Like the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in his favorite movie, Cedric King is a household name in Warren County.
King is also well known outside the county for his role as an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, and his 2019 book, “The Making Point: How to Succeed When You’re at Your Breaking Point.” But thanks to an ad King made in support of Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, many more people across the country now know his name.
The son of Sandra and Valton Williams of Warrenton and the late Van King, King enlisted in the Army after graduation from Warren County High School in 1995, and served for 17 years without incident.
An Army Ranger, Airborne and Pathfinder instructor, King was stationed at Fort Bragg and deployed three times, once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. July 25, 2012 started out like any other day in Afghanistan, when his platoon was tasked with gathering intelligence on an IED facility in Kandahar. Exiting the structure, King stepped on a pressure plate IED resulting in the loss of his legs.
He also had internal injuries, an injured right arm with a severed nerve, and was missing the tip of a finger on his right hand.
During three months of medical procedures, King received visits from fellow soldiers in the 82nd Airborne, the unit he had previously served with, along with a visit from President Barack Obama during a 9/11 visit to Walter Reed. Over the next three years, King would meet the president and Vice President Joe Biden numerous times, at Walter Reed, the White House and the vice president’s home at the Naval Observatory.
And although it took some doing, King would also meet Gary Sinise, aka Lieutenant Dan, who had also long been visiting wounded warriors at hospitals across the country.
The two got along immediately. And after retiring from the Army in 2015, King would go on to become an ambassador for the foundation, which “honors our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.”
When he’s not giving motivational speeches to Fortune 500 companies, or speaking at events to promote the work of the Gary Sinise Foundation, the retired master sergeant runs the annual Run Warrenton Race, Run, Walk, Scoot 5k, in which he ran on his running blades just nine months after his injury, as well as some 10 marathons and four triathlons.
After completing one Olympic and half an Iron Man, he couldn’t finish two of the full Iron Man Triathlons — that is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in 17 hours or less — but he will try again.
“It may sound crazy but I love the fact that when I take on challenges like this it makes everything else a little easier,” King said by phone from his home in Atlanta where he lives with his wife and daughters.
In the wake of COVID-19, King is now switching from in-person conferences and expanding into podcasts, delivering short messages of 7-10 minutes on matters of faith, persistence, initiative and courage. He said the first episode should be out by the end of October.
“These are things we need to be reminded of each day,” he said.
Back to Biden
King said he and the vice president have stayed in contact and this summer received requests from the campaign to speak at events from a veteran’s point of view. But King said he turned them down, saying he didn’t want to be in a position of being hated by some and embraced by others. But when the “losers and suckers remark” from President Trump came out, King answered the next call and request to support the Biden campaign.
“The country should be moving in a certain direction,” King said. “I had to ask myself if the next four years are the same as the last four would I be pleased. If the answer is yes, then I would help Trump. But if the answer is no, then I would help Biden. I decided to put my effort into change the way I wanted it to be.”
Of the response, King said it’s been tough. “A lot of people didn’t agree (with my decision). I totally get that a lot of great people are in disagreement with me on the issues,” King said. “Supporting Biden put me at odds with people I served with.”
And while King allows that he holds certain issues near and dear from both party platforms, for him this election is not about party but leadership.
“Party affiliation makes you hang on no matter what,” he said. “But if you put party over people, that’s when you get in trouble.”
The ad was filmed in Atlanta and has aired in six states.
“As much as I have supporters and detractors, it’s not about the support. We have to focus on the issues. I don’t get offended when someone tells me they disagree with me, that’s okay. Our job is not to change minds but to find out where people are coming from. We can no longer allow our passions to divide us.”