homepage logo

Inaugural invite donated to soldier

By Staff | Jan 17, 2009

By DREW WINCHESTE, dwinchester@breezenewspapers.com
A Pine Island fishing captain was given the opportunity to witness history. In a selfless move, he gave the opportunity away.
Captain John “GiddyUp” Bunche gave his ticket to Tuesday’s presidential inauguration to Sgt. Kimberely King, as part of his Operation Open Arms campaign.
OOA is dedicated to helping soldiers by giving local Southwest Florida businesses, associations, and individuals an opportunity to support the troops.
Giving the ticket to King was just another example of how Bunche has dedicated his life to the men and women of the Armed Forces.
“Operation Open Arms is about two things: One, our troops. Two: it’s about our sponsors. And by sponsors I mean it offers people who help our troops the opportunity to feel good about themselves, maybe for the first time in their lives,” Bunche said. “We aren’t bumper sticker people.”
Founded in 2005, OOA has cemented itself as the premier organization for giving back to America’s troops.
A former Marine officer, Bunche has put the needs of his fellow brothers and sisters in arms above everything, even an award from the outgoing President.
Bunche had promised to take a U.S. Army Ranger on a fishing trip when George W. Bush came calling. He was scheduled to fly into Southwest Florida International Airport, to personally hand Bunche an award, but the captain decided to stick with his promised charter.
“I don’t break promises to anybody, that’s why I chose to go fishing with this Army Ranger,” he said. “The whole program is dedicated to tangible acts of kindness to our troops … they trump the president, and I don’t care if it’s Obama or Bush. The kids who are dodging bullets are of the highest priority.”
Bunche put the opportunity to visit the inauguration in the hands of the troops themselves.
Nine soldiers responded to the challenge by writing two paragraphs on why they should be given the chance to witness history.
Sgt. King won on the strength of the final line of her entry. According to Bunche it read: “Even though there might be someone more deserving, if not selected, contact me so I can contribute to their travel expenses.”
“It’s a little shocking, I guess,” King said of her winning entry. “It doesn’t feel like I really get to go, but it’s an opportunity to witness history.”
Chuck Wainright, president of Naplesyacht (Naplesyacht.com) threw in an offer of limo service to the airport for the winning service man or woman, plus $1,000 towards airfare.
Born and raised in Lee County, King, an Estero grad, has spent the last 11 and half years in the military.
As of now, King said she has no further long-term plans other than to continue to serve her country.
“I got sold on it. The recruiter just got a hold of me,” King said of why she signed up. “I’ve invested a lot of time in it.”
For more information on Operation Open Arms, visit operationopenarms.com.