America’s Freedom Festival at Provo selects individuals to honor each year in July who “demonstrate a unique contribution to the cause of freedom and the American values of God, family, freedom, and country.”
This year the organization honored four recipients:
1. Timothy Ballard, Former CIA and DHS Agent, Author, Founder of Operation Underground Railroad. Dedicated to the rescue of children from sex slavery around the world and the fight against child pornography.
2. Nelson Takeo Akagi, World War II Army Veteran, Member of the 442nd Regional Combat Unity. Japanese-‐American who volunteered to show his patriotism and loyalty to America in spite of personal persecution.
3. Sharlene Wells Hawks, President, Remember My Service Productions. Former Miss America 1985. Preserves and shares the experiences of military service men and women to make sure they are not forgotten.
4. Cedric King, Army Master Sergeant/Army Ranger, Served in Afghanistan. Lost both legs after stepping on an IED in July 2012. Has run the Boston Marathon twice since.
In reaction to the selection by the Freedom Festival, Tim Ballard said,
This award is not really just for me but for Operation Underground Railroad. I’m the face of that organization so I’m honored to receive this award on behalf of my team members, most of which can’t show their faces because they’re undercover. They’re doing the dangerous work.
Mostly, I’m grateful to use that to shine a light on what’s going on and make this a moment that’s about these victims who are still not safe. And I think that’s the point of this. That’s why we love our relationship here with the state of Utah, officials here, with the media here, because it’s these components here working together that are going to create a larger light and with that light we can more readily eradicate this horrific crime.