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'We live in the greatest country on earth'

Veterans celebrated at McHenry County College

Bagpiper David Cormalleth plays the national anthem at the beginning of the Veterans Day ceremony at McHenry County College Friday in Crystal Lake. Kyle Grillot -
Bagpiper David Cormalleth plays the national anthem at the beginning of the Veterans Day ceremony at McHenry County College Friday in Crystal Lake. Kyle Grillot -

CRYSTAL LAKE – Noah Currier had a simple message for those in attendance at the Veterans Day Ceremony at McHenry County College on Friday: Stay active and never look back.

The 31-year-old war veteran was the keynote speaker at the annual event that honors men and women who served in the military. The ceremony also highlighted the opening of the Student Veterans Resource Center at the Crystal Lake-based community college.

“We live in the greatest country on earth, and it’s the greatest country on earth for a reason,” said Currier, who is paralyzed from the neck down and uses a wheelchair. “Veterans are the ones who deserve most of the credit for that. Many things exist because of the sacrifice they have made.”

The Poplar Grove resident joined the Marines after high school in 2000 and originally was deployed to Kuwait. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he was sent to Afghanistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and later Iraq as a platoon sergeant of a light armored reconnaissance battalion that led the way inland into the country as the war began.

“I was forced into a leadership role at a very young age,” Currier said. “No matter what, I tried to lead by example, and any one of us can do that, because it relates to all walks of life.”

Currier returned stateside in 2003 to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where his life changed in the blink of an eye. Three days after his return, he and a fellow Marine were struck by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, their vehicle rolling about a dozen times into an embankment.

The accident left the Marine a quadriplegic.   

Today, Currier is the founder and president of Oscar Mike, a Marengo company that sells American-made, military-themed T-shirts and apparel. A percentage of proceeds go to the Oscar Mike Foundation, a nonprofit portion of the company that sends disabled veterans to adaptive sporting events.

Oscar Mike is military radio jargon for “on the move.”

The Marengo-based nonprofit celebrates its two-year anniversary Monday.

“It’s kind of an ironic way of getting hurt, but it might have been a blessing is disguise,” Currier said. “I was pretty lucky to have even made it home. That’s the way my cards were dealt. I don’t ever look back with regret.”

Also speaking during the event was Ryan Blum, an Army veteran and president of the Military and Student Affairs Association at MCC.

The 26-year-old served as an infantryman served a tour in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq, and was a member of the 10th Mountain Division and worked in various roles as a machine gunner, team leader and squad leader.

He will transfer from MCC after the spring semester and enroll at the American University of Paris, where he will study international and global politics.

“It’s important for people to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Blum said. “It’s nice to be thanked and see a genuine interest in our experiences.”

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