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Joe Donaldson served his country as an Army combat veteran for ten years. When he returned to civilian life in Arkansas, his experiences, like those of many veterans after their service has ended, stuck with him. Whether working at his business, Sam’s Furniture, or enjoying life with his wife and daughter, Joe recognized the richness of his life, but that not every veteran has the chance to enjoy the same quality of life. He wanted to do something to recognize veterans and help them at the same time. From that desire, the Honoring of Heroes Veterans Gala was born.
The 2019 Honoring of Heroes Veterans Gala will be held Saturday, November 9th at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers. For this second annual event, Donaldson and family will spotlight three organizations dedicated to serving veterans: Military Warriors Support Foundation, Reboot Combat Recovery and Sheepdog Impact Assistance. Military Warriors Support Foundation assists combat-wounded veterans or Gold Star families (family members of those killed in action). The organization provides housing, transportation, life and leadership skills training and assistance to medical appointments.
Reboot Combat Recovery leads veterans through courses aimed at healing the trauma they experienced in combat. Sheepdog Impact Assistance was founded in Rogers, Arkansas by Sergeant Major Lance Nutt and offers veterans and first responders the opportunity to engage in service opportunities and outdoor adventures, reconnecting them to life outside the military and renewing a sense of purpose in life as well.
Saturday night’s event will benefit all three organizations and allow them to continue to reach out to veterans in Arkansas and the U.S. Joe Donaldson and his family have arranged a spectacular array of activities for the evening, beginning with the keynote speaker, Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell is the author of Lone Survivor. The book covers Operation Redwing, a mission to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a high-ranking Taliban leader. Luttrell was the only member of his SEAL team to survive an attack by the Taliban. The Chinook helicopter dispatched to rescue the SEALs was also shot down with no survivors. Though badly wounded, Luttrell managed to walk and crawl seven miles to avoid capture. An Afghan tribe came to his aid and alerted Americans to his presence. He was rescued six days later.
Lone Survivor was published in 2007 and in 2010 Luttrell founded the Lone Survivor Foundation, which aims to provide combat veterans with paths to healing from trauma at no cost to them. In 2012, Luttrell followed up with a second book, Service. In 2013, Mark Wahlberg starred in the movie Lone Survivor, detailing Luttrell’s experience. Luttrell has gone on to create the podcast Team Never Quit. Larra Donaldson, of Sam’s Furniture, says, “Marcus has endured what every soldier fears may happen to them in combat, yet because of amazing counseling & support post-combat, he has made his military story a testimony to others.” That story is sure to inspire and amaze all who attend Honoring of Heroes.
Though Marcus Luttrell’s testimony alone is reason enough to attend the event, Honoring of Heroes will also feature an array of other guests. Willie Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame and CEO of Duck Commander, will be there. Dean Cain, star of the series, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” will also make an appearance. In addition, Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Congressman Steve Womack and Lt. General Leroy Sisco will attend.
Army Specialist Scott West will also be a special guest. West lost both legs to an IED while serving in Iraq. His journey to healing was deeply impacted by Sheep Dog Impact Assistance and he now serves as the organization’s outdoor adventure coordinator. In addition to West, musical guest Coffey Anderson will return to the gala event. Larra Donaldson says of the all-star line-up, “I’m excited about all of our speakers…as they all have a different angle based on their life as to how we can support those who have fought for our freedom.”
Sponsorships are still available for the Honoring of Heroes event. Individual tickets can also be purchased. Visit honoringofheroes.com for more details on supporting the event or to buy a ticket to attend. Visit the Facebook page Honoring of Heroes to mark your attendance.
Thanking a veteran for their service is a wonderful thing to do, but supporting the organizations that offer veterans tangible services and pathways to reengage in civilian life after they come home, or assist a veteran’s family when they don’t, is an amazing gift to those who have sacrificed so much.
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