Good deed does community proud

By Observer editorial April 21, 2011 02:55 pm
People in La Grande and Union County always have had a lot to be proud of when it comes to helping those who are down. But truly, they outdid themselves this past winter when they rallied around a soldier whose car was destroyed by vandals as he served in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Travis Sheehan of the Oregon National Guard’s Third Battalion, 116th cavalry, deployed for the war-and-
terror stricken country last September.

The Troutdale soldier left his Honda Acura parked at the La Grande armory. His mother was supposed to pick it up, but was delayed because of illness and other reasons. In the interim, Sheehan canceled the insurance.

Those were the unfortunate circumstances the night of Dec. 9, when someone gained access to a vehicle in the parking lot and used it to ram others.
The incident marked a second consecutive night of senseless ruination in the neighborhood. Dec. 8, vandals tore through Hillcrest Cemetery, damaging more than 100 monuments.

All the cars smashed at the armory belonged to 3/116th soldiers. When Sheehan, the only one of the three vehicle owners on deployment, got the bad news, he seethed helplessly at his far-off duty station. It looked like he was out a lot of money for having served his country. And there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.

But in La Grande, some patriotic individuals decided they wouldn’t take these insults to the community and the Red-White-and-Blue lying down.

Citizen John Sprenger took the lead in raising money to pay for damages to the vehicles, and to establish a reward for information leading to arrests in the vandalism episodes.

In recessionary times, Sprenger had his work cut out for him. The other two soldiers’ vehicles were insured, and those men declined help with deductibles. But replacing Sheehan’s car was a whopping expense.

Sprenger’s campaign got off to a good start. People gave $5, $10, $100, whatever they could afford, and the account swelled.

Then, at about $5,000, the effort stalled. Sprenger compatriot Lynn Harris drafted a letter asking for more help, and sent it to select individuals and businesses. The pace picked up again.

When Sheehan came home on leave in March, Sprenger presented him a $6,200 check. That, plus the generous $800 paid by B&K Auto Salvage for the ruined Acura, assured Sheehan will have good wheels under him when his deployment ends. Better still, $3,000 reward money remains.

This was a shining achievement for Union County, one that sets us apart as a community that cares, no matter how tough the times get.

The hope now is that someone steps forward with the names of the guilty. That would be sweet icing on the cake.