After 9/11, I became deeply involved in helping disabled veterans through running Independence Corps Foundation, which provides both high-tech mobility devices and networking events to assist our wounded veterans live more productive, dignified lives. I was so moved by the strength of character of these heroes that, in 2018, I helped create and began serving on the board of the Tribute to Valor Foundation, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) that focuses on introducing high school students involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to Medal of Honor Recipients. We work with school districts to bring Medal of Honor Recipients, those who have earned our nation’s highest award for valor in combat, to engage with students through assemblies, workshops, presentations and unique immersive experiences, such as trips to the Kennedy and Houston Space Centers.
Today, there are only 72 living Recipients of the Medal of Honor – true national treasures – who are committed to “paying it forward” by instilling in young people the responsibilities of being Americans, and to demonstrate those special values of character in their lives. Tribute To Valor influences and inspires students to understand and emulate the six values of the Medal of Honor: Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity, and Commitment.
Each of these heroic veterans tell us they don’t wear the Medal for themselves, but for all the men and women who put on a uniform and served in the United States Military, especially the men and women who were injured or killed in service to this great nation.
The future of our nation and our world lies in the hands of our youth, tomorrow’s thought leaders. So, when the opportunity presented itself to partner with the Medal of Honor Character Development Program and to promote STEM education, it was too important for our nation’s and our world’s future to pass up.
Solving big problems, whether in medicine, science, engineering, government takes study and determination. Schools and parents need help teaching kids that success at all things takes failing and the determination to try again and again until success is achieved.
Solving big problems with moral clarity also takes courage. Seeing and solving a problem, overcoming an obstacle, doing what has never been done before, when others might well just give up and go on to something else, that takes sacrifice.
So, Tribute To Valor asks kids to ask themselves, “Who Am I?” “What am I made of, and how can I be the best at the task at hand? Am I willing to care about and to sacrifice to help others? Am I willing to put service and sacrifice above myself.”
Two children recently were inspired to invent devices that detected and destroyed landmines. Another young women saw a problem, lack of motivational literature available to students, and she helped distribute more than 11,000 books to libraries, schools and community organizations around the world. An eighth grader from Oregon, developed a software tool that was shown to help doctors zero in on pancreatic tumors, ideally improving treatments.
Tribute To Valor inspires students to view STEM as a path to pursue, but with the added dimension of Honor, Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity and Commitment. They are challenged to ask themselves: “Who am I? Who will I become?”
Tribute To Valor needs ambassadors to get us into schools, in front of companies who need highly motivated educated graduates, and in front of foundations and grant opportunities. And of course, we need loving donors who care and are willing to donate to support what greatness will come from today’s youth.
For more information about the Tribute to Valor Foundation, please visit https://tributetovalor.org/ and watch our videos at https://vimeo.com/320349906 and https://vimeo.com/353469824. Gary Lawson is a transactional, employment and executive compensation lawyer.