APPLE GROVE, W.Va. - For James McCormick helping veterans like himself is a way of life.
That assistance to others was recognized in March when he was named as a recipient of the Medal of Honor Society Citizens Service Before Self Medal.
"It's like the civilian equivalent of the Medal of Honor, it's a huge thing," McCormick said. "I'm the tenth person to receive this medal."
James McCormick, second from right, is shown with other Purple Heart recipients in Afghanistan.
McCormick, safety manager at UTI, a contractor at the DuPont Washington Works plant, was singled out for the award because of his work with veterans at Raising Cane Farm near Apple Grove in Mason County where he grows bamboo.
At the farm, a number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan work or volunteer.
McCormick, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the reserves, also worked with veterans through a state agency but realized he could do more.
James McCormick was honored recently for his work with veterans.
He was named as a recipient of the Medal of Honor Society Citizens Service Before Self Medal.
A veterans himself, he began the Raising Cane Farm in Mason County where workers and volunteers are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
McCormick is also pastor of New Haven House of Prayer.
"Some of them are veterans I worked with when I was in the Army," he said. "I also worked for the state at WorkForce West Virginia as a disabled veterans outreach specialist for two years, so I made a lot of contacts."
During that time McCormick said he got involved with a number of initiatives for veterans.
"As a state employee I could not get involved with the legislature but that was where we needed to be," he said. "We had veterans coming back who needed help."
McCormick served two tours of duty in Iraq, first in Operation Desert Storm as a sergeant in the U.S. Army and then as a captain in the National Guard.
"I retired in 2009, " he said. "I volunteered to go to Afghanistan. I had been wounded over there three times, shot in the legs twice and once in the hand."
During a physical he was told he was medically unfit for service and was medically retired.
McCormick said he came across one veteran living with his wife under a bridge.
"I came across a man who was a Staff Sergeant, E-6, and he and his pregnant wife were living under a bridge in Ripley," he said. "At the point I was like 'Man, I've got to do something, I feel horrible about this.'
"His wife was six months pregnant and never had a pre-natal exam or vitamin."
After that McCormick had the idea to help put veterans back to work with a farm growing a crop that has been growing in popularity for its versatility.
"I had 15 acres I turned into a working farm," he said. "We grow and harvest bamboo and what we do is we sell it for crafts and tomato stakes and things like that."
McCormick said bamboo has a number of uses from paper to clothing
"Anything you can do with wood you can do with bamboo," he said. "It's a grass and it grows extremely fast. In five years we have five inch around, 20 feet tall bamboo poles."
McCormick said trees will take 25 to 30 years to grow to the point they can be used for many of the same items.
"It's green and sustainable and replenishes and is easy to grow," he said. "Thank goodness for that."
McCormick said this year he plans to sell bamboo shoots.
He is also the pastor of New Haven House of Prayer.
"I don't push a particular denomination, I just preach about Jesus Christ," he said.
McCormick said there is one reason many soldiers become Christians.
"It's because of the horrible experience," he said. "Think about it, your whole life you are taught don't kill and don't steal. All of a sudden you are thrown into a situation where that's what you do."
McCormick said he believes a faith-based program can do more for most veterans than any medication.
"I don't take pill one and I've healed up pretty good," he said.
McCormick said three individuals are picked each year for the medal. He received his medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in March.
"Our own Woody Williams, West Virginia's only living Medal of Honor recipient, presented that medal to me," he said. "He's an amazing man, 88 years old but he still gets at it every day."