Since 2012, The Friends of Pittsburgh Fisher House has been providing a "home away from home" for the families of Veterans and active duty military who are hospitalized. Located on the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's Oakland campus, their home allows families to stay at no cost and remain close to their loved one while finding comfort and peace in a warm, supportive environment. Pirates Charities, alongside our partners at 84 Lumber, are honored to support the Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House as they continue assisting the loved ones of our injured heroes.
During the 2022 season, the Pirates honored local service men and women and the nonprofit organizations who support them by designating all Monday home games as Military Monday's. During each of these games, Pirates players, coaches and Bucco Brigade staff showcased their support by wearing camo-inspired uniforms to honor our region's strong military ties.
Additionally, Pirates Charities selected a different local military nonprofit organization to recognize and highlight during each Military Monday game, while hosting its members at the ballpark.
MILITARY MONDAY HONOREES
Veterans Leadership Program (VLP) works to help every Veteran of the United States Military reach their fullest potential as citizens of the Nation that they have so proudly served. VLP has successfully made an impact on 7,200 Veterans annually in 30 counties across Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Pirates Charities, alongside our partners at 84 Lumber, are honored to support the important work of VLP as the continue serving those who served for us.
The primary goal of Helping Heroes is to assist veterans facing homelessness or veterans currently experiencing homelessness achieve housing stability. Helping Heroes provides programs and services to help veterans take necessary steps in the right direction because the veterans that have served us need to be served in return. Additionally, Helping Heroes will provide assistance and guidance for veteran benefits, as well as provide local and VA referrals necessary to assist veterans and their needs. Pirates Charities appreciates the important work Helping Heroes is doing to support our troops and is proud to contribute to the organization so they can continue doing their great work.
The mission of the Veterans Breakfast Club is to create communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten. Through their important work, veterans and the communities they served will be connected, educated, healed, and inspired. Pirates Charities is honored to support the important work of Veterans Breakfast Club as they ensure our heroes stories last through time.
Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs rescues, raises, and trains medical service / assistance dogs and helps to pair them with individuals with disabilities, including a focus on veterans wounded in combat. The Pirates very own team pup, Bucco, is a part of this program and will soon be assisting a veteran in need. Pirates Charities is honored to support the incredible work of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs as they work to provide unique and impactful life services through the power of dogs to those who served.
PIRATES CHARITIES AND TAPS SPECIAL GUESTS
Pirates Charities and TAPS had the privilege of hosting Erin, Radford, Isaac, Sophia, and Cecelia Sellner at the game on May 9 as we recognized their family and their fallen hero, United States Army PVT Karl Sellner. Growing up, Karl played a variety of sports with the Boys and Girls Club of Pittsburgh, and particularly enjoyed being a pitcher for his baseball team. The family found TAPS about 18 months after Karl passed away, and TAPS has been such an amazing support ever since. Erin and Rad both now serve as Peer Mentors with TAPS, providing a community and guidance for others who recently lost a loved one in the military.
Pirates Charities and TAPS had the privilege of hosting Scott, Deanne and Marissa Van Der Wal along with Christopher, Jordan, and Julian Sean Walker at the game on May 23 as we recognized their family and their fallen hero, United States Army SGT Sean McGregor Van Der Wal. Sean had a great passion for baseball. His love for the game started off at the age of three, playing t-ball for the YMCA. The Pirates quickly became Sean’s favorite MLB team and anytime you’d see him with a baseball hat on, it was a Pirates hat. Sean’s long baseball career included him playing on all-star teams throughout elementary and middle school, being an accomplished left-handed pitcher, as well as an outfielder at Neshannock Junior Senior High School, and, through a baseball scholarship, continuing his passion at Mercyhurst Northeast College in 2009. Sean entered the United States Army in 2014 where he was assigned to the 411th Military Police Company, 89th MP Brigade. SGT Van Der Wal was stationed in Seoul, Korea from 2014 to 2015, in Fort Hood, TX from 2015 to 2016, and was accepted to the Special Reactions Team Crops for military police. During his service, SGT Van Der Wal received several medals including the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean Defense Service Medal. The Van Der Wal family has always loved attending games and supporting the Pittsburgh Pirates over the years. TAPS is important to the Van Der Wal Family because they offer support to all family members affected by the loss of their loved one and help them to rebuild and unite with other survivors.
Pirates Charities and TAPS had the privilege of hosting Alvin, Belvina, Lona, Robert, Lauren, Matthew, Jacob, Cayden, and Aylee Raible at the game on June 20 as we recognized their family and their fallen hero, United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible. After graduation from CMU, on May 21, 1995 Christopher was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. LtCol Raible qualified in the Harrier AV-8B in September 1999 and was assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 223 at Cherry Point, NC. He later participated in Operation Enduring Freedom aboard the USS Bataan. In 2005, Raible deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. From July 2006 to August 2009, he served as an instructor pilot at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ, and deployed several times to Japan, and to Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For his service and sacrifice, LtCol Raible received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Purple Heart. In addition, he had received the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with Strike/Flight Numeral 15, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Gold Star, Navy & Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with Bronze Star, NATO Service Medal - International Security Assistance Force, and the Naval Aviator Badge. Amidst all his accomplishments, Christopher was a big Pittsburgh sports fan. Surviving sister, Lona noted, “My brother loved baseball. As a little boy growing up, he kept notecards of all the stats of his favorite players. He loved PNC Park and would be humbled to be honored here.”
Pirates Charities and TAPS had the privilege of hosting Tracie Hall and Frank Harbaugh at the game on August 22 as we recognized their family and their fallen hero, United States Army Reserve Specialist Robert “Bob” E. Hall, Jr. Bob grew up in the North Hills area and loved to play baseball and soccer. He attended North Hills High School, and while there, decided that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve his country. Bob enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1997. On June 28, 2005, SPC Robert E. Hall, Jr. was killed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his position at the gate of his forward operating base in Dujayl, Iraq. As a result of his service and sacrifice, SPC Hall was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery that day. He saved his entire unit of 497 men. Bob’s surviving wife Tracie shared, “Bob and I were avid Pittsburgh Sports fans. We loved all of our hometown teams, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates! We went to games as often as we could before he was deployed and we always had a great time cheering on our team. I miss those days of being able to go to a games together. Bob played baseball as a child and always enjoyed the game. When he and I started dating we made it a point to go to as many games as we could as a couple. He always wanted to see his daughter play ball, but was robbed of that opportunity when he was killed in Iraq. So I made it a point, in his memory, to go to all of our daughters games and cheer her on the way he would have.” Tracie attended her first TAPS event, the National Military Survivor Seminar, over Memorial Day the year after Bob passed. Tracie and her daughter needed to be with others who knew what they were going through, and to have the care and comfort that TAPS gives to grieving families. Tracie shared, “without the love and support of TAPS, I can honestly say I don't know where we would be today.”
Pirates Charities and TAPS had the privilege of hosting Juli and Dee West and Tim and Marcia Saar at the game on September 26 as we recognized their family and their fallen hero, United States Army Captain Jason West. Jason was born on December 30, 1977 and grew up in Crafton, PA where he played baseball and now has a baseball field named after him. Jason attended Carlynton High School and at age 17 joined the military and enrolled at Slippery Rock University to pursue his degree while participating in the university’s ROTC program. Upon graduation, he commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He was stationed in Friedburg, Germany, where he trained to deploy to Iraq. CPT West first toured in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving as a tank platoon leader and later toured in Ramadi, Iraq, where he helped train Iraqi Ground Forces. United States Army CPT West was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq when an RPG hit his Humvee on July 24, 2006. During his service, CPT West received several awards and decorations including an Army Presidential Unit Citation, the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Bronze Star Medal. CPT West attended Pirates games growing up and went to a baseball game when he came home and to celebrate his one year wedding anniversary. He loved the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pirates Charities is honored to join forces with TAPS to recognize and honor these amazing heroes and their loved ones.