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John Wayne Walding: An American Hero [Video]

The actor John Wayne was one of my silver screen heroes as I was growing up. I admired his true grit. Another young man named John Wayne Walding (or JW2) is a real American hero and his story is one that I hope film makers like Clint Eastwood take notice of and promote in film what JW2 has done and is doing.

Watch this short video about JW2:

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John Wayne Walding. Photo courtesy of Recoil Magazine.

Recoil Magazine recently Zeroed in on John Wayne Walding in a column titled “Still Standing“. Here are some notable excerpts from that article on JW2:

Highly Decorated All-American John Wayne Walding was the First Amputee to Complete Special Forces Sniper School. Now He Has His Sights Set on a New Mission: Empowering Veterans Through 5 Toes Custom.

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As all-American as it gets, John Wayne Walding was born on Independence Day in Groesbeck, Texas. Ever the hard worker, John worked his way up the Army totem pole to 3rd Special Forces Group, where he served on Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336 as a communications sergeant and at the sniper detachment as a sniper instructor. Life for John changed forever on April 6, 2008, during the Battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan.

On a pursuit mission to kill or capture a high-ranking commander of the terrorist organization known as Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin, Walding’s 10-man S.F. unit and 60 Afghan commandos went up against at least 250 insurgents — at some 10,000 feet in elevation. Due to the terrain and weather, John’s ODA found themselves surrounded and stranded on a mountainside for six-and-a-half hours, being pelted with a constant shower of enemy fire and rocket-propelled grenades. So desperate was the situation that they radioed for “danger close” air strikes some 70 times during the fight, which rarely happens even once during most ground combat efforts.

During one relocation maneuver, fate gave John the hardest obstacle of his life. He was struck just below the knee by enemy fire. “I rolled over to see what happened, and my leg was folded over at a 90-degree angle, only holding on by an inch of flesh,” Walding says. “It hurt. Bad. It was the most debilitating feeling I’ve ever felt, and I felt no shock. I felt every single ounce of pain coming from the wound.”

All told, eight of the 10 S.F. soldiers were shot, and their lead interpreter (an Afghan named Edris “CK” Khan) was killed. The ODA had to make their way down the mountainside to try to medevac the wounded out via helicopter. This was a seemingly insurmountable task for the newly crippled John, whose leg was literally hanging by the skin. “I had to fold my leg into my crotch, hold it between my legs, and literally carry my leg off the mountain,” Walding says. “Then I had to scoot on my butt to the side of the cliff, roll off, fall, and scoot to the next ledge to fall off, and basically fall my way down the mountainside. Now I’m in pretty good shape and was in even better shape for the ODA, but I promise you, it took every ounce of strength to keep lifting myself to fall and keep moving forward. Easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Read more.

JW2 is a humble man and is doing what he can with his God given skills. He has overcome diversity, been tested under fire and continues to stand with his fellow wounded warriors.

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of our admiration, respect and emulation. I think John Wayne, if he were alive today, would say the same.

ABOUT 5 TOES CUSTOM (5TC)

5 Toes Custom is an idea of helping combat wounded vets and giving back to charity by building handcrafted precision rifles. When the founder, John Wayne Walding, lost his leg in Afghanistan, he had trouble trying to find his new “North Star”. He found his star through his close, yet unlikely friend, David Feherty. David and John met in 2008 they have played 0 rounds of golf but shot more than 10,000 rounds of ammo together. It was their love for long-range marksmanship that drove the idea to manufacture the most accurate rifle. John then found a master gunsmith, by the name of Dick Cook, to show him the art of handcrafting rifles. After months of empty Red Bull cans and broken bits Dick was able to teach a not so old dog a new trick.

John built one, two, then ten rifles and realized his new passion in life. But he couldn’t just build rifles; he needed something that meant more to him. 5 Toes Custom became a place where combat wounded vets could also come find their North Star. Knowing that there is many other transitioning vets; the decision to give them the opportunity for the same direction was an easy one.

The next step to ensuring something bigger is by giving back to charity. Even though 5 TC is a FOR PROFIT company, they will always give back by donating a portion of profits to deserving charities.

This is what makes 5TC unique. By providing the finest handcrafted custom rifle, built by great Americans, and giving back to charities, 5TC will always succeed in the firearms industry.

Gary Sinise gives freedom back to ‘freedom providers’

As a Vietnam veteran I was moved by the movie Forrest Gump. Forrest was a shining example of a man who served the nation. Captain Dan, played by Gary Sinise, was a shining example of one man conquering his wounds of war with great courage and resolve. When Mr. Sinise took up the cause of our wounded heroes I was inspired that someone in Hollywood in the great tradition of John Wayne and Bob Hope would step up to the plate and stand with our men in women in uniform

Below is an uncut interview Mr. Sinise did with Greta Van Susteren on his ongoing work to help those who are protecting our freedoms. Mr. Sinise helps provide Smart Homes for wounded veterans and one grateful vet surprises Gary with a call in thank you.

How can you help? Go to GarySiniseFoundation.org.

Sarasota, Florida hosting Female Wounded Warriors Retreat on September 16-19, 2014

“Women veterans are increasing in numbers for military service and will continue to do so….”

Georgie Alfano-Cronk

Georgie Alfano-Cronk

Annually the Sarasota County Veterans Commission (SCVC) recognizes the Veteran of the Year, Woman Veteran of the Year and Auxiliary Person of the Year. In 2010, the Female Veteran of the Year Award went to Ms. Georgie Alfano-Cronk.

Far too often, when someone receives an award they tend to quietly return home and place their award on a shelf to just collect dust. But not so with Alfano-Cronk. Alfano-Cronk is a U.S. Army disabled woman veteran.

Alfano-Cronk states, “We have many ‘women warriors’ that need our recognition and assistance in transitioning back into their communities or back into the work force”. Alfano-Cronk has become a passionate advocate for America’s women veterans.

Alfano-Crock notes, “No matter where our female veterans are in their lives; whenever they need help navigating the VA system or just need an ear to listen to one of their concerns, they dial my phone number. As a former police officer and retired New York State Correction Sergeant I can easily look at a veteran’s life and view their problems without passing judgment on them.” She knows how hard the road of life can be because she herself has been there and done that.

By 2011, she had convinced the SCVC that a special committee should be named and formed to assist woman veterans after military service. She was nominated for and became the Chairwoman of this newly formed committee.

Fast forward from November 2011 to the present when Alfano-Crock discovered a not-for-profit organization, which loves veterans and their families as much as she does, and partnered with them. This organization is the Professionals Assisting Military Families & Friends (PAMFF). Working together the SCVC and PAMFF decided to have a free retreat for America’s women warriors. The retreat allows women wounded warriors a safe environment to share their transitional concerns and receive free counseling and access to support groups after the retreat is over.

Then there was that little problem of fundraising for the retreat.

SCVC and PAMFF knew early on that they wanted to make this a totally free event. The PAMFF committees, without any major contacts or knowledge of grants or fundraising, began to solicit donations from veterans’ organizations and community members. But would that be enough financial support? As the applications starting rolling in from women veterans across America, the PAMFF selection committee, decided that none of the women veterans should be turned away and so the original number of 10 applicants allowed to participate in the event increased to 15 women veterans. There is still a waiting list and applications are no longer being accepted.

The reaction from women veterans clearly shows a need to support, recognize, and help them as much as there is for their male counterparts.

Alfano-Crock notes that since women veterans were trained to be strong and independent, like their male counterparts, that often a women veteran will not ask for help until she is in a full blown, major crisis. And often they do not know where to find the proper resources to help them or to move ahead. Women veterans have a tendency to fall through the cracks of an already saturated VA health care system.

Alfano-Crock is adamant that female veteran’s needs are “totally different” than the needs of our male veterans and wounded warriors.

Women naturally process life’s ups and downs differently than men do and need a different type of an environment to vent and must have a trust system in place with a counselor prior to sharing their personal stories and unique concerns.

From Tuesday, September 16th to Friday, September 19th, 2014 fifteen “woman warriors” will share their lives with each other, and with PAMFF’s licensed clinicians and female community volunteers and form “battle buddy relationships” that will hopefully blossom and grow. “After all,” says Alfano-Crock, “the most therapeutic sharing sessions are those that are done in a nurturing environment with other veterans present who have gone through the same sequence of events and realize the type of traumas that often accompany military life and war. No one understands a veteran better than another veteran who has ‘walked the walk’.”

RETREAT INFORMATION:

Event Title: “A Season of Change – You Can!” 1st Annual Retreat for Female Veterans.
What: Topics for discussion will be: MST, TBI, PTS, Balance in One’s Life, Heeding the Red Flags, Interviewing and Job Hunting Techniques, Meditation, Resources, and many more.
When: September 16th – 19th
Where: Christian Retreat Conference Center in Bradenton, FL

EDITORS NOTE: Applications are closed for this retreat. For any additional questions or information you may contact Georgie Alfano-Cronk at (941) 266-2769 or PAMFF at (941) 224-1094. PAMFF still needs financial assistance to keep the retreat free for the 15 attendees. PAMFF must secure approximately $400.00 per person in donations. If you wish you may send a donation to PAMFF, P.O. Box 2171, Sarasota, FL 34230. The featured image is of Ladda Tammy Duckworth an American woman wounded warrior and politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2013.