Heroes of Independence Day

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

United States Army veterans Billy Gates, left, and Danny Nall were awarded the Alabama Legislature Medal of Honor last month during a special ceremony in Birmingham to honor wounded warriors. Gates served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, while Nall’s service came during Operation Desert Storm.

As the Fourth of July holiday is celebrated around the country today, two local veterans are fresh from a ceremony awarding them for the efforts in the fight to keep America free.

Atmore residents Billy Gates and Danny Nall, were presented with the Alabama Legislature Medal of Honor Friday, June 22 in Birmingham as   members of the first group to ever receive this honor.  A proclamation signed by Gov. Robert Bentley on Feb. 28, stated the purpose of this medal included, “honoring Alabama wounded warriors, disabled veterans and fallen service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

An application was sent to selected veterans through the Wounded Warriors Battalion.

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“Any wounded warrior within the state of Alabama, from 2000 back to Desert Storm to present that had been wounded or deemed disabled by the Veterans Administration was eligible,” Gates said.

This paperwork required Gates and Nall to verify information concerning missions and operations in which they were involved while serving in the United States Army. After completing the paperwork, Gates and Nall were notified that they, along with other Alabama veterans, would receive the honor.

Gates and Nall were awarded the Alabama Legislature Medal of Honor during the Alabama Sports Festival Opening Ceremonies as part of Alabama Sports Festival Foundation’s “Honoring Our Heroes” series. According to the proclamation, the Alabama Sports Festival Foundation began the program in order to “teach Alabama student-athletes good citizenship by highlighting the sacrifices made by others to keep our country a free and safe society.”

Since the establishment of this program in 2000, the Alabama Sports Festival has honored law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, teachers and, in Gates’ and Nall’s cases, war veterans.

Gates suffered a shoulder injury while on a mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During a mortar attack, Gates was moving into a bunker when his shoulder was driven backward and separated. His wife Linda, said, having a spouse in the military is stressful and a he or she being wounded only adds to the tumult.

“It was distressing to find out about his injury,” she said.

After two surgeries and much therapy, Gates said his shoulder still has aches and pains; however, he is thankful to have not lost a limb.

The wives of Gates and Nall, Linda Gates and Sandra Nall, respectively, presented the men with the medals at the ceremony.  Both wives said they are very proud of their husbands and thankful that the men were recognized.