Cincinnati USO Fundraiser Honors Troops Injured in the Line of Duty

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Annual Tribute to U.S. Armed Services

The USO Riverfest Gala committee today announced the military honorees who will be recognized at the 2007 USO Riverfest Gala, Sunday, September 2, at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. Benefiting the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro), each year the USO Riverfest Gala honors all U.S. military personnel and pays tribute to the selected servicemen and servicewomen recently injured in the line of duty. The event was conceived and developed by an all-volunteer committee and is presented this year by Betty & Robert Lindner, Edyth & Carl Lindner and honorary co-chairs Dean & Anne Kereiakes and other generous sponsors.

The 2007 USO Riverfest Gala Honorees include:

  •     Specialist Sue Downes, U.S. Army of Tazewell, TN
  •     Specialist Natasha McKinnon, U.S. Army of Ashtabula, OH
  •     Sergeant Nathan D. Toews, U.S. Army of Kingsburg, CA
  •     Corporal Chad Watson, U.S. Marine Corps of Mount Zion, IN
  •     Specialist Richard Yarosh, U.S. Army from Upstate New York

Each honoree has a unique story about his or her service to our country, but collectively they share a commonality of dedication and valor. Attendees of the USO RiverfestGala will have the opportunity to meet these outstanding individuals and hear their stories.

Specialist Sue Downes, U.S. Army of Tazewell, TN, deployed to Afghanistan in February 2006 with a military police company. Spc. Downes was part of a convoy of Humvees headed for a humanitarian relief mission in a remote village, when two mines with the added power of mortar and rocket-propelled grenades detonated under the road. She sustained a fractured femur, two shattered kneecaps, shrapnel wounds and suffered internal damage. Her injuries required amputation of both legs and 10 surgeries.

Specialist Natasha McKinnon, U.S. Army of Ashtabula, OH, joined the Army in 2003 after attending Kent State University. Trained as a logistics supply specialist, she deployed to Iraq in June 2005 to perform security duties for convoy missions. As a passenger in a Humvee convoy mission, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded through the front seat. Spc. McKinnon sustained injures to both her legs, requiring the amputation of her left leg and surgery for shrapnel injuries to her right leg. In 2006, Spc. McKinnon participated in the Paralympics.

Sergeant Nathan D. Toews, U.S. Army of Kingsburg, CA, enlisted in 2003 and trained as a mechanic. Following an eight-month deployment in Iraq, Sgt. Toews was deployed to Afghanistan, supporting the 10th Mountain Division. While serving in Afghanistan, his convoy was ambushed and caught in firefight lasting more than 24 hours, and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) injured Sgt. Toews. In addition to shrapnel that peppered his body, Sgt. Toews suffered a traumatic brain injury and life-threatening injuries, putting him in a two-week coma. His recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has included multiple skull and eye reconstructive surgeries.

Corporal Chad Watson, U.S. Marine Corps of Mount Zion, IN, joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 2004 while attending Indiana University. After only two months in Iraq during 2006, an IED detonated under his Humvee while patrolling Fallujah. Cpl. Watson suffered a traumatic amputation of his right leg, along with shrapnel wounds to his face and right arm. Following eight surgeries, he is receiving physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Cpl. Watson has received a Purple Heart and a promotion for his actions in Fallujah.

Specialist Richard Yarosh, U.S. Army from Upstate New York, joined the U.S. Army as a calvary scout in 2004. After deploying to Iraq, he volunteered to serve as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In 2006, his Bradley was hit with an IED, causing an explosion igniting the fuel cell. Flames immediately engulfed the Bradley. Spc. Yarosh suffered third-degree burns to 60 percent of his body and lost a portion of his leg. After spending months in intensive care, he has been receiving physical therapy at the Intrepid Center at Fort Sam Houston.

Over the prior three years, the USO Riverfest Gala has recognized and honored 12 military heroes. Previous USO Riverfest Fireworks Gala honorees and veterans are expected to be in attendance at this year's benefit.

Previous local honorees include White Oak native Lance Corporal Carl J. Schneider, U.S. Marine Corps; Staff Sergeant John Borders, U.S. Army, of London, Ohio; Grosbeck native Corporal Daniel Hamberg, U.S. Marine Corps; Staff Sergeant Paul Brondhaver, U.S. Army, Ohio National Guard; U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Ryan Groves of Ravenna, Ohio; and U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Joseph Bowser of Georgetown, Kentucky.

About the 2007 Riverfest Gala
The USO Riverfest Gala is held each year along the Ohio River at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. It is a patriotic evening that pays tribute to all military personnel along with the honored military guests who have been recently injured in the line of duty. Brigadier General Foley, U.S. Army and Rear Admiral Wachendorf, U.S. Navy are participating in the military tribute. Former Cincinnati Bengals Anthony Muñoz, will emcee the event, which includes a seated dinner as well as live entertainment from Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson, the Capital Sound Ensemble from the 257th Army Band featuring Specialist Vicki Golding, U.S.Army, winner of the 2006 Military Idol competition, and the American Belles. The Gala also offers attendees a spectacular view of the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN fireworks. All proceeds benefit USO- Metro, funding programsand services for soldiers and their families. Visit for additional information.

About the USO
The USO is chartered by Congress as a nonprofit charitable organization to meet the human service needs of our military service personnel and their families and is not part of the United States government. Each U.S. President has been the Honorary Chairman of the USO since its inception. The mission of the USO is to provide morale, welfare and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel and their families. The USO currently operates 130 centers around the world, including 10 mobile canteens. The USO is the way the American public supports the troops.

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