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2012 TORCH AWARDS ADOPT A FAMILY

John Travis Howard

 

John is a 43 year old wounded warrior, and single father who is raising his 17 year old daughter, Leticia.  John grew up in Barstow and is the youngest of 9 children. At the age of 18, he entered the Army to “stay out of trouble”. After 6 ½ years of as a gunner in a helicopter, his military career came to an end, when the helicopter he was in crashed during a training exercise in Korea and shattered his shoulder.

 

When John received his medical discharge, the transition to civilian life was difficult (which his marriage was a casualty of) and he found himself depressed and homeless for 6 months.  After reaching his lowest point, John returned home to his mother where he reconnected with his daughter Leticia. When John’s mother passed away, he went into a severe and deep depression and was diagnosed with PTSD.

 

Veteran John Howard and daughter Leticia, and Maritza
and Veteran Richard Hicks

During his treatment, John and his daughter bonded and saved one another from a life of despair. Eventually, John decided to go back to school where he pursued and received an Associate Arts degree in electrical construction. After graduation, John landed a job as an electrician but unfortunately reinjured his shoulder.  Confident and assured, John realized that in order to achieve his employment goals he would need to return to school and pursue a career that would not require him to be as physical.

 

Currently attending Cal State University Dominguez Hills, John is studying public administration and working at LA Trade Tech assisting military vets in obtaining their benefits, which is preparing him for law school where he will concentrate on social justice and public interest.

 

When asked about his injuries, he says, ”Pain is something I have learned to live with, but I can’t live without my daughter.” A proud Dad and a United States of America Disabled Veteran, John continues to face physical and mental obstacles transitioning back into a productive civilian, but he contributes his relentless spirit to the memory of his mother, who saved his life and instilled in him, to pray for knowledge

 

 

 

 

Ricky and Maritza Hicks

 

Among veterans, he is known for “no guts, all glory,” and I will explain.  At 18 years old Ricky Hicks was attacked by a group of eight men outside a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida and that single experience changed his life.  His mother fearing her son would act out in retaliation, sent him to Tallahassee, and told him, “You’re going to college, or you’re going into the military.  You’re not about to get lost to these streets over some foolishness.” Ricky eventually settled on the air force.

 

In April of 2006, Ricky was deployed on his first overseas mission to Iraq where he was going on convoys and pulling security. Ricky excelled at his job and immediately began getting accolades from his superiors for being so well prepared, diligent and disciplined.

 

While in Iraq, Ricky woke up with strong stomach pains and eventually lost consciousness. After a brief exam, the doctor concluded he had food poisoning, was treated for dehydration, andsent back to his room. Four days later, Ricky could not walk and was rushed to surgery, where the doctors realized that he had been misdiagnosed. Ricky’s appendix had ruptured and the toxins had seeped throughout his blood stream shutting down his internal organs. As a result, his gall bladder, appendix, spleen, and intestines were all removed.

 

In March of 2008, Ricky returned to Iraq as a Truck Commander in the security forces, when his vehicle flipped over. This time he returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury, 80% loss of hearing in his right ear, constant ringing in both ears, and limited range of motion in his right knee and elbow.

 

In March 2011, Ricky was medically retired from the Air Force and entered the Wounded Warrior program, which has helped him to transition into civilian life. By focusing on the mind, body, and spirit, Ricky will graduate from the program in July and begin looking for a security job. As Ricky says, “as veterans we all have different journeys, but we all walk hand in hand and we are proud to call ourselves Wounded Warriors”