GRATEFUL AMERICAN: A Journey From Self to Service — By GARY SINISE

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Grateful American-Gary Sinese

NEW YORK (December 2018) – In his new memoir, Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service, (Thomas Nelson, February 12, 2019), Gary Sinise chronicles his never-before-told journey, from aimless teen to an actor/director with a purpose: a mission to support and raise awareness for the men and women who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way in service to our country.

Grateful American sets the stage for his passion for veterans, as the reader learns Sinise comes from a long line of servicemen: his grandfather fought in the historic Battle of the Argonne Forest in World War I, his uncles served in Europe and Japan during World War II, and his dad was a Navy photographer during the Korean War. The military ties don’t end with Sinise’s family. After he got married in 1975, he got to know the many U.S. Army veterans in his wife’s family as well.

However, serving one’s country wasn’t in Sinise’s mind as a wild kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 60s and 70s. He was more interested in having fun and getting into trouble than studying and doing schoolwork. When he was in high school, at the height of the Vietnam War, Sinise admits he was oblivious to much of what was happening to our young men and women in South East Asia.

He stumbled into acting by way of a school production of “West Side Story,” and found he was drawn into this creative and exciting vocation. Within a few years, in a church basement in Chicago, Sinise and some friends put together a ground-breaking new theater company, the Steppenwolf Theatre, which launched his acting career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf and several other well-known acting personalities. Soon after, TV and film parts regularly came Sinise’s way before his life would forever be changed during and after portraying Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump. Since Forrest Gump, his life has evolved and encompasses so much more than what he’s done on the stage and screen.

Sinise has witnessed firsthand the extraordinary skill and dedication of our service members and his mission and passion are to shine a light on those who serve and defend, volunteering to lay down their lives so we can have the freedom to make something real and good of our own lives.

In 2011, he established the Gary Sinise Foundation, whose mission is to serve, honor and raise funds for America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. Sinise works tirelessly on behalf of those who serve our country and protect our cities, entertaining more than half a million troops and first responders at home and abroad, playing bass guitar with his Lt. Dan Band.

The message Sinise wants to deliver in Grateful American is clear: He loves his country and he’s forever grateful to be an American, thankful for the blessings he’s received as a citizen. He understands where his freedom comes from and he does not take for granted the sacrifices of those who provide it. He hopes that Grateful American will help ensure America’s defenders and their families are never forgotten.

As he looks back on his life’s journey and sees anew the ups and downs, he feels fortunate that he went from caring about not too much more than his own career to becoming a passionate advocate of our nation’s defenders.

“It’s my hope that as I share these stories from my life, you will be entertained and maybe even inspired too – empowered to overcome obstacles, embrace gratitude, and engage in service above self,” states Sinise.

About the Author
Gary Sinise is an Oscar-nominated actor and winner of an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and two Screen Actors Guild awards, and has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all while advocating for America’s defenders for nearly 40 years. For his service work, Gary has been presented with numerous humanitarian awards including the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the George Catlett Marshall Medal from the Association of the US Army, and the Spirit of Hope Award by the Department of Defense. He was named an honorary Chief Petty Officer by the United States Navy, was pinned as an honorary Marine, and received the Sylvanus Thayer Award from the United States Military Academy at West Point, given to a civilian “whose character, service, and achievements reflect the ideals prized by the U.S. Military Academy.” He’s also the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor awarded by the President of the United States to citizens for “exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation.”

Thomas Nelson – Grateful American

Armed Forces Day – Military Appreciation Month

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Armed Forces Day

In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May. It falls near the end of Armed Forces Week, which begins on the second Saturday of May and ends on the third Sunday of May (the fourth if the month begins on a Sunday, as in 2016).[16]

First observed on 20 May 1950, the day was created on 31 August 1949, to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches – the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard – following the consolidation of the military services in the U.S. Department of Defense. It was intended to replace the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Days, but the separate days are still observed, especially within the respective services.[17]

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. The United States’ longest continuously running Armed Forces Day Parade is held in Bremerton, Washington. In 2019 Bremerton will celebrate the 71st year of the Armed Forces Day Parade.

Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in the month of May.

On 19 May 2017, President Donald Trump reaffirmed the Armed Forces Day holiday, marking the 70th anniversary since the creation of the Department of Defense.[18][19][20]

Aside from the Armed Forces Day the Armed Forces and the National Guard Bureau are honored on the following days:

  • 29 March: Vietnam Veterans Day (All US Military Branches)[21]
  • Last Monday of May: Memorial Day
  • 14 June: Flag Day and Army Day (United States Army)
  • 4 August: Coast Guard Day (United States Coast Guard)
  • 18 September: Air Force Day (United States Air Force)
  • 13 October: US Navy Birthday (United States Navy)
  • 27 October: Navy Day (United States Navy)
  • 10 November: Marine Corps Birthday (United States Marine Corps)
  • 11 November: Veterans Day
  • 13 December: National Guard Day (National Guard of the United States)

Source: Wikipedia

Parachuting with a Purpose: Local US Marine Corps Veteran BASE Jumps to Raise Awareness of Veteran Suicide

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us marine lands his parachute in grassy area near mountain

The number of service men who were killed in action in 2019 is the same number of veterans who die by suicide each and every day.

Pittsburgh Veteran Tristan Wimmer returned to the skies of his hometown to bring attention to this national crisis.

On Jan. 30, 2021, Wimmer teamed up with other Veterans to complete 22 BASE jumps — 22 is symbolic of the 22 United States Active Duty and Veterans who succumb to suicide each day.

The jumps were held as part of the 2nd Annual 22Jumps event at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, AZ, beginning 6 am (MST) and continued throughout the day.

Wimmer’s brother took his own life in 2015 after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Iraq while serving in the United States Marine Corps. The event, 22Jumps, started last year as a tribute to his brother, but quickly drew local and national media attention, as well as support from the brain injury, mental health, and Veterans’ communities, and countless families affected by Veteran suicide. In the past year, Wimmer’s effort, 22Jumps.org, has grown into a nationwide initiative, with Veterans pledging to plan and participate in future events throughout the U.S. and all funds raised supporting Cohen Veteran Bioscience (CVB), a nonprofit biomedical research organization that is dedicated to fast-tracking precision diagnostics and tailored therapeutics for brain trauma, a major risk factor for suicide.

This year, Wimmer hopes to raise a symbolic $22,000 through his 22Jumps Facebook fundraiser. Donations can also be made at: www.cohenveteransbioscience.org/22-jumps/

22Jumps.org founder and veteran Tristan Wimmer stated-

“TBIs disproportionately effect servicemen and women. I personally know dozens of Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and emotional management issues – many of whom have succumb to suicide. The effects of those deployments linger long after returning home. I’m honored to fundraise for CVB, an organization that recognizes the need to develop new treatment options for the millions of Veterans and civilians who suffer from TBIs and other mental health issues to finally combat the epidemic of Veterans suicide. To move forward, Veterans need more advocates like CVB, and we need more science that embraces the complexity of this Veteran-heavy disease.”

Fast facts about TBIs and Veteran suicide:

  • 19% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans reported a probable TBI during deployment.
  • Veteran suicides make up a disproportionate—14 percent—of total suicides in America.
  • TBI and PTSD have taken an enormous toll on Veteran populations. With more than 2.7 million men and women deployed to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the likelihood and burden of these brain diseases will only increase.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 to receive free, confidential support and crisis interventional available 24/7/365.

Donations: https://www.cohenveteransbioscience.org/22-jumps/

About 22Jumps
www.22Jumps.org

The rate of suicide among veterans is at an all-time high — 22 per day, according to 2012 US Dept. of Veteran Affairs study. Yet, despite this soaring statistic, scant public funding is allocated to the problem. 22Jumps was founded in 2019 by Tristan Wimmer, Infantryman and Scout Sniper in 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, in response to his brother Kiernan Wimmer’s own suicide. Kiernan was a recon and MARSOC marine who served one tour in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. In 2006, Kiernan sustained a massive TBI that diminished his quality of life and contributed to his decision to commit suicide.

About Cohen Veteran Bioscience
www.cohenveteransbioscience.org/

Cohen Veterans Bioscience (CVB) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) research organization dedicated to fast-tracking the development of diagnostic tests and personalized therapeutics for the millions of Veterans and civilians who suffer the devastating effects of trauma-related and other brain disorders. CVB is harnessing the power of biotechnology (including neuroimaging, ‘omics, and biosensors) in combination with high-performance computing and data analytics to understand the underlying mechanisms of brain trauma and discover new ways to improve treatment for all patients.

Rolling Stone And Philip Morris International Celebrate Veterans With Rolling Stone Salute To Service

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Rolling Stone promo for Salute to Service event

Kicking off this Veterans Day, November 11, Rolling Stone is proud to pay tribute to our veterans and troops with Rolling Stone Salute To Service, presented by Philip Morris International.

This three-part panel and performance series celebrating Veterans will include deep discussions on the progress that has been made to more inclusively support them, and performances by top artists in support of Veterans and their service.

Each of the three conversations, brought to viewers through a virtual screening experience, will be moderated by Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith, Jerry Portwood and Joseph Hudak and include exclusive appearances from today’s top talent and representatives from top Veterans associations.

Participating talent includes Trace Adkins, Lea DeLaria, Justin Moore, S.G. Goodman, and Michael Ray. Participating Veterans organization representatives includes Julz Carey (AVER) Joe Chenelly (AMVETS), Donna Brock (U.S. Army Women’s Foundation), Ken Falke (Boulder Crest), Justin Brown (The Nimitz Group), Margaret Harrell, PhD (Bob Woodruff Foundation) and more…

To register for the events and for more information, visit rollingstonesalutetoservice.com.

Conversations will include:
• Salute to Minority Veterans (November 11, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Moderated by Rolling Stone editor Jamil Smith, this conversation will focus on the increasing number of women, minorities and LGBTQ Veterans and their experience and the mirrored experiences of minority talent and their personal journeys.
o Talent includes: Jamil Smith, Lea DeLaria, Julz Carey (AVER), Donna Brock (U.S. Army Women’s Foundation)
• Veteran Mental Health Awareness (November 19, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Led by Rolling Stone editor Jerry Portwood, this roundtable will discuss the need for increased awareness and response to veteran mental health as well as the role this conversation takes in the national dialogue on mental health.
o Talent includes: Jerry Portwood, Justin Moore, Michael Ray, Ken Falke (Boulder Crest), Justin Brown (The Nimitz Group)
• Veteran Advocacy and Support (December 1, 12pm PT/3pm ET)
o Facilitated by Rolling Stone editor Joseph Hudak, tune in to hear a lively discussion regarding modern day Veteran support, the current Veteran experience in America as well as personal stories from guests on their involvement in the cause. Sign up here (link) to attend these meaningful discussions around today’s service-member experience.
o Talent includes: Joseph Hudak, Trace Adkins, Joe Chenelly (AMVETS), and Margaret C. Harrell, PhD (Bob Woodruff Foundation)

5 Important Facts About Veterans Day

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group of military supporters gathered holding signs that say thank you

Veterans Day is a well-known American holiday, but there are also a few misconceptions about it — like how it’s spelled or whom exactly it celebrates.

To clear some of that up, here are the important facts you should know.

Veterans Day does NOT have an apostrophe.

A lot of people think it’s “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” but they’re wrong. The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans—so no apostrophe needed.

Veterans Day is NOT the Same as Memorial Day.

A lot of Americans get this confused, and we’ll be honest—it can be a little annoying to all of the living veterans out there.

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace—dead or alive—although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.

It was originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I.

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ended about seven months before that when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, was largely considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day. In 1926, Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war, and in 1938, it became an official holiday, primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I.

But then World War II and the Korean War happened, so on June 1, 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.

For a while, Veterans Day’s date was changed, too, and it confused everybody.

Congress signed the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968 to ensure that a few federal holidays—Veterans Day included—would be celebrated on a Monday. Officials hoped

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signing the bill with several male onlookers
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs HR7786, June 1, 1954. This ceremony changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day

it would spur travel and other family activities over a long weekend, which would stimulate the economy.

For some inexplicable reason, the bill set Veterans Day commemorations for the fourth Monday of every October.

On Oct. 25, 1971, the first Veterans Day under this new bill was held. We’re not sure why it took three years to implement, but not surprisingly, there was a lot of confusion about the change, and many states were unhappy, choosing to continue to recognize the day as they previously had—in November.

Within a few years, it became pretty apparent that most U.S. citizens wanted to celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, since it was a matter of historic and patriotic significance. So, on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed another law (Public Law 94-97), which returned the annual observance to its original date starting in 1978.

Other countries celebrate it, too, in their own ways.

World War I was a multinational effort, so it makes sense that our allies also wanted to celebrate their veterans on Nov. 11. The name of the day and the types of commemorations differ, however.

Canada and Australia both call Nov. 11 “Remembrance Day.” Canada’s observance is pretty similar to our own, except many of its citizens wear red poppy flowers to honor their war dead. In Australia, the day is more akin to our Memorial Day.

Great Britain calls it “Remembrance Day,” too, but observes it on the Sunday closest to Nov. 11 with parades, services and two minutes of silence in London to honor those who lost their lives in war.

Source: defense.gov

Veterans Day Freebies and Discounts for 2020!

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veterans day freebies 2020 image with a red white and blue flag inside of a star

Veterans Day is to honor those who have fought for our country and businesses across the nation are offering special deals and discounts to show their support on Veterans Day.

Whether you are celebrating at home or in a socially distanced matter, here are some incredible opportunities you won’t want to miss.

All offers will be for both active duty military and veterans unless otherwise stated.

Be sure to check each restaurant’s website for details like military qualifications, restaurant participation, COVID restrictions and more.

 

 

Food and Drink

  • Applebee’s: One free meal from a select menu for dine-in customers
  • BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery: One free meal valued up to $14.95
  • Bob Evans: One free meal from a select menu
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Veterans and active military who dine-in with Buffalo Wild Wings can receive a free order of boneless wings and a side of fries.
  • Calhoun’s: One free meal
  • California Pizza Kitchen: One free meal from a select menu, provide proof of military service or come in uniform.
  • Chili’s: One free meal with military ID.
  • Coco’s Restaurant and Bakery: One free slice of pie, plus a special buy one get one free special for any entree
  • Cracker Barrel: One free slice of double fudge Coca-Cola cake with a meal purchase. Discounts will additionally be available in Cracker Barrel stores through the month of November.
  • Denny’s: One free “Build your own Grand Slam” from 5am-noon, must show proof of service.
  • Dunkin Donuts: One free donut, no purchase necessary.
  • Famous Dave’s: One free two meat combo
  • Golden Corral: During the month of November, Golden Corral are offering free meal cards to active and veteran military personnel that can be used for a lunch or dinner through May 31, 2021.
  • Juice it Up: One free 20oz classic smoothie
  • Kolache Factory: One free kolache and one free coffee of any size with military ID
  • Little Cesar’s Pizza: One free lunch combo from 11am-2pm
  • Logan’s Roadhouse: One free meal from 3:00pm-6:00pm
  • Macaroni Grill: One free “Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs and Spaghetti” with military ID
  • O’ Charley’s Restaurant and Bar: One free meal from a select menu. O’Charley’s also has a 10% discount for active-duty military and veterans that runs all year long.
  • Red Lobster: One free appetizer or dessert
  • Starbucks: One free coffee, also eligible to military spouses.
  • Texas Roadhouse BBQ: From 11am-2pm, Veterans and active-duty military can receive a free lunch with a food voucher. Vouchers will be distributed in the parking lot of Texas Roadhouse BBQ before dining.
  • Wendy’s: Free small breakfast combo
  • Yard House:One complimentary appetizer

Recreation

Shopping

Services

 

 

Wounded Army Corporal Inspires Boston’s Wounded Vet Run

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Vincent Mannion-Brodeur in his army uniform on the field

By Kellie Speed

When Jeff and Maura Brodeur received the devastating call that would change their life forever— that their only son had been critically injured in Iraq and may not make it—they never could have imagined how far he would come today.

U.S. Army Private Vincent Mannion-Brodeur was just 19 when he was deployed to Iraq where he served as a Parachute Infantryman in the B-2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Honor Guard.

On March 11, 2007, the Massachusetts native was checking a house for insurgents when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing his sergeant and leaving him with deep shrapnel wounds that ravaged his upper torso. In addition, his left arm was nearly blown off and he sustained a traumatic brain injury that required the removal of his cranium and part of his frontal lobe.

As a courageous recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Vincent, who retired as a corporal, became the inspiration behind Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, a motorcycle run that honors wounded veterans of New England.

“Ten years ago, Vincent was the first recipient of the Boston Wounded Vet Run, which was used to supplement a VA Special Adaptive Housing Grant he earned that took two years of paperwork to complete,” said Jeff Brodeur, Vincent’s father and an Army veteran himself, adding that Vincent will be honored once again this year at the tenth annual Boston’s Wounded Vet Run being held in September.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award

“He was in a wheelchair at the time so we used that money to put in new stairs and a new walkway. We used the funds raised to make modifications for accessibility to the outside of our home. It’s really nice to have him being honored again on the run 10 years later because it all started with Vincent and Andy (Biggio) who is the founder.”

Since Boston’s initial event a decade ago, the motorcycle runs have increased in popularity, now becoming available in major cities nationwide raising money to provide assistance to severely wounded veterans like Vincent to improve their quality of life. All proceeds from the runs go directly to veterans to assist with housing modifications or mobility and transportation needs, including wheelchairs and cars, along with other basic requirements.

After surviving a yearlong coma, lengthy hospital stays, 47 surgeries and years of rehabilitation to relearn the simplest of tasks—from walking and talking to eating and showering—Vincent and his family have become an inspiration. Overcoming all odds after being told he might never be able to walk or talk again, Vincent, who can often be found smiling, saying, “God bless America,” still faces lifelong daily challenges but that hasn’t broken his fun-loving spirit.

His parents, who are both veterans, fought successfully to become the first on the East Coast—and one of the first families in the nation—to have their son transferred to a private medical facility to continue his care, paving the way for many other wounded soldiers.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor

The Veterans Administration initially wanted to transfer Vincent to its Tampa trauma facility but his parents were concerned over the level of care he would receive. “Boston has some of the best hospitals in the nation and we won approval for Vincent to receive private care for his severe TBI at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital instead of having to go to a Veterans Administration facility,” said Jeff, an Army veteran and also the National President of the Korean War Veteran’s Association. “The polytrauma hospitals back then didn’t offer the specialized care that we knew Boston could provide.”

Their steadfast determination in finding the best care and rehabilitation for their son paved the way for the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, authorizing the Veterans Administration to, “establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.” The additional benefits offered to families of veterans now include a monthly stipend, health care coverage, and travel expenses (including lodging and per diem) while accompanying veterans undergoing care, respite care and mental health services and counseling.

The National WWII Museum Turns 20 and Commemorates D-Day

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A photo of the National WWII Museum's Building

On June 6, 2020, The National WWII Museum will celebrate its 20th birthday and commemorate the 76th anniversary of D-Day.

To honor both events, the museum will be open to visitors, but to adhere to social distancing guidelines, they will hold all of the day’s activities online.

The day will be filled with an array of digital events such as  a social media scavenger hunt, educational talks, and a screening of a new documentary that will go over the museum’s history. For those wishing to attend the museum physically, the museum will be open at normal business hours.

Click here for the museum’s Facebook page where all of the live events will be taking place.

Check out what events will be transpiring within the next few days:

Live D-Day Veteran Conversation: Friday, June 5 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (CT)

The Museum’s mission is built upon its collection of oral histories–these are the people we’re committed to remembering, and getting to share their accounts with our audience puts a deeply personal spin on the Museum experience. Join Curator of Oral History Joey Balfour as he discusses the Normandy landings with a veteran who experienced the invasion firsthand. Dr. Hal Baumgarten D-Day Commemoration Ceremony Saturday, June 6 11:00 a.m. (CT) Presented in memory of D-Day veteran and Museum friend Dr. Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, this commemoration ceremony will mark the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a solemn remembrance of the events of June 6, 1944, and conclude with a moment of silence. The Dr. Hal Baumgarten D-Day Commemoration Endowment, made possible by the generous gift of Karen and Leopold Sher, ensures that Dr. Baumgarten’s legacy will live on in perpetuity and helps the Museum fulfill its mission to educate future generations about the events of World War II and its lasting impact.

Celebrating 20 Years: The National WWII Museum Saturday, June 6 at 1:00 p.m. (CT)

Boysie Bollinger, longtime Museum Trustee and one of the its biggest champions, together with the Museum’s Founding President & CEO Emeritus Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, and current President & CEO Stephen Watson, will reminisce about what it was like to be a part of the grand opening festivities on June 6, 2000; how WWII history has become a larger part of the nation’s fabric, spurring the expansion of The National WWII Museum; and the Museum’s continued transformation into one of the premier cultural and educational institutions in the world. D-Day at The National WWII Museum

Saturday, June 6 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (CT)

The National WWII Museum will be open to the public for normal business hours on our 20th anniversary. Special features for the day include independent family activities, a Social Media Scavenger Hunt, and the premiere of a short documentary celebrating the Museum’s 20th anniversary. Purchase your tickets here!

USVCC, NFL Hall of Fame Host Service & Sports Heroes

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A military veteran sitting in a wheelchair in his uniform, looking at the camera

By Rich Dolan

On March 9, the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce (USVCC)—in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame—hosted a benefit dinner to support the U.S. Invictus team. The event was hosted at the historic New York Athletic Club, whose athletes have won 271 Olympic medals since the inaugural Modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The night was dedicated to the bravery and commitment of the wounded military veterans who make up the U.S. Invictus team and featured a silent auction of NFL memorabilia to benefit the team. Kevin “Red Eagle” Brown, president and CEO of USVCC, opened up the night, explaining the mission of the USVCC and the organization’s dedication to helping veterans successfully transition from the military to civilian life.

“Underneath the umbrella of support for all veterans, we have a laser-focused look at our wounded warriors that are participating in adaptive sports,” said Brown.

Brown also recognized the late Pro Football Hall of Fame member Chris Doleman for his contributions to USVCC and the veteran community. “It was his original inspiration that identified the similarities between transitioning ball players and transitioning service members.

“Both of them leaving behind a team, both of them leaving behind something bigger than themselves—a higher calling, a mission, a victory,” said Brown.

Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Bud” Bucha also spoke to the attendees, defining what it meant to be an adaptive athlete. “An adaptive athlete is a competitor who uses the modification in sports to meet the challenge of their disability,” said Bucha. “Basically, an adaptive athlete is an able-bodied athlete with all the problems mankind can think of being thrown in their way.” He went on to thank the many corporate sponsors of the night, the athletes and the veterans who he added, “have gone to the gates of hell and back to serve their country.”

Retired Army Master Sergeant and U.S. Invictus team co-captain George Vera also spoke to the attendees. Vera shared his personal story of the events that led to him become an adaptive athlete. In 2015, Vera’s base in Afghanistan was attacked by terrorists using a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and assaulters with suicide vests in an attempt to overrun the outpost. Vera led part of a counterattack that successfully defeated the terrorists inside the base.

However, in the process Vera was shot four times in his legs and back, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. Vera experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout his recovery, and he explained how adaptive sports helped save his life. “Although I couldn’t be a regular Special Forces guy, Istill had the ability to help lead,” said Vera.

He also discussed the bond that adaptive sports bring to the wounded warrior community. “Although it’s great to bring home the gold medal, I don’t really think that’s what it’s about—it’s more about overcoming adversity and helping others overcome adversity,” Vera said.

Among the other honored guests of the night were Pro Football Hall of Fame members Kevin Greene, Curtis Martin, Mike Haynes, Curly Culp, Harry Carson, Morten Andersen and Rickey Jackson. Greene also held a fireside chat for the attendees, where he spoke about his time serving in the U.S. Army and his reverence for the wounded warriors playing on the U.S. Invictus team.

“They volunteer, first of all, to serve our country in the combined armed forces, and then despite all the adversity that they’ve experienced and are presently experiencing they’re now becoming heroes of the field of sports,” said Greene. “They’re being heroes for us now on a different stage, on an international stage, representing this country in these sporting events.” The fireside chat came to a playful close as Greene was asked if he would take Tom Brady on his team, to which he replied, “does a fat baby fart?”

The main event of the night featured a fireside chat between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. Baker opened up the discussion by reciting “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Henley wrote the poem in in the late 1870s after losing a leg to tuberculosis. The poem was meant to define fortitude in the face of adversity, and strength in the face of permanent disability.

Throughout the fireside chat, the long relationship between the NFL and the military was discussed, as well as the fact that three NFL players—including an NFL commissioner—have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Goodell then touched on his 2008 United Service Organizations (USO) tour that brought him to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to visit deployed soldiers, saying, “I was just amazed at what these people do for us. The men and women in our military are just extraordinary,” added Goodell. He went on to say that the 10 days he spent on the tour were some of the most inspiring days of his life, adding that the debt which is owed to U.S. soldiers for what they sacrifice could never be repaid.

The two also discussed Goodell’s contributions to the veteran community, including his support of the Merging Vets & Players (MVP) organization, which helps transitioning service members and professional athletes navigate life outside of uniform together. When asked about his thoughts on the Invictus Games, Goodell told Baker that he didn’t think there was anything more inspiring.

“I don’t think that there’s anything more important in the world to show people that you do overcome those problems, you do overcome those challenges, and you’re doing something really positive in the world and inspiring people who are watching you as athletes on the world stage,” Goodell said. “When you combine football, athletes and our veterans, that’s a magical combination in my view.”

The night ended with the silent auction of NFL memorabilia and VIP picture opportunities. Over $150,000 was raised by 256 attendees and all proceeds will fund the U.S. Invictus Team Training Camp at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus in Canton, Ohio. Official sponsors of the event included Caliber Home Loans, Seeger Weiss, World’s Greatest Videos, Aetna, CVS Health, GEICO and Loews Hotels.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Invictus Games have been postponed until 2021. For more information, visit invictusgamesfoundation.org

Remembering America’s Military

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Memorial Day

Throughout American history, men and women have loved our country so deeply that they were willing to give their all to preserve its safety and freedom. On the last Monday in May, our nation honors the selfless heroes who gave their lives to defend the land we love and the freedoms we believe everyone deserves.

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. People visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Often people decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition.

Ways to Honor Our Fallen Heroes
This tradition continues on Memorial Day when we reflect on the courage of service members who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Here’s what you and your family can do to remember these heroes this Memorial Day:

✪✪Display the flag—The U.S. flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day. Some people also choose to fly the POW/MIA flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in.

✪✪Visit a cemetery—Honor the memory of a family member or another veteran by putting flowers on their grave.

✪✪Join the national moment of silence—Pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.

✪✪Attend local parades—Many cities and towns have Memorial Day parades to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

✪✪Wear red poppies—Red poppies are worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Strange Days, Indeed

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Headshot of Scoba Rhoades

By Scoba Rhodes

Like you, I have been cooped up in my apartment for almost two weeks. For me, the lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much, except when I head outside, the experience is very different.

Since being confined to a wheelchair, I’ve had to adjust to working more from home. It took me over ten years to adjust to my situation, so to expect anyone to do it overnight is a really tall order. Everything is closed except for the huge lines waiting to get inside the grocery stores. No one is hanging out at the coffee shop, the malls are either empty or closed all together, and even the pool at my apartment complex is locked due to “an abundance of caution.” I agree with these measures since they are meant to save lives. But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if the lives the government is hoping to save aren’t going stir crazy wondering when this will all be over.

During my voluntary internment, I’ve been catching up on my reading. Much has been work-related, with some personal development mixed in, and quite a few have been articles advising us on how to best cope with the current crisis. My current book is titled, “How to break the habit of being yourself.” It’s quite a read.

I have read articles providing ideas on working out inside your home, new recipes to try, even ideas on making movie and music lists. There have been articles on the power of positive thinking during this crisis, and that may be the most misused concept yet. I’ve heard many state and federal government briefs stating over and over that this is a temporary condition, yet I’m pretty sure when this article is published, we may still be in our homes waiting out this wave.

I am part of a group of neighbors that get together every Wednesday and share some good wine and conversation and catch up with each other in our neighborhood clubhouse. It has been closed for a few weeks, so we decided to meet outside today, keeping our six-foot distance and each bringing our own wine. We were having a great time until one of the complex managers said we had to go back to our apartments. I complied, as did everyone else, and I cannot say the manager was wrong to do it. In fact, looking back, I can say it was the correct decision. I just felt like a 54-year-old man being told to go to his room.

I can’t help but wonder once this is all over, will everyone have adjusted to the new habits, and will shaking hands will have become a thing of the past? When these thoughts enter my mind, I immediately find a book I’ve been putting off reading, place a Blu-ray on I’ve been thinking about, or just sit down with my wife and have a cup of coffee together, something we haven’t done in a long time. Thanks to the current level of technology, I can meet with clients and friends using Zoom or Skype, something I am quite used to. I actually did my first year at USC from my hospital room, and it was the Skype application that allowed me to be in the classroom. This was in 2012, long before the schools went online. Necessity is always the mother of invention it may seem.

I am part of the population with compromised health issues. Being paralyzed, having bronchitis as a child has left me with scar tissue on my lungs, and being in my mid-fifties all means I cannot afford to be cavalier about the current situation. Now when my wife says to make sure I take a jacket, or don’t forget my hat, I no longer say “I’ll be fine.” Now my answer is “Thank you sweetheart. I got it.” I head out, collect what I need, and return home.

I am attempting to build relationships online, in the hopes that when we are allowed to congregate again, we will still be somewhat familiar with each other, and have a newfound appreciation for the joys of personal connection. There are networks on LinkedIn and Facebook for every group you can imagine. Nextdoor.com is also a great place to find and connect digitally with your neighbors. If you’re in Orange County, I relish the day when we can meet in person, share a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, or grab a nice lunch (or martini) at my favorite hangout at the District Mall.

I can’t pretend the current situation is not happening (which it is), nor abandon hope that it is temporary (which I know). I realize by taking these steps now, I am participating in a practice that will benefit our nation, and possibly save a life. I remind myself that I am not being sent to my room, I am doing this willingly in support of a greater health effort. When I feel frustrated or cooped up, which happens more than I’d like to admit, I find a lesson online and learn something new, or take time to reconnect with my wife.

One thing is for sure: Our habits and attitudes will be forever altered. Some for the betterment of society, some for the safety of ourselves and our families. Let’s attempt to make those changes out of diligence, and not fear.

To quote author John Shedd, Admiral Grace Hopper, and Albert Einstein, “Ships are safest when in port. But that’s not what ships are for.”

Be safe and healthy everyone, and remember, “This too shall pass.”

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