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  Daniel's Jewelers and BalfourŪ Announce winners of "Heroes in Uniform" Contest Honoring U.S. Service Members

Daniel's Jewelers, one of America's leading jewelers since 1948, today announced the winners of the national "Heroes in Uniform" contest highlighting the courage of today's service members. Six winners were selected from over 30 essays detailing acts of courage by U.S. service members who are representative of all the heroes in our nation's military. The winners will each receive a 14K gold personalized military ring made by Balfour®, the leading brand in military jewelry, providing symbols of achievement for the country's most prestigious military institutions since 1913. The following is a list of winners with details surrounding the circumstances of their heroism:

Sgt. Michael E. Morphis, U.S. Army, who was wounded in the face while serving in Iraq. The wound severed his tongue and took his jaw and teeth from both sides of his mouth. He is currently halfway through medical procedures to restore what he has lost and he can now speak again, though his speech is still a little slurred. Catherine Morphis writes "He is my hero because he never once expressed anger or self pity during the entire time. He has surpassed his doctor's estimates of healing times by working aggressively to speed the process as much as possible. He knows his buddies are still over there and they need all the help they can get... He has reenlisted for the third time. He has given me strength when I find myself dwelling on what he has gone through... My love for him is no less than my pride."

SSG Paul A. Velazquez, U.S. Army who was shot down and killed in a Chinook helicopter over Falluja while on a trip home to visit his three children, including a baby born while he was overseas. According to Adriana Velazquez "my brother fought in Iraq, but most of all he was loving and generous. Were Tony to win this contest and receive a ring, it would be a beautiful symbol to three young children that even though [they] cannot read the words 'Strong and Courageous' written across his tombstone, it does not mean that that other people do not recognize how heroic a sacrifice their father made for this country."

Captain Julia S. Wold, Captain, U.S. Army, who put off treatment for a medical condition for a year in order to serve in the Middle East with her unit, the 546th PSB, in Kuwait and Iraq. "She proudly served and had to go untreated for a year until she returned home again. While overseas, we received letters from her that proved to us she still had her sense of humor and great outlook on life in general. She was nominated for the Bronze Star, yet has not spoken of the circumstances to me because she says, 'everyone serving there is a hero'," writes Susan Weed, in her entry nominating Captain Wold.

Specialist Kyle Murdoch Hansen, U.S. Army, who serves with the 3-17th Calvary in support of 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Support Team in Iraq. While in Iraq, Hansen focused not only on his job as a soldier but also his as duty as a humanitarian. Rather than requesting items of comfort for himself, he has repeatedly written home with requests to help others. Wendy Hansen writes in her nominating essay that Hansen wants to "make life better for the Iraqi nationals working on the military base in MoSul. He asked me to send books, writing materials, paints, toys, clothes. He tells me often that we have so much in this country and the Iraqi people have so little."

LCpl Erik P. Mish, U.S. Marine Corps, who forgo an opportunity to pursue his long-term dream of serving in the Marine Corp' Marine Security Guard Program, which would mean serving embassy duty, in order to deploy to Iraq with his unit, the 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Victor Mish writes "He chose, however, to go into harms' way, to be with his brethren, the Marines he had trained with...I spoke with him last Friday...he was tired and worn out having just returned from activities near Fallujah. He is safe and I idolize him. My son, my hero."

SSG Dale Sponaugle, U.S. Army, who is deployed to Iraq with the 66th Transportation Company. Patricia Sponaugle writes "This past August my husband came home for 15 days of well deserved R&R. Even though he was on leave and could have been vacationing, he made time to attend a memorial service for the fallen soldiers [from his unit]...He wanted to represent the soldiers from his unit who were still in Iraq. Like many soldiers, my husband has suffered many hardships while deployed. His mother has had heart surgery. His stepfather is terminally ill. Throughout all of this, he has always made the extra effort to give me information about soldiers who are not getting mail so that I can send care packages to them.
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Jens J. H. Dreyer
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Daniel's Jewelers Balfour


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