Combat Injured Troops: We Salute You!

COMBAT INJURED TROOPS was formed to support our military veterans and their families through our Therapy in the Air program that makes you smile! With now three programs to assist Veterans, Combat Injured Troops goal is to be able to help military men and women including their families. There are no paid salaries in the COMBAT INJURED TROOPS organization and they are an approved 501(c) Charity. 

Therapy in the Air

The All Veteran Group (AVG) through Therapy in the Air, in support of Combat Injured Troops, helps warriors thrive through post-traumatic growth (PTG).  PTG refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.  Therapy in the Air offers an unparalleled sense of freedom mingled with excitement unlike that of any other sport.  

Hometown Heroes

Our Hometown Heroes Program is designed to showcase someone from the community who has sacrificed time and effort to better his or her community. A local hero may include but not be limited to: an average citizen who saved a life, a renowned teacher, a community humanitarian, a firefighter, a paramedic or police officer.  This program is not an award but a way to say thanks to Americans who have done great things. 

22 a Day

The 22-A-Day project is an awareness program that exposes the little known fact that 22 Veterans a day commit suicide.  This is a staggering number that is often overlooked.  Our military serve and protect all of us and deserve our deepest appreciation, respect and care.  By educating the public, the 22-A-Day project hopes to inspire more people to get involved and work together by joining our resources to eradicate this problem.

The Life Chest supports Combat Injured Troops and the All Veteran Group and is proud to work closely with CIT board member and AVG Founder and CEO Mike Elliot.

Watch the Combat Injured Troops and Life Chest Promotional Video:

Make Everyday Veterans Day

We must always remember those veterans who have given their time and lives defending our country, even long after they have stopped wearing their military uniforms. 

A simple ‘thank you’ to a veteran or to their family members for his or her sacrifice is an act of kindness and appreciation that goes a long way. But there is more that you can do to get involved and volunteer your time or donate to causes that benefit our veterans.

For more information visit:

The mission of Final Salute Inc. is to provide homeless women Veterans with safe and suitable housing.

Assistance to veterans through 3 programs; Therapy in the Air, Hometown Heroes and 22 a Day.

The All Veteran Group (AVG) through Therapy in the Air, in support of Combat Injured Troops, helps warriors thrive through post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

Sword and Plough : An All American Company

Sword & Plough is a socially conscious brand that works with American manufacturers who employ veterans. The company recycles military surplus, incorporates that fabric into stylish bag designs and donates 10% of profits back to veteran organizations. A family business, sister's Emily and Betsey make sturdy and sophisticated products, whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste, and strengthen civil-military understanding.

"I wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face." - Sword and Plough

Check out their beautiful line of products as well as more of their incredible story at

Sword and Plough Bag
Sword and Plough signature backpack

Inspiration from The Fisher House Foundation

Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

We've been lucky to work with the Fisher House through the Ranger Group Foundation which is a proud supporter of the Fisher House™ Foundation, with Ranger Jones serving on the Board of Trustees.

"A Fisher House is “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers. The homes are normally located within walking distance of the treatment facility or have transportation available. There are 71 Fisher Houses located on 24 military installations and 29 VA medical centers. Many more houses are under construction or in design. "

To find out more about the program or to contribute to the Fisher House(TM), please visit

A Fisher House Opening in Arizona

A New Family at a Fisher House

Group Gardening at a Fisher House

A Guide To Obtaining Your DD-214 and Receiving Your Medals

Store Your Service Medals in a Life Chest for Future Generations

A How-To Guide on Obtaining DD-214

The Freedom Life Chest™ and The Patriot Life Chest™ are the perfect place to store and memorialize a veteran’s legacy, beginning with their service medals. Their time spent in service, with valor and sacrifice, honoring and protecting our country, should be recognized and appreciated for years to come. In order to receive a veteran’s service medals however, whether it is by the veteran or by a family member, the first step is to acquire a DD-214.

So what is a DD-214? It is an official form given to you by the United States Department of Defense upon retiring, separating, or discharge from the military. In short, a DD-214 is proof and verification of your military service. Think of it as your ‘one-stop shop’ of a document: it’s the most comprehensive paperwork any military service member has, even above medical records. Whether you’re applying for a home loan or other benefits through the VA, getting ready to retire, or even trying to replace your father’s long-lost medals, obtaining your DD-214 is essential, and will help you in a multitude of ways.

You can request your military service records, and your DD-214 online, by mail, or by fax at:

This government website allows you to submit your request ONLINE with eVetRecs, but please note that a written signature by mail or fax is also required in this process.

Also provided on this site is the SF-180 form (in PDF form), which allows you to submit your request by MAIL or FAX.

Who Can Order Records?

You may use this system if you are:

  • A military veteran, or

  • Next of kin of a deceased, former member of the military. The next of kin can be any of the following:

  • Surviving spouse that has not remarried

    • Father

    • Mother

    • Son

    • Daughter

    • Sister

    • Brother

Information Required:

Your request must contain certain basic information for them to locate the service records. This information includes:

  • The veteran’s complete name used while in service

  • Service number

  • Social security number

  • Branch of service

  • Dates of service

  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).

  • If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:

    • Place of discharge

    • Last unit of assignment

    • Place of entry into the service, if known.

  • All requests must be signed and dated by the veteran or next-of-kin.

  • If you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran, you must provide proof of death of the veteran such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary.


Additional and Recommended Information to Have Ready:

While this information is not required, it is extremely helpful to NPRC staff in understanding and fulfilling your request:

  • The purpose or reason for your request, such as applying for veterans benefits, preparing to retire, or researching your personal military history.

  • Any deadlines related to your request. We will do our best to meet any priorities. For example, you may be applying for a VA-guaranteed Home Loan and need to provide proof of military service by a specific date.

  • Any other specific information, documents or records you require from your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) besides your Report of Separation (DD Form 214).

For additional details on what information may or may not be included, please see the Special Notice to veterans and Family Members regarding requests for copies of military personnel and/or medical files.



Generally there is no charge for basic military personnel and medical record information provided to veterans, next-of-kin and authorized representatives from Federal (non-archival) records. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made.

However, Archival OMPFs are subject to the NARA fee schedule that authorizes the Agency to collect fees from the public for copies of archival records (44 USC 2116c and 44 USC 2307).

Online, mailed and faxed archival requests require the purchase of the COMPLETE photocopy of the OMPF:

  • A routine OMPF of 5 pages or less: $25 flat fee

  • A routine OMPF of 6 pages or more: $70 flat fee (most OMPFs fall in this category)

  • Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) OMPF: $.80 cents per page ($20 minimum)


We want to honor the sacrifice and bravery of our country’s veterans as well as protect and secure their legacy, whether it’s through a Life Chest itself, or extending a helping hand. The dedication to the values of honor, courage and commitment should be recognized through family and friends forever more.


“With the development of The Life Chest I now realize that these moments and stories can be shared by family and friends because the silent voice of each item is a piece of me… the essence of who I am. Thank you for giving the vehicle to share the path I have walked and the path I will explore.”

– Mike Elliott, Golden Knight and founder of The All Veteran Group

Mike Elliot

John Williams


John is a small business owner and served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Wounded in the war he was awarded a Purple Heart. Now retired, John enjoys spending time on his Virginia ranch with his wife Catherine. Every Christmas their six grandchildren come to visit, and it’s become a family tradition to go through Granddad’s Life Chest after dinner.

John’s Freedom Life Chest 

The Contents 

  • Keychain from his first car

  • His father’s watch

  • Dog tags

  • Letters from his wife she sent while he was serving

  • Sergeant Chevron

  • Purple Heart

  • Photos of Vietnam & guys from his unit

PTSD and Veterans Disability Benefits – A Brief Overview

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is commonly misunderstood and underestimated by the VA. To better serve our disabled vets, the veterans advocates at Hill & Ponton have put together a comprehensive PTSD Guide to help them through the VA disability claims process and receive the best compensation outcome possible.


Part 1: What is PTSD?

                  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) classifies PTSD as a trauma and stressor-related disorder. PTSD is described by the DSM-V as “re-experiencing an extremely traumatic event (called the stressor), usually accompanied by increased arousal, nightmares, flashbacks, and difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and remembering.

                  PTSD is diagnosed based on criteria that look at different types of symptoms. There are four different groups of symptoms that PTSD diagnostic criteria take into account. These four groups, and examples of each, include:

  1. Intrusion Symptoms: nightmares related to the traumatic event, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or memories, psychological and physical reactivity to reminders of the traumatic event.

  2. Avoidance Symptoms: avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, avoiding thoughts or feelings connected to the traumatic event.

  3. Negative Changes in Cognitions & Mood: memory problems, negative thoughts/beliefs about one’s self or others, severe emotions related to the trauma such as shame or sadness, reduced interest in activities enjoyed prior to the traumatic event, feeling detached, isolated, or disconnected from others.

  4. Changes in Arousal & Reactivity: feeling jittery or always on alert, and an easy startle response.


Part 2: Getting PTSD Service-Connected 

                  There are three elements to establishing service connection for PTSD. First, there must be a current diagnosis of PTSD from an expert the VA deems competent to diagnose PTSD. Second, there must be credible evidence showing that the claimed in-service stressor actually occurred. Third, there must be medical evidence showing a causal relationship (nexus) between the current symptoms/PTSD diagnosis and the in-service stressor. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements: 

  1. Current Diagnosis: According to the VA, a current diagnosis of PTSD must be made by “professionals qualified to perform PTSD Compensation and Pension examinations (C&P exams).” Qualified professionals are those who have doctoral-level training in psychopathology, diagnostic methods, and clinical interview methods. They must also have a working knowledge of the DSM-V and extensive clinical experience the diagnosis and treatment of veterans with PTSD. Examples of qualified professionals include board-certified psychiatrists and licensed psychologists, as well as psychiatric residents and psychology interns (if under close supervision of an attending psychiatrist or psychologist). In addition to the requirement of having a qualified professional diagnosis you with PTSD, that diagnosis must conform to the DSM-V criteria.

  2. In-Service Stressor: Proving the occurrence of an in-service stressor is oftentimes the most complicated part of getting PTSD service connected. There are many special rules on how veterans can prove that their claimed in-service stressor did in fact happen. For example, there are different rules for proving an in-service stressor based on fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, veterans who were engaged in combat, and veterans that suffered an in-service personal assault or trauma (including military sexual trauma).

  3. Nexus: This is evidence that shows the in-service stressor is the cause of the veteran’s PTSD. Think of the nexus as a link between the current PTSD diagnosis and the traumatic event that occurred during service. This element requires an opinion from a medical expert. The medical expert should explain how the veteran’s symptoms are the result of their in-service stressor. A medical expert becomes even more important when a veteran has multiple stressors. Their opinion can explain specifically how the veteran’s in-service stressor is the reason for their PTSD symptoms versus any stressors that may have occurred outside of service.


Part 3: Compensation & Pension Exams for PTSD 

                  Whenever a veteran files a claim for PTSD, the VA will require the veteran undergo a Compensation and Pension Examination (C&P exam) in order to verify the PTSD diagnosis, assess the severity of symptoms, and determine whether the condition is related to service. It is important for veterans to be as honest and forthright with the C&P examiner as possible. Because of the weight the VA places on C&P exams it is also important to be prepared for the exam. The following are tips for getting the most out of a PTSD C&P exam:

  • Bring a written list of symptoms that can help refresh your memory during the exam.

  • If one of your treating medical providers has provided a favorable opinion related to your PTSD, it doesn’t hurt to bring this with you and give it to the C&P examiner for consideration.

  • Bring written statements from family or friends that have observed how PTSD affects your life. For example, a statement from a spouse describing anger problems and difficulty dealing with authority.

Part 4: How the VA Rates PTSD

Once a veteran receives service connection for their PTSD, the VA will assign a rating. This rating represents the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from the veteran’s PTSD symptoms. PTSD is rated under the criteria set forth in the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders, which can be found here. PTSD can be rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100% disabling. VA regulations provide that “where there is a question as to which of two evaluations shall be applied; the higher evaluation will be assigned if the disability picture more nearly approximates the criteria for that rating. Otherwise, the lower rating will be assigned.”

                  When evaluating the severity of a veteran’s PTSD, the VA will consider symptoms including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Impairment in thought processes or communication

  • Grossly inappropriate behavior

  • Persistent danger of hurting self or others

  • Suicidal ideation

  • Intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living

  • Memory loss

  • Panic and or depression that affects the veteran’s ability to function

  • Impaired impulse control

  • Chronic sleep impairment

  • Decreased work efficiency


The VA should assign a rating based on all of the evidence in the veteran’s record. During its evaluation, the VA must consider the following:

  • The frequency, severity, and duration of the veteran’s psychiatric symptoms

  • The length of remissions between symptoms

  • The veteran’s capacity for adjustment during periods of remissions

Additionally, the purpose of VA disability benefits is to compensate veterans for impairment in earning capacity. Therefore, it is important to emphasize how PTSD symptoms affect a veteran’s ability to work and maintain gainful employment. Making sure there is evidence of how PTSD symptoms affect a veteran’s ability to work is important because the VA must assign a rating percentage based on social and occupational impairment.


Part 5: Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability & PTSD

                  The ultimate goal for many veterans is to get a 100% disability rating. Even if a veteran’s PTSD symptoms don’t meet the rating criteria, it is still possible to get to a 100% rating another way: total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a total disability rating (100%) may be assigned “if a person who fails to meet the schedular rating is, nevertheless, unable to obtain and maintain a substantially gainful occupation.” 

                  As explained above, it’s important to have evidence showing the level of occupational impairment due to PTSD symptoms. This is especially important when trying to get TDIU. Make sure the VA has evidence of how PTSD symptoms affect a veteran’s ability to find a job, and how those symptoms impact their ability to keep a job. Do so by providing medical opinions, buddy statements, and treatment records discussing things such as: 

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Memory problems

  • Difficulty interacting with others

  • Trouble with authoritative figures

  • Anxiety

  • Difficulty adapting to stressful circumstances

  • Inability to maintain and establish effective relationships

  • Impaired impulse control, such as unprovoked anger

  • Inappropriate behavior


Part 6: After the VA Decision

                  The VA will issue a rating decision (RD) either granting or denying a veteran’s claim. If the veteran disagrees with the VA’s decision, they have 1 year from the date on the letter notifying the veteran of the VA’s decision to file their appeal. This is done by submitting a notice of disagreement (NOD) using the VA Form 21-0958.

                  If a veteran was denied service connection for PTSD, they should look closely at the RD to determine what element was missing. For example, did the C&P examiner say there wasn’t a diagnosis of PTSD? In that case, getting an opinion from a different doctor may prove extremely valuable. If the VA granted service connection, it is still important to look closely at their decision. Oftentimes the VA makes a mistake assigning the rating and/or the effective date. Again, this is a situation where getting a medical opinion is extremely helpful to show the VA that a higher rating, or earlier effective date, is necessary.


This post was contributed by Hill & Ponton, PA, a law firm specializing in veterans disability. The information within the article comes from their PTSD Guide. To see the complete guide, please visit their website:

The White Chapel Memorial Park Inaugural 5k Walk/Run to Help Our Heroes

The Life Chest will be taking part in the White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery's inaugural 5K/1 Mile Run/Walk Help Our Heroes Patriots Race on September 11, 2016.

Following the race will be the official unveiling and dedication of the one of a kind War on Terror Memorial and The Life Chest will be donating eight Freedom Military Life Chest’s to The Michigan Wounded & Returning Warriors Project (MW&RWP).

The Patriots Race will allow participants to run or walk down the boulevards of over 400 large American flags and past the existing memorials honoring; WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf War heroes as well as the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action memorial. The funds raised by this race will help our combat veterans who return from battle to cope with the mental and physical challenges they have suffered and endured during war.  

The race proceeds will benefit The Michigan Wounded & Returning Warriors Project (MW&RWP).  The Michigan Wounded & Returning Warriors Project is a 501(c)3 and is a part of the Michigan American Legion family of organizations serving and supporting veterans.  

MW&RWP runs several successful programs including :

  • Returning veteran re-integration family retreats in Northern Michigan

  • PTSD and Eco-Therapy Retreats in partnership with therapists from the Michigan Psychological Association Foundation

  • PTSD community educational presentations

  • Emergency temporary financial assistance

  • Home accessibility modification assistance

  • Disability claims assistance and guidance &

  • Adaptive services provider, clinic and network guidance




Navy Spouses

We want to thank Lindsay Bradford for beginning her Life Chest journey! We are honored to be a part of it!

 "So excited! I have officially started my The Life Chest journey. So far I have included the three military spouse magazines from MSOY events, challenge coins, the cards from my amazing Branch Spouses and fellow MSOYs, sea air and space name card which was a special event for me, and my ticket from the holocaust museum. Can't wait to keep adding. ‪#‎navysoy16‬ ‪#‎navywife‬ ‪#‎navyspouse‬ ‪#‎navylife‬ ‪#‎milespouse‬‪#‎blessed‬ (thank you Donna, I received the mug!)"

Lindsay Bradford Life Chest

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - What You Need to Know

Fighting for our country is one of the most honorable things anyone can do. After being involved in warfare, travel, conditioning and a multitude of extraordinary experiences, soldiers go through so much by the end of their service. It can become strenuous to overlook the obstacles our veterans have overcome, and  upon their return, even day to day tasks can be trying.

Certain wars seem to have had more of an impact on the human brain than others. For example, a study was conducted on veterans of The Gulf War. In this study, it was found that high stress related experiences from a veteran's past greatly increased the chance of experiencing some sort of PTSD. In addition to PTSD, some veterans have experienced CFS (Chronic-Fatigue Syndrome) as a result of the warfare.

What exactly is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder"PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms may not appear for several months or even years later." PTSD is something that should be taken very seriously as it could potentially change a life forever.

In a study where veterans and non-veterans were tested for reactions to sounds of warfare and mental arithmetic, it was clear that the veterans responded differently. As the sound of the warfare audio was increased, the veterans showed higher blood pressure and a faster heartbeat. These responses are no coincidence. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be a serious problem in the health of our veterans.

You may know someone that is suffering from PTSD.

These are the symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollection of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.

  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.

  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angry.

Any of the above items may mean that an individual is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So if we know the symptoms, how do we help cope with and treat PTSD?

There is no right or wrong answer. Some experts think that exercise can work wonders for people dealing with PTSD. It is also important to regulate yourself through mindful breathing which can quickly calm you down. Connecting with others by volunteering to assist someone in need can also relieve an individual of PTSD symptoms. 

Make sure that if you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, you take into consideration the following guidelines. It can make a world of difference.

  • Take time to relax

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Get enough sleep

Also remember that it is very important not to force someone you know to talk about his or her PTSD. Keep in mind that is very difficult for people who have PTSD to talk about the negative experiences they have had. Let them lead and discuss it when they are ready, if ever.

For any veterans currently seeking disability claims, we recommend you follow this link to Hill & Ponton Disability Attorneys. There you will find that they have recovered $250 million for clients over 30 years. You can also check out their blog page for more articles on PTSD, disability claims, and more!



Lindsay Bradford & Her Legacy Life Chest

Lindsay Bradford is not ordinary by any means, she is an amazing woman with a heart of gold. Nothing has ever gotten in the way of Lindsay, the wife of Navy serviceman Jordan Bradford, she knew she would impact the world in a positive way from a young age. She has helped military spouses gain valuable experience in their careers, and her ability to demonstrate real world help to military spouses is exponential.

Lindsay received her Life Chest and we want to share her kind words with you!

"Came home after three weeks not he road to finally see this beauty up close and ultra personal!! Look at how BEAUTIFUL this The Life Chest is. It is HUGE!! There are so many fun and personal goodies in it (including a mug - and we all know how obsessed with collecting mugs I am)!! So blessed and thankful for this. Stunning. Thank you Donna!! ‪#‎msoy16‬‪#‎navysoy16‬ ‪#‎navyspouse‬ ‪#‎navywife‬ ‪#‎navylife‬ ‪#‎milspouse‬ ‪#‎blessed‬