About 150 people, many of them veterans from World War II to present day conflicts, came together for the fourth annual Fourth of July celebration by Al Klerlein of Chesapeake City, Maryland, owner of Eagle Erectors Inc. in Bear.
WWII veteran Frank Lee of Newark, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, was honored. Lee served as a combat engineer during the D-Day invasion of France and later in the Battle of the Bulge. He was presented with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capital.
Also honored was Kris “Tanto” Paronto of Omaha, Nebraska, one of the handful of heroes depicted in “13 Hours,” a movie about the Sept. 11, 2012, Battle of Benghazi when terrorists attacked the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA Annex. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and civilian Sean Smith were killed when the station was burned before the team arrived.
Paronto has also authored “The Ranger Way: Living the Code on and Off the Battlefield,” that shares stories from his training that played a role in his team's heroic response in Benghazi and the importance of demanding excellence in committing to improving life.
He is in demand as a lecturer and consultant in addition to running Battleline Tactical where he and former fellow operator Dave “Boon” Benton host training events for individuals, law enforcement, fundraisers and team building for corporations, security, DOD and others involved in counter terrorism.
Paronto also heads the 14th Hour Foundation, which raises money for wounded special operators who trained in all branches of the military.
More than $27,485 was raised for the 14 Hours Foundation, said Melissa Klerlein, Al Klerlein's daughter, who helped organize the celebration.
For more, visit kristantoparonto.com and 14hours.org.