United Through Reading Receives Inaugural Community Service Hero Award

Medal of Honor recipient and Society President Tom Kelley (left) and Medal of Honor recipient Barney Barnum (right) present the Community Service Hero Award to UTR. UTR CEO, Dr. Sally Ann Zoll and UTR Board Chair, Jeff Mader received on behalf of the organization.

“We are incredibly humbled by this experience and to be the first recipient of this award. It is an extraordinary honor to be recognized out of all of the many worthy organizations that serve our nation’s military members and their families.”
– Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, United Through Reading CEO

We are honored to announce that, on Friday, March 25, United Through Reading proudly received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s inaugural Community Service Hero Award at a ceremony at Joint-Base Myer-Henderson Hall on National Medal of Honor Day. United Through Reading was selected for our innovative and grassroots response to a critical need in the armed forces community for over 25 years, our exceptional international impact on military families, and demonstrating the impact of one person’s courageous transformative vision and actions.

The Citizen Honors Awards were created by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to recognize organizations and individuals that have made a difference in the lives of others through a singular act of extraordinary heroism, or through their continued commitment to putting others first.

“The Society congratulates United Through Reading for receiving Citizen Honors, in recognition of their visionary leadership  in serving military service members.  UTR embodies the spirit of the Medal of Honor and we are pleased to recognize them for their efforts,” said Tom Kelly, Medal of Honor recipient and Congressional Medal of Honor Society President.

We are honored to be included in these awards, and will endeavor to use this opportunity as the recipient of the inaugural Community Service Hero Award to expand our service to the military community, and to encourage other organizations across America to serve their communities with courage, sacrifice, selflessness and patriotism.

Thank you for your continued support of United Through Reading! Our mission delivery would not be possible without the help of volunteers, military families, generous donors,  and UTR friends like you. With your support, we look forward to continuing our mission of connecting military families and encouraging literacy worldwide.
Visit the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation online to learn more about the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and 2016 Citizen Honors Recipients.

Legacies Alive Challenge Featured on CBS News Veteran’s Day Special

Legacies Alive featured on CBS News for Veterans Day

On November 11, former Navy Seal Chris Ring was featured on CBS News’ Veteran’s Day Special. Chris Ring is currently swimming 2,350 down the Mississippi River and is meeting Gold Star Families along the way, as his Legacies Alive challenge. As of Tuesday, November 10th, Chris hit his 2,000 mile mark.

Chris spends six to eight hours a day, six days a week, swimming down the Mississippi River. At his journey’s end, he will go down as the first American to swim the entire Mississippi, but he says it’s those families and the memory of their loved ones that made it happen.

“I couldn’t imagine anything better than to really raise awareness and honor these fallen heroes,” [Ring] said.

Ring, who started his 157-day long journey in June, said he was inspired to make the swim for Legacies Alive by a cross-country hike last year by army veteran Mike Viti.  Mike Viti began his 6 month journey in DuPont, WA. Hiking an average of 25 miles a day, Mike walked around the perimeter of the United States of America covering over 7,100 kilometers, or 4,400 miles honoring the 6,843 service members who were killed in the Global War on Terrorism and ending on December 13th, 2014 at the Army-Navy game in Baltimore, MD.

As for Ring, he has met nearly 200 Gold Star Families since his journey began, and hopes to meet many more before his challenge ends in early December.

“If I’m having a terrible day on the river, it’s going to be over in however many hours, but these families have to live with their pain and suffering and their burdens for the rest of their lives,” said Ring. ” I feel more than privileged to be able to do it. It is truly an honor to do it.”

Read more on CBS News.

“SWIM FOR THEIR SACRIFICE” STOPS IN ST. LOUIS

legacy5Chris Ring is slightly dazed, and the arms and legs of his wetsuit show holes from run-ins with logs and other obstacles he’s encountered on his historic swim of the Mississippi River.

“That water was pretty choppy. I was rolling all over the place,” he said minutes after emerging from the river at the base of the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis. “I’m a little tired, but you get out [of the water] and it gives you a big boost to see the families of soldiers who have come out to see you.”

Ring, a Navy combat veteran, is trying to become the first American to swim the entire length of the Mississippi River, a feat he’s attempting in honor of our country’s fallen heroes and their families. The challenge, called Swim for Their Sacrifice, is sponsored by Legacies Alive, an organization supporting families of soldiers killed in combat.

About a dozen people met Ring on Monday night as he reached the halfway point of his journey in St. Louis. The families of fallen soldiers cheered the 28-year-old Tennessean as he approached the cobblestone landing and gave him hugs, even though he was dripping wet, when he stepped out.

“We’re doing this so no one ever forgets about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s about awareness and our desire to carry on the legacy of our fallen soldiers,” said Ring. “This [leg] is an important piece, because this is about halfway [down the Mississippi].”

Since June, Ring has been swimming an average of 15 miles a day. He will cover2,552 miles over approximately six months and anticipates reaching the end of his journey in the Gulf of Mexico sometime in November.

“You never know what to expect on the river. It can be calm one day and stormy the next. The water can be warm one day and freezing cold the next,” he said. “One memorable day, we were in a section of the river about three miles wide and a storm rolled in. I couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of me and had to deal with some pretty big waves. I could feel the lighting hit the water somewhere ahead.”

But those are the times when Ring thinks about his mission.

“It’s not about setting a record, it’s about bringing awareness to our fallen heroes, and connecting as many of their families as possible,” said Ring. “I think about that a lot while I’m swimming.”

Get more information about Legacies Alive and Swim for their Sacrifice at http://legaciesalive.com/.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine

Navy Vet Swims for Fallen Comrades

(Courtesy of Jessica Machetta/KMOX)ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Chris Ring is swimming the length of the Mississippi and has made it to the halfway mark in St. Louis Monday night.
Ring is a Navy combat veteran and he just finished his 107th day of swimming the length of the river to raise awareness for fallen soldiers. He says being cheered on by those who have lost their loved ones standing on the shore, keeps him going.

“What carries me on from day to day is hearing their stories and being able to carry that with the rest of the group and raise awareness nationally for them,” says Ring.

Jim and Susan Jacobs of Ballwin were there to meet Ring at the shore. They lost their son Zachary five years ago in Afghanistan on a route clearance mission.

“They mean the world to us that someone cares,” says Susan Jacobs. “That’s our whole purpose anymore, is making sure no one ever forgets.”
Ring says swimming the Mississippi is a different experience every day with temperature changes, currents and storms. He hopes to reach the Gulf on Veterans Day.

For more information about survivor benefits for families, contact Gigi Winburn at (314) 416-6600 ext. 36543 or georgett.e.winburn.ctr@mail.mil
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Navy vet passing through St. Louis today as he attempts to swim the length of the Mississippi River

Navy veteran Chris Ring swims down the Mississippi River escorted by marine rescue boats from the St. Louis Fire Department as he heads to St. Louis on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Ring is swimming the length of the river for six months to honor fallen servicemen. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com