We admire them and aspire to be like them. In uniform, in our communities, in every branch of the military, our heroes give their all —and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice.
These are their stories. On the eleventh of every month, we celebrate these selfless men and women with profiles of their service. Reflecting on their accomplishments and respecting each challenge overcome. Take note. Take pride. Please join us in honoring them here.
Colonel Dawn Lancaster, Commander of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, believes every fallen Hero deserves dignity, honor and respect. And so do their families who’ve given us the greatest sacrifice. “Part of my honoring them and caring for them,” she adds, “is caring for their family. Part of caring for that family is honoring their service. Families serve. They all serve. Whether they are in uniform or they’re a spouse at home or kids in grade school.”
“Molly was my Northern Star.”
Her sister, LCDR Jennette Greene, proudly followed in Commander Molly Water’s footsteps serving in U.S. Coast Guard. She was there to say good-bye during Molly’s final moments after a tragic accident. She was on the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw as Our hero was laid to rest in Lake Huron. And she helped make it possible for Molly’s legacy to live on, literally, as an organ donor for the family of a fellow Coastie. This is the story of many serving all, for the greater good.
"I Don’t Regret It For One Bit”
As a Korean War POW, Tom Caroland went 13 months without a bath or change of clothes. He ate “stuff you feed your cattle… sorghum tops, millet, anything like that, cracked corn, you were hungry.” They’d lay there, day after day “picking the lice off each other and trying to stay alive.” And he’d do it all over again for the privilege of serving his country.
Angels Serving All
"Don't tell me what I think you're going to tell me,” Deanie Dempsey said to her deployed husband. Gone for a year already, his war zone tour was about to be extended. And it was Deanie’s job as wife of the U.S. Army General to tell other spouses first. Together, they serve for us all.
Service is Sharing Your Gifts
Gina Hawkins is the first female Chief of Police in Fayetteville, NC — but the last to admit she takes any of it for granted. “I’ve had individuals pushing for me and probably didn’t know it. So my Service is finding the gifts in others because you never know how it will impact someone.”
A Tribute To Their Dedication
After 4 long years as a Vietnam POW, Gail Kerns got off the aircraft on American soil “and kissed the ground,” says Army Major Don Androsky. “He was the only one who did it.” Like so many who served together for Our Country then, they were and always will be proud Americans. Watch their “homecoming” at our Rockville, MD location.
“They Push Through And They Persevere.”
Military spouses and families serve Our Country while their husbands, wives, dads and moms are serving too. Separated by a year-long tour of duty and thousands of miles, Veteran Danielle Rodriguez held the fort down while her husband was deployed in Korea. "There's absolutely nothing I could have done without her support,” says Army Sgt. First Class Francisco Rodriguez. Watch their surprise homecoming at our Waugh Chapel, MD MISSION BBQ.
The Deed Is All. Not The Glory.
Serving his country for over 30 years, retired Navy SEAL Jimmy Hintzke now runs his own business dedicated to assisting our nation's active military and their families. His team's handcrafted plaque at our Virginia Beach MISSION BBQ includes historical artifacts from the World Trade Center, the Berlin Wall and treasured mementos from fallen Heroes. "These walls are like a museum," Hintzke says, "with each one telling us a story about service.”
A Man of Principle.
Fight for what you believe in. Never forget those that were killed. Give something back to society." You'll find these and more admirable principles of Major Doug Zembiec at our MISSION BBQ location near the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. There you'll also find the unwavering respect of all who served with him, and Americans who appreciate his selfless service.
In Valor There Is Hope
Which is exactly what Kim Weigand tries to give other families of fallen Heroes like her son, Sgt Mike Weigand of the Latimore PA Police Department. “These were not just Police Officers we lost,” she notes. “They were husbands, wives, sons, daughters and friends who will never be forgotten.”
From the Battlefield to the Playing Field
He led platoons during three tours of Afghanistan, earning numerous commendations and a Bronze Star. Now he’s an offensive Lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, representing his team in last year’s Pro Bowl. Yet Alejandro Villanueva is still humbled to be featured with other heroes on the walls of MISSION BBQ.
“Become a Firefighter or Die Trying.”
“Turned down because he was injured, Trey Small never quit on his goal to become a firefighter making a difference in his community. For 11 years, he's been a vital part of America's oldest all-volunteer fire department protecting a state capital. "For me, this is something I'll never give up."
Enlisted at 17. Still a Hero at 91.
When his brother was wounded in WWII, Earl Daff was just a young teen eager to go help. At 17, he had his parents sign waivers to finally let him serve. Which he did proudly and again in Korea, where he met up with another brother also fighting for his country. You can see his tribute — and maybe meet Earl himself — at our Waugh Chapel, MD location.
From Army Vet to Police Artist
Motivated by his will to serve after the September 11 attacks, Jonny Castro left art school to join the Army, serving a year in Iraq. Back home, he joined the Philadelphia Police Department and now works as a Forensic Composite Sketch Artist. What he paints off duty pays true tributes to heroes killed on duty.
“A Knock on the Door”
The American Gold Star Mothers in Southwest Florida connect on a level few others can know or share. Their bond was born from the tragic deaths of military sons who served Our Country proudly. Today, they’re honoring that selfless sacrifice by helping each other “get through this together.”
"It's About Time"
He was a gunner providing cover for medivac transports. His squadron was last to leave Vietnam. “You functioned as a team and you survived as a team,” he remembers. Yet when they returned to their own country, there was no homecoming. In his own way, Veteran Slick Katz is changing that every day.
Football Was His Way Out
“He was a hero, a protector, a Fayetteville son, and one who truly cared about his community.” NFL Head Coach Bill Belichick talks of his father’s humble beginnings, from the Depression and living in a closet at college, to his WWII service and lifelong commitment coaching future military leaders. “Other than family, his love was the US Naval Academy.”
He Gave All. For All Of Us.
“He was a hero, a protector, a Fayetteville son, and one who truly cared about his community.” Today there is a park in his honor plus annual tributes and candlelight vigils. Yet, there remains a hole in our hearts, especially among loved ones and colleagues left behind. Share the memory of Roy Turner’s memory with us here.
Heroism - Defined
Two Soldiers were killed instantly. Four others were severely wounded. With shrapnel torn through his spleen, liver and left lung, Pereira struggled to breathe. Yet with little regard to his own safety or care, he refused treatment and commandeered an all-terrain vehicle back into the crossfire to evacuate his wounded comrades.
The Definition of Service
“Being loyal to the country and finding something worthwhile to do.” That’s how retired Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy defines it. Which is what his family has been doing since 1908, and still counting. Through every World War and foreign conflict, including 9/11, they’ve served our nation. With honor.
Serving Gold Star Families, Just Like Hers.
EMT. Paramedic. Nurse. Mom. Giving back to the community is simply what Suzanne Scheafer does. After the loss of a son in service, her efforts to help others took on a new meaning. “I get this,” she says. “I know how to hug. I know how to listen. And I know how to understand.”
Resilience, Grace and Grit
"After two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marjorie K. Eastman wrote a compelling book about "The Frontline Generation" who served with her. “The leadership lessons learned in combat apply at home too,” she says. “Take care of the people to your left and to your right. You are the frontlines—no matter where or how you serve.”
It's All About Them
“To say that any of us can feel the pain of the mother, the father, or the widow would not be true. So we’ve made a promise to be there for them — including a 90% graduation college rate for their children.” Learn more about the remarkable commitment and accomplishments of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Building a Better Way Back.
The trauma of explosions. Firefights. IEDs. Marine 2nd Lieutenant Roy Fish experienced it all while providing convoy security in Afghanistan. Yet he knows firsthand how our veterans are leaving one battle and coming home to another. Hear how he’s helping to combat PTSD in our own communities.
Utah Beach, France: Our Hero Was There.
70 years later, Retired Army Sgt. Claude Phelps received the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in active ground combat against the enemy. Serving under General George Patton, Phelps admits he’s proud of what was done and “grateful to the almighty that I did get back.” We gratefully share his story here.
No Ordinary Life
Herman Zeitchik was there for the bravest deeds and most climactic moments that made history in World War II. He stormed the beaches on D-Day and fought during the Battle of the Bulge. Helped to liberate Paris and was one of the first to arrive at Dachau. We’re honored to share his story.
Over 7 Decades of Doing for Others
“I’m so glad we had a chance to meet.” So said President Barack Obama to Vivian "Millie" Bailey, age 97. And so are we, after her lifetime of service in the U.S. Army as well as volunteering for veterans and local schools. Originally commissioned as an officer in 1942 and still helping others to this day, her timeless story inspires and humbles us. Watch it here now.
Army Vs. Navy. Brothers Forever.
“I want an Officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player.”
So said General George C. Marshall during World War II and truer respect was never said. Just as “Strength and Honor: The Brotherhood" speaks truth about the Naval Academy’s preparation for battle on all fields—here at home during the traditional Army-Navy Game and around the world defending freedom.
A Guy Who Gave His All
Navy Lt. Seal Brendan Looney always gave all, including his life for our country while bravely serving in Afghanistan. As a "great leader and teammate," he believed in service before self—on the Naval Academy lacrosse field and on the battlefield, motivating others always to be their best. We're proud to share his Story of Service and commemorate him at our Annapolis, MD MISSION BBQ.
A Legacy Of Service
Retired Marine and Purple Heart recipient Chip Shields, one of just a few survivors from the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, believes he was spared "to do something good." As a Tampa firefighter and EMT still braving danger and saving lives, he represents those lost in the line of duty overseas and on 9-11. As well as the best of the best serving country and community today.
9-11, We Will Never Forget
They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, innocents and the bravest Americans we know. Among their ranks were heroic Firefighters, Police and First Responders who rushed in to save others and selflessly gave their own lives. Those lost on 9-11 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, PA are still with us today, remembered here reverently.
A Courageous Tale of 2 American Heroes
When an IED flipped a combat vehicle on top of him, Afghanistan War Veteran Justin Lansford lost a leg, but not his will to survive. With the help of a highly trained partner always at his side, “I’ve returned to a normal independent life,” he beams. Watch this uplifting story of the wounded warrior and his personal hero, Gabe.
"Black Hawk Down"
Millions saw the movie. Only a few have experienced its courageous mission first hand. Ranger Matt Eversmann was there on October 3, 1993 during one of the bravest missions in US military history. Here, he shares the story of those heroic warriors who risked or gave all defending their own men. Matt’s photo tribute to his fellow soldiers can be seen at the Canton location of MISSION BBQ. Relive their valor here.
Iraq Veteran. Policeman. Pro boxer. Hero.
Jerry Pellegrini's story will not be forgotten for his service and ultimate sacrifice. As a Corporal in the PA National Guard, legacy policeman bearing the same badge number as his Dad, and aspiring boxer who realized his dream to go pro, here is his inspiring story, shared by his sister Dana Shearon from our York, PA Mission BBQ.
Honored Navy Lieutenant, Olympic Gold Medalist, Our Hero
From the embattled Middle East to the top of an Olympic podium, Brad Snyder's brave outlook inspires us all. As a wounded warrior, losing his sight while rescuing others, he faced a life of darkness but soldiered on to shed light on the indomitable spirit of America. His unselfish contribution to the community can be seen on our walls and in this heroic account. Thanks For Your Service, Lieutenant Snyder.