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Warrior Wishes Come True At Superbowl 50!

After traveling over 30,000 miles and hosting more than 150 Warriors at 43 NFL games in 4 months, it was time to make warrior wishes come true at Super Bowl 50!  

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My dad spent all week in San Francisco making warrior wishes come true at events all over the city, leading up to the big game. I was able to honor heroes at some of those events the last few days.

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Throughout the week it was an honor to host over 20 Warriors at 11 different Super Bowl events. Now it is showtime …Super Bowl Sunday!  Our final game of the 2015 season honoring Army Sgt Joel Tavera, his dad (served 25 years in both Marines and Army) and Army MSgt Cedric King.

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This Super Bowl Sunday was one of our biggest logistical challenges – although we had flown Cedric in earlier in the week, Sgt Tavera and his dad couldn’t get a flight until Sunday AM arriving at 12:30 for a 3:30 kickoff 45 minutes away.

Everything had to be perfect – the flight had to be on time, we needed an uber driver nearby & most of all, little to no traffic.  

My dad went to airport at 7am to trace all steps necessary to make sure everything went perfect . He made arrangements to have bags stored at airport til after the game, called police to get special parking spot for Uber to pick us up , made arrangements for late checkin at hotel, etc. That effort paid off – thanks to a little help from Me back home.  For this of you who have been following us for a while, you know my dad isn’t very tech savvy.  So I had to get him an uber because he was clueless to how it worked…

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Thankfully the flight landed right on time.  My dad Met Sgt Tavera at the baggage claim & took his bags 50 feet to storage, walked another 50 feet to the Uber waiting for them right outside, and we were off . Surprisingly traffic was not bad cuz officials urged everyone to take public transportation and most did.

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My dad got to know Joel & his dad on the 45 minute drive from San Francisco to Santa Clara.  (You can see Joel’s Bio below.). 

They arrived at Levi Stadium with time to spare.  My dad walked them as close to the stadium as he could to take a few pictures before they headed inside to watch their Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50!  

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Our plan worked perfectly!  Now that they were inside enjoying themselves, My dad made his way down the street to watch the game at a local hotel.  

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Cedric had arrived to the stadium much earlier and was already inside enjoying the Super Bowl atmosphere.  Excitement was all around – clearly Broncos fans outnumbered Panthers fans 3 to 1, but the Warriors were all rooting for Panthers, so we were too. It didn’t look good early, as Carolina fell behind 10-0 early, but were able to hang around most of the game even though they never were able to take the lead – this was ironic as they rarely trailed the entire season.

At halftime Cedric made his way through the crowd to meet up with Joel & his dad.  He said it wasn’t easy, but he was able to send us we a great photo of them together laughing it up and having a good time while enjoying the Super Bowl .

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Unfortunately for them, the Panthers could never quite get going and a late 4th qtr fumble and a Broncos touchdown pretty much sealed their fate.  The Denver Broncos went on to win Super Bowl 50 By the score of 24-10.

Although disappointed, Sgt Tavera , his dad and MSgt King all had a great time and wished the Broncos congratulations- and who would have expected anything less from some true American heroes!!!

After the game the Tusca Restaurant, in the Hyatt hotel nearby, hosted everyone for a post game meal before heading back to the airport to pick up their luggage and check into the hotel.

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Operation Warrior Wishes would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to our friends at ESPN for helping us secure tickets to the Big Game, Tusca For providing the post game meal,  Staybridge Suites in San Bruno for providing accommodations for SGT Tavera  and his dad, our friend Lou for letting us stay all week and helping us get around town.  most importantly we want to thank SGT Tavera, his father & MSGT King for your service, sacrifices & your inspirational never give up attitudes!  It’s a true honor to call you friends.  

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We also want to thank everyone who helped us make this Super Bowl Week Special for all the Warriors & everyone who helped make our entire 2015 season a huge success!  We were able to make Warrior Wishes come true at 44 NFL games this year!  We could have never made it all possible without all the support!  

My dad will be taking a few weeks off to catch up with the family & to set up our spring “Battlefields to Ballfields” mission.  Stay tuned for the schedule & don’t forget to nominate your hero!  

2015 All32in17 MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Meet the Warriors

Army SGT Joel Tavera

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Army SGT Joel Tavera followed in his dad’s footsteps and joined the military.

On March 12th 2008, while serving in Iraq, Joel was riding in an SUV with four other soldiers when he felt a sense of fear like none he’d ever experienced. He opened his back door right before the rocket landed on the vehicle. Three of the other soldiers died in the blast. He thinks that open door saved his life.

His last memories of sight: light, blue sky, the sun and the face of Capt. Kevin Lombardo, who came to his rescue.
Lombardo kept Tavera alert as he put on a tourniquet by talking about family, baseball and a tattoo on Tavera’s right arm: “Hebrews 4:12,” under a cross, signifying two blades. It’s one of his favorite verses.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The blast stole four fingers on Army Sgt. Joel Tavera’s left hand, destroyed his right leg, caused brain trauma, burned more than 60 percent of his body and left him blind, but It didn’t take his life.

Tavera isn’t sure how he lived, how he pulled through 81 days in a coma or 60 plus surgeries that patched him together. He leans on God’s word and figures the Lord must have plans for him.

“Not every soldier is like that,” he said. “Some choose to give up, but … my life is not over with.”

Joel says “Who I was then did die, but the new Tavera is, in many ways, better.” And, he believes, blessed.

Tavera received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service, but he barely talked those first two years and got around in a wheelchair. These days, he’s making up for it. He is asked to speak at events often. He writes poetry and is working on a book. He wrote an inspirational song, Just to Be With You, soon after he learned that he was blind.

Being blind is a challenge he embraces.
“I see people for who they really are,” he said. “There’s no going back. If there were, I don’t know if I would.”

We are honored to be hosting Army SGT Joel Tavera & his dad, who also served our country for over 25 years, at the Super Bowl to cheer on their favorite team.

 

Meet Army Master SGT Cedric King

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On July 25th 2012 Cedric was serving in Afghanistan. At the time he was a platoon Sargent & As usual, he received the coordinates of where to go, just like every day, setting out 10-15 minutes later and getting fired upon, which was nothing new. The only thing different on that particular day was that this was a new sector.

Cedric’s team happened to be covering for another platoon. They were bringing a group of guys to cover when Cedric’s right foot stepped on an IED.
He didn’t know what had happened. In fact, he thought at first that he had just been blown back by the blast. The men around him were hurt too, but Cedric received the majority of the injuries, although at the time, he didn’t realize it.

He said, “I was really upset that I didn’t get a chance to finish getting the guys who were shooting at us,” but he said that wore off soon and started gasping for air. He looked at his body and quickly realized that it was mangled. Soon, the helicopter arrived to take Cedric and the other injured men to the closest base, Kandahar. Cedric said that once at the army base, he had no recollection of anything until he woke up a week later on August 1 at Walter Reed.

Cedric lost both of his legs above the knee in the blast. He credits his Family and faith for motivating him to always push his limits and never give up. “These two elements helped me when I didn’t want to get up. Faith helps me believe in a brighter future. Faith keeps me going—this didn’t happen for nothing. I believe in a higher power who loves me enough to say, I’m not doing this to hurt you, I’m doing this to help you.’”

His family, which includes his wife and children, is there for him constantly. Cedric says, “There are people around me who love me, not because I had legs, not because I was strong, not because I could pick up my kids. They love me for the part of me that you can’t see. They love me for what’s on the inside. That’s the part of you they can’t smell, they can’t see.”
Cedric wants to live life the way that He did before or better, as if nothing ever happened. “I’ve got every excuse to say ‘Its too much,’ but I won’t. To me, it’s not awe-inspiring like it is to everyone else. To me, it’s a frame of mind that separates me between now and who I used to be. The injury is big in other people’s eyes. To me, it’s not that big of a deal (any more). It’s a shift in consciousness. The reason why this happened was to make me better…to make me stronger…to expose my best part in me. By not complaining, it makes it better.”

If that doesn’t inspire you, this will. MSgt Cedric King lets nothing stand in his way! On November 2nd, 2014, Cedric set his sights on crossing the finish line at the New York City Marathon. During the grueling 26 mile trek, one of Cedric’s prosthetic legs broke. He lost invaluable time as he waited to get it fixed.

King knelt down and prayed. He put one foot in front of the other & never looked back. After all the crowds had gone home & clean up crews were sweeping the streets, Cedric King crossed the finish line 10 hours after starting the race.

So what if he was one of the last people to cross the finish line? He did it, he displayed strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril, and the willingness to stand up and fight no matter what the cost.

Master Sgt Cedric King recently retired from the army and moved out of Walter Reed back to North Carolina with his family. Cedric is a huge Panthers fan! He is a motivational speaker, a mentor and a true inspiration.

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Warrior Wishes Come True at The Superbowl 50 ESPN Party!

Just a few hours after teaming up with the NFL Hall of Fame to honor heroes at the 2016 Merlin Olsen HOF Luncheon, we made our way across town to make Warrior Wishes come true at the 2016 ESPN Super Bowl party.

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The exclusive party was held at Fort Mason, which in 1941 was home to over a million military men and women as they boarded ships to sail the Pacific to begin Hawaiian relief efforts after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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In an effort to honor its history, this year’s signature Super Bowl event highlighted areas Fort Mason was known for – a vintage nautical design including dock pylons, oversized fishing cages with pulleys, and more than 5,000 feet of nautical rope and oversized props.  Custom chandeliers made from Edison bulbs, lanterns and candle light, also helped set the thematic tone.

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My dad & I were honored to host Marines Davey Lind & Jeremy Stengel at the Party. Once inside we snapped a few pictures in front of the ESPN logo, grabbed a few drinks & got to know each other.  

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Jeremy & Davey were in town playing in the annual Wounded Warrior Amputee Football game.  You can see their Bios below.  They were nominated to be our guests by our friend BJ, who was our 3rd guest ever!  

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When getting to know the Warriors we learned that Jeremy is a Packers fan & Davey a Steelers fan.  Davey told us that getting to meet anyone on the steelers would be a dream come true!

Just a few minutes later I saw Hall of Fame Steelers RB, Jerome Bettis, standing just a few feet away from us.  I made my way over to him and let Jerome know that he could make Davey’s dream come true just by stopping by and saying hi. A few minutes later Jerome Bettis walked over and thanked Davey and Jeremy for their service & sacrifices.

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Davey’s jaw hit the ground and the smile on his face lit up the room.  It was one of our favorite memories from the entire Super Bowl week.  

On top of getting to meet Jerome Bettis, Kurt Warner, Terrell Owens & our friend Chris Berman all took the time to thank the Warriors & take pics with them at the Party!

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We were all hanging out towards the back of the venue talking about what a great night we were having.  Nick Jonas was up on stage performing and all the sudden We saw Davey take off.  He saw Antonio Brown and made a Beeline to chase him down on his prosthetic legs.  

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Antonio was more than happy to stop and hang out with the guys for a few minutes.  Needless to say, but Davey was beyond excited and extremely thankful for the experience.  

It was a perfect way to end the night.  If only a few packers players were there for Jeremy… But we look forward to hosting him at a future Packers game.

We would like to thank our friends at ESPN & all the players who stopped by to help us make these Warrior Wishes come true!

It was a crazy day full of memories and making Warrior Wishes come true.  Time to rest up for the rest of the week…

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MEET THE WARRIORS

MSGT DAVEY LIND

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MSgt Lind lost both his legs after an IED exploded under his vehicle while serving in Iraq in 2007. He and his family received assistance from the Semper Fi Fund (SFF) shortly after arriving at Bethesda National Naval Hospital. The SFF has helped with many needs during his road to recovery, including assistance with home modifications and a modified vehicle, giving him back his independence.

MSgt Lind knows what it’s like to take on a challenge. The 20-year military veteran was a combat diver, free-fall jumper, and a Recon SNCO in Iraq. After losing his legs he was told it would take more than a year before he would walk on prosthetics … he did it in two months. He enjoys the challenge of golf and sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to play TPC Scottsdale’s famous 16th hole and help his fellow injured and critically ill Veterans.

MARINE CPL JEREMY STENGEL

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Cpl Jeremy Stengel was born on Sept 18, 1985 in West Allis, WI. He is the third of five kids in the Stengel family, which includes two sisters, two brothers and two nieces. He joined the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) for the United States Marine Corps on June 20, 2003. Stengel graduated from Waterford Union High School on June 12, 2004 and left for MCRD San Diego on June 13, 2004. After completion of Marine Corps Boot Camp on Sept 10, 2004 he then went to the School of Infantry (SOI) where he learned to become a machine gunner. After graduating SOI he was stationed with 2nd Battalion 3rd Marine Division Weapons Company Heavy Machine Gun Platoon. He was later deployed to Afghanistan with his unit on May 31, 2005 and successfully returned home on Jan 21, 2006. After enjoying a month of leave with his family and friends, his unit started training for deployment to Iraq in March. Once the units’ training had been completed, they deployed to Iraq on Sept 11, 2006.

On Jan 31, 2007, after six months of being deployed, Stengel was on a roadside bomb-sweeping mission in the area of operations when his Humvee hit a pressure plate IED. The explosion launched Cpl Stengel 35 yards away from the Humvee; the driver sustained 3rd degree burns over 80% of his body, and the blast took the lives of Navy Corpsmen Doc Matthew Conte and Platoon Sgt Gunnery Sergeant Terry Elliot. Cpl Stengel was medevac to Al Asad Air Force base then flown to Lanshutel, Germany where Cpl Stengel was induced in a medicated coma. Then he was flown from Germany to the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD. He stayed in the medicated coma for nine weeks in the Intensive Care Unit while his family stood by his side. After nine weeks he was moved up to the surgical ward even though the doctors only gave him a 10% chance of pulling through. Cpl Stengel suffered a left leg below the knee amputation, broken left femur, broken right foot w/ nerve and muscle damage in his lower right leg, massive internal injuries, an extensive broken back that required 6-inch rods and screws, a traumatic brain injury and several shrapnel wounds.

After 6 months of being an inpatient at the Naval Hospital he was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to receive his new leg and start his amputation care/ rehabilitation. After 4.5 years of rehabilitation in Washington DC, Cpl Stengel is back home in WI living in a new home built for him by Homes For Our Troops. He is attending Marquette University and during his free time he enjoys playing golf with his friends, scuba diving, going to Packer and Brewer games, and spending time with his family and wife Georgia Lynn Stengel.

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Warrior Wishes Come True at The 2016 Merlin Olsen Hall of Fame Luncheon!

After a fun night in San Francisco hosting heroes at the MaddenBowl & celebrating Jim Brown’s 80th birthday with Cedric, it was time to recognize these Warriors for their service & sacrifices. 

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Every year the NFL Hall of Fame puts on the Merlin Olsen Hall of Fame Luncheon during Superbowl week.  Hundreds of NFL hall of famers & Players gather to celebrate the Gold Jacket & share what it means to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame over lunch.  It’s one of the most desired events to be at during Superbowl week! 

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The Event was held at the Hilton in downtown San Francisco.  Autograph hounds swarmed the hotel lobby hoping for the chance to meet some of the NFL’s best.  We were lucky enough to be attending the event and got a front row seat to watch all the Gold Jackets walk in.  Many of them stopped to meet the warriors before the event kicked off.

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Once it was time to go in, we couldn’t help but notice the Hall of Fame logo made from chocolate on everyone plate.  It was so cool that nobody wanted to eat it, it was awesome!

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We have been very thankful to have teamed up with the Hall of Fame over the past few years to host Warriors at the event, but this year they went way above & beyond by recognizing Wes, Bryan, Julio & Cedric during the event!  

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I had tears in my eyes watching the Warriors receive a standing ovation from everyone at the event.  It was a moment that we will never forget.  

Speaking of unforgettable moments…  Cedric, Bryan, Wes & Julio had the time of their lives getting to hang out with some of the games biggest legends!  Joe Namath, Marcus Allen, Don Shula, Jerome Bettis, Kurt Warner, Jerry Jones, and many more!  It was an experience of a lifetime!  

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We would like to thank the Pro Football Hall of Fame for helping us recognize these Warriors for their service & sacrifices & for helping us make their warrior wishes come true!  

After the event we hung out to meet a few more Hall of Famers including Rod Woodson & James Lofton.  Woodson Let the guys try on his Hall of Fame Ring!

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Then we said our goodbyes to Bryan, Wes & Julio.  Then helped Cedric get an uber out to Santa Clara to pick up his wife from the airport.

Once Cedric was on his way to pick up his wife, my dad & I met up with Lou for a few hours at a party to honor Brett Favre & Tiki Barber. 

After snapping a pic with Brett we then made our way across town to Fort Mason where we made warrior wishes come true at the ESPN party!  

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It was one of the craziest memory filled 2 days of making warrior wishes come true ever!  

MEET THE WARRIORS

ARMY MASTER SGT CEDRIC KING

ARMY CPL WESLEY LEON-BARRIENTOS

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Army CPL Wesley Leon-Barrientos was deployed to Iraq in December 2007. While supporting his team on an air assault mission near Iskandariah, his team discovered and destroyed several car bombs and a weapons cache. Roadside bombs were encountered on the return trip to base and the convoy was diverted for security purposes.

While maneuvering around a suspected bomb, the truck which was carrying CPL Leon-Barrientos rolled over a pressure plate IED causing an explosion to rip through the vehicle. Sitting directly behind the driver, Wesley lost his left leg and right foot in the blast and suffered severe calf injuries as well as a broken jaw. After being airlifted by a Blackhawk helicopter, CPL Leon-Barrientos fell unconscious and awoke two days later in Germany where he was stabilized for transport to Walter Reed.

ARMY SGT BRIAN JERGENS

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Army Sergeant Brian Jergens was on his first deployment when he lost both of his legs below the knee and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, internal organ damage, a broken neck, and damage to his right elbow in an IED blast in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan on August 7, 2011.

An Army Medic, SGT Jergens was the driver of the fourth HMMWV in a convoy that day, and was thrown from the vehicle. Life-saving measures performed by his teammates prepared him for medevac to Tarin Kowt Hospital and then the Kandahar Airfield Hospital. Next transported to Bagram Air Force Base, Brian would also be treated in Landstuhl, Germany before coming stateside. Arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX on August 14, 2012, Brian remained there until September 19, 2012.

MARINE SGT JULIO TORRES

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I signed up for the Marine Corps at the age of 17 out of Bakersfield California. I was inbound to boot camp on September 17, 2001. My military occupational skill was an Anti-Tank Assaultman/ Demolition Expert in the Infantry, it has forever changed my life. I ended up deploying to Iraq with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines Kilo company from Kuwait to Baghdad and ended that tour in Karbala in 2003. I deployed once more in 2004 with 3/7 Kilo Company to Al Qaim in Iraq near the Syrian Border and Euphrates River. After that I served 3 years as a field instructor at Edson Range teaching thousands of recruits on field survival. Then I went on to 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in Camp Pendleton, which I deployed to Okinawa Japan in 2009 on the 31st MEU training with military forces from, Japan, Philippines, Australia and Thailand. April of 2013 I was Medically Retired after 11 years and 7 months of active service. Currently, I train Service Dogs for Disabled Veterans that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma at Wounded Heroes Fund, a local Non-Profit Organization in Bakersfield and I am also one of the voices of our podcast OVERWATCH. Outdoor recreation with veterans is what I truly enjoy. These activities helps me cope with the daily struggles of Combat PTSD. Helping veterans is my passion, if no one is willing to help, I definitely will. I am fixated on ending the social stigma of our Heroes committing suicide, 22 a day to be exact. I am the future and the voice for all my brothers and sisters.

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Warrior Wishes Come True at the Maddenbowl!

My dad flew to San Fran to Chicago first thing Tuesday morning for $29!  Our friend Lou picked him up at the airport and allowed him to stay at his house to help us save money for our mission.  Lou became a fast friend in 2012 after he saw our story on ESPN.  He & his friends have been helping us make Warrior Wishes come true in San Francisco ever since!  

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My dad & Lou attended a few events before I arrived Thursday morning, including Super Bowl City and NFL Experience. They picked me up from the airport & it was non stop from that point on.  

Lou let us use his Tahoe to get around all week.  After dropping him back off at work, my dad & I headed right back to the airport to pick up Army Master SGT Cedric King.  

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Cedric had tickets to the big game, but no transportation.  Knowing how big of a Panthers fan he is, we helped make his warrior wish come true by flying him out to San Francisco so he could see his Panthers play in Super Bowl 50!

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We had a bite to eat with Cedric’s friends  & stopped to take some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and some incredible waves at Half Moon Bay ( site of many surfing competitions )before dressing up to hit the town and make warrior wishes come true.  

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Due to the number of events scheduled and number of warriors we were hosting, My dad & I ended up splitting up Thurs night to accommodate 3 separate events – in fact we have a total of 23 warriors attending 11 different events plus the game itself this week.

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So While my Dad hosted Army Cpl. Wesley Barrientos, Army SGT Brian Jergens & Marine Julio Torres as VIP guests to the Legends for Charity Dinner and then to the MaddenBowl, I ended up being Cedric’s guest to Jim Brown’s 80th birthday party!  

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After Legends for Charity Dinner honoring John Madden, ironically my dad and his guys headed to the Madden Bowl which was in no way connected other than by the iconic name .

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Everyone had a fantastic time and we learned that Ludacris and Too Short (the musical performers) were Among Wes and Julio favorites, while Brian “crashed the stage” – working his way through the crowd (with a little help from my dad) to get to the very front and center with his arms up trying to high 5 the singers.

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While They were having a great time at the MaddenBowl, I was celebrating Cleveland Browns Legend, Jim Brown’s 80th birthday with Army Master SGT Cedric King.

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The highlight of the night was when Ray Lewis was recognized for his service on and off the field.  During his speech, he called on Cedric to share his story in front of everyone in attendance.  It was a very inspirational and emotional moment!

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Cedric had the opportunity to meet Jim, and other NFL legends at the event including Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin & Ray Lewis.  It was a beautiful event and I was honored to be Cedric’s guest

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We would like to thank Cheryl at Ocean 2 Ocean Productions for honoring warriors at the Legends of Charity Event, Anthony at EA Sports for Giving us the opportunity to host warriors as VIP’s at the MaddenBowl for the 4th straight year, Sean Wolfington for honoring Cedric & hosting us at Jim Brown’s 80th Birthday & Lisa at Staybridge Suites for providing accomodations for the warriors.

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

MEET THE WARRIORS

ARMY CPL WESLEY LEON-BARRIENTOS

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Army CPL Wesley Leon-Barrientos was deployed to Iraq in December 2007. While supporting his team on an air assault mission near Iskandariah, his team discovered and destroyed several car bombs and a weapons cache. Roadside bombs were encountered on the return trip to base and the convoy was diverted for security purposes.

While maneuvering around a suspected bomb, the truck which was carrying CPL Leon-Barrientos rolled over a pressure plate IED causing an explosion to rip through the vehicle. Sitting directly behind the driver, Wesley lost his left leg and right foot in the blast and suffered severe calf injuries as well as a broken jaw. After being airlifted by a Blackhawk helicopter, CPL Leon-Barrientos fell unconscious and awoke two days later in Germany where he was stabilized for transport to Walter Reed.

ARMY SGT BRIAN JERGENS

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Army Sergeant Brian Jergens was on his first deployment when he lost both of his legs below the knee and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, internal organ damage, a broken neck, and damage to his right elbow in an IED blast in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan on August 7, 2011.

An Army Medic, SGT Jergens was the driver of the fourth HMMWV in a convoy that day, and was thrown from the vehicle. Life-saving measures performed by his teammates prepared him for medevac to Tarin Kowt Hospital and then the Kandahar Airfield Hospital. Next transported to Bagram Air Force Base, Brian would also be treated in Landstuhl, Germany before coming stateside. Arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX on August 14, 2012, Brian remained there until September 19, 2012.

MARINE SGT JULIO TORRES

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I signed up for the Marine Corps at the age of 17 out of Bakersfield California. I was inbound to boot camp on September 17, 2001. My military occupational skill was an Anti-Tank Assaultman/ Demolition Expert in the Infantry, it has forever changed my life. I ended up deploying to Iraq with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines Kilo company from Kuwait to Baghdad and ended that tour in Karbala in 2003. I deployed once more in 2004 with 3/7 Kilo Company to Al Qaim in Iraq near the Syrian Border and Euphrates River. After that I served 3 years as a field instructor at Edson Range teaching thousands of recruits on field survival. Then I went on to 3rd Battalion 5th Marines in Camp Pendleton, which I deployed to Okinawa Japan in 2009 on the 31st MEU training with military forces from, Japan, Philippines, Australia and Thailand. April of 2013 I was Medically Retired after 11 years and 7 months of active service. Currently, I train Service Dogs for Disabled Veterans that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma at Wounded Heroes Fund, a local Non-Profit Organization in Bakersfield and I am also one of the voices of our podcast OVERWATCH. Outdoor recreation with veterans is what I truly enjoy. These activities helps me cope with the daily struggles of Combat PTSD. Helping veterans is my passion, if no one is willing to help, I definitely will. I am fixated on ending the social stigma of our Heroes committing suicide, 22 a day to be exact. I am the future and the voice for all my brothers and sisters.

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Warrior Wishes Come True At Superbowl 50 Opening Night!

My dad spent months planning to make warrior wishes come true in San Francisco during Super Bowl week.  He was able to set up events to host heroes almost every day of the week leading up to the big game. 

In past years what is formerly known as “Media Day” was always on Tuesday.  So I booked my dads flight for less than $100 round trip leaving Tuesday morning in order to get him in town before media day began.  The only problem was that they changed “Media Day” to “Superbowl Opening Night” this year & they changed it to Monday instead of Tuesday. 

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But that didn’t stop us from making warrior wishes come true!  Thanks to the NFL & the SAP center, we were able to send Army SPC Alex Vega, Navy Warrior Sal Duenas, Army SGT Christian Valle & their families to Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday. 

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The Warriors got to watch & listen live as media outlets from all over the world asked Broncos & Panthers players questions.  It was a great way to kickoff the week!

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My Dad will be flying in first thing Tuesday morning & will be making Warrior Wishes come true all week long!

MEET THE WARRIORS

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Alex served from 2001-2004.  He served on a peace keeping mission in kosovo in 2002 & then on a deployment to Iraq in 2003.  He now works full time & enjoys spending time with his family.

ARMY SGT CHRISTIAN VALLE

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On Oct. 23, 2005 Army SGT Cristian Valle was on patrol performing a vehicle checkpoint in Balad, Iraq when a mortar round with a grenade attached was thrown out the window of a passing vehicle. The grenade exploded a few feet away from SGT Valle, tossing him into the air. He lost one of his legs immediately and the other was so severely damaged it was eventually amputated. He also sustained a pelvic fracture, burns and significant blood loss.

After SGT Valle was tossed into the air and landed on the ground, through the dust and smoke, the first thing that caught his eye was his wedding ring and he says that is what pulled him through. He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, where he had multiple leg cleaning surgeries and months of physical therapy. Today he is continuously adjusting to his condition.  

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Game 43 – Warrior Wishes Come True at the AFC Championship Game!

Not many people can say that their first NFL game ever is a thrilling AFC Championship game in which your favorite team wins and goes to the Super Bowl.  However, Operation Warrior Wishes is extremely proud to have provided that very experience for 82nd Airborne Army SFC Nicholas Dighans and his wife, Holli. 

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We started this experience on Thursday Night when we surprised this 14 year, 5 deployment wounded veteran -with the help of Holli & his favorite restaurant, Outback Steakhouse.

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We set up a dinner with their friends in their hometown  Bozeman, Montana. At dinner, Nick got a phone call from “a radio station” (us) to win free dinner.  Not only did he win dinner but when told he was going to Broncos game Sunday, replied “Is this a joke ?”

Well it was no joke.  Saturday morning SFC Dighans & his wife made the 8 hour drive to Denver & got a good night sleep, thanks to our friends at the luxurious Westin Westminster hotel, before their big day.

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I was able to score $19 airfare from Chicago to Denver 3 weeks ago with the hopes that Denver would make it to the AFC Championship game.  And thankfully they did.  So for less than $20 my dad flew to Denver Saturday nightto make SFC Dighans warrior wish come true.  

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Of course, he slept at the airport upon arrival in Denver to rest up for the day. Sunday morning, my dad met up with SFC Dighans for a delicious brunch thanks to  Elways restaurant. 

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From there they headed to Sports Authority Field aka “Mile High” to tailgate before watching the Broncos & Patriots face off for a conference championship & a trip to San Francisco to play in the Super Bowl!  

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Not many people gave the Broncos a chance against Tom Brady & the Pats.  The Patriots were the clear favorite and the aging Peyton Manning had clearly lost a step over the years.  But in the NFL anything can happen on any given Sunday.

As SFC Dighans & his wife made their way in the stadium, my dad made friends with tailgaters in the parking lot to watch the game. 

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The battle between Manning & Brady was underway.  Manning & the Broncos controlled the game.  The Broncos Defense kept Brady in check much of the game.  

The Broncos were up by 8 late in the 4th quarter.  Brady connected with Gronkowski on a 4th & long to keep their season alive.  Just a few plays later connected with him again, this time in the end zone!  Down 2, because of an early missed extra point, the Pats were forced into going for a dramatic 2 point conversion attempt.  

Brady took the snap & fired a pass over the middle to Edelman.  The ball was tipped into the air & intercepted!  Mile High stadium erupted into cheers and was literally rocking!  SFC Dighans & Broncos fans worldwide celebrated the victory as their team was headed to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco!!! 

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After the game my dad met back up with Nick & his wife outside the stadium by the players tunnel to celebrate the victory with the team.  Von Miller ran out & high fived all the fans!  

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The Dighans thanked us for the once in a lifetime experience & made their way back to the hotel.  My dad made his way back to the airport.  He had to catch a 7am flight to Dallas, that I booked for $36, to make warrior wishes come true at Monday nights Dallas Stars game!

We would like to thank The Westin Westminster hotel for providing SFC Dighans with luxurious accommodations, Elway’s Downtown for providing a delicious lunch before the game, Outback Steakhouse for helping us surprise Nick with this opportunity & New Era Cap for providing Broncos caps!  Most importantly, thanks to SFC Dighans for your service & sacrifices to our country! 

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Next stop Super Bowl 50!!!

SFC NICHOLAS DIGHANS

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SFC (Ret.) Nick Dighans from Belgrade, Montana served in the U.S Army for 14.5 years before being medically retired. He left for basic training right after graduating high school to follow in his father’s footsteps of serving our country. During his time in service he completed 5 combat tours ( 3 to Iraq, 2 to Afghanistan) & earned numerous awards including 2 bronze stars. He always believed that he would do a full 20 year + career in the army because that is where he belonged but unfortunately his numerous combat tours took their toll resulting in his early medical retirement. He now lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife and two daughters spending his time fly fishing and enjoying his family.

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Game 42 – Warrior Wishes Come True In DC!

CHECK BACK SOON FOR DETAILS

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MEET THE WARRIORS

MARINE GUNNERY SGT TIMOTHY WIERZCHOWSKI

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Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski joined the Marine Corps in 1976 and served 16 years on Active Duty. Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski was honorably retired in 1999 as a Gunnery Sergeant E-7. While serving on active duty Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski served in 35 different countries while serving mainly with 8th Marines. While serving with 8th Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski served in the Mediterranean Sea during the tensions of Beirut, Grenada and Lebanon in the early 1980’s which included a tour in Puerto Rico during the Cuban and Haitian refugees.
While serving in the Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski earned a Navy Commendation Medal, 3 Naval Achievement Medals, and a Humanitarian Service Medal to include numerous other awards.

Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski is a huge Green Bay Packer Fan. Gunnery Sergeant Wierzchowski goes by the name Ski. Ski moved from Wisconsin to Florida over the summer of 2015 to retire and have a healthier and happier life with his wife of 19 years and counting

ARMY SGT TIMOTHY BOSCH

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Timothy Bosch joined the army in March of 2002 in order to be able to help and protect his brother who had joined before him. He served on multiple tours of duty including a deployment to Iraq in 2003 part of the main invasion. Tim is now medically retired at 100% disability with PTSD, tbi, degenerative disc in his back and other injuries. Tim has 4 kids and a wife and even though he is disabled he will put anyone else’s needs before his own. If he met a veteran in need of a cane he would give them the cane he is walking with.

Sgt Bosch is a die hard Redskins fan. No matter if they win or lose he is a true fan. He has always wanted to go to a game but has never had an opportunity to go until we made this Warriors wish come true!

ARMY SGT MIKE CAIN

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Michael Cain is from Berlin Wisconsin. Michael joined the United States Army in June of 2000 and served at his first duty station in Vicenza Italy with the 173rd Airborne Infantry Division. After 2 years in Vicenza, Michael was reassigned to the 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. On August 10, 2003 Michael’s vehicle rolled over a double stack anti-tank land mine that blew up directly underneath him. Michael lost his right leg below the knee and had severe damage to his left leg and hip and jaw.

On Oct 7, 2013, Michael had to have his left leg amputated because of severe nerve damage. In November 2013, Michael was using a wheel chair. By 1 February 2014, Michael had been two prosthetic limbs, suited up and played with the Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team in New York City at Super Bowl 48. He is pain free and is feeling much better about his mobility and his future.

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Game 41 – Warrior Wishes Come True In Cincinatti!

After traveling over 35,000 miles since September 12th & making warrior wishes come true at 40 Regular season games, it was time for my dad to focus his efforts on the playoffs!
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Yea, we’re talkin bout playoffs!

It’s always a little more challenging to make warrior wishes come true during the playoffs because you typically don’t know which teams are making it to the postseason  & the NFL doesn’t release the playoff schedule until the week before the games.  So with less than a week to book travel, confirm Warriors and secure tickets, it’s a challenge!

We are very conscious on how money is spent on our mission.  The less money paid for travel means more wishes come true, so thankfully the Bengals had a home playoff game

So instead of paying hundreds of dollars in airfare to go to Washington DC or Houston.  We had to choose between freezing our butts off in sub-zero temperatures in Minnesota or hosting heroes in Cincinnati.  We decided to make warrior wishes come true at the Bengals game.
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Our friend Bill offered to donate his time & gas money, so he & my dad drove 5 hours to Cincy early Saturday morning.

Once in Cincinnati, they met up with Marine CPL Joshua Sust to make his warrior wish come true!

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As always, the guys tailgated with WhodeyBaby, Big John and the Bengal Bomb Squad.  The Bengal Bomb Squad tailgate is a gathering of Bengal fans like no other!  With games, food galore, great people, superfans, and of course their traditional Bengal Bombs … it’s a Who Dey gameday experience everyone loves!  The Bengals ultimate tailgate took time to recognize CPL Sust and his friend, fellow Marine Kevin Dickerson for their military service.

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Our other guest, Army SSG Paul Brondhaver, actually works for the Bengals setting up military programs, so he joined CPL Sust inside Paul Brown stadium on the field for Pre Game warm ups.  Not only did they get an up close look from the sidelines, they also greeted and “high fived” the players in the tunnel as they entered the field for start of game .

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The game itself was one of the best games you will ever see – unless you are a Bengals fan . The Bengals had the game in hand – leading 16-15 and intercepted Ben Rothlisberger pass with just 1:36 left in the game.  Plus they were already in field goal range.  The game should have been over. However, on the Bengals first play of the drive, Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball giving the Steelers one last chance.

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The clearly injured Rothlisberger completed a couple short passes, followed by two huge personal foul penalties, allowing Steelers to score a game winning field goal as time expired.  It was a tough loss for Cincinnati.

But thanks to Bengals Tight End, Tyler Eifert and his parents, our night wasn’t going to end with the loss.  The Eifert family invited the warriors to join them to meet Tyler & some of the players after the game.

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Despite the loss many of the Bengals players, including Tyler Eifert, AJ Hawk & Andy Dalton, stopped by to thank the warriors for their service.  in fact, we think they were as excited to meet our warriors, as our warriors were to meet them.

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Corporal Sust had some of the Bengals players sign his new prosthetic – he just had his foot amputated four months ago and has adjusted to it very quickly.

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We want to Thank the Eifert family for the post game passes & all theBengals players who stopped to thank the guys for thier service and sign some autographs. We also want to thank Bob at the Bengals for the field pass, New Era for the Bengals Caps, Whodey, Big John & the Bengal bomb Squad for an ultimate tailgate experience & most importantly, THANK YOU to Paul, Josh, Rob and Kevin for your service to our country!!!

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

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Tomorrow, Warrior Wishes come true in DC!  However, my dad will not be there to host them because he & Bill will be driving back home overnight in order to get back in time to celebrate X man’s 2nd birthday!

MEET THE WARRIORS

MARINE CPL JOSHUA SUST

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Joshua Sust was born in January 20,1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Colerain High School in June 2006. 2 weeks after his graduation he was on a bus to the one and only Parris Island MCRD. After 13 grueling weeks he finally accomplished his greatest achievement becoming a United States Marine. Upon completion of boot camp PVT Sust was headed to SOI East at camp Gieger, NC. After another grueling 3 months PFC Sust graduated SOI and was headed to the Fleet Marine Force with 2nd battalion 4th marines at Camp Pendleton, CA

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Cpl Sust spent a total of 6yrs with 2/4 and 3 deployments with them. His first two were the 31st and 11th MEU on his last and finally deployment CPL Sust was deployed to Helmand Provence, Afghanistan in September 2011. On a day he will never forget which has come to be known as many others a his alive day. Nov 12, 2011 at around 0830 Cpl Sust was on a mounted patrol when his Vic hit an IED causing his door to be blown off and ejected. His injuries are: shattered tib/fib left foot and open fractures to both bones in his left arm. After years of therapy and 9 surgeries later Cpl Sust was medically retired from the Marine Corps in Aug 2013.

Now as a retired Marine Joshua Sust finds the best therapy for him is being around his combat brothers and hunting and fishing and also riding his motorcycle. For him nothing is better than being outdoors at a lake or in the woods. He feels at peace were everything kind of slows down and he can relax and enjoy his life. He is also a board member of The wounded Marine Fund that helps other wounded vets.

Cpl Sust awards are: Purple Heart, Combat action ribbon, Good Conduct Medal x2, Afghanistan Campaign medal, sea service deployment ribbon x3, meritorious mass, letter of appreciation x2, certificate of appreciation, and cercom.

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Josh is a die hard Bengals fan and it was an honor to make this Warrior Wish come true!!!

ARMY SSG PAUL BRONDHAVER

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Staff Sergeant (SSG) Paul Brondhaver is a native of New Richmond, Ohio, a small town located 20 miles east of Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River. Paul joined the United States Army at age 17, before graduating from New Richmond High School in May 1986.  He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Science from the University of Cincinnati. Paul has earned his Master’s in Business Administration in 2013 from Indiana Wesleyan University. Paul has been a Red Cross volunteer and instructor for 31 years.  Paul retired from the United States Army in 2007 with 21 years of service. 

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SSG Paul Brondhaver has traveled all over the world through his military service to places such as Honduras, Germany, Panama, Kuwait, and Iraq.  His state and country called on him to serve on active duty for 19 different missions and operations.  He served with the 216th Combat Engineer Unit and the 1st Infantry Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 through 2005. SSG Brondhaver’s tour ended early when his combat patrol was attacked with small arms fire and a rocket propelled grenade that exploded near his Humvee in Summara, North of Baghdad, Iraq in July 2004.  Paul’s body was riddled with over 300 pieces of metal shrapnel in the attack, while a fellow soldier and friend was killed in the explosion. Paul has hearing loss severe nerve damage, a traumatic brain injury, and severe post traumatic stress disorder.  Paul credits the Lord, prayer, his fellow soldiers, the military and his American Red Cross training for saving his life. 

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SSG Paul Brondhaver’s military awards include:  

Paul’s family currently reside in Cincinnati.  Paul enjoys spending time with his three beautiful children: Tanner, Morgan and Conner.  Paul knows firsthand the needs military families have after returning home from deployment, so he started his own 501 (C) 3, non-profit foundation.  The “Paul Brondhaver Foundation for Military Families” rescue dogs, trains them, and provides veterans with companion service dogs.  His foundation also assists local military families with dental, counseling, home repairs, food and other important expenses that cause the military family undue hardship.  He feels it is a true honor to serve his country, the United States of America.

SOURCE – http://www.helpingahero.org/our-heroes/ssg-ret-paul-brondhaver

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Game 40 – Warrior Wishes Come True In Dallas!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

After a fantastic year in 2015 hosting and honoring about 500 warriors at over 100 events, we are kicking off 2016 with a bang!!!

Not wasting any time, we teamed up with the Ohio State alumni to send retired Veteran and MLB hopeful
“Doc” Jacobs to this years Fiesta Bowl to watch his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes dominate Notre Dame 44-28.

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Daniel “Doc” Jacobs said he always had two dreams: One, to fight for freedom in a war like his ancestors have done. And two, to play in the big leagues one day.  Doc accomplished his first goal by serving in the Navy for over 8 years.  In September of 2005, while serving in Iraq, Doc’s truck was hit by an IED.  He lost his left leg below the knee as well as 2 toes on his right foot & 3 fingers on his left hand.  Doc spent 2 full years recovering from the blast, but never gave up on his country or his second dream.  in fact, Doc returned to the fleet Marine force & became the first amputee ever to be assigned to an infantry unit & today he continues to tryout with major league baseball teams with the dream of one day signing a big league contract.  Doc Even has his own Upper Deck Baseball card!

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Doc is one of the biggest Ohio State fans we have ever met.  Earlier this year he was one of our guests to the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.  Doc’s face lit up when he got to meet up with some of Ohio States Current players & try on Cardale Jones National Championship ring!  It was an amazing experience!

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We would like to thank the to Ohio State Alumni for giving us the opportunity to make warrior wishes come true for the 2nd straight year at the Ohio State’s Bowl game – last year we sent Sgt Drew Mullee & his wife to the BCS Championship Game.

That was just Day 1 of 2016!  My dad certainly enjoyed his 10 straight days of being home for the holidays – and so did X-man – but it was time to get back in action.  Xander and I dropped off G-Pa at the airport for a 3 day Texas tour, hosting warriors at Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavs games, as well as Cowboy Stadium Tour.

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We chose to do an extra Cowboys game due to the large number of nominations we had to see “America’s team.”  My dad & I do our best every year to accomodate every request that we get, but its not always easy.  and for those of you that we did not get to this year, we have not forgotten about you, we have you on our list for future events.

Today we had the opportunity to host Navy Warrior Chris Bradley, Air Force Warrior Nicholas Navarro, SFC Rocky Johnson & his wife Karisa, who is the Gold Star sister of fallern hero SSG Michael Murphrey at the Dallas Cowboys game.

We met 2 of our families at Whole Foods Arlington for breakfast at 8:00 AM due to the noon kickoff . Navy warrior Chris Bradley, his wife Kayla, their 3 year old son Robert and Chris’ service dog Sadie arrived early.  They had just met our other guest SFC Rocky Johnson and his wife Krisa.  We would like to thank Eric and Melinda at Whole Foods for providing a nice relaxing introductory breakfast, before we headed down the street a few blocks to the stadium .

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As we always do in Dallas, we tailgated with Julio”Prime”Marin, a member of the PFUFA.  He & his awesome tailgate group have always welcomed us with open arms. Today was no different.  Great food and good fun was had by all.  We are thankful to call Julio & his crew friends. Before making their way into the stadium, my dad grabbed a microphone from the next tailgate over to recognize the warriors for their service and had a moment of silence to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice Sgt Murphrey made for our country.

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Air Force active duty Nick Navarro , who has been following our mission for awhile & his fellow Air Force warrior Luis Covarrubias were unable to make it in time to tailgate with us, but enjoyed the game in their camo uniforms from the party deck.

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Unfortunately for the warriors, the Cowboys didnt give them much to cheer about as the Redskins took a commanding  24-0 lead to start the game.  After Washington had benched a majority of their starting players, the Cowboys made a little come back, but fell short 34-23.

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The loss certainly didn’t keep our guests from having a great time.  It was an honor to host these heroes and give them an experience that they will never forget at their first Cowboys game ever!

Again we want to thank Whole Foods for breakfast , Julio for tailgate and transportation and New Era for the awesome Cowboys caps. But most importantly our warriors for their service and sacrifice to our country .

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

After the game, my dad slept at the Airport for his 2nd night in a row… I offered to get him a hotel, but he said he would rather save the money and make more warrior wishes come true.  So thats what he did.  On Tuesday morning he woke up, jumped on a bus to Arlington & made his way back to AT&T stadium to do just that.

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For anyone who has not been to Dallas and toured AT&T Stadium, it should be on your bucket list, it was amazing!

 We had the honor of hosting, 8 year Marine Corporal Johnny Turner & kept the legacy of Kimi Agar alive by hosting her mom & brother in her honor.

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The tour began rather routine by making a stop in the team pro shop and browsing the main concourse, but as it progressed it became better & better.  Stops on the Cowboys  Stadium tour included visits to Jerry Jones suite, the cheerleaders locker room, the players locker room and the best part of all, the warriors got to make their way out of the tunnel & onto the field to take pictures & do their own Romo to Bryant touchdown impersonation.

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Chris and Johnny played a little 2 on 2 with a couple others on the tour , while Margy kicked a couple punts.

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Of course, my dad had to catch a couple passes on the field too, but he eventually took a nap on the star.

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Everyone made unforgettable once in a lifetime memories on the tour & our day was just getting started! After about an hour on the field, we headed downtown to American Airlines Arena for our 3rd leg of our Dallas Warrior Wishes Experience – Dallas Mavs game.

 THANK YOU to the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T Stadium for donating tickets to their awesome tour.

MEET THE WARRIORS

NAVY WARRIOR CHRISTOPHER BRADLEY

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Christopher Bradley joined the Navy Reserves on August 6th, 2003.  Among his duties, he assisted with the clean up with Hurricane Katrina.

In September of 2006, Chris was deployed to Kuwait as part of the Navy batallion Romeo.  He also flew several missions into Iraq.  While on deployment, his unit came under attack & Chris was knocked unconscious.

Bradley married his wife Kayla on September 21st 2007.  Chris was medboarded at 100% disabled in 2009 due to health issues.  He & his family now live in Amarillo Texas with their 3 kids.

SSG MICHAEL MURPHREY

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SSG Michael Murphrey, joined the Army out of high school. He served 6 years and three tours of duty before giving his life on September 6 2009. Michael was trying to help a humvee up a steep hill when he stepped on an PPIED triggering the IED. Michael was stationed with the 82nd airborne out of Bragg and his final deployment was with the 501st airborne out of ft. Richardson, Alaska.

He was born a hero in his family. He played football, baseball, and ran track in high school and excelled at everything he did. There was no mediocracy with michael. His hobbies included fishing and hunting and with thanks to our dad he could fix anything with a motor on it (or at least was supposed to have a motor). Michael adored family.

He and his wife Ashley had two children a son, jaden and a daughter, Cameron. He had an especially tight bond with his dad and used that to create the same bond with his son, Jaden and his daughter, Cameron. He is missed and loved dearly every single day.

SFC ROCKY JOHNSON

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SFC Rocky Johnson has served 12 years in the United States Army he has completed 3 deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Right now he is stationed at Camp Shelby at the first  Army Academy as an OC/T instructor. His original job is in field artillery as a 13 bravo. He joined the military to make a difference in the world. His biggest challenge is raising his three daughters. There isn’t a regulation on guiding teenagers on the right path, he says. He enjoys being with family, fishing, dove hunting, and woodworking. He is huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns.

MARINE CPL JOHNNY TURNER

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Johnny honorably served in the US Marine Corps from 2000-2008.  He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 & was medically retired from the Marine Corps with service connected disability rating of 100% due to PTSD and TBI.

Today Johnny is a licensed Minister in Fort Worth, Texas and enjoys spending time with family, going to church and attending sporting events.

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Game 39 – Warrior Wishes Come True In St. Louis

On September 13th we kicked off our 4th annual “All32in17” mission to make warrior wishes come true at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season.  Less than 100 days later, we completed the mission by hosting Warriors at the Rams game at our 32nd stadium in St.Louis thanks to our friends at Edward Jones.

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Today we had the honor of hosting SGT Kent Burns, SPC Katie Knight & honored the legacy of SGT Ben Prange. (meet the Warriors below)

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Our friend Don Gaylord from Edward Jones went above and beyond to help make these Warriors wishes come true in a “Suite” way!  Edward Jones provided pre game field passes & a luxury suite!!!

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The Rams, in their bright yellow “Color Rush” jerseys, gave the Warriors plenty to cheer about when they quickly jumped out to a 21-3 lead before halftime!

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During the halftime break, my dad gathered everyone in the suite to thank Edward Jones for providing a once in a lifetime experience & to recognize each warrior for their service and sacrifices.  He got emotional as he requested a moment a silence for SGT Prange’s ultimate sacrifice.

Tavon Austin scored his 2nd touchdown of the game to increase the Rams lead late in the 3rd quarter.  

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The Bucs did their best to make a comeback scoring 2 touchdowns & a field goal in the 4th, but came up short.  

The win by the Rams snapped our 7 game losing streak.  

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There are talks that the Rams may not be back in St. Louis next year.  Which means this very well could be the last game the Rams ever play in St Louis!  

We would like to thank Don Gaylord & Edward Jones Investments for making these warrior wishes come true.  We would also like to thank New Era for providing Rams Caps.

Even though our mission to host heroes at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season is officially accomplished, doesn’t mean our mission is over.  My dad will be taking a week off for the holidays and will look to get back in action in 2 weeks.  Stay tuned for more details. 

MEET THE WARRIORS

SSG BENJAMIN PRANGE

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Staff Sgt  Ben Prange was an awesome man. He grew up in a close knit family in rural Nebraska. He had an older sister and brother.  He suffered some losses as a child losing both his mother and father at a young age.  He lived with his grandparents in Roca Nebraska and graduated from Norris High School.  While attending Norris he met his wife Liz.  They eventually had two boys Corbin and Dillion.  Ben joined the United States Army in 2007. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion 12th Infantry Brigade Combat Team 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs Colorado.  He was on his third deployment when he was killed in action. Ben enjoyed playing video games and watching football.  He was also a devoted father and husband and will be forever missed and loved.

SPC KATIE KNIGHT

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Katie Knight served in the United States Army for 4 years active duty and 4 years in the Missouri National Guard.  She was an E4 Specialist & an  Engineer as a Heavy Equipment Operator.  Katie loved serving very much.  She now battles PTSD.  Her service dog, Minders, was trained through Missouri Patriot Paws out of Rolla MO. and helps her with her PTSD.

SGT KENT BURNS

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Master Sergeant Burns entered active duty with the United States Army on 26 May 1992 as an Infantry Mortar Man. During his career he also served as a Signal Soldier and retired on 1 June 2012 as a Career Counselor.

Master Sergeant Burns served at Fort Hood, Texas; Darmstadt, Germany; Katterbach, Germany; Heidelberg, Germany; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Master Sergeant Burns has deployed to Bosnia in 1995-96 and again in 1998; to Saudi Arabia in 2001, Kuwait in 2002, and Iraq in 2003.

His military awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (1 OLC), the Army Commendation Medal (2 OLC), the Army Achievement Medal (7 OLC), Army Superior Unit (2nd Awd), Good Conduct Medal (6th Awd), National Defense Service Medal (2nd Awd), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2nd Awd), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Campaign Star (2nd Awd), Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3rd Awd), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (4th Award), the NATO Medal and the Career Counselor Badge.

He is married to Jody Burns and has five children: Ashley, 20; Austin, 20; Colin, 13; Emma, 10 and Jackson, 5. He is currently Fort Leonard Wood’s Enlisted Strength Manager with the Department of the Army.

In his spare time: he volunteers as a youth sports coach for Fort Leonard Wood; Secretary for the Waynesville Masonic Lodge; Vice President of the Waynesville High School’s Athletic Booster Club and an elected member of the Pulaski County Extension Board. For fun: he enjoys spending time with his family; participating in local 5K runs; watching his daughter’s college soccer games and attends home games as a season ticket holder for the St Louis Rams

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After the game, the Burns family told us they had an “Amazing Experience”.  SGT Burns wife told us that Kent & the kids couldn’t stop talking about the experience.  And thats coming from a Rams season ticket holder!  It was an honor to make this 21 year veterans warrior wish come true!