Lewis & Clark Young Marines seek new ride

Young Marines and supporters emerge unscathed from vehicle fire, but now they’re looking for a helping hand from the community

VANCOUVER — If only it had been an April Fools Day joke.

Unfortunately, as Debbie Crawford and members of the Lewis & Clark Young Marines stood stranded on an Interstate Avenue bridge in north Portland April 1, the sight of the flaming Chevrolet Suburban the group had long relied on for transportation was all too real.

Smoke billows from the Lewis & Clark Young Marines Suburban at about 8:30 p.m. April 1 in Portland. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford
Smoke billows from the Lewis & Clark Young Marines Suburban at about 8:30 p.m. April 1 in Portland. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford

The night had been an exciting if not routine outing up until about 8:30 p.m. It was Easter. The Young Marines had performed another flawless color guard prior to the Portland Trail Blazers’ 113-98 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. All, it would seem, was well for the teens as they climbed in the Suburban — affectionately referred to as “The Burb” — and began to make their way back to Washington.

They were just north of Argyle Street when smoke began rising from under the hood.

In no time at all, the smoke gave way to flames.

“From the time we noticed the smoke and said, ‘There’s smoke,’ then it was already flames,” said Debbie Crawford, the public affairs officer for the Lewis & Clark Young Marines who was riding in the front passenger seat of the vehicle. “(It was) visible flames on my side of the vehicle. I got the best view of the flames.”

Crawford and Chris Wright, who was driving, immediately evacuated the three Young Marines from the vehicle and got them a safe distance from the fire. There were other concerns as well, though, as the fire snarled traffic and brought a response from Portland Fire & Rescue and the Portland Transit Police. The MAX line was brought to a stop as well.

The charred remnants of the Suburban are seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford
The charred remnants of the Suburban are seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford

 

The charred remnants of the Suburban are seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford
The charred remnants of the Suburban are seen in this photo. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford

The darkness and chaos could have created an even more hazardous situation for the teens standing along the road on a bridge with very little shoulder, but they seem to have instead followed Young Marine Creed No. 5, Crawford said.

That creed? “Remember having self-discipline will enable me to control my body and mind in case of an emergency.”

“We were on a busy four-lane street, on a bridge, in the dark, in the cold with no shelter in site,” Crawford wrote on the group’s web site. “Our Young Marines followed instructions, stayed calm and did not complain about the cold or anything for that matter.”

The cause of the fire, which was extinguished quickly by emergency responders, is still undetermined. Also unknown is exactly how the Lewis & Clark Young Marines, who relied on “The Burb” to take them to and from the dozens of color guards they perform across the region each year, will be getting to their next appointments.

“We average at least 36 color guards a year,” Crawford said in an email. ”We perform color guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Mariners, Portland Steel, Little League, Memorial Day events, Veterans Day events, high school sport events, high school graduations, civic events and more.”

The Lewis & Clark Young Marines are pictured on the jumbotron at the Moda Center in Portland April 1. This photo was taken just hours before the group’s Suburban caught fire en route back to Clark County. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford
The Lewis & Clark Young Marines are pictured on the jumbotron at the Moda Center in Portland April 1. This photo was taken just hours before the group’s Suburban caught fire en route back to Clark County. Photo courtesy of Debbie Crawford

Crawford is hoping a business or organization will come forward to help the Young Marines replace the vehicle, which had been donated to the group in 2009 and had served them well ever since.

“We put almost 10 years on it,” she told ClarkCountyToday.com. “We take good care of our vehicles. We need to (because) we put kids in them.”

Canceling commitments isn’t something Crawford and the Young Marines are even considering. The nonprofit takes its color guard duties seriously, and if that means riding in personal vehicles or firing up the mini-bus the group also owns, then that’s what they’ll do.

Using the bus as their primary means of conveyance does come at an additional cost, though. For example, as Crawford noted, fuel for a trip to Safeco Field and back would cost twice as much as the Suburban.

The bus is also too wide for navigating many places, such as the Moda Center parking lots.

Again, that’s not to say such difficulties would stop the Young Marines from meeting commitments.

“We would make it work,” Crawford said. “We would never turn down a community service event for our community.”

The group’s next scheduled color guard is May 5 and, in the meantime, Crawford is hoping a community member, business or organization will step forward and offer to help, whether that’s through the donation of money or a used vehicle to replace the Suburban.

They’re not looking for anything fancy, Crawford said, adding that the nonprofit will need to pay for insurance for any vehicle they obtain, meaning a used model is almost preferred.

“We are very fortunate to have had amazing community support,” Crawford said. “Someone has always stepped up, and we know someone will.”

The Lewis & Clark Young Marines are looking for another “Suburban-like” vehicle with the capacity to carry at least eight people. Anyone interested in helping the group can do so by contacting Devin Lewis at admin@lcym.org.

About the Lewis & Clark Young Marines, from the ClarkCountyToday.com archives:

Lewis & Clark Young Marines is located in Vancouver and has youth members from Clark, Skamania and Cowlitz counties as well as Oregon.

Learn more at lcym.org.

The Young Marines is a national nonprofit 501c(3) youth education and service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through the completion of high school. The organization promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline so its members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Since the Young Marines beginnings in 1959 with one unit and only a few boys, the organization has grown to 281 units with 9,600 and youth and 2,400 adult volunteers in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Okinawa with affiliates in other countries.

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About The Author

Eric Schwartz arrives as a reporter at Clark County Today with nearly 15 years of experience as a journalist. He most recently served five years as editor of The Chronicle newspaper in Centralia. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor, reporter and intern at the newspaper. Schwartz graduated from Forks High School on the Olympic Peninsula before attending Centralia College and Eastern Washington University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the award-winning college newspaper, The Easterner, and received the Edmund J. Yarwood award as the top performer in his class. He covered sports through a fellowship at The Tri-City Herald before taking a full-time reporting job with The Chronicle in 2007. After three years as a reporter at The Chronicle, he traveled to Kalispell, MT, and worked as a crime, courts and emergency services reporter at The Daily Inter Lake, where he won two first-place awards for spot news coverage from the Montana Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2011, he returned to The Chronicle as the assistant editor before being promoted to editor in 2013. Under his leadership, The Chronicle was the recipient of several C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for Distinguished Reporting, and the newspaper was twice given the General Excellence Award as the top performer in its category by the Society of Professional Journalists. Schwartz has also been the recipient of two C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for his own reporting and has garnered additional individual awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Most recently, he and his staff were honored with a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for The Chronicle’s editorials and news coverage focused on transparency in county government.

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