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Gary Sinise Foundation Honors Generations of Service Members on Veterans Day

November 11th, 2020

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Whether in times of war and peace, citizens from every generation have raised their right hand and taken a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Today, Veterans Day, we pause in honor of those who served in the Armed Forces.

As we recognize the sacrifices and contributions veterans have made in the armed forces, the Gary Sinise Foundation is pleased to welcome retired United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Jonathon Blank into his mortgage-free specially adapted smart home. The house was built in Midway, near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, and is specifically designed to suit Jonathon’s active lifestyle.

Due to the recently issued statewide emergency declaration by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Jonathon Blank's home dedication ceremony is limited to his immediate family because of rising COVID-19 cases and a temporary halt to public gatherings.

Growing up in Augusta, Kansas, a small farming community where seemingly everybody knows everybody, Jonathon felt the call to duty on the morning of September 11, 2001. He was in eighth grade, sitting in science class, watching footage of the attack play out on the television. Along with his twin brother Linden, they enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006.

When he completed boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and follow on infantry training at Camp Pendleton, Jonathon volunteered for Reconnaissance selection. He passed through the physically and psychologically grueling proving ground in 2007, realizing a childhood dream of joining the military’s elite ranks. He was now a Force Reconnaissance Marine.

After extending his enlistment in 2010, Jonathon deployed to Afghanistan with Force Reconnaissance Company 1, 3rd Platoon. With one month remaining in a seven-month deployment, on October 26, while conducting a longe range reconnaissance mission in Helmand Province, he was severely injured from an IED blast. Both his legs were severed, and he sustained shrapnel wounds in his arm and head.

From December 2010 to March 2014, Jonathon underwent multiple surgeries and rehabilitation at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio and nearby at the Center for the Intrepid (CFI). With his family by his side and his outlook kept in check by the Force Reconnaissance motto drilled into him from so many years ago, Jonathon progressed through physical therapy. At the same time, he encouraged other service members through their struggles and setbacks. He was a leader who ensured the bar was kept high and standards intact for recovering service members and veterans.

Since returning home to Utah and retiring from the military, Jonathon has been as active as ever, taking to the local mountains to hike and ski and adventuring west to the California coast. He continues to write the next chapter of his life, one adventure at a time.

Thanks to the advocacy and generosity of Americans nationwide, in addition to our partners and local contractors, we're able to build R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) specially adapted smart homes for our nation's most severely wounded heroes like Jonathon Blank.

Veteran Support Services

Year-round, the Gary Sinise Foundation serves and honors its nation's veterans through a host of programming. We’re building specially adapted smart homes around the country for severely injured veterans; pairing high school students with WWII veterans on a trip to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans; and hosting veterans at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, The Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles, Catholic University in D.C., and elsewhere for a free rehearsal performance.

The continued transmission of COVID-19 effectively curtailed the majority of events and initiatives this year, including Soaring Valor, Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band concerts, and the year-end trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida for Snowball Express families. Yet the Emergency COVID-19 Combat Service campaign saw the Gary Sinise Foundation respond to the global health pandemic by evolving its mission to meet our nation's heroes and families' needs. Just how this mission was achieved and who the campaign supported are illustrated in the stories linked below.

Each instance of support and gratitude presented by the Foundation ensures our nation's heroes feel the love and admiration of a grateful nation. With the generosity of thousands of Americans around the country who support the Gary Sinise Foundation, take a few minutes to read a few of the impactful stories from this year that were accomplished thanks in large part to your donations and championing of our mission.

Financial aid supports family of a first responder and combat veteran
Army veteran strengthening family ties while regaining independence in specially adapted smart home
Funding helps Navy veteran combat PTSD and substance abuse
Gary Sinise Foundation grant supports Alaska military families and veterans

Featured On National Television

Tune in to NBC’s ‘Today Show’ this morning at 9:30 a.m. (all time zones) featuring Gary Sinise and R.I.S.E. specially adapted smart home recipient and Paralympian, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rico Roman.

Watch the segment here: Gary Sinise Foundation builds retired Army veteran adaptive home.

And don’t miss Variety‘s fourth annual Salute to Service, airing on the History Channel today at 10 p.m. EST / 7 p.m. PST. Salute to Service honors veterans and service members, and individuals and organizations that champion veterans, including Gary Sinise and the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Donation Campaign

This Veterans Day, the Gary Sinise Foundation is pleased to partner with Veterans United in its #MakeItMEANMore Campaign. Here’s how it works: Every time a Twitter user tweets a thank you message to veterans for their service using the hashtag #MakeItMeanMore, Veterans United will make a financial contribution to help pay down a veteran’s home loan.