Nearly 300 of Miami’s top athletes, celebrities and philanthropists came together with returning servicemen and women at the Miami Beach Fontainebleau Resort Sunday to raise awareness for the challenges that face veterans returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat, spoke at the gala event about the impact of soldiers writing to him from Iraq during the Heat’s 2005-2006 season and NBA Championship. As he received more and more letters, including many pictures of Miami Heat paraphernalia alongside tanks, machine guns, and other images of military life near the frontlines of war, Riley recognized the team’s responsibility to also support the soldiers sacrificing so much of their lives for America.
Riley led efforts to begin honoring returning veterans at Miami Heat games and has since recognized over 500 soldiers in a team commitment to help make sure they return home strong. His leadership, along with active support from team owner Mickey Arison, has brought Miami Heat players to Florida military bases, VA hospitals, and elsewhere to offer generous support to meet America’s sacred trust to our military families.
Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat power forward who joined the team this season, hosted the event and talked about his respect for America’s returning veterans.
Speaking alongside his fiancée, Adrienne Williams, the five-time NBA All Star and National Honor Society member said that protecting freedom is more important than basketball. He shared his respect for the men and women who service America and encouraged the community to actively support efforts to help them when they return home.
Chaplain Cartus Thornton spoke with guests at the gala about the challenges facing Coast Guard members and their loved ones after deployment. Chaplain Thornton has served multiple combat deployments and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and National Defense Service Medal. He recently completed training at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia to lead PAIRS retreats that were recognized by the Veterans Administration in 2009 as a Best Practice for their positive impact on military and veteran couples affected by combat deployment.
At the event, I spoke with Pat Riley, Chris Bosh, Mickey Arison and others about the positive impact PAIRS programs are having helping returning veterans reconnect with loved ones and reducing the impact of combat stress. Rachel Schindler was on hand to also provide information to gala attendees about services available in the community and throughout the nation to strengthen marriages and families impacted by combat deployment.