Earlier this week, Veterans Advantage honored 115 members of Team USA, our military veteran Paralympic team competing at the 2016 Invictus Games, with free Veterans Advantage.
The Invictus Games, created by British Prince Harry in 2014, is the only international Paralympic-style multi-sport event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. Starting last weekend, wounded warrior teams from 13 countries joined with our team to participate in the games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida.
On Monday evening, Lin and I were invited to an Invictus Games reception hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize Team USA and their families at the Games. Wow! I can’t express how proud the crowd was of these servicemen and women and their families — not only for the immense sacrifices they have made with their military service, but also for their indomitable spirit. Despite the many obstacles in their path, their persistence and fortitude have driven them to athletic excellence. With the ongoing support of their families and caregivers, their spirit has propelled them to participate in these Games.
We received a terrific introduction to the crowd from our Veterans Advantage Board Member and a Medal of Honor Recipient, Paul “Bud” Bucha. At the opening ceremonies aired live on ESPN the night before, we were proud to see Bud honored with a standing ovation before a sellout crowd. The opening ceremony also featured appearances by Invictus founder Prince Harry, a rousing welcome from Chairman and CEO of the Games Ken Fisher, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Morgan Freeman, and British singer James Blunt, who performed his top chart blockbuster “You’re Beautiful”, as a tribute to the First Lady.
The following night, led by Roy Asfar, our VP of Marketing at Veterans Advantage, we proceeded to the Veterans Affairs reception to salute our Team USA and award them our gifts of one free year of Veterans Advantage.
At the VA reception, Ken Fisher, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, was recognized for his leadership role as Chairman and CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games and success in bringing them to the U.S. by Dr. Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secretary Robert McDonald of Veterans Affairs was there to personally greet and congratulate each athlete and their family members.
Gerry Byrne, a Marine Corps veteran and Vice Chairman of Penske Media Corporation, who serves on both Veterans Advantage and Fisher House Foundation boards, joined us at the reception, too. Gerry is attending the entire week of games events. He is truly inspired, as we are, from meeting and watching this outstanding group of fellow veterans participate in the Games. These wounded warriors, men and women, exude a profound sense of purpose as Team USA para-athletes, bound not only by the team camaraderie of adaptive sports, but also by their continued service to our country. They are great role models for transitioning vets and their families, and really, for us all!
We want to acknowledge and thank our Veterans Advantage members and others who support Veterans Advantage’s “Giving Back”, such as these Invictus Games gifts. Our Giving Back programs are part of our work as a registered public benefit corporation (“PBC”). To date, with your support, we have delivered over a half million free VetRewards Cards to active duty service personnel, wounded warriors and their caregivers, student veterans, and as gifts to honor special groups.
Veterans Advantage works through 501c3 distribution partners, such as Operation Gratitude and Operation Care and Comfort, major schools such as the City University of New York and Syracuse University, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the City of New York through the IDNYC card with Veteran Designation, to reach the recipients of our veteran-led and supported free benefit programs.
If you would like to contribute towards the gift of a VetRewards Card, and the many supportive benefits it delivers, click here.