Our speakers this year reflect the heroes that we have living among us.  Some we may know, most we do not.  This is the opportunity to recognize the great men and women that live next to us, work with us, teach our kids and continue to serve in our community.  

This year we feature two of these “home-town heroes”.  Colonel Ben Knisley, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Captain Ryan Simonson, U.S. Army (Ret.).

Colonel Knisley served for 28 years, beginning his career as a “Dust-Off” pilot in Vietnam.  During his tour of duty in Vietnam, then 1st LT Knisely, piloting a UH-1 MEDEVAC helicopter was shot down over enemy territory and severely wounded.  He and his crew were rescued in a very daring and heroic effort executed by members of the 101st Airborne Division. Details of the harrowing escape and evasion by Knisely and his copilot, 1LT Michael Meyer and the successful rescue are chronicled in the book, “DUSTOFF 65”.  Lt Tim Lickness, the leader of the rescue, was recommended for the Medal of Honor.

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Captain Simonson served, following his graduation from the U.S. Military Academy “West Point”, as an armor officer.  Ryan was almost immediately deployed and served multiple tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Ryan served as an armor platoon leader, executive officer, and operations officer.  He also had the privilege of serving in a HMMWV mounted tank company.  Because of his experience in Iraq Ryan had the opportunity to work with a team that rewrote, resourced, and implemented a new doctrine for the use of tanks in an urban environment.  Come and hear Ryan’s many stories of service in theater and how his Brigade Commander once had to suggest the implementation of a game of “Rock/Paper/Abrams” (as in the tank…) to procure fuel for a critical mission.

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Event Details


OCTOBER 14th , 2021, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

What to expect:


  • Dinner
  • full bar
  • raffles
  • great prizes 
The Grove
10670 Boardwalk Loop
Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202
Private cocktail party for “Event Sponsors” and “Platinum Level” sponsors prior to the main event from 5:00 – 6:00 (Additional Information on back of event flyer)
Click Here to download a copy of the Sponsorship Flyer

This is an event to benefit our veterans, law enforcement, and first responders and is presented by

Operation Patriot Support (OPS)  “Serving Those Who Served Us”

A 501c3 organization