Last Wednesday, the group got together with about 125 people in attendance, including eight to 10 local members of the military who were either on leave, were about to be deployed, "or in some cases were finishing their military services and were settling back into the community," said Fred Buhler, the leader of the 220-member group and veteran of the U.S. Army, who served as a tank platoon leader in Korea in 1963-64.Buhler
himself has played an important role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.A banker with 30 years of experience in international finance as a Bank of America
spent three months in early 2004 helping the provisional Iraqi government set up a central bank.Buhler and Friends of Nevada County Military co-founder Gina Gippner, whose son Glen served in the Iraqi conflict as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, have managed to keep the group strong by focusing solely on supporting the troops.
"We said to ourselves, we want to welcome everyone in the group and support the troops and their families, and we've been steadfast in that view," Buhler
said."The community response has been terrific."
"It's a really good feeling to know this means a lot to them," Buhler
A year ago, when the group was getting off the ground, Buhler
said they sent six manila envelopes full of prepaid phone cards, DVDs and other items to assist servicemen in keeping in touch with the community.The most recent packing party produced 48 full boxes.
"This is financed entirely through the generosity of the community," Buhler
said sometimes his
group even goes beyond the county's borders in finding someone to support.When Woodland's Stephen Hibbert, a U.S. Army staff sergeant and bronze star winner, returned from a tour in Iraq in April, Buhler and company headed for the Sacramento International Airport.
mother called and said they were new to the area and wondered if we'd help welcome him home," Buhler
Because of her experience with Buhler's
group, Mason said she'd like to highlight the needs of locals overseas.
The war is real, Buhler
said, and it's as serious as the tone Buhler uses when he
talks about honoring those willing to defend America in exchange for some correspondence from home and a reminder that this community cares.
"At the end of the day, these guys volunteered to serve their country," he
said."Over the course of our history, it seems to me, when any young person stands up to defend their duty, the least we can do is show them our support."
To make a donation or for more information on the Friends of Nevada County Military
, write to the organization at P.O. Box 2262, Nevada City, CA 95959, or call Fred Buhler
at (530) 265-4878.