Vet Tix & 1st Tix, a non-profit organization is working to capture the spirit of America. The veteran organization is holding a nationwide virtual talent show, ‘America’s Hidden Talent’ in partnership with Law Enforcement Today.
Kids and adults are able to show off their talents in this online competition. Those participating have to be a veteran, emergency responder, active military member, or have a household family member who is.
The top 3 videos will be voted on by the public.
Celebrity judges including Kurt Bush, NASCAR Cup Champion, Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher, former Navy SEAL and Shark Tank contestant and model Jessica Rafalawski will then pick the winner who will receive a $500 gift card to Amazon.
The deadline for this competition is Sunday, May 3rd. Don’t miss out! Share your special talent today.
Here is how it works:
There are three categories:
• Kids 12 and under.
• Kids 13-19.
Competitors need to create a video that’s five minutes or less showcasing their talent. They will then need to upload it onto YouTube. Once uploaded they will need to add in the description a written paragraph about who they are, what their talent is, and what America means to them.
Competitors must post the link to their social media pages and tag either Vet Tix or 1st Tix and include #VetTixTalentShow when posting online.
To be officially entered into the contest contestants MUST email the YouTube link to email@example.com between now and Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Once submitted, the public will be able to vote on their favorite competitor for each age group. The voting will take place the following week.
The top three videos that get the most votes from each age group category will then be sent to the panel of celebrity judges. Once the judges have given feedback on all the finalists’ videos, a winner will be chosen and announced on a Facebook watch party.
The winner in each category will receive a $500 Amazon gift card.
“Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to serve first responders as a way to thank them as they keep our families and communities safe each and every day.” Michael Focareto, Veteran Tickets Foundation founder, CEO and Navy veteran stated.
Those feeling the need for speed are going to have to wait until next summer to see “Top Gun: Maverick.”
The sequel to the hit 1986 film, “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise was supposed to hit theaters in December. Paramount announced on Thursday that the film will now premiere July 2, 2021.
Cruise is reprising his role as US Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. It also stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and is directed by Joseph Kosinski.
“We truly believe that there is no movie-viewing experience like the one enjoyed in theatres,” Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson, and president of international theatrical distribution Mark Viane said in a statement. “We are committed to the theatrical experience and our exhibition partners, and want to stress that we are confident that, when the time comes, audiences everywhere will once again enjoy the singular joy of seeing Paramount films on the big screen.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed yet another event for long-distance running enthusiasts.
The Marine Corps Marathon, with its picturesque course that takes runners through some of the most historic parts of Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., will not be held in person in 2020 for the first time in its 45-year history. The main event had been scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 25.
“We explored various approaches to safely execute a live event and held numerous meetings with Marine Corps leadership, local government and public health officials,” said Rick Nealis, director of the Marine Corps Marathon Organization (MCMO) in a statement. “We understand this is disappointing news for many, but we could no longer envision a way to gather together in compliance with safety guidelines.”
Race organizers will instead offer participants opportunities to register and complete distances for certification via the Marine Marathon website.
“Health and safety are our top priorities during this challenging time,” said Libby Garvey, Arlington County Board Chair. “The Marine Corps Marathon is a treasured event and tradition in our community that Arlingtonians look forward to each year. As we celebrate the race’s 45th anniversary this year, we will be enthusiastically and virtually cheering on each runner. We can’t wait to welcome these dedicated athletes and fans back to Arlington in person in 2021.”
Continue on to USA Today to read the complete article.
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II.
His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats.
Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.
During the Battle of the Atlantic, convoy HX-25, consisting of 37 Allied ships, is making its way to Liverpool.
The convoy’s escort consists of the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Keeling, codenamed Greyhound; the British destroyer, HMS James, codenamed Harry, the Polish destroyer ORP Viktor (with a Royal Navy liason officer on the radio), codenamed Eagle; and the Canadian Flower-class corvette, HMCS Dodge, codenamed Dickie.
The escorts are under the command of Commander Ernest Krause of the United States Navy aboard Greyhound; despite his seniority it is his first wartime command.
The film is directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, and is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester. It also stars Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, and Elisabeth Shue.
WATCH THE TRAILER!
Read about Tom Hanks in U.S. Veterans Magazine’s mid-August issue featured cover story!
This year, in addition to using the organization’s unique brand of motorcycle therapy to aid combat veterans dealing with PTSD, the veteran-operated, non-profit organization will implement a “service before self” initiative to show appreciation to first responders who have been working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Veteran’s Charity Ride uses “motorcycle therapy,” a proven remedy that provides therapeutic solutions to help fellow veterans move forward and adjust to civilian life. The 2020 ride will include 15 total veterans – nine new veterans, along with six returning veterans who will serve as mentors.
“During these extraordinary times, getting our veterans out of the house and supporting them with the liberating power of motorcycle therapy is more important than ever,” said Dave Frey, U.S. Army Veteran and Veterans Charity Ride Founder. “To be able to combine those efforts and honor our selfless and invaluable first responders during this unprecedented pandemic makes this journey even more gratifying. In light of COVID-19, we will be implementing necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy, as we come together to heal and support one another on our ride to the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”
This year’s ride to Sturgis will start on July 29, 2020 in Moab, Utah where the group will cruise through the mountainous roads of Utah, stop in the cities of Craig and Fort Collins, Colorado and ride through some of the nation’s most scenic backroads and highways before arriving at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota on August 7, 2020. The travelers will be riding a variety of Indian Motorcycle models, outfitted with ReKluse auto clutch systems and custom-built Champion Sidecars for amputee and paraplegic veterans. The journey provides an experience for veterans to bond by implementing team-building exercises that allow riders to share stories and memories of their service during a two-week, mind-cleansing motorcycle ride.
For years, VCR has supported veterans by creating a healing atmosphere through motorcycle riding and camaraderie when stopping at several small towns to commemorate and honor our nation’s veteran heroes. This year, the event will have an added focus on lives outside of veterans, extended to first responders who have courageously held the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. By following strict safety and sanitary guidelines, VCR will extend an additional hand out to these frontline workers by providing personal protection equipment and hosting barbecues at select tour stops.
“Our nation’s veterans and healthcare workers are an inspiration, and we’re grateful to be a part of an experience that honors their selflessness and sacrifices for our country,” said Reid Wilson, Vice President for Indian Motorcycle. “We’re honored to continue supporting the Veterans Charity Ride and are humbled by their work and positive impact on our veterans.”
The Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis was conceived and developed by veteran Army Paratrooper Dave Frey and Emmy Award-winning producer and director Robert Manciero, leveraging the therapeutic effects of motorcycle riding to create an adventure of a lifetime for wounded veterans.
Indian Motorcycle is America’s first motorcycle company. Founded in 1901, Indian Motorcycle has won the hearts of motorcyclists around the world and earned distinction as one of America’s most legendary and iconic brands through unrivaled racing dominance, engineering prowess and countless innovations and industry firsts. Today that heritage and passion is reignited under brand new stewardship. To learn more, please visitindianmotorcycle.com.
ABOUT VETERANS CHARITY RIDE
Veterans Charity Ride (VCR), started by veterans for veterans, is a non-profit organization that delivers Motorcycle Therapy and additional life changing, life-saving holistic programs specifically designed to assist wounded and amputee combat veterans with their needs and the issues they deal with on a daily basis. Helping our fellow veterans through outreach, action, activities, education and follow-up is what drives our organization. The end result of our program is a healthier and happier, more capable individual, who is now living life in a much better physical and mental condition, and able to help and support other veterans to do the same. Visit veteranscharityride.org to learn more and support this worthy cause.
Duty. Country. Family. From The New York Times comes a documentary 10 years in the making. FATHER SOLDIER SON releases globally on Netflix this month.
This intimate documentary from The New York Times follows a former platoon sergeant and his two young sons over almost a decade, chronicling his return home after a serious combat injury in Afghanistan.
Originating as part of a 2010 project on a battalion’s yearlong deployment, reporters-turned-filmmakers Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis stuck with the story to trace the longterm effects of military service on a family.
At once a verité portrait of ordinary people living in the shadow of active duty and a longitudinal survey of the intergenerational cycles of military service, FATHER SOLDIER SON is a profound and deeply personal exploration of the meaning of sacrifice, purpose, duty and American manhood in the aftermath of war.
FATHER SOLDIER SON releases globally on Netflix July 17.
Directed and Produced by:
Leslye Davis & Catrin Einhorn
Miracles happen every day at CAMO Foundation, and the angels who perform them are the 4-legged variety. Dedicated to providing service dogs specifically trained for the unique needs of disabled veterans, the nonprofit organization in Palm Beach Gardens, FL is the only organization in the country that uses mature dogs rescued from local pounds.
The brainchild of Mike Lorraine, a professional dog trainer with 20 years experience, the foundation is located on a picturesque farm in south Florida, co-owned by Lorraine and a local area businessman, Joe Mullings. Their mission is simple: Provide military veterans who are physically or emotionally challenged with shelter dogs who have the right qualities—intelligence, focus, drive—to be service animals.
Yes, shelter dogs! Most service dogs are raised as puppies. However, Lorraine believes that there’s a certain fearless, stoic quality that makes select shelter dogs the perfect match for injured combatants. You might say that they’ve both seen conflict and survived.
One of CAMO’s biggest success stories so far is 26-year-old Matt Kleemann, a former Navy diver who specialized in underwater repairs on submarines. While driving home along a snowy road, he swerved to avoid a deer and plunged over a cliff. When he awoke, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Wheelchair-bound, he says, “The original plan was for me to just get my dog, Charlie Brown, but Mike saw potential in me. So, I started to come down every day.” Today, Matt serves as a mentor to visiting veterans.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Adone “Cal” Calderone had just finished his breakfast aboard the USS West Virginia, when his ship was attacked by eight torpedoes and four bombs from a Japanese air raid.
The 21-year-old soldier was trapped and wounded on the ship from the attacks, taking shrapnel to the face along with other injuries. “The doctors wanted to keep me longer,” Calderone said of his injuries, “I wanted to get back out there.”
Calderone would go on to serve the Navy for a total of six years.
Now a World War II veteran and a survivor of the Pearl Harbor bombings, Calderone resides in Stark County, Ohio, where he just celebrated his 100th birthday.
Calderone enjoys music, driving, staying active, and sharing his experiences from the war. “Dad really gets around,” Calderone’s son, Greg, told Stars and Stripes. “It’s amazing that he’s 100 years old.” Calderone’s 100th birthday officially makes him the oldest known living Pearl Harbor survivor.
“If feels good to be 100,” Calderone said, “It’s so nice, very nice.” Calderone spent the day celebrating with about a dozen of his family members and friends, including his wife of 75 years, Carrie, at a surprise birthday gathering in front of his house.
When asked what the secret was to his 100 years, Calderone gave a smile and reported without hesitation, “Good wine.”
USO is celebrating military service members and their families during “Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” this 4th of July. The virtual fun run, presented by Delta Air Lines, includes USO music playlists, rise and shine warm-up featuring Robert Killian, National Anthem sung by the USO Show Troupe and a virtual celebration.
Participants will also receive a USO branded t-shirt, downloadable bib, face mask and medal to show their support for America’s military service members. Whether you ruck, walk or run, participating on the 4th of July will directly benefit deserving military service members and their families. “Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” is our opportunity to celebrate our nation’s heroes as a united patriotic community while social distancing.
Invite family, friends and co-workers to participate in this celebratory event and tag USO on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to share your support.
Ahead of “Four on the 4th,” tune into The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon event on Thursday, July 2, 2020 from 6 – 10 a.m. as comedians bring laughter and entertainment all morning long broadcasted live on the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101 featuring co-host Lisa Stanley. The annual program is reimagined this year to virtually bring together our nation’s troops, the funniest comedic talent, and Bob Hope USO’s dedicated community partners including the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and Delta Air Lines.
The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon with the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101
Thursday, July 2, 2020
6 a.m. – 10 a.m.
“Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence”
Saturday, July 4, 2020
7:30 a.m. Rise and Shine warm-up on Facebook Live featuring Robert Killian
The Annual Bob Hope USO Radiothon will be broadcast live with the Gary Bryan Morning Show on K-Earth 101 from the Bob Hope USO at LAX.
“Four on the 4th – Ruck, Walk & Run for Independence” will take place virtually, whether it be your favorite trail, park or around your neighborhood!
Text “Freedom” to 90990 to donate in support of the weekend long festivities. Sign-up for “Four on the 4th” as an individual, team or sponsor. Registration is $35 per person. All proceeds go to USO’s mission of strengthening America’s service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country. Interested parties are encouraged to register before Friday, June 26 and can sign-up at goneforarun.com/uso. Sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested in generously sponsoring free races for USO military families to join, as well. For sponsorship opportunities please visit cvent.com/d/bnqyj6 or contact Gaby Coyle at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
MORE FROM THE USO:
The USO’s annual T-shirt campaign will run throughout July and is a way for military supporters to express their thanks to service members and military families who are serving around the world to keep us safe, protect the country and answer the call when emergencies and natural disasters strike.
With a donation of $29 or more, military supporters will receive a limited-edition patriotic shirt. Donations to the USO go toward programs and services that strengthen the Armed Forces and keep them connected to family, home and country. The USO carries out its mission through reading and food programming for families, transition resources for service members and military spouses, care packages and entertainment that reach troops in the most remote places of the world and more.
The public can visit USO.org/tshirt to donate and get their exclusive shirt.
“At the USO, we focus on being the Force Behind the Forces. This campaign is a way for Americans to join in and be part of the effort to support our military,” said USO CEO and President Dr. J.D. Crouch II. “When each of us takes action, the collective impact is tremendous. Donations raised will help the USO continue to provide care, comfort and connection to keep our military and their families strong.”
Each year service members select the T-shirt design by voting at USO locations around the world. The chosen design becomes the limited-edition shirt of the year, known as the “Official Uniform of the Military Supporter”.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the campaign. USO tour veteran and multiplatinum, GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown developed this year’s patriotic design and printed the shirts through his own brand, Atlanta-based Zac Brown Collective. Longstanding USO partner Kroger provided the shirts made of recycled material.
“We can’t overstate our appreciation and gratitude for our military service men and women around the world and the USO which is there whenever and wherever our troops need some of the familiar comforts, connections and tastes of home,” said Keith Dailey, Kroger’s group vice president of corporate affairs. “Since 2010, the Kroger Family of Companies has provided more than $33 million to the USO. And in keeping with our long-standing commitment to the organization, we are matching up to $250,000 to support this year’s USO T-shirt campaign, uplifting service members and their families.”
Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the T-shirt campaign is the USO’s first-ever Fourth of July special. This will be the first of a three-part summer series airing through Labor Day. It will provide both military and military supporter audiences the chance to tune in to see musicians and personalities share their support for the military community.
The Fourth of July concert will air on the USO’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels at 12 a.m. ET and 12 p.m. ET to accommodate time zones around the world. The event will include a variety of segments from USO tour veterans comedian Iliza Shlesinger and actor/musician Craig Robinson along with “America’s Got Talent” world champion Shin Lim. It will also include a special nod to American surf music by the iconic Mike Love and The Beach Boys, featuring special guest John Stamos. Country music legend Clint Black will headline the first concert, and the series will continue through August with artists such as Florida Georgia Line, The Chainsmokers and more.
“Providing high-quality entertainment for our military and their families is in the USO’s DNA. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still meeting our entertainment mission – virtually, reaching thousands of people globally,” said Christopher Plamp, USO senior vice president of operations, programs and entertainment. “This virtual concert series is one example of the programming that positions the USO as the premier military entertainment provider. The concerts will also express the nation’s gratitude and help the American public gain an understanding of the critical ways the USO strengthens service members and their families.”
The summer series is a continuation of the recently launched USO MVP series, providing virtual delivery across USO operations, programs and entertainment activities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Since April 1, the USO’s entertainment division has hosted 30 virtual engagements across 24 countries and 37 states and territories. View more of the USO MVP virtual playlist at USO.org/MVP.
About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The first time it happened caught Kimberly Petersen off guard when she was watching her daughter, Allyson’s softball game. Seconds had passed, yet Allyson still had a blank stare, if not, unconscious look on her freckled face. Episodes like this kept repeating on and off the softball field, with each instance lasting for between 20 to 30 seconds.
Allyson, 11-years-old with long brown hair that matched the color of her piercing hazel eyes — the spitting image of her mother at that age — had something wrong going on inside of her. From what her daughter was exhibiting, it appeared to Petersen to be a type of epilepsy known as absence seizures, which are common among children.
Petersen spent eight years in the Navy as a corpsman. Her grounding in medicine came from advanced placements at clinics and hospitals. She and her “Ally” thought nothing more of the seizures. Allyson, unsuspectingly thought she was merely spacing out.
Appointments were scheduled with her regular doctor but problems arose with her insurance provider, preventing necessary scans being done. The alarm bells slowly began to ring as the length of each seizure Allyson experienced began to intensify, and were now accompanied with facial grimacing and her right-hand curling inwards during each episode. The noise finally hit a crescendo one summer evening in June 2016, when Allyson experienced several prolonged seizures in the same day, including a terrifying moment unlike anything before.
“We were out on the front deck when she collapsed on the flowers,” Petersen said of the startling scene that took place at their home in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Allyson’s body draped over the broken pots.
“I rolled her over, and she had stroke-like symptoms on the right side of her face.”
Allyson needed immediate medical attention and was soon after taken to the emergency center at Regional Hospital in Rapid City, a 30-minute drive from their home. After undergoing several tests, including a CT scan, it revealed that a tumor had massed over a section of Allyson’s brain that controls for speech and motor functions. Scared and frightened by the revelatory news, Allyson looked at her mother and said, “Am I going to die?”
Nearly 5,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed each year with a brain tumor, according to the American Cancer Society. As the second most common form of cancer in children, very few drugs exist in the marketplace to treat brain tumors, making traditional methods of radiation, chemotherapy, and invasive surgery typical medical care options that supplement clinical trials.
Days after visiting the emergency room, Allyson was admitted to the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she underwent an open craniotomy to remove the brain tumor. The procedure didn’t go according to plan.
During the surgery, the pediatric neurosurgeon recognized that the tumor had embedded itself deep in the brain. In the best interest of Allyson’s quality of life — ensuring she has full ability of speaking and motor functions — the decision was made to leave a fraction of the tumor in her brain to avoid any permanent damage.
In the three months that had passed since the procedure, it was discovered that the tumor had begun to regrow. With limited treatment options, Allyson was placed in a clinical trial to mitigate further growth of the tumor. The treatments didn’t work as Allyson developed complications that resulted in her leaving the trial. Chemotherapy became the next preventive measure to quash the tumor’s growth.
“She started developing cells behind her cornea which can cause blindness and irreversible damages,” explained Petersen about the dangerous side effects Allyson experienced from the cocktail of drugs that had been pumped into her body.
Several years had gone by since Petersen and her husband divorced. She wasn’t just taking care of her sick daughter and keeping her family afloat. She was also midway through a master’s degree program. The balancing act came at a high cost.
“Even though I have good insurance,” she said, “the out of pocket expenses, the food, the hotels, gas, time away from my other kids, putting the dog in the kennel, it felt like I was robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
She and Allyson frequently commuted more than 600 miles from Sturgis to Masonic Children’s Hospital so that Allyson was able to receive critical follow ups and MRI scans each phase of her cancer treatment. Depending on how much time Petersen was able to take off from the Meade School District, where she serves as a special educator, she wasn’t left with many options.
Flying to and from Minneapolis wasn’t in the cards. Petersen would either have to book it to Minneapolis in one day or spend the night at her parent’s home in Watertown, a six-hour drive from Sturgis, before spending the next four hours getting into the city.
Bills began piling up. Those that could be paid were done in piecemeal. Other bills weren’t paid at all. Downsizing expenses and making ends meet became the survivalist mentality she and her family adopted under the sole income she was bringing in. They had no other choice. It got to the point where she had to seriously ask herself, “do I pay the credit card bill, or do I pay the water bill?”
In the pecking order of priorities, Petersen was stretching every dollar she could to ensure her children had food on the table, a roof over their heads, and that she had gas in her car. She even picked up a summer job to supplement her salary by working nearby Black Hills National Forrest at an RV resort in Spearfish, South Dakota. Yet for all that she was doing to make ends meet, she was delinquent on her monthly mortgage payments.
Five months overdue, her home loan provider gave her notice that if she were unable to pay the balance and associated late fees in full, she would face foreclosure on her home.
“I have four kids looking up to me. I can’t quit, and I can’t sit there and wallow about it and have a pity party,” she said of finding any ways to deal with her financial circumstances.
While there were plenty of times, she admits, where she broke down and cried out of sight of her children, sometimes in the car or the backyard, she was resolved to seek help. Her mother, Linda, insisted she look into the Gary Sinise Foundation as a few years ago, the organization had helped her younger brother with the purchase of a new suit for his wedding. Perhaps the Foundation could help another veteran in financial need.
Through the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency program, the urgent financial needs of those like Kimberly Petersen are addressed through an initiative called heal, overcome, persevere and excel or H.O.P.E.
Petersen was hesitant at first but eventually relented, and in early February of this year, she submitted an initial inquiry seeking mortgage assistance. Within days of her submission, the Foundation’s Outreach team contacted her, requesting additional information to supplement the initial application. Not long after, she received a phone call from the Foundation with an update on the status of her application.
“She was taken aback and almost relieved of her stress,” said Nick Wicksman, who handled Petersen’s application from the start, and who was on the phone with her as the bearer of good news.
The Gary Sinise Foundation was going to cover the last four months of her mortgage and associated late fees. Petersen, having struggled tooth and nail year after year supporting her family as a single mother, was overcome with gratitude.
“She’s able to no longer worry about what is owed but to focus on the present and future by focusing on the health of her family,” said Wicksman. Had she not received financial assistance from the Gary Sinise Foundation, Petersen said matter of factly, “We would’ve lost the house.”
While they’re not out of the tunnel just yet in Allyson’s cancer treatment, they can see the light. Despite setbacks in her regiment of treatments, Allyson was able to compete on the freshman girls’ volleyball and softball teams during the school year while also participating in the school newspaper as a photographer and journalist.
She fights the fight as oral chemotherapy treatments continue as do visits to Masonic Children’s Hospital. Looking back on the last four years and thinking about the question Allyson had asked her late in the night while at the emergency center, Petersen said, “In some ways, the tumor and her cancer diagnosis have brought us closer together because we’ve learned that you don’t know what’s going to happen from day to day.”
“Between Masonic Children’s Hospital and the Gary Sinise Foundation, I know I wouldn’t have my daughter.”
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.