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Oct 29, 2020 12:54:43 AM

14th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards


 Oldest Military Support Organization Founded on Civil War BattlefieldsAward Active Duty Heroes Saving Lives of Soldiers and Civilians Around the World 

Woodbridge, Va. (October 27, 2020) - General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the Armed Services YMCA, the oldest military support organization in the United States, “Strengthening Our Military Family®” since 1861, to honor military medical service members during its 14th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards, presented by USAA, on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 7-8PM ET at the National Press Club and via a live webcast.

“Military medical personnel are the first line of defense to save lives and treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield. I am appreciative that the Armed Services YMCA recognizes these contributions and honors this select group of individuals appropriately labeled as ‘the heroes of our heroes’,” said Gen. Milley. “I am grateful to organizations like the Armed Services YMCA who help our military stand ready for their mission at hand, whether it’s at home or while on deployment overseas, through family resiliency, individual health and child development.”

On behalf of the Armed Services YMCA, Gen. Milley presented a special Angel of Honor award to 100-year-old Army Nurse Corps Veteran Regina Benson who served during World War II. Benson, who is believed to be the oldest living Army nurse, followed her four brothers into the Army at age 24 and served in Hawaii, Okinawa and mainland Japan from 1944 to 1946. She received the Joint Service Achievement Medal from Gen. Milley in July as part of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII commemoration activities.

“The most important and rewarding service I provided as a nurse was giving comfort to dying soldiers.” said Benson, 2nd Lt., from Philadelphia who lives in McLean, Va. “I am proud that I held the hands of brave troops who made the ultimate sacrifice and was able to tell their loved ones that they didn’t die alone. It’s because of our military that we are free to pursue our dreams.” After the war, Benson followed her dreams with her husband whom she met in the Army, moved to Wyckoff, N.J., had three children and was a civilian surgical nurse. Watch video

The Armed Services YMCA was founded in 1861 by volunteers who braved the Civil War battlefields to provide care and comfort to troops. Its Angels of the Battlefield Awards pays tribute to that history by honoring active duty military who serve as combat medics, corpsman and rescue service members representing all five branches of the U.S. Armed Services. Today, the organization has evolved to provide no- or low-cost programs and services, specifically designed for young military families. 

 “A strong military requires strong military families. The Armed Services YMCA strengthens junior enlisted service members, their spouses and children by helping them navigate the unique challenges of military life,” said William French, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Armed Services YMCA Chief Executive Officer. “Even through the pandemic, the Armed Services YMCA supports our military family by providing emergency food relief and child care services.”       

At this year’s awards event, the Armed Services YMCA recognized five Angels of the Battlefield for their courage and actions to save lives of soldiers and civilians across the globe. The honorees for each branch are:

  • U.S. Army – Sergeant First Class (SFC) Kyle J. Wagner, a combat medic from Portage, Pa., and based at Fort Campbell, Ky., was 10 feet from an IED explosion. Although he was injured and unable to hear, he searched for casualties, pulled troops to safety and started triage, while organizing the medical evacuation during a mission in Afghanistan in June 2013. He uses his experience in his current role as an instructor to train other combat medics. Watch video
  • U.S. Marine Corps – Hospital Corpsman First Class (HM1) William A. McGrath, U.S. Navy, is from Lansing, Mich., and based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was attached to a Marine Corps team in January 2020 in East Africa where he helped repel a complex enemy attack on an American command center and airfield. A shooter and medic, he saved the life of a wounded team member, while treating multiple injured firefighters and security forces. Watch video
  • U.S. Navy – The name and mission details of this Navy Seal from Gaithersburg, Va., and based at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif., are confidential due to the sensitive nature of his current deployment. He is being honored for tending to more than 200 patients during an overseas mission from 2019 to 2020. Read Acceptance
  • U.S. Air Force – Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Nicholas J. Brunetto was the medic attached to an Army Green Berets team that was ambushed at close range in February 2020. The pararescueman from Ewing, N.J., and based at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., braved enemy gunfire to grab his medical gear so he could perform a blood transfusion to save a soldier’s life, and managed the evacuation of nearly a dozen patients while under attack. Watch video
  • U. S. Coast Guard – Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) James A. Chandler, a Walnut Creek, Calif., resident based at Air Station Houston, saved a woman’s life during Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019 after performing CPR for over 30 minutes. Originally from England, he moved to America to pursue pro football, but a documentary inspired him to become a U.S. citizen and rescue swimmer. Watch video

The 14th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards was presented by USAA and supported by 5-Star Sponsor: American Airlines; 3-Star Sponsor: GEICO; 2-Star Sponsors Health Net and PenFed; 1-Star Sponsors: Leonardo DR, Northrop Grumman and YMCA Retirement Fund; Awardee Champions: 3M, Bell and General Dynamics Mission Systems; Mission Champions: Humana Military, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Marsh & McLennan Agency, Sodexo Inc., and Veterans United Home Loans; and Patrons: Association of Military Banks of America, Vice Admiral John and Nonie Bird, Design Data, KRBR Consulting, Leidos Inc., Pitney Bowes and The Roosevelt Group.

The Armed Services YMCA operates 12 branches and partners with YMCAs across the country to provide 1.3 million services, serving 25,000 military families across 93 military installations annually. For more information on the Armed Services YMCA, visit