Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trash talking and troop challenges

It wouldn’t be the annual OOIDA Truckers for Troops week if the challenges didn’t get tossed around. This year is certainly no exception.

One challenge that has escalated over the years is the Troop Challenge. Here’s how that came about. A couple of years ago OOIDA employees fielding calls started a tradition for veterans joining or renewing memberships with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. They started keeping track of what branch of the military they belonged to.

That’s all it took. The challenge was announced on air and the trash talk started with a hash mark board collecting tally marks through the rest of the week. Army, in the end, was victorious in 2008.

In 2009, Land Line Now staffer Reed Black and I kicked it up a notch. Reed, who is an Army veteran, had proclaimed repeatedly that Army would win the challenge again. I took exception to that and challenged vets of all the other branches to “prove Reed wrong.”

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. The challenge escalated to the point that when Army won, I had to wear a “Reed was right” T-shirt.

I am stacking the deck in my favor this year, pitting the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard against Reed and his fellow Army vets.

Heading into the final day of OOIDA’s Truckers for Troops, it appears I have a very slim lead. Reed, however, has reminded me all day that Army is known for rallying back.

With all of the challenges, dares and competitions springing up – the troops are always first on everyone’s minds. How many care packages can we send? What cool stuff will be put in them? How many troops’ addresses do we have so far?

The 2009 effort raised enough money to provide 622 care packages. Each package weighs as much as 70 pounds and is packed with enough essentials – from warm socks to fun items like Frisbees and playing cards – to serve an entire unit. It’s estimated that more than 7,400 troops benefitted from OOIDA Truckers for Troops care packages this past year.

The OOIDA Truckers for Troops campaign raises money a couple of different ways for the care packages – through outright donations and by contributing and matching a portion of membership dues paid during the campaign. The money raised through the effort goes 100 percent toward the care packages. The Association even covers the cost of the shipping.

The weeklong campaign to raise money to provide care packages for members of the military has been met with an outpouring of support from the trucking community in its first three years, raising $158,623.60.

Anyone wanting to participate in Truckers for Troops can call in during regular business hours at 800-444-5791, especially if you're chalking one up for the Air Force, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard.

Also, throughout the week, members from OOIDA’s switchboard and membership departments – along with other volunteers from around the Association – will be on hand through the airing of Land Line Now until 7:30 p.m. CST.

You can also join or donate online through the OOIDA website.

To keep up with OOIDA’s 2010 Truckers for Troops campaign, you can tune in nightly to Land Line Now from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. CST; watch for updates on, and; and catch updates as well as behind the scenes photos and videos on YouTube and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7

The day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, my dad was a 19-year-old air combat crewman in the U.S. Navy, stationed in San Diego. He had enlisted in May 1941 and was in training as a bombardier. On Dec. 7, 1941, the training ended. The real deal was on.

Dad grew up in Independence, MO, a town that has got plenty of national attention, thanks to Harry S. Truman. Harry would, of course, become vice-president for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and then president when FDR died in April 1945. But that’s another war story.

The boy from Independence soon found himself on the way to Kaneohe Bay, on the east coast of Oahu. Kaneohe was the site of a major Navy patrol seaplane base and home to three Patrol Squadrons. Dad was a bombardier for Patrol Squadron 102.

His attachment to the squadron ran deep. He told us how Kaneohe had been heavily damaged when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Dad said dozens of PBYs were on the ground (or in the water just offshore) when the Japanese planes came. The raid destroyed most of them.

Paging through my dad’s Navy Aviator Flight Log Book, it’s easy for me to imagine him in a PBY flying low over the waves – eyes peeled for the enemy, ready for action.

I am looking at his scribbled entry for Dec. 7, 1943, two years after the “day that would live in infamy.”

Type of machine: PB2Y3
Duration of flight: 11.0 hours
Character of flight: “J” (that meant scout-patrol-escort)
Pilot: Lt. Commander Curtis
Passengers: self

On Christmas day, 1943, he logged 12 hours in a PB2Y3, again a scout flight, with a pilot listed as Lt. Harris. By that time, Newton Myers was a 21-year-old battle-seasoned veteran.

A year later he was honorably discharged, having been a casualty of a hangar fire that left him hospitalized for more than a year in the South Pacific, and many more months at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois.

He was discharged on Dec. 7, 1944.

The first time I saw his logbook was when I was 19. I was a college freshman and came home on Dec. 7, for the weekend. I was mad at Dad for not giving me keys to the car to go to McDonald’s. My mom got my attention when she took me aside and showed me a flight logbook.

“Here you are, whining over car keys, worried about where your next French fry is going to come from. When your dad was about your age, here’s what he was doing on Dec. 7.”

From that day forward, all she had to do was wave the little brown book at me.

Dad died in 1994. He left his flight logbook to me.

Each year on Dec. 7, I look at it. I handle it, page through it, imagine how it was. It’s never failed, in a deeply sobering way, to get my undivided respect.