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Tuesday Edition

Heart Strings For Heroes

Honoring Our Combat Heroes



5th Annual Heartstrings for Heroes Honors Cruise

Honoring our Combat Heroes!

November 5, 2017

According to event Emcee, Richard Hunt (former Marine Sergeant), Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Florida, there are over 3000 military purple heart recipients in the state of Florida registered with their organization.

Nationwide, their organization boasts more than 47,000 registered members. Today, take five of the purple heart recipients from their organization, and one other Purple Heart recipient, and you have the honorees for this years Heartstrings for Heroes Honors Cruise.

This event is a mixture of motorcycles, veterans, the wind, music, and patriotic hearts of all kinds, cruising in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mix up all of that with the sponsors: Fran Haasch Law Group, The Wing House, Frankies Patriot BBQ (Craig and Toni Gross), The Greg Billings Band, The Winghouse, Gold & Diamond Source, Dimmitt Automotive Group, 50 Legs.org, Dean Guitars, Uncle Kracker, Xtra Medium Video Productions, Inc, Hyatt Regency, and the many volunteers that make this possible. You have one helluva good time for a damn good cause!

After signing up at The Winghouse the first stop, we picked up our poker cards, T-shirt, and commemorative pin from the Volunteer Staff.

Grabbed some raffle tickets and headed on out!

Made the rounds on the way to the beach to catch the Starlight Majesty before she left port!
On board this Sunday, with Patriots, hearts, and guitars of all kinds. 

Heartstrings for Heroes selects their recipients by referral/word of mouth, from contacts at VA Hospitals, or from the polytrauma center at the Tampa VA, where severely injured veterans are provided rehabilitation services.

The first Dean Guitar recipient is Michael Nemesh, a Vietman Vet. He is a retired Army 1st Sergeant. Michael was awarded a purple heart when he was wounded during the 110+ hour fight for Hill 875. He is a member of 173rd Airborne.

That fateful day, 150 troops went up the hill. Only 15 came off alive. Michael was one of those 15.

Allen Spare, a stoic Vietman Vet, served as a Sergeant in the Army. He was wounded three times between December 1967 and May 1968. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.

He is from the 1st Division, the Big Red One. The recon team he served with is known as The Black Scarf

Lauren Montoya, is still active duty Army. Her left ankle and lower leg were severely injured in an IED explosion while manning her fifty caliber machine gun in her assigned vehicle in Afghanistan. Doctors worked to save her leg, but she required a below the knee amputation. She spent her recovery and rehab time in Texas. Because of her own choices, she is continuing on in active duty, and is willing to deploy again.

Lauren has gone thru a Medical Board review (a medical team of professionals reviews her ability to continue with military service.). who found her fit to remain active duty. She was the only woman in that review found able to continue serving in her military status.

Richard Weltz spent 29 years in Naval service. He was a Mustanger, moving up from enlisted to LT Commander, prior to retirement. Most of his career was spent in Special Ops. He was deployed 17 times, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places.

He is also a past commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart chapter 1980/Dunedin. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

Lt. Colonel James Holland did two separate tours through Vietnam and was wounded on both tours. He is a highly decorated Ranger.

Among his many accommodations, he proudly wears the Combat Infantrymans Badge, the Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist Wings, two Purple Hearts, six Bronze Stars, and the Legion of Merit, among many others.

Mal, Clingan is a US Army combat medic who was wounded while giving medical attention to the injured during combat. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

He is the Chapter Commander for the Florida Military order of the Purple Heart, 1980/Dunedin.

Veterans from any branch of the service, are referred by word of mouth, by contacts at the VA hospitals, and by the Poly Trauma Center in Tampa. Most dont have to have any musical experience. One of the veterans this year came to Florida from Tennessee for his guitar.

This years recipients were also gifted with a Quilt of Valor, made by volunteers from that organization and presented by Allison Fentress.

The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover members and veterans touched by war with comforting Quilts of Valor.

Check out their Link: https://www.qovf.org

This years Fallen Hero Guitar was presented to Gold Star Mother Jill Stephenson, in memory of her son, Ben Kopp.

On hand for the special presentation was 28 year old Army Ranger, Justin Albaugh. Justin and Ben served together as Rangers. Justin was with Ben that when he was taken away. To this day, Justin has become another son to Jill. Jill mentioned not losing a son, but gaining 200 other Ranger sons! Ben remains a celebrated Army Ranger to this day! He loved the Army, loved being a Ranger, and was good at it.!

His injuries from the battle were so bad, he was brought back to Walter Reed Army Hospital. He remained there for eight days, and was eventually placed on life support. It was there he succumbed to his injuries. His mother Jill, decided to have Ben live on, and donated his organs. Sixty people now thrive, continuing life with Ben. To this day, his heart continues to beat strong in a 57 year old Illinois woman.

Jill continued her sons legacy by writing a book called, Heart of a Ranger, available thru amazon.com.


The day turned out well for Lauren Montoya. She was not only awarded a guitar, but she received the gold necklace that Fran Haasch won from Gold and Diamond Source auction.

Lauren will also be the recipient of the Cadillac of appliance leg prosthetics from 50 Legs.org. Brotherhood and sisterhood, at its best!

Craig Gross came back this year and serenaded the crowd with his self-composed memorial song: They Buried My Son in Arlington. Craig and his wife Toni operate Frankies Patriot BBQ, in Largo, Florida, in loving memory of their son, Cpl. Frank R. Gross who lost his life July 16, 2011 in Afghanistan.


Their restaurant is filled with military memorabilia in memory of Frank and those lost in many wars.

Frankies Patriot BBQ Link: http://frankiespatriotbbq.com

The mission of Heartstrings for Heroes: Wade Whisky says, "Our mission is to recognize, honor and bring healing to those that shed blood, sacrifice their mind, body and souls in defending our nation... defending our way of life... defending everything that we get to enjoy as civilians. This all comes with a heavy price, and if WE don`t honor those who pay that price, we would NOT be doing our job as a nation of PATRIOTS."

Wade called Richard Hunt, State Commander/Florida, The Military Order of the Purple Heart approximately 6 years ago looking for a purple heart recipient, to support, and present a guitar to. Little did he know the effects that phone call would have all these years later, and guitars distributed. These effects have rippled across the United States. Guitars have been presented to veterans in Sturgis, SD, Las Vegas, NV, and anywhere Wade can find a deserving patriot!

Wade sometimes helps out and volunteers at the Poly Trauma Center. He has been working with a severely injured soldier who can now play three chords on his guitar. The soldier is now jamming, and has written a song, soon to be recorded.

Check out Heartstrings for Heroes: https://www.heartstringsforheroes.com


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