On Nov. 29, Scott Anderson, president and CEO of the online diamond jeweler Union Diamond, revealed the six finalists in his “My Perfect Union” contest, which will award the winner a $40,000 diamond and platinum engagement ring.
Union Diamond received thousands of visits to the contest’s website. The contest garnered 240 nominees. Members of the military were encouraged to nominate themselves or be nominated by friends or family members through a video submission and/or essay. The contest was open to both active duty and retired members of all branches of the U.S. military.
“I’ve read each submission more than a few times. I just keep reminding myself of what I wanted to accomplish going in to this,” says Anderson. “They are all so deserving. Every last one.” Union Diamond’s senior vice president Barbara Palumbo adds that every member of the staff read each entry, and “there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by without someone tearing up in the office.”
The six finalists are:
Air Force Captain Shawntez Brooks
Brooks’ daughter Selina Smith nominated him. She wrote that her dad “is now serving a remote so we don’t get to see him anymore, but I am proud to tell people that my dad saves lives.” Smith wants her father to win the contest because someone broke into the family’s home last year and took her mother’s engagement ring. She also wrote that her dad leads the family by example by running marathons for charity, volunteering at shelters, and assisting at food drives. “He always looks to the well being of his family and his nation first,” she said.
Marine Corporal Jose Parra
One of Parra’s former co-workers nominated him for the contest. Parra, who hails from New Mexico, has a positive attitude and great personality, Anthony Trunkhill wrote in the submission entry. He was unable to afford a ring when he married his wife, Tiffany, who is also a Marine. Parra volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan soon after the wedding, but is slated to return home in two weeks. “You would not be giving the ring to just one person of our military, but TWO people of our military,” Trunkhill wrote. “Tiffany and Jose are inspirations to me, and deserve this more than you can imagine.”
Army Specialist Michael Brewer
Michael Brewer is an active duty Army Wounded Warrior/Purple Heart recipient. He was injured in Afghanistan when the convoy he was leading was ambushed by insurgents. Hit with an RPG, he sustained serious injuries. However, despite those injuries he managed to get his convoy to safety before seeking medical treatment. To date, Brewer has undergone 11 surgeries to his face and hands and has received the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Badge, and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device for being wounded in combat and heroic actions. Brewer praised his wife in his entry. “She has always been there for me and has never left my side,” he wrote. “I will unfortunately never be able to afford the ring that she deserves, but I would like to be able to give her something that she has deserved since the very beginning.”
Army E-4 Derek McConnell
During his deployment to Afghanistan, Derek was injured by an IED while on patrol. He lost both legs above the knee, suffered a TBI, pneumonia, pelvic fracture, broken jaw, and internal injuries. His girlfriend, Krystina, has not left his side, leaving her job and putting school on hold in order to support him. McConnell is trying to save up to buy a ring despite his injuries.
Retired Army Colonel Robert Sholly
Sholly’s wife Peggy nominated him for the contest. He served two tours in Vietnam in the Army. He was seconded to the United Nations and shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1983. He was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and a Defense Superior Service Medal and was inducted into the U.S. Army’s Infantry OCS Hall of Fame. Peggy, who has been married to Sholly for eight years, wants him to win the contest because he is a “true patriot who has lived an exceptional life in service to his country and fellow men and women and is worthy of recognition for his meritoriously serving others.”
Army E-4 Joshua Krumpelman
Krumpelman enlisted in the Army right after high school and was deployed to Afghanistan. During his months of deployment, he learned that a close friend from high school was pregnant and that her baby’s father had abandoned her. He tried to give what comfort he could while being thousands of miles away. After the baby was born, he asked for photos every day and developed feelings for her. They will be married in April.