We're wrapping up Public Service Recognition Week and I think a nice bookend to the week is to talk with someone that serves Veterans through his public service. Raymond Kaloplastos is known as "Ray from VA" around his community in San Antonio. I spoke with him at the Student Veterans of America National Convention back in January. He was there with a mobile Vet Center to provide any counseling services Veterans may need while attending the event.
Ray is an Army Veteran and will talk to us about his lengthy time in service, his retirement, how he got started with VA and the value that Mobile Vet Centers bring our communities, including disaster response.
This is a big milestone for us. 100 episodes of Borne the Battle. We've spoken to Veterans from all branches (even one Coast Guard Veteran) and learned about so many industries. The stories have been interesting and learning about their current vocations has been inspiring.
Episode 100 is going to feature Bruce Silverglade, an Army Veteran that served during the Vietnam War. We'll learn about his service, his transition, how he became owner of Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, and about a cool program he started that allows Veterans to train at his gym for free. Then, we'll hear from other characters involved in this program including the VA employee that helped organize it, the trainer that works with these Veterans, and the Veterans that are benefiting from such a unique program.
To see and learn more about this program, check out our YouTube for a video we recently produced for the latest episode of The American Veteran, showing these Veterans in action at Gleason's Gym.
VA is very active in addressing and attempting to prevent Veteran homelessness. We hold a "no wrong door" policy, which allows Veterans to touch base with any point of contact at VA with confidence they will be guided to our resources and services to assist them. The longer I work here, and the more I speak with fellow employees, the more I realize this matter is important to everyone here, whether or not they're directly involved.
In December, I brought on my colleague to discuss VA's approach to communicating homeless resources to Veterans and their communities. This week, I speak with Anthony Love, Director of Community Engagement for VHA's Homeless Programs. He and I discuss how VA delivers these resources, benefits, and services to Veterans that are homeless or at-risk for homelessness. Anthony helps us understand what it means to be at-risk for homelessness and how communities are ending Veteran homelessness.
After a successful round table on women Veterans topics, I was excited to do another one. I decided to curate a round table of Veteran entrepreneurs, but had a couple guests back out and was forced to postpone. Fortunately, one of my invited guests was still available and interested in doing a one-on-one interview. Nick Karnaze is a Marine Veteran having served as an officer with the Marine Raiders. After getting out the military, he started a business in international development. The business did not succeed as hoped. Then, after growing a beard in honor of a fallen friend, Nick was inspired to start his current business, Stubble & 'Stache.
Nick and I discuss the journey of entrepreneurship, his process for troubleshooting, his routines, and how he handles productivity.
Tim Kolzcak asked his dad what the plan was for college. After learning there was no money available for his education, he had to choose between going into debt or joining the military. So, he enlisted in the Army. After his tour, which involved deployments in support of OIF/OEF, he continued his education. With the recommendation and encouragement of a professor, he began a photographic essay titled The Veterans Project. Now, Tim tells the stories of Veterans through these photos.
Tim is going to share his journey in the Army and exploring the idea of his project. Also, Tim joins us for a conversation about storytelling in the Veteran space, and what Veterans should keep in mind as they collaborate within the community and attempt to motivate others through their own story.
Alternative healing and mental health awareness is becoming more important and more popular. One thing Veterans are trying out is meditation. Meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual focuses their mind on a particular object, thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Like many Veterans, I have tried mediation and enjoy it, but I struggle with regular practice.
When I first exited the military, I got involved with a brand called Veteran Empire which was led by my friend Alfred "Alphi" Quitevis. Alphi was hustling with school, a business, and a busy social life. He noticed it started catching up with him and he put it all aside to explore the world and himself. During this exploration, he studied and practiced meditation. Now, he's an expert on the subject with plenty of insight to offer.
I watched Alphi go through this transition and followed him along his journey. I knew he'd be the right guy to discuss meditation and how it can apply to Veterans. He's going to talk to us about his time in the Corps, becoming too busy, becoming less busy, and finding meditation.
I've never run a marathon. I'm definitely one of those people that say, "I'd like to run one someday," but the truth is I probably won't. Rob Jones, a Marine Veteran who has two fewer legs than I do, ran 31 marathons in just as many days. His journey started in England, and then he hopped across the pond for a 30 for 30 marathons to days adventure. His journey wrapped up on Veterans Day 2017 as he finished his last marathon at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C..
Now, Rob hosts a podcast called Use the Weight and uses his recovery from injury as inspiration to others.
Rob joins us this week to talk about his service in the Marine Corps, the logistics of doing 31 marathons in 31 days, and where he may be going from here with his next mission.
I smoked for nearly ten years. I picked up the habit when I was 18 or 19 years old, and didn't truly quit until my late 20s. Like many smokers, I tried a number of different philosophies to kick the habit. It was easier to quit when I left the military, but it was still a challenge. Even years after I quit, I still get cravings occasionally, especially if I'm around other smokers.
Like any personal challenge, a support system is always key to success. I wish I had known about VA's Smoking Quitline when I decided to quit. One call to the quitline can get you set up with a counselor to talk about the importance of quitting, help you set up a plan, and schedule follow up calls to check in on your progress.
To get you more familiar with this service provided by VA, I spoke with a cessation counselor about what you need to know about the experience of using our Smoking Quitline.
Washington D.C. is full of amazing museums. The National Mall is lined with preserved history and remembrance. However, one of the best locations in the area for military history, the Marine Corps Museum, is an hour south in Quantico, Virginia. The Marine Corps Museum is beautifully built, meant to resemble the flag staff of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising photo. Inside, guests can learn about about Marine Corps' inception at Tun Tavern and its involvement in America's conflicts since then.
The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation is responsible for the development and upkeep of the museum, preserving and promulgating the history, traditions and culture of the Marine Corps and educating all Americans in its virtues. Our guest on this week's podcast, retired Lieutenant General Robert Blackman is the President of the foundation.
Robert shares his experience in the Marine Corps, the importance of preserving military history, and his role at the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
About Robert Blackman:
Lieutenant General Blackman was commissioned as Marine Corps officer upon graduation from Cornell University in June 1970. Toward the end of a long successful career, Lieutenant General Blackman served as the Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force; Commander, Marine Corps Bases, Japan; and Commander, Marine Forces Japan from 2003 to 2005. He then assumed command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command; U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe; U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South; U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Atlantic; U.S. Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic; and U.S. Fleet Marine Force, Europe, until his retirement in 2007. After leaving active service, Lieutenant General Blackman worked with Marine Corps’ Marine Air-Ground Task Force Staff Training Program. He was named President and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in 2011.
We have some bonus content for you. I sat down with three amazing Veterans to help wrap up our focus on Women Veterans this month. Lauren Augustine from Student Veterans of America, Joy Ilem from Disabled American Veterans, and Sarah Maples from Veterans of Foreign Wars joined me to discuss women Veterans they admire, women Veterans issues from the perspective of their respective organizations, and the growth of women Veterans as icons and leaders in the Veteran community.
Lauren Augustine is SVA's Director of Policy, advocating for student Veterans as it comes to policy affecting their pursuit of education. Joy Ilem is DAV's National Legislative Director. She directs the advancement of DAV’s public policy objectives to promote and defend reasonable and responsible legislation to assist disabled Veterans and their families nationwide, while guarding current Veteran’s benefits and services from legislative erosion. Sarah Maples just wrapped up her time at VFW as Director for National Security and Foreign Affairs where she developed, implemented, and promoted the VFW's national security and foreign affairs policy priorities.
This week's podcast marks our fourth and last installment in the series featuring women from the Women Veterans Athlete Initiative put on by the Center for Women Veterans. Today, we feature Sarah Holzalb, a Coast Guard Veteran and Relationships Manager for Team RWB.
Sarah Holzhalb entered the US Coast Guard Commissioned Corps as a deck watch officer in 2002, serving for 5 years. While grieving the suicides of two shipmates, she decided to train for her first marathon. The long training hours proved therapeutic, and her running club provided a new tribe to replace the shipmates she’d left behind.
Sarah talks to us about serving in the Coast Guard, her approach to marathons, the value she sees in Team RWB, and more.
This is the third installment of our series spotlighting women from the Women Veteran Athletes Initiative put on by the Center for Women Veterans. Featured on this week's episode is Army Veteran Candice Caesar.
Candice Caesar joined the US Army as a personnel actions specialist, excited to serve her country. A vehicle accident left her traumatized, paralyzed, and medically retired. She vowed to run again one day, and throughout her transition and recovery, she leaned on physical training to keep her going.
She's run a number of different races and events across the country, and is trying to race in 50 out of 50 states. She also aspires to do a half marathon on all seven continents. Candice talks to us about her eagerness to be a soldier, the car accident that left her injured, and how Team RWB and physical fitness have benefited her.
Mila Dimal served as an aviation mechanic in the US Navy and Navy Reserves, retiring after 20 years of service. Her passion is being the best mother, friend, and employee possible, and she credits sports and physical activities with helping her meet her goals, and setting a great example for her children.
Bernardine "Bernie" Donato is a Navy and Air Force Veteran that lives life to the fullest and on her own terms. She is a cancer survivor and lives with two autoimmune disorders; one which affects her joints and the other her muscles. Yet, she's an athlete, a leader for the Team RWB Durham chapter, and an artist.
Bernie is the first interview in a set of four to help us celebrate Women's History Month and the Center for Women Veterans' Women Veteran Athletes Initiative. “The Women Veteran Athletes Initiative will highlight the strength, diversity and resilience of women who served our country,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. She has seen a woman's role in the military develop over her lifetime and seen the growing recognition that women Veterans are finally receiving.
She joins Borne the Battle to tell us about her service in the military, supporting her community, staying active, and how she needs to retire from retirement.
Many of us have a passion for serving Veterans. For some, it's a true calling. That's what I saw in this week's guest, Randy Reeves, when we were conducting our interview.
Randy C. Reeves was nominated by President Donald J. Trump to serve as the 6th Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs and was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 8, 2017. National Cemetery Administration has received exceptional marks in the past, and Under Secretary Reeves is committed to building on that.
About Under Secretary Reeves:
As Under Secretary, he leads 135 national cemeteries in providing dignified burial services for Veterans and eligible family members. His responsibilities include maintaining the cemeteries as national shrines; design and construction activities related to the establishment of new national cemeteries; overseeing memorial programs to honor the service of Veterans, including the provision of headstones, markers, medallions and Presidential Memorial Certificates; and administering federal grants to help states, territories and tribal governments establish Veterans cemeteries.
He shares stories from his time in the service, his transition out of the military, losing a close friend and how that keeps him inspired to serve Veterans.
It's interesting how long one can be aware of something before finally checking it out. I heard about Vet Tix a few years ago and appreciated the concept, but never looked into them. Finally, after interviewing their Chief Strategy Officer, Steven Weintraub, I decided to enroll and see what it was about. Through their system, I got tickets to a cool event at a local venue, and it only cost me a transaction fee. That's incredible.
Vet Tix started ten years ago and was inspired by Navy Veteran Michael Focareto when he attended the Super Bowl and noticed some unused seats. He wondered if unused seats at events could be distributed and donated to service members and Veterans interested in attending. Vet Tix was born.
Now, there are more than 720,000 users and at the time of this writing, they have nearly 1,000 events nationwide that Veterans can attend. The system is straight forward:
-Tickets are donated to Vet Tix.
-Normal events are open and first come first served.
-High demand events are distributed through a lottery system.
-The more you use Vet Tix, the more opportunities you have to submit into a lottery.
This system is beneficial for all involved. Ticket holders that cannot attend the event have a tax-deductible donation they can make, because Vet Tix is a 501(c)3, and they're assured their tickets will not go unused. Venues benefit because it helps get people to the event. End users benefits by getting tickets to events for little to no cost to them.
Steven Weintraub joins us to explain the ins and outs of Vet Tix, his role in the organization, and his service to our country in the Marine Corps.
This week's interview is with Michael Haynie. Michael is an Air Force Veteran, Vice Chancellor at Syracuse University, and Director of Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). He is also a professor of entrepreneurship.
IVMF is widely respected in the Veteran space and continues to grow each year. IVMF is higher education’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, singularly focused on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.
Syracuse University has made student Veterans a priority and have graduated many top performing Veterans including Student Veteran of America's Jared Lyon.
Michael provides us a great insight into his military career, his tenure at Syracuse, Veterans in higher education, and Veteran entrepreneurship.
Suicide prevention and Veteran suicide is an important topic for us all. Secretary Shulkin and VA continue to make it a priority. Personally, I've been talking to people about this topic for several years, to include sharing my own suicide attempt. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk to a Veteran about mental and emotional health, I do not take the occasion for granted.
I was wandering a social event at the Military Influencers Conference when I met John Preston. John is a Marine Corps Veteran that is pursuing a career in music. He has struggled with PTSD, alcohol dependency, and suicidal behavior. His music is inspired by his emotional struggles, the passing of his father, his brother's suicide, and other events in his life.
John was nice enough to join me for an interview and shared his life from joining the military to where his career is now. This is a powerful episode and one you'll definitely want to listen to.
VA recently released a Welcome Kit that can guide Veterans to which benefits they may qualify for. What makes this product unique and refreshing is the guidance is based on the Veteran's stage of life. The road map starts with the moment you join the United States military and goes all the way to a Veteran's later years.
On today's Benefits Breakdown segment, Barbara Morton from the Veterans Experience Office explains the value the welcome kit has, how Veterans can receive a copy, and how Veterans can use it.
Back in October, I attended the Military Influencers Conference. While there, I met dozens of awesome and unique Veterans. During a social event, I was introduced to Josh Elledge. Josh is an expert on saving money and getting upgrades. He told me about a technique he uses with hotels that almost always produces a room upgrade. I was fascinated by his insight and his passion for what he knew.
When I returned home I followed up with my new contacts and did a little research on them. That's when I learned Josh had an initiative called upendPR. Between the savings and the public relations knowledge, I knew Josh could bring some unique insight to the podcast that few can. I hit him up and he happily agreed to an interview.
Josh tells us about his service in the Navy as a journalist stationed at Pearl Harbor. We learn about his transition and attending college. Then, he gives us the backstory on how he became a consumer expert and gives us some tips on how we can save on our grocery bill. All that, plus some professional PR talk.
Women Veterans make up the fastest growing segment of the Veteran population, and VA is committed to providing them with the best health care. This week's Benefits Breakdown features Kayla Williams, the Director of the Center for Women Veterans.
Kayla is an Army Veteran herself and was a military spouse when her husband was serving. She sat down with me to discuss the mission of CWV and the care and resources VA provides for our women Veterans.
For more information on CWV and health care for women, you can all the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-VA-WOMEN.
The past couple months have been amazing with so many great Veterans agreeing to be featured and doing interviews. Sometimes, when I get a stash of interviews recorded, I forget how good some of them are until I go back to edit them. That's the case with my interview with General George Casey (ret). We recorded the interview at Student Veterans of America's #NatCon2018 during a busy day of interviews with Student Veteran of the Year finalist interviews, and I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the interview a couple weeks later.
General George W. Casey, Jr. is one of the most accomplished soldiers in U.S. history and an authority on strategic leadership. As the 36th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from April 2007 to 2011, General Casey led what is arguably the world’s largest and most complex organization — 1.1 million people strong, with a $200+ billion annual budget — during one of the most extraordinary periods in military and global political history. He is widely credited with restoring balance to the war-weary U.S. Army, modernizing and leading the transformation necessary to defend our nation in the 21st Century, and ensuring the current force deployed in the war on terror was the best this country has ever fielded.
Currently serving as a Distinguished Senior Lecturer of Leadership at the Samuel Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and lecturing internationally on leadership to the leaders of national and multinational corporations (e.g., Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, Amazon, TDAmeritrade and General Electric) and at other business schools (e.g., Columbia, Yale and the Universities of Denver and North Carolina). He is also Chairman of USO Board of Governors and serving on Georgetown Board of Directors.
George tells us about his 41 years in the Army, why he joined, his close friends in the service and his continued service to Veterans and students.
Before 2017 ended, I sat down with Army Veteran Danielle Corazza for an interview. At the time, Danielle had been selected for a position at our Center for Women Veterans but had not yet started. Danielle has since started her role as National Outreach Coordinator for CWV. You can follow news and announcements out of the CWV on their web page.
Danielle Corazza is a lifelong member of the military community (both parents served on active duty in the Marine Corps and Navy), she entered onto active duty service with the US Army at the age of 17, completing her 3 year term of service as an E-4P (Specialist) and transferring into the Army National Guard for an additional two years. Due to service-related medical conditions, she left the National Guard to pursue her education when her disability rating was awarded. She availed herself of Vocational Rehabilitation services and the Montgomery GI Bill in order to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and Business Administration from Strayer University, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, adding a certificate from Georgetown University in Nonprofit Executive Management in 2014.
Danielle and I talked about her service in the military, being a VA patient, being a caregiver, entrepreneurship, and much more.
"Someone has to be the best." That's what my Gunny told me when my colleague received slightly better marks than I did when I was at MALS-26 on MCAS New River. In a competitive field, someone has to be named the best. I imagine the committee at Student Veterans of America had a difficult time choosing their Student Veteran of the Year.
Of the ten finalists, many of them founded their SVA chapter. Some of them helped get a space at their campus designated for Veterans. All of them have faced some sort of adversity and overcame that for the success the see now. Student Veterans of America’s Student Veteran of the Year is someone who exemplifies the qualities of a servant leader. Student Veteran of the Year is a current SVA chapter executive with a demonstrated record of significantly improving their chapter, campus, and community over the past academic year. Student Veteran of the Year personifies SVA’s mission of supporting yesterday’s warriors, today’s scholars, and tomorrow’s leaders, with evident respect from their colleagues. Student Veteran of the Year is the public face and representative of the 1.1 million student veterans in higher education.
In the end, someone has to be the best. Air Force Veteran Chris Rolph of Queens University of Charlotte has been named the Student Veteran of the Year.
36 hours before the announcement, Chris and I sat down to talk about his service in the Air Force, a close friend of his, the challenges and accomplishments he's seen on campus, and much more.
Today, we speak with Randy Dexter. Randy is an Army Veteran and just received his bachelor's from University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He just started his pursuit of his master's degree.
Randy shares stories from his service, recovering from his deployment and struggling transition, how the Las Vegas shooting impacted his community, how he got his service dog, and how his Veterans group is making an impact with local government.