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Bozeman to Receive George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award
As a part of the Military Appreciation celebration during this Saturday's football game, Liberty University will present the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award to recipient Steve Bozeman, a decorated veteran who continues to support his country and fellow servicemen and women.
Last year marked the inaugural presentation of the award, which was given to its namesake George Rogers, and will continue to be presented annually at a football game near Veterans Day. The award embodies Rogers' courage and will, as the former American soldier survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and three-and-a-half years in Japanese captivity. Upon becoming free, Rogers defied the doctors' bleak outlook. Now at the age of 92, he has enjoyed five children, 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren while also serving in many business capacities.
"The recognition of a veteran at this football game on Military Appreciation Day is great and I'm honored to be chosen to represent the veterans of the community," stated Bozeman regarding the honor.
Knowing Rogers personally, Bozeman is aware of the benchmark set with the award. However, he also holds honorable and impressive laurels in his own right.
Bozeman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1966, at the age of 19. He immediately went to boot camp in Parris Island, S.C. Upon completion of boot camp, Bozeman went through infantry training at Camp Geiger in North Carolina. As his final training, Bozeman spent four months learning his trade as an aircraft and helicopter mechanic.
Ready to serve his country abroad, Bozeman was sent to Vietnam where he was stationed for two years, acting as both a helicopter mechanic and a machine door gunner.
For his service and courageous acts, Bozeman was awarded a variety of medals, including two Purple Hearts for combat wounds. He was also decorated with 18 Air Medals, which distinguish those that have meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight. Additionally, the Navy Commendation Medal was bestowed upon Bozeman, with the medal also holding a "V" for heroism and participation in combat operations.
In 1970, Bozeman was honorably discharged, but the lessons he learned during his service time prepared him for his continued support of fellow servicemen and veterans.
Since then, Bozeman has created a lengthy list of both physical accomplishments and distinguished honors, with each holding the common bond of bringing recognition to those who serve America.
"The Marine Corps instilled physical fitness in me and I continued running to stay in shape after my honorable discharge," states Bozeman.
Bozeman ran his first marathon in 1978, and has now completed over 195 such races. Additionally, he has run over 77 ultra-marathons and five 100-milers. His amazing physical fitness statistics continue, as he has completed over 100 triathlons and holds the North American record for Double Ironman Triathlons (4.8 miles swimming, 224 miles biking, 52.4 miles running), completing 15 of those races.
As a resident of Lynchburg for 36 years now, Bozeman has also participated in the Virginia 10-Miler on a regular basis. Since 1987, Bozeman has run the race and carried a 3-by-5 American flag to display his love for his country.
"The reason is not only to show my patriotism and pride of being a Marine, but to honor and remember those 58,219 servicemen who served and died in Vietnam. I'm very fortunate and thankful to be alive today and be able to run," commented Bozeman.
The carrying of Old Glory now serves even more purpose for Bozeman, as he said it also honors those killed in the 9/11 attacks as well as those who have served since.
Aside from his physical endeavors, Bozeman has always held an active role in veteran organizations.
Bozeman recognizes the importance of continued support from one veteran to another, pointing out that many of his actions have the goal of bringing former veterans together.
In 1991 and 1992, Bozeman helped co-found a pair of organizations, the Marine Corps League Lynchburg Detachment, which holds a current membership of 400, and the Military Order of Purple Heart Chapter. He served as a commander for both organizations.
Additionally, Bozeman has served as chairperson to a number of memorial efforts for veterans. This includes the effort to bring the Moving Wall to Lynchburg on Memorial Day in 2000, which attracted over 20,000 visitors over four days. Further he was a part of dedicating the POW/MIA Memorial and the Purple Heart Memorial in 2004 and 2008, respectively, on Monument Terrace.
His weekly efforts at the "Support Our Troops" rally at Monument Terrace in Lynchburg may truly show his dedication. Bozeman has organized the event over 510 Fridays in a row since Nov. 30, 2001, as people encourage drivers to "honk if you support our troops."
His continued works have not gone unnoticed, as he has been named both the Marine of the Year (1993) and the Vietnam Veteran of the Year (2000) for the state of Virginia.
Even though Bozeman is awarded with the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award, he continues to emphasize the community of veterans as a whole, saying, "This is exciting, not as a tribute to me, but as a tribute to veterans."
Thank you to Steve Bozeman, all veterans and all current servicemen and women for the continued service to this country. The sacrifices made to provide our freedoms as Americans are greatly appreciated.