Category Archives: veterans

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

2016 Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day

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Hey there MDST 485 folks past and present, did you know that May is Military Appreciation Month? Fitting as the big holiday in May is what we now know as Memorial Day.

The origins of this day date all the way back to just three short years after the end of the Civil War, on May 5, 1868 to be precise. Decoration Day, as known back then, was intended to decorate the graves of those who gave their lives during that war with flowers.  It was determined that the day would be observed on May 30th as the flora and fauna was in full regalia.  Even dating back to that first year of honoring those who’d given the full measure, the first significant observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

While there are many cities who celebrated through the years, in 1966 Congress under President Lyndon Johnson declared the official birthplace of this holiday to be Waterloo, N.Y.  Many cities across the country continued to celebrate those who lost their lives in service to the nation along with some best practices for observance.  After the close of WWI the day also included all American wars.  Finally in 1971 Congress declared Memorial Day as national holiday to take place on the last Monday in May.

(Thank you to the Department of the VA site for this info! –

Take a look for yourselves and learn more HERE.) Dept of VA

What does this all mean to you? Well I thought maybe I’d share with you what this coming Memorial Day means to me in the context of my work at U.S. Bank, as well as, my service on the U.S. Bank’s Proud to Serve Twin Cities Business Resource Group

(Click HERE to learn more about USB’s focus on hiring Veterans.)

and the Armed Forces Service Center (AFSC) out at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (Think something similar to a USO).

This year U.S. Bank is hosting a special internal company wide conference call that everyone is encouraged to attend regardless of whether or not they or a member of theirs is currently serving….served in the past….have a long proud family tradition of service to the U.S. or are simply someone who supports the less than 1% of the United States population who voluntarily serve.

While I know there are many of you out there thinking, “I don’t support the “war” or “military action” so I’m not interested in this post,” and I completely respect that but I implore you to notice if you will, that  I didn’t say it was to support either of those.  This is simply to honor the people who serve.  I love the picture our internal site chose to advertise this event.  A female soldier was key for this campaign, as the event is being hosted the Proud to Serve team and the U.S. Bank Women Business Resource Group. The following is my little tale of why this is important to me personally.

Memorial Day

As some of you may be aware, family history on my Dad’s side in service to the United States goes quite a long way back in time. What you might not know is that my Step-Mom, who retired last year from U.S. Bank, also has a long family history of service and that she also served in the Army.  Keep in mind that I was born in 1969, so the draft was in play during my lifetime but neither my dad nor step-mom was drafted; both volunteered as has been the case for service to the nation in the majority of my lifetime.  I grew up with my dad serving on Active Duty here and there, but primarily in the Reserves.  So it was no big deal that they were gone a weekend a month and a couple of weeks in the summer and winter due to their rank and years of service. No big deal right?….Yes that was true until I was in my early 20s and attending college and working.

I remember all too well the night of January 16, 1991 as I got a call from my Dad to come home from my night class immediately.  When you get that call from your dad and he’s clearly using that “commander” voice; you don’t ask questions you just do as you are told. I vividly recall watching with the two of them as President George H.W. Bush addressed the Nation from the Oval Office announcing the Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf. At the close of the President’s announcement, I knew better than to ask my Dad or Step-Mom too many questions. That said, I do remember thinking the world was going to change in our little White Bear Lake, MN household and beyond.  (Here’s the link to the address on YouTube if you care to see it.)

In the days after the address, the house phone (Remember, mobile phones were still huge back then and very expensive) rang many, Many, MANY times; nearly every time resulting in hushed conversations between my Dad and Step Mom. I knew it was serious, especially as I was being given some limited authorities over the house etc. in writing on actual legal papers.

Eventually, the call we all sort of knew was coming, came, but it seemed so very unreal at the time as the call was not that my dad was being called to Active Duty but instead that it was my Step-Mom who was being called up.  It’s not like we didn’t know it could happen, but it just wasn’t what had happened historically before; so it was a bit of a new mind set. After that single moment of mind shift, we all quickly switched gears and prepared for her departure to Arizona. What came next remained unknown and not a priority for discussion.

Yellow Ribbons

Back when the first Gulf War began she was a Reservist called to Active Duty in the Intelligence Analysis field and she was called to go teach folks on their way to the Gulf. I should be clear that she didn’t do combat duty at all but lost an awful lot of her students in the short time of the offensive.  At that time in her normal life, she was in what was called “Personal Trust” for First Bank Systems in Minneapolis. (The easiest way to describe what that means is to think about long standing family money in MN and Lots of it. She was working directly with those families.)

While it seems impossible now; back then the bank didn’t even have a process for what should happen when an employee was called to Active Duty, just the normal Annual Training time stuff for Reservists. So she was quite literally the person they used to begin to develop a process for how to handle the situation going forward. I remember her saying how amazing HR, her Management team, and her co-workers were and how she was proud to work for a company that would work with her during this time.   Not that it wasn’t without its fear and concerns or bumps in the road but on the whole they were supportive in all the ways they could be, knowing this was totally new territory for them.

Fast forward a number of years to 2011, that same role model in my life, my Step-Mom (the one holding the plaque at her retirement and her (second from the left) with U.S. Bank’s CEO accepting the Freedom award in 2013), ends up being selected to serve on the very first Proud to Serve Committee for what’s now known as U.S. Bank.

My, oh my, how so much has changed since she was the first person called to Active Duty and a female at that.  She would again be the one helping to create policy and process for those who serve and their families.

DJ Retirement Freedom Award.png

I’m so proud to work for the same company and see all the amazing things we do in support of those who serve.  I also am especially pleased to see the U.S. Bank Women Business Resource Group collaborating with the Proud to Serve BRG hosting this special event as it highlights many of the advances of women in service to our nation in the last few years. Those changes will be highlighted by the special guest speaker Colonel Jenny Holbert, USMC. Col. Holbert will share her perspective on diversity and leadership. The U.S. now has women in leadership on the front lines and as the first of the elite Navy Seals and many of the ceilings are being shattered.  It’s just amazing to me that in my lifetime we’ve come so very far!

Yet the road has not ended and there are many more miles to go in so many areas.

USB Female Service Pictures

So, if you are at all like me and are looking for a way to give back on Memorial Day that doesn’t just mean a picnic with family or a day off from work.

I offer you two options to get involved and share your thanks for those who serve.

First take a look at Flags for Fort Snelling in the long proud tradition of Decoration Day and join me in planting flags early Memorial Day morning. Second, if you are looking for a regular volunteer gig; please consider taking a look at AFSC and helping service men and women past and present as they travel thru MSP with a smile and quiet place to rest.

Flags for Fort Snelling AFSC Logo.png

Finally, to any and all of you who have served, are serving or are support of those who make up the less than 1% of the nation that signs up to serve, you have my utmost and deepest thanks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on this topic so please feel free to build on this blog and share.

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Cough It Up! Overdue VA Claims Need to Get Paid

Exercising Your Public Voice- Post 4

It’s no small feat to deploy an army. Or to strategize and plan a battle, for that matter. The United States has a solid 237 year military history. We have one of the most powerful military forces in the world. So why can’t we figure out how to take care of our veterans properly? Because it hasn’t been a priority, that’s why.

And this needs to change.

The photo at the top of the page shows a room containing VA claims. Notice all the paper. Despite the fact that we can drop into a country and have fully functional, effective computer networks setup within 48 hours, 97% of VA claims are paper-based and an estimated 900,000 vets are waiting to start their lives anew and take advantage of the benefits they were promised to do so.

We made a contract with these veterans. As a country. They have fulfilled their part, but with an average claim currently taking 273 days to process, it can hardly be said that we have fulfilled our end of the deal. Re-assimilation back into society involves these benefits. Getting a loan, receiving an education, healthcare and mental health care are all essential.

Funding the VA has to be a priority, even if it means cutting our defense budget to accommodate these needs.

Use your democracy. Make your voice heard:

Let them know that we Americans support our vets.
Let them know that the current situation is unacceptable.
Let them know that may not be re-elected
if they don’t take immediate action.

For information, see Newshour’s report: 
Returning Veterans Face Huge Backlog, Disorganization in Fight for Benefits