Emerald Coast Salute Celebrates America's Finest Warriors
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Posted by: Edie Rosenthal
Past and present members of the U.S. military’s Special Operations community and numerous representatives from corporations gathered at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach, Florida on November 15th to honor America’s most elite fighting forces.
The "8th Annual Emerald Coast Salute to Special Operations Forces,” hosted by the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, drew nearly 600 guests, including several high-ranking military officers and civilian leaders, and family members of fallen special operations.
The evening started out with a touching moment when the daughters of a fallen special operator, Brianna and Madison Chapman, joined country music artist Donovan Chapman for the National Anthem. Brianna and Madison are the daughters of Air Force Silver Star recipient Sgt. John A. Chapman, who lost his life in 2002 while providing critical communications for an extraction during hostile fire that saved the lives of the entire rescue team.
Retired Air Force General Norton Schwartz, who most recently served as the 22nd Chief of the Air Force was the keynote speaker.
"We are all here this evening to reconfirm our commitment to ensure the sons and daughters of our fallen heroes have every opportunity to reach their full individual potential,” he said. He spoke about the rich history of Special Operations and the quiet determination of the people who voluntarily place themselves in harms’ way.
"Special Operations is a complicated, hazardous and risk-filled business. We ask our people to endure long family separations, and to execute difficult and stressful missions,” he explained. "Success in our business depends as much on the heart as it does the head. It is attitude that distinguishes special operations personnel from their superb colleagues in other disciplines. It is that spark of inspiration that propels our men and women to achievement greater than their considerable individual talent would otherwise allow,” he said as he described special operators.
"It is the capacity to reach down deep and see a difficult mission through. To persist and relentlessly pursue the objectives.”
He spoke directly to the families of the fallen special operators to let them know that their loved one’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Special Operations Warrior Foundation success story, Sharise Troup, charmed the crowd with her remarks thanking SOWF for making it possible for her to go to college.
Sharise is the step-daughter of Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Nicholas, who was killed by a roadside bomb in 2008 in Afghanistan while assigned to the 7th Special Forces group.
"Over the past four years, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has been my rock --that solid and unbreakable rock that I can undoubtedly count on, not only financially but, more importantly, emotionally.”
Sharise graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania last May with a degree in Criminology. She will be attending the Police Academy in Fayetteville, NC, starting in January 2013.
"If it wasn’t for the SOWF, I don’t know where I would be right now,” she said. "I will be forever grateful for this gift they have given me.”
Entertainment for the evening was provided by Donovan Chapman, who is a former Air Force pararescueman. Chapman performed several touching songs about family and sacrifice.
Special thanks are due to the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, retired Air Force Special Operations Command Chief, CMSgt Mike Reynolds, who presided with good humor and erudition.
The bottom line for the informative and entertaining evening was more than $130,000 was raised. With more than 140 students currently in college and universities across the country, and another 600 children who have yet to reach college age, the funds raised will go directly to support the foundation’s programs for providing full college educations as well as immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel.
Thank you to all of those who have continued their generous support – corporate sponsors (listed below), our active duty and retired communities who allow the SOWF to continue to fulfill its pledge to support our fallen and wounded Special Operations personnel.
Warrior Level Sponsors
Pinch A Penny
Patriot Level Sponsors
The Boeing Company
Freedom Level Sponsors
Booz Allen Hamilton
L-3 Mission Integration
Liberty Level Sponsors
Eglin Federal Credit Union
Stray Goose International
Support Systems Associates