Vote Now to Honor a Military Hero at TributeForHeroes.com Through June 30th
Major League Baseball and 'PEOPLE' magazine today announced the 90 finalists, three per MLB Club, for the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members and builds upon MLB and 'PEOPLE' magazine's commitment to honoring our country's heroes. The three finalists for the Atlanta Braves include Brian Hicks, United States Army, Thomas Lewis, United States Air Force, and Anthony Smith, United States Army. Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com to vote on their favorite stories through June 30th.
One winner from each of the 30 MLB Clubs will be included in All-Star Week festivities and recognized during the pre-game ceremony leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16th on FOX. A "Tribute for Heroes" winner will be featured in the July 22nd issue of 'PEOPLE,' which hits newsstands Friday, July 12th, the week of the MLB All-Star Game.
Grit and determination define Brian Hicks of Pike Road, AL. Despite a 1998 hunting accident injury and those sustained in a 2003 Iraq deployment that led to his left leg being amputated, Brian has completed 35 triathlons and eight marathons. In 2012, he was awarded the USA Triathlon Comeback of the Year Award. When he isn't competing or working as resident engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers at Maxwell AFB, he mentors other disabled veterans through the Birmingham, AL.-based Lakeshore Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville, FL, and CAST (Christian Amputee Support Team) ministries based in Opelika, AL.
In February 1994, Thunderbirds pilot Thomas Lewis, now of Alpharetta, GA, crashed his F-16 in the desert during a practice flight. Unable to eject, Tom's jet hit the ground at 220 miles per hour. He survived, but with a body full of shattered bones. Doctors said he would never walk or never fly again. But Tom did walk again -- and he remained in the Air Force and continued to fly. Today, Tom dedicates himself to his family and community, inspiring local schoolchildren to pursue their dreams, working with Habit for Humanity and coaching children's sports. He continues to fly as a pilot for AirTran Airways/Southwest.
Anthony Smith was pronounced dead and placed in a body bag after a rocket-propelled grenade tore through his hip and stomach and shrapnel took his arm. Fortunately, a nurse realized that the National Guard soldier from Blytheville, AR, was alive. After a 62-day coma, he endured years of recovery, surgeries and rehab. He might have given up, but instead the 46-year-old used assistance from The Mission Continues and Operation Rebound, nonprofits that help returning veterans perform community service, to launch a martial arts teaching program. Today, Anthony teaches Tae Kwon Do and MMA to at-risk kids in two martial arts studios in Arkansas.
Along with MLB and 'PEOPLE', a Guest Panel including General Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and General John M. "Jack" Keane (retired) alongside MLB players Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians, Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox, Brad Ziegler of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres and Craig Stammen of the Washington Nationals assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists.
The "Tribute For Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org, powered by MLB.com), an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service. Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with "Centers of Excellence" at university hospitals throughout the country.
As part of its 2013 charity initiative, "PEOPLE First: Help America's Veterans," 'PEOPLE' is partnering with Welcome Back Veterans and three other nonprofit organizations that are committed to providing assistance to military men and women, and will feature them in multiple editorial stories in 'PEOPLE' throughout 2013.
Currently, Welcome Back Veterans funds programs at The University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, Weill Cornell in New York City, UCLA and the Boston Red Sox' Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital in Boston. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and TBI treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.