Heroes Among Us

By Brandy Volovecky

The Pensacola Marine Corps League J.R. Spears Detachment 066 continues its “Heroes Among Us” speaker series on June 28 at 6 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park. The series, which started last month, features a different speaker on the last Friday of every month until October.

Ron Smith, former United States Army sergeant and Pensacola resident, is the next speaker in the series. Smith was a part of the 360th Transportation Company from 1968 to 1970 and will be speaking about his experiences serving in Vietnam.

Edward Rouse, veteran and member of the local Marine Corps League, said any funds raised by the speaker series, will go to the Marine in Distress Fund “which is used to assist (veterans) who have had a life-changing event that’s beyond their control.” Rouse said the fund was initially set up as a way to help Walter Mendez, a local Marine Corps veteran who was badly injured in a car accident in November 2012. Mendez broke 32 bones in the wreck and spent two weeks in and out of a coma at Sacred Heart Hospital.

“Doctors said he would never walk again and he was totally without any support in the sense that he had no family here – except us,” Rouse said. “We’re his family because we’re marines and that makes us family.”

Rouse said he and other members of the Marine Corps League formed a group led by Chris Holzworth, a retired Marine colonel and Iraq veteran, and rushed to Mendez’s aid.

“Under the Colonel’s leadership, we organized a group and we attacked the problem just like marines usually do,” he said. “And now, Walter is walking around and pretty soon he’s going to go back to work.”

Rouse said the group then decided to continue with the project and help any veteran in need.

“It’s called the Marine in Distress Fund because we’re the Marine Corps League, but we’re open to any veteran who needs assistance,” he said.

Rouse said the group is looking for corporate sponsors to fund the creation of a documentary of the speaker series. He said the group needs money “to purchase film equipment so that we can do a serious job in interviewing these veterans and also interview some of the ones that are not physically able to be speakers because they just can’t get around.”

“We need to get them on tape before it’s too late,” he said.

He said tax-deductible donations can be made online at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/edwardrouse/MarineInDistressFundraisingPage, or by contacting him at 850-434-3146.

Those coming to see Ron Smith speak in the next Heroes Among Us event are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs as seating is not available. Sandwiches and bottled water will be provided to attendees by Subway. In the event of rain, the event will be moved to A&J Mugs located at 24 N. Palafox St.