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Continuing to Serve: 15 Veterans Who Made Headlines in 2017

Prince Harry shakes hands with Army veteran Sgt. Stefan Leroy while his dog looks on during swim finals at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 29, 2017. Prince Harry, who served in Afghanistan, established the games in 2014. (DoD/Roger L. Wollenberg)
Prince Harry shakes hands with Army veteran Sgt. Stefan Leroy while his dog looks on during swim finals at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Sept. 29, 2017. Prince Harry, who served in Afghanistan, established the games in 2014. (DoD/Roger L. Wollenberg)

Throughout their service, veterans learn how to sacrifice, work hard and put others before themselves. It’s no surprise that veterans are some of the hardest working and most productive members of our sports, business and philanthropic communities. Check out how these 15 veterans are continuing to serve our country today.

1) Rumi Spice Founders: Emily Miller, Kimberly Jung and Keith Alaniz

Rumi Spice, founded by three veterans, made waves on the popular TV series “Shark Tank.” They partner with 94 farmers in Afghanistan to import high-quality saffron into the U.S. This Chicago-based startup perfectly shows off the entrepreneurial spirit many veterans display.

2) Marine Sgt. Michael Mendoza

Michael Mendoza, a highly decorated veteran, was injured in Iraq by a grenade in 2006. With serious injuries to his diaphragm, both lungs, stomach and small intestines, Mendoza faced an uphill battle with his physical and emotional recovery, but once he discovered the healing benefits of sports, he couldn’t be stopped. Now 38, Mendoza runs in about four Ironman challenges a month, hoping to soon break the Guinness World Record for finishing the most triathlons in a year.

3) Kirstie Ennis

Veteran Marine Kirstie Ennis is making headlines and shattering body image standards with her outspoken personality. In 2012, Ennis was involved in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The injuries she sustained resulted in over 40 surgeries and the loss of one of her legs. This year, she made history by posing on the cover of the ESPN magazine’s Body Issue.

4) Joe Cardona

Super Bowl winner Joe Cardona, long snapper for the New England Patriots, is one of only two active members of the U.S. Armed Forces to win this sporting achievement. An officer in the U.S. Navy, Cardona is a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

5) Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood

Few people in Hollywood are veterans, but it will probably come as no surprise that outspoken patriot Clint Eastwood served his country in the armed forces. Drafted during the Korean War, Eastwood used the GI Bill to attend college in L.A., leading to his success in Hollywood. Nowadays, Eastwood still makes films that honor veterans while serving as an active philanthropist and animal rights activist in the community.

6) Delphine Metcalf-Foster

With over 1.3 million members, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is one of the largest non-profits assisting veterans across the U.S. In 2017, they elected a new national commander to lead their organization. Members voted Delphine Metcalf-Fester into the position.

A disabled veteran herself, Metcalf-Foster served her country in through Operation Desert Storm, leading to her injury in Saudi Arabia. Now Metcalf-Foster has the honor of serving veterans just like herself.

7) Alejandro Villanueva

A former Army Ranger and Captain in the U.S. Army, Alejandro Villanueva received the Bronze Star for military valor. Villanueva served three terms in Afghanistan before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, Villanueva doesn’t shy away from making his patriotism known. When his teammates chose not to leave the locker room for the National Anthem, amid the infamous Anthem protests, Villanueva stood alone for the National Anthem.

8) Prince Harry of Wales

Many may not know the British prince is a veteran. Trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Prince Harry served twice in Afghanistan, once ending his tour early when tabloids revealed his presence.

After his service, Prince Harry dedicated his philanthropic career to serving veterans across the world. In 2014, he founded the Invictus Games, an Olympic-like sports competition for wounded and disabled veterans. The Invictus Games share the healing power of sports and celebrate the sacrifices of veterans around the world.

9) Nick Taranto

Former U.S. Marine, Nick Taranto has a passion for healthy food. His company, Plated.com, has a mission to help more people get access to fresh, healthy foods. With Plated.com, you have everything you need to cook a delicious meal in under 30 minutes.

With over 700 employees, Taranto shows how one veteran can make a huge difference in the community. Taranto claims that his hard days of training in the military prepared him to run a business.

10) Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer

Although golf pro Arnold Palmer passed away in 2016, his legacy as one of America’s greatest philanthropists continues to thrive. This fall marks the one-year anniversary of the death of this sports legend. Palmer served in the Coast Guard for three years and was vocal throughout his career about encouraging people to serve in the military.

Each year, Palmer’s legacy is commemorated through the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida. You can support Arnold Palmer’s charitable legacy, including his cutting-edge children’s hospital.

11) Robb Anfinson and Andrew Cordova

Close friends Robb Anfinson and Andrew Cordova led the American Sitting Volleyball team to Bronze Metal victory at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada. A strong friendship developed between the two athletes when they discovered their shared experience of rehabilitation through sports.

12) Donald Coolidge

Another veteran entrepreneur, Donald Coolidge is making profits and social change. Coolidge founded Elemental Path, a company that designs educational, Wi-Fi enabled toys for children. Too many kids are in front of a screen nowadays, so Elemental Path provides fun toys without the screen.

13) Frederick Huston

PTSD, homelessness, addiction and injury can lead veterans into some dark places. It’s an unfortunate fact that far too many veterans end up in prisons. Frederick Huston of the U.S. Air Force decided to found a company that makes a life for those incarcerated easier.

Pigeonly is Huston’s brainchild. From your computer or tablet, you can easily locate and communicate with your loved one behind bars, cutting the price of communication by 80%. You can also send greeting cards and pictures. Huston claims that his military career helped him learn how to develop and reach both short and long-term goals, leading to business success.

14) Ann Dunwoody

General Ann Dunwoody

Ann Dunwoody, retired as of 2012, was the first ever female four-star general. Overseeing a $60 billion budget and 69,000 personnel, Dunwoody proves that women can make it in the military and business. Dunwoody wrote a book about her service in 2015 called “A Higher Standard.” Today, she is an icon for women in the military and travels the country speaking about leadership.

15) Evan Hafer

Almost everyone loves a cup of good coffee. Army vet and former CIA contractor Evan Hafer is delighting customers by roasting outstanding coffee at Black Rifle Coffee Company, out of Salt Lake City. They pride themselves on being a hipster-free coffee shop. Join their coffee club to get unique coffee delivered to you every month.

Whether through creating jobs or helping other veterans, these servicemembers are enacting their values and making an impact in our society. For anyone who values commitment, sacrifice and persistence, these veterans should be an inspiration.

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