Country artist Brantley Gilbert, Polaris RZR and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) teamed up to spread some cheer this holiday season for three veterans and their families.
Two Marines and an Army vet, all fans of Gilbert, were invited to High Lifter’s Off-Road Park in Louisiana with their families. The families were under the assumption they were helping with a promotional video; instead, they were treated to a day of off-road riding with Gilbert, who also performed a private acoustic set for the group.
The evening was topped off when each family was surprised with an RZR XP 1000 of its own.
“The vets give so much for all of us,” said Gilbert, a double-platinum country star. “To be able to team with a company like Polaris and have fun all day on their RZRs, then send the vets home with one? To me, that’s how we pass it on, and make the holidays special for those unseen heroes.”
DAV’s national commander, David Riley, said the organization was “excited and grateful that Polaris RZR and Brantley Gilbert have partnered with DAV to bestow such a wonderful opportunity to several deserving heroes and their families.”
Marine veteran Brandon Marchioni was one of the veterans who participated in the event, along with his wife and two young children. Marchioni served four years, including a tour in Iraq. Polaris also surprised his kids with a youth-sized RZR model.
“I have had many memories in my life that will never leave me. Because of DAV and Polaris, this weekend is a memory for me and my family that will be one of the happiest, never to be forgotten moments of our life,” said Marchioni.
Also selected to attend was Army veteran Mike Hammons who was joined by his wife and five children. This trip offered the large Hammons clan a rare opportunity to travel together as a family. Hammons served for five years, including a tour in South Korea where he suffered a serious injury to his foot. After enduring several surgeries, the damage to his foot could not be repaired and was severe enough to leave him unable to work.
“This experience was a once in a lifetime event! The folks with DAV, Polaris, High Lifter, and the man himself, Brantley Gilbert, couldn’t have been more welcoming, gracious, giving and caring,” said Hammons. “We all laughed together, cried together and got muddy together!”
Marine veteran Dan O’Connor and his wife were also selected to attend. O’Connor served in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded. When O’Connor returned home, he was in a serious accident that led to the amputation of his leg. O’Connor began racing hand-crank wheelchairs to aid in his recovery. He then became the cycling coach for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment to help other injured service members prove that they can overcome their disabilities.
“The outpouring of love for my wife Debbie and myself and the recognition as a combat Vietnam veteran from DAV and the staff of Polaris was overwhelming,” said O’Connor.