It started with a conversation at a local Starbuck’s while CD was waiting for his coffee. I went back in to see what the hold up was and CD introduced me to Bob Lopez. Bob was telling him about his son who had just returned from a tour in Iraq and would be picking up his brand new Harley at a local Harley dealer over the 4th of July weekend. There was more to the story though than a soldier picking up a new bike. Sergeant Joseph “Joey” M. Ornelas received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and Bob proudly explained to us why.
It seems that Joey and two other soldiers were on foot patrol going door to door near Baghdad when a remotely detonated bomb exploded. Joey’s interpreter was killed immediately and his other buddy was hit strategically in the shoulder with a piece of shrapnel. Joey, with no regard for his own life, pulled his fellow soldier to safety while others fled. Joey then removed the shrapnel and secured the wound to keep his friend from bleeding out until they could be evacuated. When Joey returned to Washington he went to the hospital to see the recovering soldier whose life he had saved and presented him with the shrapnel taken from his shoulder. He then reached in his pocket and gave the wounded young man his Medal with Valor modestly telling him “you deserve this more than I do.”
When Bob finished telling us this story, I made it a point to meet Joey and his family when he picked up his 2008 Road King Classic. I arrived at the dealership and met Joey’s mom Stephanie, his sister Army Specialist Kristi Lopez, Bob Lopez, Joey’s daughter Mariah and Joey’s best friend that he enlisted in the Army with, Specialist Miles Davenport. Joey’s sister has also recently returned from Iraq and is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan and will be placing her order for a new Harley. A representative from Overseas Military Sales, Tom Youngblood was also on hand and presented Joey with a Harley Davidson leather jacket. Overseas Military Sales offers members of the military deployed overseas a unique opportunity to purchase a Harley-Davidson or Buell through a special sales program. Go to www.encs.com to get all the details.
Joey is quiet and unassuming. He probably wonders what all the fuss is about. But, I had the privilege of sitting with him for a couple of hours and learning about his experience in Iraq. To our men and women who serve there it’s business as usual, but after spending time with Joey it is anything but usual. I was humbled and reminded of how great this country of ours is and how we should never take our freedom for granted. It was appropriate that he was able to pick up in his bike on the weekend we celebrate our independence. Ride on Joey and enjoy that brand new Road King Classic!
A Grateful American, Lori McCammon