EOD Warrior Foundation Receives $10,000 American-Made Hero Donation

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NICEVILLE, Florida – (June 22, 2017) – The EOD Warrior Foundation has received a $10,000 donation from Evan Williams® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The donation is on behalf of Adam Popp (pictured left), one of six military veterans selected to receive the Evan Williams American-Made Heroes award. Chosen from thousands of candidates, he and five other military heroes will be individually featured on nearly 1 million special edition Evan Williams Bourbon bottles across the country this summer.

“We are honored to be Adam’s charity of choice, and to be receiving this generous donation from Evan Williams,” explains Nicole Motsek, executive director of the EOD Warrior Foundation. “This donation will make a tremendous impact on deserving EOD warriors like Adam and their families.”

Evan Williams asked for people to nominate the military hero in their life. The company read over several thousand of the nominations, conducted interviews, and narrowed their selection down to six military veterans. Those six chosen, who included Adam Popp, were picked for all they have done to give back to their country and their continued selfless commitment to better their communities today.

Popp, who is a board member for the EOD Warrior Foundation, was nominated by his mother, Luanne Maguire. He is a retired Air Force EOD warrior who served 12 years as part of an EOD team, where he disarmed deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In 2007, he was severely injured in an IED blast that led to a leg amputation and was medically retired from the military.

Since that time, he has continued to demonstrate remarkable personal growth, not allowing the amputation to hold him back. Popp has been active in his community, always helping others providing support to fellow veterans. He has also personally excelled in physical fitness, after his leg amputation. He runs ultras and marathons, competes in triathlons, SCUBA dives, and many other activities. Serving on the board of the EOD Warrior Foundation, he has also made it his personal mission to serve EOD warriors and their families, by helping to ensure they receive healing treatments, financial assistance, or educational scholarships, which are all things the organization provides.

“Giving back and assisting other veterans is something I’m honored to do,” says Popp. “Being selected as an American-Made Hero is also a wonderful honor and I am grateful that this honor, will also help EOD warriors in need. What a great opportunity Evan Williams provides and gives back to our nation’s heroes.”

The six veterans selected as American-Made Heroes will be featured on nearly 1 million bourbon bottles this summer, which will be available across the country. The red, white, and blue special edition bottles will feature the hero’s name, rank, and their story. An extended version of each of their stories and pictures can be found online at: american-madeheroes.com/our-heroes.php.

“After the initial success in 2016 of sharing the stories of these American heroes with our customers, we knew it was important to carry the program forward to honor and celebrate our veterans,” said Chris Ratterman, Evan Williams Bourbon brand manager. “The American-Made Heroes program encompasses the spirit of Evan Williams’ American heritage and those who protect the American spirit day in and day out. We are honored to provide an avenue to tell their story.”

The EOD Warrior Foundation is an organization that helps the families of the 7,000 people in our military who are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, and perform bomb disposal duties. The EOD Warrior Foundation helps this elite group by providing financial relief, therapeutic healing retreats, scholarships, care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. and more. Their work is supported by private donations and the generosity of businesses and individuals that host events to raise funds on their behalf.  To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

About EOD Warrior Foundation
The EOD Warrior Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the EOD family by providing financial relief, scholarship opportunities, physical, social, and emotional support.  Specific programs include scholarships, therapeutic healing retreats and care for the EOD Memorial Wall located at Eglin AFB, Fla. To learn more about the EOD Warrior Foundation, or see their fundraising events calendar, visit their site at: eodwarriorfoundation.org.

About Heaven Hill Distillery
Founded in Kentucky by the Shapira family in 1935, Heaven Hill Distillery continues its legacy as one of the foremost American Whiskey producers. Heaven Hill has cultivated the traditions and history of America’s Native Spirit with its fierce independence, passionate family ownership, dedication to quality, and thoughtful innovation. Today, Heaven Hill Distillery maintains over 1.2 million barrels aging in 52 warehouses throughout Nelson and Jefferson Counties. It is home to an award-winning collection of American Whiskeys including Elijah Craig Bourbon, Larceny Bourbon, Evan Williams Bourbon, Pikesville Rye Whiskey, Rittenhouse Rye Whisky and Parker’s Heritage Collection. Heaven Hill Distillery held the titles of 2016 Whisky Magazine’s Distillery of the Year, Whiskey Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year and Rye Whiskey of the Year from “Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.” For more information, please visit heavenhilldistillery.com.

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Wounded Marine Makes it His Mission to Get Others the Help They Need

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Wounded Marine Makes it His Mission to Getclose up image of James Crosby in his Marine uniform looking over shoulder smiling

By Kellie Speed

When U.S. Marine veteran James “Shrapnel” Crosby was just 19 years old, he was hit in the back with shrapnel from a rocket attack at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

As a result, the combat warrior became one of the nation’s most severely wounded soldiers at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Since then, the Purple Heart recipient has made it his personal mission to help veterans returning to Massachusetts receive the comprehensive services they need. He was instrumental in passing the Crosby-Puller Combat Wounds Compensation Act created, “to require that a member of the uniformed services who is wounded or otherwise injured while serving in a combat zone continue to be paid monthly military pay and allowances, while the member recovers from the wound or injury, at least equal to the monthly military pay and allowances the member received immediately before receiving the wound or injury, to continue the combat zone tax exclusion for the member during the recovery period, and for other purposes.”

Crosby says his goal is simple: “I want to get the truth out about what is happening in the veteran’s community and also in communities in general. I hate differentiating between the two because I don’t believe that we’re two separate communities. I believe that we are just the warriors that signed up to go, but we are all part of the same community. When people say the veteran’s community and then everyone else, it hurts everybody.”

Crosby continued, “Reintegration back into the community as a whole is really important, and not isolating yourself. Unfortunately, veterans can start to become self-loathing because you are not operating at the level that you know you can, so you start to isolate and a lot of times people can’t make it out of that. And that’s where you’ve got guys and girls who commit suicide.”

As a result, the Massachusetts native founded a suicide prevention program known as SAVE (Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment) where, through case management, peer outreach workers visit with veterans, identify their issues and provide them with access to the resources needed to help them get back on track. The SAVE team acts on behalf of the veterans as a liaison between federal and state agencies to proactively assist in transitioning them into civilian life.

“If you start to eliminate problems one by one at a time or maybe three at a time, you start picking people’s problems away, so they might not think that their only option to gain control of their life when they’ve lost control of everything is suicide,” Crosby said. “That’s the mission behind SAVE.”

Last year, Crosby participated in an adaptive training program to help with his paralysis, but he believes his most life altering experience came with the assistance of the Warrior Angels Foundation, a non-profit that provides a personalized treatment protocol that pinpoints and treats the underlying condition for service members and veterans who have sustained a TBI while in the line of duty.

“I was having all these hormone imbalances in my brain,” he said. “They analyze what is out of balance and begin treatment. This needs to be the way that we’re treating traumatic brain injuries now because it’s not only saving people’s lives, but it’s enriching their lives. For me, I couldn’t stay awake because I couldn’t sleep (if that makes any sense) and it was just really bad, but this changed my life. I could think clearer and started getting some of my confidence back. My body started returning to its normal shape. This is what turned my life around. I’ve been on this path of self-betterment lately and just really concentrating on myself and while doing that, everything seems to be falling into place.”

Hiring Veterans With TBI And PTSD—Do’s And Don’ts For Employers And Hiring Managers

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American soldier in uniform and civil man in suit shaking hands with adequate national flag on background - United States of America

Do learn where to find and recruit veterans with TBI or PTSD. Don’t assume that veterans with TBI or PTSD are unemployable.

Do learn how to communicate with persons who have TBI or PTSD.

Don’t assume that veterans with TBIor PTSD lack the necessary education, training or skills for employment.

Do ensure that your applications and other company forms do not ask disability-related questions and that they are in formats that are accessible to all persons.

Don’t assume that veterans with TBI or PTSD do not want to work.

Do consider having written job descriptions that identify the essential functions of the job.

Don’t ask if a person has a disability or injury during an employment interview.

Do ensure that requirements for medical examinations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Don’t assume that certain jobs are more suited to persons with TBI or PTSD.

Do relax and make the applicant feel comfortable.

Don’t hire a person with a disability who is not qualified to perform the essential functions of the job—even with a reasonable accommodation.

Do provide reasonable accommodations that the qualified applicant will need to compete for the job.

Don’t assume that you have to retain an unqualified employee with a disability.

Do treat an individual with TBI or PTSD the same way you would treat any applicant or employee:with dignity and respect.

Don’t assume that your current management will need special training to learn how to work with people with TBI or PTSD.

Do know that among those protected by the ADA are qualified individuals who have TBI or PTSD.

Don’t assume that the cost of accident insurance will increase as a result of hiring a person with TBI or PTSD.

Do understand that access includes not only environmental access, but also making forms accessible to people with cognitive or psychological disabilities.

Don’t assume that the work environment will be unsafe if an employee has a disability.

Do develop procedures for maintaining and protecting confidential medical records.

Don’t assume that reasonable accommodations are expensive.

Do train supervisors on making reasonable accommodations.

Don’t speculate or try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant’s disability.

Do understand that a person with TBI or PTSD is on a course of recovery and reintegration with the community.

Don’t assume that you don’t have any jobs that a person with TBI or PTSD can do.

Do expect, with proper access to treatment and support resources, that the person with TBI or PTSD will regain significant functioning in their work and personal endeavors.

Don’t make medical judgments.

Don’t assume that a person with TBI or PTSD can’t do a job due to apparent and non-apparent disabilities.

Don’t assume that your workplace is accessible.

Source: AmericasHeroesAtWork.gov

Operation Coming Home Gifts War Veteran with Mattamy Home

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Service-disabled war veteran stands with family and friends in side the livingroom of his new home

The recipient of Hero Home 23, Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Polizzi was surprised with the ultimate gift, just in time for Christmas.

Polizzi and his family have been selected to receive a brand new Mattamy home for free through Operation Coming Home.

Polizzi served for fourteen years, deployed four times, and received the Purple Heart from an injury in Afghanistan. Together, Polizzi and his wife have three children, all under the age of 10. For the past 10 years, they have constantly moved, having lived in eight different homes during the time span.

Operation Coming Home has been building Hero Homes since 2008 in Wake County through a partnership with the Home Builders Association of Raleigh and Wake County and the US Veterans Corps.

“Since Operation Coming Home began in 2008, our team has had the privilege to support and contribute to this exceptional cause,” said Bob Wiggins, President of Mattamy’s Raleigh Division. “Operation Coming Home is a project that the Mattamy team in Raleigh is very passionate about. It is an amazing feeling being able to give something as special as a home to individuals who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.”

Mattamy Homes will build Hero Home 23, located in one of the Division’s newest communities, Oak Park in Garner, North Carolina. This is the second home donated by Mattamy Homes and the 10th from the Royal Oaks team, which was acquired by Mattamy Homes in 2017.

“The Polizzi family’s new home will be conveniently located in the desirable area of White Oak,” said Donna Kemp, Vice President of Sales for Mattamy Homes. “We’ve chosen a beautiful home site for the family, and they get to come in and choose all design selections and personalize the home just for them. It’s humbling and extremely rewarding to give back, especially to a deserving veteran and his family. To be able to provide a life changing gift such as a home is an amazing feeling.”

Polizzi and his unit were on a security patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 when they came under heavy enemy fire. Polizzi quickly created and detonated a bomb that saved his entire unit, allowing them to pass only later to come under fire again. Polizzi was shot in the leg. He was treated for five weeks at an airbase, then finished his deployment.

The Polizzi family’s new home is anticipated to begin construction in February 2021 and be ready for move-in during the summer of 2021.

About Operation Coming Home

Operation Coming Home (OCH) is a partnership between members of the Triangle Veterans Association (TVA) and the Home Builders Association of Raleigh/Wake County. Made up of Veterans and non-Veterans, this team is honoring the sacrifices of the severely wounded Veterans of recent Middle Eastern Wars by building custom homes for them, at no charge.

About Mattamy Homes

Mattamy Homes is the largest privately owned homebuilder in North America, with 40-plus years of history across the United States and Canada. Every year, Mattamy helps more than 8,000 families realize their dream of home ownership. In the United States, the company is represented in 11 markets – Dallas, Charlotte, Raleigh, Phoenix, Tucson, Jacksonville, Orlando (where its US head office is located), Tampa, Sarasota, Naples and Southeast Florida – and in Canada, its communities stretch across the Greater Toronto Area, as well as in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. Visit www.mattamyhomes.com for more information.

Top holiday gifts for U.S. Veterans

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four images of holiday gifts including hats and coats

During their service, most members of our military missed holidays with family and friends. Make sure this season is merry and bright with these special gifts picked just for U.S. Veterans.

• Give a gift to disabled veterans all across the nation. The DAV Spare Change program allows you to round up purchases on a credit or debit card to automatically donate your “spare change” to support our America’s heroes. Enroll before you go holiday shopping, and do good with every purchase!

• To strengthen its decades-long relationship with the U.S. military, Ford has launched an online store stocked with holiday ideas. One hundred percent of profits from Ford’s Proud to Honor merchandise will benefit two nonprofit military organizations. Shop for shirts, caps, tumblers and more at ford.com/proud-to-honor/store.

• DAV (Disabled American Veterans) celebrates 100 years of service and support for America’s injured and ill veterans and their families. Pick up some caps, hoodies, pins and more at davstore.org and share in the centennial celebration while supporting our nation’s ill and injured heroes!

• Smells like “oh, cool, we’re moving again.” Light up the holidays with the perfect candle for military wives.

• So many veterans enjoy fishing. Rapala launched an exclusive Americana Collection with items for the rookie novice angler to the gearhead technical angler, like this Rapala® trucker cap featuring a red, white and blue Rapala® logo. A portion of each purchase goes to helping our nation’s veterans. Shop the Americana Collection.

• A&W has a history of raising funds to help provide critical programs and services to veterans and their families at no cost. Treat a veteran to an A&W Root Beer Float this holiday season. Find an A&W location near you.

• Remember, give a gift that keeps on giving. To enroll, shop anywhere and help veterans, visit davsparechange.org or text DAV to 26989. Your spare change can provide big gifts for our disabled veterans.

Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman Shares his Secrets to Being a Leader and What it Takes to Overcome

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Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman and service dog Kharma stand next to each other on the grass

By Kellie Speed

Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman certainly knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a true leader and overcome adversity.

After all, the Ohio native and author of “The Trident” and “Overcome,” is the recipient of numerous prestigious military awards, including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (five awards), Combat Action Ribbon (two awards) and US Army Ranger Tab.

On September 13, 2007, during a special ops mission as Assault Force Commander to capture an Al Qaeda High Value Individual, Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy fire. Despite being shot several times, including once in the face, he and his team fought valiantly to do what he does best—overcome.

“I wouldn’t have made it through SEAL training if I didn’t have some level of mindset that I could overcome adversity, but it really got tested several years prior to getting shot,” Redman said. “It was through leadership failure and having to push forward despite a whole lot of people not believing in me and, as a matter of fact, being resentful that I just didn’t leave. That, by far, was the longest and hardest road I have ever fought—much harder than my injuries.

“Having climbed out of that hole and built back my professional leadership and tactical reputation over the last several years, both in training and in combat, put me in a position that when I was wounded, don’t get me wrong it sucked, but I was like, you have climbed out of worse holes so this is no different.”

Redman said, “The number one lesson in leadership is you have to lead yourself. You have to set the example. You have to pull forward. The great news is that when you do that consistently over time, people will follow you.”

When writing that now infamous orange sign he hung on his hospital door, it served as a reminder to him and others to come forward with a positive attitude. “I wrote it as a little bit of a warning to people coming into my room that I wasn’t going to tolerate sorrow,” he said. “It’s hard enough to stay positive when times are really hard and it makes it obviously that much harder if you are surrounded by other people that are going to pull you down and inject a bunch of negativity into a hard situation.

“I said, I am going to set the bar and forward focus, and if you can’t handle that, then I don’t want you to come in here. There’s a flip side to that coin that I’ll be honest I don’t think I put a lot of thought into but it set the bar for myself. It gave me a benchmark, setting a destination and a course that I have followed and sometimes it was hard,” Redman said. “Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of hard days when I was having setbacks, when I was having infections, when I was having problems, and to be like, man I don’t want to be motivated. I want to sit on the X and feel sorry for myself. But I was like, you can’t do that, look at your sign. I think that’s important in life when you say, this is what I am going to do and when you put it out there to the world, you set a level of expectation not only for yourself, but for other people.”

What advice does Redman have for a veteran who may be struggling in civilian life? “You have to believe the power resides in you,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. I know I struggled a lot with post-traumatic stress and anxiety after my injuries and I hit a really low point a few years after I came home and was spiraling down.

“My wife is amazing. I had always taken for granted that she would always be there, but she kind of hit me with, hey, this is not working for me and our family. So, that’s when I went and got help. At the end of the day, to the veterans out there, you have to be proactive,” Redman explained. “Sometimes you need to recognize that you need to reach out and get somebody to help you. I am not afraid to reach out when I need to. But, you, the individual on that X, have to take the first step to get off it and recognize it may take several times to make progress. Just recognize those initial first tries are going to be the hardest, but if you continue and you grind and you have the discipline to keep pushing for that change, you will make momentum.”

Image Credit: Michelle Quilon – 3’s a Charm Photography

Marriage Enrichment Programs

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man in military fatigues hugging his wife smiling

With deployments and frequent relocations, military relationships can be put to the test. You’ve aced military life. Now can you bring that same strength and sense of adventure to your marriage?

You can access free, confidential, relationship consultation services like Building Healthy Relationships, as well as non-medical counseling through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 or chat online with our trained professional consultants.

Also, each military service branch offers programs designed to enrich marriage and maintain a healthy relationship by helping couples develop better communication skills and rekindle the romance.

These programs are generally:

  • Run by chaplains and supported by commanders, Military and Family Support Centers, and installation family readiness programs
  • Non-faith-specific
  • Either low-cost or free to service members and spouses

To find out about programs available through your service branch and installation, check with your chaplain or local Military and Family Support Center. Through the center, Military and Family Life Counselors are available on installations and embedded in units.

Here are some service-specific programs:

Army

Installation chaplains offer the Strong Bonds Program. The program features:

  • Weekend retreats that help couples build relationship resiliency
  • Specific retreats for couples, families, single soldiers and for those facing deployment
  • Activities for unit members who are on the same duty cycle

Marine Corps

The Marine Corps offers the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program. This program:

  • Benefits newlyweds and seasoned couples alike
  • Helps couples improve their communication skills and build strong relationships
  • Offers workshops through chaplains and Marine Corps Family Team Building

Navy

Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operations offer marriage enrichment retreats. More information is available on the Navy’s ChaplainCare website. These getaways include:

  • Weekend retreats that help couples focus on their relationships while enjoying food, fun and romance
  • The opportunity for couples to learn about handling conflict, growing their marriage, building intimacy, communication and understanding each other

Air Force

The Air Force Chaplain Corps offers the MarriageCare program. Check with your installation’s chaplain to see what’s available in your area. The MarriageCare program offers:

  • Weekend retreats to help couples to revitalize their marriage while taking a break from military duty
  • A chance to work on communication, forgiveness and other skills
  • Other programs offered by chaplains on Air Force installations

MilSpouse Toolkit

From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may be experiencing a disconnect from their family and need to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Victorious Veteran Combats A Hidden Enemy

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Brandi Benson looks back at camera over her shoulder wearing a survivor shirt

Imagine joining the military in the hopes of playing soccer for your country to only end up fighting your own battle to survive a sudden, terminal illness. Out of the 17.4 million veterans in the U.S., almost 3% of them experience a cancer diagnosis annually.

A vibrant, fit 24 year old in perfect health, Brandi L. Benson faced an unexpected type of war that required the weapons of faith, hope, and strength. Fresh out of basic training and only three months in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, an aeroplane ride to a hospital in Germany ironically propelled her toward an internal battle that left her reeling in shock: Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects only 12,000 people.

Brandi was told she would need to have her leg amputated, which would crush her dreams of being a world class athlete for the Army. She was placed in a ward with 12 people who had different forms of cancer and she was the only one to survive.

“I fought hard to overcome my diagnosis,” says Brandi. “I was determined not to become a victim to statistics.”

Brandi dealt with feelings of hopelessness due to outdated treatment methods, spirals of negative thinking, self blame and denial. She pushed her way through by journaling her experience for her then two year old nephew to have memories to hold onto. Beating the odds of the 6,000 who will die and the 3,000 who will not live to the five-year mark from this illness, she embraced her new identity as a disfigured and disabled veteran, cancer survivor and now author.

Brandi turned her journal into a book, “The Enemy Inside Me,” a story of inspiration for survivors of life’s battles. Her mission is to provide an effective blueprint of strategies and resources that survivors, their loved ones and anyone struggling with “an enemy” in whatever form, can use to improve their overall wellbeing.

About Brandi L. Benson

Brandi L. Benson is a 36-year-old veteran, speaker, author and cancer advocate based in Miami, FL (from Novato, Calif.). Joining the military in hopes of playing soccer for her country, she ended up with her own battle. Fresh out of basic training and only three months stationed in Iraq, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ewing Sarcoma, at age 24. Walking away with one less muscle in her left leg, she triumphantly defied odds. Brandi has written magazine blogs for Conquer Magazine, Cancer Wellness Magazine, American Cancer Society and more sharing her story. She is spokesperson for Bristol Myers Squibb alongside ABC’s This is Us Sterling K. Brown, has signed a modeling contract with HOP Models & Talent Agency and is the author of The Enemy Inside Me, available on Amazon. For more information, visit https://brandilbenson.com/.

20 US Veterans, Aged 28-92, to Skydive at the National WWI Museum and Memorial this Veterans Day

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older veteran shaking hands with a group of younf soldiers in uniform

In commemoration of Veterans Day, the National WWI Museum and Memorial serves as a fitting place to honor those who have served — and continue to serve — our country. To recognize these men and women, admission to the Museum and Memorial is free for veterans and active duty military personnel from Saturday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 15. General admission for the public is half-price on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11.

A “Legacy Jump” will kick off the Nov. 11 Veterans Day activities at 6:30 a.m. CT Led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, the “Legacy Jump” will feature an All Veteran Group parachute team who will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. The veterans range in age from 28 to 92.

Parrott will cap off the jump with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial Tower in honor of POW-MIAs and a war that is talked about infrequently. The “Legacy Jump” will bring together generations of veterans, including news host Pete Hegseth, to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder causes through the Bird’s Eye View Project.

“We’re excited to host this special ‘Legacy Jump’ on Veterans Day,” says Dr. Matthew Naylor, president & CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.  “We are proud to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

Additionally, the Museum and Memorial will offer a wide variety of events throughout Veterans Day. A free, public Veterans Day Ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. CT in the Memorial Courtyard with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony, along with all other Veterans Day special events, will be held outdoors with social distancing and masks to ensure the public can celebrate our veterans safely.

Following the ceremony, at 11 a.m. CT, locally-based Cars 4 Heroes will be giving away 11 vehicles to veterans on the North Lawn. The bi-annual Walk of Honor dedication ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. CT, followed by a special outdoor performance from the Kansas City Symphony. Their Mobile Music Box will be on the Southeast Lawn from 3 – 5 p.m. CT.

Support for Veterans Day is provided by Jackson County Executive and County Legislators and Weather or Not.

VETERANS DAY ACTIVITIES: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020

LEGACY JUMP

When: 6:30 a.m. CT

Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn

What: Organized by the Bird’s Eye View Project and led by Purple Heart Recipient, former Navy SEAL from Team 7 and extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott. An All Veteran Group parachute team will tandem skydive a veteran from each war – World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan War & Iraq War, as well as Sept. 11 – and land on the Museum and Memorial’s North Lawn. Parrott will cap off the event with a symbolic WWI Soldier & “Missing Man” BASE Jump from the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower.

VETERANS DAY CEREMONY

When: 10 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: Join us for a moving ceremony honoring our nation’s veterans with a keynote address from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Mayor Quinton Lucas will deliver a special reading. This year’s abbreviated ceremony will be outdoors to ensure we can celebrate our veterans safely. Please dress warmly, practice social distancing and wear a mask. FREE to the public.

LIVING HISTORY VOLUNTEERS

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard and Paul Sunderland Bridge
What: History is brought to life with our Living History Volunteers who will be available for social distanced pictures. FREE to the public.

CARS 4 HEROES CEREMONY

When: 11 a.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, North Lawn
What: For 24 years, Cars 4 Heroes has provided free, basic, reliable transportation to Veterans, First Responders and their families, that otherwise are not able to obtain transportation for themselves. Join us for a moving ceremony as the organization hands over the keys of 11 cars to deserving individuals.

WALK OF HONOR DEDICATION CEREMONY

When: 2 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Memorial Courtyard
What: More than 100 new Walk of Honor granite bricks will be dedicated during a special ceremony. The Walk of Honor is divided into three sections: bricks dedicated solely to those who served in World War I; bricks dedicated to veterans of any military service; and bricks that honor civilian friends, family or organizations. Walk of Honor bricks are dedicated twice each year during Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. FREE to the public.

KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE

When: 3 – 5 p.m. CT
Where: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Southeast Lawn
What: At a time when audiences cannot visit indoor venues, the Symphony is taking the music on the road to reach music lovers and families in every corner of the metropolitan area. Kansas City Symphony’s new outdoor stage on wheels, the Mobile Music Box, will be on the Museum and Memorial’s Southeast Lawn for a 3 p.m. CT performance. FREE to the public.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.

About the Birds Eye View Project

The Birds Eye View Project (BEVP) uses extreme sports to raise funds and awareness for veteran and first responder charities. Veteran and former Navy SEAL, Ryan “Birdman” Parrott knew that it takes big events to make a significant impact. That’s what this is. That’s why we are here. One man’s idea of running from Dallas to Waco in 24 hours to raise $100K for charity, turned into a charity that performs over-the-top stunts to impact those who need it most – veteran and First-responders injured in the line of duty – raising funds and awareness for small charities that need help doing their awesome work.

Photo Credit: The National WWI Museum and Memorial

Travis Mills: A Profile in True Courage

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Travis Mills seated on couch wearing two prosthetic legs smiling

By Kellie Speed

Eight years ago, Travis Mills’ life was forever changed when he became one of only five servicemen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ever to survive his injuries as a quadruple amputee.

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne was critically wounded in action on April 10, 2012 by an IED on his third deployment in Afghanistan, but with a positive attitude, he refuses to let his injuries define him.

“In the beginning it was a little difficult not being able to look in the mirror for six months” he told us. “There were times when you wonder why this happened and how can you go back in time. After a while, you just realize that it’s never going to change so you might as well make the best of it.”

Mills said he had wonderful doctors, nurses, and medical staff as well as therapists (occupational, physical, driving rehab) that would get him back on his feet. His wife and his daughter were right there with him, literally every step of the way.

“I learned to walk with my daughter as she was learning how to walk,” he said. “Once you peel back the layers and realize this is the rest of your life, stop dwelling on it, get moving and reminisce about what you had, life gets a lot easier.”

Mills said the mental part was the toughest, and that he struggled with the ‘why?”

“Am I a bad person? Why didn’t I just die? Things like that go through your head,” he said. “I realized for the first five weeks of my injuries that I had to have someone feed me, have someone help me change my clothes, help me use the restroom, things that you wouldn’t think of. It’s like being an adult baby that can’t do anything for themselves. It has taught me patience.”

Today, the motivational speaker, actor, author and advocate for veterans and amputees whose motto “never give up; never quit” continues to inspire everyone he meets, while living “a pretty normal, hectic, crazy all-American dream life” with his wife, Kelsey, and two children.

Mills and his wife founded the Travis Mills Foundation to assist post 9/11 veterans who have been injured in active duty or as a result of their service to our nation. Through the foundation, they have created a Veterans Retreat where veterans and their families receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid vacation to Maine to participate in adaptive activities.

“The original vision in creating the foundation was just care packages overseas, because I would see a lot of guys who wouldn’t get care packages,” he said. “I thought, ‘let’s just send them peanut butter M&Ms, beef jerky that’s peppered, of course, because that’s the delicious one, and a few other items.’ So, we started with that idea.”

Then Mills, who could still go kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and snowboarding, would take these trips with his wife and enjoyed them so much, it sparked his next idea. “I thought how great it would be to bring people out and show them they can do things adaptively with their family?” he said. “It just kind of progressed to a small camp in the woods with little cabins to this huge facility. We don’t even say camp anymore because it’s more of a retreat at a huge estate (the former Elizabeth Arden Estate). We have been able to expand greatly.”

Mills’ advice for veterans who may be struggling with injuries suffered during combat? “I just tell people never be too strong to reach out for help, and understand there are ways to get over post-traumatic stress. And if they are physically injured, every day is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I am always so grateful and thankful when I think about what could have happened. I lost some really, really close friends of mine, and their families would give anything to have them back—their children, parents, spouses, their siblings and friends would give anything. So, when I think about it in that aspect, I know I was given a chance to live, move forward and make the most of every day.”

The $100 Bet That Forever Changed Kaleb Wilson’s Life

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Kaleb Wilson in wheelchair on a pier with his wife in his lap

Seven years ago, Coast Guard veteran and PVA member Kaleb Wilson took a $100 bet that changed his life.

Some friends dared him to jump off a pier. He was 22 years old, and he figured he’d do it—it’s $100, right?

So, he dove in headfirst and hit the bottom, shattering several vertebrae. Instead of celebrating his win with friends, he found himself in a New Orleans Trauma Center, paralyzed.

One Goal

With his sweetheart Brittany by his side, he fought tooth and nail with one goal in mind: He wanted to walk down the aisle on their wedding day. She had been there for him during his recovery and rehab, and now he made it his mission to be there for her, standing across from her at the altar, and dancing at their wedding. With a lot of love, support, and hard work, he made it happen.

Wilson had been interested in joining the military ever since he was a little boy. He was a swimmer in high school, and started looking into programs with the Navy and the Air Force. But it was the Coast Guard that caught his attention. He was drawn to rescue swimming. “I knew it was where I needed to be,” he says.

He was a part of the Coast Guard for three years. After he graduated from boot camp he was assigned to a station in New Orleans, where he worked doing search and rescue missions, intercepting drug shipments, escorting vessels into the Gulf, and patrolling rivers and lakes. He loved his job, and he enjoyed the culture in New Orleans. He was a young man enjoying his career, living in a lively city, in love with a beautiful girl. Wilson was on the list to go to “A” school in November of 2012 when he took that fateful dare that landed him in a wheelchair.

A New Normal

Becoming paralyzed presents a whole host of challenges, of course, not just for the injured, but for those closest to them. Wilson and Brittany had to work together with trust and focus in order to adjust to their new normal. They relied on each other, and became stronger together. He proposed in 2013; they married in 2014, both of them standing for the ceremony.

Kaleb, in wheelchair and Brittany Wilson pose outside with their two young daughters, all smiling
Kaleb and Brittany Wilson with their two daughters

They also relied on Paralyzed Veterans of America. During rehab and recovery, PVA helped Wilson with benefits information, and later on, with vocational rehab benefits allowing him to return to school to pursue a chemical engineering degree. A couple of years ago, Wilson competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in swimming, and was inspired to join the Mountain State chapter of PVA, serving on the Board and as Treasurer.

He has attended two Games so far, most recently in Louisville, where he brought home seven medals in swimming, rugby, and field events. “It’s nice to be around people who are in a similar situation as I am, who understand what you are going through,” he says. “Brittany loves it, too, because she gets to socialize with other wives who know what we’re dealing with, and we get to come together with friends who live around the country.”

Giving Back

He and Brittany are in the process of moving to Illinois, where he will transfer his membership to the Vaughn chapter of PVA and do some volunteering for fellow veteran Noah Currier with his Oscar Mike Foundation.

“It’s not just money that keeps these programs running, it’s volunteers, too. I don’t want to be somebody who just takes, takes, takes. I want to give back.”

Today, Wilson is a loving and happy husband, and delighted father of two little girls, with a third child on the way. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

“Seven years ago, I sustained my injury that ended my time actively serving in the Coast Guard, but that did not take away the fact that I still am a Coastie. I still feel at home around my fellow Coasties; I still feel connected in the way I always have. I may not serve beside them anymore, but I will always be a part of them!”

Source: https://blog.pva.org & craighospital.org/blog/wilsonwedding

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