RI Veterans: Did you know? 29 July 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, 

                             Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Free Membership for Traveling Discounts for Veterans

Did you know as a veteran, veteran’s spouse or member of the Armed Forces you have access to numerous travel websites that could save you up to 40-60% on hotels, car rentals, flights, cruises, etc.?  

Many veterans don’t know about benefits he or she are entitled to. Benefits that could save hundredths of dollars in travel expenses. 

Here’s a few travel benefits that offer almost immediately access to use after an online verification that happens in minutes:

1.     American Forces Travel Privileges Extended to Eligible Veterans

A recent US Department release on July 16, 2021, extended American Forces Travel privileges to all eligible veterans. This change allows all honorably discharged veterans online access to the American Forces Travel (AFT) website –

On average, customers save 35-40% compared to commercial travel pricing by using AFT. This includes discounted rates on hotels (up to 60%), airfare, rental cars, vacation packages, event tickets, and cruises.

AFT launched in 2019 as the only official joint service morale, welfare, and recreation leisure travel website exclusively for DOD patrons. In addition to improving access to DOD’s MWR benefits, every booking on American Forces Travel generates revenue to support critical quality-of-life programs for service members and families.

Sixteen million veterans will now be able to access the American Forces Travel website, joining the 10 million active duty, Guard and Reserve service members, family members, DOD civilians, and other patrons who are already receiving the benefit,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy Patricia “Patty” Montes Barron. “We are committed to providing quality-of-life programs to our military community, which includes our honorably discharged veterans.”

We all look for ways to support our troops, by booking thru AFT generates revenue to support critical quality-of-life programs for service members and families. Simply put, a percentage of the bookings support our troops by providing funding for morale, welfare, and recreation activities for members of the armed forces and their families. 

VETTIP: Shop around the internet for the best deal for the travel need you have. Just recently I booked a flight to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Island and saved almost $25 by booking thru American Forces Travel; the flight was even cheaper than booking directly thru the airline website. Simply put, I saved $25 on a $250 flight, and a percentage of my booking would go to support programs for the troops and their families. 

How do I know if I am eligible or AFT?

After you complete the information required for your travel need (flights, rental car, cruise, etc.), a screen will appear to allow access to, which will require you to enter last 4 digits of social security, date of birth, and last name. Eligibility will be verified through DEERS. Verification happens in less than a minute. 

2.     Department of Defense Lodging

Over the years, this website has been one of my favorites to view in making travel decisions. Navigating thru this website you can start off by searching the state you are interested in traveling to. 

All Department of Defense Lodging Operations to include (Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy Gateway Inns & Suites and Navy Getaways) Leisure/Space available reservations may be limited and/or cancelled due to drawdown of services and reduction of operating hours in response to COVID-19. Select locations may take reservations based on local direction. Please call sites directly for the most up to date information.

The Navy Getaways provides exciting recreational “Getaway” experiences for Active Duty, Retirees, NAF or DoD civilians and sponsored guests. Navy Getaways are the ideal places to play, rest, relax, and recharge. From hiking, swimming, or simply unwinding, Navy Getaways caters to you and your family. 

Navy Getaway’s inventory include:

1.    Vacation rentals, cabins, townhomes, condos, bunkhouses and resort-style vacation rentals – a variety of styles to fit your needs! From rustic and simple, to sophisticated comfort. 

2.    RV Sites & Tent Sites: Sites feature BBQ areas, laundry, bathhouses, kid’s play areas, game rooms, community centers, and some even have a pool! 

VETTIP: Before booking, verify you have proper identification to access locations on bases.

Did you know the Department of Defense operates an RV Park in Rhode Island for all eligible veterans?

Carr Point RV Park is a Navy Park and consists of 6 Back-in RV slots on the water in Portsmouth, RI. All slots come with 30 and 50 amp electrical, water, trash removal from designated receptacles, and a picnic table. Please note that the nearest discharge location is Melville Pond Campground, approximately one mile away. Slots are adjacent to a large park and softball fields which are also pet friendly. Pavilions are offered for rent through the Chafee Fitness Center.

Did you know the Department of Defense, operates campgrounds throughout the United States to include Maine and Arlington, Virginia?

For example, selecting “Maine”, results will get you all MWR and Navy Getaways, which include a campground and cottages in Harbor Maine.  Select “Virginia” and you’ll find a fun adventurous, and relaxation campground and vacation rentals operated by the Navy.

For more information: 

All Department of Defense Lodging Operations to include (Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy Gateway Inns & Suites and Navy Getaways) Leisure/Space available reservations may be limited and/or cancelled due to drawdown of services and reduction of operating hours in response to COVID-19. Select locations may take reservations based on local direction. Please call sites directly for the most up to date information.

Once eligible veterans and members of armed forces educate themselves on travel benefits, they will understand how to take advantage of the benefits. 

Travel America and support our troops by booking thru the aforementioned websites!


July 31, 2021, Freedom Fest, Willimantic, Ct. The Eastern CT Veterans Community Center is proud to announce its FREEDOM FEST on Saturday, from 3:00-5:00 PM at Jillson Green and Shaboo Stage, Main Street, Willimantic. 

VETTIP: Nice car or motorcycle, less than an hour, ride from RI to CT, traveling Route 6. We stage in Willimantic is an awesome venue. The Italian American War Veterans provides services at the center and are the proud sponsor of numerous events—–support our Veterans, come on out to Freedom Fest 2021.

The main stage band is the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, with local legend, Billy Keane, singing their Americana rock and folk music. Gates open at 2:00 PM so bring your lawn chair or blanket and join us for lunch and a beer while relaxing and enjoying the band.

All proceeds from the concert help fund the Eastern CT Veterans Community Center, a safe and quality living space serving all veterans, active-duty military and their families. The Community Center provides a full range of services, information and family activities ranging from housing and employment for our homeless veterans, to Start Your Own Business classes for emerging entrepreneurs to ice cream socials, poker night, billiards and hiking and fishing trips. Please help us in our mission to enrich the lives of our veterans by joining in on the fun at the concert and enjoying the amazing music of the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow. Tickets are $20 per person in advance, $25 at the door.

For motorcycle enthusiasts we are also hosting the first annual FREEDOM RIDE. Register for the scenic motorcycle ride through Eastern CT from 10:00 AM-Noon at the Veterans Community Center get a tour of our new home and enjoy a continental breakfast. End your ride at the FREEDOM FEST concert, enjoy lunch and tickets to the concert. Tickets for the ride and concert are $35 per person, $50 with a rider. All tickets can be purchased online at or in person at the Veterans Community Center, 1320 Main Street, Suite 27, Willimantic. For more information, please contact the Chamber of Commerce at or 860-428-7739.

August 5, Thursday, 9-11am, RI Elder, 2021 2nd Annual Calling All Veterans. The event is live on Facebook and features opening remarks from Governor Dan McKee.  This is YOUR opportunity to hear from the experts about resources for Veterans of all eras, their families and the community! 

Friday, August 6th, 11AM, “Rhode Island National Guard Summer Reunion”, Quonset Officers’ Club, 200 Lieutenant James Brown Road, North Kingstown.  Point of contact is Bob Antonelli at 401.996.3764, or via email at  Cut-off date is Tuesday, August 3rd.   

August 14, 2021, 59th Verrazano Day Award, Quonset Oak Club Person of the Year Award will be Karen A. Santilli, President and CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island. The award was established in 1961 by the Department of Rhode Island American War Veterans and the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.  and the Department of Rhode Island, Italian- The Verrazzano Day Observance Committee, Inc. was incorporated by these two Italian-American organizations to honor the memory of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Florentine navigator who discovered Narragansett Bay in 1524 and who described in his report to King Francis I that the island which he discovered was like the “Isle of Rhodes.” From his report, history credits Verrazzano for having been indirectly responsible for naming the State of Rhode Island. The annual event honoring this great navigator also is held to honor an outstanding leader of the Rhode Island community. For Information regarding tickets, please contact, Mr. Ernest C. Ricci, CPA at 354-8720                  

September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci,, ITAM Office 1-(401 )677-9VET (9838)

To access Cianci’s past columns, go to:


John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.

1 Comment

  1. David Shwery on July 29, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    John, I am a disabled vet with an interest in refinancing my home. I read a lot of ads from mortgage companies but I don’t really see an advantage for vets.

    Is there a legitimate company I can trust to give me the best low interest no cost VA loan?