Thursday, February 28, 2013

A day of service.

This Saturday is the day for our very first "Day of Service" project.

A few months back, I got an email from one of the gentlemen over at the Wounded Warrior Project.

In it, he requested help with doing some work on the home of a 100% combat disabled Marine named Steven.

Lance Cpl. (ret) Steven Schulz
In April of 2005, Lance Corporal Steven Schulz was five months into his second deployment to Iraq, when he was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device near Fallujah, Iraq. Steven suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury resulting in vision impairment, hearing loss and partial paralysis to the left side of is body. 

He had over 20 hours of brain surgery, with doctors removing approximately 90% of his right frontal lobe.

Steven's mother, Debbie, is his permanent caretaker. He is the oldest of three children with a younger brother, Clay,  and a sister, Elaine.

Friendswood, Texas is where the project is taking place and we should have a team of around 20 working together to accomplish a small list of items that are general maintenance on any well kept home.

In addition to the maintenance items, Serenity Homes of Texas, a custom home building company, is donating the manpower and materials for the construction of a shade pergola attached to the back of the families home.

Steven would like to use the patio more, and the Houston sun can be very unforgiving throughout the summer. Shade structures can run into the thousands of dollars, but Shane with Serenity Homes is completely donating a patio pergola.

The overall goal is to bring a bit of extra care to the family home of the Schulz's. 

This family has sacrificed in such a way that too many veteran families have in recent days. 

Life sometimes presents certain challenges which may seem insurmountable to some, but not all.

The Marine Corps adopted Semper Fidelis as its official motto in 1883.  Translated from Latin, Semper Fidelis means "Always Faithful."  U.S. Marines use an abbreviated verbal version, "Semper Fi," to voice loyalty and commitment to their Marine comrades-in-arms.

Marines don't quit. Marines carry on.

Steven and Debbie travel often and participate in veteran focused events throughout the nation. They recently took a bicycle ride in California with the Wounded Warrior Project, which presented the opportunity for many disabled veterans to hit the pavement for a ride on the coastline.

When Americans take the time to stop and take care of their neighbors, it generates an emotional impact which spreads through the community. Taking care of one another is something most humans enjoy at some point in their lives. 

By donating time and efforts to disabled veterans such as Steven, I hope to contribute to continuously delivering good to our community as part of a team. By networking with others sharing similar interests, and taking action when the time calls for it, we can enhance the lives of everyone around us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Now, After" (PTSD From A Soldier's POV) [contains graphic imagery]

I found this video the other day while tracking down some military related YouTube videos.

It was created by a US Army Staff Sgt. named Kyle Hausmann-Stokes.

After he was discharged from the military, he went to film school at USC.

I watched it through in its entirety and then went to bed thinking about it.

It is a very realistic (in my opinion) depiction of what it can be like for a returning Veteran, attempting to reintegrate into our modern, American society. When I stumble across media like this, it most definitely gives me pause.

I pause to remember those that were lost. I pause to remember that I am ok.

Share this with your friends.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day thinking.

Today is President's Day.

Wikipedia (one of my favorite "fun" sources for information) defines today with the following:

President's Day, a federal holiday honoring George Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879 for government offices in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices.

As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington's actual birthday, February 22. On January 1, 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

George Washington, 1st U.S. President
Declared a legal holiday by the federal government in 1885, George Washington’s Birthday has culturally morphed into “Presidents’ Day.” 

To lump Washington together with the 42 other men who have been elected president in this country does not assign him the significance he deserves.

The only president to be elected unanimously – and it happened to him twice – Washington essentially shaped the office of the president.  With tremendous foresight, he knew that his actions would set important precedents, and he conscientiously labored over many of his decisions.  Unlike modern presidents, Washington did not conduct polls to determine what steps to take. 

Instead, he asked the same question, over and over again:  “What is the best course for America?”  His instincts were seldom wrong, and his patriotism never faltered.  Washington once said, “I can never resist the call of my country,” and he responded to his country’s needs time and time again. 

As many holidays seem to continue to become more and more commercialized, this one included, I still have hope for our communities as numerous people with whom I interact show me on a daily basis that they are willing to roll up their sleeves and take care of one another.

Many Americans may take seriously their love of country, yet evidence suggests we are caring less and less about the people and events that played key roles in the history of the United States.  As author and historian David McCullough (one of my favorite authors) so eloquently said, “Indifference to history isn’t just ignorant; it’s a form of ingratitude.”

Americans have a long road to travel to reverse this disturbing trend.  A good place to start is by returning “Presidents’ Day” to its rightful name and purpose. 

On this day that is set aside to honor George Washington, Americans should re-discover why he was so crucial to the founding of this nation.  They should talk to their children about his renowned character and virtues. 

Families should plan trips to Mount Vernon and other historic places where Washington lived and worked. 

And most of all, Americans should shed their indifference and be grateful for the man who led this remarkable nation to freedom. And wouldn’t it be refreshing if families postponed their trips to the mall to gather around the dinner table to talk about George Washington and the other Founding Fathers.  

If you read through my previous posts, you may notice a tone concerning teamwork.

I continuously reference teamwork and working hard to be a member of a team, as it is one of the many things that I positively reflect on in regards to my time in the Air Force.

The teams which I was a part of then, have a massive influence on how I interact with my new teams as a civilian employee and as of this morning, the 2013 USAF Warrior Games Team.

I received my official selection letter in my email earlier and then remembered that today is also President's Day.

If George Washington were alive today, what would he think of our republic?

Would he be proud of what we have done, or would he be shocked at some of the things our leaders have involved us in?

I for one, feel that we are in a place where action is what's important.

Not the talk of I will do this, I might do this, I feel like doing this... as always, actions speak much louder than words.

What actions are you taking to grow your community, your network, or your perception of amassed wealth?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Credit Report Errors.

So today I came across a great video provided by 60 Minutes that illustrates some very expensive mistakes being made during the credit reporting process.

It is EXTREMELY important that you know what is contained in your credit report and how to take care of any issues that may arise when attempting to take corrective actions.

An easy starting point if you need help figuring out how to dispute items on your report is located on this webpage:

It details how to format a letter and send it to the appropriate agency in order to begin the dispute process.

Every person in America utilizes some form of credit at one point in their lives, especially if you are planning on purchasing a home.

I know that I personally viewed the differences between my personal copy of my credit report, and the copy that my loan officer, Jed, received from the credit reporting agency that our company pays for.

There were a few minor differences, but they were close enough, thankfully.

Veterans... check your six!

Friday, February 8, 2013

New challenges with non-profit work.

The content below is not my original content, but I believe the provider of this content is extremely knowledgeable and I look up to her both personally and professionally.

I interact with many non-profit organizations on a daily basis and even work for one, the Association of the United States Army.
The Association of the United States Army logo.
Be careful who you interact with.
Ask plenty of questions.
Don't donate to anyone that makes you feel even the slightest bit off.
Most organizations are happy to share how their funds are distributed.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First flight as a civilian.

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 1-149th Aviation Brigade flies over Houston, Tx on Feb. 5.

Today was extraordinary.

I was invited to attend an "Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve" visit to Fort Hood, Tx.

My company not only does VA Loans, but we also employ Veterans and their family members.

We care. Not because of the bottom line, but because it's the right thing to do.

Many times today, I was surrounded by business executives that had only recently hired a Veteran. Never served themselves, or some that even had no family or friends that served.

"They just work Steve", I was told by a couple of the different employers.

Music to my ears.

A Veteran comes to the civilian world with a different set of life experiences than a person who follows a traditional path. Not to say that a traditional path is wrong, or better, or worse. It's just different.

Private employers stand with employees who are also in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Some would even say that joining the military is a traditional path, but I would disagree with that statement. My line of reasoning is that less than one percent of the entire American population has served in the military.

How traditional is that compared with the number of college going Americans? To give you a small idea, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans who hold Doctoral degrees is around three percent.

Yep. 3%.

Compared to 1% who serve in the Armed Forces.

Today was filled with stories from employers who had great soldiers, serving honorably, and preparing to deploy. I was privileged enough to meet with a group of these soldiers and they were eager to show me what their duties consisted of as members of an attack aviation brigade.

All of them were either pilots, maintainers, or crew members on UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks, or AH-64 Apaches.

These brave young soldiers are all National Guard members about to embark on a nine month deployment to Afghanistan. Many of them, for the first time.

I felt a great sense of pride when speaking with this group of Americans. All of whom wear their uniform's proudly, but also, all of whom are "civilian soldiers." They work for oil companies, auto repair warehouses, and finance conglomerates.

They are just your next door neighbor. Picking up the morning paper, mowing the lawn and driving the kids to school.

But they have a team stronger than any a corporation can match. The U.S. military.

It was an honor to meet my neighbors, quietly serving their country, and being productive members of society while at home.

I can't wait to hire a few more of them myself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

We all want to fight.

2013 U.S. Air Force Warrior Games Selection Camp

We all want to fight for what we believe in.

If we didn't, we wouldn't want to compete. We wouldn't have shown up.

We wouldn't have tried.

But we did. We do.

 We were Airmen once and wore the uniform. Some of us still are.

Even if it's just in our hearts, it still counts.

I fight for my family. I fight for my home. Don't we all want the same things?

A nice, clean place to live. Good food. Good friends. Relaxation and joy.

By being a part of the Warrior Games, I hope to earn another life experience. Not money or fame, but educational life experience. I see the opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself once again. And along the way, there will be chances to learn from people I have not yet been exposed to.

The journey of our lives is often lost on the daily drudgery of task oriented behaviors. I for one, try to enjoy as many of the little things as I can, while I have the opportunities. From the small smiles I receive in the morning from my children, to the warmth of my bed when I can be home sleeping next to my wife... these are the joys I find the most worth fighting for.

I am eager to learn what other Veterans fight for. I hope to know how I can help my fellow Veterans even more after this experience.

Is anyone else motivated in the same ways I am?


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Leaving with a new hope.

As I make my way to the airport, I am reminded of just how beautiful Colorado Springs is. How can one not notice the dramatic rise of the mountain to our west?

Sometimes, all we need is a little hope in our hearts, in order to move to the next phase in life.

With my participation in the Warrior Games Selection Camp, I have seen so many young Veterans who are fighting to succeed in the "normal" world.
Their stories, triumphs, and struggles guide me down a path for good.

I am, at least by appearance, whole. So I must work harder to help my brothers and sisters, who might not be as fortunate as I.

We are only just beginning this journey of life after the military, and I know that each new day will bring with it new opportunities to help my fellow Veterans.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Coach.


Wheelchair basketball is one of the most exciting and interesting physical things that I have been able to participate in for a very long time.
A very large part of why is because you have Airmen that lead the way. 
This Airman, was our basketball coach.

Sleep caught up to me.

So it has been almost a year since I took off my uniform for the final time.

It was a moment of fear and relief combined. Relief because I had been planning for the next step to happen, fear because the military was all I had known as an adult up to that point.

When the transition started, I had no idea what really lie in store for me in the outside world.

I worked tirelessly to find employment and then worked furiously to give my wife and two unborn children a clean, safe environment to live in.

But when I left Germany for the final time I left plenty of what felt like unfinished business behind.

There was always another project to complete, or a new goal to meet.

And this stuff is the same on the outside, but different in the sense that as an individual in the civilian world, I have more freedom as to which direction my life is headed in.

I feel very privileged to have been invited to Colorado Springs by the US Air Force, as it has allowed me to see a few people that made an impact on my life.

So often when in the service, we meet people and then are injected into one an others lives for a limited period of time. When this happens, sometimes a friend is torn away in what seems to be an instant. Then lives are altered so quickly that it makes it very difficult to keep in touch.

I was able to spend time with a few really cool people on this trip. And if nothing else comes of my attempts to make the team, I will leave Colorado with a better sense of purpose due to the lives that I have been able to take part of.

Off to shoot more and then a wheelchair basketball scrimmage.