Pete Hegseth is the author of the highly acclaimed new book "In The Arena," as well as a Fox News Channel contributor, appearing regularly as a correspondent and guest co-host for the network's morning show, "Fox & Friends." He also appears frequently on "The Kelly File," "Outnumbered," "America's Newsroom" and "Happening Now." Pete is also a frequent contributor on FoxNews.com and National Review Online.
Pete is an Army veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was also a guard at Guantanamo Bay. He holds two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman's Badge for his time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2012, Captain Hegseth deployed to Afghanistan with the Minnesota Army National Guard where he was the senior counterinsurgency instructor at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul. Before that, First Lieutenant Hegseth deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division for their 2005-2006 tour, serving as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Baghdad in 2005, and as a Civil-Military Operations officer in Samarra in 2006. A year before that, Second Lieutenant Hegseth served in Guantanamo Bay (JTF-GTMO) with his New Jersey Army National Guard unit from 2004-2005. Pete was recently promoted to the rank of Major, and is currently in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Pete is the former CEO of Concerned Veterans for America (2012-2015), where he built the largest conservative veterans advocacy organization in America and led the charge for real reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before that, Pete was the Executive Director of Vets for Freedom (2007-2010), leading the "ground truth" charge for success on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a member of the National Rifle Association.
Pete graduated from Princeton University in 2003 with an undergraduate degree in Politics. While at Princeton, Pete was also a member of the varsity basketball team, an Army ROTC cadet and the publisher of the campus conservative publication "The Princeton Tory." A decade later, Pete completed a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, graduating in 2013.
Pete and his wife Samantha live in Minnesota and have three young sons - Gunner, Boone and Rex. They attend Eagle Brook Church and proudly send their kids to Liberty Classical Academy.
Recalling the actions that earned him the Bronze Star in Vietnam, Carlyle Brown speaks in words that are moving and evocative of the experience of so many veterans that served in that war: "I don't feel I did anything special. I just did what I was supposed to do." In other words, Brown did his duty.
Born and raised in rural Linden, Michigan, after high school Brown attended Central Michigan University when, after a year and a half as a student there, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1966 for a four-year commitment with an Aviation guarantee. After training, Brown left in November 1966 for Vietnam, ultimately ending up in the northern I Corps region along the DMZ. Serving as a door gunner on a helicopter gun ship in I Corps from August 1967 until July 28, 1968, Brown was assigned to USMC Base X at Quang Tri and served during the action at Con Thien, the 1968 Tet Offensive, the battle of Hue, various engagements along the Perfume River and the DMZ and, of course, at the siege of Khe Sanh.
Near the conclusion of the siege of Khe Sanh, Brown's gunship was called in to support a nearby special intelligence operation at the DMZ that was under attack from elements of the People's Army of North Vietnam (the NVA). While his pilot hovered close above the fight and within range of the NVA forces, Brown manned his door gun and laid down a continuous and withering field of fire that allowed the troops and their rescue helicopter crew to safely escape. It was for this meritorious service that Brown received the Bronze Star. He was also awarded five Air Medals, two Presidential Unit Citations, the Major Unit Citation, the Vietnamese Cross with Gold Palm and the Vietnamese Civil Action Citation.
Like so many Vietnam veterans, when he left the Marine Corps and returned home to Michigan in 1970, Brown did not receive any community recognition or engagement. He worked in Michigan for the successor of Michigan Bell for 28 years until his retirement in 1998. He also began a now lifelong commitment to the involvement with and recognition of veterans of all wars who served to protect America by attending many of the annual events at Michigan's Military & Space Heroes Museum. After retiring to Scottsdale in 1999, Brown became active in supporting and honoring veterans here in Arizona, including his annual attendance at the RAF Cadet Memorial Service held at the City of Mesa Cemetery to honor the 23 RAF Cadets who lost their lives in flight training at #4 British Flying School (later Mesa's Falcon Field) during World War II.
Today, Brown lives in Mesa (very close to Falcon Field), is active in his church and continues to support his fellow veterans everywhere.
Brown expresses his feelings about being a Vietnam Grand Marshal in this year's Phoenix Veterans Day Parade with his usual humility and grace: "I never would have believed that a boy from a village in Michigan would have ended up with such an honor from the fourth-largest Veterans Day Parade in America." Would serve his country again like he did in Vietnam? "In a heartbeat!" he exclaims.
For Jay Darby, a self-proclaimed "rebellious teenager," the Army represented a chance to straighten his life out. Enlisting at 17, Darby evidently did much more than just that, as the next 33-1/2 years of his life was dedicated to serving his country, earning him numerous awards that included a Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service Medal.
Darby felt his biggest challenge in the military was moving up through the ranks. "When I was promoted to sergeant in 1983," he says, "I was the youngest sergeant in my battalion, so I was giving orders to people who were older than me - that was a bit of a challenge." Darby also learned, as he now tells others considering joining the military, that the needs of the many out-weighs the needs of the one. "Any branch of the service will give you as much as you can handle," he points out, "but there's a lot of responsibility, and you have to be ready for that. It's not just a job - it's a lifestyle."
Initially in the infantry, Darby was then transferred over to the medical services, and was even in transportation for a while. During Desert Storm, he was in Germany as a Department of Defense civilian, and was part of the first group of soldiers that formed a reserve unit over there. His job: going back and forth between Germany and Saudi Arabia, delivering and setting up secure communications equipment.
He spent 12 months in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as part of the surge. He was assigned to Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I), and was the senior enlisted advisor, coaching, training and mentoring the Iraqi Army in medical affairs, as well as combat convoy operations and combat air operations. "I moved around a lot in Iraq," he recalls. "I was on a lot of different outposts, Iraqi bases. That was very intense."
In May 2010, Darby supported Operation Enduring Freedom as one of the First Sergeants at the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His main goal was assisting wounded, ill and injured soldiers focus on their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life or continued military service.
He cites his most rewarding time with the Army as being a senior instructor/writer for the medical field - he taught the 91 Whiskey/68 Whiskey medical MOS for the past 14 years. "I was very fortunate," he says. "I never graduated high school, but the Army paid for my associate's and bachelor's degrees. I had a lot of mentors - I can still remember their names today. I was given a lot of opportunities. I made some mistakes and was given second chances. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to turn around and hopefully be a mentor to others."
Darby, who now works with the Arizona Department of Corrections as Correctional Lieutenant Swing Shift Commander at the Lewis complex, was "taken aback" by his nomination as a Grand Marshal. "It was very unexpected, and it's an extreme honor," he says humbly. "There are probably hundreds of other individuals who have done more."
Jeremiah Gallegos feels every generation seems to have its war, and he's "honored and surprised" he was selected to represent his generation as the Veteran Grand Marshal for OIF. The Arizona native grew up around his late grandfather, Pete Villegas, who was a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and instilled national pride in him, saying "everybody should serve their country at some point."
Gallegos was nominated by his mother, Dolores Jackson, and his uncle Tim Schmidt, a veteran Air Force pilot. Right after graduating from Agua Fria High School in 1999, Gallegos enlisted in the U.S. Army as a 19K M1 (Tank) Armor Crewman. He was assigned to the "Bonecrushers" troop of the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and was part of the 500-vehicle convoy that rolled into Baghdad in March 2013.
Gallegos and two other sergeants ran through open fire to rescue a fellow soldier who was trapped in a burning tank with a jammed hatch. His mother says she was "flabbergasted" when she opened the April 7, 2003, edition of the Army Times. "The headline read: 'EXCLUSIVE - Daring rescue from burning tank,'" she recalls. "I opened it and saw a picture of my son! I was thankful to God that he was well and helped save a fellow soldier, but afraid for him being in the middle of such a fierce battle." Gallegos was presented the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in combat.
He also earned the Army Commendation, NATO Medal and Bosnia Service Ribbon for the peace-keeping mission and leading a tank crew in 2002.
Sergeant Gallegos honorably finished his enlistment in November 2003, and used his GI Bill to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees in education at Arizona State University. "My nephew is one of the most sought after teachers in the Phoenix area," says Schmidt. "Not only is he an accomplished teacher, but also a decorated warrior and great example to all the children he has influenced as a teacher."
Gallegos was personally recruited to teach eighth-grade mathematics at Quentin Elementary in Avondale. "I like the challenges and fast-paced environment," he admits. Since becoming a teacher in 2008, the Pledge of Allegiance has been a staple in his classroom, and Gallegos says he enjoys giving a personal account before each Veteran's Day, where the students can ask questions.
He says he tells them that he wouldn't be a teacher without having served in the military. "When I went in, I didn't know what I wanted to do. When I got out, I had direction, purpose and was able to properly accomplish goals."
Gallegos adds, "I am happy to be given the opportunity to serve, and still be able to serve the next generation as a teacher."
Gallegos lives in Goodyear, Arizona, with his wife Sandra, their son Orlando and daughter Xochitl.
John Kolling left his family's North Dakota farm and joined the Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, when he was 20 years old. He traveled by ship from New York to Scotland aboard the Queen Mary to fight in the war with duty in Central Europe, Rhineland and the Ardennes. He was an armored car driver leading the way for the tanks in the Battle of the Bulge, the last German offensive campaign.
Describing his unit's wartime experiences, he says, "My squadron saved the bridge of Remagen and were the first to cross it. My squadron then posted a sign that read 'Cross the Rhine with dry feet courtesy of the 9th Armored Division.'" Kolling earned a Purple Heart during the war.
After the war ended, since he spoke German, he was reassigned to the 387th Military Police Battalion in Berlin and worked out-processing the prisoners of war for their return home.
He faced a number of challenges during his service, the toughest of which was battling the unusually bitter winter cold weather without the proper clothing and gear while fighting in the Bat-tle of the Bulge. He sadly recalls many soldiers suffering severely frozen hands and feet and other cold-weather injuries, eventually taking their lives.
"It was a great honor for me to be part of World War II," he says, "and I'm thankful that we have a Veterans Day to honor those who did not make it back home." Kolling and his son traveled on the Honor Flight from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., a few years ago to see the World War II Monument. "Every veteran should go, so that we never forget," he says.
Learning that he had been selected as a Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal, Kolling said, "It was a special honor that I had never expected. I've been going to my squadron reunions for years and there are only three of us left now." Kolling celebrated his 94th birthday this year on April 15.
Kolling said that the most important lessons he learned during his wartime service were "follow-ing orders and how to get along with people." These lessons served him well after he returned to the U.S., moved to Arizona in 1958 and became a successful businessman, owner of Kolling's Auto Service, a 13-bay automotive garage in Mesa, Arizona. He retired from the automotive business in 1990.
After the war, Kolling married and raised four children.
The month after he turned 18, Kummer officially entered the Navy as a Seaman Second Class. It was 1943 and many pilots were in training; the program was lengthened and toughened. But Kummer persisted and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in January 1946 - only to be sent home several months later after budget cuts were passed by Congress.
Still undeterred, Kummer joined an Idaho National Guard Army tank battalion that had a unit in Moscow, becoming a USAAF pilot and, a short time later, received an order from the brand-new USAF that designated him as a "Liaison" pilot. In 1950, he was activated for Korea, once again with a new des-ignation of Army Aviator with a new Army wings badge. That's right - Kummer served in four branches as a pilot!
During the Korean War, he was an artilleryman and helicopter pilot. Kummer's unit would contact the USAF bases nearby when they had an injured soldier or airman. "Our small, light helicopters paved the way to the famous ones used in Vietnam," Kummer says. "Ours were so underpowered that strapping an injured person on the helicopter stretcher was a tense trip for machine and pilot - but we were successful!" He remembers the "photo" missions as being the most tense, as they had to fly the small aircraft at maximum speed - around 110 mph - right by the enemy position behind hills.
Kummer came away with a great admiration for the Korean people. "What a terrible cancer destroyed their county," he says, "but look at them now!" He remembers going out of his way to meet them, and they just bowed their heads and worked. Seeing the plight of the orphans in the country, he sent word back to his hometown of Fairbault, Minnesota, for clothing donations. "They reciprocated very well," he remembers. "I took the boxes in my H-13 helicopter to the orphanage. The kids were awed!"
In total, Kummer had over 22 years of active and National Guard duty, and was awarded a number of World War II and Korean (ROK) War victory and service medals and ribbons, as well as four Air Medals. He recorded an astounding 123 enemy territory flights. One of his most memorable passengers was General James Van Fleet, Commander of all troops in South Korea.
Kummer credits famed aviator Charles Lindbergh for instilling in him a passion for flying. "Lindberg was a fellow Minnesotan and made his epic flight in 1927, just a couple of years after I was born," he says. "The local media featured many articles about flying as I was growing up, and our basement was full of model planes. I knew I would become a military pilot."
Eventually settling here in Arizona, Kummer was employed right up to age 85. He and his wife Janet have lived in Phoenix for over 40 years; his daughter and grandchildren also live here. He has volunteered with Luke Air Force Base's Retiree Activity Office, which he says has been "interesting and productive," and is humbled by the honor of being selected as a Grand Marshal.
You might say Carlos Lozano joined the Navy for practical reasons. One of six children living with a single mother in New York City, he realized he was starting to "get into trouble." So at the age of 16, he marched right down to the Navy recruiting office, who told him he could join when he turned 17 with parental permission. "Being one of six children living with a single mother and representing one less mouth to feed, permission was gladly and eagerly given," he remembers. "One month after my 17th birthday, I was on my way to boot camp." The year was 1970. Lozano headed to Aviation School right out of boot camp, where he became an aircraft mechanic; one of his first duty stations was Aircraft Anti-Submarine Squadron 27 (VS-27), and he made two Mediterranean deployments aboard the USS Intrepid.
He later earned his high school diploma and an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Texas, and was commissioned as a naval officer. The brand-new Ensign, his wife and their three children went sent to Japan for three years, from where he made numerous Pacific deployments aboard the USS Midway, including being part of the naval forces contingency in the Persian Gulf during the Iranian hostage crisis.
Lozano's illustrious 34-year naval career has included duty stations aboard the Fighter Wing One, USS Coral Sea, the Pentagon, head of the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, NAS Oceana, and Executive Director for Logistics at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland. During his Pentagon tour, he studied at night to earn a master's degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. He retired as a Captain in 2004 and has many awards, including the Legion of Merit, two Meritorious Service Medals and four Navy Commendation Medals.
Lozano says the highlight of his career occurred during the Desert Storm conflict, as he had the honor of being assigned as one of only 10 Airwing ONE Maintenance Officers (more commonly known as CAGMO) in the entire Navy. He was deployed with the USS America (CV-66), headed for the Persian Gulf, just a few weeks prior to the start of the ground war. "After making the transit across the Suez Canal, Airwing ONE was the only airwing that launched strike missions from both the Red Sea and Persian Gulf," he remembers. "I am very proud of the fact that it was the only airwing not to sustain any battle losses."
Although Lozano says the biggest challenge during his military career was enduring the long deployments, separated from his family and missing many special events with them, he is grateful for meeting and working with so many great people, many of whom were instrumental in mentoring him. "This is a debt I could never repay," he says.
Lozano, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, says he was surprised to find he had been chosen as one of this year's Grand Marshals, and extremely honored that it was his daughter who nominated him. "I am not sure I deserve it," he says humbly.
We think he does.
Diana Pike is an Army veteran, mentor, executive and Gold Star Mom. No stranger to challenges, Pike had a difficult start growing up in Compton, California, but knew she wanted more from life. So a week after graduating from high school in 1975, she joined the Women's Army Corps. After basic training, she attended Morse Incept Operator School in Boston, working in Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) from Japan to Germany for more than a dozen years.
As a Staff Sergeant, she served in Berlin during the pivotal occupation in the early 1980s. Sergeant First Class Pike retired from the Army in 1988, but continued to work in intelligence as part of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Virginia.
In 1993, a tragic car accident left Diana's two young children, Christian and Denise, without a father.
She sold everything and tried to find a quieter life in Arizona to raise her children. She said it was also good to get away from the stress and haunting images at work. "Terrorism has never gone away, it's always been there," she says.
Pike took it upon herself to teach Christian the things she imagined he would have learned from his father Michael, like shooting and working on cars. She also sent him to "Outward Bound" each summer to bond with others and push his limits. Diana beams, "He never doubted himself. He felt he was capable of anything."
Christian enlisted in the U.S Navy in 2001, also drawn to intelligence. In March 2013, he was mortally wounded during a fierce gun battle in Afghanistan. Diana found herself in Germany once again, but this time in Landstuhl, to say goodbye to her only son, Cryptologist Tech Chief Christian Pike. "It never occurred to me that he wouldn't come home - until I got that phone call," she says. The Gold Star Mom says her son loved his life and she's grateful they left nothing unsaid.
Co-worker Judy Austed points out, "Even after the loss of her son, Diana has helped my son's effort to enlist in the U.S. Navy and continues to support him while he serves."
With the GI Bill, Pike earned her master's degree in leadership at Western International University and works as a Human Resources Developer for Fox TV, but finds time to volunteer with the "Remem-bering our Fallen from Arizona" display around the state. "The images of fallen service members since 9/11 on that wall are Arizona children, and my son's," she says.
Pike was honored by her selection as a Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshal, but stresses, "I would like the emphasis on thanking our veterans. It's important to know we are still a country at war, and there will be more veterans in years to come."
Frank Vinales joined the Army right after high school at the age of 17 and had to obtain his parents' permission to do so. He said he wanted to do something to protect our country through war service. After joining, he went to jungle school in Panama, to reconnaissance school and became a machine gun squad leader. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant at the age of 18. He was assigned to Fort Campbell, KY. He trained there for a year, and that's when they informed him that at this time next year he would be in Vietnam.
"I was pretty gung ho. I knew I wanted to go, but a part of me still had hesitation," he says. "The camaraderie I experienced with my unit was amaz-ing. I couldn't believe that other comrades would care so much about me, that they would be willing to give up their life while defending our country."
He didn't know at the time how true those words would be. While in Vietnam fighting enemy forces, he saw that his best friend was on point and was cut off. He kept trying to get to him despite the machine-gun fire.
"I was so upset; I thought I had to find a different direction to help him," Vinales remembers. "So I grabbed an M-72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon (rocket) and fired into the enemy machine-gun bunkers. This gave me the opportunity to crawl out to where he was. He was too big to carry, and his legs were bleeding due to the gunfire. I was shot two times when I was with him, and then he was shot in his back, but he did the most courageous thing. He rolled over on top of me to take the brunt of the fire, and we lost him at that time. After darkness fell, I crawled out from under him and went back to the initial spot I had started from. On the way back I was shot two more times, but I made it back to my camp. From there I was medically evacuated to a MASH unit. I was operated on and was then flown to Japan, where I had my second operation. From there I was sent to a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. I was in the hospital for four months recovering from my wounds."
Although Vinales was deeply saddened by the loss of his friend, the Army took the time to recognize him for his efforts, presenting him with the Silver Star Medal, the third-highest military decoration for valor awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces. Any uniformed service member may receive the medal, which is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. He also has earned four Purple Hearts.
"Joining the service is an individual choice," Vinales points out, adding, "Despite all the injuries, I'm still honored to have joined."
When asked about being selected to serve as the Vietnam Grand Marshal, Frank Vinales says, "I feel it's a great honor. It's my homecoming parade that I've been waiting for and I thought I would never get."
Frank Vinales lives in Chandler, Arizona.