No Man Left Behind Tour

The 2023 No Man Left Behind Tour will be partnered with The Weight of Valor Project to help combat veterans receive weighted blankets to promote healthy sleeping habits after service. 

2023 No Man Left Behind Tour News

July 28, 2023

National pastime with our national heroes: Mustangs play the U.S. Military WarDogs

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Normally people are used to seeing our service men dressed in their respective uniforms, but Friday night, the U.S. Military WarDogs gave St. Joseph the opportunity to see them in a different uniform.

The WarDogs baseball team took to the Phil Welch field Friday night, but not without first making a stop at Pizza Ranch to sign baseballs and interact with the St. Joseph community.

The team is made up of veterans across all branches of the military, and Friday they played the Mustangs alumni game with the mission of saving lives, both on and off the field.

Eddie Ihnken of the U.S. Coast Guard highlighted the team’s commitment to raising awareness about PTSD and providing veterans with a fresh perspective on life.

“In the Coast Guard, we save a lot of lives on and off the coast and in our waterways,” said Ihnken. “The similarities here are that we try to save lives through the spreading awareness of PTSD and getting veterans a little bit of a taste of new life or give them an outlet of watching their baseball game that they used to love.”

Lesean Thomas, a member of the U.S. Air Force and part of the WarDogs team, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to connect with the families of those they honor through their actions.

“To meet the families of those that we’re honoring and to see how much appreciation they have for what we’re doing for them, I think that’s the most important part to me,” said Lesean Thomas of the U.S. Air Force. “It’s amazing. I can’t even really put it into words, what it feels like to be able to do that and provide that to somebody. All I can tell you is that every time I cry.”

Photo credit: KQ2

Read original article on dvids | by Airman 1st Class Hussein Enaya

Growing up playing baseball, it was a dream for Tech Sgt. Travis J. Hackett to join a professional baseball team.

While he may not be a professional baseball player, the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron defender continues to play – now with a goal of improving veterans’ lives.

“My first experience playing baseball, I probably honestly couldn’t remember because I was so young,” he said. “But as I grew older, it became unlike anything I can describe. It’s kind of like when we put on our Air Force uniforms every morning, we’re representing the DoD and the Air Force. Walking onto the baseball field in my uniform, I know I get to play a sport I truly love and have a passion for.”

Hackett reminisced about the earliest Boston Red Sox game experience at the age of around 8 or 9. The atmosphere and excitement of that Red Sox game became a cherished memory, shaping Hackett’s affinity for the sport from a young age.

It was a passion that never waned, even when he joined the military. Baseball became a piece of home he carried with him through deployments and duty stations.

“I missed the sport a lot,” Hackett said. “So, wherever I was stationed, I looked for local leagues to play in during my free time.”

The military life might have interrupted his baseball dreams, but it couldn’t extinguish the fire. Baseball became his connection to home as he deployed and served at various duty stations.

Hackett sought out local baseball leagues, playing whenever he could, and it was during one of these assignments that he discovered the WarDogs Baseball Organization.

“I found the WarDogs through social media when I got stationed here,” Hackett said. “Joining this unique team required more than just a love for the sport. You have to send all your stats because this organization plays in collegiate leagues, playing against college-level players.”

The WarDogs chooses the best baseball players from the United States Armed Forces annually. These exceptional individuals come together during spring training and embark on a nationwide tour.

“We raise money through raffle tickets, fundraisers, charitable events, and then we try to purchase a service animal for a veteran,” said Hackett. “We give that service animal to a veteran at a baseball game.”

As part of the WarDogs, Hackett and his teammates embarked on a challenging season comprising 17 games, with the goal of raising $10,000. Their last game was close, with $8,000 raised. Then, a surprise donation of $10,000 in Nebraska pushed them past their target.

The conversations held prior to each game seemed to bring the families even closer to their departed loved ones, creating a poignant and touching connection.

Being part of the flag folding ceremony for each game was a deeply moving experience, according to Hackett. In this role, Hackett had the privilege of presenting a flag to a Gold Star family — those who have lost a service member in war.

U.S Air Force Master Sgt. Robert A. Vickers, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent and a colleague of Hackett, believes that Hackett stands out as an exceptional non-commissioned officer. His consistent drive at work serves as a source of motivation for those in his vicinity.

“Hackett needs little support, but he trained hard to become a part of this team,” Vickers said. “I would imagine he is a great baseball player, since he was able to make a DoD level team.”

He envisions Hackett’s contagious enthusiasm extending onto the field, where he inspires teammates to deliver their utmost effort.

Beyond the games and the fundraising, Hackett and his team visited VA hospitals, spending time with veterans and sharing stories. “We would sit down and talk to them, take pictures, and just bring a day of kindness,” said Hackett.

the WarDogs mission isn’t just about the money they raise, Hackett believes.
“Those service animals are going to provide a great deal of emotional support and medical support for those veterans in need,” he said.

For Hackett, it’s important to give back to the community and show support to veterans.

“It’s given me a more open-minded approach when it comes to our veterans,” thinks Hackett. “Those guys paved the way for you and me and giving them gratitude and support where it’s needed is essential.”

Hackett plans to continue playing in the local league of Okaloosa County, Florida, and travel with the WarDogs for their upcoming season that will take them to the New England region.

Hackett would love to see more Airmen join the WarDogs.

“Anyone who wants to join the baseball team can definitely contact me at any time,” said Hackett “It’s about more than just the game; it’s about making a difference.”

Courtesy Photo | U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Travis J. Hackett, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron standardization and evaluation, holds a baseball bat during a WarDogs Baseball game. Hackett enjoyed playing baseball since early childhood. (Courtesy photo)

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