The son of Mexican immigrants, Abel Ramos was born in Texas and spent his childhood summers as a migrant worker, but his parents always stressed the importance of school. It paid off. Abel graduated from the US Air Force Academy and pilots the A-10 Thunderbold II. Abel has deployed once to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan, flying over a hundred combat sorties. He has received numerous military awards and is currently Assistant Director of Operations for the 303d Fighter Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Mo. He spent 11 years on active duty and the past five-plus as a full-time reservist. Abel volunteers at local community organizations, visits local retirement homes, and gives presentations at his kids' elementary school.
James Rash, of Galt, Mo., has had an illustrious career. In Vietnam, he served as a radioman in a medical evacuation squadron, air-lifting wounded soldiers from the battlefield to triage areas. For his service he received many awards and commendations, including two Joint Service Commendation Medals. In assignments with the United States Secret Service, James provided communications support for presidential candidates and both national conventions in 1972 and 1976. After retiring from the Air Force, he began a second career with Hughes Aircraft, where he worked for 19 years. James coaches athletes with the Special Olympics in Missouri, is a lifetime member of the VFW, and serves as Post Adjutant. He also serves as Secretary for the Galt, Mo., Lions Club.
Clayton Zupon passed up potential baseball scholarships to join the Marines. On his second deployment to the Middle East, doctors discovered a plum-size tumor in his brain and later, another on his spine. Clayton, a single father with a two-year-old son, was given 12 months to live. Three years later, he's still beating the odds. Clayton was Honorably Discharged with a Medical Retirement at 100 percent in 2010. Throughout radiation and chemotherapy, Clayton has kept a positive attitude and continues to volunteer. The Peculiar, Mo., resident enjoys spending time with the kids at the Cancer Center at the Children's Hospital in downtown Kansas City. He also teaches and coaches kids' bowling on Saturdays. Clayton is a big supporter of The Wounded Warrior Project, participating in various motorcycle rides to raise money for wounded vets.
Along with MLB and 'PEOPLE', a Guest Panel including General Peter W. Chiarelli (retired) and General John M. "Jack" Keane (retired) alongside MLB players Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, Nick Swisher of the Cleveland Indians, Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants, Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox, Brad Ziegler of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres and Craig Stammen of the Washington Nationals assisted in the selection process for the 90 finalists.
The "Tribute For Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org, powered by MLB.com), an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service. Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with "Centers of Excellence" at university hospitals throughout the country.
As part of its 2013 charity initiative, "PEOPLE First: Help America's Veterans," 'PEOPLE' is partnering with Welcome Back Veterans and three other nonprofit organizations that are committed to providing assistance to military men and women, and will feature them in multiple editorial stories in 'PEOPLE' throughout 2013.
Currently, Welcome Back Veterans funds programs at The University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, Weill Cornell in New York City, UCLA and the Boston Red Sox' Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital in Boston. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and TBI treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.