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Bo Derek reflects on giving back to American veterans: ‘There’s just so much we don’t do for our heroes’

One of Bo Derek’s passions has been giving back to our veterans.

And for the actress, who became a sex symbol overnight with her 1979 film “10,” the cause hits close to home. Her father, Paul Collins, was a radio operator during the Korean War. Both her stepfather and late husband, actor/director John Derek, were also veterans.

“I remember I ran into the [former] secretary of veterans affairs, Anthony Principi, and he tells me about the rehabilitation events for disabled veterans,” the now-66-year-old told Fox News Digital. “These are incredibly moving events. And yet they were having trouble going because some people, perhaps, maybe were uncomfortable – we’re talking about 400 people with all kinds of disabilities.”

Bo Derek in a blue shirt leaning against a man with sunglasses and a red and white hat

Actress Bo Derek is seen here with disabled veteran Jim Wallack at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games on July 4, 2001, in New York City. Derek was the honorary chairperson of the games.  (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“But when I went to my first Snowmass event, I was moved,” she continued. “Just seeing 400 disabled veterans and the volunteers who were there… [The volunteers made] sure that they would offer them whatever they needed, whatever they wanted to do in winter sports, no matter their disability. Even if it required adapting some equipment, it didn’t matter, it could be done. That does something to you.”

A disabled veteran wearing a yellow shirt in a wheelchair chatting with Bo Derek in a black outfit at the beach

US army Veteran Joseph Smith (L) chats with Bo Derek after a surfing lesson during the 2nd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, California on September 25, 2009. The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic introduces recently injured Veterans to adventure sports and recreational activities such as surfing, sailing, cycling or kayaking.  (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

The star said her first event was in 2001 and it forever changed her life.

“They say ‘miracles on a mountainside,’ but it really is,” said Derek. “I ended up becoming a chairperson for all the events. It was just so much fun. I did that for seven years. It’s more than just sports, although they’re incredibly fun. You really get to sit down and get to know these heroes on a personal level. It was an honor.”

Bo Derek wearing black and smiling while standing in front of a podium

Bo Derek made an appearance at the 48th Annual AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Julie Andrews at Dolby Theatre on June 09, 2022, in Hollywood, California. Today, the star encourages fans to support local military and veteran charities. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TNT)

Over the years, Derek has kept busy pursuing projects that allowed her to personally say thank you. In 2003, Derek was granted the highest award offered by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for her efforts supporting American veterans. She also went on USO tours to support American troops and has worked with the Special Forces Association, which named her an honorary Green Beret.

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Bo Derek in a black outfit and sunglasses chatting with a man in a matching black outfit and a colorful hat

Bo Derek (L) chats with US Army veteran Bill Johnson after a kayaking session in 2009. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Derek and her longtime love John Corbett have also shown support for the American Hometown Heroes Initiative, a program dedicated to helping veterans find work after returning home from service.

“I remembered there was a side project going on with the Library of Congress of getting these veterans to tell their stories, their war stories,” Derek recalled. “I remember there was one veteran from World War I. That was incredible. He hadn’t even talked to his family about his experience, but for some reason, there was this atmosphere of being around other veterans that allowed him to be comfortable and share his story. It was very moving to hear his story and the conditions he endured.”

“As for me, I’ve always worked directly with the Veterans Administration,” she shared. “My brother, who passed away, loved the games and what they meant to our veterans. We created a family fund to support those veterans and help pay their expenses to go to these events.”

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Bo Derek wearing a white blouse looking towards a boat

US Army veteran Anthony Davis (L) learns sailing with the encouragement of Bo Derek. The actress supported the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2009 as a volunteer. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Derek has also discovered another way to give back. The star, who is a proud animal lover, continues to lend a helping hand to causes that raise awareness about wildlife trafficking. Her shampoo line for canines named Bo Derek Pet Care also supports retired military working dogs. The VA noted she helps the nonprofit organization Canine Companions for Independence, which provides assistant dogs free of charge to wounded veterans, as well as children and adults with disabilities.

This interview was originally published in 2020.

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