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Group jumps at chance to aid troops

DULUTH - Billy Waugh doesn't claim to be a hero.

Nearly 80, he's been across the world, snapped photos of Osama bin Laden and helped to capture Carlos the Jackal.

He's infiltrated Vietnam and, decades later, Afghanistan. But Waugh, in a boisterous, funny speech to the Duluth Rotary Club Wednesday, said he wasn't even a good marksman.

"I'm not any kind of hero at all, that's for damn sure," he told the crowd. "I haven't done a lot. I just lived through it."

Waugh has been awarded a Silver Star, four Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts in service to his country.

In two events Wednesday for Operation One Voice, the retired Special Forces sergeant major who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency said he appreciated the community's support for soldiers like himself.

"These guys are strong," he said, showing training videos and combat footage during the breakfast Rotary Club meeting. "That's what they do, and they love it, and they are taking care of our country the best they can."

Duluth Police Lt. Bill Stevens, who organized Operation One Voice as a nonprofit to support Special Forces troops and their families, said Waugh's stories presented a picture of the tough life soldiers choose for their country.

"This is American history. Every day we are losing these guys," Stevens said.

After Waugh described High Altitude Low Opening jumps, where troops free-fall from a plane to conceal their infiltration, participants in an afternoon golf tournament got to see the maneuver for themselves, as members of the Black Dagger Special Forces unit parachuted into Bear's Best Golf Course.

The tournament, which drew 31 foursomes, raised $40,000 for the charity.

"I'm just so impressed. I can't believe it," Rotary Club member Mark Tyrrell said of Waugh and the troops he brought with him to the event.

Tim Thornberry, a former Marine who served in Iraq, said the stories were familiar for him, but he hoped they would help raise awareness in the public.

"I appreciate a little more reality. I think sometimes there is a disconnect (with people)," he said. "It makes it real for people."

Thornberry is president of Sentinels of Freedom-Gwinnett, another nonprofit, which is raising money to support injured soldiers moving to the community. The group recently raised enough to support its first soldier and is raising funds for two more.