The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Veterans honored at dinner, thank Goldendale


Lou Marzeles.

Aaron Boyle and wife Lynn

If Saturday evening at the Goldendale Grange were a scene in a movie, sweeping music would have swelled up along with tears in the eyes of almost all present. Close-ups would have fixed on the faces of two extraordinary men and their equally extraordinary wives. And more significantly, people across the whole country would be able to share this night of sharing of sacred honor, rather than just the couple hundred attendees at the dinner.

That this country can still produce people such as Aaron and Lynn Boyle and MarkDaniel and Arielle Brasel is itself uplifting, and the crowd Saturday caught a taste of their nature.

"If I had to do it all again, I would," said Aaron Boyle, who lost most of his right arm and leg when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan. "Even if that meant stepping on a land mine again. Why? Because I love my country."

MarkDaniel Brasel spoke with similar eloquence of his service. "You do what you have to do," he said. "It's your job; it's what you signed up to do. You don't think about what's happening to you."

Both men also moved the audience in their sharing of their gratitude for their wives who, each said, were centrally instrumental in their recovery from injuries from combat conditions that would be harrowing for anyone.

"My wife is an angel," Brasel told the crowd. "My wife is amazing," Boyle said.

Both women stood proudly at the side of their husbands as each spoke in turn.

The evening was the culmination of a project that began months ago, when Goldendale city councilman Len Crawford first brought the idea to the attention of a group of people who became the Track Chair for a Hero committee. The journey to raise money to buy a Track Chair, a highly specialized rugged wheel chair that allows one to travel off-road, was fairly straightforward: the Goldendale area community brought in close to $30,000-enough to buy two chairs. Finding qualified veterans, however, was another matter. Red tape and miscommunication from government agencies hindered that effort, until a few enlightened individuals rose to the occasion. One of them, Sue Maloney of the Army Wounded Warrior Program, spoke Saturday night and introduced the two men who finally became well-deserved recipients.

Maloney reported the histories of both men, what brought them into the armed services and what happened to them in combat. As each veteran came forward to speak, the crowd rose in long standing ovations.

Also present was the distributor of the Track Chair company for Washington and Oregon, Kraig Holdahl. He told of how the company was started, when his and the owner's children became paralyzed. Holdahl told the crowd it was an honor to bring the chairs to these veterans.

Lou Marzeles

MarkDaniel Brasel and wife Arielle

Slide shows depicting the journey of each man were shown, and the two made spontaneous comments on the pictures.

Each man also spoke movingly of their gratitude for the community and what it did for them. In particular, each told of how the Track Chair would allow them more opportunity to play and interact with their children.

"I can't begin to tell you how much this means," Boyle said.

"This is going to change our lives," Brasel stated.

Sunday morning the men received their chairs to take home with them. They tried them out, wheeling them around some dirt paths and clearly enjoying them.

Before they left, they and their wives and Maloney signed a thank you card meant for all of Goldendale, pictured on our front page.


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