Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ramesh Haytasingh
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ramesh Haytasingh enlisted in the Navy at the age of 22 in Northern California. His contract was simply for boot camp, Gunners Mate “A” school, and Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS), better known as Navy SEAL selection. Just hours before the end of Class 222′s first phase, a bout with flesh-eating bacteria on his right arm almost killed him and nearly forced his discharge from the service. He recovered and spent his first tour in Iraq during the second Gulf War.
He would go to Iraq twice more and Afghanistan five times, assigned to both conventional and special operations missions.
In Afghanistan, he worked with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as Seal Team Six. Now, Ramesh is a training officer with Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
In 2016, Ramesh competed in the Department of Defense's annual Warrior Games at West Point in New York and earned six gold medals and one bronze. His team voted to give him a Heart of the Team award for his efforts. Comedian Jon Stewart was on hand to give him the trophy.
Ramesh spends his days in pursuit of helping others. He has worked with Black Dagger, a hunting group for disabled veterans, and become involved with Gold Star Families.
US Army Specialist (RET) Charles Lemon
Charles “Charlie” Lemon is a 30 year old retired Army Specialist and Tampa native. SPC Lemon deployed to An Najaf, Iraq in August of 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. On June 8th 2011, just 6 weeks before he was scheduled to return home, Charlie’s truck was hit by an EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) and, tragically, Lemon lost both of his legs in the attack. Since that life-changing day, Charlie spent 18 months recovering in San Antonio. Being bound to a wheelchair, Charlie would need a particular type of home to meet his needs. That’s when Charlie was introduced to Operation Finally Home and the Gramatica family. Still living life to the fullest, Charlie is striving to do great things in the community to help give back what was so graciously given to him.
US Army Staff Sgt. (RET) Justin Lansford
Assigned to 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Justin deployed to Iraq in April 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in February 2012 to Ghazni Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Justin served as a Team leader and machine gunner. On April 23, 2012, Justin was severely injured when a roadside bomb struck the truck from which he was machine-gunning. Justin suffered the loss of his left leg above the knee, crush injuries and nerve damage to his right leg, a ruptured spleen, damage to his liver and pancreas, two collapsed lungs, a broken back and burns to his right arm among other injuries. As part of his recovery, Lansford was paired with two-year-old Golden Retriever Gabe through the Warrior Canine Connection, which provides support dogs to wounded warriors to help them manage with daily life and treat PTSD.
US Air Force Staff Sgt. (RET) Laura Sellinger
Laura enlisted in the military on May 6, 2003 as an Intelligence Operations Specialist. During her time in the Air Force, she was honored with multiple awards such as the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and more. Sellinger was first deployed to Iraq in June 2006 and remained overseas until February 2007. In August 2006, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near her, resulting in a severe brain injury that would be the first of three she experienced during her time in Iraq. Sellinger was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects associated with her brain injuries when she was sexually assaulted at a base in Korea. She medically retired from service on June 23, 2008, leaving with a number of injuries.
US Army Specialist (RET) Stephen Peterson
On July 1, 2011, while deployed in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the Ft. Hood’s 36th Engineer Brigade, an explosive device destroyed the vehicle SPC Stephen Peterson was riding in. The explosion caused SPC Peterson to lose his right leg, fractured a hip, along with other trauma. Specialist Peterson returned to Florida, after months of extensive rehabilitation at Brooke Army Military Medical Center, to establish himself in the Tampa Bay area. The Gramatica Family Foundation and CPR, a local non-profit in the greater Tampa Bay Area began the process to assemble the participants needed to donate a home, while providing a rent-free condo in the Ybor area as the home was constructed.
US Army Specialist (RET) Luis Puertas
Army SPC Luis Puertas, from the 4th infantry division, was left a double amputee after an EFP explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 20, 2006. SPC Puertas was the driver of the lead HUMVEE on a daily patrol near Sadar City when an unseen EFP, planted at the base of a light pole, launched into the vehicle. The explosion amputated both of his legs on impact and left him trapped beneath the 400 pound up-armored door of the HUMVEE. Miraculously, his team was able to extricate him from the wreckage and prepare him for medevac from the scene. Airlifted to a local military hospital and then to Landstuhl, Germany before finally arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, SPC Puertas spent 14 months enduring surgeries and rehabilitation.