Kinard receives award
Freedom Alliance gives Defender of Freedom to injured local Marine

By Jason Spencer

Published: Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 12:18 a.m.

Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Kinard received the Defender of Freedom award this month, joining the ranks of Ambassador John Bolton, Gen. Tommy Franks and former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak.

Kinard of Spartanburg lost his legs more than two years ago during a bomb blast in Iraq. He was presented the award last week in Washington by the Dulles, Va.-based Freedom Alliance.

"Really, what this is, is a tribute to the medical personnel and the courage and determination of the Marines who were with me when I was injured," Kinard, 25, said by phone Wednesday. "That is really who I believe this award is honoring. Because I chose to accept this award on behalf of all the Marines in my platoon."
Founded by North

Freedom Alliance is an educational and charitable foundation founded by Lt. Col. Oliver North. Kinard was one of many troops profiled in North's book "American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam (War Stories)." He visited Kinard while the young Marine was still in the hospital.

"He's an American hero," said Tom Kilgannon, president of Freedom Alliance. "Andrew is a person who has served our country, but he has also shown us courage off the battlefield. The optimism and the courage he has displayed during his recovery is really an inspiration to all of us."

Freedom Alliance doesn't always shine the spotlight on well-known figures such as Bolton and Franks, Kilgannon said. The idea is to highlight individuals who have done extraordinary things and not necessarily received attention for them, he said.

Kinard said it would be misleading for him not to recognize that so many others deserve to be honored the same way.
Working with senator

He is currently going through the disability evaluation system at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and is an active-duty Marine serving as a congressional fellow in Sen. Lindsey Graham's office.

Kinard's assignment is to focus on policy, not politics. He provides context and feedback to the senator's office on military affairs, veterans' issues, even on the corrections to some of the systems at Walter Reed proposed by the Department of Defense.

Kinard's family was in attendance when he received the award.

As for the amount of time that has passed since his injuries, he said, "It's like it's been yesterday and also been my entire life."