Wreaths Across America: Remembering Our Fallen U.S. Veterans

What Is Wreaths Across America?

Wreaths Across America is a national holiday, the mission of which is to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” On a designated day in December, visitors of Arlington National Cemetery and more than 1,000 other cemeteries all over the country lay wreaths on the tombstones or gravesites of fallen military veterans.

We do this to show our love and gratitude for the veterans and always retain in remembrance what was sacrificed for us and our freedoms. The theme of this year’s Wreaths Across America is “Say Their Names;” the official Wreaths Across America website encourages all who participate in this year’s proceedings to speak aloud the name of the veteran they’re honoring as they lay their wreath. The name becomes an extra gesture of remembrance.

How Did Wreaths Across America Start?

Wreaths Across America was first conceived in 1992 by Morrill Worcester. As the owner of a wreath company in Harrington, Maine, Worcester was trying to decide what to do with the extra wreaths he had left over from the holiday season. It was then that he remembered visiting Arlington National Cemetery as a young boy.

With the help of several volunteers, Worcester transported the surplus wreaths to a section of Arlington and had them laid on the tombs of the fallen soldiers. It became a tradition, and years later in 2007, Worcester founded the Wreaths Across America non-profit. Now this special ceremony is carried out by individuals and families in all 50 states.

What Can I Do for Wreaths Across America?

Want to get involved in this day of remembrance? You can start by visiting the Wreaths Across America website. There are many ways you can help this great cause go forward, such as:

  • Sponsoring a wreath
  • Volunteering at an event
  • Donating to a local fundraiser (or starting one yourself)
  • Adding a new cemetery to the event map
  • Offering transportation services (such as trucking)
  • Sharing your wreath-laying experience mission on social media, using hashtags such as #WAA2016 and #SayTheirNames to help the message spread

Until this year, wreath-laying took place nationally on the second Saturday in December, but the designated day has recently been changed to be the third Saturday instead. Here is a list of future Wreaths Across America dates for your reference, so you can plan ahead and not miss a single one:

  • 2019 – December 21
  • 2020 – December 19

Honor the Fallen by Helping the Living

Many of us here at Low VA Rates have family members who have served or are currently serving in the United States military, so we look forward to participating in Wreaths Across America and speaking the names of the veterans we’ve known and loved over the years.

We invite all our followers and clients to do the same, and to help the Wreaths Across America mission grow and touch even more lives.

About Us

At Low VA Rates, we’ve dedicated a lot to helping veterans and their loved ones find affordable mortgages. For questions about getting started or to find out whether you qualify, give us a call at 866-569-8272.

Veterans Transitioning from Active Duty to Civilian Life

Not Forgotten - Veterans Adjusting to Life Back at Home

There have been numerous wars and military conflicts across the years that have drawn our troops away from their families and homes. Often deployed multiple times within their career, these brave soldiers are called to serve in some of the most hostile environments imaginable and then somehow expected to transition from active duty to civilian life with ease – a very tall order, considering the extreme circumstances of combat.

Unfortunately, despite the promise of glory and sufficient health benefits and security for their families, once they arrive home, the life of the average American soldier is anything but secure. A soldier will be the first to say there are many things to be thankful for, but there are also many difficulties faced by veterans working to adjust to civilian life.

Adjusting to Civilian Life Is an Everyday Battle

Sadly, veterans that return home from war are on the underdog’s side of statistics. In total, there are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and according to costsofwar.org, almost 700,000 of them currently have some degree of an officially recognized disability as a result of these wars – and this figure doesn’t even consider “Vietnam Era” veterans that are reportedly worse off.

700,000 Veterans Have an Officially Recognized Disability

While post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD (to be discussed in more detail below), is likely the largest contributor to the disabilities experienced by veterans, there are a number of other habitual issues that plague an American soldier’s assimilation into society in their day-to-day lives.

Many veterans transitioning from a military mentality to a civilian one can:

  • Feel isolated and alone, like no one understands them
  • Feel alienated due to a distinct lack of structure and goals that they were accustomed to in their military life
  • Become increasingly irritated by others that seem more laid-back or less detail-oriented than they’re use to
  • Miss the physical rush of life-threatening situations
  • Worry about their finances

Further, to review some alarming numbers, a recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 39% of vets abuse alcohol, 3% abuse drugs (many of which are military prescriptions) and depression was rampant across the board. As an assumptive result, alcohol use associated with physical domestic violence in Army families increased by 54%, child abuse by 40%, and veteran suicide rates are thought to be as high as 5,000 per year, even though one-third of these suicides are by veterans that were never deployed to war zones.

39% of Veterans Abuse Alcohol

Whether it’s marginal issues in the more mundane tasks of the day-to-day or larger, darker demons, each veteran experiences their own battle of adjustment back into society.

The War on PTSD

As referenced above, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is likely one of the leading deterrents from a vet’s smooth transition back into civilian life. PTSD, also known as shell shock or combat stress, is a disorder that stems from a severe, traumatic event (such as combat) and can later reveal itself under a number of problematic symptoms:

  • Recurring memories of the event(s)
  • Anxiety in crowds and high action settings
  • Apathy/loss of interest/feeling numb
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Feeling emotionally removed from others
  • Anger and irritability

Of course, there are varying degrees of these symptoms, but the disability can be devastating and affects many veterans. The US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD estimates that about 7% of civilians will have PTSD at some point in their lives, however, as much as 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and upwards of 30% of Vietnam veterans have fallen victim to the disorder.

When paired with the fact that 19% of veterans may have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while in action, carrying with it its own set of limiting symptoms, these numbers paint a potent recipe of the difficulty of adapting to life after combat.

Veteran Benefits Can Help Ease the Transition

With all of these documented disorders in the wake of military service, life after duty is heavily reliant on a robust benefits package. Veterans may be eligible for an array of benefits, depending on their past military service.

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a variety of programs that offer medical, financial, and other vital assistance for veterans. For military veterans who have received an honorable or general discharge, there are four primary benefit programs that vets working to adjust can pull support from:

  • Disability Compensation – Veterans who have suffered a service-related disability, injury, or disease can qualify for up to $3,100 in monthly, tax-free compensation benefits.
  • Pension Programs – Wartime veterans who are no longer able to work, have disabilities, and/or have a limited income may qualify for Veterans Pension. Veterans 65 or older may also qualify.
  • Medical Care – The Department of Veterans Affairs is required by law to provide medical services that, by definition, will promote, preserve, and restore health. This give eligible veterans access to VA hospitals for treatment of injury, illness, rehabilitation, alcohol/drug dependence, etc.
  • Educational Programs – Under the GI Bill, a variety of educational programs have been established to help cover the costs associated with further schooling and/or training.

Aside from these four core benefit programs, there are a number of other benefits that each aim to set veterans up for success:

  • Subsidized housing and home loan guarantees
  • Job training and placement
  • Small business loans through the Small Business Administration
  • Counseling and PTSD Support
  • Burials and memorials
  • Franchise opportunities (Vet Fran)

Even with these favorable benefits, according to a recent RAND study, it’s worth noting that only 50% of those with PTSD actually sought treatment, and out of the half that actually pursued treatment, only half of those received “minimally adequate” treatment. However, utilizing their benefits can help veterans working to integrate into civilian life.

Only 50% of Veterans with PTSD Actually Sought Treatment

Veteran Unemployment Rates & Trends

In 2013, the overall unemployment rate in the United States averaged 7.4%, but finished at 6.7% by December. While this was a historically favorable rate for the civilian population, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during that same period, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 was 9% – more than 2% higher than the civilian population!

Veteran Unemployment Rate is 9.0% Among Veterans Who Have Served Since September 2001

Although this disparity is alarming, that’s not to say that veterans are hopeless when it comes to finding employment upon their homecoming.

On the contrary, the military has a number of job placement programs in place and teaches a variety of skills that translate wonderfully into the modern workforce. According to a study performed by PayScale.com, the following is a list of the top skills taught to military members and the 15 most common jobs landed as a result.

Top Skills Taught to Military Servicemembers:

  • Emergency room preparedness
  • Computer security
  • Microsoft SQL server
  • Electronic troubleshooting
  • Security risk management
  • Security policies and procedures
  • Leadership
  • Cisco networking
  • Contractor management
  • Program management

Top Jobs Landed As a Result:

  • Management consultant
  • Program manager, IT
  • Systems analyst
  • FBI agent
  • Field service engineer, medical equipment
  • Systems engineer, computer networking, IT
  • Information technology (IT) consultant
  • Intelligence analyst
  • Helicopter pilot
  • Network engineer, IT
  • Project manager, construction
  • Technical writer
  • Business development manager
  • Network administrator, IT
  • HVAC service technician
  • Fireman

As you can see, the military clearly imparts valuable leadership skills and timely technological talents. With this potent toolbox of applicable skills and knowledge, veterans are comfortably able to find jobs after returning home from service, despite the troubled economy and the competitive landscape of the modern workforce.

Additionally, veterans receive preferential treatment for government jobs and have an array of employment assistance services at their disposal.

Veterans Adjusting to Family Life

While most soldiers spend the majority of their deployment dreaming of the day they can be reunited with their families, the transition back to home life can be turbulent.

In fact, the longer the time the veteran has spent away and the more frequent their stints in active warfare, the more difficult it gets to adjust into a crowded house.

Soldiers Returning Home May Have a Difficult Time Adjusting

As referenced in the first section, even though the soldier may be surrounded by the people they love most, there are some inherent hurdles to navigate when it comes to coming home.

Be it isolationism, anxiety, irritability, a short temper, or general disinterest, it’s important that the family fully understands the plight of the displaced soldier and that they realize it’s nothing personal – it’s a phase that requires communal compassion, work, and patience as the veteran works to reintegrate into what may have become a foreign lifestyle.

The Bottom Line

As much as a veteran looks forward to their homecoming, often the “return to normal” is anything but “normal.” Rather, it’s a sudden jolt that can cause a soldier to feel lost in a familiar setting.

However, there are many programs and resources available to help ease the transition so that the American soldier may know they are not forgotten.

The Low VA Rates Family

Low VA Rates is a company that focuses on helping veterans access homeownership benefits. We know that one goal commonly held by veterans returning from duty is to buy a home, so we offer low rates and great terms to help them on that journey. If you have any questions about getting into a home, please feel free to contact us.

We are also involved in the military conversation and work to help veterans in other aspects of life as well. Check out our blog for more articles like this one.

You Know You’re a Veteran When… Infographic

We all pick up habits in our lives. The little things that often we only do that seem kind of strange to others. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy likes to poke fun at rednecks and their habits and we thought it might be fun to consider how one would know they are a Veteran by the habits they have formed over the years of service. That’s what this infographic is all about and we hope you enjoy it!

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A Funny Infographic Showing Habits Veteran Have by Low VA Rates
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Veteran Issues and the 2012 Presidential Candidates

If you’re a veteran or active military, you probably have some specific issues you are paying attention to when it comes to the 2012 Presidential Election. With this infographic, we aimed to take a deeper look at several key issues we though you might be interested in, and then provide details on the stance each candidate has taken on the issue. We hope this helps you as you look to the upcoming election and are making your decision.

Continue reading “Veteran Issues and the 2012 Presidential Candidates”

10 Of The Toughest Warriors in History

1. Viking Warriors

When you picture a Viking warrior, you likely picture a large burly warrior with animal skin clothing, wielding a double-sided ax and a freakish horned helmet. With the exception of the horns on the helmet (which historians claim were strictly for ceremonial purposes), you’d be right. Sailors and pirates by trade and hailing from Scandanavia, these broad-shouldered brutes raided and roamed the region on long wooden boats and considered “hand weapons” to be far more honorable than bows and spears – a much more intimate way to kill.

Primary Weapons: Battle Axe and Shield
Secondary Weapons: Sword and Spears
Era: 800 – 1100AD

Viking warrior

2. Knights

Immortalized by the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, a true knight is a “gentleman soldier” ruled by integrity and honor. They were elite warriors with an unwavering commitment to values, faith, loyalty, courage and stewardship over the weak. Universally skilled horsemen, they wore ironclad armor, enclosed helmets and chainmail as they fought fearlessly with swords and pride.

Primary Weapons: Swords and Shield
Secondary Weapons: Spears and Daggers
Era: Middle Ages (400 – 1400AD)

 

Continue reading “10 Of The Toughest Warriors in History”

Top 10 Tech Advances during US Wartime

Wartime is generally perceived as a time of great duress with incredibly high stakes. It can be tough to think that some of the most important scientific advances in human history were born in the throes of war.

But if war (ideally) is the ultimate expression of necessity, and necessity is the mother of invention, this point may start to make more sense. Historically, in times of war, production goes up, spending goes down, and the nation is mobilized and focused toward progress and supportive of innovation. What kinds of things can that create? Consider the list below and decide for yourself.

 

1. Atomic Energy – Absurdly efficient energy source capable of powering (or obliterating ) a large city. Used widely throughout the world. WWII

2. Anesthesia – the use of Chloroform began in the Civil War to aid Battlefield Surgeons efforts to cleanly and humanely process the injured soldiers. Shortly thereafter the movement began to gain traction in the private sector, improving medical care by cleaner surgeries and fewer infections. US Civil War

3. Computer – We live in a wired society. Computers are part of the fabric of our daily lives at work, in the car or at home. Originally conceived and designed during WWII as a code breaking aid. WWII

4. Internet – Conceived and designed in the late 1970’s during the height of the cold war as a defense against nuclear war. The thought was that if vital government information could be stored in a virtual environment, it would be impossible to take out communications at one location. The effect of this advancement is obvious to anyone reading this.  Cold War

5. Satellite Technology – The “Space Race” fueled by the underlying Cold War gave rise to an invention that facilitated better, safer, and more meaningful intelligence gathering activities. Modern day commercial applications have expanded to include the advent of GPS, and of course cable television and wireless internet. Cold War

6. Penicillin – Discovered around the turn of the 20th century, this simple drug which came to prominence during WWII has saved Billions of lives from previously deadly bacterial infections. WWI and WWII

7. Rubber – As the Allied forces scrambled to produce the equipment that would facilitate victory against the Axis powers, a major breakthrough came with the invention of synthetic rubber. Prior to this rubber was harvested via “rubber trees” in the South Pacific and Latin/South America. The invention allowed commercial ventures to explode and grow the American economy to the world’s leading economic power. The most obvious application? Automobile tires. WWII

8. Jet Engine – Aeronautic technologies were able to “take off” in WWII & the Korean War Conflict with the invention of higher octane, more efficient super fuels, stronger and lighter engines and advances in aerodynamic engineering. Howard Hughes, the filmmaker, billionaire industrialist and international playboy pioneered many technologies which ensured unrivaled American Air superiority to this very day. WWII & Korean Conflict

9. Submarine – Incredibly, while the notion of maritime submersible vehicles have been “floating” around since the early 1600’s, the first rudimentary (yet viable) submarine was launched in 1775. American Revolutionary War

10. Pepto Bismol – Pink Bismuth may not mean much to most, but for those of us this summer who suffer with the occasional post-hot dog heartburn this is a lifesaver. Originally conceived during WWII, this product was introduced commercially directly after the war. WWII

 

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