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Weekly Column: The Spirit Of Freedom Award Spotlights Compassion And Heroism Of Idahoans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

When heavy winter snowfall blocked sidewalks, Danny Pugmire, of Nampa, followed a wheelchair-bound person with his car’s emergency blinkers on to keep the man safe until the wheelchair could be navigated safely off the road.  But, Danny’s compassion did not stop there.  He and his wife, June, then opened their home to the man who had faced some very difficult times and gave him the love he needed until he could return home six months later.  This is just one of the many acts of kindness cited in Danny’s nomination for the 2018 Spirit of Freedom:  Idaho Veterans Service Award.  Danny has also been recognized for braving dangerous situations to rescue people, including a family from a sinking car, and a man from being beaten by a group of men with bricks.  We live among amazing people in Idaho.  Recognizing the remarkable service of Idahoans with the Spirit of Freedom Award over the past 16 years, has given me an opportunity to help spotlight some of the great compassion and heroism of Idahoans. 

Danny Pugmire is one of 16 people being honored this year with the Spirit of Freedom:  Idaho Veterans Service Award that is presented in two categories: veterans and volunteers who assist veterans.  Some of the awardees have served for decades in the military and in multiple wars.  Five of the awardees served in World War II and are now in their nineties.  Their remarkable contributions to our freedoms and those of others around the world are beyond worthy of celebrating.  The overwhelming majority of the volunteers being honored this year are also veterans.  These inspiring Americans not only served our nation, but also continue to devote their time to ensuring the wellbeing of fellow veterans, their families and others in the community.  The following are the 2018 Spirit of Freedom Award recipients, and summaries of their service are posted on my official website:


  • Ned M. Barker, Eagle; 
  • Charles E. Deobald, Kendrick; 
  • Thomas Gase, Meridian; 
  • Robert “Kappy” Kappmeyer, Meridian; 
  • Leo R. Olsen, Pocatello; 
  • Frank C. Dammarell, Kendrick; 
  • Daniel Dale Pugmire, Nampa; 
  • Donald Worthylake, Pocatello;       
  • Daniel McCoy Wyckoff, Pocatello;     


  • LeRoy Barker, Meridian; 
  • Virginia Carmonne, Boise; 
  • Sharon Clark, Boise;
  • Michael T. Lagueux, Chubbuck;
  • Bob Ouderkerken, Kendrick;
  • Steve Wheatley, Boise; and
  • Karl Wheeler, Boise.

Thank you to the nominating organizations for bringing the service of the awardees to our attention. The American Legion Post 113, the Department of Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Idaho Veterans Assistance League, the Idaho State Veterans Home—Boise, the Idaho State Veterans Home—Lewiston, the Idaho State Veterans Home—Pocatello, the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Baker-Lind Post 3913, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Idaho State Council are among the organizations that submitted nominations for the award this year. 

Since the award’s creation, 285 Spirit of Freedom Awards have been presented.  I am certainly not surprised by the level of kindness and commitment among Idahoans exemplified by these awardees.  But, the annual presentation of these awards is a reminder of the inspiring service of many in our communities.  Hearing about their lives and the joy they are bringing to others is heartening.  We are truly blessed to live among them.

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