By Devon L. SuitsJune 8, 2018
WASHINGTON -- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley recognized four civilians for their extraordinary support and unwavering commitment to members of the armed forces during the "Salute from the Chief" ceremony held in conjunction with a Twilight Tattoo at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, June 7.
The general recognized Lori Mezzanotte, president of USA Warrior Ice Hockey Program Inc.; Kim Bohuny, senior vice president of international basketball operations with NBA Cares; Arnold Fisher, a senior partner with Fisher Brothers and the honorary chairman for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund; and Phil Tobey, the lead architect behind the creation of the Center for the Intrepid and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.
"[The military] has been engaged now in combat operations for the longest consecutive [period] of war in America's history," said Milley. "And throughout this period, we've been reminded that military service is not just for the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. It's for the entire nation to be engaged and these four people demonstrate that and give real meaning to it."
Milley said only about one percent of Americans choose to serve in the U.S. military, and that those who do remain driven by their sworn oath to defend the constitution of the United States of America and the important idea that it embodies.
"The idea says that every single one of us in this country is an American, and every one of us under the colors of red, white, and blue are born free and equal," Milley said. "And every one of us will rise to the level of our merit based on our talent, and we're going to be judged by the content of our character."
That idea of freedom and equality, Milley said, is at the heart of what it means to be an American.
"That is the organizing principle of these United States of America, and that is the reason all of us are willing to die to make sure that idea is passed onto the next generation," he said. "We can only do that with the support of the American people as demonstrated by these four heroes tonight. So, thank you very much for all that you do. Army strong!"
LORI MEZZANOTTE -- PRESIDENT OF THE USA WARRIORS ICE HOCKEY PROGRAM INC.
The first to be recognized, Lori Mezzanotte, has served as the president for the USA Warrior Ice Hockey Program Inc., since 2015. In that role, Mezzanotte cultivated the program's relationship with the National Hockey League and other organizations supporting veterans' needs.
The hockey program was conceived in 2008, after several patients from Walter Reed National Army Medical Center started participating at an open-ice skate session nearby in Laurel, Maryland, Milley said. During those sessions, several hockey coaches took notice and later offered to help by leading formal coaching sessions.
USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program Inc. formed later that year. Their mission is to organize and administer an ice hockey program that provides a recreational, therapeutic experience, and education at local and national levels. Furthermore, the program was created to operate exclusively for charitable and educational purposes in support of wounded warriors, the chief added.
By 2012, the program was moving at full speed. Monthly clinics were held at an ice arena in Rockville, Maryland, with the help from therapists at Walter Reed.
Additionally, medical staff recognized the benefits and started referring patients to the program, Milley added. And if a team needed an extra player, volunteers would not hesitate to jump on the ice and participate.
As the program grew, so did the generosity and support of individuals and organizations around the country. The program grew with confidence, the chief said, as organizations like the Disabled American Veterans, the Fisher House Foundation, and the Yellow Ribbon Fund Inc., all pledged their support.
Overall, the program educates, trains, motivates and encourages the formation of local and national warrior hockey programs -- all while helping individuals who have physical disabilities incurred during service to participate in the sport of ice hockey in an adaptive environment that is at the level of their ability.
Even more compelling is the fact that volunteers, mentors, and directors staff the program. Moreover, they do not receive any stipend or compensation for their time, Milley emphasized.
"Think about what that means as a volunteer in terms of your time, your personal sacrifice, and the level of commitment that's required," Milley said. "Think about what it means in terms of leadership, management, and [the] coordination [needed to maintain] a network of volunteers. Think about what it means when you've created a world-class program that has a significant impact on those who have lost almost everything.
"Think about what it means if you're the one with no legs or no arms if you're the one without the team that you used to be a part of, or without the sense of camaraderie and spirit that accompanies all of us as Soldiers. Think about what it means, and all of the emotions and challenges that are inherently part of being a severely wounded Soldier."
For all those reasons, Milley said, the Army chose this year to recognize Mezzanotte for helping to heal the wounds of combat through the sport of ice hockey.
KIM BOHUNY -- NBA CARES SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF INTERNATIONAL BASKETBALL OPERATIONS
The second person to be saluted by the Army chief was Kim Bohuny, the senior vice president of international basketball operations with NBA Cares.
Bohuny oversees all interactions with international players currently on NBA rosters, serves as the league's liaison to the International Basketball Federation and the 215 basketball federations and leagues worldwide, and oversees the NBA's global basketball development strategies, including Basketball Without Borders, according to event sources.
"[Kim] has been in as a game changer from day one and the way in which professional sports teams support our military," Milley said.
Bohuny played a valuable role in the launch of the NBA's Hoops for Troops initiative back in 2004, the general added. Hoops for Troops is a year-round program meant to honor active and retired service men and women and their families. The NBA, teams, and players lead the program, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, USO, and other military and veteran-serving organizations.
Throughout the year, the NBA and the Department of Defense have participated in a variety of events designed to impact military and local communities positively. In turn, the joint initiative between the NBA and the DOD has helped strengthen the relationship between civilians and the U.S. Army, Milley said.
Additionally, the NBA has honored service personnel and veterans during games, as well as helped to organize joint community events, basketball camps, and career fairs.
"This is about a society demonstrating empathy," Milley said. "This is about reducing the drift that can occur between the military and the civilian worlds -- if left unchecked. This is about a society recognizing warriors -- the nation's finest -- as priceless. And at some stage, everyone will need to return to civilian society, [so] this is about transitioning us in uniform back to civilian society.
"It's about teamwork and the power of sport. And this is something that everyone in uniform is grateful for."
ARNOLD FISHER -- HONORARY CHAIRMAN OF THE INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND
The evening's third awardee, Arnold Fisher, serves as the senior partner of Fisher Brothers and the honorary chairman for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. Additionally, Arnold is a veteran of the Korean War and an honorary sergeant major, Milley said.
"Benjamin Franklin once said: 'If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins,'" Milley said. "If you ever want to imagine somebody who can hold the reins, it's Arnold Fisher."
Passionate and resourceful, Arnold Fisher spearheaded the creation of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund in 2000. The fund generated nearly $20 million in its first five years, and those funds have been distributed to U.S. and British military families that lost a service member in Iraq and Afghanistan, the general said.
Wanting to do more, Arnold expanded the Intrepid Fund to provide support for military members in need of rehabilitation services for severe physical and post-traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. These changes also led to the creation of the Center of the Intrepid, "a world-class, state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center," the general said. The center opened in 2007 in San Antonio, Texas.
Eventually, Arnold would open the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in 2010 in Bethesda, Maryland, and would later commission nine Intrepid Spirit Centers around the country. By extending the reach of the national center, the satellite offices provide localized care for military members suffering the effects of TBI and PTS. Seven out of the nine satellite centers are currently open, Milley added.
"More than 90 percent of patients are returning to regular duty across all of the armed forces," Milley said. "Every single dime ... that Arnold has raised -- over $200 million -- has been pledged to go directly to that program. But his legacy goes beyond the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. It's also about the continuing legacy of a lifelong family commitment that defines their character and continues to inspire subsequent generations.
"All of us are deeply indebted to your vision, Arnold, [and] your eagerness to help," Milley said.
Along with the Intrepid centers and fund, the Fisher family's legacy also includes 76 Fisher Houses around the world. Further, the family helped establish the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum Complex. The museum is built around the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier harbored in New York City, and serves as a monument to all who have served, the general said.
"Arnold's personal values and remarkable achievements epitomize what it means to be a citizen ... and Soldier in the service of our nation," Milley said. "So Corporal Fisher, Sergeant Major Fisher, [or] Sir Arnold, as the British would call you -- thank you for all you have done and for your continued to support as an American citizen."
PHIL TOBEY -- INTREPID CENTER ARCHITECT
"So, you just heard about Arnold and his vision. Now let me tell you about the man who was charged with transforming that vision into actual concrete," Milley said.
Phil Tobey was the lead architect behind the creation of the Center for the Intrepid and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. He is also responsible for the development of the Intrepid Spirit Centers spread throughout the country.
During the early phases of construction of the Center for the Intrepid, Arnold Fisher gave Tobey just 18 months to complete the project, Milley said.
"Phil's speed and ingenuity required him to understand the task, manage the project, and respond to evolving design requirements all against the urgent clock that Arnold set for him," Milley said. "I will tell you that Phil Tobey is in a league of his own for producing a result."
Tobey also served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force assigned to the office of the Air Force Surgeon General. Throughout his career, Tobey focused on supporting military healthcare by designing facilities for every branch of the U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"The buildings that he created ... now represent some of the world's most technologically advanced physical rehabilitation and research facilities in the entire globe, where our first-class multidisciplinary teams are performing miracles on a day-to-day basis," Milley said.
"[The intrepid centers] represent lighthouses, attracting those in need, and guiding them to sanctuary and safety. These buildings help counter the after-effects of the raw and visceral nature -- the rough business and the crucible of ground combat," Milley said. "They tell the Soldiers of today and tomorrow that we, the American people, 'actually care for you.'"