Warrior Flight Team, one of Alpha's corporate philanthropies, is dedicated to helping wounded military veterans transition back into civilian life by providing opportunities and scholarships for job placement and training. This includes meeting with military veterans and their families, giving rides in one of the two team fighter jets, and providing connections for job training in a variety of fields, as well as performing at air shows and other events to raise awareness for their cause. Alpha Industries is proud to partner with Warrior flight Team to help fund their efforts and help to provide scholarships to wounded veterans.
One of these wounded veterans is LCpl Eli Tice. Growing up in Charlestown , West Virginia, Eli knew at an early age that he wanted to serve his country in the military. His father, grandfather, and brother had all served in the Marine's, and as early as sixth grade Eli knew that he wanted to as well. After graduating high school in 2008, Eli enlisted at the age of 17.
After finishing basic training at Parris Island, S.C., Eli went to infantry school and was assigned to Alpha Company in the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Tice's unit was deployed to Nawdeh in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province in March of 2009. His unit primarily patrolled the surrounding areas, guarded the base and monitored prisoners.
"We'd go out and engage populace, try to let them know we're the good guys and that we have a lot to offer them and we would help them if they helped us," Eli said.
This proved difficult where the locals were more scared of retribution from the Taliban than they were interested in helping occupying forces.
LCpl Eli Tice, U.S. Marines
In the month that he was there, Eli advanced himself and became a Team Leader. As Eli explained "I was first-team leader, and had a little more responsibility. We went out with other squads to do patrols and show them where to walk and what to look for; basically how to get around the area."
The Marines had to pay special attention to possible IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) that were commonly placed throughout the area.
After spending the night outside the base with another squad, Eli returned to base, rested for about an hour and went back out with his own squad. Before heading back to base after the second patrol, the unit decided to take a short break. They headed to an abandoned compound, forming two single-file lines, with an engineer sweeping for mines at the head of each line. Eli was the second person in his line, when the engineer in front of him stepped over an IED that the metal detector didn't pick up.
"All I remember was I was walking and then I felt like I was floating in the air, my ears were ringing. I didn't feel any pain but I knew what was happening. The guy in front of me was yelling because either the smoke hadn't cleared or they couldn't see me," Eli recalls. "I knew right away I had lost something. I had seen this before, now it was happening to me. I struggled to open my eyes as they were covered with dirt from the blast. I saw only one boot, my right wrist was hanging 180 degrees from normal, it was like I could scratch my elbow with my hand on the same arm. My left hand looked like it had been cut up with a meat cleaver."
Even then, Eli's main focus was his squad. He continued talking to the members of his team while they waited for a medic, trying to keep them calm.
After securing the area, Eli's squad pulled him out of the compound and applied tourniquets to stop the bleeding. He was flown to Landstuhl, Germany for two or three days to be stabilized, and then flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Eli was transported to Walter Reed in Bethesda, where he had more than 20 surgeries. He had lost his right leg from the knee down, his right thumb, and had shattered his left wrist to the extent that many of the bones had to be replaced with metal. He was hospitalized for a month before beginning physical therapy and being fitted for a prosthetic leg. While in the hospital, Tice was awarded the Purple Heart, a military honor given to members of the armed forces who are wounded or killed while serving.
During his recovery, Eli had the opportunity to meet a double-amputee who was a demonstration parachute jumper from the Army’s elite parachute team, The Golden Knights. He also happened to be a pilot. Eli realized "If he could fly, so can I." While at the Martinsburg Air Show, Eli met Pat Marsh from Warrior Flight Team. Pat took Eli for a ride in his black L-39 jet, the Vandy-1, and then asked if Eli wanted to learn to fly. Pat introduced Eli to Kevin and Ann Rychlik of American Helicopters, a helicopter training school and charter service in Manassas, VA. They provided a half-hour demonstration, which was enough for Eli to know that he wanted to become a helicopter pilot. Through a scholarship, Eli completed initial pilot training, and today works at American Helicopters. He is pursuing his A & P (airplane mechanics license), and after that will obtain instrument training, with the end goal of being a commercial pilot.
While visiting the Freedom Museum at Manassas Regional Airport (where American Helicopters is based), the Alpha team had the opportunity to meet Eli, and to present him with a limited-edition Alpha Industries Vandy MA-1. Proceeds from the Vandy line of jackets go directly to Warrior Flight Team to fund their efforts to provide scholarships to wounded veterans.
Eli meets Alpha CEO Mike Cirker, and Director of Military Sales Mike "Cowboy" McCartin, and is presented with his very own Alpha Vandy MA-1.
Watch Eli on WJLA News 7:
*Sources: LCpl Eli Tice, FreedomMuseum.org, www.journal-news.net