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Reflecting on Memorial Day

As a civilian, a few years ago, Memorial Day used to mean a day off of work, BBQ & beers. But now I understand the true meaning of this special day.

While on our mission to host wounded veterans at all 32 NFL stadiums in one season in 2012, a warrior pulled a bracelet off his wrist & presented it to me. He explained that it was a “KIA” bracelet (Killed In Action). The black metal band read;

“CPT Russell B Rippetoe USA Ranger
A CO. 3/75 KIA 03 April 2003 Iraq”

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Once I learned the meaning of the band, I immediately returned it back to the warrior & told him I couldn’t accept it. He went on to tell me that if I didn’t accept his offering it would be disrespectful. Followed by “Don’t Disrespect me.”

Then he explained he wanted me to wear the KIA bracelet every day going forward to remind me every day how lucky I am to live in the USA where we have brave men & women willing to fight for our country & even make the ultimate sacrifice to give us the opportunity to live in every moment we get.

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Needless to say, I have never taken it off. Every time I go to DC we make a point to stop at Arlington National cemetery to pay our respect to Captain Rippetoe & all the other brave soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Arlington is a very special place. If you have never been there, put it on your bucket list.

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Last year when we were in DC we stopped to tour the Smithsonian American History Museum & got a huge surprise when we saw Captain Rippetoes’ camouflage uniform & gear in the American’s at war exhibit. It brought tears to my eyes & chills ran down my spine.

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In 2013, we hosted Warriors on a tour of the NFL offices with Gold Star Families. I didn’t know what gold star meant. I obviously know now. The Gold Star pin is a gold star on a purple circular background. Next of Kin Lapel Pins are presented to and worn by immediate Family members of United States Armed Forces members who die while serving outside of combat operations

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On the tour we met up with Army Master SGT Jen Loredo. Jen not only served our country, she was also a Gold Star wife. Her husband, Army SSG Edwardo Loredo was Killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

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I told Master SGT Loredo about our mission to honor heroes from the battlefields to the Ballfields & Jen asked me if we had ever thought of hosting Gold Star families?

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At that time we had never hosted any or even thought about it. But after meeting the Gold Star families on the tour, I was looking forward to hosting them at future games.

Before leaving the tour, Jen reached in her purse and gave me one of Ed’s KIA bracelets (which I now keep in a shadow box displayed along with other bracelets, coins & flags we have received over the years).

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Since 2013, our organization has proudly honored the legacies of more than 150 fallen heroes by hosting their families at events in their honor. Every one of those families have a special place in our hearts, especially during Memorial Day.

The Warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice are Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, Sisters, Sons, Daughters, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces, Nephews, Cousins & friends. Their loved ones know the true meaning of this day. We want them all to know that their loved ones service & sacrifices are not unnoticed & never forgotten. You will all be in our prayers.

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So yea, I still have the day off work, I still plan on having a BBQ & an ice cold beer, but I will be taking time to reflect on the brave men & women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to give me the freedom & opportunity to live here in this moment in the greatest country in the world.

In the words of President Harry S Truman
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude.”

“I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”
~Lee Greenwood

No matter what you do today, please make sure to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of today! Enjoy your Memorial Day!

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The Dodgers Help Us Honor The Legacy Of A Fallen Army Warrior

My Dad has now been on the road honoring heroes since April 2nd, 2015.  He began our Battlefields To Ballfields mission in Chicago & has hosted over 150 warriors at 45 professional sporting events in the past 44 days!

Needless to say, he is exhausted, but nothing will stop him from continuing our mission in the city of Angels honoring the legacy of one at the Dodgers game today.

We are honored to be hosting surviving family members of Army Sgt Dwight Burn today at the Dodgers game in his honor.  Dwight made the ultimate sacrifice when a helicopter crashed during a training mission.

ARMY SGT DWIGHT BURN

 Dwight lived in his native Belize before his family moved to Barstow, CA when he was four years old. He graduated from Barstow High School in 2005 and began taking business courses at Barstow Community College. He enlisted in the Army in May 2010 as a CH-47 helicopter mechanic.

After graduating Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, in July of 2010, Dwight attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Eustis, Virginia. He graduated AIT in December 2010 as a CH-47 Repairer and Maintainer, and received the coveted Aviator Basic Crewman Badge. He quickly progressed to a fully qualified crew chief and deployed to Afghanistan from September 2011 to September 2012. During that time, he accumulated over 600 combat flight hours. After redeployment, Dwight rapidly achieved his goal of becoming a CH-47 Flight Engineer and was promoted to Sergeant on November 1, 2013.

Dwight’s former wife, Cintia Vasquez, remembers that Dwight liked to make people smile and he could light up a room with how funny he was. Dwight and Cintia have two daughters, Violet and Vivian. “He was a great father,” Cintia said. “Anyone who came in, he showed them the pictures of his two daughters in his wallet. They were his pride and joy. Dwight was a great man and the best father my daughters could have asked for.”

Dwight’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Citation, Air Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, NATO Medal, and the Certificate of Achievement.

He always seemed to like the military. The first thing he did when he got his green card was join the military. He was fascinated with the Army. Dwight made the ultimate sacrifice when a helicopter that he was aboard, serving as crew chief, crashed while on a training exercise near Orogrande, NM in May of 2014. He was assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC

Operation Warrior Wishes would like to thank the Los Angeles Dodgers for providing tickets to the game and helping us make the experience special by honoring SGT Burn on the jumbotron between innings.  We would also like to thank New Era for Providing Dodgers Caps for the family.

My Dad will be on an overnight bus from LA to San Francisco where he will immediately jump on the “BART” Train to Oakland to make Warrior Wishes come true at the A’s game tomorrow

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Making Some “Mile High” Memories Thanks To The Colorado Rockies

After spending 2 days in Kansas City making Warrior Wishes come true at the Royals Games, My Dad spent the night sleeping at the KC Airport before boarding his 6am flight to Denver.  Needless to say, my dad was happy about flying instead of taking the bus.  This was only the 2nd flight he has taken since we began the Battlefields To Ballfields Mission on April 2nd 2015.

My dad will be in Colorado for the next 2 days honoring a few warriors & the legacies of Army Major William F. Hecker III & CW2 Joshua B Silverman.

For game 1 in the “Mile High City, he honored the legacy of Maj Hecker & hosted his surviving family members in his honor.

MAJ Hecker made the ultimate sacrifice servig our country on January 5, 2006.  He was among five soldiers killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee in Najaf, south of Baghdad during convoy operations. Hecker was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX. Also killed were Capt. Christopher P. Petty, 33, of Vienna, Va.; Sgt. 1st Class Stephen J. White, 39, of Talladega, Ala.; Sgt. Johnny J. Peralez Jr., 25, of Kingsville, Texas; and Pvt. Robbie M. Mariano, 21, of Stockton, Calif. Hecker had been deployed to Iraq just after Thanksgiving 2005.

Hecker went to West Point, where he studied engineering management and sang in the glee club. He had been stationed in Oklahoma, Germany, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the ’90’s.

He is survived by his wife, and four children, ages 2-10. His father is a retired Army Colonel (Two tours in Viet Nam) from the West Point class of 1965, and his brother serves in the Marines.

He received a master’s degree in English from the University of Oregon and went back to West Point, where he was an assistant English professor for three years. He studied Twain and presented a paper about baseball and patriotism. He edited a book about Poe’s time as a West Point cadet titled “Private Perry and Mister Poe: The West Point Poems, 1831.”

Hecker loved baseball, and his dream was to teach after his year-long tour of duty in Iraq.

It was an honor to host Maj Hecker’s family in his honor tonight in Denver thanks to the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies did an amazing job helping us honor this brave soldier from providing tickets & T-shirts to putting Maj Hecker’s name in lights on the scoreboard.  The family was even recognized on the field!  Unfortunately rain delayed the game, but a fun time was had by all.

Operation Warrior Wishes would also like to thank New Era for providing Rockies Caps & theDenver Chophouse & Brewery for providing a pregame meal !

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

My Dad will be back at Coors field to make Warrior Wishes come true tomorrow afternoon.  He will be honoring the legacy of CW2 Joshua Silverman at the 40th game in 38 days on our Battlefields To Ballfields Mission.

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Back in the Nation’s Capitol Making Warrior Wishes Come True!

My Dad was back on the bus after 2 days of making Warrior Wishes come true in Philadelphia & headed back to DC.

Today we honored the legacy of Army SPC Brian Anderson at the Washington Nationals game & hosted his brother & best friend in his honor.

ARMY SPC BRIAN ANDERSON

SPC Anderson joined the Army in March 2008 and after completing training arrived at Fort Drum in July 2008.  He was an infantryman with the 1st Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment.

Bucky Anderson was a two-time state champion wrestler, but he didn’t join the military just looking for a fight. “Bucky being a little older, a little bit more mature than most of the folks that might enlist, you know he went in for all the right reasons. He really felt a compulsion to serve his country,” says former wrestling coach Joe Shumate.

On June 12, 2010, three months into his deployment in Afghanistan SPC Anderson made the ultimate sacrifice when his vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Za Khel, Afghanistan.

Anderson received a commendation for his positive attitude and his ability to spread that positive attitude to his comrades just days before the attack.

Operation Warrior Wishes is honored to help keep this heroes legacy alive

And while Warrior Wishes were coming true in DC, We were also hosting heroes at the Trace Adkins Concert in St Charles!  Trace Adkins took time to meet the warriors!

We would like to thank Onesti Entertainment & O Shows for helping us make these Warrior Wishes coming true!

Learn more about our mission at http://warriorwishes.org/

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#BattlefieldsToBallfields Week 1 Recap

Warrior wishes has had a successful first week of our Battlefields to Ballfields mission.

(Click on any picture to see full details from each game)

 Since beginning the mission on April 2nd in Chicago we have traveled over 1000 miles to host warriors & Gold Star families at 11 games!  Here is a quick recap of our first week in action.

4/2 – Game 1 Chicago Blackhawks 

Honoring USMC Warrior Manny Gonzalez, Army Warrior Andrew Nemeth & the legacy of Air Force SSG Jacob Frazier

4/5 – Game 4 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day

Honoring Navy Warriors Bobby Chism & Theresa Saxon

4/8 – Game 6 Detroit Tigers 

Honoring Warriors Tyrone Parker, Frank Washburn, Alexander Clabon,

Michael Theil & Army Sgt Eric Lund

4/8 – Game 8 Milwaukee Brewers

 Honoring Marine Cpl Jeremy Stengel and

the legacy of Army PFC Jacob Gassen & Army Lt David Johnson

4/9 – Game 9 Cincinnati Reds

Honoring Army Warrior Matt Pyles & Air Force Warrior Scott Stevens

4/11 – Game 11 Cleveland Cavaliers

Honoring Marine CPL Randy Elkins, Army Warriors, Matt Killian & Derron Lewis, and The Legacies of USMC Cpl Dustin Derga & Army PFC Nicholas Casey

As you can see, its been a very eventful week of #WarriorWishes coming true!  We would like to thank all of the Teams, restaurants & donors who have helped us make all this possible.

TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

My Dad is on his way to New York to kick off  week 2 of our Battlefields To Ballfields Mission.  This week we are making Warrior Wishes come true at Yankees, Mets, Nets, Red Sox, Celtics & Nationals games.  View our full schedule here.

We would love to host your hero at an upcoming event!  Nominate them here!

Learn more about our mission, Nominate Your Herosee our upcoming schedulesee how you can get involvedmake donations, and buy warrior wishes gear to help make Warrior Wishes come true at http://warriorwishes.org/

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Making Warrior Wishes Come True at the Chicago Bulls Game!

After an amazing day full of memories and making warrior wishes come true at the Blackhawks game, it was back to the United Center to make Warrior Wishes come true at the Bulls game!  My dad should have spent the night and watched them transform the stadium from a hockey rink to a basketball court.

Operation Warrior Wishes was honored to share the legacy of Army PFC Omar E. Torres and host his sister, Oralia & her husband in his honor at the Bulls game!

Omar grew up on the Southwest Side of Chicago.  He had a passion for sports.   Omar played basketball, baseball, and football.  He attended De La Salle Institute where he joined the wrestling team, played football as well as enjoyed the chess team.

Torres graduated in 2005 and went off to The Ohio State University on a Scholarship.  Before finishing his freshman year, Omar decided that he wanted to do better for his country and made the decision to join the Army.

Torres attended basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia where he earned high honors for marksmanship and leadership skills.  He returned to Ohio State for his sophomore year but was called upon for active duty in March of 2007 & deployed to Iraq.

On August 22, 2007, Omar and his unit were conducting a sweep of the area when he stepped on an IED and died instantly.  He was 20 years old.

Operation Warrior Wishes is proud to be hosting surviving family members at the Chicago Bulls game  in Omar’s honor.  Gone but never forgotten!

Learn more about Our “Battlefields to Ballfields” Mission, Nominate Your Hero, and Get Involved at warriors.thriveground.com

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Warrior Wishes Thanks New Era!

Over the past 3 years New Era has partnered with Warrior Wishes and provided Caps for warriors as well as other support!  Today we received a shipment of about 200 different Baseball team caps for our “Battlefields to Ballfields” mission!

We are so thankful for New Era’s generosity and can’t wait to hand all the caps out to the warriors & make some Warrior Wishes come true!!!

Learn more about our “Battlefields to Ballfields” mission here.

Battlefields to Ballfields Schedule

If you know a warrior or Gold Star family who would like to be a part of our Battlefields to Ballfields mission please nominate them here.