A Texas man is making canes for veterans using hundreds of donated Christmas trees

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walking cane that has the engraved words canes for veterans

A man in Texas is designing canes for veterans, and he’s asking you to donate your Christmas tree to help him do it. US Army veteran Jamie Willis started Canes for Veterans Central Texas in 2016 when he realized he wasn’t the only veteran who needed a cane that was safe, sturdy “and not just ugly.”

After serving in the Army for eight years, Willis was left a 100 percent disabled veteran completely unable to work.

“I do this so I don’t sit home all day feeling sorry for myself,” Willis told CNN. “This is all out of kindness. I do everything out of pocket and from donations.”

When the cane he was given by the Veterans Affairs had no style, kept collapsing and wasn’t what he deemed trustworthy, Willis turned to a Florida organization called Free Canes for Veterans which was giving out 500 canes.

After he was told that they had no more canes, Oscar Morris, the man behind the organization, instead taught Willis how to make his own.

“When I successfully sat down and made my very first cane, I asked him if I could branch it off and start Cane for Veterans in Central Texas and he said he would love for me to do that,” Willis said.

Since then, the 50-year-old has made and delivered more than 200 canes to veterans who live all over the world.

The man behind the canes

Morris, the 54-year-old US Army veteran behind the original idea, said Willis was the fifth veteran he knows to start their own branch of Free Canes for Veterans.

“It would be a blessing to get the word out for more veterans to do this,” Morris said “Each of these veterans were on my original list of 500 in 2015. It was the act of kindness and a piece of wood that was their inspiration.”

The organizations take stripped a Christmas tree and transforms it into a cane for a veteran.

This is the second year Willis has asked for tree donations, but he says he has been overwhelmed with the support this year.

“It’s been an outpouring of donations this year, more than I ever thought I would get,” Willis told CNN. “Home Depot flooded me with trees, they’re sending me 400, and the rest of the community will be giving me about another 100 trees.”

Each tree is the equivalent of about one cane, which takes Willis an entire day to make, package, and ship to the veteran who will use it. While he sometimes asks them to cover shipping, Willis covers all costs from out of his own pockets as well as donations, and pays for shipping if the veteran can’t afford it.

“One day, grab a cane and walk with it,” Morris said. “You will feel broken because others will see you as broken. We make our canes for veterans to look ‘cool’ while giving honor for their service.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Service Beyond the Battlefield

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Live to Give bottle of water sitting on a table with blurred image of people in the background

I knew I wanted to join the Army by the time I was 20 years old. In the months leading up to that birthday, I had taken some time to try to discover my career path and what I wanted to do with my life. After some self-reflection and looking inward, I realized that I wanted my life to serve a greater purpose than myself. I wanted my life to have meaning.

Two months after my 20th birthday, I arrived at basic training, ready to start my career and future with the United States Army. I served for 12 years, including seven years in the special forces.

During my time serving, I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was there that I lost my leg to sniper fire. The weeks and months that followed the injury were some of the most difficult that I had ever experienced. It was a devastating injury that would impact my life forever, but I was not ready to let it define my life. Following my recovery and rehabilitation, I attended Special Forces Sniper School and became the first amputee to graduate.

I often think about my decision to serve my country, even re-enlisting after losing my leg. The impact that my experiences have had on me is hard to describe, but it is an impact that I feel every single day.

While joining the Army taught me so many lessons, the biggest lesson I learned was how to live a life of selfless service, a life for others. The mentality of focusing on myself was not an option anymore. Instead, it was all about the team and serving a greater good.

I learned so much while in the Army, and leaving it was not easy. Once my time in the Army had come to its conclusion, the transition into civilian life was difficult to say the least. Not only was I transitioning from my career, I was also transitioning with my health. I was not only having to learn how to live my life as an amputee, but now also as a civilian. Throughout this transition, I would consistently question myself with what I was going to do next and how I was going to provide for my family. And for a while, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I had to keep moving.

A phrase that I always say is to “lean forward and fight hard” and that is what pushed me through this difficult time.

This mission remains true with the work that I do today. As a veteran and an amputee, I know how important it is to honor those who have put their lives on the line, thank them for their service and of course, give back to them, so that they too can experience the American dream that they fought so selflessly to protect.

Last year, I co-founded a bottled water brand called Live to Give. With every purchase, we donate 50% of our net profits to organizations that support military, first responders and their families.

While I can no longer physically serve my country as I did in the Army, building Live to Give and a team of people who want to give back is my new way of serving my country.

About the Author
John Wayne Walding spent 12 years in the United States Army, including seven years in the Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. After losing his leg in battle in 2008, John went on to become the first amputee to graduate Special Forces Sniper School. Today, John serves as co-founder of Live to Give, a beverage company that donates half of its net profits to first responders, military members and their families.

Paralyzed Veterans of America to host Wheelchair Rugby Tournament for wounded heroes and adaptive athletes

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Paralyzed Veterans of America logo

Paralyzed Veterans of America will host 12 wheelchair rugby teams from across the country to compete in its 3rd Annual Code of Honor Quad Rugby Invitational.

The tournament brings together national league wheelchair rugby teams made up of disabled military veterans and civilian adaptive athletes, to compete in a 3-day round-robin style tournament. A wheelchair rugby skills clinic will be held prior to the start of the tournament to introduce novice players to the sport.

The clinic is free and individuals with disabilities as well as rehab health professionals who are interested in learning more about the sport are invited to attend.

The Quad Rugby Invitational is one of many year-round adaptive sports opportunities Paralyzed Veterans of America provides for disabled veterans and other individuals with disabilities.

WHEN:    Friday, February 7, 2020
Wheelchair Rugby Skills Clinic         10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Opening Ceremony                          11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Competition begins                          12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

                 Saturday, February 8, 2020
Competition                                      8:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

                 Sunday, February 9, 2020
Competition                                      9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
                 Championship Game                        10:30 a.m.
Closing Ceremony and Awards        11:45 a.m. (approx.)

  

WHERE:   The St. James
6805 Industrial Road
Springfield, VA 22151

The St. James is a 450,000 square foot sports, wellness and active entertainment destination in the Washington, DC metro area. Paralyzed Veterans of America hosted its 2019 Code of Honor tournament at The St. James, making it the first adaptive sports event to be held at the facility.

WHO:      Paralyzed Veterans of America (host)

Eleven Division II teams from the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) and PVA’s at-large team comprised of military veterans:

Northern Virginia Mutiny
Maryland Mayhem
MedStar DC NRH Punishers
PVA at-large team
Brooks Bandits
Philadelphia Magee Eagles
NEP Wildcats
New York Warriors
Oscar Mike Militia
Raleigh Sidewinders
Richmond Sportable Possums
Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch

For more information or to view the full tournament schedule, please visit pva.org/codeofhonor.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

About The St. James
The St. James is the premier sports, wellness and entertainment destination in the country. Our mission is to maximize human potential by designing, developing and operating sports, wellness, entertainment and hospitality programs, services and experiences that engage, inspire and empower people to pursue their passions and be their best at play, at work and in life. The St. James aims to serve as the center of the universe in every community where it is located by delivering the most comprehensive combination of best-in-class sports and wellness venues, developmental and elite coaching, training and competition, five-star lifestyle experiences and family centered active fun all in an environment that engages, inspires and delights everyone that comes through our doors. The St. James, which opened its first location just outside of Washington, DC in the fall of 2018, plans to open its second complex in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire in the fall of 2021. For more information, please visit thestjames.com.

New virtual employment service provides support for disabled veterans anywhere, anytime

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disabled veteran in wheelchair looking online for employment

Paralyzed Veterans of America announces a new virtual engagement initiative from its employment program, PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), that specializes in helping veterans with disabilities find meaningful employment. PAVE Connect bridges a critical gap, reaching those who do not have the time, means, or ability to attend traditional employment or educational events.

In recent years, PVA has observed that traditional hiring and employment fairs are ineffective for many PAVE clients — the overlooked and undervalued veteran workforce. Veterans with disabilities, especially those who are significantly injured or ill, are less likely to attend large public events with crowds or in locations that are not easily accessible.

Through PAVE Connect, members of the veteran community can:

  • Interact with PAVE employment experts through virtual meetings.
  • Meet employers eager to hire from the military and veteran community.
  • Access an online library of timely, relevant career information — on their schedule and from any device.
  • View recorded presentations and access other tools and resources on demand.
  • Discover a wide range of meaningful education, volunteer, and employment opportunities.

“I am thrilled to add PAVE Connect to our list of services,” said Lauren Lobrano, PVA’s director of PAVE. “Virtual technology provides yet another meaningful way to reach and serve our clients. If a veteran is underemployed, they can’t take the time away from their current job to pursue a better one. If a veteran has a significant disability, yet is capable and employable, big events can be a deterrent. PAVE Connect helps level that playing field and maintains our proven one-on-one, high-touch approach.”

PAVE employment analysts and vocational rehabilitation counselors work with clients to overcome barriers to employment at all stages of their life. The unique, no-cost program offers assistance not only to veterans across the country, but also to transitioning service members, spouses, and caregivers and specializes in assisting those with barriers to employment.

“Employment is a vital part of feeling independent, especially if you’ve been injured or have a disability,” said Hack Albertson, national vice president of PVA and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America through the PAVE program. The support I received made such an impact, I committed my career to giving back and helping other veterans like myself. Now with PAVE Connect, our reach extends further to meet those who need us most.”

PAVE Connect sessions, led by employment experts, cover topics such as transitioning from military to civilian employment, interview preparation, requesting accommodations in the workplace, effective resume tips, and more. PVA’s employment and educational partners will also participate in select sessions, offering exceptional networking opportunities and insight into the opportunities available within their organizations. The first several PAVE Connect pilot sessions provided clients with informative dialogue and useful resources as they work toward finding meaningful employment.

Watch past PAVE Connect sessions, view the upcoming schedule, and register to participate in a session for free at pva.org/pave.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

FDA agrees to expand access to ecstasy for PTS treatment

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Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

MDMA, an illegal psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly, could be used to treat post-traumatic stress, researchers say. But access to the drug for testing has been difficult, even though the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 designated it as a “breakthrough therapy” for PTS treatment.

Veterans experience PTS at a higher rate than the rest of the population. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 11-20 percent of veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTS, compared to about 8 percent of non-veterans.

Clinical tests of the drug are in their third phase, but people whose moderate or severe PTS  is resistant to other treatments could potentially benefit from early access to MDMA, according to the nonprofit research group, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

MAPS plans to allow early access to “potentially beneficial investigational therapies for people facing a serious or life-threatening condition for whom currently available treatments have not worked,” according to a MAPS news release

Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing for the drug’s use in treating PTS, but the new approval from FDA will allow a select 50 patients at up to 10 sites in the U.S. earlier access to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Clinical trials are expected to be completed by 2021, meaning the FDA could approve the drug as soon as 2022.

MDMA is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, producing an energizing effect, distortions in perception, increased self-awareness and empathy and “enhanced enjoyment from sensory experiences,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The resurgence of research into using drugs such as MDMA to catalyze psychotherapy is the most promising and exciting development I’ve seen in my psychiatric career,” Dr. Michael Mithoefer, acting medical director for MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, said in a statement.

MAPS hopes FDA will provide additional expanded access once it shows the drug helped its first 35 patients.

Patients who participate in the treatment take a dose of the drug in a controlled clinical environment as part of a course of psychotherapy. They’ll also be responsible for the costs of their treatment, unlike in the clinical trials.

After the drug is approved, patients will still not be able to take MDMA at home, and won’t fill prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The drug will only be available through a certified doctor in a supervised therapeutic setting, MAPS said.

The expanded access or “compassionate use,” requires at least one therapist involved in treatment have a medical or clinical doctorate degree.

Selection of the 10 sites that will offer the treatment is expected to be announced in the coming months. More than 120 sites have applied, according to MAPS. Once the program starts, patients can apply to their preferred site.

Continue on to ConnectingVets.com to read the complete article.

Army veteran who said prosthetic legs were repossessed to get new pair from VA

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veteran Jerry Holliman pictured whose prosthetic leges repossessd

Last August, two months after doctors amputated his left leg, Holliman received a pair of prosthetic legs from Hanger. He had begun therapy sessions with the company at the Collins State Veterans Home to learn how to properly walk.

That all came to halt on Dec. 23 when a representative from Hanger repossessed his prosthetic legs after learning the VA would not pay for them. It was a huge blow to Holliman’s hopes of being able to return to home in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the holidays.

“It’s like somebody walked up to you and gave you a punch in the gut,” Holliman said. “Why would you come and take a veteran’s legs?’

The set of prosthetic legs were returned to Holliman a few days later. However, Holliman said Hanger would no longer make the needed adjustments that allowed him to properly use the prosthetic legs until someone paid for them.

The VA told Holliman that the prosthetics legs were obtained as a private purchase, which precluded them from paying for them on his behalf. Instead, he said he was told to use Medicare to pay for them. He refused that option because he said using Medicare would have required him to pay a co-pay.

Krisita Burkey, the vice president of public relations and communications at Hanger, told Fox News in a statement that patient privacy laws prevented the company from talking about Holliman’s case specifically. However, she said, “Hanger does not take back prosthetic devices once a patient signs for the delivery.

“A signed verification of delivery is a necessary step in the delivery process due to regulations, but actual payment is not required upon delivery to the patient,” the statement continued. “Payment is typically received from the applicable payer, whether it is a private insurer, Medicare/Medicaid or the VA, at a later date.”

Walker told Fox News that Holliman had come to the VA’s prosthetics department in Jackson shortly after his left leg was amputated. Holliman inquired about the VA making him a pair of prosthetic legs, but Walker said the VA was unable to begin the process at the time.

“We cannot begin a prosthetic evaluation until the skin is completely healed because of the pressure and the things that are required to wear and use a prosthetic device,” he explained.

Walker, who was given permission by Holliman to speak about the case to Fox News, said the 69-year-old never followed up with the VA after that visit. Instead, he said Holliman went to a private clinic and then to Hanger to obtain prosthetic legs.

“We want veterans to use us,” Walker said. “If a veteran chooses to go outside of our system, we cannot, unfortunately, take on the responsibilities for private purchases and that’s the case.”

Holliman denied that he had gone to Hanger on his own to get prosthetic legs. He said he had no authority to make his own appointments and was following directives from medical personnel at the state-run veterans home where he’s resided for the last year.

After the VA’s decision to give him a new set of prosthetic legs, Holliman told Fox News he accepted an appointment for later this month. However, after this ordeal, he remains skeptical.

“I can’t walk on proposals. I need to see it [to] fruition,” Holliman said. “I’m trying to recoup my life. I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the VA.”

Continue on to FOX News to read the complete article.

Healing at 40-feet Below

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Scuba diver sees statue of himself at a underwater memorial

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet to the seafloor, the memories of the soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicts a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War—a war Campbell fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, who is now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed, about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.

The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans, and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep-sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area where he grew up.

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, who is also a diving instructor, agrees, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing—I never even thought it was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one allows visitors to connect on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

Source: army.mil

Stamp aims to raise awareness, funds for PTSD

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PTSD Stamp

Proceeds from sales of a new postage stamp issued recently will go to support post-traumatic stress disorder research and education at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD center, based at the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, includes seven sites around the country that are focused on studying and treating PTSD, a mental health condition some people develop following a traumatic event such as combat, a natural disaster, sexual assault or a car accident. Symptoms may include reliving the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, negative thoughts and anxiety that linger long after the trauma.

While Paula Schnurr, the PTSD center’s executive director, said she is glad to have the revenue stream to support the center’s work, she also hopes the stamp brings awareness to the condition, which will affect tens of millions people in the U.S. — both veterans and civilians — in their lifetimes.

Schnurr said she hopes “people who have PTSD or family members see this and they might take some action.”

She spoke in a phone interview from Charlotte, N.C., where she participated in an event to celebrate the stamp’s release on Monday.

The stamp, which costs 65 cents, features a green plant sprouting from ground covered with fallen leaves that is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, according to a news release from the Postal Service. It was designed by Greg Breeding, the postal service’s art director, and includes original photography by Mark Laita, a Los Angeles-based commercial photographer.

Treatment for PTSD both through medication and therapy has improved in recent years, Schnurr said, noting that some of the center’s research is focused on the effectiveness of different treatments.

Public awareness of PTSD has grown following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, which caused many first responders and others to develop the condition, she said. Subsequent events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and numerous mass shootings — including one earlier this year at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the city where Monday’s stamp ceremony took place — have kept the condition in the public eye.

In addition to Schnurr, speakers at Monday’s event at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square also included representatives from the American Red Cross, The American Veteran Foundation, the Wounded Warriors Project and the Charlotte Chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Among the speakers was Chuck Denny, the founder of The American Veteran Foundation based in North Carolina, who was a major proponent of the PTSD stamp, in honor of his father, Garland Denny, who served in the Navy in the Korean War and, before his death in 2015, advocated for a stamp to raise money for veteran services.

“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semipostal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, said in a news release. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”

The price of the stamp includes the cost of a first-class stamp at the time of purchase — which is 55 cents currently — and an amount to fund PTSD research. They are available at post offices around the country, through an online shop at usps.com/store or by calling 800-STAMP24. Sheets of 20 can be purchased for $13.

Congress, through the Semipostal Authorization Act, allows the Postal Service to issue and sell “semipostal” stamps to benefit causes that are “in the national public interest and appropriate.”

Revenue from sales of the Healing PTSD stamp — less the cost of postage and reasonable costs incurred by the Postal Service — will go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Continue on to Valley News to read the complete article.

VetsAid Selects 2019 Veteran NonProfit Partners to Benefit from Concert

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VetsAid concert performers and attendees with a big screenin the background showing one soldier helping another up a hill

VetsAid, the third annual concert to support veterans and their families hosted by Joe Walsh, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and multi GRAMMY Award recipient, has selected the nonprofit partners that will benefit from this year’s November 10th concert at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

The grants are broken out into large and small grant recipients and all net proceeds from the concert determine the final grant amounts. Founded by Walsh in 2017, the 501C3 VetsAid has disbursed over $1.2M to veteran-serving nonprofits.

The large grant recipients selected are: Combined Arms, Headstrong Project, United States Veterans Initiative (U.S. Vets), Next Op Veterans, Vets4Warriors, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, Swords to Plowshares and Sentinels of Freedom.

The small grant recipients selected are: Grace After Fire, Train A Dog Save A Warrior (TADSAW), Texas Veterans Outdoors, Smiles for Veterans, Hero’s Bridge, Every Third Saturday, Vets on Track Foundation, Easter Seals Houston and Heartstrides.

Providing support to organizations that care for the nation’s veterans and military families is deeply personal to Walsh, a Gold Star survivor whose father died while on active duty on Okinawa, Japan when Walsh was 20 months old.

“It’s with great excitement that we announce our grant recipients for VetsAid 2019,” explains Joe Walsh. “VetsAid is a festival that we bring to points across this great country of ours and this year we are honored to spread the love and funds to the veterans community in and around the Houston metro area. Come celebrate with us this November 10th at the Toyota Center!”

With assistance from the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO), Walsh and the Board of VetsAid reviewed numerous organizations before selecting these 17 veteran focused nonprofits.

“Mr. Walsh is a great philanthropist and advocate for the military and veteran community,” says Kelly Finn Störmer, Chief Operating Officer of the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO), the organization assisting the selection process. “We are honored to partner with VetsAid to recommend high impact programs creating positive change for veterans and military families.”

Houston has the 2nd largest veteran population in the nation with over 250,000 veterans. Mr. Walsh will serve as the keynote speaker and Grand Marshal of the “Houston Salutes American Heroes Veterans Day Celebration” honoring the brave men, women and families who have fought and sacrificed for the nation’s liberty and freedom.

VetsAid 2019 will feature sets from ZZ Top, Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Joe Walsh and will take place at 5:30pm on Sunday, November 10, 2019, on the eve of Veterans Day, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Tickets are on sale now at: www.toyotacenter.com.

Toby Keith and a veterans’ group teamed up to give a wounded Marine an all-terrain wheelchair

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Toby Keith and wounded Marine in his new wheelchair onstage during concert

Before Toby Keith took the stage for his concert in Pittsburgh, he had a special gift for retired Marine Corporal Brandon Rumbaugh.

While serving in Afghanistan in 2010, Rumbaugh was carrying a fellow Marine to safety when he stepped on an IED resulting in the loss of both his legs. After being fitted with a prosthetic he told CNN in 2012 that he worked hard for two years to beat the odds and walk again. Since then he has become a motivational speaker, sharing his story with others.

On Friday before the start of Keith’s show at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, Rumbaugh was presented with an all-terrain wheelchair, courtesy of the country singer and a veterans’ nonprofit.

Rumbaugh told CNN affiliate WPXI he wanted this type of wheelchair because it will allow him be more active outdoors and play with his six-month-old daughter.

The Independence Fund, a nonprofit that assists wounded veterans, teamed up with Keith to give Rumbaugh the $16,000 wheelchair, along with backstage passes and a meet and greet with the singer.

As Rumbaugh was leaving the stage in his new wheelchair, the crowd started chanting “U-S-A!” The Marine enjoyed the concert from the side of the stage and even joined Keith onstage during his performance of “American Soldier.”

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Army Veteran Overcomes Near-Death Accident, Sets Goal for Gold

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Keith Murphy sitting in wheelchair smiling

From an early age, Texas native, Keith Murphy knew that joining the Army would be part of his life plan. As a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and later in the ROTC, being a soldier was always something he felt called to do. At 18 years old he fulfilled his childhood dream and enlisted.

By Caitlin Bishop

Murphy was in the Army for four years as a Sergeant, specializing in Infantry, Mortars—a field he truly enjoyed. He was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia before being deployed to Korea for one year where he met Brenda, a fellow soldier deployed with a different unit who would eventually become his wife. Once deployment ended, they each returned to Fort Polk, Louisiana, married soon after and moved back to Texas. The Murphys started a family together in Dallas where Keith went to work as a truck driver for many years.

On August 28, 2018, during a motorcycle ride on beautiful afternoon, Murphy’s life changed in an instant. While driving through an intersection, he was hit by a car making an illegal left turn. “The last thing I remember is being put into an ambulance and waking up in the hospital 8 days later,” he recalls. His injuries were extensive including seven broken ribs, a broken pelvis, hip, back, dislocated shoulder, collapsed lung and a severed left leg above the knee. Doctors attempted to save his leg at first, but due to the severity of the injury, Murphy’s wife, Brenda was left to make the difficult decision to amputate above the knee in an effort to save his life.

“After the accident, I remained in the hospital for six weeks and it was complete agony,” recounts Murphy. “I was unable to move, yet in excruciating pain, and needed spoon-feeding as well as help bathing. Those initial days and weeks were a very dark place for me.” By the sixth week Murphy was able to move off the hospital bed into a wheel chair and was released to go home on October 16, 2018.

Once home, Murphy’s outlook changed as he realized his recovery was in his own hands. “I knew I was hurt badly, but I was determined not to let my injuries or the actions of a reckless driver beat me,” he said. Murphy began wheel chairing up and down the walkway in his front yard and lifting 5-pound dumb bells in an effort to build back his strength. He had lost 50 pounds and significant muscle tone while in the hospital.

After being home for one month, Murphy decided to contactMurphy lifting weights at fitness center Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), a non-profit organization he had heard of in his area that helps those with physical disabilities transform their lives through exercise and community. “I knew I needed to find people who went through what I went through,” he said. Murphy began going to ATF three days a week for stretching and conditioning in preparation for an upcoming nine-week program they offered with 11 other veterans that he wanted to be a part of.

Murphy started out doing simple exercises such as lifting an empty weight bar, doing push-ups and chin-ups. He worked diligently to tighten his core, arms and build back deteriorated muscle—crucial for his wheel chair use. He successfully joined ATF’s winter 2019 Redefine program and strived to push the limits of what he thought his body was capable of doing. Part of the program included a Lake Tahoe trip where the class was able to partake in mono-skiing—a highlight for the Texas native.

“At ATF, positivity is contagious and being around others who have endured similar injuries has been incredible for my mind, body and spirit,” says Murphy. “If you show up and put in the work, there’s no way to lose. Their team is determined to see you win.”

Murphy continues to push forward and embrace his new normal. He proudly got back on a motorcycle for the first time in January 2019 and has set his sights on a few other goals—running and walking again using a prosthetic with the long term goal of being a sled driver in the 2022 Paralympics for bobsledding.