Record turnout for 7th annual OP RED dinners

Event honors the next generation of American heroes

By Jared Lovrak on May 11, 2017

What makes a hero? A question for the ages, debated by philosophers, scientists, artists and the other brilliant minds amongst us throughout recorded history. Are heroes born or are they made? George Washington had a mind for military strategy - but if he'd been a royalist, it's unlikely his face would be on the dollar bill. Skewing a bit more fanciful, Superman's powers are an innate part of him, but what if he'd been raised in North Korea instead of Kansas? And so the question still remains - are heroes born, or are they made?

Last Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered at Saint Martin's University in Lacey for the Washington State Army Community Council's seventh annual Operation: Recruit Enlistment Dinner. The brainchild of retired Army Maj. John Faust, OP RED aims to honor the born heroes among us - the new recruits, (mostly senior high school students), who've made the big decision to join the military.

Seven years ago, Maj. Faust, then an Army recruiting commander, asked four people to enter into a passion to create this event. Together with Emmett Brost of Little Caesars Pizza, Ron Chow of Seattle Pacific Trading, Carlene Joseph of Harborstone Credit Union and fellow Army retiree Paul Wood, OP RED has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings, to the point that this year, there were two OP RED dinners.

In addition to the traditional OP RED dinner at Saint Martin's, WSACC hosted an additional OP RED dinner at the University of Washington's Seattle campus last Tuesday to accommodate the ever-growing amount of new recruits and their families.

"It gets bigger and bigger every year," said event co-founder Carlene Joseph. "That's actually why we split it into two dinners this year. We just couldn't expand any further at one venue."

This expansion may just be the first of many, however. The Lacey location was filled to capacity, with a record estimated 750 guests. WSACC also packed the house in Seattle, with an estimated 650 people in attendance. Will there be a third dinner next year? Time will tell.

OP RED isn't just an event for new recruits, servicemembers and their families to congratulate and commiserate with each other, it also affords civilians - some very powerful ones and heroes in their own right - to show their appreciation for the budding enlistees' contribution: mayors, city council members, firefighters and police officers all volunteered their time to serve the food at both events.

So what makes a hero? Are they born or are they made? Who said it always has to be just one or the other? Obviously, not everyone is born heroic, but you can't deny that some people are naturally gifted with qualities that set them above their fellows. Some train their inborn abilities, but not everyone dares to live to their full potential. In the case of these aspiring servicemembers, they already possessed the drive, physicality and je ne sais quoi required for military service, but it's in that act of serving that those qualities will be honed to their maximum.

That's what makes heroes.