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Air National Guard vet prepares for fourth tour in the Middle East

  • Published
  • Kelly Mori
Springfield, Ohio -- At first, Staff Sgt. Scott Rinehart considered it "kind of crazy" to have a life-size poster of himself in the front room of his Springfield Township home.

But as the 33-year-old Rinehart prepares for his fourth military deployment oversees, he is comforted to know that his 6-month-old son, Zackery, will have his "Flat Daddy" close by.

The poster is part of the deployment package the Red Cross is presenting to members of the 178th Fighter Wing, a unit of the Air National Guard preparing to head to the Middle East later this month.

"This is the largest deployment since I've been director (of the Red Cross) - about 110 to 120 personnel over the next three months," Clark County Red Cross Director Mike Larson said. "When we found out about it we wanted to do something."

In addition to the posters, military parents receive pillow cases with their pictures on them to give to their children, along with a teddy bear that plays a recording of the parents' voice when the child hugs the bear. Larson estimates the Red Cross created about 60 flat daddies and have presented about 110 teddy bears.

"Believe it or not, when Zackery's in his crib, I see him lean back and look at (the flat daddy)." Scott Rinehart said. "That's comforting to me."

The packages continue a 127-year mission of the Red Cross to assist family of service personnel, Larson said. Red Cross founder Clara Barton started the agency during the Civil War when she became the first woman to go to the front lines to deliver supplies to service men. After the war, families appealed to her to help them find their loved ones -- hundreds of thousands of them who had died in battle.

Today, the Red Cross is the only agency that serves military families during emergencies, delivering messages to military personnel within hours and if needed, providing transportation back home.

The local Red Cross had not budgeted the $10,000 it will cost for the packages, but "in my mind we are doing the right thing," Larson said. The Springfield Service Exchange Club donated $1,500 to the project after hearing about it.

"Can you imagine leaving (a child) for months, if not a year or more?" Larson said. "I don't think we understand the sacrifice these service personnel make."

Scott Rinehart understands the sacrifice, not just personally, but from his father, a Vietnam veteran, and his grandfather, a World War 11 veteran. The father and grandfather of his wife, Janelle Rinehart, also are veterans.

"Personally it feels good to be a vet," Scott Rinehart said. "When someone walks up to you and says "thank you," it makes your hair stand up on end.

It's all we really need."

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