'Tribute for Heroes' winners enjoy All-Star festivities
Multiple amputees who completed dozens of triathlons and marathons. A Paralympics gold medalist. A gender barrier-breaking pioneer.
Heroism was front and center before the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Citi Field in New York. But for this exercise, the focus was not on baseball players, but instead on a group of 30 of our nation's bravest who were honored, and thanked, for their military service.
Major League Baseball and PEOPLE magazine announced the 30 winners of the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, which recognizes veterans and military service members and builds on both organizations' commitment to honoring our country's heroes.
Fans nationwide cast their votes at TributeForHeroes.com, selecting 30 winners from a pool of 90 finalists.
All winners, each representing one of the 30 Major League clubs, have received first-class accommodations throughout the All-Star festivities. This includes a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a VIP reception on the USS Intrepid, the Red Carpet Parade and the Home Run Derby.
Honorees were also recognized during the pregame ceremony prior to the 2013 All-Star Game .
One winner will be featured in the July 22 issue of PEOPLE. The magazine will feature Brian Taylor Urruela of Tampa, Fla., a Purple Heart recipient who helped start VETSports, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive sports opportunities for returning wounded and combat veterans.
The complete list of honorees is as diverse as it is extensive. Ranging in ages from 26 to 92, these heroes have served from World War II through Afghanistan. For example, Brad Snyder of Bethesda, Md., won two gold medals, a silver medal and set a number of American records for the USA Paralympics swim team at the 2012 London Games. David Patterson of Rio Rancho, N.M., the only Hero awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, is a Native American who took part in every Marine assault in WWII as one of the Navajo Code Talkers.
Margo Parker of Tucson, Ariz., is the first woman in California to enlist in the military after Congress passed a law allowing women with children to join. Brian Hicks of Pike Road, Ala., is an amputee who completed 35 triathlons and eight marathons. And Joe Kapacziewski of Upatol, Ga., made history by becoming the first Army Airborne Ranger to return to combat after an amputation.
Along with Major League Baseball and PEOPLE, a guest panel assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists. Comprising the panel were Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli and Gen. John M. "Jack" Keane -- both retired -- along with Major League players Justin Verlander, Nick Swisher, Barry Zito, Jonny Gomes, Brad Ziegler, Chase Headley and Craig Stammen.
The "Tribute for Heroes" campaign doesn't end with the recognition of the 30 winners. Charitable efforts will be extended to Welcome Back Veterans, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service.
Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with "Centers of Excellence" at university hospitals throughout the country.
The focus will be on 30, but the long-term effects will reach far and wide, extending beyond the All-Star Game.
What better way to pay tribute to our heroes?