Fenger Pointing
Boots for our troops

By Becky Fenger | May 28, 2008 | Vol. 14 No. 22

They were ten cents apiece or three for a quarter. Those tiny crepe paper red poppies that we sold as kids to raise money for servicemen in need. We felt a closeness to our soldiers when we wore them on our lapels as we watched Memorial Day parades and decorated the graves of those who gave their lives that others might live free.

A lot of that is gone now and more hot dogs are adorned than graves. Few know proper flag etiquette. Others attempt to make laws to force reverence for our flag. Three men from the east Valley, however, witnessed the problems that Arizona’s military, their families and veterans were experiencing and decided to help ease their financial and health woes and aid them in readjusting to society. They are: David Lucier of Tempe, a security consultant who worked in Iraq for the Department of Defense recently; Roman Ruiz, a Vietnam vet from Mesa who owns Ruiz Insurance Group; and the project organizer, Rich Bank of Tempe, who served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam.

After contacting Vernon Bagley, a Vietnam vet and founder of Project “We Remember,” the fellows came up with the idea of “Boots for Our Troops.” It operates under the umbrella of Project “We Remember” which is described in a press release as “a nonprofit agency that provides short-term housing for U.S. military personnel and their families during visits to V.A. hospitals.” Any funds collected will go to qualified 501(c)3 charities, and it is important to remember that money raised in Arizona will stay in Arizona. That’s good to know.

Here’s how it works. Rich Bank is calling on business establishments in as many towns across the state as he can visit. Approximately 75 outlets have signed up to participate by offering patrons and their employees a chance to purchase paper combat boots (not unlike the shamrocks for muscular dystrophy). The minimum cost for a boot is $2 and God bless you if you are willing at this time of year to be really generous.

The Boots for our Troops campaign started on May 22 and will run until July 6. With Flag Day on June 14 and Independence Day in that span, I’m hoping we are moved to step up for our men and women in uniform with gratitude free of political views.

In Cave Creek, The Cracked Crab and Harold’s are signed up to sell the boots, so drop in and show your appreciation. If you want more information or want to participate as a retail outlet, call Rich Bank at (480) 967-5378 or e-mail him at
richbank@ProjectWeRemember.org. Check out the Web site for yourself and click on the big boots.

Can anyone not envision what Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, saw when he wrote this poem after weeks of watching the dead buried in Europe during WWI?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.