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September 11 is now more than just a date on the calendar, it’s a day in our lives that will forever be linked to New York City and our war on terror. It’s a day that many people congregate and talk about where they were on that day. Each of us remembers where we were when we heard the news, most of us didn’t turn the tv off for days. I had just gotten home from a vacation to Mexico, thankfully I had decided not to extend my trip as I had hoped. I turned on the television and saw the second plane hit the tower and thought it was so horrible that things like that happened in the world and was so happy it wasn’t in the US. Then the newscaster said it was New York City… I almost passed out. That event was the start of a new life for all of us, a new way of so many things but it was also what prompted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have now resulted in more than 6600 service members lives taken.
On September 11, 2012 we were graced with the presence of 4 families of the fallen at Petco park for a Padres game. A night that was shared with laughter, food and good old American baseball. We are so glad that these families braved the cold AND the rain to spend that evening with us. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.

On September 26 will be out last Padres game of the year, we still have a few tickets left if anyone is interested please email me at to RSVP.

Each year we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 however we cannot only remember them on this date but keep their memories alive everyday… the same rings true for our men and women in uniform. Please remember lives lost and those still fighting every.


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Board Members Shana Smith and Ali Koppel have signed up to run this years San Diego Color Run to raise funds and awareness for families of our fallen.  This will be each of their first official ‘races’ however this one is more about fun than time.  If you haven’t seen pictures or heard about a Color Run you are in for a treat; basically as you run people stop you and douse you with color.  You start in the race requirement of all white however by the end you look as though you lost the fight with Sherwin Williams!   
The Got Your Back team looking for teammates to run with us who are passionate about the cause and want to have A LOT of fun!  Please sign up to run with us or, if you can’t please consider a monetary donation to support Got Your Back and our mission.

If you would like to donate towards Shana and Ali’s run and support their efforts for families of our fallen please click HERE.

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We wanted to celebrate the end of summer and the welcoming back to school with a beach party on August 25! All families of the fallen are invited to attend.
We thought it would be great to have everyone bring something to share however the hot dogs and hamburgers are on us! Please email or Ali at to RSVP.

We are looking forward to a great day of fun in the sun and hope to see you all there!

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The summer is winding down and school is starting, much to the chagrin of all students.. whether that’s you, your children or both! Got Your Back Network is trying to finish 2012 strong and plan a few more events to commemorate another year. We are in the process of planning end of summer and end of year get togethers as well as starting the planning on 2013 events. So many exciting things coming up for you! As soon as we confirm dates for our upcoming events we will send the invites out. ALL families of the fallen are invited however, depending on the number of tickets received for each event, RSVP’s will be required. These events are put on for you, a fun day to enjoy yourselves, your children and each other. Please don’t hesitate to forward invitations or information to other families that you know – the more the merrier.
Also being the end of summer, we are updating our Got Your Back database – making sure that all information is correct to ensure invitations and information pertinent to you and your area. Being able to include each of you and grow the organization is our number one priority.
If you are already registered with Got Your Back you will have received a form this week to update/complete your information (name, birthday, address, etc), if you didn’t receive please email as we may have an incorrect email address on file. If you have not registered please go to the ‘CONTACT” tab and fill in the information.
Lastly, we would love to host a few surviving spouses on our blog. If you would like to write about your experiences with Got Your Back, information you think that other surviving spouses/families need to know we would love to talk to you. Please email or with your post.

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The past 6 months have lent themselves to so many new relationships and memories it’s hard to recap in one post.  One of the things that makes Got Your Back Network special is that our events are host to smaller groups, groups that allow everyone to get to know each other better and make the connections that are needed.  We feel that it should be a big family, one that laughs together and cries together.

To recap 2012 so far is hard as there are so many perfect memories from our time with Project Gratitude in Las Vegas, to founder Andy Baldwin making martinis, LA Angels player Albert Pujols posing for pictures and holding a child of the fallen and watching the Jimenez Family throw out the first pitch at a MLB game.  Memories that will last a lifetime for all involved.

In May we held our Annual Martinis and Makeovers fundraising event in La Jolla, CA.  This was our Martinis & Makeovers fundraiser on the West Coast, historically this event has been held in Washington, DC.  We were honored to have 15 of our surviving spouses join us for makeovers courtesy of Autelier Salon and Zino International with signature martini’s donated by Patron’s Ultimate Vodka.  This was made possible largely by the donation of space at the lovely Cuvier Club in downtown La Jolla, we couldn’t be more grateful for their support of the families of our fallen.  Several widows courageously stood and shared their husband/wife’s memory and their story to other attendees, they shared their struggles and with that their inspiration filled the room.   The monies raised that night went to fund various GYBN programs, as an all volunteer organization all money goes back to programs for the families.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hosted three events for families of our fallen at Angel Stadium.   Two of these events enabled a total of 10 families and their children to be down on the field during batting practice.  The children and their moms were able to meet players like Trout, Trumbo, Hunter and crowd favorite Albert Pujols.  I’m not sure who was more giddy, the moms or their children.  On Memorial Day, the Angels invited the Jimenez Family to throw out the first pitch in their game against the NY Yankees in honor of their hero 1LT Oscar Jimenez.  As with most of the GYBN events, several families were able to meet for the first time and forge relationships with each other sometimes even finding that their husbands had the same MOS or were even stationed at other duty stations at the same time.

For the second year the Got Your Back Network was invited to the USS Midway to accept a very generous donation from the American Freedom Foundation for our work with families of our fallen.  We are very thankful for our relationship with the American Freedom Foundation.

What a whirlwind last few months and we are looking forward to the rest of the year and what 2013 has in store for us.  As always, if you are a family of the fallen please register with us to stay informed of all upcoming events.

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A night of enjoyment and relaxation hosted by Got Your Back Network to honor surviving spouses of our fallen soldiers.  There will be music, appetizers, a silent auction and signature Martinis sponsored by Patron’s Ultimat Vodka.

A $40 donation is suggested (please indicate CA M&M in the message box).

May 3rd, 2012 6-9pm
Cuvier Club
7776 Eads Avenue
LaJolla, CA 92037

Please indicate on your RSVP if you are a surviving spouse.

Print the Martinis & Makeovers Flyer

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And here’s the video to prove it! Way to go Andy!! Thank you for your support. We’re so happy that we were able to raise over 3k with this fantastic run. This is going to a great cause, helping families of our fallen! Please support our troops. You can still donate $5, $35 or $105. Whatever it is, it goes to a great cause.

Dr. Andy Baldwin Finishes 35 Miles on his 35th Birthday

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for you to donate 35 dollars to Got Your Back Network, and I’m running 35 miles to prove it. – Dr. Andy Baldwin

On Andy’s Birthday (Feb. 5th), he will be running 35 miles to raise money for the families of fallen soldiers through Got Your Back Network!  All he asks is if you donate $35 to the organization.  There will be many locals coming out to run, walk, and be there for support and raise awareness for the cause.  Go to the donate button on the home page to contribute to GYBN and help families of fallen soldiers.

$35 for 35 on February 5!!  Thank you for your support!! #SOT

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Fallen heroes’ wives, daughters and mother are recognized as “Honorary Miss Americas” at the 2012 Miss America pageant; VIP itinerary includes day spa, shows, VIP seating at Miss America Finals, visits with celebrities

Las Vegas, NV—The Third Annual Project Gratitude brings twenty-two wives, daughters and one mother of fallen heroes to the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. The highlight of their VIP visit will be a ceremony Friday evening January 13th when each will be “pinned” by former Miss Americas with a crown pin, symbolizing their status as the newest honorary Miss Americas.

The guests will travel from around the country into Las Vegas on Wednesday, courtesy of American Airlines. They will be guests of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, and attend the Blue Man Group, CSI Experience, and will be royally pampered at the Canyon Ranch Spa on Saturday just in time to watch the Miss America Finals “live” (6 PM PST on ABC) from their VIP seats.

“We started Project Gratitude out of a deep, heartfelt sense of gratitude and highest respect for the ultimate sacrifice that was made by our nation’s fallen heroes and their families,” explains Sharlene Hawkes, former Miss America and President of Remember My Service Productions. “By recognizing each of the women and their daughters as honorary Miss Americas–and giving them the VIP experience that Miss Americas have received over the years–it is just our way of doing what we can to pay tribute to these great Americans.”

The chairman of Project Gratitude is Kathleen Gagg, Co-Founder of Camp Better America and Executive Director of the Got Your Back Network, who has organized a broad group of volunteers and sponsors to support the tribute (see below for more information about the sponsors) each year.” We are so honored and humbled to do our part in helping return the salute to these incredible families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice”, stated Kathleen Gagg.

Art McMaster, CEO of the Miss America Organization stated, “We are extremely proud to help bring together families who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country for a truly memorable weekend. During Miss America week, many experiences are shared, friendships are gained and memories are made with these amazing families that will forever become a part of this Miss America family. We are so honored and feel privileged to have them join us for the pageant this month.”

Project Gratitude Thanks These Generous Sponsors:

American Airlines

Air Compassion for Veterans
“Air Compassion for Veterans partnered with the American Airlines Veteran’s Initiative is proud to be able to provide the air transportation for the mothers and children of Project Gratitude to be present at the famous Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.  Our mission and purpose are to provide travel for healing and rehabilitation for wounded warriors and their adversely affected family members.  Binding up wounds and uniting America is the goal.  Thanks for letting us participate.”  Contact: Ed Boyer  757-271-2286

Planet Hollywood

Miss America Organization

Warrior Gateway

“Warrior Gateway is honored to be a part of Project Gratitude in supporting the widows and daughters of our fallen military members.  Initiatives such as Project Gratitude show how communities across the nation can step up to work together and support the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Alongside Got Your Back Network and The Miss America Organization as well as other partners, we are honored to join these families of our fallen in Las Vegas for the Miss America pageant.” said Devin B. Holmes, CEO of Warrior Gateway. “Warrior Gateway remains committed to supporting all members of the military community as they return home and seek out their new normal life.” Contact: Devin Holmes (202) 695-3668

Got Your Back Network
“Got Your Back Network is pleased to partner with the Miss America organization to provide a very unique and “once in a lifetime” experience for surviving wives and their daughters. Shared experiences are the highlight of memories and we are happy to be able to plan, organize and implement the Project Gratitude event. We thank all the volunteers, contributors and organizations that have made Project Gratitude possible. “ Contact: Roy E. Baldwin, President 973-670-3940

CSI Experience
“On behalf of CSI: The Experience we are honored to have the widows and daughters of fallen military members visit our interactive experience as part of the initiative called Project Gratitude.  Obviously, words cannot begin to express the debt we owe to our service men and women who give their lives in defense of our country.  We only hope that we can give these families an enjoyable experience as our way of showing them a portion of the appreciation that they deserve.”
Contact: Ava Bahnam Wideen 702.742.6814

Chilton Hospital : contact Anna Scalora 973-831-5496

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This January, bereaved widows and daughters of fallen military members will attend the Miss America Finals courtesy of an initiative called Project Gratitude. This will bring together families that have suffered similar losses for a weekend of fun and bonding. During this time many experiences are shared, friendships are gained and memories are made.

We are currently seeking gift bag or monetary donations for this 3rd annual event. Please visit our sponsor page to learn more about the wonderful sponsors who have already generously donated to this event! Show how important these families are by contacting for information. Thank you so much for your support, we all appreciate it!

Getting ready for Miss America