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By Traci Chapman
School supplies, backpacks, clothes, a new haircut – these are all things that are part of the back-to-school ritual.
They are also things some families don’t have or can’t afford. The Bread of Life Project recently worked to help change that. The third annual Back to School Bash helped more than 150 students get a good start on school, ready to go and with backpacks full of supplies, founder Kim Yoder said.
“Families who pre-register receive every single school supply on their school’s supply list – even the odd items like earbuds, play dough or baggies,” Yoder said. “Walk-ins are welcome too – we always have plenty of general school supplies to give out as well.”
The bash was held at Mustang Town Center and staffed by a group of volunteers as varied as the people they were helping. From church groups to students to hair stylists, each pitched in to help make families feel at home and get set for school, Yoder said.
“We were really fortunate to have so much help,” she said.
Yoder began Bread of Life Project in 2011. Wanting to help homeless and needy families, Yoder received a phone call from a group of women who wanted to join in on her efforts, she said.
“They had also been feeling led by God to serve the kids and families of our own community missions at home and found my website,” Yoder said. “We met, talked about our similar callings – to be the hands and feet of Jesus by serving our community – and have been together ever since.”
The group met with counselors across Mustang School District, kicking off food backpack and adopt-a-family programs for middle and high school students. As students return to school in August, the group will kick off its fourth year of sponsoring these programs, she said.
“The elementary schools were covered by the Oklahoma Food Bank, but we found out the older kids were falling through the cracks and going home hungry,” Yoder said. “The five of us meet every Tuesday night to pack the backpacks, plan out upcoming events, organize donors, sponsors and volunteers.”
The project’s sponsors and volunteers keep the project, and its various events, going, Yoder said. In addition to the Back to
School Bash, the project offers free financial peace and coupon classes each year, as well as a Christmas party, which for some families is the only holiday celebration they have. Last year, more than 200 people took part in the holiday party, she said. A new “Church Adopt a School Initiative” will begin with the start of school, connecting area churches with children and youth who need a helping hand, Yoder said.
“We rely 100 percent on the generosity of the community and we have never lacked a single thing we have needed; in fact, we always have more than enough,” Yoder said. “We are so blessed that God has chosen to use us in this way and has led so many to help us.”
While Bread of Life has volunteers and sponsors in place, the need is great and more help is always needed, Yoder said. Information can be found on the organization’s website, www.thebreadoflifeproject.com, or its Facebook page, which posts news and events at www.facebook.com/tbolp.
“The amazing thing about our group is that we are all from different churches in the community but we came together and continue to work together as a like-minded team, week after week, to help hungry kids and hurting families in Mustang,” Yoder said.
Bread of Life sponsors/community partners/volunteers
Helling Family Insurance – community partner and donor
Mustang Heights Baptist Church – clothing closet supplies all the clothes for the event
Ferguson Enterprises – provides all the food for the event
Canadian Valley Baptist Church – provides space for meetings, classes and event planning
Underwood Hotshot Service – community partner, donor, provides free storage space year-round
Henry Hudson’s Yukon – holds an annual auction and provides toys for the Christmas party, food for food pantry and school supplies for the back to school event
First Baptist Church of Mustang – Mother’s Day Out does yearly food and school supply drive, VBS does yearly school supply drives, Children’s Church volunteers stuff backpacks and do food drives
United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd – provides space for events and school supplies
SW Oilfield – community partner and donor
Mustang High School Pon Pom Squad – volunteer at many events
Mustang High School baseball team – generous donors and volunteer at many events
Mustang High School National Honor Society – volunteer at many events
By Traci Chapman
Canadian County Court Appointed Special Advocates this week took its first step back toward its mission – helping children.
On Monday, Associate District Judge Bob Hughey swore in seven new CASA volunteers. The organization is a nonprofit, United Way partner agency that recruits and trains volunteers who work on behalf of children and youth who are involved in the legal system after being removed from their home or being determined as abused or neglected.
CASA volunteers are appointed by the juvenile court judge – in Canadian County, Hughey – and work as independent “fact finders.” CASA advocates represent abused and neglected children, working with the court system and Department of Human Services to make sure all parties have completed information about a specific case.
“The new volunteers have made the extraordinary commitment to ‘speak up’ for these vulnerable children in court and to advocate for them until they reach a permanent home,” CASA board president Debra Roberts said.
Volunteers Alex Corbitt, Viola Dinwiddie, Kathy Islas, Ramona Liddell, Christi McRee, Angela Tunstall and Mary Young completed a 30-hour training program and will work about 10 to 12 hours a month as CASA advocates, Roberts said.
CASA was also recently certified by national CASA, officials said.
“The National CASA quality assurance process is very rigorous, and reflects our commitment to ensure every child we serve has the most powerful volunteer advocate working on their behalf,” National CASA Association CEO Michael Piraino said. “This certification says Canadian County CASA has demonstrated to us a strong capacity to provide excellent services to the abused and neglected children within their community.”
CASA volunteers work on behalf of children throughout the country, and a growing metropolitan area like Canadian County has a particularly strong need for individuals willing to stand up for them, officials said. Locally, there are more than 300 open cases in Canadian County involving the alleged abuse or neglect of children and only a fraction of those are represented by a CASA advocate.
“Canadian County CASA has a need for approximately 100 additional volunteers,” Roberts said.
Anyone interested in working as an advocate is asked to attend an informational meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital’s meeting room A/B. CASA’s next training class is slated to begin in late August or early September, officials said.
CASA will also be holding an Aug. 23 fundraising event. A Zumbathon is set from 10 a.m. until noon at Christ’s Church of Yukon, located at 620 W. Vandament. The $10 entry fee will be used solely to support Canadian County CASA, officials said.
For more information about CASA or the August event, contact the county office at (405) 264-5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shawna Bostick, Friends of the Mustang Animal Shelter
We love spending time with our dogs. From cuddling on the couch to taking them with us everywhere we go, just spending time with them makes us happy. Taking a walk or going to the dog park are the typical go-tos for getting our dogs out of the house for some exercise and socialization, but there are many, many more options that you and your dog might find intriguing.
Here is an introduction to some of the fun activities that are available for people and their dogs. Although certain breeds of dogs may overwhelmingly populate some of these, most are open to any type or size of dog.
A fast-paced sport where the dog listens for commands to run an obstacle course. It is great for high-energy dogs of every size. It also helps build confidence in nervous dogs.
Teaching dogs to tap into their natural ability to track scent. They learn to follow a scent trail, and then indicate the object at the end of the trail.
A very fast-paced sport where dogs learn to work in a team of dogs to race, in relay fashion, over jumps, retrieve a ball, and race back over the same jumps, before the next dog in the team can complete the same task. Typically, this is done as a team of four dogs that race side by side against another team of four.
In simplest terms, dogs jump for and catch Frisbees, but for those that compete in this sport, it is much more exciting. Two basic types of competition focus on Distance/Accuracy and Freestyle, where you can see some of the top teams’ jaw-dropping and high-flying tricks.
A sport created for sighthounds, although any breed of dog can take part. It involves chasing a mechanically operated lure over a large area. Think of it as a dog chasing a rabbit through a field.
Volunteering with your dog at places like hospitals, libraries, assisted living centers and with hospice organizations. Before being able to volunteer, the dog and its human are tested and then certified with a therapy dog organization. Good therapy dog candidates are good with people of all ages and dogs of all sizes. They should be well-mannered and quiet with a relaxed temperament, even when in a stressful situation. Volunteering with your dog to bring happiness to people can be hugely rewarding.
Obedience and Rally Obedience
Beyond basic sit and manners training, this training refers to training toward a focus and precision at the competition level.
Teaching tricks and movements that are choreographed into dance performances between the dog and its human.
The dog uses its nose to find rats (in containers) that are hidden in a course of hay bales. The human must correctly read their dog’s signals, and then voice the location of the rats.
Dogs learn to respond to herding commands, and corral sheep, chickens, etc. Typically populated by herding breeds, like border collies, but any dog can learn to herd.
Created for terriers to work their instinct to track and kill vermin that hide underground. The prey, or rat, is protected in a cage at the end of a small tunnel, which the dog must navigate.
A newer sport imported from Germany that is similar to herding. Dogs take and follow commands to direct large balls through a goal.
For dogs that love to pull, harnessed dogs learn to pull weights or other objects.
Dogs jump distances into water to retrieve items. In competition, many dogs jump distances exceeding 20 feet.
Experienced trainers work with their dogs in tracking, obedience and protection. This is not for novice handlers, and you should never try to teach your dog any type of protection behavior without first having an experienced trainer’s supervision.
Most of these sports are available to interested participants locally around the metro and around the state. Some schools offer classes to get you started, but there are also local dog clubs that offer classes to the public. Clubs typically charge less than schools.
Dog sports and training with your dog can be a lot of fun, but there are other benefits too. Besides the obvious exercise and socialization for the dogs, this also gets us humans out of the house for some socializing too; it can be a great way to meet new people. The dogs are challenged physically as well as mentally, so many behavior problems that stem from boredom are helped if not eradicated by regular participation in these types of activities. Even some of the most basic obedience training can do wonders for building confidence in frightened and skittish dogs, really helping them gain the courage to come out of their shell. Perhaps most beneficial is the noticeable increase in the bond that you will build with your dog.
Whether participating in an event once a month, going to class once a week, or whatever you make time to do, you and your dog will enjoy the extra time together, and benefit from the experience.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang Kiwanis Club has a big problem. Its food pantry shelves are bare, yet the need is still there – and growing.
“It’s a very serious situation,” Lila Hoover said. “We have a lot of families and seniors who depend on us, and we don’t have food to give to them.”
Donations have been down over the summer, but that’s when the need actually spikes. In addition to a growing number of seniors who depend on the food bank, families who count on school meals to help supplement their food supply are left fending for themselves, Hoover said. It’s times like this the organization truly needs more and more donations, she said.
“We receive food donations from schools’ harvest drives, but those donations usually don’t come in until late October or middle November,” Hoover said.
The food bank is open from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. each Saturday. In addition to helping residents in need each week, Kiwanis also provide a special meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas for about 115 families, all of which have students attending Mustang schools, Hoover said. When the organization receives fresh vegetables, it passes those on, in addition to primarily dry and canned goods received from benefactors.
In May, Kiwanis provided food baskets for 41 families, including 47 children and 91 adults. In June, that number dropped slightly – 35 families comprised of 40 children and 62 adults. In just the three weeks of July, the organization has given out 29 food baskets for 37 children and 65 adults.
“We are really seeing a surge in seniors who need help,” Hoover said.
Service is the heart of Mustang Kiwanis Club, Hoover said. Chartered in April 1971, the club has 32 active members. In addition to the food pantry, Kiwanis interacts with the community, particularly with a goal of helping area children, she said. Key Club is a service organization for teens and is a “strong force” at Mustang High School, Hoover said.
“It teaches leadership through service to others,” she said.
Builders Club is like Key Club, but for slightly younger youth, Hoover said. Aimed at providing students with leadership activities that improve self-esteem and increase civic pride and interaction, clubs are active at both Mustang and Mustang North middle schools.
The area’s youngest children are also recognized through a partnership between Kiwanis and Mustang schools. Terrific Kids is an academic and character development achievement program for children between 6 and 12 years of age.
Schoolchildren are not the only recipients of Kiwanis’ work, however, Hoover said. The organization is key in providing a Christmas dinner for area troops headquartered out of Mustang Armed Forces Reserve Center. Last year, about 650 soldiers and their families were treated to the holiday meal and related activities, Hoover said. The organization also sponsors its annual Western Days pancake breakfast, a garage sale aimed at raising funds and twice-a-year carnivals.
“Kiwanis clubs also provide excellent networking opportunities for professionals,” Hoover said.
Mustang Kiwanis Club meets on Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. at the old police station, behind Mustang Historical Museum.
Donations can be cash or food items and are tax deductible. To make a donation or learn more about Mustang Kiwanis, call Hoover at (405) 625-3128 or Glen Muse at (405) 376-2695.
“By working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone,” Hoover said. “When you give a child the chance to learn, experience, dream, grow, succeed and thrive, great things happen.”
Two benefits are slated to help Mustang families this weekend.
Clyde Slimp, Stan Moss and friends will hold a benefit concert Friday, July 25 at Wild Hero Coffee.
The benefit is for Kyle and Kim Grant and their baby, Cohen Randall Grant. Cohen was born March 11, 2014, seven weeks premature. Admitted to the NICU and placed on a ventilator, Cohen remained on the ventilator for three weeks as doctors attempted to remove it from his lungs. He was finally transferred to Oklahoma City’s Children’s Hospital “to receive more specialized care in hopes of determining a diagnosis,” his parents said.
After the transfer, doctors learned Cohen suffered a loss of oxygen at some point during Kim’s pregnancy, causing him to sustain brain damage. The couple was able to take Cohen home April 28.
Because of his condition, Cohen requires 24/7 care and is treated by “countless” specialists, the couple said. That’s where Clyde Slimp came in, trying to raise funds for the baby’s ongoing treatment, as well as the medical bills already incurred by the family.
The concert will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and all proceeds raised will go to the Grant family, Slimp said.
A baby is at the center of a second benefit, set for Mustang Masons Lodge No. 407 on July 26.
The Vowell family recently lost their infant son and face a rare disease that makes it impossible to have their own child. Lavane and Lancer Vowell have decided to adopt a child, and Mustang Masons said they wanted to help kick-start an effort to help the Mustang couple.
A barbecue benefit dinner will be held at the lodge from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. July 26, which will include a silent auction and raffle. Online donations can also be made at www.youcaring.com/adoption-fundraiser/fill-our-empty-arms/176095.
“We know in our hearts that we could love and provide for a child,” Lavane Vowell said. “There is nothing that we want more.”
For more information, call (405) 474-5385.
By Traci Chapman
Bands from across the country will converge on Mustang July 22 for Mustang Nightriders’ DCI in the Heartland.
The annual drum corps competition has grown each year since its inception, with this the largest event yet, Mustang High School band director Ryan Edgmon said.
“We have three of the top scoring drum corps in the world at our show here in Mustang, and we have alumni and many friends of our program performing with the 2013 finalist Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corp,” Edgmon said. “The 2013 world champion Carolina Crown is the headliner for our show and will also provide the encore performance after the competition.”
Carolina Crown is based in Fort Mill, S.C. Carolina Crown features 150 members between the ages of 17 and 22 “who aspire to become music educators, performing artist and the leaders of tomorrow,” according to the organization’s website. The group performs nationwide and participates in Drum Corps International competitions.
Other groups taking part include corps from Allentown, Penn., Canton, Ohio, Denver, San Antonio, Portland, Ore., Tempe, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash.
With close to 1,000 students taking part in Mustang middle school and high school band programs, fundraising is key, Edgmon said. All proceeds from the show benefit Mustang High School’s Nightriders marching band, he said. With 4,500 available seats at Bronco Stadium, Edgmon said he hoped to “pack the house” for a day of entertainment by some of the biggest names in drum corps.
“These are a big deal – not just big here, but literally the best in the world, and they’ll be here in Mustang,” Edgmon said. “It really says something about our band program, our kids and our community that they would choose to attend our event.”
DCI in the Heartland will begin at 7:30 p.m. July 23 and tickets range from $15 to $25. All seating is reserved, Edgmon said. Groups of 20 or more receive a $3 discount on value general admission seats; ticket prices will be $5 higher the day of the event.
Tickets are available online at www.dci.org. Additional information is also available on DCI in the Heartland’s Facebook page, located at https://www.facebook.com/DciInTheHeartland.
By Traci Chapman
Mustang’s community garden will be putting down new roots soon, after City Council on Tuesday approved a location in Wild Horse Park.
Council members voted unanimously to approve the request, which means the garden, administered by Mustang Kiwanis Community Garden and Farmers Market, would be relocated from its current site behind the old Mustang Police Department. That plot is owned by a local developer and has never been a truly permanent option, garden representative Bob Wilson said.
“When there’s a sales opportunity (of the property), we’re gone, so we’ve been leery of making capital improvements,” Wilson told council members. “With this we can reinvest some of our money from our vegetable sales.”
The organization grows a variety of vegetables, about a third of which are sold through farmers markets held throughout the summer, Wilson said. The remaining two-thirds are given to Kiwanis food pantry, Strawberry Fields and other entities that need fresh vegetables and about one-third are given to volunteers and others for their own needs, he said.
Assistant City Manager Justin Battles said he has worked with Wilson and other garden volunteers for about a year in the search for a new garden site. After the farmers market was recently moved to Town Center’s gazebo, officials were certain the Wild Horse Park spot would be most advantageous, Battles and Wilson said.
“We’ve had the market here for about a month,” Wilson said. “It’s been fantastic, sales are much better than they were before.”
The organization has about 20 regular volunteers, a number Wilson hopes to increase with the change in garden location. The new locale could also serve as an educational tool, particularly for children, who could learn more about where food comes from and other lessons, Wilson said. Crops could also be expanded, including a fall pumpkin patch, shrubs, trees, grasses and other items, he said.
“There are a lot of things we could do which would benefit the city and the residents,” Wilson said.
There would be minimal expense to the city to accomplish the move, Battles said. Water sources were located nearby; it would cost “$100 to $200” to purchase piping to extend those to the proposed garden site, he said. The need for fencing to protect the garden could be studied at a later time, the assistant city manager said.
“These are citizens who are investing themselves,” Battles said.
By Traci Chapman
For the seven men on Mustang Fire Department’s blue shift, their last weekend shift was an unusually busy one, but one of their last calls was the most surprising.
They helped bring a new life into the world.
The call came in at 1:25 a.m. Monday, Capt. Andy Willrath said. The crew – Deputy Chief Roy Widmann, Willrath, firefighters Buddy Corbin, Paul Smith, Tom Lewis, Eric Halter and new volunteer firefighter David Williams – headed out to Arbor House, located on North Clear Springs Road, where a couple had pulled over when the woman went into active labor.
“They were on their way to the hospital when it was too late to get there,” Willrath said. “The dad was attending to mom when we got there.”
As the group worked to help, Willrath realized he knew the father, an Oklahoma City paramedic who attended school with him. The father was at work in Oklahoma City when his wife called him. After rushing home and picking up mom and the couple’s older child, they were off, although they didn’t get far. The baby was crowning when they arrived at Arbor House.
“We suctioned the baby’s airway, clamped the cord, and the father got to cut the cord,” Willrath said.
Mother and baby eventually did make it to Canadian Valley Hospital, where both were doing fine Monday afternoon, firefighters said. It was an experience none of them would soon forget, they all said Monday evening.
“What a weekend – it started out with a fire, literally went to fireworks (for July 4 holiday) and ended up with a birth,” Willrath said.
Ed Vezey’s survival on Dec. 7, 1941 spurs his efforts to educate children about those lost long ago
By Traci Chapman
It was a day that would literally change the world and its future, but for Edward Vezey, it started out as a quiet Sunday in a tropical paradise.
Ed and his roommate, Frank, were lounging in their bunks. It was a little before 8 a.m. and the captain had given the men the day off, so they had a big decision to make, Ed said.
“We were deciding – should we eat breakfast before going swimming or vice versa,” Ed said. “Suddenly there was the call to man the anti-aircraft batteries, and we couldn’t believe it was on a Sunday morning.”
The date was Dec. 7, 1941. The place was the USS Oklahoma, berthed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Even with the unusual announcement, Ed and Frank didn’t at first have an inkling what was about to happen, Ed said. Stopping to get dressed first, there was a change of plans with a second, more urgent, announcement. It was suddenly very clear – “This was real,” he said.
“I grabbed my pistol, put on my moccasins and my brand new cap and each of us headed for our battle stations, Frank to his bug gun turret and me topside to the AA battery control station on the foremast,” Ed said.
By this time, the ship was already shuddering from torpedo hits, Ed said. Little did he know in less than 15 minutes, his friend would be among 2,403 Americans killed in a surprise attack that also meant the end of one of the Navy’s greatest battleships, the USS Arizona.
When they ran to their battle stations that morning, it was their battle stations that likely determined their fate. Frank was headed to the big gun turret, while Ed was stationed in the AA battery control station, located on the foremast. The Oklahoma had been at sea and had fired gunnery practice, but that Sunday morning, all of the ammunition was stored before deck in anticipation of a planned inspection, Ed said. As senior officer of his group and with the Oklahoma’s extreme list, there was no choice but to abandon ship, he said. Ed literally followed the Oklahoma over as it keeled over and sunk. He ended up standing on the bottom of the massive ship.
“In five minutes, she was sinking and the people who were going to make it had about 12 minutes to get topside,” Ed said. “There are no drills to prepare for a ship that’s rolling over.”
The men with Frank said he stayed in the gun turret holding a flashlight could see to escape. Ed never saw him again. Unlike Ed, who was able to swim away from the dying Oklahoma, Frank would not make it out.
“I survived and I never forgot who he was and what he gave so others could escape,” Ed said. “Just a few minutes later I was on the USS Maryland, bare naked except for a heavy coating of heavy fuel oil, having lost my pajama pants while swimming to the Maryland.”
As he stood there seeing the devastation the Japanese attack left behind, Ed said he was a different person, a transformation that had occurred in just a few minutes. He was lucky, though – 429 of his shipmates, including Frank, would not survive. The Oklahoma would remain where it sunk, as did the Arizona, both becoming the resting place and a memorial to the men who had died.
“I had gone from a carefree youngster to a hardened survivor, seething with anger and hatred, no clothes, no money, no wallet, no ID, most of my friends dead and total chaos in every direction,” Ed said.
Ed’s survival at Pearl Harbor was just part of a long four years of service during World War II. He served throughout the war at Guadalcanal and throughout the South Pacific. He was “shelled, strafed and shot at,” but he finally made it home. No matter where he went, though, he said part of him remained where it all began, at Pearl Harbor.
“I cannot say I have ever really recovered and every year when I go back to Pearl the old anger wells up in tears of fury,” Ed said.
That was 72 years ago. Ed is now 94 and lives in Moore; he is now the last USS Oklahoma survivor still living in Oklahoma.
Frank was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that morning. Although he’s been gone more than seven decades, Ed thinks about Frank every day, he said. And he’s lived his life to the fullest, knowing that Frank never had that chance.
During those 72 years, Ed’s had a lot of luck and a happy life. He married, raised seven children and worked for General Electric for more than 57 years. He retired when he was 85, Vezey said.
“It was finally time,” he said.
But no matter where he went or what he did, Ed said he carried the events of Dec. 7, 1941 with him. Time didn’t dull that pain and anger, nor did it lessen his need to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who died that day, he said. Each December he travels to reunite with the dwindling number of survivors who make the pilgrimage to honor and remember their lost friends and a different world.
“It’s comforting to be there and spend time with our old friends,” Ed said.
As time has gone by those visits have meant a time to reminisce and have fun, but he’s also pushed to talk about the experience so children and youth know how important that day in December, so long ago, really is, Ed said. He helped raise money for Norman North High School’s band could travel to Pearl Harbor and perform in the memorial celebration.
“Would you believe all 140 members of the Norman North band plus 30 or so sponsors were there,” Ed wrote in a letter to friends after his December 2013 trip, made with his granddaughter, Rebekah. A nurse herself, Rebekah was her grandfather’s traveling companion and found Pearl Harbor and its history fascinating, Ed said.
“With her vigor and zest for life she turned a reunion of four old men into a great party,” he said. “I discouraged her coming because I thought she would be totally bored.”
That wasn’t the case at all. And Ed’s story has captivated many others.
That included students at Mustang Trails Elementary, which he traveled to late last year. Ed spoke to the children about his experience and shared the importance of Frank and men like him, he said. It was part of his ongoing mission, something he would continue to do as long as he could.
“My whole purpose is to keep kids aware that freedom isn’t free,” Ed said. “We have a job to do.
“Life is a great adventure – keep hold with both hands and keep pedaling,” he said.
John Traffanstedt joins Air Force on buddy system; gets a journey he never expected
By Traci Chapman
When he joined the Air Force in 1966, John Traffanstedt never dreamed the importance his service would have on his life.
“I lived way out in the country in Arkansas and me and my friend were trying to figure out what to do,” Traffanstedt said. “We had just graduated high school, we knew we would be drafted.”
Neither Traffanstedt nor his friend, Don Moreland, wanted to go in the Army or Marines and they “didn’t like the water,” so the Navy was out, he said. That left only the Air Force, which had something that really appealed to them – the “buddy system.”
“The recruiter said we could join together and so we really liked that,” Traffanstedt said.
The pair signed up in September 1966 and headed to San Antonio for basic training. After completion came a surprise – Moreland went to Greenland, while Traffanstedt was transferred to Illinois for six weeks of aircraft maintenance training.
“So much for the buddy system,” he said.
While in Illinois, Traffanstedt and his comrades were given choices of where they wanted to serve next. The Arkansas boy picked two bases in his home state with Midway Island as a third because he’d heard about it from World War II.
“Of course I got Midway Island,” Traffanstedt said.
One mile wide and 1.5 miles long, there’s not much to do or see on Midway Island. The base was run by the Navy with an Air Force detachment that took care of the cargo planes that traveled back and forth between Hawaii and the Philippines or Vietnam, he said.
“The first month was OK,” he said. “After that – well, it had nice beaches – all there were were GIs and goony birds.”
After a year, Traffanstedt said he was relieved to be able to rotate off Midway; then the Air Force began to extend mens’ services by 30 days because they couldn’t find replacements for the duty station, he said. The only way to get off the island was to accept “remote duty.”
“That only meant one thing – Vietnam,” he said.
He took it. Today, he laughs at that decision. Timing is a funny thing, he said. Thinking going to a secured airbase in Vietnam would be the safest place he could be, Traffanstedt arrived on base right before the Tet Offensive.
Considered by many historians as the turning point in the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive was a series of surprise attacks by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces on cities, towns and military installations throughout South Vietnam. Traffanstedt, it would turn out, would be smack in the middle of that offensive.
“I’d been there about 30 days and it started, the attacks on Saigon,” he said. “They asked for augmentees – basically you’d go in and help on another assignment.
“I was the new guy so I got to go,” Traffanstedt said.
Assigned to an Air Force military police unit, the men were assigned to a section of the perimeter fence. While that area was quiet, that wasn’t the case not too far away, Traffanstedt said.
“We could hear a lot of shooting in downtown Saigon, and we got the call that they needed reinforcements,” he said. “It’s funny now, but I thought to myself, ‘Man, I’m going to be in the war now.”
Off they went, the driver, a gunner on a 30 caliber machine gun and Traffanstedt, speeding down a dirt road to the unknown, he said.
“The closer we got, the louder it got and the gunner was blazing away with that big machine gun,” Traffanstedt said. “My ears were ringing, I couldn’t believe the noise.
“Then we saw the tracer rounds, it was night and you could see the tracers going back and forth,” he said.
Before long an American plane took out the opposing forces with a “big red streak of the sky,” Traffanstedt said.
“Then it was nothing but quiet,” he said.
After that, much of the Mustang man’s duty was relatively quiet. Although there were close calls and mortar attacks, he was not involved in front line skirmishes or actions, something he said he was always thankful for.
After a year and a half, Traffanstedt headed home. He married “an Okie” – Brenda Joyce, who was his wife for more than 30 years, until her death in 2001, and he enjoys his children and grandchildren, whose pictures adorn all of his walls. He worked at General Motors’ Oklahoma City plant until it closed and he served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard from 1970 until 2001. After he left the service, he joined the American Legion, serving in Mustang for a few years until he moved to Ada in 2006; he returned to Mustang in 2012 and has been active in Mustang’s Post 353 since his return.
A full and happy life full of service and good works didn’t stop the survivor’s guilt, which remained long after he left Vietnam, Traffanstedt said.
“They’d bring in those bright shiny caskets, I’d watch them load them up at the air base,” Traffanstedt said. “You knew there was a man in each one of those, someone who had given up their life for our country.”
That was what Traffanstedt took away from his service, he said – the sacrifice and honor shown by the men he served with.
“I tell my grandchildren that they’re here today because of men you didn’t know and anything can happen at any time,” he said. “I didn’t think much about it when I joined but it’s an honor now for me being in the military and knowing the people I know and who I’ve known through the years.”