Sunday concert at JSU to benefit Sgt. Ben Tomlinson
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
May 14, 2013 | 2165 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A hometown hero was on hand Thursday at the Jacksonville Exchange Club meeting. Sgt. Ben Tomlinson was injured in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, the last of which left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Along with his family, Tomlinson came to the meeting a week prior to a benefit concert being held on his behalf. Proceeds from the event, which will take place Sunday at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU, will go toward building him a smart home.

Leah Tinker, with the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation, was guest speaker at the meeting, and explained how both foundations partnered to create the Building for America’s Bravest program, which builds smart homes for returning wounded soldiers.

Tinker said the partnership came about initially because of one man, Brendan Morrocco, the first quadruple amputee to ever survive an American war.

“They realized how difficult it is for him to get around in his home,” Tinker said, and so they worked to build him a new one, made more accessible by using automated systems and complete handicap accessibility.

Actor and musician Gary Sinise learned of the effort and agreed to hold a concert with his band, the Lt. Dan Band to help raise funds for the build.

Sinise will do the same Sunday for Tomlinson.

“Ben is our local hero, and we’re happy to be here and build his home for him, to make his life a little more at ease,” Tinker said.

Tinker asked that everyone become involved in raising awareness of Sunday’s concert, and to mobilize the community to come out in support of Tomlinson.

“These people, these men, they deserve our support. And that’s what this concert is about,” Tinker said. “It’s showing Ben that this community cares. That we appreciate the sacrifices he made for us.”

Tickets cost between $25-$50 and are available at AOD Credit Unions and online at operationben.com. Tickets will also be sold at the concert. Gate opens at 5 p.m. and the show begins at 6 p.m. Kids five and under are free.

Local attorney Joe Maloney spoke at the Freedom Shrine dedication at Pleasant Valley Elementary School after the meeting.

Each year, the club installs a plaque denoting 32 historical American documents that embody the foundation of our freedoms.

“It starts with the Mayflower Compact and the last document is Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate,” Maloney said.

Maloney’s speech centered on national unity. Pulling from history, he used words from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address in which the president spoke of charity for all, and binding the nation’s wounds.

“The Gettysburg Address talked about bringing the country together. Even Robert E. Lee’s letter to Washington College, when he was appointed president, says that he is going to be trying to bring national unity together,” Maloney said.

“We don’t need to divide ourselves up between red states and blue states,” he said. “Anti-Obama and that sort of thing. It’s hurting our freedoms, and we’re in it together, and we need to stay together first and foremost.”
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Sunday concert at JSU to benefit Sgt. Ben Tomlinson by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com

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