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Life changing experience

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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.”

 

 

A life of service

paul ray web

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.”

 

Countdown to Independence Day

firefighters andy willrath

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.

 

Mustang children raise more than $1,000 in fight for Farrah

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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.

(Photo/Courtesy)

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.

Farrah Love Sinclair (Photo/Courtesy)

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.

(Photo/Courtesy)

“Hayden showed all of us just how much love really can be shared,” he said.

FFA, 4-H students rustle up cattle boot camp

newspaper showmanship class

Redlands Community College was the site of a recent boot camp – but with a twist.

Instead of military personnel in fatigues and carrying weapons, the camp was filled with children and youth who learned a lot about cattle during the school’s Cattle Boot Camp.

“It is always a blessing to work with the kids and exciting to see the younger generation interested in the cattle industry,” said April Bow, Redlands agriculture coordinator of continuing education and beef show team adviser.

The camp was held for Oklahoma and Texas Future Farmers of America and 4-H members, Bow said. Hosted by Redlands Beef Team, three industry experts – Jensen Show Cattle owner and operator Andy Jensen, Oklahoma County 4-H educator Kyle Worthington and El Reno agriculture instructor Eric Bilderback – lent a hand teaching sessions during the June two-day course.

Participants in Redlands’ Cattle Boot Camp. (Photo/Courtesy)

Participants ranged in age from 9 to 19 years and brought their own calf and supplies for hands-on training sessions. Students practiced daily care, preparation for show day, clipping and fitting, with the camp culminating in a showmanship competition. Awards were presented to students who “showed the most growth,” Bow said.

“It was great to see kids stepping up to the plate, willing to learn when it came to their cattle,” Beef Team member Kylie Edwards said.

For more information about Redlands Beef Show Team and Summer Cattle Boot Camp, contact Bow at April.Bow@redlandscc.edu or (405) 422-1467.

Pack 398 reaches out to help little girl and family who loves her

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By Traci Chapman

It’s a story of two children – a little girl and the boy who wants to help her.

Almost two years ago, Farrah Love was diagnosed with brain cancer – shortly before her second birthday. A little girl with a lot of love and support, that network expanded in a big way recently when a Mustang Cub Scout decided to give a simple gift.

That child was Cub Scout Troop 398 member Hayden Weathers. During the troop’s efforts to clean up a field, a benefactor stopped to pay the boys for their efforts. After the Scouts divvied up their windfall, each received $28.

What Hayden did next started something that would extend to everyone in his troop and beyond. Hayden knew about Farrah and her fight, and he told his mom, Monica Rachelle, he wanted to give his gift to Farrah and her family to “help out.” He wasn’t done, though, Monica said.

“He just wanted to do more, he really doesn’t understand what Farrah is going through or how serious it is, but he knows he wants to help her,” she said.

That help will come through a lemonade stand and bake sale, scheduled for Sunday, June 22. Held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Mustang Pizza Hut, all proceeds will go to help Farrah’s family with her care and treatment, Monica said.

“We’re just hoping we can get the community out to help in this cause – it would mean the world to her family,” Monica said.

Pizza Hut is located at 350 N. Mustang Road. For more information, see the News’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MyMustangNews.

 

Dog Days of Summer Pet Safety Tip: Should You Shave Your Dog?

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By Shawna Bostick - Friends of the Mustang Animal Shelter

Many pet owners believe that shaving their dog for summer will help them stay cool, but double-coated breeds like Huskies, Pomeranians and Australian Shepherds (three of the commonly requested breeds for “shave-downs”) have fur that is practical and useful, even in warm weather.

A double-coat means that the dog has a soft undercoat and a coarse topcoat. When well-maintained, the coat works to keep the dog cool by reflecting sunlight and allowing air to circulate through the undercoat, across the dog’s skin. If the coat is allowed to get dirty and matted, the impacted and tangled fur will prevent air from circulating and trap in the heat. Although shaving a dog whose fur has been allowed to get into this condition may offer some temporary relief from the heat, it presents other potentially long-term problems and risks of which the owner should be aware.

Shaving a dog seems like a logical way to help it keep cool, and can provide temporary relief for a hot and panting pet, but many factors should be considered before deciding to shave any dog. Shaving removes the dog’s built-in shade umbrella, and sunlight is allowed to penetrate the dog’s skin, exposing it to greater risk of heatstroke, sunburn and skin cancer. If the dog is frequently outdoors or has pink skin, these risks are much higher than for a dog that spends most of its time indoors in air-conditioning. Also, shaving disrupts the shedding process, and although this may reduce the amount of shedding in the home, the hairs that cannot shed normally are trapped and compacted, worsening the situation for the dog.  Instead of a functional cooling system, the dog’s coat becomes a fur blanket contributing to trapping in heat.

An additional risk of shaving these dogs is the possibility of permanently damaging the dog’s coat. The texture of the coat and even the color can change after being shaved, but most disturbingly, a dog with a underlying thyroid problem can have difficulty regrowing their coat evenly, and can appear to be missing chunks of fur that may never grow back correctly.

Besides helping keep a dog cool, and giving us a reason to vacuum, a dog’s coat does offer other advantages. The fur provides protection against insect bites, especially mosquitoes, which carry heartworms, and offers some protection against pollen for allergy-prone dogs. Minor scratches, cuts and abrasions are also minimalized for dogs that are traversing brush and woods.

Taking a few minutes to brush these dogs every two to three days does wonders to help reduce shedding and keep their natural air-conditioning working properly. If keeping the dog’s coat well-maintained with frequent brushing or a regular trip to the groomer isn’t an option, then shaving may be considered as a less attractive alternative. A closely trimmed coat of one-half inch to 1 inch in length will offer more protection than shaving to the skin, and still be easier to maintain for the owner. Regardless of the condition of the coat, any dog left outdoors requires constant access to fresh water and shade.

Paper Clover campaign a success

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By Traci Chapman

Local 4-H and FFA students were part of a partnership with Tractor Supply Company that raised $787,769 nationally to help those programs.

The 12-day in-store fundraiser’s grand total was a record-breaker for the event, said John Wendler, Tractor Supply senior vice president of marketing. At the conclusion of the annual event, the company had raised almost $4 million for 4-H programs across the country, Wendler said.

Locally, some of this year’s Paper Clover Campaign proceeds were allocated to the memorial of an area teen killed earlier this year. The decision to dedicate those funds to the Jesse Gorbet Memorial was made by local 4-H and FFA members. Fifty percent of all funds raised from bake sales were donated to the memorial. Mustang teen leader Brandy DeVous said $143 was raised for the Gorbet fund during two bake sales, one in Mustang and the other in El Reno, held in late April and early May.

“This year the Teen Leaders wanted to give back to the community, a bake sale is a great way for us to be able to give back to a cause that was a part of our 4-H family,” she said. “4-H teaches us so much about helping others and we are honored to be able help by giving back in the name of Jesse Gorbet.”

Gorbet and fellow El Reno High School student Karson Baker were killed in a March 2 automobile accident. Gorbet, an El Reno High School sophomore, was a member of Extreme 4-H Club from 2006 to 2011. He showed sheep at the Canadian County Livestock Fair, as well as junior livestock show and jackpot shows. He also participated in Farmhand Olympics, Share-the-Fun and several bake sales to raise funds for the Oklahoma City Ronald McDonald House.

Donated funds will be tracked online and recorded by state and individual stores, Wendler said. For more information or to view the donation tracker, go online to www.tractorsupply.com/4-H.

Donated funds will be tracked online and recorded by state and individual stores, Wendler said. For more information or to view the donation tracker, go online to www.tractorsupply.com/4-H.

 

Special athletes bring joy to all whose lives they touch

haleigh mahiya

By Traci Chapman

Although Mustang’s special athletes have all gone their separate ways for the summer, they carry with them fond memories of their year together and their time in Stillwater at this year’s summer Special Olympics.

Two of those athletes are Mahiya Stephens and Haleigh McCathern. Both girls have their own favorite things to do and ways of looking at the world, but their families say they also have something very much in common – they are loving and giving and go through life with an innate happiness.

Mahiya Stephens

Mahiya is a 13-year-old 7th grader. An enrolled member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes of Oklahoma, Mahiya is also Creek and Kiowa. Her name reflects her heritage; Mahiya means “teacher” in Wichita tribal language.

Mahiya loves basketball, spending time with her family and watching her favorite TV shows, Elmo and Barney. A fan of Mexican food, Mahiya loves all-you-can eat queso and chips, as well as going to Johnny Carino’s.

A family of deep faith, Mahiya enjoys attending church, and she loves to go to the park and visit Mustang Public Library, her parents say.

Although Mahiya has participated in bowling for Special Olympics in Mustang, Yukon and Oklahoma City since she was eight – and has won several medals for that sport -  this was her first time attending the Stillwater games. She competed in bocce ball this year.

Mahiya has participated in Special Olympics Bowling here in Mustang, Yukon and OKC area since she became old enough at age 8. However this will be her first year to attend Special Olympics in Stillwater. She will be competing in Bocce Ball. Over the years she has earned many medals in her Bowling sport participation.

Mahiya’s parents are Dr. Lancer and Aietah Stephens; she has a younger sister, Ahdae, and two younger brothers – Tahlee and Waukee.

Mahiya’s health struggles have been difficult at times, but she is resilient and brave, overcoming issues related to her rare chomosomal anomaly, including many surgeries, hospitalizations and sicknesses. Despite these issues, Mahiya is warm and outgoing – as her family says, she never meets a stranger. She lives a life of unconditional love, say her friends and family.

“Mahiya is the Creek word for teacher and is truly fitting for her, she has taught us so much and continues to teach us every day about living a life in love and joy despite what challenges come your way,” her parents say.

Haleigh McCathern

Haleigh is 22 years old and is a 2013 graduate of Mustang Public Schools.

She loves music – all kinds except “sappy ones and loud rock and roll – and is a dancer. She has gone through many CD players and CDs but loves iTunes gift cards.

Haleigh loves to help her dad work with the family’s cows. They are “her” cows and she works the gate to help out.

Haleigh loves to be outdoors and helps her mom with the flowerbeds. She also loves music and swimming. When the family travels, she loves the hotel hot tubs and swimming – at Special Olympics she loves swimming in the hot tub and the annual dance. In school, her favorite thing to do was ride the bus, her mom said.

Haleigh began participating in Special Olympics when she was eight. At that time she would be part of Yukon Schools’ team, and her mom was her coach. After 14 years in Special Olympics – seven of them in Mustang – Haleigh has participated in a variety of events. Her favorite events are the 50-meter dash and softball throw.

Haleigh’s parents are Kim and Lonnie McCathern. She has an older brother, Cole, and a younger brother, Terry.

Haleigh has brought joy to her family her entire life, and her smile lights up anyplace she goes.

“Haleigh has always been known for her smile,” her mom says. “All through school, she would always get awards for ‘Best Smile.’

“She’s a happy girl,” Kim says.

MSA, city partner to help ‘warriors’

warriors pesentation 3 web

By Traci Chapman

Mustang Softball Association and city of Mustang teamed up to throw $8,595 of help to Warriors for Freedom.

On Tuesday, Troy Schweinberg with MSA and Mustang Parks and Recreation’s Nic Bailey presented the funds to Warriors for Freedom during the City Council meeting. The pair helped spearhead the event, which raised funds to help military veterans and their families, said Scott Deatherage, Warriors for Freedom Foundation vice president of veteran affairs and media relations.

The fundraiser was held in April and was comprised of a girls fast pitch softball tournament. Tournament master of ceremonies was retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rusty Dunagan, who was on hand with other Warriors officials to receive the donation.

On Sept. 22, 2010, Dunagan lost both legs and his left arm after his patrol in Afghanistan encountered an IED.

All proceeds earned will benefit Warriors for Freedom Foundation, Deatherage said. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides support to military and their families with activities, mental health assistance and wellness, as well as awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and combat stress reaction.

“Oklahoma residents have provided this country with strong military personnel and unparalleled patriotism,” said retired U.S. Army Major Ed Pulido, founder of Warriors for Freedom Foundation.

“The amount of patriotism those young ladies showed does your city proud,” Deatherage said.

For more information about Warriors for Freedom, go online to http:// warriorsforfreedom.org/.