Gretchen Mack, Gold Star Mother
Gretchen Mack is the mother of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, who was KIA in April 2004. In 2007, Gretchen, with the help of her husband Jeff and daughter Kelley, walked from southern California to northern Wyoming in an effort to raise funds for a new foundation that would carry on her son’s legacy. In 2009, the Chance Phelps Foundation was officially created with a focus on outdoor recreation for service members, veterans, and their families. Gretchen lives in Dubois, Wyoming, less than a ten minute hike from her son’s final resting place.
John Phelps, Gold Star Father
John Phelps is the father of fallen Marine, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. A native of Wyoming, his true talent and passion is evident in his paintings and sculptures. In 2007, Hope For The Warriors® commissioned the creation of what is now titled the No Man Left Behind Monument at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. Beyond his art work, John works as an Outdoor Adventures Coordinator with Hope For The Warriors®, using his tragedy to make a difference through the rehabilitative and healing powers of hunting and fishing for those with physical and psychological wounds from combat.
1LT Brian Donarski, USA (Ret.)
Brian “Ski” Donarski served more than 10 years in the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 1998. After 9/11, he re-enlisted in the Army. In 2005, Brian was hit by an IED causing severe injuries to include traumatic brain injury, PTSD, the loss of vision in his right eye as well as requiring multiple surgeries for his neck, back and shoulders. In spite all of these injuries, Ski has become a competitive golfer and has set a goal to be the first wounded service member to qualify for the U.S. Open. Ski is using the game of golf to support his physical and psychological recovery as well as a means to be a better father to his two daughters.
SFC Gary Everett, USA (Ret.)
Gary served in the Air Force for eight years before enlisting in the Army in 1989. Two months after 9/11, Gary deployed to Afghanistan for his first combat tour, staying in country for 14 months. He returned for less than a month before deploying to Iraq in early 2003. In June 2003 Gary’s convoy was hit by a suicide bomber, throwing him 50 feet from the blast. The explosion has impacted Gary’s mobility, vision, and physical and psychological health. In 2012, Gary was invited on a fishing trip with Hope For The Warriors® which reignited his interest in fishing as part of his rehabilitation. He returned and through his own funding, began taking veterans on trips with him, helping their psychological recovery as well. Gary recently retired, serving more than 30 years in the military.
SPC Edward Heddinger, USA (Ret.)
Edward graduated from The Citadel in Political Science and after 9/11, was compelled to enlist in the Army. Edward was a member of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division—a unit that served 22 months in Iraq. Edward was the first wounded warrior at Fort Meade and spent a year in recovery and retired in January 2009. As Edward transitioned to a new career, he volunteered with Hope For The Warriors® by assisting transitioning service members with their resumes. Edward also volunteers within his company as a mentor to other veterans in the company. Edward and his wife Rebecca live in the North Virginia area.
Jeff and Maura Brodeur, Courageous Caregivers
Jeff and Maura Brodeur are the parents of CPL Vincent Mannion-Brodeur, USA (Ret.) who was wounded in action on March 11, 2007. Due to the determination and advocacy of the Brodeur’s, Vincent became the first wounded service member that received care at a private medical facility, eventually leading to the expansion of Tricare coverage across the country and improvement of care in VA polytrauma centers. As caregivers, the Brodeurs joined other military families to advise lawmakers in the creation of new caregiver policies. Their tenacity also led the state of Massachusetts to pass the first law helping families renovate homes to accommodate the needs of a wounded veteran.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Taylor Morris, USN, was severely wounded in Afghanistan in May 2012 and lost both legs, his left arm, and his right hand. Taylor, and his longtime girlfriend Danielle Kelly, have gained fame and recognition thanks to a Buzzfeed posting titled “A Love Story in 22 Pictures,” which has been viewed more than 5 million times. The photos capture years of their relationship, both before and after Taylor’s injury in Afghanistan, highlighting the strength of their love and friendship.
Those who know Taylor and Danielle know that the photos only scratch the surface. Each step in his recovery has required physical and emotional strength that challenged this young couple. His enthusiasm for documenting his journey is an inspiration to all.
Taylor has also become a champion for others. He was one of the service members highlighted in a video to support those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. His compassion shows that Taylor’s service to our country continues on.
Wisconsin native and San Clemente, California resident Nick Kalt takes tenacity to a new level. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Nick was stationed at Camp Pendleton when he witnessed the atrocities of 9/11. He was eager to deploy and serve his country, but during his training in 2002, Nick lost the fingers on his right hand when a primer detonated in his hands.
Nick focused on his recovery, determined to continue his service. He deployed to Iraq in 2004, leading a unit that checked buildings for insurgents and collected materials used to create IEDs. On November 22, 2004, Nick was hit with a bullet that traveled straight through his body. After two weeks of sedation and the removal of part of his intestine, President George W. Bush personally delivered Nick’s Purple Heart.
Nick is now medically retired from the Marine Corps and is a firefighter in Long Beach, California. He is the lead mentor for Leadership Under Fire, Inc., an organization that develops firefighters and fire officers through conferences, presentations, and training programs that promote discipline and leadership. Through his continued work in public service, Nick embodies humbleness and enthusiasm in the veteran community.
Carissa has an undergraduate degree in public relations and extensive work within the field. But when her husband was wounded in action, Carissa charged forward on a new path to support his recovery. She returned to college to earn her Master in Social Work degree, receiving a Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship from Hope For The Warriors® along the way. Carissa graduated from the University of Southern California in May 2013 with a Mental Health Concentration with Sub-concentration in Military Programs & Veteran Services. She excelled in this program as a Dean’s Scholar and member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society – all while working full-time as a military caregiver.
Carissa currently works for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment as a Recovery Care Coordinator at Camp Pendleton. Her commitment to local and national military communities demonstrates her investment as a military caregiver.
Introduced to Hope For The Warriors® in the early years, Zach was one of the earliest members of Team Hope For The Warriors®, completing the Marine Corps Marathon on his handcycle. Since his service, he has completed his degree and has built a strong family unit with his son and new wife. Today, Zach travels across the country to play on a professional Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball team.
Terri and Brian Bury are the parents of Sergeant Brandon Bury, a Marine who was killed in action on June 6, 2010 in Afghanistan. The Bury family has taken this tragic loss and demonstrated hope and courage to those in their community and beyond. They are leaders within the Gold Star Family community and have used this tragedy to build support for other Gold Star Families and wounded service members.
Gregory has served in the Army for more than 24 years, inspiring both military and civilian alike. An IED attack in May 2007 caused severe wounds including the amputation of both legs above the knees and damage to his right arm. Regardless of his injuries, he has never stopped serving and caring for the soldiers in his commands. Today, he is the Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir and oversees more than 50,000 military personnel and civilian employees. Prior to this command, he managed the AW2, a program that supports and advocates for nearly 11,000 severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers.
Heather deployed twice to Iraq; from 2003-2004 and then again 2010-2011 and returned with both physical pains and psychological wounds. In spite of her personal struggles, concern for her fellow soldiers was her priority and she always put their needs before her own. After time in an inpatient treatment facility for PTSD, Heather has used her own personal experience to reach others. By sharing her story publicly, many have come forward, asking for help and direction. Heather will continue to reach out to her fellow service members, knowing that many more are still struggling in silence.
David first deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was hit by an IED. He was awarded a Purple Heart. He spent much of 2004 recovering from his injuries and returned to Iraq in 2005. He was awarded a Bronze Star during his second deployment. David deployed a third time to Pakistan in 2009. Injuries from these deployments include a severe concussion, hearing loss, traumatic brain injury, and severe back and shoulder injuries. After returning from his final deployment, David volunteered for another key command – Officer in Charge at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. There, he implemented programs to help the recovery of wounded Marines. He worked tirelessly for two years and, after he was confident that his programs were fully established, he finally underwent the reconstructive back surgery that he required.
After a deployment to Afghanistan, Matthew entered the Military Wellness Program at Holliswood Hospital to tackle his PTSD. After completing the program, Matthew transitioned into a civilian career in financial services. He has reconnected with his family and community and has since married. He is an advocate for veterans’ issues and started a Military Mentorship Program at his company, using his own experiences to help other service members reintegrate into society.
After four years in the Air Force, Michael returned to Long Island, struggling with PTSD. His formula for recovery includes his service dog Rex and giving back to other veterans and veterans’ causes. Michael is an active supporter of Hope For The Warriors® through volunteering and fundraising efforts at the Memorial 100 and many other athletic events. He is also an active member of the American Legion and the Patriot Guard.
Samantha and her husband Mark were married for a little more than two years when he was wounded in Afganistan in June 2011. He soon after passed. During those initial days of mourning, Samantha formed close bonds with several Hope For The Warriors® staff members as she coped with her new life. Today, she supports military spouses by speaking to groups about the needs of the military community along with challenges faced by today’s service members. She is also creating an organization at her college to support student veterans struggling with PTSD.
Kathleen Kelly grew up witnessing the meaning of service and sacrifice – both of her grandfathers served during WWII and both of her brothers joined the Marine Corps after college. Her volunteer work supporting wounded service members began in 2003 when she was still in high school and expanded throughout the years of war. In 2010, she was more personally impacted when her brother was killed in Afghanistan. Kathleen now leads an athletic team that races in honor of her fallen brother and raises funds for a scholarship in his name.
Mary Nicholson is the dedicated mother of Sgt Michael Nicholson, USMC, a triple-amputee injured in Afghanistan on July 6, 2011. In 2012, the family was given a new challenge when Mary’s husband was diagnosed with cancer. Despite their challenges, Mary led the entire family with a positive and strong vision. Mary continues to focus on the needs of each family member: Michael’s recovery, her husband’s treatments, and her older son Andrew, while volunteering with the Hope For The Warriors® scholarship committee.
Ryan Voltin, Pam’s husband, was severely wounded when his helicopter exploded into flames during a training exercise. As Ryan underwent multiple surgeries for his burns and leg amputation, Pam refused to let his injuries interrupt their life. She moved forward as planned, growing the family with two children while Ryan was in the medical center. Their fifth child is a beautiful girl they aptly named Hope. Pam pushed aside her personal fears of Ryan flying again and turned to Hope For The Warriors® with a Wish. She asked for help to pay for Ryan’s flight school, to put him back into the air—his true calling. Hope For The Warriors® proudly granted her Wish.
Charlie is a retired New York firefighter–but he has not retired from serving others. Since 9/11, he has been a Fire Department Counseling Unit volunteer. Now, Charlie volunteers for Hope For The Warriors®, attending luncheons each week at Holliswood Hospital for the Family Reintegration Program. He is also quick to help service members and military families with their various needs. Holiday barbeques, fishing trips, extra outings and more—there is no limit to what he will do for our families. Recently, he instituted an additional support group at the hospital, bringing service members together and inviting first responders and veterans as guest speakers.
Crabtree's deployment as a corpsman ended abruptly when she took a gunshot wound to the head by a sniper. Although not expected to heal well, her recovery has exceeded all expectations and she continues to work hard each day to regain her independence. This hard work has also been recognized by her command and she was promoted to her present rank post-injury. Crabtree, a single mother, continues to balance her rehabilitative needs with the needs of a young daughter. Beyond work and home, Crabtree has discovered a love of sailing and utilizes the sport as part of her recovery.
Holt is an anesthesiologist who has used his medical expertise in the treatment of countless wounded service members-himself included. In January 2009, his armored Humvee drove over an IED, throwing him nearly 30 meters and hitting a concrete wall. He spent more than one year in rehabilitation. His experience gave him invaluable insight into the military medical system and he continues his hard work to help other injured service members. This summer, he will begin a fellowship in Pain Management to continue his work.
Masters was completing his sixth combat deployment when his right hand was severely wounded by an explosion, requiring extensive reconstructive surgery. While undergoing rehabilitation, Masters channeled his energy into Team Hope For The Warriors®. Since joining the Team, he has competed many challenging races including marathons, triathlons and relays. More importantly, he acts as a leader and a mentor to other service members and Team members and has become an outstanding representative for the athletic needs of our wounded community.
On December 31, 2010, O'Hern was in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. An IED explosion caused severe wounds including the amputation of both legs and his right hand. In spite of these wounds, O'Hern approaches his life and his long road to recovery with boundless strength, courage, and hope. The son of a soldier, O'Hern had always intended to make the Army his career. Now, he stands proud and ready to take on a new goal and is applying for the Army Congressional Fellowship Program.
On August 1, Jimenez was hit by a 40-pound IED while on foot patrol. His injuries are severe, including the loss of his left arm above the elbow, traumatic brain injury and the loss of hearing in his left ear. Since his injury, Manny has become an avid runner and, as with everything he does, a fierce competitor. He began running only months after his injuries, quickly increasing his distances. He soon joined Team Hope For The Warriors® and through the Team has competed in marathons, half marathons and triathlons. When he is medically retired, he plans to return to Connecticutto be near his family and pursue his college degree in physical education.
Oftentimes, hidden wounds are the most difficult to accept and this was no different for the Hall family. As her husband suffered from TBI and PTSD, Noemy did her best to keep his injury private and hidden. In time however, that proved too difficult, so now, she takes on a new role. Noemy stands proud as the wife and caregiver of a wounded soldier who has sacrificed so much for our nation. Those roles, along with mother and homeschool teacher, depend on her endless love for her family and her overwhelming strength.
MSgt John Hayes, USMC, was killed in action three years ago in Afghanistan. Together since high school, his widow Shannon was left to continue the work of two parents alone. Their three children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager, turned to their mother to carry on the strength, character, and presence of their father. Shannon has done just that. She continues to raise her children as she and her husband planned, giving each a future with hope and courage.
LCpl Colin Smith, USMC, was deployed to Iraq in 2006 where he was severely wounded in combat. Suffering from traumatic brain injury, his father, Bob, was told that Colin would never walk or speak again. Refusing to listen, Bob's determination and dedication gave Colin the support needed to aid in his rehabilitation. In planning Colin's future, Bob, with the help of Hope For The Warriors®, purchased a home in his son's name so that Colin would always have a place to live, mortgage-free, and surrounded by family and the people who love him. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2011, but Colin remains in his home, just as Bob planned.
Rufus was a stray dog in Afghanistan, adopted by Duke's National Guard Battalion. But this dog provided more than company-one night, he and other dogs saved the lives of the unit from a suicide bomber. A year later, Hope For The Warriors® supported A Warrior's Wish® to reunite Rufus and another hero dog, Target, with their owners. Today, Rufus has been trained to be a service dog and is ready to continue serving with Duke.
After his injuries forced an early return from Afghanistan, Austin identified gaps in support needed by wounded service members. Taking his focus away from his own wounds, Austin worked tirelessly to ensure that each returning service member in his unit received the medical and emotional care needed.
Beatty is the co-founder of Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit organization that helps wounded veterans with necessary home modifications. As a double amputee, Beatty is an active advocate for wounded service members from all wars and conflicts. He is also a trustee on the Fisher House Board of Directors.
Bradley defied his doctors' predictions and walked out of the hospital, despite multiple wounds, in two months instead of one year. As a full-time civilian worker on the military base, full-time student and father, Bradley demonstrates hope and courage in every way.
Legally blind and working through issues of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic epilepsy, Gonzalez demonstrates everyday his thankfulness for all that he have been given. In each conversation, he expresses gratitude for his life, his service and for the love and support of his family.
Ruggiero made history when a vessel filled with explosives detonated near his boat, making him the first Purple Heart recipient in the Coast Guard since the Vietnam War. His actions to save his shipmates following the attack earned him the Bronze Star with Valor. Although Ruggiero faces ongoing medical operations, he continues to volunteer for deployments and serve with honor and courage.
Shots fired via machine gun damaged Shattuck's internal organs during a difficult battle in Afghanistan. After being put in a medically induced coma, he woke up two weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. In spite of his wounds and ongoing mild traumatic brain injury, Shattuck has returned to his original unit, ready to deploy and serve again.
Since her husband returned wounded from Iraq in 2004, Ayres has become a caregiver, advocate, medical specialist, social worker, and now political activist for her husband and for all wounded service members. She now uses her experience to help other spouses and family members. She also works with congressional representatives to address needed changes in medical care.
Christian's son, LCpl Jordan Haerter, USMC, was killed in Iraq on April 22, 2008. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and hailed by President Obama, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Secretary of the Navy, and others. In Jordan's honor, Christian and his partner Michelle founded Jordan's Initiative, a nonprofit foundation to support deployed service members, combat veterans and their families.
As a nurse in the Naval Reserves, Lanca has personally cared for many wounded service members at the National Naval Medical Center. Her brother, also a Navy Reservist, was activated for a year-long deployment. Eight months after his return, he died of suicide. Lanca turned her pain into political action as she addressed the need for better mental health care at all VA hospitals.
A suicide survivor (husband died of suicide) and the mother of two young boys, Ruocco has spent the last four years using her personal tragedy to save other people's lives. She is now the Director of Suicide Outreach and Education for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors).
With only three weeks left of his deployment in Iraq, Jay was hit three times in the arm and face with a machine gun while on a mission. He arrived at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in September 2007 and was known for a sign on his door that read, “If you are coming into my room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere.” After a long road of recovery, Jay now dedicates himself to a new cause—Wounded Wear, a nonprofit with the mission to raise awareness about the sacrifices of wounded heroes and the skilled medical personnel that support them.
As a combat videographer, Meghan always enjoyed being a part of something larger than herself. In the midst of battle, she would often set down her camera to help medics, clear debris, find bodies and transport wounded soldiers On March 23, 2008, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-born IED in Mosul, Iraq and Meghan was tasked with documenting relief efforts. After this, she began suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and now struggles daily with memory loss, concentration issues, flashbacks and panic attacks. She represents the courage of those with unseen injuries but continues to look forward.
In 2007, Matt conducted a foot patrol in Haditha, Iraq when an IED blew up beneath his feet leaving him in a coma with one above- and one below-the-knee amputation. He spent the last two years in the rehabilitation program at the Center For The Intrepid in San Antonio, TX applying his characteristic drive and determination. On April 7, 2010 he made history when he became the first blind, double amputee to reenlist in the Marine Corps. Matt stands ready to take over his new job mentoring injured Marines in his new position with the Wounded Warriors Battalion East, Camp Lejeune, NC.
In 2009, Brendan survived a blast that left him as the U.S. military’s first surviving quadruple amputee. The quick actions of his buddies, an emergency blood drive, and 60 units of blood saved his life in the field. He was brought to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center for recovery and astounded everyone by standing six months later at his unit’s homecoming. Brendan continues his treatment at Walter Reed and looks forward to the day when he can pursue his dream of working with cars.
With all the sacrifices Anne has made being a mom and the Vice President of Marketing at Raycom Media, the none compared to when her son, CPL Matthew T. Bolar, USA, laid down his life for his country. Matthew’s Army career began on September 11, 2001 and he was on his second tour in Iraq when he was killed by and IED explosion in May 2007. Anne is determined to not let her son and other service members be forgotten and has become involved with Hope For The Warriors® to achieve this goal.
For years, Mary dedicated herself to being a strong Marine Corps wife by supporting her husband’s career, joining several military organizations and raising their children while her husband was deployed. However, after her husband, GySgt James Gallagher, returned from Iraq in 2005 he began falling apart and shockingly took his life in May 2006. Mary now works with Hope For The Warriors® and several other national organizations on the issue of suicide prevention.
Cindy was a busy woman with two sons at home when her husband, SSgt Carl Traub, deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team. On October 30, 2005 Cindy received a call telling her that Carl had lost both legs, incurred arm injuries, was paralyzed and may not live. More than 50 surgeries and five successful years later, the Traub family exemplifies the commitment of caregivers and the goal of “hope beyond recovery.” Carl is now healthy, medically retired and enrolled in college with his family by his side every step of the way.