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We hope you enjoy this week’s TopRank. We first profiled Vice Chief of Naval Operations Michelle Howard after her nomination earlier this year, and this month’s development makes it official – the Navy has promoted its first four-star female in its 238-year history.

The woman who made it to the President’s box for the 2014 State of the Union address has certainly captured the attention of the military by her historical significance. As Defense Chief Chuck Hagel noted in a special blog post on women in the military, “When asked about the women who joined the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, General Douglas MacArthur called them ‘my best soldiers,’ he said.”

“We’ve come a long way toward giving women a truly equal opportunity to serve in uniform and throughout DoD – and we’ve still got a lot more work ahead of us,” Hagel added.

Meanwhile, speaking of other military ceremonies, our followers on Facebook got the breaking news earlier this week that President Obama is about to award the Medal of Honor to the ninth living recipient to have served in OIF or OEF. We salute Ryan Pitts, and thank him for his extraordinary service to our country.

Scott with Donna and John Pinto at the GateScott with Donna De Varona (center) and John Pinto (right) at the Gate

With all eyes on Rio this weekend for the World Cup Final, a faceoff between Germany and Argentina, I’m reminded of a recent trip to Berlin.

It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since the historic fall of the wall along Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, marking the end of the Cold War and the beginning of democratic governments replacing communist rule. While standing only yards from the Gate, I reflected on the enormous contributions our military have made in defending this region of the world.

Millions in our military served our country during the Cold War. Since we were not officially “at war” as a nation, however, there are some who don’t consider these servicemembers “real” Veterans, including some of the Veterans themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their efforts were vital in securing the peace, especially during those uncertain years after World War II and Korea, and before Vietnam. They wore the uniform of the United States, and served honorably. They are Veterans, just as those who served during wartime and they are entitled to the same benefits, including membership in Veterans Advantage. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

I also had the honor of meeting our American Ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, his lovely spouse, Kimberly and two of his three daughters. He hosted a wonderful dinner at the residence, and – keeping in the spirit of sport — we were joined by German athletic great, Katarina Witt, a two-time Olympic Figure Skating champ. Other Guests of Honor included Veterans Advantage Advisory Board Member Donna De Varona, herself a two-time Olympic champion, and her spouse John Pinto, a U.S. Army National Guard Veteran. The next day, Ambassador Emerson gave us a tour of the American Embassy, a remarkable building next to the Brandenburg Gate, completed in 2008.

Group Dinner PhotoAmbassador Emerson, second from left, and other guests including, Katarina Witt (center, with Scott Higgins, right)

Finally, if you are a fan of soccer – or Futbol, as the rest of the world calls it – tune in Sunday at 3pm Eastern for the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina. Germany’s historic 7-1 thrashing of Brazil was amazing to watch, and no doubt will be the talk of this upcoming match.

At Veterans Advantage, we give our thanks and gratitude to our fellow Veterans and their families, as we reflect on our freedoms we enjoy today, thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served.

We have profiled Montel Williams as a CelebVet this 4th of July because he is one of those unique individuals who uses his celebrity for a greater good and for that we salute his efforts. Montel not only constantly reminds others about the spirit of service and value of service to our country, but also has been highly prescient in his public calls for bolstered help in the area of Veterans health care.

As our nation looks with hope to the newly appointed VA Secretary for renewed leadership, we also hope Montel, with his celebrity voice and strong sense of urgency, will continue to deliver his resounding message and inspire our nation in fulfillment of our obligation to those who have protected us.

We wish you and your family a happy and safe Independence Day holiday weekend.

Further representing our commitment to quality in the way we communicate with the Veterans community, we were pleased to see that Advisory Board Member Gerry Byrne won a key media industry award recently.

“min,” the industry’s trusted source on the ever-evolving consumer and b2b media business, named its 2014 Hall of Fame Sales Executive of the Year Awards, and included Gerry this year. We at Veterans Advantage could not be more proud of him.

Gerry is not only a leader in the media world, but he battled many of the transition challenges Vets face today in the workplace. As a Vietnam Vet, Gerry recalls in his acceptance speech, how he got his start:

I was just back from 13 months as a Marine officer in Vietnam. It was early 1969. There was no “thank you for your service”…just the wide public sense that anyone in uniform was the cause of America’s problems. And that, indeed, was me. I was a mess. And I was angry. I wasn’t wearing my pride of service. I was hiding it. And that hurt. While my goal and focus back then was to become a “Master of the Universe” on Wall Street, fate intervened with an interview I accepted at The New York Daily News. The largest paper in the US. 3.5 million circulation on Sunday.

What mattered to me at the News, the entire management infrastructure was made up of former Marine, Navy and Army officers…most with service in Korea. They understood me. So I signed on.

We hope there are many success stories like Gerry when post-9/11 Vets tell their story 30 or 40 years later, and hopefully a lot sooner.

Gerry goes on to say in his acceptance speech:

My inspiration to get involved, particularly with Veterans causes, was seeded in Vietnam when a young Marine in a memorable tense moment lit my cigarette and showed me his Zippo lighter. Inscribed on it was….”For those who have fought for it, Freedom has a taste that the protected will never know.” That quote stuck and led me to my Veterans’ affinity.

Those words also inspires Veterans Advantage towards helping those enrolling in our member plans each and every day. Today, tomorrow and in the future.

Gerry is also quite modest about his accomplishments. He is currently Vice Chairman of Penske Media Corp (PMC), which owns leading entertainment and digital media brands that include Variety, Deadline Hollywood, Hollywood Life, TVLine, and others. A fellow Vietnam Veteran, he is also on the boards of numerous influential not-for-profits helping his fellow Veterans, including Fisher House, The Intrepid Museum and The Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Hat’s off to Gerry!

Looking for a last-second gift for your student graduate? In a special exclusive for veteran and military families in Veterans Advantage, through June 28, 2014, you are eligible for an additional discount on high-quality, certified-pre-owned Apple computer products, including iPads.

Refurbished computers are a great option for those wanting top-selling Apple products at a lower price, while still offering the same quality other Apple owners have grown to love and expect. Plus, sales on iPads – even refurbished ones – do not come often, so check out these great prices before this offer runs out on Saturday, June 28, 2014.

These products are maintained by Apple to look as good as new, and repackaged in a brand new box. Learn more here, or Veterans Advantage members can log in now at www.vetrewards.com/apple and order online.

Apple has been honoring those who served and their families through Veterans Advantage since 2004. And, as always, you can continue saving on its award-winning line of new desktops and notebooks, and its AppleCare Plans 365 days a year. AppleCare is more than just the up front savings as a Veterans Advantage member. As we reported here before, you protect your valuable investment with AppleCare, and may be able save hundreds, if not thousands, on future repair costs.

We hope you enjoy your first of a series, “CelebVet” on Michael Conner Humphreys. When you think of the movie “Forrest Gump,” you may think of Tom Hanks, but Humphreys is the “original,” in that he played Gump as a child in that same movie. After the release of the movie 20 years ago next month, Humphreys grew up and later served our nation with honor in the U.S. Army.

As a Vietnam Veteran like Gump in the movie, I must say I was touched by the truth and emotion “Forrest Gump” evoked on the big screen.

Later this year, “Gump” returns to an even bigger screen – a 20th Anniversary edition will be released on Imax. I know I will be going back to see it. Will you?

Expect more “CelebVet” features soon, as Veterans Advantage tells you more about Vets who have become famous in the public eye.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army (left) with Veterans Advantage Founder & CEO Scott Higgins.Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army (left) with Veterans Advantage Founder & CEO Scott Higgins.

So much of our mission at Veterans Advantage is to always recognize and thank. With that in mind, this particular weekend marks major patriotic holidays that also recognize two very powerful symbols for our country: Our flag and our Army.

To start, let’s recognize and thank past and present members of our U.S. Army, and celebrate its 239th Birthday on Saturday, June 14. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, participated in a day of activities in New York City today, including many of his fellow Army soldiers, and the US Army Band.

The theme for this year is “America’s Army: Our Profession.” – a very important subject in this era of drawdown of forces from our two major Post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A successful transition for this new “greatest generation” is a must, and ensuring our Veterans participate in our workforce is essential.

US Army Band helps celebrate the Army's 239th BirthdayUS Army Band helps celebrate the Army’s 239th Birthday (Click image to enlarge)

Flag Day is recognized for its 237th birthday on Saturday, which marks its adoption. If you are at a ball game, or watching one on television this weekend, give thought to its importance when the National Anthem is playing.

Finally, this weekend would not be complete without sending out our best wishes to all you dads out there. Happy Father’s Day!

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