George Woodrum and his service for others.
There are hidden heroes all around us. They are living regular, everyday lives, and unless they happened to share their story over coffee, you would never know how secretly incredible they are. This is the story of George Woodrum — a humble hero with a heart of gold and a long history of helping others.
George grew up in a military family, traveling the world until his dad retired when George was in the seventh grade. His dad’s devotion to service always inspired him, as did his best friend, who joined the military after high school. A few years later, George began feeling the pull to also serve in the military.
“My best friend Steve and I were very close and had similar philosophies,” George says. “We both cared about people. We both had a strong desire to be part of something that could have a lasting impact. So I joined the Military Police Corps.”
George went on to serve for 10 years. He worked in other countries, like Italy, where he trained Italian military police. He then served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991. He learned the heart of other cultures, but also the struggles of other people. Today, he casually mentions nearly losing his life after being shot in the head during one of his tours. If the bullet would have been 1 inch lower, he wouldn’t have made it out alive. George saw many struggles in the United States, too, with emergency work during the Great Flood of 1993 and crowd control during the Rodney King trial. He finally left his military life behind in 1995 and refocused his efforts on civilian life. This now included his growing family with his son, Mitchell, and daughter, Danyelle.
“The camaraderie around an injured soldier is not just something you see in movies – we always take care of our own.”— George Woodrum
But there was still a longing in George’s heart. This was felt acutely after the September 11 attacks and the tragic death of his best friend — the same man that had inspired him years before — during a roadside bombing in Iraq. George went back to military police work before being deployed to Iraq in 2008. George worked side-by-side with police in Iraq. Once, when setting up walls for a police station, he was hit by sniper fire. While his helmet saved his life (but indented into his head), the traumatic brain injury would have lifelong impacts on his health, including cluster headaches and vertigo.
Even when injured, he continued his mission and resumed work with his squad in Iraq, which would earn him the Combat Action Badge and the Purple Heart. But it’s always the people that surrounded him that fateful day that he talks about most.
“The camaraderie around an injured soldier is not just something you see in movies — we always take care of our own,” George says. “I believe in our mission. We were asked to go and we went, and we did the best we could.”
While George was serving in Iraq, his son graduated high school in Missouri and then went straight into basic training. This commitment to service was not lost on George; he had served in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and now Mitchell has become an officer and a commander while also having served in Iraq himself. His daughter, Danyelle, followed in his footsteps as well, choosing a career to help others; she now works as a cancer nurse at the Lake of the Ozarks.
While George officially retired from the military in 2018, he continues to serve as a civilian in the National Guard in Jefferson City and works with soldiers daily. He and his wife, Linda, who have been married 39 years, just moved to the Lake of the Ozarks full-time and are finding more time for fun with their new convertible Corvette. George enjoys going on outings with his Corvette club, as well as boating and jet skiing with his family and friends.
“I already have a great legacy because I have two wonderful kids — one in the military and one a nurse helping people go through cancer — and they each have a heart for making a difference,” George says. “My wife, the true rock of our family, does not get the credit she deserves. She is truly the unsung hero. I would not have been able to accomplish what I have without her love and support.”
For all the life lessons, including some hard ones on foreign soil and a few right here at home, George is still an optimist about the world around him. He appreciates every minute of life and hopes others will do the same because there is so much to be thankful for.
“In the world we’re living in, I wish people would understand we all have more in common than we realize, and we need to focus on the good in people,” he says. “Life is too short for drama. Enjoy life. Find the good in every situation.”