Photo: Lettermen of the USA recognized several U.S. military veterans at the inaugural One Yard at A Time benefit banquet on Feb. 8 at the Marriott Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook. Pictured, front row, from left: Dale Overton, Phillip Quigley, Harold McMurran, Charles Henry, Major Wooten, Todd Boland. Back row, from left: Leonard Thomas, Chris Gray, Al Nash, Desmond Holoman, Darryl Fuhrman, Matthew Tankersley, Chuck Drown, Otis Branon, Billy Neal, Cornelius Bennett and Roger Shultz. (submitted photo)
More than 200 people joined Lettermen of the USA at the inaugural One Yard at A Time benefit banquet on Feb. 8 at the Marriott Grand Bohemian Hotel, in Mountain Brook.
Money raised from the event will be used to help fund the organization’s mission to help veterans by providing ADA compliant home renovations, personal mobility aids and specialized vehicles.
Special guests at the event included keynote speaker Cornelius Bennett, five-time NFL Super Bowl participant and Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and University of Alabama linebacker; retired Lieutenant Colonel, David F. Bonwit, USMC Battalion Commander and military aide to
former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush; and Chris Gray, former NFL and Auburn University offensive lineman.
Bennett described how grateful he was to be part of such an important event.
“I had an amazing time speaking at the event and hanging out with some of finest men to serve this beloved country. It was a great reminder of the sacrifices so many made to ensure we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.”
The star-studded patriotic event, which honored veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, included more than 15 former college and NFL players and coaches. Also on hand were local dignitaries such as Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill and former Alaba-ma State Senator Tammy Irons.
“The One Yard at a Time Gala was an outstanding event,” said Merrill. “Very seldom do you see so many former student-athletes who are committed to a cause. The commitment made by these individuals to support the veterans who are always in need of support and encouragement was truly special. It was truly a red-letter day for the Lettermen of the USA, whose commitment to its membership and our veterans is truly unique. I am always honored to support them.”
“The One Yard at a Time Gala was a great experience,” said Victor Hanson, key account manager, North Alabama Division, Coca-Cola Bottling Company. “Lettermen of the USA was able to bring so many people and organizations together to benefit returning and disabled American veterans. I am so grateful to have been a part of such a tremendous cause. The food was great and the fellowship and speakers even better, but getting the opportunity to shake the hand of a 102-year-old veteran who was in attendance was the highlight of my night.”
U.S. Army Retired Sargent Major and Alabama Power Governmental Relations liaison Mike Oakley explained why his organization is partnering with Lettermen of the USA and congratulated LotUSA on the positive impact they it has on military veterans in the State of Alabama.
“I thought the gala was an excellent venue to recognize veterans and their families by harnessing the power and the positivity of athletic lettermen and women. At Alabama Power, we are dedicated to improving our state from the ground up, and that is why we choose to invest in this organization and others with a positive and productive message.”
Guests enjoyed a pre-event photo and autograph session with a variety of notable former college and NFL greats, including Bennett, Gray, Bobby Humphrey, Patrick Hape, Trent Richardson, Adlai Trone and former LSU and Southern Mississippi head football coach, Curley Hallman. Guests were welcomed to their tables by Master of Ceremonies John Lyda, operations manager of claims for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and member of the Hoover City Council.
“It was an honor to be able to take part in the inaugural One Yard at a Time Gala,”: said Lyda. “Seeing former players, coaches and fans of opposing colleges and universities coming together to unite in support of this great organization was very special. The opportunity to honor six American hero veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War is a memory each of us will take away from the evening and remember forever.”
The presentation of colors was provided by the Woodlawn High School JROTC honor guard, which included Major Bowman, Cameron Jones, Ronnie Dinkins, RayShondra McDonald and Tamahjae Cook.
During the Autographs for Heroes presentation, each veteran was recognized with an autographed college football. Honored veterans who were between 92 and 102 years of age included Chuck Drown, U.S. Air Force, Vietnam; Otis Branon, U.S. Army, World War II; Charles Henry, U.S. Army, World War II; Major Wooten, U.S. Army, World War II; and Harold McMurran. U.S. Army, World War II.
Event sponsors included Coca-Cola, Hoover Fire and Tactical and Caliber. Media partners included iHeart Radio and WBRC Fox 6. Lettermen of the USA received additional support from the Alabama Power Foundation, Regions Bank and Salem’s Diner.
Proving that rival teams and rival fan bases can work together to achieve a common goal, Lettermen of the USA is a national 501 (c) (3) charitable organization of former college athletes and active and former coaches who have teamed up to help serve honorably discharged veterans, wounded veterans, disaster victims and former college players in need. The organization’s mission is to impact those who serve by offering the motivation, guidance and support necessary to pursue success in life, school and work, one yard at a time. For more information, visit www.lotusa.org.