The Fighting Spirit: Grit, Valor and Hope

Roughly 20% of our U.S. military veterans return home with a service-related disability. While Lockheed Martin employs over 20,000 veterans and welcomes them to join our team every day, we are always looking to do more to help our veteran population.

One of the ways Lockheed Martin gives back is through the Fighting Spirit Scholarship Program. This year, Lockheed Martin named retired Army Sgt. Steven Curry, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. James “Shrap” Crosby and retired Army Sgt. Richard Hursh as the recipients of the 2019 Fighting Spirit Scholarship.

In its fourth consecutive year, the scholarships to veteran service members provide rehabilitation opportunities and honor their selfless service to our country. Wounded veterans experience flying, sailing and competitive exercise through three nonprofit organizations – Warrior SailingAble Flight and the Adaptive Training Foundation.

In addition to attending the training programs at no cost, each scholarship recipient and guest receives roundtrip flights to Fort Worth and a tour of the Lockheed Martin F-35 production facility, VIP tickets to the 2019 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl game and access to other exclusive bowl-related activities.

“Our entire Lockheed Martin team is humbled to support these heroes,” said Michele Evans, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “With the Fighting Spirit Scholarship Program, we want to honor their sacrifice and partner with them as they navigate what comes next.”

Able Flight

Growing up in the small town of Salisbury in North Carolina taught Sgt. Steven Curry two important lessons: the love of freedom he developed from a childhood spent mainly outdoors and a strong work-ethic.

Knowing that college was not for him, Curry enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 2003. He eventually served as an Infantry Squad Leader, E5 Sgt. until he lost his leg and military career during his second deployment to Afghanistan in March 2008.

Surprisingly, Curry does not regret any of his hardships, giving credit to the Army for making him the person he is today and opening new doors to opportunities he did not expect.

“I learned a lot about myself in the Army,” said Curry. “[I learned] what I was capable of accomplishing versus what my mind told me. The military instilled a lot of good characteristics in me that have served me well.”

For the past eight years, he has continued serving in government work, but he never lost his drive to fly.

Although originally deterred by the cost of obtaining a pilot’s license on his own and not even knowing if it was possible, Curry applied for and received Lockheed Martin’s Fighting Spirit Scholarship, affording him the opportunity to earn his flight instructor certificate through Able Flight. This will not only be his first paid position as a pilot, but also allow him to build the necessary flight time to transition to a full-time pilot position within his current agency.

Curry, who wanted to remain in service, stresses the difficulty of transitioning to a meaningful civilian role that provides that same sense of duty and accomplishment as the military.

“Programs like [the Fighting Spirit Scholarship] mean a lot to me and veterans like me,” said Curry. “What Lockheed Martin is doing for me is beyond amazing as it is providing me the final stepping stone to complete my almost 12-year transition from military to civilian life. Words cannot express how grateful my family and I are.”

As he moves forward, Curry is grateful for those enlisted men and women who continue to give all for our country.

“Everyone serving today has signed a blank check payable to the American people,” said Curry. “No one knows what the value of that check will be – if it ever gets cashed. It could be a limb, eyesight, unseen injuries or even life itself. But we all stand up and freely sign that check because we believe in what our country stands for, and we’re willing to do what it takes to protect it.”

Adaptive Training Foundation

Intrigued by the dress blue uniform, a father who served in the United States Marine Corps and wanting to fast track his personal and professional growth, James “Shrap” Crosby enlisted with the Marines and left for boot camp on July 3, 2002, after graduating from Dom Savio Catholic School in east Boston.

“I made up my mind to serve,” said Crosby. “It felt good to be standing up and volunteering after the attacks on 9/11.”

Crosby served as an Aviation Ordinance Technician and was in the process of attaining his Air Crew wings as an Aerial Gunner Instructor until he was severely wounded from enemy fire while deployed to Al Anbar, a province in Iraq.

March 18, 2004 changed Crosby’s life forever. At approximately 2200, Crosby was in the back of a seven-ton truck that was hit by 122mm rocket fire. Three Marines were injured and one Marine, Andrew Brownfield, was killed instantly.

Within a few days, Crosby was admitted to the ICU at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he underwent multiple surgeries before being transferred to the West Roxbury VA in Maryland. While at the VA, Crosby began his extensive rehabilitation.

Shrapnel hit Crosby in his back below his flak jacket piercing his spinal cord and much of his intestines. He learned to live his life with the use of a wheelchair, but he still maintained his will to go on with the mission.

While in the ICU, Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey visited Crosby and asked him if there was anything he could do to help. This conversation later turned into legislation that would pass under the 2005 DOD Bill as the Special Pay Crosby-Puller Wounds Compensation Bill. This bill fixed the issue of combat related pay being cut from service members after being medivaced from a combat zone. 

“My time in the Marine Corps was short,” said Crosby. “But in that short time, it provided me with life lessons I employ on a daily basis – successfully.”

Crosby later went on to work for the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and oversaw outreach and started a suicide prevention program, Statewide Advocacy for Veterans Empowerment, which assists veterans with gaining access to care through extensive case management and referral and saved many veterans lives who were at risk of suicide. 

Crosby also co-founded the American Infidels Veterans Motorcycle Club, a 501c19, National War Veterans Organization, that helps to raise funds for other wounded veterans and their families.  

Currently, James is employed at 22Kill in Dallas where they provide traditional and non-traditional mental health services for all veterans, first responders and their families. This organization was started to raise awareness about the growing suicide epidemic that claims the lives of 22 veterans a day.

“Never settle, especially for the status quo,” said Crosby. “Only you can defeat yourself. Everything else is just a distraction. Stay focused, stay positive and keep pushing forward.”

Crosby is a participant in Adaptive Training Foundation’s (ATF) Class 17 and began his training this fall.

“The opportunity to be part of the ATF tribe has changed my life forever,” said Crosby. “The experience one gets from being a member of ATF is unparalleled; the amount of time spent on each individual athlete is comprehensive and   sincere. The Fighting Spirit Scholarship will allow other veterans, like myself, the opportunity to better themselves both mentally and physically. I want to sincerely thank you for the opportunity to take part in an amazing, life changing   program." 

Warrior Sailing

Richard Hush’s sense of duty to serve his country was instilled early in life. Hursh grew up all over as a child of a father who was in the Army. He was born in Germany and lived in Virginia, Australia, Texas and Oklahoma. As a child, he played soccer, followed by lacrosse in high school. As he grew up, he continued to grow in his love for outdoors and activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing and camping.

He joined the Army National Guard in Virginia as a combat engineer in September 2001 between his junior and senior years of high school. After completing training, he attended Old Dominion University studying engineering as a part of the ROTC program.

After his first semester of college, Hursh volunteered to deploy to Iraq in 2004. There, he served in Mosul, Iraq, with a specialty in 12B combat engineering conducting patrols, route clearance, engineering support (explosive and fortification) and weapon searches. On December 2004, Hursh was wounded by a suicide bomber where he sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a thumb amputation on his dominant hand, a fractured scapula and PTSD.

Following the attack, Hursh spent eight months at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. before being medically retired from the military in August 2005 due to his injuries.

After retiring from the military, Hursh returned to school and completed his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

“I planned to be a career soldier and hoped to fly helicopters after college,” said Hursh. “Since I could not continue my career in the military, I wanted to still help the war fighter by providing them with the superior equipment on the battlefield.”

After completing his degree, Hursh hired on with Lockheed Martin where he worked for the next five years.

“Lockheed Martin’s technology was a life saver while I was in Iraq,” said Hursh. “I remember a Hellfire coming off a helicopter to take out a position that had us pinned down. This is why I wanted to work at Lockheed Martin after college.”

Hursh is currently working in government service for the Army, Air Force and State Department.

He has also already completed his basic training with Warrior Sailing after being named as the Fighting Spirit Scholarship award recipient.

This scholarship has already given Hursh the opportunity to not only learn a new skill while being outside and staying active, but it has also helped him create a network of wounded vets and civilian sailors who will have a positive impact in his life.

“The Fighting Spirit Scholarhship and Warrior Sailing gives me and other wounded warriors an opportunity to learn to sail and enjoy the water, while connecting with other wounded warriors and the civilian maritime community,” said Hursh.