National Ability Center salutes heroes with luncheon featuring author James Bradley |

National Ability Center salutes heroes with luncheon featuring author James Bradley

James Bradley, author of “Flag of Our Fathers,” will give the keynote address at the National Ability Center’s “Saluting Our Heroes” luncheon on Nov. 6.
Courtesy of the National Ability Center

What: National Ability Center’s ‘Saluting Our Heroes’ luncheon

When: Noon on Wednesday, Nov. 6

Where: Grand America Hotel, 555 Main St., Salt Lake City

Cost: Free, but registration is required


Military programs hosted by the National Ability Center

• Nov. 9 — Bad to the Bow archery military family day, NAC Campus

• Dec. 14 — Rockreation indoor climbing military family day, NAC Campus

• Jan. 11, 2020 — Military backcountry snowshoe, NAC Campus

• Feb. 8 — License to Chill Nordic ski military family day, NAC Campus

• March 14 — Military backcountry snowshoe, Daly Canyon

• April 11 — Road Warriors cycling military family day, NAC Campus

Since the National Ability Center’s humble beginnings that started in 1985 with a grant from the Disables Veterans of Utahthat enabled it to take a group of Vietnam veterans skiing, the Park City nonprofit has kept the military close to its heart.

At noon on Wednesday, Nov. 6, the NAC is set to host its annual Saluting Our Heroes fundraiser luncheon, which is free and open to the public, at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Over the years, the luncheon has evolved to include veterans, active duty personnel and other community partners, said CEO Kevin Stickelman.

“But the idea hasn’t changed much,” he said. “The reason to host is to say thank you to the service members who live in this community.”

The event features a short presentation about the NAC’s programs and a keynote speech by historian James Bradley, author of “Flags of our Fathers.” The book, which was adapted into a 2006 film directed by Clint Eastwood, is an investigation into the identities and lives of the six Marines who appeared in the iconic photo “Raising the Flag Over Iwo Jima.”

“(James) will include his experiences he writes about into what the National Ability Center does day-in and day-out to the people we serve,” Stickelman said.

The lunch program will also focus on the mission and programs we offer to the veterans and their family members, Stickelman said. (See accompanying list for a schedule of upcoming military programs)

Asking for contributions is also necessary inorder to maintain these programs, and during the event the NAC will ask people to donate any way they can, according to Stickelman.

“Some people can do that through volunteering to support the programs or other events,” he said. “Others may come and take part of these programs or a military weekend we host, and lastly, we reach out to those who feel compelled to support our mission financially.”

While hearing the keynote speaker and asking for contributions is inspiring, Stickelman said one of the more emotional aspects of the luncheon is seeing all of the service people and their families in one room.

“It’s certainly means something to us knowing that the small things we do through our programs really aren’t that small to those to participate,” he said. “These programs truly make a major impact and change the lives of the people who are in that room.”

The programs, utilize teambuilding and course challenges, help veterans and currently serving personnel with mental and physical wounds start to enjoy life again, according to Stickelman.

“There are a lot of people who come here thinking their lives are forever changed in a bad way, but the reality is that their lives are just different,” Stickelman said. “They can still do the things they used to do, but have to do them with new equipment and in a different manner.”

For instance, Stickelman and his staff have served veterans who have lost their legs and thought they would never ski or ride a bike again.

“They come through our program, and after a few days with us, they are inspired to get out and live and enjoy life to its fullest,” he said. “We see powerful stories every day.”

Throughout the years, NAC has formed partnerships with veteran organizations around the country, and one of its most successful has been with the National Center for Veteran Studies at the University of Utah, Stickelman said.

“That program seeks to cure PTSD, and what we see coming out of that is record cure rates of the veterans in that program,” he said. “This is a program we could not do without the NCVS. We rely on them for the professional counseling they do, and we provide the recreational aspects of the program.”

Today, the military comprise around a quarter of the people the NAC serves, according to Stickelman.

“(The) military always has been and will always be a major focus for the National Ability Center,” he said. “It’s certainly a demographic that we continue to expand our services and reach for. It’s certainly part of the DNA of the organization.”

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