BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Portrait of a Warrior Gallery will mark its 4th anniversary this weekend when supporters and family members gather for a dinner and recognition ceremony. One marine is making the trip from Illinois for this event in order to honor his fallen friend.
James Sperry enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003 on his 18th birthday. He decided to join following the attacks on September 11th, 2001. He was deployed to Iraq with one of his best friends, Private First Class Fernando Hannon.
In August of 2004, Sperry was assigned to a checkpoint in Fallujah. According to Sperry, he had traded spots with Hannon after the post had taken a lot of fire so that he could go to a "quieter" post in the rear. Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that Hannon was fatally injured by a car bomb.
Three months later, Sperry was wounded; the first of three Purple Hearts. He was medically discharged in 2005 and his thoughts were constantly on his friend.
Sperry struggled for years with PTSD but finally found solace while helping other veterans through a non-profit he started called The Fight Continues.
Sperry and his daughter Hannah, who is named after his friend, visited the white house in 2011 with the World Series Champion Cardinals. They were on the mound before game one.
Now he runs a remodeling company in the St. Louis area called Hannon Construction. He recently started to accept speaking engagements again and this weekend's upcoming ceremony for his friend is the perfect chance to help Sperry keep the memory of his friend alive in a gallery of honor.
The 4th Portrait of a Warrior Gallery anniversary celebration begins with a dinner on September 9th at the Gardens at Monji. James Sperry will be the guest speaker. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at 661-303-3837. Veterans may attend the event for free.
Another celebration will be held at the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery on Eye Street in Downtown Bakersfield on September 10th. at 9 a.m. James Sperry will make some remarks along with other local officials. There will be a last roll call ceremony, as well.