Michael G. Sheppard


Michael G. Sheppard

The Meaning Behind the Thirteen Folds of the American Flag

The American flag embodies the values and core beliefs that the United States was founded on. These cherished values are defended by the brave men and women of the Armed Services, who give some or all of their lives in service to their country. The flag is furnished to a departed veteran’s family in gratitude and as a tribute of respect.

Officially, there is no ceremony for the folding of the American flag; the ceremonial thirteen folds are made as a patriotic gesture of gratitude and in remembrance of the veteran who has passed on. While there is no official flag folding ceremony script either, many traditions have been passed down that have become “unofficially official” and imbue each of the folds with a meaning.

The First Fold: is made as a representation of life.

The Second Fold: is made as a symbol of our belief in life everlasting.

The Third Fold: is made in remembrance of the sacrifice of the veteran, who gave a portion of his life to defend the United States.

The Fourth Fold: is a symbol of our weak and imperfect nature, and our need to turn to God for His divine guidance — in times of peace and in times of war.

The Fifth Fold: is made in tribute to the United States of America.

The Sixth Fold: is our pledge of allegiance to our flag and country.

The Seventh Fold: is made in tribute to all of our Armed Service members and to honor their efforts to protect and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Eighth Fold: is made in tribute and honor of the veteran’s mother.

The Ninth Fold: is made in honor of womanhood, whose love and loyalty has shaped the characters of the men and women who serve the United States.

The Tenth Fold: is made in tribute and honor of the veteran’s father.

The Eleventh Fold: is made as a symbol for members of the Jewish faith and brings to mind the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Twelfth Fold: is made as a symbol for members of Christian faiths brings to mind God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Thirteenth Fold: is made with the stars pointing upwards to remind us “In God We Trust”.

from Mike Sheppard

Walgreens Joins Forces With the VA

In a thoughtful and well-considered effort to remain competitive in the pharmacy game, retailer Walgreens has joined forces with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide servicemen and -women with more comprehensive care. The alliance dubbed the “VA-Walgreens Exchange,” will allow the VA doctors to view and manage their patients’ prescriptions when the orders are filled at Walgreens. This will help the physicians when it comes to tracking medical history and immunization records, thereby streamlining the process and making life easier for the veterans, as well as the doctors and pharmacists.

While the partnership serves to benefit veterans, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations Richard Ashworth hopes that it might be useful in stemming the tide of the opioid crisis as well. It’s essential for patients to receive the care that they need, and this includes safe and reliable access to prescription drugs; however, it’s just as important to track the dosages and ensure that the proper protocol is being followed. The system could also be useful in alleviating any potentially dangerous drug interactions.

According to sources at the VA, this alliance is not the department’s first collaboration with Walgreens. For the past five years, the pharmacy department has offered free flu shots to veterans, as well as a program designed to educate the population on the importance of timely vaccination. What the VA-Walgreens Exchange will do is free up valuable time, as the physicians will now have access to the prescription information without having to ask the patient about it during the examination. As anyone in the medical profession can attest, more time translates into more comprehensive patient care, and therefore better health overall.

With online giant Amazon’s recent acquisition of PillPack, a web-based pharmacy, stores like CVS and Walgreens are struggling to remain competitive. More and more consumers are turning to the Internet to serve an increasing variety of needs, which is enough to make any brick-and-mortar company feel the heat. Fortunately, the human connection is something that will always remain crucial when it comes to health care. That’s something that all of the competitors should bear in mind as they look into the future. With the VA-Walgreens Exchange, the retailer is protecting its own interests while working to provide a vital service to the nation’s veterans.

from Mike Sheppard

Veteran Groups Divide Over Stricter Transfer Rules For GI Bill

There is currently a rift among two of the largest Veteran’s Advocacy groups in the United States over proposed changes to the GI Bill which would put a cap on the time frame through which the family members of service men and women could take advantage of funds earmarked specifically for GI Bill spending. While there was previously no cap, the new rule would only allow service members who have served less than a total of 16 years to take advantage of the financial assistance. So what exactly is the GI Bill and who is arguing for and against this rule change?

  • What Is The GI Bill?
  • What Do The Two Sides Think About The New Rules?
  • What Portion Of The GI Bill Is Used For Service Family Members?

What Is The GI Bill?

The term GI-Bill actually refers to many different programs designed to help service members and their families continue their education at either a reduced or no cost at all. The specific GI Bill in question here is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This Bill provides up to 100% of the total cost of education for those who have served more than 90 days of active duty after the horrendous terrorist attack that occurred on September 11th, 2001.

What Do The Two Sides Think About The New Rules?

The two sides arguing for and against the proposed rules change are the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) and The American Legion. The American Legion argues that this is a benefit earned by all service members regardless of how long they have served. The VFW, on the other hand, states that the GI Bill’s transferable nature was always designed as a type of retention tool instead of a true benefit guaranteed to all service members.

What Portion Of The GI Bill Is Used For Service Family Members?

Currently, the GI Bill funds roughly twelve billion dollars in education expenses each year. Of this twelve billion dollars, roughly $1.8 billion was used to fund the educations of service member’s families. This equates to roughly fifteen percent of this large total. While the future of this proposed change to the rules is uncertain, it is certain that it will have a lasting impact on thousands of families across the United States regardless of the final ruling.

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from Mike Sheppard

Suicide Prevention Remains A Top Priority Of The V.A.

Suicide prevention has become the Department of Veterans Affairs’ top priority. All former service members should have a safe place they can turn to if they are having a mental health crisis. This could mean urgent care at a Vet Center, VA emergency department, or the Veterans Crisis Line. Every suicide is a tragedy and is a public health epidemic in America. The suicide rate among adults has increased by 25% and is up over 30% among veterans. The VA is determined to provide lifesaving support and do everything they can to fix this crisis.

When veterans are put in contact with the right resources, it can help save their lives. Only six in every 20 veterans who commit suicide had received health care from the VA. It is crucial that more work is done to get our veterans the services and care they desperately need. The VA is the biggest provider of medical education in the U.S. They work with healthcare professionals and medical schools to help reduce suicide. By raising awareness of suicide prevention resources and tools, they can identify veterans at risk.

There are several misconceptions about Veterans and PTSD. After a traumatic event, trouble sleeping, unsettling memories, and increased jumpiness are extremely common. Without proper therapy and medication, these reactions won’t go away and worsen. Veterans are at a higher risk of PTSD due to being in combat situations, or military sexual trauma. Effective this year, all VHA medical centers are equipped to provide emergency stabilization care for former service members. This means they can receive mental health care for 90 days that includes residential, outpatient, or inpatient care. If they deem the health condition is related to an injury during service, they will be eligible for ongoing health coverage.

If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with PTSD or a mental health condition, take action fast. If you are currently getting treatment, the VA has self-help tools to help you manage stress. You can connect with them on social media to stay up-to-date on treatment information or ask questions. The VA has email publications you can subscribe to including the Clinician’s Trauma Update, the PTSD Monthly Update, and the PTSD Research Quarterly which are free to download. Volunteers can join the PTSD Awareness campaign and help organize events that share information about PTSD.

from Mike Sheppard

Bonsai Finance’s Scholarship Aids Veterans and Dependents

To lighten the burden of college costs, Bonsai Finance, a veteran-owned finance company, offers monetary scholarships to people presently or formerly in the armed forces, as well as their dependents. The goal of this award is to acknowledge those who have served the country, along with the sacrifices made by the military families by providing them the opportunity to go to college. Applicants who win this scholarship receive $2,500 for educational expenses, an amount that Bonsai Finance hopes may be enough to allow a student the opportunity to attend college.

Those who apply for the Bonsai Finance Veteran’s Scholarship are required to be citizens of the United States and to be high school seniors or graduates. They must be active members or veterans of the U.S. Military or a direct dependent of a veteran or active member of U.S. Military service. They may also already be enrolled at an accredited college, vocational or technical school, but they must not hold a bachelor’s degree prior to their application for the scholarship. There will be no discrimination against applicants for their national origin, race, gender, sexual preference or any other condition.

Along with meeting the requirements stated previously, applicants for the scholarship must submit a short essay written in response to questions posed by Bonsai Finance. This essay is essential because the decision to award the monetary scholarship to a qualified applicant is made entirely on the content of his or her essay and does not require a certain grade point average as do some scholarships. Also in contrast to other such awards, financial status is not a determiner of eligibility since Bonsai Finance wishes to give all veterans and their dependents the opportunity for the scholarship because of their service to the country. The only provision of the acceptance of the award is that the winner of the scholarship must grant Bonsai Finance permission to use the content of the essay in any media of its choosing.

Bonsai Finance is a veteran-owned company that provides its customers resources for building their financial credit. This finance company, significantly named after the Bonsai tree which requires time and patience for its shaping, provides customers the careful planning that results in successful money management. Also, the company’s website provides a Learning Center that addresses commonly-asked questions on financial matters.

from Mike Sheppard

Lincoln County High School Junior Wins Constitution Bee


The state of Tennessee has a new Constitution Bee champion. Cooper Moran is this year’s winner of the Spring 2018 Tennessee Star Constitution Bee, sponsored by the Polk Foundation. As the individual winner, the Lincoln City High School junior received a $3,000 Andrew Woodfin Miller Foundation Scholarship, provided by generous donations to the Polk Foundation. The scholarship was presented to Moran by the master of ceremonies Michael Patrick Leahy. In addition to being CEO of The Tennessee Star, Leahy is also its Editor-in-chief.


Moran also won a trip for two to Washington, D.C. Moran said that his mother will be his guest and that he plans to attend a series of events in the nation’s capital. The trip will be of special interest to Moran, who hopes to study political science at Vanderbilt University with an intent to become a lawyer.


The Constitution Bee was held at the Williamson County Administrative Complex, bringing students together from all over the region to compete. The contestants were able to sit in the same chairs used by the Williamson County Commissioners. The competition got off to a patriotic start as one of the judges, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel David Garcia, led the group in the Pledge of the Allegiance. Twelve seniors, four juniors, and one sophomore participated in the event. The youngest competitor was sophomore William Patterson, representing Columbia Central High School.


The competition featured a unique mix of multiple choice and true or false questions, an opening Preamble Challenge requiring contestants to deliver the beginning of the U.S. Constitution in a dramatic fashion, as well as a climatic essay round Although the competition began with 17 students, only eight made it to the essay round of the event. During the essay round, students were allowed 60 seconds to formulate their response to the question before presenting their answer to the panel of judges.


By the time the last round began, there were only three participants remaining in the tense competition. Aryan Burns, also from Lincoln High School, finished in second place, while Mt. Juliet senior Amanda Nolan finished in third place. Finishing her last year, Nolan plans to attend Vanderbilt University this fall, studying pre-med and political science. Burns, a junior, hopes to attend the University of Tennessee and study biology.



from Mike Sheppard

The VA Mission Act: What It Means For Veterans

In recent news, the VA Mission Act of 2018 has been signed into law. There have been several questions surrounding this law that should be addressed. To understand what the law will do and how it will impact others, it is important to understand what the VA Mission Act is. On June 6th, 2018, President Trump signed the act into law. According to, the new law is “designed to greatly improve veteran access to VA healthcare… The VA Mission Act addresses in-network and non-VA healthcare issues, veterans’ homes, access to walk-in VA care, prescription drug procedures, and much more.”


To know what impact this law has, one must explore the multiple components of the text and each one’s intended purpose. The Act is broken down into five parts:


  • Title I – the Caring For Our Veterans Act of 2018
  • Title II – the VA Asset and Infrastructure (AIR) Review Act
  • Title III – Improvements to Recruitment of Health Care Professionals
  • Title IV – Health Care in Underserved Areas
  • Title V – Other Matters


There are sixty-three sections under this first title and they all focus on the health care that veterans have access to. Originally, veterans would have to wait until a VA health care provider would be available and drive to the location to receive care. This first title aims to remove those limitations by having the VA coordinate the veterans’ care and required to “ensure the scheduling of medical appointments in a timely manner,” “ensure continuity of care and services,” “coordinate coverage for veterans who utilize care outside of a region from where they reside,” and “ensure veterans do not experience a lapse in health care services.”


There are only eleven sections under the second title and their focus is to create and Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission in addition to providing a general plan to accomplish everything that Title I aims to complete. In section 202, the act outlines the President’s responsibilities for appointing and nominating individuals for this commission. Section 205 goes into detail about what the VA must be required to do, such as consult with governors and the heads of local governments “for the purpose of considering the continued availability of a road for public access through, into, or around a VHA facility that is to be modernized or realigned.”


Title III has six sections which mostly focuses on how the VA will recruit more health care professionals. Medical students that agree to work for the VA will receive scholarships and the amount of education debt that will be reduced has increased. Title IV is similar in the fact that there are only three sections and their goal is to provide the medical students with graduate educations and residencies along with addressing the problems with under-served facilities. Lastly, Title V contains eleven sections that are the small details to serve as an end cap for this act. This is where authorization of $5.2 billion will go to the Veterans Choice Fund and extend current eligibility restriction for certain recipients of a VA pension.


from Mike Sheppard

Memorial Day: Why is it Important?

We often forget why Memorial Day is so important. Sure, there are parties to attend and cookouts to be had. The real reason for the day gets left behind so often that we can sometimes find ourselves asking “what exactly is Memorial Day?” In the modern era, Memorial Day is celebrated as the unofficial first day of Summer with Labor Day marking the unofficial end of Summer. The beginning of Memorial Day, however, has a less jovial sentiment surrounding it.


Memorial Day used to be known as “Decoration Day” where the nation would decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers with flowers. This was done to remember those who gave their lives to defend their country. Decoration Day was inspired by the 500,000 deaths of soldiers in the Civil War. Traditionally, from 1868 to 1970, this day was observed on May 30th. It was then decided that Memorial Day would be observed on the fourth Monday of May.


In 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance act was passed pointing to ask Americans to take a moment in remembrance for those who died for their freedom. This is generally to occur at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day each year. Additionally, flags are quickly raised to full staff in the morning and slowly lowered to half-staff until noon. This is done as a sign of respect for fallen soldiers both past and present.


It’s essential that we observe Memorial Day because each year, thousands of American enlist in the military to serve and protect our freedoms. They are willing to risk their lives in order to ensure our continued access to these freedoms. Since the Civil War, nearly 700,000 American soldiers have lost their lives defending our nations and protecting our freedoms.


With Memorial Day approaching, make sure that you enjoy your holiday but do so in remembrance and with respect for those that we have lost. It’s because of those fallen soldiers that we owe our freedom to in order to have barbeques and parties. Take a moment on Memorial Day and remember those who have given their lives and respect those that are currently serving.

from Mike Sheppard

‘Constitutional’ Podcast Humanizes The Constitution

‘Constitutional’ Podcast Humanizes The Constitution | Michael G. SheppardThe Washington Post recently created a U.S. Constitution-focused podcast called ‘Constitutional,’ and its host is celebrated reporter Lillian Cunningham.

The insightful podcast does the incredible work of exploring the founding of the constitution and varied stories that help to explain how remarkable this documented truly is. Also, Cunningham is the big brain behind ‘Presidential,’ a pre-existing podcast that takes a closer look at the 44 presidents that took to the Oval ahead of the current president.

While it may seem that delving into the constitutional history may be boring subject matter, Cunningham proves that she has a knack for bringing life to the topic, proving a close examination, while engaging the perspectives of numerous individual who’ve challenged the law and rallied for change. Additionally, she monitors the evolution of law, all while putting a human spin on that information.

‘Constitutional’ followed the production of ‘Presidential,’ which was originally drafted as a standalone project. The series ‘Presidential’ was designed to educate the American public on the history of each American president. When that podcast ended, she received messages from handfuls of listeners who were eager to learn more about the state of the nation and the nation’s history. This led to her creating the follow-up podcast. According to Cunningham, “An exploration of the Constitution was one that kept coming up as a suggestion from listeners.”

The research into another government branch is valuable to audiences interested in the Constitution, amendments, and today’s tough political climate. The compelling and humanizing podcast hits on fair punishment, prohibition, ancestry, and so much more. The very real stories of race, legacy, and reconstruction exist behind the constitution, and Cunningham brings attention to the power of the amendments.

According to Cunningham, there’s a new series in the works. While she’s poised to investigate the history of the Congress, she still hasn’t settled on a meaningful project.
Tune into Constitutional on The Washington Post’s website, and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, RadioPublic, and Stitcher.

from Mike Sheppard

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