A young D.C. veteran’s long journey to independence to be recognized
Bronze Star to be awarded to severely injured graduate of The Citadel six years after his injury
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Citadel Club of Greater Washington, with the support of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, will hold a special event to champion a 30 year old graduate of the college who will be awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone. The award comes six years after First Lieutenant Russell Kaufmann, who while serving with the District of Columbia National Guard, was hit in the neck by sniper fire while on a combat mission near Tikrit, Iraq, on January 28, 2008.
"Graduates of The Citadel have served our nation with distinction since 1842, and the sacrifices our alumni and their families have made to secure our freedom provide tangible expressions of the values we learned at The Citadel," said Neil J. Couch, president for The Citadel Club of Greater Washington. "Lt. Kaufmann continues to beat the odds, and we cannot be more proud of him and The Citadel graduates who stepped forward to ensure Russell had everything he needed to succeed."
Kaufmann, a graduate of The Citadel Class of 2006, will be at the center of a special event to be held from 8:30-10a.m., May 3, 2014, at Springfield Golf and Country Club. The club is located at 8301 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield, Va. Graduates of The Citadel, veterans, supporters of veterans and members of the media are encouraged to attend to support Lt. Kaufmann as he is presented with the Bronze Star, and to recognize The Citadel's other alumni killed or wounded in The War on Terror.
"After learning that Lt. Kaufmann would receive the U.S. Army's Bronze Star years after his medical retirement began, we decided to hold a formal event honoring all of our brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives to secure our freedom, and especially those whose lives, like Russell's, have been dramatically altered," said Alex Burgess, former U.S. Army officer and member of The Citadel's Class of 1993.
Kaufmann's bullet wound resulted in traumatic brain injuries and severe physical disabilities. He experienced multiple strokes during transport from the battlefield to Walter Reed National Medical Center, and continues to overcome the obstacles stacked against him, working every day to improve his speech and mobility. Lt. Kaufmann is considering a career in law in the years ahead.
"To date, 19 Citadel alumni have been killed in action or in died in support of operations in the War on Terror. Lt. Kaufmann symbolizes the war that right now is the closest to our hearts. We want to welcome our combat veterans home, particularly those injured in the War on Terror, and help them integrate back into civilian life to bring their talents into our communities," Burgess added.
The current Commandant of Cadets for The Citadel, Col. Leo Mercado, will travel from the college's Charleston, S.C. campus to support the event. Also attending from Charleston is the executive director of The Citadel Alumni Association, Mike Rogers.
Hundreds of graduates of The Citadel live in the greater Washington area, including Baltimore and Richmond, Va. All are encouraged to attend the breakfast event which requires a $25 per person ticket.
Proceeds from the event will help support The Citadel War Memorial Fund, a campaign to fund the construction of a memorial dedicated to all of the colleges graduates killed in the line of duty since The Citadel was founded in 1842.