Outpouring of help to fix up Marine’s home overwhelming
Capt. John Bunch, founder of Operation Open Arms, said Friday he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for the U.S. Marine in Lehigh Acres whose home was ransacked and burglarized and left with shattered items all over the floors this past week.
“I have received 287 calls from people who want to help that young man, to get him new appliances, to fixing up his house,” said Bunch who is known to his friends as “Giddy-Up.” Bunch, a Marine, is a charter boat captain and founder of Operation Open Arms, a group that supports American service men and women and their families.
For four solid days last week, he said people just kept calling. He said he had received 58 calls from people as soon as the news got out about the break-in.
“I started getting calls at 5 a.m. on Friday a week ago and by Saturday afternoon, I had 58 calls offering help. It was unbelievable.
“People wanted to give new and used appliances, money, almost anything you could think of to fix that Marine’s house back up,” Bunch said in an interview from Maryland where he has gone to see a friend.
“I really want to thank them. Tell them how much their support has meant to me,” Bunch said.
The home is located in one of Lehigh’s southwestern neighborhoods. It is owned by Lance Cpl. Steven S. Von Soosten, 23, who is serving his country in Iraq.
He was deployed to Iraq last April and is expecting to come home this spring.
Since his mother discovered that the house had been broken into a week ago, word has spread fast and now there are new appliances and furniture in the home and a brand new security system, Bunch said.
Pat Hannafius and Steve English, both from Fort Myers, were putting up screening Friday afternoon.
“It was something we just wanted to do after we heard about the break-in,” said Hannafius. “So we came on out here to do both the lanais.”
The house is located in a remote area near a canal and is secluded from nearby homes.
Last week Bunch said he was given information about who may have broken into the Marine’s home.
He said the information came from a mother of a young child who seemed to know what had happened.
“I passed that information on to Sheriff Mike Scott at a Chamber gathering on Pine Island,” Bunch said.
Scott called detectives at the Bravo substation in Lehigh and an investigation was begun. Three teenagers have subsequently been arrested and charged with burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief.
The young Marine was told about the break-ins and was angry until a brother told him that people were taking care of things.
“I am just glad I was able to help. I know I couldn’t accept all that was being offered, so I made decisions and got appliances and got the place fixed up,” Bunch said. Even the grass in front of the house which had not been cut was trimmed.
“It’s really bad when people break into your house and steal your appliances and tear it up,” Bunch said.
All that was left was a dishwasher. According to a Sheriff’s report, appliances were taken and the house was left with shattered items strewn about.
The house was broken into just weeks after Von Soosten’s mother’s house had been burglarized.
The suspects who are accused of breaking into the young Marine’s house live in a nearby neighborhood.
Bunch had even offered a reward of $1,500 of his own money for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible.
“I’m going to be taking some charter boats out when I get back,” Bunch said, to raise some money.
“I don’t know if it is possible but I think it would be great to get all the people who called me to offer their help to get them together at the house when I get back. We could have a ribbon cutting or something,” Bunch said.