Paralympics Rio 2016

This year’s Olympic games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil was full of exceeded expectations, excitement, and more. In addition to Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and other Olympians, there were 19 servicemen and women who qualified for a position on the Team USA roster–15 active-duty personnel, 2 veterans, 1 Navy civilian, and 1 incoming midshipman to the Naval Academy, including Spc. Dan Lowe, Regine Tugade, and 2nd. Lt. Sam Hendricks.

Out of all 121 medals, Army Specialist Paul Chelimo received one of the 37 silver medals awarded. Chelimo, who was born in Kenya, won the silver in the men’s 5,000 meter run. After the race, he was informed by a television reporter that he was disqualified from the race for infringement in another athlete’s lane, but the ruling was later overturned. Chelimo ran his best time of 13 minutes, 3.94 seconds, right behind Great Britain’s Mo Farah.

Chelimo was a part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, which he credits for being the reason he was able to compete in Rio, “I’m only here because of these Army Soldiers,” Fanning said. “That’s the reason I’m part of this delegation. But it was fun for the entire delegation to have an extra reason to cheer, not just for the United States but for the Army, so they were screaming loudly for him: ‘Who’s your Soldier? Who’s your Soldier?’”

Chelimo’s next tour will not be overseas with fellow soldiers, but throughout the United States as a trainer with the World Class Athlete Program, inspiring the youth in this country to follow their dreams.

With the Olympics at a close, it’s time to turn our attention to the 15th Paralympic Games, which will also be held in Rio. Of the Paralympians competing, there are 20 soldiers, six Marines, three sailors, and one airman across the 23 sports being showcased.

In addition to Brad Synder, a sailor who lost his eyesight in Afghanistan and holds the world record for the blind 100-meter freestyle, there is Anthony McDaniel competing in Para Rugby and Elizabeth Marks, competing in Para Swimming, among other athletes and veterans. McDaniel lost his legs and left hand in 2010 from an improvised explosive device while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan and Marks suffered severe hip injuries while an Army combat medic in Iraq in 2010, which left her with no sensation in her left leg.

McDaniel said back in 2014 that adaptive sports helped give him a sense of tranquility after spending more than a year in rehab following the IED explosion in August 2010, “It’s just been helping me stay focused and positive,” McDaniel said. “It keeps me out and active every day.”

Marks told ESPN that the medals she earns in her competitions are not the end game–to her, the process of competing is more gratifying and thinks back to helping others during her time as a combat medic, “When I step onto the blocks, I never think, ‘I want to win,'” she says. “I think, ‘I want to pour all of myself into this race because there are people who can’t physically, mentally or emotionally, do that.’ So it’s my way of performing for them.”

The Paralympics are now days away from the start of the 15th Paralympics. It runs from September 7-18. We salute these servicemen and women and are excited to see how they compete and represent the United States and their respective military branches.

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting not just the Veterans of the Paralympics, but all veterans who have served our country. Show your support for these brave men and women by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure Veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.


Purple Heart Day 2016

August 7 marks National Purple Heart Day. The holiday, which was first observed two years ago commemorates those who have received a Purple Heart Medal and gives recognition for the sacrifices members of the U.S. armed forces have made. Those who have received this prestigious medal gave all they had for the good of our country.

The ‘Badge of Military Merit’ was first given to soldiers in the Revolutionary War by General George Washington in 1782. It signified “being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.” At the time of the Badge of Merit inception, Washington instructed that it be given as appropriate with no set criteria for awarding the Badge of Merit.

The Badge of Military Merit was reinstated twice, once in 1927 and again in 1931. General Charles Pelot Summerall wished for a bill to pass in Congress regarding the Badge, but no action was taken after 1928. In 1931, General Summerall had been succeeded by General Douglas MacArthur and brought renewed interest in reinstating the award. On February 22, 1932, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, the Badge of Military Merit was renamed the Purple Heart in honor of the fabric used to create the original award. The first Purple Heart was awarded to General MacArthur.

As of 2010, approximately 2 million Purple Heart Medals have been awarded to members of the US Armed Forces. The Purple Heart has also been awarded retroactively to include those who fit the criteria from the First World War.

One of the benefits of having Purple Heart Day is hear from veterans who lived during dark periods in history and are able to share stories about courage, honor, and strength. All across the country on Aug. 7, communities will come together to celebrate this special group of American citizens and pay their respects for the ones who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

This Purple Heart Day, take some time out of your day and listen and share stories about veterans and the strength they showed during their time in the military. It is because of them that we are able to truly celebrate their accomplishments with this holiday and remember and honor the sacrifices all our veterans have made over the years.

The Purple Heart Foundation works with all veterans from all wars. Having a Purple Heart medal is not a prerequisite for service members to receive assistance from the Purple Heart Foundation. This Purple Heart Day, join the Purple Heart Foundation by making a charitable donation in honor or memorial of someone you know that has served our country. With the assistance of generous supporters like yourself, the Purple Heart Foundation is able to continue assisting veterans and their families. There are many ways you can get involved:

 


 

Living with PTSD

From cross-country bikes to cross-country walks with the American flag, veterans across the country are going to great lengths to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some veterans have taken to sharing their accounts of living with PTSD. In the wake of PTSD Awareness Day on June 27, here are their stories and how they turned their lives around.

Michelle Fisher

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After returning from Iraq, Staff Sergeant Michelle Fisher was pulled over while she was driving one night. She passed all the field sobriety tests, but failed the breathalyzer test, blowing a 0.182. The police officer initially thought his breathalyzer was broken, due to her shockingly high level of motor control function. She knew she needed help after that.

Treatment helped her confront her drinking problem, a side effect of the PTSD. Fisher began to overcome the little things, like sitting next to a stranger and leaving the house. She also strengthened the bond with her partner in the process. Read more.

 

Arthur Jefferson

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Staff Sergeant Arthur Jefferson didn’t initially think he had PTSD, believing it only affected veterans “actually in the war,” like Vietnam, World War I, and World War II. He first noticed the night sweats that prevented him from falling back asleep. Jefferson also distanced himself from people, avoided going to crowded places, and felt uncomfortable around non-military people and places.

After receiving treatment, Jefferson improved his relationship with his family and was able to venture outside of his comfort zone. He became in control of his PTSD and advises others to do the same. Read more.

 

Penny Anderson

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Sergeant Penny Anderson became a different person after returning from deployment. She evolved from a happy and kind person to one who was angry, mean and isolated. She felt like a burden to her family and avoided certain people and places that triggered her trauma.

Plagued with suicidal thoughts, Anderson knew she had to make a change. Treatment helped her return to her happy self. She was able to regain her life back and truly live life to the fullest after receiving help. Read more.

 

Rob Tucker

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On May 19, 2010, Specialist Rob Tucker woke up at four in the morning to the sound of an AK-47 firing only 200 yards from where he slept. Now, hearing a small bump at night is enough to startle him, and he sleeps with a gun by his head.

Tucker began receiving treatment for his PTSD and urges others to do the same. “If you don’t want to go, nobody can force you… But if you don’t go, you’re gonna be struggling like this for the rest of your life. If you’re struggling, ask for help. It’s there, and it’s free.” Read more.

If these stories sound familiar and you or someone you may know has been exposed to a life-threatening event or severe trauma, you may have PTSD. Although it affects everyone differently, common symptoms include trouble sleeping, recurring nightmares or memories of the trauma, anger or irritability, difficulty leaving the house, and more.

PTSD is not something you have to live with. There are a variety of treatment options and professionals who will work with you to determine the best fit. If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, don’t be afraid to get help.

The Purple Heart Foundation has been committed to offering assistance to those men and women who have served our country and struggle with PTSD. They offer an array of resources on the website and a number of resources. It is with the generous support of our supporters that we are able to continue offering this support to our nation’s heroes. To find out how you can get involved supporting our Veterans, visit The Purple Heart Service Foundation website for more information.

 

Veterans: Are you missing out on key benefits?

As you probably know, veterans have access to a variety of programs and benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during active duty and retirement — yet many are not taking full advantage. Why?

Well, the VA system can be difficult to navigate. That’s where we come in. The Military Order of the Purple Heart has a program called National Service Program. The Order employs National Service Officers who are accredited veteran’s representatives located at VA regional offices, medical centers or clinics, and military bases throughout the country. Guidance from these experts can make all the difference for veterans of all ages.

 

In 2014, National Service Officers helped over 19,000 veterans get over 300 million dollars in lifetime benefits from the VA.

“My job is to get them [veterans] the most compensation I possibly can within the guidelines, but I also want to take care of them,” says Sandra Ripe of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Program. “I always encourage them to go to the VA and get enrolled.”

Ripe says a main piece of her job is making veterans comfortable so they can start talking about their experiences. “We talk and figure out what’s going on. Often they don’t think of certain things or don’t realize issues they may be having are combat related, such as tinnitus,” she says.

While veterans can file claims on their own, Ripe doesn’t recommend it. NSOs are experts who not only have ongoing training in the legislation, regulations and precedents, they have relationships within the veteran community they can leverage.

“If I get a really tough case, I can go to appeals at the VA and ask how to put it in, and they will help me, because wording is very important,” Sandra says.

Her primary goal is to put the fully developed claim in correctly the first time with all the proper documentation and evidence to back it up. If submitted incorrectly and a claim has to go into the appeals system, it can take 2-3 years to be resolved opposed to the 4.5 month average a first-time claim takes to make its way through the system.

This complex and time-consuming process is why many veterans miss out on important benefits. The Military Order of the Purple Heart National Service Program, which is funded by the Purple Heart Foundation, assists all veterans who are trying to navigate programs and obtain benefits through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. In addition to health and wellness programs, these benefits include:

  • Compensation and pension
  • Veteran’s preference housing
  • Education
  • Employment services
  • Job training
  • Death and burial benefits

Another function of the program is the National Appeals Office in Washington D.C., where expert professional representation is provided to veterans whose claims have been denied at the regional office. This program is one of the few Veteran Service Organizations eligible to take selected cases to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

This Veterans Day, celebrate the service men and women in your life by ensuring they are getting the benefits they deserve. NSOs are available to be advisors and confidants to veterans who struggle to speak openly to friends and family about their time in the service as well as current struggles. They help veterans get the care they need and the benefits they deserve. Consider making a tax-deductible, nonprofit donation to the Purple Heart Foundation to help support this important program.

Purple Heart Day, A Day to Celebrate the Courage and Sacrifice of Combat-Wounded Veterans

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Most people have never heard of Purple Heart Day, which takes place annually on August 7thto commemorate the medals origins and the more than 1.7 million combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients.

In 1782, George Washington, then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, created the Badge of Military Merit, today known as the Purple Heart medal. It represented Washington’s respect and acknowledgement of veterans’ combat valor. Today, more than 232 years later, the medal is the oldest U.S. military decoration still in use, and the inventory of veterans’ stories blends both heroic and tragic distinctions.

Jim Blaylock, of Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, a Vietnam veteran and three-time Purple Heart recipient says, “The Purple Heart medal represents courage, sacrifice, commitment and ‘heart.’  The Purple Heart Foundation celebrates the heart of every veteran by providing emotional, physical, educational and financial support for veterans and their families.”

 

These three veterans share what the Purple Heart means to them.

 

Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, Afghanistan, on the needs of women warriors

“As the population of female Purple Heart recipients grows, we have an opportunity to build support networks and increase awareness of the unique needs and challenges of women in the service of our country … With the recent announcement of opening combat positions to all genders, we can expect that women will take on more roles that will put them in harm’s way … The Purple Heart medal is a testament to their heroism, sacrifice and resilience.”

 

Donald Summers, Korean War, on surviving war

“I am proud to have had a part in the forgotten Korean War, and I am proud of the officers and men of the 1st Cavalry Division.  But is with deepest humility that I share this part of my life, for I am a survivor.  Every survivor leaves a part of himself with the real heroes of any war.”

 

Murray Simon, WWII, on the award and reward

“I believe that the guidelines for awards changed with each succeeding war, such as the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts … Nevertheless, with or without awards, we Dogface Soldiers did what had to be done on the ground to help make the world a better place for future generations.  Winning the war and living to tell the story was an awesome award.”

On Aug. 7, Purple Heart Day, instead of waving a flag, take some time to listen to and share a veteran’s story of honor and courage. Through their stories we can truly celebrate this holiday and honor the sacrifice of all our veterans.

Consider making a donation to the Purple Heart Foundation. Your generous gift helps us to support veterans and their families during their transition from the battlefield to the home front.

Our programs and those to which we award grants support hundreds of thousands of our nation’s heroes. There are many ways you can make a tax-deductible donation.

Traumatic Brain Injury and the Importance of Connection

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Often referred to as the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among veterans is higher than it’s ever been. The most common cause of TBI among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom service members is injuries suffered from Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, used extensively against Coalition Forces.

Many people who sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury recover completely. However, in severe cases, a traumatic brain injury can cause emotional and behavioral changes that can be difficult to understand and accept.

A traumatic brain injury affects the entire family and often results in financial challenges, job loss and isolation. In the United States, 1.7 million people sustain a TBI each year. Whether you have suffered a TBI or are caring for someone who did, understanding you’re not alone is critical, the best thing you can do is reach out.

 

Join a group.

Meeting in person with other people with similar experiences can be cathartic. There are several places to find groups in your area.

Meetup.com has many brain injury and veteran meet ups across the country.

The Brain Injury Association of America has local chapters and various support groups throughout the U.S.

Share your story.

When you can share your story and hear the stories of others, you realize there are people out there who understand what you’re going through, who can commiserate, or help put things in perspective. Luckily, the internet makes sharing easier than ever.

Brainline Military is an organization that serves the military community providing information, resources, and support for current and former service members and their families living with traumatic brain injury. Read the personal stories of military members living with TBI, and share your own.

A quick search for “Facebook TBI support group” turns up a handful of pages where you can connect on Facebook and be part of the conversation.

Get informed.

Knowing about traumatic brain injury—the symptoms, treatment options, and benefits you’re eligible for as a veteran or active duty military—will allow you to thrive, not just survive with this condition.

Take a look at our list of TBI resources.

Find resources in your state.

4 Ways to Give Back

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There are a few days throughout the year when we think about or officially recognize veterans and service men and women. But there are ways to give back to current and former members of our military every day of the year.

Say thank you.

When you see a service man or woman in uniform, or a person wearing something that identifies them as a veteran, take a minute to say hello and thank you. You don’t need to make a big, dramatic gesture; just let them know you appreciate their service. If they feel like talking, take the time to listen to their stories.

Hire a vet.

Do you own a business? Consider hiring a veteran. You can work with the United States Department of Labor’s VETS Program, or similar nonprofit organization that helps vouch for and place qualified veterans in businesses.

Stay informed.

Only a fraction of U.S. citizens currently serve, and few Americans have personal contact with members of our military, causing a disconnect between the military and the civilian worlds. Take some time to get informed about the issues facing our troops and veterans. Follow veteran organizations on social media, and learn about how you can help.

Make a donation.

When you donate to the Purple Heart Foundation, your generous gift helps us to support veterans and their families during their transition from the battlefield to the home front.

Our programs and those to which we award grants support hundreds of thousands of our nation’s heroes. There are many ways you can make a tax-deductible donation.

We often get asked how we use your donations. Here is a snapshot. If you want more information, give us a call; we would be happy to share it with you.

We use your generous donations

  • To help fund research and assistance that tackle the unseen wounds impacting veterans, things like Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); suicide, and sexual abuse
  • To fund Purple Heart’s Service Officers, who are stationed throughout the country to work with veterans informing them about education opportunities, scholarships, disability compensation, employment training, hospitalization and rehabilitation benefits, pensions, and more
  • To employ a full-time attorney dedicated to protecting the interests of wounded servicemen and women and presenting veterans’ claims before a court

Happy Birthday, America!

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As you’re celebrating Fourth of July this weekend with barbeques and fireworks, you can share a little American history with the other revelers.

When fighting began between Massachusetts militia units and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, most colonists, except for a handful of “radicals” weren’t on board with complete independence from Great Britain. But by mid 1776, hostilities mounted, and the sentiment shifted. The colonies band together to form the Continental Army and battle the British.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress met at Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to hear delegate Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. Prior to voting, Congress appointed a five-man committee to write a formal statement—the Declaration of Independence.

On July 2nd, delegates voted in favor of Lee’s motion, and on July 4th they officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.

In the early years, some colonists celebrated by holding mock funerals for King George III, to symbolize the end of British reign in America. They held bonfires and parades and public readings of the Declaration.

Did You Know…

  • Thomas Jefferson believed that July 2nd was the appropriate day to celebrate Independence Day and refused to attend Fourth of July celebrations.
  • Thirteen of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were under 35.
  • Congress first authorized pyrotechnics (a.k.a. fireworks) as part of Fourth of July celebrations in July 1777.
  • In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make July 4th a state holiday.
  • After the War of 1812, when the colonies again faced Great Britain, Independence Day festivities became even more intensified.
  • Fourth of July is one of only four holidays, including New Years Day, Veterans Day and Christmas celebrated on the same calendar day each year.
  • Today, Americans celebrate with more than 14,000 fireworks displays across the nation.

 

Happy Fourth of July! Have fun; be safe and take a moment to remember how it all began.

Raising Awareness About Post Traumatic Stress

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In WWI it was called Shell Shock; in WWII, Battle Fatigue. Korean War veterans were diagnosed with War Neurosis, and Vietnam vets with Post-Vietnam Syndrome. 
Whatever you call it, Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), as it’s now known, continues to affect hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Today is PTSD Awareness Day, a day to speak up about post-traumatic stress, a condition that’s underreported, misdiagnosed, and, so often, misunderstood.

 

PTS BY THE NUMBERS:

  • 10-13% of combat veterans experience post-traumatic stress in their lifetimes.
  • Studies estimate that 1 in 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTS.
  • PTS affects to 20% of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans; 10% of Gulf War veterans, and 30% of Vietnam War veterans.
  • 17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTS due to sexual assault within the ranks.
  • The number of diagnosed cases of PTS in the military jumped 50% in the past year.

 

SEPARATING MYTH FROM FACT

The psychological scars of post-traumatic stress may be invisible, but its manifestations are not. Left untreated, it can lead to depression, drug and alcohol abuse, or suicide. Despite its prevalence, post-traumatic stress is often ignored, misinterpreted, and sensationalized by the media.

Listening to the stories of veteran experiencing post-traumatic stress can help us separate myth from fact.

 

MYTH: People begin experiencing PTS immediately after a traumatic event.

FACT: Sometimes symptoms surface months or years after a traumatic event or returning from deployment.

 

 “ I was sober and clean almost 11 years, and I just couldn’t handle it no more, you know, my life. I couldn’t hold a job. I always had problems sleeping…very irritable, the whole bit. Plus, my family was always telling me I should go get some help.”

Richard Adams

US Navy ((1971 – 1972))

SN, Ammunition Transporter

Vietnam

MYTH: Service members can never fully recover from PTS.

FACT: When people seek help and maintain a treatment program, post-traumatic stress symptoms can be managed or overcome entirely.

 “My ability to overcome the situations that cause me to act negatively and not beneficial to me, are up to me, and I continue to seek treatment. I want to make a choice, not have my depression make the choice.”

 

John Angell Jr.

US Marine Corps ((2003 – 2008))

Cpl, Intelligence Specialist, Rifleman

Iraq

MYTH: PTS is a sign of weakness in character.

FACT:  PTS is a physiological reaction to a traumatic or life-threatening situation.

 

“I also had the macho beliefs that if I admitted something was wrong, then I was defective. I was worried about how other people would interact with me, the labels I would carry the rest of my life, all kinds of nonsense. But as I got the help, the thing I learned is that every individual is a human being, and they can only take so much.”

Robert Murphy

 

US Army ((1966 – 1969))

1st Lieutenant / 1Lt, Infantry Unit Commander

Vietnam

 

MYTH: PTS makes people violent.

FACT: There are three main groups of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, one of which is called hyperarousal— a tendency to be angry, irritable, on edge, and/or easily startled. However, studies indicate that PTS doesn’t inevitably lead to violence, and many people with PTS experience entirely different signs and symptoms, like avoidance and numbing or re-experiencing the traumatic event.

 

Sometimes I can’t really leave my house…I love to work out. Working out is fun!…But the idea of being around people at the gym, especially if I get off work and I’ve already had to deal with people all day and be around people, then go to the gym, and being around people again is too overwhelming. Because people are going to be in my space.They might touch me. I have to be aware of who’s behind me, where the exits are. It’s exhausting.”

Tia Christopher

US Navy ((2000 – 2001))

SN, Cryptological Technician Interpretive

United States

 

Each person suffering from post-traumatic stress has a unique story, but we all have one thing in common —No one can do it alone.

Hear veteran stories.

Find PTS resources and information.

Find support.

Happy Fathers’ Day to All the Military Dads

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When the governor of Washington proclaimed the first Father’s Day in 1910, people—mostly men—had mixed feelings about a day to celebrate fathers. One historian wrote, “they scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.”

However, during World War II, advertisers began promoting the day as a way to support American troops and the war. Father’s Day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1972; but by the end of the war, it had become widely adopted as a day to celebrate dads.

Now on the third Sunday of every June, we officially honor our fathers, especially those who are active or former military. Here are some ideas for how to celebrate all the military dads this year.

Deployed Dads

Economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on Father’s Day gifts, and gift-giving holidays aren’t quite as much fun when the recipient isn’t there to receive them.

Host a video chat.

Most dads will tell you, Father’s Day is about being with family. So bring the family to them through a video chat. There are many platforms, like Skype, that offer video chat, or VOIP services. You just need to determine how you will access the service—on a smart phone, tablet or computer—and who will join the call.

Check out some of the different apps you can use to host the perfect Father’s Day video chat.

 Share a video.

It’s not always possible to have a live video chat, but you can still send your smiling faces from afar with a short, day-in-the life video or a message from the family. You can create a video and upload it to YouTube as public, unlisted or private, so you can determine who is able to view it.

 

Active Duty Dads

If you’re lucky enough to have the guest of honor at home, take him out for some family-friendly fun.

Head to a ball game.

Baseball is America’s pastime, and many Major League Baseball teams, including the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Houston Astros, offer military discounts on tickets throughout the season.

Throw a barbeque.

Have a get together with other military families, especially those missing their dads this weekend. Spending time with other people going through the same things and supporting those who have loved ones deployed is a great way to celebrate all the military dads.

 

Veteran Dads

Father’s Day is a great time to take a moment and honor dad for his military service.

Create a commemorative video.

Dads love telling stories, and most veterans have many to tell. A nice way to celebrate a dad who is a veteran is to create a video or slideshow set to music about his time in the service. Record some of dad’s stories, find some old photos, maybe even convince a buddy who served with him to participate.

Give a military-themed gift.

You can find anything on the Internet, including great gifts for military veterans. Check out Etsy, a handmade marketplace, for military-themed products.

Or, buy a customized wooden keepsake box for him to store his medals, military papers, photos and other memorabilia from his time in the service.

Happy Father’s Day to all our military Dads. Thank you for all you do and all the sacrifices you make. We salute you.