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Justin Verlander makes a pitch to celebrate veterans and their service

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Justin Verlander, the longest tenured player on the Detroit Tigers and one of its winningest pitchers, hopes to hit a grand slam when his foundation, Wins for Warriors, teams up with Fifth Third Bank to put on an awesome party/run/parade/celebration to honor Detroit’s veterans and their families on November 6.

The Fifth Third Armed Service Salute will be held at Hart Plaza on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day to honor veterans who protect us all from harm. It will include an overall Vets Fest celebration, the inaugural Fifth Third 4Star 4Mile Race, a Veterans Day parade and entertainment hosted by 94.7 WCSX Detroit’s Classic Rock.

L-R: Justin Verlander , Fifth Third Bank Marketing Director and Senior Vice President Jack Riley and Brigadier General David Bassett, U.S. Army, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, answer questions at a press conference announcing Verlander's foundation, Wins for Warriors, and Fifth Third Bank are teaming up to honor local military families . Photo: Steve Fecht

L-R: Justin Verlander , Fifth Third Bank Marketing Director and Senior Vice President Jack Riley and Brigadier General David Bassett, U.S. Army, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, answer questions at a press conference announcing Verlander’s foundation, Wins for Warriors, and Fifth Third Bank are teaming up to honor local military families.
Photo: Steve Fecht

“From the time I got in the Major Leagues I’d make a point of shaking hands with the veterans who came to our games,” Verlander says. “They have protected the freedoms many of us take for granted every day. I started this foundation to empower both veterans and local organizations that support military families.”

He seeded the foundation, with $1 million of his own earnings. Since its inception in 2013, Wins for Warriors has granted more than $650,000 to projects supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of veterans and their families.

Vet Fest activities run from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and “will be free and friendly,” Verlander says.

The 4Star 4Mile Race starts at noon at Hart Plaza. The cost is $35 for the general public and $25 for veterans. Click here to register by November 4, at 11:59 pm to take part. All proceeds from the race will support Wins for Warriors Foundation and the Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition.

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The 11th annual Veterans Day Parade, organized by the Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition, begins at noon. It will include Detroit high school ROTC members.

“We’re glad to be part of this effort,” says Edward Tuggle, director of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Detroit Chapter 9, who plays an active role in organizing the parade with the help of Fifth Third Bank, which is underwriting its costs.

Plans include the parade walkers coming from one direction along Jefferson Avenue and meeting up with runners from the opposite direction who would converge on Hart Plaza for a salute and celebration.

The goal of the event is to honor and celebrate all our veterans.

“My father, brother and I all served,” says Vet Fest board member J. J. Tighe, president and CEO of Michigan Fitness Foundation and an Iraq war veteran. “I’m fortunate to do what I am doing in my career and I want to give back to other veterans.”

J. J. Tighe, president and CEO of Michigan Fitness Foundation

He hopes Wins for Warriors can help bring awareness to the gaps in veterans’ services through events like Vet Fest and streamline efforts to get help for health care.

“We’ve never really valued our veterans enough, especially the Vietnam Veterans,” says Brigadier General David Bassett, noting this period of military engagement was especially hard on the troops.

He spoke with a full compliment of veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq, and combat zones around the world who  served during the last 40 years.

“Our military community in southeast Michigan is strong, and those who’ve wanted to thank a veteran for his or her service, this is a great way to do it,” Bassett says.

He notes that Detroit has contributed much to the war effort. The city was known as the Arsenal of Democracy during Word War II when car plants were turned into munitions factories and it maintains that strong military support today. The TACOM operation in Warren designs and builds motor vehicles for combat efforts. 

Verlander says the Vet Fest has been his dream since he founded Wins for Warriors to help veterans regain their emotional well-being and live a resilient life. He hopes his organization can serve as a switchboard for the myriad of services and organizations veterans can use. The partnership with Fifth Third Bank is a step in the right direction to help with organizational costs, marketing and a volunteer base needed to realize that dream.

For more information see www.winsforwarriors.org.

– Top photo by Steve Fecht

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