In less than 2 weeks, I will be at home in Arkansas!! I love getting to go back down south to see my Momma and friends. This time, I am driving down with 2 friends from up here in NY. Why are we going to Arkansas, you ask? I'm so glad you did. First, I'll tell you a little story. It's not a happy story, but necessary so that you understand why I am doing a scholarship fundraiser.
You see, my only brother, Justin, was a soldier; a Staff Sergeant (SSG) in the US Army, and he loved his job. He was on his second deployment to Iraq with the Charlie company, 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was a paratrooper out of Ft. Bragg, NC.
|Justin & Me 5/19/2006 Yankees vs Mets game, NYC|
|Justin in Iraq 2nd tour|
On March 5, 2007 my family received the news every military family dreads. Justin, along with 6 of his fellow soldiers were killed in action. They were in a convoy securing the berm when a pressure-activated IED exploded below the 1st Hum-Vee in the line. Justin was in the 3rd vehicle. The blast was so great that the first vehicle was literally blown in half. One of the occupants of the vehicle was still alive, but on fire. Justin left the safety of his vehicle with a fire blanket and ran to his comrade's aid. The fire was so hot that the ammunition he carried himself was cooking off and shooting from wherever it was located on his BDU's. Justin called forward the medical evacuation team and was organizing their transport of the casualties when the cowardly Iraqi insurgents remote detonated a secondary buried IED that Justin was basically standing over. He was killed instantly. These young men are known as the Samarra 7. Justin was brought home to Arkansas to be laid to rest. His friends flew from all over the world to attend his funeral services. There were over 800 people in attendance. I don't know if I've mentioned before or not, but the town we grew up in is very small. There were 25 kids in Justin's high school graduating class. We used our high school gymnasium for his services because nowhere else was large enough to hold the crowd. Justin was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action posthumously. "Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friend." John 15:13.
|SSG Justin M. 'Dutch' Estes|
Justin's classmates set up a scholarship in his honor. It is given to one graduating senior each May from our little high school. It is a one-time $1,000 scholarship.
I am driving home to do a fundraiser for this scholarship at the end of July. On Saturday, July 30th, I will be cooking some of the recipe favorites I post about on Facebook. I'll be making chipotle lime chicken enchiladas & spanish rice, Crispy chicken parmigiana with penne & vodka sauce, my extra cheesy lasagna with bolognese sauce and steamed fresh green beans sauteed with bacon and shallots. It is $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 10. We have been securing donations from local people and businesses to raffle off as well. We've raised a little over $1,000 so far with people mailing donations ahead of time. I am so excited to do something to keep Justin's memory alive.
If you have any questions about making a donation to a fabulous cause, please just comment and let me know. I can't wait to get home to cook for my hometown crowd. It's going to be a lot of fun with great people and great food.
I hope y'all have a pleasant weekend!