Talk To The Major
In this modern information age, it is easy to become overwhelmed with TMI (Too Much Information). So, to help you, the veteran, or family member, the "Talk To The Major" series begins a KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) segment of information intended to help you understand your benefits and entitlements. Segment 1 is simply: 10 Veterans Benefits You May Not Have Heard About...Yet.
Here are 10 veterans benefits that all veterans should see if they qualify for.
1. Long-term Care
Long-term care is expensive, but often necessary to provide care for aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans are eligible to receive money to cover the cost of nursing homes, assisted living programs and other long-term care options. With the ability for couples to receive up to $25,020 a year, the Aid & Attendance benefit will help take care of a significant portion of long-term care costs. Surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible to receive up to $13,560 a year to cover their long-term care costs.
2. Caregiver Support
Should you choose to take care of an ailing Veteran at home, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a caregiver support program. While this program does not offer any monetary support to caregivers, they are provided with a free support line and a caregiver support coordinator to help navigate military benefits and the stress of care giving.
3. Death Benefits
When a veteran dies, families have a few unique benefits available to them. A U.S. flag may be requested to drape over the casket and families may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased loved ones service. The Department of Veterans Affairs also provides free headstones or grave markers.
4. Certification Programs
In addition to receiving credits to use toward a college degree, the GI Bill offers up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of certification courses or other vocational training programs. This benefit will work well for veterans who wish to change careers or pursue a career path that does not require a college degree.
5. Transferring GI Bill® Credits
Unused credits through the GI Bill may be transferred to spouses and dependents of veterans. There are service limits required to transfer the benefits.
6. Free Tax Preparation
Veterans and their family have access to free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices on military bases. The individuals who work in the offices have expertise working with the complicated nature of military-related tax issues.
7. Life Insurance
Many veterans have trouble obtaining traditional life insurance, particularly if they sustained an injury during their time of service. Through the Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program, veterans may receive up to $400,000 in life insurance. This program also offers competitive premium rates.
8. Mortgage Help
Veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments are eligible for repayment assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Options for help include special repayment plans, loan forbearance and loan modification programs. Additional benefits are available for veterans with VA loans and for homeless veterans.
9. VA Foreclosures
The VA maintains a list of homes serviced by VA loans that have gone into foreclosures. Veterans have the ability to search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase homes at a discount. You do not have to be a veteran to search the properties, but all properties qualify for VA financing.
10. American Corporate Partners
American Corporate Partners connects veterans with top companies to help them obtain a job after their time of service. Along with being connected to job opportunities, veterans have the opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring and other career development services.
It was a cool spring day in the city of Chicago, just west of Lincoln Park. That’s when I was first introduced to the art of collecting baseball cards. The year was 1967 and I was in third grade. The three Nelson brothers, who lived two doors down, were the ones who introduced them to me. But, it was all of us boys on the block that collected and traded them.
In those days, nobody was chasing signature cards or inserts. We simply wanted to complete Series 1…and we had a checklist that we marked when we received that particular player. If Johnny had doubles on Micky Mantle and I had doubles on Dooley Womack, we would trade...if they had not been marked off of our checklist.
Back then, my favorite player, and thus, favorite card, was Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. That summer, when my brother and I went to stay with my grandparents, we got to watch him play in action…for real. It was at Memorial Stadium. I was awestruck.
Baseball cards were only a nickel a pack. Yes, that’s $.05, or simply, five cents. If our grandfather gave us a quarter, we felt rich and ran to the corner store to purchase a whopping five packs of baseball cards! We would stuff the rectangular piece of pink gum in our chops, chew and gobble -- gobble and chew, all the while we were carefully inspecting our new cards.
Oh, and we kept them in a cigar box…with rubber bands wrapped around them to keep them together. I went on to collect baseball cards for another three summers, until 1970, before I was onto something else, during my junior high school days—we’ll leave it at that.
I never thought about baseball cards again until 1991 when I was deployed to the Middle East for Desert Storm. Our Executive Officer, a major, had a stack of them on his desk. I was intrigued by the fact that they had a golden “Desert Shield” emblem at the top corner of the card. Seeing my interest, he gave them to me. After I returned home, I started looking into collecting cards again, mostly for my son than myself…except he wanted basketball cards.
I had amassed quite a collection of both for many years, and for many years I had two cards that were my absolute favorite: the 1957 rookie card of Johnny Unitas (football, I know) and the 1957 rookie card of Brooks Robinson, both hometown heroes. I bring this up because, as of yesterday, they are no longer my favorite two cards.
My daughter, Jacquelyn, gave me two new cards last night that instantly became my new all-time favorites. Although the Johnny and Brooks both book for $400.00 or $500.00 each, these latest two cards are priceless. They were so cool, that I had to put them in protective cases and take them to work the next day to show them off. They are, Jaden and Hunter Currie--my grandsons!
I have a hazy memory of a time in 1965, probably my fifth summer visiting Atlantic City with my parents, grandfather and uncle. I was six years-old. One bright sunny morning, we walked along the boardwalk, feeding the pigeons Planters peanuts. Tagging along, I followed my mom to the front of Boardwalk Hall, also known as Kennedy Plaza. On this particular pier, there was a head bust of former President John F. Kennedy. It had only been there for one year.
Although the statue attracted a crowd, the largest gathering emerged when someone spotted a couple of huge whales. I do not believe anyone knew whether they were Blue whales, Sperm whales, or Fin whales; they were just enormous whales to me. However, I certainly remember being fascinated, watching them glide over the watery horizon, fountains of water shooting into the air. The sheer power of these giants so mesmerized me that I asked my mom, “Will they live forever?”
Her answer revealed a stark fact I had never been aware of before then. “No honey, nothing lives forever. Everything dies sometime.”
She tried quickly to change the subject. “Even us?” I pressed.
“Yes, even us. But not for a long, long time.”
I thought about her words the rest of my vacation and at some point, my mom must have sensed my distress and decided to explain why I had nothing to worry about if I believed in Jesus. If I did, I would go to heaven and live forever. I wondered if the whales believed in Jesus. The Sunday school teachers at the church my parents took me to every week were saying the same thing, that Jesus loved us and if we believed, we would be saved and live forever.
Fifty-four years later, I look back at that defining moment and have concluded with what I believe are three prominent influences in a person’s life that likely determine his or her belief in a God and eternal life, or lack thereof, on a worldwide scale.
1) Education: Everything we learn is taught to us in public schools, private schools, churches, our parents, etc. and form the basis of our understanding of the past, present, and future life we live.
2) Observation: All that we observe in the nature surrounding us, the people we meet, how they conduct their lives, the good, bad, and ugly, the beautiful…merges with our education, sometimes in conflict, other times in cohesive understanding and confirmation.
3) Experience: Our own experiences with life…the people, places and things we have direct contact with throughout our journey. We test, trial, learn from our own successes and failures, feel…physical and emotional, think, and make decisions based on our experiences, observations, and our education. Together, we form our personality, character, and belief…a belief in God or not.
As for me? I have lived in fourteen different states, seven countries outside the United States, traveled in many more throughout the U.S. and internationally, and was deployed to war four different times. So, what do I believe based on all of my experiences?
Joshua 24:15 says it well: “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
In this recurring special feature, Nonahood News recognizes and honors those everyday heroes who have served or are currently serving our country and making a difference in our community. Those who reside in the Lake Nona and surrounding area are our Nona Heroes.
Born in 1958 in Baltimore, Md., this month’s hero has been on quite the journey. Scott Meehan grew up living in seven states and three foreign countries and attended 13 different schools. He joined the U.S. Army Special Forces in 1980 after a hitch-hiking tour through Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.
“After speaking with recruiters from all branches, I chose the Army because I had just finished the book by Robin Moore, Green Beret, and that is what I signed up to do,” stated Meehan. “So, at age 21, I joined the Armed Forces. … I needed something compelling to make a man out of me.”
Meehan served for a total of more than 22 years, seven years enlisted and 15 years commissioned. He explained how the Army did not give him credit for the ROTC break he took. “I met my wife in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador, and I got married after being in the Army for just over one year. Seven years after joining the Army, I, along with my wife and two children, got out and attended college at Southeastern University and ROTC at Florida Southern, both in Lakeland.”
After three years, Meehan returned to the Army as a commissioned officer in military intelligence. His return was just in time for Desert Storm deployment in 1991. “There, I was part of a psychological warfare team attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, where I gathered top-secret intelligence from front-line enemy defectors who reported that the Iraqi soldiers were all ready to surrender,” described Meehan.
“Eleven years after returning home from the Gulf War, I was promoted to Major and deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003. After one year at LSA Anaconda in Balad, I received the Bronze Star for several actions on the battlefield, which included information gathering that led to Saddam Hussein’s capture. I returned for a second tour in 2005 to Baghdad’s Green Zone before retiring in 2005.”
Saddam’s capture was a huge moment for the U.S., so I asked Meehan to elaborate. He spent two months building a trusting relationship with a large Iraqi vendor base as a contingency contracting officer when, on Dec. 3, 2003, one of the vendors approached him with information. “He claimed of having two cousins in Baghdad (they used ‘cousins’ often) that had important information about Saddam’s people,” Meehan described. “…Turns out they were aware of a safe house in Baghdad where Saddam’s people were staying.”
Meehan continued to describe how, 10 days later, Special Forces specialized in hunting down HVTs (high-value targets), and 4th Infantry soldiers swept through a farm area near the banks of the Tigris River. One of the soldiers spotted an old, worn-out rug that was covered in dirt and out of place. A search was ordered.
“Suddenly, uplifted hands appeared, one of them holding a pistol. Kicking the weapon away from the slowly appearing hand, they quickly seized the man beginning to crawl out of the hole and jerked him out. The soldiers stared in disbelief! What they saw was a beleaguered old man with a scraggly gray and white beard. ‘I am Saddam Hussein; I am the president of Iraq! I want to negotiate,’ the man said in English,” Meehan recalled.
“Days after Saddam’s capture, I learned from my sources in Balad that it was one of Saddam’s close ties, his truck driver, I believe, [who] was the one who told the American forces where he was hiding. This informant was just captured in a Baghdad safe house. The official word was that the raid conducted by the Americans came after receiving information from ‘local sources’ shared with the Americans in Balad! Basically, the information given to me about the safe house led to the raid that captured the informant who told American Forces where Saddam was hiding.”
Having served all over, the locations where he was based include:
Besides aiding in the capture of Hussein, some of his best memories from serving included airborne school. “During our first full week of training, we learned to exit from a door position by jumping out of a 34-foot tower while being hooked up to a bungee cord. The cord slid down a long wire that extended to the far end of the field, where other soldiers waited to catch those who had just jumped,” Meehan described.
“Two weeks after the finish of ground zero, and four years after I first began searching for direction in my life, I was walking out the door of a C-141 jet aircraft…while in flight,” continued Meehan’s recount. “The red light above the door turned green. ‘Go,’ said the jumpmaster. The soldier in front of me began moving, and I found myself following like a robot, inching closer and closer to the open door. My mind was in the fast lane thinking of all the things I had trained to do in the past three weeks, leading up to this very moment.
Then, in seconds, before I knew it, the soldier in front of me vanished. It happened so fast. I looked into the eyes of the jumpmaster, less than a second, and handed him my static line, not wanting anything bad to happen. Then, I put my head down, my hands over my reserve and began walking 45 degrees toward the open door of the jet aircraft. ‘Whoosh! I’m a Nolan Ryan fastball!’ was my first thought. I immediately began my count, ‘One thousand, two thousand, three ugh…’ a tremendous jerk yanked me higher into the sky. I yelled like a spectator at a sporting event!”
Meehan was based in Berlin, Germany, while the Berlin Wall was still erect. He spoke about his journeys of crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin and how when the wall fell, “I never thought I would see this day come.”
Meehan has lived in the Lake Nona area since 1998 and is currently the Business Department Lead at City College. He oversees the business program and teaches computer and business classes. Reflecting on his previous experiences, Meehan mentions that he’s ready for a change.
“After traveling and living all around the world, I am exhausted and am ready to stay home for the rest of my days…to play with my four (soon-to-be five) grandchildren.”
Nicole LaBosco is a Content Creator for Nonahood News. She is an adrenaline junkie and a travel enthusiast and her golden retriever named Zar is her life. LaBosco became an official member of the GoPro Artist Team in 2014 and was honored as Orlando City SC’s first ever Community MVP for her volunteering and impact in the soccer community by representing the Southeast region and club at the 2015 MLS All-Star game in Denver.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thirty-nine years ago in April, the God whom I serve opened all the right doors and guided me to enlist into the United States Army. It was the right move in every sense of the word, especially the spiritual.
My first year in 1980 was a blur, going through Basic Training in six weeks, followed by Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for six more weeks, Airborne School for four weeks, and pre-qualification for Special Forces, which lasted approximately three weeks before 155 of us loaded onto silver ‘Cattle Trucks’ to Camp Mackall for Phase 1 of Special Forces Training. Six weeks later, 52 of road back into Fort Bragg, having successfully completed the Phase 1 portion. Two more phase to go. While waiting for Phase 2, I was sent to four weeks of EMT school.
This ride in the fast lane spanned six months and changed my perspective and outlook in many ways. On the positive side, I was much more responsible, self-confident, and physically fit than at any other time in my life. On the negative side, my self-sufficiency gradually pulled my spirit away from my reliance on God.
Before that first year of 1980 ended, I found myself at a crossroad. It was as if my Lord and Savior was waiting for me there and stopped me with a question to ponder. First, he explained what lied ahead of the road I was headed down. Then, he explained what was ahead of the road that He wanted me to choose. However, He made it clear that the choice was mine to make (Joshua 24:15 – “choose this day whom you will serve…”).
I thank God today, thirty-nine years later that I made the right choice because the moment I chose to trust fully in Him (Proverbs 3:5), He literally “lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).
9 January 1991 ~ The days are going by fast. Soon, I will leave my family behind and depart for Saudi Arabia. It won't be easy, I know. I wish I could give them a return date to shoot for as a goal. I can't.
10 January 1991 ~ Another rainy, miserable day at Fort Bragg. I packed a box for myself and shipped it to the address given to me by my unit in Saudi Arabia. Fasted lunch. Began packing my individual gear. "Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast...(Matthew 8:11)."
12 January 1991 ~ Took my kids, Aaron and Jacquie to Hardee's for a long lunch and talk. A discussion about the possibility of death and a new "daddy" was raised. I took my wife, Trena, out on a date tonight. We talked, looked at each other; we held hands.
13 January 1991 ~ The day is difficult for me. I'm working through it. Trena and I spent time together, just holding each other. She's a great wife. I so much look forward to coming back home to her; to spend the rest of our lives together.
14 January 1991 ~ Words cannot express my feelings. I need the peace that is beyond understanding.
15 January 1991 ~ Green Ramp. I boarded a C-5 galaxy jet at 0330. A three-hour stop-over in Massachusetts allows me to call home and talk to Trena and the kids! Six and a half hour flight to Madrid, Spain. No phones. Manifest call later tonight.
16 January 1991 ~ We are descending into Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It is 1125 local, 0325 eastern. Waited at the airfield until 1830 before boarding a C-130 to Riyadh, the capital. Found a ride to Eskan village and to a villa where other officers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) were living.
17 January 1991 - Finally got into bed around 0100 hours, local. There was another officer sleeping in the bed on the far side of the room. I kept it dark, stripped off my uniform, climbed into the empty bed, and "crashed." A little more than 2 hours later, a loud knock on the door startled me awake. The other guy jumped up to open it, probably surprised that someone else was in the other bed. "Get into MOPP level 2," The voice yelled when the door opened. We began our attacks on Baghdad and Desert Shield was now Desert Storm.
18 January 1991 - Seven Scud missiles landed in Israel. The one aimed for Dhahran was intercepted by a Patriot air defense missile.
25 January 1991 - Alarm sirens rang through the city of Riyadh. A Scud missile was heading our way. Several of us ran up two flights of stairs to the roof and donned our protective masks. A red streak descended in an arch towards us. Two thunderous booms followed two orange streaks racing to meet the fiery red scud. One of the Patriot missiles met its mark with another cracking boom. "Wow!" Others yelled pointing towards the impact. Cool firework display, I must say. The evening show was over.
8 February 1991 - Found out this morning that I will most likely be transferred to the I-MEF, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. They were located along the front, somewhere in the desert. I'll tell Trena that I'm being transferred out of Riyadh, closer to the coast.
13 February 1991 - Left Eskan village around 0530 with LTC Jones, the commander, Major Murray, and the Sergeant Major. Called the florist the night before and had a bouquet of flowers delivered to Trena's classroom. During a gas stop in the middle of nowhere, LTC Jones had gas splash into his eyes. I used one of our large water bottles to flush his eyes and bring relief. We arrived at the transient point, a Reserve-based truck stop near the coast. Major Gerblick, soon to be my new boss, was not there to pick me up. The other three shook my hand, wished me well, and headed back. Major Gerblick arrived much later. I threw my gear into the back of the Hummer and we headed north towards Kuwait into the darkness. I was trying to absorb everything as he rambled on and on about our time to shine. His animated excitement caused his lit cigar to swarm around like a firefly.
14 February 1991 - I didn't even see where we ended up last night, close to the border though. We were up before light to move westward. Sand everywhere kicked up by the mighty military machines of the U.S. Marines.