Offer “Thanks From Everywhere”

As we approach Veterans Day, November 11, it is important to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans of the past, present and tomorrow—those men and women who, upon their return home, become living, breathing testaments to duty, honor and selfless service and sacrifice.

To offer your thanks and support, the USO has a new program for Americans to send thanks from across the United States to our troops and their families for their service and sacrifice. Visit the newly redesigned USO.org to send your personal messages of appreciation to those who so deserve it, and the USO will place a pin on the US map, displaying these messages based on geography . Our goal is to COLOR THE MAP between now and Thanksgiving with thousands of notes, as Americans send THANKS FROM EVERYWHERE. Go to USO.org/thanks now to send your note today.

Retroactive Stop Loss Pay: The Marines Perspective

by Gary Gresham, Former Marine

Gresham encourages other Marines to claim the retroactive pay he did. (Photo courtesy of Gary Gresham)

After serving as a tactical network specialist for six and a half years in the Marines, I left the Corps in 2003. While speaking to a friend, another prior Marine, I found out about the Stop Loss Retroactive Payments that were being given to Armed Forces personnel. He told me that Marines who were held beyond their contract from 2001-2003 could apply for the payment. He gave me the link to the Stop Loss website so I could begin the process.

Once I had the link and was confident that I met the eligibility criteria, I was ready to go ahead and submit. I knew that if my friend had told me about it, it was legitimate. I was not hesitant and I didn’t have any doubts about the integrity of the Stop Loss payment Program.

First, I attempted to submit my claim online and found that I couldn’t proceed without my case ID. I called the Marine Corps Stop Loss Program office (1-877-242-2830) to see about getting my case ID to complete the submission. Instead, Staff Sgt. Lodovico took the time to walk me through the process. The best thing for my case was to fax the form and my DD214 over to the office. I had to battle with the fax machine, but finally my forms got through.

The next day, I received a call from the Stop Loss Program office to verify a few things on my form. My role in the process was complete. The office provided me with my case ID so that I could track it online and three weeks later my claim was completed and the money was deposited into my account.

For Marines who have not yet submitted a claim, I would suggest faxing it directly to the office in order to speed up the process and avoid the confusion online. For a six month period, I received more than $2,000. Going through the process of submitting a claim was definitely well worth the effort.

Gresham works for HP Enterprise Services, as a Navy Marine Corps Intranet Lead Site Engineer.  His comments are his own, and do not represent the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Retroactive Stop Loss Pay: The Air Force Perspective

By Major Eries Gibson, Chief, Air Force Separations and Retirements Branch

Calling all eligible Air Force members, former Air Force members and surviving family members of former Air Force members, we have an incredible opportunity for you to receive $500 for every month you were stop lossed… but the offer is only good until 21 October 2010!

This is not a scam.  This is not a joke. There is no service commitment or recall requirement associated with the money.  The pay is for service already rendered. The only issue is, I need you to apply!  If you think you may be eligible, I need you to come forward and apply for your payout today!

The payout is $500 a month for each month, or portion of the month, you were retained on active duty as a result of service-directed stop loss. The average payout is $3,500. … I repeat, $3,500!

Where does the money come from?  The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act appropriated $534.4M for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay for eligible active, Guard, reserve, retired and former service members.   If you were retained on active duty in the Air Force as a result of the service implementing stop loss during Operation Enduring Freedom between 2 October 2001 and 1 August 2002 or Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom between 2 May 2003 and 23 Jun 2003, you need to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay.

With less than 45 days left to submit claims under this program, I encourage you to apply now if you believe you may be eligible.  If you believe someone you know may be eligible, please “Tell A Friend” and encourage them to apply.  It costs nothing to apply and the process is quick.  While my office oversees the policy for all current and former Airmen, the program is open to all services…I repeat, open to Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.  The eligibility timeframe for all services is 11 Sep 01 to 30 Sep 09.

Please visit the DoD website today and apply before the program ends on 21 Oct 10: http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2010/0710_stoploss/.

The monthly payout is $500, the average payout is $3,500, and the cost to apply is $0!  Don’t wait, apply today!

Stephen Colbert Salutes the Troops…Again

Actor/comedian Stephen Colbert (center) of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" performs for U.S. military personnel at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, Sunday, June 7, 2009. (USO Photo by Steve Manuel)

We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s clip from The Colbert Report‘s special “Been There: Won That: The Returnification of the American-Do Troopscape.” (Yes, that’s the actual title!)

Last night the special included an interview with Brent Cummings and Josh Bleill, two injured veterans who “appreciate the support they’ve received from the American public after their tours in Iraq.”  Check out the fun interview below and be sure to scroll down to see John Legend’s special performance of “Coming Home,” dedicated to the veterans in the audience…


eBenefits: Your Gateway to Benefit Information

Attention service men and women, and veterans!  Help us get the word out about eBenefits, a joint DoD/VA initiative.

Through eBenefits, you can transfer your GI Bill entitlement, get imaged copies of your personnel record (DD214), or check the status of your pre-discharge disability claim.  These are just a few of the self service opportunities that eBenefits provides with continual enhancements every quarter.  Come check us out and register to obtain your account…

Click here to get started with eBenefits today!

Great Lakes Challenge Makes a Strong Finish at the Legion Convention

With a flatter course than yesterday and everyone excited about the Packer's game, Day 4 was a fast day in the saddle. The group made it all the way to Lambeau Field in under 5 1/2 hours of riding time! (Photo courtesy of Ride 2 Recovery Facebook page)

Wounded cyclists, and others who joined them in support, traveled from Wasau to Green Bay to Sheboygen and – finally – to Milwaukee for the second half of Ride 2 Recovery’s “Great Lakes Challenge.” As usual, riders new and experienced shared powerful stories of healing and transformation through the experience.

As reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette: “Rider Jen Dreizehn, a 15-year military veteran, has not only been riding with her biking family, but also seeing her real family in her first trip back to Wisconsin over that time. Her family cheered her along at several stops on Thursday and planned to attend the Green Bay Packers game with her.

The Shawano native, who grew up in Mountain, is stationed with the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Eustis, Va.  ‘I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 12 years old, so this has just been great and a real challenge,’ Dreizehn said. ‘Challenge is definitely the word to use. I’m really glad I did it.’”

The final day of the Great Lakes Challenge saw the cyclists heading into Milwaukee, and then riding in the American Legion parade. (Photo courtesy of Ride 2 Recovery Facebook page)

The final day of the ride was especially poignant, as the group greeted attendees at the The 92nd Annual American Legion National Convention and later participated in a parade.  Marty Callahan reported the following: “About 50 cyclists – veterans and servicemembers – arrived in Milwaukee Aug. 28 at The American Legion National Convention, completing a six-day, 426-mile journey from Minneapolis. The cyclists are part of the national Ride 2 Recovery program that helps veterans overcome their wounds and inspire others to do the same.

‘This kind of event does tremendous things for the mental and physical rehabilitation of the wounded warriors,’ said John Wordin, founder and president of Ride 2 Recovery. ‘Whatever kind of injury they may have – amputations, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, PTSD – cycling helps them to recover. Events like this create such a bond and camaraderie – it’s a great group therapy session.’”

Click here to watch as the cyclists enter the convention, and check out a great video clip from WLUK-TV below!