Greg Ridgley’s story is a message of perseverance, healing, devotion, and a testimony to the blessings of second chances in the United States of America.
Military service was the norm in retired Army Lieutenant Greg Ridgley’s family. His grandfather and great uncle fought at Pearl Harbor during WWII and on the battleship Pennsylvania. Growing up he says “I was enthralled by stories of our wonderful country, and how we defeated Hitler and Japan.” It was only natural for Greg to enlist in the military and re-enlist at age 34, into the Army National Guard after our Pearl Harbor of 9-11. He deployed with Idaho’s 116th Brigade Combat Team, as an engineer platoon leader, for OIF III 2004-05. During his deployment, Greg lost his mentor, First Sergeant Christopher Rafferty, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Greg said he lost the will to live and gave serious consideration to ending his life.
Through counseling at the VA and working with a wrought iron hobby in his garage, Greg found purpose and peace and his business was born. Once again, Greg experienced a setback in life. In the recent bad economy he was unable to develop a market to support expensive ironwork in the 2009-10 recessions. The business, his tools and his home were lost, but fighting is nothing new to a soldier, so Greg got back up and kept going, determined to help himself and other wounded warriors.
He founded a nonprofit organization, Operation Wrought Iron. Greg knew that if making wrought iron sculpture could help him, it could also help other vets. Today, Greg’s goal is to assist American combat veterans transform war trauma into monuments of wrought iron beauty in order to inspire rehabilitation, through the creative arts process while simultaneously improving public war memorials and historical facilities.
Greg says, “Everyone has a positive talent. In addition to transforming war into wrought iron beauty, maybe our cause can inspire combat veterans to do likewise through music, drawing, woodwork, etc., while demonstrating there are millions of people in our country who admire and care about them. These, and staying connected to positive people, are far superior to coping through isolation, rage, drugs and alcohol. Operation Wrought Iron takes the healing process one step further by adding humanity to the architectural landscape and helping vets to manifest their healing process in physical monuments of timeless wrought iron beauty. This message applies to ALL people, for no human heart goes through life unscathed. ”Because Greg Ridgley embodies the fighting spirit of the American soldier and the “can do” attitude of the American businessman, we are pleased to award him the Guardian of the Republic award winner from the business category. If you want to help Greg help our wounded warriors you can contact him at Operation Wrought Iron