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 San Francisco Giants include Gil Calac, Jarom Vahai and Jose Jauregui. 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.
Branch of Service: US Army
Duration of Service: 6-10
Hometown: White Swan, WA
Gil Calac of White Swan, Washington, has done much for veterans since he served in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star for meritorious service. Calac, a member of the Paiute/Mission tribe of Susanville, California, and his wife, Valerie, a member of the Yakama Nation, live on the Yakama Indian Reservation. Before retiring, Calac worked as the Center Director of Fort Simcoe Job Corps Center. He is also a member and cultural leader of the Yakama Warriors Association, a veterans organization. As an honor guard member, he participates in flag ceremonies and burials of deceased veterans. Calac was instrumental in getting a Vietnam Veterans Day proclaimed in Washington State, working for months with Representative Norm Johnson. Now each year, March 30 is Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
Branch of Service: US Marines
Duration of Service: 6-10
Hometown: San Bruno, CA
Jarom Vahai of San Bruno, California, was hit by explosives five times in Iraq. The 33-year-old ex-Marine has brain trauma, severe nerve damage, and walks with a cane. Vahai has seen some 80 of his friends die in U.S. wars, but he endures. The 2011 California Veteran of the Year is researching mathematical links between pyramids around the world and Stonehenge for a book he is writing. Vahai has been recognized by state assembly member Jerry Hill for his work helping veterans receive training and finding jobs. Vahai has also served as President of the Skyline Veterans Club, worked on the Veterans Advisory Committee for Congresswoman Speier, and for the Veterans Employment Committee San Mateo.
Branch of Service: US Army
Duration of Service: 1-5
Hometown: Stockton, CA
In April 2005, in Ramadi, Iraq, the blast from an exploding enemy mortar sent a fireball into the open door of a tank. Three soldiers were killed in the blast. The only survivor was 19-year-old Jose Jauregui, who suffered third-degree burns over 76% of his body. Jauregui was given only a 3 percent chance of survival and was hospitalized for nearly two years. He endured over 100 surgeries and underwent extensive therapy. A Stockton, California, resident, Jose still receives treatment at UCLA. He remains optimistic and humble, dedicating much of his time to others. At the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he volunteers for fundraisers. At the American Legion and Welcome Home Heroes, Jauregui interacts with other veterans, helping them rejoin life after military service. He also volunteers helping to restore an old ship called the USS Lucid, which will eventually offer tours. Funds from those tours will benefit veterans in need.
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.