An Eastern Washington Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who volunteers at his local V.A. hospital in support of suicide prevention, an active duty Marine who started a company that hires veterans and donates profits to military charities, and an Army veteran who founded a program that uses fishing as therapy for wounded veterans, are the Seattle Mariners nominees for the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign.
The campaign, sponsored by Major League Baseball and PEOPLE Magazine is a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members. MLB today announced 90 finalists for the honor, three per MLB Club. Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com and vote for the most inspirational stories. Deadline to vote is June 30. One winner from each team will be recognized before the 2013 MLB All-Star Game July 16 on FOX.
The Mariners nominees are Robert Dyer, an active-duty Marine Corps aviation officer stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy, Danny Gabriel, an Army veteran from Lacey, and Phil Kiver of Cheney, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.
Robert Dyer, a highly decorated combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is also an entrepreneur. He and his Special Ops Marines came up with the idea for a nutrition product called RuckPack that offers vitamins and energy without caffeine. The company Dyer and fellow Marines founded hires veterans and active duty military and channels profits back to military charities. RuckPack has donated more than $15,000 to organizations such as the Navy SEAL Foundation and Wounded Warriors.
Danny Gabriel of Lacey, left a post-military career in civil engineering to pursue a social work degree in order to help wounded veterans combat mental and emotional suffering. In 2006 he founded Wounded Veterans Fishing Program, which uses fishing as an adaptive sport to boost self-esteem; that in turn builds their morale, self-confidence and awareness. Through donations and Gabriel's personal finances, the organization provides 20 fishing trips a year.
Phil Kiver of Cheney is an Eastern Washington University graduate who served in the Washington Army National Guard. He volunteered with the Army and served in Iraq as a combat photographer. With repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier and contractor, Kiver served with valor and distinction. Kiver has written several books about his experiences and volunteers at his local Veterans Administration Hospital in support of suicide prevention and awareness. He is also active with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Kiver works for the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Along with MLB and PEOPLE, a Guest Panel including General Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and General John M. "Jack" Keane (retired) alongside MLB players Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians, Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox, Brad Ziegler of the Arizona Diamonbacks, Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres and Craig Stammen of the Washington Nationals assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists.
The "Tribute for Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org, powered by MLB.com), an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, 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 (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with "Centers of Excellence" at university hospitals throughout the country.
As part of its 2013 charity initiative, "PEOPLE First: Help America's Veterans," PEOPLE is partnering with Welcome Back Veterans and other nonprofit organizations that are committed to providing assistance to military men and women, and will feature them in multiple editorial stories in PEOPLE throughout 2013.
Currently, Welcome Back Veterans funds programs at the University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, Weill Cornell in New York City, UCLA and the Boston Red Sox Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital in Boston. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and TBI treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.