4 soldiers to use leave to help in Midwest Men forgo camping to aid flood victims

August 06, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Army Sgt. Joe Vano had planned to go camping this weekend with a friend from Pennsylvania.

But he and three of his Fort Meade buddies were sitting around watching the television news one night and decided their time off would be better spent in the Midwest helping flood victims.

"I called my friend in Pennsylvania and told him we had to scrap the camping thing," Sergeant Vano said. "He was like, 'What for?' I said we can go camping next year."

So with the help of several local companies and after linking up with the Salvation Army, the quartet plans to leave for St. Louis Sunday aboard a military cargo flight and stay for 10 days.

"It was a small idea that sort of snowballed on us," said Sergeant Vano, 29, an electronics technician for the Information Systems Command at Fort Meade.

The buddies who are going with him also work in the unit as electronics technicians: Sgt. Gary Farley, Sgt. Ty Sloan and Spc. Mark Kator.

When they came up with the idea, none of them knew what to do. But Sergeant Vano's wife, Holly, persuaded her employer, Smelkison-Sysco, a Jessup food distributor, to donate money.

Then, WBAL-TV chipped in $500 to help pay for lodging at a Holiday Inn, which will charge the group only $40 a night.

This week, the four have been holding fund-raisers in hopes of raising $1,000 for needy families. They generated $250 Wednesday night at a dunking tank at a picnic.

"We want to give money to a family who has lost a great deal," Sergeant Vano said.

Once in St. Louis, Sergeant Vano said, they will work with the Salvation Army and will scout out some needy families for a possible relief flight in the future.

"A lot of people are getting involved," Sergeant Vano said.

Being military, the group is not going unprepared. The men will carry MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, just in case.

"We have no idea what we're going to run into out there," Sergeant Vano said. "We may run into some people who have lost their home and everything they own. We want to give a few families some money. We're trying to make an impact and show them that the Fort Meade family cares."

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