Business hauls gear of Marines
Delivery service worker enjoys chance to help

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- When members of Company B of the Marine Corps Reserve 6th Engineer Support Battalion headed off for Iraq in January, and when they returned earlier this month, one thing they didn't need to worry about was whether their gear would travel with them.

Thanks to the efforts of Damian DeWitt, manager of Overnite Transportation Co.'s South Bend terminal, and Frank Farkas Jr., the firm's senior local driver, the two heavy bags of gear that accompanied each of the 109 deployed Marine reservists made it safely to and from their departure and arrival point -- O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

DeWitt didn't need to think twice in January when he got a call from officers at Company B asking for help in moving the unit's gear from the Armed Forces Reserve Center on Kemble Street to O'Hare for their flight to the Persian Gulf.

DeWitt served eight years in the Marines himself, including several years as a platoon sergeant for Company B's 2nd Platoon.

"I had known a number of the members of Company B for several years and was very happy to help out," DeWitt said. "We said, 'Don't worry about it, we'll take care of it.' "

When he asked for volunteers to assist with the move, Farkas was quick to sign up. He also has a military background, serving in the Army in Vietnam. He has been a driver at the local Overnite terminal for 15 years.

"When I asked, Frank said absolutely, he'd help," DeWitt said. "He didn't care when or how. He's our top driver and was happy to do it."

For the Marines' trip back home from Chicago, DeWitt and Farkas made it to O'Hare about 7:30 p.m. on June 6. After loading all of the soldiers' bags, which weighed about 100 pounds apiece, into their semi-truck rig, they arrived back here shortly after midnight.

Because of the size of their gear, there wasn't room for it on the charter buses that brought the Marines back to town, DeWitt said.

For DeWitt, it was a chance to carry out the Marine Corps' motto "Semper Fi" (always faithful).

"The good thing for me personally was to get to see them off and see them on the way back," he said. "It was a wonderful, wonderful trip."

When delivering the Marines' gear in January, Farkas was able to back his rig right up to the charter plane they were taking, Farkas noted. On the return trip this month, they had a police escort back into town.

"I had to remind Frank that he can't expect that on every trip," DeWitt quipped.

Staff writer Don Porter:

(574) 235-6350