One of the winners, Brian Taylor Urruela of Tampa, FL, will be featured in the July 22 issue of PEOPLE, which hits newsstands nationwide on July 12. Urruela is a Purple Heart recipient who helped start VETSports, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive sports opportunities for returning wounded and combat veterans.
Inspiring stories include heroes from multiple branches of the Armed Forces ranging in ages from 26 to 92 years-old (World War II through Afghanistan). Heroes being honored include: Brad Snyder of Bethesda, MD, who won two gold medals, a silver medal, and set a number of American records for the USA Paralympics swim team at the 2012 London Games; David Patterson of Rio Rancho, NM, awarded the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor, is a Native American who took part in every Marine assault in WWII as one of the Navajo Code Talkers; Margo Parker of Tucson, AZ, the first woman in California to enlist in the military after Congress passed a law allowing women with children to join; Brian Hicks of Pike Road, AL, an amputee who completed 35 triathlons and 8 marathons; and Joe Kapacziewski of Upatol, GA, who made history by becoming the first Army Airborne Ranger to return to combat after an amputation. All stories can be found at TributeForHeroes.com.
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, who were then voted on by fans to select the 30 winners.
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.