Guest Blogger: Pat Tillman Foundation Executive Director Kadi Tierney
The ballroom was full of beautiful people from the latest issues of all those magazines you see while standing in line at the check-out. Marie Tillman and I struggled to understand what exactly we were doing at a celebrity-filled event in downtown Manhattan and as Marie walked the red carpet – a first for her – we both shared a laugh about how just out of place we were.
“GQ Magazine” had selected the Pat Tillman Foundation to be one of the recipients of their annual “GQ Gentlemen’s Fund” charity event. We were one of four major non-profits selected with the likes of UNICEF and Oceana. We, the scrappy tiny non-profit, spending our days in a tiny office in Tempe where seven staffers are squeezed into one open room. Did we really have any business being at something like this?
Every selected organization has one official recipient that would speak on behalf of the charity and our selection of Marine Corps Master Sergeant William Gibson had been an easy one.
After losing his left leg to snipers’ bullet while serving in Iraq in 2006 Sergeant Gibson endured months of painful rehabilitation and rigorous physical therapy.
While recovering from his amputation, Master Sergeant Gibson set a personal goal of training for triathlons. In 2007, he competed in the “Escape from Alcatraz Swim”, regarded as one of – if not the most – challenging competitive swimming events in the country. While competing in the event, a Marine General, observing the event – who was so impressed with Gibson’s obvious personal strength and integrity – approached Master Sergeant Gibson, to ask him if there was anything he could do for him. Gibson had just one request…
Re-deployment to Iraq.
This request made Master Sergeant Gibson the first ever above-the-knee amputee to return to front-lines combat.
With his second deployment now completed, Gibson works on Capital Hill for the House Committee on Veteran Affairs. He is also enrolled at the University of Maryland, University College where he his pursuing his academic dream of committing the rest of his career to caring for and supporting disabled veterans and their families.
Gibson is a member of the inaugural class of Tillman Military Scholars. Last fall, the Pat Tillman Foundation was honored to award Master Sergeant Gibson his full-requested scholarship amount.
His comments upon receiving the GQ Gentlemen award were brief but as he left the stage, the audience of “beautiful people” erupted into a spontaneous standing ovation – the only one of the night.
Maybe everyone there at first didn’t recognize Master Sergeant Gibson and his wife Chaney on the red carpet, but after his remarks he was the biggest celebrity in the room.