DIAMOND BAR, CA — Since returning to his home near Fort Bragg, N.C., Retired Army Master Sgt. Brian Porter, Purple Heart Recipient, has quickly learned that being the recipient of the Nexen Hero Jeep Gladiator on national TV Aug. 7 would make him a local celebrity and allow him to continue sharing his story of courage while motivating people with his amazing recovery efforts.
More than 1,000 Purple Heart recipients were nominated in the second iteration of the Nexen Hero program, an initiative by Nexen Tire America and the Purple Heart Foundation to give a custom vehicle to a deserving Purple Heart recipient, while helping bring awareness to wounded veterans and their continued need for support. Porter, who retired after 26 1/2 years on active duty, began his career in mechanized infantry and later joined the Rangers, eventually volunteering for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment and earning the U.S. Army’s coveted Green Beret. He finished his career at the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Command at Fort Bragg, serving almost ten years after the blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) nearly took his life.
Deployed to Iraq, Porter was hit by an IED in January 2004 and walked away with minimal injuries. However, two months later, he wasn’t so lucky and was hit with the full force of another IED that caused extensive damage to his face and body. After being medically evacuated back to the United States, Porter endured 34 different surgeries to his face and body, including plastic reconstructive and eye surgery, skin grafts and extensive dental reconstructive procedures. Porter’s 35th surgery is scheduled for later this year and there could be more.
While many soldiers would want to finish out their careers in safer locations, not Porter. After just three and a half years healing through rehabilitation, he went back to Iraq for two more deployments, both without incident. His courage and dedication to his fellow soldiers was remarkable and really stood out during the Nexen Hero selection process.
Since receiving the vehicle in August, Porter admits his life has changed a bit. He gets noticed everywhere and is constantly getting waved to and “thumbs up” signs when driving his Gladiator. But even more importantly, it’s given him an ability to share his story.
“I’m never afraid of telling people what happened to me 15 years ago, and sometimes it motivates these people when they hear my story,” said Porter. “The vehicle, being on TV and everything else that’s happened has been great because it’s allowed me to help others and remind folks what the Purple Heart is all about.”
Porter owes his friend and fellow exercise planner, Tim Toomey, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, to thank for the nomination. Toomey heard about last year’s Nexen Hero program, and since he had such great respect for Porter and what he’s been through, he jumped at the opportunity to nominate him. Toomey thought he had a good chance, but Porter was not so sure. “I didn’t think I could win anything, sort of like the sweepstakes, so I was like ‘Yeah, OK.’”
In addition to thanking Toomey for the nomination, Porter says none of this would have been possible without support from his wife Shawn and children Brian and Bailee. “I like to talk about my wife and my kids. My daughter was three and my son was six when this occurred, and my family was there the entire time. My wife answered the door when the Army told her what happened 15 years ago. She immediately had to ‘man up.’ She was there when I was in the hospital, when I had a tracheotomy in my throat – tubes, cables, heart rate monitors all connected to me – she’s been there from day one. She’s really the ‘hero behind the hero.’”
“Master Sgt. Porter is an incredible American and we are very happy he’s enjoying the Nexen Hero Jeep Gladiator. It’s an honor to know that Brian is getting the recognition he deserves and that he’s able to share his story, and the stories of fellow wounded veterans,” said John Hagan, executive vice president of sales for Nexen Tire America Inc. “We are proud to share his story, and we are thrilled to have him represent the Nexen Tire brand in the very patriotic town of Fort Bragg.”
Porter admitted he has never owned a Jeep before and plans on taking it into the Uwharrie National Forest near his home to try out the off-road capabilities of the Jeep Gladiator and experience the incredible traction of his new 35-inch Nexen Roadian MTX Xtreme off-road tires. The Nexen Hero Jeep Gladiator will also be featured in the Fayetteville Veteran’s Day parade Nov. 9 where Porter is being honored as the grand marshal.
In the meantime, Porter continues to offer motivation to his fellow soldiers and civilians who might feel like they’re having a bad day. Porter’s desk has two graphic images of his surgeries in progress and a 3-dimensinal scan of his skull showing the cracks and other damage from the IED blast next to a sign that says, “If you think you’re having a bad day, think again.”
About Purple Heart Foundation: The Purple Heart Foundation is a 501(c)3 Veteran Service Organization that fundraises for programs, services and resources that benefit veterans and their families. Over the past 60 years, the Purple Heart Foundation has funded academic scholarships, the MOPH National Service Officer program, research efforts and resources regarding veteran issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, grants for service dogs, and much more. The Purple Heart Foundation’s Mission is to holistically enhance the quality of life of all veterans and their families, providing them with direct service and fostering an environment of camaraderie and goodwill among combat wounded veterans.
About Nexen Tire: Inspired by Nexen’s global family of drivers to engineer superior performing tires – from championship-winning Formula DRIFT drivers, rock-climbing off-road enthusiasts to everyday commuters – Nexen Tire utilizes proprietary technology and the highest quality standards in the industry to guarantee world-class products backed by unrivaled customer support for the life of each tire. As a worldwide leader in high-performance, passenger, SUV / light truck and winter offerings, the company is second-to-none in research, development and state-of-the-art manufacturing. And as part of a select group of tire manufacturers worldwide that are specified as standard fitment on original equipment vehicles, Nexen delivers premium products at a sensible price.