Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that supports and empowers injured veterans, held a virtual Veterans Day program titled “Honoring Our Veterans” on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
With so many public gatherings curtailed or canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the broadcast was a way to encourage Americans to celebrate the contributions of U.S. veterans while at home.
Hosted by Jesse Palmer, a former NFL quarterback and current football analyst for ESPN, the program included musical performances by country music star Sara Evans and the a cappella group Straight No Chaser.
It also included compelling veteran tributes. At one point in the program, Ponte Vedra resident and retired U.S. Army staff sergeant Dan Nevins connected with four members of his former unit who helped save his life after he was injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On the day before Veterans Day 2004, Nevins was driving a Humvee in Iraq when an IED detonated under the vehicle. His injuries ultimately forced the amputation of both his legs. He went on to work with the Wounded Warrior Project and became a yoga instructor.
Wednesday, he shared the screen with Dan Smee, Mark Hicks, Carter Skillman and Buck Garrett, all of whom were there on that fateful day – men Nevins now calls his brothers.
“For me, Veterans Day is perfectly celebrated exactly like this,” Nevins said. “Getting to connect with my brothers. I wouldn’t trade a single second, a single miserable second of a single miserable day of all that time that we spent together.”
Also featured was Jacksonville resident and Korean War veteran Ted Walton, who spoke about the needs of veterans and how happy he was that Jacksonville was getting more VA care with a new facility.
Wounded Warrior Project public relations specialist Rob Louis said the virtual celebration went well.
“It was an opportunity to highlight different generations of veterans while also giving us a chance to celebrate the veteran population and do it in a manner that anyone could take part,” he said.
In addition to the virtual celebration, the organization was represented in the Jacksonville parade. Wounded Warrior Project had a float, and a group of veterans rode bicycles, representing the nonprofit’s Soldier Ride program.
“Throughout my time as an NFL player and broadcaster, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many active servicemembers and veterans alike, whose integrity, valor and bravery continues to inspire me to this day,” said Palmer. “It is an honor to celebrate the brave men and women who have served our country, and I am looking forward to hosting this special program with Wounded Warrior Project that commends their service and sacrifice.”
Palmer is also scheduled to host Wounded Warrior Project’s Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner in 2021.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to honor our brave U.S. veterans and support the impactful work of Wounded Warrior Project,” said Evans.
“Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project has been a tireless advocate for our nation’s finest, improving the lives of post-9/11 warriors and their families, and empowering veterans to live their best lives,” said organization CEO Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Linnington. “While this Veterans Day looks different than in years past, we are committed to honoring our nation’s heroes and hope you will tune in to our virtual celebration.”
Though Veterans Day 2020 is past, the celebration can still be seen on the nonprofit’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHSRlAbaN_0&feature=youtu.be and on its Facebook page, facebook.com/WWP.
To see interviews with U.S. Air Force veteran Shameka Alejandro and U.S. Army veteran Adam Bagby at the parade site, go to https://photos.app.goo.gl/uYfPBocECXLfSs6L8.
For more information on Wounded Warrior Project, go to woundedwarriorproject.org.