The Tampa Bay Lightning certainly celebrate Veterans, and we here at Bolts By The Bay would like to do the same. In previous games the Bolts have honored Veterans in various ways, have given monumental donations to Patriotic organizations, and even honored them as Community Heroes. Here are a few: Dr. Edie Dopkingwho founded Quantum Leap Farms, which helps veterans and civilians with mental health and physical disabilities. Bruce Fyfe was the first honored this year. The loss of his son who died at the age of 24 from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving three tours in Iraq, has made it his life’s goal to help other veterans to not suffer a similar fate. He started a housing program called ‘Campaign to Bring our Veterans All The Way Home’. His goal is to supply assistance to our brave returning soldiers who are psychologically and physically scarred by their experiences. Retired Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan was blinded as part of several severe wounds that he acquired when he hit a road side bomb in Iraq. He uses his own experiences to educate other veterans about the use of guide dogs by countless speaking engagements for veterans’ groups, membership in the Blinded American Vets Foundation, as well as serving on the membership board of the MedVets Charitable Foundation. Corporal Jernigan has played a key role in providing free non-prescription preventative treatments for veterans who use the assistance of service dogs. His Community Heroes money was donated to Southeastern Guide Dogs, who have the wonderful program Paws For Patriots. These are just a few of the veterans that they have honored. Please take a moment to read each of their stories, and donate to their causes if you’re able. The Bolts sponsor and donate ice time to the Veterans Hockey League , a new league that I hope takes off in a big way. Be sure to follow them on Twitter for updates, and like their Facebook page. The Lightning organization also physically volunteer their time in different ways. For example, and this is just a few, the Lightning Girls have helped pack packages for Treats For Troops. Through Operation Helping Hand, I had the privilege of serving wounded veterans dinner at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, representing my American Legion Auxiliary post and an organization that my son and I founded, Our Stand For Freedom, on a night where the Lightning were also there. Many different employees and Lightning Girls served that night. They could have easily let the rest of us do the work while they mingled and talked with these wounded heroes, but instead they were on their feet working the entire time. We were there for a couple of hours.
This isn’t supposed to be an article about the great things that the Lightning are doing for Veterans, though I do thank them greatly. This is to simply say THANK YOU to ALL Veterans, past, present, and future. It’s because of you that I have the freedom to sit at my desk at almost midnight on a Sunday night, after a long day of driving to Bushnell to visit my grandfather at Florida National Cemetery, and write this blog. Because of the Veterans we have so many things that we take for granted. And I thank you. I can’t say it enough. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent. I don’t care if you are anti-war or you support the war. Please, support our troops and thank a Veteran the next time you see one.