American Muscle for American Heroes #NEXENHero

Imagine driving down the road in your very own, custom designed, 2018 Dodge Challenger! Imagine that custom Dodge Challenger being equipped with high performance tires developed by Nexen Tire. Now take a second and imagine, that 2018 Dodge Challenger being given to a Purple Heart medal recipient…someone who has made incredible sacrifices with their service for our great country. That is exactly why Nexen Tire America Inc., a worldwide leader in high performance tire technology, has launched the “American Muscle for American Heroes” program in partnership with the Purple Heart Foundation. The all-new program aims to honor a Purple Heart Medal Recipient that has been wounded in combat.

This is a very exciting opportunity for a well-deserving veteran to win this iconic American muscle car, and YOU get to nominate a Purple Heart recipient to win this car, whether it be a friend, family or even yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting October 1st Nexen Tire began accepting nominees for this incredible chance at winning the Nexen Tire Purple Heart Dodge Challenger, which will make its first LIVE appearance at the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Nominees can be submitted until December 7th, online via HERE or by posting to social media. Submissions can be posted through Facebook and Instagram by using the hashtag #NEXENHero, you will also need to include a story and a picture of the American hero you’re nominating. Eligible nominees must also be a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. If you’re a Purple Heart recipient, but not a member yet, APPLY to be a member before submitting your nomination to win this car!

Nexen Tire is proud to be honoring service members with this giveaway and has pulled out all the stops in order to create this amazing prize for the lucky winner. Not only will the Purple Heart Dodge Challenger be equipped with Nexen Roadian HP Street Sport All-Season Radial Tires, it will also sport a PPG custom paint job, custom headlights provided by ORACLE lighting, SolarGuard window tint, SAVINI wheels and VIS Racing carbon fiber hood, front bumper, deck lid and splitters among many more customizations. The iconic Kenny Pfitzer, vehicle builder with Zero to 60 Designs, led the entire team to create this one of a kind muscle car.

Kyle Roberts, the senior director of marketing at Nexen Tires states “Nexen Tire understands the incredible sacrifice made by U.S. service members and we are honored to have the opportunity to give back to a deserving veteran as part of our American Muscle for American Heroes program. This program is our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to these heroes for securing our safety, as we continue to work hard to keep drivers safe on the road by manufacturing some of the world’s highest-quality tires”.

Making its debut at the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Purple Heart Dodge Challenger will be presented by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry. He will be representing the Purple Heart Foundation and is a recipient of the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2008.

“I am extremely proud to be working with Nexen Tire and their American Muscle for American Heroes Program, I have served alongside many outstanding service members and I can say every one of them is a hero. I am confident the Purple Heart Foundation will find a very deserving veteran to receive this amazing custom Nexen Tire Purple Heart Dodge Challenger.”

 

Remember the nomination period ends on December 7th, so make sure to take to Facebook or Instagram to post your nomination of a Purple Heart recipient, or family member, to share their story and why they should be the winner. Do not forget to include the hashtag #NEXENHero. The winner will be picked by a joint NEXEN/MOPH committee and will be showcased on Fox & Friends LIVE about 1 week after the nomination period. Make your nomination today and good luck to all the deserving veterans out there!

Walking Across America For Purple Hearts!

On March 1st, 2018 two friends, Matt Andersen & Trevor Stephens, began their journey, a “Walk Across America,” that would take a little over 6 months and raise awareness and money for a charity of their choosing. We only learned about what they were doing and that they would be walking for the Purple Heart Foundation in May, 2018; 3 months after they started walking. We reached out and had the pleasure of speaking with Matt and Trevor. We wanted to gain insight as to why they chose the Purple Heart Foundation, to thank them for their support and to ask how their experience walking across the country had been.

According to Matt and Trevor, they “always had a plan to do a road trip after Matt graduated from college (Iowa State University) and [Trevor] “EAS’d” (End of Active Service) out of the Marines”. As they began seriously considering their cross-country road trip, Trevor brought up the idea of walking across the country rather than driving but “it didn’t become official that [they] were going to do it until around July of 2017. That’s when [they] started to do a lot of research.” Their research revolved around not only how to best complete the journey at hand, but also understanding why other people had decided to attempt it in the first place. They found that other people were doing it for various charities and so Matt and Trevor decided that they should too. They explained, “we wanted to see the country and meet its people while also raising money and awareness of a good cause”.Matt & Trevor 6

The research continued, now to find a worthy cause that both Matt and Trevor could agree upon. After researching dozens of charities and talking to many people, Trevor’s Staff Sergeant recommended the Purple Heart Service Foundation. “After looking into it [they] decided it was something [they] both could proudly support.” They both had many family members and friends in the military so a charity that raises money for and provides services to veterans was a worthy cause to them. For Trevor it hit a little closer to home though, being in the Marine Corps for four years as an infantry mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines and the recommendation having come from his own Staff Sergeant. It was finally decided that on March 1st, 2018 Matt and Trevor would start their Walk Across America to raise awareness about the struggles veterans face, along with the goal of raising $5,000 to be donated to the Purple Heart Foundation.

By the end of their journey, Matt and Trevor will have walked for 192 days through Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Generally, their days consist of walking an average distance of 25 miles per day and in their down time, getting to know the people of the towns they visited and explaining their mission to everyone they meet. Matt told us “The most fun thing for me was meeting the people and seeing the country”, and Trevor agreed, saying “I think the most fun thing for me has been seeing parts of the country I’ve never seen before. Colorado was probably the most beautiful place for me, the mountains were amazing, and we met a lot of really great people there.” Matt & Trevor were humbled by the generosity of the people they met along their journey; people of such diverse backgrounds, all willing to help by offering food, water, shelter and even money in some cases. Reflecting on the people they had met, Trevor told us “I’ve learned that the American people are truly kind and will go out of their way to help a stranger”, “they are very generous” Matt added.

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In between all the fun of walking and getting to meet new people and places, Matt and Trevor were faced with obstacles. When you’re walking across the country doing about 25 miles a day, the most obvious obstacle they faced was their feet. Every couple of days Matt and Trevor would have to take what they called a “Zero Day” where they paused their journey and rested their feet in preparation for the coming days, making their total distance walked “zero” that day. Sometimes their zero days were even planned so they could attend local events or visit family and friends. They found the weather to be an obstacle as well. They hiked through the snow in March, encountered nor’easter storms in the spring and experienced the scorching sun in the hills of Colorado during the middle of summer.

Another obstacle they faced involved potential jobs. “Matt recently graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in chemical engineering and turned down a few career opportunities to take part in this 6 – 7-month journey. Trevor was planning to start school in August to become a history teacher, but since the trip is taking a little longer than expected [he] won’t start until the spring.” But through all these obstacles they have persevered and are close to the finish line of their journey. We asked Matt and Trevor what they learned from their sacrifices, obstacles and achievements they’ve experienced on this journey and this is what they had to say…

Matt: “I learned that I’m mentally tougher than I ever thought.”

Trevor: “I’ve gained the determination to accomplish any goal I set my mind to. After dealing with the adversity we have on this trip, it really makes you understand that if you want it bad enough, you can accomplish anything.”

When setting out to accomplish something like this you want to plan it out correctly to make sure your goal is achievable. “The success of this fundraiser is measured in multiple ways. In no particular order, it would be measured by [their] completion of walking all the way across the country, reaching [their] goal of raising $5,000 for the charity, and just getting the word out there about the charity and what it does to help veterans.” Based on Matt and Trevor’s daily documentation of their journey on their Facebook page, Matt & Trevor Walk Across America, you can follow them as they near the end of their journey. They’ve been interviewed by local radio stations and journalists in the towns they’ve stopped in, spreading the word about the Purple Heart Foundation’s mission farther than they could have imagined (you can also find links to their news reports below).

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Through their GoFundMe page, they have already reached their goal of raising $5,000 and are aiming to exceed that by the time they reach the end of their walk. So, we would say they’ve been very successful thus far and we’re excited to see them at the finish line.

We invite YOU to join us on Marshall Beach in San Francisco, California between 11am – 12pm on September 8th, 2018 to congratulate these dedicated young men for accomplishing their goals! Matt and Trevor will be taking the last steps of their walk across the country at what they’re calling the “End of the Road Party”! Purple Heart recipients and Purple Heart Foundation members will be meeting Matt & Trevor to thank them for their efforts and support, and we hope you will come too! Our organization is so impressed with this dynamic duo for all that they have done for the Purple Heart Foundation.

Thank You Matt & Trevor! – from your friends at the Purple Heart Foundation

 

News Links:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-davich-vets-walk-across-america-st-0423-story.html

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/iowa-men-walking-across-america-to-support-veterans/ar-AAxAbni

http://www.kwqc.com/content/news/Childhood-best-friends-walk-across-America-raising-money-for-veterans-481003951.html

https://www.ketv.com/article/council-bluffs-men-walking-across-america-to-support-veterans/20765317

https://www.omaha.com/livewellnebraska/health/iowa-natives-battle-blisters-nor-easter-and-encounter-loads-of/article_18a3227c-effd-57a9-b8a5-4c6b11d9c54c.html

http://livestly.com/friends-walk-cross-country-to-raise-money-for-veterans/

https://www.omaha.com/livewellnebraska/health/iowa-natives-battle-blisters-nor-easter-and-encounter-loads-of/article_18a3227c-effd-57a9-b8a5-4c6b11d9c54c.html

https://www.westernslopenow.com/news/local-news/ale-house-to-hold-benefit-for-men-walking-the-nation-for-veterans/1299397526

https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/western_colorado/buddies-from-iowa-trekking-across-nation-find-respite-in-junction/article_a9bdc620-8727-11e8-b7cd-10604b9f6eda.html

Staying Grounded as a Fighter Pilot’s Wife

When we think about our military and the men and women who bravely serve our country, we often fail to recognize the lasting effect their service has on those close to them. As someone steps into their uniform, it is not just them who feels the pressure. The day to day of being in a military family is not solely about deployments and going off to war. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, whether it is a parent, a sibling, a child, or a spouse. The Purple Heart Foundation had the opportunity to talk with one military spouse, Alyssa Greene, and listen to her experience being married to a service member.

Alyssa Greene is an Instagram fitness and lifestyle inspiration with over 98,300 followers, she also happens to be a military spouse. Alyssa is from Twin Cities, Minnesota and attended Drake University to receive her BSBA in Marketing with a concentration in Information Systems. She met her husband, Jon, during her junior year at Drake (at the gym, of course). Both Jon and Alyssa were business students, which led to them studying together and ultimately dating the summer before senior year.

Raised in Burlington, Iowa, Jon always dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. He took interest in planes and would watch them for hours on end. “He enlisted [in the Air Force] and went back to school for his degree in order to chase his dream of becoming a military aviator and fly his Viper that he spent so many hours working on.” His love for aviation and his dream to become a pilot stemmed from his not only his love of airplanes but also from his Grandfather, who was a flight engineer in the Army during WWII. “He loves hearing stories and always had a shared family passion for planes.”

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Jon is a 1st lieutenant in the Air Force. He is serving as an F16 pilot out of the 179th Fighter Squadron, 148th fighter wing in Duluth, Minnesota. In June of 2017, Alyssa had the honor of “pinning” Jon when he graduated from Sheppard Air Force Base. Jon “was born to be a pilot, and sometimes it’s surreal that he is really living his dream”.

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In addition to being a military spouse and Instagram sensation, Alyssa is also a Marketing Manager for Nepsis, Inc. She works in branding, communication, social media, and integrated marketing efforts. She has found that developing herself, her career. her individuality and independence has been key in her life as a military spouse. When we asked about some of the difficulties she faces she believed that she hadn’t even scratched the surface of what difficulties there are. “We have been separated for training 3 separate times, one right after we got married. We have been married for almost two and a half years and I truly have been also married to the military and my husband’s schedule. But part of being a spouse is being a team of supporting, of doing the laundry, of cleaning and making sure dinner and lunch are prepared so they can focus on their jobs; in my husband’s case being the best fighter pilot he can be. My biggest concern is being the best support for him.” Deployments and weeks away for training are out of her control, so she simply tries to focus on and cherish all the moments they do have together.

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Though Alyssa feels she hasn’t been faced with too many difficulties as a military spouse, there is a sense of loneliness when Jon is away. We asked her how she coped with those times and she told us the gym and being active was the place she could go to feel comfort. She is also very strong in her faith and listens to elevation church podcasts to keep herself grounded. Alyssa is truly not alone though, her and Jon got a golden retriever shortly after there were married. Walks with her golden retriever and listening to those podcasts have “saved me more times than I can count”.

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Alyssa’s fitness account seems to be an incredible outlet and has opened the doors for a strong and supportive community. She shares her life experiences and in turn is both helping others deal with similar situations and getting support when she is in need.  “I get to kind of share my life with anyone who would like to follow along with our journey. I connect with other individuals who want to live a healthy lifestyle, love working out or are married, and I have a good community of military spouses as well! I call it my hobby; my husband loves to fly, and I focus on growing a social media platform that creates a positive influence in many respects.”

Aside from the difficulties, we asked what Alyssa felt was the best part of being a military spouse. “The best part about being a spouse is the pride you feel. With every new adventure, every new stage and rank, new squadron and base. my favorite thing is seeing his eyes light up when he talks about his Viper and how he performed that day during his flights.” She keeps a positive outlook and focuses on the fact that she doesn’t have to be a military spouse, she gets to.


After hearing Alyssa’s answers to our interview questions, her positivity and optimistic attitude was nearly impossible to miss. We asked her what advice she would want to give to other military spouses to help them maintain the same upbeat attitude. The biggest thing we took away was developing yourself and your own individuality; not depending on your spouse, but rather growing yourself, which will strengthen your relationship in the long run. She feels strongly that you should grow and continuously work on your faith as well as develop your relationships with family and friends. “It’s so important to have people who are going to support you because you truly will come second to your spouse’s military career. It’s the needs of the Air Force not the Greene family as we say. As we prepare for children, deployments and the uncertainty I know that family, friends, and other members of the squadron will be there and be supportive on our journey.”


“Whenever you find yourself cursing the constant change or sacrifices, always look at it as a blessing. I am living life as a fighter pilot’s wife, how many people can say that?! So dang cool.”

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Military families and spouses do not always directly choose this life, but that does not stop them from growing and thriving, just like Alyssa does. The day to day may be difficult, but when you change your mindset to look for the positives, cherish the good moments, and grow from hard situations it can become easier.

The Purple Heart Foundation provides various programs and assistance that supports not only our veterans, but their families and dependents as well. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans, and their caregivers, in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who need assistance while transitioning home from the battlefield. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve.

Narional PTSD Awareness Day

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day so we’d like to bring some attention to one of the most serious conditions that plagues the lives of many of our servicemembers in order to encourage an open discussion where the needs of such individuals are recognized and acted upon. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that may result following the experience of a life-threatening event, such as combat. Experiencing feelings of irritability; recalling painful memories; or having trouble sleeping are common symptoms felt after such experiences. It is also possible for PTSD symptoms to occur later (and sometimes not appear for months or even years after the event) or start and stop again over the course of time.

 

It is important to realize that PTSD is an ailment that can affect any individual, in many ways, and is not a sign of weakness. Additionally, PTSD is more likely to occur from violent or long-lasting traumatic events, or events that resulted in injury (both common occurrences for military personnel). Hardships in daily life can also further the detriments of PTSD symptoms; however, social support can reduce them. Therefore, identifying symptoms of PTSD and treating them early on will lessen the burden on the lives of our servicemembers and their families.

 

Although everyone experiences symptoms differently (and may experience an array of symptoms), there are four common types of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Reliving the experience/having flashbacks of the traumatic event
  2. Avoiding situations, people, or places that trigger memories associated with the event
  3. Experiencing negative feelings like guilt or shame; or experiencing emotional numbness
  4. Constant alertness/trouble sleeping

 

These symptoms may also be a catalyst for larger problems, such as depression or anxiety; excessive drinking and drug consumption; difficulty staying employed; and relationship problems. To treat PTSD symptoms, individuals can seek help through trauma-focused psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is one such example of trauma-focused psychotherapy, where skills are developed to alter perceptions of the event (and thus how one feels about it). Additionally, individuals may find Prolonged Exposure (PE) effective, in that the trauma is discussed repeatedly until negative feelings associated with the event become less severe. It is also common for individuals to seek help via medication. However, it is important to consult a physician for any form of medical treatment.

 

As a family member, friend, or loved one of a servicemember suffering the effects of PTSD, there are certain ways you can assist them in acclimating back to civilian life:

 

  • Allow your servicemember time to spend alone, as well as in the comfort of others.
  • Help your servicemember find a local support group or therapist to talk to so they know they aren’t alone in their experience and can listen to other perspectives.
  • Allow them time to become reacquainted with the various relationships in their life, as well as a new daily routine.
  • Maintain a positive outlook and serve as a reminder to them that things will get better.
  • Avoid pressuring them to discuss things they may not feel comfortable with, instead identify and seek out comforting situations, people and places.
  • Help them set short-term & long-term goals that are realistically achievable.

 

The healing process takes time.

 

It is also possible that your service member may never be comfortable sharing information about past traumatic experiences. In these cases, it’s best to let the professional counselors do their job (if they are seeking psychotherapy) and ensure them that they have your full support.
You can also show your support by aiding the efforts of The Purple Heart Foundation. Each of our programs is dedicated to serving the needs of all veterans and their families and researching conditions like PTSD. Click here to see the various ways you can donate to our cause. Alternatively, you can host your own event to raise funds for the Purple Heart Foundation and donate the proceeds here. Every contribution makes a huge difference in the lives of those who so bravely defended this country’s freedoms. For more information about our programs and services, please contact us.

Celebrating Military Spouse Appreciation Day

 

Today, May 11, 2018, has been proclaimed National Military Spouse Appreciation Day. The Purple Heart Foundation would like to express our deepest gratitude to the husbands and wives that sacrifice so much to support their loved one’s military careers. Military spouses often give up stable jobs, they must move constantly and be distant from their spouses for long periods of time. That sacrifice is one that can not be ignored, nor can their commitment and support for their spouses, so for that, we thank our nations’ military spouses.

The first time military spouses were celebrated nationally was on May 23, 1984 by proclamation of former President Ronald Reagan as a singular day of observance. Over a decade later, in 1999, the celebration of military spouses became an annual observance which would take place on the second Friday in May. The month of May officially became deemed National Military Appreciation Month by Congress that same year, which would include annual observances like National Defense Transportation Day, Armed Forces Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and the most well-known patriotic May holiday, Memorial Day.

We stand by the words of President Reagan from his original proclamation of this day, when he confessed the importance of military spouses to our country. Reagan wrote that “as volunteers, military spouses have provided exemplary service and leadership in educational, community, recreational, religious, social and cultural endeavors…and as parents and homemakers, they preserve the cornerstone of our Nation’s strength—the American family.”

One of the most notable times of strength for military spouses is seen during the many moving processes. Being active-duty comes with the perk of traveling the country and sometimes the world. But the downside is that this requires the whole family to relocate, not being able to settle down and become rooted to a single location or community. Military spouses start their research on the new location as soon as possible. They look for affordable housing, good school districts, after school activities, creating a network of friends, finding online resources for doctors, meanwhile taking care of the packing and unpacking, staying strong for the whole family and turning that new house – into a home. Many times, a military spouses’ strength goes unnoticed, so a single day of appreciation within a year is a start, though they deserve so much more. So here are a few ways that you can show your appreciation to a military spouse on this Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

1.) Say “Thank You”
Sometimes, a simple “thank you” is enough to show your appreciation to your military spouse.

2.) A day of Pampering Together
If you are a veteran or active duty military try to make the day all about your spouse, do whatever makes them happy, pamper them and show you appreciate all that they do.

3.) Give your military spouse a day off.
Take care of all the major responsibilities, whether you or a family member or friend does it or you hire some to do it. Make sure your military spouse has no worries for the rest of the day.

4.) Token of Appreciation
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is like the military version of Valentines Day. Enjoy a romantic evening of dinner, buy flowers or chocolates. Pay attention to hints that may lead to a thoughtful gift idea.

5.) Donate
Donate to a foundation that supports veterans, active-duty military, and their families. https://purpleheartfoundation.org/donation-direct-support/

Generations of Dedication

April is the “Month of the Military Child,” and here at the Purple Heart Foundation we wanted to learn about, understand, and share what it is like to grow up as a military child. Although no two experiences are quite the same, each child growing up in a military family must deal with a certain level of hardship and unique difficulties in order for their parent/parents to bravely serve this country. We had the opportunity to interview Curtis Cruz and learn more about his unique experience growing up as a military child.

Curtis, 28, spent the first part of his life growing up on the island of Guam. This was one of a few places where Curtis spent his childhood and teenage years. He moved when his father, who bravely served for twenty-four years in the United States Army, received new assignments. Curtis is not only a military child, but he now proudly serves our country in the United States Air Force as a Staff Sergeant. He is a laboratory technician at the Dover Air Base in Dover, Delaware.  

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Curtis shed a light on what it was like to grow up with a parent in the military.

“Growing up in the military was a very unique yet challenging experience. I moved a total of 5 times up to the age of 18. It was difficult to continuously make and have to leave old friends, start over again, and make new friends. I’m very grateful for it though because I’ve met some great people along the way that have turned into long lasting friendships. I’ve met people from different races, cultures, and countries.”

He explained that though it was tough at times, being a part of a military family allowed for a unique opportunity to travel and experience places that many people, especially children, don’t usually get to. For example, Curtis moved to Germany at the age 15 and spent his high school years there, giving him an opportunity to see different places all across Europe. One thing in particular Curtis wanted to share with us was his experience attending high school in Germany.

“The high school was very small so everybody knew each other. I had a strong friendship with 4 guys who all happen to be in the military now as well. We all became best friends and even 10 years after graduating (in 2008) we all still meet up with each other.”

We were curious, so we asked if growing up with his father in the military ultimately influenced Curtis to join himself. Curtis’ grandfather served in the US Air Force, and though Curtis’ father served in the US Army, he felt as though the Air Force would be a great fit for Curtis. “He spoke very highly of [the Air Force]…. When I was a senior in high school, he had me talk to a recruiter to discuss everything and see how the Air Force would be beneficial for me”

Though much of his life has revolved around our country’s military, Curtis has also found time and become extremely passionate about the fitness industry. In fact, he is a competitive bodybuilder. When he is not in uniform you can more than likely find him lifting heavy weight, sweating on the stair-master, or meal prepping.

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As we neared the end of our interview with Curtis we asked him what was one piece of advice he would want to give to other kids growing up with either one or both parents in the military.

“My piece of advice would be to stay open minded. It can be difficult being a child in a military family due to constantly moving. I would tell them to cherish every experience and welcome it all. When I was a kid going through the same thing, I was upset at times. But looking back on it all now I’m eternally grateful for all the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.”

The Purple Heart Foundation is so grateful for Curtis, his family, and all of our military families’ dedication to our country. It is no easy task serving in our military just as it is no easy task being in a military family and having to make sacrifices that may not be your own choice. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes and their families. You can help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform. Show your support for them and their families by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Yesterday across the United States, a brand new animated movie, that’s sure to get two (2) paws up, was featured for the first time on the big screen. This inspiring true story depicts the life of sergeant Stubby, a brindle bull terrier that became the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army. His story is one of loyalty, valor, and friendship. It begins on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut where Stubby roamed the streets as a stray.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and seemingly overnight America began prepping for war. According to the history behind the movie, “Storefronts became induction centers for young men to join the fight, back yards became ‘victory gardens’ to avoid wartime food shortages, parks and schools became training grounds to convert ordinary citizens into combat-ready Soldiers” and those training grounds are exactly where Stubby found his forever home within the military and his new owner, Private First Class Robert Conroy.

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At first sight of his puppy salute, Conroy’s commanding officer deemed Stubby the infantry mascot and so Stubby joined his men on the front lines on February 5, 1918. Stubby knew more than just how to salute, he learned the bugle calls, the drills, how to decipher English from German, how to detect traces of gas to warn his soldiers, and how to locate wounded men on the battlefield. Stubby had been in 17 battles; he was exposed to toxic gas and received multiple surgeries to remove shrapnel that hit him from an explosion. Stubby’s most notable accomplishment was when he found and secured a German soldier trying to map out the Yankee trenches. For capturing an enemy spy, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, making him the first dog to be given rank in the United States Armed Forces.

After the war, Sergeant Stubby became the most famous animal in the United States, serving in parades, visiting presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge, became the mascot of Georgetown University and was awarded many medals for his heroism, including the Purple Heart for his wounds in battle. Sergeant Stubby is now featured at the Smithsonian Museum of American History and you can enjoy learning the story behind Sergeant Stubby with the whole family for the price of a movie ticket. Your little ones can even make their own Purple Heart medals on the Sergeant Stubby website.

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We are so grateful for Sergeant Stubby’s bravery, sacrifice, and honorable service. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one, sometimes that even includes partnering service dogs with our wounded veterans. Show your support for our troops and help us continue our service dog programs by making a one-time or monthly pledge.

A First For Everything

On August 13 in 1918, the United States Marine Corps opened its doors,allowing for the enlistment of women, so that they may join in the efforts of World War I. On that day, over 300 women enlisted. First in line was Opha May Johnson.

On May 4 of 1878, Opha May was born in Kokomo, Indiana. Her family and she later moved to the Washington D.C. area in 1895, where she went to school and graduated from the Shorthand & Typewriting department of Wood’s Commercial College. She lived and worked in civil service in Washington D.C. as World War I began.

At this point in time, women were only able to serve our country through means of moral and economic support. The majority of this included sending clothing and supplies to the troops, rationing foods, and buying and selling war bonds, but many also found other ways to help through various organizations around the country. Women were not allowed to be close to the frontlines of war, but often times would act as nurses, treating those wounded at evacuation hospitals, far behind the lines. There was also a new level of political influence that this war opened up for women that had not been there previously. In fact, many jobs opened their doors for women that previously hadn’t.

As the summer of 1918 approached, the war dynamic shifted. The Allied Powers found themselves on the offensive, though this unfortunately resulted in a high number of casualties. The final push of the war called for more trained and battle-ready troops. This lead to the need for women to serve in non-traditional (non-combat) roles. On August 8 of 1918, approval was given to women, allowing them to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in order to serve in clerical positions. This in turn would free up the Marines currently in those positions, allowing for their deployment to the front lines.

On August 13, 1918 hundreds of women lined up to join. At 40 years old, Opha May was the first. Her past education coupled with her experience in civil service set her up to become a great candidate for the positions the Marine Corps Reserve was looking for. Opha May found herself assigned clerical duty in the Department of the Quartermaster. She quickly proved herself capable and on September 11 of that same year she was appointed to Sergeant. By the early part of 1919, Opha May was the only female reservist still working in the Quartermaster Department who held a rank.

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As the War ended, the female reservists began to be discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve. Many of these women, including Sgt. Opha May Johnson, decided to continue working in the War Department, but in the role of civil servants.

At a time when women were not particularly valued or readily greeted in the military, many stepped up when their country needed them. Opha May Johnson being the first of these strong and determined women. Despite the role women were expected to play in society, Opha May and hundreds of other women rose to the occasion of something much greater. Throughout history, it is moments and people like this which have made our country so special, and has fueled our growth. Without the courage and determination of Opha May, and all those like her, we would not be where we are today, 100 years later. In the one hundred years that have passed since Opha May became the first woman to enlist in the Marines, women have persisted and now are serving in combat roles, and helping to further protect our country’s freedoms. The Purple Heart Foundation is so grateful to all of the women, and all of the men who serve this country. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes. Show your support for our men and women in uniform by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

The Sisterhood of the Military: Susan Hale Jaracz Story

When you think of the military one word that comes to most people’s mind is “brotherhood”. But what happens when a woman is thrown into the mix? Does that change the dynamic of the team? Does that mean there could be a “sisterhood” within the military? In recognition of Women’s History Month, The Purple Heart Foundation was fortunate enough to get in contact with Susan Jaracz, a female Army veteran, to learn about her military background and her experience with sisterhood in the military.

Susan was a “tiny-town girl” from Wyoming who was trying to figure out her life while her family was going through a rough time. Susan told us “I felt like I was in survival mode….[so] at the time [joining the Army] was the best decision I could have made for myself.”

Susan went through basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama as 31B Military Police. She was first assigned to Law Enforcement at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY. She came to love this small base in the big city but was later assigned to Darmstadt, Germany where she remained through 9/11, after which she went to airborne school and then was assigned to Fort Bragg. She was deployed to Afghanistan and then Iraq, moved to the DC area for assignments at the Joint Staff in the Pentagon and at Fort Belvoir. She was later re-deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Bragg and was finally stationed at Fort Meade, where she would stay until leaving active duty.  

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When deployed most people expect to gain a sense of “brotherhood” which, as mentioned before, is so often associated with the military. However, throughout Susan’s military career “she never deployed and felt the camaraderie that [she] hoped for.” When she was thinking of joining the military, she said “I always wanted to and was discouraged from doing so over and over”, she later learned that her father didn’t’ want her to join the military because he knew it could be a lonely life and some tough living. She found this especially true when women in her unit, including herself, were punished because their fellow male soldiers were flirting with them. “I was told I did well by ignoring them but I was doing pushups for whatever it was I did that attracted their attention”. Though Susan believed her FEMALE drill sergeant meant well, this interaction made Susan aware that she couldn’t be asking for help when it came to gender discrimination. She confided in us that she, like so many other women in the military, took a lot of sexual harassment… “Things like people senior to me standing body to body with me, smelling my hair, then in public berating and belittling me to those junior than me”. She later found that these actions concealed how those particular men felt towards her. She later learned  to stand up for herself and tried to tackle the root of the issues directly with the individuals by effective interactions that could change the circumstances. But when these issues were brought up to Equal Opportunity (EO) representatives she wasn’t taken seriously and found this again reinforced the idea that women couldn’t get help.

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More than 200,000 women are in the military (according to CNN) and yet we hear these types of cries for help so often. The problem here Susan said is that “women need to look out for each other, not just themselves, and they should do it without going overboard and without being disrespectful”. Although Susan has long-lasting friendships from her female camarades in the military, there is little sense of “sisterhood” within the military when there should be so much more.  Susan’s advice for young women interested in joining the military is this…”Don’t compromise being a woman to be a good soldier. You CAN do both! You can have effective conversations with people of any rank that both mitigates things you shouldn’t have to put up with and without making you look like a person that ‘cries EO’ when you are offended”.

Through her struggles as a woman in the military, Susan maintained a successful military career. She ultimately holds rank of Sergeant First Class which she obtained during active duty, was part of the USAR, and is currently in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). She’s also had a son with her husband and still serves her country by healing her brothers and sisters in uniform. During active duty, Susan underwent acupuncture therapy due to chronic pain. The success of this therapy led her to go back to school at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Susan received a Master of Acupuncture in order to become a Licensed Acupuncturist, is a Certified Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist and has a Post-Baccalaureate in Chinese Herbs. She now runs her own practice where she offers special discounts and services to veterans and emergency workers. Susan says “[she] has a big heart for them….and will always remain a part of the military community in one way or another”.

We at the Purple Heart Foundation thank Susan for her bravery and her words of encouragement and advice towards women interested in or currently in the military. Her experiences are not unlike so many other women’s but by sharing her story we hope to spread her strength.

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We are so grateful for Susan’s dedication to our country, and for her honorable service. Women like her (and men) are the reason behind our daily freedoms. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath

In recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s day, The Purple Heart Foundation is featuring amazing women veteran’s accomplishments today and throughout history. Throughout history, women’s voices have been unheard. Today’s featured female veteran decided to raise her voice for what she was passionate about, and she’s been doing so since she was only 12 yrs old.

At 12yrs old, most kids don’t actually know what they want to be when they grow up. But a young Kentucky girl knew exactly what was in store for her future. Amy McGrath had a passion for fighter jets, a passion that she would pursue, even in the face of adversity, according to her biography. The obstacle Amy faced in her youth was the U.S. law prohibiting women from serving in combat roles. So from a young age, Amy took it upon herself to encourage change. Amy wrote to her local congressmen, but they paid no heed to her advocacy to remove this restriction on women in the military. So, Amy reached out to the Congressional Armed Services Committees, hoping to find like-minded individuals that believed in her cause and had the political power and position to make a difference. She received positive feedback but it wasn’t until 1997 when the law was lifted during Bill Clinton’s 1st year of re-election. This lead to Amy’s acceptance at the US Naval Academy where she would play varsity for the 1st Navy Women’s Soccer Team, graduate as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and commision right out of flight school as an F/A-18D Hornet Weapons Systems Officer stationed in CA.

Thanks to her advocacy in her youth, Lt. Col. Amy McGrath became the 1st woman to fly an F-18 in combat! Throughout her 20 yr military career, Amy McGrath (call sign “Krusty”) flew approx. 2,000 flight hours, flying 89 combat missions between 2 tours in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq. She earned medals for Meritorious Service, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation, Navy Achievement, 2 Afghan Campaigns and 1 Iraqi Campaign as well as 8 Strike Flight Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation.

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Amy later spent some time in the political arena working for the Marine Corps Fellow program at Capitol Hill as a defense and policy affairs advisor to Rep. Susan Davis and as a Marine Corps liaison at the Pentagon. Amy McGrath stated in an interview with Ella Nilsen that her “last assignment was teaching at the US Naval Academy…teaching them government and teaching them elections. Trying to explain to them they are representing a country that is a democracy, led by people of integrity and courage”, but she thought about the 2016 elections and that “it’s no secret that we have been divided as a nation, that our politics are polarized”. This realization lead to Amy’s most recent career change. In 2017, after 20yrs of service, Amy McGrath retired from the Marine Corps but continues her public service to this country by running for political office as the Democratic candidate for Kentucky’s 6th District congressional seat! The seat is currently occupied by Republican, Andy Barr, but Amy believes she has the upperhand during this election because “when you have a fresh face, somebody who’s not steeped in longstanding politics, someone who doesn’t have the baggage of internal politics…those things are a real advantage”. Amy’s campaign video proved people are looking for change by raising $200,000 within 36 hrs of being aired and over $800,000 in total campaign contributions, according to Ella Nilsen’s interview with McGrath. Amy plans to be the change maker the people are asking for.

This female veteran has made great strides for women, for the military, for the state of Kentucky and for her country. We at The Purple Heart Foundation applaud Amy’s efforts and other women like Amy McGrath who lead their life to create a better tomorrow for all of us. Amy’s voice helped make flying in combat possible for herself and all the women that have come after her. So remember the words of former President Barack Obama, “One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city… a state…a nation…the world. Your voice can change the world” so let your voice be heard.

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This photo of Amy McGrath’s billboard advertisement was found tweeted by Amy McGrath on the official Amy McGrath Twitter account on Feb. 21, 2018.