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Fallen Wyoming Marine Seth Rasmuson Gets Last Ride Home To Buffalo

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming U.S. Marine Cpl. Seth Rasmuson may have been young when he died, but his sacrifice for his country was valued, nonetheless, those who turned out for a procession in his honor said on Monday.

Shona Armstrong is a Canada native who married an American soldier, so she felt a strong drive to honor Rasmuson when the procession carrying his body, escorted by members of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, drove through Cheyenne on Monday afternoon on its way to Buffalo.

“There’s a sense of patriotism here that you don’t see in Canada,” Armstrong told Cowboy State Daily on Monday, holding a large American flag. “I’m really grateful that we’re proud of our country and our soldiers. They’re not forgotten here like they are in Canada. It’s very different.”

Rasmuson, a 2019 Buffalo High School graduate, was among five Marines killed earlier this month in a training exercise when an Osprey helicopter crashed in the desert near the border between California and Arizona.

The procession carrying Rasmuson’s body followed I25 from Denver to Buffalo and over the weekend, Sheridan Facebook user Kristen King called on Wyoming residents to welcome him back home to Wyoming one final time.


Video shot by Christopher Mulkey

Bill and Miriam Abernathy were sent the information about the procession by their daughter in Kansas, showing how far the call for people had reached.

“My dad was in the service and I just respected everything he did for this country,” Bill Abernathy said. “My uncle is actually still missing in North Korea. I respect what he ultimately sacrificed for this country. But somebody has to carry the torch, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The trio waved flags above I25 at an overpass in Cheyenne, getting a “lot” of honks from passersby, they said.



More people gathered across the state at various overpasses to welcome Rasmuson back to Wyoming and to honor the young man’s sacrifice.

Rasmuson left behind his wife with whom he graduated and a 7-month-old son.

He received many commendations including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Rasmuson’s funeral services will be held this week in Buffalo.

Donations in Seth’s memory may be made to the Seth Rasmuson Memorial, a fund set up for his son Reed’s education in care of Harness Funeral Home at 351 N. Adams in Buffalo.

Video courtesy, Laura Loughran Redmond

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Gov. Gordon Orders Flags Lowered To Honor Fallen Buffalo Marine Seth Rasmuson

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday ordered flags to fly at half-staff through Monday evening in honor of a U.S. Marine from Wyoming who was killed on Wednesday.

U.S. Marine Seth Rasmuson of Buffalo was one of five Marines killed when an Osprey helicopter crashed in the desert near the border between California and Arizona.

“Jennie and I are heartbroken over the death of Seth Rasmuson, a Marine from my hometown of Buffalo,” Gordon said on Friday.

“Our hearts go out to the Rasmuson family and the entire Buffalo community,” he said.

Rasmuson graduated from Buffalo High School in 2019. He leaves behind his wife with whom he graduated and a 7-month-old son.

He received many commendations including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His father Curtis Rasmuson told the Orange County Register that Seth returned to Buffalo recently to attend his brother’s graduation.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation all put out statements expressing sympathy for the loss.

“My deepest condolences go out to the family of Buffalo’s Seth Rasmuson & the other Marines involved in this tragic accident,” U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said.

“Seth’s service to our country will never be forgotten. Please join me in praying for Seth’s loved ones as they grieve his loss,” she said.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso issued a statement Thursday night stating he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the accident.

“There is certainly more to learn about what happened yesterday, and much more we need to hear about his life and service to our country. Today, we mourn this tragic loss. Bobbi and I are holding Seth and his family in our prayers,” Barrasso said.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, in a statement sent to Cowboy State Daily, on Friday echoed Barrasso’s sympathies.

“I am saddened to learn of the tragic loss of U.S. Marine and Buffalo native Seth Rasmuson,” Lummis said. “I am praying for comfort over his friends and family as they mourn. I take solace in Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’”

The Marines were participating in a routine live-fire training over their gunnery range in the Imperial Valley desert, said Marine Maj. Mason Englehart, spokesperson for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

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Marine From Buffalo Killed In Osprey Crash Near California-Arizona Border

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Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A U.S. Marine from Buffalo was one of five Marines killed Wednesday when an Osprey helicopter crashed in the desert near the border between California and Arizona, the U.S. Marine Corps announced on Thursday.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso confirmed the death of Seth Rasmuson on Thursday evening in a press release.

“We are deeply saddened to learn today about the death of one of Wyoming’s U.S. Marines, Seth Rasmuson,” Barrasso said.

“There is certainly more to learn about what happened yesterday, and much more we need to hear about his life and service to our country. Today, we mourn this tragic loss. Bobbi and I are holding Seth and his family in our prayers,” the senator said.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis echoed Barrasso’s sentiments.

“I am saddened to learn of the tragic loss of U.S. Marine and Buffalo native Seth Rasmuson,” Lummis said. “I am praying for comfort over his friends and family as they mourn. I take solace in Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’”

Rasmuson graduated from Buffalo High School in 2019, according to the Buffalo Bulletin.

“We mourn the loss of our Marines in this tragic mishap,” said Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, in a statement. “Our hearts go out to their families and friends as they cope with this tragedy.”

According to media reports, the aircraft reportedly went down at 12:25pm during training exercises near Glamis, California, approximately 115 miles east of San Diego.

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Fallen Wyoming Marine’s Father Explains Why He Wouldn’t Meet With Biden

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Appearing on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, the father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum explained to host Brian Kilmeade why he avoided a meeting with President Joe Biden over the weekend.

McCollum’s father, Jim, and his daughters were in Dover, Delaware, to receive the body of his slain son, one of the 13 servicemen killed in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan last week.

When President Biden walked into the room where the ceremony was being held, Mr. McCollum walked out.

“I had no desire to meet with the president,” McCollum said.  “Everything he’s done [with the withdrawal from Afghanistan], every step along the way has been absolutely backwards.”

“A high school kid could make better decisions than they’ve made in this,” he said.

Originally it was reported that only the late Marine’s wife had stayed in the room to meet with Biden but McCollum’s sister, Cheyenne McCollum, also stuck around briefly.

“I chose to stay with my brother’s wife,” Cheyenne said. “She wanted the chance to look him in the eye and see if it was going to be a sincere conversation or apology. And I was able to stand about 15 seconds of his fake, scripted apology and I had to walk out.”

She said Biden wouldn’t at look her or at McCollum’s wife in the eye. Instead, she said, he looked down and showed no sympathy.

“It was more about his son,” Mr. McCollum said. “My son wasn’t mentioned. It was his son and about him.”

Mr. McCollum’s ex-wife, who lives in Montrose, Colorado, was much more caustic in her remarks about President Biden, telling interviewers that he was a “dementia-ridden piece of crap.”

Between sobs, she told talk show host Andrew Wilkow that her son “died in vain.”

“This was as unnecessary debacle which could have been handled properly,” she said.

The McCollum family was welcomed back to Jackson, Wyoming, on Monday afternoon by hundreds of well-wishers who lined Broadway Avenue in Jackson to watch the emotional motorcade.

“Welcome home to a hero’s family,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said on Twitter. “My heart hurts for your family. My prayers join the chorus. I don’t have the right words so just thank you from me, Wyoming, and from an eternally grateful nation.”

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Crowds Welcome Slain Wyoming Marine’s Family Back to Jackson

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Video: Courtesy The Wort Hotel

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Hundreds of people lined Broadway Avenue in Jackson on Monday afternoon to welcome the family of a Wyoming Marine who died in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Members of the Jackson Police Department, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marine Corps escorted the father of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, Jim, and Rylee’s two sisters, Cheyenne and Roice, through the community at 3:40 p.m. after their trip to Washington, DC over the weekend.

The family was attending a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where the bodies of the 13 servicemen killed in the attacks were returned to the U.S. in a military service called a “dignified transfer.”

Onlookers waved flags and applauded in an effort to show support for the family.

Earlier in the day, Jim McCollum told a Facebook friend that his son would be returned to the Jackson area “for his last trip home” sometime in the immediate future.

“The process has started but no definitive time-line yet,” Mr. McCollum said.

The elder McCollum also posted a tribute video made for his son by a friend on his Facebook page. The video showed many pictures of Rylee and his sisters growing up in the Jackson area.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso told FOX News on Monday evening that he spoke with Jim McCollum earlier in the day and was told Rylee was “red, white, and blue from the beginning.”

“He joined the Marines on his 18th birthday,” Barrasso said.  “He leaves behind a wife who is pregnant with their first child next month.”

“His Dad ended our conversation by saying, ‘Tonight, Rylee is guarding the gates of Heaven,'” he added.

Jim McCollum, however, did not speak with President Joe Biden, who attended the transfer ceremony in Dover, Massachusetts. McCollum and his family walked out when Biden entered the room.

McCollum’s daughter, Roice, told the Washington Post that this was because they blamed the president for her brother’s death.

“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice McCollum said. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”

Jiennah McCollum, the wife of the late Marine, did meet with Biden briefly but reportedly left disappointed because she felt he was following a script.

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Slain Wyoming Marine’s Family Walked Out on Meeting With Biden

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The family of the Wyoming Marine killed in a terrorist attack on Thursday refused to meet with President Joe Biden following a solemn ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday.

Roice McCollum, sister of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, said the family did attend the ceremony — known as the “dignified transfer” — but ultimately decided not to meet with the president because they held him responsible for the Marine’s death.

“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice McCollum told the Washington Post. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”

Jiennah McCollum, the wife of the late Marine, did meet with Biden briefly but reportedly left disappointed because she felt he was following a script.

FOX News reported that “the family felt the president’s conversation with Jiennah was hollow and lacking meaning, and said Biden appeared to show a ‘total disregard to the loss of our Marine.’”

The White House would not comment on the private conversations the president had with the families.

Meanwhile, McCollum’s father on Sunday posted an original poem on his Facebook page, which reads:

Where do I find the answers 
Where do I go from here 
When the heart is filled with sorrow 
When eyes are filled with tears
When will it be OK 
To smile once again 
Without feeling bad 
For feeling something 
About the memories held within 
Today I start that journey 
My son has made it home
Thankful for you and the love that you share
I know I’m not alone

Mr. McCollum signed the poem “wykid”.

One of Mr. McCollum’s Facebook friends encouraged him to keep writing.

“Please keep writing your poetry. It’s therapeutic for you! Keeping you in my thoughts & prayers!” Kari Mulinix wrote.

McCollumn concurred: “Thank you…it truly is.”

Mr. McCollum told another friend that he and his family will return to Wyoming late Monday and his late son will arrive soon after.

“It will be a few days before he makes his last trip home. There are some things that need to be taken care of before that can happen. The process has started but no definitive time-line yet,” he said.

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Heartbroken Mother of Killed Wyoming Marine Blames Biden Voters For Son’s Death

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The grief-stricken mother of the Wyoming Marine who was killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan on Friday blamed President Joe Biden and his voters for her son’s death.

Kathy McCollum, a resident of Montrose, Colorado, called a Sirius XM political talk show on Friday afternoon to discuss her son Lance Cpl. Rylee MCCollum’s death.

Not mincing words on the segment, McCollum said she called the talk show to “process [the grief] through anger instead of tears”.

“I just want all you Democrats who cheated in the election, or who voted for him legitimately, to know that you just killed my son,” McCollum said. “With a dementia-ridden piece of crap who doesn’t even know he’s in the White House, who still thinks he’s a senator.

McCollum said she was awakened at her door at 4am by two Marines telling her that her son was one of 13 serviceman killed in the attacks.

She told talk show host Andrew Wilkow that her representative Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) will be visiting her house on Monday and “will be able to convey my message to the rest of the United States.”

“She said my son did not die in vain but guess what? My son did die in vain. This was unnecessary debacle which could have been handled properly,” she said.

McCollum’s son, a former resident of Bondurant, Wyoming and a 2019 graduate of Jackson High School, was married on February 14 and was expecting his first child with wife Gigi in three weeks.

“They had months and months to remove everyone from Afghanistan and they chose not to,” she said.  “My son was, through the laws of statistics, was one of the ones who just got blown up in a terrorist bomb yesterday.”

“I’m just going to stay pissed-off and that’s the only way I’m going to be able to do this,” she said. “Every Democrat that’s listening, you did this to my son.”

Meanwhile in Jackson, Wyoming, McCollum’s father and two sisters appeared at the Jackson High School football game on Friday night.

The family walked out to the middle of the football field for a moment of silence followed by the national anthem.

“Rylee McCollum gave his life defending freedom around the world, our country, and the lives of many yesterday. We will be forever grateful for Rylee’s service and sacrifice to our country,” the announcer said.

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Over $500,000 Raised For Family Of Wyoming Marine Killed In Afghanistan

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Outpourings of support continued over the weekend for the family of a Wyoming marine who was killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan on Friday.

Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, a former resident of Bondurant, Wyoming, and a 2019 graduate of Jackson Hole High School, was one of 13 servicemen killed in two separate blasts at the Kabul airport.

McCollum was married and his wife is expecting a child in three weeks.

Donations over $500,000 have been generated on two GoFundMe sites.

One page set up by McCollum’s mother-in-law, Jill Crayton, has raised more than $160,000 while the other, set-up by an unknown organizer, has topped $350,000.

“My heart is incredibly heavy today, in the wee hours of the morning my beautiful daughter got that knock on her door that no military spouse wants to get,” Crayton, the mother of McCollum’s wife Gigi, said.

Crayton said the couple had been married less than a year and said Gigi is 36 weeks pregnant.

“I never got to meet him, but I will meet his baby, and I will love and spoil that baby forever. please hold her in your heart and soul because she needs it, this mama knows exactly what that feels like,” she wrote on the page.

Holding back tears, Crayton told a Charlotte TV station that she learned the news from her daughter at 6 a.m. EDT Friday after Marines showed up at her daughter’s door.

“He brought out the best of her. He did,” she said.

Crayton lost her husband when Gigi was five years old and said she remembered hoping that her children would never have to go through something like that.

“It’s not just losing your spouse,” she said. “But something you were so excited to share with somebody and that person isn’t there anymore.”

The other page said the purpose of the fundraiser is toward the education and upbringing of McCollum’s child,

“His sacrifice at HKIA [Hamid Karzai International Airport] to protect the lives of those who cannot themselves will not be forgotten,” the page said. “Once we close off donations, withdrawals will be directed directly to an account chosen by her and her mother.”

McCollum’s sister, Roice, said her brother had wanted to be a Marine his entire life and as a toddler, he carried around a toy rifle while wearing diapers and his cowboy boots.

“Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country,” she said. “Rylee will always be a hero, not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper. We love you Rylee.”

His father, Jim, told the New York Times that he could track his son through a messaging app that displayed a green dot when he was online.

When Jim got word of the terrorist attacks, he checked the app but there was no green light.

“In my heart yesterday afternoon, I knew,” he said.

“He was a beautiful soul,” Mr. McCollum said.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation was quick to offer condolences to McCollum’s family.

“His bravery and patriotism will never be forgotten,” Rep. Liz Cheney said, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and perhaps the most-outspoken critic of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “His willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep our country safe and defend our freedom represents a level of selflessness and heroism that embodies the best of America.”

“There are no words sufficient to comfort a family after hearing news like this, but I want to express my deepest condolences to Rylee McCollum’s family and friends,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said.

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Military Members Must Be Vaccinated By Sept. 15, If Not Sooner

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. military will require service members to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by mid-September, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday.

Currently, 73% of active duty personnel have at least one dose of the vaccine, DOD officials said. 

The deadline has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, who recently asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to consider how and when the COVID vaccine could be added to the list of required vaccines for all service members. The question came in response to a spike in cases caused by the Delta variant.

“Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19,” Biden said during a July 29 speech.

Austin consulted with Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries and the rest of the Joint Chiefs in making his decision.

“Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID-19 Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin said in a memo to all service members.

All DOD leaders will be involved in expanding the program.

“I have every confidence that service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill and compassion,” Austin wrote in the memo. “We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed.”

Austin also said the department will comply with the president’s direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated federal personnel. These requirements cover military and civilian personnel. 

The DOD will keep a close eye on infection rates “and the impact these rates might have on our readiness,” Austin said. “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if I feel the need to do so.”

More and more employers across the nation are now requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus or face severe consequences, including termination.

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Barrasso Backs Bipartisan Military Spouses Licensing Bill

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is joining 22 other senators in supporting a bill that would make it easier for the spouses of members of the military to practice their professions where their spouses are stationed.

On Thursday, the senators introduced the bipartisan Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act, which gives military spouses with valid professional licenses in one state reciprocity in the state where their spouse is currently serving on military orders, according to a news release.

For example, if a military spouse has a cosmetology license in Colorado, but his or her spouse is serving in Wyoming, their license would be valid in both states.

“In Wyoming, we recognize the sacrifice that our service members and their families make every day,” Barrasso said in the release. “Military families often move every two to three years. The last thing they need to worry about is spending time and money trying to maintain their careers in a new state.

“Our bipartisan bill will make it easier for military spouses to transition the professional licenses they’ve already worked hard to obtain when they move to a new duty station,” he continued.

The bill would amend the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003. The SCRA already provides a number of protections for active duty service members and their families, including rental agreements, civil judicial proceedings, installment contracts and credit card and mortgage interest rates.

This legislation wouldn’t preempt state law on how the licenses are used, as military spouses would still be required to comply with standards of practice, discipline and continuing education requirements.

Some of the senators co-sponsoring the bill alongside Barrasso include Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

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Wyoming Highway Patrol Recognizes Wyoming Military Serving Abroad

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The Wyoming Highway Patrol on Friday recognized and thanked Wyoming military members who are serving overseas.

In recognition of Remember Everyone Deployed (R.E.D.) Friday, the patrol posted a photograph of members of the Wyoming Air Guard who came together at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia.

The photo shows about 20 members of the Wyoming 153rd Air Wing gathered on a flight line, holding a “Welcome to Wyoming” sign made by Guard Master Sgt. Mike Simmons, a Wyoming Highway Patrol employee.

“This is the first time the Wyoming Air Guard has deployed with a ‘WELCOME TO WYOMING’ sign, borrowing the tradition from the Wyoming Army National Guard’s deployment from the Korean War,” the Highway Patrol’s post said.

The guardsmen have been in the country for a little more than one month supporting military operations in the 332nd Expeditionary Air Wing (also known as the “Red Tails”), the post said. They are expected to be deployed well into the new year and will miss the holiday season with their families.

R.E.D. was created to urge people to show some form of support for deployed service members every Friday until they can return home.

The goal of R.E.D. is to carry the message to national levels, serve the military community, and help their families by showing them that they are never forgotten.

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Powell man part of team to row across Atlantic

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FightOrDieTeam
The members of Carl Christensen’s “Fight OAR Die” team, from left to right: John Fannin of San Antonio, Texas, Luke Holton of Juneau, Alaska, Christensen of Powell and Evan Stratton of Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fight OAR Die.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s the slogan for a group of military veterans who next week will begin a weeks-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean… in a rowboat.

Powell resident Carl Christensen is part of a four-man team of former military servicemen who will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands next month in their “Woobie” to raise awareness and support for the mental and physical health of U.S. veterans. 

The team will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. It’s a symbol of the hardships faced by veterans, and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.

Christensen is a 2001 Cody High School graduate who attended the Naval Academy, then served as a submarine officer and an instructor until his service was over in 2014. He said he watched last year’s team, which boasted members from both Powell and Cody, and was inspired to join the movement to support fellow veterans in their struggles with both mental and physical health post-service. 

But the task he’s facing is no small feat, either.

“Last year’s team did it in 54 days. 40 days is the average, the world record is 33 days,” he said. “We do have 60 days’ worth of food on board.”

Fight OAR Die map
This is a map of the path to be followed by Powell resident Carl Christensen and the other three members of his “Fight OAR Die” challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Christensen’s team represents more than just the Navy, however. Two Marines will be in his boat – one from San Antonio, Texas, and one from Denver, Colorado – and an Army veteran from Juneau, Alaska will round out the crew. It’s the first time for each of them. 

“The goal is to put four new veterans on the team each year,” he said. “We’re showing other veterans that they can row their own ocean, overcome their challenges.” 

He said the Fight OAR Die team has one mission – they want veterans to stop taking their own lives, and start living them instead.

Training is a must for a physical feat such as this. Christensen said he’s been staying in shape as a member of the Park County Search and Rescue volunteer crew. In addition, his wife, who is a personal trainer, purchased a rowing machine to help him train specifically for this journey.

In August, Christensen said the team did a month of training on an actual rowboat in Mobile, Alabama. There, the city’s mayor presented team members with a key to the city for their efforts in raising awareness of post-traumatic stress and post-combat hardship, as well as raising funds for treatment and research.

Part of the team’s mission is to raise support for other organizations that assist veterans, according to Christensen. The Sturm Center at the University of Denver and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Aurora, Colorado, are both working on ways to help veterans adapt and heal after their combat missions. 

“We are actually research subjects,” Christensen said. “They’ll follow us for a year.” 

In fact, he says the Sturm Center is now offering students the opportunity to follow a new specialized path – professional military psychologist – specifically to help veterans. 

Christensen pointed out that people who want to support their team’s mission financially can donate to the Sturm Center and the Marcus Institute to further their efforts.

Of the upcoming challenge, Christensen said it’s important to him to continue to serve his brothers and sisters in arms. With 60,000 veterans dying by suicide over the last decade, he said he is proud to be a part of a group that is working to raise awareness – and funds – to help support those who can perhaps end that trend.

“We’re trying to turn the tide,” he said.

Massive military museum under construction near Dubois

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Dan Starks, National Museum of Military Vehicles founder, explains how the oil and gas industry helped the American military build a better tank.

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s next great museum is under construction and will open next May.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles is a massive facility located just south of Dubois in Fremont County.

The $100 million self-funded museum has been a dream of Dan Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011. Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square-foot facility designed to hold 150 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.

Starks, 65, is not a veteran but has such a high degree of respect for those who served that he sees this project as his life’s work. And what a life it has been.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis, serving as CEO before retiring in 2017. The company made $6 billion per year and had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices, specializing on heart catheters and other devices. 

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

Dan and his wife Cynthia’s life’s dream was to settle in Dubois and launch some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans. And boy, is this ever some project.

Despite the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small.  The couple owns more than 400 of pristine historic vehicles from World War II and other conflicts, presumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.Starks thinks he might only get 150 of them inside the walls.

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility.Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” Starks says.

Starks sees the facility having three components:

  • First, to honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans;
  • Second, preserve the history of what happened during these wars, and
  • Third, provide an educational experience.

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers. It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable.

Starks likes to discuss how the “Red Ball Express” helped secure the victories. This was the truck-based supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and one-half years. The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy. 

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did,” Starks said. “It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized.”

Dan and Alynne Starks led a handful of people on a tour of the facility Aug. 1, including Lander radio station owner Joe Kenney, Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones and retired Lander business leader Tony McRae.

Kenney said he was impressed that Starks wants no grants or government money to help with the project.  

“He knows what he wants and he is going to get it,” he said. “Amazing.”

Jones said he was overwhelmed by Starks’ passion. 

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “This is going to be game-changer for tourism in Fremont County and Wyoming.”

McRae said he did not know what to expect. 

“I was just blown away by the scale of this project,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it after it opens.”

Alynne, as executive director, said the project will probably employ about 15 people.  They have not decided on what admission will cost but one thing is sure: “Veterans will get in free!  My dad insists on that,” she said.

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault that will hold Starks’ $10 million collection of historic weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I. The collection also includes 270 Winchester rifles.  The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming Legislature are convening there in October.It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004, in Iraq.  The movie “Taking Chance”was about that soldier.

There will also be a large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There are over 100 tanks and other impressive war machines parked in row after row in a big field next to the new building. There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 parked in the field that was used in the Viet Nam War against American soldiers. It is flyable. Starks’ other machines are in downtown Dubois, on his ranches and stored in Salt Lake City. Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and a shop to keep them running.

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. Then, they purchased a 250-head cattle ranch and recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 36 bison grazing on it.

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks said.

“And they were proud to do so”: A moving Memorial Day tribute to the fallen

in News/military
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Start your day with gratitude and patriotism.

Watch this moving report from Monday’s Memorial Day service in Cheyenne. The ceremony offered a moving tribute to those who gave all in service to our country and a great reminder to share with our children and grandchildren of the blessing of being born in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“These people gave their lives,” said Air Force veteran Floyd Watson. “Eighteen, nineteen, twenty-year-old kids gave their lives in sacrifice to this country. And they were proud to do so.”

The event was held at Cheyenne’s Beth El Cemetery and attended by area active duty military, veterans, local families and elected officials including Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.

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