Once an Engineer, Always An Engineer: Military To Civilian Life

In honor of Veterans Day, the Purple Heart Foundation wanted to make it a point to share some unique stories and points of view from some of our Veterans. We had the chance to interview Alden Smith Bradstock, III. Mr. Bradstock, or Smitty, is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1977 and then went on to receive a Master of Engineering degree from the University of South Carolina.

Smitty entered West Point in 1973 and played lacrosse. In fact, the NCAA had allowed college freshmen to play on a Division 1 Varsity lacrosse team beginning in 1972, making him one of the earliest college freshmen to start on a Division 1 lacrosse team. When Smitty graduated from West Point in 1977, he was commissioned as an officer in the Army.

Smitty is also a published author. He wrote the book entitled, His Destiny, An American Flier. This book is all about American military aviation, ground combat and politics during World War I. It speaks measures to the devotion to duty and the various hardships of military service.

Smitty’s story is very unique, especially in regards to life and career path after serving. He has been able to stay involved in the military and veteran community very heavily, while also pursuing an extremely successful career in the private sector. We had the chance to speak with him about why he decided to join the Army, how that has affected his life, and what it means to him to be a veteran.

1. What made you want to join the US Army?

I had witnessed the Vietnam War on television as a young man and decided I wanted to serve and hopefully, make a difference.  Having grown up and visited the Naval Academy while in high school, I was intrigued by the military academies and wanted an opportunity to get a good college education in the sciences.  The service academies seemed to offer an excellent education with leadership training that would best fulfill my dream of serving the country.

2. Can you provide some details on your time in the service?

a. What branch?  

I entered the Army as a Field Artillery officer and obtained a secondary specialty as a Facilities and Construction Contract Management Engineer.

b. What was your rank?  

I left the service in 1988 as a Major.

c. Deployments?

I served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, the 59th Ordnance Brigade as a Commander of an artillery unit in Germany during the Cold War, and as a facilities engineer at Fort Jackson, SC.  My service with the 82nd put me in three deployment situations.  We were called out during an uprising in Zaire, Africa in 1978, to support the Special Forces when the Iranians held American civilians hostage in Tehran, and when the rescue mission was ordered by President Carter to retrieve the hostages.

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German and American soldiers working together in “Interoperability” during an operational test the forests of central Germany

3. What was your most defining moment in the military?

I was promoted 1 year early to the rank of Major in 1986, one of 43 out of 3,500 Army Captains eligible for early promotion.  The situation taught me many things.  At first, I felt like I was on top of the world, I could do nothing wrong.  That helped me to realize that one’s ego can get out of hand.  I had witnessed leaders who would not listen to subordinates.  I had also had the pleasure of working with leaders who were well grounded, confident and calm under pressure.  These thoughts brought me to understand that I was promoted early for who I was, not what my ego made me think I should be.  I should be the same person as I was before the promotion.  It was a defining moment in my professional life.

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Smitty receiving the German “Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr in Bronze” or the Honor Cross of the German Military in 1986 from the Consul General of Germany to the United States with the commanding general of Fort Jackson, South Carolina in attendance

4. What is your favorite memory/story?  

I have many, many fond memories of my service in the military.  So, I’d have to say my time in the Army is one big favorite memory.  I have many stories of attending Airborne and Ranger schools; jumping out of airplanes (and jet aircraft); moving military equipment and soldiers by helicopters called, Airmobile; setting up and firing howitzers into multiple and very distant target areas; getting called out for deployment into possible combat operations; firing a Lance missile at a test range from the island of Crete; leading soldiers of various units in multiple locations in the United States and Germany, serving with the German military; and training at various military and civilian schools I had attended.  But, the best of it all was working with dedicated and very capable professionals, service personnel who defended our country under all circumstances and with great burdens placed upon them and their family members.  The greatest contribution one can give is putting one’s life and limbs on the line so that other Americans can live safe and secure.  All of our military service personnel do that 24/7, 365 days every year.  It is a memory that we should all burn in our minds and never forget.

5. I am aware that you were wounded while in the service, could you please provide more information?

I was injured numerous times while on active duty, which resulted in me being declared permanently disabled when I left the service in 1988.

a. Where and when did this happen?  

I was first injured at West Point during my senior year, which resulted in me having surgery.  The injury-plagued me throughout my military career on Airborne jumps, military maneuvers, and other related training activities.  I underwent many procedures and physical therapies as I re-injured myself over the years.

b. How were you wounded/injured?  

Recurring injuries to my knee.

c. How has that injury affected you?

Today, 41 years after the first injury, I consider myself very lucky to be able to walk without much pain.  However, I have constant recurring injuries that take weeks to heal.  Like all people with disabilities, I’ve learned to be careful, watch for signs of further injury, and deal with injuries when they occur.  As the orthopedic surgeon told me a few years ago, the pain will tell me when I need to replace the joint.

6. What does being a Veteran and having served your country mean to you?  

Many Americans had great disdain for military service personnel when I was growing up.  I’m sure many people have heard stories of how poorly military members were treated by civilians during the Vietnam era.  Those stories are true, as I watched them play out every evening on the national news on TV.  To see how America has positively responded to our service personnel in the last 20 to 30 years is a true testament to the resolve and respect Americans have for one another, and particularly for those that have and continue to protect our way of life.  Experiencing a handshake, pat on the back, or thank you for my service and the service of others sometimes brings me to the tears of great satisfaction.  The transformation from the 1960’s and 70’s to today is something that few people know, but everyone should recognize and be extremely proud of it.

7. What have you been doing since leaving the military?

The military taught me many things such as the importance of hard work, mutual respect, devotion to important causes, and above all, how integrity plays such a vital role in our daily lives.  I see tremendous parallels in civilian life to military service and try to emulate those ideals in whatever I do.  As I was while in my military career, I have been very busy throughout my civilian career.  I bought into an engineering company in 1990, formed other companies, and worked hard to make sure those companies provided excellent service to our customers.  I’ve worked in those few companies since leaving the military.  And, as in the military, it is very rewarding to work with dedicated and devoted people in all aspects of my daily life.

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Smitty today at his home in Maryland

8. Can you talk about the organization you work for, Veteran Design & Construction, Inc What does your organization do?

We have a very special and unique company.  While many companies design or build buildings, we are licensed and insured to do both with our “in-house” personnel.  So, we design and/or construct high-density residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings and their infrastructures.  Part of our company has registered professional engineers on staff who design and manage the design of our projects.  The other part of the company includes constructors who plan and execute the construction of facilities.  As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, we can bid on projects throughout the United States that are restricted to that category of businesses.  To keep things as simple as possible, we try to stay on the Eastern seaboard.  As we have all been doing this for a long time, I am proud to say our folks are very good at what they do.

a. How did you get involved?  

I received Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees in mechanical engineering while I was in the military.  My education and secondary specialty in the Army, as a Facilities and Construction Contract Management Engineer, prepared me for what I do today.  So, I have a lot to thank the Army for.  I joined a private engineering company when I returned to Maryland after leaving the service.  I stayed with the company as its Chairman for 26 years.  During that time, I had formed a number of companies with my partners.  One of them dovetailed into the present company that I now own.

b. Is your organization active in the veteran community?

Our business is somewhat specialized, but we look to hire Veterans and attend Veteran functions as much as possible.  We also work with the Baltimore Station, a non-profit organization devoted to helping Veterans with afflictions such as personal difficulties and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  It’s interesting, but there seems to be an unspoken separation between the Veteran and civilian communities.  We attend various functions together and civilian companies work for Federal contracting officers.  But the two communities don’t naturally interact with one another very often.  We can definitely learn from one another, but the synergies are not quite there.

9. Anything else you would like to share?

I appreciate the efforts of your organization to bring the stories of Veterans to the public.

10. What is something you wish that the public knew about the veteran community?

While Americans appreciate military personnel today more than ever before, civilians do not have an in-depth understanding of the many trials and tribulations service personnel and their family members have to endure.  Military service requires all personnel to be prepared to deploy on a moment’s notice.  Family members including, spouses and children are expected to deal with deployments and the hardships that come with them.  During the Gulf and Afghan wars, some service members deployed for extended duty in combat zones 4 to 5 different times.  The stress and strain of those instances place unbelievable pressure on loved ones.  We just cannot do enough to help support those that must deal with these difficulties.  And, they are doing it voluntarily to protect us every day.  

Smitty was able to transition his military career into an extremely successful engineering career. It was through all of his training and experience in the United States Army that prepared him for what he has been doing since leaving the service. Not only has he been successful, he has continued to help other disabled veterans, just like himself, in both the workforce and through various charitable events and organizations. Though his service in the US Army and to our country may have technically ended when he left the service in 1988, he has not stopped making a difference.

Smitty raised an extremely important point during his interview in regards to our Military members, their families, and the difficulties that they are both forced to face. Though it is the service member who has bravely volunteered to protect this country at all costs, their families are significantly impacted as well. And, as hard as it is on them, they all volunteer their services. They need just as much support as our military members and veterans. The Purple Heart Foundation has various programs developed to help support not only our veterans but their spouses, children, families as well. We are committed to helping every single man and woman who has served our country. It is our mission to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for our veterans and their families. You can show your support for our heroes and their families and continue to grow and support the programs that assist them in making a one-time or monthly donation.

Just A Bad Day At Work: A Champion’s Mindset

When most of us think about having a bad day at work, we think about the days that our bosses yelled at us, getting slammed with a huge project that has an immediate deadline, or maybe even a spur of the moment meeting that you were unprepared for. Could you imagine if your bad day at work resulted in the loss of your left leg, half of your right thigh and a few fingers? Those were the repercussions of Derick Carver’s “bad day at work”.

Derick grew up in Southern California and attended Eastern Michigan University before he commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. He always knew that he wanted to be in the Army. He remembers back to elementary school when he was given the assignment to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he drew himself as an Army Ranger with all of the gory details included. Years later he joined the Army and became an Army Ranger school graduate, but it wasn’t easy.

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Derick recalls the day he graduated from Army Ranger school as one of his favorite memories of being in the military. Going to this school and training was no joke; he talked to us about how difficult and stressful this training process was, not only mentally, but physically as well. Immediately following his graduation, Derick remembers “walking down the baking aisle in the commissary and smelling all of the sugar and I hadn’t had anything sweet in months and literally grabbed a chocolate icing container off of the shelves and ate it with my fingers”. From there he stuffed his face and slept for four days straight before getting back to work.

After recalling such a funny memory, Derick shed some light on what he considers “just a bad day at work”, a day that changed the course of life for him, forever. Derick was serving as a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne on a deployment in Afghanistan. On January 19th of 2010, his platoon was attacked while conducting a dismounted patrol just outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan. He got blown up by an IED, but the world around him never froze or went blank. In fact, he remembers counting the flips his body made in the air after the explosion. As crazy as it sounds, Derick never once lost consciousness and called in his own injury and the attack. After the initial attack, he began to assess the damage both surrounding him, and that he suffered. He looked down and saw that some of his fingers were detached, he noticed his elbow popping out, and then he looked down at his legs. He attempted to move them and the right leg responded while his left didn’t. It wasn’t attached. He reached down to grab what had once been his left leg, “I couldn’t just leave it there”.

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Instead of being devastated and reacting negatively to the situation, Derick continued to stay positive and crack jokes to keep his men pushing forward as best as they could. Nine of Derick’s men, including him, were wounded and two were killed during that attack. As a strong leader, he refused care in order to make sure that his men were getting treated first. He let two medevacs leave before he got in the third. He explained how it felt while he waited and fought to stay alive, “I kept telling myself ‘take deep breaths, control your heart rate, don’t panic, don’t die like an [expletive] in front of the men’ over and over again to stay alive”. He explained that in this situation where he felt himself bleeding out and dying, his training kicked in and he did exactly be was necessary to keep himself conscious.

“I was proud to watch my soldiers do exactly what they trained for and what they needed to do to stay alive and to keep others alive”.

We asked Derick what his most defining moment in the military was, and we were slightly shocked by the answer. We felt it was safe to assume that January 19th of 2010 was his most defining moment; when his platoon was attacked and he showed his unbreakable determination and leadership. But, that was not his answer. May 29, 2012, was the most defining moment. That was the day he retired from the U.S. Army. Serving his country allows him to be proud. Being a veteran and a Purple Heart recipient allows him to feel as though he served his purpose. Though he explained that you never want to win a Purple Heart, it solidified his purpose, and “it comes with the job.”

As a veteran, Derick is able to do what he can to help others that are like him. He works with many nonprofits that assist veterans. He is extremely dedicated and passionate about helping to advocate for in vitro fertilization for veterans, as his injuries from the IED explosion resulted in traumatic damage to his reproductive organs.

When we spoke with Derick he was most passionate when answering the question “what is something you wish that the public knew about the veteran community?” He wishes that everyone could understand and distinguish the difference between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). The situations that our military men and women are put in do not have to result in negative consequences and hardships. He wants there to be a change in the narrative and the ability to re-educate not only the public but also our military members and veterans. These men and women go through intense and demanding training processes to fight and serve this country, but they are not trained to adjust back to civilian life after the fact. This lack of understanding leads to our heroes coming home and getting thrown right back into the swing of things, and that is the problem. There is no transition period developed to help the adjustment from the life they knew, filled with specific rules, regulations, and structure back to a normal day-to-day. Rather than hoping that these brave men and women can find their “new normals,” they should be taught how to adjust back and be provided with resources that can help them succeed.

It would be hard to believe what Derick has done with his life since the day of that attack on January 19, 2010, unless you’ve got a chance to talk to him. He will never let the injuries he sustained that day define him or get in his way. He says “it was just a bad day, the minute you make it more than a bad day at work you are losing. You need to accept it, and you need to mean it.” It was a chance for him to adjust. He is the exact same as he was before his injuries “only now I weigh about 40 pounds less”. He competes worldwide in adaptive athlete CrossFit, powerlifting and Strongman competitions. He won Wodapalooza (CrossFit competition) in 2015, In 2016 Derick won the title as the U.S. and World’s Strongest Disabled Man. Due to an injury, he was unable to compete in the 2017 competition, but he has begun training and plans to compete in next years. There is nothing that he cannot accomplish.

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Derick’s mindset is one that can and should inspire people around the world and from all walks of life.  Your success and your happiness are not decided by your circumstances, but rather by your mindset. He believes in himself, constantly pushing to reach new goals. He does not waste time focusing on anything besides how he can be the best at what he sets out to accomplish.

Although Derick has been more than successful in overcoming every obstacle that he had faced as a result of his injuries, not all of our veterans are. He makes a very important point when he discusses how the narrative has to be changed regarding PTSD. The men and women who keep our country and freedoms protected deserve that and deserve our help and support. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to helping every single man and woman who has served our country. It is our mission to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one. You can show your support for these brave men and women by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure that ALL of our veterans are able to get the support that they need and deserve.

242 Years of ‘OORAH”: Happy Birthday, United States Marine Corps

“Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share.” – Ned Dolan.

On this day in 1775, the Marine Corps was born. As an expeditionary force older than our country itself, it would be near impossible to outline and describe all of its growth, changes and great accomplishments. The Purple Heart Foundation wants to help celebrate the Marines’ 242nd birthday by recognizing what has helped to distinguish this branch from its creation.

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem” – Ronald Reagan

Since the Marine Corps was created, they have developed into our nation’s first line of defense. Their mission is to win our nation’s battles swiftly and aggressively in times of crisis. They fight on land, sea, and air, as well as provide forces that are detachments to naval ships and ground operations. They are trained to be adaptable and overcome any and all obstacles that are thrown their way, regardless of the situation. They are taught determination and that until victory is reached, they must persevere. Yes, Marines come to mind when you think of traditional warfare, but they also help serve their communities and assist in humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

Inside every single Marine are the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. Those values are shared and help define this men and women both during their service to their country, but also in their everyday lives. Marines may come from all corners of the globe and a vast array of pasts and walks of life, but they value character and pride themselves on those values.

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Although the Marines’ symbol is recognizable worldwide, not many understand the meaning behind it. It combines an eagle, a globe, and an anchor. These represent the history and purpose of this branch of our military. The eagle is representative of the United States of America and the pride behind defending this great nation. In turn, the globe shows their presence not just for our nation, but worldwide. Finally, the anchor. This represents the history of the Marine Corps, and it is developed from a naval past. The combination of these symbols perfects represents the Marines’ dedication to our country and defending it regardless whether it’s on land, in the air, or at sea.

As our country’s first line of defense, it comes as no surprise that the Marine Corps has been a huge part of more battles than we would have time to discuss. Here are a few major, defining battles from the birth of the Marine Corps until present.

  • Fort Nassau – 1776

This was not only the Marines’ first successful amphibious landing on a hostile shore, but it was their first battle altogether. This battle took place only a few weeks after the Marines were created. It only took minutes for the British troops to surrender once the Marines arrived.

  • Battle of Derna – 1805

As a result of pirates raiding American merchant ships, a force of Marines was sent to fight back. This is the battle that led to Marines being nicknamed ‘Leathernecks” because of the protection they wore to fight the pirates. This was the Marines’ first grand battle that took place on foreign soil, and their history helped protect U.S. ships and our trading. This battle is even recalled in the Marines’ Hymn in the line “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli / we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.”

  • Battle of Chapultepec

During the Mexican-American war, the Marines were able to gain control of the enemy’s fortress during this battle, they raised our flag over the palace to mark their victory. This battle also is recalled in the Marines Hymn.

  • Battle of Belleau Wood – 1918

Outside of Paris in Belleau Wood, Marines fought against the German soldiers. After 20 days of intense battle and suffering heavy casualties, the Marines had won. Following this battle, Marines were given the name “Devil Dogs” by the German survivors.

  • Battle of Iwo Jima – 1945

This battle and victory may be the most iconic in the Marines Corps history. The Marines sent to capture the Japanese airfields at  Iwo Jima showed their willingness and perseverance to overcome the enemy and find victory. This 36-day long battle resulted in heavy casualties, but that did not stop the Marines. The iconic photograph of the troops raising the American Flag at the summit of Mt. Suribachi is an inspiration for all Marines and for generations to come.

  • Chosin Reservoir – 1950

In this battle, the 1st Marine Division faced the worst weather and terrain conditions that troops had ever been forced to fight in. As if that was not tough enough, they were outnumbered 8-to-2 by the Chinese army. Nonetheless, they defeated 10 Chinese infantry divisions. To say they prevailed would be an understatement.

  • Battle of Hue – 1968

This was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War. During 33 this 33-day long fight, the Marines were extremely outnumbered. This fight strengthened the Marines’ reputation as tough guys with an unbreakable resolve.

  • Operation Desert Storm – 1991

This was a huge success and victory in modern warfare. Marine pilots used aircrafts to destroy both Iraq’s air and naval forces as well as anti-air defenses and ballistic missile launchers. Additionally, Marines were able to break through Iraq’s southern border, while over 8,000 marines distracted the Iraqi army in the north. This exemplified the Marines’ ability to persevere and reach victory in the air, on land, and at sea.

  • Operation Enduring Freedom – 2001

Two months after the terrorist attack on our nation on September 11, 2001, Marines were the first major ground forces in Afghanistan. Since the initial invasion, much progress was made and the threat of violence has been reduced. Hundreds of schools have been built and millions in aid have been distributed.

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Though these are not the only battles that the Marines played a vital role in, they are a few of their defining moments. Ret. Marine Corps General and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis said,“[T]o Marines, love of liberty is not an empty phrase… Rather, it’s displayed by blood, sweat, and tears for the fallen.” It is thanks to the brave and determined men and women that have made up the Marine Corps for the past 242 years that we are granted our day-to-day freedoms.

Their honor, courage, and commitment that these men and women share have not gone unnoticed. As you go about your day, remember these brave men and women and all of our Veterans from every single military branch, that has served this country.

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring all of our heroes who have served this country. Nearly 90 percent of cash donations that we receive at the Purple Heart Foundation go to providing funds for programs that help ALL of our veterans and their dependents. It Is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women to defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to assure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

Veterans Day: More Than Just A Day

Each of us, as citizens of the United States of America, wake up each day and go about our lives and schedules. Not one person here is the same and none of us live the same life as the person next to us. What each and every one of us do share are our fundamental rights and freedoms. Not only that, we share the reason why we are granted those rights and freedoms day in and day out: our veterans. To simply say thank you to the brave men and women who have served, and are currently serving, this great country will never be enough. And although we honor and remember all of our veterans every November on Veterans Day, that does not do justice to their service.

Though all of our veterans had different military experiences, serving at different times, deploying to different locations, fighting different battles, learning different lessons, they are all heroes, and all have immense pride in serving this country. Here is what being a veteran means:

 

Nick Bare – Army

“I am proud of my time in the military, the people I have met, the experience it had created and the mentorship I gained.  It taught me a lot about leadership, especially working with non-commissioned officers in the Infantry.  I am extremely proud to live in the United States, be an American and of course live in TEXAS.”

Mike Cain – Army (Purple Heart recipient)

“[It has] been a godsend and the greatest thing I’ve ever done with my life. It is something I can be proud of and my family could be proud. I would still do anything and put my life on the line for this country.”

 

Dan Hansmeier – Marine Corps

“Being a veteran means that I hold myself to a high standard, the standard instilled in me throughout the arduous and attrition rated training and combat that I went through. It means that I don’t make excuses and that I seek realistic and thorough solutions to everything in my daily life that I encounter. Being a veteran means that society should hold me to a higher standard as well; there are incredibly weak people who love the victim society mentality, I am not that man, nor should veterans be thought of as that.”

Derick Carver – Army (Purple Heart recipient)

Being a veteran and a Purple Heart recipient “allows me to feel as though I served my purpose. You never want to win a Purple Heart, but it solidified my purpose, and it comes with the job.”

 

With Veteran’s Day right around the corner, keep in mind the reason you are able to do and enjoy all of your day to day activities. Without our brave men and women serving this would most certainly not be the case. They have done their part and now, we need to do ours. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation we are committed to honoring all of our heroes, and it is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.

SSG John Tyler Guy: Answering the Call to Become a Guardian of Freedom

Throughout our history, countless brave men and women have answered the call of duty to serve our country and perpetuate its interests, both in foreign lands and on our own soil. While we do not have the stories of all of them, we had the opportunity to hear the story of one of these men. The Purple Heart Foundation had the opportunity to interview Staff Sergeant (SSG) John Tyler Guy who joined the U.S. Army on October 26, 2007. Guy shared his reasons for joining, why he remains, and why he wants to make his service to our country a career long commitment. His story and experience helps shed some light on the invaluable price of the liberties we hold dear in our country.

Why did you join the Army?

I’ve always been really fascinated with the Army and both of my grandpas were in WWII. I was a freshman in high school when the Twin Towers were hit and from that point on I’ve had anger about what happened. During college, I was undisciplined. I spent most of my time partying and not going to class, but I kept seeing stuff about the war and how dudes my age were fighting for this country and I thought it was about time I did my duty. I love my country very much and sure, it’s not perfect, but this is my home and I’m going to protect it.

How many tours have you been a part of and what positions did you hold during those deployments?

First Deployment: Kirkuk and Mosul, Iraq

  • Dates: August 2008 – August 2009
  • Position and Unit: Rifleman with Bco 1-67 2nd BCT 4th ID

Second Deployment:  Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces of Afghanistan

  • Dates: April 2010 to April 2011
  • Position and Unit: RTO with BUKA PLT Aco 1-327 1BCT 101st ABN DIV

Third Deployment: Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan

  • Dates: November 2012 to July 2013
  • Position and Unit: Team Leader with BUKA PLT Aco 1-327 1BCT 101st ABN DIV

Fourth Deployment: Jalalabad and Bagram Afghanistan

  • Dates: August 2014 to April 2015
  • Position and Unit: Squad Leader with Fco Pathfinders 2-82 CAB AVN 82nd ABN DIV

Fifth Deployment: Djibouti, Africa

  • Dates: September 2016 to February 2017
  • Position and Unit: Section Leader with Fco Pathfinders 2-82 CAB AVN 82nd ABN DIV

 

How would you describe your emotions/feelings prior, during, and after each deployment?

I’ll start off by saying that I’m always more excited than nervous, but everyone gets nervous right before they leave. Not too many other emotions are going on before I leave besides saying goodbye to loved ones, which always sucks. I know it’s supposed to be bad luck but I don’t really care, I’ve had the same “Death Letter” written for my mom, dad, and sister since my first deployment to Iraq. It probably needs an update, especially with my fiancé involved too. The only thing I’m kind of superstitious about is I’ve worn the same IR flag from my first deployment on all my other deployments. It’s all beat up and torn and I’ve had to glue it back together a few times. My feeling on deployment varies day to day, and it depends on where I’m at and what I’m doing. I hate being bored on deployment; it makes time go by so slow if you’re not out doing work. Sure, down time is nice but too much down time leads to stupid things being brought up and stupid things being done. Towards the end of the deployment I can’t wait to be home and I start planning all the stuff that I am going to do when I get home. To me, one of the greatest feelings in life has been every time I have touched down in the States after a deployment.

Through all of the tours and units in which you’ve been a part of, have you seen a shift in the reason why you originally joined to why you continue to serve?   

I guess the reason why I have stayed in the Army has kind of changed. Since joining, I have decided to make this a career-long commitment when it is time to sign my next reenlistment. When I first joined all I wanted to do was deploy; I didn’t really think about it in a sense of a career. Honestly, that was mostly because I didn’t think I’d live to make it a career. I’ve done five deployments and I’d gladly go on five more because I love being deployed, but being deployed doesn’t get you promoted. You need to take college courses and get as much education through Army schools as possible to get promoted. The biggest reason why I stay in is for the brotherhood and the comradery with the guys. You can’t really get that anywhere else at any other job except for first responders.  

Do you have any stories you feel comfortable sharing? Maybe the most memorable tour? Or the one that taught you the most about yourself, and being in the army?  

My second deployment with BUKA plt Aco 1-327 1BCT 101st ABN DIV was the worst and best time of my life. I probably learned the most about myself during that deployment. It completely changed my life and the way I view life and death for that matter. I learned how to push myself further than I thought I could go. It was physically demanding because jumping all those mountains was miserable and fighting in the mountains was miserable too. I learned quickly that your life can change and be taken from you in an instant.

On November 14, 2010 my platoon (BUKA) was pulling a traveling overwatch for first platoon about four hundred meters below us in the Watapur Valley, Afghanistan in the Kunar Province. They were clearing huts and houses while we pulled security for then from above. We got in a stagnant position a little too long at one place and it was good because we had already gotten in numerous firefights with the enemy since the morning and we’d finally gotten a chance to rest a little bit. This was also the third day of the Operation Bulldog Bite. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when 50-60 Taliban hit us with perfect L-Shaped ambush from the Northeast and the East. I’m not going to get into all the details of my experience of the fight, but we had eight casualties in the first couple of minutes of the ambush and ended up losing four really good men that day: SPC Jesse Snow, SPC Scott Nagorski, SPC Nathan Lillard, and SPC Shane Ahmed. Luckily we were able to get the Apaches flexed to our position to suppress the enemy. Then the Pararescuemen were able to come in and get the wounded.  Yeah, my second deployment was my most memorable, we spilled a lot of blood together which, in turn, made us grow really close.

What does it mean to you to serve in the United States Army?

After ten years in I am still very proud of what I do and what I have done. I love being in the Infantry and I love deploying. When I first joined back in ‘07 I just wanted to deploy all the time and make a difference in the war. Now that I’ve been in for a while and I’m making this a career. I focus more on molding soldiers into future leaders and my own career progression such as Army schools and college courses.

A few interview questions will never do justice to SSG Guy’s story and to the commitment and dedication that he offers this country on a daily basis. When he saw that America had been attacked he made it his ambition and goal to be one of our guardians of freedom. SSG Guy truly lives by the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. He has made it a life-long goal to serve and it is the brave men and women, like SSG John Tyler Guy, who are the backbone of our country. Without their dedication we would not have the luxury to carry out our day-to-day lives and the freedoms that come with it. We at the Purple Heart Foundation will forever be grateful for SSG John Guy and all of the men and women who have served, continue to serve and will serve in the future. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.

‘Last Flag Flying’ Interview with Executive Producer Tom Wright

The Purple Heart Foundation is proud to announce the premiere of the film ‘Last Flag Flying.’ The film follows a Vietnam Corpsman’s journey with his two Marine friends to take his Iraq war son to his final resting place. We got the chance to talk with the Executive Producer of ‘Last Flag Flying’, Tom Wright, about the film and his life growing up in a military family.

 

 

You come from a military background. Can you tell us about who in your family served?

Among those in my family who’ve served are a grandfather, James Irwin Alger, who was severely wounded in France during WWI and an uncle, Philip Ray Kottraba, who signed up for the Marines in his teens and ended up fighting in several key battles of the Pacific theater during WWII. My father, as a young Air Force officer, was an instructor of pilots in San Marcos, Texas, in the 1950s.

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Tom Wright with his mother and father.

Other relatives served honorably in the U.S. Army and National Guard. When my Uncle Phil passed away recently, we found his uniform in a closet. While he had never talked much about the war, the ribbons he had earned spoke volumes – a Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for extraordinary heroism, and TWO Navy Unit Citations (NUC) for meritorious service, Good Conduct and WWII Victory Medal. He was a corporal in the First Marine Division and I wish I had learned more from him before he passed.

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Uncle Phil’s Marine Corps uniform

How did your family’s military service shape you as a person and in your work?

Well, for one thing, it was inspiring – a source of fascination, awe and respect. Those in my family who served did so almost exclusively during war-time and they seemed a breed apart. More often though, a ‘military family’ today is comprised of spouses, siblings, parents, and children who routinely make personal sacrifices for our country every day – being in harm’s way or having a loved one there regularly, multiple tours of duty and/or frequent reassignments, years of faithful service followed by retirement and possibly a second civilian career thereafter. Most of all, it carries with it the daunting prospect of perhaps some day joining one of our country’s most hallowed communities: the families of troops killed in combat. The word ‘hero’ is often overused, but to me it applies to those on the battlefield as well as those they leave behind. Personal stories of service to God and country have been a lifelong interest and that’s reflected, I think, in many of the projects I’ve worked on over the years.

 

They say “It all starts with the script.” How did you know that the script for ‘Last Flag Flying’ was one that you wanted to produce?

In today’s world, I think it’s clear that most Americans do not fully understand the military community’s sacrifice. As a result, a lot of veterans rightly feel that America is disengaged from its wars. With so few doing the work of defending freedom for so many, there now exists a disconnect at the heart of our society that must be addressed and healed. ‘Last Flag Flying’ tells the story of one man’s sacrifice and how he shoulders unbearable loss with the help of two old friends, [who are] also veterans. When I first read Darryl Ponicsan’s book, it was instantly clear this was a story that needed to be told. And once Richard Linklater showed an interest in directing and co-writing the script with Darryl, the film became inevitable. These men are massively talented. Darryl is one of our great storytellers, particularly with regard to military life, having authored ‘The Last Detail’, ‘Cinderella Liberty’ and ‘Taps’, among others. And Richard is simply one of the best film directors working today. His movies speak to what it means to be American and always deal with relationships in a meaningful way. His humanism is profoundly moving. Both men are compassionate and neither shies away from dialogue as a primary means of communication, which is a rarity in today’s cinematic world of video games, super heroes, explosions and computer-generated special effects.

 

What was the most important lesson learned when producing this film and what did you learn from it?

Watching Rick work with his actors and crew, I was reminded that the best movies happen when there are bonds of trust and respect among collaborators. Sufficient prep time contributes to an ease of process that leads to ultimate success. He has the keen instincts of a four-star general with all the confidence that implies. With Rick, nothing is forced because he knows what he’s doing and he’s ready for anything. He allows for small surprises because he knows what leads to joy in the viewer. His methods encourage the blossoming of wonderful performances by his actors. I’ve never been on a more relaxed set in my life. Amazon Studios wisely gave him the autonomy and unconditional support he needed to make this movie the right way. As an executive producer, in a case like this, the best thing you can do is get out of the way and let the miraculous happen.

 

Did you have to change your production style for this film?

Simple, sincere, direct and honest – without artifice or pretension – that’s the style ‘Last Flag Flying’ required during its making. These are standards Rick is very comfortable with and aspires to, and the positive results are obvious on-screen. Underlying everything is a sense of humor that is very entertaining. It begins in the clever writing and emanates through the sensitive, masterful performances of our trio of iconic actors – Bryan Cranston, Steve Carrell and Laurence Fishburne.

 

What kind of audience reactions have you been getting so far?

Excellent, enthusiastic responses. Preview audiences have given us a warm reception, especially veterans and active service members and their families. As you know, those who fought in Vietnam were never welcomed home in a proper manner, never accorded due honors or the thanks and recognition they so richly deserve. This film acknowledges their service and promotes mutual respect across generations. There are things actually happening in the real world right now that amazingly echo events we depict in this film in a visionary way – certainly in its central situation and in nearly the same words we’ve heard on recent news broadcasts – that could never have been predicted.

 

What are your hopes for the film?

We are hopeful that ‘Last Flag Flying’ provides an opportunity for real healing to take place in our nation. We hope that whatever rifts may exist – culturally, socially and geographically – we might through the telling of this story help to heal the isolation too often felt in military circles and civil society alike. We want to provide an opportunity for viewers to celebrate what makes this country worth fighting for. Ultimately, I believe that ‘Last Flag Flying’ has the potential to generate a much needed public conversation as well as catharsis for our national audience in these tumultuous times.

 

Thomas Lee Wright began his career as an executive at Paramount Pictures and went on make movies for the next three decades. He has directed documentaries for the Discovery Channel and for Human Rights Watch, among others, including one that tells the story of a ninety-day cross-country bike trip undertaken by an Iraq war veteran to honor his fallen friend. Wright published the first edition of the novel “Last Flag Flying” by legendary writer Darryl Ponicsan, which eventually attracted the attention of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater – an odyssey that has led to the finished movie opening soon in theaters across the country.

To purchase tickets to see ‘Last Flag Flying’ in theaters, please visit http://bit.ly/LFFEmail.

 

The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to sharing veterans’ stories and helping them receive the benefits they deserve. You can help make the difference in the life of a veteran by making a one-time or monthly pledge by clicking here.

Honoring All Of Our Heroes: National Day of the Deployed

Yesterday, October 26th, was the  National Day of the Deployed. A day to honor all of the brave men and women who have been deployed and are sacrificing, or have sacrificed, their lives to fight for our country. It’s also a day that acknowledges the families they are separated from. The day originated in 2006 after Shelle Michales Abrerle approached the governor of North Dakota to have a day that honored the deployed.

The US military has over 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 450,000 of them stationed overseas, and nearly 200,000 troops are currently deployed around the world. Although October 26th is just one day that it is nationally recognized, these men and women should be remembered every day. Below are some ways to honor our troops that are currently on foreign soil defending our freedom:

  • Send or donate money to send a care package.
  • Display a yellow ribbon. Yellow ribbons are a remembrance of the men and women who are deployed.
  • Wear red on Friday:
    • RED is an acronym that stands for Remember Everyone Deployed. R.E.D. Friday was created to remind people of our heroes overseas and show that we are thinking of them.
  • Connect personally by reaching out to deployed troops’ you know.

In addition to helping the men and women that are deployed, their families are also affected greatly and oftentimes forgotten. Here are some ways to show your support to the families of the deployed. A little bit goes a long way:

  • Prepare a dinner.
  • Assist with minor inconveniences and household tasks.
  • Deliver groceries, baked goodies or a care package for the spouse or kids.
  • Offer to babysit.
  • Recognize their sacrifice either personally, through social media, email or any way you can think of.

rangers team are heated food on the fire and eat in the forest

As you continue your day, make a conscious effort to remember the brave men and women that are serving our country, and as a result have become a part of the 200,000 service members currently deployed. The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring all of our heroes who have been willing to sacrifice everything for our country, and have experienced the hardships of a deployment. Nearly 90 percent of cash donations the Purple Heart Foundation receives provide funds for programs that help ALL veterans and their dependents. It is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.

More Than Just Games: How The Invictus Games Celebrate The World’s Heroes

The 2017 Invictus Games took place from September 23 through September 30 in Toronto, Canada. Now, some of you may be wondering, what are the Invictus Games? These games were established in 2014 in England by Prince Harry. A year prior to the development of the games, Prince Harry had the opportunity to visit the United States based Warrior Games (DoD). These games are a chance for wounded, injured, and ill military veterans and personnel to compete in adaptive sports. Adaptive sports, also known as parasports, are sports at a competitive level for participants with disabilities. They very closely follow the rules of the sports that an able-bodied athlete would participate in, but with modifications in rules and equipment to meet the needs of the competitor. Prince Harry was blown away by this idea and what these games represented, so he strove to create an international version.

 

This year, Canada played host to the third Invictus Games. The Inaugural Invictus games were held in 2014 in London, and the second Invictus Games were held in Orlando, Florida in 2016. In the short time since the Games’ development, it has expanded to attract 17 nations and over 550 competitors, all of which are wounded, ill, and injured servicemen and women.

 

These games are inspiring. These brave men and women have served and made sacrifices for their countries, resulting in life-altering injuries, physical and mental, and are forced to learn a new way to live their daily lives. But, they do not stop there. These men and women have found a new normal, and new ways to live so that they are not defined by these injuries. In addition to simply finding a new normal, they have learned to incorporate adaptive sports into their lives.  

Why are these games important for the veteran communities here in the United States, and also around the world? In addition to helping these men and women find a new normal, it helps to bring them a sense of belonging. They are not alone, and together they are able to overcome the day-to-day challenges as well as the lifelong battles they may face. They can share their various mental and physical recovery programs, and find comfort in knowing they are not the only one in this situation and dealing with this. These games help to shine a spotlight and give a face to our heroes, their sacrifices, and their ability to overcome.

The United States participated in the third Invictus Games, in twelve different events. Here is how they finished:

  • Gold Medal in Wheelchair Basketball
  • Silver Medal in the Swimming Mixed 4x50m Freestyle Relay
  • Silver Medal in Archery for the Team Open Compound
  • Silver Medal in Archery for the Team Open Recurve
  • Bronze Medal in the Athletics Mixed 4×100 Relay
  • Bronze Medal in Sitting Volleyball
  • Bronze Medal in Wheelchair Rugby.

Each day our veterans struggle with their transition back to their normal civilian lives. Opportunities like the Invictus Games offer incredible opportunities for our service members to join into new and supportive communities. But, that is simply not enough. We, at the Purple Heart Foundation are committed to honoring all of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Help to support the programs that can help our veterans on a day-to-day basis to receive the support and benefits that they need and deserve by making a one-time or monthly pledge.

Strength from the Sea: Happy 242nd Birthday U.S. Navy

Today the U.S. Navy celebrates its 242nd birthday of defending the nation against all enemies.The force was founded on October 13, 1775, by the second Continental Congress during the American Revolutionary War. The force was disbanded shortly after the war, but  became permanent under the Naval Act of 1794. During George Washington’s presidential term, threats to American merchant shipping were being made by Barbary pirates. American sailors were seized and imprisoned in 1785 and then again in 1793. To secure both the release of these men and commercial access to the Mediterranean Sea, the United States agreed to pay tribute to the Barbary States. The Navy Act of 1794 authorized the construction of first six warships, including:

  • USS United States:
    • Launched on May 10, 1797
    • Fought and captured the frigate HMS Macedonian

USS United States

  • USS Constellation:
    • Launched  on September 7, 1797
    • Fought and captured the French frigate Insurgente. (First major victory by an American designed and built warship

USS Constellation

  • USS Constitution:
    • Launched on October 21, 1797
    • Most well known for her actions during the War of 1812 against Britain, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated four British warships: HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, HMS Cyane, and HMS Levant.
    • The oldest active commissioned warship afloat in the world (Boston, MA)

USS Constitution

  • USS Chesapeake:
    • Launched on December 2, 1799
    • Captured on June 1, 1813, by HMS Shannon

USS Chesapeake

  • USS Congress:
    • Launched on August 15, 1799
    • Performed services during the First Barbary War, War of 1812, and Second Barbary War

USS Congress

  • USS President:
    • Launched on April 10, 1800
    • Captured on January 14, 1815 by HMS Pomone and HMS Tenedos

USS President

Today, the United States is the world’s undisputed naval superpower, with the ability to engage and project power in two simultaneous limited wars along separate fronts. More than 400,000 sailors are serving all over the world, and  the U.S. Navy maintains a notable fleet with:

  • 288 battle force ships
  • 10 aircraft carriers
  • 9 amphibious assault ships
  • 22 cruisers
  • 62 destroyers
  • 17 frigates
  • 72 submarines
  • 3,700 aircraft

Navy Officer Salutes

The U.S. Navy has become the largest and strongest Navy in the world because of all the brave men and women that took the oath to serve this great country and follow the Sailor’s Creed. The Purple Heart Foundation wants to thank all who have served, and are serving for dedicating their lives to protecting our nation. We also want to wish you all a very Happy 242nd Birthday. We join the Navy in their celebration of a milestone birthday by remaining committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are looking for jobs after their military service has ended. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.

Sailor’s Creed

I am a United States Sailor.

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.

I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and all who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.

I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.

From Service For Country to Service For Life: How One Veteran Is Making A Difference

The Purple Heart Foundation had the opportunity to talk with Army veteran Nick Bare about his military experience, transition back to civilian life, and his recent commitment to helping the people and communities of Houston, TX that were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Nick has made an incredible, and very successful, transition from a soldier to an entrepreneur. Currently, Nick is the owner of a sports supplement company, Bare Performance Nutrition, which is based just north of Austin, TX. Nick has been able to not only grow his business, but also develop an extremely large social media presence that supports him and what he is involved in.

As a Texas resident, Nick wanted to make a difference once the devastation of Hurricane Harvey set in. Inspired by his military experience and training he committed himself to doing a 150 Mile Ruck March to raise money for Houston. Through his vast social media presence and commitment to making a difference, Nick was able to raise around $9,000 for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Incredible.  

Can you provide us with a background on yourself?

I am originally from Palmyra, PA (a small town next to Hershey).  I went to college at the Indiana University of PA from 2009-2013 on an Army ROTC scholarship to study Nutrition.  When I was a junior in college I decided to start up Bare Performance Nutrition (sports supplement company) with a small loan.  I commissioned into the Army as an Infantry Officer in 2013, where I was first sent to Fort Benning, GA for Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger School and Airborne School.  My first duty assignment was Fort Hood, Texas where I was stationed from 2014-2017.  During my time in the Army, I was an Infantry Platoon Leader and spent 9 months in South Korea on a training rotation just south of the DMZ.  After transitioning out of the military in May 2017, I went full time entrepreneur with my business, Bare Performance Nutrition.  Our distribution facility is now in Round Rock, TX (just North of Austin) where we ship directly to consumer, wholesale and through Amazon Prime.  A large part of our business is social media driven through my own personal YouTube channel.  The videos I upload are fitness, military, entrepreneur and lifestyle focused.

When did you join the military?

I officially went active duty in May 2013 after commissioning, however, I received my Army ROTC scholarship during my senior year of High School (2009).

Why did you join?

Many of my family members were active duty Army and I saw the experience they had while the war was very kinetic in the Middle East.  I hoped for a similar experience, which is why I selected Infantry.  I also had plans to serve my country and only ever expected to do my 4-year contract but enjoyed every minute of it!

Could you provide some details on your time in the service? 

What branch did you serve in?

Army, Infantry, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood

What were your roles in the service?

Infantry Platoon Leader for 2 years and then Assistant S3 (Operations Officer) until I transitioned out of active duty.

Were you deployed during your service? If so, when?

9 month training rotation to South Korea from Feb 2016-Oct 2016.

What was the most defining moment of your military experience?

My graduation from the US Army Ranger School was my most defining moment.  I spent 4.5 months in a 61 day course due to 2 recycles and a 6-week hold over during the best ranger competition.  It was a tough school where I lost over 30 pounds but learned A LOT throughout the process.

What does being a veteran mean to you?

I am proud of my time in the military, the people I have met, the experience it had created and the mentorship I gained.  It taught me a lot about leadership, especially working with non-commissioned officers in the Infantry.  I am extremely proud to live in the United States, be an American and of course live in TEXAS.

What would you like the public to know about the veteran community that you don’t see portrayed in the news?

The enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers work harder than anyone else I have ever had the opportunity to learn from.  My team leaders, squad leaders and platoon sergeants held the standard to the highest and cared A LOT about their men.  It is something you don’t get to experience in the civilian sector.  These men aren’t working to make a million dollars, but because of a purpose they believe in.  We wouldn’t survive without the enlisted men and women of the United States.

While in the military you were required to complete ruck marches, and now as a veteran/civilian you recently completed a 150 Mile Ruck March to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Can you tell us a little about how:

You came up with that idea?

One of my employees came up with the idea to do a ruck march from Austin to Houston.  I originally planned to do 25 miles but he brought up the idea to do 150 miles.  I posted it on social media immediately to hold myself accountable to that task.

Your experience?

It was one of the best experiences of my life.  It was truly challenging and painful but I believe it brought many people together.  The feedback I received to amazing and the people of Texas are great.  

Your challenges?

The only big challenge throughout was the pain I felt in my feet.  The longest I had ever ruck marched before was 26 miles (and that was tough).  I was well worth the pain though!

What was the public response/support you received?

It was amazing! The people of Texas stopped me the entire way asking if I needed food, water, money and even a ride.  I was very thankful for the support, not just for the ruck march, but for the cause.  The people of Texas really came together after Hurricane Harvey.

Do you foresee yourself utilizing that type of fundraising for other causes?

I would love to do something similar in the future, but with more people involved to make for a greater cause and response.

Nick’s story is both inspiring and unique; the difference he has made is unmeasurable. From serving this country, to helping people around the world achieve their fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle goals through his businesses, to fundraising through a Ruck March to help those whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Harvey, Nick continues to make a difference.

We, at the Purple Heart Foundation, will forever be grateful for Nick Bare, and all of the men and women who have served, and continuing serving and making a difference for this country. We are committed to honoring ALL of our heroes, and it is our goal to make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits that they deserve.