Honored Warriors & Distinguished VIP Ambassadors Team Fastrax™ Warrior Weekend to Remember 2016

New 2016 Warriors

Mark Badger

Air Force TSgt Mark Badger (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) TSgt Mark Badger is a prior USAF EOD Team Leader. His last duty station was Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, CO. While deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan 2010-2011 Mark was involved in 2 IED detonations within a 3 day period of time while conducting dismounted operations with an Army unit. Both were approximately 35-40 lbs of HME and they took heavy casualties including his team member and team leader. Mark sustained multiple moderate TBI’s and has permanent brain damage and a list of other injuries. He did everything he could to get back to his pre-deployment self for 2 years before a med board was started. Mark was medically retired after 12 years in the Air Force on November 27, 2014. He loved his job as EOD and was going to stay in for the long haul, but had to change plans.

Mark still lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two kids and has been devoting his time to them and continuing medical appointments. In regards to the Warrior Weekend, he said, “I love to do most anything to get the adrenaline pumping. This is one of the only events I have applied for because I love heights! I have yet to skydive, but have been wanting to my whole life! I love helicopters and have always been fascinated by them.”

Josh Brooks

Air Force SrA Josh Brooks (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) SrA Josh Brooks is 30 years old, married with kids.  He joined the Air Force out of high school and went into Security Forces.  Josh volunteered for a 365 ILO mission with the Army.  That took him to Baghdad in November of 2006.  He was injured in an EFP attack 5/14/07, and they also lost a warrior that day.  Over twenty surgeries and extensive therapy have gotten Josh to where he is today.   He retired from active duty November of 2008, and now works for the government with the Social Security Administration.

Richard T. Caseltine

Marine LCPL Richard Caseltine (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Richard Caseltine is from Aurora, IN.  He was raised by his mother and grandparents.  He Graduated from South Dearborn High School in Aurora, IN in 2004, and left for basic training right after graduating.  He was stationed at Camp Lejeune with 3rd BN 8th Marines. He deployed to Karma, Iraq in 2005 and Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. He was shot by a sniper in kevlar on April 6th, 2005, while providing overwatch for an Iraq army patrol.  He saw a person laying an IED, and then engaged the person. After turning around he was shot in kevlar by a sniper. The bullet went into front of kevlar and then traveled over his head and went down into base of neck stopping about an 1/8 inch from spine. He was medically retired in 2009.  He loves to be outdoors and enjoys life.  He has  two daughters Kayleigh and Kylie and a son named Bryer.  He is engaged to Bridget Hudson.

Joseph_Childress_Jr

Army CPL Joseph Childress (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL Joseph Childress joined the military in 2007 and went to basic training in 2008.  He was in field artillery attached to 10th mountain 3-6 fa.  Joseph was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and suffered mTBI and other health related injuries and problems.  He has suffered from Severe PTSD and chronic pain and headaches since 2010.   Joseph received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Afghanistan.

James Davis

Marine/Army SPC James Davis (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) (SPC Ret) James R. Davis began his military career in the Marine Corps 1994 at MCRD Parris Island and served at MCRD San Diego as a Military Police Officer. Later, he went to college, met his wife, changed plans, and joined the IL National Guard. When Christy was ill, he left it all and joined his second active duty tour, this time in the Army with Alpha Battery 3-82nd Field Artillery, First Cavalry Division, 2nd Brigade Blackjack Combat Team in OEF Nov 2001 in Kuwait/Iraq. While preparing the ground for OIFin 2002, a British EOD team was clearing old Desert Storm Iraqi mines and forgot to check the area, the explosion almost knocked them out of the guard tower, but the exposure to Type G Nerve Agent (according to the chem alarm) is the cause of his seizures and other disabling neurological problems. James was medically discharged in 2004, and since has been given 100% Total and Permanent by the VA. He was almost permanently in a wheelchair this past July 2015, but thanks to the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes and the Rocky Mtn. Hyperbaric Association, he is now able to walk with a cane and he has gotten his peripheral vision and balance and some cognitive skills back. After his medical discharge, James was blessed to serve as a GS-12 Security Specialist at HQDA ODCS G-2 at the Pentagon and later at NSWCDD Dahlgren for a total of 9 years before being medically retired from OPM. He now works from home and serves as the Assistant Field Representative for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes and he is also a Call Representative in their Heroes Thanking Heroes program.

Daniel Erlandson

Marine Sgt Daniel Erlandson (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Daniel Erlandson was born November 16, 1983 in Everett Washington. He is married to Theresa Erlandson and they just celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary on January 7th. Daniel has three sisters, one is older and two are younger. He joined the United States Marine Corps April 21, 2008. Daniel says joining the Marine Corps was a lifelong dream, and becoming a Marine is still one of the proudest moments of his life. He served as a 0331 Machine Gunner and spent the majority of his career with 3rd Battalion 4th Marines (Darkside). He deployed with 3/4 three times to Afghanistan: 2009, 2011, and 2013.

On his second deployment in 2011, he was deployed to Upper Gereshk Valley in northern Helmand Province. On May 31st, while operating as lead vehicle turret gunner, his truck hit an IED. Everyone was OK in the explosion, but he did suffer a mild TBI. Three days later, on June 3rd, while on a dismounted foot patrol, his squad was ambushed and came under fire. Eventually the enemy broke contact and they headed back to their patrol base.

Daniel recounted, “We were then commanded to go back out to the same area even though we knew it was a bad idea and tried to deny it. Upon leaving again, we got close to the same area we came under fire the first time, and again took fire. This time we were taking fire from multiple enemy positions. As I was trying to direct my machine gun squad, an enemy round ricocheted off the wall where I was trying to take cover and struck the back of my shoulder. Quick Reaction Force came to pick me up via vehicle to get me to a safe area to be picked up in a helicopter. One of the Marines in the truck that picked me up was Corporal Zanowick*, an incredible Marine. After dropping me off, Corporal Zanowick was then forced to go back out and ended up being shot and killed no more than an hour after I was shot. I was taken out of the fight, and had to leave my guys for the rest of the deployment, and then to top it off I found out we lost Zanowick. That took a very strong toll on me then, and still affects me to this day.”

Daniel did end up deploying one more time after that, but that deployment definitely has impacted him and contributed to the majority of his PTSD. He said, “I will never regret what I did to serve my country, but as much as I’m proud of what I did, it unfortunately took a toll that the loved ones around me have to live with. I am grateful of the opportunity to apply for this, and the fact that CPL Zanowick’s parents want to give me the honor of being my sponsor.”

*Friend of Fallen Warrior Marine CPL Paul W. Zanowick II.

Hinson

Army SPC Halsey Hinson (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Halsey Hinson was born April 24, 1981 in Columbia, South Carolina. She joined active duty Army in January 2003 and completed her Basic and AIT in Fort Leonard Wood.  She reported to her first duty station in May 2003 as a Military Police Officer and in November of 2004 received the highly revered award of becoming a mother.  One year later, Halsey deployed to Baghdad, Iraq with 258 Mp Company, 519th Mp Battalion.  On August 9, 2006 her convoy was struck by IED totally disabling the vehicle.  She received minor shrapnel to the wrist and burns to the face and wrist which led to a Purple Heart.  All other team members in the vehicle also received minor injuries.  She returned to duty the following day.  She returned home in October of 2006. In January of 2008 she returned home to South Carolina and joined the National Guard for 18 months.

Josh Hoffman

Marine CPL Josh Hoffman (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL Joshua Hoffman was injured on the battlefield of Afghanistan, August 6th, 2011. His primary job and responsibility as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan was to find any and all bombs that would prevent infantry and follow-on forces from completing their mission. He was on what was supposed to be his last mission when he found three bombs, and while determining the size of the third bomb his foot inadvertently set it off. The blast blew his left leg off, broke his right knee and femur in half, gave him a grade 4 concussion, severe short term memory loss, and extensive damage to the rest of his body. He was then medically Retired from the Marine Corps after he rehabilitated in 2013 and has since had his first child and bought his first home with his wife and son. Joshua said, “Every day is a constant struggle, but with the support of my family, friends, and neighbors I always just bear down and carry on through the day. Life is what you make it and I am trying to make my second chance count. - SemperFi”

Horton 2

Air Force SMSgt Paul Horton (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) SMSgt Paul Horton was born October 20, 1972 in Conroe, Texas. He graduated high school from W. B. Ray HS in Corpus Christi and then attended Texas A&M from 1991-1993. He joined the military right before his 22nd birthday.

After sustaining serious injuries when an IED exploded under his feet in 2010, Horton was stationed at Peterson AFB, CO for his final assignment. He led a flight of 15 as MSgt and then became the 21st EOD Program Manager as a SMSgt. He directly controlled the EOD assets and provided force protection to 5 military installations, the local community, and to the President of the United States. He was the 21st CES SNCO of the Year in 2012 as well as the 21st Space Wing’s SNCO of the Quarter. His valor was highlighted in the 2011 Chief of Staff’s Portraits in Courage. His proven leadership and dedication to duty was the cornerstone of the AF’s 2012 Recruiting Campaign, “Amazing Airmen.” His teams completed more than 1,500 combat missions, 65 Secret Service Missions, 18 emergency responses, and destroyed over 68,000 pounds of enemy explosives. Three of his Airmen and NCOs were injured in combat while heroically saving the lives of others. One of his Airmen paid the ultimate price.

He capped his career off by competing on Team USA in the inaugural Invictus Games in London. He also relentlessly pursued improved care for Wounded Airmen, eventually resulting in the Air Force Surgeon General implementing his EOD Health Care Initiative Air Force-wide for all Battlefield Airmen. He earned multiple Bronze Star Medals, Purple Heart Medals, Army Commendation for Valor, and Navy Achievement Medals. Additionally, he was named one of 20 National Heroes by the President in 2009 for his actions on the battlefield.

Todd Love

Marine CPL Todd Love (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL Todd Love was born in Atlanta, GA and joined the Marine Corps immediately out of high school in 2008. He graduated the Basic Reconnaissance Course in 2009 and was assigned to 1st Recon Battalion. He was deployed to Helmand, Afghanistan in May of 2010. Five months into his deployment, on October 25th 2010, while on patrol in Sangin, Helmand Province, Todd stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He lost both legs to the hip and his left hand. Todd enjoys participating in extreme sports and has not let his injury stop him. Todd can be found whitewater kayaking, skiing, skydiving, shooting guns, or competing in Spartan Races.

John MacNaughton

Marine CPL John MacNaughton (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL John MacNaughton enlisted in the summer of 2003 a week after he turned 18. He spent a year in the delayed entry program and upon graduating high school in June he left for boot camp. John graduated on September 17th, 2004. After graduating from infantry training school he checked into 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment on December 18th. He was deployed to Iraq less than a month later. John was deployed again, this time to Ramadi, Iraq in March of 2006. His last deployment was with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in July of 2007. He left active service after four years in June of 2008.

On the night on March 20, 2005, at about 2030 hours, John’s squad led by SGT Deeds was conducting a routine vehicle check point on Kandari Market Road just outside of Abu Grahib prison in Iraq. They had set up a perimeter and he was posted on the machine gun mounted in the back of a High Back Humvee. John was scanning roof tops and windows with a night vision sight when suddenly there was a massive explosion behind him and to his right. He was knocked unconscious and thrown to the floor.

John said, “I remembered hearing and feeling the debris falling all around me as I regained consciousness. I jumped up and looked where SGT Deeds had stood next to me but I did not see him there. I caught a glimpse of Doc Harerra dragging SGT Deeds around the front of the Humvee. At first I couldn’t feel anything. My adrenaline was pumping and I was on high alert. Confused and disoriented, I checked my sector of fire to see if there were any targets. Seeing nothing, I started to help with the med-evac. I grabbed the stretcher and tried to open it but couldn’t. Then I felt something cold run down my back and start to drip. I wasn’t sure if it was blood but guessed I had been hit and told Lance Corporal Dean to notify our command. I was in shock and didn’t know what else to do. I felt helpless and confused. “

After they loaded SGT Deeds into the back of the Humvee they rushed back into the prison, to the hospital. Once SGT Deeds had received attention he asked someone to look at his back and they confirmed that he had been hit and was bleeding. Inside the hospital, X-Rays confirmed John had shrapnel in his upper back and shoulders, but it was too deep to take out. Eleven years later one piece has come out and another is still in his right shoulder.

Adam-McLeod

Air Force MSG Adam McLeod (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Adam McLeod served nearly 18 years in the US Air Force. His first 12 ½ years he served as a Security Police/Forces and a K-9 handler. He was honorably retired in 2010 as an E-7, Air Force Master Sergeant. He has deployed 10 times, two of which were combat deployments while in uniform. His final deployment was to Afghanistan as an advisor to Regional Command West (RC-W) forces on improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Adam was assigned to Camp Bastion/Leatherneck supporting US Marine Corps tactical units as well as other units assigned to and/or transient through the base. His awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service, Purple Heart and Air Force Commendation medals.

Adam has been married to his wife Jennifer for 20 years. She is also former Air Force, trained as a medic. She spent over seven years in the service until they decided she should get out to raise their children. She was honorably separated as an E-5, Air Force Staff Sergeant. They have four boys ages 18, 16, 14 and 12.

In 2007, Adam selected a voluntary deployment to Camp Fallujah, Fallujah, Iraq as an analyst assigned to a US Marine Corps explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) detachment. He was tasked to conduct tactical exploitation and forensic analysis of IEDs. He used his analysis to identify IED cells in the area, suggest countermeasures to tactical units and provide information to direct action units. It was during this deployment where an already aggravated back condition deteriorated into his second back surgery in 2008. He lost a significant amount of hearing, no doubt due to IED blasts. Following the deployment, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and ultimately medically boarded out of the Air Force three days prior to his 18th year military anniversary.

Since his retirement, he has continued to serve US Forces in a variety of positions, most recently as a sub-contractor assigned to an intelligence unit supporting operations globally.

Ryan Meadows

Marine CPL Ryan Meadows
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL Ryan Meadows enlisted April 12, 2004. Following recruit training and School of Infantry, he was sent to 3rd Battalion 8th Marines Kilo Co. In January of 2005 he was sent to Fallujah, Iraq and spent the next 7 months in combat operations. July 17th, 2005 he sustained a traumatic brain injury from an improved explosive device.

Following Fallujah, Ryan deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. They operated in Ramadi from March 2006 to September 2006. Ramadi at the time was the most hostile area in Iraq and they stayed in sustained combat daily.

Following Ramadi, he deployed with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). He did training operations in Kuwait, Djibouti, Africa, and anti-piracy ops off the coast of Somalia.

In April 2008 Ryan was honorably discharged from the Marines.

Zac Ruttman

Air Force SSgt Zac Ruttman (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Zac Ruttman is a 37 year old resident of Owasso, OK and a full-time student. He is married, has a seven year old boy and loves both of them very much. He was part of the Tactical Forces Group (Team 2) in Iraq 2004-2005. He was in a Humvee turret as the heavy gunner when their vehicle took a direct hit from two IEDs followed by small arms fire. He sustained shrapnel to his back, neck, and head and ruptured his right ear. Zac said, “Most of the injuries were superficial due to the outstanding armor. After several surgeries and inpatient rehab, I am is about 80% recovered with minor limitations. I feel truly blessed and very well taken care of.”

He was awarded (in his seven year career) over two dozen medals and ribbons including the Combat Action Medal, the Commendation Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart, and Oklahoma’s ‘Outstanding Soldier of the Year’ in 2006.

Nick Siewert

Marine LCPL Nick Siewert (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) LCPL Nick Siewert graduated high school in 2004 and served in the Marine Corps from 2004-2008. He was deployed to Iraq as a Machine Gunner two times to Fallujah (2005) and Ramadi (2006) in the 22nd MEU 2007. Since its activation in 1982, the 22nd MEU has been awarded two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, four Navy Unit Commendations, five Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Streamer with two stars, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer with two stars, the Armed Forces Service Streamer with three stars, the Southwest Asia Service streamer with two stars, the Afghanistan Campaign streamer, the Iraq Campaign Streamer, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary streamer and the Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer. Nick received his Purple Heart in 2005 in Fallujah. He was assigned to the 3/8 and was attached to the Lima Company as a 0331.

*Friend of Fallen Warrior Marine LCP Taylor Prazynski.

Steve Thompson

Marine Sgt Steve Thompson (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Sgt Steve Thompson served with John Prazynski’s son, LCP Taylor Prazynski in 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, an infantry battalion out of the 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejuene, NC. He was a Sgt Squad Leader with 3 deployments to Fallujah, Iraq, Ramadi, Iraq and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

*Friend of Fallen Warrior Marine LCP Taylor Prazynski.

Stephen Valyou

Army SSG Stephen Valyou (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Stephen Valyou is a Retired US Army SSG, EOD team leader, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. He conducted and mitigated over 100 IED threats. He was shot and paralyzed by a sniper March 2007 in Diyala Province, Iraq.

Stephen is a single father of two great children. His son is 11 and his daughter is 3. He is a mono skier in the winter, hand-cyclist in the MCM, PADI Certified Scuba diver, and is currently seeking to achieve his AAF license. He uses his disability as motivation to try and accomplish new things to do.

He also uses his experience as reference and motivation to help other veterans to attempt to try new things themselves. Stephen believes that PTSD and TBI can be treated through recreational activities and if by showing others it can be done and helping at least one other veteran he feels it be a success.

Kevin Wallace

Air Force SMSgt Kevin Wallace
(Purple Heart Recipient) SMSgt Kevin Wallace is the chief of Public Affairs at the 89th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. SMSgt Wallace is responsible for providing guidance and counsel to the 89th AW commander, Presidential Airlift Group commander, subordinate commanders and wing staff. He coordinates and communicates all media responses to the president, vice president, cabinet members, combatant commanders, and other senior military and elected leaders as tasked by the White House, Air Force chief of staff and Air Mobility Command. Additionally, he develops and synchronizes communication tactics to gain informed public support of 89th mission, operations and roles.

SMSgt Wallace entered the Air Force in September 1997 and his background includes various duties in EC-135, E-3, F-15, F-16, C-130, C-141, KC-10 and F-18 aircraft maintenance. He retrained into PA in January 2007, and has led hundreds of enlisted PAs during four assignments and multiple deployments. He served an extended overseas tour in Okinawa, an overseas tour in the U.K., and multiple deployments, including two combat tours in Afghanistan.

SMSgt Wallace is a warfighter, and was recognized by the Air Force Chief of Staff in his 2012 Portraits in Courage. He also garnered the U.S. Air Forces Europe Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs award, the Idaho Red Cross Hero of the Year award, the Daryl G. Winters Combat Camera award, and his combat images garnered top honors by the Department of Defense, FOX News and Maxim Magazine. After one brutal combat engagement in Afghanistan, his Platoon Leader recalled “Wallace immediately returned fire, augmenting between camera and rifle, firing 119 rounds and 190 photos.” After SMSgt Wallace and four others were hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, the Platoon Leader recalled, “Wallace continued to fire his weapon and to call out enemy positions even after being thrown against a wall, knocked unconscious and receiving burns to his neck. When I called for status south of our fighting position, disregarding his own life and personal safety, Wallace willingly exposed himself to hails of heavy PKM (heavy machine gun) fire three times to verify no insurgents were flanking the south, allowing elements to maneuver south to the CasEvac site without a single soldier being killed.

Some of SMSgt Wallace’s major awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, multiple Meritorious Service Medals, Joint Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Army Combat Action Badge, Army Valorous Unit Award, and multiple Air Force Recognition Ribbons. He has also won dozens of Air Force and Major Command level awards and was recognized by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom with the Exceptional Community Relations award for his work with Prince Harry for American and British Wounded Warriors in the UK. He remains active in community service, and mentors and participates in many Air Force Wounded Warrior Program events, as well as Wounded Warrior Project, Boy Scouts of America, and Lutheran Church events in Northern Virginia.

2016 Ambassador Warriors

deeds

Marine Gunnery SGT Sam Deeds (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) During his Iraq deployment in 2005, Deeds came across an improvised explosive device (IED) while setting up a vehicle checkpoint near Abu Ghraib Prison. When he saw two of his fellow Marines approaching the area, Deeds turned back toward the IED to warn them of danger. Moments after successfully warding off his comrades, the device blew. “It basically leveled me,” he said. His injuries set him on a path of nearly 40 operations and procedures to date. For his actions, Deeds received a Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Combat Action Ribbon and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. The moment he put his colleagues’ lives ahead of his own may have cemented his legacy as a military hero, but he wasn’t finished sacrificing his own welfare. In 2008, Deeds was recuperating from one of many surgeries–this one to repair a high-incision hernia. The surgical area was sutured and covered with a protective mesh. The doctors told him to avoid any strenuous activity for eight weeks. Six weeks into his recovery, Deeds was relaxing with his family on a beach when a woman was carried away by a rip tide. The woman’s husband and another man tried to save her, but all three were overcome by the current. “People were taking pictures and videos with their phones, and nobody was going to do anything,” he said. “I couldn’t let the guy drown in front of his family.” Deeds plunged into the rip tide and helped all three return safely to shore. The protective mesh and two sutures tore away, leaving a hernia so close to his sternum he opted not to have any more surgery. He’s been living with pain ever since. Deeds medically retired from the marines in 2011 with the rank of gunnery sergeant. Over the course of his injury-shortened career, he served Iraq, Japan, South Korea, and Haiti (twice). He also has worked in Greater Cincinnati as a recruiter.

bates

Marine COL John Bates (Ret)
(Three Time – Purple Heart Recipient) Marines Corps Colonel John Bates earned three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, the first after surviving machine-gun fire to the chest. Of the sensation, Colonel Bates says, “It’s like standing over home plate having Mark McGwire wind up and try to hit you out of the ballpark.” The second commendation came after a hand-grenade explosion blasted shrapnel into his leg. “If you’ve ever been hung up in barbed wire, that’s what it’s like,” says Colonel Bates. “Except it’s hot. Very, very hot. A searing heat and you can’t get it out.” Both experiences pale when compared to the time he fell into a pit and his left foot became impaled by a three-foot bamboo stake, the stake smeared with water-buffalo manure to maximize infection. Colonel Bates’ military passion seeped into him through his bloodlines. His father, Leland, who died two months ago, flew 51 combat missions during World War II. When the Vietnam War heated up in the mid-1960s, Colonel John Bates enlisted. The machine-gun fire to his chest didn’t deter him. After being hospitalized in intensive care for 23 days, Colonel Bates had been relegated to mopping the hospital floor. “That wasn’t my intention for being in Vietnam,” he said. So he found a pair of boots, pants, and a blue hospital gown, walked out of the hospital, hitched a ride to the airfield, caught a helicopter and despite still spitting up blood, rejoined his platoon. “Everyone was glad to see me,” Colonel Bates says. “They needed more trigger-pullers.” Less than two years into his scheduled three-year enlistment, he was discharged because of the injuries he received in combat. In the next seven years Colonel Bates earned a bachelor’s degree and two masters. He worked as a substitute teacher, a railroad brakeman and a heavy-equipment operator. But his real goal was to rejoin the Marines. Knowing he’d have to prove his fitness, Colonel Bates began training intensely. Unbeknownst to his wife, Stephanie, over a 2½-year period he applied for readmission to the Corps at least five times. Finally, he was accepted. “Quite honestly,” Colonel Bates said, “I think I wore them down.” Colonel John Bates has served throughout the world since then, including tours in Kuwait during Desert Storm, and recently in Iraq.

Doyle

Army SPC Ken Doyle (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Ken joined the Army in 2009 and after Basic Training and began his training as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. After that training was complete he was stationed at FT. Bragg, NC until he deployed to Afghanistan Jan 2012 in support of 3rd Group Special Forces mission. On August 15, 2012 he was injured while his team was neutralizing an IED in a local village. Doyle spent the next two years stationed at Walter Reed hospital undergoing recovery and awaiting medical retirement. He is currently retired and living with his wife and son in Marion, NC where he is trying to open his own business in the community.

harris

Army SSG Shilo Harris (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Shilo Harris understands the difficult challenges facing all soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as how to overcome adversity. During his second combat tour in Iraq, his armored vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device (IED). The explosion on February 19, 2007 killed three of his fellow soldiers and wounded the driver. Burned over one-third of his body, Shilo spent 48 days in a coma followed by nearly three years of recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Shilo credits his recovery to the courage and commitment of his wife and family, and the dedication and expertise of the military medical community. Shilo’s mission today is to deliver a call to action on behalf of wounded warriors, their families, caregivers, and the surrounding communities. By offering hope, encouragement, and practical strategies for dealing with adversity, Shilo currently speaks to groups around the country about his experiences. Owner of WIN Home Inspection Services and national spokesperson for Helping A Hero, Shilo is a fierce advocate for today’s veterans. Shilo and his family were awarded a new home during ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition December 2012. His book, Steel Will, is available through Baker Publishing Group.

osullivan2

Air Force MAJ Timothy O’Sullivan (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Major Timothy O’Sullivan entered the Air Force in October of 1991 completing 21 years of military service after being medically retired in December of 2013 due to related combat injuries. Major O’Sullivan began his career in United States Air Force as an enlisted propulsion specialist. In early 2000, he was selected for Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama where he earned a commission in May of 2000. Following his commission he was assigned to Air Force Special Operations as a contingency planner. Following the September 11th Terrorist attacks, Major O’Sullivan had then deployed to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Oman from Hurlburt Field as part of the initial Special Operations Task Force, Joint Special Operations South/Task Force K-Bar and Task Force 11. In 2007, he deployed in lieu of Army as an embedded combat advisor with British and Australian Forces assigned to the Iraqi Army 10th and 14th Division in Basra Iraq. During this deployment, he endured nearly 1000 rocket attacks, 2 direct fire incidents, convoyed 500+ combat miles and was later injured on March 2nd 2008 during a convoy with British Forces by an 80lb explosively formed projectile. His injuries included a mild traumatic brain injury, internal bleeding and two surgeries removing several bones related to torn ligaments. By April of 2008, he was transferred to his home station MacDill AFB to receive ligament reconstruction, occupational Therapy and TBI treatments at the James A Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa. Upon recovery from his injuries, Major O’Sullivan continued his career at USCENTCOM HQ where he served as a principle advisor to the Combatant Commander (General David Petraeus/General James Mattis) on Security Assistance and Security Cooperation activities regarding Oman and Qatar. His distinguished awards include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation.

Pennington2

Army SGT Matthew Pennington (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Raised in both Maine and Texas, Matthew Pennington entered into military service at the age of seventeen; he had a robust career full of responsibility and leadership roles. Then at the age of twenty three he was struck down by an ambush IED team in Iraq. Losing his left leg and receiving severe damage to his right he was honorably retired and received the Purple Heart and the state of Maine Silver Star among various others.

Matthew has starred in a short film “A Marines Guide to Fishing”. It is story that portrays an injured veteran’s transition back into the work place as well as coping with his loss one year later on his alive day.

Prior to acting, Matthew gave a speech for veteran’s day in the town of La Plata, Maryland as well as campaign videos for Senator Susan Collins. He has served on a panel for Secretary of Defense Gates at Walter Reed and received many of other types of recognition for his service to America.

Matthew has worked alongside director Nick Brennan and Marjorie Pennington to perform screenings of “Marines Guide to Fishing” to raise donations for charitable organizations serving veteran’s. It was creating these environments of entertainment and education that led him to further his speaking career as a Keynote Speaker for the Brain Injury Alliance, Joining Forces, various Military-Civilian conferences and Universities. Matthew has built a program that was endorsed by Congressman Mike Michaud and it has been replicated by the Vet Center’s located within Maine and has been reported to have great success.

Currently Matthew is a part-time National Spokesman/Field Associate for the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, it is a job he believes in and also one that allows him to witness and hear about the positive impact made in the lives of the combat wounded. Matthew has been married to his wife Marjorie Pennington for 12 years and looks forward to a life full of giving to and assisting those in need.

Regester

Air Force MAJ Jason Regester (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) Following a very long line of military service in my family Jason Regester enlisted in the Air Force on Oct 7th 1993 and served 9-1/2 years as a Structures Specialist in Civil Engineering. He was selected for Officer Training School in 2002 and received his commission on 27 June 2003 after graduating OTS and then served as a Logistics Readiness Officer until retirement on May 1st 2014. During his career he was deployed to Dhahran AB Saudi Arabia, Incirlik AB Turkey on two occasions; Soto Cano AB Honduras for Joint Task Force-Bravo supporting counter narcoterrorism operations, Guam for a humanitarian assistance mission following the devastation of Typhoon Chataan, and Baghdad Iraq as part of the Multi-National Security Transition Command. Some of the decorations he has earned during his career are the Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal x4, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal x6, Army Achievement Medal x2, Joint Meritorious Unit Award x2, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award x6, and Iraq Campaign Medal w/ 2 service stars.

Strahle

Marine CPL Mike Strahle (Ret)
(Purple Heart Recipient) CPL Mike Strahle joined the United States Marine Corps in the Fall of 2003 and deployed to Iraq in January 2005 with Columbus based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. On May 11, 2005 while conducting combat operations during Operation Matador, his vehicle struck an IED blast in the road, critically wounding him and fatally wounding six of his squad members. Mike would recover from his injuries and was medically retired in 2007. He now carries on the legacy of 3/25 and all service members by traveling The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial all over the country. This traveling tribute honors all who have answered our nation’s call; then, now, and tomorrow.