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The Military Children 2024 World Expo digital billboard in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (staff photo by Savannah Taffe)

The Military Children World Expo 2024 is coming to Pentagon City to honor and celebrate the resilience of military children.

The event — scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at the Pentagon City mall (1100 S. Hayes Street) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — is free to the public and promises a lineup of family-friendly activities, such as face painting, art and sculpture exhibitions, musical performances, contests, workshops and scavenger hunts, per the expo’s website.

The theme of the event, hosted by the D.C.-based nonprofit Military Six Children’s Foundation, is “Resilience — The Unstoppable Power,” a reference to the challenges faced by children of military members.

The expo’s website highlights the roughly 1.7 million military children across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly half of these children are dependents of active-duty service members, with the remainder being children of guard or reserve units. Children of veterans or individuals over 18 are not included in the figure.

Notably, about a third of military children are under five.

“The Expo on April 27 will be a testament to their shared experiences and a celebration of their collective identity. It’s a place where stories of courage and adaptation are shared, where every handshake and smile is a testament to their shared journey,” per the website.

The United States Marine Band, which performs for the President and Marine Corps, will perform on the main stage starting at 1 p.m., followed by a panel discussion of advocates with the military community at 2 p.m.

Additionally, the expo will function as a resource for military families, offering workshops focused on caregiving and advocating for their children during transitions to new schools, among others.

Beyond spotlighting the unique challenges military children face, the expo also celebrates National Military Caregivers month and Military Appreciation month, both recognized in May.

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American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington (via Google Maps)

A local nonprofit has formed a new partnership to help reduce military spouse unemployment.

The American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), a nonprofit military financial solutions provider headquartered at Arlington’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, is collaborating with the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) to bring the military spouse unemployment rate down by connecting spouses with one of the 700 MSEP employers.

“It’s very challenging for military spouses to get jobs and then retain those jobs, especially because their spouses, the military member, moves so frequently,” AAFMAA President Michael Meese told ARLnow.

The partnership is setting its sights on addressing the 21% military spouse unemployment rate, a figure that hasn’t budged since 2015.

As a veteran with 32 years of service, Meese understands the struggle of military spouses finding and keeping jobs, sharing with ARLnow that he and his wife relocated 17 times during his career.

“My wife worked during parts of that time but if you’re only going to be there for two or three years, it’s kind of hard to get a job,” he said.

Meese strives to make sure deployment is not an issue for spouses hired at AAFMAA. He said he currently has a military spouse working for the nonprofit while living in Poland. The spouse started off working onsite, then her husband was deployed to Poland and now her job is remote.

“When we do have military spouses hired we will keep them with us even after they leave here,” said Meese.

Part of the nonprofit’s strategy, Meese notes, is to make sure families are kept in the loop about available and upcoming job openings. Spouses will have the choice connect with MSEP partners about job openings or explore opportunities within AAFMAA.

The nonprofit sees the hiring of military spouses as providing added value because of their insight into military life, says Meese.

“They understand the challenges when somebody says my husband is deployed, they know exactly what that means,” he said.

A press release about the partnership is below.

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Military Child of the Year Winners for 2024 (via Operation Homefront/Facebook)

A senior at Washington-Liberty High School has been awarded as a “2024 Military Child of the Year.”

Taylor Walsh, the daughter of a Space Force colonel and an Air Force veteran, has been recognized for her resiliency. Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that supports military families, said that despite the frequent deployments, family separations and other hardships of being in a military family, Walsh continues to excel.

As her parents serve the country, Walsh serves her community. She has logged 830 volunteer hours in the past 12 months and provided mentorship for over 40 freshmen students.

Walsh is also involved in several extracurricular activities and clubs such as softball, the Arlington Children’s Chorus and the Student Council Association. As a member of this association, she planned and encouraged some 2,500 students to participate in community outreach programs such as blood and food drives.

Walsh said she is inspired by her mother.

“The most meaningful memory I have from that day was when my mother stood front and center on the field and was honored for her service,” said Walsh. “I am so incredibly proud of my mom and all her accomplishments.”

Now, Walsh is receiving recognition for her own accomplishments and service. Next month, Walsh and the other recipients will be celebrated during the “Month of the Military Child.” They will receive a $10,000 reward, a laptop and other gifts at the 2024 gala in D.C.

The award recognizes young people between the ages of 13 and 18 for their scholarship, leadership, volunteerism and other services that benefit their communities.

Chosen recipients each represent a branch of the U.S. armed forces: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and — in the case of Walsh — Space Force.

Image via Operation Homefront/Facebook

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Michelle Logan and Jenna Burnett’s dogs watch over their Pride flag from the second floor of their home in Penrose (courtesy of Michelle Logan)

Michelle Logan and her partner Jenna Burnett celebrated their moving in together and the end of Pride month last July by displaying a rainbow flag in front of their house.

But two months later, while looking out the window of their Penrose home one morning, the couple noticed the flag had vanished. All that remained was a mangled flag pole.

Upon reviewing footage from their Ring camera, the couple observed a man dressed in a cowboy hat forcefully remove the flag from its resting place around 2:35 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2023. He can then be seen fleeing with two other people on foot, heading north along S. Courthouse Road.

After that night, the couple would have their Pride flag stolen from their porch four more times. Logan has posted four of the five incidents to the social media site X, formerly Twitter, and provided regular updates on Reddit.

“To us, this isn’t just about a flag being stolen. Each time this happens is really violating and scary,” Logan told ARLnow in an email. “It’s a reminder that a lot of work still needs to be done for LGBTQ+ communities to feel comfortable and supported being their full selves, and loving who they want to love.”

Although the footage didn’t provide a clear view of the culprit, Logan and Burnett said they filed a police report.

In defiance of the vandal, the couple purchased a new flag pole, and several friends, along with the Arlington-based community organization The Kindness Activist, donated flags.

Two weeks later, they again faced the theft of their Pride flag by a man in a cowboy hat. This time, in addition to reporting the incident to Arlington County police, Logan and Burnett shared the footage on Nextdoor, hoping the community could help identify the individual.

“Our friend even made a funny ‘Have you seen this anti-LGBTQ+ cowboy?’ flag and we hung it up to make light of the situation,” Logan said.

A flag mocking the cowboy hat-wearing Pride flag thief (courtesy of Michelle Logan)

After a third flag was stolen on Dec. 16, Logan and Burnett appeared on WUSA9 to raise awareness about the multiple incidents. They pledged to donate $100 to the Trevor Project, an international suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth, for each previous and subsequent theft of their flag, for a total of $300.

“We then put another flag up because we didn’t want to let him stop us from being ourselves and sharing who we are,” Logan said.

The fourth theft took place last Sunday, Jan. 21, at 2:14 a.m. This time, the thief’s face was captured on camera but it is unclear whether this individual was the same person seen wearing a cowboy hat during the initial two thefts.

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Spencer Collart (photo via U.S. Marine Corps)

A 21-year-old man from Arlington was among three Marines killed in Australia over the weekend.

Cpl. Spencer Collart died after the MV-22B Osprey aircraft he was on crashed and caught fire on Melville Island, off the coast of Australia’s Northern Territory. It happened during a military training exercise involving forces from the United States, Australia, the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia, news outlets reported.

Twenty Marines survived the crash, though three remained hospitalized as of Monday.

“The cause of the crash remains under investigation,” the Marine Corps said today in a press release that identified those killed, including Collart, the Osprey’s crew chief; pilot Capt. Eleanor LeBeau; and executive officer Maj. Tobin Lewis.

Collart “enlisted in the Marine Corps on October 26, 2020, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal on February 1, 2023,” according to the press release. “He served in Pensacola, FL, and Jacksonville, NC, before arriving at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, HI. Cpl Collart, an MV-22B crew chief, received the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.”

On Sunday night, President Biden offered his condolences to the families of the Marines killed.

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Blue Angels/Thunderbirds flyover in 2020 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Get ready for some loud roars overhead tomorrow.

A pair of military flyovers are planned Wednesday morning and later that night, according to AlertDC.

The first appears to be a standard-issue flyover of Arlington National Cemetery.

“The Naval Air Force Atlantic will conduct a flyover of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, at approximately 11:10 AM,” said AlertDC.

The second is for the Major League Soccer All-Star Game, being across the river at Audi Field

“The US Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) will conduct a flyover in the National Capital Region over Audi Field, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, at 8:30PM,” AlertDC said.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza.

Cybersecurity company Shift5 is experiencing rapid growth as it develops technology to safeguard the world’s military fleets, plane and train systems.

The Rosslyn-based startup has been steadily raising money, including $33 million last month, adding to $50 million raised last year. Shift5 has ridden this wave of investor interest, using it to expand its office space, add employees and, most recently, launch a new program to predict and avoid failures in military, rail and aviation technology.

“This [funding] has allowed us to invest in not just our employees, but also the greater Arlington community,” Shift5 CEO Josh Lospinoso told ARLnow. “Our expanding presence in Arlington enables us to continue driving the pace of technology outside the Silicon Valley while keeping an active pulse on the decisions being made at the Pentagon to improve and advance critical infrastructure.”

Lospinoso says Shift5 nabbed the extra $33 million because investors are interested in its stability and connections.

Shift5 CEO Josh Lospinoso (via Shift5)

“We’ve seen tremendous benefit from strategic investor involvement and wanted to expand their participation. Shift5 has eliminated bottom-line risk, found strategic points of connection with other industry leaders and brought them into our Series B funding,” Lospinoso said.

The most recent fundraising round, led by Moore Ventures with contributions from JetBlue Ventures, Booz Allen Ventures and Teamworthy Ventures, brings its total Series B fundraising to $83 million.

Within weeks of the funding news, the company had another announcement: a new program that will use artificial intelligence to improve maintenance and the operational intelligence services Shift5 provides, a spokeswoman said.

“Fleets generate enormous amounts of data that can be game-changing for how they’re maintained and secured, but most operators only have access to a small fraction of this data,” a press release said. “Shift5’s module will unlock this data, arming operators with the insights and context needed to secure their assets, improve performance and prevent system failures.”

While the company has racked up investors, in the last year it has also more than doubled its annual recurring revenue and number of customers representing the military and private companies.

Lospinoso said the additional $33 million will go toward making sure the company can meet the needs of its growing customer base.

“It will help us double down on our mission to unlock onboard data and increase observability for rail, aviation and military systems operators,” he said. “More specifically, as customer demand increases this extension funding will provide Shift5 additional runway to innovate for our customers and invest in our business and team.”

Shift5 founders deploy their product on a train during COVID-19 (courtesy of Shift5)
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An American Legion post in Virginia Square has a new mural prominently displaying three young Legion representatives and encouraging more to join.

The 22-by-15-foot mural can be found at the American Legion Post 139 at 3445 Washington Blvd, which will soon re-open to members within a new affordable apartment building, Terwilliger Place, which replaced the former post building. It is also less than a mile from another muraled building, American Legion Post 85.

Arlington resident, Navy reservist and Legion member Richard Rodriguez Jr. is displayed on the far left side of the mural. He told ARLnow the piece is intended to grab the attention of younger community members and encourage those who are currently enlisted or recent veterans to join the American Legion.

“Legions are looked at as a resource for older people, so the purpose behind this mural was to target younger people and pay tribute to the sacrifices that they have also made,” he said. “Younger members are always welcomed and encouraged to be in this organization.”

The idea for the mural came about because his father, Richard Rodriguez Sr., also an Arlington resident, took an art class.

Patrick Sargent, who owns the art business Sargent-Thamm Printmakers and shares a studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, told ARLnow that he met Rodriguez Sr. while teaching an art class at George Mason University. A veteran himself, Sargent used the GI Bill to get art degrees needed to teach.

“Richard took a couple of classes of mine, including an advanced printmaking class, which is where the mural idea came from,” Sargent said. “That was about a year and a half ago. We came up with designs, we had a meeting with the [county], who approved our initial designs and then after some minor changes we began painting what ended up on the wall.”

Sargent told ARLnow that after a few finishing touches, the mural in acrylic paint should be done in about a week.

The mural also pays tribute to the military monuments in Arlington, the county’s proximity to D.C., and the influence that proximity has had on the Legion.

“Behind the three main subjects are different memorials in the area in black. The D.C. skyline is also included, as Arlington and the Legion act as a gateway to the nation’s capital,” Sargent said.

Sargent and Rodriguez began painting the mural with the help of their children and neighbors at first, but as the piece began to expand Sargent told ARLnow that community volunteers and residents of the building helped with the painting of the mural.

“It went from this blank wall to this thing the community gathered around,” Sargent said.

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D.C. skyline view from the rooftop of the Bartlett in Pentagon City (staff photo)

The prospect of a nuclear bomb going off in the D.C. area is something that will hopefully remain in the realm of fiction.

Should the proverbial sum of all fears play out, however, equipment in Arlington will help the federal government manage the response.

A broad overview of the system — installed on county-owned property since 2016 — is included in an item on the Arlington County Board’s meeting agenda for this coming Saturday.

Details are not provided, and are said to be exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act, but a letter from an Air Force official included in a Board report says the system will aid in the investigation and the emergency response after any such explosion.

This system is designed to characterize nuclear explosions in urban environments. In the event of an intentional detonation such as a terrorist attack, information generated by the system is critical for the Federal Government’s efforts to determine who was responsible for and how to respond to the event. The information will be used to support law enforcement prosecution efforts and will be shared with the consequence management community as applicable (e.g. to contribute to damage assessments). However, the full disclosure of the location of our equipment, and information regarding its components and operations, would jeopardize the ability for the system to provide valuable information in a timely fashion to the law enforcement and consequence management communities, by giving insight into the system’s design and coverage, and possibly how to defeat the system.

Therefore, we request that our work with Arlington County on this project, including the Agreement and supporting documentation, be exempted from public disclosure under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act per Va. Code Section 2-2.3705.2, subsection 14 (plans and information to prevent or respond to terrorist activity or cyber-attacks, the disclosure of which would jeopardize the safety of any person). Supporting documentation includes, but is not limited to: program descriptions, what equipment is sited on Arlington County property and where, and details about the equipment (e.g. function, operations, engineering drawings).

The item is on the Board’s agenda this weekend because management of the system is being transferred from the Fort Belvoir-based Defense Threat Reduction Agency to the Florida-based Air Force Technical Applications Center.

Both military agencies have responsibilities related to nuclear deterrence and monitoring.

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Blue Angels/Thunderbirds flyover in 2020 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Don’t be alarmed if the sky over Arlington fills with low-flying aircraft and smoke tomorrow morning.

Arlington National Cemetery says residents can expect U.S. Air Force aircraft performing “low-level aerial demonstrations, which will produce smoke and noise.” The flyover will take place around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Military aircraft frequently fly over the area as part of funerals at the cemetery. The flyovers are almost always loud and often unannounced, though the cemetery does provide a heads up on some — as in this case — via social media.

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Hundreds of K-5 students at Oakridge Elementary School packed 200 gift boxes to seamen and Marines serving on the USS Arlington.

The boxes sent to those aboard the 684-foot-long amphibious transport ship, named after Arlington County in memory of those who lost their lives here on 9/11, included handwritten cards as well as candy, chips, crackers, chewing gum, toothbrushes, challenge coins, ear plugs and other items.

It’s part of an effort to ensure an ongoing relationship between the men and women who serve on the USS Arlington and the residents of the county for which it is named.

Spearheading that effort is the USS Arlington Community Alliance, headed by retired Arlington County Police Department captain Kevin Reardon, who is president, and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), who is vice president.

Reardon, who happened to know Lynne Wright, the Oakridge principal, brought to her the idea of the gift packages.

“It’s the little things that keep us in contact with the ship,” says Reardon. “And this is one of those things.”

Donated goods came from Arlington-based firms, including Nestlé (200 bags of candy), and were sorted and packed by students at the end of the school year and transported to the ship.

Running their hands through hundreds of pounds of temptation must have been a challenge for the children, right? Oh, you’d be wrong.

“The students have been practicing the intentionality of being kind to each other and members of our community,” Wright says. “Creating care packages for individuals on the USS Arlington was a natural extension of being kind to others.”

“We have been fortunate to have partnered with the USS Arlington for several years,” she adds. “Additionally, we have many military families in our Oakridge community, and this year we became a [Virginia Department of Education] Purple Star-designated school and have focused on better serving the military-connected child.”

Honoring Arlington goes both ways. Reardon says the ship’s main passageway, traditionally called Broadway, is named Columbia Pike. Arlington street signs and Pentagon shapes abound.

“The sailors are constantly reminded of why the ship was named ‘Arlington,'” he says. Those same sailors often visit Oakridge Elementary when they are in the area for the annual 9/11 memorial 5K race — which is now in its 20th year.

Arlington is currently renovating the Bozman Government Center at Courthouse and the new lobby of county government headquarters, when it opens, will have an exhibit of USS Arlington artifacts and video displays, as well as a sizable model of the ship.

Reardon, for one, will be happy when the pandemic-delayed renovations are complete.

“There are not too many people with a six-and-half-foot ship model sitting in their parking spot in their garage,” he says with a laugh.

And this is not the last those aboard the Arlington will hear from Oakridge kids.

“Generously building care packages for the USS Arlington was an outstanding opportunity to bring everyone together through kindness and care for our community,” Principal Wright says. “When school reopens, I know the school community will be eager to build more care packages for the USS Arlington.”

The $1.6 billion vessel, commissioned in 2013, is one of three named for locations where citizens were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, along with the USS New York and the USS Somerset.

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