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Published: Wednesday, 3/30/2005

Church raising funds to buy GI body armor

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Christopher
Blaine Christopher Blaine
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The Rev. Gary Blaine says he respected his son's decision to join the Army National Guard, but he never expected to pay for his son's military equipment.

Mr. Blaine is pastor of Toledo's First Unitarian Universalist Church, which is trying to raise money to provide his son with better body armor than that provided by the military before he is deployed to Afghanistan in June.

"It makes me angry that my son or any other person should be sent off to a war zone without the proper body armor," Mr. Blaine said. "It is indefensible."

His son, Christopher, 23, a specialist in the Florida Army National Guard, is a truck driver licensed to drive Humvees, Jeeps, and heavy equipment trucks.

Mr. Blaine said though transportation units like the one to which his son will be attached are frequently attacked, the Army won't provide Christopher with the body armor he needs to protect him from a bullet. "The Army will only give my son Level 3 body armor, which will only stop shrapnel but not a bullet," the pastor said.

He said his son's military supervisor advised members of the unit to go out and buy their own Level 4 body armor, which is what other military families and personnel have recommended.

Level 4 body jackets, which cost about $1,700 apiece, are better than those issued by the military because they are lighter and more efficient.

Mr. Blaine noted that military officials have advised him not to buy the Army-issued body armor because it is heavy and inferior.

The problem is that when it gets hot, the soldiers take off their jackets because they are too heavy, the pastor said.

"It makes me feel very angry that we cannot afford to buy the necessary equipment for our troops," said Maureen Casile, a member of the church's board of trustees.

She said church members decided to raise about $3,000 to cover all the costs associated with the body armor for the pastor's son after a church board meeting during which the pastor was "very upset that his son would be sent off to a war zone where he could be injured or killed without the proper protection."

Ms. Casile said she could relate to her pastor's fear because her nephew, who is in the Marine Corps, will soon be deployed to Iraq.

She said First Unitarian Universalist Church will hold a bake sale this year to donate money to families of soldiers in the Ohio Army National Guard who might be in the same situation.

Pastor Blaine, a pacifist, said he felt better about the fact that his son will be serving his country in Afghanistan, where he will spend a year, instead of Iraq because the war in Afghanistan corresponds with the theory of just war.

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com or

419-724-6064.



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