Eat a burger, help Marines keep their heads

September 14, 2006

BY ZAY N. SMITH SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

A call was placed.

"John Manning."

You are the owner of the Windy City Inn tavern and restaurant at 2257 W. Irving Park.

"Yes."

QT understands you are throwing a party this Saturday.

"In fact, it's going to be a block party. We're closing off Oakley from Irving to the alley."

Explain why you are throwing a party.

"We hope to raise at least $8,000 for Operation Helmet."

You are referring to Operation Helmet at operation-helmet.org, which is trying to get modern helmet liners, which help protect against bomb blasts, to our soldiers in Iraq.

"We'd heard something about it, and then we saw your column. Carolyn Jerger, who works here, came up with the idea. You know, some Army soldiers have the helmet upgrades, but the Marines don't have them at all."

The Pentagon is moving slowly, much as it did getting enough armor to our troops.

"Quite a way to fight a war."

So you're raising money.

"We know a young Marine serving in Iraq, a good friend from the neighborhood. He just arrived there, in fact. He has one of the old helmets."

The helmet liners cost $100. Why the $8,000?

"I'm a former Marine myself. And the way it is in the Marine Corps is nobody gets something unless everybody gets it. So we're trying to equip at least his company."

What kind of party will it be?

"We'll have it from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. We'll have bands. The Emerald Society, the pipe and drum guys, will be here. We'll have drawings and silent auctions -- a poster autographed by the cast of "Wicked," baseballs signed by Mark Prior, Ryan Theriot, Ramirez, Zambrano . . ."

Sounds like a good party.

"You donate $2, you get a hamburger, and all the money goes to helmets. A buck gets you some nachos and it goes to the helmets. A $2 donation for a Miller Lite, and it goes to the helmets."

Where is your Marine friend?

"Kuwait, waiting to find out where he'll go."

Best of luck with this party.

"Thank you."

And more than the best to the Marines with bad helmets, waiting to find out where they'll go.

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