The rocket-launched grenade exploded into his armored personnel carrier, and the driver’s body parts instantly flew back onto the Army infantrymen inside. Disoriented, ears ringing, everything seemed to be in slow motion for 21-year-old J.T. Cooper, who, heart pounding, clutched his M-60 machine gun and looked around. His lieutenant mouthed words at Cooper, who was closest to the door: Get out! Get OUT! Cooper jerked down the handle, pushed the door and stepped into a street full of people who wanted to kill him.
From the event: SERVICE: In dedication to our country
The 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Africa was one of the first times J.T. Cooper exchanged fire with an enemy. But the Tennessee farm boy has been a fighter for almost all of his life. Cooper, now 45, fights for fellow veterans, using music to help them find healing from post-traumatic stress disorder.