Troop group plans big weekend for military

The fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq also marked the $400 billionth dollar spent and the 4,000th death of a member of the U.S. armed forces in the conflict.

Totals that many Northern Nevadans, like the rest of America, can't fathom.

But there is another number " and that's 30,000.

That's the estimated number of military personnel that return home wounded, said Carson resident Carol Howell, who is helping to organize a weekend of local events with national non profit Operation First Response to honor wounded troops returning home.

The events will kick off Friday with a reception at 4 p.m. in the Nevada State Museum, and will continue with pancake breakfasts, a parade and a car show at Mills Park on Saturday.

A fashion show fundraiser will take place 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Carson Nugget and the event will conclude with a golf and dinner fundraiser at the Dayton Valley Golf & Country Club that afternoon.

"What many people don't realize is that probably three times the number (of wounded) will have some form of post-traumatic stress syndrome," Howell said. "This (weekend) of events is to not only raise money " but to raise awareness.

Howell, who said she has no military ties in her immediate family, described her involvement with the nonprofit as something she "stumbled across."

"Like a lot of people, I just keep watching what's going on with (the war) and I wanted to do something," she said. "I searched for a charity and found out (Operation First Response) has 95 cents on the dollar going directly to troops.

"You can't beat that."

Howell said "almost immediately" word of her work with the nonprofit spread and, because Northern Nevadans have "strong military ties, people were interested right away."

The idea for a weekend of events was borne out of an idea to help troops.

"We started learning about the (wounded) troops and what their needs were and we wanted to do something more."

"After we opened the (Operation First Response) chapter we made up 50 tote bags to distribute to the VA hospital."

The tote bags were sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and distributed to troops last December.

Howell said just getting tote bags to troops "wasn't enough."

"We knew there was more we could do," she said. "So, that's how the idea for the weekend of events came about.

"Really, this has been our goal all along " we've been planning this since last August."

Local soldiers will also take part. Marc Crossley, 33, a 1994 graduate from Carson High School, who took shrapnel in his abdomen when his Humvee was hit by a bomb in Iraq in 1995, now suffers from stomach lymphoma.

He's been involved with Operation First Response for more than a year " on both the giving and receiving ends.

"I think it helps when soldiers (reach out) to other soldiers and show them there is help," Howell said. "That's what this weekend's for; making connections and raising money."

Howell said Peggy Baker, Operation First Response's founder/president, will preside over some of the weekend's activities and will help train volunteers.

"This is absolutely something we want more people to become involved with," Howell said. "One response we've been getting from residents is we should've been doing something like this years ago."

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