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Taking responsibility

Molly Hibbard and Marci Valicenti are taking action to help soldiers

Autumn Phillips

For some, it is hard to just sit back and watch the news. It is impossible to read the stories of suffering and not do something about it.

Molly Hibbard and Marci Valicenti are two such women.

As the war in Iraq turns into a long occupation with no end in sight, more Colorado residents are feeling the impact as family members are deployed. Hibbard, whose son is in Iraq, and Valicenti felt they needed to provide support for the families of the troops.

On Wednesday, Hibbard and Valicenti opened a fund at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation to raise money for families impacted by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Money collected for the fund, called the Support the Troops Fund, will be used to send supplies and presents to troops with members from Yampa Valley or Colorado and give financial support to families.

“Someday, Sam Rush (whose husband, Dave Kleiber, is in Iraq) will receive a call telling her that Dave has leave in two weeks,” Valicenti said. “No matter how expensive the ticket is, she’ll go, but that will be a financial hardship for her. Maybe we can help.”

Hibbard and Valicenti will decide how the money is used. Depending how much the fund grows through donations, the women would like to set up a college fund for the children of soldiers who died in this war.

The second part of Hibbard and Valicenti’s Support the Troops project is the collection of tangible items to be sent in care packages.

“The families are already carrying great emotional and financial burdens,” Valicenti said. “This is not just the families’ responsibility. It’s the responsibility of every American.”

Hibbard knows the weight of having a son in Iraq. Her son, Michael Wesley Mottlau, is serving in the 101st Airborne with the Army.

“You worry,” Hibbard said, “but you just have to put it in God’s hands.

“It’s hard being a mother and knowing what they are going through. He is never safe. He is always getting shot at. He called one day, and I could hear a helicopter in the background. Days later, that helicopter was shot down and 11 were dead.”

Hibbard can’t protect her son, but she can make his life more comfortable. During a recent trip to Chicago, Marshall Fields had a sale on pillows. Hibbard bought as many as she could and sent them to her son’s unit in Iraq. She also has sent maple syrup, cookies, Fritos with dip, Gatorade packages and wipes.

“I also sent flea collars for around their boots to protect against sand fleas,” she said. “When he left, I had this thought that I was never going to see my child again, but I don’t want to think about it.

“While it’s good what they are doing over there, it’s hard. These are our children.”

Mottlau left for Iraq in September. He is scheduled to return Feb. 16. Mottlau attended Steamboat Springs High School and Lowell Whiteman School. He was based in Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 82nd Airborne.

He calls his mother a couple of times a week on the radio phone and keeps in touch through e-mail.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Valicenti has made sure that the schools that her children attend commemorate Veterans Day.

“I believe patriotism is a learned behavior. It is not innate,” she said. “After 9/11, people donated blood and gave money. I still think people care, but they don’t know what they can do to help.”

— To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com


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