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Warrior Wishes Come True At The NBA Finals!!!

With the Cavs trailing 3 games to 0 in the NBA finals, you could say they are “fighting to stay alive” in a must win game 4 of the NBA Finals.  

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Corwyn Collier literally knows what it means to fight for survival.  

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On May 23rd, 2009, Corwyn was in Iraq serving as a Military Police guard in the Army National Guard.  Collier was traveling in a four-truck convoy. Each vehicle had a driver, gunner in the back and team leader – Collier – in the passenger seat. 

In an instant, his life changed forever… 

An IED, Improvised Explosive Device, ripped through his vehicle. The blast was so powerful that all four trucks carrying the 12-man squad were lifted into the air.

At first Collier said he was a little dazed until he realized what was going on.  He did his best to keep the other guys calm.   Everyone worked on calling radio headquarters to get the helicopter to rescue them.

Collier talks matter-of-factly about his life-changing experience. When he says “I took the whole blast by myself,” he’s not bragging; it’s almost more of a ‘it happened, you move on’ shrug.

What he remembers about the moment is being on the phone with his middle son.

“In the back of my mind, my son had just turned 2 years old” he said. “His birthday is May 18. So I had just talked to him the night before. … I was thinking I didn’t want my sons to grow up without a father, and I didn’t want my wife to go through that.”

“They had to pull me out of my vehicle – that was the most painful of the whole thing – put me in another vehicle, and drove out of the city where a helicopter could land. They flew me to a casualty point in Iraq to stabilize me. 

“That’s when my heart stopped beating. I had severed an artery in my leg, and I was bleeding out. Before they can get me, they had a firefight with the guys who realized they didn’t kill us. Fortunately, the adrenaline prevented me from feeling too much pain.”

He managed to get out a simple prayer before losing consciousness. “God, please let me get home to my wife and please let me get home to see my sons grow up,” recalled Collier.  “I don’t care what happens to me physically.  Let me live to see my family.”

“They called my wife and said ‘he’s not going to make it. We’re going to stabilize him enough to get him to (an Army hospital in) Germany, so you can go and see him one more time before he passes away.’ “

“I had no idea this happened,” he said. “I woke up two or three days later. I was in Germany when I finally woke.”

Back in the United States, Collier’s wife Iisha, who was caring for their two sons and pursuing a graduate degree in education at the time, received a call informing her she would be flown to Germany to see her husband before he dies.

“In my heart I knew he was still alive,” says the now mother of three. “I was head strong that ‘he’s not dead. He’s not dying.’  I was glad I didn’t believe what they were saying.”

She did make an abrupt trip that week. It wasn’t to Germany to say goodbye to her husband. Instead it was to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to help him recover.

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The rehabilitation took nine months, thirty surgeries, and multiple sessions to help the former track standout learn how to care for himself and walk again. 

Collier admits the process took a toll on him emotionally.  So much so he told his wife he had lost the will to live.

“I’m crying hysterically because I’m thinking I’m never going to walk again. The next thing you know it felt like God came down and touched me,” says Collier.  “But it was actually my wife slapping me in the back of the head.”

“I just went off,” says Iisha Collier.   

Believing he had a story to share, the young wife told her husband, “you have to be the man you used to be.  You’re someone’s father.  You can’t be down on yourself.  You have to motivate yourself to want to have a piece of life.”  

She went on to challenge her husband to push through his circumstances so he could use his story to inspire others.

Collier answered the challenge.  He recovered, became a professional body builder, and followed his wife into the field of education.  The Maple Heights graduate landed a job at his Alma mater.

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“He’s an American history teacher so what better person than actually an American vet to teach American history,” says Maple Heights High School Principal Shay Price.  “The kids love him.  He demonstrates opportunity to them.”

“His dedication is there,” says Maple Heights Junior Tia Harris.  “He’s showing us that he wants us to be somebody; that we can be somebody.”

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“I just look up to what he’s done,” says sophomore Dorien Strong. “He’s like a hero to me.”

Collier’s journey in the military and impact in the classroom led the Cleveland Cavaliers organization to surprise the Purple Heart veteran with the 2017 EveryFAN award.

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The recognition celebrates a Cavs fan who demonstrates a strong work ethic, high moral values, community pride, Cavaliers pride, and everyday heroism.

Again, his wife was the driving force behind it all.  She nominated him for the award.

“He was on his deathbed asking me the (Cavs) score,” says the 32-year-old.  “For him to be doing that he has to be a ride or die Cavs fan.”

Corwyn credits his wife for helping him get back to where he is today.  He says “She’s my biggest fan.” “She spent nine months in the hospital with me, watched me go through everything, and watched me get to this point.  I love her to death.  She is my rock.”

It was an absolute honor to host Corwyn Collier at game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals & provide him an opportunity to see his first ever Cavs Playoff basketball game.  

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And although the Cavs were not literally fighting for their “lives,” they were fighting to “stay alive” in the 2017 Finals.  I think they can learn a lot from Corwyn’s inspirational “never give up” story.  

He went day by day and focused on what he could do, not what he couldn’t.  “it’s not about the disability, but the ability.  As a father and teacher I want to show my sons and students, that no matter how large the obstacle, you can overcome it. Don’t let your current situation dictate your future.” 

Corwyn’s wife was right, his story is inspiring, his words are motivational.  He never gave up & continues to make the impossible possible!  I hope the Cavs get a chance to read his story & it gives them the motivation they need to bring home another championship.

Just because no team in NBA history has ever come back from 3 games down, doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  They just need to take it game by game and focus on being he best they can be. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It only seems impossible until someone does it.” 

With their backs to the wall & all odds against them, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs took their first step towards making their impossible possible. They fought & won game 4.  

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After the game, Corwyn sent me a text saying “omg, that was the best experience ever!”  

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We cannot thank Corwyn enough for his service, his sacrifices & for being such an inspiration!  We are honored to have hosted him & glad he had an unforgettable experience watching the Cavs defeat the Warriors!  One game down, 3 more to go… #Believeland

We want to thank all of our supporters for their generosity over the years.  We couldn’t have hosted Corwyn at the NBA Finals without your generosity!  We also want to thank New Era Cap for providing Corwyn with a brand new custom Warrior Wishes cap.  You can order yours here.

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My dad will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow to make more warrior wishes come true at the Pirates game.  Stay tuned for more details!

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Sources:

http://www.wkyc.com/amp/entertainment/television/programs/rising/inspired-by-love-wounded-iraq-veteran-rises-to-become-local-hero/395007380

http://www.cleveland.com/articles/19508514/hes_not_going_to_make_it_once.amp

http://gallery.rxmuscle.com/index.php?contest=38&year=1037&bodybuilder=55234

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Warrior Wishes Come True At The Cavs Game!

After completing our 5th annual “All32in17” mission where we hosted warriors at more than 45 NFL games, my dad spent some time catching up on sleep, and we planned our next missions.

2016 ALL32IN17 Schedule

So after about a month long break, it was time to get back in action! Over the next 10 days, my dad will be “back on the bus” literally…  he will be making wishes come true at 11 NBA/NHL games in 10 days!  

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A late winter storm almost derailed the mission, but thankfully the weather cleared up before my dad’s bus rolled out at 7am to Cleveland for the Thursday night Cavs game.  

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Today we are honored to be hosting Army SPC Michael Dixon, a Purple Heart recipient and Army Natl Guard Brandon Klopfenstein, along with their wives, at the Cleveland Cavaliers game!

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SPC MIKE DIXON

SPC Dixon Served in the Army from 2003-2006. He was a specialist who served as a Tanker in the 1st Cavalry Division. He deployed from 2004-2005 where he sustained injuries from a roadside car bomb, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. He finished out his Service at Ft. Hood Texas and now resides in Ashtabula, OH.

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SGT BRANDON KLOPFENSTEIN

SGT Klopfenstein Graduated from the same school Lebron James attended,  St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, OH. He served 6 years in the Ohio Army National Guard before being medically retired.  He is a proud father of 2 girls and a boy.

Luckily my dad’s bus arrived on time at 3:35 with no delays, because he had to meet the Warriors at 4:45 at Harry Buffalo which was a 20 minute walk from the bus station.

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Harry Buffalo in Cleveland has gone above and beyond over the past few years & provided delicious meals to the Warriors before Browns, Indians and Cavs games!  The restaurant is conveniently located near the Cavs & Indians stadium.  It’s the perfect place in Cleveland to meet up for great food and drinks before and after games!  We recommend their famous wings!  We cannot thank them enough for their generosity over the years.

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After a great meal with the Warriors my dad gave everyone a brand new “New Era” Cavaliers Cap & told them they would be sitting front row in the 200 level at the game.  

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They made the one block walk over to Quicken Loans Arena and snapped a few pics in front of Stadium wearing their New caps.  

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Once the Warriors were inside getting ready for the game, my dad made his way back to Harry Buffalo to watch the game.  SGT Klopfenstein & SPC Dixon both sent my dad pictures from inside the stadium.  

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They had a great time game watching the Jazz & Cavs go back and forth for most of the game.  But Lebron James & the Cavs  pulled away at the end for a 91-83 victory!

Brandon got a little “added bonus ” – at dinner he told my dad how that he wasn’t gonna get to see Kevin Love play cuz he was due back from injury NEXT game.  Surprise – Kevin Love actually played tonight and contributed with 10 points and 9 rebounds!

Everyone had a great time at the game!  We want to thank New Era for providing the Cavs Caps & Harry Buffalo for their continued support!  

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

We also want to thank Sgt Klopfenstien & SPC Dixon for your service & sacrifices.  It’s appreciated, has not gone unnoticed & will never be forgotten!

As I mentioned before, over the next 10 days, my dad will be making wishes come true in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC & Columbus.  He’s killing time at the casino until his 2am overnight bus departs to Pittsburgh.  Stay tuned to see wishes come true at tomorrow’s Penguins game!

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Don’t forget to Nominate a Warrior for an upcoming game on our 2017 Battlefields to Ballfields Mission!

2017 Battlefields To Ballfields Schedule

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On a Bus To Cleveland To Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

We completed another successful mission in Cincinnati and are oun our way to Cleveland to honor Gold Star families & Warriors at The Cleveland Indians #OpeningDay.  After the Indians game, we will be walking next door to make Warrior Wishes come true at the Cavaliers game.  Thanks to the Cavs, the warriors will be watching the game in a private suite!

This will be our 10th & 11th games on our Battlefields To Ballfields mission!

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The Cavaliers Made Warrior Wishes Come True In a “Suite”Way!

Immediately following the Opening Day Indians game, Army SGT. Nicholas Casey’s family met up with my dad, another gold star family & a few Warriors across the street at the Cleveland Cavaliers game!

Thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Operation Warrior Wishes was proud to be honor the Legacies of Marine Cpl Dustin Derga & Army Sgt Nicholas Casey by hosting surviving family members in a suite in their honor.  We are also honored to host Marine Cpl Randy Elkins (pictured above) and Army Warriors Darron Lewis & Matthew Killian in the suite too.  That cavaliers provided 12 premium tickets & giftbage to help make these warrior wishes to come true!

(Learn more about the warriors below)

This is Operation Warrior Wishes 11th game of hosting heroes in 8 days on our#BattlefieldsToBallfields Mission.

MARINE CPL DUSTIN DERGA

 USMC Cpl. Dustin A. Derga loved playing “army” with his GI Joes as a child while wearing his “cammies”. Dustin also loved playing baseball and was an excellent pitcher and catcher. He was happiest when working with his hands especially when he was making something unique or fixing something broken. He was not afraid of trying the impossible and pushed the envelope of life every chance he got. He loved his mom, his sister, his girlfriend, his step-mom, and me. He loved helping people and doing what others couldn’t or wouldn’t do. He loved his country and willingly took an oath to defend it at all cost, including his life. Most of all Dustin loved life…every heartbeat!

Just Weeks after Dustin Graduated High School he joined the Marines.  Dustin loved being a Marine. He was proud of being a Marine, part of a heritage that demands respect and honor. When his father asked him why did he join, the answer was simple. “I want to be part of the best.”

On May 8th, 2005 (Mother’s Day) Dustin, was 24 years old when he was killed by an armor piercing round while leading his 4 man fire team during house to house searches.  The house they were searching was in New Ubaydi, Iraq – very near the Syrian border. The fatal rounds were fired by terrorists through the walls of the house using a machine gun in the basement. It was the last house Dustin’s team was to search for the day. Other Marines in the fire team were also wounded, one seriously. Dustin regained consciousness briefly while being transported to the helicopter landing zone. He was worried about his men and wanted to know if they were OK. Dustin died on the helicopter while in route to the field hospital. Dustin was the first of what would soon become 23 total Lima Company 3/25 Marine casualties.

Cpl. Derga’s father says “Dustin lived life to the fullest. I know with certainty he is now with God, he is OK and I will see him again someday. The hardest part as a Gold Star parent is the waiting for that day, the someday. It is so hard starting each day without his voice, ending the day without his smile. Grief can consume you if you let it. I choose not to let that terrorist act also destroy me. I will not give them the satisfaction. I choose to follow Dustin’s example and make the most of each day. I choose not to let Dustin’s story end with that scene in Ubaydi. I tell his story, I share the lessons he has taught me.  “Thank a vet for the freedoms we have, regardless of when they served. Pray for them, those currently serving, and our nation. Never forget the sacrifices but more importantly never forget the accomplishments.”

ARMY WARRIOR DARRON LEWIS

Darron Lewis served in the army for 2.5 years as an infantryman.  On July 11th 2012, While serving in Afghanistan, Lewis was injured when a roadside bomb exploded.  In the blast, Daron broke every bone on the right side from his pelvis to ankle, which is now held in place by rods an screws & had his left leg amputated below the knee.   Daron also lost a brother in arms that day.  He was retired out of the Army on December 27th 2013.  Lewis is a Purple Heart Recipient.  He enjoys playing wheel Chair basketball & loves the Cavaliers.

It was an honor to host Darron in the Cavs Suite & make this warrior wish come true!

ARMY SGT MATTHEW KILLIAN