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Active Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families
Exclusive Military Discounts, Benefits & Rewards for Active Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families

Veterans Advantage Blog


Military Appreciation Month in May is an annual celebration of patriotism. It also reaffirms our mission to make sure we honor service every day. From our popular 50% off member “thank you” sale completed last week, to our support of Team USA at the Invictus Games earlier this month, your service to our country is always in our hearts and minds.

Memorial Day on May 30 culminates this month of recognition. It is a time to recognize our service members who made the ultimate sacrifice and serves as a solemn punctuation mark for the entire month. This Memorial Day Weekend, we remember those Americans who gave their lives in service to their country. We honor the service and sacrifice of these men and women and their families. It is also a time when our thoughts and prayers turn to those who continue to serve our country in harm’s way.

Do your part. Participate in our National Day of Remembrance on Memorial Day, 3:00 p.m. your local time. Take a moment of silence to reflect on those who have given their lives, and to those and their families who continue to serve, so we can remain free.


From left, Lin Higgins, COO of Veterans Advantage, Israel Del Toro Jr., Air Force master sergeant and Invictus Games competitor, Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Scott Higgins, CEO of Veterans Advantage.
From left, Lin Higgins, COO of Veterans Advantage, Israel Del Toro Jr., Air Force master sergeant and Invictus Games competitor, Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Scott Higgins, CEO of Veterans Advantage.

Earlier this week, Veterans Advantage honored 115 members of Team USA, our military veteran Paralympic team competing at the 2016 Invictus Games, with free Veterans Advantage.

The Invictus Games, created by British Prince Harry in 2014, is the only international Paralympic-style multi-sport event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. Starting last weekend, wounded warrior teams from 13 countries joined with our team to participate in the games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida.

On Monday evening, Lin and I were invited to an Invictus Games reception hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize Team USA and their families at the Games. Wow! I can’t express how proud the crowd was of these servicemen and women and their families — not only for the immense sacrifices they have made with their military service, but also for their indomitable spirit. Despite the many obstacles in their path, their persistence and fortitude have driven them to athletic excellence. With the ongoing support of their families and caregivers, their spirit has propelled them to participate in these Games.

We received a terrific introduction to the crowd from our Veterans Advantage Board Member and a Medal of Honor Recipient, Paul “Bud” Bucha. At the opening ceremonies aired live on ESPN the night before, we were proud to see Bud honored with a standing ovation before a sellout crowd. The opening ceremony also featured appearances by Invictus founder Prince Harry, a rousing welcome from Chairman and CEO of the Games Ken Fisher, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Morgan Freeman, and British singer James Blunt, who performed his top chart blockbuster “You’re Beautiful”, as a tribute to the First Lady.

Veterans Advantage's Lin Higgins, right, and Roy Asfar, left, join U.S. athletes competing in the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. Veterans Advantage presented each athlete with a complimentary VetRewards member plan.
Veterans Advantage's Lin Higgins, right, and Roy Asfar, left, join U.S. athletes competing in the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. Veterans Advantage presented each athlete with a complimentary VetRewards member plan.

The following night, led by Roy Asfar, our VP of Marketing at Veterans Advantage, we proceeded to the Veterans Affairs reception to salute our Team USA and award them our gifts of one free year of Veterans Advantage.

At the VA reception, Ken Fisher, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, was recognized for his leadership role as Chairman and CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games and success in bringing them to the U.S. by Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Robert McDonald of Veterans Affairs was there to personally greet and congratulate each athlete and their family members.

Gerry Byrne, a Marine Corps veteran and Vice Chairman of Penske Media Corporation, who serves on both Veterans Advantage and Fisher House Foundation boards, joined us at the reception, too. Gerry is attending the entire week of games events. He is truly inspired, as we are, from meeting and watching this outstanding group of fellow veterans participate in the Games. These wounded warriors, men and women, exude a profound sense of purpose as Team USA para-athletes, bound not only by the team camaraderie of adaptive sports, but also by their continued service to our country. They are great role models for transitioning vets and their families, and really, for us all!

We want to acknowledge and thank our Veterans Advantage members and others who support Veterans Advantage’s “Giving Back”, such as these Invictus Games gifts. Our Giving Back programs are part of our work as a registered public benefit corporation (“PBC”). To date, with your support, we have delivered over a half million free VetRewards Cards to active duty service personnel, wounded warriors and their caregivers, student veterans, and as gifts to honor special groups.

Veterans Advantage works through 501c3 distribution partners, such as Operation Gratitude and Operation Care and Comfort, major schools such as the City University of New York and Syracuse University, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the City of New York through the IDNYC card with Veteran Designation, to reach the recipients of our veteran-led and supported free benefit programs.

If you would like to contribute towards the gift of a VetRewards Card, and the many supportive benefits it delivers, click here.

 

 

Paul 'Bud' Bucha, a Medal of Honor recipient and Veterans Advantage Board of Advisors member, speaks to U.S. competitors at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando.
Paul "Bud" Bucha, a Medal of Honor recipient and Veterans Advantage Board of Advisors member, speaks to U.S. competitors at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando.
Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, and Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz, the VA's assistant secretary for policy and planning, speak before an audience of U.S. competitors at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando
Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, and Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz, the VA's assistant secretary for policy and planning, speak before an audience of U.S. competitors at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando


There are few people in this country who have done as much for today's military as Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation and our VetFamily honoree. Ken has created Fisher Houses in the U.S. and abroad - there are now 70 of these comfort homes and many more under construction - that provide accommodations at no cost to the families of servicemen and women who are receiving treatment in nearby military hospitals. They are a godsend to our military families who often do not have the resources to support visits to their hospitalized son or daughter. Fisher House is a tremendous organization which we, like President Obama, have been proud to support over the years. Ken and I have also collaborated on Veterans Week NYC 2016. I am proud to call him a longtime colleague and friend.

This past year, Ken started a new chapter in his philanthropic efforts, while continuing to lead Fisher House. He is Chairman of the 2016 Invictus games in Orlando, first established by the U.K.'s Prince Harry, who founded the games to honor wounded veterans in 2014 in London. The 2016 Invictus Games, which take place this week, is a wonderful and important celebration of service and athletics. Lin and I are here in Orlando to take in the action. Be sure to follow my blog to learn more with updates.

Learn more about Ken here through a special Q&A, where he talks about why he does so much for our veterans and their families.


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may be hearing the name Justin Constantine for the first time. In an exclusive interview with Veterans Advantage, the former Marine Corps Colonel shares his inspirational story of service before self. We have awarded him as our newest HeroVet, having overcome his serious injuries sustained in Iraq, and now distinguishing himself by his contributions to his fellow veterans and leadership in his civilian life. Justin tells us he has been guided both by the experience of his injury and the skills he gained from his military service.

His book My Battlefield, Your Office is a must read for business managers and young executives, or anyone who can benefit greatly from these inspiring leadership lessons from the front lines. We bought copies for our employees at Veterans Advantage. Be sure to pick up one for yourself, friends, family members or your own employees.

Finally, speaking of recognizing significant people, we want to remind you - Mother's Day, Sunday, May 8 is just around the corner. Every one of us has at least one special woman to thank for their dedication as a mom. Fortunately, there's our benefit partner, 1800Flowers to help us out! For an exclusive Veterans Advantage 30% Off, check out 1800Flowers and Veterans Advantage today - before it is too late for delivery!


We hope you enjoy this month's feature on Dierks Bentley. As any vet will attest, country music is a favorite among our military. That's been true for as long as I can remember, which goes back to Johnny Cash, who was an Air Force veteran. Maybe it's the intense love for our land shared by the singers and veterans alike which makes country music so compelling from a patriotic perspective.

Bentley's father, who passed away in 2012 was a World War II Army veteran who also had a passion for country music.

On the benefit side, I'm impressed how quickly Foot Locker stocks its site with championship gear after a team is crowned #1 in the NCAA or professional leagues. And, of course, you can purchase the gear using your Veterans Advantage 20% everyday discount.

Foot Locker has been a Veterans Advantage benefit partner for nearly six years. Check out the benefit today and find out for yourself why it's so popular with our members.


In honor of Women’s History Month, we wish to recognize with our HeroVet award U.S. Army veteran Laura Law-Millett, the co-founder of the GI Film Festival.

At Veterans Advantage, our mission of greater respect, recognition and rewards for those who serve includes recognition of those who continue to serve, giving back in various communities and industries after their military service. Millett has done this through her GI Film Festival, now celebrating its 10th Anniversary this May. As our nation’s women veterans continue to increase their influence in the military community and beyond, Law-Millett is one to watch.

In the past, Veterans Advantage has celebrated the ongoing ‘giving back’ activities of our nation’s women veterans with other HeroVet awards. Most recently, Veterans Advantage recognized Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Assistant Secretary of Policy and Planning for the Department of Veterans Affairs and earlier, Bonnie Carroll, founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS),as well as Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.), president of the Women's Memorial Foundation

Other women that Veterans Advantage has recognized as having served in our nation’s military with TopRank awards for distinguished military achievements include: Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the first female four-star general; Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander, and featured a cover story regarding Capt. Vernice Armour, the Marine Corps’ first African-American female combat pilot; and an Air Force veteran.


Appreciating Our Exclusive Partnership This Easter, And Every Day

Last week, I attended a book signing of Dr. David Agus’s The Lucky Years, an inspirational new book that offers practical knowledge on how to live a healthier and more meaningful life.

At the reception, I had a chance to meet and talk with Jim McCann, the Chairman and CEO of 1-800-Flowers. Jim is a wonderful guy – a successful entrepreneur (be sure to read his book Stop and Sell the Roses) and a strong, patriotic supporter of our military and veterans. Turns out Jim lives in the same town where I grew up – Manhasset, Long Island!

1-800-Flowers offers Veterans Advantage members a great deal - 30% off! You still have time to order flowers for Easter weekend and take advantage of this terrific benefit. Click here to learn more and get started with 1800FLOWERS.


Justin Constantine, a Marine officer and decorated Iraq veteran, joined us for our Veterans Advantage holiday party in December. While the focus of the event was to get together with good friends and celebrate a wonderful year, Justin was a reminder of the gratitude we should have for living each day like it may be our last. Nearly mortally wounded by sniper fire in Iraq, Justin, through great determination, persistence and the support of a steadfast spouse, put his body and life back together. Today, he is a passionate motivational speaker who spreads his leadership advice to companies and his fellow wounded warriors.

Justin has also written a book, My Battlefield, Your Office. It is a powerful compilation of the greatest leadership strengths borne from military training that has great value for any company or family. I immediately ordered copies for our staff in CT and Salt Lake City. I was particularly drawn by one passage which reflects Justin's experience, and represents a lesson to us all: "A poor leader says 'Woe is me. Why can't things be the way they always were?' A good leader says, 'We are moving in a new direction now. This is exciting."

Pick up your copy from Amazon and be inspired today.


 

TopVet: Dusty Baker

Baseball and Beyond


As President Obama announced in his 2016 African-American History Month proclamation, "We honor the contributions of African Americans since our country's beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character." All this month, as Veterans, we recognize the character and accomplishments of great African Americans while in uniform and after their service.

In our TopVet piece today, we recognize Dusty Baker for his impact on baseball, both as a player and a successful manager for four Major League Baseball teams. Whether in a Marine uniform or a baseball uniform, Baker has excelled and inspired.

And as I noted in an earlier post, Tucker Smallwood - who we profiled earlier this month - is a fellow Vietnam Veteran who had a role to play in the release of Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam. He is also an outspoken advocate for understanding and addressing PTS.

The award program at Veterans Advantage includes the designations of CelebVet, VetFamily, TopVet, HeroVet, and TopRank. This program is a central part of our mission - to raise awareness of the value of military service. This program showcases inspiring stories of those who serve who continue to apply the lessons of service in their chosen fields with notable success. During this month, we recognize great African Americans who have served our country and created a lasting impact on our nation. All of us at Veterans Advantage recognize, acknowledge and applaud their efforts and remarkable accomplishments. A huge thank you from all of us at Veterans Advantage!


Actor, writer, musician, advocate and fellow Vietnam veteran, Tucker Smallwood has been in over 30 films, performed in more than 40 theatrical productions and voiced over 1,000 television and radio spots. With the excitement and film frenzy leading up to the Oscars on February 28, we recognize him as a CelebVet and applaud his work on an Oscar-nominated film that’s near and dear to our hearts at Veterans Advantage.

He lent his voice to the HBO documentary Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam. Dear America is based on the book of the same name and features letters, stories and anecdotes compiled by the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, which I was honored to co-chair. Dear America won HBO its first Emmy and a documentary on the making of the movie was nominated for an Academy Award.

Smallwood has also been in some much-loved television series, including Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Seinfeld and Friends, and feature films like Presumed Innocent and Deep Impact. Though he hasn’t received an Oscar nomination – yet! – Smallwood serves as a celebrity ambassador for Veterans in Film and Television (VFT). This year, VFT member Hank Hughes’ short film, Day One, has been nominated for an Academy Award. We wish VFT and Hughes good luck, and thank Smallwood for entertaining us over the decades!

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