Swanton, OH --
On Oct. 2, the night before the 180th FW held its Hometown Heroes Salute ceremony, five volunteers huddled together at the pavilion here against the wind and cold to tend to the fires in their smokers. The temperature had to be just right to prepare the perfect barbeque pork and beef brisket for the cook-out planned for servicemembers following the ceremony, which would also serve as a "thank you" from the leadership to celebrate the Excellent rating the base received in the Operational Readiness Inspection this summer. "Barbecue for Our Troops" made the perfect picnic the following day, after about 15 hours of prep work before the event.
"It takes about 49-50 volunteers during the day depending on the size of the military group to serve the meal, but the meat has to start cooking the night before,"
'BBQ for our Troops' serve their country and the 180th with hospitality
said David Waun, founder of the organization. "I will have most of my family there tomorrow."
Sure enough, the next day after the ceremony, the Wing was treated to a true southern meal served up by Waun and his friends and family, including his wife, three sisters, a brother and several nieces and nephews. The event at the 180th was even more of a family affair than usual, as Waun's parents, who live in Florida, celebrated their 60th anniversary early so they could join him and help out at this barbecue. In addition to the barbecued meat, servicemembers enjoyed baked beans, cole slaw and dirty rice, a Louisiana dish with rice, ground beef and spices.
Waun was inspired to begin his own branch of BBQ for our Troops in 2007 after helping out at a cookout at Camp Lejeune, N.C for about 800 U.S. Marines and their families. He wondered why there was not something like that for the troops in Ohio, he had asked his wife on the drive home.
"My wife said 'Because you haven't started it yet'," said Waun.
Since then, Waun and his arsenal of about 200 volunteers have held 30 cookouts at different events in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, including troop deployments, summer camps for children of soldiers overseas and welcome home ceremonies.
Amidst the flurry of activity under the pavilion, the volunteers downplayed their roles.
"It is just part of our way to give back," said Steve Matthews, BBQ for Our Troops cook.
The barbecues are generally funded by individual donations and fundraising events. BBQ for Our Troops is a non-profit organization dedicated "to honor those who protect our freedoms and their loved ones with the hospitality of the uniquely American meal of barbecue," states its website https://www.bbqforourtroops.com/Ohio.php
The 180th FW members extend our gratitude for the wonderful meal provided to us that day, and were happy the group could celebrate with us.