Honored Warriors & Distinguished VIP Ambassadors Team Fastrax™ Warrior Weekend to Remember 2019
New 2019 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 E-4 John Cornett
(Purple Heart Recipient) John sustained shrapnel to his left arm and left hip. The first was from a booby trap and the second from an enemy M-79 round.
He holds a Bronze Star, 2 Air Medals, Army Commendation, Good Conduct, and a Combat Infantry Badge. He served in Vietnam for 14 months and 5 days with Alpha Company 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division. He was in Cambodia in May and June of 1970 during the Cambodian Incursion as per Richard Nixon. He goes by Randy.
Army E-7 Blair Donaldson
(Combat Injured) Blair sustained injury from an IED device in Afghanistan.
Army Command Sgt. Major Kevin Engel
(Purple Heart Recipient) Command Sergeant Major Kevin Engel entered the United States Army 18 November 1982 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In addition to his last assignment as the Command Sergeant Major of the 533rd, FEST-M, Fort Knox, he served in Delta Company, 34th Engineer Battalion, Fort Riley, KS; 23rd Engineer Company, Fort Richardson, AK; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 39th Engineer Battalion, Fort Devens, MA; 23rd Engineer Company (Operations Sergeant/Platoon Sergeant), Fort Richardson, AK; STB (Operations Sergeant), Fort Richardson, AK; Far East District (QA Inspector), Corps of Engineers, Korea; Bravo Company, 864th Engineer Battalion (Platoon Sergeant), Fort Lewis, WA; STB (BN Construction NCO), Fort Richardson, AK; Charlie Company, 864th Engineer Battalion (1SG), Fort Wainwright, AK; Title 11, Fort Monroe, VA, with duty at Fort Sheridan, IL, as an Instructor/Writer and TASS QA NCO; Sidewinder Team, (Sidewinder 40-BN CSM Trainer), Fort Irwin, CA; and Headquarters and Headquarters BSTB, 1BCT (BN CSM), Fort Campbell, KY, (Task Force Spartan CSM, Iraq Deployment). He has also deployed to locations around the world including Nepal, Cambodia, Panama and Tonga.
Command Sergeant Major Engel has an Associate of Arts degree, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration and Military Operations. His military education includes Basic Training, AIT as a 51B Carpenter, Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course, Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Course, Air Assault Course, Rappel Master Course, Battle Staff, First Sergeants Course, Systems Approach to Training, Sergeants Major Academy Class 56, Battalion/Brigade Pre Command Course, and the Joint Engineer Operations Course.
Command Sergeant Major Engels’ awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (5th Award), Army Commendation Medal (5th Award), Army Achievement Medal 6th Award), Army Good Conduct Medal (9th Award), National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Korean Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (4th Award), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (6th Award), Combat Action Badge, Air Assault Badge, Expert Marksmanship Badge with Pistol Bar, Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Bar, Driver and Mechanic Badge with Driver-Wheeled Vehicle Clasp and the Corps Engineers Bronze de Fleury Award.
Command Sergeant Major Engel was medically retired from active duty on 2 October 2012 as a result of injuries sustained during combat. His wounds were sustained 12 April 2008 while conducting an Air Assault Operation just north of Tikrit Iraq. He has been a member of Team Fastrax for four years and currently lives in Brownsville Kentucky.
Army SFC William Evans
(Combat Injured) William served a 15-month deployment, he was hit by over 6 IEDs and lost 26 brothers. Three were missing for over a year. There were multiple firefights. He has a total of 4 combat deployments with well over 10 IED hits.
Army E-5 Jeff Hall
(Purple Heart Recipient) Jeff sustained injury on March 11, 1991, during operations west of Kuwait City, Kuwait. His vehicle struck an anti-tank mine and he suffered wounds to the lower extremities and right upper extremity.
Army E-4 Daniel Hof
(Purple Heart Recipient) Daniel sustained injury in 2005 by an IED in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.
Army Former E-4 (SPC) Daniel Hutchison
(Combat Injured) Daniel originally deployed to Iraq as a Combat Medic with the 285th ASMC, and fell under 3rd MedCom. But when in Iraq, he was attached to both 2nd Infantry Division and 118th MP Co ABN during the deadly troop surge of 2007. He suffers from PTSD.
KY National Guard SSG Rickey E. Jones
(Purple Heart Recipient) SSG Rickey E Jones joined the 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 and did this for approximately 8 years.
He then went to Desert Storm Aug 1991 thru May 1992 with the 438 M.P. Co, replacing the 338M.P. Co out of Louisville, Ky and was a 35B- M.P./Customs Inspector.
He served 2 years with Ky-JSO-Drug Eradication, May 1992 thru September 1993, then transferred to Trucking Company 2123rd Transportation Jan 1993 as an 88M-Heavy Equipment Transporter. He spent 10 years with them and drove all over America.
In 2002 he was activated for active duty with a trucking company out of Paducah, spent 12 weeks at Ft Campbell, and was then sent home. He was activated with 617th M.P. co. on October 6, 2004 and 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. There were no broken bones, but lots of bruises and 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!
Air Force SSgt Lisa Mills
(Combat Injured) Lisa sustained injury on 16 May 2008, while deployed to Ali Air Base in southern Iraq. A rocket hit about 50 feet from her and sent her into a concrete barricade. She endured what was later found to be a double concussion that resulted in Traumatic Brain Injury, severe tinnitus, and damage to her entire spine. Along with the TBI she also lives with PTSD and is a 100% Service Connected Disabled Veteran.
Army E-6 Andrea Morain
(Combat Injured) Andrea sustained injury when she was involved in a mortar attack in Afghanistan. She fell down a flight of stairs and injured her back, jaw, spine, and much more.
Air Force E-4 Kris Morgan
(Service Connected Injury ) During a deployment in 1997 in Saudi Arabia, Kris was removing ground equipment of the flight line and fell and hit his head. He was diagnosed with a concussion and sent to a tent. He woke up 27 hours later with massive head pain. In coming weeks/months he began to have migraine headaches and then randomly passing out. After about a year, the migraines kept getting worse and syncope was happening more often. Then he started having grand mal seizures, approx 7-10 a week. The AF Medically Discharged him in Mar 2001. The VA then sent him to Houston for brain testing and they found he had brain damage on his brain stem from the injury in 1997. The VA then medically retired him at 100% Permanent and Total Disabled.
Army Ranger Adam Ralston
(Service Connected Injury) Adam served in the United States Army 2/75. He was awarded EIB, Ranger Tab, 2xARCOM, AAM, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, German Parachutist Wings, Basic Airborne Wings.
Army MSG Joe Roberts
(Purple Heart Recipient) Joe was wounded by an IED while on patrol in Baghdad as a Team Sergeant in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on July 3rd, 2007. He sustained a TBI and multiple pieces of shrapnel, some that are still embedded in his right arm.
Army E-6 Bryan Russell
(Service Connected Injury ) Bryan served in the United States Army. He was assigned to 1st brigade 101st, 3rd brigade 82nd, 1/77 armor, 498th air medevac, Bco 1/158 infantry AZNG. He suffers from PTSD due to combat.
Army SFC Andrew Six
(Combat Veteran) SFC Andrew Six grew up in Pennsylvania with his four brothers and four sisters. As a young adult Six volunteered as a firefighter and search and rescue medic where he developed a desire to serve in the military. SFC Six enlisted into the Army to serve as a combat medic in 2008, after Basic training and advanced individual training he was assigned to 2-502 Infantry Regiment Fort Campbell KY. SFC Six served as an Infantry platoon medic and company senior medic. In June of 2010 SFC Six deployed for 12 months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF 10-11). The event of this deployment motivated SFC Six to continue his education and training as a medic; this is why he requested to leave the infantry to become a flight medic. SFC Six was then assigned to C Co 6-101 Aviation Regiment Fort Campbell KY. SFC Six deployed in support of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2012 (OEF 12-13), 2015 (OFS 15) and 2018 (OFS 18-19) with Shadow Dustoff. SFC Six also deployed to Puerto Rico to provide aid in the aftermath of hurricane Irma in 2017. SFC Six has served and deployed in all leadership positions from Flight Medic to Platoon Sergeant of a Forward Support Medical Platoon. SFC Six’s awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross W/ Valor, Air Medal Numeral 5, Army Accommodation Medal 2 OLC, Army Achievement Medal 3 OLC, and the Humanitarian Service Medal, Combat Medical Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge, Army Aviator Badge Basic, and the Air Assault Badge. SFC Six will celebrate his 10th year of marriage to Megan Six this year and they have 3 daughters Audrey, Emily, and Isabella.
Marine Cpl John Smeeton
(Purple Heart Recipient) John served in the USMC. He sustained injury from an IED during his deployment. He was awarded a Purple Heart, good conduct, combat action, and sea service deployment.
Marine Cpl Michael Tabor
(Purple Heart Recipient ) On 11/25/2006, Michael was the point man of a dismounted patrol in Anah, Iraq. He was hit by a control detonated IED. He had a piece of shrapnel tear through his left thigh, entering from the rear and resting millimeters from his femoral artery. He was flown to Al Asad and had the shrapnel removed on site. He also suffers from TBI from multiple explosions throughout his two deployments, causing severe migraines.
Army MSG Victor Underwood
(Purple Heart Recipient) Victor C. Underwood, MSG Retired, served in the US Army for 20 years; 17 years in Special Forces which include 2 tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for action in the battle in Special Forces camp in Ashau, Vietnam. He received 2 Purple Heart medals. Victor retired from the Army in 1978 and currently resides in Chewelah, WA.
Army National Guard SFC David Wallace
(Purple Heart Recipient) David sustained injury during an IED attack on his vehicle during convoy operations in Iraq during OIF II. He currently lives in Miamisburg, OH.
Army Sgt Michael Wright
(Service Connected Injury ) Michael was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving active duty in 2010. He served in the United States Army and was assigned to the 25th ID, 10th Mountain, 411th Civil Affairs. He was awarded a Combat Infantry Badge.
(Purple Heart Recipient) Bio Pending.
2018 Ambassador Warriors
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Army SGT Matthew Pennington
(Purple Heart Recipient) Sgt. Pennington entered the US Army in 2001 and was honorably discharged in 2007, enlisting at the age of 17 to serve on airborne (jump) status in the signal corps, Ft. Bragg, NC. Matthew volunteered for three combat deployments to the Middle East, his last being a duty assignment of a convoy security detail in the Iraq theatre. During his last tour, he was injured by an IED roadside bomb on April 29, 2006, while serving with 3/321 FAR. Matthew currently resides in Maine with his wife, Marjorie. He and his wife are Founders of Freedom Team Inc. a nonprofit that helps all veteran's bond and heal by providing adventurous activities along with programs designed especially for caregivers. Marjorie is the full-time caregiver of Matthew who was severely injured on his third deployment one that left her husband with an amputation, limb salvage, PTSD and TBI. Matthew actively seeks out ways to support the veteran community in any way possible. He's blessed to be a Purple Heart Alumni for the Blue Skies for the Good Guys and Gals Warrior Foundation and mentor veterans at the Team Fastrax Warrior Weekend to Remember in Southwest Ohio. Other accomplishments include successfully producing a tour “Operation: A Marines Guide” a PTSD and Suicide awareness town hall speaking tour. The name A Marines Guide is from the short film “A Marine’s Guide to Fishing.” The tour successfully brought the suicide crisis to public awareness when the NY Times interviewed Matthew. He was awarded the Acting Achievement award from Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film. He has also received many recognitions for his service to the United States and stays heavily invested in advocating the social issues of the veteran community along with general social issues such as substance abuse and mental health issues to our leaders to create a better life for everyone. Matthew is currently a part of the national faith leaders conferences established by the White House Office of Public Liaison.
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.
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.