Because We Care

Reprinted from PN January 2010

Veterans Day is more than a time to attend a parade or remember those who fought for our freedom—it’s when we can honor and celebrate all generations.

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It may have been a chilly,rainy day at Arlington National Cemetery amphitheater, near Washington, D.C., but the welcome was warm for Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) National President Gene A. Crayton, who joined President Barack Obama, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and other dignitaries on the podium. This year, PVA had the honor of hosting the national Veterans Day observances and celebration.

Crayton addressed the assembled veterans and their families, as well as the nation, through the many national television and radio networks covering the event.

“November 11 is a day to celebrate all generations of veterans and their families,” he noted. “Together, all generations of veterans form a diverse group. We represent our nation’s firm commitment to advancing freedom and democracy. Together, all veterans form a network of leadership, support, and inspiration for each other. Maybe it’s that battle buddy from another generation who is the first person you see when you wake up in that hospital bed—ready with a word of encouragement and vital help to obtain the quality healthcare and benefits you’ve earned to get back into life.”

He captured what was in the hearts and minds of those in attendance who had worn the uniform: “This Veterans Day, like millions of others who have had the honor to wear the uniform, I am deeply proud to be a veteran. On behalf of those who served and those who will serve, thank you for caring about us.”

President Obama expressed his gratitude to our nation’s veterans:

“To Gene Crayton, president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, thank you for being here,” said President Obama. “And to all the veterans service organizations for the extraordinary work, day in, day out, on behalf of our nation’s heroes.

“That is my message to all veterans today. That is my message to all who serve in harm’s way. To the husbands and wives back home doing the parenting of two. To the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war, and the children who wonder when mom and dad are coming home. To all our wounded warriors, and to the families who laid a loved one to rest. America will not let you down. We will take care of our own. And to those who are serving in far-flung places today, when your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you will be home in an America that is forever here for you just as you’ve been there for us. That is my promise—our nation’s promise—to you.”

Earlier that morning Crayton and his wife and PVA National Executive Director Homer S. Townsend Jr., along with the leaders of the other veterans service organizations, joined the president and vice president, as well as their wives, in the White House for breakfast.

Senior Vice President Bill Lawson represented PVA at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Call to Action

PVA Senior Vice President Bill Lawson represented the organization at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

On Veterans Day, President Crayton issued a call to action to the American public, urging everyone to honor all veterans in every community across the nation.

“We encourage all Americans to take time out of their busy schedules to do something good for all generations of veterans and their families. And beyond Veterans Day, please take a minute to think about other opportunities to make every day, a day for veterans. Thank you, America, for always caring about us.”

To take his words to heart, activities for Veterans Day and beyond can include the following:

  • Everyone: Thank veterans for their service. It means more than you might think. And volunteer for veterans year round.
  • Leaders: From the President and Congress to our mayors, always use your leadership to help empower veterans and their families.
  • Architects: Including wheelchair accessibility in your designs improves everyone’s quality of life.
  • Employers: Hire more paralyzed veterans. By doing so, they get good jobs and careers in a tough economy, and employers get great employees.

Movie Hero & Real Life Hero

Movie star Ben Affleck filmed a television and radio public service announcement (PSA) for PVA. The new PSA features Affleck and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran James Crosby, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), who was paralyzed in a rocket attack while serving in Iraq. To see the PSA, go to PVA Affleck.

“Many actors have played the part of U.S. servicemen in the movies, but for veterans such as James Crosby…service and his sacrifice for our country are real,” says Affleck in the PSA, which was formally launched to coincide with Veterans Day.

After only a month of duty in Iraq, Crosby’s truck came under rocket attack and he was hit in the back by flying shrapnel, which pierced his intestines and spine. In critical condition with severe internal bleeding, Crosby was rushed to a local base and then evacuated to Germany before he was sent back home to the U.S.

“When I woke up in the states, they told me I was paralyzed,” Crosby said. With help from PVA, Crosby is now living a full and productive life. “I made it back, and I was lucky to have help. I say, ‘Thanks, PVA; I could not have done it without you.’”

Academy Award winner Affleck, who played U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Rafe McCawley in the 2001 drama Pearl Harbor and Jack Ryan in the 2002 thriller The Sum of All Fears, shot the PSA with Crosby in Boston earlier this year.

“We are delighted to bring Ben and James together for our new public service announcement,” said Crayton. “We hope that through the airing of the PSA, millions more people will hear about our work to empower America’s paralyzed veterans and their families, and will want to join our effort.”

Reception Honors All Who Served

PVA had the privilege of hosting the national Veterans Day reception. The event brought together all the veterans service organizations and some special guests, including VA Secretary and former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Shinseki, Korean War veteran and space program pioneer Buzz Aldrin, and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Andrew Pike and his family.

A highlight of the event was the award presentation to the winners of PVA’s sixth annual Veterans Day Poster and Essay Contest. Brianna Ewing (Fort Mitchell, Ky.) won the grand prize for her poster submission, and Kristen Brennan (Chicago) won the grand prize for her essay entry. Students were asked to submit posters and essays that expressed the theme “Veterans Day: Why I’m Grateful for Our Nation’s Veterans.”

Ewing, a student at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, and Brennan, who attends St. Cajetan Catholic School, traveled to Washington, D.C., with family members to attend the  Veterans Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Congratulations to Brianna and Kristen for their winning entries. They did our nation’s veterans proud,” said Crayton. “I want to thank all those students who entered the contest. As you might expect, all the entries were inspiring, heartfelt, sometimes humorous, and always deeply touching.”

PVA launched the contest as a way to creatively and actively involve the nation’s youth in the celebration of Veterans Day and to promote greater awareness of America’s 26 million veterans and the sacrifices they have made to ensure the freedoms we enjoy daily.

The winners from each grade category are:

  • Poster (1st & 2nd grade): Noah Dobbins, McNair Elementary School, Fort Bragg, N.C.   
  • Poster (3rd & 4th grade): Savana Chabert, Holy Rosary Catholic School, LaRose, La. 
  • Essay (5th & 6th grade): Casey Wilson, Patrick Henry Elementary School, Arlington, Va.
  • Essay (7th & 8th grade): Gracie McDermott, Kiski Area Intermediate School, Vandergrift, Penn.

Each of these category winners received a plaque of recognition, a $100 educational gift certificate, and a plaque for their school acknowledging their achievement.

To view all winning entries, visit PVA Poster Essey.  

Honor Our Veterans!

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Library of Congress Veterans History Project have a special message for all Americans: Honor our veterans. By recording the oral histories of our veterans, we preserve the human face of American history for generations to come and honor those who swore to protect and defend the U.S. To record their stories, submit them at

For Our Heroes

Wish For Our Heroes Foundation grants wishes to active servicemembers and their families. The organization strives to relieve burdens like family separation, reintegration for deployed soldiers, hardship circumstances, etc., not covered by existing military charities. Wishes range from sending a soldier and his or her spouse on a honeymoon they never had to buying groceries for a family of six.

Contact: Wish For Our Heroes



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