Wounded Warrior Project Celebrates Courage and Commitment at Annual Awards Dinner
|Table of Contents|
|The Courage Award|
|The Service Award|
|The Empowerment Award|
|The Legislator of the Year Award|
|Additional warriors and supporters recognized|
On Sept. 14, Wounded Warrior Project®(WWP) honored America's wounded warriors and the supporters who make it possible for WWP to provide free life-changing programs and services.
The annual Courage Awards & Benefits Dinner returned for the first time since 2019 and took place in Washington, DC, after previously being held in New York City. Robert Griffin III — ESPN analyst, Heisman Trophy winner, and former Pro Bowl quarterback — hosted the event.
“What an incredible night to come together in support of the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much on our behalf,” said WWP CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. “We’re grateful for the passionate people and organizations that support our mission. You’ve made 20 years of Wounded Warrior Project possible.”
The Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner features four awards presented to warriors and supporters:
- The Courage Award honors a warrior who exemplifies bravery, courage, and strength.
- The Service Award highlights community supporters who have made exceptional efforts to raise awareness and support for warriors and their families.
- The Empowerment Award recognizes exceptional corporate support that helps WWP honor and empower wounded warriors.
- The Legislator of the Year Award recognizes outstanding legislative effort and achievement to improve the lives of the wounded, ill, and injured veterans.
WWP recognized the following awardees:
2023 Courage Award: Will Reynolds
Will served two deployments during Operation Iraqi Freedom, surviving an improvised explosive device (IED) blast during combat operations in Baghdad in 2004. The effects of the explosion led to 26 surgeries during more than two years of recovery. While doctors saved Will’s left arm, they ultimately had to amputate his left leg above the knee.
During treatment for his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he received a backpack of comfort items from WWP. The backpack lit the fire in his desire to give back to the military and veteran community.
He remained in uniformed service during his rehabilitation, working at the Pentagon in the office responsible for mitigating and defeating IED threats throughout Iraq and Afghanistan – the very threat that nearly took his life months before.
Will now heads his own private healthcare consulting firm and serves on several military and veterans service organization boards, including WWP.
"Will represents this generation of veterans and has been a valiant champion for the needs of wounded, ill, and injured warriors,” Linnington said.
“Through his continued service, he has demonstrated just what one can accomplish with courage, perseverance, and a network of support. He is truly a deserving recipient of this year’s Courage Award, and we were honored to recognize his leadership and contributions.”
2023 Service Award: Bob Duke, Dave and Holly Williams
Retired Army Master Sgt. Bob Duke started a fundraiser in his community by collecting lost golf balls and regifting them in exchange for donations to WWP.
Golf Balls as Gifts began in 2011 with 6,000 golf balls Bob saved over the span of 10 years.
“I knew golfers needed golf balls, and that our wounded veterans really needed services to help with their transition from the military back to home,” shared Bob.
The process is simple: After the balls are collected from the woods surrounding nearby golf courses in coastal North Carolina, Bob, and two members from a neighboring community, Dave and Holly Williams, hand-clean them in their garages. They then sort the balls by brand and type before packaging them in donated egg cartons for the next owner. Community members can donate $5 or $10 for a dozen, although many give more than requested. Bob also works with 50 local businesses to display the golf balls and raise additional funds. All proceeds support WWP.
Bob’s goal was to raise $10,000 in the first year. He quickly surpassed this goal and increased it to $36,000 to commemorate his 36 years in the military. Today, Golf Balls as Gifts has raised over $490,000 for WWP. His new goal is to hit $500,000 by December.
Dave and Holly Williams stepped up to support Bob in 2015 as Golf Balls as Gifts continued to flourish. They send regular email blasts to residents across their community and fill orders. Golfers in the area follow the honor system and pick up their orders from the Williamses’ front porch. Their efforts have contributed $198,000 to the total amount raised.
“It’s the day-to-day work that has brought this fundraiser to nearly half a million dollars,” Holly said. “Our slogan is, ‘Empowering wounded warriors one golf ball at a time.’ Bob showed us that nothing is too small. All we can do is everything we can do. We offer our sincere congratulations to him upon receiving this award.”
“We’re extremely thankful for Bob, Dave, and Holly’s ingenuity as well as their tireless support of our mission for the past 12 years,” said Chris Needles, chief development officer at WWP.
2023 Empowerment Award: Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is the Official Healthcare Partner of WWP and has a long history of employing veterans and supporting military communities.
Since 2020, Johnson & Johnson has donated over $4 million to fuel WWP's mission. The company’s contributions directly support mental health programs like WWP Talk and Warrior Care Network®.
Johnson & Johnson also helps veterans thrive in the workplace through their award-winning employee resource group and the Johnson & Johnson's Veterans Leadership Council. Employees at Johnson & Johnson are dedicated to the cause, too. Every year, they participate in WWP Carry Forward® Virtual 5K events.
"Johnson & Johnson's impactful approach to empowering our nation's veterans is a model for corporations and communities alike to follow," said Chris Needles on behalf of WWP.
"Their programs and initiatives for veteran employees help them reach their highest potential, and their overall support of the veteran and military community’s unique health and wellness needs is admirable. We are grateful for their partnership.”
2023 Legislator of the Year Award: Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.)
The Legislator of the Year Award recognizes legislators who have worked closely with WWP to bring forward policies that have a tremendous impact on the lives of our country’s veterans.
Among 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Mark Takano are being recognized as Congressional champions for veterans whose efforts and leadership have been instrumental in passing several new laws to support and empower wounded warriors.
For example, both worked tirelessly to help ensure the passage of The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or PACT Act. The act represents the most significant expansion of health care benefits for veterans in a generation and guarantees care and benefits for veterans who suffer the ill effects of their exposure to burn pits and other toxins while serving America.
Boozman, a key member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, was critical in navigating the PACT Act through the Senate. His persistent advocacy on behalf of wounded warriors was equally crucial in the passage of other veterans' legislation, including the Brian Neuman VA (Veterans Affairs) Clothing Improvement Act, the VA Peer Support Enhancement for the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Survivors Act, and the Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act.
“Wounded Warrior Project has been a tireless advocate for veterans and their families, and it has been an honor to work together to strengthen the benefits and services these heroes earned,” said Sen. Boozman.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish including delivering generations of toxic-exposed veterans medical care, expanding VA suicide prevention initiatives, and enhancing breast cancer screenings for at-risk former servicemembers. I look forward to continuing our productive collaboration to ensure our nation fulfills the promise made to those who have worn America’s uniform.”
Takano, currently serving as Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced and championed the PACT Act in the House of Representatives. His leadership also helped ensure the passage of two comprehensive bills – the STRONG Veterans Act and the Joseph Maxwell Cleland and Robert Joseph Dole Memorial Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act – which led to key reforms in mental health, suicide prevention, and higher education, among others.
“I am honored to receive this award from Wounded Warrior Project. In the 117th Congress I had the privilege of serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” said Rep. Takano. “We made historic gains in enhancing benefits provided to veterans by the VA through the PACT Act and many other important laws. Our fight is not over, and it will not be over until every veteran has the support from the country they bravely served.”
“WWP is indebted to Sen. Boozman and Rep. Takano for their extraordinary dedication to the veteran community,” said Jose Ramos, vice president of government and community relations for WWP. “Without their work, America’s support system and services for veterans would look very different, and we are honored to be able to recognize them with our Legislator of the Year Awards.”
Additional warriors and supporters recognized
WWP also recognized the 2021 Courage Awards & Benefits Dinner winners in person since that event was virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This inspiring and impactful night is made possible thanks to the generosity and support of event sponsors.
“With the help of our donors, partners, and supporters, Wounded Warrior Project is able to provide millions of life-changing moments for warriors and their families,” said Linnington.
“We must never waiver in our commitment to those we serve, to support them as their needs evolve, and to foster critical connections along the way.”
Contact: — Gracie Scribner, Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.489.5295
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.