A special Memorial Day message from Iron Workers General President Walter Wise:
As a fuel convoy gunner in Kuwait and Iraq, Nathan May crisscrossed the heart of the desert more times than he can count, traveling a total of more than 8,000 miles, only to return to the United States in 2010 with damaged hearing and haunting memories of roadside bombs and fire fights beneath the sweltering sun.
David Brightwell, Jr., served as an Army infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan for just shy of five years when a grenade exploded beside his Humvee. David sustained a serious injury which almost cost him his leg. As he lay recovering for months in Walter Reed, all he could do was worry that his childhood dream of becoming an Ironworker like his dad and granddad would never come true.
Both of these proud, young warriors put their life on the line for our great country.
But Nathan wouldn’t let his damaged hearing and his struggle with PTSD get the best of him. Now, Nathan is an apprentice Ironworker with Local 492, Nashville, Tenn. Nathan works hard, saying that the rigor, training and discipline of ironwork are similar to that of soldiers. “The energy of ironwork is in me. I never felt so at home,” he explained.
While David Brightwell nearly lost his leg in Afghanistan, he didn’t give up, either. Immediately after making a full recovery, David was indentured as an apprentice at Local 395, Hammond, Ind., where he has trained tirelessly. “When his job gets rained out, he goes to the apprenticeship school to practice welding and his different skills…that’s the kind of Ironworker he is,” Local 395 business manager Doug Strayer said. Perhaps that’s why, earlier this year, David placed 12th out of 12,000 entrants in the Ironworkers National Apprenticeship Competition in Indianapolis. And this week, David will graduate from Local 395’s apprenticeship program and become a journeyman Ironworker, just like his dad and granddad.
Both Nathan and David connected with the Iron Workers through Helmets to Hardhats, a vitally important Building Trades-funded program dedicated to providing Veterans challenging, rewarding work in the union construction industry. The Iron Workers Union is proud to support men and women like Nathan and David who have made incredible sacrifices to defend our country.
This Memorial Day, we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice made by many brave service men and women to safeguard our country and our freedom, defending our most basic rights, including those to assemble and form our great Union. We think of Brother Al Siler of Local 385, Knoxville, Tenn., and Brother Charles Gaffney of Local 75, Phoenix, who died while on active duty to our country since 2005, and many others since our founding in 1896. We honor their memory by providing for those that returned, and upholding the ideals that they died defending.
As a Brotherhood, we believe that former members of the military deserve the best opportunities when they return home. We believe as Iron Workers and as a Union, we can provide them excellent opportunities to raise a family, make a living and retire with dignity and a pension. We believe that our country owes its warriors and their families the best life our country can provide.
This Memorial Day, how will you honor and thank a Veteran?
Thank you, Brothers and Sisters, for recognizing the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and for helping to build our great Union.
Happy Memorial Day!