Honored Warriors & Distinguished VIP Ambassadors Team Fastrax™ Warrior Weekend to Remember 2018
New 2018 Warriors
Air Force MSgt Adam Boccher
(Combat Injured) MSgt Special Agent Adam M. Boccher is assigned to AFOSI Detachment 327, Little Rock AFB, AR. Agent Boccher joined the USAF in July of 1999, and spent his first four years as a Major Traffic Accident Investigator and Criminal Investigator with the 97th Security Forces Squadron, Altus AFB, OK. Agent Boccher retrained into AFOSI in May 2004 and has since conducted high-interest felony criminal, fraud, and counterintelligence investigations, and participated in high profile Protective Service Operations to include the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In September 2011, Agent Boccher lateral transferred into AFOSI's polygraph program were his primary duties included conducting criminal, counterintelligence, and security screening polygraph examinations.
Army SGT Johnathan Breedlove
(Purple Heart Recipient) John joined the Army in July of 2008 as a Combat Engineer (12b). After training in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, he was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX. He was assigned to the 36th EN BDE 20th EN BN 584th CO. It was during this assignment that John became best friends with SPC. Donald “Scott” Morrison. John was deployed two times to Afghanistan. During the first deployment in 2010, his friend, SPC Morrison, was KIA in Arghadab Valley (south/eastern Afghanistan). His second deployment was in 2012 to western Afghanistan. John was involved in several IED blasts. He received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in one of those blasts. After returning from his second deployment, John was selected for Special Forces Training. He was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC after completing Airborne School. It was during a combat jump that John broke his hip that caused nerve damage in his lower back and his right leg. This injury caused his medical retirement from the Army. John now lives in Celina, TX with his wife Amanda and his two children, Hannah and Mason.
Army SSG Paul Brondhaver
(Purple Heart Recipient) SSG Paul Brondhaver is a native of New Richmond, Ohio, a small town located 20 miles east of Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River. Paul joined the United States Army at age 17, before graduating from New Richmond High School in May 1986. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Arts and Science from the University of Cincinnati. Paul has earned his Master’s in Business Administration in 2013 from Indiana Wesleyan University. Paul has been a Red Cross volunteer and instructor for 31 years. Paul retired from the United States Army in 2007 with 21 years of service. SSG Paul Brondhaver has traveled all over the world through his military service to places such as Honduras, Germany, Panama, Kuwait, and Iraq. His state and country called on him to serve on active duty for 12 different missions and operations. He served with the 216th Combat Engineer Unit and the 1st Infantry Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 through 2005. SSG Brondhaver’s tour ended early when his combat patrol was attacked with small arms fire and a rocket propelled grenade that exploded near his Humvee in Summara, North of Baghdad, Iraq in July 2004. Paul’s body was riddled with over 300 pieces of metal shrapnel in the attack, while a fellow soldier and friend was killed in the explosion. Paul has hearing loss, severe nerve damage in his legs, a traumatic brain injury, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Paul has undergone over 35 operations and procedures, removing shrapnel and repairing joints, tendons, ligaments, and re-attaching pelvis. SSG Paul Brondhaver's military awards include 4 Army Commendation Medals, 3 Army Achievement Medals, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Bronze Star with Valor, and The Purple Heart.
Army MAJ Vincent Cerchione
(Combat Injured) MAJ Vincent Cerchione has served 4 different deployments, 2 to Iraq. He suffers from severe PTSD, TBI, Audio Processing Disorder, Degenerative Disc Disease, Short term Memory Loss, 2 spinal surgeries (one a fusion), Audio Brain Stem Dysfunction, and service related hearing loss.
Army SSG Alvis Domerese
(Purple Heart Recipient) Alvis served in 2/327INF, 2/27INF, 2/5CAV, 196th QM, 129th CSSB. Two roadside IED's struck up an armored Humvee while on a routine mounted patrol striking him on top of his head. He had a fractured skull, swelling on his brain, and shrapnel covering his face, neck, head, and arms. He still has lingering effects over 13 years later. Military decorations include PH, MSM, ARCOM, AAM, GCM, NDSM, KCM, ACM, GWTEM, GWTSM, MOVSM, NCOPD, ASR. OSR, NATO(Kosovo) NATO (Afg ISAF)CIB, EIB, Air Assault Badge, and Expert Marksmanship Badge.
Marine Cpl Will Hamilton (Will)
(Purple Heart Recipient) I joined the Marine Corps in 2003, directly out of High school. After Boot camp and Infantry training, I was assigned to 3/8 Lima company in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. My Unit was put on alert not long after I arrived. March of 2004, we deployed to Haiti for security purposes. I was wounded only two weeks into the deployment. My squad was conducting presence patrols at night, and we were ambushed by enemy forces. The bullet damage to my arm was severe enough to require a life flight out, but that worked out great for me since I got to keep my arm.
It took six months to get myself back to working order, which was perfect timing for the Fallujah Iraq deployment in 2005. Our unit came in on the backside of the main push of Fallujah, but it was no less dangerous. Our next deployment was to Ramadi Iraq in 2006, which was probably the hardest one. Our Unit took quite a few losses, but we made a huge impact in the area.
I went home at the end of my contract in 2007 and began my civilian life deployment, which at times is far more difficult than the Corps. I now have a B.S in Exercise Science, with a minor in Psychology, and I'm working towards getting my Masters in Clinical Psych. I ultimately would enjoy helping Veterans with the road to recovery, both mentally and physically.
KY National Guard SSG Rickey E. Jones
(Purple Heart Recipient) Ssg Rickey E Jones, joined Kentucky National guard April 1981, his mother had to sign for him to join, as he was 17 years old. He was a 36K Radio/Antenna Teletype operator, did this for approximately 8 years, he went to Desert Storm Aug 1991 thru May 1992, he was with the 438 M.P. Co, replacing the 338M.P. Co out of Louisville, Ky he was 35B- M.P./Customs Inspector. He served 2 years with Ky-JSO-Drug Eradication May 1992 thru September 1993, transferred to Trucking Company 2123rd Transportation Jan 1993, 88M-Heavy Equipment Transporter. He spent 10 years with them and drove all over America, 2002 he was activated for active duty with a trucking company out of Paducah, spent 12 weeks at Ft Campbell, then sent home, activated with 617th M.P. co. on October 6, 2004, he left for Iraq. On July 28th, 2005 he was hit by an IED while standing outside of his hummer, an Iraqi kid came up to him, saying "boom-boom", he went to investigate the "boom-boom" and it blew, he was sent to the ER in the green zone, all the bomb fragments that hit him where stopped by his vest, no broken bones, lots of bruises, he suffered a severe brain injury, which went undiagnosed for 3 years,he was awarded the Purple Heart and a Combat Action Badge, he came home October 31, 2005, which became the best day EVER!
Army SGT Kelley K. Kellogg
(Combat Injured) SGT Kelley K. Kellogg (E-5) survived a parachute malfunction at Fort Bragg in 2003, then deployed to Iraq from 2003-2004 with the 307TH EN BN of the 82ND Airborne Division. He took a round to his helmet when his convoy was attacked while heading back from Al Taqaddim to Ar Ramadi. Three of the four convoy vehicles were disabled by enemy actions and all 12 made it back in one HMMWV. There were multiple other events which resulted in bad times but that's the way it goes. Then, he deployed to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina to secure the airport followed with search and rescue operations. Shortly after that he traveled to Lafayette, LA to do more search and rescue for Hurricane Rita. He suffers from severe PTSD and multiple TBI's.
Army SSG Hal Kolmerten
(Purple Heart Recipient) SSG Kolmerten joined the army in 2007 and upon graduating boot camp attended Explosive Ordnance Disposal training. After Graduation, Hal was sent to his first duty station, Mannheim, Germany. After two years he deployed to Afghanistan for the first time. Hal spent a year traveling around and working as part of an EOD Team responsible for disarming or destroying over 200 IEDs. Upon return from this deployment, he was transferred to Fort Stewart, GA where he became a platoon sergeant and was tasked with preparing 5 EOD teams for a Special Operations Support Mission, deploying in June of 2013. On his final mission in December 2013, Hal was shot by small arms fire in the left leg. He was medevac’d to Kandahar and then on to Germany. He returned to duty and was made eligible for assignment back to train the next generation of EOD Technicians.
Air Force MSgt Angela Morales-Biggs
(Purple Heart Recipient) On 28 August 2011, E-7 Angela Morales-Biggs was physically attacked by an SVBIED at FOB Smart Afghanistan. Shortly after, they received small arms fire and another direct blast exposure from a SVEST IED. They then were impacted by RPG rounds and 5 grenade rounds and a second RPG. She was approximately 60 meters from impact and was thrown from where she stood, suffering puncture and blast wounds/TBI.
Army MSG Pavel Palanker
(Purple Heart Recipient) US Army MSG Pavel "Pasha" Palanker enlisted in the Army in May 2003 he is still on (Active Duty). He Served multiple deployments to Iraq and Africa. Notable Awards include Purple Heart 7 Sept 2005 (Iraq), Purple Heart 3 Oct 2015 (Iraq), Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for Valor. His injuries are a result of multiple IED explosions. Pasha lives with multiple TBIs, burns, permanent loss of hearing in his left ear, and severe PTSD.
Army SFC Cory Remsburg
(Purple Heart Recipient) While deployed to Afghanistan, on Oct 1, 2009, IED explosion injury, including Penetrating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), right eye blindness; paralysis left side of body; vocal cords damaged, burns.
Army SGT Myles Smith
(Combat Injured) Sgt Myles Smith, is 30 years old with a loving, supporting wife, and 2 beautiful children with one on the way. He served two combat tours in Iraq. His first deployment his convoy was hit by an IED. His vehicle rolled and the fire extinguisher busted him in the mouth and shrapnel went right below his gut. He suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Army SGT Jennifer Steele
Jennifer began tripping and falling while running. She was diagnosed shortly after with multiple sclerosis and was medically retired from active duty. Her condition has worsened over time and she is currently 100% service connected and unemployable. She receives treatment and all medical care through the Dayton VAMC. Her husband Ray and son Ethan have supported her through every obstacle and she wouldn’t have been able to make it as far as she has without them.
Army SSG Stephen Valyou
(Purple Heart Recipient) Stephen K Valyou enlisted in the Army a couple months after 9/11 occurred. He completed basic training in Ft Leonardwood, MO OSUT COMBAT ENG. He was stationed Ft Drum NY deployed with 10th Mtn Div to Afghanistan in 2003 attached to 1/87 INF 10th Mtn Div. 2004, volunteered for EOD field union graduation stationed again at Ft Drum, NY to the 725th EOD co. WLC, ATF Post Blast school, EOD refresher course, TL certification prior to deployment to Iraq . His deployment to Diyala Province Iraq December 2006, operated out of FOB Normandy Diyala Province under Navy MU2 supporting 6/9 Cav 1st Cav, as an operational EOD TL, conducting daily EOD operations to include IED and UXO RSP and disposals, route clearance, and other operational support. 29 March 2007 received a GSW to the upper right chest cavity, bullet traveled through both lungs and thoracic spine, leaving me paralyzed I am a T9 paraplegic in a wheelchair.
Army CW2 Robert Zahn
(Purple Heart Recipient) My last ride leaving Vietnam we hitched a ride with a helicopter that just came out of maintenance to take us to a base where we would be sent stateside at the end of our tour. Back then, you had to arrange for your own transportation. There was a pilot, co-pilot, myself and another pilot. We began to take fire (we were unarmed). It was like a pop corn popper in the helicopter. The pilot was shot in the leg, as he dropped the controls, the co-pilot recovered the aircraft. As soon as he put his hands on the controls, he was shot and killed. The cabin was like a pop corn popper with rounds and shrapnel and was now covered in blood. When the co-pilot was shot, the pilot attempted to regain control of the aircraft and was again shot in the hand. I used my belt as a tourniquet for the wounded pilot and we pulled the co-pilot out of the seat so that the other pilot with me could gain control of the aircraft while I administered first aid. We landed and I did not realize I had been shot until the other pilot pointed it out.
2018 Ambassador Warriors
Air Force MSgt Daniel Blevins
(Purple Heart Recipient) MSgt Daniel Blevins was a convoy commander conducting Gun Truck security for convoys in Iraq. During a mission on April 7, 2005 they were escorting about 40 tractor trailers moving south. As they were passing through an Iraqi National Guard check point an IED was detonated on his vehicle, injuring himself and two others.
Army SGT Spencer Davis
(Purple Heart Recipient) SGT E-5 Spencer Davis was hit with an I.E.D Blast 9-22-2005, 11:50PM while on a mounted patrol during OIF III as part of a Tactical Movement Team. He performed many night Ops, and LRP missions. Davis took small frags to his left hand, a compression injury to neck, hip impingement to both hips, liver damage, PTSD, etc. He told the medics he would kick their a** if they told anyone after bandages and shrapnel found in my living quarters by my female Battle Buddy while he did the 3 S's. He was treated and has continued treatment by V.A. in Columbus, Ohio and Physical therapy in Bellefontaine, Ohio as needed.
Army SSG Travis Dunn
(Purple Heart Recipient) (2) Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor. While stationed with Hunter Army Airfield-based Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed, on Dec. 2, 2014 to Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, with three enemy fighters firing on the combined assault team of U.S. Army Rangers and Afghan commandos, then-Sgt. Travis Dunn moved toward the targets, laying down suppressive fire that allowed his teammates to move into a better position. Dunn was presented his second purple heart after he was shot in the upper torso during the firefight, and fell from an embankment into a courtyard below where he was rescued by Anderson. The Army’s official record of those Rangers’ actions that day only tell a portion of the story of his troops, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, “The citations ... don’t even come close to expressing the significance of these Rangers’ actions,” Tegtmeier said. “These citations don’t come close because the actions ... come from years of preparation, years of sweat, pain, discomfort, sometimes blood, frustration, sometimes failure, followed by success and achievement. “Rangers will go anywhere, anytime, under any conditions to protect our country, our people and our freedom. Of this you can be sure today, tomorrow and for thousands of tomorrows to come.”
Marine Cpl John Fleegel
(Purple Heart Recipient) While conducting operations in Anbar Provence outside of Al Karma, Iraq the vehicle Cpl John Fleegel was traveling in was struck by a road side bomb (IED). He, along with 13 others, were ejected from the vehicle. Along with a severe concussion and some minor shrapnel wounds, he suffered spinal and wrist contusions.
Army SPC Daniel Guerin
(Purple Heart Recipient) Army SPC Daniel Guerin joined the Army at the age of 23 and served his country for four years, including being deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06. Dan was awarded the Purple Heart in February of 2006. Dan and his wife, Heather, have three children, Hannah, Jeremiah, and Eli. His hobbies include recreational target shooting, spending time with his kids four-wheeling and anything outdoors.
Marine SSgt Matt Koetting
(Purple Heart Recipient) Ssgt Matt Koetting was injured in an IED blast in February of 2010, in Marjah, Afghanistan. He sustained multiple trauma injuries, but the predominant challenge was the resulting loss of his right eye. He returned to full duty status in 2011 and ultimately retired due to lasting effects of injuries and further complications.
Army SPC John Looker
(Purple Heart Recipient) John was born in Sidney, Ohio in 1947. He graduated from Sidney High School in 1966.
John married Kathy Flanagan on August 11, 1972, and has two children, Jamie who last year was married to Dan Sheets, and Adam who served in the US Navy on the USS Independence. Adam has three children Sara, Ashley and Adam Jr. and Dan has two sons Adam and Clint.
John is involved in many organizations: Commander of Joe Barr American Legion Post 194, Mason for (6) years and has been a officer at the Post for 20+ years, Commissioner/Trustee for the American Legion Buckeye Boys State, Finance Officer for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Executive Committee and Trustee of the Mason Veterans Memorial, County/District/State Oratorical Program Chairman and serves as a escort at the National Competition in Indianapolis, VFW Post 9622 in Mason, Military Order of the Purple Heart, 40/8 organization, Sharonville Masonic Lodge 204 and the Moose Lodge in Sidney. John also works with Mason High School, Little Miami High School and Kings High School promoting the American Legion programs.
John was re-appointed in January 2017 as Commissioner of Veteran Services for Warren County representing the Disabled American Veterans for a five year term.
John enjoys playing golf, yard work, being with his grandchildren and spending time with his wife, Kathy.
He entered the US Army in November 1967 and took Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. After Basic training John took Advanced Infantry training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia and left for Vietnam in April of 1968 and served with the 1st Calvary Division, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry.
John was wounded three times in Vietnam with the last being a gunshot wound to his right shoulder on March 9, 1969. This was the “Battle of Angel’s Wing” where (11) were killed in Acton (KIA) and (38) were wounded from his unit.
Purple Heart (2nd Award), Combat Infantry Badge, Army Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal W/Four Bronze Stars, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal W/Device (1960), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross W/Palm Unit Citation
Army SGT Ryan Mack
(Purple Heart Recipient) Sgt. Ryan Mack was in the Battle of Marjah, Afghanistan 2010. While serving as a reconnaissance team leader, his team was working security for a group of engineers attempting to clear a road for a larger group to move through. The engineers missed the IED and his truck found it. Sgt. Mack broke every bone from the knee down in both legs and had a minor TBI.
Marine Sgt Ingrid Underwood
(Purple Heart Recipient) Sgt Ingrid Underwood was assigned to 1/2 as part of the FET team (female engagement team) to help her brothers search females at specific check points. However, the mission turned into something different and they were attached to 3rdPlt (weapons) as part of helping man power since they were shorthanded. On April 2nd, 2010 they were dropped off near the Panda Ridge area by helo. In the midst of the events that day, from taking fire to returning fire, they started to run down the ridge. They got to the bottom of the ridge and to seek cover and a personal IED detonated near Sgt Underwood. That is the last thing she remembers. She was medevaced to camp bastion were she received medical attention for her injuries.
2018 Alumni Warriors
Marine Sgt Daniel Erlandson
(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. Joining the Marine Corps was a lifelong dream, and becoming a Marine is still one of the proudest moments of his life. Daniel served as a 0331 Machine Gunner and spent the majority of his career with 3rd Battalion 4th Marines (Darkside). He deployed with ¾ 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. They were then commanded to go back out to the same area even though they knew it was a bad idea and tried to deny it. Upon leaving again, they got close to the same area they came under fire the first time, and again took fire. This time they were taking fire from multiple enemy positions. As Daniel was trying to direct his machine gun squad, an enemy round ricochet off the wall where he was trying to take cover and struck the back of his shoulder. Quick Reaction Force came to pick him up via vehicle to get him to a safe area to be picked up in a helicopter. One of the Marines in the truck that picked him up was Corporal Zanowick, an incredible Marine. After dropping Daniel off, Corporal Zanowick was then forced to go back out and ended up being shot and killed no more than an hour after Daniel was shot. Daniel was taken out of the fight, and had to leave his guys for the rest of the deployment, and then to top it off he found out they lost Zanowick. That took a very strong toll on him then, and still affects him to this day.
Army SPC Halsey Hinson
(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 at 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.
Marine Cpl Josh Hoffman
(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”
Air Force MSgt Adam McLeod
(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. 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.
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.
Army CPT Alec Ross
(Purple Heart Recipient) US Army Airborne Ranger Charlie Company 2nd Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment Ft Lewis WA 1989-1993. Wounded 20 December 89 on combat jump into Rio Hato Panama, Jump Altitude around 400 feet “Six Minutes!!” The jumpmasters started their pre-jump commands. It was time to stand up. His knees had never been so thankful. Now it would be his legs and shoulders that would bear the discomfort of the tremendous weight of equipment. The C-130 had interior red lights and Ross heard someone reciting the Ranger Creed. You could hear the plane taking hits from ground fire, and away they went. Ross had a perfect exit, no twists. His riser was shot and he streamer in somewhere around 100 Feet. Alec Ross was medically discharged out the military in 1993. From 2003-2008 he worked as a defense contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rehabilitated and reenlisted in the Army Reserves in 2005. Ross was selected for Army Physician Assistant program in 2008 and graduated with a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies and was commissioned in Sept 2010. He served several posts and currently a Physician Assistant with Special Operations Command Africa and working as a civilian at Ft Campbell KY in a Troop Medical Clinic caring for our Soldiers and their families.
Air Force SSgt Zac Ruttman
(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.
Marine LCpl Nick Siewert
(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.
2018 VIP Warriors
Medal of Honor – Army CSM Bennie G. Adkins
(Medal of Honor/Purple Heart Recipient) Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was drafted into the Army Dec. 5, 1956, at the age of 22, from Waurika, Oklahoma. Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself during 38 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces on March 9 to 12, 1966. At that time, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp “A Shau”, in the Republic of Vietnam. When Camp A Shau was attacked by a large North Vietnamese force in the early morning hours of March 9th, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp. He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position at the camp dispensary. Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to enemy fire transporting a wounded casualty to an airstrip for evacuation. He and his group then came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese. Despite this overwhelming force, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire away from the aircraft all the while successfully covering the rescue. Later, when a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins again moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies. During the early morning hours of March 10th, enemy forces launched their main assault. Within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective rifle fire upon enemy as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking North Vietnamese soldiers. Adkins then withdrew to regroup with a smaller element of soldiers at the communications bunker. While there, he single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire, almost completely exhausting his supply of ammunition. Braving intense enemy fire, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and evaded fire while returning to the bunker. After the order was given to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp. Because of his efforts to carry a wounded soldier to an extraction point and leave no one behind, Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter. Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle – evading the enemy for 48 hours until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12th. During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 – 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.
Marine Col John Bates
(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.
Army COL Gregory Gadson
(Purple Heart Recipient) Gregory D. Gadson (born February 19, 1966) is a retired colonel in the United States Army and the former garrison commander of the U.S. Army Fort Belvoir. He is also a bilateral above-the-knee amputee, occasional actor, and motivational speaker. He served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years as a field artillery officer and served on active duty for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Education and military career
Gadson attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1989. He also holds a master's degree in information systems from Webster University and a master's degree in policy management from Georgetown University. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Advanced Field Artillery Officers Course and in 2010, he became an Army War College Fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.
Commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Director, Army Wounded Warrior Program, Alexandria, Virginia
2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery.
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division (Fort Riley).
Battalion fire direction officer for 5th Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, III Corps at Fort Sill.
Division targeting officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 82nd Airborne Division Artillery.
Battalion adjutant, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Battalion fire support officer, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Commander, Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd Airborne Division for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.
Personnel distribution officer and human resources commander, Alexandria, Virginia.
Battalion operations officer, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery.
Operations officer, 25th Infantry Division, executive officer.
Special assistant to the commanding general, United States Army Pacific at Fort Shafter.
Platoon fire direction officer, firing battery platoon leader (Desert Shield/Desert Storm)
Chief of operations, Multinational Division North, Bosnia-Herzegovina, (Stabilization Force XI), 25th Infantry Division (Light)
25th Infantry Division Artillery, Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom V)
On the night of May 7, 2007, while returning from a memorial service for two soldiers from his brigade, he lost both his legs and severely injured his right arm to a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He became one of the first military personnel to use a next-generation powered prosthetic knee with technology to make it possible for amputees to walk with confidence and with a more natural gait.
Bill Grafton World War II Veteran
“My name is William Lamar Grafton but everyone calls me Bill.” This is the first sentence in Bill’s autobiography titled: “Before and After General Patton”, copyright February 28, 2008. He is an amazing man who loves America, baseball and apple pie!
Bill was born at home in Meridian, Mississippi on November 11, 1924. He was the 5th of 6 boys. Since Bill was born on Armistice Day (Veteran’s Day), one of Bill’s brothers tried to convince his parents in naming him “Armistice”. Bill is glad his parents did not listen to his brother and named him William, instead.
Bill remembers growing up on a 16 acre farm where life was carefree and full of adventure. Life was good on the farm for Bill and his family. He does not ever remember an evening meal where they did not have company. It seemed like the other farm boys were always at their home. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, Bill and his family had plenty to eat since they raised their own cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. They also had a large garden, pecan trees and an orchard. He said they fed not only their family but also their friends and neighbors at this time as well.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941 and war was declared by our President, Bill’s brothers began to sign up to serve in the Army Air Corp. Bill had to wait a year before he could sign up because he was not old enough to follow four of his brothers into the war right away. He had a hard time convincing his mother to let him be the fifth of her sons to sign up for the military but she finally agreed. Fortunately, all five boys survived the war of all wars and came back home to her and their wives.
Bill trained to be a gunner in B-17 bombers. They were dropping bombs over Hungary when they were attacked by German fighters. His plane was hit, Bill parachuted out with the others and landed in Hungary where he and another fellow airman were turned over to the German police. He spent time in a Hungarian prison and then was moved to a German concentration camp in Sagan, Germany. In January 1945, the Russians were getting close to their camp so the Germans began to march them out of the camp to another location. Bill remembers making a backpack out of a wool GI shirt with a needle and thread. He said he put all his clothing on his body, found some woolen socks somehow and began to march in a foot of snow and howling wind in what was suspected to be 40 below weather. They marched all that night and would stop for only minutes at a time when Bill would eat some Red Cross issued chocolate that he kept close to his body so it wouldn’t freeze and break his teeth. A number of men froze to death. He believes that the chocolate and the wool socks kept him able to march and kept him alive! Bill was moved from camp to camp as the Americans or Russians would get closer and closer to their German occupied camps. On April 29, 1945, General Patton liberated Bill’s final camp. Bill was able to go home and start living again in freedom!
Air Force Capt Guy D. Gruters
(Purple Heart Recipient) Captain, USAF: POW in North Vietnam, December, 1967 to March, 1973: 5 years, 3 months. The rescue of Guy and Captain Charles Neel, who Guy characterizes as a fighter pilot's fighter pilot, is a truly awe inspiring story of the dedication and courage of the Jolly Green Chinook Helicopter Search and Rescue units. His second shoot down on December 20, 1967, resulted in a five year, three month odyssey that humbled his pride, tested his fortitude, and forged his faith. In the courageous Christmas bombing of late 1972, Strategic Air Command US Air Force B-52 Bombers and Tactical Air Command Fighters and US Navy Aircraft Carrier Fighters forced the North Vietnamese to release Guy and the other surviving POWs in March of 1973. Guy's brother, Terry, volunteered for multiple tours in Vietnam over the years of Guy's imprisonment in his attempt to best help to end the war and bring Guy home. Terry was shot down two times and crash-landed once behind enemy lines during those tours. His persistence was rewarded and he flew one of the B-52s which actually did bomb his brother out of prison camp. Of the more than 3500 aircrew members who were shot down and not rescued in North Vietnam, 457 survived. The North Vietnamese and the Russians had tortured to death or killed in one way or another six out of seven aircrew members. There were a total of five hundred and ninety-one surviving POWs of all military services released in 1973 for return to the States during "Operation Homecoming."
Army SSG Shilo Harris
(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, will be available in September 2014 through Baker Publishing Group.
Air Force Col Paul Lockhart
PERSONAL DATA: Born April 28, 1956 in Amarillo, Texas, to Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Lockhart. Married to the former Mary Theresa Germaine of Boston, Massachusetts. An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and sports such as kayaking.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Tascosa High School, Amarillo, Texas, in 1974; received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from Texas Tech University in 1978, and a master of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1981. Studied at the University of Innsbruck and the University of Vienna Summer School from 1978-79 on a Rotarian Fellowship. Has also completed aerospace related courses from Syracuse University and the University of Florida and is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies, London, England.
ORGANIZATIONS: Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Order of Daedalians (Fraternal Order of Military Pilots).
AWARDS: Recipient of the Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Aerial Achievement Medal, Commendation Medal, Outstanding Unit Award with Valor, National Defense Service Medal, Achievement Medal, and numerous other service recognitions and ribbons. He is also a distinguished graduate of both ROTC and the Air Force Squadron Officer School.
EXPERIENCE: Lockhart was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF in 1981. Upon graduation from pilot training in 1983, he was assigned to the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron flying T-33s. In 1986, he transitioned to the F-4 and flew operationally with U.S. Air Forces, Europe (in Germany) from 1987-1990 as an instructor pilot for F-4 and F-16 aircrew in the tactics of surface-to-air missile suppression. In 1991 he reported to Edwards Air Force Base for year long training as a test pilot in high performance military aircraft. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the Test Wing at the Air Force Developmental Test Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, performing weapons testing for the F-16 aircraft. During his 4-1/2 year tour at Eglin, he was selected as the Operations Officer for the 39th Flight Test Squadron. Much of America’s state-of-the-art weaponry was first tested under his guidance at the 39th Flight Test Squadron.
He has logged over 5,000 hours in more than 30 different aircraft and the Space Shuttle.
NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected by NASA in April 1996, Lockhart reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. After completion of initial astronaut training, Lockhart was assigned to the Astronaut Office Spacecraft Systems/Operations Branch where he worked various technical issues including the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) and redesign of the orbiter’s flight display. A veteran of two space flights, STS-111 (June 2002) and STS-113 (November 2002), Lockhart has logged 26 days, 39 minutes, and 82 seconds in space. Lockhart left NASA in January 2005 and returned to the Air Force. Post the Columbia accident, Col Lockhart attended the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS), London, England, as an exchange officer in fulfillment of Air War College. The Ministry of Defence’s premier institution for grooming senior leaders in the UK military and civil fields, Col Lockhart completed a year of Studies in International Conflict Resolution at RCDS with 84 other fellow members representing 44 nations from around the world. After graduation, he was assigned to the Air Staff, Headquarters USAF, Pentagon, where he has held the position of Director, Future Capabilities at the Air Forces Directorate of Studies and Analysis, Assessments, and Lessons Learned (HQAF/A9). Paul Lockhart retired from the Air Force in March 2007. From February 2007 through 2008 he served as Special Assistant, Program Management, Explorations Systems Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. and as Acting Division Director, Constellation Systems Division. Paul Lockhart now currently works in the private sector where he is the Senior Vice President for QinetiQ North America, a subsidiary of QinetiQ Inc., headquartered in London, England.
SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-111 Endeavour (June 5-19, 2002). The STS-111 mission delivered a new ISS resident crew and a Canadian-built mobile base for the orbiting outpost’s robotic arm. The crew also performed late-notice repair of the station’s robot arm by replacing one of the arm’s joints. It was the second Space Shuttle mission dedicated to delivering research equipment to the space platform. STS-111 also brought home the Expedition-Four crew from their 6-1/2 month stay aboard the station. Mission duration was 13 days, 20 hours and 35 minutes. Unacceptable weather conditions in Florida necessitated a landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
STS-113 Endeavour (November 23-December 7, 2002) was the sixteenth Shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station. Mission accomplishments included the delivery of the Expedition-Six crew, the delivery, installation and activation of the P1 Truss, and the transfer of cargo from Shuttle to the Station. During the mission Lockhart coordinated spacewalk activities. STS-113 brought home the Expedition-Five crew from their 6-month stay aboard the Station. Mission duration 330 hours and 47 minutes.
WO1 Regimental Sergeant Major Michael Logan
The Royal Irish Regiment- Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Northern Ireland Veteran.
A British Army veteran of 24 years’ service Michael has deployed in support of the global war on terror with 4 tours of Iraq and 3 to Afghanistan. Tours of Kosovo, Sierra Leone and 6 years’ service on Counter Terrorist Operation in Northern Ireland where also conducted during his career. It was in Afghanistan in 2008 whilst serving alongside the Afgan National Army (ANA) as part of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team Battle Group (OMLT) that Michael was injured in a Suicide Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED).
Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major, RSM) Logan’s career has spanned over 24 years of military service, within which he has fulfilled a variety of roles. His principle responsibility throughout the majority of his career has been the command, leadership and management of Infantry soldiers. This responsibly has ranged from sections of 8 soldiers up to a Battalion of 500 men and woman. Outside of his core role Michael has specialised in a number of other key areas including, logistics, equipment care and management, administration and Operational planning and training. Michael’s ability was recognised throughout his career by regular promotions in rank. This dynamic journey culminated with his promotion to Regimental Sergeant Major of a regular Army Infantry Battalion. WO1 RSM is the senior rank a soldier can reach and appointment of RSM is only achieved by the most capable soldiers in the British Army.
Having left the military in 2011 Michael has worked very closely with veterans, he plays an active role within 3 main charities, Deptherapy (Using scuba diving to help physically and mentally challenged veterans. Beyond The Battlefield & Out of the Shadows, two Northern Ireland based charities supporting veterans and families who have been affected during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland Michael enlisted in The Royal Irish Rangers in 1987 a unit that in 1992 was to be amalgamated with the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) to form The Royal Irish Regiment. Michael has one daughter, Ellie 22 who has followed her dad into uniform and is currently servicing as Police Officer within Police Scotland.
Air Force Lt Col Kevin B. Lombardo
(Combat Veteran) Lt Col Lombardo is the Commander of the 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron, the “Gunslingers.” His team of 248 Security Forces Defenders provide the first line of defense and immediate response for the 150 ICBM Launch Facilities and the 15 Missile Alert Facilities in a 13,800 square mile area of responsibility, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Lt Col Lombardo is a Combat Valor decorated Officer who is very active in Wounded Warrior programs. He is an in-demand speaker for PTSD and Combat Stress platforms. He entered the Air Force in 1996 as an enlisted Defender. In 2002, Lt Col Lombardo commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He has worked at numerous operational wings, MAJCOMs and Combatant Command positions. Lt Col Lombardo was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame in 2018.
Army SSG Joel Tavera
(Purple Heart Recipient) SSG Joel Tavera was born in Flushing, New York on March 24th 1987. As part of a military family, he was raised in Havelock, North Carolina, home of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. He left home for the United States Army in May, 2006. He went to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training. After graduating from basic training, he went to Fort Gordon, Georgia for Military Occupational Specialty School 25U Communication Specialist Advanced Individual Training.
He was assigned to the 7th Sustainment Brigade for duty with the 7th Signal Company in February, 2007. His brigade was attached to 10th Mountain Division when deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in October, 2007.
He was wounded on March 12, 2008, during a rocket attack. The vehicle he was traveling in was hit dead on and he is one of two survivors of that attack.
He sustained many injuries including the total loss of vision, a skull fracture resulting in a Traumatic Brain Injury, the amputation of his right leg just below the knee, and burns affecting over 60% of his body which caused the loss of fingertips on his left hand.
To date, Joel has undergone 117 surgeries with more scheduled for the future.
Staff Sergeant Tavera’s awards and decorations include: The Bronze Star, The Purple Heart, The Meritorious Service Medal, The Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, The Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, The Army Good Conduct Medal with one oak leaf cluster, The National Defense Service Medal, The Iraq Campaign Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, The Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, The Army Service Ribbon, The Bronze Order of Mercury and The Honorable Order of St. Christopher.
He graduated from Croatan High School, Newport, North Carolina, class of 2005. He participated in football, soccer, basketball, baseball, as well as track and field. His hobbies include surfing, snowboarding, playing guitar, off roading, and video games.
He was a volunteer firefighter prior to joining the Army. He was an active youth leader in his church youth group and often took trips to work with disabled children. In his early teen years, he was a member of the Young Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC.
He is currently a spokesperson for the Building Homes For Heroes organization, and he is a co-founder of WoundedVets.org. He has also spoken for several non-profit organizations around the country.
Marine CW4 Hershel "Woody" Williams
(Medal of Honor/Purple Heart Recipient) Hershel “Woody” Williams was born in 1923 and raised in West Virginia. After initially being rejected by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 for being too short, he was able to join the Marine Corps Reserve a few months later when the height requirement was reduced. On October 30, 1943, he joined the 32nd Replacement Battlion, which was sent to fight in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Williams fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal and in Guam before landing on Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945.
Two days later, on the day the flag was raised on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi, Williams’ unit was bogged down in a heavily fortified area. Williams, with the aid of cover fire from only four Marines, used a flamethrower to attack enemy machine gun pillboxes. After destroying several Japanese positions, he opened a gap in the Japanese defenses which enabled the Marines to move ahead. For his actions on February 23, Williams received the Medal of Honor on October 4, 1945, from President Truman. He was also awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded on March 6.
Following the war, Williams served in the Marine Corps Reserve and retired as a chief warrant officer in 1969. He became lay minister for his church and served as Chaplain Emeritus of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He was also a Veteran Services Officer at the Veterans Administration for 33 years, until his retirement in 1978.