A Veterans Day Tribute: Heroes We've Met Over the Past Two Years

UPDATED 11/11/2013 at 05:00 PM EST Originally published 11/11/2013 at 03:10 PM EST

A Veterans Day Tribute: 7 Heroes We've Met Over the Past Two Years
From left: Earl Morse (in red), George Gribben, Charlie Sens, Ellie Miller (in red) and Kenny Fegley
Ethan Hill
Veterans Day is a time to pay tribute and say thanks. And just as families across the country today are honoring those who have served and sacrificed, we too are reminded of the brave men and women we've met through the years.

PEOPLE's ongoing series Heroes Among Us profiles everyday Americans who are going the extra mile to help neighbors and strangers, and the seven amazing men highlighted below – all retired from, or affiliated with, the armed services – deserve another round of applause for their inspiring acts of kindness.

A Veterans Day Tribute: Heroes We've Met Over the Past Two Years| Heroes Among Us, Good Deeds

Urruela (center) with VETSports players (left to right) Christopher Mata, Jeremy Fore and Joshua Schichtl.

Jeffery A. Salter

Brian Taylor Urruela

Army Sgt. Brian Taylor Urruela was wounded by a roadside bomb in 2006; his injuries resulted in the amputation of his right leg. But he bounced back after a battle with PTSD and founded VETSports, a sports league with 100 players in several cities, aimed at getting veterans active and interacting with each other. Read our profile of VETSports.

Bruce Mendelsohn

Former U.S. Army officer Bruce Mendelsohn, 44, served during the Persian Gulf War. This year, he was present at the Boston Marathon and wound up becoming one of the first responders to the scene of the bombing. He gave a harrowing account of that afternoon to PEOPLE.

Matt Kinsey

Matt Kinsey is a former Army sergeant who lost his right foot in 2010 after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan. Today, he works with the the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, traveling around the country playing other teams and coaching younger amputees. Read more about his inspiring journey.

Joseph Pinsky

Joseph Pinsky served in the Philippines during World War II. Because he'd enlisted immediately after graduating high school in 1944, he never found the time to go to college. But in 2012, at age 85, Pinsky returned to academia, graduating some 68 years later from Brooklyn's Kingsborough Community College with an associate's degree. Read more about Pinsky's journey.

Earl Morse

While Earl Morse is not himself a veteran, the work he's done for World War II veterans has earned him a spot on our Veterans Day list. Morse founded the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that has flown over 100,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., so they could see the nation's World War II memorial in person. Read our full report about Morse's flights.

A Veterans Day Tribute: Heroes We've Met Over the Past Two Years| Heroes Among Us, Good Deeds

Jake Wood (center) with members of Team Rubicon

Alison Dyer

Jake Wood

Within four days of seeing footage of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jake Wood, a former Marine, assembled a group of other vets and left L.A. for Port-au-Prince. That group grew into Team Rubicon, which has deployed over 3,000 volunteers to disaster zones ranging from the Sudan to Joplin, MO. Read more about Team Rubicon.

Andrew Litz

Andrew Litz enlisted in the Marines after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq soon after. In 2005, he was wounded and two of his buddies were killed by an IED. Though his world will never be the same, Litz can now at least count on a new home for his family, thanks to Operation Finally Home, a Texas-based nonprofit that has built over 856 homes for wounded soldiers in 17 states. The charity singled out Litz earlier this year, and his family moved in just this month. Read more about Operation Finally Home.

And remember, if you want to help this Veterans Day, two CharityWatch-approved veterans charities are the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation.

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