Troop Box Ministries holds fund-raiser at golf course

May 23rd, 2010    Author: Tonya Brooks    Filed Under: Community

The Cedar Trace Golf Club in Owensville hosted a fund-raiser Saturday, May 8 for the Troop Box Ministry, an organization that sends monthly gift boxes to American soldiers.

Founded by Diana Lawrence and Jean Johnston of Hamersville, the group has been active since 2001 and now sends 75 boxes each month to soldiers who are far from home.

“We send personal care items, food, socks, T-shirts. Anything that will ship we send,” said Lawrence as she stood behind the dining room bar overseeing the lunch served to the golfers.

“There are restrictions,” she said. “No alcohol, no aerosols.”

Sgt. Michael Goodman, left, and Tom Griffin talk about theirexperiences.
Favorite items are handheld games, playing cards and Cincinnati chili.

"Twice a year, Gold Star Chili donates chili, spaghetti, parmesan cheese and hot sauce," Lawrence said. "Wendy's donates hot sauce and CVS collects everything from gummy bears to chewing gum."

The group gets referrals from families and friends of soldiers. Once a name is on the list, a box goes out each month until the soldier comes home.

Twice a year Troop Box Ministry holds a fund-raiser. This time, Jack Sinkking of Batavia lent a hand. Sinkking, 72, organized golf outings for 25 years at Milacron and used his experience to persuade donors to sponsor holes for this outing. He estimated that 146 golfers attended and donations will exceed $14,000.

Two of the people who Sinkking brought together represent 67 years of service to this country.

Sgt. Michael Goodman enlisted in the Marine Corps when he graduated from Georgetown High School. He left Brown County for Paris Island and was in Iraq within six months.

"As for being thrown into that scenario," he said, "I was very young - very fresh in the Marine Corps."

He spent seven months in Iraq for his first tour. Then he began to think about teaching his juniors.

"I had to teach them," he said. "I returned to the States to the specialty schools to be a leader not a follower. I went back to Iraq in '07 and then came back again for more school. I became a squad leader and then a team leader."

Goodman learned to be a joint tactical air controller. His job was to help insure precision air attacks from the ground using a radio device. He was sent to Afghanistan with his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment or the 2/2.

"We can control the aircraft and we can control the ordinance from the ground. There are precautions you have got to go through. You have got to make sure he (the pilot) is on target and he knows what he is looking at. You have to talk him on to the target. I could be stationary or I could be running while I am controlling an aircraft. If I am in a fire fight, I'm going to be calling for air support and at the same time running into the conflict."

The 2/2 was operating in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Goodman and his unit were charged with working to win over the local people from the Taliban.

"They got no schools over there. We would ask 'Where do you want a school?' and get to work on that. They needed bridges. We would try to get them set up so they would help us instead of the Taliban. We did get a school started in the lower part of Helmand, although I was there for only a short time."

Goodman spent time building relationships with children during his tours of duty as part of his efforts to win over their parents. When asked if he had difficulty communicating with the children, he replied, "You got to have a switch. You can't always think about the combat mindset. I could set down my weapon and talk to a kid. Then an older kid would see us and by talking to that kid, I would have the parents come on our side."

Goodman has two daughters at home, ages one and three. One of his proudest accomplishments was helping to build a wheelchair for an Iraqi girl who was wounded in the fighting. He enlisted the help of his wife, who is a nurse, to design a specialized chair.

On December 2, 2009, Goodman was in the 3rd hour of a 12-hour patrol when he was injured. "I got hit by a daisy chain. I had to make sure I got my Marines back to the wire but I was hurting at the time. My left leg was pretty hurt. I couldn't see out of my left eye. I couldn't hear anything."

Goodman has been back in the States for five months, recuperating from his injuries. He walks with a limp, has hearing difficulties and faces months of treatment and rehabilitation. What he wants is to go back to Afghanistan.

Still, he is glad to be back.

"The joy of being back in the States is hard to explain. You don't have to worry a out going down the street. You've got so much more freedom here. The first thing you want is rest. The second thing is food. Your family is waiting for you but all you think about is food. Something fattening..."

His personal dream food was a Parker Steak Hoagie.

Another soldier attended the golf outing at Cedar Trace. He was Major Tom Griffin, a navigator for Doolittle's Raiders. At age 94, he is one of the survivors of the first air attack against Japan after the attack at Pearl Harbor, which destroyed the Pacific fleet and brought the United States into World War II.

Griffin was a graduate of Pan American Airlines' navigator program and the University of Florida's meteorology program.

He knew what he was preparing for. "I went into this with my eyes wide open," he said. "The European countries were in it and we were heading that way. After Pearl Harbor, I joined the Air Force."

Four months later, on April 18, 1942, James "Jimmy" Doolittle led 16 B-25 bombers on an attack against Japan.

They took off from the Carrier "Hornet" and bombed Tokyo and other major cities. They were forced to take off early after running into fishing boats who could warn the Japanese of the impending attack, and knew that they did not have enough fuel to get back to the ship. They planned to land in China.

"There were 16 of us that bombed Tokyo and one headed up to Vladivostok and landed there. The other 15 headed for a field in China. We had to take off 250 miles early and there was a good chance we would run out of fuel. We got a tremendous break and got a good tail wind. It was part of a big storm. Two of us ditched in the water and the rest pulled into this storm. We couldn't even see our wingtips and we ran out of gas. We all bailed out. We couldn't let down because there were mountains below us. We lost two crews and on other died on bailout."

"The rest of us were on Chinese territory when we landed."

The Chinese, who were bitter enemies of the Japanese, sheltered the crews who landed in their areas. Griffin made it back and was sent back into combat.

"I went completely around the world," he said. "I was sent to Africa where I fought Rommel's boys. I went to India, South Africa and Washington, D.C."

On July 4, 1943, he was captured and sent to a German prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft 3. One of his fellow prisoners died of starvation there. Griffin was liberated in 1945.

Even after that, Griffin was ordered to stand by for the invasion of Japan, but the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan ended the war.

Griffin and Goodman sat together and talked about their war experiences. Griffin said he had spent a lifetime talking about his experiences at high schools and colleges, hoping to persuade people to stay away from war whenever there is another solution. He worries that younger people are not learning their history and are more likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Goodman said, "We don't have the prison camps. Now its someone who wants to kill you or capture you to kill you in front of the camera. Still, it's always the same for a soldier. Someone's got to run up the hill."

Griffin nodded at that.
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