Lynchburg, VA - You may recognize Sergeant Steve Bozeman as the one carrying the American Flag in the Virginia 10 Miler or gathering every Friday for the past 11 years at Monument Terrace to support our troops.
But you may not know where his love of country was first born.
"I'm 66. I need to tell my story. I need to help these young warriors."
Most every Friday, for the past 11 years, Bozeman can be found at Monument Terrace, a place he helped to build.
"Monument terrace means so much to me that I felt like I had to give something back to it," he said.
Below a concrete monument, forever lives a piece of Sergeant Bozeman's past.
"We took our Purple Heart medals, and we had a capsule and we stuck it right in the center of this ring."
A Purple Heart medal he says he will never forget earning in Vietnam.
"Every day you are looking death in the eye," he recalled.
Bozeman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1966. A 19-year-old, he was forced to grow up fast.
His title was a door gunner, and his job was to help load dead and injured Marines on a chopper to get them home.
"When you first get shot at, it's a scary thing, after that and seeing dead Marines and saving wounded Marines, all you want to do is stay alive and help your fellow Marines stay alive," he said.
That determination would soon be tested.
"You never forget the day that you almost die....They shot and the helicopter caught on fire and we crashed about a quarter mile away. The next thing you know everybody got out, and the helicopter is on fire but there is one marine still stuck in there."
Without any hesitation, Bozeman proved to be a true here in an active battle field and with the Marine still stuck in a burning helicopter.
Bozeman said he was just doing his job.
"I threw my machine gun down and hauled ass across the rice paddy, and reached up in the helicopter and got him out. And to me the best medal is a live man's smile."
That's the last time he ever saw that smile. Bozeman has never met the man whose life he helped to save.
"I look back and say I was meant to be at that time, at that place, exact moment to save his life."
For a while, Bozeman never talked about his experiences at war. But after September 11 2001, when our men and women were sent back to a foreign battlefield, Bozeman began organizing a group to show support for those in harm's way.
Since that day, he has taken it upon himself to help those soldiers who do make it home.
"We have to support these guys, and I'm so glad the community is doing that," he said with tears in his eyes.
After that helicopter crash, Bozeman survived another crash, as well as a bombing of his bunker. He earned two Purple Hearts.
Today, he enjoys running, and has run more than 300 marathons, many to support other wounded veterans.
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