We asked you to share the stories of the brave heroes in your life, and every story we received made us pause and revere each life that is put on the line for all of us. We are grateful. This Memorial Day Weekend, we hope you’re inspired by these stories. Congratulations to all those selected, we hope your new fire pit reminds you of how much you’re appreciated.
Joe, from his peers and friends
Joe is a kindergarten teacher in Austin, TX who served not only as a Marine but in other government agencies. He received a whopping five nominations! Here’s what you love about Joe and his devotion to service:
“Joe is an amazing kindergarten teacher and devotes his time and energy into teaching a class of rambunctious five year-olds. He has empowered my daughter with laughter and kindness, and has truly been an incredible influence in her life by teaching her academics and character.” — Jessica G.
“Joe is an amazing man, he is so loving and kind. He does so much for these sweet little kids. He has the biggest heart I know.” — Ashley B.
“Joe is an incredible testament to living a life of service. He not only served his country in the military, he then became an outstanding kindergarten teacher. He has had a huge impact on my son, Easton, and has shaped the lives of so many children. —Cara A.
“Joe works above and beyond. He is my son’s kindergarten teacher and former service member. My son has some delays, and Joe works overtime thinking of ways to help my son overcome.” — Mazy A.
“Joe is always going the extra mile to teach his students. It’s rare to see a male kindergarten teacher and role model in the teacher world for that grade. His former students love him so much. I’ve never seen a teacher get more hugs in the hallway. He goes by “Kindergarten Cop,” but he’s more like their hero.” — Daniela N.
Alberto, from Kelly H.
Alberto is a Marine Corps veteran, and was inspired to join when he was seventeen years-old. Alberto fell in love with photography during his time in active duty, and has since developed a career in photography. Most of his time is spent volunteering to teach photography to other veterans. Alberto also serves with the Josephine Herrick Project which offers free photography programs to students in NYC and the rest of the state.
“Alberto is a dedicated patriot. Having been born to immigrant parents, his desire to give back to the country that offered his family hope came at age seventeen. While serving in active duty, Alberto began shooting photos. He was deeply moved by the power of photography to capture story and emotion in a fraction of a second. He quickly learned he was better suited to shoot a camera than a rifle. Over the past few decades, Alberto’s career largely includes selfless volunteer time teaching the art of photography to veterans from all walks of life. Alberto’s passion, humility, gratitude, and dedication to our nation is evident in how Alberto lives.”
Bradley, from his wife, Stacy
Bradley is a retired Master Sergeant of the United States Air Force, who served for twenty-one years. Bradley is a selfless person who devotes his life to providing for his family. Here’s what Bradley’s wife, Stacy, says about him:
“Bradley loved serving our country and sacrificed a lot of time away from our family. He is so selfless, he took a job right away for the pipeline, again sacrificing time away from our family. But, he did this so I could quit my job as a nurse and stay home with our two girls, ages thirteen and seven.”
Carl, from Laurel
Carl is a husband, father, and a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. Carl entered the Marine Corps right out of high school and has served in several combat tours since. Carl and his wife recently fostered three children so they wouldn’t be separated in the foster care system. Read more about what Carl’s mother has to say about his son:
“Carl is a husband and father and takes both roles very seriously. Carl and his wife recently adopted three children, all related, so they wouldn’t be separated in the foster care system (they have three children on their own). Carl has made this work seamlessly, even during the pandemic. Carl and his wife have blended six kids into a family. Carl is a great Marine, loving husband, and dad. Carl knows the value of family.”
Dana and Donnie, from their friend, Kelly
Dana and Donnie met while serving together in the Navy. Their friend, Kelly shares their story:
“Dana and Donnie are two of the hardest working people I know and deserve this recognition for their service! I’ve worked with Dana for over eighteen years and she is a true patriot. She and her husband, Donnie, met while serving together in the Navy. Donnie is now a firefighter for the City of Virginia Beach, and continues to put his life on the line for the safety of others. I can not think of a more deserving family.”
Danielle, from her sister-in-law, Elizabeth
Danielle is a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force whose service to her country inspired Elizabeth to write to us:
“Staff Sgt. Danielle happens to be my sister-in-law. She recently was marked active after battling breast cancer. Even through the chemo and doctor visits, her heart was set on returning to serve her country. Her wedding is currently set for later this year and we hope that it happens with the current pandemic overshadowing. She moves base-to-base with her job, and I feel like this would be a perfect ‘Thank You’ gift for her.”
Jamie, from his wife, Nicole
Jamie has served our country for over twenty-two years, and has been deployed overseas eight times. Jamie’s wife, Nicole, shares this special message:
“Jaime is not only our hero (myself and our daughters’), he’s also my husband. He has served this great country for over twenty-two years and is still going strong! Every day he puts his blood, sweat, and tears into his job, but then turns around and does the same thing one-hundred times over with our family. In total, he has deployed eight times overseas, and he will be the first to tell you that it is a drop in the bucket compared to what other families have sacrificed. He will also be the first to tell you, and it’s shocking coming from a guy who had flown countless combat missions, that he loves coming home and being led downstairs to his daughter’s playroom to sit there for hours playing with Barbies or Paw Patrol with his daughter. He truly loves what he does and we can’t be more proud of him. I’ll leave you with this parting story. He has been thanked thousands of times for his service. It wasn’t until I was with him one time that I realized the weight of it. A gentleman came up to him and thanked him for his service. Jaime said, “You are worth it.” That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Jeremy, from his friend, Karla
Jeremy is a Master Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force who has served two overseas tours in Qatar. Karla met Jeremy and his wife, Ashley, while she worked with Ashley as a nurse fifteen years ago. Karla shares this about Jeremy.
“Jeremy is a fourteen-year active serviceman in the Air Force. In the last year, in addition to serving our country, he is also helping his seven year-old son, Mason, battle acute leukemia. Since Mason is immunocompromised, it has been difficult for the Fannin family to camp like they used to. Jeremy’s sacrifice to our nation should be celebrated.”
Larry, from his daughter, Aimee
Larry served in the United States Air Force for more than twenty-five years while raising a family of four. One of Larry’s daughters, Aimee, writes to us about her father:
“Larry is my dad. He was a career Air Force officer serving more than twenty-five years active duty. He and my mom are at this moment moving into their final retirement home at the age of seventy-five. It’s been extremely difficult as the virus has kept us from being able to physically help them. He has been there for all of us in each of our moves, grandkids’ births, and other life events. During my battle with cancer, he drove down to Kansas City from Rapid City for every surgery and round of chemo. He would stay for two weeks or a month at a time. Last summer he went once again to San Antonio to help my brother and family pack and prep for their move to Germany (another Air Force family!). He has mentored so many people during and after his career and continues to welcome them into his home regularly. Larry Converse served his country in more places than I can list stateside, as well as several years in Thailand and Spain. He taught me (and so many others) how to honor your country and family, and to always put people first.”
Madeline, from her friend, Toni
Madeline is a 2020 graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy, and her friend, Toni, shares just how proud of her she is:
“Madeline has worked hard and maintained a strong Coast Guard ethic throughout her schooling and enters the service as an Officer. While writing this, I am watching her graduation online. Due to the pandemic, they are not able to have live graduation. This is heartbreaking due to this year being the fortieth anniversary of women graduates in the Coast Guard. Her class has the most women graduating in its long history. Madeline is proud to be a part of the ‘Long Blue Line,’ and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”
Mike, from his wife, Emily
Mike has served in the United States Army for eighteen years, and who better to tell his story than Emily:
“My husband was last deployed in 2004 to Iraq where he was wounded by an IED and later awarded a Purple Heart. This past January, we received orders that he will be redeployed to the Middle East for the better part of a year. Like so many families, we have been emotionally and financially impacted by the pandemic. While our extended family has been fragmented and we remain isolated from our loved ones, this crisis has also afforded my husband and me the impossibly unique and precious opportunity to enjoy uninterrupted family time with our three young sons. We, of course, fear for what the future will bring, for the safety of my husband, and the missed milestones for our boys. Be we also cannot be more grateful for the time at home together we have right now. While we navigate his time away to the best of our abilities, we also could not be prouder of the sacrifices he’s made for our family and country.”
Mike, from his son, Sean
Mike spent twenty-two years in the Air Force and now devotes his life to helping other veterans like himself. Sean shares this about his dad:
“My dad is one of the most hard-working people I know. He has done twenty-two years in the Air Force, and even though he’s retired he still works hard to help his fellow veterans by running a non-profit called,’Healing Paws for Warriors’ that trains service dogs to be able to let veterans live a better life.”
Nile, from his friend, Sharon
Sharon has been Nile’s neighbor for over twenty years wants to share this about Nile:
“Nile McCoy is an amazing man. He’s the closest thing I have to a dad and my kids have to a grandfather. I even named my son after him. Mr. Nile is a 100% combat-wounded Vietnam Marine veteran, and he’s survived more obstacles and challenges than just war. He is deserving or more than he’ll ever receive and too humble to admit it.”
Sarah, from her husband, Matt
Sarah served in the Marine Corps and has gone on to overcome obstacles to achieve some truly amazing feats in sports. Sarah’s husband, Matt, can’t help but boast about her:
“My wife, Captain Sarah, USMC (Retired) is one amazing mama and disabled veteran. She was medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after developing a rare neurological disorder that prevented her from finishing flight school and becoming an attack helicopter pilot. She is a World Champion in two sports and an amazing mother of our two wonderful sons, Tyler and Kyle. In March 2020, she won GOLD in her division at the International Surf Association’s Para Surfing World Championships and helped Team USA secure the silver medal in the team competition. She also is on the U.S. Development Sled Hockey team and helped them win the World Championship this winter. When she is not busy kicking butt, she is being super mom to our two amazing sons.”
Shane, from his mother, Karen
Shane serves in the United States Air Force, overcoming odds in order to serve his country. His mother, Karen, could not be prouder when she says:
“Shane struggled as a child to fit in with most of his classmates due to having Asperger’s Syndrome and being color blind. Shane applied for the Air Force before he even graduated high school. He struggled with basic training due to side effects of his disability, yet graduated at the top of his flight during basic training. He has excelled in his job as Load Master. He served two tours overseas and thrived in the environment. I’m so proud that my son looked his obstacles in the eye and overcame his fears to proudly serve our country!”
Steven, from his friend, Kristina
Steven is a veteran who spent ten months on the USS Abraham Lincoln during the start of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Kristin works with Steven and his wife and can’t help but tell us such great things about Steven:
“Steven sacrificed not being home for his daughter’s first year of life after leaving for war. He is now married, has six children, and works as an aviation engineer on fighter jets. He works extremely hard to support his family, including two children and wife with chronic medical needs and a child with special needs. In my time working with this family, we have come to know Steven and are in complete awe. Steve appears to be the average Joe at first glance, but Steve is nothing like the average Joe. He balances taking time off of work to help care for their children with medical and special needs. Steven is what America is made of. We all need to be like Steve.”