Adopted Warriors

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COLUMBIA - Kenneth Williams is a veteran. He said he decided to join the US Navy after high school because the job opportunities in his hometown weren't great. 

"I just felt it was my duty to carry on where others had served in the past," he said. 

During his time in the Navy, Williams was stationed in San Diego and made two trips to Vietnam. 

"We live in a great country," he said. "And I inherited that, so to speak. I just felt like I needed to give back."

Williams was one of over 10 Vietnam War veterans honored by the United States Tiger Foundation at its 19th Annual Adopt A Warrior Program, Friday.

"We honor, the United States Tiger Foundation honors the sacrifice of our forces and our troops that have come and gone," Staff Adjutant Director Walt Domanski said.

Along with the Vietnam veterans, the Tiger Foundation honored 11 active duty troops from Missouri bases across the state and one four-legged warrior, Rascal, a Combat Mine Detection dog from the 94th Unit. 

Domanski said Missouri commands nominated over 80 military members for the Adopted Warrior awards. 

"The Tiger Foundation's motto is that others shall be honored," Domanski said. "And our thing is to honor today's troops, yesterday's troops and the future troops that serve our nation."

Each member of the 2017 Warrior Class received a Blue Tiger award, a trophy and plaque named after retired military members and a Medal of Combat Valor for going above and beyond what was expected in combat situations.

In addition to his awards, Rascal also received several bones. 

"Events like this are important because we honor the sacrifice, the service of these brave two and four-legged individuals that give up a lot," Domanski said. "In some cases they give up the ultimate sacrifice in their life or the loss of a limb or a body part in combat. So it is very important to recognize them, to honor them. And we do it in a very special way."

The event featured a table for five US Army Green Berets who were all lost in combat over the last four weeks. 

Williams said events like this have a purpose. 

"Patriotism," Williams said. "I have a strong feeling that the people that serve, we did it for a reason. For our country. It's nice to get together with other veterans and active duty personnel. It's a lot of comradery. It's hard to explain. It's here, you know, it's in the heart."

The Adopted Warriors will be honored again Saturday at Faurot Field before the football game.