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Touching tribute to local soldier illustrates importance of organizations that support veterans

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IDAHO FALLS — Dozens of veterans, government representatives and members of the Idaho Falls community gathered Thursday at Eagle Rock Gallery to honor the life and service of U.S. Army Green Beret Sgt. Dustin Ard.

During an emotional presentation, state and local officials presented Ard’s parents with tokens commemorating Dustin’s service to our nation. Music celebrated the patriotism and valor of those who choose to serve the country.

The event gave the community a chance to show their appreciation for the Ards and their sacrifice. A lot of love was shared with the Ards and many tears were shed. It was just the latest effort made by people across the globe to reach out to the family to offer condolences and support.

RELATED: Green Beret from eastern Idaho killed in Afghanistan

“I have got phone calls from literally all over the world from people who knew him and whose lives he touched and the good he’s done,” Dustin’s father, Bruce Ard, told those in attendance. “I thought I knew how to serve, that I’ve served in my life but I found out I don’t know much about it and I have a long way to go.”

Thursday’s presentation originate with Eagle Rock Gallery owners Gary and Kathi Jensen and was made possible with a lot of help from the Military Affairs Committee.

“The Military Affairs Committee is veterans serving veterans,” Robert Skinner, who runs the local Military Affairs Committee, told “We raise money for if veterans need a helping hand. Not a handout, but a hand up.”

Skinner explained the M.A.C. gathers information from a number of different sources on veterans in need of help and events benefitting military members and their families. They pitch in to assist with everything from buying hungry veterans meals or paying bills to helping vets who are passing through the area with gas or other needs.

“Those people seek us out so we help them out,” Skinner said. “All the money we get goes toward that purpose. Every dime we have goes to a veteran.”

Skinner learned of Thursday’s event through his relationship with Gary and Kathi Jensen. The Jensens are both veterans and have been working to support and raise funding for local veterans in need.

“I knew Gary and Kathi very well,” he said. “They’re in the American Legion … and we helped them with their house. I kind of kept in contact with them and made sure everything was going okay with them. They started coming to the M.A.C. meetings and when this came to fruition to do this stuff to honor the Ards and raise some money for the M.A.C., it was just natural for me to come in and get involved.”

Skinner said there are always veterans in need of assistance, oftentimes with situations the rest of us don’t spare much thought about.

“Things that we take for granted like being able to get across country and visit relatives, see friends, comfort someone, attend a funeral,” he said. “Some people don’t have the means for that and we try to help them if we can.”

Organizations like the Military Affairs Committee can always use help in doing good for those who serve in our military. If members of the community want to donate to the M.A.C. or get involved with their mission, there are a number of different ways to do so.

“They can call me,” Skinner said. “I’m the M.A.C. committee chairman. They can send it to our post office box. They can come to one of our meetings and present it there. We’re always glad to have people do that so that we can tell them ‘Thank you’ on the spot.”

The address for the local Military Affairs Committee is:

PO Box 50582
Idaho Falls, ID 805-0582

Eagle Rock Gallery will continue to raise money for the M.A.C. through raffles and sales of the special edition print “God Bless America.” A copy of this print was presented to the Ards Thursday night. Contact Eagle Rock Gallery for more information.