Support our troops.
It's a phrase I've heard from both sides of the political aisle. Some say it, and what they mean is, "Stop criticizing the war and get behind this cause." Others say it and mean, "This war is a bad idea and we need to bring these soldiers home."
Both sides argue they are supporting our troops, and I wouldn't dare tell them they are wrong. But I spoke to a man the other day who has found another way to support our troops. He's planning to hop on a bicycle and ride clear across the country.
His name is Daniel Forant, and at this very moment his 18-year-old son is somewhere west of Baghdad. Daniel Forant III is a local boy, born and raised in Cohoes - an Army infantryman who is a long way from home.
Like a lot of men and women in uniform, he would feel a million miles away if not for the letters and packages that arrive from the Capital District. That's where his dad comes in.
Last August, Daniel Sr. wanted to show his support for his son, so he set up a little Web site.
It had pictures and postings he could share with his friends and relatives. Pretty soon people started sharing the site, and before long, Dan had other parents asking if they could include their son or daughter on the site. Dan said yes, and not long after he changed the name of the Web site to www.supportourtroopsiniraq.com.
"We were truly amazed at how this grew," Dan said. "It started out being just about my son, but now there are over 100 servicemen and women being honored."
And it didn't stop there. When Dan heard that the troops in Iraq needed little "reminders" from home, he quickly put together a donation campaign. Before long he had more than 5,000 pounds of goods. "Personal hygiene items are the most popular," he told me. With all that sand blowing in the wind, it's all the troops can do to keep their eyes and ears clean.
Dan has received help from all over the country. There's the eighth grade class in Pontdulac, Wisconsin, which filled 22 boxes with board games and books. And let's not forget the workers at Louisville Power and Electric, who wrote 600 Christmas cards and letters for the soldiers over the holidays. And now the bike ride.
Dan Forant has this crazy idea that he can ride a bicycle from Albany to Hollywood, in an effort to raise money for our troops. If he can get people to donate just one penny for every three miles he peddles, that works out to roughly 20 bucks per pledge. His goal is to raise $50,000. My question to him: Can a 39-year-old financial marketer who only jogs three days a week get on a bike and ride more than 2,000 miles? He thinks so.
Dan will start this difficult personal journey March 1. If he can pound out 60 to 70 miles per day, he'll reach Hollywood in six weeks. What about work? Dan says he'll bring along his laptop computer and plug in where he can.
Whenever I see people doing things like this, I wonder if it's all just a publicity stunt. While Dan would love publicity, he says it's not about that. It's about one man who's proud of his son and wants to show it by making his own sacrifice.
"Imagine if we raise a lot of money and we are able to go to a family that has lost a child over there and hand them a check for $5,000. We could tell them this is from people who have not forgotten your loss."
It's thoughts like that that will drive him. One mile, one penny at a time.
John Gray's column appears every Wednesday.
Help us show our troops From the East Coast to the West Coast America Supports You !!! N.Y. and California unite to Support Our Troops.
N.Y. Father of a Soldier-Son in Iraq and Founder of this website will bicycle across the U.S.A. from the Capitol of N.Y. to California to Support Our
Track the rider's daily movements across America on this website. Read our daily-journey-diary on this website, watch live-daily video here, and see pictures of Patriotic people we meet throughout the heartland of America.
CALLING ALL AMERICANS to raise your communities and help us. We are asking for a donation of $20 from each American family, but any amount will be appreciated. Proceeds to benefit our Troops. Information on how to donate posted here soon.
and Soldiers Angels
unite in the Freedom Ride across the U.S.A. to symbolize bringing America together, coast-to-coast, to Support Our Troops.
was formed in July of 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, Mother of Spc Brandon Varn stationed in Iraq. Soldier's Angels mission is to provIde aid and comfort to any armed forces fighting for freedom and their families. Staff includes Susie Feaster, Ana-Marie Smith, Robin Boerner, and Peggy Baker. Soldier's Angels have to date sent over 2,000 packages to Soldiers deployed, helped the wounded at 3 major military hospitals and aided many families.
This website is created and maintained by a N.Y. Father of a Soldier-Son, SPC Daniel Forant, III, serving in Iraq. This website has shipped over 5,000 lbs. to Iraq to various soldier-units and Americans have sent countless letters. www.supportourtroopsiniraq.com
Dawn Golby had a premonition Thursday morning.
“Something was wrong,” she recalled. “I just didn’t know what.”
That afternoon, after she returned from work, Golby logged onto the computer and found out that a military helicopter had crashed on a medical mission in Iraq.
“And I knew,” the 49-year-old Richland Township woman said in an exclusive interview with The Tribune-Democrat yesterday.
Her motherly fears proved to be reality: A telephone call to her daughter-in-law in Colorado verified that her son, Spc. Christopher Golby, 26, was among nine GIs killed when their helicopter was downed near Fallujah.
She screamed and threw the phone in despair.
After collecting her emotions, Mrs. Golby called her daughter-in-law, Sonya, back. She learned her 4-year-old grandson, Dylon, answered the door when the servicemen came from the nearby Army base in Fountain, Colo., to deliver the tragic news.
“My Daddy’s not coming home, is he?” Dylon asked.
By yesterday, the shock and sorrow was spreading throughout Greater Johnstown with news that Spc. Golby died in the sands of Iraq.
A U.S. military official confirmed that preliminary reports showed the medevac helicopter probably was “brought down by ground fire.” Iraqi witnesses said they saw a missile strike the second of two medevac helicopters that were flying over an area known for resistance against the U.S.-led occupation.
Family filled the comfortable home of Dawn and Ronald Golby on Fieldstone Avenue yesterday afternoon, sharing hugs, tears and prayers.
There were calls to military officials, trying to find out whether Golby’s body would be returned to Richland or Colorado. And to his commanding officer. And to the funeral home.
“It’s been quiet and stressful,” said his brother, Shane McCarty, 29, of Upstate New York.
Since finding out Thursday, Mrs. Golby said she simply stays awake at night, keeping the bad dreams at bay. She’ll see her son in the casket, or imagine him looking at her like he’s home.
“It just bothers me,” she said.
Some of the pain was eased when the Golbys talked to their son’s commanding officer in Iraq yesterday. No, he likely didn’t suffer. No, his body wasn’t mutilated. Yes, they probably could have an open casket at his viewing.
“I want to say ‘bye’ one more time,” his mother said.
Himself a military man, Mr. Golby, 50, provides reassuring strength. He found out about the crash Thursday morning, and “had a bad feeling all day.”
After all, Golby had been “so close” to getting killed before, his father said. Soldiers in tents on either side of him had been killed by snipers, and members of his unit died when another GI tossed a grenade among the ranks.
Mr. Golby said his son, a crew chief on the choppers, was on a mission to transport five injured soldiers to a hospital in Baghdad.
When another helicopter in front looked back, Golby’s chopper had exploded in a fireball, crashing to the ground at horrific speed.
Assigned to the 571st Medical Company out of Fort Carson, Colo., Golby was set to return home in March. He dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot.
“He died doing what he loved,” his mother said.
The Golbys last spoke with their son Sunday via a Web camera. He was laughing and joking. His face was red from sunburn.
In November, they visited him for a week when Golby was on 14-day rest-and-relaxation leave.
They took him to Outback Steakhouse for his birthday, where waiters “kept giving him all this beer,” his mother said with a laugh. They went gambling, and he won a little money.
“We made every effort to be with him as much as possible when he did come home,” his father said.
Invariably, family members pointed to Golby’s engaging smile below those deep brown eyes.
“He was fun and energetic. He always had a smile,” Mrs. Golby said.
“He was a perfectionist in everything he did. He could drive you nuts.”
Golby loved skiing – he even cascaded down the Alps when he was stationed in Germany. And he enjoyed computers and cooking and was learning photography.
His brother, Shane, recalled their days growing up in the quiet neighborhood, where they would play paintball and toss a football in fields across the street where houses now stand.
“I believe God has a plan for everybody’s life,” McCarty said. “Somehow, this was his plan for Christopher.
“He’s been in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and he always came back. He was always safe, OK. You expected the same thing in Iraq.”
Golby is the second soldier from Greater Johnstown to die in Iraq. In November, a former New Florence man was among 17 soldiers killed when two Army Black Hawk helicopters collided.
U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, ranking member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, expressed his sorrow yesterday.
“We were profoundly saddened to hear of the loss of Spc. Golby,” Murtha said in a statement. “We will always be deeply grateful for his heroic service to our nation and for the sacrifice he has made. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to them.”
Golby’s classmates from Richland High School, where he graduated in 1995, were stunned.
“I found out about it when I read the paper today,” Robert Ola said in a telephone interview from his home.
Ola said Golby was quiet but well-liked.
“He kept to himself, but when he was with his friends he was more outgoing,” Ola said.
Doug Klimeck, another classmate, lived up the street from Golby, but never really got to know him. “He was a friendly guy,” Klimeck said yesterday in a telephone interview from his Richland Township home.
Tom Kotch III of the 200 block of South Peninsula Drive in Central City lived on the same street as Golby when the two were youngsters.
“Chris lived only three houses up from where I lived,” Kotch said in a telephone interview. “Chris delivered the Tribune-Democrat, and whenever he was away on vacation, I picked up his route for him.”
Kotch said he and Golby attended Mount Calvary Lutheran Church together and played an occasional game of basketball.
“The thing I remembered most about Chris was that he was always trying to crack jokes and make you laugh,” Kotch recalled. “He was always having fun.
“I saw him a few years back at a Christmas Eve service at our church. We both got there late and we had to sit on folding chairs in the back. Even during the service, he was joking with me while we remembered good times.”
Staff writers Pete Bosak and Julie Benamati contributed to this report.Tribune Democrat