Advancements in Technology Making Soldiers’ Load Easier to Carry It takes a lot of power to keep a unit charged up. Before now, that amount of energy required generators which were substantial in size and weight. That all might change, however, thanks to two MIT graduates. Veronika Stelmakh and Walker Chan are co-founders […]
The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
It’s that time of year in our household: the birthday and holiday season, which means an influx of items into our house which is already stuffed beyond what I find reasonable. There are seven of us in my family, and 5 of our birthdays fall between October 22 and January 4. Combine all of that with Christmas and you have loads of goodies coming through the front door and a desperate need for some gently used items to go out as well.
We do our best to reuse as much as possible and hand down clothes from child to child. Some of the outfits that are currently hanging in my youngest son’s closet have been worn by four other boys before him and we will be passing it along after his next growth spurt. While I love our little system, not everything can be easily handed down and not every family has a system quite like ours.
I happened upon the Military Order of the Purple Heart several years ago during a pre-Christmas purge. Like so many families with young children, I found our house inundated with more stuffed animals than we could reasonably handle. Our standard donation collection location did not accept stuffed animals. The thought of tossing these toys, which were in near perfect condition, prompted me to look for a donation place that would repurpose them into homes that could use them.
I did what any Xennial would do – I posted on Facebook and asked for a recommendation. There was one answer that resounded: The Military Order of the Purple Heart.
I had never heard of them before that point, but I was convinced within three clicks of a mouse. Since then, it is the only place I donate – and here is why:
So as you dive into the holiday season, if you are looking to purge in your own household, please consider having Green Drop pick up your gently used items. If this holiday season brings you lots of joy – and lots of items that are brand new but won’t find a use in your home, please have Green Drop pick them up. The Military Order of the Purple Heart could use them and the financial resources that your items will bring.
Here is a comprehensive list of items accepted by Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart:
Clothing & Shoes
All men’s, women’s, children and infant clothing including outerwear, underwear, shoes and boots, jackets, ties, shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, hats, gloves, handbags, purses, raincoats and overcoats, swimsuits, sandals, shorts, sleepwear, jeans, T-shirts and formal wear.
Cosmetics and toiletries (unopened), eyeglasses and sunglasses, artificial flowers and trees, umbrellas, yarns and material, knick-knacks, antiques, jewelry, luggage, buttons, musical instruments, towels, area rugs-6×9 or smaller, Christmas and seasonal decorations, novelties, framed pictures and paintings, yard tools, hardware tools, bedding, draperies, blankets, bedspreads, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillow cases.
Cookware and bakeware, dishes, utensils, flatware, silverware, pots and pans, Tupperware, glasses and cups, serving plates and trays and canning jars.
Fisher Price and Little Tikes items, bicycles, tricycles, board and other games, stuffed animals, software for Playstation, Xbox and Wii.
Irons and ironing boards, sewing machines, microwaves, clocks, hair dryers, electric griddles, blenders, coffee makers and toasters.
Flat screen TV’s, computer items including towers, printers, flat screen monitors, hard drives, software and accessories, telephones, smart phones, answering machines, portable copiers, fax machines, calculators, stereos, DVD players, video cameras and equipment and radios.
Camping equipment, roller blades, ice skates, golf clubs, baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse equipment and accessories, skiing equipment and boots and fitness items.
Books, CDs & Videos
Hardback, paperback and children’s books, CDs, DVDs, Blue Ray movies, electronics, books and record albums.
Furniture weighing less than 50 pounds such as end tables, coffee tables, lamps, night stands, wooden chairs, rocking chairs, stools and plant stands.
Do you work with an organization that provides assistance for Active Duty Military, Veterans, Spouses or families? We want to hear your story! Please email Kris@militaryconnection.com!
The Best of the Army’s Best
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Many companies, organizations, and associations have contests to determine who in their midst ranks among the top, and the United States Army is no different. The 2018 Best Warrior Competition, the premier event to determine the Department of the Army’s Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, took place in early October at Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia and the Pentagon.
While the formal, final event is a six-day challenge, the 22 finalists (11 in each category) have already made it through a series of hurdles throughout the year to qualify for the DA-level competition. According to army.mil (https://www.army.mil/bestwarrior/), these elite warriors tested their “knowledge, skills and abilities by conquering urban warfare simulations, demonstrating critical thinking, formal board interviews, physical fitness challenges, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.”
The annual ‘Best Warrior’ contest tests Soldiers on “warrior tasks” presented in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks received in basic training. A consistent theme throughout was tackling the unknown, a skill that helps our military react and manage crisis situations…whether stateside or downrange.
At the start of the competition, the finalists began a ruck march carrying their M-4 carbine, four magazines and a total of 50 pounds of equipment, for an unknown distance in the early morning darkness and the rural wilderness of Virginia. Throughout the competition, planners from the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group told contestants that the roads were unsafe, which meant they’d have to constantly ruck in full gear. One of the Soldiers remarked that the heavy ruck marches really tested their cognitive and physical abilities, especially that opening morning march…which turned out to be 16 miles long.
Planners gave the Soldiers specific problem scenarios to solve by communicating with the civilian population in a simulated foreign country. Role players spoke a foreign language or broken English, and competitors had to devise their own solutions for communication. In another scenario, competitors were told to board a waiting helicopter, only to be informed moments before arrival that they needed to render first aid to injured bystanders. And other times, Soldiers needed to use their land navigation skills to find their way to a designated location.
First Sergeant Mike Kriewaldt, this year’s competition planner, said, “It’s not always about being the strongest, fastest person.” Kriewaldt, a 19-year veteran, drew on experience from eight combat deployments to create the contest’s challenges. “It’s more than just physical fitness. Being able to accomplish all the tasks in the right amount of time is key. You have to be able to get to where you’re going and have enough energy and mental capacity.”
U.S. Army Special Operations Command came out on top at this year’s Best Warrior Competition, with Corporal Matthew Hagensick, of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, named Soldier of the Year and Sergeant First Class Sean Acosta, an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, picking up Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors.
The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General James McConville, lauded the efforts of the contestants at the awards ceremony, held at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in Washington, D.C. “The winners and all the competitors in this competition understand that winning matters,” McConville said. “You didn’t come here to participate. You didn’t come here to try hard. You came here to win. And that’s the American spirit — the spirit that we have in the Army. And that’s what American Soldiers do. There’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”
To Ink or Not To Ink…
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
Tattoos have been around for a long time. Many historians believe that the first tattoos were inked onto hands and fingers of our Neanderthal ancestors in an effort to ward off illnesses. Tattooed mummified remains have been found and those remains date back to more than 5,000 years ago. Tattoos have been used to mark your skill set, designate your tribe, honor your lineage and more. The perception of tattoos continues to change every day as an increasing number of soccer moms sport full inked sleeves to practice. Public perception has changed and the Navy had to catch up.
For years, the United States Navy limited to the ink that it allowed in its ranks. Rules were in place to limit visible tattoo size and number, so sailors were restricted with what could be on their forearms and lower legs. Additionally, neck tattoos were not permitted. However, with tattoos on the rise in the 17-24 demographic, the Navy found themselves limiting recruits because of this rule.
The most efficient way to handle this barrier was to eliminate it, which is what the US Navy did. Under the revised rules, sailors have no restrictions on tattoos below the neck. Full sleeves are now permitted. Neck tattoos are also permitted, but have a limit on size. This opens up the doors for the young and tattooed who have an interest in serving in the Navy.
Sailors and tattoos have had a long history, so this recent change opens up a level of public acceptance that reflects the personal feelings of many who choose to decorate their personal canvases. Over the past few years, tattoo rules have changed in the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army. While each branch has changed their code regarding the allowing and acceptance of tattoos, all of the individual rules are different.
Loan Benefits: How the VA Helps You
Can you imagine getting a home loan without a down payment? How about avoiding PMI? Your VA Loan Benefit can make both of those home-buying pitfalls completely avoidable in many cases.
Veterans and active duty servicemembers are eligible to apply for VA Loan Benefits, which can make the home buying process easier and more affordable. In many cases, eligible homebuyers do not need to have a down payment. In contrast, FHA loans require 3.5% down payment and conventional loans are typical around 5%. This is a huge savings for the home buyer!
Another benefit to a VA Loan is the avoidance of mortgage insurance premiums. PMI is required in other loans. Conventional loans require PMI when the down payment is less than 20%. FHA Loans require PMI that have an annual cost in addition to the upfront charges. Avoiding the PMI provides a significant savings to the home buyer – and so does limiting the closing costs, another VA Loan perk. Sellers can be required to pay all of your closing costs – and up to 4% in concessions!
VA Loan Benefits will provide you the comfort of lower average interest rates than other lenders. There is no prepayment penalty on a VA loan, which means VA home buyers can pay off a loan early without any penalties or financial repercussions.
If a Veteran has already used their loan benefits, they may still be eligible for VA financing through “Second Tier Entitlement.” This allows Veterans to restore loan entitlement and buy homes again.
The VA Loan program has two different refinancing options for eligible homeowners – one for those with an existing VA Loan and another for those who have a conventional loan and wish to refinance into the VA Loan Program.
The VA Loan Program also tries to help protect its borrowers should difficult times arise. In the event of financial hardship, a VA Loan might be assumable by another party. There are also advocates to help Veterans and active duty servicemembers avoid foreclosure.
Your VA Loan doesn’t guarantee that your house will be perfect – no house is! The VA will appraise your intended property, but this is not an inspection. It is in your best interest as a potential homebuyer to have a full home inspection performed on any house you buy.