I want to relate a story told by Major Gen. Ted Banta at the Operation Mountain Freedom (Wounded Warrior) luncheon Thursday.
He was talking about a Marine Gunnery Sergeant named John Hayes – and I’ll apologize right now if I don’t get the details exactly right. You would think I would know by now that I should just automatically record things on my phone, but I’m still so conditioned to think that there’s a device for every task, as opposed to having a device which can do just about anything.
Anyway, Hayes had the unenviable assignment of clearing IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). That’s what he did. Detected and defused roadside bombs. Put himself in harm’s way every day. And on his fourth tour, in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan, harm finally got him. Severely burned him. Blew off his legs.
When he woke up for the first time after the injury, he was in a hospital in Germany. Next time he woke up, he was in a hospital stateside.
Banta’s walking through the hospital, and when Hayes sees him, Banta can see him struggling to get upright because Hayes wants to talk to him. They knew each other. Banta admits he couldn’t really recognize Hayes at first – it was just a few weeks after the injury – but he did recognize the voice.
Hayes’s wife Jenell was there. At the time, their three children were young.
They talk for awhile and then, as Banta is about to take his leave, he asks Jenell if there’s anything he can do for her, for her husband, for the family.
And she says, “Well, if we could just get some more Gatorade, that would be really nice.”
Ten months later, Hayes completed the Marine Corps Marathon using a hand-cycle.
The surprise to me isn’t that Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra Executive director Kathy Copeland has raised $11.3 million of the $14.5 million she needs toward the construction of a National Wounded Warrior Center in Mammoth Lakes. Kathy’s indomitable. She’s not gonna quit. The surprise is that someone singular or plural hasn’t stepped forward to hand her that final $3.2 million check – yesterday.
Another story from Thursday. I’m talking to a first-time Operation Mountain Freedom participant named Patrick Kelly. And Kelly says earlier that morning there had been a get-together and it was very casual and he’d met a bunch of new folks. But all the while, he had his eye out because he had heard that Maj. General Banta would be in attendance. So he turns to one of his friends and says, “Hey, have you seen General Banta?”
And the friend says, “Yeah, you just spent the last twenty minutes talking to him.”
Banta apparently isn’t one to stand on ceremony.
From Page’s desk … and we’ll have more on this next week, but he attended many of the interviews MLT (Mammoth Lakes Tourism) conducted regarding event funding this week.
How’s this for nutty? Mammoth District Ranger Gordon Martin has withheld his support (and event permit) for Jazz by the Creek, a summer event sponsored by the Mammoth Museum and held at Hayden Cabin. The rationale: Jazz is apparently not “Foresty” enough for the Forest Service, which believes that folk music is more in line with its brand.
And from Hite’s desk … seems Mammoth’s Town Council is morphing into a five-headed monster with the last name of Dangerfield, because it feels it is not getting the proper due for its accomplishments.
From Mayor Bill Sauser: The highlight for me in housing over the last three years has been the fact that we have allocated $12.5 million to housing in just three years. I hear people grumbling all the time, I read it in the paper how if this is our number one priority why aren’t we spending money? Ladies and gentlemen, we have allocated an average of over $4 million a year. On our budget that is huge.
And from Councilman John Wentworth: I think now with what Main Street looks like and the vibrancy that’s going on in this community. I think … we are sending the message out that needs to be said that, ‘look how good we look, look how much fun we all have up here and you know we are ready for the challenges that are coming our way so I’m very excited about all that.