Leightons will talk about war’s tragic side at veterans benefit


Jacquie and Ryan Leighton will be guest speakers at the “Stars, Stripes & Heroes” fundraiser at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Oct. 22.

Courtesy of That Others May Live Foundation

In 2012, Marine Ryan Leighton’s UH-1Y Yankee helicopter crashed on a mountain in Iraq. Two comrades perished, while Leighton suffered traumatic brain injury, nerve damage, speech and memory issues, a leg infection and an almost demolished spine.

In a story of triumph over tragedy, Leighton, with the help of his wife, Jacquie, worked through the aftermath of the accident, the lengthy recuperation, the pain, the excessive drinking, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The Leightons will be guest speakers at the “Stars, Stripes & Heroes” benefit hosted by the That Others May Live Foundation at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center at 400 S. Sykes Creek Parkway on Merritt Island.

During the Veterans Memorial Center event, the Leightons will share their inspiring story of overcoming unimaginable tragedy. “Stars, Stripes & Heroes” will also acquaint the community with the work of the That Others May Live Foundation.

The foundation was launched in 2002 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada as a result of tragedies that claimed the lives of Air Force Rescue airmen, leaving young families behind. The nonprofit was created to provide financial support, advocacy and guidance to air rescue members, veterans and families affected by visible as well as invisible wounds. Scholarships for the next generation are an important component.

“The foundation funds the college expenses for children whose parent died while executing rescue missions to defend our country,” said Debbie Leon, the director of advancement.

The organization also provides immediate financial assistance to families of fallen heroes, as well as financial help to families of those who have committed suicide during active duty or reserve.

Additionally, Midnight Sun Service Dogs partners with That Others May Live Foundation to place service and therapy dogs with military units and with wounded air rescue personnel.

The public is invited to attend “Stars, Stripes & Heroes,” where guests will enjoy food courtesy of TD Bank. Admission is free, with donations welcome.

“The event will provide information on what we do with the hopes that people will donate, but giving is not required,” Leon said.

Sponsorship opportunities range from $1,000 to $5,000.

For more information, call 407-754-4639 or email Debbie.leon@thatothersmaylive.org.