From Wounded Soldier To Sheriff
by MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition
May 9, 2019
There’s a new sheriff in town. Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Brett Hightower won the Warren County, Kentucky sheriff election on November 6, 2018 unseating a 40-year incumbent. The enormity of Hightower’s victory is not lost on him.
Left - Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Brett Hightower, while deployed to northwest Afghanistan in March 2009. Right - Warren County Kentucky Sheriff Brett Hightower in January 2019. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from photos courtesy of Brett Hightower)
“There is no doubt that running for office against an incumbent is a difficult and daunting task,” said Hightower who acknowledges such a feat requires standing on the shoulders of others, working through experiences and goals. He says he wouldn’t change a thing about his journey because it all shaped him into the newly elected sheriff he is today.
The retired infantryman, who is also airborne and ranger qualified, has served as a former law enforcement officer, spent 21 years in the military, and the resilience of recovering from a traumatic battle injury as part of his qualifications. Along with his wife, their two daughters and two foster children, he credits the people he met along the way as some of the shoulders he stood on.
The Kentucky native was injured after taking enemy fire in Afghanistan on August 16, 2008. As a result of his injuries, Hightower had his left vertebral artery repaired and multiple facial reconstruction surgeries. He says the Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland was very helpful in the recovery process and as a resource for both he and his family as they were transitioned from active duty into recovery, and ultimately retirement. There were multiple resources available to help reduce some of the anxiousness that comes with a life changing event. He will never forget Army Wounded Warrior Program Advocate Jeannie Jones who was there to help him figure things out.
“Jeannie was such a wonderful person and was able to understand what my needs were before I even knew. Jeannie knew that having my two girls come visit me at the hospital would be of great value. She arranged for [my daughters’] flights and transportation and for that I am so grateful!” Jeannie was grateful to have a strong leader among the injured who inspired them and was dedicated to recovery not only for himself, but for all the others.
“Due to the bonds that he built, I was able to share with him when [other Soldiers in transition] were a bit torn about being injured and pulled from the line [of duty]. Hightower would get with them and help them through it,” Jones said. “I could always tell when one spent time with the Master Sergeant. Everything about [Hightower] signaled a transformational leader.”
After receiving his first facial reconstruction, Hightower was later transferred to the WTU at Fort Knox, Kentucky where he spent the next two years and underwent additional facial reconstructions.
“Once I was transferred to Fort Knox, Joyce Hamilton became my new AW2 Advocate. Joyce picked up for Jeannie and ensured I was informed and had all of my needs met,” Hightower said of Hamilton. “The AW2 Program is truly invaluable to so many Soldiers and can truly be a lifeline to resources and assistance from housing to jobs to pay etc.”
After his experience with the AW2 program, Hightower felt that he could use his experience to help educate and assist others going through the process and decided to become an AW2 advocate himself. His own former AW2 advocate, Joyce Hamilton, invited him to speak at a disability conference as one of his first events and she never worried about him in his new role.
“[Hightower] was able to captivate the audience with his awesome orator skills and he received a standing ovation when he was finished,” Hamilton recalled. “He has a way with words that goes straight to the heart and motivates you to be a part of anything to make it better. It was and still is a pleasure working for and with him.”
Sheriff Hightower says helping other people gives him joy. “When I can help solve community issues and bring people together is what matters most to me. At times we may believe that we are miles apart, but at the end of the day we are all so much more similar than we can imagine,” Hightower said. “If people would spend more time listening and getting to know one another they would have less time to look for differences.”