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Veterans Advantage Blog

In a weekly address on November 14, 2015, President Obama emphasized the importance of hiring our veterans, stating: “As our veterans will tell you themselves, they’re not finished serving their country. As I tell small business owners and CEOs on a regular basis, if you want to get the job done, hire a vet.” Here at Veterans Advantage, we strongly agree with the president’s call to action and have consistently advocated for veteran employment over the years.

I recently found out that Edge4Vets has a great upcoming veteran employment workshop that I’m excited to share with you.

On December 2, 2015, the Edge4Vets workshop series will offer veterans a free employment workshop that focuses on how veterans can translate their military skills to the civilian sector. Veterans attending the workshop in New York City can connect with Edge4Vets’ partners in finance, pharmaceuticals, aviation, security, media and IT and will receive individualized advice on connecting with HR representatives and hiring managers.

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Intrepid (West 46th Street and 12th Avenue), and participants will also receive passes to tour the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in the afternoon. 

To RSVP or learn more, click here

In 1993, the Armed Services YMCA, in conjunction with the United States government, declared November "Military Family Month." Every November since then, we celebrate Military Family Month to honor military families through awareness, public and private initiatives and service programs. It's a month for us to recognize the special service and sacrifices of our military families.

Honoring military families has always been an important part of our core mission here at Veterans Advantage. We believe that when one member of the family serves, the whole family serves. We have worked with our partners to ensure that they extend family members the same benefits that service members receive. We created the VetFamily designation to honor the family members of servicemen and women who have achieved significant accomplishments due in part to their family member's service to our country.

Simply put, family members bear a heavy burden whenever their loved ones serve our country. As President Obama stated in a recent proclamation: “During Military Family Month, we pay tribute to and thank our military families for their service to our country, and we recognize the extraordinary ways in which they give of themselves for all.” This month, we urge you to take a minute to help military families – or acknowledge your own military family – in whatever way you can. Whether it's taking the time to talk about the unique challenges military families face, volunteering to help other military families or just sitting down to dinner together, we can all do our part to make sure military families get the recognition they deserve.

A heartfelt thank you to all our members – veterans, military personnel and their families – and the world-class athletes who joined us for our fourth annual Heroes Meet Heroes event at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.  

Lin Higgins, my spouse who is co-founder and COO of Veterans Advantage, conceived of this event to give Veterans Advantage members the unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with those training as qualified world class competitors, many who have achieved Olympic medal status in the U.S. Olympic games, at the historic New York Athletic Club (“NYAC”) in Manhattan. I’m happy to report that the fulfillment of her vision – now in its fourth year – continues to be an outstanding success.

We had 19 stellar athletes and Olympians – who were in town for the New York Athletic Club’s All Sports Dinner – meet, mingle and snap photos with over 40 veterans along with their numerous family members and guests.

Not only did I get to enjoy the company of Veterans Advantage members in attendance, but, as an athlete myself, it was a pleasure to chat with some of America’s strongest and fastest, including judoka Janine Nakao, high jumper Priscilla Frederick, sprinter Brycen Spratling, hammer thrower Amanda Bingson and boxer Nikos Spanakos ­– who once roomed with another boxer you might have heard of: Cassius Clay!

And once again we were graced by the presence of former NFL star and the club’s Athletic Director Cedric Jones, who has supported us every year in hosting this wonderful event. The New York Athletic Club’s historic Trophy Room provided us with a beautiful backdrop for Heroes Meet Heroes, with plenty of food and drinks to satisfy all our guests. This was also made possible in part by our generous sponsor – and Veterans Advantage partner – Foot Locker, so they are also deserving of our gratitude.

One last thank you to my good friends and Veterans Advantage Board of Advisors members Gerry Byrne and Paul “Bud” Bucha for helping us put this together. It’s a highlight of Veterans Week NYC for all of us at Veterans Advantage and for all of our members who attended. We were all inspired by the great athletes we had the pleasure of meeting in such a memorable setting, but I’m certain that even the famous Olympians depart Heroes Meet Heroes motivated by our veterans.

As Bud mentioned in his remarks, both athletes and military personnel work tremendously hard to serve our country in different ways. Only veterans rarely receive the recognition and applause that many athletes are accustomed to. However, I’m happy to say that now is their time during Veterans Week NYC, and I hope that all the visiting veterans and military personnel feel appreciated for their hard work and sacrifice.

If you’ve yet to join us for Heroes Meet Heroes, I’m inviting you now. Register for free by following this link and I’ll see you here next year! And if you would like to receive some photographs from yesterday’s event, email us at editor@veteransadvantage.com.  

Heroes Meet Heroes 2015


Once again Lin and I participated in the New York City Veterans Day Parade – also known as America’s Parade. This year, the parade traveled up New York’s historic Fifth Avenue amid the cheers of spectators showing their support of the 20,000+ participants.

As in previous years, Veterans Advantage had a float in the parade. Our local Veterans Advantage staff and a number of our incredible members joined the procession, raising awareness for veteran recognition while sharing an unforgettable experience. This collective feeling of community and purpose is unparalleled, and it is what Veterans Day is all about.

Each year, as our team rides on our Veterans Advantage float, I’m reminded of the day I returned home from Vietnam. That day was lonely; it was lacking the patriotism, gratitude and overwhelming support of our U.S. armed forces and their families that I now see each year on this parade route. But instead of remembering the day I returned as one empty of celebration, I prefer to remember what I’ve seen on Veterans Day in recent years – an outpouring of gratitude and this national celebration of our U.S. military veterans, active duty military, reservists, Guard members and their families.

As we continue to celebrate Veterans Week NYC, I encourage you to remember and honor our veterans any way you can. Volunteer with a local veteran-based charity, support a veteran-owned or operated business, tell a service person “thank you” or just take a minute out of your busy day to remember those who have served, and those who continue to do so. Even though November 11 is designated as Veterans Day, we should recognize the sacrifices made by our military members, past and present, every day.

This year’s parade commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 25th anniversary of Desert Shield. The U.S. Navy was the featured military branch at this year’s parade (with the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s honored guest), and as any Marine will remind you – this week marked the 240th Birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

All branches were present at the parade, which was captured by our staff member Mark Johnston. I’ve included some of his pictures below, and be sure to stay tuned next week for more when I wrap up all the events taking place here at Veterans Week NYC.

To learn more about this year’s ongoing events, check out the schedule at www.veteransweeknyc.org

Veterans Day 2015

It’s an exciting time for us at Veterans Advantage as we prepare for this year’s Veterans Week NYC, where we’ll celebrate you: our nation’s veterans, military members and family members. This is time for activities surrounding Veterans Day, November 11, and the great parade that takes place that day.

One item on the schedule that I’m especially excited for is a special screening of HBO’s Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, which was recently re-mastered by HBO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. I’m proud to say that IMAX has arranged this private screening of the newly-digitized documentary for Veterans Advantage members and their guests.

Dear America HBO Documentary IMAX Special ScreeningAs some of you might already know, I was asked by then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch to volunteer as co-chair of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, a duty I fulfilled for over five years heading that 100-person Commission in the 1980s. We collected many letters written by service members like myself who served during the war. These letters were eventually compiled and published in the book, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, upon which HBO’s documentary of the same name is based. 

The film, directed by Bill Couturie, features a selection of these letters written by American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at various and vastly different points throughout the conflict. Presented along with archive footage from amateur 8 mm film, NBC-TV and the Department of Defense, each letter is read by one of 40 Hollywood stars that took part in the production of this highly-personal look into the war.

Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Robert De Niro, Brian Dennehy, Kevin Dillon, Matt Dillon, Robert Downey Jr., Michael J. Fox, Mark Harmon, Sean Penn, Randy Quaid, Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Kathleen Turner, Robin Williams and more, read words written by those who suffered through the war, even some of whom didn’t survive. From start to finish, Dear America is a comprehensive narrative of the extreme highs and lows our military members experienced, from relaxing and swimming on leave, to the nightmares of the battlefield.

This emotional journey won the Special Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival and earned HBO two Primetime Emmy Awards -- the first in HBO's storied history -- for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Informational Programming, and Outstanding Informational Special. Dear America also won awards from the CableACE Awards, International Documentary Association and Television Critics Association’s Program of the Year award.

The film is a living memorial for all of us who served in Vietnam and a powerful reminder to all of the true cost of war. For me, Dear America was summed up best by renowned film critic Roger Ebert, whose review of Dear America was included in his book: Roger Ebert’s Four-Star Review 1967-2007. I’ll leave you with his words:

“Choose any film as the best movie ever made about Vietnam, and this is the other half of the same double feature. Francois Truffaut once wrote that it was impossible to make an ‘antiwar film,’ because any war film, no matter what its message, was sure to be exhilarating. He did not live to see this film.”

The special screening of Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam will take place at the AMC Loews 34th Street IMAX Theater at 312 W 34th Street in New York City at 7 p.m. on Veterans Day, November 11, 2015.

For more information and to reserve your seats for this special screening, visit our RSVP site here.

We recently celebrated the 240th birthday of the United States Navy - a momentous occasion not only for our U.S. active duty military, veterans and their families, but for our country. Since its birth on October 13, 1775, the U.S. Navy has been dedicated to preserving freedom and patrolling our waters, sailing as a constant deterrent against aggression.

For our feature this month, we've taken a look back through our TopVet archive to share the stories and successes of three Navy veterans who remind us of the powerful lessons that military service can instill in America's men and women. We thank Charles R. Larson, Lowell McAdam and Chuck Widger for their exemplary naval service, leadership and philanthropy.

In the spirit of the Navy's birthday, we also wish to recognize members of our Merchant Marines and remember those lost in the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship in Hurricane Joaquin. This tragedy once again reminded us of the ruthlessness of the sea and the bravery of all those who go to work in our oceans every day.

Keep an eye out for Scott's Corner, and don't forget to wish our Navy a happy birthday!

Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz (left) unwraps her HeroVet award, with Veterans Advantage CEO Scott Higgins (center) and COO Lin Higgins (right)
Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz (left) unwraps her HeroVet award, with Veterans Advantage CEO Scott Higgins (center) and COO Lin Higgins (right)
(Click image to enlarge)

I was delighted to get an email from the Department of Veterans Affairs the other day, which included photographs from our HeroVet Award presentation to Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz in June. Linda was an easy choice for a HeroVet Award, even before she was nominated for her new position as assistant secretary for policy and planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Linda has spent 30 years serving our veterans and has done so as a disabled veteran herself. She suffered decompression sickness that led to her medical discharge from the Air Force. Looking back, she calls the experience a “boot camp” for her new role with the VA, where she started working in the 1980s.

Linda eventually took on the role of commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs in 2003. There, she worked tirelessly to improve veterans’ benefits in our home state and assisted me in developing the Veterans Advantage Scholarship – a statewide program funded by a public-private partnership and awarded to deserving veterans.

Veterans Advantage HeroVet - Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz
Veterans Advantage HeroVet, Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz
(Click image to enlarge)

We are tremendously grateful for her support, and once again I’d like to offer our congratulations on her new appointment in Washington D.C. Linda knows both what it’s like to be cared for and to care for others in the VA, and brings that valuable perspective and a strong sense of optimism to her leadership role in the department.

Read more about Linda in our Veterans Advantage HeroVet feature here.

Recently the 2015 Medal of Honor Convention kicked off in Boston. My spouse, Lin Higgins, who is our Chief Operating Officer at Veterans Advantage, and I were fortunate enough to attend this year’s convention with Paul W. Bucha, our board member and Medal of Honor recipient. We met many incredible individuals whose courage and selflessness earned them our nation's highest military award.

This year's convention coincided with another important date: September 18, which was National POW/MIA Recognition Day. As we recognized some of the U.S. Military's most heroic members at the convention, we were also called to remember those whose heroism may never be recognized.

You can expect updated coverage of our time at the Medal of Honor Convention in the coming week on my blog.

And be sure to check out our VetFamily feature on Michael Strahan, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and host of the morning show LIVE with Kelly and Michael. Take on your morning routine by stocking up on breakfast items at your local CVS/pharmacy. Shop for cereal, milk, juice and other family favorites and use your 20% off coupons to stock up and save, available online in Members Only.

This September, Veterans Advantage will be traveling to Boston to mingle with some of our nation’s most distinguished heroes. One of these individuals is Capt. Thomas Kelley, who we’ve highlighted in our cover story this month.

This cover story is very close to our hearts. Our own Paul “Bud” Bucha – who works on Veterans Advantage’s advisory board – is a Medal of Honor recipient, and we’re awed by the incredible bravery and humility Bucha, Kelley and all Medal of Honor recipients exhibit.

We appreciate Kelley’s willingness to share his experience and his thoughts on the upcoming Medal of Honor Convention in Boston. His humility and sense of service remind us to give back to our veterans every day.

We hope you enjoy our HeroVet Feature this week. General Cody is a man of great integrity and accomplishment among the highest circles within the Army. Through the unprecedented efforts of Homes for Our Troops, General Cody continues to shine.

We appreciate Veterans Advantage advisory board member & Medal of Honor recipient Paul W. "Bud" Bucha for the introduction. Bud is also on the board of HFOT and we salute all the exciting things happening there.

Speaking of Bud, he's off to the Medal of Honor Annual Convention in Boston next month. If he rides Amtrak, he will save $43.80 with his VetRewards Card.


I am U.S. active duty or retired
military, National Guard or reservist, 
or an armed forces veteran.  
I am next-of-kin family: spouse,
father, mother, brother, sister, son 
or daughter of a U.S.service member 
or veteran (living or deceased).



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A view from the corner office of Founder & CEO, Scott Higgins, Vietnam Veteran.

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