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  • Save The Date: 2024 Florida Mission of Mercy Dental Stand Down

    FLA-MOM is a first come, first served clinic.  We can ONLY take pre-registration appointments for the Veterans Dental Event (Veterans’ First Initiative) during the afternoon of Thursday, May 30, 2024 beginning at 2pm.  Veterans can register via the QR code listed on the Save the Date Veterans Dental Clinic Flyer, or by calling 800-877-9922.  Patients at the Veterans’ First Initiative will arrive at their appointment time and begin the registration process at the clinic but they will NOT receive treatment at this appointment.  The appointment will allow the veteran to complete all necessary paperwork and visit with the following departments: Medical triage Radiology Dental triage Routing – a dental treatment will be presented at this time Veterans will need to return at 6:30am on Friday, May 31 to begin treatment. If a veteran is not able to attend the Veterans’ First Initiative during the afternoon of May 30, they may still receive dental treatment at the clinic, but they will need to arrive with the general public and will be seen on a first come, first served basis on Friday, May 30 and Saturday, June 1.  The clinic doors will open at 7am on May 30 and June 1.  The clinic will treat patients until capacity is met.  Patients are encouraged to arrive early and plan on being at the clinic for several hours.  Complete information can be found at www.FLAMOM.org  Patients are encouraged to click on the blue “Patients FAQs” button.  Additional information can be obtained by calling 800-877-9922.

  • Race for Heroes 5K

    Saturday, February 24, 2024 8:00 a.m. | Lake Leon Pavilion at Tom Brown Park Proceeds benefit the Florida Veterans Foundation. Join Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez for the Race for Our Heroes 5K on Saturday, February 24, 2024, at 8:00 a.m. EST at Tom Brown Park. Start and Finish Line Activities will take place at the Lake Leon Playground Pavilion in Tom Brown Park (off Conner Boulevard). Bring the family and your four-legged friends to run, walk or ruck with us and help honor Florida's military Veterans, first responders and their K-9s! Registration Pre-registration closes Friday, February 23, at 5:59 p.m. EST The first 100 registrants are guaranteed a T-shirt. - $25: Pre-registration with T-shirt (First 100 registrants are guaranteed shirt) - $35: Onsite Registration Challenge Coins will be awarded to the top three male/female runners, walkers, ruckers and K-9s. Proceeds from the race will benefit the Florida Veterans Foundation, which serves Florida Veterans and their families.

  • Point Brittany Veterans Day Event

    ​​ The Veterans Day event held for Point Brittany V:eterans was the first official event for this retirement community. They are an association but have not received their full certification so they are operating under the Lakewood Ranch Association of Veteran and Military Supporters charter. There are roughly between 60-70 Veterans living within this community from WWII era thru Vietnam era Veterans. We presented eight medals during the ceremony: 2 Korean War Vets; 1 WWII Vet; and 5 Vietnam Vets. Their names are: Airmen 1st Class Michael Bonavia, Captain John Davison, Seaman 3rd Class Fonseca, Staff Sgt Robert Francis, Dr. John Lanigan, Seaman 1st Class Schwartz, 1LT John Stoeffler, and Airman Bill Thompson. I presented 14 coins to Veterans that were from conflicts after the Vietnam War after the formal ceremony. Also gave a coin to Ms. Rebecca Westfall and her husband for their work on putting together this event and for their support to the Point Brittany Veterans. Sequence of events are below: 1. Wait for everyone to arrive & be seated. “Thank you everyone for coming to today’s event. We are grateful to have all of you here today to help celebrate the Veterans of Point Brittany. Can we have everyone silence their phones and stand for the posting of the colors & the National Anthem which will be sung today by Mr. Terri Orr.” 2. Color Guard march in prior to song. with military flags & stand at position of attention. Terri Orr will sing Nat’l Anthem. CG positions flags, goes to seats. 3. “Please take your seats. Thank Mr. Orr for singing one of the most patriotic songs in history.” 4. “And now I would like to introduce Rev. Margaret Rountree. She is the associate minister at St. Petersburg 1st United Methodist Church and studied at both the University of Florida and Emory University. She will be providing today’s invocation.” 5. Afterwards—"Thank you Rev. Margaret for being with us here today.” 6. “Our guest speaker today is here to talk about SERVICE and HONOR. Alfred (“Al”) Carter is Chief of Staff of the FL Dept of Veterans’ Affairs. He’s a Retired Army Colonel currently appointed as Agency CoS following his retirement of 28 years of military service. He served in U.S. Army command and leadership positions as a Military Police Officer with assignments in over 40 countries including combat tours in Qatar, Afghanistan and Iraq and received over 30 individual, joint and unit medals during his Army career. AL is married to LT. COL. (Retired) Marlené Carter who is sitting up front and they have two children. Thank you for being here today.” 7. Mr. Carter will begin subtext about the Veteran’s Medal and its significance. He will cue me to call members names to come to the front to be awarded. 8. “Now we would like to recognize the individuals who have served, etc. Will the following individuals please report to the stage? Airmen 1st Class Michael Bonavia, Captain John Davison, Seaman 3rd Class Fonseca, Staff SGT Robert Francis, Dr. John Lanigan, Seaman 1st Class Schwartz, 1LT John Stoneffler, and Airman Bill Thompson.” 9. Afterwards presentation, everyone claps. 10. “Gentleman, please remain standing as we want to recognize our other Point Brittany Veterans for their military service. Please stand as I call your name: Read from list. 11. After Vets stand: “Let’s give a hand to ALL THOSE STANDING who’ve made sacrifices to our country.” (Applause). 12. Please be seated as we watch A SHORT VIDEO RECOGNIZING THE VETERANS WHO HAVE STOOD HERE TODAY. (Dave turns off lights and plays video while music plays). 13. Lights on.

  • Florida Governor's Challenge Suicide Prevention- Gary Littrell & Rick Monday

    Medal of Honor Recipient Gary Littrell supports the Florida Governor’s Challenge to prevent suicide among service members, Veterans, and their families. Former MLB Player and Marine Reservist Rick Monday supports the Florida Governor’s Challenge to prevent suicide among service members, Veterans, and their families. To succeed, we need everyone to join us and spread the word. Help Save FL Vets!

  • Symbology Behind Our Veterans Medal

    The Florida Veterans Foundation Service Medal is a small, medallion-like token, adorned with the organization’s name and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Its design, is both classic and simplistic and gives reverence to both the Services and the United States. The front of the medallion, struck on gold metallurgy, shows a waving flag encircle by an intertwined rope. The wavering flag symbolizes the commitment and dedication to the cause of freedom and democracy. The intertwined rope symbolizes the tight knit bond that each individual and each brand of service holds for one another. Emblazoned on the back of the medallion, also encircled by intertwined rope, is the emblem of the six services that comprise our Armed Forces. The two large stars mounted vertically on opposite sides of the coin are symbols of the protection, comfort, and hope our nation reflects across the globe. The nine smaller stars encircling the Armed Forces emblem have dual symbology. Its numerology based, and denotes the spiritual growth, universal love, and compassion the Florida Veterans Foundation shows to Veterans and their Family Members and the Armed Forces radiates or projects as it supports operations and causes across the World. There is a red, white, and blue ribbon that harnesses the medallion. Just like the American flag, according to custom and tradition, white signifies purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Service Medals, alike Challenge coins serve as a symbol of membership, belonging, and camaraderie, forging a strong bond among those who possess them. Know that in receiving the Florida Veterans Foundation’s Veteran Service Medal, you are among a brotherhood of arms, who served selflessly and valiantly in the Armed Forces of the United States. -Al Carter

  • PACT ACT

    Hello Veterans, Reminder that the deadline to file for PACT ACT benefits ends today, August 9th, 2023. The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. The PACT Act will bring these changes: Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras Adds 20+ more presumptive conditions for burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic exposures Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits. Learn more at https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/ or visit https://www.va.gov/res.../the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/ to sign up.

  • Mental Health, Veterans, Firearms, and Your Help

    by Col./Dr. Ben Findley Jumper Suicide in Texas More than four in five organizations (88%) believe all workers are more stressed than they were just two years ago, according to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits: 2021 Survey Results. Here are some of the Study results. Note that some conditions and barriers exist more than once and are treatable. Prevalent Mental Health Conditions · Depression (53%), · Anxiety Disorders (48%), · Sleep Deprivation (32%), · Alcohol Addition (22%), · Adult Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (20%), · Prescription Drug Addiction (19%), · Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (18%), and · Non-Prescription Drug Addiction (17%). Barriers to Treating Mental Health Conditions · Fear about impact on job relations and job security (36%) · Concern about confidentiality (35%) · Not ready to address the issue (29%) · Supervisors fear uncomfortable addressing (28%) · Breach of individual privacy (25%). Veterans and Mental Health The high stress level, long work hours, challenging and quick response times, and frequent life-and-death situations that military members experience have a significant impact on Mental Health. This carries over for veterans when they leave the service. Since the United States was drawn into a global war on terrorism by the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have made commitments to support the military men and women who have served on the front lines of conflicts, assisting veterans and their families. Today, more do support efforts to aid our troops in uniform or those transitioning out of service, because they are grateful for their great sacrifices made. But, we need to do more. Thank you veterans, past, present, and future for your service. We as citizens will forever be indebted to you for shaping our history and preserving our freedom, liberty, rights, and American way of life. However, many do not truly understand how much our current veterans especially have suffered and are continuing to suffer, with both physical and mental health issues, and meeting basic needs. So, it is important to show your support for those who protect our freedom and rights... not to just recognize the problems, but to take action to help. Significant Facts About Veterans' Transitioning In 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported: 1) Every year, approximately 200,000 military members transition out of active duty service and return to civilian life; 2) Studies indicate that from 44% to 72% (an average of 64%- higher than civilian stress level average) experience high levels of stress during transition from the military to civilian life; and 3) Approximately 5.2 million transitioning veterans experience a behavioral health condition or problem. Veterans Are Experiencing Physical and Mental Health Problems A shocking 45% of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have physical and mental health problems requiring treatment. This is more than twice the application rate of service members who served in the Gulf War. But, less than 50% of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment at all for service-connected disabilities, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. While there are very serious concerns about veterans' physical problems, serious mental health issues also exist. It is sad to learn that our veterans have almost double the civilian suicide rate and that mental health issues are frequent. No wonder considering that regularly, if not daily or hourly, they were being shot at or laying their life on the line for us and our freedom and rights. America's veterans, particularly those with disabilities related to their service, deserve our respect and help with their expensive and urgent physical and mental health conditions and other basic needs. Veterans' Mental Health Conditions The Veterans Administration classifies and provides support for a variety of mental health conditions. Here are just some of these conditions and concerns: · Anxiety · Depression · Bipolar Disorder · Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury- TBI · Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD · Suicide (Prevention) · Schizophrenia · Substance Use · Sexual Trauma · Tobacco Psychological Effects in Transitioning Understanding the military reserve personnel system, I know that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have involved record levels of Reserve and National Guard forces. These troops are typically somewhat older, maybe left an entrenched civilian job for duty, and because of their available circumstances may have more education than the active force. These men and women were usually more fully integrated into civilian life, before leaving for duty. Today's veterans have mostly operated in battle theaters with no front lines and where civilians have been mixed in with combatants. These veterans can more easily identify with civilians, since they were recently civilians. So, this means that they have been more exposed to civilians suffering, death, near-death experiences, and less certainty of their enemies. Anxiety, depression, and mental stressors prevail. This frequent exposure to deadly situations and suffering in combat or combat-related warfare has produced very definite psychological effects and mental health-related concerns for veterans, which dramatically affect transitioning back to civilian life and employment. So, there is an obvious need to target assistance for these veterans who are genuinely struggling with the transition. I'll mention ways you can help veterans below. Executive Order 13822 Provides Mental Health Resources for Transitioning Veterans The first year of transition is critical for veterans and service members moving from the military to civilian life. To help with this, President Trump signed Mental Health Executive Order 13822, “Supporting our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life” in 2018. This is designed to help eligible veterans and service members in the short run for about one year after their discharge from military service. The Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Service Organizations, Congress, and community organizations are partnering to provide support. There is a need for more intermediate and long-term help. To emphasize what I said above, less than 50% of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment. There is a reluctance to seek related treatment due to the possible stigma associated with mental issues, confirmation and acceptance of the specific diagnosis, knowledge of what treatments are specifically available and where they are offered, and uncertainty about treatments and costs. But, there are readily-available mental-health treatments that help and usually at moderate to low/no costs to the qualified veteran. There is a Critical Relationship Between Mental Health Conditions and Suicide for Veterans and Everyone Mental health issues and mental illness are major risks for suicides, according to the American Psychological Association. The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of all suicide victims have some kind of mental health condition. And sadly, a very large percentage of these victims are veterans and military members. Veteran suicides are occurring at a rate higher than non-veterans, at about double the suicides. The 2022 research from Policy Research Associates reports 31.7 veteran suicides per 100,000 troops, compared to 16.1 civilian suicides per 100,000. This is staggering data and research shows that these conditions and risks are preventable with our commitment and help. Just one related death is not acceptable. Caution: Associating mental illness and mental health conditions with violence reinforces stigma and unwarranted fear of people with mental health issues. These people need support to recover from these mental health conditions. Crucial Mental Health Actions Are Urgently Needed to Help Our help and actions are urgently needed, more so than just a recognition of the mental health problem for veterans, military members, and civilians. The American Psychological Association gives some research-based conclusions: · Treatment of mental illnesses can reduce mental health and suicide risks through therapy and medications; · Easy access to Suicide-Intervention and Mental-Health programs is essential; · Communities should work toward reducing the stigma and increasing public awareness; and there are existing local, community, and state organizations for doing this. National Studies About Veterans, Civilians, Mental Health Issues, and Firearms Veterans understand, own, and use firearms more than the typical civilian, due to their military firearms training, armament and warfare background, exposures to battlefield situations and dangers, defensive equipment understanding, and firearms use. Ponder the type and extent of the relationship between the typical veteran profile and mental health conditions and problems. We often hear that "mental illness" and those with serious mental conditions are dangerous and cause violence, but an American Association of Medical Colleges report by Rozel and Swanson in January, 2023 disagree. They conclude that most violence is not "causally" linked to mental health issues. Those using a gun in most violent situations is not caused by mental health problems. A 2018 F.B.I. study concludes that even mass shooters, who might seem most likely to be driven by mental illness, do not necessarily suffer from major mental health disorders... and that only 25% of such assailants had a diagnosed mental illness. The Rand Corporation and Ramchand and Ayer in 2021 report that a major limitation to researching mental health and gun violence is that only approximately half of those with a mental illness have a recognized diagnosis or are undiagnosed. So, they say it is difficult to ascertain mental health prior to violent events with a firearm. Further the Rand Corporation research concludes that the prevalence of mental illness may be lower among those who use a firearm to end their lives. Skeem and Mulvey in their 2020 research conclude that only approximately 20% of mass violence with a gun is committed by a person with a mental health disorder. A recognized National Firearm Survey by E. Cleveland of a nationally-representative and statistically-valid sample of U.S. veterans reports the prevalence of firearm ownership and the veterans' reasons for firearm ownership. Results indicate that about half of all veterans own one or more firearms, with male veterans more commonly owning firearms than do female veterans. About 70% of veterans say they own a handgun, with over 66.6% of veterans saying they own more than one gun, including 29% who own five or more guns. Most veteran firearm owners own both handguns and long guns. According to U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data, there are about 19 million veterans age 18 and older now in the United States, with about 13 million age 50 and older. So, if a veteran has two firearms, then that is 38 million guns on average in existence in the U.S. for veterans. Three firearms owned by veterans means about 57 million guns in the U.S., just for veterans and not counting civilian gun ownership. I know several instructors that own more than 20 firearms each. There are a lot of firearms owned by veterans. More than half of veterans living in the Southern states own a firearm, about 59%. Prevalence of firearm ownership does not differ substantially by service branch, service era, or use of VA health care services. Study results also show that about 65% of veterans firearm owners report that protection against people is the primary reason for firearm ownership. Facts that Support Mental Health Actions for Veterans: 1) An average of 64% of veterans experience high levels of stress during transition from the military to civilian life. 2) Approximately 5.2 million transitioning veterans experience a behavioral health condition or problem. 3) Frequent exposure to deadly situations and suffering in combat or combat-related warfare has produced very definite psychological effects and mental health-related concerns among veterans. 4) Veteran suicides are occurring at a higher rate than civilians, at about double the suicides. 5) About 70% of veterans say they own a handgun, with over 66.6% of veterans saying they own more than one gun. The answer is not to take away the veterans' and civilians' guns, but to get them the therapy and medications needed for their mental health issue. 6) Studies conclude that most violence is not "causally" linked to mental health issues. Those using a gun in most violent situations is not caused by mental health problems. 7) Less than 50% of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment at all for service-connected disabilities, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. 8) Treatment of mental illnesses can reduce mental health problems and suicide risks for veterans through therapy and medications. Win-Win-Win-Win Opportunities for Supporting Veterans and Civilians There are very many worthwhile and effective organizations that support our veterans and civilian mental and health concerns; too many to even list here. There is a large number of veterans and they have unique needs. But I want to share with you three organizations that I work with and support now and how they help our veterans, particularly with mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, suicides, and PTSD. You may want to volunteer your time or donate to these 501(c)(3) charitable organizations yourself. Believe me there is a Win-Win-Win-Win result for all: the veteran, their family, the charity, and you for your participation and support. FLORIDA VETERANS FOUNDATION Mission: To serve, support, and advocate for Florida veterans to improve their quality of Life! The Florida Veterans Foundation serves as the statewide lead organization for Florida veterans and their families by providing direct services and partnering with state and local governments, veteran service organizations, and educational institutions to improve their physical, financial, mental, emotional, and social well-being. The Foundation supports the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs’ mission of advocacy; and, advocates for Florida veterans through local and statewide outreach to educate the public and governmental entities, increasing awareness on veteran-related issues. Contact: Email: FVF@FDVA.state.fl.us Email Ben: colbff@gmail.com Phone: 850-488-4181 Website: No Florida Veteran Left Behind - Help Florida Veterans (helpflvets.org) Some Services Provided: Emergency Financial Assistance; VA Registration; Medical Needs- Mental and Physical; Homelessness; Jobs and Employment; Food; Help with Bills; Disabled Assistance; Suicide Prevention; Opiod Addiction; Veterans Ride Program; Seminars & Workshops, etc. GULF COAST VETERANS ADVOCACY COUNCIL Mission: To be a voice for all veterans concerning mental and medical health care; to advocate needed changes in the veterans health care system; and to improve the quality of life for veterans and their families. The objective is to serve those who have served this country. The physical geographic area covers 7 Florida counties, 4 Alabama counties, and 8 Mississippi counties on the Gulf Coast. Contact: Email: GCVACFlAlMs.org@gmail.com Email Ben: colbff@gmail.com Phone: 1-888-838-6694 Website: www.gcvacflalms.org Some Services Provided: VA Registration; Community Providers; Medical Needs- Mental and Physical; Homelessness; Food; Clothing; Disabled Assistance; Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan & Operation Iraqi Freedom- Iraq Assistance; COVID Shots; Haircuts; Seminars & Workshops, etc. AMERICAN LEGION Mission: As the world's largest veterans organization, the American Legion provides information and assistance to veterans on a wide range of topics. Vision: "The American Legion: Veterans Strengthening America." The American Legion embraces all current and former members of the military and endeavors to help them transition to their communities. Contact: Email: AMLPost340@gmail.com Email Ben: colbff@gmail.com Phone: 850-477-8094 Website: www.legion.org Some Services Provided: Health, education, pension, burial, and other benefits, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, Gulf War illnesses, VA home loans, Agent Orange exposure, youth education, responsible citizenship, etc. Advocates for upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution, American values and patriotism, equal justice and opportunity for everyone and discrimination against no one. Conclusion There are many unique relationships and factors that affect civilians and veterans, related mental health problems, and destructive firearms use that heighten the need to support and help veterans and civilians in many areas of need. Those using a gun in most violent situations is not caused by mental health problems, according to studies. Treatment of mental illnesses can reduce mental health problems and suicide risks for veterans and civilians through therapy and medications. The answer is not to take away the veterans' and others' guns, but to get them the treatments and medications needed for their specific mental health issue. Veterans have unique needs and there are many worthwhile organizations that support our veterans, especially their mental and health care and related problems. Hope you consider volunteering time or donating to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations that help with mental health conditions. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0 Generic. * This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters and situations. The author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. © 2023 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col. Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com. ABOUT COL. BEN Col. Ben is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services weapons training, Special Ops duty at various bases, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era veteran and serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Veterans Foundation of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Memorial Park Foundation Board, Pensacola, the Gulf Coast Veterans Council, the American Legion, and other veterans' organizations. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. His doctorate is in business and education and he has served as director of legal affairs for an organization and taught university business law. He is a graduate of two law enforcement academies for civilians. Ben has written five books, including Management Processes and Paradigms; Psychological Operations (for the Department of Defense); Job Application, Interviewing, & Resume Preparation; Principles of Finance & Investing; and Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection (second printing.) His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and instructors. Contact him at ColBFF@gmail.com.

  • VA311 Hotline No Longer In Use

    by Brooke Dennison | Feb 08, 2023 Hello Veterans! The VA-311 Hotline is no longer connected to Veteran Affairs. Upon calling this number you will notice the line will try to sell you an "exclusive deal for select callers" and prompt you to enter your information. Do not provide the number with any details as it may be putting your information at risk. The VA Hotline in use is VA-411: 1-844-698-2411. The VA-411 Hotline was established in 2020 "to help Veterans, their family members, caregivers, and survivors understand and access the broad spectrum of VA benefits and services" and is the point of contact to access your VA resources. For more information visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official website: https://www.va.gov/ve/myva411.asp

  • Florida Humanities Becomes An Official Partner

    by Helping Florida Veterans | Dec 14, 2022 Funding for this program was provided through a grant from Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this (publication) (program) (exhibition) (website) do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities. https://floridahumanities.org/

  • Florida Veterans Foundation Launches Honor a Vet Program with New PBS Documentary on World War II

    by Helping Florida Veterans | Nov 9, 2022 Tallahassee, FL — The Florida Veterans Foundation is giving Floridians an opportunity to honor their loved ones who are Veterans by having them featured in the credits of a new documentary film, A State At War: Florida During WWII. The documentary, which will air on Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) in Florida and around the country beginning next Veterans Day, highlights Florida’s transformative role during World War II. The Honor a Veteran Program allows individuals to choose their donation and level of recognition for their Veteran, which could include having their name, photo and military credentials featured in the film’s credits. Donations from the Honor a Veteran Program are tax deductible and will help fund Florida Veterans Foundation programs that assist Veteran’s in need. “Almost 250,000 Floridian men and women served in the armed forces during World War II, and this film will help preserve their legacy as a reminder of what they have done through their service and sacrifice,” said Lew Wilson, President/CEO of the Florida Veterans Foundation. The Florida Veterans Foundation has partnered with 82° West Productions to produce A State At War: Florida During WWII. The goal of the film is to highlight the role Florida played during the World War II in establishing bases and hosting thousands of military recruits who came to train for their roles in the war. The film features interviews with Florida Veterans who served during World War II, each sharing their experiences and helping paint a historical picture of Florida during those pivotal years through in-depth interviews. Sponsorships are also available to support the production of the documentary. More information, including an online donation link, can be found on our site under: Get Involved > PBS Film The Florida Veterans Foundation (FVF) assists Florida veterans and their families by partnering with organizations to improve veterans’ physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. Among the FVF’s programs is an Emergency Crisis hotline geared specifically for veterans, offering 24-hour help to prevent veteran suicides and support veterans suffering from opioid addiction. Contact Information: Florida Veterans Foundation 850-488-4181 fvf@fdva.fl.gov

  • Dennis Baker: New License Plate Offered For The Good of Veterans

    by Commander Dennis Baker, Chairman, FVF | Aug 31, 2022 The Florida Veterans Foundation is here to set the record straight about Florida’s newest license plate featuring the Gadsden Flag. In 2019, the Florida Legislature gave Floridians a way to help better meet the needs of Florida’s veterans through the passage of a new specialty license plate. The Gadsden Flag plate will raise funds for the Florida Veterans Foundation and give the nonprofit organization greater opportunities to serve the state’s more than 1.5 million veterans in need and enhance their quality of life. Regardless of your political affiliation, it should be noted that the Gadsden Flag was designed and flown by Continental Marines during the American Revolution. It symbolizes liberty — period. When it comes to raising funds for the good of veterans, the license plate symbolizes that effort. The Florida Veterans Foundation is the direct support organization of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The funds garnered through the Gadsden Flag plate will help fight veteran suicide, homelessness and opioid addiction, while also providing transportation and emergency financial relief to veterans who have been impacted by job loss, homelessness or other issues caused by the pandemic. The foundation also provides outreach to ensure veterans have access to their Aid and Attendance benefits, which helps keep aging veterans in their homes where they belong. Other projects of the Florida Veterans Foundation include outreach in the rural areas to meet the needs of veterans affected by past toxic exposures, along with educating veterans who seek relief from the Veterans Administration. This is done through disability compensation and/or subsidizing the veteran and their family from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Our state leaders are working hard to make Florida the most veteran-friendly state in the nation and we’re thankful to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for leading this charge. With 1.5 million Florida veterans residing in our local communities, it will take resources to ensure these heroes continue getting the services they need and deserve. The Gadsden Flag license plate is the fundraising vehicle that can make that happen with total transparency. As a Florida resident, it provides you a method to support those who defended our nation while also giving you a way to proudly say, “I support our state veterans,” when you display your plate. Other states offer a similar Gadsden Flag license plate and the response has been very successful. This effort is not about political views. It’s about supporting an important cause and making an impact on the lives of those who served a nd sacrificed for our freedom. We can all be proud of that. Whether it’s a loved one, a neighbor or a friend, you likely have a connection to a veteran. Honor their service, their memory and the memory of all those left behind by helping to support this important cause. The Florida Veterans Foundation and our state’s more than 1.5 million veterans will thank you.

  • The “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag: Supports Freedom, Liberty, and Our Veterans

    by Colonel Ben Findley, FVF Ambassador | Aug 31, 2022 You’ve probably seen the above yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and its rattlesnake image. But you probably do not know what this famous American Revolution historical icon truly represents for Americans, why the snake is on it, and what Benjamin Franklin’s and Colonel Christopher Gadsden’s contributions were. And have you noticed the 13 rattles on the tail? Well, I would like to share with you the flag’s origins, the meaning of its motto, and a brief history of why this important legacy should be accepted as a part of our heritage. This flag is a part of the factual period in our history when the United States was still fighting for independence from Great Britain. This is an opportunity for you to more fully understand this historical heirloom and to stand behind the flag’s meaning and its slogan for freedom and liberty, which still resonates today. To show that you are proud and protective of the many freedoms we have as the world’s freest country. There is a simple step that you can take to show that you support the values of independence, freedom, liberty, and all of the sacrifices our veterans have made for these freedoms and rights. I’ll share this at the end of this article. Brief American Revolutionary War History and Our Independence About eight months before the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a defining moment in our country’s history took place in November 1775. A committee from the Continental Congress drafted a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight on land or at sea as landing forces for the Continental Navy. Congressman Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, a proven American patriot, led the Sons of Liberty and was initially a Colonel and then a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. He was one of three Marine Committee members deciding to establish, staff, and outfit the new Navy ships. Thus, the Continental Marine Corps was born, as well as the groundwork for the Gadsden Flag, according to revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com. Volunteer Private Martin and Yellow Drums with Coiled Rattlesnake For the first mission of the Marines in April of 1776, John Martin enlisted and was the first of several African-American Marines to voluntarily serve during the Revolutionary War. Martin was a slave of a Delaware man and impoverished. Private Martin participated in a cruise that resulted in the capture of five British merchantmen, according to USMCmuseum.com. As a “Sons of the American Revolution” member, I discovered a relative of mine served as Overseer of the Poor and worked with volunteer enlistees and impoverished slaves during the Revolutionary War, helping enlistees like Martin. Some of the Marines that enlisted were carrying drums painted yellow, adorned with a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike, with thirteen rattles, according to USMCmuseum.com. The drums had the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” and Martin probably carried this type of drum. The Gadsden Flag The Journal of the South Carolina Provincial Congress in 1776 states: “Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattle-snake in the middle, in the attitude of going to strike, and these words underneath, “DON’T TREAD ON ME!” An expression of individual rights and freedom. Col. Gadsden created the flag for the first Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, Esek Hopkins, according to revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com. Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones hoisted the flag on Hopkins flagship, the USS Alfred. Benjamin Franklin’s Illustration and Meaning Although the Gadsden Flag’s origin is not entirely clear, history reports it probably began with a simple illustration accompanying an essay by Benjamin Franklin in 1754. Franklin’s image shows the American Colonies as parts of a divided snake to represent the colonies, which stated “Join, or Die,” per History.com. Franklin’s essay was about the threat of the French and their Native American allies to British colonists in North America. The rattlesnake symbol represented their ambition for self-determination. Franklin had a sense of humor and suggested that the best way to thank the British for sending their convicted felons to America would be to send them rattlesnakes. As the American Revolution evolved, the image became an assertive warning of vigilance and took on a broader meaning for freedom, independence, less government involvement, individual rights, and willingness to act in defense against coercion. The flag has a timber rattlesnake, a reptile that strikes only in self-defense. The Gadsden Flag became known as the “First Navy Jack” and had 13 red and white stripes and a rattlesnake with 13 rattles above the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” A “Jack” is a naval term for a flag flown from a short jackstaff at the bow (forward) of a vessel, while the “Ensign” is a flag flown on the stern (rear.) What does the Gadsden flag symbolize? In addition to being used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag, its design presents a willingness to act in defense against coercion and is associated with the ideas of individualism and liberty. History presents evidence that the Gadsden Flag was intentionally designed NOT to convey a racist message but a strong patriotic one of courage, vigilance, no surrender, and unity. Here are some examples of the flag’s meaning and symbolism, as written by Colonel Gadsden’s friend and colleague, Benjamin Franklin, from revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com: The Rattlesnake is unique and found in no other quarter of the world besides America; The rattlesnake also has sharp eyes and “may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance”; She never begins an attack nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is, therefore, an emblem of magnanimity (loyalty) and true courage; and The rattle equals the number of the Colonies united in America. What is the genuine meaning of “Don’t Tread On Me” today? To many individuals today, it represents the basic principle of individual freedom; that people want to be left alone to live their own lives without outside interference. The U.S. Navy’s Jack Flag A “Jack” is a flag corresponding in appearance to the union or canton (sub-division) of the standard national flag. In the United States Navy, it is a blue flag containing a star for each state. For countries whose colors have no canton, the Jack is simply a small national Ensign (small flag.) On a sailing vessel, the Jack is hoisted when at anchor or in port, according to history.navy.mil. Documentation shows that ships of the Continental Navy flew a Jack consisting of alternating red and white stripes, having the image of a rattlesnake stretched out across it, with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” But, there is limited historical evidence. Military Units Using the Gadsden Flag and The “Union Jack” Two American military units of the American Revolution are known to have used the Gadsden “Rattlesnake Jack” and the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto: Proctor’s Independent Battalion of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and Sullivan’s Life Guard during the Rhode Island campaign of 1777. The “Rattlesnake Jack” and the “Union Jack” are different flags. The “Union Jack,” comprising the national ensign’s blue field and white stars, was first adopted on June 14, 1777. At this time, the Jack’s blue field only displayed the 13 stars representing the union of the original 13 American colonies. The number of stars on the Jack was periodically updated as the United States expanded. The Rattlesnake Jack and the Modern Navy The “Rattlesnake Jack” or Gadsden Flag was introduced in 1775. As part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution, in 1975, the Secretary of the Navy directed the use of the Rattlesnake Jack in place of the Union Jack during the bicentennial of the legislation that created the Continental Navy. Later in 1980, the Secretary of the Navy directed that the commissioned ship in active status having the longest total period in active status was to display the Rattlesnake Jack (introduced by Colonel Gadsden) in place of the Union Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive status. The only warship authorized to fly the Rattlesnake Jack is the USS Blue Ridge, as of June 4, 2019. The Secretary of the Navy, in May 2002, directed the use of the Rattlesnake Jack in place of the Union Jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism. Is Displaying the Gadsden Flag Racial Harassment There was a formal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2013 against a federal agency about an individual claiming discrimination on the basis of race (African American.) The complainant said he found a cap with the insignia of the Gadsden Flag worn by a coworker to be racially offensive to African Americans because the flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden, a “slave trader, and owner of slaves.” Interestingly, available historical evidence at the time shows that a majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and over half of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention owned slaves, according to Smithsonianmag.com. And four of the first five presidents of the United States were slaveholders. Some, including George Washington, freed their slaves. The famous 1818 oil painting by John Trumball depicts 47 founding fathers, of which 34 or 72% were slaveholders, according to politifact.com. At this historical time, slave ownership was very prevalent. In 1776, it was not illegal to own slaves and was legal in ALL 13 of the new states. What is important is that slavery began to be attacked and eliminated from that moment forward in time. Battlefield.org states about our founding fathers that “all expressed a wish at some point to see the institution of slavery gradually abolished.” EEOC Conclusion “The EEOC did not make any decision that the Gadsden Flag is a “racist symbol,” or that wearing a depiction of it constitutes racial discrimination,” according to The Florida Times Union in 2016 on jacksonville.com. After the EEOC reviewed the record in the 2013 complaint, they concluded that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a “non-racial context.” POINT: This flag is based on an actual historical situation that occurred, the American Revolution, to reinforce the ideals of freedom and liberty fought by our brave Veterans. It is a positive symbol of unity, and it is not necessary to erase its history but to learn from some of it. It is not about political views and racial discrimination, and it is inappropriate to tear our country apart with negative and inflammatory accusations. Instead, we should positively recall, commemorate, build up, and show respect for our Veterans and unity for an important U.S. historical event… building support for our freedoms, rights, and liberty. The all-embracing theme of the motto today should be unity for liberty for all. Your Opportunity to Show Support to Veterans Who Fought for Our Liberty Regardless of your political affiliation, recall that the Gadsden Flag or Rattlesnake Jack was designed and flown by Continental Marines as a part of our history during our American Revolution. Today, it is meant to symbolize liberty, freedom, and unification for all Americans, regardless of their ideology, traits, personal characteristics, race, color, religion, and sex. Several states have generic license plates available for Veterans to honor their service. Some have unique, specialty license plates which have a more specific theme but still apply to Veterans, e.g., Florida (Don’t Tread on Me), Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. My state of Florida, as one of the three U.S. states with the largest population of veterans, has more than 1.5 million veterans, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Florida Veterans Foundation is the direct support organization of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and has a valuable project to raise funds solely for the good of Veterans. This project to raise funds for our Veterans is to sell the Gadsden Flag specialty license plate (see above image from the FL Veterans Foundation) with the coiled rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” at a nominal price. The Chairman of the Florida Veterans Foundation, Commander Dennis Baker, has said that as dictated by the Florida Legislature, “95% of the funds raised will go directly to helping Veterans.” YES! As a Florida Veterans Foundation Board member myself, I know funds are designated to help fight Veteran suicide, homelessness, and Opioid addiction, help Veterans affected by past toxic exposures, educate Veterans about disability compensation and provide transportation and emergency financial relief to Veterans who have been impacted by job loss, homelessness, or other issues caused by the pandemic. When it comes to raising funds for the good of Veterans, the specialty license plate symbolizes that effort. Hope you will support our Veterans who gave so much for us. To order your Gadsden Flag License Plate for yourself or for someone else in Florida, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov/motor-vehicles-tags-titles/personalized-specialty-license-plates/. Thank you! Conclusions The indisputable significance behind the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” Flag is unmistakable, whether you are a fan of it or not. Its motto and symbols are a part of our history for freedom and liberty. Easily recognizable is the implied warning from the snake itself, which mirrors just one strategy of our country… heed our positive warning lest we strike out. We live in an uncertain, divisive, and dangerous time now. Sadly, our U.S. history and its factual events and symbols are being rewritten, destroyed, misinterpreted, and/or forever changed. Certainly, our historical events, people, ideologies, and artifacts existed. While some of them we are not proud of, we cannot deny that events and actions really occurred and are a part of our history. Do not forget our Veterans and the roles they have played and are playing in supporting our great country. We must take a positive approach rather than a destructive and divisive approach, so ALL can recognize and learn from the past, not repeat mistakes, and make the future even better for EVERYONE. But, we must first identify, report, and have a plan for improvement with the cooperation of all parties involved and affected. We must be united in our pursuit of liberty. Our flags in our history are intended to show our patriotic support and positive representations of historical events and desire for liberty at that time. This basic premise and desire for liberty and freedom still exist today. Why do some criticize a motto or symbol with a narrow perspective and not see their historical significance, genuine meaning, and authentic learning opportunities? Why do some consider them negative and racist depictions? How does this lack of the “big picture” perspective, lack of respect for the past sacrifices of others, and the desire to cover up our heritage contribute to growth and improvement? Our Gadsden Flag is a positive symbol with a veritable message to represent and to reinforce the liberty we all desire. It reminds us of the appreciation and support for Veterans who have sacrificed so much for our liberty. Together we must respect and honor our Veterans and our united American spirit of liberty for all. We each must accept this responsibility and take positive action to show this. We must work together for a Win-Win-Win result for all involved Americans. Be Proud of the Heritage we all share and the chance to learn and grow even more as a “United” group of “States” and individuals. Success and Peace, Loyal American Citizens! Lead Photo from Wikipedia Public Domain by Christopher Gadsden, 1775. Other Photo by Permission of Florida Veterans Foundation, Dennis Baker. * This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only, and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. Written by Colonel Ben Findley, FVF Ambassador

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