Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fall 2013 Spouse/Caregiver Scholarships

Hope For The Warriors® has posted the application for spouse/caregiver scholarships for the Fall 2013 school semester.

The Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship Program identifies, recognizes, and rewards spouses/caregivers for their strength, fidelity, and resolve despite adversity. Scholarships aid in continued education at a reputable, accredited university, college, or trade school for spouses/caregivers as they assume critical roles in the financial well being of their families.
Scholarship awards are made payable to the scholarship recipient's institution for payment of tuition, books and supplies.

Scholarship awards in the amount of $1,000 will be made payable to the scholarship recipient's institution for payment of tuition, books and supplies.  The application process is the same for new and previous applicants.

Fall 2013 Scholarship applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 29.
Get more information on the scholarship here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Make a House a Home

Marrocco at the Got Heart, Give Hope Gala in 2011
On Easter Sunday 2009, Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco's vehicle took a direct hit by an explosive fired projectile.  Against all odds, Brendan survived and became the first quadruple amputee from the war to survive.  Marrocco is from Staten Island and planned to return as soon as he could leave the medical facility.  The Siller family and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, also based in New York City, stepped up to build a home for their hero.

Hope For The Warriors® quickly agreed to help by furnishing the home.  The work was part of our program A Warrior's Wish® and we titled the Wish, Make a House a Home.  Brendan's home was completed in June 2011.

Since that time, the Siller family has continued to build homes for the most severely wounded and Hope For The Warriors® has continued to support this program.  In 2013, we have commitment to supporting five homes at an amount of up to $50,000 per home. 

Staff member with Todd and Crystal Nicely in their new home

Homes for 2013 were announced at a press conference held in Tampa on Wednesday, February 13.  We attended, excited to meet the men in person.  In addition to being a part of their homes, we have helped some through other programs such as Critical Care Coordination, granting a Wish by donating a bed, Hope & Morale events, and more. 

Beyond Make a House a Home, Hope For The Warriors® will continue to assist through our ten other programs.  A new home is just the start of our relationship as we aim to restore self, family and hope for each military family.

Learn more about A Warrior's Wish®

Donate today

Monday, February 25, 2013

Leadership Under Fire

Today's blog is about Major Jason Brezler, USMC/FDNY and founder of Leadership Under Fire, Inc. Hope For The Warriors® is proud to help support the Leadership Under Fire team through the college initiative program.

In 2006-2007, an infantry battalion of U.S. Marines found themselves locked in a lethal fight against disenfranchised Sunni Iraqis and fanatical Al Qaeda foreign fighters in Fallujah, Iraq – a dangerous and deadly mission deemed virtually impossible by many strategic intelligence analysts.  In the ranks of that battalion was Captain Jason C. Brezler, a USMC Reserve Officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate who had taken a leave of absence as an FDNY firefighter to again lead Marines in harm’s way.

When Brezler returned home in the summer of 2007, he spent many long nights reflecting on the Fallujah experience.  His reflections of battlefield leadership offered overwhelming parallels to advancing discipline, survival and leadership in firefighting operations.  It was during this period that Brezler’s trusted patrol navigator, Corporal Bill Cahir, encouraged him to apply the harsh but important lessons of combat to the fireground. Consequently, Leadership Under Fire was born.  

In 2012, Leadership Under Fire, Inc. was officially formed when Brezler assembled a group of young service-oriented men from various backgrounds and with wide ranging operational experiences.  The Leadership Under Fire team is reinforced by a mentor team of experienced and accomplished fire officers, several of whom are also former Marines.

The mission of Leadership Under Fire, Inc. is “to contribute to the technical, physical and mental development of our nation’s firefighters and officers through rigorous and forward-thinking conferences, presentations and tactical training programs in order to advance survival, discipline and leadership with those who have been called to serve in today’s fire service.”  

In August 2009, Sergeant Bill “Werewolf” Cahir, the same Marine who had been so instrumental in the Leadership Under Fire concept, was killed in action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Brezler thought it only appropriate to create an initiative that not only honors Bill's service and sacrifice, but his firm belief in higher education for those dedicated to civic service.  

Subsequently, the Bill “Werewolf” Cahir Initiative was created. The program affords post-9/11 military veterans pursuing academic study pertinent to fire and rescue service the opportunity to attend Leadership Under Fire, Inc. conferences and tactical training events at no expense.  This initiative is a win for the fire service, America’s  military veterans, and higher education. It ensures that Bill’s legacy of service and sacrifice lives on.  Hope For The Warriors® enables the financial aspect of this initiative through the organization’s college initiative program.

On October 27, 2012, Leadership Under Fire held its inaugural conference, entitled Making Yourself Hard to Kill, in Philadelphia, PA.  The conference focused on the mental aspect and survival mindset involved with firefighting.

The event included a “Survivor Panel” involving reflections from firefighters who had been forced to jump from burning buildings, a renowned Everest climber, and two U.S. Marines who had been wounded in Iraq;  one who had been shot in the face by an Al Qaeda sniper.  Firefighters and fire officers traveled from 26 states and Canada to attend the day-long seminar.  The audience also included 19 post-9/11 military veterans who attended the banner event under the Werewolf Initiative.

One post-9/11 veteran registrant commented, “I got into the fire service because I missed so very much the camaraderie of Corps.  As a college student, I desperately needed some sort of unit belonging as the student undergrad body is in no way is my peer group. After taking off my uniform I noticed it didn’t take long to start feeling naked and like a sheep in the flock…The Leadership Under Fire conference sparked the fading light in my civilian world; I can honestly say that was the most alive and motivated I felt since leaving the Marine Corps…I hope that I can demonstrate the level of professionalism and high moral conduct of the many speakers present that day in Philadelphia, every single person that spoke that day impacted my outlook on the fire service, my character, and how I needed to live my life with a purpose.”  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hope Rider

Photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans

In December, we shared the exciting news of the grand opening of the Warrior Hope and Care Center aboard Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune.  We shared the above photo, showing Marine Corps Commandant, General Amos, admiring a custom-built, custom-hand painted chopper in the lobby of the center.


The chopper was built to honor the wounded service members who are utilizing the Warrior Hope and Care Center.  The custom frame was made by Carolina Customs.  The motor and transmission are both from Harley Davidson.  Worked into the dĂ©cor of the motorcycle are hand grenades on the handlebars; a K-Bar and a Tailgunner Exhaust along the side; 45-caliber bullets on the wheel spokes; and 50-caliber bullets on the down tube.  The seat is covered with camouflage cloth—torn and worn to represent the men and women who have worn the same fabric.  The paint scheme is camo and includes a bald eagle and a vintage Hope For The Warriors® logo. 

The bike was built byThe Chopp Shop in Taylorsville, NC and in 2009, Carolina Thunder Charities donated the motorcycle to Hope For The Warriors®.  We held onto this unique item until the Warrior Hope and Care Center was ready to open. 

Read the blog posting from December to learn more about the Warrior Hope and Care Center.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Family of a Vet: Podcast

Listen to this podcast on to learn more about:
Hope For The Warriors® staff members speak with Debbie Sprague, Wellness & Life Solutions Coach. She specializes in working with spouses of veterans with PTSD. 

Tina Atherall is the executive vice president of Hope For The Warriors® and a licensed social worker.  Tricia Winklosky is a Clinical Health & Wellness Director with Hope For The Warriors® and has her Master of Science in Art Psychotherapy.

Listen or download the podcast.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Family of a Vet: What we can learn from other spouses

Today's guest blogger is Debbie Sprague, (www.detours2dreams.comWellness & Life Solutions Coach for Spouses of Veterans with PTSD, Grassroots Volunteer ~ Family of a Vet.  She is also the author of a new book that will be coming out soon, "A Stranger in My Bed: 8 Steps to Getting Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran's PTSD."

Tina Atherall and Tricia Winklosky, two Hope For The Warriors® staff members, will be on Debbie's podcast tonight.  The show will be on at 7:30 p.m. EST.  Listeners will also have the opportunity to call in and ask questions.  If you miss the show, you will also be able to download the podcast later.  Find the podcast here.

Author's husband, 1969 in Danang, Vietnam

Tears filled the eyes of the Vietnam vets wife as she listened to the pregnant spouse of an Iraq vet.  This young woman was knowledgeable and pro-active in dealing with her veterans PTSD.  They were receiving counseling.  She attended our spouses support group.  She knew what had happened to her husband.

When group ended, two Vietnam Veterans wives remained.  The teary one began sobbing, "If only I had of known when I was her age.  I could have helped him.  I would have stayed.  Why did no one help us to understand?  I loved him.  PTSD destroyed my child’s life."

The other spouses face was red with anger.  "Why did we have to go through this alone?  Why didn’t we get the help that these kids are getting?  I have spent 40 years caring for a man whose body and mind was destroyed in Vietnam, and now I have PTSD as well!  This group is the first place that I have been able to get support.  Why did it take so long when there are so many other women living in the same world that I was? "

Later I asked Kim, the widow of a Korean and Vietnam veteran about her many years of caring for her husband throughout his battle with his PTSD and cancer.  She had always radiated love, joy and happiness to all those around her.  She worked tirelessly in our community on veteran’s issues, and projects.  Her advice was to have compassion, patience, and understanding and just keep loving them.

What advice and wisdom can the spouses of the previous generations of war pass on to today’s spouses and families?  How can our experiences help this generation be protected from the contagious effects of PTSD, and from becoming a victim of caregiver overwhelm?  And from the high divorce rate suffered by our Vietnam veterans with PTSD, who are three times more likely than veterans without PTSD to divorce two or more times, according to the Vietnam Veteran Readjustment Study.

In 2000, I became the fourth wife of one of those Vietnam Veterans.  I had no idea that Vietnam or PTSD had anything to do with his failed marriages.  I knew nothing about PTSD, there was no need, I had married the man of my dreams. He was wonderful and perfectly normal.  As far as I knew, the war had ended for him the day he got on a plane in Vietnam after his second tour of duty.  He arrived at the bus station in his hometown with no “welcome homes” for the young soldier, only his father there to greet him.  Within days, it was time to look for a job and get on with his life, and that’s what he did.

In 2004, our dreams ended.  Vietnam returned with a vengeance 35 years later and threatened to ruin our lives.  He was no longer able to work; he had health complications from exposure to Agent Orange, and was diagnosed with PTSD.  We struggled, our marriage was in crisis.  I became angry, resentful, and depressed… just like him.  I was diagnosed with PTSD, and was advised to divorce him.

But I was determined to stay.  I learned; I sought support. I fought to get my mental, emotional, and physical health back.  I reached out to help other spouses.  We survived.  PTSD will be a constant in our lives, and his health problems will only get worse with time, but our love, marriage and commitment is stronger today than it has ever been.

I would like to share with today’s spouses that there is hope for a bright future with your wounded warrior.  It’s not an easy journey; it takes hard work and commitment.  Understanding, compassion, and patience for yourself and your veteran are essential.  When you use the information and support available to you today, honor your commitment to your veteran, and value your need to maintain your own health and happiness you can create a life for works for you.   It may not be a life that looks “normal” to the outside world but it can be a life richer and better than you ever dreamed possible.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Presidents with Military Service

Military Service of the Presidents

(Information from the Smithsonian, National Museum of American History)


At this point in our history, a total of 31 American Presidents also served in the military.  Of those,12 reached the level of General.

George WashingtonGeneral and Commander in Chief, Continental Army

Thomas JeffersonColonel, Virginia Militia

James MadisonColonel, Virginia Militia

James MonroeMajor, Continental Army

Andrew JacksonMajor General, U.S. Army

William Henry HarrisonMajor General, Kentucky Militia

John TylerCaptain, Virginia Militia

James K. PolkColonel, Tennessee Militia

Zachary TaylorMajor General, U.S. Army
1805-1815, 1816-1849

Millard FillmoreMajor, Union Continentals (home guard)

Franklin PierceBrigadier General, New Hampshire Militia

James BuchananPrivate, Pennsylvania Militia

Abraham LincolnCaptain, Illinois Militia

Andrew JohnsonBrigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Ulysses S. GrantGeneral, U.S. Army

Rutherford B. HayesMajor General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

James A. GarfieldMajor General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Chester A. ArthurBrigadier General, New York Militia

Benjamin HarrisonBrevet Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

William McKinleyBrevet Major, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Theodore RooseveltColonel, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Harry S. TrumanColonel, Army Officer Reserve Corps

Dwight D. EisenhowerGeneral of the Army, U.S. Army
1915-1948, 1951-1952

John F. KennedyLieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve

Lyndon B. JohnsonCommander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Richard M. NixonCommander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Gerald R. Ford, JrLieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Jimmy CarterLieutenant, U.S. Navy

Ronald ReaganCaptain, U.S. Army

George BushLieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Navy

George W. BushFirst Lieutenant, Texas Air National Guard

Hope & Courage Honoree: I Will Survive

Our guest blogger today is Samantha Bradley, spouse of a fallen hero.  Hope For The Warriors® will be honoring Samantha at this year's Got Heart, Give Hope® Gala for the hope and courage that she is inspires.

"On June 3, 2011, I received the dreadful phone call that turned a nightmare into reality. My husband, Sgt. Mark A. Bradley, a Marine Corps Scout Sniper, was serving his fifth deployment in Afghanistan and while conducting a mission with his Sniper Team, Mark struck an IED. The next couple of days we clung to the phone waiting for updates of Mark’s condition and waiting for the approval to be flown to Germany to be by his side. Mark’s brother, also serving as a Scout Sniper in Afghanistan, was flown to be with Mark, and from there they would fly together to Germany. On the flight from Afghanistan to Germany, Mark was resuscitated twice. Mark’s parents and I were being flown to Germany but first being flown to Washington, DC for our passports."
"Waiting for us as we got off the plane in Washington, DC was Robin Kelleher with Hope For The Warriors®. To think back of that time when I first met Robin is a blur, but God led her pathway to ours, and she was more than an angel to us. We arrived in Germany, only to learn that Mark’s condition was worse than what we had been informed of. With him being as strong hearted as he was, his condition improved enough for us to fly back to the United States on Friday June 10. That morning Mark’s parents and brother were flown to Bethesda, and shortly after Mark and I boarded our close to 15-hour flight."

"In the meantime, Hope For The Warriors® got my dad settled in a hotel in Bethesda. On June 16, 2011, Mark became a guardian angel at the gates of heaven."
"In only a couple of days, Robin had become so close with our family, we asked her to be a part of Mark’s Purple Heart Ceremony. Robin was also with the family when Mark passed away and drove to North Carolina for his funeral."

Samantha's reveals a message to herself and the world
Photo provided courtesy of Paul Oberle
"Often, when someone passes away, people slowly drift back into their normal routines and move on. This was not the case with Hope For The Warriors®. Robin and her team continued to reach out to our family and remain just as close to us. The first event I attended was just a few months later.  Mark’s father, Jack Bradley, and I were in North Carolina for 9/11. At the event, I had the opportunity to meet amazing people and share our stories together. Many have become a second family to me. I also attended the Got Heart, Give Hope® Gala in 2012 and Scarlet & Gold Golf Tournament in 2012."

"Just a few days before what would have been my three year anniversary, Hope For The Warriors® sent me, along with other spouses of wounded warriors, on a turkey hunt in Florida. Hunting is a passion of mine, but this trip was beyond special. Mark and I were unable to take a Honeymoon after we married and our plan was to go on a guided hunt when he returned home from Afghanistan. I was determined to one day fulfill our dream in his memory. Hope For The Warriors® granted me that wish. All the spouses were successful with a turkey, except for myself. I was the only one who bagged two turkeys, and that meant one for me, and one for Mark!" (Read the entire story here.)
"Attending events and spending time with people who share similar stories is wonderful.  But eventually,  the numbness of my husband passing away finally started to wear off, I started on a spiral spin downwards. I tried to keep my feelings bottled up inside but that made things worse. I reached out to a different organization in an attempt to start counseling but did not receiving the help I needed."
"I finally contacted Robin and explained to her the help that I desperately needed. In less than 24 hours, I was linked to the help I needed, and since then I have been in counseling. This counseling has been the biggest help in restoring my life."

"Hope For The Warriors® has become so much like a family to us. On June 16, 2012, Robin and two of the wounded warriors joined mine and Mark’s family in Cuba NY, for a golf tournament to raise money for a scholarship in memory of Mark. Not only is each member of Hope For The Warriors® a gift from God for me personally, but the organization does so many amazing things to help wounded warriors and their families. Being a part of the organization has given me so much hope and determination to share my story in an effort to inspire others with strength. I will never have the words to express my gratitude for all the things they have done. I love Hope For The Warriors® with all my heart."

Samantha surrounded by family and friends


Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 Hope & Courage Awards

Hope For The Warriors is excited to announce this year's recipients of the Hope & Courage Awards.  These recipients will be honored at the 2013 Got Heart, Give Hope Gala on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.  To learn more about each of the honorees, the awards, and the Gala, visit

Inspiring hope for their families and others, the honorees are outstanding examples of selfless acts of service to our nation and its military heroes.  These truly inspiring men and women have demonstrated extraordinary courage in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

2013 Hope & Courage Honorees:

Military Honorees
COL Gregory D. Gadson, USA

COL Heather Meeds, ANG

LtCol David Barnes, USMC (Ret.)

LT (David) Matthew Bartles, USN
Michael Roesch, Former Air Force

Family Honorees
Samantha Bradley, Gold Star Family

Mary Nicholson, Courageous Caregiver
Pam Voltin, Courageous Caregiver

Service Provider Honoree
Charlie Wagner, Retired, FDNY, Dedicated Volunteer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Instrument of Brass & Hearts of Gold

Sergeant Samuel Chicora was wounded in Afghanistan in 2009, but this A Warrior's Wish® story does not begin there; it actually begins years ago, when Samuel was only ten years old, the first time he ever picked up a brass instrument.

Samuel joined the Marine Corps straight out of High School. During his fourth combat tour (and his first Afghanistan tour), he volunteered to leave Camp Leatherneck and relieve his fellow Marines in Now Zad, Afghanistan.  While building a vehicle search area, they came under enemy fire. Samuel directed his Marines to safety and relayed a head count to their security element.

Seconds later, they were struck by a mortar attack. Eight Marines were wounded. Samuel took shrapnel to his face, left wrist, right elbow, inner thigh and left calf. He suffered extensive nerve damage, a SLAP tear to his left shoulder and had to have his little finger amputated. He also suffers from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

After returning home, Samuel began a new life leaning to adapt to his injuries by swimming and cycling with other members of the Wounded Warrior Battalion East’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program (WAR). Then he learned that music therapy was offered as well.

 “I had played brass instruments since I was ten, but I hadn’t played much since I had joined the Marine Corps. As I started playing again it felt as if all the worries, anxiety and pain had gone away.”

Soon Samuel wasn’t just attending the music therapy sessions, he was helping to teach music to his fellow veterans; helping them find a new love or (in Samuel’s case) rediscover music.

Although he had recently begun attending community college for psychology, which he enjoyed, he felt as if “something was missing.”

While volunteering for the Salvation Army, Sam met the head of the organization for Onslow County. The two began discussing music, and he asked Sam if he would like to teach music to children. Once he started, Sam realized what he was missing. 

He quickly changed his major from psychology, to music. Sam’s principle instrument is the tuba, and although he was able to borrow one from a local middle school to play at the audition for the music program at his community college; it was far from what he really needed.

He had only six hours to practice an instrument he hadn’t played in over nine years. But Sam’s natural talent shone through at his audition.

He was also invited to join in the Onslow Winds Community Band to play in their top ensemble, and study directly under their top brass instructor.

Samuel knew this was only the beginning. His next goal was to continue his education with a music therapy degree from a four year university.

But Samuel would need a real tuba for his future auditions, and could not find one in his price range. The only instrument he could find was a loner baritone which is “only a little similar to a tuba, and will not properly prepare me for when I audition for universities.” Samuel shared.

Without a tuba, Samuel would not be able to join the ensemble, or pursue his new dream of a music therapy degree.

“Music is my passion and love. I plan to help other wounded warriors and individuals with disabilities to find a positive outlet. I believe my disabilities, struggles and experience will greatly improve my ability to connect and help others.”

Hope For The Warriors® A Warrior’s Wish® program was proud to grant this brave Marine his Wish for a tuba. We look forward to the beautiful music Samuel will play and the many lives he will touch through his future career in music therapy.