They are coming home, but what happens for members of the military once they are home? Last year there were 349 reported suicides in military personnel with suicides among veterans exceeding that of active-duty troops. It can be difficult to shut out the sounds of battle and reconnect with families not seen for many months.
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For one group of military families, a well-known El Dorado County sport might be one of the answers.
The Jeepers Jamboree, a world-renowned off-roading event over the Rubicon Trail, celebrated its 60th year in 2012 and the organization commissioned a lot of cooler packs with its logo on them to give out to participants.
“We had some left over,” said Dan Mainwaring, board member of Jeepers Jamboree Inc., “and I gave a couple to friends.” One of the friends, fellow Jeeper Mike McGinity, sent a cooler pack and some Jeeper gear to his son, Eddie, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.
Edward McGinity and the rest of the men of 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne, 25th Infantry, Able Company had just returned from a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan. It was McGinity’s second deployment to Afghanistan after a 15-month deployment to Iraq. McGinity, born and raised in El Dorado County and a 2005 Union Mine High School graduate, went into the Army directly from high school and he is a lifelong Jeeper.
“His dad has been Jeeping and going to the Jamboree for about 40 years,” said Carol McGinity, Eddie’s mother. “He was born in the back of a Jeep and that’s where his car seat was too.”
Based in Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Eddie McGinity, 25, organized a Jeeper club with his fellow infantry mortarmen to help blow off steam and have some fun.
McGinity knows about families and Jeeping. His parents, Mike and Carol McGinity, raised all three of their children as Jeepers. Eddie McGinity is married to Terra and has two daughters, Alyssa, 6, and Layla, 2.
When McGinity received his cooler pack, he put in a request for 10 more, so that all the members of his club would have one. Mainwaring and Lacey Stiles gathered the packs to donate. Mainwaring talked to the American Legion Post 119, where both he and Eddie McGinity are members and the Post, with members Lee Sanders and John Shetler organizing it, paid for shipping the packs to Alaska.
“Not all of the guys have Jeeps; some of them have cars or trucks, but about 10 of us go out at a time with our families,” said McGinity. The group travels the trails around Anchorage, with the favorite trail being the one to Ruby Lake outside Sutton. That trail is one of the longer ones, ranging from easy to moderate and gives more opportunity to see wild Alaska.
“Jeeping around Anchorage is completely different than here,” said McGinity. “There isn’t as much rock there and there is a lot of mud and small rock with boggy marshes. Lakes pop up in the middle of nowhere.”
The cooler pack carries lunch. As the Jeep travels down the trail, Alyssa plays video games in the backseat, Layla snoozes in her car seat. Terra is a passenger sometimes; other times she drives. It’s a family event with mountains and glaciers in the background.
Staff Sgt. McGinity and his family will be transferring to Ft. Benning, Ga., for his next assignment as a drill sergeant. The weather and scenery will be radically different, but Jeeping with the family will still be part of the package.
The 61st Jeepers Jamboree runs from July 25 to July 28 and registration is already under way. For more information, call 530 333-4771 or visit the Website at jeepersjamboree.com.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.