Wounded Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Take to the Skies and Conquer the Seas
Every day, it is important to take a moment and give thanks to the brave men and women who have made great sacrifices to protect our nation and defend our freedoms. The Fighting Spirit Scholarship for wounded veterans is another small way Lockheed Martin gives back to our nation’s heroes.
November 10, Lockheed Martin announced retired U.S. Army Capt. Ferris Butler and retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Adam Keys as the recipients of its inaugural Fighting Spirit Scholarship. The scholarship, in conjunction with the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 23, provides wounded veterans the opportunity to learn to fly and sail through programs at nonprofit organizations Able Flight and Warrior Sailing Program.
Warrior Sailing Program selected Keys, injured in Afghanistan in 2010 after an IED detonated near his patrol vehicle. Adam was the sole survivor of this devastating accident, losing one of his best friends from home. The blast left Keys without a left arm and either of his legs below the knee. After more than five years of physical therapy and 130 surgeries later, Keys medically retired from the Army and returned home to Annapolis, Maryland.
Keys is the recipient of the Purple Heart. After successful completion of Warrior Sailing Program’s Basic and Advanced Training programs, Keys earns a nationally recognized Basic Keelboat Sailing Certification. Keys recently completed Basic Training in Annapolis, Md.
"I am very proud and honored to be sponsored by Lockheed Martin, and I am excited to continue working with Warrior Sailing Program to complete advanced training,” Keys said. “My wounds are not an obstacle to me, and Lockheed Martin and the Warrior Sailing Program are allowing me to prove it.”
Keys, who travels the country delivering uplifting speeches during his “One Step Forward” talks, has one message for anyone out there struggling with hardship: “Whatever your fight may be – just keep fighting.”
Able Flight selected Butler, who sustained severe lower leg injuries in Iraq in 2006 when struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). Over the next year and a half, Ferris underwent more than 50 surgeries and two years of rehabilitation to save his feet, but ultimately made the difficult decision to have them both amputated below the knee.
While in rehab at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Butler met his wife Laura, a volunteer for Operation Second Chance, at the time. Butler and his wife, who received support and encouragement from various nonprofits during Butler’s recovery, decided to pay it forward and founded Blasting for the Brave, an organization committed to promoting and supporting military charities.
Butler is the recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Award. After successful completion of Able Flight’s six-week flight school held at Purdue University’s Department of Aviation Technology, Butler receives a call sign, earns a pilot’s license and receives his wings at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh airshow in July 2017.
Lockheed Martin’s support for the Able Flight program sets an important example of standing behind our military service members both in and out of uniform,” Butler said. “It is very fitting that a firm that started in the aviation industry more than 100 years ago is now supporting veterans as they earn their very own pilot wings. By earning my wings, I will have an opportunity to find freedom from physical limitations as an amputee, while pursuing a new and very technical skillset.”
Butler has a special connection to Lockheed Martin. One of Butler’s uncles worked for Lockheed Martin for more than 20 years. Butler feels a sense of pride being able to take to the skies with the help of a company he has a personal connection to.
“Lockheed Martin is honored to provide these heroes opportunities to take to the skies and conquer the seas,” said Orlando Carvalho, Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “These two recipients embody the courage and sacrifice of the men and women who serve our nation, and they represent what this scholarship and the mission of our organization is about. We look forward to honoring them at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.”
Every day is a day to celebrate Capt. Butler, Staff Sgt. Keys and all veterans for their sacrifice, service to our nation and unbreakable fighting spirit.