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The transition from military service to civilian life poses a unique set of challenges. For many veterans, the pursuit of higher education is often a key component of their reintegration into civilian life. It provides them with the opportunity to develop new skills, enhance their knowledge and prepare for a new career path.

However, the financial burden of tuition, books and living expenses can be a significant barrier to entry for many. Without accessible education, veterans may struggle to find their place in a civilian workforce that increasingly demands higher education qualifications.

VA benefits and various scholarships play a pivotal role in making higher education more accessible for veterans. They alleviate some of this financial strain and allow them to focus on their studies rather than how they will pay for school.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of benefits and scholarships available to veterans, each with its own set of criteria and benefits. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at the federal, state, private and institution-specific benefits and scholarships available to help you plan for your continued education.

Federal and State Education Benefits

The GI Bill offers various programs, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill, each with its own eligibility criteria and benefits. These benefits can cover tuition and fees, provide a monthly housing allowance, and even offer an annual stipend for books and supplies. To be eligible, veterans typically must have served a minimum period of active duty service, and the benefits can vary depending on the length of service and other factors.

In addition to federal benefits, many states offer their own education benefits for veterans. These state-specific benefits can include tuition waivers, scholarships and grants that can be used at state colleges and universities. Some states also offer benefits for the dependents of veterans, such as children and spouses. These benefits can sometimes be used in conjunction with federal benefits, further reducing the financial burden of higher education.

Private Scholarships and Grants

Private organizations play a significant role in supporting veterans' educational aspirations through scholarships and grants. These organizations range from veteran-specific groups to philanthropic foundations, and they often seek to honor the service of military members by easing their transition to civilian life through education.

Some well-known organizations include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Their scholarships can be particularly beneficial as they may fill gaps not covered by the GI Bill or state benefits, such as summer courses or study-abroad programs. Veterans should explore the various private scholarships available to them, as they can be an invaluable resource in funding their higher education.

Institution-Specific Scholarships for Veterans

Many colleges and universities recognize the value that veteran students bring to their campuses and offer dedicated scholarships to support them. These institution-specific scholarships can vary widely in terms of eligibility, award amounts and application requirements. Some schools provide scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, while others offer smaller awards that can be used to pay for books, housing, or other educational expenses.

When considering these scholarships, veterans should also look at the overall support system the school offers to veteran students. After all, a scholarship is just one aspect of the educational experience, and attending a school that provides robust resources for veterans can be just as important as the financial aid itself.

Consider factors such as the presence of a veterans' resource center, the availability of counseling services,r and whether the school has staff members dedicated to assisting veteran students. By choosing an institution that offers both financial support through scholarships and a supportive environment, veterans can set themselves up for success in their academic pursuits.

Continuing Support For Veterans' Education

We offer the Charles C. Blanton AFBA Family Survivor College Scholarship to surviving family members of eligible fallen AFBA members. More information on this scholarship can be found here. Beyond that, AFBA members and their dependents can apply for scholarships through our partnership with AUSA. More information on these scholarships can be found here.

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Military discounts are a token of gratitude offered by businesses to the men and women who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. These discounts are a small way to honor the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families, helping them save significantly on everything from groceries to travel expenses.

To help you take advantage of these savings opportunities, let's take a look at the top 5 discounts available to military servicemembers and veterans.

1. Automotive Discounts

The automotive industry has a long-standing tradition of supporting military personnel through various discount programs. Many car manufacturers, rental companies and insurance providers offer special pricing to active duty servicemembers, veterans and sometimes even their families. These discounts can apply to the purchase of new vehicles and are often in addition to other rebates and incentives available to the general public. Some of the most well-known car brands have structured programs that can save military members thousands of dollars on a new vehicle purchase, making it more affordable to own the car they desire.

2. Retail Benefits

The retail sector offers a plethora of exclusive in-store and online discounts to active-duty military members, veterans and their families. These discounts span across a wide range of brands and products, from clothing and electronics to home goods and sporting equipment. Many stores have a fixed percentage off the regular price, while others may offer special promotions during military appreciation events or holidays. Some online retailers also partner with military discount services to verify servicemember status, which you can then use to access discounts across multiple online stores.

3. Travel and Accommodation Deals

The travel industry is well-known for its support of military personnel through a variety of special offers and discounts. Many airlines provide reduced fares for active duty military members and their families, recognizing the need for affordable travel, especially when it comes to last-minute trips or emergency leave. Hotels and resorts also extend special rates to military personnel, often under a dedicated military discount program. These military rates can result in significant savings on accommodations, whether for leisure, during a PCS, or while on temporary duty.

4. Dining and Entertainment Discounts

Restaurants across the nation express their gratitude to military members by offering military discounts on meals. These discounts can range from a percentage off the total bill to a free appetizer or dessert. Some dining establishments may even offer a completely free meal to servicemembers on certain holidays like Veterans Day. It's a gesture that not only helps servicemembers save money but also gives them a warm welcome and a sense of appreciation from the community.

Entertainment centers like movie theaters and amusement parks also show their support for military members by offering special military pricing on tickets. This discount can make a night out at the movies or even a weekend resort more affordable, allowing servicemembers and their families to enjoy themselves without straining their budget.

5. Financial Services and Banking Perks

Financial institutions often provide tailored services to meet the unique needs of military members, including reduced loan interest rates. These lower rates can apply to mortgages, auto loans and personal loans, helping service members save money over the life of their loans.

Some lenders also offer special programs for military homebuyers, such as VA loans, which come with additional benefits like no down payment and no private mortgage insurance requirements. Active duty service members are encouraged to explore these options to maximize their financial benefits and make borrowing more affordable.

Looking for More Military Member Benefits?

Discover the discounts an AFBA membership has to offer.

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February is Black History Month — an important time to recognize and honor the profound contributions and sacrifices of African Americans throughout our nation's history. Despite the immeasurable hardships and discrimination they've faced in a country that had, until around 60 years ago, denied their rights as citizens, African American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have continually shown exceptional valor and resilience both on and off the battlefield.

This year, to celebrate and honor our nation's Black service members, we'd like to take a look back at their heroic journeys throughout history, shedding light on their often unsung stories.

The History of African Americans in the Military

From the very inception of the United States of America, Black service members have demonstrated an unwavering commitment, courage and determination to defend the nation. In fact, they've answered the call of duty to serve and sacrifice in every single U.S. war, from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we commemorate the enduring legacy of African Americans in the military, let's trace their remarkable history from the 1700s to the modern day.

The Revolutionary War

Beginning prior to the Revolutionary War, both free and enslaved Black people rose up against the British during the Boston Massacre. In fact, Crispus Attucks is considered to be the first casualty of the revolution, bravely leading the protest before the tragedy transpired.

Following the Boston Massacre, over 5,000 Black soldiers from all 13 colonies fought for the American cause, seeking the prospect of freedom from both the British and the colonists. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those who served were freed from their bonds.

The Civil War

While Black minutemen and soldiers served in regiments throughout the later 1700s and early 1800s, it wasn't until 1863 that the U.S. government officially allowed African Americans to enlist in the armed forces. However, the Civil War was obviously a turning point for Black military history, as by the end of it, nearly 200,000 Black soldiers had served in the Union Army. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army had recruited a small group of Black soldiers toward the end of the war, but they wouldn't see combat before its end.

The Great Wars

By the time of World War I and World War II, the horrors of chattel slavery had ended, and Black Americans were quickly becoming a much larger part of the nation's military — despite continuing discrimination and segregation. To put it into perspective, the First World War saw over 380,000 African Americans serve in the army, while over 1 million Black men and women served in the second.

Fighting fascism on one front and racism on the other, Black service members demonstrated extraordinary courage and resilience, with legendary groups like the Tuskegee Airmen leaving an indelible mark on history.

Modern Military Diversity

In today's modern military, the landscape has significantly evolved. The U.S. military is continually committed to improving racial diversity and providing equal opportunities for all service members. And with each branch making a more proactive effort to recruit and train a diverse force of soldiers, sailors and airmen, the nation can not only strengthen its capabilities but also reflect the values of equality and inclusion that are so central to America.

Honoring Black Heroes

As we continue into Black History Month, and throughout the year, it's important to take the time to reflect on and commemorate the sacrifices and contributions African Americans have made in the line of duty. Their stories of bravery and determination inspire us all and remind us of the strength found in diversity and unity.

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Here's a fun fact: Did you know the National Guard is older than the Army and even the country?

December 13th, 2023 marks this military force's 387th birthday — a testament to its enduring legacy of service and sacrifice. As we celebrate this milestone, it's important to commemorate not just the history of the institution, but also the brave men and women who have served and safeguarded our nation for nearly four centuries.

Join us as we take a deeper dive into the history and significance of the U.S. National Guard.

When Was the National Guard Established?
Today, the National Guard includes both the Army National Guard as well as the Air National Guard. However, long before the invention of the airplane, the organization began as a colonial militia force, tracing its roots back to Massachusetts.

On December 13th, 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony organized the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Cavalry, the 101st Field Artillery and the 101st Engineer Battalion to protect itself. These four regiments still stand as the oldest units in the U.S. military.

What About the Air National Guard?
While the National Guard is older than the Army, the Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force are actually the same age. That's because, prior to 1947, the two were part of the Army Air Corps (later changed to Army Air Forces during WWII). However, the National Security Act would officially separate the two branches on September 18th of that same year, eventually transferring the Army Air Forces units to the newly established Air National Guard as an aerial reserve component.

The Role of the National Guard
As a state-based military force, the National Guard plays a pivotal role in responding to domestic emergencies and natural disasters, as well as defending our country when necessary. They operate as a dual-purpose institution for both state and federal missions across U.S. states and territories — even deploying overseas. With diverse capabilities, from combat to humanitarian work, the National Guard is dedicated to responding to critical emergencies, preserving homeland security and supporting global peace efforts.

What Does it Mean to be Part of the National Guard?
While National Guard servicemembers are sometimes lampooned as "weekend warriors," this jab couldn't be further from the truth. Being a member of the National Guard carries an immense commitment to service, readiness and community. They may be citizen-soldiers, but they maintain a delicate balance of military duty with civilian work — all while undergoing rigorous training to prepare for times of crisis. That way, they're ready to defend, protect and serve the nation on a moment's notice.

Commemorating the National Guard's Birthday
The National Guard's birthday isn't a national holiday, nor is it a free day off of work or school. However, that doesn't mean the day isn't celebrated. Many servicemembers make a point to commemorate December 13th to honor military heritage as well as the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms. One common event is the cake-cutting ceremony, in which the oldest member of a Guard unit and the youngest cut a large cake to share with everyone. Some units might also host local celebrations, gathering with other members of the Guard and the larger community.

Recognizing 387 Years of Service and Sacrifice
While there won't be any fanfare or parades this December 13th, civilians can still honor the National Guard's birthday by attending community events and expressing their gratitude toward those who have served. Taking the time to hear their stories, learn about their contributions, and actively support veterans and their families is a meaningful way to recognize their sacrifices and perhaps the best way to celebrate this observance.

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Podcast popularity has been on the rise in recent years, with millions of listeners and nearly just as many options — and military podcasts are no exception. With so much content, it can feel daunting to search for the perfect series that suits your interests. That's why we took the time to find a few of the best military podcasts across a diverse range of perspectives and topics, from historical viewpoints and foreign policy to personal stories of bravery and courage.

AFBA's Top 5 Military Podcasts
Here are our picks for the top 5 military podcasts:

1. Mentors for Military
The Mentors for Military podcast offers thought-provoking discussions with real people and their stories. Led by a diverse group of 18 veterans, each episode of Mentors offers a captivating glimpse into the experiences of a wide range of servicemembers, from elite forces to Army Rangers.

For those intrigued by military life, this show offers an enlightening view through authentic conversations with veterans. Just sit back and tune in to the engaging conversations they have as if they're sitting with you in your living room.

2. Veteran's PATH
Veteran's PATH is an excellent resource for former military personnel who may be struggling with mental health. Its goal is to help ex-servicemembers find Peace, Acceptance, Transformation and Honor by using practices such as meditation and mindfulness. Not only does Veteran's PATH serve as a vital platform advocating for mental health in the military, but it's also working toward shattering the stigma around these types of issues.

Whether you've considered meditating and you just don't know where to start, or you're curious and want to give it a shot, Veteran's PATH offers a wealth of free content to help you better manage your mental health.

3. Women of the Military
Women of the Military provides a critical platform to elevate the voices of female active-duty servicemembers and veterans. Hosted by the creator of Airman to Mom, Amanda Huffman, each episode exclusively focuses on interviews with women who have served in the military, amplifying their unique stories, experiences and perspectives.

As an Air Force Officer, military spouse and veteran herself, Huffman brings her own background experience to these interesting discussions while covering an array of perspectives. And with a new episode each week, there's plenty of ground to cover and stories to explore.

4. Veterans Chronicles
Veterans Chronicles is a compelling podcast series documenting the remarkable stories of some of America's greatest heroes. Each hour-long episode captures the historical accounts and unique personal narratives of eyewitnesses through in-depth interviews.

Covering moments in military history like D-Day, Hanoi, Baghdad and Fallujah, these stories offer profound insight into the lived experience of our servicemembers, their bravery and the profound impact of their sacrifices. Simultaneously, Veterans Chronicles acts as a living record and tribute to the dedication and valor of our nation's heroes.

5. Military Mom Talk Radio
Finally, our last podcast pick takes a unique perspective on military life. Military Mom Talk Radio offers a supportive and empowering platform for women to share their ideas and concerns around the military lifestyle.

Episodes cover a wide range of topics, such as handling grief, finding a supportive community and more. Through engaging discussions and interviews, hosts Sandra Beck and Robin Boyd help women navigate the complexities of military life, including everything from health care to childcare and eldercare.

Whether you're an active-duty servicemember, a veteran or a civilian, these podcasts serve as important platforms to educate, advocate and gain a deeper understanding of each other and our history.

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As Veterans Day fast approaches, it's important to take the time and reflect on the significance of this observance to honor the brave servicemembers who've answered the call of duty. Let's take a closer look at the history of this federal holiday before diving into some ways you can participate.

From Armistice to Veterans Day
The first Veterans Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919 — however, the holiday didn't always go by that name. Following the end of the first World War, President Wilson commemorated the 11th day of the 11th month as Armistice Day; but it wasn't until 1926 that the United States Congress officially recognized the holiday.

After World War II, President Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation, both renaming the observance and shifting its focus to honor all of our nation's veterans.

How To Observe Veterans Day and Honor Our Nation's Heroes
Whether you have a servicemember in your life or you're looking for more ways to show your gratitude this Veterans Day, here are a few ideas to honor our veterans:

1. Take a Moment of Silence
Each year on Veterans Day, there are two minutes set aside for a moment of silence to honor those who have served and their family members at 2:11 PM EST.

2. Extend Your Gratitude
If you know a veteran or meet one, don't forget to thank them for their service. Even this simple expression of appreciation can have a huge impact.

3. Send a Letter or Care Package
Consider sending a personal letter and care package to our servicemembers. Who doesn't appreciate a nice note and fun treats every once in a while, especially while you're away from home?

4. Assist a Veteran You Know
If you have a veteran in your life, be sure to check in with them and see if there's anything you can help them with.

5. Support Military Families in Need
Even if you don't know a military family personally, there are plenty of organizations, like Soldiers' Angels, that allow you to lend a helping hand to families in need.

6. Help Unhoused Vets
Nobody deserves to live on the streets, but especially those who have served our country. Contributing your time or money to organizations like U.S. Vets can go a long way in helping unhoused veterans get back on their feet with a roof over their heads.

7. Make a Donation
If you're feeling generous, consider making a donation to any number of veteran organizations. For example, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a great nonprofit offering life-changing support to our nation's heroes.

8. Volunteer Your Time
In addition to U.S. Vets and DAV, there are countless other nonprofits and charities that are in need of helping hands. Volunteering your time at these organizations can be a great way to give back and serve those who have already served.

9. Support Veteran-Owned Businesses
Beyond helping veterans through charity organizations, you can also lend your support to businesses owned by servicemembers. Whether it's a local store or a national brand, providing this economic support is crucial to keep these businesses thriving.

10. Visit a Veteran Memorial
Finally, you can pay your respects to the brave servicemembers who gave the ultimate sacrifice by visiting a local or national veterans' memorial. Feel free to leave a small token of your respect in a fountain or on a gravestone, and consider donating if the memorial has the option.

While our list stops there, that doesn't mean yours should! Don't be afraid to get involved with your local community and find out more ways you can help give back to our nation's heroes.

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October 26th marks National Day of the Deployed — an observance created by the organization Soldier's Angels to honor the heroic men and women currently deployed. In other words, it's a day to say "Thank you" for all the sacrifices our active duty servicemembers and their families make in the name of our country.

Of course, this gratitude can extend beyond words to actions, such as sending a care package or volunteering to help out veterans and military families. But before we dive into ways you can support our deployed soldiers, let's first understand why we celebrate the Day of the Deployed.

The history behind the Day of the Deployed
First celebrated in 2006 — when the group Soldiers' Angels approached then-Governor of North Dakota, John Hoeven, to proclaim the day as a time to honor active-duty servicemembers — the Day of the Deployed is a relatively new holiday. However, this was only the start, as, by 2010, the movement to recognize October 26th as the Day of the Deployed had grown to 40 states.

In 2011, Hoeven, who was then a Senator, sponsored a unanimously agreed-upon resolution to designate October 26 as an official national holiday, which is now observed by all 50 states.

But how can you participate in the Day of the Deployed?

Observing the Day of the Deployed
When our troops are deployed, they must leave behind their families, their homes, and almost everything that's familiar to them in service to their country. These significant sacrifices warrant recognition.

Here are a few ways you can give back to those who are currently deployed and their families:

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

1. Write a letter
One simple way to brighten a soldier's day is to send a thoughtful letter. Even if you don't know them personally, writing a letter to a stranger is sure to lift their spirits, especially when they may be missing home. This small and easy gesture goes a long way in showing your support and spreading love.

2. Send a care package
Speaking of spreading love, nothing shows you care more than a care package — after all, it's in the name! Whether it's clothes, toiletries, snacks or other treats, sending a package of goodies is a surefire way to put a smile on someone's face. Opening up a box of brand-new products from back home is a huge boost to morale, especially when soldiers are deployed overseas in unfamiliar countries.

3. Help a military family
If you know someone who is currently deployed, be a good neighbor and check in with their family. There's a long list of ways you can support them, from offering to help out with repairs around the house to cooking meals or watching their kids. Anything can help take the load off a little — even just listening to them talk about their own challenges.

4. Join a local event
Many communities organize local events, fundraisers and other gatherings on and around the Day of the Deployed to help support our soldiers and their families. Search for one near you to participate in, or, better yet, ask some friends to go with you. These are great opportunities to spread awareness, show your support and give back to the community.

5. Connect with Soldier's Angels
Whether you're having difficulty finding organizations near you or you're interested in the work they're doing, consider connecting with or supporting Soldiers' Angels. Donations are always a welcome option, but with both in-person and virtual volunteering options, anyone is capable of lending a helping hand.

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October 8, 2023, was the annual Ms. Veteran America event hosted in Orlando, Florida — a yearly competition meant to honor the service and sacrifice of our women veterans and support our brave sisters who are making the transition back into civilian life and employment.

Not only does the Ms. Veteran America movement encourage and uplift women veterans, but it's also a charity event. All of the proceeds go to Final Salute — a nonprofit organization providing housing for homeless female veterans and their children. With over half of all homeless women veterans being single mothers, this nonprofit organization and the work it does are crucial to supporting our country's military members and families that may otherwise have been left behind.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

In total, Ms. Veteran America has helped:

  • Raise $760,000+ for the organization.
  • Provide 17,000+ days of transitional housing.
  • Secure financial assistance and resources for 7,339 people and counting through Savings Assessment and Financial Education (S.A.F.E.) programming.
  • Empower 1,764 people and counting through employment transition with the Next Uniform program.

The event's theme, "The Woman Beyond the Uniform," highlights the strength, resilience and courage of our nation's heroic military women. By providing a platform for women veterans to show off their talents and interests beyond their commitment to our country, the Ms. Veteran America event shines a spotlight on the strength, courage and sacrifice of our nation's military women.

This year's Ms. Veteran America title went to Victoria Taylor, a proud combat camera specialist who served active duty in the Marine Corps for four and a half years.

As the newly crowned Ms. Veteran America 2023, Taylor will continue to play an active role in spreading awareness and advocating for women veterans experiencing homelessness. Through education and empowerment, she'll help her fellow sisters in arms confidently transition from military to civilian life — mentally, emotionally and financially by helping them secure stable employment and housing.

Save the Date For Ms. Veteran America 2024
Did you miss out on this year's Ms. Veteran America event? Not to worry! The next annual competition will take place on October 13, 2024, with more location and ticket details to come.

If you or someone you know are interested in competing in next year's event, consider applying as soon as possible. Early registration will open up in January 2024, with general registration going from March 16 to May 31.

Are you part of an organization that's interested in sponsoring the next Ms. Veteran America? Don't hesitate to get in contact with the event organizers and become a partner.

While next year's contestants prepare for the competition, the work of providing safe, suitable and affordable housing to homeless women veterans doesn't stop. If you're looking for a way to support these heroes and their children, and you have the means, consider donating to Final Salute or getting involved with an event near you.

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September — it's the start of fall, the beginning of football season … and also a great time to celebrate the U.S. Air Force. Why? Well, because this branch of the military marks its 76th anniversary this year on September 18. In honor of this date, here are 10 facts about the Air Force and the daring men and women who keep the skies secure.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

1. The Air Force Used to Be Part of the Army

The Air Force celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022 — but that doesn't commemorate the day the first American aviators took to the sky. Rather, on that day in September 1947, the Air Force and Air Force Command were spun off from the Army, which had been in charge of airborne operations through both World Wars.

2. There Are 17 Air Force Bands

The Air Force Band is one of the premier military ensembles — but "one" is the wrong term. There are two main groups, joined by nine active duty bands, five in the National Guard and one deployed in Southwest Asia. These musicians are heard by six million people a year.

3. Air Force Planes Help Fight Wildfires

When wildfires recently struck California, the Air Force got the call to help with the firefighting effort. Specialized C-130 planes flew 156 missions to battle the blazes in just a single month.

4. NORAD Coordinates Air Defense — And Tracks Santa

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is an organization combining U.S. and Canadian air and space defense units. Among other things, it annually runs a popular site that lets kids bring up Saint Nick on the radar as he circles the globe.

5. Women Make Up Over One-Fifth of Air Force Members

The latest data shows that 21.4% of Air Force personnel are women. The service has trained female pilots since 1976, navigators since 1977 and fighter pilots since 1993. Among officers, this figure rises to 23.3% of personnel.

6. The Air Force Academy is the No. 2 Source of Astronauts

Can Air Force training get people ready to go to space? Historically, the answer has been yes. The Air Force Academy has produced 39 astronauts, making it second only to the Naval Academy.

7. "Sully" Had Air Force Training

Commercial Airline Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became famous for successfully landing his damaged jet on the Hudson River and saving over 150 passengers' lives. What you may not know is that he's an Air Force Academy graduate from the class of 1973.

8. 17 Air Force Football Players Have Gone Pro

The Air Force Academy's football team, the Falcons, have sent 17 players into the pro ranks, with the most recent being Detroit Lions tight end Garrett Griffin.

9. The Air Force Has a Grateful Dead Connection

Psychedelic rock and the U.S. military don't seem like obvious bedfellows, but in addition to astronauts, aviators and football players, the Air Force produced a member of the Grateful Dead. Keyboardist Tom Constanten played with the Dead from 1968-1970 directly after a stint in the Air Force.

10. The Air Force Museum Has Over 350 Vehicles and Missiles

The Air Force maintains a comprehensive museum on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The facility is the oldest military aviation museum in the world, and also the biggest, spanning 19 acres. All that space is necessary to hold the hundreds of pieces of decommissioned hardware on display.

Now you have 10 facts to share about the Air Force as the branch celebrates its 76th year this September. From early flying aces to astronauts exploring the cosmos, Air Force personnel have worn many hats over the years, and their mission is still evolving today.

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Every year since 1979, the third Friday of September has been designated as POW/MIA Recognition Day. It serves to honor two groups of service members — those who were held prisoners of war and returned, and those still unaccounted for.

As of now, the Department of Defense knows of over 81,500 missing personnel from conflicts dating from World War II to the present. POW/MIA Recognition Day provides an annual reminder to remember these brave service members and to become better educated on the efforts to account for those whose fate is still unknown.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

The Mission of POW/MIA Recognition Day

President Jimmy Carter designated the first POW/MIA Recognition Day, and ever since, the event has been commemorated with ceremonies at military installations around the world. A recurring feature of this day is a presidential proclamation in which the commander in chief reaffirms the country's commitment to the individuals still missing in action.

The messages offered by presidents, including Joe Biden's 2022 proclamation, reaffirm that the work of identifying and recovering the missing is still ongoing. This September 15 is a good moment to reflect on this effort and the progress being made to give clarity and closure to the families of these service members.

In June of this year, around the unveiling of the official poster for POW/MIA Recognition Day 2023, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) gave an update on its efforts. Over the course of the fiscal year, the group accounted for 81 individuals.

Those efforts from the DPAA involve cooperation with other governments — 45 in all — and include tracing the locations of MIA individuals as well as the repatriation of remains.

The Quest to Locate Missing Service Members

Looking at the numbers, it quickly becomes apparent just how big the task is facing the DPAA. Of the over 81,000 Americans still unaccounted for, over 41,000 are presumed lost at sea due to the loss of ships or aircraft. It can be costly and demanding work to trace the locations of these MIA personnel, but the efforts are ongoing nevertheless.

The Department of Defense offers a look at all the steps necessary to identify and repatriate a lost service member. First, officials in the DPAA analyze and investigate reports of unaccounted for Americans, creating separate case files for each. In cases where relatives of an unidentified service member are available to give DNA samples, officials can disinter remains to determine whether their research has led them to the missing person's final resting place.

Investigation follows, interviewing witnesses and examining the site. If this evidence supports excavation, the site is dug up and the remains recovered. Over the next months or even years, the DPAA performs tests, inspecting historical records, using DNA analysis and conducting forensic studies to determine whether they can conclusively attach an identity to remains. If they can, the identified American is returned home to surviving family members.

Resources for Family of the Missing

The DPAA offers publications and interactive guides that may bring families closer to identifying and locating their unaccounted for loved ones. A fact file explains the process of recovery, from initial planning to arranging a memorial, an interactive guide profiles those still missing and a separate database lists those who have recently been identified.

POW/MIA Recognition Day is a perfect opportunity to check these resources and become more aware of those who have served their country and are still unaccounted for. On this day and all year round, it's important to remember the sacrifices these brave individuals made.