SSG Joseph Fowler
SSG Joseph Fowler
joined the Army in August 1997 after graduating from high school where he served as a Military Police Working Dog Handler. In June 2005, Joe was deployed to Iraq with his military working dog, Dak. On December 11, 2005, en route to an assignment, the vehicle Joe was travelling in struck a buried anti-tank mine in the road. The vehicle exploded and ejected Joe from the vehicle on fire. He put himself out and was quickly taken to receive medical attention. He was flown from Baghdad to Balad, Iraq. He was then flown to Landstuhl, Germany where he received the first of many surgeries. Within days he was flown to the Brooke Army Medical Center burn unit. Joe sustained third degree burns over 54% of his body, multiple fractures and a mild traumatic brain injury. He remained in intensive care for five weeks and was then moved into moderate care for the next three months.
During his inpatient time, Joe had over 15 surgeries. He continued his rehabilitation as an outpatient, attending physical and occupational therapy five days per week for the next two years while continuing to have surgeries as an outpatient. To date, Joe has had over 20 surgeries to help maintain as much function as he can.
Following his medical retirement from the Army in 2007, Joe, his wife Leslie, and son Shane moved back to Colorado Springs where he enjoys spending time volunteering with various organizations to support military veterans.
SGT Nicole Gibson
SGT Nicole Gibson is a combat wounded veteran. She was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC as a Military Police. On her second deployment to Iraq, she was wounded on December 15th, 2007 at COP Callahan. Nikki was dismounted from her vehicle when a mortar landed 5 feet away from her. She took shrapnel to both of her thighs and to her left hand and was later diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). She was then medevacked to The Green Zone where she underwent her 1st surgery to remove the shrapnel. She recovered in Qatar for about three months before she argued her way back to her company in Iraq to finish out her deployment.
She now works at a Non-Profit called Operation TBI Freedom where she first started out as a client in 2016. She is currently the Administrative Assistant. She volunteers with Veterans that are in the Veterans Trauma Court in Colorado Springs as a Veteran Mentor. She has been running a Combat Veterans support group called Operation Phoenix Recovery for the last 3 years and is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart as the Adjutant.
Nikki is supported by her family, her boyfriend Don, and her dog Dusty. She likes to go camping when the weather is warm and take Dusty to the dog park. She spends some of her free time talking to different Veteran organizations and attending College to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
SPC Aaron Bugg
SPC Aaron Bugg had his mother sign her name for him to join the Army at the age of 17. Before he knew it, he was on his was way to Fort Benning, Georgia to conduct infantry training. After a few months in training, he was chosen to be an 11 Charlie for indirect fire.
After graduating from boot camp, his first duty station was Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He trained there for two years as light infantry before the 25th Infantry Division was deployed to Northern Iraq to help local communities rebuild and to catch Al-Qaeda coming into this region of Iraq.
On September 29th, 2004, after leaving the local police station, SPC Bugg’s Humvee was hit by an IED hidden under a wheelbarrow. After the explosion, he realized that he had been hit in all four limbs—with the left leg being the worst. The Quick Reaction Force was there in a few minutes although it felt like hours while he was laying on ground. When they arrived, they gave him an IV bag and bandaged all his wounds while they were waiting for a medical evacuation helicopter to come and pick up the wounded.
The next time SPC Bugg woke up after the IED, he was in Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s ICU, with his mother, high school sweetheart and fiance, and very close uncle by his side. The first time the doctors came into his room, they wanted to amputate his left leg because of the damage the IED had done, including four inches of his shinbone that had been blasted away along with all his calf muscle and two major arteries. SPC Bugg convinced them to try to save it, and they agreed to try. For the next two years, he worked very hard with numerous surgeries, fixators, and physical therapy to rebuild his leg and strength. During this time at Walter Reed, he tried to tell his high school sweetheart to go back home, but she didn’t listen and vowed to stay by his side.
On November 13th, 2004, SPC Bugg and his fiance, Lisa, were married at the small chapel on post with most of his doctors and nurses attending. After his recovery at Walter Reed, the couple moved to Colorado where SPC Bugg attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for a degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Peace and Conflict management. Lisa and SPC Bugg now have two children, Joseph Gideon (5) and Adaline Rose Marie (2). They now live on 40 acres east of Colorado Springs on a farm with numerous farm animals that keep them busy all day.
LCPL Jason Hallett
LCPL Jason Hallett
joined the United States Marine Corps in early 2009. He completed boot camp at the depot in San Diego. After completing boot camp and SOI he received orders to unit, 3rd Bn 5th Mar.
A little over the 1-year mark Jason’s unit was deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, where Jason was severely wounded one month into deployment. While clearing a compound, his unit encountered around five IEDs in the back. They attempted to breach the building within the compound but were unsuccessful. They then split the squad into two groups and began movement to the front of the compound.
As Jason’s group reached the front door of the building, they discovered it was rigged at the entrance and chose to finish the clearing of the compound excluding the building. He and his team leader cleared small sheds separately and as they exited the sheds, he looked behind himself and noticed someone in the cornfields. As Jason turned to warn everyone an IED was detonated right underneath him. The shed collapsed on top of him and he began taking heavy machine gun fire.
Jason and his team leader were injured and had to be evacuated along with one other with a concussion. Later at the hospital Jason found out the main building had 78 IEDs daisy chained and waiting for the team. He then spent several months in the ICU from infections and pneumonia on multiple occasions. Over the course of two years he went from Bethesda, to Walter Reed, to Balboa in San Diego, CA. In September of 2013 Jason officially retired from the USMC.
More recently Jason has been taking part in a research project through the Department of Defense. He is a father of a set of twins; Marina and Jason and he is building a business. In his own words, “As I look towards to the future, my hope is to live a life worthy of those who have fallen. To grow as a father and to make a large positive impact on the community around me of their view on veterans and disabled individuals.”