TRUFANT, Mich. — Imagine walking down the beverage aisle at Meijer or Walmart in search of your favorite pop and coming across a man with more color in his hair and his beard than there is in a rainbow.
On Saturday, Oct. 8 that man was Doug Pickel. He's a merchandiser for 7-Up and during his deliveries to the Alpine Avenue Meijer and Walmart stores, Doug's head was lit up like the Fourth of July.
The one-day-only style wasn't a fashion statement. It was a celebration of an effort that will show the families of fallen heroes how much their loved ones' sacrifices mean to the American people.
13 ON YOUR SIDE first spoke with Doug back in August inside his workshop in the small Montcalm County town of Trufant. Doug is an amazing woodworker and he's been crafting plaques resembling the Purple Heart award. He wanted to give the plaques to the family members of 31 American service members who were killed when a Taliban rocket hit a Chinook helicopter in August 2011.
Each plaque takes Doug about 50 hours to make. He then takes them to his neighbor Jeanne Thornhill, the owner of a business called Unique Boutique. She uses a machine to etch the images of each service member into the plaques. When all is said and done, it costs about $300 to create each plaque.
To offset the cost of the job, the charity Give2Those started a fundraiser over Facebook. To entice people to donate, Doug grew his hair and beard out and whoever gave the largest donation would get to decide what color it would be dyed. Doug would then sport that look during his 7-Up deliveries.
Two months later, the effort has raised around $4,000. Rolling Thunder Chapter 4 out of Muskegon gave the largest donation and chose the cornucopia of color that eventually ended up all over Doug's hair and beard. Cindy Holliday from Julie's Hair Salon on 14 Mile Road in Rockford did the coloring for free.
With the money, Doug has been able to create plaques for all of the families of the American service members who died in the 2011 helicopter crash. He was also able to create plaques for the family members of the 13 American service members who were killed in a 2021 attack at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Doug and a friend will travel across 13 states to hand deliver those plaques beginning in June 2023. Two plaques have already been delivered.
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