As a part of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s Military Appreciation Weekend, the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System will be holding its annual “Welcome Home Celebration” in USA Hockey Arena on Friday, March 3.
The event is held annually and promotes VA services and community resources available to veterans and their families.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Bruck, his wife, Natalie, and their eight children will drop the ceremonial puck Friday prior for the U.S. National Under-18 Team’s game against the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
Bruck joined the Army in 1992, just after graduating from Monroe High School in Michigan, thinking it was “the patriotic thing to do.” Initially joining as a Military Intelligence Analyst, he joined the guard in college and then the reserves in 1998 as an engineer.
In February 2003, Bruck served his first overseas tour post the September 11 terrorist attacks and was sent to Baghdad, Iraq. He left his wife and two boys for 18 months with just five days notice.
“I deployed with the 1st Armor Division and we built bases, restored schools, trained Iraqis, and pulled a lot of security,” Bruck said.
In 2009, then a warrant officer, he was deployed back to Baghdad for 14 months and for what he thought would be his last tour. In the fall of 2013, Bruck bought and opened a Visiting Angels Homecare franchise that helps care for veterans with a contract through the VA, with the inclination he was home for good. However, in February 2014, 11 years after his first active deployment, he was sent to Afghanistan to serve with the 2nd Engineer Brigade.
While Bruck has a long list of medals to his name, including two Bronze Star Medals, he said helping care for his fellow veterans has brought him the most joy in his career. Along with his Visiting Angels franchise, he has started Angels 4 Vets, which gives disabled veterans items they need through community donations.
During Christmastime, Bruck and his Newfoundland dog, Nash, visited veterans, bringing them needed items and food.
“We delivered two to three baskets of useable items and food, along with gift certificates and a spiral sliced ham to 39 vets at Christmastime,” Bruck said.
Along with the baskets, Bruck presented recipients with a certificate of achievement of their service. He said seeing the vets’ reaction to receiving their certificates was “very humbling.”
One of the vets cried over the certificate saying it was the “nicest thing” he ever received. He cried again after seeing the spiral ham because, until Bruck and Nash came, his family had nothing nice for Christmas dinner.
“I tear up every time recall it. I am so very glad to have a part in making people’s lives better, especially our vets,” Bruck said.
Bruck said he is thankful to have had these “undesirable life situations” because it puts him in a position to help veterans.
“I do whatever I can on behalf of and to support the greatest among us- our vets,” Bruck, who is currently still an active reservist with the 457th Facility Engineer Sustainment Team in Livonia, said. “I am not sure why I was chosen to participate in this event — I do not deserve it, but I gladly will because my family deserves this special honor,” Bruck said about dropping the puck Friday night.
The NTDP’s special throwback uniforms worn this weekend will be auctioned off online from March 6-April 16 and proceeds will benefit VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
* Photos courtesy of William Bruck.