By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer
For soldiers serving in combat zones, putting their lives on the line, receiving care packages with some comforts from home can mean so much.
OOIDA and its members have dug deep into their wallets the past five years to ensure these soldiers receive care packages. Based on the number of inquiries to HQ asking for the dates for this year’s telethon, scheduled for Dec. 3-7, the sixth annual Truckers for Troops campaign will not disappoint.
“It is no surprise to us that truckers are so generous and supportive of U.S. troops,” said Norita Taylor, media spokesperson for OOIDA. “We are truly thankful to be able to carry out this program, which is all due to the participation of our members and generous support from sponsors like Shell Rotella.”
Last year’s campaign raised $73,560, which allowed OOIDA to ship out 341 huge boxes filled with snacks, T-shirts, foot powder, hygiene supplies for both men and women soldiers, magazines, cards and letters.
Those care packages also included treats and care items for military combat dogs, whose job, along with their handlers, is to walk “point” on patrols, searching for trip wires, booby traps, improvised explosive devices – or IEDs – or any other threats to U.S. troops moving through hostile areas.
The idea of including pet care items for the dogs originally came from William “Bill” Casey, an OOIDA life member from Millersburg, OH, who in 1970-71 was an Army dog handler in Vietnam.
Casey and “Boy,” his 100-pound black Labrador, went through a six-month training process at Fort Gordon, GA, before traveling to Vietnam together.
“Someone wasn’t real imaginative when they gave Boy his name, but he was sure a great dog,” Casey told Land Line.
“Our job was to find missing soldiers who may have been shot or were separated from their units in combat and we would try to find them,” he said.
Casey, who was part of the 62nd ICPT, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, said he wasn’t stationed in one area for long. His team worked mostly with the Army, occasionally the U.S. Marines, sometimes the South Vietnamese, and on one occasion with some Australian troops.
“Our five-man team covered an area from the Cambodian border to the China Sea,” he said.
He said during Vietnam the dogs stayed there after their handlers returned to the states, and they were assigned new handlers. Now the dogs rotate back to the U.S. with their handlers.
Casey said he has started attending annual reunions for combat dog trackers. He said some of the dog handlers returning from Afghanistan have started attending their reunions as well.
“We went through a pretty long time where we didn’t have any contact with the guys who were over there … but now we look forward to these yearly reunions,” he said. LL