Gen. Wesley Clark, Congress Members launch “Beyond Tribute” to redefine Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day to support Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury
Sex & The City’s Kim Cattrall Is National Spokesperson; Advisory Board Includes Walter Cronkite, Judd Apatow, Bob Balaban, Frank O. Gehry, Gore Vidal, Whoopi Goldberg
Washington, D.C., May 22, 2009 – Gen. Wesley Clark, former Presidential candidate and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, believes that far too many Americans tend to view Memorial Day not as a time to honor the sacrifices made by those who have served in the military but as a day to take advantage of retail sales and kick off summer at the beach.
That is why he joined today with members of Congress, veterans’ groups and returning American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at a press conference here in the nation’s capital to launch “Beyond Tribute,” a first-of-its-kind national grassroots initiative designed to transform Memorial Day, as well as Veterans’ Day, back to their original intention and leverage both holidays to raise awareness and support for the hundreds of thousands of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other neurological afflictions.
Among the press conference participants were U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Georgie Carter-Krell, national president of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in service to our country; Iraq war veteran Sgt. Charles Eggleston, who is striving to cope with PTSD and TBI, and his wife Pamela; and actor/director/producer Bob Balaban, a spokesperson and member of the Honorary Board of Advisors of “Beyond Tribute.”
“I have seen at close hand how those who have experienced war are profoundly affected by it,” said Gen. Clark. “Indeed, long after the actual combat is over, thousands of courageous men and women return home only to find themselves fighting another battle – the battle to reclaim their civilian lives. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day we need to go beyond mere tribute to these veterans; we have a solemn obligation to see that they receive the services and support they need. That is the mission of Beyond Tribute, to ensure that these two holidays provide meaningful support to our returning veterans, and particularly those who are suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other so-called ‘invisible wounds of war.’ It is a mission that I wholeheartedly endorse and am honored to be a part of supporting here today.”
Hundreds of thousands of Armed Services veterans – including some 300,000 from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – suffer from PTSD, TBI, and other related ailments. As a result, their rates of unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, family conflict, and suicide are alarmingly high.
On the two national holidays designed to commemorate the sacrifices and service of these men and women, “we need to do more than merely say, ‘I support them,'” said Matthew Boulay, a former Marine who served in Iraq and has undertaken a leadership role in developing the new grassroots initiative. “We need to go beyond mere lip-service; beyond tribute.”
Added “Beyond Tribute” co-founder Paul Schneeberger, a director and writer, “In the same way that President Obama has now permanently rededicated the Martin Luther King holiday to be a day of volunteer service, this is a national grassroots initiative designed to transform Memorial Day and Veterans Day into occasions of tangible benefit for our service men and women and their families.”
To do so, “Beyond Tribute” is partnering with major retailers, sports teams and theme parks across the country to raise awareness of veterans’ issues during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. Moreover, it is encouraging supporters, approximately four million people from participating veterans, civic and community groups, to patronize its corporate partners which endorse Beyond Tribute’s “Making Memorial Day Matter” campaign.
Participating national, regional, and local retailers and other businesses – including the theme park company Six Flags – will be donating a portion of sales during the Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day holiday weekends. Companies can opt for a straight percentage of sales, donations derived through special coupons, direct contributions, and point of purchase contributions for the cause.
“This is a natural program for retailers and businesses across the country to leverage,” said “Beyond Tribute” co-founder Walter Stugis, an executive at the Institute for Nonprofit Excellence in NY. “They already have Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day promotions. This will drive incremental sales, while actually benefiting wounded veterans in need. It’s the classic cause marketing ‘win-win’.”
Gen. Clark is a member of the “Beyond Tribute” Honorary Board of Advisors. Other members are legendary financier and World War II veteran Jerome Kohlberg, who provided seed money for the organization; actor/writer/director/producer Bob Balaban; “Sex and the City” star Kim Cattrall, who is the national spokesperson; director/writer Judd Apatow; author and Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes; broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite; architect Frank O. Gehry; actress Whoopi Goldberg; military analyst Jack Jacobs; Matt James, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation; entertainment executive Tom Leonardis; Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan (NY) Chamber of Commerce; Harry Pregerson, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth District; philanthropist Mitzi Perdue; Sonny Vaccaro, president of Vaccaro Sports; author Gore Vidal; and media executive Curt Viebranz.
Gen. Clark and the other participants at today’s press event encouraged all Americans to sign an online pledge demonstrating their support for the men and women of the Armed Services by seeking out and frequenting businesses, companies and events that are working with “Beyond Tribute” to help provide vital services for veterans who continue to suffer the wounds of war.
“Beyond Tribute” has identified three organizations committed to these efforts: U.S. Vets, the largest non-profit organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless and at-risk veterans and a nationally recognized leader in the field of service delivery to veterans; the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families to assist in their successful reintegration into their communities.
Among those veterans who are fighting to reclaim their lives is Sgt. Charles Eggleston of Bowie, MD. Recently retired from the U.S. Army, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient recounted at the press conference his ordeals from serving two tours in Iraq and as a Warrior in Transition (WIT) at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he has received treatment for the past three years. With his wife Pam by his side, he related the various injuries he incurred, the most recent in Mosul in 2005. He had just returned to Iraq after some “R & R” when his unit was hit by an IED blast. The other six soldiers in his unit didn’t survive.
Not only was he physically wounded, he began suffering from PTSD and “mild to moderate TBI. My wife, who herself suffered from sleepless nights and weight gain, during my two tours, felt like her heart was ripped from her chest. But she quickly became my caregiver. Yet, she had no experience in dealing with the visible and invisible wounds of war, and she had no support from the Army.”
“I quickly learned what I needed to know through the internet and in searching out other military families to get us through the tough times,” Pamela Eggleston said. “Due to the trials and tribulations that my husband went through, we are now both advocates for military families. It galls us that stores treat the military as simply an advertising hook to get people to come for Memorial Day sales. It’s time for them to give something back. That’s why ‘Beyond Tribute’ is so vitally necessary.”
Interested consumers and businesses can also log onto the Beyond Tribute website – www.beyondtribute.org – to sign the pledge demonstrating their support of veterans. The pledge reads: “Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day need to be more than holidays that merely pay tribute to veterans; they should be meaningful days that truly benefit the men and women who have risked their lives and sacrificed their health and well-being in the line of duty. I pledge to seek out and support businesses and events that participate in Beyond Tribute over the Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day holidays, because I know my support will help provide vital services for veterans who are suffering the wounds of war.”
Six Flags, one of the first national companies to endorse “Beyond Tribute,” is offering an online “Everyone Pays Kids Price” coupon for admission to all domestic Six Flags properties from May 22 through May 25, with one dollar of each ticket redeemed going directly to “Beyond Tribute.” “Everyone Pays Kids Price” offers a savings of up to $30 per ticket off the regular adult admission price, making fun more affordable for families.
Participating parks include Six Flags America in Bowie, MD; Six Flags Texas in San Antonio, TX; Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, TX; Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ; Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka, MO; Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL; Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA; Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, KY; Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, GA; Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA; Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA; and The Great Escape in Lake George, NY.
In addition, designated Beyond Tribute volunteers will be on site, encouraging park guests and signing a pledge demonstrating their support of the men and women of America’s Armed Services.