INDIANAPOLIS, IN – April 25, 2019 – Henry Repeating Arms presented engraved tribute edition rifles to a total of six deserving individuals to recognize their service of country, state, and community during the National Rifle Association Foundation Banquet and Auction. The presentation took place in front of a crowd of more than 2,500 people at the Lucas Oil Stadium as the kick-off event for the 2019 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, which opens to the public on Friday, April 26th.
As the primary sponsor of the event, Anthony Imperato, President and owner of Henry Repeating Arms, invited the honorees to join him on stage where they were introduced to the crowd and presented with a Henry rifle. The honorees included the Sheriff of Baron County, Wisconsin, a young veteran who was injured by a 200-pound IED on deployment in Iraq, three World War II veterans, and the father of a young man who was tragically killed in a car accident two weeks after returning from his second combat deployment.
Barron County Wisconsin Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald was the first to take the stage alongside Imperato. “I’d like to begin this presentation with a hero from our neck of the woods in Wisconsin,” said Imperato referring to Henry Repeating Arms’ second manufacturing facility in Rice Lake, WI. Imperato continues, “Barron County became the center of the media world under the unfortunate circumstances of a kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl named Jayme Closs. Sheriff Fitzgerald and his team never gave up hope and will be closing the case on May 24th with the sentencing of the suspect in the case.” Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald was presented with a Henry Law Enforcement Tribute Edition rifle.
Sgt. Omar Avila of Austin, TX was then announced to the stage and handed a Henry Military Services Tribute Edition rifle. Avila joined the U.S. Army in 2004 as an Infantryman and was deployed to Iraq shortly thereafter. A 200-pound Improvised Explosive Device (IED) rocked Avila’s vehicle and caused burns to over 75% of his body and a leg wound that required amputation below the knee of his right leg. Despite his injuries Avila went on to become the current world record holder for the World Association of Bench and Deadlift in the Paralympics category and serve as a motivational figure for his fellow veterans, whom he devotes his life to.
Don Burwell of Shelbyville, IN and Al Hutchcraft of Greenfield, IN were the next individuals asked to join the stage. Both men served in the military during World War II with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army, respectively. Hutchcraft was deployed to Peleliu and Burwell was deployed to Yokohama, Japan. Wetzel “Sundown” Sanders of East Lynn, WV was then called to the stage, another World War II veteran. Sanders was an anti-aircraft gunner stationed at Hospital Point at Pearl Harbor on the day of the Japanese attack, December 7, 1941. A Purple Heart was awarded to Sanders from Senator Joe Manchin in 2017, 76 years after he was injured in the attack. Imperato, looking back at the World War II veterans on stage holding their Henry Military Services Tribute Edition rifles said, “These men are among the last of the greatest generation that our country has ever seen and we owe our freedom to them today.”
Before the presentation concluded Imperato brought one more person on stage, Marshall Easley. Easley’s son, Michael, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two combat tours. He was honorably discharged and preparing to attend college but was tragically killed in a car accident just two weeks after returning home from his second deployment. The father and son were both avid Henry collectors, so when the father was brought on stage Imperato presented him with a rifle that they did not have yet in memory of his son and his son’s service. “We know your son is looking down on all of us at this moment and I would like to present this rifle to you in his honor and memory. God rest his soul, God Bless these fine men behind me on stage, and God Bless the United States of America,” concluded Anthony Imperato as the crowd rose to its feet in applause.