Rich M. Jones , Chief Veteran Officer, EVP, General Tax Counsel was part of the many special panelists who attended the virtual Veterans Advantage “Heroes Meet Heroes” event, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Caliber Home Loans,1800 Flowers and Flour Block. It is hosted annually at the New York Athletic Club in New York City, however, this year, it was held virtually. This initiative was started eight years ago by Lyn Higgins, wife of CEO Scott Higgins of Veterans Advantage. On the opening, Mr. Higgins spoke on how this initiative helps heroes meet other heroes to become inspired by their stories. Participants who attended the event received a one-year subscription to Veterans Rewards.
The panel consisted of outstanding global civilian athletes and veterans who have made an impact in the world in terms of sportsmanship, among others.
Priscilla Loomis, Olympian in High Jump, spoke about her dual-citizenship representing Antigua and Barbuda as an athlete, as well as representing the USA; especially the NY/NJ area. Her passion is to mentor kids who aspire to become athletes. She shared her secrets on perseverance, such as posting positive affirmations on her bathroom mirror. Her advice to aspiring young athletes is to have resilience, show love, spread the light, stay physical, eat healthy, and do things that bring happiness.
As a known public speaker, Mrs. Loomis gave some advice to attendees about failure, “The only way youth are going to grow and learn is through failure. You must ask what have you learned. Rethink your mentality and dialogue with yourself. See it as a blessing to practice in order to get better. When the time comes you will be ready and prepared.”
Michelle Carter lit up the room with her bubbly personality. She shared how her dad won a silver medal for men’s shot put, which inspired her path to sportsmanship. Ms. Carter believes her dad saw something in her from a young age, and helped her to believe in herself even more. She gave some parting advice, “Have people in your circle that aren’t yes people, or allow you to be second or last, because they see something in you that you haven’t seen in yourself yet”. Michelle is a three-time Olympian as well as a World Championship gold medalist. She spoke about her achievements of starting several businesses and her non-profit called youthrowgirl.com, a sports confidence camp for female athletes grades 6th through 12th grade.
Florent Groberg, U.S. Army veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient, shared his views on American patriotism, and standing up for what is right during these trying times. He reminisced on his time meeting President Obama, when the President presented him with the Medal of Honor at the White House, and was taken aback by how down to earth the President was. Flo is an immigrant and adoptee, born in Poissy, France, with his family hailing from North Africa. As a Captain, he served in the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, CO. As a result of his overseas deployment, Flo lost 40 to 50 percent of his left calf muscle sustaining nerve damage, including a blown eardrum, and mild traumatic brain injury. Captain Groberg recovered at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and was medically retired in 2015. He inspired the audience with his story of heroism and bravery as a true American war hero.
Dr. Philip Shinnick, U.S. Air Force veteran, Acupuncturist, Mind Mapping Specialist, Medal of Honor Recipient, All-American Swimmer, 1964 Olympian in Long Jump & World Record holder, spoke about his unorthodox path from sports to healing. Dr. Shinnick said, “The problem with athletes is we always get injured”. Dr. Shinnick notes that he does not define himself as being bound to one career; however, what is most important is his passion for healing and not dying from diseases. He shared that athletics has taught him how to have peace in order to perform under pressure, while having a clear mind.
John Mann, two time Olympian in Water Polo, with a height of 6’6”, spoke about his journey into water sports. Jokingly, Mr. Mann told the audience that his parents brainwashed him at a young age about the sport, so he eventually got into water polo. He has prided his family as an inspiring motivator to his path.
Donna de Varona is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Swimming, and sits on the Veterans Advantage Advisory Board. She spoke about how athletes can pivot in sports during COVID-19. Her motivating advice to global athletes was to stay safe, talk to each other and motivate each other.
Rich M. Jones Chief Veteran Officer, EVP, General Tax Counsel from ViacomCBS and proud Veterans Advantage board member, spoke about overcoming trials and tribulations post-service as a veteran. He shared his rich family history dedicated to military service, including his father who died as a result of agent orange.
Mr. Jones gave some helpful advice to veterans suffering from PTSD, “Have a support network. Have people in your life. I was in a dark place until I met my wife to be. It was great people that made an impact in my life. Staying around positive people, therapy and the right support network, makes all the difference in the world”.
“On behalf of the ViacomCBS Veterans Network, we are proud to have supported this initiative to inspire the public, and the youth of tomorrow who aspire to serve this great nation whether through military service or sportsmanship. The bravery and courage shared amongst the panelists, are a testament to our nation’s heroism”, says Tiffany Pilgrim, Veteran and Military Relations Coordinator