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December 29, 2015 • Headline News
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Soldier’s brother honored to haul ‘sacred’ load
He drives semi of wreaths for slain soldiers

Wanda Burnett

Christmas, birthdays, and other family gatherings have had an empty chair since the Bishop family got the news their loved one paid the ultimate sacrifice serving in Afghanistan five years ago. That fateful day was September 8, 2010, when Cpl. John Bishop was taken from this life and “deployed to Heaven”.

Brother to the fallen, Mike Bishop of Versailles, was asked to do something this year that brought him great joy. A Walmart semi-truck driver out of the Seymour Distribution Center, Bishop was asked to participate in the Wreaths Across America campaign. “I considered it a great honor,” he noted. He said there are a lot of veterans who work for Walmart and usually they are the ones asked to drive the wreaths, “and rightfully so,” he said.

Wreaths Across America - Walmart Mike Bishop

Mike Bishop, brother to the late Cpl. John Bishop of Versailles, pictured left, was happy to drive a Walmart truck as part of the Wreaths across America campaign.

At a ceremony in Seymour, Bishop was surprised with a flag that had flown over the Statehouse on September 8, 2015 in honor of his brother, a certificate and presentation from Governor Mike Pence. A permanent decal was attached to his truck that reads, “Remember. Teach. Honor. Wreaths Across America.” That decal means the world to Bishop, because he knows the sacrifice from a personal standpoint. Bishop said there were a lot of people at the send off in Seymour, many employees of Walmart, who are veterans. Military personnel from Camp Atterbury presented colors and he was given a challenge coin from WalMart with the insignias from branches of the military and a picture of a semi truck, two things dear to Bishop. The journey began from Seymour with Bishop flanked on both sides with trucks, and continued to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where another driver took the load on to Fayetteville, Kansas, its final destination. Driving down the road with this load gave a whole new meaning to precious cargo for Bishop. “It was all very emotional,” he agreed, and said he was so proud to be a part of it.

At each point where the wreaths are taken by a new driver a ceremony is held. A quote from Ronald Reagan is read: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on to them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Bishop said that is so true and some today don’t realize the sacrifice that is still being made. The wreaths are considered “sacred cargo” as they make their way across the United States to fallen soldiers. This began in 1992 with the donation, and laying of 5,000 wreaths in Arlington Cemetery by Morrill Worcester of the Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine.

Last year, Wreaths Across America and the national network of volunteers laid over 425,000 memorial wreaths at over 842 locations in the United States and beyond. This event is held on the second Saturday in December and begins where it started in Harrington, Maine. Walmart has participated for the past eight years and hassix different convoys. This year Walmart hauled over 84,000 wreaths and stopped at 40 transportation offices and distribution offices across the United States with over 100 Walmart drivers volunteering their time for this special event.

As Bishop handed over his precious cargo to the next driver, part of his speech was, “Together we can ask God to watch over us as we undertake this mission and safely deliver our sacred cargo to honor our nation’s veterans.” He said the feeling he came away with gave new birth to Christmas in his heart. And, though he will never have his brother here on earth again, he and wife, Peggy, along with their large extended family, know they will see their brother in Heaven one day.

Scouts prepare for crisis
Drill certifies troop as responders for emergencies

Sandy Day Howard

Milan Boy Scout Troop 631 conducted an Emergency Preparedness Exercise on December 11, 12 and 13th that allowed them to become certified responders in the event of a disaster in our community. The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate the troop’s capability to Ripley County Emergency Management and give the scouts true to life experience of participating in a disaster relief effort.

Milan Boy Scout Troop 631

At left victim Chris Lack is administered to by Scout Troop 631 during an Emergency Preparedness Drill.

The Boy Scout Motto, ‘Always Be Prepared,’ kicked in within minutes of the kids receiving the call that they were about to engage in a true to life weekend disaster relief drill. The scouts themselves had no prior knowledge of the exercise as only troop leaders, local emergency response agencies, and parents knew the event, which had been four months in planning, would take place. Members of Troop 631 scrambled to Milan Community Park (which served as command headquarters) as soon as they received ‘the call’ and within two hours had set up an impressive and fully operational camp equipped to serve hundreds of victims, first responders, members of the Indiana National Guard and emergency management personnel.

The troop worked quickly to set-up a 12 foot by 14 foot cold weather kitchen heated by a wood stove and equipped with a hot water generator that could serve hundreds of meals in the event of a true emergency. Next, a 12 foot by 18 foot heated, cold weather shelter, complete with tables and seating, and a 2 foot by 20 foot walled canopy for equipment storage was constructed. The shelters also served as the command center for the drill. Scouts then began the work of setting up 16 individual tents and a mobile kitchen, all of which were ready to go by 7:30 on Friday evening, only two short hours after receiving the call to help. Each boy came ready, carrying all their backpacking and survival gear which included personal first aid kits, survival kit, one meal, a fire starting kit, sleeping bag, rain gear, head lamps, compass, protractor, and a change of clothing.

The exercise continued at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. While the boys of Milan Troop 631 looked on, the National Guard rolled in driving an armored-up HMMWV equipped with the ‘LRAS 3’. The Long-Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System is a long-range multi-sensor system for the U.S. Army scout, providing the real-time ability to detect, recognize, identify and geo-locate distant targets. Next, Ripley County Emergency Management drove through the gates of Daren Baker Park in the agency’s Incident Command Vehicle whose capabilities include spot weather forecasting, damage assessment and reporting, command and control via mobile internet and communication support.

The scouts received orientation training on the LRAS 3, weather radar, communication and damage reporting. They then conducted two emergency scenarios. The first was a mission to assess the needs of local residents as it related to injuries, food, water and shelter following the ‘disaster’. The second scenario was a search and rescue effort in which scouts were given the UTM coordinates of the last known location of a missing person and were challenged to locate and potentially evacuate the lost hiker. Using land navigation, search and rescue techniques and trauma first aid the scouts located the missing man, administered first aid and evacuated the injured hiker to safety.

The scouts served three meals to emergency personnel on Saturday and conducted a flag retirement ceremony. (The troop has retired over 800 flags for the Milan American Legion.) Troop 631’s leaders are Albert King- Scoutmaster, Milan,  Jason Lillis- Assistant Scoutmaster, Moores Hill, Dale Schroeder, assistant scoutmaster, Moores Hill;  Mike Daulton, assistant scoutmaster, Batesville; and Todd Gobel, assistant scoutmaster, Milan. Also instrumental in planning and implementing the project were Mandy Rohrig, first aid instructor, Milan; and Kim Schroeder, committee chair, Moores Hill.

“It was great learning experience for Troop 631,” stated the proud scoutmaster. “We would like to give a big shout out to SPC Hubbard and SGT Mayberry of the 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment from the Madison Indiana National Guard Armory. We would also like to thank J. Patrick Rose, Ollie L. Craig and Rich Corkhum of Ripley County Emergency Management. Ripley County Emergency Management was instrumental in the planning and executing of this exercise. The scouts learned a great deal from these men.”

Troop 631 uses a trauma injury simulation kit to provide the most realistic first aid training possible. The troop also owns all of the gear and equipment used in the camp which is kept in a mobile trailer, ready to construct an operations site in the event of a true emergency. The knowledge from this training could be used to assist the county with a variety of disaster preparedness scenarios, including missing persons reports, community disasters, and other types of emergencies. The scouts, “always prepared”, could be called upon and arrive to assist county emergency units in the event of a disaster even before the American Red Cross might be able to gain access to a potential disaster site.

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