Roy Exum: Hero To Honor Heroes

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There have been almost a dozen books written about an intense military battle that was called Operation Gothic Serpent. But it is the movie that was made following the Battle of Mogadishu that caused the epic encounter to be known forever as “Black Hawk Down.”

In the award-winning film, actor Tom Sizemore portrays Col. Danny McKnight and, if you want a better look at the hero who was the commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion in Somalia on the bleak night of Oct. 3, 1991, another hero will give you the opportunity when the highly-decorated McKnight, now retired, will speak in Chattanooga at the first annual American Heroes Dinner.

The banquet, which will be held at the Chattanoogan Hotel on June 6, is being sponsored by The Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation, which was started by “Wounded Warrior” Andrew Smith and his family. Andrew, who lost both legs when he stepped on a hidden bomb in Afghanistan on his first patrol after he graduated from college, barely survived the savage blast.

As he recovered from his injuries, Andrew and his wife Tori were drawn to the needs of other soldiers who have been horribly injured that they met during many months of recuperation at Walter Reed Military Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Md. “The goal of The Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation is to provide the needed resources, financial and material, to severely injured men and women and their immediate families, whose injuries were incurred while in service to our country.  

“The foundation does not offer specific programs,” read a news release, “Instead, we answer the direct needs, large and small, of the injured service member. The foundation also seeks to promote community awareness and create opportunities to express gratitude for the sacrifices that our military men and women make on a daily basis.”

Andrew knows what it means when total strangers lift you up. On July 4, 2013, an army of mostly strangers wearing “Team Andrew” T-shirts presented him the keys to a magnificent house in Ooltewah that had been built in just one week. The “house-raising,” inspired by Mark Wilson after his son almost died in a tornado, is viewed by some as the greatest outpouring of love ever witnessed in Chattanooga.

Now Andrew and Tori want to “pass it forward” by helping others who have made a sacrifice for their country. Two heroes, Sgt. Josh Wetzel and Spc. Corey Garmon, are pictured on the foundation’s website and are expected to be among those introduced at the June 6th banquet, which will begin at 7 p.m. The date marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Col.  McKnight had a distinguished career in the Army after graduating from Florida State in 1973. His awards include the Legion of Merit  (2OLC), the Bronze Star Medal W/V Device, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious  Service Medal (5OLC), the Army Commendation Medal (1OLC), the Army  Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal w/Bronze Star, the Armed  Forces Expeditionary Medal w/Arrowhead and Bronze Star, the Combat  Infantryman’s Badge, the Ranger Tab, The Master Parachutist Badge w/Bronze  Star and the Pathfinder Badge.

Tickets to the banquet are now on sale ($60 each) and a VIP party for patrons will be held prior to the dinner. Sponsorship tables and tickets can be purchased on the website,, or by mailing checks to American Heroes Dinner, Honoring the Sacrifice Foundation, PO Box 21806, Chattanooga, TN 37424. Those wishing for additional information should contact Tori Smith at 423/910-9129 and any donations to help injured soldiers can be made to the mailing address. The foundation is a 501c3 charity.

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