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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.”
Paul Ray dedicates decades to his country and its people
By Traci Chapman
The military is in Paul Ray’s blood – even now, after his active service time is a memory, Ray works to remember fellow veterans and spread the word about their importance.
“Being in the military teaches you what’s really important – it’s an experience that changes you, no matter what your individual experience might be,” he said.
Ray’s individual experience began in 1967, when he joined the Navy. The promise wasn’t quite the same as the reality, however, he said.
“The recruiter said I might see a sliver that’s part of Vietnam,” Ray said. “By Halloween, I was dodging mortars in Da Nang.”
Ray spent a year in Vietnam as an assault riverboat captain on Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
“It was an interesting service, basically you just assault everything, just like it implies,” he said. “Vietnam is a beautiful country, but when you’re in a war it’s hard to appreciate that.”
From there, Ray served for eight months in the Philippines, at the Naval Ammunition Magazine. That would be where he finished his active duty, but it would by no means be the end of his military service.
He first joined the Air Force Reserve, serving for 14 years and then gave another 18 years to the Air National Guard, he said. During that service, he went to Iraq for five months, which was completely different from Vietnam, Ray said. But, he did see one humorous similarity, he said.
“I was standing in line in Baghdad and I was talking to the chaplain in front of me,” Ray said. “It dawned on me that I had two significant birthdays in my life, when I turned 21 and my 55th, and I spent them both in a combat zone.”
During his Ray would make it to chief master sergeant rank, something “only one half percent of the enlisted force achieves and was awarded a Purple Heart during his service, he said.
“For 18 years I was a nuclear, chemical and biological warfare specialists,” Ray said. “We would write the plans, teach the airmen how to survive and work in a contaminated environment.”
All the while, Ray also worked as an industrial engineer and technician at Tinker Air Force Base. Married to Pam for 39 years, he has two children who grew up in Mustang, where the couple has had their home since 1979.
Ray’s service did not end with his last day of active service. Active with Mustang’s American Legion Post 353 for about six years, he became post commander in 2012. It’s been a gratifying experience for a man who believes so deeply in the military’s contribution to America and its people, he said.
“We do so much, when we put out flags for the Avenue of Flags, well it just really gets to me,” Ray said. “It’s a privilege to be able to render military honors at veterans’ funerals, it feels good to be able to hand scholarship recipients checks and listen to the guys who went to Boys State and how it impacted them.”
Ray said what he would like to pass on to the younger generation and anyone who hasn’t served is this – “People that don’t do it don’t know what they’re missing,” he said. “Serving in the military, serving in the American Legion, it means more than most people ever realize.”
Mustang Fire Department officials confirmed Tuesday dates it is legal to shoot personal fireworks within Mustang city limits. Fireworks are allowed from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. through July 3; they are also allowed between 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. the July 4 holiday.
City officials on Tuesday asked residents and those who visit Mustang to set off fireworks to please be considerate of others and pick up firework trash and debris, both at personal residences and in city parks.
“All we ask is that everyone leave things as they found them and remember their neighbors when policing for the trash left over after the celebration,” Mayor Jay Adams said.
Officials with Oklahoma City Fire Department said fireworks are illegal to buy, sell, own or set off in Oklahoma City limits without a permit, which is only issued to “professional” firms and fire departments. Anyone convicted of violating the law could incur a fine of up to $302, plus court costs, as well as confiscation of fireworks, officials said.
By Traci Chapman
Farrah Love Sinclair has gone through more in her two years than many adults endure in a lifetime.
A little girl with a big heart, Farrah seems to have a knack at inspiring everyone around her, father Daxton Sinclair said. That was perhaps no better illustrated last weekend, when a group of Mustang Cub Scouts gathered in the Sunday heat to sell lemonade and baked items, all to raise funds for Farrah and her family.
“It was just a way we could help, it was something the boys wanted to do for her,” Monica Rachelle said, referring to her son, Hayden Weathers and his fellow Pack 398 members.
Hayden was one of those inspired by Farrah. Although young himself, he could recognize that Farrah was hurting and her family needed some support. After donating some money he received, he told his mom he wanted to do more. The Scouts and their parents banded together, and the group raised more than $1,092 in donations last weekend.
“It’s just incredible, we just can’t believe how people came out to support this,” Monica said Sunday.
The group’s efforts were more than just monetary, Daxton said. With a little girl who just turned 2 in April and who recently finished radiation treatments, the family has gone through a roller-coaster ride. Next up come experimental procedures – after another milestone for the family.
“We have a baby due on Monday, it’s literally any day,” Daxton said.
The new baby will arrive as Farrah, in a way, begins her own baby steps, her father said. Treatments have made it necessary for the little girl to learn again how to walk, to relearn speaking and other developmental milestones most parents take for granted.
“She re-learned to walk – three weeks ago she couldn’t do it, now she’s running everywhere,” Daxton said. “She loves babies, and we think she’s going to be great as big sister.
“Right now she’s having lots of good days, and that’s all we can ask for,” he said.
With the family living in Edmond, it was a surprise that a small Mustang boy, a family acquaintance, could find such generosity in his heart, Daxton said. It was a testament to the best people could be, he said.
“It’s a true blessing – of all the things we’ve seen through this, the generosity of a young child really is amazing,” Daxton said. “We named her ‘Love’ for a reason and we want as many people as possible to share in that love.
“Hayden showed all of us just how much love really can be shared,” he said.