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Horses and Heroes

During the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, we are proud to honor our veterans during Wrangler National Patriot Night, taking place on Friday, April 8th. We are calling all active and retired service men and women to join us as honored guests for this event where they can receive free admission (with proper ID).

While we will be swearing in a brand new group of United States Marine Corps recruits to become active for service on the dirt, we will also honor wounded vets that will be riding with us during the opening of Friday’s performance. We wanted to introduce you to these brave men and women that will be joining us and thank them for their service.

Steve Mollenhauer

Sergeant First Class Steve Mollenhauer enlisted as a Cavalry Scout in June 1994. This brave soldier hails from Orlando, Florida and served until June 2014 when he medically retired after 20 years of service. While serving 12 months in Ramadi, Iraq, from August 2004 to 2005, he completed more than 500 combat missions, was exposed to multiple IEDs, with one directly hitting his Humvee, causing him to suffer a traumatic brain injury. He continues his fight to overcome neck and back issues, as well as PTSD. Throughout his career, Sergeant First Class Mollenhauer received many awards, including the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. He currently resides in Lady Lake, Florida with his wife and daughter.

Christopher Gordon

Staff Sergeant Christopher Gordon enlisted in the United States Army in 1997 and was honorably discharged in 2006. This Purple Heart recipient’s vehicle was hit by an IED blast on March 15, 2005 while out on patrol. He sustained the loss of his right leg above the knee and an open fracture of his left leg. Due to the severity of his injuries, he spent the next year at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he underwent numerous surgeries. Today, he is a graduate of the Valencia College Graphic Design program and a proud father. He gives back to his country by actively working with the Wounded Warrior Project, Fairways for Warriors, and many other organizations that support veterans.

Clifford M. Bruton

Petty Officer Clifford M. Bruton, a retired member of the United States Navy, enlisted on September 9, 1985 and served for 20 years until September 2005. During his tenure, he received numerous awards, including five Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medals, five Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Medals, and two Freedom Medals for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq. Petty Officer Bruton is a recent graduate of Columbia College, where he earned his bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.

Kelly Smith

Hospital Corpsman First Class Kelly Smith grew up in Saint Cloud, Florida and enlisted in the United States Navy in 1996. She served from 1996 through 2015 as a Corpsman, where she completed multiple tours in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, USS Carney, Crete, Greece, along with many stateside assignments. During this time, she earned her Independent Duty Corpsman title, her fleet marine force designation. In 2007, Hospital Corpsman First Class Smith was injured while deployed in Iraq. As a result of her injuries and multiple reconstructions, her left arm was amputated in June 2013, and she was medically retired in 2015. During her tenure, Hospital Corpsman First Class Smith received multiple combat and personal awards.

Lucia Lombardi

Major Lucia Lombardi was commissioned in the United States Army in May of 1999. She served as a Military Intelligence Officer with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) for ten years, including three tours in Afghanistan. She was medically retired in May of 2010 as a result of injuries sustained during her multiple deployments. Today, Major Lombardi is married and lives in East Orlando where she continues to manage her physical injuries and PTSD through horses. Equine-assisted therapies have played an intricate role in her continued recovery and ongoing healing. Riding and working with horses have become her passion, and she strives to share their healing power with other veterans.

Ronald Philpot

Sergeant/Petty Officer First Class Ronald Philpot, United States Marines and Navy, enlisted from July 1985 to May 2007. He was wounded on May 2, 2004 in a mortar attack at his camp in Ramadi, Iraq, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury and shrapnel throughout his body. His injuries were sustained as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A Purple-Heart recipient, Sergeant/Petty Officer First Class Philpot is also a Wounded Warrior Alumni and a proud father of four kids.

Claw

Claw is a 6-year-old Golden Retriever who is trained to help Ron get back up if he falls, and to create a barrier between Ron and a hostile person, if necessary. He was named after Sergeant Willie A. Claw McLawhorn, Jr. who died in Operation Enduring Freedom on December 12, 2010.

See more at RNCFR.com