More than 100 Air Force Veterans are making their way to Las Vegas for the Air Force Trials which start on Monday. A Minot veteran is competing for his fourth year hoping to make the team. This is the story of Kenneth Hinton, or as his fire chief calls him, “the man who doesn’t quit.”
“I think helping people helps me,” Hinton said.
Hinton spent four years active as security forces and a flight commander guarding missiles in Minot. In 2008, he deployed to Iraq and spent a year there.
While deployed, he started experiencing migraines and nausea, and when he returned to the states, things weren’t the same.
“A couple years later, everything changed. I was homeless. I was bouncing around four or five different V.A. hospitals and one of the treatments I got actually caused like cognitive impairment,” Hinton said.
During his time in the military, Hinton joined the Minot Rural Fire Department as a volunteer in 2002. He would help fight fires, but after those V.A. treatments, Fire Chief Rex Weltikol had to make a difficult decision.
“Was having some issues so we had to, you know, we still kept him on board, he’s a dispatcher for us. He does a great job. Just unable to go out on the fire trucks,” said Weltikol.
Hinton is there, every. single. day. Helping out however he can, whether it’s cutting the grass, helping clean up or being a dispatcher.
“The guy’s got the biggest heart in the world. He does all of these things just to help people. He’s not looking for money, he’s not looking for recognition. He just wants to do those things,” Weltikol said.
Hinton is also a member of Team Rubicon. It’s a veteran service organization that helps out during disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
Four years ago, he was given the chance to join another team.
The Air Force reached out to him asking if he wanted to compete in the Air Force Trials. There, wounded warrior athletes can compete in things like powerlifting, cycling and shooting. Each sport is modified so everyone can participate.
“Nobody asks you like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Everybody’s just there to compete,” Hinton said.
People in the Minot community are showing their support for Hinton.
“I got a bike from Wounded Warrior Project. Chief, here, helped me sight in an air rifle I got and almost every day someone’s helping me spot when I’m lifting,” Hinton said.
He said getting together with other veterans has helped him.
“It feels like you’re in the military again, to be honest with you, and that’s helpful,” Hinton said.
For him, it’s not about winning. He’s just happy to be a part of it all.
“You know I’m not the biggest star and the fastest, but I’m going to go there and finish,” Hinton said.
Good luck to Ken next week at the trials!