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Two Bingham County natives were among 10 recipients (featuring veterans, businessmen, teachers and scientists) who received 2012 Idaho Hometown Hero Medals from U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, at a poignant and patriotic ceremony at Stephens Performing Arts Center in Pocatello on Friday.
The awards are in celebration of individuals who show commitment in both their personal and professional lives to improve communities throughout Idaho and a create a better world for the future.
Fort Hall native Cpl. Phillip Mathew Baldwin, who lost both legs, a finger, 80 percent of his hearing and suffered severe internal injuries when he stepped on an explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, received a rousing standing ovation as he wheeled himself onto the stage to receive his medal.
"In spite of his wartime injuries, he [Cpl. Baldwin] is a soldier who continues to inspire," said Dr. Naeem Rahim, who helped start the Idaho Hometown Hero Awards.
Currently, Baldwin is training to participate in the Para-Olympics this fall in Washington and is looking forward to starting college and writing his biography. He continues to be part of the Pocatello and Fort Hall communities, returning several times throughout the year to participate in military, Pow Wow and other cultural and community events.
Teacher and coach Rudolfo M. Pena grew up in Aberdeen where he spent his youth picking crops around Idaho and Oregon to help his family earn money. His first year of school, he was sent home and told not to return until he learned to speak English.
He went on not only to speak English, but earned two college degrees from Idaho State University. He is an advocate for social justice and Latino education projects and instrumental in the creation of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
He spent 16 years working as a teacher, coach and counselor in the American Falls School District before retiring. He currently lives in Pocatello where he continues to advocate for Latino affairs.
In his remarks after awarding the medals, Crapo said, "This evening is about celebrating the beauty and strength of Idaho, her people."
He went on, "I commend those who are here tonight; there are lots of heroes here and probably every one of you in the audience is a hero in your way."
This is the second year that Pocatello physicians, brothers and founders of the Idaho Kidney Institute Naeem and Fahim Rahim have sponsored the Idaho Hometown Hero Medal Awards to recognize the heroes who serve their communities throughout the state.
Other recipients of the 2012 Idaho Hometown Hero Medals included:
-Don Aslett: Pocatello businessman, author and most recently founder and builder of Pocatello's Museum of Clean.
-Jody Olsen: Lifelong athlete and promoter of the Southeast Idaho Senior Games.
-Bonnie Stoddard: Historian and newspaper writer; writer and publisher for Clark County's only 500-page history book.
-Warren E. Nyer: Idaho Falls scientist, nuclear energy expert and the last surviving member of the Manhattan Project.
-Patti Farrell: Two-time cancer survivor, women's advocate and founder of the Drive for the Cure-a program to help women in Pocatello get free mammograms.
-Jonathan Cree: Medical educator and physician of at Family Medicine in Pocatello and advocate for getting medical attention to those in need throughout East Idaho.
Honorary Medals were also awarded to two deceased heroes:
-Steve Appleton: Past CEO of Micron Technology, founder of the Micron Foundation, who was killed in a plane crash at Boise's airport last year. He is survived by his wife and four children.
-Sgt. Ryan Sharp: A soldier from Idaho Falls, Army veteran from Afghanistan, who died last December from injuries received in Kandahar Province.