SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Republican Party has invited the HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation to co-host this year’s Reagan Day Dinner, entitled “In Honor of Our Heroes,” on Saturday at the Sheridan Holiday Inn.
The Reagan Day Dinner is an annual fundraising event for the Sheridan County Republican Party that has never been hosted by anyone but the party itself. For the first time, this year’s event will also help to support the efforts of the HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation.
Fifteen veterans or active duty military members are coming to Sheridan from Germany, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and Wyoming. Those who will be honored include former Golden Knights member, retired U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Dana Bowman; retired U.S. Army Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Don Jenkins; and keynote speaker for the evening, retired U.S. Marine, John “Tig” Tiegen.
According to GOP chairman Ryan Mulholland, the Reagan Day Dinner will not only honor warriors, but also our first responders here in Sheridan. Members of the police department will provide the color guard this year. Also, as indicated by the logo on the tickets, which includes dog-tags with POW MIA written on them, part of the event will also honor fallen heroes.
“There is a foundation out of Texas called the American Fallen Soldiers Project,” Mulholland said. “An artist through this foundation paints portraits of fallen warriors and gives them to their families. For a lot of them it is the only remaining link to their loved ones. Our tribute in honor of our fallen heroes will actually begin with a live trumpeter playing ‘Taps.’ These folks are putting together a presentation of the portraits that they’ve done to be included in the event.”
According to HALO Wyoming Chapter chairman Kent Sherwood, the warriors will participate in HALO “Weekend to Remember” events in addition to attending the Reagan Day Dinner. “Weekend to Remember” events include skydiving, shooting machine guns, rappelling and long-range shooting. They will also have an opportunity to attend a polo game during Don King Days.
“The warriors arrive Thursday at 1 p.m. and the color guard will do a presentation for their arrival on the tarmac at the airport,” Sherwood said. “We have the trolley reserved for a police escort through town which will take them to their hotels so they can get settled in and prepare for a weekend packed with fun and camaraderie.”
The GOP decided to include HALO in the event due to a recommendation by Mulholland.
“I was invited to help out during the HALO Winter Weekend that they held in Sheridan back in February,” Mulholland said. “They brought in some warriors who had fought on behalf of our country both in Iraq and Afghanistan who were injured in combat.”
Meeting the warriors and learning the organization’s mission inspired Mulholland to pitch an idea to the GOP executives to team up with HALO for the Reagan Day Dinner, and help the organization with their fundraising efforts as well. The executives agreed. Every penny raised at the event will be split between the SCGOP and HALO.
HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation was established in 2012 by Bowman. According to Sherwood, a Golden Knight is like the Navy Seals of parachutists. Bowman named the organization HALO based on military skydiver terminology “high altitude low opening” which describes how parachutists fly and open their shoots at the last second so as not to present themselves too soon when flying over enemy lines.
Bowman is a double amputee who lost his legs in a skydiving accident when he collided with another skydiver. Nine months after the accident, he became the first double amputee to enlist back into the military. Thanks to Bowman’s efforts, the military has changed its protocol so that people who are wounded can continue to serve.
According to Mulholland, a lot of foundations raise money for charity, but a lot of the funds raised are used for salaries and administrative costs. Bowman has committed HALO’s efforts to giving 100 percent of all money raised to the warriors. The funds provide opportunities for warriors to come together and rekindle the brotherhood and camaraderie that they had in the military.
The organization does this through the “Weekend to Remember” events. These events get warriors together so they can bond, meet the community and heal through activities that not many people would attempt without injuries. It is a way for the warriors to prove HALO’s motto that “It’s not the disability, it’s the ability.”
“It is very hard for warriors to talk with civilians about their experiences, but when they get around those that have been there and done that they can open up,” Mulholland said. “Not every injury is visible. A lot of these guys suffer the challenges that come with having had an arm or a leg amputated, but they also suffer silently with what goes on inside.”
The warriors also participate with HALO in community service activities such as meeting with the police department to participate in talks about PTSD and going to school assemblies where the kids can ask questions.
HALO works with other organizations such as Volunteers of America and the Kuehne Foundation to aid warriors in getting services that they need, from medical attention to housing.
“We help create awareness that there are services available to help warriors get back on their feet and steer them toward those organizations that can help them,” Sherwood said.