USO Tribute Cincinnati 2016 Honorees
Herb Heilbrun – World War II
During World War II, Herb Heilbrun was the Airplane Commander of a B-17 Flying Fortress attached to the 15th Air Force, 301st Bomb Group, 32nd Squadron in Foggia, Italy. He flew 35 missions over Europe, logging 262 hours of combat time. A squadron leader, whose decorations include five major Battle Stars, four Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He completed his Air Corps tour of duty as a Test Pilot with the Bomber Branch of The Air Technical Service Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
Herb grew up in the same Cincinnati neighborhood with John Leahr, an African-American, but segregation kept them from knowing each other. In the war, Herb flew a B-17 bomber and John a P-51 fighter, but segregation again kept them apart.
In 1997, Herb attended a Cincinnati reunion of Tuskegee Airmen, who had flown cover for his squadron, finally met John and discovered their common backgrounds. The two became friends, and they spent 15 years presenting talks on the need for diversity.
Herb was awarded the prestigious Harvard Foundation medal in 2003 for his distinguished military service during WWII and his contributions to intercultural relations. In November 2014 he was elected to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Henry Armstrong – World War II
A Kentucky native, Henry Armstrong enlisted in the Army during World War II at the age of 18. He took basic training at Ft. Bragg, NC and then served all through France as part of the 3rd Army. He then went to Germany to fight the battle at the Crossing of the Rhine River and then continued on through the southern part of Germany. In Austria, he was part of the first unit to contact the Russians and they fired the last shot in WWII.
Upon his return to the US, he was discharged from Camp Atterbury in Indiana. He re-enlisted and served another 41 years, retiring in 1984.
Several family members currently serve in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. He has 6 children, 12 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren and 1 great great granddaughter.
Tony Murphy – Korean War
Tony Murphy enlisted in the US Army in 1949 and became a Gunnery Sergeant. He served 11 months in the Korean War, beginning in 1950, and fought in the battles at Heartbreak Ridge and Pusan. He was awarded Combat Action Ribbons and two Purple Hearts, among many other awards. Tony is a Westwood resident and a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 3620 in Cheviot.
Photo credit: Community Press
Gary Smith – Vietnam War
Originally from Cleveland, Gary Smith joined the US Navy in 1966 and served 28 months in combat, hostile fire and hazardous duty zones in Vietnam and surrounding areas of operation. He was involved in overt and covert operations on Navy vessels and with land forces as a Special Weapons/Ordinance Officer. He was officially released from active duty in 1970 as Lieutenant JG.
He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a BS in Design and went on to attend Xavier University’s Graduate School of Business. After his military discharge, he worked in the Packaging Advertising Design industry in many capacities from Creative Director to President/CEO and retired in December 2012.
Creighton Wright, MD – Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm
A native of Washington, D.C., Dr. Wright graduated from Duke University where he was an Angier B. Duke Scholar and an honor graduate, Alpha Omega Alpha, from Duke University Medical School. He completed his general and cardiovascular-thoracic surgical residencies at the University of Virginia before serving in Vietnam as a member of the Department of Surgery and Vascular Surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Colonel Wright then served in the US Army Reserve as commander of the 73rd Combat Support Hospital and then 256th General Hospital USAR. He was Chief of Professional Services for the 803rd Medical Group at King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia during The Gulf War. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Units under his professional guidance were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Dr. Wright has previously received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Medal (with bronze star), the Southwest Asia Service Medal with two service stars, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
Dr. Wright is a well-respected Cincinnati physician and currently serves as Vice President of Medical Affairs for Mercy Health – West Hospital.
Jon Meadows – Operation Enduring Freedom
Afghanistan Army National Guard Sergeant First Class Jon Meadows suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury in 2013 while serving in combat in Afghanistan. His injury affected his vision, cognition and fine motor skills. Melissa, his dedicated wife and caregiver, gave up her career as a nurse to tend to her husband and their 4 children. The family left their home in Connecticut so Jon could receive medical treatments at Fort Belvoir, VA.
USO staff and volunteers encouraged Jon to participate in art programs, where many wounded troops find healing. Jon picked up a paint brush and began his journey into the world of art. Despite having no experience, Jon soon discovered an innate talent for painting and drawing; though it would be his sculpting skills, revealed at the Art League’s IMPart (Injured Military Personnel and Art) classes that would define him as an artist. When First Lady
Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Prince Harry visited the USO, they marveled at Jon’s work, particularly one of his first sculptures, “Transitions.” Mrs. Obama was so impressed that she commissioned a sculpture for The President. Today, Jon’s artwork has been displayed at local studios and the family continues to visit the USO to take classes and encourage others.
Teresa Reer – Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan
Captain Reer, an Active Duty Occupational Therapist, was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in February 2009. A native of Ohio, she completed a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Spalding University in Louisville, KY and a doctorate from the Army-Baylor Doctor of Sciences in Occupational Therapy program in 2010.
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2012-2013, Captain Reer served as the Officer-in-Charge of the Role III Concussion Recovery Center at Kandahar Airfield. She led the team operating the second busiest of 11 concussion care centers theater-wide, treating over 400 injured service members. She established a concussion care course to train over 350 people and her efforts were critical in sustaining the fighting force. For her service, she received a Bronze Star
Medal as well as the NATO Medal. Captain Reer’s deployment ended when she sustained an injury in March 2013 requiring medical evacuation for medical care and rehabilitation.
She has remained resilient in her recovery and returned to her role as an occupational therapist. She was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Medical Specialist Corp Soldier of the Year in 2015. She plans to combine her experiences as a patient and clinician to pursue an academic and research career with an emphasis on teaching practitioners how to assist service members or veterans as they transition back to duty or to a meaningful civilian