Serving  North San Diego County

North San Diego County

The Paper - Escondido San Marcos North County 
Cover Story
Daily Chuckle
Local News
Social Butterfly
Letters to the Editor
Professional Advice
.....The Computer
.....Your Body Can
..... Heal Itself!
Pet of the Week
Capitol Report
Service Directory
Business & Professions
Where to find
The Paper
How to Subscribe
Contact Us
Search the site











Cover Story March 5th, 2009

  Untitled Document

Operation Hero

by lyle e davis

L-R, Lyle Davis, Program Chair, Operation Hero, Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler, Sgt. Ryan Kahlor, Escondido Police Lieutenant Craig Carter.
S/Sgt Daniel Strong
Michael Worthey
Corporal Christopher Shelhamer
Corporal Josh Elmore
Sgt. Rodney Coakley
Lance Corporal Christopher Wright

It was a very special morning.

About the only eyes that weren't filled with tears at a recent Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club meeting were those of 7-month old Taylor Beberniss, the daughter of Sgt. Nicholas (Nick) and Leslie Beberniss. She was about the only one who was not aware that she was part of a very special event. The rest of us were awestruck by the description of the mission and subsequent serious injuries of Sgt. Beberniss.

On July 21, 2004, Nick’s High Back (Hummer) was blown up by a double stacked Anti Tank Mine. The force of the blast blew him 180ft. from his vehicle. He sustained a broken back, two broken legs, shattered rib cage, punctured lung, head trauma, numerous cuts and lesions. He was stabilized in Iraq then flown to Germany, where he underwent multiple surgeries. He was then flown to the USA. Nick arrived at the Naval Medical Center San Diego on Leslie's birthday - August 3, 2004. The next day he was awarded his Purple Heart.

Nick endured many long months of rehabilitation. His goal was to stay in the Marine Corps. He achieved this goal by being the 1st injured Marine to re-enlist and be granted Permanent Limited Duty by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee. The event took place on September 15, 2006, and the Commandant was in San Diego to personally present him with his re-enlistment papers.

A year later, on September 26, 2007, Nick and Leslie welcomed their first child, a little girl named Taylor.

On January 18, 2008, Nick endured yet another challenge by having an elective amputation of his right leg, from the mid leg down. The amputation was performed due to the many complications he had with his foot and ankle from the injuries sustained in Iraq, including constant/severe pain. He continues to recover from his most recent surgery. Nick’s goal remains the same….he plans to stay in the Marine Corps as long as they will allow him. He hopes to eventually be fitted for a permanent prosthesis that will allow him to run and do all of the physical activities he used to do.

At the conclusion of the program, Escondido's Mayor, Lori Holt Pfeiler, presented a check from the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club for $500 to Sgt. Beberniss.

Then the miracles began to happen.

Corporal Jeremiah Hill, USMC

Members of the audience realized the day as being a very special one. As Program Chair for Operation Hero I read a moving letter from an anonymous donor who presented an additional check for $1000 to the Sergeant and his family. There were tears in more than one retired Marine's eyes. Then, several of those retired Marines in the audience also added $100 bills. One Marine walked up after the program and placed a fresh, crisp $100 bill in the hand of young Taylor.

She immediately began to chew on it.

Sonja Dugan, who works with severely injured Marines regularly as part of her job with Military Severely Injured Center, and whom you would think would be somewhat hardened to this type of thing, had tears in her eyes as well when the program came to a close. This family had kinda fallen through the cracks and had not gotten the breaks they should have . . . so this morning’s outpouring of financial aid and compassion was especially meaningful to them, and to her.

It was a very special morning. None of these extra rewards are, or were, sought or promoted. It was simply the hearts speaking to each Kiwanian present and they were moved to respond.

Operation Hero has caught the eyes and hearts of Kiwanians throughout North San Diego County. The Kiwanis Club of Escondido (the noon club - the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Clubs the morning club) have opted to replicate the Operation Hero program. At the same time, the Rancho Bernardo Kiwanis Club will also replicate the Operation Hero program. It is our hope that others of the 19 Kiwanis Clubs that serve North San Diego County will adopt this program so more and more wounded warriors get the recognition they so richly deserve. The recognition and modest financial stipend means a great deal to these members of our military forces.

Sergeant Ryan Kahlor, US Army

Though $500 is not a lot of money, it is to a young enlisted man, particularly when he, or she, does not know it's coming. Often, we have individual Kiwanians who will be moved to assist the wounded warrior over and above the $500 reward. For example, our most recent warrior, US Army Sergeant Ryan Kahlor received his $500 but Dave Geary from the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club was so moved by Sgt. Kahlor’s story that he put him in touch with a plumber and a roofer. The young man had just bought a house in Escondido. The roofing was done, no charge. The plumbing was done, no charge (other than materials). The plumbing was a $12,000 value, the roofing probably $5000. There were four plumbers that did the work.

Steve Vargo, with whom we work quite often, is a former medic who treated wounded military. While publicly he is cool, calm, collected and rather quiet, you only need to talk to him privately to see the passion with which he serves these young men and women. He's a class act. Sonja Dugan is also a class act. All the folks with the Military Severely Injured Center are class acts. They could make a lot more money elsewhere in private industry. They choose to serve our military. I love 'em all.

Following Sergeant Kahlor’s recognition at our most recent Operation Hero program, we received the following note from Steve Vargo:

“Thanks for the pictures, Lyle. It is so nice to see the smile on Ryan’s face. I think that the fact that there is such an outpouring of compassion and interest given so freely makes a huge impact on these service members, especially for those who have such deep hidden wounds.

As you said it so well to the group. brain injury and the agony of severe PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder) can be as devastating and crippling as any physical injury. In general, those who suffer these (invisible) injuries without noticeable physical injuries (although Ryan did also suffer multiple physical injuries) are perceived to be ‘OK’ and expected to perform in like manner. If you check the statistics you will see that the documented cases of suicide among the military, especially the Army and Marines, have risen dramatically in the past several years.

It is functions and people like the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club that show these men and women that they are not only valuable but loved and respected.

I continually worry for these individuals, but witnessing and participating in functions such as yours reinforces my belief that most of these men and women will recover from their devastating injuries and successfully move on in their lives. God knows, they have paid dearly for it.

Also, to let you know the latest. Dave Geary (of the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club and owner of Dave’s Computer Repair) has already checked Ryan’s house and set him up with a plumber to replace the pipes. He has also checked other problems in the house and possibly providing additional assistance.

Thanks again Lyle for spearheading this program. It has and continues to make a big difference in these warriors lives. One does not always have to be in the military to be a Hero”.

Sgt. Rodney Coakley, USMC

Sergeant Rodney Coakley:
Another Marine, Evelyn Madison and I invited into our home on a Saturday is Sgt. Rodney Coakley. (He could have stayed all weekend but he had dogs up in Temecula that he was worried about. He wanted to make sure his dogs were getting fed and loved.)

Sgt. Coakley has had a rough time since he was injured. He had come upon hard times financially while he was awaiting the starting of college and the receipt of his pension from the Veteran’s Administration.
When he left our home that day, he left with a brand new crockpot and about $100 worth of groceries and some cash to spend as he saw fit.

Another note from Steve Vargo:

“Hi Lyle,

Thank You , Thank You.

You cannot imagine how grateful Rodney was when he received all of the support given to him yesterday. This kid has been defeated so many times, despite his efforts, since he was discharged from the Marine Corp. In fact his valiant efforts contributed to his worsening physical and emotional condition. As we mentioned, he is now on track to go to school with the assistance of the GI Bill, and the VA Vocational Rehab.

The Kiwanis’ warm welcome and generosity did a lot to boost this Marines spirits. His words to me after the program were to the effect of ‘I forgot that there were people like this out there.’

From L-R, Then Escondido City Councilman Ed Gallo, Corporal Michael Worthey, USMC, his wife, Ashleigh, Judy Dugan, with the Military Severely Injured Organization

Lyle, the gift of money was important, but without family support to help Rodney, the support of your club was timely and appreciated. In the past nearly two years he has had no one to pat him on the back for his efforts; yesterday the Hidden Valley Kiwanis gave another very important boost to this veteran’s morale.

I have said before but it bears repeating. Thank You!

Steve Vargo
Counselor Advocate
Military Severely Injured Center

Corporal Michael Worthey is from Kansas originally; he was wounded on April 4, 2006, in the market place near Abu Ghraib, Iraq. A wall blew up and he was thrown some distance away; when he became conscious he was screaming, his corpsman and a fellow Marine were applying a tourniquet to his left leg and checking for other injuries. Within five minutes the medevac was there, removing him to the hospital.

He has had 10 surgeries to date, with more to come. He had received a stage three concussion with memory loss, has shrapnel in his left leg, left arm, lower part of his face, multiple scars on his face, arms and legs, a compound fracture of his fibula and three inches of his tibia was completely missing. He also has nerve damage to his foot, permanent vascular damage; he suffers from constant pain in his legs, ringing in his ears, and bilateral hearing loss. After being on crutches till mid-April, then a cane, he is now able to walk without assistance. He has recently received a brace which makes walking a little bit easier and a little less painful. He also has constant headaches from the concussion and there is probably brain damage, which is quite common for military troopers who have been exposed to explosive devices.

Corporal Joshua Elmore, USMC.

Corporal Elmore had three tours to Iraq, including one particuarly hot tour of duty in Fallujah, a hotbed of insurgent activity. “We had Fallujah bottled up tighter than a drum, then politics got involved and we were ordered to let them off the hook,” he says. He also said bringing the troops home now would be a tragic mistake.

On his third deployment he was assigned to Ramadi. It was here where he was wounded by a 122mm rocket that was fired into his camp on April 11th. He received wounds to both legs, both arms, the top of his head and throughout his back.

Corporal Jeremiah Hill, USMC.

Corporal Hill is married to Danielle and they have a 7 month old daughter named Hannah. Corporal Hill was actually injured twice. The first was when he was out on patrol in his Humvee and an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) detonated next to his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious from the blast for several minutes and suffered multiple injuries including a severe concussion. The second was while he was out on foot patrol and he again had an IED go off very close to him. This is another Marine that is lucky to be alive.

Corporal Hill now shows little signs of these injuries. He has suffered from a severe concussive injury and continues to receive medical attention at the San Diego Naval Hospital.

In the photo above, left to right, Operation Hero Chair Lyle Davis, Corporal Elmore, daughter Eliyah, and Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler
L-R, Then-President Maurice Weaver, Lyle Davis, Corporal Jeremiah Hill, then-City Councilmember Ed Gallo, Danielle Hill and daughter Hannah.


Lance Corporal Christopher Wright:
StrongLance Corporal Wright is recovering at Camp Pendleton Base Hospital from two separate IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) explosions which damaged his brain, leaving him with memory loss, daily migraine headaches, and vertigo. He will be medically discharged from the Marine Corps. Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler presented Lance Corporal Wright with a $500 check from the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club of Escondido.

Staff Sergeant Daniel Strong was awarded a check for $600 by former Escondido City Councilman Ed Gallo in recognition of his outstanding service.
And the last was the first. The first Operation Hero Program featured Corporal Christopher Shelhamer (see photo below).
And the last shall be first. The first Operation Hero Program featured Corporal Christopher Shelhamer (see photo above). He was given a check for $500 by Congressman Brian Bilbaray, a gift from the Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club.

Operation Hero continues to grow as more and more Kiwanis Clubs embrace the idea.

You, too, may participate in Operation Hero. If you’d like to be notified as to when the next Operation Hero event will be held near you, or if you’d like to join a local Kiwanis Club and get more active, call The Paper at 760.747.7119. Both lyle e davis and evelyn madison are Kiwanians. They’ll be happy to put you touch with the right people. Kiwanis is a great organization with great people. We’d love to have you!

Left to right, Marine Corporal Christopher Shelhamer, his wife Amanda, and Congressman Brian Bilbray
L-R, Lance Corporal Christopher Wright, his wife, Ashley, holding 8 week old Adriana, and
Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler





New Page 4