ENNIS — The 2017 Helicopters for Heroes event will take place at the Staubach Ranch in Ennis on Feb. 24-25. Helicopters for Heroes (H4H) was established as a weekend to honor wounded veterans, and give back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country. The proceeds from H4H will go directly to veteran charities including The Independence Fund, Empower Heroes, and Veterans Xtreme Adventures. Sergeant Michael Verardo, Command Sergeant Major Donald McAlister, and Elizabeth Wiggins are three of the veterans that have selflessly served our country and will be attending the event.

SERGEANT MICHAEL VERARDO

Sergeant Michael Verardo served as an infantryman in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne. He was catastrophically wounded in two IED attacks while serving. The attacks resulted in the loss of his left leg and much of his left arm, burns on over 35 percent of his body, facial damage and a severe traumatic brain injury. Sergeant Verardo is a two-time Purple Heart recipient.

Sergeant Verardo is the Chief Ambassador to The Independence Fund, one of H4H’s supporting charities, and speaks to fellow wounded veterans about the long journey home from war. Sergeant Verardo lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his loving wife and two precious daughters.

COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR DONALD MCALISTER

CSM Donald McAlister started his career with the Army on July 29, 1992, and attended Infantry OUST at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon completion, CSM McAlister was assigned to Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. During his many years as a serviceman, CSM McAlister moved up in ranks and to and from many different military bases including Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. Most recently, CSM McAlister has served as Command Sergeant Major for the 2nd Battalion of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. CSM McAlister’s service includes two combat tours in Iraq (Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) I and OIF II/III), three combat tours in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) VIII, OEF IX/X, and OEF XIII).

Along with holding the highest leadership position in the Army, CSM McAlister is prestigiously decorated with awards and honors including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (1OLC), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (3OLC), Army Commendation Medal (1SOLC), Army Achievement Medal (3OLC), Presidential Unit Commendation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and many others.

CSM McAlister is currently serving as The Independence Fund’s Community Outreach Director. He, his wife, and three daughters live in Fayetteville, North Carolina where they love to spend their free time as a family at the gym and hiking.

ELIZABETH WIGGINS

Elizabeth is a former Marine who has always loved staying active through sports, hiking and traveling. On Sept. 1, 2015, Beth was hit from behind on her motorcycle as she was commuting to work. After two months in the hospital and several surgeries, Beth began rehabilitation as a double amputee but was grateful to be able to return home to her seven-year-old son Eli. After 45 days in rehabilitation, Beth’s insurance company had exhausted their coverage, but she was determined to regain more mobility. Her determination to get back on her feet led her to apply for Adaptive Training Foundation's (ATP’s) athlete program in Dallas. Though ATP she learned about Helicopter’s for Heroes event and is excited to be one of the attending veterans.

Originally from Alabama, Beth is currently living in Dallas until the end of March as a participant in ATP’s nine-week physical training program. Before beginning her training, Beth worked with ATP staff to develop a set of personal goals that she hopes to reach during her training period. At the top of that list is the ability to play with and hold her son, who is currently living in Alabama with his grandparents. A hero to our country and especially to Eli, Beth was willing to make the short-term sacrifice of being apart from her son to regain her independence, build her strength, and be the best mom she can possibly be.