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The Warriors We Serve

The Gold Star is a symbol of a loved one lost in combat. Gold Star Mother’s and Family Day is observed on the last Sunday in September and honors the mothers and families of fallen military service members. The history of National Gold Star Mother’s Day and their families began with a young country thrown into the midst of a great war. Army Captain Robert L. Queissner, whose two sons were serving on the front line during World War I, created what is now called the Service Flag. The flag was displayed with a blue star to represent a child serving in the military during times of war. When a service member died, families stitched a gold star over the blue star. Today, we express our gratitude to these families and the strength and courage they represent.

From its humble beginnings as the Signal Corps in 1907, the U.S. Air Force has become the largest air power in the world. The official Air Force Birthday is recognized as September 18, 1947, the date of the passage of the National Security Act, which created the Department of the Air Force. For over a century now, the U.S. Air Force has defended this country in the air, space and cyberspace through the skill and the bravery of American Airmen.

Warriors: Then & Now ** Meet Second Lieutenant Dan Hansen, U.S. Marine Corps ** Warrior Foundation Freedom Station is proud to present Warriors: Then & Now, a special series dedicated to stories of impact. While our foundation is known for helping ill and injured warriors, we are also proud that our work expands even further to inspire, influence and encourage young men and women to serve their country. Dan Hansen knew he wanted to be in the military from the time he was 12 years old and attending Black Mountain Middle School in San Diego. He had always been very close with his grandfather, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, and his uncle, a Marine Cobra pilot who had deployed multiple times. Dan and two of his best friends enrolled in the Young Marine program, where they got an incredible amount of exposure to service members, which only strengthened his resolve to one day join America’s fighting forces. “Growing up, my mom did an amazing job of describing the amount of sacrifice that our service members make,” says Dan. “There were also a lot of Vietnam veterans in my grandfather’s neighborhood, so I grew up hearing their stories as well. Between those experiences and the Young Marine program, I got to meet people who had made sacrifices not for recognition, but to serve their country.” It was also during his middle school years that Dan started volunteering with Warrior Foundation Freedom Station. He participated in the foundation’s annual Deck the Halls decoration days at Naval Medical Center San Diego, and even helped with preparations for the opening of Freedom Station I back in 2011. It would leave a lasting mark on the young teen and further influence his desire to join the military. “Through the Young Marine program, I gained a lot of exposure to active duty service members, but at Freedom Station, that’s where I was introduced to our ill and injured warriors,” continues Dan. “That was extremely impactful. These men and women had served their country and paid a price for it. It’s hard to describe why, but it made me lean into my dreams even more. I remember two of the guys I got closest with were Josue Barron and Toran Gaal. I was so excited every time I got to visit them. At the time, we weren’t hearing things about the guys who were coming out on the other side and dealing with injuries. It was really eye-opening to hear their stories and perspectives on life, which painted the bigger picture for me. I followed their inspirational journeys, watching Toran handcycle across the U.S. and Josue play for the Wolfpack. They get up and go after it!” In high school, Dan decided to take the path of becoming an officer and earned a ROTC scholarship through Oregon State University. He says, “I really tried to develop a leadership perspective early on and throughout college. It’s nothing less than an honor than to stand in front of and lead the people who are making these sacrifices. It not only motivated me, but it helped me understand how important it was to be a good leader and serve those Marines before anything else.” Dan graduated in June 2020 and was commissioned immediately into Reserve status as a Second Lieutenant. Due to the pandemic, his start date for basic school at Quantico was delayed from October 2020 to May 2021. In the meantime, Dan is hoping to get temporary duty at officer selection offices, with San Diego being his first choice. Reflecting on how his volunteer service with Warrior Foundation Freedom Station has impacted his life, Dan says, “Meeting incredible people around Warrior Foundation Freedom Station helped personalize the concept of service and my dreams of joining the military. It is absolutely incredible what foundations like these do for injured service members. Hearing the warriors’ stories and learning the lessons they had to share was invaluable. It’s not something many people get to experience, but it’s something that everyone should.” As for his future goals, Dan looks forward to deployment and would eventually like to be part of a training environment later in his career, such as an instructor at Officer Candidate Training School, so he can have an impact on future warriors. “To me, being a Marine means representing higher standards in any regard,” says Dan. “When I think about the Marine Corps, it’s not just about the standard qualifications and physical fitness - it’s about how you treat others. Take care of each other and pay attention to the details. When the bullets start flying, the Marines to your left and right are the most important things in the that moment. The opportunity to lead Marines is not something I take for granted. I will push myself every day to try and be someone worthy of leading them, knowing what we do serves a higher purpose and the greater good of our country.”

Ticket sales end at MIDNIGHT tonight for Señor Grubby's anniversary celebrations, and we've got 10% off for you with the promo code "Warrior." Join Warrior Foundation Freedom Station for a fun night and amazing four-course meal to benefit San Diego's ill and injured warriors! 🎉 9/21: Anniversary celebration at Señor Grubby's Oceanside⁠ 🎊 9/23: Anniversary celebration at Señor Grubby's Carlsbad⁠ 🕐 Both events will take place from 5:30-8pm. 🎟 Tickets are $80 per person and include a 4-course meal, cocktail pairing, event t-shirt⁠, and live auction. 🇺🇸 In support of Warrior Foundation Freedom Station⁠ ⁠ Only a few tables remain! Click here to purchase tickets: https://bit.ly/3kUUsFG

Special thanks to Justin Jachura, founder of Señor Grubby's, for spending the day with us at Freedom Station II while planning not one, but two, special anniversary celebrations next week benefiting Warrior Foundation Freedom Station! https://www.facebook.com/Grubbys/videos/736335687164492 Support your local San Diego warriors today by getting your tickets for the Carlsbad or Oceanside celebrations at: https://eatgrubbys.com/senor-grubbys-anniversary-celebrations

Retirement of a very incredible Marine. Over came huge hurdles, moving on to serve his country in other ways. Thank you Jay Anthony Phillips for all you accomplished and have given in the USMC.

Today, we join the nation in observing Patriot Day in honor of the individuals who lost their lives as a result of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Sergeant Mike Dowling, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), a longtime member of the Warrior Foundation Freedom Station family, had been in boot camp for just one month when the tragic events occurred. He shares his very personal story and reflections on this day with us. “In August 2001, I went to Marine Corps boot camp with the hope of being challenged and experiencing personal growth. There's no way anyone could have predicted the events of 9/11 happening just one month later, forever changing life around the world for everyone. When our drill instructors told us what was transpiring in our country, the news weighed heavily on our minds. That concern quickly turned into motivation, as we all felt there was nowhere we'd rather be than in boot camp, training to become Marines and preparing to answer the call that our nation asked of us. We all knew our future as Marines would be more challenging than we may have expected, but we were as prepared and well-trained as we could be. Not surprisingly, those challenges did come. I ended up becoming a military working dog handler, and in 2004, I deployed with my explosives detection dog Rex and was attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Rex and I served with 2/2 in the first battle of Fallujah and in the infamous Triangle of Death throughout our deployment. By the end of the tour, 2/2 would suffer over 150 wounded and six killed in action (KIA). Rex and I would cheat death several times while helping 2/2 locate bombs and munitions caches. We were very lucky to make it home. Upon returning home, my good friend Adam Cann was getting ready to deploy with his military dog and asked if I would live in his apartment and take care of it while he was gone, which I was happy to do. Adam would be killed in action on that deployment, becoming the first dog handler KIA since Vietnam. These experiences and close relationships I built while in the Marines changed my life forever and taught me to never take what we have for granted. Reflecting on the events of 9/11 reminds me that today is a gift and tomorrow is never promised. Do what you want to do, live your life, be grateful for all you have, and appreciate the opportunities this country affords you. While America will never forget 9/11, also never forget the sacrifices made by our fellow troops and their families as a result of those events.” Semper Fi, Sergeant Mike Dowling, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.)

Calling all locals! You can help San Diego's ill and injured warriors while enjoying a fun and memorable evening out. Join us for Señor Grubby's anniversary celebration benefiting Warrior Foundation Freedom Station! It's very fitting in our proud military region that a local restaurant owner would team up with our local foundation to benefit injured troops in our own backyard. Choose your night - Sept. 21 in Oceanside or Sept. 23 in Carlsbad - and get your tickets today! Includes a four-course meal, 2 cocktail, beer or wine pairings, an anniversary t-shirt, entertainment/live auction, and most importantly, the chance to raise money for the items our warriors need, from ultra light wheelchairs and adaptive sports equipment to gifts for the holidays! https://eatgrubbys.com/senor-grubbys-anniversary-celebrations/

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