Legacy Lager honors fallen troops, raises money for Gold Star families

The next time you crack open a cold one, take a moment to appreciate the can.
 
Starting Sept. 1, 26 states have been authorized to distribute Dog Tag Brewing’s Legacy Lager through a partnership with Pabst Brewing Co. 
 
Each can of Legacy Lager honors a fallen service member whose family was selected for a legacy grant. Dog Tag Brewing donates 100 percent of its profits to its Dog Tag Brewing Foundation, which benefits charities created or selected by each Gold Star family chosen for a grant. 

"We want to give them the tools where they can dream the dream," said Marine veteran and Dog Tag Brewing founder Seth Jordan. The company has donated over $120,000 in grants so far, and Jordan says he intends to distribute $250,000 by year's end. 
 

Dog Tag Brewing can

Dog Tag Brewing founder Seth Jordan wants people to learn about fallen warriors' stories.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dog Tag Brewing

A beer-finder app will be available on the website and will populate over the next couple of months so those interested can find where to purchase the beer near them, Jordan said.
 
“We hope to be in all 50 states in 2017,” said Jordan, who served from 2004 to 2013 as a UH-1Y helicopter pilot. “[The partnership] gives us the best chance of success to make this a movement for all Americans coast to coast to get involved.”
 
Jordan said it’s a way for people across the country to learn about fallen warriors and the charities that benefit their communities.
 
“As America responds, more beer is made, more cans, and more warriors’ stories are told,” he said.

'Joe will never be just a memory'

Teri Johnson, whose son Army Sgt. Joe Johnson died from an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2010, said she wants her son to be more than a memory.

"What we decided to do was to try to carry on his legacy that got cut short," said Johnson, who helped create A Hero's Legacy-The Joe Johnson Foundation that provides higher-education scholarships to children of wounded and fallen troops.

The Gold Star families whose loved ones are honored on the Legacy Lager were invited to Memphis to watch the first cans roll off the production line.

"I cried with a smile on my face," Johnson said of seeing her son's name on the cans. "It was just amazing to realize that we have great memories, but because of this, Joe will never be just a memory."
 

Dog Tag Teri Johnson

Teri Johnson, whose son Sgt. Joe Johnson died in Afghanistan in 2010, sees the first Legacy Lager cans with Joe's name on them.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dog Tag Brewing


Johnson said she and her husband aren't big drinkers, but they had to try the Legacy Lager.

"When you saw his name and you popped the top, we both had to because it was just, 'Cheers to you, Joe,'" she said. 

Fallen service members gave everything, and they shouldn't just fade and become memories, she said. Each four pack of Legacy Lager has different names on each can, which Johnson likes because you can find out different stories.

"Years down the road, people are going to look back and say, 'I wonder who Joe Johnson is,'" she said. "They can look him up and say, "Oh, he did a great thing.'"


Dog Tag Brewing Megan

Megan Van De Giesen and her brother-in-law Ryan hold one of Capt. Kyle Van De Giesen's Legacy Lager cans. The Marine captain died in Afghanistan after two helicopters collided.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dog Tag Brewing


'Experience and enjoy together'

When Megan Van De Giesen lost her husband,  Marine Capt. Kyle Van De Giesen, after two helicopters collided in Afghanistan in 2009, she was worried he would be forgotten.

"Obviously never for us, but for the community and country," she said.

With Kyle's name on the Legacy Lager, Van De Giesen said they're touching people all over the country who would never know him otherwise.

"This is something that now the whole country is going to be able to experience and enjoy together," she said. "The thought of men and women giving a toast gives me chills."

Van De Giesen set up The Capt. Kyle R. Van De Giesen Memorial Award Fund to give back to people who honor the Marine Corps' values of honor, courage and commitment — values Kyle lived by, she said. The fund organizes events for veterans, awards scholarships and gives back to the community.

Dog Tag map

Legacy Lager will start rolling out on Sept. 1.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dog Tag Brewing

 

Jordan is also chairman of the Dog Tag Brewing Foundation, whose board is comprised of 10 combat vets from Iraq and Afghanistan with a total of 40 deployments between them. He founded Dog Tag Brewing in 2014 as a way to raise awareness of Gold Star families. In addition to the legacy grants, the foundation offers free counseling for Gold Star families who want to create a nonprofit or need assistance with an existing organization.


Jordan said this is less about beer and more about making it a movement for those who gave so much for this country.
 
“The least we can do is raise a toast to them, learn who they are and find out about the efforts their families are working on in their communities,” he said.

Charlsy Panzino covers veterans education, employment and transition issues, as well as travel, entertainment and fitness. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com. 


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