'It tears me up:' Trophy shop immortalizes fallen soldiers
Posted June 27
Pasco, Washington — A local trophy shop is donating thousands of dollars and work hours to remember lives lost.
In the back of Sandy's Trophies shop in downtown Pasco, one can hear Christian Rock over the radio and the whir of machines.
"It is burning through the material," owner Mark Howell said, pointing to one boxy machine with a flitting nozzle, sparking on contact with a metal plate. "It's a laser machine."
The engraved inside is one of 52 being made this year.
"Army Sergeant Jason Vargo," Howell said, holding up one. "His family's gonna be very excited to get this plaque, and at the same time heartbroken. He was very young."
The ornate wooden plaques shine with a red hue, black and gold metal engravings spelling out personalized stories of fallen soldiers. Each has its own glossy photograph.
Several years ago, Howell received a phone call from Warren Williamson, Executive Director for Tribute to Fallen Soldiers NW.
"Let the families know that their soldiers are remembered," Howell said.
He volunteered to create the plaques that will be taken from Eugene, Oregon by motorcycle to grieving families in 15 states.
The 17 day ride will span 3,000 miles to Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
"These folks died so we could have freedom," Howell said. "And it's an honor to do this."
Each plaque is worth about $150, but Sandy's Trophies fronts the entire cost.
"These plaques mean a lot to us here," Howell said. "We love our country. We love our flag…America is great because of the people who live and work here every day. Because that's what it's about: loving on each other."
Howell's own military service and that of his father and brother helped inspire his motivation to give back to those who sacrificed it all.
"Harm came upon them, but we're gonna help these families remember their soldiers."