Bucks For The Brave
Ismael Villegas - San Antonio, TX | Air Force Veteran
Our first winner served a total of 10 combat deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, South America, and Africa. He joined the Air Force at the age of 18, and went straight into the Air Force Special Warefare as a Combat Controller. During his deployments, as a result of direct combat, this Senior Master Sergeant incurred multiple injuries and has had to have more than 10 surgeries to repair the damage throughout his body. He received multiple medals in recognition of his heroism, including the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart. He continues to serve the Veteran community as a strength and conditioning coach and mentor to future Special Warfare Airman. He always puts his fellow Veterans first before himself. Congratulations Ismael Villegas! You are the 2022 Air Force Bucks for the Brave winner!
Nick Moore - Chealis, WA| Army Veteran
Our next winner will represent the Army Veterans. First thing that comes to mind about this hero is John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” On one of his deployments, he willingly jumped on top of a junior soldier, bringing him to the ground and took rounds to protect that soldier. This Ranger was part of an elite special operations unit that engaged in brutal street combat in pursuit of Iraq's Most Wanted. He has lived a life in service often secretly covering the front page of our newspapers as a nameless ghost, winning the fight and bringing our own home. He was part of the team involved in the rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. He lead a platoon of Rangers against a heavily fortified enemy to save US Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell and make sure no man was left behind. He is a humble leader, never wanting recognition for himself and always put his soldiers first. This man was awarded multiple medals for his actions including Purple Heart, 2 Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medal with valor. Due to his injuries, he has not been able to hunt for years. Nick Moore, we got your 6. Congratulations on being the 2022 Bucks for the Brave winner representing the Army.
Craig Spieker - Findlay, OH | Retired EMT
Our next winner has dedicated his life to serving. After leaving the Army, he joined the Police Force and retired in 2012. Rather than focusing on himself, he wanted to continue to serve his community. He became a firefighter and EMT and just last year, retired as Chief of EMS. He received 21 life-saving service medals, the Presidential lifetime achievement award, amongst many others during his 30+ years of dedicated service to our country and communities he lived in. This Hero continues to give back through the Guitars for Vets. He was a recipient and graduate of the program, and now is an instructor for this awesome program. He is also helping mentor and lead the next generation of first responders as the Associate Director of the Fire EMS Explorers program for his county. Craig Spieker, it’s our turn to thank you for your lifetime service. Congratulations on being the 2022 Bucks for the Brave EMT winner.
Lyn Dupree - Raleigh, NC | Coast Guard Veteran
Our next winner was nominated by his daughter, who sees her Dad as a hero and a friend. He was a leader throughout his 27 years in the Coast Guard, who looked out for the growth and success of his crew mates. When he retired from the service, he started dedicating his life to the JROTC program at the local high school. He has transformed the program into a machine for community, learning, fun and development of young leaders. He dedicated his life to serving others and sharing wisdom when he can, while also learning from those around him. His loyalty, integrity, and extremely sharp humor are written into his DNA, and show up in everything he does. He received multiple commendations and medals during his service, and we would now like to reward him as the 2022 Bucks for the Brave Coast Guard Winner. Congratulations Lyn Dupree!
James Harper - Saline, MI | Marine Corp Veteran
Our next winner received two Purple Hearts and Navy Commendation during the thankless war in Vietnam. During his two tours there, he was shot near his elbow, leaving it nearly immobile, has had to have both knees replaced and to this day, still carries shrapnel in his lungs. However you will never hear him complain. He is a positive influence on those around him, and has always worked hard and done whatever it takes to keep his family happy, healthy, and successful. He has four grand children under six years old, with another on the way. He has become their built-in full-time babysitter and he wouldn’t change that for the world. In the last few years he las lost his two best friends and hunting buddies. His own health has made his opportunities to hunt become less and less. Well James Harper, I can’t think of a better way to thank you for your service than to announce you as this year’s Marine Corp Winner. Welcome Home Sir. And welcome to the Bucks for the Brave family.
Ryan Smith - Cora Peake, NC | Navy Veteran
Our next winner recently retired after 21+ years in the Navy, due to health injuries he suffered from his tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a respected leader serving side by side with his brothers. He was boots on the ground in Iraq, leading a team of untrained sailors on a mission. He also helped run the world’s largest detainment facility and was instrumental in changing how we conduct detainee operations in a war time zone. He received multiple commendations and medals throughout his service for his actions. He and his wife continue to give back through the Foster Care system. Despite having three children of their own, they are in the process of adopting twin boys and their older brother so they can have a better life. If that wasn’t enough, his family has runs an animal shelter that helps save dogs from being euthanized, rescues cows, ducks and whatever else you can think of. This man has a servant’s heart for sure. I think it’s time for us to give back to you Ryan Smith. Congratulations on being this year’s Bucks for the Brave winner representing the Navy.
Gregory Taft - Littleton, CO | Retired Firefighter
Our next winner is a 2nd generation Firefighter and served 38+ years in his community. He started out as Police Officer and Paramedic, before entering the fire service. After 30 years, he retired as the Assistant Chief for the Denver Fire Department. He was also a member of IAFF Local 858 and helped create the departments burn fund charity to help residents effected by devastation of fire. His sons tell us he is a caring, grateful and deserving Dad. His years of service are catching up to him and is now suffering the health effects the job can bring. Even though he is currently battling severe arthritis and cancer, he still misses the job every day. We want to fulfill this bucket list item for you, Gregory Taft. You are this year’s Bucks for the Brave Firefighter winner. Congratulations!
Michael Johnson - Leesburg, FL | Retired Law Enforcement
The weight of the badge. Not many can carry it, much less have the strength to do it for 31+ years. He received lifesaving awards throughout his career, including one for rescuing a teenager that had rolled her car down an embankment into icy water during 9 degree weather. He fearlessly jumped in and held her head above water until additional help arrived to get her out. He successfully negotiated the release of a 13 year old kidnapped girl being held hostage in a trunk. After multiple years as a police officer, he transferred to the MI Dept of Natural Resources as a conversation officer where he received more numerous commendations. Unfortunately this man’s career almost came to a halt when he was struck head on while on snowmobile patrol. He was determined to persevere and that he did. After recovery, he was promoted to detective in the Special Investigations Unit working undercover to take down national criminal poachers. He also assisted in the taking down illegal guns and drug trafficking. No matter where he was working, he strived to show the public a welcoming and positive image of Law Enforcement Officers. Thank you Michael Johnson for your life-long career protecting others. Congratulations on being this year’s Bucks for the Brave winner representing your brothers and sisters in blue.