Spreading Wings Gala Honoring American Fighter Aces

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More than 500 guests turned out for the 2016 Spreading Wings Gala Saturday, November 5 at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Lowry to honor more than a dozen American Fighter Aces, extraordinary veterans who have distinguished themselves among the elite in aerial combat.

The event honored veteran aviators from all primary branches of the U.S armed forces. Throughout aviation history during World War II, Korea and Vietnam these heroic pilots possessed the skill, fortitude and courage to survive combat missions and return home.

Emcee Amelia Rose Earhart introduced the honorees who were presented with their awards by Wings CEO Greg Anderson. Their heroic stories are told in “Wings of Valor” a book that immortalizes the individual stories of the nation’s top aviators.
Among those honored were:
Col. Bud Anderson
Col. Abner Aust
Lt. Col. Henry Buttelmann
Col. Richard Candelaria
Col. Dean Caswell
Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland
Capt. Richard Fleischer
LCDR Fred “Buck” Dungan
Brig. Gen. Frank Gailer
Cmdr. Lester Gray
Cmdr. Willis Hardy
1st Lt. James Luma
Ens. Donald McPherson
LCDR Billy Watts
Capt. David Wilhelm

For more information visit: www.wingsmuseum.org

For the Love of Our Troops XII: THFC Hosts MAJ Lisa Jaster

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If there’s two things that The Home Front Cares and guest speaker MAJ Lisa Jaster have in common, it’s love of military service and perseverance.

MAJ Jaster talked frankly to a large audience at the Broadmoor Hotel on Friday night about that little “tickle” in the back of her mind that was always there beneath the service, calling her to achieve new heights, not only for herself but as a woman in the military. Jaster is only one of three women to graduate the US Army Ranger program–a next-to-impossible feat for anyone (36% of male and female students fail within the first four days alone). She did it through persistence and incredible hard work.

The Home Front Cares exists to help military families who might be in a predicament–can’t find a job after returning from service, can’t pay a mortgage payment while deployed…but each client has that same quality of perseverance.

Founded in 2003 by two retired Air Force colonels, Bob Carlone and Joe Henjum, THFC knew that the transition between military service and civilian life is not easy. THFC has raised more than $8.5 million to help Colorado veterans and their families.

For more information and how you can become involved, log on to www.thehomefrontcares.org.

The Home Front Cares Veterans Cup 2016

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As one golfer at The Home Front Cares Veteran’s Cup tournament mused, “I’d like to live here!” –such was the sentiment from the participants in the tournament once again held at the beautiful Sanctuary (presented by Re/Max) golf course in Sedalia.

With the waterfalls, sweeping vistas, glorious views and challenging tees, the participants didn’t really care how they golfed–it was enough to be in such a magnificent place, have fun, and support such a great cause.

As if spending the day in as close to Nirvana as you can get in Colorado, the golfers later enjoyed a scrumptious buffet served up by Sanctuary staff and learned who the winners were in the tournament. Executive Director April Speake welcomed everyone, and major supporter Jay Warwick (who consistently gives not a portion, but ALL of his designated day’s sales at his HuHot Mongolian Grill to THFC) told attendees why he does this–according to him “it’s just something you do…it’s not optional.”

Most tournament and prize winners donated their prizes back to veterans in attendance. It’s just another way to thank them for their service.

The Home Front Cares provides emergency and responsive support and grants for Colorado’s military members, veterans and their families, who have been impacted by service to our Nation. In fiscal year 2016, they provided over $400,000 in grants in Colorado to more than 300 veterans, service members and their families.They provided resource coordination to over 1,200 clients so that they could find the emotional, financial or vocational hope and help they needed to get back on track. Whether it’s a utility bill or a car installment or a house payment, veterans need not feel alone and often the assistance that THFC gives is enough to give them that step up to be OK.

It’s the least we can do for those who serve for us and our country, and as Jay Warwick reminds us, “it is not optional.”

For more information about THFC, log on to www.thehomefrontcares.org.

TAPS, 11th Annual Colorado Celebrity Classic

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TAPS. Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Don’t be confused. This organization is for families who find themselves alone to suffer the loss of a military family member. Be it from battle or the results of raging emotions living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). It is real. You can be assured, Bo and Lynne Cottrell, organizers of the event, are guardian angels watching over TAPS. They give tirelessly to TAPS all year and continue to work to the bone for this annual fundraising event.

Every year TAPS brings a heartfelt tribute to our fallen soldiers and, to those left behind – children, spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews. TAPS was founded by Bonnie Carroll whose late husband, Brig. Gen Tom Carroll, was killed in a National Guard plane crash. Her story is like every one else’s. Left alone with a huge hole in her heart, no one to understand the trauma of losing a beloved soldier. She had to continue to live and in order to save her family she had to create a new life.

After receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, she said, “Grief tries to make us smaller, to keep us from moving, to restrict our freedom to believe in what matters. As a TAPS family, we show people that when they think there are no more options, there is hope.”

Saturday night’s benefit remained true to character, defined by good music, enthusiastic supporters, lip-sucking, grilled ribeye’s cooked by Coors Chuckwagon Cowboy Club. The band, Wildfire, played everything from Al Green to God Bless America, enhancing a beautiful tribute to all soldiers defending our freedom. Band leader, Tony David received a Volunteer of the Year award.

The western themed event was held at the Ranch of Cherry Creek. Owner Steve & Marla Grove opened their working ranch to over 400 supporters. The state-of-the-art horse stalls and arena were cleared and clean as a whistle as it welcomed the TAPS families to celebrate the 11th year in true red, white & blue patriotic fashion.

Many of us live our daily lives without realizing the effects of war. But for those who live it hourly, daily, and try to continue life without their loved ones, TAPS is their savior. Since its founding, TAPS has assisted more than 55,000 surviving family members, casualty officers and caregivers. The National Military Survivor Helpline 1-800-959-TAPS (8277) receives an average 955 calls per month. Callers talk to a live person who offers compassion, support and assistance to families of America’s fallen military.

T*A*P*S. 3033 Wilson Boulevard, Suit 630, Arlington, VA 22201. 800-959-TAPS, 202-588-8277, www.taps.org

 

 

 

VFW Post 1 Commemorates 116th Anniversary

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Lt Col Barry Bridger (Ret) asked a poignant question at the VFW First Post 116th anniversary dinner: what is it about service men and women who survive the crucible of war and return with honor?

There’s a special quality about fighters who defend our country. We’ve seen it in first responders, we see it in prisoners of war, we see it in those who return with battle scars, mental and physical. Yet we see it, time and time again.

Mr. Bridger was one of several prisoners of war present at the VFW dinner at the Brown Palace Sunday night, including Mike McGrath and Orson Swindle, all spending several years in the “Hanoi Hilton.” He gave a resounding speech about integrity, values and strength of character.

Speaking of which, everywhere guests turned there were honored guests. Medal of Honor recipients Drew Dix and Hiroshi Miyamura were in attendance. MOH recipient George “Joe” Sakato, who just passed last week, was fondly remembered by attendees and commemorated by 12 blue roses (daughter Leslie was in attendance). Donald Sturm received the Citizen of the Year award. Captain Christopher Cassidy received the Jack Swigert Aeronautical and Astronautical award, with Captain Scott Kelly joining by video from the International Space Station. Freddie Sprankel was named the Ray Starkey Member of the Year. Julian Scadden received the Irving Hale award for his work at the bedside of dying veterans, called the 11th hour. Post Commander Michael Mitchel gave the Commander’s Award to Dyanna Aragon and her daugther Sierra in honor of Pete Aragon, who recently lost his battle with cancer.

And as if all this wasn’t enough to portray the incredible amount of honor present in the room, guests got a special treat in meeting Rob O’Neill, Navy SEAL Team Six member who stormed the compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden and also was part of the team who rescued Captain Richard Phillips. O’Neill had the crowd laughing out loud as he talked about some of the surprises he encountered in SEAL training, and gave a rare glimpse into the camaraderie that exists on military missions. One has to wonder how he keeps his mind busy after days like that.

The VFW program stated “we reaffirm our commitment to support the men and women currently in uniform, veterans from all walks of life, our patriotic organization and the United States of America.” There’s no doubt that our freedom is in good hands.

THFC Veterans Cup Tees Off at (*cue heavenly music*) Sanctuary

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After a sunny start to this year’s Veterans Cup tournament, the severe-weather horn sounded mid-round and play was delayed for an hour by a fast-moving, lightning-filled rainstorm. But the 120 players and supporters of The Home Front Cares easily took it in stride. After all, they were at heavenly Sanctuary, playing the most coveted round of golf in Colorado.

Event emcee/honorary chair Troy Calhoun with THFC's executive director April Speake

Event emcee/honorary chair Troy Calhoun with THFC’s executive director April Speake

On Wednesday, July 1, golfers and guests descended on Sedalia to support the cause, mingle, play on the pristine Sanctuary course and simultaneously take in spectacular Colorado-centric views. THFC and Sanctuary staff readily took care of everyone’s comfort in style—players could chow on meals, on-course snacks and beverages throughout the day. Denver’s KEZW (AM 1430) radio was broadcasting live on the scene as golfers checked in and grabbed brunch, and it was all golf until the weather-horn sounded. A portion of golfers hunkered in shelters on the course, while others were close enough to the clubhouse to relax and maybe down a beverage or two before play resumed.

USAF Academy's head golf coach George Koury (left) with cadet golfers Brenden Bone and Troy Berglund

USAF Academy’s head golf coach George Koury (left) with cadet golfers Brenden Bone and Troy Berglund

Throughout their round, all golfers had three opportunities to win a car, putt for prizes and also use a stellar drive from a member of the USAFA golf team for a mere $50 donation. One cadet said most of their drives were in the 370- to 410-yard range. (Seriously!) The USAFA Football foursome of Troy Calhoun, Clay Hendrix, Dallas Massey and Mitch Mann defended their Veterans Cup title once again with the low score of the day.

After golf, guests perused a silent auction, checked their tickets against prize-winning numbers, then sampled a buffet of delicious selections prepared by Sanctuary catering. USAFA head football coach (and tournament co-champion) Calhoun spoke to the crowd and served as emcee for golfer awards. Event chair Bob Peterson and THFC’s Executive Director April Speake also offered remarks during the dinner program.

Golfers head out to the course for the last eight holes.

Golfers head out to the course for the last eight holes.

Veterans Cup results:
First Place
USAFA Football
Dallas Massey
Clay Hendrix
Troy Calhoun
Mitch Mann

Second Place
Tasman Geosciences
Brandon Bruns
Jim Dawe
Brian Humphrey
Mike Lindstrom

Third Place
United Launch Alliance
Danny Collins
Clint Winterling
Bob Wernke
Burhan Muzaffar

Last Place
Combat Veterans
Mike Lovett
Matt Spang
Fred Hinton

Men’s Long Drive
Bill Stahlin

Women’s Long Drive
Vivi Gloriod

Closest to the Pin
Tad Polumbus

Putting Contest
Len Jenkins

The Home Front Cares primarily provides emergency and responsive financial aid to Colorado service members, veterans and military families. The vision: That the THFC emergency financial bridge provides hope for a brighter future to Colorado service members, veterans and their families. The organization provides emergency financial grants to pay essential life expenses like rent and utilities.THFC is unique among nonprofits as it acts quickly–grants are often the “last save” that can keep a veteran from homelessness, or reconnect utilities for a military family whose power is already turned off. Since 2003, THFC has raised more than $7.5 million to help thousands of Colorado veterans and military families. Currently, some 98 percent of THFC clients are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and have served in harm’s way, while the others remain on active duty in Colorado. Clients come from all corners of the state, with more than 25 percent from metro Denver. Last year, THFC provided grants to about 375 military and veteran families, and provided referral services for more than 1,000 others, helping them find the financial, emotional and other counseling or aid they need.

The Home Front Cares receives no government funds and relies solely on donations to operate. For more information, please visit http://www.thehomefrontcares.org/.

TAPS: Saluting our Fallen Heroes Dinner Concert and Auction

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Tears are shed everyday for our brave military members that are no longer with us. While coping with such grief is tremendously difficult, loved ones of those lost should know that they are not alone on this journey.

Since 1994, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has provided support services to family members of those who served in the military and died due to diverse causes. This unbelievably remarkable organization of caring individuals has already made a significant impact in the lives of over 50,000 surviving kin, casualty officers and caregivers.

To continue serving the families of America’s fallen military, TAPS relies on the ongoing support of generous sponsors and individual donors. On Friday, June 26th, at Steve Grove’s Ranch at Cherry Creek in Centennial, CO, the organization hosted their uplifting annual event, Saluting our Fallen Heroes Dinner Concert and Auction. This country-western barn party was an exceptional display of patriotism, camaraderie and compassion.

The dinner is part of a series of events known as the Colorado Celebrity Classic, which lead up to a golf tournament at the esteemed and exclusive Eisenhower Golf Club at the US Air Force Academy. The Colorado Celebrity Classic is in its 10th year, and proceeds fund the Colorado Good Grief Camp Out near Fort Carson in August. This camp is specifically designed for children, 6-17 years of age, grieving the loss of a parent or sibling in the Armed Forces. Since 2006, this established fundraising event has raised more than $3 million, thanks to volunteers, celebrities and supporters.

Guests enjoyed delicious comfort food prepared by the Coors Cowboy Club “Chuckwagon Crew.” For eight years, these hospitable cowboys have come from Amarillo, Texas to serve their famous pit-roasted prime rib dinner and divine banana creme pudding. The mouthwatering spread always entices people to come back for seconds and thirds.

The evening’s entertainment included a number of talented artists: WildFire, John Adams and his critically acclaimed John Denver Tribute Band, country singing sensation, Carin Mari, as well as Nashville songwriters, Billy Montana and Frank Myers.

In addition to the unbelievable lineup of talented musical artists, celebrities involved in the Colorado Celebrity Classic included Bubba Gilliam (Blazing Saddles), Billy Van Heusen (Broncos player), Gen. Gene Renuart, USAF (Ret), Mike Rosen (850KOA Radio Talk Show Host), and many other well-known individuals.

To support TAPS, call 303-696-0450 or contact Lynne Cottrell at lcottrell@TAPS.org. Learn more about the organization and upcoming events at www.taps.org.

TAPS Hosts Nashville Super Stars

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Local Celeb’s Jump on Stage to Honor Soldiers

That’s right. Peter Boyles, Jake Jabs, Ralph Achilles, Dave & Rachel Preston and Johnny Neill performed before a packed house at the Radisson Hotel Southeast last Friday night.

Adding to the rockin’ stompin’ song filled night of music was the centerpiece: a lovely, heartfelt song written for the occasion, “I’m Here For You,” by Frank Myers & Billy Montana. The sentiment held center stage as the theme of the May 1, 2015, gala, TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Arriving in Denver for the songfest was a bus load of Nashville’s finest songwriters. They graciously took the stage in a Nashville tradition of trading songs and stories. The  Nashville-ites who came to entertain were superstar songwriters Billy Montana, Brett Jones, Frank Myers, Danny Wells and Jimmy Nichols.  

This somber yet joyous night in southeast Denver rang with laughter, friends and songs. Military officers, families and supporters were bursting with pride. Local comedian, author and songwriter, Ralph Achilles, brought his motley jug band to the stage. It was almost as big a hit as Garth Brooks (well sort of). The group’s performance added a lively rhythm to the evening and, make no mistake, guests were sufficiently entertained and impressed with the talents of Denver’s own Jake Jabs and Peter Boyles. Bo Cottrell, organizer of TAPS, was suffering from a bout of laryngitis and had to bow out from his usual jovial participation. Though silent, he was brilliant on stage directing and egging on his friends and cronies.

The event was a toe-tapping night, but in all seriousness, the hundreds of supporters were there for one reason, to raise money for soldiers and their survivors. All donations will allow children to attend TAPS Camp-Out for young survivors; support the National Military Survivor 24/7 Helpline; the National Good Grief Camp; Grief Resource kits for bereaved military families; backpacks and camp materials for children attending the Good Grief Camp; and, free TAPS Survivor Guide, the primary resource for grieving military families.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors has helped more than 50,000 survivors of soldiers who died while serving our country. TAPS receives no government funds and events such as Friday night’s keep the program alive. Everyone was proud to say, it is alive through generous donations from supporters of TAPS.

To support TAPS call 303-696-0450 or contact Lynne Cottrell at lcottrell@TAPS.org. There are events scheduled for the spring and summer including the TAPS Memorial Day Concert, Friday, May 25, 2015. Check out the lineup at www.taps.org/classic.

Wings Over the Rockies Tribute to a Fighter Pilot-Gen. Ron Fogleman

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This year’s Wings Over the Rockies annual Tribute to a Fighter Pilot event honored retired USAF General Ronald R. Fogleman, who within two decades rose from a combat fighter pilot in Vietnam to the head of the U.S. Air Force at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The informal event was held Friday, October 10 at the Wings museum. With just over 100 in attendance it was a small gathering like an officer’s club get-together, with many distinguished and retired military personnel wearing olive green flight suits.

Wings CEO/President Greg Anderson introduced speakers and thanked donors and sponsors including Rolls-Royce and the Anschutz Foundation. Major General John Barry–now CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Denver–and Major Gen. Mike Edwards gave introductory remarks before Fogleman took the podium in front of a F-100 Super Sabre jet fighter.

Early in his career in Vietnam he served as a forward air controller in Operation Commando Sabre F-100 of the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing with the call sign MISTY. The team’s mission was to fly fast and low over enemy territory to identify enemy targets and call in strikes from Air Force and Navy fighters over S. Vietnam. Fogleman was shot down in Vietnam in 1968 but was rescued shortly after.

Also addressing the guests via Skype was Aviation Hall of Famer Dick Rutan, 76, an aviator who piloted the Voyager aircraft around the world, as part of a 9-day non-stop flight with co-pilot Jeana Yeager in 1986. That plane now is on display at the Smitsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Gen. Fogleman entertained the crowd with a variety of stories including a being a reckless youth drinking beer all day which led to a mentor suggesting that he join the Air Force. To much laughter and applause, he recalled several military antics throughout his 34-year military career.  As part of his retirement plans he invested in a Pueblo port-o-potty rental company which, he said, made good use of his transferrable skills from the many years working with politicians in Washington, D.C. Afterward, Gen. Fogleman was presented with a poster with signatures from friends, family and comrades in arms.

Among those attending were: Tom Hartmann, Senior VP of Rolls-Royce; Col. Mark Hyatt; Col. John Penney; Tamarack Aerospace CEO Michael Schneider; Arapahoe County Commissioner Bill Holen; Colorado Pilots Association President Ann Beardall; and several other MISTY pilots and retired military brass. Also in attendance was last year’s honoree–Lt. Col Bob Beabout–who chatted with Jennifer Clinkscales, President of Colorado’s Air Force Association, and Phil Ecklund. Col. Paul “PK” Robinson and Brigadier Gen. Roger Carleton enjoyed dinner with Jane Fogleman.

Now 72, General Fogleman graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963 and performed combat duty as a fighter pilot and high-speed forward air controller in Vietnam and Thailand. Among his many accolades are the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. A 1963 graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy, he holds a master’s degree in military history and political science, Duke University. A command pilot and a parachutist, he has amassed more than 6,800 flying hours in fighter, transport, tanker and rotary wing aircraft. He flew 315 combat missions and logged 806 hours of combat flying in fighter aircraft.

In 1994, Fogleman became the first graduate of the Academy to advance to Chief of Staff of the Air Force. On October 9 of this year the Air Force unveiled a bronze bust in his likeness at Scott Air Force Base near Bellevue, Illinois. As part of his legacy he introduced a simplified code of conduct called the “Air Force Core Values”, which demands “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.”

For more information on Wings Over the Rockies events and programs visit wingsmuseum.org.

As part of its annual events Tribute to a Fighter Pilot signature event the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum honored retired USAF General Ronald R. Fogleman.

Also addressing the guests via Skype was Aviation Hall of Famer Dick Rutan, 76, an aviator who piloted the Voyager aircraft around the world, as part of a 9-day non-stop flight with co-pilot Jeana Yeager in 1986.

Now 72, General Fogleman graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1963 and performed combat duty as a fighter pilot and high-speed forward air controller in Vietnam and Thailand. Among his many accolades are the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1994, he became the first graduate of the Academy to advance to Chief of Staff of the Air Force. On October 9 of this year the Air Force unveiled a bronze bust in his likeness at Scott Air Force Base near Bellevue, Ilinois.

As part of his legacy he introduced a simplified code of conduct called the “Air Force Core Values”, which demands “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.”

For more information on Wings Over the Rockies events and programs visit wingsmuseum.org.

 

TAPS 2014 Celebrity Classic--Songwriter's Night

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We’re all too familiar with the scene: a mother, wife or loved one hears the doorbell and the dreaded news is waiting on the other side: their loved one has been killed in action. The grief is immeasureable and the pain seems insurmountable.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) was formed by Bonnie Carroll in 1994 to try to help and heal the pain. Her own husband was killed in action and she knew there was a huge need for resources for those left behind. Through 24-hour peer assistance lines to grief camps to trauma resources, TAPS has become a nationally known “port in the storm” for surviving family and loved ones. They have assisted more than 50,000 surviving family members, casualty officers and caregivers.

Now in it’s ninth year, the Colorado Celebrity Classic helps to raise funds for TAPS. On Thursday night, the Songwriters Show kicked off the event with some of Nashville’s – and California’s – finest songwriters. This exceptional show featured Frank Myers, Eddy RavenJimmy Nichols, Walt Aldrich and Danny Wells, plus two songwriters who are also current film and TV actors, Gregg Henry and Bruce Greenwood. 

The Classic continued with a golf tournament and a chuckwagon barbeque on Friday. For more information on TAPS programs and how you can get involved, log on to www.TAPS.org.

Veterans for Veterans at the Impulse Theatre

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“Veterans for Veterans” was produced by veterans, and the entertainers are all veterans.

Underneath the Wynkoop Brewery is a little known theater space called Impulse Theater. It was the perfect setting for a private comedy show/event benefitting our military troops overseas.

Lindsay Kough, managing director of the Stewardship Family Office, along with Thomas Kimball and his production crew, created a delightful and hilarious evening featuring local comedians – each having served in the U.S. military, here and abroad. Comedians Will White, Peter Cohen and Sam Adams performed rowdy, colorful, original comedy fit for a Saturday Night Live skit.

First up was Will White, born in Oklahoma. He told the audience why he loves Denver. “You know I love it here, there are so many gays in Denver. I figured it out. They might as well be in the Army. They stay in shape, keep very neat apartments and, once a year they march in a parade.”

Peter Cohen, a Denver native, laughed about our northern Colorado neighbors. “I spent six months in the Middle East. It made me appreciate Greeley.”

Sam Adams, the event’s headliner, and former Rocky Mountain News/Denver Post sports writer turned stand-up comic and author, poked fun at himself. “Growing up I was Steve Erkel. When I got in the army, I was cool, man.”

Adams joked about his numerous gigs in Nebraska. “Ever been to Cabela’s? It’s Victoria’s Secret for hunters.”

The show was filmed to be sent to the troops overseas. Each comedian and emcee, MSG Thomas Kimball (who was pretty funny himself) saluted and thanked them for their service.

It was a great evening of laughter and a heartfelt tribute to our service men and women.

 

Gold Star Wives Banquet a Grand Finale to National Convention

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With a combination of military protocol, the warmth and camaraderie of shared experiences, plus the added theme of “Color Yourself Colorado” hospitality, this year’s Gold Star Wives Grand Banquet lived up to its name for 250 attendees. The event, held at the Renaissance Denver Hotel on Saturday, July 13, was a fitting finale to the five-day, 68th annual Gold Star Wives national convention. A brief rain storm turned the hotel parking garage into a shallow Lake Renaissance for a bit, but that wasn’t enough to deter arriving guests, dressed up and ready for an enjoyable event.

The evening began with a cocktail reception and silent auction before the crowd adjourned to the ballroom for dinner. Gold Star Wives were escorted to their tables to by Young MarinesColorado Air Patrol Cadets, as well as friends and family members. Music was provided by the 101st Army Jazz Combo, from Buckley Air Force Base. United States Marines of the 453 Combat Logistics Battalion, also from Buckley AFB, presented the colors, and Jazmyn Gaylord (daughter of SSgt Gaylord, active duty, 743MI BN), sang the national anthem. Janet Snyder, GSWA national chaplain, led the invocation.

Emcee James Gillespie immediately shared his civilian status with the crowd, and admirably hosted the program without a hitch. Outgoing national president Jeanette Early gave a shout-out to Colorado hosts and reminisced about her term in office. NORAD commander, Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., and Brig. Gen. Robert W. Enzenaur, assistant adjutant general space, Colorado National Guard, also addressed the crowd and honored the Gold Star Wives in their talks. Special GSW quilts were presented to Wilma Turney, widowed since 1943, and Adri Loughmiller. The evening ended with award presentations and an installation for new national officers, including incoming GSWA president, Harriet Boyden.

Gold Star Wives of America is an organization of widows and widowers whose spouses lost their lives while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or died as the result of a military service-connected disability. Gold Star Wives was formed during World War II, and Eleanor Roosevelt was a memberand one of the original 15 signers when the organization was incorporated in the State of New York in 1945. It is a nonprofit national military widows’ service organization chartered by the United States Congress.

The primary mission of Gold Star Wives is to provide service, support and friendship to these widows and widowers, also assisting survivors in understanding and obtaining benefits. The organization works with Congress, the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans’ service organizations to improve and enhance benefits for survivors.

TAPS 8th Annual Celebrity Classic

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The grief and trauma surrounding the loss of a loved one takes a deep toll, and if anything can begin to help the families of fallen heroes, it is the programs of TAPS–Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Founded by force-of-nature Bonnie Carroll in 1994 when she lost her husband in a military plane crash, TAPS provides love and support from mentors and others who have been through similar experiences. From the Good Grief camps to the Tragedy Assistance Hotline to TAPS care packages to regional survival seminars, TAPS provides resources to help families through the toughest times. As one child put it: “therapy can help you…TAPS can love you.”

TAPS has assisted more than 40,000 family members. Unfortunately, an increasingly prevalent and equally as devastating dynamic is death of a military hero by suicide. TAPS programs are there to help any family members who need it, regardless of the circumstances of the death of their loved one.

General (Ret.) Mark and Carol Graham lost both of their sons to military-related deaths. They gave a very moving speech on stage during the TAPS Celebrity Classic evening Friday night, and emotionally told the story of how their sons Jeffrey and Kevin died, and how TAPS helped them through.

If there was one theme consistently present throughout the Celebrity Classic weekend (which also included golf on Saturday at the Air Force Academy Eisenhower course), it was that people wanted to come together to see how they could support TAPS, how they could pay tribute to those who serve our country, and how they could support each other.

Organizers Bo and Lynne Cottrell once again orchestrated a phenominal weekend, with the Friday night classic incorporating a slightly different progam this year. Tony David, Pam Hughes and Kerry Edwards(Wildefire) began the entertainment during the reception, followed by the incredible songs of The Legacy Quartet, poignant and entertaining songs by nationally known artists/writers Brett Jones and Darryl Worley, longtime supporter and great artist Gary Morris and the hilarious comedy of Gary Mule Deer(“I’ve changed my name–I used to be called Elizabeth Mule Deer.”) Then the program culminated with the legendary Michael Martin Murphey singing his popular hits, including “Carolina in the Pines” and of course “Wildfire.”

It was once again a truly memorable evening, and brought home the sentiments that one of the survivor children said: “blood is thicker than water, but TAPS is thicker than blood.”