Shaun Laughlin, a Caldwell High graduate, is just your typical guy on his days off. He likes things like hanging out with his family, going fishing and doing the family things.
But at work, he’s on edge 24 hours at a time. His shift doesn’t end; in fact, he’s required to spend nights away from his family, sleeping in the station house bunkroom.
“As a firefighter, I work long shifts, but I call home and talk to my wife any number of times in the day,” he said. “I can’t imagine being deployed for 18 months to two years, and not being able to speak to her, or find out how my daughter did in school that day.”
Laughlin, a driver/operator with the Nampa Fire Department, sees red when it comes to military people spending time overseas. His older brother served in two Iraq conflicts and spent time in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year.
“We never really heard from him because the technology wasn’t there,” he said of Internet or telephone calls. “And, now that the technology is available, it costs an arm and a leg to call.”
That’s why in July, he and Nampa Firefighters Local 804 members started wearing red uniform shirts on Fridays to honor soldiers still serving overseas.
He said the red shirts show their respect to the soldiers and their families for the sacrifice they have all made for our nation.
Initially, a small internal fundraiser among the Union members was aimed to raise money to buy phone cards for local troops overseas, so that they could call home and maintain family contact during their tour.
The phone cards were purchased from Army and Air Force Exchange Service at www.aafes.com, a website specifically for purchasing support items for deployed soldiers and their families, and are being delivered to the troops through a Command Family Ombudsman for the Navy Operational Support Center Boise.
“The best thing is that some businesses have already started to participate as well,” Laughlin said.
Employees from Idaho Urologic Institute and B&V Truck Reporting Services are donating hundreds of dollars in support of our troops toward the purchase of the cards.
“We just sent out 25, and now we have enough money to send out 25 more,” Laughlin said. “It’s like this whole thing is catching on.”
While I’m a little late with this Veterans Day plea, I’m going to make it anyway. If you haven’t shown your support for those who serve the nation today, make a pledge to give to one of those red-shirted firefighters and make it possible for someone overseas to talk to a loved one.
Robb Hicken is managing editor for the Idaho Business Review.