Category Archives: Strategy

During Transition, Find Strength in Serving Others

(Original article:

Marines undergo water survival instructor test.

When the going gets tough, we have a saying in the Marine Corps: don’t go internal. When you’re in an uncomfortable or painful situation, it’s only natural to focus internally on the discomfort you’re experiencing instead of staying focused externally on the mission at hand.

Much like your time in service, your military transition isn’t going to be a rose garden. In fact at times it’s going to be very unpleasant. What got us through the hard times during our service was our commitment to putting the welfare of others ahead of ourselves. Think about it: whenever we go internal, whenever we start thinking about ourselves, we become weaker. When we think about the mission and focus our thoughts on serving and supporting others, we become stronger – and when that happens, nothing can stop us.

The U.S. military is perhaps the most diverse organization on the planet. It’s the ability to harness this diversity and channel it towards a common goal that makes us the greatest fighting force on earth. There’s one common principle that every individual service member shares: a desire to serve something greater than him or herself. This is our strength!

It’s extremely easy to go internal when making your transition. Trying to figure out what career to pursue or what you want to do with your life is a daunting task. It’s overwhelming and it’s exacerbated by the fact that you no longer have your buddies around to kick you in the butt when you start to feel sorry for yourself.

When you start to get discouraged and frustrated during your transition, and you can begin to feel yourself going internal, draw strength and direction from your inherent desire to serve something greater than yourself. Ask yourself:

  • How can I make a positive difference in the lives of others?
  • What kind of service can I provide to my community?
  • What can I do to make the people around me better?

Service is your guiding principle throughout your transition. When you joined the military, you raised your right hand and swore to serve the nation. When you left, no one told you to put your hand back down. You never stop serving; you’re just choosing to serve in another capacity.

When the going gets tough, don’t go internal. Focus your energy on becoming an asset to your community and you will find your way.

About the Author:

Michael Abrams is an Afghanistan veteran and Founder of Four Block, a veteran career development program based in New York.  He is the author of Business Networking for Veterans as well as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University.


Why You Should Start Saving Yesterday

Start Saving

We live in a society of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now. The practice of saving and waiting can be an unnatural and difficult process; however, it important to establish a consistent savings habit. Stop putting it off and start saving for unexpected expenses and future goals. It is the foundation of good money management and a stress eliminator.

Save for an Emergency

Unfortunately emergencies happen. Cars break down, pipes burst, or other unexpected expenses can occur. Instead of waiting for these bad things to happen, prepare yourself so that you are ready when these bad things inevitable happen. Set up a emergency fund account and contribute a small amount each month until you have at least $1000 saved up. Ideally you should save at least three to six month of expenses.

Save for Retirement

Having insufficient savings for retirement may force to work longer than you want to. In order to be able to enjoy your golden years, put money aside each month for retirement. A lot of employers offer matching funds, so you should at least contribute the minimum amount to be eligible for matching. Ideally, you should contribute 10 to 15% of your monthly income, but even a small amount each month can really add up over a 20 to 40 year career.

Save for “Wants”

If you plan on getting married, going on vacation, or making a “big” purchase like furniture or electronics you should save up the purchase amount rather than paying interest to a credit card company. You are also in a better position to negotiate if you have cash saved up. Additionally, saving up for a down payment for a car or a home can help you getter better interest rates.

Build Your Savings

One way to make saving easier is to have a portion of every paycheck automatically transferred or direct deposited into a savings account so you do not have to think about it. Another way to build savings is to add extra money, such as tax refunds, reimbursements, raises, and bonuses, to your savings account rather than spending it right away. Starting a consistent savings habit is not easy, but it is important to ensuring financial security in the future

OFCCP Event – Building Partnerships to Employ Individuals with Disabilities

We cordially invite you to join us as we begin…

Building Partnerships to Employ Veterans & Individuals with Disabilities

Presented by
Birmingham District Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
Alabama Department of Rehabilitative Services

Employers, join us and learn how you can partner with local recruitment and referral sources that have a pool of qualified veteran and disabled applicants seeking employment opportunities. Connect with other community based organizations, federal contractors, and state employment agencies in the effort to build a diverse workforce!

Department of Veteran Affairs
Alabama Career Center
Alabama Vocational Rehabilitation
Still Serving Veterans

June 25, 2014
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon (CST)

Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
3000 Johnson Road SW, Huntsville, Alabama 35805


Federal contractors make a contractual promise to provide equal employment opportunity. Community, faith-based, and other organizations want to find jobs for their constituents. OFCCP wants to forge partnerships between job-seekers and federal contractors. Together, we can build a diverse workforce!

To R.S.V.P. contact Christopher Williams at -or- (205) 731-0820
Should you require accommodation, please inform us when you R.S.V.P.

Resource Spotlight: Companion and Service Dogs for Veterans

Article by Emma White

Companion and Service Dogs: A New Way to Help Veterans

Men and women in active service go through a great deal in the course of their work, and the sad fact is, many are permanently altered, either physically or psychologically, by what they experience. For Veterans who return home and resume life outside the military it’s a hard road to travel, and it’s one that can have many obstacles. One of the most profound and the most prevalent is the difficulty of coming to terms with combat experiences, and the feelings of isolation that often result. For some Veterans, their experiences can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, making the adjustment to a “normal” life even more problematic.

The results of a number of major studies show that Veterans have a very high risk of depression and PTSD: 20% of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have either or both of these disorders. For PTSD that’s more than five times the rate at which it occurs in the general population. People with PTSD often have insomnia, experience difficulty concentrating, and are quick to anger. Many live in a state of hyper-vigilance, highly stressed, sensitive to movement and noise, and with a tendency to overreact to even small stimuli. These very distressing symptoms are all things that contribute to the high rates of substance abuse and suicide among Veterans, but they are symptoms that can be treated, with therapy, medication, and the passage of time.

Companion Dogs can Provide Simple but Important Benefits

Service dogs were first trained in the 19th century to help people with visual impairments, and Veterans have been using guide dogs since World War I. Despite the well-documented benefits of dogs as service animals they weren’t trained to help people with other types of disabilities until the 1970s. These days, dogs and other animals are trained to help people with many different physical, neurological, and psychological disabilities, including PTSD. Anyone who has ever owned a pet—particularly one of the warm and furry kind—will already know that that can be an important source of comfort for someone in distress, but dogs can do a great deal more than provide emotional support for Veterans. Small surveys of companion and service dog owners have already shown that they provide many benefits to their owners, not the least of which is an alleviation of the isolation and loneliness that many Veterans feel.

Most organizations that train dogs for Veterans provide either companion dogs, or service dogs, although some supply both. Often they can accommodate preferences in terms of breed and size of the dog someone would prefer, so for someone interested in a companion or service dog, it can be helpful to think about favorite or suitable breeds while making applications.

There are small but significant differences between a companion dog and a service dog—companion dogs are more pets than anything else, although these organizations do pay particular attention to the personalities of the dogs they select for companion animal training. On the other hand, service dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks, and those tasks depend on the individual needs of their owners. For example, a service dog might be trained to help their owner recover from a panic attack, or remind their owner to take medication. Amazingly, some companion and service dogs can actually detect signs of an impending panic attack, nightmare, or similar crisis in their owners, helping them to prevent the attack or reduce its severity.

Companion and Service Dog Organizations for Veterans

Multiple organizations exist with the specific purpose of locating suitable dogs for Veterans who would like a companion animal, or who would benefit from a service dog. The dogs can provide amazing benefits to Veterans, and because these organizations match applicants with dogs from rescue shelters, the animals themselves receive a wonderful gift too, in the form of a new home and a new life.

K9s for Warriors is located in Ponte Vedra Beach,Florida and trains service dogs for Veterans with PTSD.

Paws for Veterans trains service dogs for Veterans with psychological and physical disabilities.

Pets for Vets is one of the largest organizations providing companion dogs, with more than 20 chapters located all over the country.

Soldier’s Best Friend in Glendale,Arizona trains service and therapeutic dogs for Veterans with PTSD or certain other disabilities.

Service Dogs in the Future

As of 2014 the Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting an ongoing study that looks at how service dogs can help Veterans with PTSD. If the study shows that service dogs provide significant benefits, it’s possible that in the future service dog ownership will be made an allowable Veteran benefit, with subsidies for the costs of ownership and training.



Animal Planet. “Dog Breed Selector.” Accessed May 23, 2014.

Clinical “Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Research evaluating service dogs.

Congressional Research Service. “A Guide to US Military Casualty Statistics.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Statistics relating to recent military operations. “Assistance Dogs: Learning New Tricks for Centuries.” Accessed May 23, 2014. History of service dogs.

Psychguides. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Treatment, and Effects.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Emotional and physical symptoms.

RAND Corporation. “Invisible Wounds of War.” Accessed May 23, 2014. Psychological effects of active service.

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Investing for Beginners: Where Do You Start?

Article by Emma White

stock-investingThe financial world is so jargon-heavy that it’s difficult to get started if you’re a complete newcomer to the idea of investing, and as a Veteran you likely have other pressing concerns you’d rather be concentrating on. Even if you are interested in investing, it can be an intimidating idea, just because it carries an element of risk with it, one that puts a lot of people off the idea. There are ways to minimize the risk, however, and if you’re interested in investing and looking for a place to start, here are some tips to get you going.

What to Consider before Investing

One of your main considerations is how much control you want to retain over the investments you make. Do you want to do your own research, choose your own investments, and manage your own investment account, or would you rather have a financial advisor handle this for you? You don’t necessarily need investment experience to take care of these things for yourself—you just need the willingness to learn the things you need to know.

You’ll also need to make a tentative decision about where you want to invest your initial funds, and how much you want to invest. If you plan to manage your own investments, it’s typically best to start off putting a small sum of money in a low-risk prospect, while you figure out how things work.

As a final thought, consider whether there are better things, financially speaking, to do with the money you’re thinking about investing. For example, it’s better to pay off any short-term debts you have before putting money into investments, because short-term debts typically have high interest rates. If you’re investing instead of paying off those debts, any profit you make on the investment is probably being negated by the high interest on the debt.

Three Simple Ways to Get Started in Investing

Perhaps the easiest way to invest is by putting money into a 401(k), if you have a job that gives you access to this kind of account. There are a couple of big advantages that make this a pretty painless and advantageous way of investing money: first, you can set the account so that payments are made to it before you get your paycheck. Once it’s set up, you’re automatically saving and investing money without even having to think about it. The second advantage is that your employer may opt to match your payments, which makes your account grow much faster.

If you don’t have access to a 401(k) and you would prefer a hands-off investment style where you provide the investment funds and someone else takes care of all everything else, then you might consider putting money into a mutual fund. This type of investment is a fund that’s built and managed by a team of financial experts, who use investor money to buy shares in many different stocks and bonds in multiple different industries. When you buy shares in a mutual fund, you’re essentially buying shares in everything the fund has invested in. One of the golden rules of investing is to put money in multiple investments, instead of just one or two—spreading the risk around makes it less likely you’ll suffer heavy losses—and a mutual fund is a good way of achieving this.

An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, works in a similar fashion to a mutual fund, but the ETF is linked to an index, which is a stock market listing. That means you can track your investment’s progress on the stock market, so investing in an ETF is a good beginner investment if you later want to make your own stock purchases.

Investing in mutual funds and ETFs is easy these days, as you can do it online, on personal investment websites. Most sites allow you to start investing with as little as $100, so it’s a good low-risk way to get started. There are several reputable investment sites that offer a good range of products, like TDAmeritrade and Betterment.


Betterment. “Why Betterment.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Personal investment site.

Charles Scwhab Investments. “Types of Investments.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Creating a diversified portfolio.

Dan Base. “7 Questions You Must Ask Before You Invest.” Accessed May 14, 2014. How much risk are you willing to take?.

Forbes. “How to Invest $1,000 Right Now.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Three simple ways to invest.

Matthew Amster-Burton. “How to Invest $100, $1,000, or $10,000.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Investment accounts.

NASDAQ. “The Ten Commandments of Investing.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Best practice investment principles.

TDAmeritrade. “Investment Products.” Accessed May 14, 2014. Different types of investments.

Resource Spotlight: OneHarvest Food Ministries

Welcome to the first “SSV Resource Spotlight!” Jenny Lux, our Research Coordinator, will spotlight a resource from our Community Resource Book. These “Resource Spotlights” will cover resources at the local, state, and national levels. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please contact us here, through our “Contact Us” form, or email us at

What is OneHarvest?

One Harvest color logo

OneHarvest is a non-profit, non-denominational, faith based organization that is committed to helping American families. OneHarvest offers affordable, pre-packaged, high quality food boxes. 

By partnering with local churches, OneHarvest is able to offer a once monthly distribution giving people in the community an opportunity to save, serve and connect.

They truly believe that food ministry is an awesome and effective way to serve and connect with the community. Their heart is ministry, feeding people is the bonus. (

Who can order and are there limitations?

Anyone can order from OneHarvest, there are no income limitations. Plus there are no limits to how many boxes or what kind of boxes you can get. For example, you can order any number of the Specialty Boxes without having to order a family box (#1 on the Menu). OneHarvest serves everyone no matter their need and most locations accepts EBT.

What do I need?

While you do get some dry goods (mixes) with the Family or the More than Enough boxes, the majority of your boxes will have frozen foods. Be sure you have enough freezer space for the items.

What is available from month to month?

From month to month the menus do change, due to what is fresh and available. Click here to view the January 2014 menu, or visit their site for the most updated menu.

How do I order?

You can order through any participating church, go online, or call 1-877-818-1778.

For ordering at a Church:

  • Go to and type in your zip code. The site will show you the names, emails, and phone numbers of your local host sites. You will need to contact your chosen host site to find out the different kinds of payment (i.e.- cash, check, debit card, credit card, or EBT Food Stamps) that they are able to receive. Not all the sites can do it all.

For ordering online or by phone (1-877-818-1778):

  • You need to have your form of payment handy (debit or credit card), along with the name of which host site you plan to pick up from.
  • Make sure you can pick up your items during the host site’s scheduled pick up times.

You can also write a note authorizing a person you trust to pick up the items in your name if you have transportation issues.

If I need to pay with EBT Food Stamps, where do I go?

Trinity United Methodist Church – Huntsville (607 Airport Rd. Huntsville, AL. 35802)

Pickup Time:
Saturday, Jan 18th 2014: Between 8:30am and 9:30am
Site Contact: Gloria Burke
Site Phone: 256-533-7472
Site E-Mail:

—- AND —-

The Brook – Madison (8573 Hwy 72 West Madison, Alabama 35758)

Pickup Time:
Saturday, Jan 18th 2014: Between 9:00am and 10:00am
Site Contact: Wanda Becatti
Site Phone: (256) 837-6633
Site E-Mail:

NOTE: If ordering in Madison with EBT please contact Wanda directly at (256) 503-0485.

What are the deadlines for January 2014?
  • Trinity United Methodist Church’s on-site ordering (EBT Food Stamps, cash, and checks) must be made by Friday, January 10, 2014 @ 5:00 pm Central.
  • The Brook’s on-site ordering (EBT Food Stamps, cash, and checks) must be made by Thursday, January 9, 2014 @ 5:00 pm Central.
  • Online orders (paid for by debit or credit cards) are due in by Sunday, January 12, 2014, by 11:59 pm EST.
  • The pick-up Distribution date is Saturday, January 18, 2014 and pick-up times vary from site to site so be sure to check the exact location.
Are there other Service Members/Veterans using this service?

Yes, there are many people from all walks of life using this outreach service. In fact, a local story of an active duty soldier can be found on the home page of OneHarvest.

What if I’m not in Alabama?

OneHarvest is currently distributing in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (Dallas/Forth Worth & Tyler), Virginia and West Virginia. You can check for locations near you here.


FREE Tax Services for Low Income Households

UAHuntsville, along with United Way of Madison County, will be offering free tax preparation and fast electronic filing for households earning less than $52,000 per year with one or more children or $20,000 per year without children.

The free tax preparations begin mid-January. For appointments call: 1-888-99-TAX-AL (1-888-99-829-25).

There will be two locations: Optimist Recreation Center (703 Oakwood Ave, Hsv, AL 35811) and United Way of Madison County (701 Andrew Jackson Way, Hsv, AL 35801)