Shortly after returning from Iraq, Kevin Burciaga learned he was a perfect bone marrow match for a complete stranger. Without hesitation, he flew to Washington DC, donated his marrow in a week-long procedure, and then spent his birthday in the ER as a result of the procedure. The patient fully recovered and is now close to Kevin and his wife. While in Iraq, (9/07-9/08), Kevin was on the Incident Response Team, doing the dangerous work of detonating IEDs. Kevin, who lives in Upland, Calif., coaches a YMCA league basketball team, but his favorite volunteer job is with Young Marines, a program that helps kids stay off the streets and out of trouble through community service and a focus on education.
A proud active duty member of the Air Force, 25-year-old Cory Kamerschak is dedicated to country and community. While the Lancaster, Calif. resident was studying and working endless hours to make Staff Sergeant, he volunteered for a 120-day Force Protection deployment. He is now Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the Commander Support Staff at Edwards Air Force Base. While deployed to Iraq, Cory, who enlisted in 2009, put in 300 volunteer hours in 120 days with the USO and received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Once home, he immediately volunteered as Airman Team Captain for a Relay for Life event in the city of Tehachapi, Calif. He is also on the Edwards AFB Medical Control Center Response Team and spent last Thanksgiving weekend working for a homeless shelter.
Multiple medal recipient Ryan Canada, with his various Military Working Dogs (MWD) has worked alongside the Secret Service protecting The First Family, foreign dignitaries, and heads of state. In Kuwait with MWD Hyko, he kept a base of over 25,000 personnel safe by performing random anti-terrorism inspections, vehicle inspections, and responding to bomb threats. With MWD Fredy in Afghanistan, he found three IEDs and four weapon caches, saving countless military and civilian lives. In addition to coaching T-ball, Ryan has participated in joint training with Italian MWD handlers in Sicily, teaching and learning new tactics and training. The Groton, Conn., resident has conducted numerous MWD demonstrations for base personnel and community members about the vital role MWD teams play. He has trained with local police departments in the States to improve MWD team skills and to improve the working relationship with local units.
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.