Ex-Marine calls for hands, funds to make necklaces for veterans

Chuck "Chief" Mechling, a former Marine from Stockton, appealed to the parents and families of local soldiers this week to help him with a personal welcome home project.

Mechling is willing to make beaded necklaces for all those who have served the United States and returned. Whether it was World War II or Vietnam or Grenada makes no difference.

"Everyone needs a welcome home and a ceremony," said Mechling.

He got the idea from Native American healing ceremonies that helped him when he returned from serving in the 1980s.

Each necklace will have the same color scheme as the campaign ribbons the service member has earned. Mechling said he can produce each necklace for about $3. If a service branch emblem is added, it's an additional $5.

Mechling said that with help he can produce several hundred in an afternoon. He is looking for financial support and willing hands. He can be reached at 271-1718.

Colleen Pitman of Modesto was enjoying her son's leave at home before a November deployment to Iraq.

"He'd been home for a while and then he asks me if I could put together a wedding," Pitman said.

She said her son gave her a day and a half to prepare for the event of a lifetime.

Aunt Maureen Price (Colleen's sister) scoffed. "A day and a half -- nothing. It was four hours."

Aunt Maureen, her husband and another sister managed the wedding gown, cake and flowers.

There were happy results. Phil Brown and Nicole Price were married about 36 hours before the groom had to report to Fort Drum in New York, the staging area for departure to Iraq. They will live there together until Brown leaves next week.

When Pitman saw the camo-style bibs given to the Central Valley Chapter of Blue Star Mothers and Families for the babies of GIs, she was stricken with grandma envy. She mused that if Phil and Nicole didn't waste any time, she could get one for her grandbaby next year.

The bibs were a gift from Kathy Bankson, known lately as the regent of the talking and missing magpie, King George.

Bankson made the bibs in Marine and Navy patterns as well as in desert, traditional and pink camouflage.

Bankson, like many others, wanted to find a way to help the troops.

By the way, she said she still keeps an eye on the sky, hoping for a miracle return by George.

"I really miss the way he'd dart straight to me from across the street. He'd always pull up or swerve at the last second," said Bankson. "It was like playing chicken with a tiny dive bomber."

Debbie Katsounakis, president of the local Blue Stars, is undergoing kidney cancer surgery Wednesday.

While she is recovering, Vice President Bambi Schmidt will assume leadership of the organization.

For those who need more information about the Blue Stars, Schmidt's telephone number is 883-0824.

Bee staff writer Roger Hoskins can be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com or 578-2311.