After making Warrior Wishes come true in San Diego at the Chargers game at the 15th game of our 2016 “All32in17” mission, my dad took a bus from San Diego to LA, then walked 2 miles from the greyhound station to the megabus stop where he took a $1 overnight bus to San Francisco.

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He met up with our friend Lou in San Fran for the 2nd time this week.  Lou treated my dad to dinner as he always does and let him sleep on his couch (my dad said it was much more comfortable than the airport couch…).  Lou & my dad made their way to Oakland Sunday morning to make Warrior Wishes come true at the Raiders game! 

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Unfortunately, when they woke up Sunday morning it was raining & the forecast called for 60-80% chance of rain all day. And boy did it rain!!! The minute they pulled into the parking lot, the drizzle turned into a monsoon. 

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They went from tent to tent trying to stay dry while walking over to Lot B where Kingsford Kirk and his Bad Boyz of BBQ Tailgate have hosted our heroes for the past 4 years!

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Here are some of our favorite memories from making warrior wishes come true in Oakland over the years.  

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This year, Lou had brought a couple of his employees from his body shop to join us too. A few minutes after we arrived my dad met up with Army SGT Mikhail Venikov.  

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My dad had met SGT Venikov in San Francisco, during the WWAFT Flag Football game. Not only is he a veteran himself, he also runs a non profit organization called “Ranger Road” based in Sacramento. Their mission is to help other veterans by keeping them active. Ranger Road loves to help warriors train hard and play hard.  They practice mixed martial arts (mma), go mountain biking, go wake boarding & believe that staying fit, with a healthy mind and body, are critical to our happiness and overall success. The name is derived from the fact that he won the 2006 Best Ranger Competition, which is an incredible achievement for anyone in the Army!

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Mikhail has also nominated a few warriors including Sgt Alex Jauregui that we hosted last week at the 49ers game.  

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While he educated us a little in what his Charity does and discussed ways to work together, he and his wife really enjoyed the great food and meeting some of the Raider superfans at the Bad Boyz of BBQ tailgate. 

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Our other guests for the Raiders game were Shelly Bell & Demarcos. Shelly is the Gold Star mom of Army SFC Joshua Hardy, she is a true die hard fan and was our guest a couple years ago too.  My dad enjoyed catching up with her!

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Thanks to Kirk, a lot of good food and fun was had by all at the tailgate – despite the rain. My dad gave all our guests letters from school kids and their New Era Raiders caps under the tents, so they didn’t get drenched.

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Although we were hoping the rain would let up before we headed in, it DID NOT!!  At this point, everyone was pretty much soaked anyway, so walking in rain now didn’t matter. 

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We had great seats thanks to Lou, but continued to get soaked as the rain continued to fall.  The wet weather affected the game by creating a couple fumbles and multiple missed Field Goals.  The Raiders trailed 13-10 at half.

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There was good news & bad news in the 2nd half.  The good news, the rain finally stopped, but bad news is so did the Raiders.  They failed to score or even move the ball much in 2nd half, losing by the score of 26-10 and tightening up the AFC West Division.

Despite the rain & the loss, everyone had a great time.  We couldn’t have made it all possible without Kingsford Kirk & his Bad Boyz of BBQ tailgate for providing pregame entertainment, New Era for the Raiders caps, The Chive for the KCCO T-Shirts and our friend Lou for the tickets 

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Most importantly, Thank You to Army Sgt Mikhail Venikov for your service to our country & to other Veterans. Shelly Bell, your son is a true hero.  May we never forget Army SFC Joshua Hardt’s legacy! We are forever grateful for his service & Sacrifice!  NEVER FORGOTTEN! 

After the game, my dad dried off and made his way back to San Francisco with Lou.  He will be on a flight to Phoenix first thing in the morning to make Warrior Wishes come true at the Monday night Cardinals game!  In the past 41 days my dad has hosted warriors at 27 events (16 NFL games) in 23 different cities!  Stay tuned for more details & our first half recap!  

MEET THE WARRIORS 

ARMY SFC JOSHUA HARDT

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While he was still in high school, Joshua Hardt took one look at his future wife, Olivia, and told friends that some day he would be with her.

” ‘One day, I’ll even marry her,’ ” she said he told her that he had bragged to his friends. “Joshua knew what he wanted and went for it.”

So after Hardt finished high school, he decided to enlist in the Army as a way to provide for his future family, Olivia Hardt said. The two were married in April 2007.

On Oct. 3, Army Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, a cavalry scout, was among eight soldiers killed when hundreds of insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked two remote U.S. outposts in the Kamdesh district of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, on the Pakistani border. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, Colo.

He was on his first deployment to Afghanistan but previously had served in Iraq.

Joshua, who lived in the small Placer County community of Applegate, was the youngest of three brothers, all of whom shared the same initials and were spaced about a year apart. Jonathon is the oldest at 26, and Jeff is 25.

Their grandmother, Patricia Hardt, said her youngest grandson was always a happy-go-lucky kid. “He always had a smile on his face,” she said. “Always.”

Jonathon Hardt, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., said Joshua “played the little brother role really well.”

Jonathon, an Army sergeant who recently returned from his own fourth deployment, said that when the three siblings were growing up, Joshua was like the “test dummy.”

The older brother remembers teasing Joshua as a child by wrapping him up in blankets and tying belts around him. “He’d get mad, then 10 minutes later, he’d want to do it again,” Jonathon said.

As the youngest of three, Joshua tried hard to stand out. “He was a go-getter,” Jonathon said. “He definitely wasn’t shy about his ambition.”

So when Joshua, then 18, met Olivia in English class at Placer High School in Auburn in 2003, he kept after her for about a year before finally persuading her to go on a date with him.

That first date was low-key: a movie and Chinese food. He gave Olivia a piggyback ride into the cafe.

Later that night, he asked if he could give her a good-night kiss. She declined, but he touched his lips to her forehead. She reciprocated with a kiss on the cheek.

He ran down the driveway, kicked his heels in the air and exclaimed “Yes!” his wife remembers. “He was animated like that,” she said.

Whether it involved caring for his wife, playing high school football or getting promoted rapidly in the Army, Joshua pushed himself hard for the right things, Jonathon said.

“If it was a task or any kind of objective that was in his path, he definitely tackled it and didn’t shy away from it,” Jonathon said.

Joshua was proud of being in the military and of following in his brother’s footsteps as a sergeant, said their father, Mike Hardt. “He was so eager to move up,” he said. “He would joke about it and say there will be a day when my brother will salute me.”

Mike Sabins, who was Joshua’s football coach at Placer High, said the young man worked hard and was respected by the coaching staff and other players on the team. Although he was new to the school in his senior year, he fit in well with the football program, the coach said.

“He just did a great job,” Sabins said. Joshua’s talent and dedication were honored when his helmet was retired after his senior year, the coach said.

Joshua also loved trout and bass fishing, playing baseball and practicing karate.

He took any opportunity he could to better himself, Jonathon said: “He wanted to prove there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.”

Olivia Hardt, of Auburn, said the military was changing her husband for the better — he was becoming more mature and had started seeing a military chaplain regularly for advice. She said he also was sending her fresh flowers — red roses, or white and pink tulips — just about every week. “He was being the best husband a guy could possibly be,” she said.

Joshua had told his wife that the chaplain had urged him to treat her like a queen every single day until death.

And he did, she said.

SOURCE:http://articles.latimes.com/2009/dec/13/local/la-me-hardt13-2009dec13

ARMY SGT MIKHAIL VENIKOV

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I immigrated to America at a young age. I wrestled in high school then joined the military. I served 4 years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. I did 3 tours, 2 to Iraq & 1 to Afghanistan. I competed in the 2006 best Ranger Competition. I now run a veteran non profit organization www.rangerroad.org

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