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Operation Military Embrace

There are 3 photos contained within our logo: On the left is Pfc. Devon Gibbons, (deceased), on the right is Cpl. George Allen Alford, Jr. (deceased), and in the middle is LCpl. Benjamin S. Hardgrove (living but injured). Here are their stories...

 

Pfc. Devon J. Gibbons

United States Army

If not for the brave... there would be no land of the free.

Devon was born in Tacoma, Washington, the 4th of 6 boys. He was always a very happy and energetic boy, though rather quiet in his younger days. He adored his brothers and wanted to be involved in all of their play. Sometimes it was rather rough and when he was 14 mos. old he got a broken arm when one the older boys fell on him. Devon was always very kind hearted by nature, always wanting to help the less fortunate. In Kindergarten Devon formed a vigilante group to†take care of†the bullies that were picking on the smaller children. Devon excelled in all sports, piano and photography. Everything came easily to Devon and he loved everything about life and he did it quickly: school work, chores, eating, etc. He seemed to operate in overdrive. He always made friends easily and he would do anything for his family or friends. Devon was a whiz on the computer where he could be seen all hours of the day and night. He was a life scout and spent many hours doing service for others. He worked delivering pizza which he also did quickly. Devon had a great sense of humor and was very quick witted. When he walked into a room he would flash a great big smile and it always made people happy when he was around. That is one of the things that people miss the most about him, his smile and his infectious laugh. Devon really wanted to join the Army and fight against terrorism so his family and friends would be safe. He was a great soldier and made many close friends in the short time he was there.

Injured April 11, 2006 In Taji, Iraq
Died June 23, 2006, Brooke Army Medical Center

Devon wanted to fight for freedom. For 10 weeks Devon valiantly fought to live. He was burned over 93% of his body, had a blast fracture in his lower back, had both legs amputated at the knee and his right arm below the elbow. The first thing he said was, “How are my guys?” Then he said he had to get back to Iraq. Devon became a symbol of strength and hope to many people throughout the world through his website as we reported on his progress. His injuries were just too severe and his heart finally stopped and he returned to his Father in Heaven. We are so proud of Devon and all who fight for our freedom and the freedom of others. God Bless America!

Cpl. George Allen Alford, Jr.

USMC

7 March 1948 - 31 July 1968

Cpl. George Allen Alford, Jr. was born on March 7,1948, in Alvin, Texas, to George Allen and Jo Alford. He had two younger sisters, Brenda and Lesa. The family moved to Meridian, Texas, where he and his younger sisters grew up in a country environment. In Meridian, Allen was very active in Church and in school. He and his family belonged to the First Baptist Church where Allen was active in various groups such as Sunday school and the Royal Ambassadors, which is a bible study group for the youth. He was also baptized in that church. Allen, (fondly nick named "Butch"), was active in sports and was in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and he played baseball on various little league teams. Football was one of his favorite sports and he played football in both junior high and high school. Allen was multi-talented and he played lineman and was a guard on the varsity football team lettering each year that he played and he also excelled in music playing trumpet in the high school band. He was in the Stage Band in high school that was made up of some of the best band members. Additionally, Allen was also a member of the high school FFA (Future Farmers of America). Growing up in a small Texas hill country town also meant that there were a lot of horse shows and rodeos. Allen was a very good cowboy and he participated in the Bosque County 4H Riding Club, which was a drill team on horses that performed at many rodeos across Texas. He rode bulls in youth rodeos and won a belt buckle for it. Being a true Texan, Allen was also an avid hunter. He loved to hunt deer, dove, quail, ducks, rabbits, or whatever was in season and he was exceptional with either a rifle or shotgun, always coming home with a bag full of game. In another vein, Allen was a soft touch for older towns folk and there were many times that he would do yard work for the elderly in his hometown just to be kind to them.

In 1966 the Alford family moved back to Alvin, Texas. This was during the Vietnam War and the draft. Allen decided he did not want to head off to college and instead, he joined the United States Marine Corps in 1966 at the age of only 18. Allen’s father had been in the Navy during World War II and he told Allen not to join the Marines because he had seen too many Marines die in the Pacific. In 1967 Allen was part of the Marine Detachment on the USS Galveston. He served as the Captain’s Orderly from August through November, 1967 and he was on board the Galveston during the Israeli Crisis of 1967. Allen volunteered five times to leave the ship for duty in Vietnam before the Marine Corps agreed to send him because he was the only male in the family to carry on the family name. Allen felt it was his duty to join the fight in Vietnam as he said that was what he was trained for and he felt guilty being on a ship. Allen then joined the 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division. He served as a squad leader at the young age of 20. He participated in operations against communist aggression in Vietnam and he was involved in Operation Houston III on 30 June 1968, in Operation Houston IV and in Operation Mameluke Thrust II in Quang Nam Province near An Hoa. It was on this last operation that he was killed on 31 July 1968. At the time of his death, Allen had only been in Vietnam for a month.

In his short twenty years of life Allen made a difference. He did not just take up space on this earth. The "Dash" between his birth and death years were years well spent. He loved God, his family, and his Country enough to die for them.

Lance Corporal Benjamin Stephen Hardgrove

USMC

Lance Corporal Benjamin Stephen Hardgrove, USMC 2003-2007, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, Twenty-Nine Palms CA.

Ben was born in the Naval Hospital at Cherry Point MCAS. Ben was "born into the Corps." From the time he was old enough to speak his dream was to be a Marine. In July of 2003 his dream became a reality. He left for boot camp, with me holding his infant sister and trying my best not to cry. Ben is the oldest of six children, his baby brother is 20 years younger than him. Ben graduated bootcamp on October 17, 2003. He left for Husaybah, Iraq in Feburary of 2004. Ben's second tour of duty was in Ramadi Iraq, and he made his second safe return on March 29, 2006.

Around midnight of March 30, 2006, Ben was struck by a car in Yucca Valley, California. Ben was critically injured and not expected to live. Over the next few weeks Ben not only fought for his life but he began to show signs that he was still "in there”. Ben was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, diffuse axonal injury-shifting and shearing of the axons. As well as anoxia, both of his lungs collapsed. I was told that he if he lived he would be a vegetable. The best we could hope for was to put him in a home. After 6 weeks and fighting with the Navy to get Ben back to Texas, he finally arrived in Austin on May 3rd, 2006. Ben spent 5 and one-half months in Austin with very little progress. We were finally able to get him moved to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston. Ben spent 5 and one-half months there. In November 06, our family went to spend Thanksgiving with Ben. When we walked into his room, his sister blew a kiss to him, and he blew one back. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. It was the first real thing that Ben had done without being told to do it.

As of July, 2007, Ben's accident happened 16 months ago and I can tell you that he is far from a vegetable. He cannot speak, but communicates with a keyboard. He cannot walk alone but with the assistance of a walker he is full weight bearing and can "walk" for 15 -30 minutes a day. Ben is amazing- he is a fighter.

Ben and I met Jerry, Debbie, and Brenda in Houston, and without their help and support we would not have gotten as far as we have. I am forever indebted to them.

Jamie Woodard, Ben's proud Marine Mom
"Aspire to Inspire"
Ben's progress is updated on www.carepages.com benhardgrove

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