Veteran-owned Southern Pines distillery to celebrate military valor, sacrifice

Joel Brown Image
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Veteran-owned Southern Pines distillery to celebrate valor, sacrifice
A military couple is building their dream in Southern Pines -- a distillery that honors the spirit of valor and sacrifice

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (WTVD) -- What Brad and Jess Halling are building on these acres in Southern Pines at the crossroads of Pinehurst and Fort Liberty is their dream of a celebration of American military valor and sacrifice through spirits.

"Four and half years ago, we decided to stop dreaming and start doing," Jess told ABC11 from the construction site for BHAWK, short for Brad Halling American Whiskey Ko.

"It's really a thumbs up to all that served and the stories that aren't told; that didn't have a movie produced for them. It's everybody's story," Brad said.

Brad Halling's story has been told by Hollywood. The 2001 film "Black Hawk Down" dramatized the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.

"It was a day of chaos," said Brad, who was based at then-Fort Bragg. He was a 30-year-old Special Forces sniper aboard one of the Black Hawk helicopters that came under attack by Somali militia.

"First time, really in my career where I felt like we were on the defensive. We were in the foxhole trying to defend the perimeter," Brad said.

At the time, no battle since the Vietnam War had killed so many U.S. troops. Eighteen American soldiers died. More than 70 were wounded.

Brad lost his left leg after his Black Hawk, dubbed "Super 62," was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. His leg was amputated at the knee.

"I wish my other leg was as strong," Brad said about his "bionic knee," his high-tech prosthetic limb. "The modern technology is pretty amazing."

30 years after the battle, Brad honors his fallen mates with an annual run. But the BHAWK distillery, which is on pace to open next month, may prove to be the biggest tribute yet.

It'll include a cocktail bar, a distillery for their own premium brand whiskey and gin, and they're building what they call a Gratitude Room: a dedicated space to honor military service including the friends Brad lost in Mogadishu from Task Force Ranger.

It was a military tragedy that inspired a new generation of soldiers to enlist, Not to mention Brad's wife Jess -- a 50-50 partner in BHAWK and a proud U.S. Army veteran who served for 29 years.

"I consider myself part of the generation that was inspired by the men who fought on Task Force Ranger," Jess said with tears in her eyes.

Brad and Jess were married on Veterans Day in 2011. They hope to open BHAWK by the middle of next month.

"This is where (the battle) brought me," Brad said amidst the flurry of construction in Southern Pines. "It brought me to remembering my mates. And through spirits, we're going to commemorate and remember selfless service."

The couple plans to name several of the rooms inside BHAWK after Brad's fallen mates who died in Mogadishu. And include pictures of the men on select batches of their whiskeys.