The quote gained much traction after the release of American Sniper, during which these different types are explained to a young Chris Kyle. While the phrase doesn’t appear in his memoirs, it was used by his friends-and-family-run Twitter account. The actual source of the speech comes from Lt. Col. David Grossman’s book, On Combat. In it, he credits the analogy to an old war veteran.

Many people misattribute the “sheepdog” as a badge of honor that proves they’re better than sheep. Thinking a sheepdog is defined by their capacity for violence while waving a good-guy banner, however, is as counter-productive as it is flat-out wrong. Yeah, a gun-toting sheepdog might make a great t-shirt, but it goes against the rest of Grossman’s book, which largely covers coping strategies for the physiological and psychological effects of violence on people who have had to end enemy lives in the line of duty.

The goal of the sheepdog is to prevent violence and keep the blissful sheep safe. The sheepdog isn’t actively seeking to harm others — that’s the work of a wolf. The sheepdog is defined not by his hatred of wolves, desire for violence, or any similarity that blur the line between wolf and sheepdog. They are not defined by the reasons why they’re not sheep.

It’s the love and compassion for those who cannot defend themselves that truly defines a sheepdog. It’s what makes us different from the wolves.

Articles

The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

Veterans — avoid COVID-19 vaccine scams
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

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This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

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Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jon Stewart urges congress to support burn pit veterans

“Welcome to another exciting episode of when is America gonna start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?” asked Jon Stewart in a press conference in September. He went on to remind the crowd that he’d spent the previous fifteen years trying to get Congress to support 9/11 first responders who were sick as a result of their heroism that day.

“When it was done, we thought it was done, but it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack of 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from. And they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress,” he declared.

The speech came with announced legislation that would deliver care for veterans who suffered from health problems directly related to burn pits, open air fires that were commonly used to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, “the legislation would declare certain illnesses among combat veterans as linked to toxic burn pits, removing barriers of proof of exposure that advocates have said are too high.”

As of Sept. 11, 2020, the VA claimed that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.” 

The VA does, however, acknowledge the following:

“Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes. The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.”
According to the Washington Post, U.S. contractors and military veterans destroy enormous amounts of waste, including vehicle parts, lithium-ion batteries, solvents, and amputated limbs, by soaking them in jet fuel and burning them in open-air pits, “some larger than a football field.”

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. Military uniform items turned in must be burned to ensure they cannot be used by opposing forces. Airman Gavalis is deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

In his speech, Stewart pointed out the similarities between the contamination on 9/11 and the burn pits overseas — especially the use of jet fuel as an accelerant. “Jet fuel as the accelerant at Ground Zero and jet fuel as the accelerant in these burn pits. So our veterans lived twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything. And now they’re being told, ‘Hey man, is that stuff bad for ya? I don’t know. We don’t have the science.’ It’s bullsh**. It’s bullsh**. It’s about the money.”

Hundreds of thousands of veterans are left to advocate on their own, Stewart explained, which is why he and a team of lawmakers have stepped up to demand that Congress go on record and be held accountable for their decisions in this matter.

The legislation was proposed to Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.). The measure would grant presumption of exposure to veterans with certain conditions and who served in one of 33 countries where troops were deployed after the 9/11 attacks, Gillibrand said.

The VA opened a burn pit registry which allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. Over 200,000 participants have already completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.

Veterans

Military spouse juggles motherhood, business, and deployments

Flossie Hall has one of the hardest jobs imaginable. She’s a mother of four and an active duty Navy spouse. She’s also the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE).

As a military wife, Hall has lived at 10 different addresses over the last 14 years. For much of that time, she’s also had to be a solo parent.

“Plan something and the military laughs,” Hall quips. “Business is the same way.”

After successfully navigating the financial challenges that come with new deployments, new homes, and newborns, Hall has dedicated herself to the business of helping other military families.

AMSE is an entrepreneurship program built by military spouses, exclusively for military spouses. It teaches men and women around the world how to start their own businesses. And military spouses are perfectly suited to be entrepreneurs because, as Hall puts it, “entrepreneurs have to curve and swerve every single day.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Hall was the first person in her family to graduate from high school – let alone college.

Today, she has a daughter in college whose education expenses weren’t budgeted for because Flossie and her husband were very young when they had her. As a result, they learned the value of proper financial planning.

The Halls’ three younger children will also likely attend college. This time around, Hall and her husband are prepared. They opened college savings accounts that will help pay for each child’s education.

They started 529 accounts for each of them. These special savings accounts have allowed the Halls to save over time in a tax-advantaged way for this specific financial planning objective. Money in the accounts grows tax free until withdrawn. When it is taken out to pay for specific education expenses, it also avoids taxation.

529 plans are offered by each of the states and many educational institutions. They don’t require account owners or beneficiaries to reside in the state offering the plan, but some plans do offer specific advantages to in-state residents.

Because there are no residency requirement, there is ample opportunity to shop around in order to find a plan that best suits the needs of the beneficiary.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when comparing plans:

1)      Every state offers at least one type of plan.

There are two types: Prepaid Tuition Plans or College Savings Plans.

2)      Some plans allow others to contribute.

Most 529 plans allow people other than the account holder to make contributions to the beneficiary’s account.

3)      The account holder owns and controls the account.

The account holder may withdraw money. The beneficiary may not.

4)      Gift tax exclusion may apply.

529 plan contributions fall under annual and lifetime gift tax exclusions.

5)      Consider a UGift® account.

UGift lets you invite family and friends to contribute to a child’s 529 account.

For more information and useful financial tools visit VCM.com/military.

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