Tomorrow we’ll gather once more as a community to celebrate the tremendous athletic accomplishments of the 17 Winter Olympians with ties to Steamboat Springs, a group headlined by the medal-winning U.S. Nordic combined skiers.
The celebration to take place on a closed-to-traffic, snow-filled Lincoln Avenue on Friday night has been dubbed the “Hometown Heroes Celebration.”
Then, on Saturday, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong, Brett Camerota and Johnny Spillane will board a plane at Yampa Valley Regional Airport and head off on a “Heavy Medal Tour” of overseas military bases. There, they’ll get a chance to meet with many of the fine men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces.
That got me thinking about heroes. It’s all too easy to forget about those putting their lives in danger on a daily basis. Their sacrifice is for all of our benefit.
So I picked up the telephone Wednesday and began making calls to local parents with children serving in the military. By no means is this list complete, but it’s a start. If you have a friend or loved one serving in the military, please call me at 871-4221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to share their stories in future columns.
Lt. James McKelvie, Navy
McKelvie, a 2001 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, was a freshman at Colorado State University when a group of officers from the Navy Civil Engineering Corps spoke to one of his classes.
“He came home from spring break that year and said, ‘I have the opportunity of a lifetime,’” recalled his mom, Christine McKelvie.
He soon joined the Navy, finishing his civil engineering degree at CSU before heading off to officer candidates school. He became an ensign in September 2005 and spent the next three years in Hawaii doing construction management for the Navy.
McKelvie, now 27, is in the Seabees construction battalion, which travels around the world taking on humanitarian projects. He was in Africa from August 2009 to February 2010 building schools, building bridges and drilling water wells in communities there. He’s now back in California, awaiting his next assignment.
“Both Bill and I could not be prouder of our son,” Christine McKelvie said. “He has a deep sense of responsibility and motivation.
“I’m so proud and humbled by everyone who willingly chooses to dedicate a portion of their lives to our defense and humanitarian efforts around the world.”
Capt. Nissa Carlson Brodman, Army
Brodman, daughter of Eric and Rita Carlson, of Steamboat Springs, graduated from high school here in 2001. She attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and then went on to flight school at Fort Rucker, Ga.
She was first deployed to Honduras, where she learned to fly medevac helicopters in extreme mountainous terrain. That training is coming in handy now that she’s at the midpoint of a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan, where her father said she’s still a medevac helicopter pilot.
Brodman lives in Savannah, Ga., with her husband, Tim.
“Of course, we’re worried about her and so concerned,” Eric Carlson said. “But we’re also so proud of her. It can bring tears to our eyes.”
Capt. Michael Daschle, Army
The 2000 Steamboat Springs High School graduate who was president of his senior class attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he met his future wife.
Daschle has completed a 10-month tour in Iraq and an 18-month tour in Afghanistan. He piloted Chinook helicopters in both as a member of the 101st Airborne.
He’s now in the 85th Airborne doing military intelligence training in Arizona, said his father, Dave Daschle.
“He was attracted to the Army by a rock climbing poster he saw in high school,” Dave Daschle said. “We’re very proud, but it’s a pretty scary thing when he’s over there, there’s no doubt about it.”
1st Lt. John Daschle, Air Force
Michael isn’t the only son of Cheri and Dave Daschle to serve in the military. John Daschle, a 2003 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, attended the University of Colorado on an ROTC scholarship and later enlisted in the Air Force.
He was assigned to Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis, where he’s in charge of logistics and fueling operations.
But his dad said he’ll soon be called off to his first deployment to Afghanistan, possibly as soon as September.
“It is difficult, but I’m definitely proud of him and know that he’ll make a good contribution and do good service for his country,” Cheri Daschle said.
Col. James R. Ficke, Army
The 49-year-old son of longtime Steamboat Springs residents Jim and Barb Ficke is the chief of orthopedic surgery service at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He’s also the orthopedic surgery consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General.
James Ficke attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before continuing to medical school with the Army. He is married with three children.
He’s served a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, with another deployment to Afghanistan expected in the next couple of months.
“I’m very proud of him,” Jim Ficke said. “You’re never thrilled with him leaving to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, but that’s part of the job.”
Jim Ficke served in the Army during the Korean War and later was a military police officer.
2nd Lt. Mark Gillaspie, Army
Born and raised in Steamboat, Mark Gillaspie graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2001 and later earned an architecture degree from the University of Colorado.
“He said he got tired of complaining about what was going on and decided to make a difference,” said Joe Gillaspie, his dad. “I was proud of him.”
So he enlisted in the Army and is now a combat engineer serving his first tour in Afghanistan. He’s only two months into the one-year tour.
“Right now he’s been working in the office setting up training missions and doing other stuff,” his dad said.
Mark’s mom is Steamboat Springs resident Jeanne Gillaspie.
Staff Sgt. Michael Wesley Mottlau, Army
Wes Mottlau attended The Lowell Whiteman School before going to college in Florida. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, motivated him to enlist in the Army. He’s a member of the 82nd Airborne.
Mottlau, the son of Steamboat Springs resident Molly Hibbard and Gainesville, Fla., resident Dane Mottlau, returned last month from his first tour in Afghanistan. He’s also served two tours in Iraq.
Up next for Wes is intelligence training in Arizona. He is married with three children.
“Wesley’s over there fighting for our freedom,” Molly Hibbard said. “He trained with the best, and his career is soaring.”
Ensign Timothy Mottlau, Navy
Like the Daschles, Hibbard has two sons serving in the military. Tim Mottlau is a 1999 graduate of The Lowell Whiteman School. He attended the University of Florida before returning to Steamboat for a couple of years and then enlisting in the Navy, for which he is a surface warfare officer on the U.S.S. Kaufmann.
Tim Mottlau has twice served tours in South America and recently left for a tour in Europe. He’ll head to Africa this summer to conduct anti-pirating and anti-drug operations.
“I’m very proud of both of them,” Hibbard said about her sons.
Pvt. Donald Dillon, Army
The 2004 Steamboat Springs High School graduate worked as a driver for B&K Distributing before deciding he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. So in June 2009, Donald Dillon enlisted in the Army.
“He thought going into the military would be a good place to start,” said his mom, Hayden resident Fran Reinier. “I come from a military background, so I wasn’t surprised by it.”
Dillon deployed to Afghanistan on Feb. 5 and could return as soon as June.
“It’s made him more mature, a better planner, and I think it will be good for him in the future,” Reinier said.
Dillon’s father is Bob Dillon, of Kremmling.
Cpl. Tony Haight, Army
Tony Haight, son of Steamboat’s Greg and Gail Haight, graduated from high school here in 2001. He enlisted in the Army in 2004 and served in Iraq from August 2006 to November 2007, when he was a gunner on a Humvee in addition to other duties.
Haight was honorably discharged just two months ago and is now a foreman at a mine in Guyana, South America.
“We’re extremely proud of all the young men and women who sacrifice themselves for our country,” Greg Haight said.