On June 9, Cheney resident and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Phil Kiver was chosen as a finalist for People magazine and Major League Baseball’s “Tribute for Heroes,” campaign which will send 30 military veterans to be recognized at the 2013 MLB All-Star game on July 16, in New York City.
MLB and People, with the help of two retired generals and a cast of MLB players including Justin Verlander, Nick Swisher, Barry Zito, Jonny Gomes, Brad Ziegler, Chase Headley and Craig Stammen, narrowed down more than 6,000 military nominees into 90 finalists, three for every MLB team.
Kiver was joined by Robert Dyer, an active-duty Marine Corps aviation officer, and Danny Gabriel, an Army veteran of Lacey Wash.,as the three nominees of the Seattle Mariners.
Now it is up to fans to decide who will represent the Mariners in New York through an online vote. Until June 30, fans can go online and vote limitlessly for Kiver by going to TributeForHeroes.com, selecting the Seattle Mariners icon, and then selecting the “Vote for Phil” button at the bottom of the page.
“In terms of the emotion, if I’m one of those 30 veterans selected to stand on a field in New York City, on national TV and be recognized for my service, it would be overwhelming,” Kiver said. “In my military and civilian career I’ve been to the inauguration, I’ve been to all-star games before, I’ve met presidents and stuff like that, but this is completely different because now this isn’t a part of my job. People nominated me and that makes it really special.”
And for Kiver, a diehard Mariners fan who attended so many games in 2001 that players began to recognize and acknowledge him from the dugout, representing Seattle would be the ultimate honor.
“The Mariners and I were both born in 1977,” Kiver said. “I’ll walk through gun fire to go to a ball game anywhere in the country. The emotion, aside from that I’m a veteran and these are other veterans and this is our opportunity to be recognized, it would be pretty cool to be the Mariners representative, and as a baseball fan that just makes me giddy.”
Kiver began his military career by joining the Washington Army National Guard during his time at Eastern Washington University.
He first joined the Guard because he “thought it would be cool to fight forest fires,” but there Kiver learned his love for his country went deeper than that.
In December of 2001, around the same time the United States was about to go to war with Iraq, Kiver desired to better serve his country and asked the National Guard for his release so he could join the active Army.
The next day Kiver joined the Army and was sent off to Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. The next few years Kiver would be deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan where he served in public affairs and as a combat photographer.
Once Kiver got out of the Army in 2006, he didn’t waste much time in returning to the Middle East and immediately went back to work as a contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan I worked in psychological operations, which was still kind of in the media,” Kiver said. “I ran a radio station network in the Kandahar Province which was absolutely the Wild West. It was broadcast in their native language so not only was I running a news organization, but having to do it in another language through the interpreter and picking up the language myself.”
Looking back on his trips to the Middle East during both military and civilian duty, Kiver said the overall experience opened his eyes to how blessed he is to be living in fortunate circumstances.
“I’ve just found in recollections now in my repeated trips to the Middle East both with and without uniform, that I’m just like any other veteran that did it,” Kiver said. “We all had our jobs, I was just lucky enough to live in extraordinary times.”
Kiver currently works for the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and also works very closely with the public affairs office at the Veterans Administration hospital both locally and nationally to raise awareness on suicide prevention.
Kiver strives to be a “voice from within” to bring attention to what he describes as the “woefully inadequate” treatment that is available to veterans that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); A disorder that Kiver himself suffers from .
“To be a veteran that has these issues and know other veterans with these issues, people need to stand up and say that the status quo is unacceptable,” Kiver said. “And that’s the message I want to carry to New York and talk to people about is the VA is doing the best they can with the resources they have, but until that changes bad things are going to continue to happen. And that’s a sad testament to our veterans.”
Again fans can vote for Kiver by going to TributeForHeroes.com and selecting the Seattle Mariners icon and then selecting the “Vote for Phil” button at the bottom of the page. Voting will remain open until June 30 and fans can vote limitlessly.