As I’ve often said in this column, I’m fortunate that my job allows me to interview interesting folks and share their stories. This month, you’ll read about the innovative ways Shawn Deehan, president of Global Dynamic Security (GDS), is training dogs to track those who intend us harm. He makes the point that his working dogs are “tools, not pets” and he’s justifiably proud of these canines’ purposeful existence.
I had the privilege of visiting the GDS training facility and watched these dogs demonstrate their impressive capabilities. I’m a reasonably intelligent person and fully understand that it’s not appropriate to pet service animals, particularly while they’re working, but … well … I’m a dog person. It took a lot of restraint not to stroke Bojar, Max and the other GDS dogs while they were fulfilling their innate and cultivated purpose. When I returned home that day, I was happy to pet and coddle my own canine friend, Dolce. She’s not nearly as well-trained or obedient at her GDS relatives, but she does serve a valuable, though very different, purpose: She’s a loyal friend and faithful companion.
I think we all like to believe that our existence on this planet has made a difference in one way or another. Understanding and fulfilling one’s purpose can make a difference in so many ways and I can’t help but draw a parallel to FRA’s important and purposeful work. FRA’s mission to protect and preserve the quality of life for enlisted Sea Service personnel has remained constant for more than 90 years and our focus has never wavered. Every service member (including those who serve in the Army and Air Force) has benefited in some way from FRA’s legislative advocacy, as have their spouses, children and survivors. All shipmates can be proud of the difference their involvement in the Association has made over the years. Thank you for helping FRA to fulfill its purpose.
In a caption on page 16 of the January issue of FRA Today, the Maryland Mayhem was incorrectly referenced as a “wheelchair volleyball team.” The Mayhem plays wheelchair rugby.
Lauren Armstrong is FRA’s Director of Communications and serves as the Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact her at email@example.com. Return to Table of Contents
The most frequent questions I am asked are: “Is FRA a VSO?” and “What does FRA do for veterans?”
The answers are simple. FRA is absolutely a Veterans Service Organization (VSO), and it’s also a Military Service Organization (MSO), too. For more than 90 years, FRA has been the leading voice for the enlisted sea service community, advocating on Capitol Hill to preserve and enhance both military and veterans’ compensation and benefits. Just take a look at the FRA Action Center (http://action.fra.org/action-center) to see the legislation FRA is fighting for to improve the quality of life for those who currently serve or have served in the past as enlisted members of the U. S. Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. FRA works to ensure the voice of current and former enlisted personnel is heard on Capitol Hill!
Since 1927, FRA has been recognized by the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as a “congressionally chartered VSO recognized by the Secretary for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs…” This means that FRA-accredited representatives help claimants — veterans, their dependents, or surviving family members — throughout the process of making claims for VA compensation. Additionally, Congress also recognized FRA in 1996 as a congressionally chartered VSO when it passed Public Law 104-201.
Our legislative team works with Congress to ensure veterans receive and retain the benefits they earned through their military service. FRA annually presents our veteran priorities in testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. FRA is a charter member of “The Military Coalition” (TMC) and works with TMC’s Veterans Committee and other Coalition committees to share shipmates’ concerns. The Association also endorses the annual “Independent Budget,” a VSO-led group that offers VA policy recommendations for Congress and the Administration.
Working with the VA, FRA is an active Member of the National Veterans Day Committee and the VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) Program, including the National Advisory Committee. FRA shipmates volunteered in 58 VA medical facilities during 2015, donating nearly 15,000 hours and thousands of dollars to help improve the quality of life for our ill and injured heroes. As FRA’s National Service Director, I also meet regularly with VA leadership and attend meetings with all agencies within the department.
At FRA’s 78th National Convention in Reno, Nevada, the delegates voted to open FRA membership to sea service veterans. To provide additional services to our members, delegates at the 82nd National Convention approved the establishment of a formalized VSO policy that has increased interest among shipmates to become appropriately trained as accredited service officers for FRA.
Also, this past October, at the 88th National Convention, shipmates unanimously approved the establishment of an FRA standing committee for Veterans Service. Regional representatives were selected based on their commitment to veterans and by being either a VA-accredited service officer for FRA, or a local representative or deputy representative for FRA in the VAVS Program at a VA medical facility.
The committee will be busy working to provide guidance and focus for this segment of our membership for the entire association. The committee will assist in continual outreach, education and appropriate reporting to the shipmates on all veteran-related programs. Committee members will assist in the development of training programs, media and tools that will allow shipmates and branches to better connect with veterans in their communities. The committee will also report on activities and practices that are effective in their regions, so your input is vital to ensure this committee is successful.
To find out how you or your branch can be involved, contact your regional committee member or me at FRA National Headquarters.
FRA Standing Committee Members for Veterans Service