Bodley: Supporting OTM supports soldiers

I was driving the big rig through L.A. when my cell phone rang. Ginny Craven of Operation Tango Mike said she needed a ride for the soldiers in the Memorial Day parade and asked if I could help. The two-week notice she gave me should have been plenty of time, but unfortunately my job keeps me away from home all week so I actually only had a few days that I could work on the project. Having done the parade before, I knew how much work was involved and that I would need help getting everything together in time. I told her we’d get it done even though I didn’t know exactly how.

Getting permission to use the truck from my bosses, Brad and Cathy Anderson, at C&A Trucking was no problem. They have always been generous this way, but Cathy did say that she couldn’t allow anyone to ride on the trailer for liability reasons. So just like that, my plan was out the window. Now I had to think long and hard about how I could help Operation Tango Mike in the parade without the troops. Then it hit me.

As of May 20, 2008, 4,081 young men and women died while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and I decided to represent the brave soldiers who gave the ultimate of their lives in these, our most recent wars. With this theme as our beginning, I enlisted my son-in-law Wayne Lyon at Wooden Creations to carve the center piece that would pay respect to our heroes.

While on the road during the week before the parade I picked up 21 big flags. Meanwhile, Wayne was hard at work on the wood carving. The day before the parade there was a work party at my house with Operation Tango Mike volunteers, veterans, mothers of veterans and my wife, Dawn. Having so much help was wonderful and we actually got the truck ready to go with time to spare, unlike previous years. Saturday morning saw the final touches put on the truck named Freedom. My son, Chris, mounted the M1 and set the boots and helmet on the memorial carving.

From my seat in the truck I could see many people were moved by what we had brought. It’s a special view from up there, seeing the little children with their flags held high, all the smiles and applause. I felt we had truly done something remarkable for our fallen soldiers, something they would be proud of too. I’ll never forget seeing the judges stand and applaud as I stopped in front of their booth. They liked the truck so much, in fact, that they awarded it the “Grand Prize” for the parade and sent me a check for $125.

While $125 is a generous prize and I am grateful, I will not be keeping that money. Helping Operation Tango Mike with the parade was a great experience, but they need more than just moral support. That’s why I’m donating the “Grand Prize” money to Operation Tango Mike, along with my own matched contribution. It is my hope to plant the seed of the prize money and watch it grow with the help of our community. With your help we can do some thing very special for Operation Tango Mike, so they can continue to do the wonderful job they do of supporting our service men and women. This is a chance to show that we care and honor those who give so much in our name.

I offer a challenge to all of Lake County to see how much money we can raise for the troops by July 15. If you can match the $125, that would be wonderful, but you don’t have to. Please just give what you can. Even a letter with encouragement and good wishes will help brighten a soldier’s day and remind them that their sacrifice is being remembered here at home. Make checks payable to Operation Tango Mike with the notation GPG (Grand Prize Giveaway). Drop checks and/or letters of encouragement to Umpqua Bank 805 11th Street Lakeport, CA 95453.

In closing many thanks to Operation Tango Mike Donna Christopher, Don McCown, Peg McCown, Jackie Morgan, Vic Morgan, Suzie Defrancisci, Natalie Baker, Ron Quick, Ginny Craven, and congratulations to all participants of the 2008 memorial parade.

Thaxter C. Bodley lives in Lakeport.