The World

  • Army veterans find business success via WeWork Training Incubator

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com and WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK, NY – Nancy Preston’s journey into entrepreneurship began while she was deployed in Iraq in 2007. She always wanted to be her own boss, but she was timid about taking the plunge until she faced fear head on while working 21-hour days in her Army operational unit with no breaks for nine months.

    “I’m exhausted, but this fear that I used to have about running my own business kind of washed away after I realized what we’ve been doing and how hard we’ve been going for so long,” said Preston. “I always had this pull that I wanted to start my own business and I wanted it to be something I was really passionate about. So, that night, this epiphany came over me that if I can do this for God and Country, then I can do this for myself. I can really make something like this happen and it’s going to be in my passion – it’s going to be in food.”

    Preston, 43, found Milk Money Kitchens in May 2018 and applied to the WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs. She was selected for their second run of the program that began last August and ran for 6 months through the end of January.

    “We want to reduce the fixed cost and the overhead cost for people who want to start or grow food businesses”, Preston said.

    Photo Courtesy: Bunker Labs and WeWork

    The 6-month VIR program is for military members and veterans with an idea for a business. It matches entrepreneurs with mentors and resources to aid in rapid growth.

    The Veterans in Residence Program opened Preston’s eyes to “make the most of every opportunity” and advance past the start-up phase into steady growth.

    RELATED: Seattle BunkerLabs digital bootcamp for veterans and spouses

    Her VIR cohort, Steve Forti, a Green Beret, seized on his vision to develop a mobile app that encourages competition in fitness.

    FitFight, was born while Forti was deployed to Romania on a training mission in 2013. He had a group email chain with military friends scattered throughout places such as Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and North Carolina in which they would compare their workouts. Once, a member questioned Forti so he took a video of his workout to prove his time.

    Photo Courtesy: Steve Forti

    “Literally, as I hit the enter key, I realized that I was going to someday build a business around this concept,” said Forti, now 47. “And, that was sort of the impetus of it.”

    Forti’s mentors at the WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs connected him with a development team and a designer who worked for Nike. Today, he employs 10 people in the WeWork network.

    FitFight is growing conservatively at 68 percent a month with an average of 1,000 submissions from users who launch fitness competitions with users from around the world, including Yemen, Ireland and Venezuela.

    He has even teamed-up with Navy Lt. Dave Hunt of CrossRope for sponsored challenges.

    “Steve Forti already used his own funds to go and pay for legal aid and contracts and so forth, and we try to help our businesses meet other experts in that field at low to no cost,” said Bunker Labs Northeast Regional Executive Director Katherine Kostreva.

    “The institutional experience and the guidance that was offered for some of the connections, either for the formal engagements or the informal engagements, can’t be quantified, but in a good way [it’s] immeasurable,” Forti said.

    RELATED:  Connecting Vets’ Find Help/Entrepreneurship page

    Kostreva is part of the selection committee for the Veterans in Residence Program. It’s a selective process, but the VIR program will help connect veterans with resources and a WeWork office space at a 25 percent discount for all veterans for their first year.

    Photo Courtesy: Bunker Labs and WeWork

    About 10 people are chosen for each program in each city from a pool of hundreds. Applicants go through several stages of interviews. Generally, they are looking for candidates who have a business plan in mind and need direction in specific areas for which mentorship will be a key asset in setting veteran entrepreneurs up for success.

    The WeWork Veterans in Residence powered by Bunker Labs is operating in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Nashville, Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Detroit, Denver, Chicago and Austin.

    You can apply for the VIR program at we.co/veterans

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  • Why A WWI Vet’s Daughter Cherishes This Golden Crucifix 100 Years Later

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    By Neil A. Carousso, WCBS Newsradio 880

    PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — It’s called the forgotten war, but a hero’s daughter will never forget the sacrifices of her father, Private First Class Walter E. Decker, during his time in the Army in World War I. A special golden crucifix passed on to her keeps him first place.

    “I was close to my dad growing up, and I always remembered in the summer, he’d be wearing these long johns, and the tissue on his skin was so thin, that he’d bleed through,” said Carol Fazio, 77, of her father. “He suffered ‘til the day he died from mustard gas.”

    Decker’s hand-written discharge papers notes he was gassed on October 15, 1918 while serving in France for just under 10 months.

    He entered the service at 16, just before his 17th birthday, after his father died. He mailed each of his allotment checks to his mother.

    “He was a communication expert. His company would go up to see the enemy and to send back [intelligence] to his troops,” said Fazio. “On the way back, that’s when the enemy got them and shot them.”

    German troops attacked Unit Company B in the 303rd Field Signal Battalion of the 78th Infantry Division in the French forests with mustard gas.

    “My father was left for dead. They thought he was dead,” Fazio said, adding several of his cohorts were killed.

    Decker was 20 at the time of the gas attack. He died in 1980 at the age of 82. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island where local soldiers from all the wars are buried with their spouses.

    Private First Class Decker received the Purple Heart in the first year the award was instituted, 1932, on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

    He also received the Distinguished Service Cross – the second highest decoration for valor.

    But it is a different cross passing through the generations that’s revered by Decker’s daughter.

    “At the time, the French monks used to go through the forest when they knew it was safe and call out to find out anybody who was alive. And, they heard my father, and what they did was they placed this cross on each of the bodies that were ready to go back, back to a hospital,” said Fazio while holding the golden crucifix.

    Fazio just learned of the cross last year when she visited her niece and nephew in Wilmington, North Carolina. The cross made its way to Decker’s step-son Daniel who was a Marine, and then, Daniel’s brother Alfred when he died. The family wanted Carol to have it, as she is Decker’s biological daughter.

    “I had no idea. It was really overwhelming, it really was, to think I was holding something that was 100 years and it stood on my father in the forest,” Fazio said.

    When Carol was growing up, it was common for disabled veterans to be at her house. Decker was active in the Disabled American Veterans Charity (DAV) after leaving the Army and would visit wounded soldiers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Veterans Affairs facilities.

    “My father would walk them through it,” said Fazio who saw her father as a caregiver, serving throughout his lifetime.

    Like many WWI veterans, Decker did not talk about his service, what he saw overseas or the gas attack in France that left him suffering until the day he died. The stories were passed on through family members who gleaned information over time.

    “One thing I asked him about the war and about his involvement, everything with the VFW, I asked him, if he had to do it all over again,” said Fazio. “I said to him, ‘Dad, would you do that?’ I said, ‘Would you go into the service?’ And he said, ‘Without a doubt.'”

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  • Marine Veteran Rob Riggle addresses Thousand Oaks shooting

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com 

    “Freedom is not free.”

    That was the resounding theme of Rob Riggle’s speech at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Heroes Gala.

    “There is nothing free about freedom and our men and women today sacrifice life and limb to protect those freedoms,” said Riggle to a room filled with veterans and service members from all branches.

    Riggle retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years of service in the Marines Corps Reserve. He served in Afghanistan, earning two Meritorious Service Medals, National Defense Service Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other decorations.

    He is known for his comedic roles on The Daily Show and films such as 21 Jump Street and The Hangover. His former Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert was a guest speaker at the gala.

    Stephen Colbert, host of CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” speaks at the IAVA Heroes Gala.

    Riggle spoke of his priorities for veterans while praising the IAVA for their unrelenting support of our heroes through education and legislative pursuits. He also emphasized the need for a modernization of an “antiquated” Department of Veterans Affairs system, exclaiming that in this day and age, no veteran should be unaware of the benefits they earned.

    Sporting a full beard for a role in an unspecified project, Riggle addressed the Thousand Oaks, California shooting in which the alleged gunman Ian David Long was a veteran of the Marine Corps.

    Riggle said it’s imperative to emphasize that a veteran carrying out a mass shooting is the exception and that vets are more likely to harm themselves than anyone else. He called on more mental health awareness and resources to reduce the average of 22 veteran suicides a day.

    “There’s a reason I get teary-eyed when I hear the National Anthem. It’s my home. I love my home,” said Riggle. He called for unity around core values at a time when partisans use events to fit their agendas.

    “Our Constitutional rights – be it freedom of religion or speech or due process – we all still enjoy it today hundreds of years later because of what those brave Americans did in their time and what millions of brave Americans are doing right now in their time,” Riggle said.

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  • Anthony Scaramucci on Brett Kavanaugh Allegations, Confirmation Process

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    By Neil A. Carousso, “Mooch and the Mrs.” Producer

    NEW YORK, NY — Anthony Scaramucci and his wife, Deidre, say the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, dating back to high school, have gone too far.

    “Suppose you’re 17 years old and you made this absolutely regrettable mistake,” said Scaramucci, the former White House communications director who was fired after 11 days in the position when he made profanity-laced comments about former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, on the latest episode of Mooch and the Mrs., an exclusive podcast available via Radio.com.

    “I think it’s a shame because I know I did that for sure,” added Deidre. “I wouldn’t want to be talking about anything I did in high school or college, so I think it’s bad.”

    Anthony and Deidre, who sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum, just launched their podcast, Mooch and the Mrs.only on Radio.com and the Radio.com app. New episodes appear every Tuesday, where the couple discusses the struggles they face as a couple who do not see eye-to-eye politically (Scaramucci’s job in President Donald J. Trump’s White House almost cost them their marriage). Anthony has five children — including two with Deidre, his second wife.

    “My message to the older kids is, ‘Hey, you have to be super careful now because we now decided everybody’s game and everybody can get their reputation eviscerated in five minutes,” said Anthony.

    His wife agreed and sees social media as a culprit for stifling social growth and putting innocent and maturing children’s lives in the spotlight.

    “It’s just a terrible way to live,” she said.

    Judge Kavanagh has been accused by three women of sexual assault, with the allegations dating back to his high school and college years. Democrats have called for Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withheld or delayed until after the November midterms. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have scheduled a hearing for Thursday for both Kavanaugh and one of his accusers to testify under oath, and a vote on his nomination on Friday morning.

    Judge Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations in several written statements and in an emotional interview beside his wife, Ashley, with Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum on Monday night. He asked for a “fair process” to be heard by the Committee. President Trump has stood by his Supreme Court nominee with increasing assertiveness.

    Kavanaugh is the president’s pick to fill the empty Supreme Court chair left by Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retired in June.

    Anthony Scaramucci believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed and discusses why in the second episode of the Mooch and the Mrs. on Radio.com.

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  • ‘It’s Not My Flag, It’s Ours’

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    An Unsung 9/11 Hero and the Journey of an American Flag

    from Ground Zero to Iraq and Afghanistan to The White House

    By Neil A. Carousso, Special to ConnectingVets.com and WCBS Newsradio 880

    PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — A hero-maker serves heroes.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, Donato Panico watched in horror as al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center.

    He felt he had to do something right away, and as the owner of a Smithtown deli for more than three decades, Panico knew he could provide a needed service.

    “(My friend) was telling me that all kinds of commanding officers were killed down there and that they had no food system and it was in total chaos,” said Panico.

    He then prepared his catering trucks with sandwiches and drove to Ground Zero the next morning. He got through most of the tight security checkpoints in Manhattan, but he was still far away from the Trade Center when commanding officer Louis Pacheco recognized Panico from his Long Island deli and ushered him into site so he could fill a void serving starving, dehydrated, weary, angry and saddened First Responders.

    “A couple months later, (Pacheco) presented me with a flag that they hung in front of the Millennium Hotel,” Panico said. The hotel, which is adjacent to One World Trade Center, suffered significant damage in the terrorist attacks.

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

     

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

    “He presented it to me and I presented it to a friend of mine in the store whose son was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. He hung it over his camp,” said Panico, continuing, “He had the flag commissioned by President (George W.) Bush and he returned it to me 4 years later.”

    Panico continued to lend the gifted flag to local police, fire and veterans organizations on Long Island.

    “You can’t hold onto something if you don’t give it away,” said Panico when asked why he felt so strongly about imparting such a meaningful and emotional souvenir to patriotic organizations. “It’s not my flag, it’s ours.”

    His foundation Heros 4 Our Heroes was born from tragedy. Today, Panico aims to keep a “constant awareness” for the need to take care of police officers, firefighters and our veterans who make sacrifices to keep us safe and free. He is currently undertaking a project to re-build the patio at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northport, Long Island.

    Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) was the only local politician to show up at Donato’s fist Heros 4 Heroes Foundation event after 9/11; Panico said his first impression of Zeldin was he’s “special.”

    The Republican congressman was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently in the Army Reserves. In a sit-down interview with him, Donato and this reporter, he praised Donato as a selfless patriot while he engaged in the same type of organic camaraderie he has with fellow soldiers. Zeldin said Panico has the “type of character, values, ethics and beliefs” that guided his selfless actions on 9/11.

    “If he was on the first floor of the Trade Center that day, he would have went straight up and started rendering first-aid to people even though he wasn’t NYPD or FDNY,” Congressman Zeldin said. “That’s his character.”

    Recently, Panico had one particular person he wanted to lend “our” Old Glory that flew in front of the Millennium Hotel on September 11 to: The President of the United States.

    Congressman Zeldin invited Panico to President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union Address in January. Panico brought the flag to Washington with him in hopes to give it to the President. That’s when Rep. Zeldin learned of the sentimental history of that American Flag. Donato did not get to meet Mr. Trump that day, but Mr. Zeldin held onto the flag for the right time, and on June 20, the Congressman received a phone call from The White House for a last minute policy meeting with President Trump and several representatives.

    Zeldin recalled, “All I was thinking of was ‘where’s the flag?’”

    After the meeting, Congressman Zeldin told President Trump about the flag.

    “You could tell the story was impacting him, he was deeply moved by it, he was moved by Donato’s story, the first responders, the journey of that flag from the Trade Center, overseas being flown over a base to back home,” said Mr. Zeldin, adding that the President brought him into the Oval Office where he had an aide write down Panico’s story for a museum, and posed for a picture behind his Resolute Desk to send home to Donato.

    Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

    Congressman Zeldin says when he meets with the President like he did when he rode in his motorcade with him to a GOP fundraiser in Southampton last month, President Trump asked about Donato.

    Donato feels an unspoken bond with the current Commander-In-Chief, a man he has never met, but respects as a patriot, as he does his fellow New Yorkers and Americans who still suffer pain, sorrow, and illness from 9/11.

    Panico still shakes when the calendar turns to September. He and we will Never Forget.

     

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Neil A. Carousso is the producer in charge of content for the "Mooch and the Mrs. with Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci" podcast, exclusively via the Radio.com platform.
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