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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Family seeks to honor hero's sacrifice with children's camp

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Obion county native Aaron Vaughn was a member of SEAL Team Six when he died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in August 2011. Vaughn has two young children, a son named Reagan (pictured at left) and a daughter named Chamberlyn. His sister Tara Baldwin has begun Operation 300 in his honor.
Over 2 million children in the United States have experienced the pain and agony of having to tell a parent goodbye as they have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Although many have experienced the joys of welcoming their parent(s) home, today some continue to grieve the loss of a parent(s). As more than 6,600 service members have died in the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many have left young children behind. The question some have asked is who will teach the sons who have lost a father the things only a father can teach?

A newly created not-for-profit organization, Operation 300, is stepping in to answer that question.

"Our goal is to start a weeklong camp in the summers for boys ages 7 to 16 where they can heal from having lost their father as well as learn all the things their father isn't there to teach them," said Tara Baldwin, president of Operation 300.

The camp would operate at no cost to the boys and would include a week filled with outdoor activities such as: hiking, fishing and hunting. Baldwin says that the camp would try to create a culture of courage, adventure and patriotism.

The inspiration for the camp came from Baldwin's brother, Special Operations Chief Aaron Vaughn, an Obion County native, who was killed in a helicopter crash in the Tangi River Valley, Afghanistan on Aug. 5, 2011. The crash not only took the life of Vaughn, but also 29 others on board; most, like Vaughn, were members of the elite SEAL Team Six. According to Baldwin, in that one incident 40 children were left without fathers, including Vaughn's two young children: a son named Reagan, who was 2 at the time of his father's death and a newborn daughter, Chamberlyn, who was only 2 months old.

"Operation 300 came out of who was going to teach Aaron's son the things Aaron would have taught him," said Baldwin. "We want to add value to his (Aaron's) loss if possible."

The name Operation 300 was inspired by Aaron's first tattoo: Molon Labe. The ancient Greek phrase was spoken by King Leonidas I as his Greek Army of 300 was surrounded by the 600,000-plus invading Persian Army led by Persian Emperor Xerxes I. Offered the chance to have their lives spared, Leonidas responded to Xerxes with the phrase: Molon Labe, which means "come and get them". It is not only a phrase of defiance but it is also a phrase that symbolizes the ability of the human spirit to overcome insurmountable odds.

It is a spirit that Operation 300 hopes to instill in these young boys that all hope is not lost.

The organization has been busy assembling an advisory board, which includes high-profile individuals such as Rep. Michele Bachman and Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, U.S. Army, who is currently serving as a U.S. representative from Florida. Baldwin says that they are actively beginning the process of raising funds and awareness with the hope of securing a 100-acre site in south Florida to host the adventure camps.

Baldwin says the organization will also be recruiting military mentors with strong Christian values to serve as mentors to the boys during their week of camp excursion. The goal is for the boys to bond with their mentors and be able to come back year after year, giving them a sense of family that they may have lost.

"Once the camp is running it will be all hands on deck," said Baldwin, who acknowledged that this is a huge undertaking.

Some may ask, what about girls? Baldwin says that this camp is specifically geared towards boys, but that the organization will be doing something for girls in the future.

"We are really excited and it has been amazing to watch people jump on board," said Baldwin.

Operation 300 is currently accepting physical donations of camping, fishing and hunting gear. Individuals interested in sending physical donations should contact Baldwin at tara.op300@gmail.com or through the organization's official website at www.operation300.com. Gift card or monetary donations can be sent to:

Operation 300, Inc.

P.O. Box 3

Port Salerno, FL 34992.

Online donations can be made through PayPal at www.operation300.com.

Information for this article was obtained through www.operation300.com.

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