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VFW Magazine June/July 2017 : Page 15

“When faced with challenges and dreams that you want to try to reach, wrestling gives you the tools for ƚŚĂƚ͘/ĐĂŶ͛ƚŝŵĂŐŝŶĞĂŵŽƌĞďĞƩĞƌͲƐƵŝƚĞĚƐƉŽƌƚƚŽƉƌĞƉĂƌĞLJŽƵĨŽƌůŝĨĞ͛ƐĐŚĂůůĞŶŐĞƐƚŚĂŶǁƌĞƐƚůŝŶŐ͘͟ ŽŵŝŶŝĐWƵĚǁŝůů'ŽƌŝĞ͕ϮϬϭϳEĂƟŽŶĂůtƌĞƐƚůŝŶŐ,ĂůůŽĨ&ĂŵĞŝŶĚƵĐƚĞĞĂŶĚEĂǀLJǀĞƚĞƌĂŶ put my arms around it is to try to make it clear that why I’m there is because I had this special opportunity to fly in space and also have the wrestling background, and I think that’s fairly unique.” Gorie received the Outstanding American award, which recognizes wres-tlers who went on to success in other fields, in Stillwater, Okla., this month. Designated as a naval aviator in 1981 and retired as a captain in 2005, Gorie served on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt with the Strike Fighter Squadron 87, flying F-18s. His work during the Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, was “almost exclusively strike missions,” he said. Gorie participated in 38 combat mis-sions during Desert Storm , and said there “was certainly a transition” in the early missions, where 20 to 30 airplanes might be involved. “As we went on further, we got into smaller strike packages with only, maybe, four airplanes, even two airplanes, when you didn’t need all that other support,” Gorie said. “There was a definite change in the expected threat.” Through his service, Gorie earned the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat “V,” among other honors. His interest in the Navy spawned from a lifelong desire to fly. He also suggested that his father, who flew B-47s in the Air Force and died in a plane crash when Gorie was six years old, might have instilled “some deeper emotional con-nection” to the craft. But his wrestling involvement began in junior high while living in Miami, Fla., and continued at the United States Naval Academy. “I never thought that I was good enough to compete at that kind of Division I level, but still went out for the team,” said Gorie, who noted that the “hard part” of wrestling was the time and “commitment to losing weight.” “To try to lose weight and study in an academic environment like that was pretty tough,” Gorie said. “So, I sort of prioritized school over that. But [they] had a great wrestling program and the coach there, Coach [Ed] Peery at the time, was incredible. The team there was a great program to be a part of. It was hard to pass up, and then when I got the opportunity to compete some at that level, that was wonderful.” His Navy career also afforded him the opportunity to work for NASA — another opportunity in his life that was “too good to pass up,” having grown up “mesmer-ized” by the Apollo program (the third U.S. human spaceflight program). “That was never something that I really seriously thought would be a possibility,” Gorie said. “It was a dream, but a way-out there kind of dream.” In 1992, Gorie was sent to U.S. Space Command, followed by selection as an astronaut candidate two years later. He spent nearly 50 days in space and served as a spacecraft communicator for a num-ber of flights, retiring from NASA in 2010. The lessons learned in wrestling were “directly applicable” to his duties in the Navy and with NASA, according to Gorie. “When faced with challenges and dreams that you want to try to reach, wrestling gives you the tools for that,” Gorie said. “I can’t imagine a more bet-ter-suited sport to prepare you for life’s challenges than wrestling.” IRAQ WAR: CHRIS MELENDEZ When Iraq War veteran Chris Melendez returned to Iraq in 2016 for the first time in nearly 10 years, it was a cathar-tic experience. The single-leg ampu-tee joined four fellow professional wrestlers (Melina, Scotty 2 Hotty, Ken Anderson and “Hurricane” Shane Helms) to entertain troops in Kuwait and Baghdad, Iraq, as part of an Armed Forces Entertainment tour. Melendez, who served between 2005 and 2007 as an infantryman with B Co. 3rd Bn., 67th Armor, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div., attached to 1st Bn., 506th Inf., 101st Abn. Div., in Baghdad, said they landed at Baghdad International Airport on the “same exact flightline” as his first trip. “I saw the same exact thing,” said Melendez, who noted that others were concerned about his return to Iraq. “It’s amazing how much a smell can trigger memories.” PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINIC PUDWILL GORIE Dominic Pudwill Gorie is the 2017 recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Outstanding American Award. Gorie, a Navy Gulf War aviator, retired from the military in 2005 and became a NASA astronaut. JUNE/JULY 2017 • WWW.VFW.ORG • 15

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