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Poker to benefit warriors

â€"Hold’em for Heroes” started by JBLM soldier

Pfc. Dean Baker signs an Operation Ward 57 flag bound for Iraq at the “Hold’em for Heroes” kickoff event Feb. 25 in Seattle.

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Throughout his deployment to Iraq, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Staff Sgt. Christian Hamilton was constantly tossing around ideas about ways to help his wounded comrades.

One finally came to him while playing a game of poker, and the inaugural "Hold'em for Heroes" poker tournament was born.

"He's a big poker player, and that's what spurred the event," said Brittney McBride, who's helping Hamilton coordinate donations for the event through the charity Operation Ward 57.

The goal of the tournament, which kicks off March 25 at the United Service Organization center at Contingency Operating Base Basra, is to raise funds to support the wounded Operation Iraqi/Enduring Freedom service members currently recovering from their injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.

"We understand how they feel and we appreciate how much they've sacrificed," Hamilton told KING-TV recently before a kickoff party he attended while home on leave.

The event is open to service members who can participate there. The cost of entry is a minimum donation of $5 to Operation Ward 57 ( After donating, soldiers bring the receipt to the USO to register the day of the event.

Operation Ward 57 has also been receiving donations from soldiers who won't be able to play because they'll be out on a mission, McBride said.

Back at home in the Puget Sound area, the Operation Ward 57 team is working on organizing a poker tournament that will run in conjunction with the event in Iraq.

"We're trying to set something up here so that the general public, other soldiers or family members can also participate," McBride said.

Hamilton, an 11-year Army veteran, deployed in July 2009 and currently serves as a logistical support supervisor for the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment in Basra.

During his recent trip back to the base, he picked up a 10-foot Operation Ward 57 flag, and has been gathering signatures in the Northwest ever since. The signatures and flag symbolize support and respect for those wounded in combat, he said.

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