A surviving veteran from the USS Indianapolis, which was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea during World War II—the largest casualty at sea in the history of the Navy—was among 20 individuals honored by Henry Repeating Arms at the 2015 NRA Foundation Banquet & Auction at Nashville, Tenn., April 10.
Marine Cpl. Edgar Harrell, 90, who spent more than four days in the shark-infested waters before he and 316 others were rescued, was the final recipient to walk on stage and receive a Henry Golden Boy Military Service Tribute Edition rifle, which was presented by Henry Repeating Arms President Anthony Imperato. “Those who fought are with us. They put their lives on the line for our freedom,” said Imperato.
Harrell, who has penned his tale of survival in a novel, “Out of the Depths,” has been an NRA Life member for decades and was instrumental in assisting Imperato in locating other “younger service people” to honor at this special event.
Imperato said the impetus for this presentation was that he was “tired of gun owners getting a black eye,” and wanted to highlight the positive side of firearm ownership. “I wanted to show the world how great the firearm industry is and how good law-abiding gun owners are.” Thus he formed “Guns for Great Causes” with his company, which financially supports charitable causes such as sick children, wounded veterans and youth shooting sports programs. A second component pays tribute to heroes by presenting them with rifles, such as the ones shown here. (Learn more in this video interview with Anthony Imperato.)
Inspiring a standing ovation from the thousands in attendance at the banquet, which kicked off the 2015 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, Harrell was in the company of other local heroes, 19 fellow Tennesseans who were also recognized and presented Tribute rifles that reflect their line of duty.
The group was comprised of veterans and active duty military who have served in every U.S. conflict since World War II; first responders; and an NRA instructor. Imperato has proclaimed that NRA instructors are the unsung heroes of the firearm industry, as they take their personal time and spend their own money to promote firearm safety and youth shooting sports.
The other military members who were presented rifles included Lt. Col. Charles Chuck Haley, who served in the U.S Air Force and flew missions over Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf. Haley has been on active duty for 22.5 years and will be retired in May 2015.
Bill Slocum served as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.
Charles York served in the U.S. Navy in the Gulf War before, during and after the conflict.
Navy Capt. Ray Harvey served during the Vietnam War, both on-ship and in-country, and participated in Desert Storm. Currently he is an NRA Coach, helping youth shooters. He said the reason he does it because “it is important to give back.”
Jack Spangler served as a Buck Sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
J.T. Tenpenny spent 28 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and served during the Vietnam War.
Danielle Panting served in the U.S. Navy in Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Dana Nicholson served as a Captain and nurse in the U.S. Army in Iraq during Operation Freedom. She is currently Chief Nurse of the Operating Room at Blanchfield Army Base at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Linc Van Sickel served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
Jimmy Gentry served as a U.S. Army Staff Sargent in the 42nd Infantry Regiment, Second Battalion, Company E and fought in the “Battle of the Bulge” during WWII. He is credited with wrenching open a door of a boxcar that contained Jews headed for extermination at the hands of the Nazis. In his distinctive country boy voice, he told them, “Hey y’all, come out of there.”
David Gray served in the U.S. Army in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He saved the lives of several of his men when he shielded them from an improvised explosive device. Later, during a rocket attack, Gray was wounded and suffered damage to both legs. Gray’s son, Joseph Gray, is an ROTC Cadet at Western Kentucky University set to be commissioned as an officer in the United States Army in 2017.
As active-duty service members are not permitted to accept the rifles, their rifles will be donated to the individuals’ local American Legion posts. Imperato promised each of them a raincheck for the rifles upon their retirements.
First Responders included Amy Moore, a Flight Nurse EMT with Vanderbilt LifeFlight; Joshua Smith, a firefighter engineer with Brentwood Fire & Rescue Department; and Officer Katy Davis of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. They each received EMS and Firefighter Tribute rifles.
And last but not least was NRA Instructor Leroy Farris, from Rockvale, Tenn., who is a Range Master and Chief Instructor at Nashville Amory.