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Game 9 – Warrior Wishes Come True At The Bucs Game!

After making Warrior Wishes come true thanks to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night…

My dad made his way to the Jacksonville Greyhound station to get a couple of hours of sleep before his early morning bus to Tampa to make Warrior Wishes come true at both the Rays & Bucs games!

Since 2012, we have made some unforgettable memories hosting heroes in Tampa. My personal favorites include Dan Orlovsky (Bucs QB) going above and beyond to make a special day for the warriors at Bucs games.

I’ll also never forget watching the game from the pirate ship, watching the warriors faces light up when our friend Stuart Scott surprised them on the field, and all the times the Rays have helped us make Wishes come true at Tropicana field!

 

Speaking of the Rays… when we created our schedule in April, we noticed the Rays were playing at home on Friday & Saturday before the Bucs game Sunday. So my dad made his way to Tampa early to make some more wishes come true thanks to the Rays!

He also had the opportunity to meet up with our old friend Mike Delancey. Mike was critically injured in a sniper attack during military combat while serving in Iraq and has confronted his own life changing injuries. He created the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch to inspire veterans of all conflicts to get OUT and ACTIVE. The Ranch and Park offers activities for all Military Veterans in need of a supportive and healing environment, to give them a new sense of hope, resilience and strength as they move forward in their journey. Check out the ranch and support the WWAR mission here!

Mike was one of our original guests in 2012. It was an honor to host him and we are so proud of him for all he has and continues to accomplish!

The wounded Warrior amputee softball team was also in town playing a tournament, so my dad went with Mike on the WWAR bus to cheer them on while he was in town.

Fast forward to Sunday, my dad made his way to Raymond James Stadium to meet up with Navy Corpsman John Barry, Army Combat Medic Chase Colon & Marine Kyle Bethel.

John Barry left for boot camp at Great Lakes on May 19, 2000! John was stationed in Coronado for 6 years and deployed 5 times (3 to Afghanistan and 2 to Iraq) He later transferred to Kaneohe Marine Corp Base where he was deployed two more times as a augmentee to the Army!

In February of 2008 John’s vehicle was hit by a IED, he was the only survivor. After numerous surgeries and time spent at Wounded Warrior Battalion in San Diego, CA John was medically retired as a Petty Officer 2nd Class on October 27, 2011.

Porfirio “Chase” Colón. served in the United States Army as a Combat Medic for over 7 years.

Kyle Bethel joined the USMC at 17. He served on 2 combat tours in Afghanistan. 2 weeks after leaving on his 1st deployment his wife gave birth to his twin sons 8 weeks early. They were in the NICU for 3 weeks and didn’t get to meet their father until the were 6 months old. During Kyle’s first deployment he suffered a TBI. He served 4 years in the USMC before returning home to Florida.

Mike and the WWAR has a tailgate before the game and hosted group of warriors before the game.  My dad surprised the guys with front row seats at the Tailgate! Needless to say, they were pumped up for the experience! Especially John as this was his first Bucs game ever!

As game time approached, the group made their way to the front row to watch the giants and Bucs kickoff.

Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans gave the warriors a lot to cheer about as he scored 3 Touchdowns and had over 150 yards in the first half!

But Daniel Jones and the Giants kept pace with the Bucs. In the end, the Bucs had a 34 yard field goal opportunity for the win (kicking towards the warriors end zone) but the ball sailed wide right and the Bucs lost 32-31…

Despite the loss, the warriors still enjoyed their experience and had a great time!

Operation Warrior Wishes would like to thank John, Chase, Kyle, Mike and all of the players on the wounded warriors softball team for their service and sacrifices! You guys are appreciated and will never be forgotten!

After the game my dad made his way to the airport for a good night sleep before catching his early morning flight to DC. We will be back in action making Warrior Wishes come true at the Redskins game tomorrow! Stay tuned.

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Game 14 – Making Warrior Wishes Come True In Tampa!

We have made Warrior Wishes come true at 13 NFL games in 4 weeks since kicking off our 2017 “All32in17” mission!  

2017 All32in17 Mission Schedule (2)

We’re kicking off week 5 in Tampa to make Wishes come true at the Buccaneers game for a couple of very deserving & inspiring warriors.

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Tampa has always been one of my dads favorite spots to make Wishes come true.  Over the years we have made some unforgettable memories & amazing friendships.  Here are some of our favorite moments.

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My dad took off to Tampa Wednesday afternoon & arrived around 8pm.  He tied up some loose ends before resting up overnight at the airport.  

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He made his way to Whole Foods Thursday afternoon to meet up with the warriors before the game.  Whole Foods has been an amazing partner of ours throughout the years.  Especially in Tampa.  Each of the last 6 years, Whole Foods has hosted the warriors for a pregame meal before our annual Buccaneers game. Not only does Whole Foods provide a delicious healthy meal, but they also give us the opportunity to get to know the warriors in a fun relaxed environment.  We are thankful for their generosity & support!

Today we were honored to be hosting Army Sgt Dan Carpenter & Marine Cpl Michael Jernigan at the Bucs game.  SGT Carpenter and his wife Nicole were first to arrive at Whole Foods.  My dad got to know them a little bit while waiting for CPL Jernigan.  Dan proudly served in the Army for 12 1/2 years before being medically retired.  He is an avid Bucs fan & was excited to attend his first ever NFL game!  

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Marine Michael Jernigan and his new bride of only 6 months,KimberLee arrived a few minutes later & everyone enjoyed getting to know each other over lunch.  

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Michael Jernigan is a Marine who followed in the steps of his grandfather and father into the United States Marine Corps fulfilling a childhood dream.  On August 22, 2004 while on a deployment in Iraq, Michael’s platoon was on patrol when it was hit by two 155mm artillery shells buried under the ground. The Improvised Explosive Devise threw Michael 20 meters from their Humvee. Michael suffered life treating and life changing injuries that day. 45% of his cranium was crushed in.  He had shrapnel enter in his right eye and exit through his left eye, cutting everything in between. He had to have two fingers reattached and his left knee fully reconstructed. He fractured his patella and cut his femoral artery. Michael is the first US service member to lose both eyes in the global war on terror. He went through 30 major surgeries in the first 12 months and spent 16 month in hospitals and rehab facilities.

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It has been thirteen years since the attack. Michael has taken his second chance at life and turned it into something that is never taken for granted. He volunteers his time whenever it is needed and always offers a helping hand. Eleven years ago Michael Co founded Paws for Patriots at South Eastern Guide Dogs; which provides guide dogs and service animals to veterans. He has touched thousands of lives through his motivational speaking, peer to peer counseling and most recently his book, titled “Vision”. He has turned the most traumatic experience of his life into a life filled with a new purpose; to help others gain their vision. Michael’s favorite saying is, “It wasn’t until I lost my sight, that I gained my vision”. Too often people solely rely on their eyes to see, but miss out on life’s most precious moments, the ones you can’t see, but only feel. Michael truly embodies what it means to be a Marine, “honor, courage, commitment”.   Learn more about Michael Jernigan and get his book here!

Before heading over to Raymond James stadium, my dad presented the warriors with Thank You letters & New Bucs caps courtesy of New Era.  Shane, from the Tampa fire department escorted the warriors & my dad over to the stadium after Lunch.  

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Shane really enjoyed hanging out with the guys and took a couple pics with them after he dropped everyone off right in front of stadium.  He also offered to give them a ride back to their cars after the game.

My dad had hoped to tailgate with the “What The Buc” super fans, but unfortunately unable to get there before the game.  

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Typically Bucs tickets are fairly inexpensive.  However, the defending super bowl champion New England Patriots were in town.  This made tickets hard to get and expensive.  Thankfully we found a great deal on NFL ticket exchange & got the warriors some great seats.  

My dad walked the warriors into the stadium & had hoped to find a cheap ticket outside so he too could hang out with the guys inside. But he was unable to find anything for less than $200.  He enjoyed the view outside while the guys cheered on the Bucs inside.

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The Bucs put up a great fight against a tough Patriots team.  In fact, it’s a game they should have won!  But they missed 3 field goals and lost by the score of 19-14.  It was an exciting game that came down to the final play of the game!  Despite the loss the guys had a great time!  

After the game, a few Patriots players actually came off the bus to take photos and sign a few autographs. Michael’s wife KimberLee actually is a Patriots fan, so she walked over by the busses but couldn’t get to close due to big crowds.  Shane had the bus waiting for the guys and drove the everyone back to their cars where they said their goodbyes.

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We want to thank Whole Foods for their continued support throughout the years, we also want to thank New Era for providing Bucs caps & the Tampa fire department for providing transportation to and from the game for the warriors!  

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Most importantly, we want to thank Army SGT Dan Carpenter and Marine CPL Michael Jernigan for their dedicated service and sacrifices to our country!  We salute you!

As the warriors headed home, my dad headed for the airport to get some rest.  He hopes to hang out on the beach tomorrow and get some work done as long as the weather hold up.  He will be flying to Houston tomorrow night and will be back in action at the Texans game on Sunday!  Stay tuned for more details. 

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It was an honor to host these brave warriors and make their Warrior Wishes come true. If you know a deserving warrior who would love to attend a game on our “All32in17” mission please nominate them today!

2017 All32in17 Mission Schedule (2)

Make sure to follow our mission live on Facebook Twitter & Instagram @WarriorWishes.

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 THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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The Tampa Bay Lightning Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

After making wishes come true at the Rays game and a 40 minute crosstown bus ride from St Petersburg to Tampa, it was time to make wishes come true at the 2nd game of our  “DoubleHeader” at the Tampa Bay Lightning Game!

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Today, we were honored to be hosting Marine SGT Michael Nicholson and his family at today’s Lightning game. 

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Sgt. Nicholson was deployed to Afghanistan while serving in the Marine Corps. On July 6, 2011, while on a combat foot patrol, he was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). Michael lost both legs and his left arm in the blast. He also suffered a severe brain injury.

Eight months after arriving at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Michael returned home to Tampa, Florida. Upon his arrival, he was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters. “I’m truly blessed that the Tampa community and organizations have joined together,” Michael told an interviewer, adding, “Please pray for the guys still in Afghanistan right now and for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines recovering in Bethesda, San Antonio and Balboa. Pray for the ones who did not make it back.”

On January 9, 2014, Michael was given the keys and iPad to his new custom specially adapted smart home in Tampa thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation.  

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He & his family, including their 6 week old son, Sawyer, attended the game together.

My dad met up with SGT Nicholson and his family for a delicious meal at Yeoman Cask & Lion before the game.  

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Yeoman’s Cask & Lion is a British-style pub with a contemporary edge located in the heart of downtown Tampa. Located walking distance to many neighborhood attractions, including the Amalie Arena.  Its a great place to have a casual lunch or dinner. With 2 fully liquor bars that feature over 100 craft beers, 20 on tap, and 2 cask ales, this pub is made for beer lovers.  Make sure to stop by next time you’re in Tampa. 

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My dad enjoyed getting to know the Nicholson family.  He presented them all with new Tampa Bay Lightning caps thanks to our friends at New Era.  

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As game time approached, everyone headed over to Amalie Arena to pick up the tickets and get a few group photos in front of the the stadium.

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Today was gonna be special for Mike and his family as he will be recognized on the Jumbotron for his service & sacrifices as the teams Hometown Hero! 

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During the 1st period, While waiting for the “Hometown Hero” Ceremony, my dad was able to snap some photos with the Lightning mascot, Thunderbug. And one with 6 week old Sawyer & his 60 year old grandpa holding their “First Game Certificates.”

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Midway thru the 2nd period, the Lightning scored to tie the game at 1 just before SGT Nicholson was about to be recognized on the Jumbotron.  With the crowd in a frenzy, everyone was afraid Sawyer was gonna cry. But Luckily he had earplugs and he was ready to go as the Ceremony started.   

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The Lightning shared SGT Nicholson’s story with the sold out crowd & announced that he & his wife recently welcome Sawyer into the world.  A close up of Sawyer displayed on the Jumbotron and then panning out to show his hero dad, Mike, and the rest of the family. The recognition and the standing ovation was over 2 minutes long!  It was a special moment for an inspirational warrior and his family! 

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The Lightning put the cherry on top of what was already an amazing day when they scored the game winning goal with under 3 minutes left to play!  They added an empty net goal with 1 second left to secure the 4-2 victory over the Sabres.

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Operation Warrior Wishes would like to give special thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for working with us to provide an unforgettable day & experience for SGT Nicholson & his family!  We also would like to thank George from Yeomans Cask & Lion for the great pregame meal and New Era for the Tampa Bay Lightning caps!  

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE! 

Most importantly, THANK YOU CPL NICHOLSON , for your service and sacrifice to our country!  It was an honor to host you & your family.  Thank you for never giving up & being a true inspiration!  We look forward to seeing You again at the end of June at this year’s Warrior Games in Chicago!  We also hope to see him at our 4th annual Warrior Wishes Scramble!  

4th Annual Warrior Wishes Scramble - Final Draft (1)

My dad is off on another overnight bus to make Warrior Wishes come true at tomorrow nights Miami Heat game! Stay tuned for more details!

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The Tampa Bay Rays Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

After spending a few days in Atlanta, my dad spent the night on another bus heading to Tampa to make Warrior Wishes come true at the Rays & Lightning games!  

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It’s not often we have the opportunity to host warriors at 2 games in 1 day, but thankfully the schedule worked out perfectly.  The Rays game started at 1 and the puck dropped at the Lightning game at 5.

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My dad arrived on the bus in the Tampa area around 7am.  He immediately made his way to Tropicana Field in St Petersburg.  

Today we had the honor of hosting Army veteran Charles “CJ” Lavender & his girlfriend.  CJ was nominated by SSG Mike Williams, a warrior we hosted in Miami.  CJ & Mike served together in Iraq.

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We were also hoping to see Navy Veteran Christopher Scott again this year.  Chris was our guest at the Buccaneers game the first year. Unfortunately his son got sick and they were unable to attend.

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My dad met up with CJ at Fergs Sports bar at 11:00am.  Fergs opened their doors in 1992 & has become the official gathering spot for Rays fans!  If You’re ever in Tampa for a game, make sure to stop by for a bite to eat or drink.  

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My dad enjoyed getting to know CJ and Jay Dee over a delicious meal before heading over to Tropicana Field.  They snapped some great photos both outside the stadium and down by the field before the game.  

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The Rays provided the warriors with some “incredible seats” behind home plate. 

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CJ told my dad before the game that he was at a game when there were 7 Home Runs hit. Well, as this game started , there were 3 Home Runs in first 3 innings!  Eventually the big bats settled down and the Rays came away with the 7-2 win!

Operation Warrior Wishes would like to thank Fergs Sports Bar for lunch, Dick from the Rays for providing tickets, and New Era for providing Rays caps!  

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

most importantly we would like to say Thank You to Army SGT Charles “CJ” Lavender for his service to our country! 

My dad is now en route back to Tampa, from St Pete, where he will be making Warrior Wishes come true at the Lightning game.  Stay tuned for a special presentation!

 

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Game 24 – Warrior Wishes Come True At The Bucs Game!

After a crazy few weeks of being on the road making Warrior wishes come true in Green Bay, Kansas City, Denver, Nashville, Indianapolis & Chicago, my dad was happy to be back home for a few days to catch up with family and catch up on lost sleep.  

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Xander especially enjoyed having his G-Pa back home!  

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The 2 days flew by and my dad was back on the road Wednesday afternoon.  He kicks off week 9 making Warrior Wishes come true in Tampa at the Bucs game.  From there he will take a bus to Miami to host heroes on Sunday before taking a cross country flight to make warrior wishes come true in Seattle Monday night.  

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My dad arrived in the sunshine state Wednesday evening.  Since the game was not until Thursday, he was able to get some work done before getting a few hours of sleep on a couch at the airport.  First thing Thursday morning he caught the early HART bus to the stadium area to scope things out & get ready for the day.  

We were honored to be hosting Marine Cpl Derek Butler, his wife Kristina, and Army Sgt Corey Lehman with his 12 year old daughter Chevi.  It was Chevi’s First NFL Game Ever.  My dad met up with the Butlers outside the stadium by the gigantic Buccaneers flag in the tailgate parking lot.  

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Thanks to Panera Bread, the were able to sit down and get to know each other before heading over to the stadium. Tony at Panera had put together a little Bagel package with bagels and spreads.

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Kristina and I dug right in, but Derek wasn’t gonna have one until he realized they had those Cinnamon Crunch ones.For those of you who have never been to Panera, these are probably the best bagels you will ever eat.  

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Sgt Lehman and his daughter were running a little late due to traffic. My dad packed up the extra bagels for them and headed over to the tailgate, which was literally right across the parking lot.  Our friend Matt AKA “BucNutz” welcomed the guys to the ultimate Bucs tailgate.  Here’s a picture of their “Pirate Ship.”

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Cpl Butler and his wife walked around some of the booths and activities around the stadium collecting souvenirs for their kids while my dad picked up tickets from will call.  By the time they met back up SGT Lehman and his daughter had arrived.  

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Everyone seemed pretty excited for the game, especially Chevi.  She was looking forward to be going with her dad, my dad said she was a great kid, helping her dad whenever he needed it.

CPL Butler & Sgt lehman knew each other from a previous event that they had attended. It’s always nice when the Warriors have the opportunity to reconnect thru our mission.  

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Everyone headed inside just before game time and switched our seats for some great ADA seats thanks to Rich & Augie in the Bucs front office.  

Unfortunately, the game did not go as well as Corey and Derek would have liked as, after scoring first and taking 7-0 lead, the Buccaneers fell behind 10-7 and were really never in the game after that losing 43-28. Two late touchdowns made the score closer than game really was. Despite the loss, everyone still had a great time!  

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My dad was able to get a cart back to their car after the game. He rode back with them, gave Corey and Chevi a bag of bagels for snack, thanked them one last time and said their goodbyes.  

SEE ALL THE PHOTOS FROM THE TAMPA EXPERIENCE HERE

Operation Warrior Wishes would like to thank Tony at Panera Bread for providing the bagels, New Era Cap for providing new Bucs caps for the Warriors, Chive Charities for the KCCO shirts, as well as Rich & Augie from the Bucs front office for helping us get ADA seating and a cart ride!

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

Most importantly, THANK YOU to Marine Derek Butler and Army Sgt Corey Lehman for your service & sacrifices to our country.  It’s appreciated, has not gone unnoticed & will never be forgotten!  

My dad will spend another night at the airport in Tampa before hopping on a $1 Megabus to Miami to make Warrior Wishes come true at Dolphins game Sunday.  Stay tuned for more details!

MEET THE WARRIORS

ARMY WARRIOR DEREK BUTLER

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Derek Butler grew up in central Florida and when he turned 18 decided to join the army in September 2006. He completed basic and Air. Then went to his first duty station in june 2007 in California. He then deployed to iraq in October of 2007 and served overseas until October 2008 and medically discharged in august of 2009. Derek and his wife have 2 beautiful children and a service dog named phoenix.

ARMY WARRIOR COREY LEHMAN

Corey is 34 years old. we have been married for 12 years together for 16. we have 4 amazing daughters ranging from newborn to 12 years old.
Corey served proudly with the 10th Mtn. Div. in the US ARMY. During that time he did two tours to Iraq. once to Baghdad **05–06*  and once to Kirkuk *07–09*. During his time overseas he sustained numerous injuries including Severe PTSD, mTBI, retrolethesis of his L5–S1 vertebrae, Degenerative Disc Disease of his cervical spine, Meineres Disease, knee injuries and shoulder injury and repair as well as others. He finished his time with the Army in the Warrior Transition Unit out  of Fort Eustis Virginia ultimately being medically retired due to his injuries in the fall of 2010.

2016 ALL32IN17 Schedule

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Contact Craig for more information about the mission (630) 339-6714

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The Rays Make Warrior Wishes Come True Again!!!

After last night’s incredible First Pitch from Army SGT Austin Burchard, my dad slept in a real bed at a hotel for the first time all week. 

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Today my dad was back in St Petersburg to host and honor Marine SGT Chris Boreland, Marine SPC Sam Morris and Air Force active duty warrior Brittany Simpson with On Field Batting Practice Passes and some great seats thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays.

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My dad started the evening meeting up with the Warriors for a scrumptious dinner at Fergs Sports Bar down the street from the “Trop.”  Founded in 1992, Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill is the official gathering spot for Tampa Bay Rays fans!

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After lunch, they walked over to the stadium to go down onto the field to watch batting practice & mingle with a few of the players.

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SGT Boreland is a huge Rays fan and texted my dad yesterday saying “Can’t Wait Til Tomorrow.”  He was able to meet a number of players & get a some autographs. 

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Brittany, however, had a more specific goal for the evening – to meet centerfielder, Kevin Kiermaier.  We were able to make that happen as well ,and Brittany was ecstatic – he even autographed her hat. 

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Everyone had an awesome time and we can’t thank the Tampa Bay Rays enough for going above and beyond 2 days in a row to help make Warrior Wishes come true!  

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Our mission is more than just hosting Warriors at ball games.  We want each and every warrior to know that their service & sacrifices are appreciated & never forgotten.  We want our mission to inspire others & We do our best to stay in touch with the Warriors through the years.  Having hosted more than 1600 Warriors in the past 4 years makes it tough to keep in touch with each and every one, but it’s awesome when we get an opportunity to catch up with old friends. Since my dad had all morning to hang out in the Tampa area, he reached out to a former guest who lived nearby and invited him to catch up over lunch.  

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On our inaugural “All32in17” mission in 2012, we hosted Marine Mike Delancey as one of our guests to Miami Dolphins Game.  He lives in Pinellas Park near Tampa and for the past couple years has been working on the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch, scheduled to open in November. 

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My dad spent the afternoon with Mike and his dad, getting a tour of the facility and having lunch with them at American Legion. The Delancey’s goal in this project is to provide a place for veterans to go boating or fishing, among many other activities. This park will also be open to the general public, as they share our idea that civilians need to see and better understand the sacrifices our nation’s Warriors make for us. 

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Operation Warrior Wishes would like to say Thank You to New Era Cap for the Rays caps, Mark at Fergs Sports Bar for dinner and the Rays again for their 2nd straight night of incredible hospitality. But of course most importantly THANKS to Marine Sgt Chris Boreland , Marine SPC Sam Morris and Air Force warrior Brittany Simpson for their service & sacrifices to our country!!!

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!!!

My dad will be back on the bus tonight and heading to Atlanta to make Warrior Wishes come true in Atlanta tomorrow night.  Stay tuned for more details.

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www.WarriorWishes.org

Dont forget to nominate your hero for an upcoming game on our Battlefields to Ballfields mission!

Click here for more information.

2016 BATTLEFIELDS TO BALLFIELDS SCHEDULE

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The Rays Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

My dads morning 4 hour bus ride from Miami to Tampa seemed like a vacation compared to the 10 and 15 hour overnight busses he has been on this past week.  

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He arrived in Tampa around noon to host and honor Army SPC Austin Burchard at the Rays game.  Austin was one of the guests at the Bucs game on our original mission to honor heroes at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season back in 2012.  

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We worked with the Rays to initially plan honoring Austin on the scoreboard in 3rd inning, However, just as my dad was getting arriving in Tampa, the Rays called and asked if Austin wanted to throw out first pitch!  

I dont think many people would turn that opportunity down.  Austin was so excited to throw out the first pitch that he called his neighbor and they were out practicing in their front yard a few minutes later!

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Unfortunately for my dad, there is no “easy” way to get to St Petersburg on public transportation – but since my dad is a public transportation guru, he found a way.  He had to switch busses a couple times but made it to Bonefish Grill by 4:00 to meet Austin, his wife Donna and their new addition, 14 month old Gabriel for dinner.

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It was great to see them again.  As I mentioned before, Austin was one of our guests for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple years ago.  However we had not met Gabriel – and what a cutie!!!

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My dad enjoyed a great meal with the Burchards thanks to Bonefish Grill in St Petersbburg.  They had fun catching up a little an hearing the story how Austin was practicing pitching all afternoon. 

After dinner, everyone hopped in Austin’s adaptive SUV head to the “Trop”- as they call It. When we got to Tropicana Field, my dad finally got to meet Dick Crippen who has worked with the Rays for a long time, and is now a senior consultant and an integral part of the Rays community efforts.  

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Austin & his family were escorted down on the field to get ready for his big night. Austin was determined to throw a strike.  Not only was this going to be on the Jumbotron, they also were showing it on local TV broadcast!

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So the moment of truth was here -will Austin’s practice pay off ?  Or will he throw a pitch like 50 cent?  

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The pitch was a little high and inside, but I would say it caught the corner for a Steeerike!!! s – Way to go Austin!!!

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The opening pitch was just the beginning of a fun night for Army SPC Burchard and his family.  They were also honored on the Jumbotron in the 3rd inning.  

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One of the best part of the evening was yet to come, as hundreds of fans – including a few of the Burchards friends who were there and surprised when they saw Austin on the field – came up to thank him for his service and commend him on his great pitch.  It was a fun and memorable night for everyone involved – even the fans!!!

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Austin also “took credit” for the Rays performance and maybe he DID motivate the team.  The Rays had lost 10 straight games, but tonight they pounded out 5 runs in the 1st inning, right after Austin’s pitch. They went on to score 13 runs on their way to a dominating 13-7 victory. 

After the game, the Burchards gave my dad a ride to a budget hotel, his first hotel of the week so he could at least get one good night sleep.  

Operation warrior wishes would like to thank Bonefish Grill for the delicious Pre Game meal, to New Era Cap for awesome Rays caps for and of course the Tampa Bay Rays for their hospitality, as well as the First Pitch and Scoreboard Honor. It was an incredible experience!!!

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

It was an honor to host Austin & his family at the game & cannot thank him enough for his service & sacrifices.  My dad will be back at Tropicana Field tomorrow nightto make more Warrior Wishes come true thanks to the Rays!  Stay tuned for details. 

MEET ARMY SGT AUSTIN BURCHARD

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SGT Austin Burchard was born in Abilene, Kansas on 20 April 1980. SGT Burchard joined the United States Army in September 2007 in Salina, Kansas. He attended BCT in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and AIT in Fort Sills, Oklahoma graduating in December 2007 as a Forward Observer.

SGT Burchards’ first duty assignment was 10th Mountain 3rd Brigade 2-87 D-Co 1st platoon in Fort Drum, New York. He supported an Infantry unit as a Forward Observer with the responsibility of knowing and learning the functions of mortars, artillery, combat helicopters, combat jet and various military water craft in order to be able to use this knowledge when under fire during combat. In addition he trained up non artillery personnel how to use a basic call for fire under an emergency situation. SGT Burchard retired from duty station of Ft. Stewart, Georgia WTU C-Co.

In 2009 SGT Burchard deployed to Afghanistan with his brigade and on March 19th that year SGT Burchard was shot at close range while on guard duty. After 21 months in the hospital, passing away and being brought back by CPR twice, 17 surgeries, complete paraplegia from the T11 down, removal of 3 major organs, multiple infections, 3 pulmonary embolisms, internal bleeding and many more future stays in the hospital SGT Burchard is healthy and happy to be alive. SGT Burchard medically retired from the Army in Oct 2013

His awards include the Afghanistan Campaign medal (with two campaign stars), Army Achievement Medal, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd award), National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal

Since retirement SGT Burchard has continued his education in Computer programing. Went to back to work at CENTCOM at MacDill AFB. In his free time he loves to fish, hunt, play wheelchair basketball and softball. SGT Burchard and his wife adopted a son last year and are currently enjoying being parents to a busy 14 month old.

It was a true honor to have the opportunity to host SGT Burchard & his family in Tampa thanks to the Rays.  We are forever grateful for this family’s service & sacrifices!

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Game 36 – Warrior Wishes Come True In Tampa!

Immediately following the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, my dad headed straight to the airport to catch his flight to Tampa.  He stayed overnight at the airport and met up with the Warriors first thing Sunday morning at Whole Foods for breakfast.  

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We were honored to be hosting Marine SGT Sam Morris, Marine SGT Chris Boreland & Army SPC Tommy Travis at the Bucs game and make their warrior wishes come true.  All three Warriors were HUGE Bucs fans!  (Learn more about the Warriors below)

After everyone got to know each other over breakfast, it was time to tailgate with some of the Buccaneers ultimate fans!  Our friend Matt, AKA “Bucnutz” and his crew at “What The Buc?” have one of the coolest tailgate setups in the NFL.  These guys have a pirate ship!!!!  It was an awesome way to kickoff the day.

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My dad walked the guys into the stadium and headed back to the tailgate to watch the game.  Unfortunately, Drew Brees & the Saints went on to beat the Bucs by the score of 24-17 & continued our 5 game losing streak…

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My dad went by the players parking lot before the game ended to save some spots for the Warriors.  He was hoping to introduce some of the players to the Warriors. Especially Vincent Jackson.  Vincent comes from a military family. He follows our mission on Twitter & has taken time to meet the Warriors we’ve hosted over the past few years.   Jackson has his own non profit that has a mission to provide support to military families, focusing on the educational, emotional, and physical health of the children.  You can learn more about his mission at jacksoninaction83.org.  

My dad wasn’t sure if Vincent was going to stop because of the loss & he was injured in the game.   He walked towards his car thru the crowd of people with his headphones on, but when he saw my dad, he made time to stop to thank the guys for their service & sign a couple autographs!  

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Needless to say, the guys were pretty excited to meet him as well as other Bucs players.  It was the perfect ending to a great day making warrior wishes come true!

My dad thanked the Warriors one last time before gathering all his belongings and taking a $1 Megabus to Miami to host heroes & make more warrior wishes come true at the Monday night Dolphins game!

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We would like to thank Whole Foods on Dale Mabry parkway for providing a specially prepared breakfast for the warriors, “Bucnutz” & “What The Buc?” for providing a once in a lifetime Buccaneers tailgate experience, New Era for providing new Bucs caps to all the warriors & All the players who stopped by to meet the warriors after the game.

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Don’t forget to follow our mission live on Facebook & Twitter!  Subscribe to our blog for updates!  Thank you for your support!!!

MARINE SGT CHRIS BORELAND
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Chris Boreland joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and trained at Parris Island, SC.  He was stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC with 3rd Battaltion 8th Marines.  On April 6, 2006 Boreland was injured in an IED attack and awarded the Purple Heart. He was later medically retired in 2010.  Chris currently live in Spring Hill, Florida with his wife of 8 years their 2 young sons.  Chris is a huge Bucs fan and it was an honor to make this warrior wish come true!
MARINE SGT SAMUEL MORRIS
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Samuel Morris served in the Marines from 2005-2012 while on active duty his MOS was 3531 motor transportation. After graduating from basic training and motor t school he was stationed in Jacksonville North Carolina with 3 battalion 8th marines where he deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 then returned and deployed back to Ramadi, Iraq in 2007 with 1st battalion 8th marines.  Morris was medically retired from the marine corps in 2012.  Sam is now a full time student going to school for his radiology certificate.
ARMY SPC TOMMY TRAVIS
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Thomas (Tommy) Travis was born and raised Orlando, FL. He was passionate about sports as a child. He adores the  Florida State Seminoles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No matter win or loss, he remains the biggest fan. After September 11th, he felt called to join the Military. Following in his father and Grandfathers footsteps. He joined the Army in 2006 as a military police officer. He was stationed in Fort Bliss and soon was called to deploy. He endured a 15 month deployment with the 978th Military Police company. The war forever changed him. While in Iraq he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from two separate attacks while on combat convoy missions. These attacks took the lives of two of his closest friends. Once returning from war he was again called to deploy and serve in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, this happening a mere 7 months after his return from Iraq. He spent 12 months in Guantanamo Bay on a classified mission. His final duty station was Joint Base Lewis McChord. This is where he found and married the love of his life, Bethany. They have two incredible daughters. Thomas was medically retired in October 2014, he and his family moved back to the greater Orlando area. Together as a family they enjoy watching football, frequenting Disney world and just spending time together. Thomas is currently a college student studying general studies.
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The Tampa Bay Rays Make Warrior Wishes Come True!

Since beginning our Battlefields to Ballfields Mission on April 2nd, my dad has taken 15 busses through Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Boston, Washington DC,Pittsburgh, PhiladelphiaBaltimore & now Tampa.  We have  teamed up to honor over 90 warriors at 27 games in the past 25 days.  For the first time on this mission my dad flew on an airplane & made Warrior Wishes come true at the Tampa Bay Rays game!

My dad was greeted by a familiar face at the airport.  ARMY SSG Erick Millette was one of our guests on our original mission to host heroes at all 32 NFL stadiums in one season in 2012.  He made the move to Tampa to get out of the cold and he was going to be one of our guests to the Rays game.  We were also honoring the legacy of Army SPC Emily Saunders & hosting surviving family members in her honor!  (Learn more about the warriors below)

Ferg’s sports bar hosted everyone for lunch before the game started.  The Tampa Bay Rays provided awesome seats for the warriors behind home plate & went on to win the game!

We would like to thank the Tampa Bay Rays for providing tickets, Ferg’s Sports Bar for feeding everyone lunch before the game, and New Era for providing Rays caps for the warriors at our 27th game in 25 days on our Battlefields to Ballfields mission.

Together we make Warrior Wishes come true

Immediately after the game, Erick and his fiance dropped my dad back off at the bus station to catch his ride down to Miami.  He will be spending the night at the airport before making warrior wishes come true for a big group of Gold Star Families at Marlins Park thanks to the Marlins!

Learn more about our MissionNominate Your Hero for an upcoming gameFollow Our BlogGet involvedMake a Donation & Buy Warrior Wishes gear at http://warriorwishes.org/

ARMY SSG ERICK MILLETTE

Staff Sgt. Erick Millette joined the army at the young age of 18.  He considers the soldiers he served with his family.  While Erick was deployed in Iraq in 2006, just one patrol away from going home,  the road erupted beneath his vehicle.  Erick’s knee was torn apart & he suffered a concussion in the blast.  In all he endured a total of 17 IED attacks while serving in Iraq.  Millette was a combat patrol leader, and the way he describes it, the good days for him and the men under his command were few and far between.

In march of 2008, After retiring from the Army, Millette found himself alone in an apartment in Colorado.  He began drinking to escape.  Nobody had called him in months and he said his only “friend” was the guy at the liquor store.

Millette bought a 9 millimeter gun, brought it home and began drinking.  He cleaned his gun and filled the chamber as he continued to drink.  Thankfully Erick passed out before he made the decision to end his life.

When Erick woke up the next morning and saw the gun lying next to him, he knew he nedded help & called 911.  The woman on the other end of the phone helped save Erick’s life.  Erick also credits organizations like Operation Warrior Wishes for helping him feel appreciated for his service & sacrifices.

Millette is now a mentor for soldiers struggling with PTSD and Alcoholism.  He shares his story and helps show these warriors that there is still hope.

We are truly honored to have Erick with us at the Rays game today, we would like to thank him for sharing his story to help others are thankful that he made the decision to reach out for help.   We hope and pray that anyone out there struggling right now can also realize they need help before it’s too late.  Pick up the phone and make the call for help!

ARMY SPC EMILY SAUNDERS

Emily Joy Saunders was born May 29 in Cornwall, England.  She Moved to the U.S. in 1987. Attended Lakewood High School where she received a scholarship to University of Tampa for her excellence in track and cross country. She also attended University of South Florida and earned her BA in criminal justice. Saunders later joined the US Army where she continued her excellence for her physical abilities. She graduated boot camp with the Army Physical Fitness award, and won the Iron Sergeant award in October of 2013.

Emily was physically tough but had a very gentle heart and the most infectious smile.

She’s missed dearly by her son, twin sister, brother & parents.

 See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sptimes/obituary.aspx?pid=168217387#sthash.MAcyPF2b.dpuf