Florida National Guard Deploys To Southwest Asia

FL national guard 3rd 116th

Florida National Guard Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery, participate in range qualifications, March 22, 2013, at Camp Shelby, Miss. (Photo Credit: Spc. Lam Phi Nguyen)

Some 120 guardsmen from the Florida 3rd of the 116th Field Artillery Battalion are deploying overseas to support Operation Spartan Shield, a combined forces contingency operation designed to deter and react to possible threats within Southwest Asia.

The unit will be deployed for an entire year.

In addition to family and friends, Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to attend the deployment ceremony scheduled Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, Joker Marchant Stadium, located at 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland.

Operation Spartan Shield is part of U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

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Life Is Different For Homeless Veterans In Rural Communities


Homeless veterans and other homeless people live in this encampment near the Saratoga Springs, New York train station.
Sarah Harris / American Homefront

A report from Sarah Harris for the American Homefront Project looks at how homelessness differs for veterans living in rural communities: Rather than living in the streets, they may be couch-surfacing, sleeping in their cars, or camping in the woods.

Downtown Ballston Spa, New York, is full of charming old Victorian houses. But there’s one that’s different from its neighbors: the Vet House.

Fourteen formerly homeless veterans live there. It has a comfy frat house vibe: guitars are propped up in the corners, military flags and posters hang on the walls, the kitchen is overflowing with food.

“It’s cozy,” says Dave, who moved in a couple weeks ago. “All the guys get along. We all cook, clean, look out for each other.” Continue reading

Special Ops Task Force Rebuilds Syrian Bridge In 16 Hours

syrian bridge dec 2017

RAQQAH, SYRIA
12.27.2017
Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Lutz 
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve

The photo above and update below comes directly from U.S. Central Command Special Operations Joint Task Force:

In only 16 hours, a coalition of engineers – working with Syrian partners -erected a steel bridge Dec. 27, 2017, near the village of Hawi al-Hawa, west of Raqqah Province, Syria.

Engineers attached to the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve led the effort. The bridge allows better security to the people of Raqqah and greater humanitarian assistance and relief efforts there.

“The bridge provides much needed access to parts of Raqqah following the destruction to critical infrastructure caused by Daesh,” said the SOJTF-OIR Commanding General, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard. “The bridge will enable the Raqqah Civil Council to increase required humanitarian assistance efforts and will improve vital access by Improvised Explosive Device experts working to reduce threats to citizens.”

Coalition forces continue to train and support the Raqqah Internal Security Force as they ensure security and aid efforts that support citizens.

Field Of Honor Ceremony For Military Killed In Last 3 Months

The Field of Honor where names of the fallen are etched at the Hillsborough Veterans Memorial Park.

The Veterans Council of Hillsborough County holds a brief ceremony every three months to read aloud the names of the fallen and to mark their contribution and sacrifice in the fight against terrorism. To be recognized on Jan. 13, 2018, are those who were killed in October, November, and December of 2017:

  • Four personnel killed during Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq, Syria and Yemen)
  • Four personnel killed during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (Afghanistan)
  • Three sailors lost in a C-2A Greyhound transport plane in the Philippine Sea
  • Four Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger
  • 74 previously unidentified remains of military members from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam (military personnel formerly listed as missing-in-action now identified through advancements in mitochondrial DNA research).

The tribute also will include law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty.

The ceremony is planned Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Museum, 3602 U.S. Highway 301 N., Tampa, FL.

Plans for the public event include a banner presentation by Blue Star Mothers of Tampa Bay Inc., the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club color guard, Missing Man Formation flyover by Ye Mystic Airkrewe, Gold Star Families, patriotic music by Cody Palmer/VFW Post 8108, and a traditional rifle salute and taps by the Sgt. Walter P. Ryan Detachment 1226 Marine Corps League of Riverview.

Details are available by calling the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum at (813) 744-5502 or (813) 246-3170.

VA Opens Applications For Standardized Veteran ID Card

The veterans group AMVETS distributed this early prototype of the VA’s new veterans ID card in October. The VA has not released a final design, and it’s not clear if the Office Depot logo will appear on the final card.
AMVETS

It might seem a bit surprising – but there is no standardized Identification Card for veterans. Military retirees with 20 years or more service have their own ID card. And veterans who use VA health services have another. But there was no ID card for all veterans – until now.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-R) of Sarasota sponsored the 2015 law that created the Veterans Identification Card to make it easier to officially prove one’s military service. But after more than two years, the VA only just opened the application process this week.

“In my mind and my experience, I think it’s unacceptable that it’s taken two years to do this,” said Carl Hunsinger, chairman of the Manatee Veterans Council and a retired Air Force Retired command chief master sergeant.

Several years ago, Hunsinger saw the need for a standardized veteran ID card after watching a homeless vet pull out his tattered discharge form (DD-214) to prove he qualified for services.

“This sheet of paper cannot only become illegible over a period of time and damaged but also can be easily forged,” Hunsinger said.

So, he took the problem and some suggested solutions to his congressman, Buchanan. It took about a year to pass the law that was signed by President Obama in July 2015.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the VA announced it was officially accepting applications for the Veteran Identification Card. But according to the Military Times, the final design of the ID has not been decided and it could take up to two months before delivery.

Veterans can apply for the ID card online go to the bottom of the page and look for Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card.

The new standardized card, however, will not be accepted as proof for VA disability and medical benefits and there’s no guarantee that businesses will accept it as proof for veteran discounts.

Texas A&M Cadets To Join Tampa Pearl Harbor Day Cruise

The American Victory Ship cruising in the channel with the Tampa Convention Center and downtown skyline in the background.

The United States will mark the 76th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the country’s official entry into World War II on Dec. 7, 2017. And Tampa’s own World War II American Victory Ship plans to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day with a cruise Saturday, Dec. 2nd.

On board, there will be infantry re-enactors, big band music, “bomber girls” and other entertainment.

The American Victory Ship started its service in the Merchant Marine in June 1945 carrying troops and supplies to the war front. The vessel served in Korea and Vietnam before being turned into a floating museum and memorial on Tampa’s waterfront.

The cruise, from noon to 4:30 p.m., also pays tribute to WWII veterans and will include a ceremony commemorating Pearl Harbor Day. The ship is docked behind the Florida Aquarium, 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Ticket information is available on the AMVIC website.

Military Retirees – Valued State Assets

afd scott neil points to glass wall separating distillery from restaurant

Retired Green Beret and co-founder of the American Freedom Distillery, Scott Neil, points to the framework that will become a glass wall separating the distillery from the restaurant.

States are competitive whether they’re vying to keep their military bases or to attract new corporate headquarters. And now, there’s a new tug of war over military retirees who come with pensions, health care and are a proven workforce.

Florida, already a retirement haven, is adding veteran specific programs to entice even more military retirees to the Sunshine State.

putnam_TV_coverage

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation conference in 2016 on the military and veterans economy.

“It means that if you are processing out of the military and you want to build your business here in Florida – we’re going to waive the application fees on almost every occupational license that’s out there,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at a business conference last year. “It means if you’re applying for a concealed weapons license, you’re going to go to the front of the line and it’s going to be expedited in less than two weeks.”

Florida officials like to brag that they’re the most veteran friendly state in the nation. So, there’s no ambivalence – if you’re retiring military – Florida Wants You!

That message was not lost on Hillsborough County Judge Daryl Manning when he retired after 30 years of service in the Army and Reserves. He settled in Tampa, his final post, over other places he’d served like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood and Norfolk.

“Of course, it’s the beautiful weather. It’s also the military climate that’s here. Not only for active duty military but for retirees, the community is so welcoming that it was hard not to be a part of it,” Manning said.

Ed-Drohan

In Afghanistan, Ed Drohan worked as a civilian contractor with the Department of Defense after retiring from the military, but he eventually settled on Tampa as his final home.

In Florida, there’s no state income tax, so no tax on military pensions.  And because the state has 20 military installations, retirees have easy access to on-base amenities like golf courses, health clubs, and tax-free shopping.

More than a dozen other states have passed laws exempting military pensions from state taxes – as they too try to lure retired service members.

“Just the idea there’s a steady income. They know there’s that pension coming in,” said Air Force retiree Ed Drohan who came to Tampa to work at James A. Haley VA. “They’re more likely to be self-supporting, self-sufficient and able to support the local economy as well.”

Not only are military retirees often more self-sufficient – they’re often younger.

“I think a lot of people don’t know or don’t realize that the average officer is only 45 years old upon retirement from service So many times they have to go back into the civilian workforce,” said Jill Gonzalez is an analyst with the personal finance website, WalletHub. She wrote a study on the best places for service members to retire which ranked Florida at the top in 2017.

afd looking into distillery

The interior of a St. Petersburg warehouse, under construction, that’s being converted into the American Freedom Distillery and restaurant.

And Florida has made it a priority to help military retirees and veterans find a second career. Lawmakers created a grant program that reimburses businesses for half of their training costs for every veteran hired up to $8,000 per employee. And the state also started an entrepreneurship program just for veterans.

The Veterans Florida entrepreneurship program is one reason that persuaded former Green Beret Scott Neil, a recent retiree, to resettle in his native Florida.

“I was one of the first into Afghanistan, then to Iraq and then Africa. So I’ve been around the world,” Neil said. “And luckily for me, the headquarters of Special Operations is in Tampa when I decided where I should retire to, I chose my last assignment as Tampa, Florida MacDill Air Force Base so it naturally fit.”

afd exterior party deck side

The exterior, including a concrete party deck, of the American Freedom Distillery which is co-founded by Green Beret veterans in St. Petersburg, FL.

Another natural fit for Neil was starting his own business with some of his Green Beret buddies. They’re getting ready to open the American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg where construction is almost complete. Neil completed Florida’s entrepreneurship program which he says built a sense of community with other Florida vets.

“All the alumni, we continue to get together and talk about how far are you with your great idea and we motivate each other,” Neil said.

A Department of Defense report from last year shows more than 198,000 military retirees live in Florida – that’s second only to Texas. That means more than $5 billion in military pensions are coming into the Sunshine State every year.

 

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