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Game 12 – Warrior Wishes Come True in Houston!

My dad took a day off in between coming home from Seattle and taking off to Houston to make Warrior Wishes come true at the 12th game of our 2015 mission to honor Warriors by hosting them at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season for our 4th year in a row!

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Here are some of our favorite memories from making Warrior Wishes come true in Houston.

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This game was special, I had the opportunity to bring X-man along with us and we had 3 generations making warrior wishes come true!  So I thought…  I was hoping to have Xander come to the game with us, but underestimated a few things.  One, traveling with a 2 year old is way more difficult than I had expected, and Two, there was a lot of traffic in the Houston area.
Melissa, Xander and I arrived the day before my dad to explore Houston.  We met up with my dad on Thursday afternoon to visit the Children’s museum, which is a must do in Houston if you have kids.
After the museum we made our way over to Joe’s Crab Shack by the stadium to meet up with the warriors for dinner.
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We were honored to be hosting Army Sgt Juan Carlos Vasquez & Army SSG Shilo Harris at the Texans game. “Meet the Warriors” Below
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I dropped everyone off at NRG stadium, with the intentions of dropping Melissa off at the hotel & coming back, but due to traffic didn’t make it back in time.  But that didn’t keep the guys from having a great time tailgating with the “End Zone King” and watching the Texans!
Unfortunately the Texans couldn’t pull out the victory and the Colts won by the score of 13-10.  Before the game had ended I had made my way back over to the stadioum to meet up with everyone and pick up my dad.  Everyone had a great time at the game despite the loss.
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We would like to thank Joe’s Crab Shack for hosting us for dinner, Dave “The End Zone King” & everyone at his tailgate for inviting us to join them for some pregame fun, New Era for providing Texans caps for each of the Warriors & the Westin Hotel Houston Memorial City for providing accommodations.  Most importantly, we would like to thank Shilo & Carlos for their service, their sacrifices, and for never giving up!  These guys are true inspirations & we were honored to host them at the Texans game!
TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

MEET THE WARRIORS

ARMY SGT JUAN CARLOS VASQUEZ

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Sgt. Vasquez, Juan Carlos (retired) joined the Army in May of 2008.  His MOS was 12B (combat engineer).  Sgt Vasquez deployed twice to Iraq in Jan ’09 – Dec ’09 and Jan’11 – July’11 & was on his third deployment, first to Afghanistan during May ’13 – Aug ’13, where he got seriously injured when a deep buried IED exploded under the vehicle he was in. Juan Carlos was medically evacuated to Germany then sent to San Antonio, Texas to recover. While in Germany he underwent a 13 hour surgery on his lower back.

At San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) he endured multiple surgeries to try & save his right leg, which eventually got amputated below the knee due to a severe infection. Sgt Vasquez’ right scapula (shoulder) was also broken but the doctors decided to not operate on it and let it heal on its own. A big area of his lower lip was missing and had to be sewn together right after the explosion. Juan Carlos planned to make a career out of the military, but due to his injuries he was medically retired in Dec ’15.

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Vasquez is now taking college classes with an end goal of becoming a middle school counselor in the future.  Juan Carlos was a huge Texans fan and an even bigger inspiration.  He is a man who never gives up & pushes himself to get better every day.  It was an honor to host him & we are thankful for his service & sacrifices.

ARMY SSG SHILO HARRIS

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We had the honor of meeting Shilo over the summer when we hosted him & his kids at an Astros game on our “Battlefields to Ballfields mission.  Shilo has seriously been thru hell & back.  But after all he has been thru he is thanful to be alive, lives every day to the fullest and is one of the most inspiring men we have ever met.

Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris’ Humvee hit an IED while on patrol in Iraq in February of 2007. In that blast he lost his ears, part of his nose, some fingers and over a third of the skin on his body. He also lost three of his best friends. What followed was an agonizing road to recovery, which began with nearly two months in a medically induced coma. During that time he experienced a version of hell so terrifying, the memories still haunt him today. Harris shares his inspiring story in his memoir, Steel Will: My Journey Through Hell to Become the Man I was Meant to Be

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“I am a man who has lived through hell. It is hard to share this experience. The carnage. The devastation. The loss. But I will do it. Because I will always know the horrors of war,” says Harris. “I will tell you what an explosion does to you on the outside. And I will tell you what an explosion does to you on the inside. And I will demonstrate what it means to live fearlessly, with a clear understanding of the Grace that can redeem mayhem.”

Shilo is now a motivational speaker.  He hopes his story can help change the lives of others.  To learn more about Shilo, Book him to speak at a future event or buy his book visit www.shiloharris.com or click on the Book below.  It was an honor to host him at his first ever Texans game & make his Wish Come True.  We cannot thank him enough for his service, sacrifices & for never giving up!

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After the game, on Friday morning, Melissa, my dad, Xander & I took a short drive to see what Austin was all about.  We had heard great things & wanted to experience Austin for ourselves.
Our Austin experience didn’t start out too fun, we got there late because I thought the rental car only took e85 gas so I spent an hour driving around looking for a gas station to find it, just to realize that it’s a flex fuel vehicle that takes regular gas too, then as we pulled into town we saw a fight on the streets and finally we waited over an hour for our food order before leaving the restaurant because they had forgot to put our order in.  However, they did make up for it and ran our order out to us as we were leaving, so we took it to go.
Needless to say it was a little frustrating way to start the day.  We found ourselves a table by the river to eat & realized that we were sitting at a table directly in front of “TheChive” offices.  As we scarfed down our food, 2 guys who worked for the chive came out for a “ping pong break.”  I saw a few stray ping pong balls near our table and delivered them to the guys playing.  I also introduced myself and told them about our mission.  The next thing we knew, we were invited inside to take a tour of the offices & sliding down their office slide inside.
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It made the day a whole lot better and reminded us that when you get stressed out, sometimes you need to just Keep Calm & Chive On.
Later that night, G-pa (My Dad) watched Xander so Melissa & I could go out for dinner and grab a few drinks with our friends who helped put together our documentary.
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We walked up & down 6th street looking for a good restaurant.  We finally settled on a place called the Iron Cactus.  As we were just about to finish up, Melissa noticed a guy sitting behind me wearing a KIA bracelet like the one I wear every day to remind me of the sacrifices brave men & women have made to give us our freedoms.
As I got up to leave, I asked the gentleman if he had served.  He replied no, my brother did.  I instantly put two and two together and realized his brother had made the ultimate sacrifice.  I thanked him for his family’s service and sacrifice, shared our mission with him and gave him an open invitation to join us at a future game of his choice.
Seeing that we were in Austin, home of theChive I couldn’t help but do a RAK (Random Act of Kindness).  Before we left the restaurant & met up with our friends, I paid for his meal to remind him that his brother’s service & his family’s sacrifice has not gone unnoticed & will never be forgotten.  We encourage everyone reading this to find a way to do a random act of kindness today & remember, just a smile can make someones day.
I dropped my dad off at the Houston bus station to catch his $1 ride to Dallas before heading to the airport with Melissa & Xander to fly back home to Chicago.  My dad will be in Dallas on Sunday making Warrior Wishes come true at our 13th NFL game on our 2015 All32in17 Mission to honor heroes at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season.
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Follow our mission at www.WarriorWishes.org

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Game 10 – Warrior Wishes Come True In Denver!

After making Warrior Wishes come true in Pittsburgh on Thursday night, my dad flew home to Chicago for just a few hours before heading back to the airport and takinging off to Denver to make Warrior Wishes come true in the Mile High City!

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Over the past 3 years we have made some amazing memories making Warrior Wishes come true at Broncos games.

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Today we were honored to host Marine SSGT Randy Hulse, Army SGT Franz Walkup & Army SGT Jason Watkins at the 10th game of our 2015 “All32in17” mission to honor military warriors at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season for our 4th straight year! (Read the warrior’s Bios below)

My dad got a good night sleep at the Denver airport while the Warriors got a great night sleep thanks to our friends at the Westin Downtown Denver.  The luxurious Westin Was Located just one mile from Sports Authority Field at Mile High, & in the heart of the action on the famous 16th Street Mall in the core of downtown.

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The guys met up before the game for a delicious lunch thanks to Elway’s restaurant.  Located in the heart the Mile High City, Elway’s Downtown was the perfect place to have lunch before a Broncos game.  There was John Elway’s memorabilia throughout the restaurant & plenty of tv’s to watch the early games.  Their menu boasts USDA Prime, hand-cut steaks, Colorado Lamb, raw bar selections with fin fish, crustaceans and much more.

After lunch the Warriors got a big surprise from the Denver fire department & were escorted to the game on a fire truck!

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This was each of the Warriors first Broncos game ever!  Unfortunately tickets for the Broncos game were extremely expensive, so the seats were not the best, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the stadium.  Plus When you sit in the upper deck of Mile High stadium you can literally feel the ground shake beneath your feet.  It’s an awesome experience!

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The Broncos were able to hold off the surging Vikings and won the game by the score of 23-20.

We would like to thank Westin Denver Downtown for providing accommodations, Elway’s for providing a delicious meal before the game, the Denver fire department for providing transportation to & from the game & New Era for providing Broncos caps to all the warriors.  Most importantly we want to thank these brave warriors for their service & sacrifices!

My dad is headed back to the airport to sleep for his 2nd straight night and will be catching an early morning flight to Seattle to make warrior wishes come true at the Monday Night Seahawks game for the 11th game of our 2015 Mission to honor warriors at all 32 NFL stadiums in 1 season for our 4th year in a row.

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!

MEET THE WARRIORS

Marine SSGT Randy Hulse

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Randy was nominated to us by friends of his from Indianapolis.  So when my dad was in Indy making warrior wishes come true 2 weeks ago, he surprised Randy with the opportunity to see his first ever Broncos game!  Randy was almost in tears when he learned he was nominated for the game & his warrior Wish was going to come true!

Randy’s story begins when he graduated high school in 1983. He turned down a football scholarship to Nebraska in order to join the military and serve his country. It was his dream to be a Marine. Randy served 14 years in the Marine Corp before leaving the service to focus on his family. After the attacks of 9-11, Randy was pulled between a six figure manager position and re-enlisting. He gave up the manager position and joined the Army to live his dream of becoming a combat medic. At the age of 42, he accomplished that goal and planned to make the military his career. Unfortunately, a severe injury made him hang up his boots for good.

18 years of military service, and 7 deployments later, Randy still wanted to help people. While being processed out of the Army in Knoxville he became an EMT and drove an ambulance for several years. Then he moved to Colorado (a huge Broncos fan) and worked as a civilian driving the ambulance for an Army hospital.

Army SGT Franz Walkup

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Franz Walkup’s brother, Army 1st LT Frank B Walkup IV, made the ultimate sacrifice in June of 2007 while serving in Iraq. After his older brother passed, Franz was inspired to join the military.

On September 29th, While deployed in Afghanistan, Franz was shot 5 times by Afghan National Army soldiers that turned on US forces.

Sgt Walkup spent time recovering at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, MD. He has endured over 7o surgeries and had to have one of his legs ampitated.  Franz works hard every day to heal and won’t stop until he is able to walk again.

Sgt Walkup wants to to lead, inspire and train other soldiers.  He has never given up and continues to strive for the future with his wife and two dogs. After being turned down by many home-building organizations and being told he’s not wounded enough, Franz was finally approved by the VA for an adaptive grant of nearly $70,000 to help build the adaptive home so his wheelchair can easily move around.

Walkup also raised money through fundraisers and other organizations that assist wounded warriors.  nearly two dozen non-profits and businesses are making his adaptive home become a reality. The Gary Sinise Foundation, through its Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment program, has taken the lead.  Franz was recenly on Ellen sharing his inspiring story and road to recovery. He is an inspiration.  His never give up attitude is contagious and we were honored to host him at his first ever Denver Broncos game!

Army Medevac Pilot Jason Watkins

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Jason has proudly served our country in the Army for the past 12 years.  He has Deployed 3 times, twice to Iraq, once to Afghanistan.  In 2004 Watkins Graduated from Air Assault school & continued his education attending flight school in 2010.  Jason is currently stationed at Fort Riley and now Fort Carson as a Blackhawk pilot.

2 years ago, Operation Warrior Wishes mailed care packages to warriors serving in Afghanistan.  Jason was one of those warriors.  In the care package was an invitation to join us to a game & Jason took us up on our offer before he heads out on his next deployment.

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It was an honor to host Jason, Franz & Randy and show them that their service and sacrifices are appreciated and have not gone unnoticed!

Follow our mission at www.WarriorWishes.org

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Game 6 – Warrior Wishes Come True In Minnesota

After hosting heroes at 5 NFL games in 9 days, my dad had a few days off to regroup & plan for making more warrior wishes come true on our 2015 “All32in17” mission.

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For the 2nd straight week I had the opportunity to go with my dad to help host the warriors.  At 9:16pm Saturday night, we hit the road & drove 5 1/2 hours to Minneapolis to make warrior wishes come true in Minnesota for Navy Seabee E4 Brandon Garske, Sgt Renald (Ronnie) Thompson Jr. & Army SSG Benjamin Bachman.

Here are some of the memories we have made in Minnesota over the past 3 years.

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We drove by the New stadium as soon as we rolled into town at around 3am.  It looks pretty awesome & we cannot wait to honor warriors there next year.  By 4 am we found ourselves a Walmart parking lot & got 2 hours of sleep in the “Elantra” hotel.

We met up with the Warriors first thing in the morning at lot 37 of TCF Stadium to tailgate with the VWO, Vikings ultimate fans!  As most of you know, my dad and I have been to all 32 NFL stadiums, we have to say the Vikings have some of the craziest ultimate fans in the NFL!!!  It was an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of their tailgate and give the warriors an ultimate tailgate experience.

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This was Ben & Ronnie’s first Vikings game ever & Brandon was a huge fan, so they were eager to get into the stadium & watch some of the pregame warm ups. We had perfect weather for the game, not too hot, not too cold.  While walking over to the stadium we got lucky and had an opportunity to snap a picture with some of the Vikings Cheerleaders.

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The Warriors had great seats right by the Players tunnel.  Vikings played an outstanding game & treated everyone to a win.  It was an awesome way to cap off an amazing day.

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We would like to thank the VWO Vikings Ultimate fans for hosting us at your tailgate, New Era caps for providing Vikings Caps for the Warriors & Westin Minneapolis for providing acommodations for the Warriors!

Immediately following the game, my dad and I jumped in the car & made our way to Green Bay to host a warrior on a Lambeau field Champion tour & make Warrior Wishes come true at the 7th game of our 32 game mission!

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MEET THE WARRIORS 

SGT Ronnie Thompson 

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 Army SSG Benjamin Bachman

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Ben joined the Active duty Army right out of high school in 2000, he comes from an Army background, his dad was in the Army for 20 years as ABN, INF, Ranger, so that’s all he really knew. He was stationed at FT Bragg, NC. Schofield Barracks, HI. Ft Carson, CO. and Ft Richardson, AK.

Ben served our country for 12 years & had deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was medically retired for PTSD and a TBI, but Ben does not let that get him down & does everything he can to be the best he can be.Ben & his wife, Terrena, have two kids a daughter who is 5 years old and a son who is 3 years old. In his spare time, Ben likes to spend time with his family from hiking outdoors, going to the zoo to & playing Disney Infinity on the Xbox 360 with the kids.

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Ben wants to be an inspiration & show his kids through his actions, that no matter what happens to you in life you have to always try your best,  pick yourself back up when you get knocked down and to always keep on going through life with your head held high.
SSG Bachman, you are an inspiration! We were honored to host you & hope you had a great time at the Vikings game today!  Thank you for your service!

Navy Seabee E4 Brandon Garske

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Brandon served as a heavy equipment operator for the Navy Seabees & was attached to the Marines as a sniper.

To this day Brandon still deals with PTSD & a TBI. He also suffered nerve damage while serving making him 100% disabled.  Brandon’s wife nominated Brandon she said he is a great husband, a wonderful father & a “HUGE” Vikings fan!

It’s been an honor hosting Brandon & making this Warrior Wish come true.  We can’t thank him enough for his service & sacrifices.

Follow our mission at www.warriorwishes.org

Twitter –  @WarriorWishes

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TOGETHER WE MAKE WARRIOR WISHES COME TRUE!