Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands

Veterans and Gold Star Families will be granted free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other Federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior starting on Veterans Day this year and every day onward.

“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for Veterans and Gold Star Families. They will have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing and climbing.

Many Department managed lands have direct connections to the American military, such as frontier forts, Cold War sites, battlefields, national cemeteries, and memorials. These special places pay tribute to our veterans and serve as reminders of their courage and sacrifice throughout the history of our nation, from Minuteman National Historic Park where colonists stood in defense of their rights, to Yellowstone National Park, which was protected from vandalism and poaching by the 1st U.S. Cavalry before the National Park Service was established, to Mount Rushmore where modern warriors attend reenlistment ceremonies.

Details on program

For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

The Interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

The Department also offers free entrance days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration including the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day, and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.

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

Veterans

How a COVID-19 Relief Grant helped this nonprofit keep the lights on for vets

As late as 2013, some of Western New York’s veterans were still slipping through the cracks of the VA system. To address the issue, the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition and Goodwill of Western New York teamed up to help those who were continually underserved. 

The two organizations created the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York, a place any veteran can go find answers to any question along with comprehensive solutions to the unique problems veterans face in civilian life. 

Those problems were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn caused by restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus. These issues hit veteran service organizations hard, and the people they serve struggled harder as a result. Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY applied for the Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, which made it possible for the nonprofit to more effectively meet the overwhelming need for support in the area. 

“Even with the VA having a strong presence in the area, there were still some gaps in services and a lack of coordination with those services,” says Katherine Zunner, Chief Development Officer of Veterans One-Stop Center. “Even if a veteran didn’t serve during war time, we can assist anybody.”

Zunner comes from a family of military veterans. One grandfather was a World War II-era Marine. Her other grandfather served in the Army during the same war. Her brother is a Navy veteran, so the military-veteran community is an especially important community for her.

Without Veterans One-Stop’s assistance, that community’s need goes unanswered. During the pandemic, areas where veterans were hardest-hit included education, employment, and housing. Those needs are supposed to be addressed before the veteran needs critical services — but when that doesn’t happen, organizations like Veterans One-Stop Center of NWY intervene.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
(Veterans One-Stop Center | Facebook)

With 95,000 veterans in Western New York, Zunner says around 10-40% are in need of critical services, with many unaware of the benefits for which they are qualified. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the United States, Veterans One-Stop saw a large uptick in urgent requests for those critical services — but the group needed help meeting the demand. 

Zunner applied for the Evan Williams’ COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, made possible by the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund, established by Evan Williams in 2020 as part of their ongoing commitment to improve the lives of veterans. As an American-made and owned company, it’s important for Evan Williams Bourbon to give back to those who serve. 

The grant they received funded Veterans One-Stop Center’s core services: case navigation and peer support. 

“We were excited to try for something new because we usually don’t stray too far out of the area when we look for funding,” says Zunner. “Our services, though very needed, aren’t very ‘sexy,’ so it can be a hard sell. But we also have a lot of success stories.”

The Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY works because counselors sit down with individual veterans and plot a course with them, one-on-one. They map out the veteran’s basic and most critical needs, then connect them with the resources they need to get there.

Thanks to the Evan Williams’ COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, Veterans One-Stop Center closed for just one week, to clean and sanitize their offices. They were right back to helping veterans the week after. Now, they’re even looking to expand the number of counselors available to veterans.

“It takes a full community to successfully do the work that we are doing,” Zunner said of being selected for the grant. “Anytime we can spread our message is very exciting and to be selected on a national level, I always get very excited about that.”

Articles

WH recommends vets ‘set aside’ bitterness over Pearl Harbor attack

News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.


Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.

During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should “set aside their own personal bitterness” over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.

Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister,” Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.

“There may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
USS Arizona (US Navy photo)

Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to “mourn the souls of the victims” of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.

Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.

It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hundreds attend a funeral for a Vietnam vet with no family

There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.

The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.

Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.


Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands

Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.

“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”

Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands

(WOWT- TV Omaha)

The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

After losing his arm and leg in battle, a Hawaiian soldier being treated at the Naval Medical Center San Diego told his doctors that more than anything else, he wanted to surf again.


Navy Seaman Emily Wallace reacts to a moment free from her severe pain during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. The medically appointed surf therapy helps her to manage her pain and provides her with a reprieve from chronic pain without medications. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Almost 10 years later, the hospital’s surfing clinic staff has assisted more than 1,500 wounded, ill and injured service members from all service branches in their recovery through surfing.

“I remember at the time, I told him we’re going to go surfing but I had no idea how we’re going to go, with him missing an arm and a leg,” said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist with the Health and Wellness department at the medical center, also known as “Balboa.”

Michalewicz-Kragh said she looked for ideas on the internet and eventually called a Brazilian above-the-knee amputee who came to San Diego and assisted Michalewicz-Kragh in training the soldier for five weeks.

The patient started surfing. “And as a result of him going surfing, many other wounded warriors have gone surfing, and it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Today, adaptive surfing is more mainstream, with its third world championship taking place in December in La Jolla, California. Michalewicz-Kragh said when the clinic first started using surfing therapy, she only thought of the physical benefits, such as the cardio ability and strengthening the posterior muscles.

“We ended up realizing the benefit surfing has for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues,” she added. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Finding Fitness, Friends

Surfing is like a medication, and all the side effects are good, Michalewicz-Kragh said. “A person may come here to surf but they end up finding a community,” she explained. “The side effects will be that his fitness level will be better, his cardiovascular ability improves, he gets stronger, and he meets a lot of people. The community integration aspect is really important, so there are many benefits to surfing.”

She said patients don’t need to know how to surf before showing up and they can attend the swim clinic beforehand. “Our goal for the patients as they come to the program is to find out how they can make their life better by surfing and to have the ability to surf and become a better surfer,” she said. “You will not be Kelly Slater after six weeks, and not after 12, but you will have the tools to know how to practice and learn how to surf on your own safely and independently.”

Also Read: Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Beach Yoga

Before surfing, patients can also take yoga classes at the beach, thanks to Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, the Navy medical center’s preventive medicine department head.

“I always check with them at the beginning of class as they check in, where they’re hurting, so I can make sure they focus the class on things that will be beneficial to any particular needs they may have and then ask them afterward,” Christensen said. “I’ve had feedback from some patients who say that this is the only thing they’ve found that helps them feel better, and some who say, ‘I hated yoga, but now I love it,’ so that’s encouraging. It’s a great setting. It’s not me; it’s the beach.”

Christensen said programs such as the surfing clinic are important for wounded warriors. “It gives them hope and confidence, which will help them with their depression if they have it,” she said. “It’s giving them hope that they can get better, confidence in their abilities to do so, and then ability and new skills and new talents.”

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Volunteers

The patients can go through the six-week program twice to learn surfing, and those who transition out of the military and stay in the local area can continue with the program. About 50 surfers — retired firefighters, police officers and military, along with the Del Mar lifeguards — volunteer to work with the patients in the surf therapy clinic.

Former Air Force Sgt. Warren James, a Vietnam veteran, has been volunteering for the past two years. “I’m really good at teaching the beginners,” the former avionics technician said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I can see it’s very effective for the patients.”

James, who repaired radios and radar equipment on F-4, C-130 and C-40 aircraft during his military service, said he enjoys volunteering with service members and fellow veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes. They have injuries, and I didn’t really get injured, so I feel for them,” he said. “I saw a lot of bad things, and I don’t say much about it, but it’s really good to be able to talk to somebody else about it. I know how they feel … I didn’t have PTSD, but I can sense when they do, and it’s really comforting to help them and know that it’s helping me, too.”

Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Surfing clinic participants gain confidence as they make progress in the surfing clinic, he said. “If they had a physical injury, they recover quicker,” he added. “They take less medication. It’s just a really good program.”

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Patients’ Opinions

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Toran Gaal, a bilateral amputee who lives in Valley Center, California, said surfing brings him closer to those he lost in combat. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2011.

“To be in a place like the ocean, it allows me to be closer to those people and feel like I’m lifted up,” Gaal said. “I feel like I’m around them when I’m out there. I feel like they’re around me, watching over me, making sure I’m safe. The ocean allows me to feel close to them, as well as gain relationships with some of the volunteers to be happy.”

The surfing clinic is about surfing and reintegration into the community, Gaal said. “It’s not just about gaining independence and going out and surfing. It’s about reintegration and transitioning,” he said.

Gaal said he and his wife, Lisa, have become friends and family with Bob Bishop, one of the volunteers, with whom they have regular lunches at Bishop’s home.

Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

“It’s just a sense of family for me, and my wife knows that. She knows that when I’m around these people, I come back happier because I enjoy being in their presence and the negativity is not there. They’re all positive influences,” Gaal said.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Volunteer Brianna Phillip helps Navy Seaman Emily Wallace, left, walk into the surf to meet her instructo,r Necia Snow, right, during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Wallace suffers from an illness that causes severe pain, and the medically appointed surf therapy helps to manage her pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Marine Corps Cpl. Leighton Anderson, a Gardena, California, native who was injured during an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash in 2016, said he enjoys the surfing clinic as well.

“I always wanted to learn how to surf, since I’m from California,” Anderson said. “I tried it three times in my life and never did it. I was like, ‘Let me try it through here,’ and then after that, I was hooked. It was pretty sweet. I love it. Everybody’s really nice and supportive.”

Anderson said surfing helps him physically and mentally.

“I had so many barriers, because once I was injured, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I might hurt myself.’ I have a little PTSD, and I didn’t think I would enjoy anything. Once I tried it, I broke down a lot of barriers I had mentally and physically. I had weak tendons in my hand and foot, but with surfing they’re starting to get better. And mentally, it makes me happy. It’s just something everybody should take on.”

“Surfing therapy is amazing,” James said. “The program works, because it keeps them not thinking what they would normally would be thinking when they’re at a medical appointment. But here, we just talk about other things, and that’s why it works.

“It’s different,” he added. “I definitely suggest getting in the water, even if you have no experience at all. Just come to the beach.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 15 Medal of Honor recipients are headed to Super Bowl LII

Chad Hennings, Kevin Greene, and Roger Staubach are just a few of our brothers-in-arms that happened to also be incredible football players who earned themselves Super Bowl rings.


For more than four decades, the NFL and the military have shared a special relationship that involves the posting of the colors during the National Anthem and historic flyovers.

This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league has invited 15 Medal of Honor recipients to participate in the official on-field coin toss ceremony before Super Bowl LII officially kicks off.

Related: This veteran A-10 pilot has three Super Bowl rings

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Members of the Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from the U.S. Air Force Band, all based in Washington, D.C., perform during the Super Bowl XLV game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 6, 2011. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Also Read: 6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, who earned his distinguished award during the Battle of Iwo Jima, is scheduled to conduct the traditional coin flip at Sunday’s game.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Medal of Honor recipient and Marine veteran Hershel Moody with two of his brothers-in-arms. (Image from DoD)

The other Medal of Honor recipients in attendance include:

  • Bennie Adkins: Army, Vietnam (award delayed 9/15/2014)
  • Don Ballard: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/14/1970)
  • Sammy Davis: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/18/1967)
  • Roger Donlon: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/5/1964)
  • Sal Giunta: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/16/2010)
  • Flo Groberg: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/12/2015)
  • Tom Kelley: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/17/1969)
  • Allan Kellogg: MarinesVietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
  • Gary Littrell: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
  • Walter Marm: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/19/1966)
  • Robert Patterson: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/10/1969)
  • Leroy Petry: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 7/12/2011)
  • Clint Romesha: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 2/11/2013)
  • James Taylor: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/19/1968)
  • Woody Williams: Marines, WWII (awarded 10/5/1945)

To date, the NFL has partnered with several veteran organizations to raise support and awareness, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, TAPS, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project.

Super Bowl LII kicks off on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, live from U.S. Bank Stadium.

Articles

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music

Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”


A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.

He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.

We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.

“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”

We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.

Check out his interview here, and then hit up the Battle Mix for your own dose of inspiration:

(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)

The Grey Battle Mix (you’re welcome):

MIGHTY TRENDING

US veterans are adopting this amazing creed of continued service

Eleven veterans organizations have adopted a “Veteran’s Creed” that acknowledges pride of service and a continuing shared commitment to values that strengthen the nation.

The fourth tenet of the creed states that “I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans.”

The creed, which was adopted on Flag Day 2018, at an event at the Reserve Officers Association, was the result of extensive discussions among veterans groups that began last fall at Georgetown University.


“The creed will help prepare veterans for their productive civilian lives,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Director of Veterans’ Initiatives at Georgetown University.

Retired Army Gen. George W. Case, Jr., the former Army chief of staff and commander of Multi-National Force Iraq, said the creed may motivate veterans to continue to give back.

“I believe the Veteran’s Creed could remind veterans of what they miss about their service and encourage them to continue to make a difference in their communities and across our country,” he said. “We need their talents.”

The Veteran’s Creed, similar to the Army’s Soldier’s Creed, was intended to underline the “altruistic ethos of veterans themselves.”

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
World War II veteran Zane Grimm.
(Photo by Frank Schulenburg)

It also purports to “remind Americans that the principles and values veterans learned in the military — integrity, leadership, teamwork, selfless service — can greatly benefit our country,” according to the veterans groups.

“In the Army I lived both the Soldier’s Creed and the NCO Creed,” said John Towles, Director of National Security & Foreign Affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“As veterans, we must realize that our service does not stop simply because we take off the uniform,” he added. “Many of us struggle to find our place once we leave the military, but now we have a new set of watchwords to guide and remind our brothers and our sisters in arms that our mission is far from over.”

The Creed is backed by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, HillVets, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Reserve Officers Association, Student Veterans of America, Team Rubicon Global, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project.

The Creed states:

1. I am an American veteran

2. I proudly served my country

3. I live the values I learned in the military

4. I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans

5. I maintain my physical and mental discipline

6. I continue to lead and improve

7. I make a difference

8. I honor and remember my fallen comrades

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine vet took his sick dog on a life-changing road trip

Marine veteran Robert Kugler traveled with his dog, Bella, across the country and throughout the East Coast after doctors told him that Bella’s bone cancer would kill her within a year.


Now, 16 months after that notice, Kugler and Bella have proved the doctors wrong and are still moving together and making the most of what time she has left.

My ball now, suckas!! #GoBellaGo #JustKeepSwimming #LiveNowTour

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 25, 2016 at 4:59pm PDT

Kugler was getting ready to graduate college on the GI Bill in 2015 when he heard the news that Bella had bone cancer. A May 2015 amputation of Bella’s front left leg bought her some time, but veterinarians were still pessimistic about her chances. That’s when Kugler decided that he wanted to give her a proper send-off.

“I just was kind of looking at her, and just imagining her being gone when I came home from work,” he told WATM. “I just said, ‘You know what? Let’s take off for a little while.'”

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 28, 2016 at 7:59am PDT

Since that decision, Bella and Kugler have been traveling together around the country. Like Kugler, Bella loves being in nature.

“We were in the Adirondacks, in upstate New York,” Kugler said. “That has been some of our best nature time together during this period. … Our hikes in the Adirondacks are probably some of my favorite times that we’ve had together, like near Lake Placid.”

Bella, who Kugler adopted in 2007 with his then-wife, is great with people and is known for enthusiastically greeting almost anyone she meets.

“Bella’s still very independent,” Kugler said. “She wants to meet new people, but she’s also just very curious about how they smell, if they have food for her. ‘You got food? Who’s got food? Do you have food for me?’ She gets a little spoiled.”

This has allowed Kugler to meet and help encourage people he wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

“We meet a little girl in a wheelchair that just falls in love with Bella before she even realizes that she has three legs. Bella stands up, and the girl is like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s like me,’ ” Kugler said.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT

As Kugler describes it, he and Bella are just, “Out exploring the world with my dog, and encouraging people to get outside and drop their social barriers and their boundaries, to just live on this tiny blue speck together as one.”

While Bella has done brilliantly on their trip, staying active and outgoing despite her cancer, Kugler says that traveling with Bella has helped him nearly as much as it has helped her.

“When I’m with her, and I’m paying attention to her, I’m outside myself, and I’m focusing on giving her the best life, I feel at that point in time that I am the best version of myself,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I like really spending time with her and doing our thing.”

Kugler is overjoyed that Bella has been able to fight for so long and has helped so many people, but he keeps people updated on her progress in his Instagram feed where he acknowledges that Bella is still facing death.

Our adventures in the western slopes were a great refresher of what we love to do and see. Get out into the wild, be a little wild, and meet a few more wildlings along the way. Now, today’s adventure begins. We’re on our way back to Ft. Collins to visit with Vets at CSU Animal Cancer Center for a consult for the CT scan. The plan is to actually get 2. One, focused on her mouth to see exactly where the cancer is and how far it’s spread. The second, a full body scan to see if she’s healthy enough for treatment. Though I’m not abandoning hope, I am prepared to hear the words “there’s nothing we can really do.” See, Bella started coughing recently. It’s a cough that starts from the chest and ends with a hack. Usually it doesn’t produce anything. This morning, and one other time last week, she actually hacked up some bloody phlegm. Again, my first and utmost priority is her quality of life, her comfort, and her happiness. We will be okay, as we have each other. Obviously I won’t have her in the flesh form forever, but she’ll have me by her side until the moment she closes her eyes for the last time. Again, I’m not abandoning hope, rather preparing for reality. I’d like to share a perspective that helps me with the grief associated with death. What can keep my spirits up and prevent me from being a blubbering indecisive mess. See…impending death isn’t the “worst news.” Bella has lived an incredibly adventurous and joyous life that should be celebrated. The end shall not define her legacy. Death is a chapter in all of our books, but definitely not the last. It is this perspective, that allows me to appreciate every day with her and to walk into CSU today without the fear of losing her, because I never will. She is mine, and I am hers, forever.

A photo posted by Robert Kugler (@robkugler) on Sep 21, 2016 at 6:31am PDT

Hopefully, Rob and Bella have a lot of great adventures left together. But Bella has made a lasting impact on plenty of people either way.

In addition to his Instagram feed, Kugler posts photos of his road trip with Bella and other adventures at his website, RKLifeIllustrated.com.

Veterans

This airman called in dozens of ‘danger-close’ airstrikes – killing 27

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.

Related: How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. (Source: Air Force)

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.

Also Read: How these few Marines held the line at the Chosin Reservoir

He heard a familiar voice calling for help desperately. As he looked to investigate the sound, he noticed one of his teammates was injured and pinned down approximately 30-meters away.

With disregard for his own life, Hunter leaped over a wall and dashed toward his injured teammate. Once there, he quickly scrabbled the wound and pulled him to safety.

Reportedly, the engagement lasted around eight hours, and for Hunter’s heroic efforts he’ll receive the Air Force Cross.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Veteran is unsung hero in COVID-19 battle

Army Veteran Kolan Glass is not a doctor or a nurse. Still, in the battle against COVID-19, he is one of the most critical employees at North Las Vegas VAMC. Glass is the primary housekeeper in the emergency department. After a Veteran has been released, Glass ensures the room is sanitized and prepared for the next patient.


“I clean every room as I would want it if I was the next patient to be staying in it,” says Glass. “I sanitize each room with my full attention.”

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands

North Las Vegas VA housekeeper and Army Veteran Kolan Glass sanitizes the emergency department.

Using technology to ensure safety

Glass and his fellow housekeepers employ the latest technology to prevent infection. This includes a remote-controlled system that uses ultraviolet light to purify equipment, room surfaces and objects.

“Probably about 90 percent of us [housekeepers] are Vets,” he says. “That means we talk and we don’t panic. Sure, we’re dealing with a pandemic, but we still have to get the job done and keep everybody safe.”

Glass experienced first-hand how a viral outbreak can test the emergency department. In March, Glass came in contact with a COVID-19-positive patient. He and other employees were placed on a 14-day quarantine.

“I didn’t get nervous,” Glass says. “I understood it was a precautionary measure, but I was ready to get back to work.”

Glass’s supervisor recognizes his dedication and leadership.

“Even after he had to self-isolate from his family, and with the stress of waiting for testing results, he immediately picked up right where he left off,” says Jesse Diaz. Diaz is chief of environmental management safety (EMS) at North Las Vegas VAMC. “He’s been very vocal in educating the staff and his housekeeping peers in his area. He wants to develop a partnership with the clinical staff and EMS to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 infecting or impacting others.”

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

Articles

Medal of Honor recipient who held off 9 German attacks has died

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Medal of Honor recipient Wilburn K. Ross died on May 9, 2017. According to a press release, Ross, who was working in a shipyard before he was drafted, was 94 years old and is survived by six children.


According to his Medal of Honor citation, Ross’s company — assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division — had taken heavy casualties in combat with elite German troops near St. Jacques, France, on Oct. 30, 1944 – losing over 60 percent of the troops. Ross then set his machine gun 10 yards ahead of the other Americans and used it to hold off German forces for eight attacks – receiving less and less help as the other troops ran out of ammunition.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Division in Nuremburg. (US Army photo)

Ross, too, was running low. After the eighth attack, Ross was also out of ammunition. As American troops prepared for a last stand, salvation came in the form of a resupply of ammunition. Ross was able to use that ammunition to defeat the ninth and final German attack.

A profile of Ross on a VA loan site adds some more background. Ross was a dead shot, practicing a trick shot that involved using a .22 rifle to light a match. He later described how he had selected his position beforehand. He also related that he had no idea that a dead soldier he’d been shooting over wasn’t dead at all – it was an Army lieutenant who was alive, and who reported Ross’s actions.

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands
The Medal of Honor

Ross would be presented the Medal of Honor on April 14, 1945. During his service in World War II and in the Korean War, he’d be wounded four times. He served in the Army until 1964, when he retired  as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he settled down in DuPont, Washington, where he raised his kids. A park in that town was named in his honor, and includes a monument that displays his Medal of Honor citation on a plaque.

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