Trisha Reznick Beat Assignment #1
(This assignment was one of three in a series, as a Hazleton Area beat)
As a platoon sergeant, Warren Hunsicker had his fair share of close calls while serving in the National Guard. He lived on an outpost Northwest of Taji, Iraq where he says, “you don’t hear nothing about what what’s going on stateside.”
Hunsicker was responsible for 20 other troops. “You don’t do it for yourself, you do it for the soldier next to you,” he says of his job. The third day he was in Iraq, an improvised explosive device, more commonly known as an IED, hit the platoon working opposite of his. No one was severely injured, but it “put a whole new perspective” on his stay.
One year later, he was on his way back home to Pennsylvania, after completing a “very meaningful job,” he did not expect such a grand welcome home. Fire trucks, complete strangers, friends and family, greeted his arrival, all thanks to The Rolling Angels.
Amy Crego, of Hazleton, started The Rolling Angels after she attended a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the first wounded soldier in the Afghanistan war in 2003 were in attendance. She notes that the veteran was “completely ignored” and “not one person thanked him, not even the President.”
Crego, along with four other people started going to funerals of fallen soldiers in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Williamsport areas.
Soon, their group had 37 members, and peaked at 97 members. The Angels have a diverse group of people that range from having no military history to veterans, avid motorcyclists and children that are dubbed Junior Angels.
Vice president Jon Houser was “there from the beginning” of The Rolling Angels. According to their website, the group formed in 2005. He says he “didn’t get a chance to serve, but I can show appreciation for those who did serve.” During the Vietnam War years, Jon was enrolled in college, which prevented him from serving. Jon says The Rolling Angels, “basically support our troops, whether here or abroad.”
The Angels recently donated money to a returning veteran, David Calhoun, to renovate his home, just in time for Christmas. Calhoun was wounded three times while serving in Iraq. Fellow Angel members took the two-hour trip from Hazleton to Calhoun’s home and saw it needed some work. Determined to help a veteran, the Angels made sure Calhoun’s holiday would be a bit brighter. Between November 18 and December 24, the veteran’s Wyalusing home got new floors in the bedroom and living room.
Lois Houser, treasurer, said she “feels the same way” as her husband Jon, when it comes to helping veterans. She lived in West Germany from 1965-1967 with her husband, at the time, who served in the air force, during the Vietnam War. ”Vietnam was tough,” She says “even when they returned they did not get a warm welcome.”
They lived with a German family, whose home had no running water and “you would get a bath once a week. It taught me to appreciate everything we had in the states,” she says of her experience.
Her daughter was born on a military base in Germany; coincidentally her son, who now serves in the Air Force, was stationed at the same base.
Usually the Rolling Angels purchase gifts for children whose parents are deployed, but this year they were lucky enough to not have any local children in need. Instead, they purchased Christmas gifts for military veterans in nursing homes.
The veterans were “giddy with excitement,” says Lois Houser, when The Angels presented them with big-faced wristwatches. They were “happy that someone remembered them.”
When a call goes out for a Rolling Angels mission, Andy Snyder is the middleman between group members and officials. Snyder comes from a long military history in the National Guard, and is also the vice president of The Riders For Child Protection group. As a squad leader, Snyder brought attention to a motorcycle run in September to benefit cancer research in memory of a reserve officer training corps, ROTC, high school student who passed away from cancer.
The Rolling Angels has a full calendar when it comes to aiding soldiers from boot camp send-off s to welcoming them back from deployment, and everything in between. For upcoming events, consult the group’s website rollingangels.org.