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COLUMN: Salvation Army rocks!

The Salvation Army Disaster Services rig, Unit 314, paused by this view of the swollen Red River--in a residential neighborhood of Moorhead. Note the stop sign, in the middle of a pond. Louis Hoglund, publisher-editor of the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, worked with a Salvation Army volunteer crew--feeding flood-fighters in Moorhead.

During the flood battle of 2009, an email was circulating around cyberspace. It was from a teenager who volunteered with a sandbag brigade in the Red River Valley.

Wet, cold, hungry and thirsty, the tired teen was served by one of The Salvation Army's disaster services mobile food canteens, which for the past two weeks, have been rolling through the flood-fighting front lines in Fargo-Moorhead.

The only thing this teen knew about The Salvation Army is that her parents "forced" her to ring the bell at one of the Army's familiar kettles, during the Christmas season. She never really knew where all those pennies, dimes and quarters were going, or what those coins were purchasing.

But, after a smiling Salvation Army volunteer served her during a disaster situation--she definitely "got it."

"The Salvation Army Rocks!"

That was the message the teen sent over the internet.

I felt a bit like that teen. Even though I've had a long association with The Salvation Army, it has been mostly bellringing, delivering Christmas gifts, Thanksgiving baskets and playing in brass bands during the holiday season. My role was, by and large, the fun stuff rather than disaster relief work.

When I got the call to volunteer March 28, the high-intensity flood work was for the most part past. There were still plenty of Army National Guard soldiers, city workers and utility crews to feed--but overall, it was light duty the day I worked.

Salvation Army Volunteers Bill and Nancy Johnson, who traveled to the F-M area from Forest Lake, served more than1,400 one day and nearly 1,000 another day--from one mobile food unit--during the peak sandbagging operations.

Being a part of The Salvation Army is especially rewarding, because they are always the "guys in the white hats," coming to the rescue.

"Everybody is so thankful. Even when we just drive by a scene, people smile, they wave, they give you the thumbs up," said Bill Johnson. "We fed a flooded-out resident, and she had tears in her eyes; she was so grateful."

That's the kind of reaction The Salvation Army has enjoyed for more than a century. After many hours of bell-ringing over the years, I found that it is the World War II guys who are the most generous with their coins. Whether they served in Europe, the Pacific, or stateside--they remember the Salvation Army well. Their fathers before them remembered The Salvation Army "lassies" who served donuts in the World War I trenches.

And, now, the Red River Valley flood-fighters of 2009 will also fondly remember the sandwich-slinging, coffee-serving volunteers from The Salvation Army.

My name is on The Salvation Army list to volunteer again this weekend.

For the sake of the folks all up and down the Red River Valley--maybe they won't need me.