Stephen Ambrose was an American historian, bestselling author and Emmy Award winning producer. His biographies of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Meriwether Lewis are considered essential contributions to the historical record of America.
His most important and enduring contribution to the public’s understanding of modern American history, however, may be his 1993 Non-Fiction book, “Band of Brothers.” Ambrose’s book told the story of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne, using the recollections and letters of the soldiers of the unit as the basis for the book.
The significance of this work may be best evidenced by the fact that Florence has its own version of this famous group of veterans, working to better the community in a number of different ways.
Tony Cavarno, one of the first members of the local Band of Brothers, points out that unlike the original, “Band of Brothers,” this group is made up of veterans from other services.
“Our group is made up of members of all the services. We have veterans from the Army, the Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and the Air Force,” Cavarno said. “These guys are from the VFW, the Elks, the American Legion and other veteran groups. All these guys give freely of their time and their money to make our community better.”
The group began meeting informally at a local diner. As the word got around, more vets started showing up until eventually they needed a larger place to meet.
“We’ve grown from a few guys, I think there were six or eight of us that started out, until now when we have about 60 or 70 members,” Cavarno said. “But eventually there were so many of us that we moved over to the Elks Lodge. Now we have our meetings there on Monday and that’s how the whole thing got started, with just a few of us meeting for coffee. We were tossing around ideas of how we could help.”
The first projects the group worked on were community projects where the Brothers helped with financial contributions and donations of food and clothing.
John McBride, another key member of the group, explained the next step.
“We have helped with other projects that needed some support, like the Backpack Program and with FoodShare, but we realized that there were a lot of other areas where we could help,” he said. “We have a group of guys that are used to logistics, and to finishing what they start, so we used the expertise that we had to take it upon ourselves to get more involved.”
The project that the group settled on was a suggestion of McBride’s. He had attended a West Lane Emergency Operations Group (WLEOG) presentation to the Siuslaw School District and realized that there were some gaps in the district’s emergency preparation plans.
“We thought we ready for an emergency and it turns out we were not,” McBride said. “Band of Brothers had been approached about helping the district, so we went through an inventory list of supplies. We realized the first step was to figure out a place to put the supplies that would be long term and safe.”
The school district had begun the process of collecting emergency supplies, but the project had fallen by the wayside. The slack was picked up by the Brothers.
The first step in the process was simple — they started discussing the district’s needs with local business owners.
“Copeland Lumber stepped up and sold us the lumber we needed for cost. And both Bi-Mart and Rite-Aid have donated or sold us items at their cost, which has made this whole project possible,” McBride said. “The issue of long-term food storage has been taken care of and everything in storage will now have a 25-year shelf life. And we have a better stock of blankets and basics for a longer term emergency.”
The Brothers have already decided one of the next projects they will undertake is also school related. They will be building and installing a new flag pole on the district campus.
And while the new emergency storage bins are complete, they remain mostly empty.
McBride is calling on community members for help with filling the bins.
“We are having a supply drive from April 4 through April 28, and we hope to get people to donate smaller items to fill the bins,” he said.“We will have a list of items that are needed at Copelands, Bi-Mart and Rite-Aid. We hope that folks will go to one of these locations and purchase some of the things we need and donate them.”
For more information on the Florence Band of Brothers or to assist in their efforts, call Jim Swant at 541-968-9572 or John McBride at 541-590-3539.