John Wayne Walding, an Army veteran from Texas, spent 12 years in the military with the majority of it being in 3rd Special Forces Group as a Green Beret. In 2008, John was in a firefight in Afghanistan that took his right leg. For that battle, he received the Silver Star Medal and a Purple Heart.
John has never let his injury slow him down. He became the first amputee to ever graduate as a Green Beret in Special Forces Sniper School. He placed fourth at the Boston Marathon in the hand crank division. He said, “I didn’t give up. I honestly didn’t know I was that good. My joke is I can’t be a fat one-legged guy, so I started doing the exercise that was available to me and it was riding a hand crank.” Afterwards, he ran the Army 10 Miler, Dallas full marathon, and the Dallas half marathon. Last year, he ran the Bataan Memorial Death March, which is a marathon route with a 45-pound rucksack on your back. He said, “But my biggest accomplishment from it all is my wife and four children.”
Now that you’re retired, what do you like to do?
After my injury, I became an entrepreneur. I’ve been very blessed to have an opportunity to start my first company and capitalize it as much as I can. My whole purpose in life is being a part of something bigger than myself. It’s something I’ve always lived by, so after my service in the military, I made absolutely sure that I would continue that service somehow. I started a gun company called 5 Toes Custom, which is a natural selection for a Green Beret. The idea of this company was to be a place for veterans to give back to charity by building handcrafted firearms. Once I sold that company, I decided to run two different companies. The first one is Gallantry Global Logistics, which is a service-disabled veteran home logistics company. We’re hopefully going to be one of the largest veterans hiring companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The other company I founded is called Live To Give, which is a bottled water company. Every bottle purchased is gives half the profits to veterans or first responder charities.
What’s your inspiration behind these different companies you founded?
Well, I always felt that we were protecting the American Dream, but we couldn’t afford to live it. I wasn’t always about my country until I served. Once I served, I realized how truly great this country is, and I will forever live to serve it. I don’t have this vision of being the next Zuckerberg, I just want to be able to give, from the water bottle standpoint, everyday Americans the opportunity to give back daily. There are not very many products you can buy and give back to charity. When you go into a convenience store, you’re looking for something that you’re going to consume and know you’re going to buy the same thing over and over again. What if that something you’re buying over and over again is changing lives? That’s what we’re going to do.
Tell us about your relationship with Lucchese.
I’ve always been a fan big fan of Lucchese. Look, I’m a redneck from Groesbeck, Texas. I went from cowboy boots to combat boots. I love the quality aspect. As a Green Beret, we’re all about being the one percent and the best that there is, and that’s what Lucchese is in boots. I do believe Lucchese has a unique product that no one can really match. I went from being a fan to a customer.
I met the president, Doug Kindy, who invited me to the showroom to personally customize my style of boot. After I chose the boot I wanted, I had a custom pair sent to my house that could fit my prosthetic device. Doug is a great American who wants to support those that sacrifice for the country. I was honored to be able to get a pair. Every time I speak at a gig, I wear my Lucchese boots.
Why is it important to have a shoe that fits properly?
Well, it matters to me because I’m a one-legged guy. The true differentiating factor with Lucchese is that it was a custom boot made for me to get the boot on and off my prosthetic leg. A prosthetic leg is not made for cowboy boots; it’s made for a generic tennis shoe, which is about a 3/8” heel. With that being said, Lucchese helped me choose a heel that would function with my prosthesis. In addition, I have a wide foot, so having a boot customized for me, the fit is perfect – it’s like wearing gloves. Lucchese boots are the most comfortable pair of boots I own.
What do you feel every day when you put on your Lucchese boots?
I feel appreciation for my sacrifice. Every time I look at or am wearing the boots, I really do remember that day. Lucchese appreciates me for my sacrifice, which allowed me to have these boots. Every time I put them on, I feel that appreciation. I tell everybody, my leg will never grow back. The day I lost my leg – that was the day I truly understood the meaning of the word “can’t.” Things like “I can’t walk.” That’s bullshit because no matter how much effort I give for the rest of my life, I can’t walk, and I’m fine with that. Every day I wake up with that word “can’t,” I truly appreciate the “thank you"s I get from the American people. When people tell me, “Thank you for your service,” I don’t say, “You’re welcome.” I say, “You’re worth it.” I say this because we are the best country.
Lucchese proudly supports our U.S. military. Lucchese.com offers a military discount of 15% to active duty military. When placing an order online, please register an account with your military email address ending in .mil. Then the 15% discount will be applied automatically in the shopping cart at checkout.
For more information about John Wayne, visit https://www.johnwaynewalding.com/.