Major League Baseball and 'PEOPLE' magazine today announced the 90 finalists, three per MLB Club, for the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members and builds upon MLB and 'PEOPLE' magazine's commitment to honoring our country's heroes. The three finalists for the Chicago Cubs include Richard Bennett, Jim Wagner and Richard Casper. Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com to vote on their favorite stories through June 30th.
One winner from each of the 30 MLB Clubs will be included in All-Star Week festivities and recognized during the pre-game ceremony leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16th on FOX. A "Tribute for Heroes" winner will be featured in the July 22nd issue of 'PEOPLE,' which hits newsstands Friday, July 12th, the week of the MLB All-Star Game.
The following are the three Chicago Cubs finalists:
Rich Bennett, of DeKalb, Illinois, served in the Army's 101st Airborne Division. During a deployment to Afghanistan, Rich's unit came under fire on a daily basis. While on an air assault mission to the Korengal Valley, Rich, with no thought for his own safety, ran 35 meters through heavy enemy fire and threw himself on the platoon's fallen medic to shield him from further wounds. Heavy fire continued all around as Rich pulled his fellow soldier to cover. That solider is now recovering from his wounds. For his actions, Rich was awarded the Silver Star. He says he only did what any of his fellow infantrymen would have done. Rich is now pursuing a bachelor's degree at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and hopes to work with the Wounded Warriors Project after graduation. He is also Vice President of the Veterans Club at Northern Illinois University which works with the local VFW and American Legion to support local veterans.
Jim Wagner is a living example of honor. Wounded in action in Vietnam, instead of going home after his extensive wounds were treated, he returned to his outfit, where he served the remaining months of his tour of duty.
He received the Purple Heart for his wounds, valor, and bravery. In 2009 the Dubuque, Iowa, resident founded Operation We Care, which helps honorably discharged vets. In 2011, he founded a veterans community center. And he's president of Give a Lift to a Vet, which supplies a new van every 2-3 years for transporting veterans to and from medical appointments.
Richard Casper of Chicago survived four different IED explosions during his tour in Iraq as a marine. But despite sustaining PTSD and traumatic injuries to the left side of his brain, he calls himself "lucky," because those injuries caused the right side, the creative side, of his brain to become dominant. He'd never expressed himself through art, but now he enjoys all art, focusing on ceramics and photography. After his return to the United States, Richard graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and started CreatiVets, a non-profit for disabled veteran artists and writers, a charity that helps wounded vets through art and music.
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 Diamondbacks, 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 three 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.