NFM Salute (November 2020): Jamie Willis, US Army Veteran
2020 11-02 | NFM TV
November is a month for showing gratitude and giving thanks, so we picked the perfect month to feature our November NFM Salute, Army Veteran Jamie Willis. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more devoted Veteran than Willis, who even in his civilian life, has not stopped serving. It’s our humble honor to feature Willis and share his story.
Full Transcript is Below:
- Welcome to our November NFM Salute. I'm your host, Greg Sher. November is such a special month for our Veterans. We've got Veterans Day and of course we've got later in the month, Thanksgiving. And what a special guest we have today to commemorate both. We're gonna go down to Copperas Cove, Texas and welcome in Jamie Willis. He's an Army Veteran, served in Desert Storm and also Desert Shield in the early '90s. Jamie, thank you for being with us on NFM TV. How are you?
- I'm doing great, and I'm happy to be here with you.
- Let's first start off with your years of service. You gave this country over 10 years. What can you tell us about your time overseas in Desert Storm and Desert Shield?
- It was a rough time. Not really knowing when we first deployed how long we would be there, what the situation would actually be like, the threat of chemical warfare. It was a real terrifying time. I mean, just driving around, you know, you'd see burnt vehicles with bodies hanging out. It's just not something that, being that young, I was really prepared to see. But you also have that feeling of, you know, I joined the Army to serve my country, and this is exactly what I'm doing, and this is exactly what I signed up for.
- You took me on a tour around your house a couple of days ago, and you've got a flag on nearly every wall. Why is the flag so important to you?
- The flag represents our freedom. It's what I fought for. It's what I served for. I even have flag boots on.
- Prove it. Please, prove it. I need you to prove it. Come on, take one of those things off. I've never heard of flag boots. Wow, amazing. Those are gorgeous. Jamie, I cannot wait to share what you've been able to accomplish in your life giving back to Veterans. But before we do that, I want to talk about what it was like for you to re-immerse yourself in society when you got back from Desert Shield and Desert Storm. You had quite a few jobs. What was it like to put yourself back in society?
- It was hard. I mean, I did enjoy some of the jobs like driving the school bus. I enjoyed working with the kids, but there was still something missing. And then I came back to working with the military.
- And indeed you did go right back to your passion, your love for military, You are an expert in the MRAP vehicle. The acronym is Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. Tell us about your experience training other soldiers how to navigate that very powerful device for eight years.
- Yes, I worked on the MRAP project. I started out at what they call MRAP University up in Texarkana, Texas as an instructor. The power of it is pretty amazing. It's designed to where if it takes a blast from underneath the soldiers inside are safe.
- [Greg] And what's it like to be in it when a device does detonate from underneath it?
- It's scary. It's really scary. It's loud. But if you're strapped in correctly, it can save your life.
- And so now you have decided to give back to others. You've got such a remarkable mission and journey you're on through Canes For Veterans Central Texas. You make canes for other Veterans. How many canes have you made to date and what got you into giving back in that way?
- Today, we've made a little over 400 canes. And what got me into it is from my back injury, back in Desert Storm, from over the years, my back has gotten worse and worse, and I needed the use of a cane. Well, the cane that the VA gave me, the metal cane kept breaking. So I contacted a gentleman in Florida who's also doing the same thing I'm doing now, but he sat down and walked me through this process of making canes.
- When you first started out on your mission, you were actually going to the curb side of people's homes and taking debris, anything having solid wood. And you would sit there with a handsaw and cut the wood, right on site.
- Yes, last year I put it up on my page here in my local community to don't throw out your Christmas trees, that I'll take your Christmas trees. And it just blew up overnight. And the next thing I know CNN was calling me, and I received over 3600 Christmas trees.
- I want you to pull one of those canes out. I understand you've got a few with you right now. Show us what the canes are made of. You can just grab one cane for me and show us exactly what it looks like.
- Yeah, this one is made from a Christmas tree, and I've stripped all the bark off of it. This one's going to a gentleman who was in the 9th Infantry Division during Vietnam. It's got a cedar handle. Every handle we do ends up with a round in the end of it, a spent casing. It's coated with epoxy.
- Jamie, you talked to me, as we were getting to know each other, about the symbolism between the cane and the man. Can you expound on that for our audience?
- If you think about the Christmas tree and the service member, they're treated the same. They're taken when they're young, they're decorated up, they're used. And at the end of the season, they're both thrown away. But what I'm doing is I'm taking that Christmas tree. I'm stripping it back down and starting over. Then I take it, and I turn it into a cane. It's solid again. It's strong. And I give it to the Veteran as a symbol to show that, you know, you're still solid. You're still strong. You are still worth something.
- Like I said, a perfect story for Thanksgiving. And I'm gonna take this a step further, because I know donations mean everything to you right now as you continue to get this 501c3 off the ground. Typically our donation is $2,500. I'm gonna up that to $5,000. It is Thanksgiving, and you look shocked. I just want to thank you. I know you're doing so much for Veterans out there, and I know how much they appreciate you. And I'm hoping that $5,000 will really make an impact on your business.
- Hang on. Oh, I don't know what to say. Oh, thank you.
- So we'll get that check right out. And I also wanna guide people to go to vetcanes.com to make a donation. You can see how much a donation means to Jamie. He's given his life for this country. And now he's giving more of his time and sacrifice to appreciate other Veterans who have served. Jamie Willis, Army Veteran, and cane enthusiast, a flag lover, a USA lover. Really appreciate your time. And again, thank you so much for your service and for agreeing to be our November NFM Salute.
- Thank you.
- Thanks so much, Jamie. I'm Greg Sher from NFM TV. Hope you've enjoyed this special NFM Salute. We'll see you next time.