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 Washington Nationals are proud to announce the three finalists selected to represent the team: John Belcher, Lori Kelly and Julie Weckerlein. Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com to vote for the local military service member they would like to see represent the Nationals at the All-Star Game. Voting runs through June 30.
One honoree from each of the 30 MLB Clubs will be included in All-Star Week festivities and recognized during the pregame ceremony leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16 on FOX. One of the 30 honorees will also be featured in the July 22 issue of People, which hits newsstands Friday, July 12, the week of the MLB All-Star Game.
John Belcher: John Belcher of Tunkhannock, Pa., served honorably for nearly 10 years as a Marine with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, earning numerous citations and medals for his bravery in combat. After his discharge, John began his career helping veterans. He interned for U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta (PA) and after only a few months was promoted to serve as the office's Veteran Affairs Representative. In this position, he helped more than 600 veterans work through issues with Veterans Affairs. After a year, John was again promoted to his current position of District Director, where he continues to aid veterans. Additionally, John has served as the Veterans Service Officer with his local American Legion post.
Lori Kelly: "Service Before Self" is how Lori Kelly of Alexandria, Va., lives. Lori has served in the Air Force for 23 years and has earned many decorations throughout her career. She was recently named a Chief Master Sergeant select and handpicked to serve as the Senior Enlisted Aide to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Larry Spencer. Lori works frequently with the Honor Flight program, recently escorting a group of 102 WWII veterans from Alabama to all of the memorials in Washington, D.C. The single mom also volunteers frequently at DC Central Kitchen, a food recycling and culinary training organization, and is an Assistant Scout Master and a Band Mom at her son's school.
Julie Wickerlein: Julie Weckerlein of Centreville, Va., served 13-plus years in the Air Force with assignments in Germany, Italy, Ohio and at the Pentagon, as well as deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat correspondent. As a public affairs non-commissioned officer, she shared the Air Force story through print and photography. A proud wife, mother and long time blogger, Julie has been interviewed on military and veteran matters by news outlets including NBC and CNN. She now works in social media for the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., where part of her job involves raising awareness for veteran employment opportunities.
Along with MLB and People, a Guest Panel assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists and included General Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and General John M. "Jack" Keane (retired) as well as MLB players Craig Stammen (Washington Nationals), Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers), Nick Swisher (Cleveland Indians), Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants), Jonny Gomes (Boston Red Sox), Brad Ziegler (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Chase Headley (San Diego Padres).
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.