In 1783, a Welsh immigrant named Evan Williams founded Kentucky’s first commercial distillery and began producing Bourbon whiskey. Today, Evan Williams Bourbon continues his legacy, and remains synonymous with smooth taste, strong character, and American pride.
That’s why Evan Williams started their American-Made Heroes Program, which celebrates military heroes by sharing veterans’ stories of service to their country and community. After reviewing thousands of entries, Evan Williams selected six new American-Made Heroes.
TYLER CRANE, SERGEANT 1ST CLASS – U.S. ARMY
Charity: Veteran Excursions to Sea
U.S. Army Ranger Tyler Crane led platoons on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before an IED blast cut his military career short. Forced to reconsider his path, he made it his mission to improve the lives of fellow veterans in and around Port Charlotte, Florida.
Tyler started the non-profit organization Veteran Excursions To Sea (V.E.T.S.), which works with military families and a dedicated group of local guides to promote “healing through reeling.”
He takes veterans and their families on fishing charters to encourage camaraderie, fun, and relaxation. “It’s just good therapy,” Tyler says. “There’s nothing like spending a day on the water.”
DR. ARCHIE COOK JR., MAJOR – U.S. AIR FORCE
Charity: Veterans Empowering Veterans
Dr. Archie Cook Jr. graduated from the Dental program at the University of North Carolina with help from the Air Force ROTC. After completion of service, he opened his own private practice. At his clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans.
Archie also packs and distributes lunches to the homeless and volunteers with Veterans Empowering Veterans: an organization that provides basic services to help disenfranchised veterans get back on their feet. “If you’ve dedicated part of your life to serving our country,” he says, “you should at least have a hot meal and a roof over your head.”
CHRISTOPHER BAITY – VETERAN U.S. MARINE CORPS
Charity: Semper K9 Assistance Dogs
Christopher Baity specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master during his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed three tours in Iraq, canvassing combat zones with his canine team to detect enemy explosives. After completion of service, Chris and his wife Amanda founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization that turns rescue dogs into service dogs.
Chris trains each animal to provide companionship and emotional support to military veterans and their families, addressing a range of physical and psychiatric needs including PTSD and mobility challenges. “I continually try to learn the techniques and options being offered to disabled veterans,” he says. Since 2014, Chris has graduated over thirty dog teams.
AMANDA RUNYON, HOSPITAL CORPSMAN 2ND CLASS – U.S. NAVY
Charity: Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 8681
Amanda Runyon learned the value of community service early on while volunteering at local health clinics. Raised in a family with a proud military tradition, she became the first woman in her family to enlist. As a Hospital Corpsman, Amanda provided medical care to Sailors and Marines. She was assigned to intensive care overseas, treating American service men and women suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After nine years of active duty, Amanda returned to her hometown of Spring Hill, Florida, where she continues to serve as a Registered Nurse in the school district. She also volunteers her time to activities in the surrounding community.
MICHAEL STINSON, CHIEF HOSPITAL CORPSMAN – U.S. NAVY
Charity: U.S.O. of Wisconsin
Photo by TJ Lambert, Stages Photography
Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Michael “Doc” Stinson deployed several times as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. After 23 years of service, Michael retired and became a police officer with the Harbor Patrol in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Michael is an active member of the American Legion and serves as Treasurer of the Nam Knights Tundra Chapter: a motorcycle club honoring the sacrifices of military veterans and police officers. They raise funds and awareness for local causes and organizations, including HighGround Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that pays tribute to the heroism of all American veterans.
MICHAEL SIEGEL, SERGEANT MAJOR – U.S. ARMY (RET.)
Charity: U.S.O. Club at Fort Leonard Wood
Sergeant Major (Ret.) Michael Siegel enlisted in the US Army at 17 and served for the next 25 years. Then and now, his mission in life is to lead soldiers, teach soldiers, and guide soldiers to be the best they can be.
Since his retirement, Michael continues to serve his community. He leads by example, volunteering with several youth organizations and fundraising for local charities. Today, he is the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood, where he helps educate and position soldiers for successful careers after their military service.
Learn more about each of these incredible veterans and the work they’re doing in their communities at American-MadeHeroes.com.