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Phoenix non-profit champions changing attitudes towards veterans

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Though there is still plenty to do re: homelessness, lingering unemployment, and unresolved health issues, Americans have progressed a lot from the 1970’s when our soldiers were reviled. Those, who risk everything to keep war from our shores and protect our freedom, are finally getting the respect they are due. One of the many examples was Military Family Appreciation Night, which was held on March 29, 2014.

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Linking Sports & Communities (LSC), which seeks to enhance the relationships among athletes, sports organizations and communities, began to solicit respect for military personnel in 2004, when it presented the first Pat Tillman Community Leadership awards to athletes, organizations and students making significant contributions to their communities. Luke AFB and the Marines have provided honor guards for LSC events, and free attendance is provided to veterans and active service personnel.

“But it is sad that most of us go about our daily lives debating the merits of Duck Dynasty or worrying about our NCAA brackets,” says Denise Meridith, President of Linking Sports & Communities, a non-profit headquartered in Phoenix, “while so many families are worrying about their spouses, children and other relatives, who are in combat every day.”

In response, LSC hosts annual Military Family Appreciation events to provide families networking, relaxation and fun. All the professional sports organizations have participated (e.g., Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) hosted VietNam veterans to a NASCAR race, Luke AFB families got to watch the Suns practice). This year was the Coyotes’ turn: thirty military family members from Glendale Community College attended a reception at Saddle Ranch Restaurant, then watched the Phoenix Coyotes battle the Minnesota Wild for a playoff spot.

Glendale Councilman Gary Sherwood and Cameron Colvin, a former San Francisco 49ers and CEO of Rise Above Enterprises, greeted them. John Conklin of Fairway Mortgage described how his company helps veterans get mortgages. Scott Koehler of FastSigns on Central donated the banner and provides welcome banner for returning soldiers. Other sponsors included Press Coffee Food & Wine and Denise Meridith Consultants.

When once colleges shunned the military, they now welcome veterans. The Veteran Service Center at Glendale Community College is only one of two designated Veteran Supportive Campuses in Arizona. “Events like those sponsored by Linking Sports & Communities mean so much to our students and staff,” said Chris Spicer, GCC Veteran Advocate.

The public can support LSC by visiting their 2014 Crowdrise site.

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